‘Content is king’ is a phrase typically thrown around the blog industry. Of course, quality content can go a long way to keeping users coming back, but the real key is offering a unique and out of the ordinary experience. Using the default look for a blog along with the default set of features, offers little excitement. While content certainly is king, customization and a unique user experience may certainly be queen.
Don’t Settle for the Default Look
Most blog software comes with one pre-defined look. Take for example WordPress, with the blue and dull look. While there’s nothing wrong with the theme, there’s thousands if not hundreds of thousands of blogs out there using the exact same look. If users don’t take away something from a blog or have any way of sorting it out from the rest, they may not continue coming back or even remember the blog. Changing the theme may not totally make up for uninteresting content, but an appealing visual layout can come awfully close.
The first way to customize a blog in this regard is using a theme available on the Internet. There are many different websites that allow the customization of various blog software. Some of the blog software’s sites even list where themes or styles can be downloaded, or have them for download on the site. A simple Google search can also render hundreds of results for web sites that allow themes to be downloaded. When doing this, always make sure the theme is free to use under conditions that meet the requirements of a blog. A blog which intends to make a fair bit of money, wouldn’t be very compatible with a theme which is only allowed to be used on non-profit themes. Likewise, some themes require a link back to the original designer’s page.
If a blog is intended to have a fair bit of traffic or have a large monthly income, consider hiring a web designer who can work with the blog software to make a custom theme. This ensures that a theme is totally unique to a single blog (or at least to an individual). In general, one should always look at the designer’s past work and references to ensure the work is completed in a timely fashion and the types of designs are acceptable.
The type of theme can also have a huge impact depending on the subject matter. An art blog for example may want an artsy look with paintbrushes or a canvas. A photography blog could choose to have a black and white theme to look like an old photograph. Both a blog’s theme and content convey to users what the subject matter of the blog will be.
Spam Protection with reCaptcha
Spam being posted in comments is a serious concern for bloggers. There are multiple ways to combat spam, but one of the most ingenious is a system called reCaptcha. A captcha system (or ”Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”) in general is one where a series of twisted or fuzzy characters appear as an image, and a user must type in what they see in order to verify that they are a human and not simply a robot automatically posting spam. Signing up and using the reCaptcha system is almost identical to this, except for one thing. Two words are posted that the user must type correctly. One known word, and one unknown word. The unknown word is actually from a book in written form. Not only is the system combating spam, but it is helping convert books from analog to digital form. reCaptcha is available for integration in a number of blog software forms.
Many blogs have built in photo albums by default, but have additional add-ons that can be downloaded and installed for additional functionality. Of course, not all blogs may find these useful, but instead of hosting a separate photo album solution, the photo album can be implemented directly into the blog. Certain photos can be added to certain entries, or the photo album can be setup so that all users can click through and browse photos.
Monetization: The ‘Donate Button’
Perhaps it is not as much to keep users coming back as it for the sake of the blog owner, but a ”donate” button could be a huge help. It should be noted that putting a donate button up on a blog is about the equivalent of putting out a tip jar. It may actually cause a slight decrease in traffic if users feel as though the blog just exists to make a profit. On smaller blogs, it may not be worth the trouble either, as donations are few and far between. On the larger blogs with quality content, it could very well be that users feel appreciative and donate a few dollars to give back. There certainly aren’t many people who’d complain about making a few dollars from grateful users on their blog. A few dollars a month could go a long way in paying the hosting bill, as well.
Stats: A Useful Benchmark
With all of the customizations that have been mentioned so far, it would be hard to determine what exactly was working and what wasn’t. Some web hosts have statistics packages to measure traffic, but sometimes the blog software itself can keep track of it more intelligently. Not only could one measure such things as the number of visitors to the blog, but which articles people were visiting, where they were being linked to the blog from, and even what browser they’re using or what country they’re from.
Some statistics packages will even generate a chart which will show the rise and fall of the number of users visiting a blog. Being able to see a clear and distinct visual of the traffic from month to month, can provide a clear indicator to bloggers as to what is working, or what is not.
The customizations listed in the article are certainly a great start, but there are many additional ones out there. Most blog software will list the add-ons available for the platform on the website. A simple search can also yield promising results. Sometimes blog software shouldn’t be chosen just for its core features, but the amount, variation, and ease of installation of its add-ons.
Back to Blog Web Hosting Article Index.