Let's talk blogging.
It's hard to get a blog started, and sometimes, even harder to organize all the content you want and need. If you use a blog hosting site like WordPress or a CMS like HubSpot, you'll likely notice that you have options like plugins and widgets to enhance your blog.
There's so many different kinds of tools, and they're all used to make your blog more personalized. Think of widgets as the different spices to add special elements on your webpages. Plugins, on the other hand, are the vessel for which you obtain the widgets.
We've compiled a list of widgets and plugins that are essential to make a great blog excellent. They're essentials that contribute to a good user experience for your readers, bring you new ones, and make your brand more cohesive across all fronts.
Think of these lists as a jumping off point. This is not a list of all of the plugins and widgets available, but they give you an expansive look into how many kinds there are and what they can do for you.
1. Instagram Feed
With an Instagram feed, you can import pictures from your account directly to your blog. We have a plugin suggestion for this to make the process more streamlined.
This is an especially great idea if you want your brand to be synced across all of your webpages and socials. It's also a good thing to look into if your brand is based on visuals.
2. Email Subscribe Form
Converting casual visitors into email subscribers builds readership and generates a community of content enthusiasts. Additionally, they'll likely share your content with other people in their networks through email and social media, exposing your blog to brand new audiences.
However, to turn those visitors into subscribers, an email subscribe form is an absolute must-have for any blog. Make sure you have one highly visible. Considering their importance, you might also want to consider these other ways to generate more blog subscribers.
3. YouTube Gallery
Do you have a YouTube channel? This is a perfect widget to have, especially if you plan on posting some tutorials on your blog. With a YouTube gallery, you can add videos and comments directly from YouTube onto your blog.
This could be a helpful widget even if you don't have a YouTube channel. Videos are helpful visual assets, so if you post roundups, you could begin to include videos in them using a YouTube widget. You could also do a funny video of the week to show readers a more fun side of your blog.
4. RSS Feed
While RSS subscribers tend to be a little bit more passive than email subscribers, there are many people who prefer RSS subscription to email, and they can be beneficial in the same ways as email subscribers. The RSS feed for your blog should be easy to find for visitors who are looking for it (a good place is right near the email subscribe form).
5. Testimonials Slider
To show appreciation of your customers and boost the credibility of your blog, add in a slider solely focused on testimonials. This is also a great way to spice up your webpages if you believe they're looking a little bare.
Putting in a slider doesn't crowd your blog, but it does add a little flair. I enjoy reading testimonials on blogs because they give a little insight into the content I might find interesting if I don't have the time to explore every post, so testimonials could be a great asset for lead generation.
6. Author Profiles
Do you have several people contributing content to your blog? Do you publish content from guest bloggers from time to time? If so, try incorporating author profiles into your blog — both at the end of individual articles as well as on separate author pages that aggregate content published by that author alone.
Author profiles are a great way to give credit to and promote the hard work of your contributors, provide readers with information about who's creating the content they're reading and allow them to connect, demonstrate the credibility of your writers, and attract additional guest blogging talent.
7. QR Code
If you want to include an offer on your blog without a CTA button, insert a QR Code widget. That way, interested visitors can scan the offer with their phone or desktop and instantly receive your content.
QR Codes are handy and a cool way to make your blog stick out from others that use CTAs. However, they can also work hand in hand with CTAs, by being added directly into one or make the download process easier for visitors. If you have readers that find that they enjoy using them, you can boost conversions.
8. List of Contributors
Let's say you have some pretty big names in your industry who contribute to your blog. That might be something you want to showcase to new readers in an effort to emphasize the credibility of your writers. Or maybe you just want to let your readers sort through your content by their favorite authors.
If so, adding a contributors list to your blog and linking to the author pages of those authors you list are a good idea, like Cracked does in its top navigation.
9. Comments Section
A blog should encourage a dialogue between the author and the reader. And while there are definitely downsides to having a comments section on your blog, I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Enabling comments fosters a sense of community among you and your visitors, makes your blog much more interactive and engaging, allows you to gather valuable feedback from your readers to inform your content strategy, and helps you come up with new topics for future blog posts. HubSpot users have a built-in comments engine for blogs hosted on our COS.
10. Search Bar
Make it easy for visitors to find the content they're looking for by adding search functionality to your blog. This makes for a much better user experience and encourages your readers to stick around and check out some of your other content.
If you can implement a search bar that provides insight into what keywords visitors are searching for on your blog (e.g. Google Site Search, which integrates with Google Analytics), a bonus is that you can identify the types of content your readers are actively searching for and use that to inform your content creation strategy.
11. Topics/Tags List
In addition to a search feature, another good way to help visitors discover more content is by showcasing a list of your blog's topics or tags. In addition to giving new visitors an idea of the types of content you typically write about, a topics list allows readers to further engage with your content by browsing only the topics that interest them.
As a small tip, make sure you have a tagging strategy in place that organizes content into topic categories. This is so readers can dive deeper into just the sales topics they want to read more about.
12. Recent or Popular Post Widgets
Another great option for enhancing content discoverability on your blog is to include recent or popular post widgets, which display a list of either the latest or most popular posts available on your blog. This allows you to feature the freshest or best-performing content, enticing visitors to stick around for more.
Most blogging software, including HubSpot's, offer out-of-the-box widgets that enable you to feature your blog's most recent or most popular (usually based on most views) posts in your sidebar.
If you're managing a business blog, chances are you're not publishing content just for the heck of it. You have other goals in mind. So, leverage top, side, and/or in-post blog real estate to improve the lead generation potential of your blog with calls-to-action (CTAs) for your marketing offers.
You can also use CTAs to promote upcoming events, encourage subscription, or support any of your other marketing goals.
