I believe that engagement is massively undervalued in the blogosphere.
Put simply, the quality of your audience is far more important than the quantity. And by quality I essentially mean how engaged they are with your “brand”.
Ask yourself this question — do your readers actually care about your blog or do they consider it a throwaway resource? Your answer can make all the difference to your chances of achieving your aims (which I presume is ultimately to make money).
With that in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to mention my favorite WordPress plugins that can help you to better engage with your readers. Although the quality of your content and the personality you weave into your blog will play a large part in dictating the level at which people engage with you, the following plugins can give you a big helping hand too.
I have a simple rule of thumb with my own blog when it comes to comments — if someone has taken the time to share their views, I should take the time to respond in kind. As such I reply to the vast majority of comments on my site.
But unless your blog’s readers bookmark their comments and come back periodically to see if you have replied, they will never get to read what you said in response. And let’s face it — engagement is a two way street.
With that in mind I highly recommend that you install Subscribe to comments reloaded. This plugin does exactly as you would expect — notifies people (by email) when their comment has been replied to. It also includes a full dashboard where you can manage your subscribers and all your options.
Whilst there are a number of third party comments plugins available for WordPress, my pick of the bunch (especially when it comes to user engagement) is Facebook Comments.
Why? Because it makes commenting highly social and therefore boosts engagement. It is likely that the huge majority of your potential commenters will already have a Facebook account, and as such will find commenting on your site to be (a) very easy and (b) very familiar.
Furthermore, comments made on your blog will show up on Facebook and your content is likely to be exposed to a far larger audience. This kind of integration is especially useful on sites that are already highly social (say for instance an image sharing site).
While I don’t personally use Facebook Comments, I may well do so in a future project — it is definitely a viable alternative to the default WordPress comments system and is bound to have a positive effect on user engagement.
When it comes to boosting user engagement I believe that one of the best things you can do is interlink prolifically. People can be blind to navigational elements and the like (just take a moment to consciously observe your own browsing habits) but in-content links are far more difficult to avoid.
Interlinking is best done when it’s highly relevant — you want to put people in a situation where they have ten tabs open on their browser and end up on your site for half an hour. But WordPress’ default internal link search engine, in a word, is terrible.
That’s where Better Internal Link Search comes in. This simple plugin adjusts the internal link search to locate content by headline only. It also includes scheduled posts. I personally consider it the most underrated plugin on WordPress.org — it makes internal linking somuch easier.
When it comes to boosting user engagement, having a related posts section at the bottom of your posts is a no-brainer. If someone likes a post enough to read it to the end and is then presented with similar posts, they may well take the opportunity to read on.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (or YARPP for short) is in my humble opinion the best related posts plugin available for WordPress. Whilst others focus on flashy formatting, YARPP gets the key factor — relevancy — bang on.
Make no mistake — a related posts plugin is only as good as its matching algorithm. If you’re not presenting your readers with genuinely relevant additional posts, the likelihood of them reading on is far reduced. So make sure you use YARPP and set it up so that it returns only the most relevant results.
In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I co-developed this plugin. However, it really can make a huge difference to user engagement as I have discovered multiple times.
Here’s the deal — Twitter users like to tweet. More importantly, they like to tweet interesting things. A post headline is not always that interesting. But if you can give them a quote or pearl of wisdom to pass onto their followers, they may only be too happy to do so.
That’s where Easy Tweet Embed comes in — it allows you to embed pre-populated tweets within your posts, just like this:
It’s very similar to the Click to Tweet service but makes creating tweets easier by allowing you to do it via the text editor. It also automatically inserts the permalink. I have found posts tweets to be increased by nearly 30% in some examples by using Easy Tweet Embed — it’s a quick and easy way of boosting engagement.
The Options are Endless
The variety of options above is indicative of the myriad ways in which you can boost engagement, so don’t limit yourself. Different things work for different blogs — the key is experimenting and testing.
If you have your own ideas for boosting user engagement, please share them with us below!