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May 21, 2014

3 Blog Optimization Experiments You Might Want to Embrace

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blog-chalkboardI’ve been blogging at Convince & Convert for almost six years, and we’ve been fortunate to see a very steady traffic increase year-over-year. But with many new competitors for online attention, including the proliferation of marketing blogs, podcasts, Medium, LinkedIn becoming a content platform, aggregators like Forbes.com, and other information repositories, you must constantly test and innovate to stay sharp and keep/grow your audience.

Not long ago, we launched a full-blown new version of the blog (here is the post about the 8 main reasons I undertook the redesign). Early results are good, and now it's time to work on incremental changes to improve traffic and stickiness. I’m trying three new blog optimization experiments. You may already be using some of these -- or similar functionality. I’d love to hear about your experiences and recommendations in the comments below. I certainly don’t have all the answers, I’m just good at knowing the questions.

1) Canva-Powered Featured Images

textoverlay-jayWith the rise of visually-powered social media like Instagram, Twitter photo cards, Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest, the images associated with your blog posts have taken on extra importance. For a while now, multiple times each day I’ve found social media users grabbing a tweet of mine or a quote from one of my presentations and turning it into a text graphic that then gets a ton of Likes and forwards.

That got me thinking. We have a partnership with BigStock.com and have historically used them for signature images for posts. But, with more and more of the content on the blog being produced by an excellent group of guest bloggers, it’s more difficult to keep visual consistency. What I’m testing now is using Canva.com to create text graphics as the featured image for each of my blog posts. (I recently did an episode of the Social Pros podcast with Peg Fitzpatrick, Canva’s social media strategist.) It takes about one minute to create them, they are free, they are easy to share, and they look sharp on the blog homepage line-up.

Here’s how it looks on the blog homepage:

canvaposts

2) Click-to-Tweet Tools

I’ve been experimenting with this off-and-on for a while, but I’ve now started to integrate click-to-tweet functionality on an every-post basis. There are plenty of free tools and share link generators out there -- ClickToTweet's Basic version is a popular one -- that couldn't be easier to use.

Since I've started using click-to-tweet content consistently, I’ve been seeing a dozen or more clicks of each tweet link almost every time. They can also serve as a visual break in the post itself, which is a nice design element.

clicktotweetscreenshot

3) Related Posts

For a long time I’ve just not been good at related posts. Over the years I’ve used several different plugins, or none at all. But increasing our pages per session is a big goal this year, so based on a recommendation from a friend I installed the Contextly plugin to add some science to our related posts. 

cac-screenshot

It’s a great little piece of software, and there are others like it out there (Outbrain is another option) you can try if this one doesn't work with your site. Here are my favorite features:

  • It allows you to customize the look and layout of your related posts almost entirely.
  • It allows you to hand-select related items for specific posts (or use automatic matching).
  • It allows you to do A/B tests to optimize the CTR on your related posts feature.
  • It sends you detailed daily stats showing you site-wide CTR and per-post CTR.

So far, we are seeing a CTR of more than 2.58%, and have generated tens of thousands of page views that we presumably would not have had otherwise.

What new blog optimization tools or techniques are you using?

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