Now that you know the idea of the kind of widgets you can introduce into your blog, let's talk about some plugins that offer these widgets, as well as some new ones.
1. HubSpot WordPress Plugin
Want to add some forms or email signup fields to your site? HubSpot can help with that. This free WordPress plugin allows you to embed forms, add live chat, or create popups to gather emails from visitors scrolling across your website.
And the best part of this plugin is what happens after you’ve collected information from visitors. You can track all of a visitor's interactions with your site in HubSpot’s CRM, enroll contacts in segmented lists, and create dashboards to track your performance — all from within WordPress.
2. Slider Revolution
If sidebar images are your thing for your blog, this plugin is right up your alley. Slider Revolution is one of the best WordPress slider plugins for an affordable price.
What it does is provide its users with a widget solely dedicated to sliders, which lets blog owners easily put images that scroll in areas that are widgetized. Pretty cool, right? For your own sliding blog images, look into SR.
3. Widget Options
Widget Options helps to control the function of other widgets. Available to integrate with WordPress, it has options for you to manage widgets across other pages. This is super handy if your blog has multiple pages that you want to manage on one dashboard.
Unique to this plugin, it gives you an option to configure settings of widgets based on the device being used to view the webpage. You can choose to show or wide them and add personalized alignments to them as well.
4. Contextual Related Posts
This plugin does a fancier job than others. That's because it discovers related content based on a post's title and description. Another cool feature is that you can include custom posts in this, which is great for blogs with specifically custom attributes.
Contextual Related Posts also gives you the choice to pick categories or leave them out. Further, with this plugin, you can choose how the posts are displayed, whether that's with thumbnails or something else, and they can be configured to increase the speed of your website.
5. Ninja Forms
If forms are important to you (and they should be,) here's a plugin with its own widget. It's a free tool that allows you to place a contact form in the sidebar. With this widget, you don't have to feel confined to the sidebar, you can place contact forms wherever you like on your site.
You can also customize the forms. Your options include making the fields like Name, Email, and Message all unique, and you can also change the colors and function of fields based on your needs. Ninja Forms is one of the best free platforms for contact forms that comes with its own widget.
6. Smash Ballon Social Photo Feed
It can be pretty annoying to upload pictures to your media library from your desktop if you had to import them from your phone. (Personally, I just send them to my email to make the process easier). This plugin makes the process seamless.
Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed lets you pull those social-media ready posts straight from Instagram. Think of all the syncing you do with your website, blog, and socials with that asset. This plugin has features that includes thumbnail display, multiple image sizing, carousel options, and the ability to connect multiple Instagram accounts. Pretty fancy for a free plugin, right?
7. Meks Smart Author Widget
Personally, author bios are always my favorite part of a website. Whether it's my own, my HubSpot bio, or those of another website, I love how they're a chance for the people behind a website to get their moment and show their personality. This widget lets you do that in a fashionable way on your website.
Meks Smart Author Widget has some cool features attached to it. It lets you configure multiple types of bios, whether they're for many authors or just one. Single authors have the freedom to choose to display this bio on every page to make sure every visitors have a chance to read about who you are.
8. Opinion Stage
If you communicate with your audience frequently, you might want to think about adding the Opinion Stage plugin to your arsenal. What it does is let you bring audience communication to a whole new level — offering fun and diverse ways to connect with your visitors.
Maybe you want to hold a poll or create a personality quiz. Or maybe you want to put yourself in the hot seat and answer questions. Whatever your idea, this plugin lets you create widgets that apply your brand and images. Further, you can monetize widgets to collect that sweet ad revenue.
9. Content Aware Sidebars
Could your website benefit from multiple widgets and sidebars based on content? Perhaps in one category, you want to show visitors a certain set of widgets that differ from ones you want to display in another category. Using Content Aware Sidebars, you can make that happen.
This plugin helps you fine-tune and customize targeted sidebars. Using its easy site, you'll be greeted with over 10 ways to display sidebars based on different sets of criteria, like author, template, content, and post type. It's great for blogs that want to stick true to their theme or have a sidebar that stands out.
10. Ad Inserter
Does your blog make use of its sidebars and place ads in them? Here's a way to make that process great: the Ad Inserter plugin. It really does it all, affiliate banners, AdSense, display, anything you need.
Customizable features are great with this one. You can rotate the ads and the order in which they're displayed on your sidebar and control how they're shown. It also comes highly recommended from common Ad hosts like Amazon Associates and Google AdSense.
11. Awesome Weather Widget
The name really says it all. This plugin is, in fact, awesome. It lets you host a widget on your site that displays the weather based on the weather of the visitor. Maybe you host a travel service; wouldn't it be great to show the weather of Barbados as people visit?
Professional, fun, bright looking widgets are right in your reach using this plugin. You can even customize the color schemes. The data on the weather is given by OpenWeatherMap, which will be imported by a generated API key you create.
Sometimes, built-in search features just aren't the best and you have to download some extra help. In that case, Relevanssi is here for you. This widget, instead of WordPress's default search field, gives visitors one that is great at sorting posts by relevancy, hence the apt name.
When you use Relevanssi, you can't kiss WordPress's search function goodbye competely, but, instead of being fixed to WordPress's settings, the widget is in control. It's like putting a fresh coat of paint on a wall that was already there.
13. PHP Code Widget
WordPress developers, pay attention to this one, it may just be your short-term solution. PHP Code Widget allows you to include PHP code right into your sidebar, which means you can configure webpages into the visitors' preferred language.
Keep in mind that anyone with access in WordPress's dashboard can use PHP code, so don't install any PHP widgets as a permanent solution. For a quick fix in a pinch those, this will make global blog audiences feel right at home.