If you’ve been thinking about updating your blog for the New Year, but are worried that it might be overwhelming (or expensive), I’ve got some good news! There are eight super simple things you can do to update your blog to help you work more efficiently and make your blog more effective at bringing in leads and encouraging sharing. And the best part: You don’t need to spend a dime to implement any of the tips. If you have a basic understanding of how to use WordPress and minimal design skills, you are all set.
If you’re thinking, “My blog looks beautiful! It doesn’t need a makeover!” I want to remind you that we’re not focusing on aesthetics…functionality is first and foremost. If you can have a user experience AND great design, your readers will keep coming back for more. Are you ready to see a boost in your blog’s metrics for 2014? Here’s what you need to do:
1. Create CTA Footer Images
A call-to-action (CTA) footer image is a clickable image that you insert at the bottom of each blog post. These images are an effective way for business bloggers to promote resources, products or a specific message to their readers. On most really popular blogs, like Hubspot’s, you will notice they always use CTA footer images.
My company blog, Socially Stacked, uses a CTA footer image at the bottom of every blog post (right above the share buttons) to feature one of our latest eBooks or PDF downloads. When readers click the image, the free resource immediately gets downloaded onto their desktop. Here’s an example of the CTA footer image created for a recent eBook.
HubSpot uses CTA’s to encourage readers to download their resources and subscribe to their blog. It’s best to create multiple CTA’s for the bottom of your posts and rotate them.
To create these CTA footer images, we use Photoshop to design bar images that are the width of our blog post column. Once we’ve created them, we upload them into the WordPress Media Library and type “CTA” in the description box of the image. This way, after we write a blog post, we can easily search “CTA” in the Media Library and all our CTA footer images will appear, making it easy for us to alternate them. The next few steps are as follows:
Once your CTA footer image is inserted into your blog post, click the landscape icon to edit it.
In the “Edit Image” tab, insert a link in the “Link URL” section that is appropriate to your CTA footer image. For instance, if the CTA footer image we feature is about our latest holiday eBook, in the “Link URL” section we insert the direct download link for the holiday eBook.
Click “Update” and you’re done!
2. Insert Tracking Links
For 2014, commit to using tracking links on your blog. Tracking links will help you become a whole lot more efficient at tracking the return on your blog’s content. The link-tracking software that I use for ShortStack is Improvely — the least-expensive plan is $29 a month and well worth the investment.
Improvely links are awesome because you can use them anywhere: an ad, highlighted text, a newsletter sign-up button, etc. When a reader clicks on the asset that has an Improvely link in it, you are then able to see in Improvely’s dashboard whether any of those properties produced any conversions.
All of our blog’s CTA footer images (see point above) have Improvely links in them. To do this, after you’ve uploaded your CTA footer image into a blog post, edit the image’s Link URL to be an Improvely link — it’s that simple!
Using Improvely links in the CTA footer images allows you to easily analyze which of your CTA footer images are clicked most and which are converting the most blog readers into blog subscribers or service users.
3. Allow For Pin-Ready Blog Post Images
Pinterest has become one of the web’s top social platforms and is a huge source of traffic for many blogs. To make your blog content more Pinterest friendly, keep this one little trick in mind: After you’ve updated your blog post images, edit your image’s “Title” and “Alternative Text” sections to have the same title as your blog post.
Doing this helps with your blog’s SEO and it makes it so that when a reader clicks on either your blog’s Pinterest plugin or share button, your blog post image is ready to be pinned right away. Whatever copy you put in the “Title” option of your image will appear as the pin’s description copy.
4. Download Tweetable Code (the way The New York Times does)
In August of 2013, the New York Times tested a new feature in one of their online articles that allowed readers to tweet highlighted quotes from the story. According to Mashable, the publisher reported that the story they tested the new feature with first was shared approximately 11 times more than their most popular Times stories in the past month. Even if you get a much smaller bump, it’s a very simple way to highlight chunks of tweetable text.
You can download Tweet to Code and learn how to use the feature on your WordPress blog. Also, if you’re thinking you’d rather not have to download something to your WordPress blog, but you love the feature, there are other options. Consider using a simple and free online tool like Click to Tweet to create highlighted, tweetable text pieces within your posts.
5. Install Twitter Cards
Installing a WordPress plugin that enables Twitter Cards makes your blog’s content pop in the Twitter feed. When one of your readers uses your blog’s Twitter button(s) to share a link to one of your Twitter-card enabled post, their tweet will feature intro text and an image from your blog articles in the tweet (see below example). The more visible and attractive your blog’s content is in the Twitter feed, the better, and the more likely it is to be shared.
Installing Twitter Cards to your WordPress blog is a little tricky and can take some developer skills. If you’re serious about using Twitter Cards, I recommend you do a little research on them share with your business’s on-staff developer. Websites like GitHub.com offer great resources for those interested in learning more.
6. Establish Google Authorship
Google authorship is more powerful than it looks. When you set up Google authorship on your WordPress blog, it connects blog post authors’ Google+ accounts to WordPress. The immediate change after you do this is that your Google+ profile image and byline is featured in search results pages.
The deeper benefit of Google authorship is that it makes your blog’s content stand out in search results. According to heatmap eye-tracking studies, discussed in a great blog post on Buffer’s blog, rich snippets (search results that feature a photo) are more eye-catching and get more clicks — the research proves it.
If your blog’s writers already have Google+ accounts, establishing Google authorship is a breeze. After you “link your Google+ profile to the content you create” there are just a few more simple steps.
7. Add Twitter Buttons
If you want to use your WordPress blog to increase your brand’s number of Twitter followers, use Twitter buttons in your posts. They’re incredibly easy to use and customize.
To add Twitter buttons you can start by heading to Twitter’s resource page. There, select the Twitter button you want to use in your blog post, then copy and paste the code Twitter gives you into WordPress’s “Text” tab of the post you’re working on. And boom, you’re done! If you want, check out the new feature in preview mode before you publish your article.
8. Connect Blog to An RSS Publisher
It can be time-consuming to log in to each of your brand’s social platforms to post about your latest blog article. To save time, use the free tool IFTTT — it stands for “If This Then That” and it allows you to create time-saving social media “recipes.” What does that mean, exactly? You can easily connect your blog’s RSS feed to your different social platforms.
For instance, you could use the “RSS to Twitter” recipe so that whenever a new article is published on your blog, a link to it is tweeted out on your brand’s Twitter profile. Essentially, recipes make sharing your blog’s content automatic. And automatic content sharing allows your WordPress blog to be super efficient.
January is the perfect time to reflect on how you can improve your business’s blog. Whether you’re one of the 37 percent of marketers who say “Blogs are the most valuable type of content marketing.” or a small business owner who wants to make your blogging efforts more efficient, these eight tips can help your blog perform better in 2014 than it did in 2013.
If you have any other blogging tips and tricks for businesses, I want to hear them. Go ahead and leave your comment below.
Image sources: Images created by ShortStack. Screenshots taken of Twitter 1/10/2014