If your blog was alive, then engagement would be the air it breathes. We create, post, and promote all of this content for the sole purpose of attracting people who will read, comment, and share it.
Without this key ingredient, a blog will wither and die like a plant without water. The problem is that, unlike watering a plant, growing your blog engagement isn’t simple.
There’s no clear-cut way to do it. But, fortunately, there are plenty of proven design tricks that consistently work. Some of these are simple and quick, others require a small investment, but all of them are worth it.
9 WordPress Design Tricks Guaranteed to Increase Engagement
Join me as we explore 9 WordPress design hacks that will grow your blog’s reader engagement.
Let me ask you a question:
What makes the perfect blog post?
Is it the way its written, or perhaps it’s the keywords it has? Or maybe, it’s all about how long it is? The answer is not one of these things, but all of them. Taking all of these elements into consideration, we can categorize them under the umbrella of bog design.
Your design can be anything from the color of your text, to the amount of line in a paragraph. All of it is important and all of it can contribute to, or hurt your reader engagement. That’s why we’re skipping the “if’s” and “maybe’s” and going straight to the source. Today I’m going to show you how to tweak your design using examples from my own blog and from other successful blogs out there.
Commission a Self-Portrait
If you have an artistic flare, this is even easier. People need to feel like they can relate to you, otherwise they may not be inclined to engage with your blog. If they feel like they’re conversing with a real person like themselves, the engagement comes naturally.
You can achieve this by posting a photo of yourself on your blog, but a picture alone doesn’t really convey anything.
Instead, consider commissioning an artist to design a self-portrait for you. Something colorful that expresses your personality and applies an image for readers to associate with you. Here’s what mine looks like:
Sure, I could have used a picture of my rugged good looks or a photo of me after rolling out of bed in the morning, but this image has a certain warmth and welcoming feel to it that conveys the feeling I want my readers to have when they enter the site.
Utilize Surveys and Analytics
You may feel like you can read people’s minds, but I regret to inform you that you cannot. Instead of trying to guess what people will like or how to appeal to them, instead utilize some common methods like surveys and analytics.
I for one like to use Hotjar, which is an all-in-one program that lets you get a variety of information about your site that you can use to tweak your design. Everything from heatmaps that show where people are clicking, to surveys that appear and ask your readers a simple question.
With this information you can decipher a number of things about your blog’s design:
- What people want to see from your blog (run surveys on potential topics for example)
- How well your CTA (Call to Action) icons and landing pages are working
- What things aren’t working (giving you the opportunity to make changes!)
Colored Headers and Content Checklists
We all know the importance of headers for things like SEO and readability. They give us the opportunity to categorize and separate our content so that readers know exactly what they’re getting into.
Now here’s an idea: What if we added some color?
That’s right, something as simple as color can go a long way. I know what you’re thinking though: Uh, Matt, that’s not something they have in WordPress. You’re absolutely right dear reader, but when has that stopped us bloggers before?
WordPress is an open-source program, which means that anyone with the know-how can dive into the deepest parts of it and tinker with whatever they’d like. I realize that many of us aren’t programmers, so I’ve also handled that part for you as well.
Start by going to one of the major freelance job websites where you can find coders and web designers. I personally like to use Elance, Upwork, and Guru. Once you’re there, look for WordPress web designers and hire one that you like based on their profile and ratings.
You should be able to simply explain what you want or show them and they will do the rest. Using this method I was able to add a number of features to my toolbar on the WordPress dashboard such as:
- Colored headers
- Affiliate button
In the case of those checklists, I like to use those at the beginning of each post to show the readers a table of contents or a preview if you will of the concepts covered in the post.
Custom Header Images
Nothing says “unique” like something you made yourself. I like to start each of my posts off with a nice image that grabs the reader’s attention while they’re scrolling through the lists of posts, and when they land on the post itself.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an artist to make these, there’s actually a free program that you can use. It’s called Canva, and none of my header images would exist without it. You can pay for premium items, but you’d be surprised how much mileage you can get out of it with the free elements and a dash of creativity.
Skimmable Formatting (Use of Negative Space)
Do you remember when we were all in art class as kids? They told us never to leave any white space, fill up the canvas or bust! Well, blogging isn’t like that. You may feel the need to cram as much as you can into every crevice of the page, but doing so will leave your blog looking more cluttered than a teenager’s room in the middle of summer break.
Instead, embrace the white space (or negative space) and use it to make your content more skimmable. The levels of reader engagement you experience are directly tied to the user experience. If they come to your blog and find your posts both informative and easy to read, then they’re much more likely to engage you via social media or in the comments.
Keep these things in mind and you’ll find that all the negative space you see is your friend. Don’t go overboard though; there is a delicate balance here. Consider these tips:
- Keep paragraphs small (no more than 3-4 lines per).
- Use bullet points to convey information in an organized fashion.
- Always include images to break up the text.
- Bold and Italics are useful for making important points stand out.
For a perfect example of these things in action, check out Successful Blogging to see how white space can be used to enhance the rest of the blog’s design.
Use a Simple and User-Friendly Comment System
You may think I’m joking, but some of comment plugins out there for WordPress require readers to fill out what feels like a job application before they can even leave a comment. That’s a death sentence for reader engagement. They shouldn’t have to provide anything more than a few clicks and maybe verification that they’re human and not a bot before they post.
Me personally, I like to use Akismet. It provides readers with a simple and easy way to post comments, giving them the ability to insert any and all HTML coding they wish to format their post.
The best part of all? The plugin also helps protect your blog from spam which is a must!
Social Media Share Buttons
Unlike real world viruses, you actually want your posts to go viral, but that’s going to be a little difficult if people can’t share them. Fortunately there are no shortages of WP plugins that can help your readers quickly share posts that they like.
Social media is a huge resource for bloggers to increase engagement across all aspects of their site. With the ability for readers to share your content in place, you’ll find that you get a lot more eyeballs on your blog and more engagement as a result.
The easiest plugin to use is SumoMe which offers a number of tools. The one we’re interested in is called Share. It allows you to set up buttons for readers to spread your content to Facebook, Twitter, you name it.
Speaking of Twitter, another great tool to use is called Click to Tweet. Using this plugin, you can pull a nice quote right out from your content and put it in a box where someone can click and tweet it on their profile. It is simple, elegant, and very useful for engagement.
While we’ve covered pictures and custom headers, there are still yet more tools to be found in the blogger’s arsenal. Specifically, the ones I like to use are gifs and memes. These are used to add a little comedic spice to your posts. In the case of gifs, you can find tons of them on sites like Giphy to use in your posts.
These instantly catch the eye because they’re bite-sized animated clips. If you can get a chuckle out of your readers, you can bet they’ll stick around longer than if they were bored out of their minds.
Next we have memes. These are viral images that have a specific format attached to them. Think of it like a visual joke where you can fill in the blanks to fit your situation. Let’s take a look at an example:
Keeping your blog organized and structured will make it a lot easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. You should also make it easy to contact you. This is where your pages come in. While the majority of your content will be conveyed through posts, you’ll also need some static pages for things like About Me, Contact Us, Resources, and so on. These pages won’t change much, if at all, but just having them makes it easier for readers to engage you.
Blog design is a tricky thing, but it’s not impossible to master. Use these design tips to make your blog user friendly and enjoyable for your readers, thereby increasing your blog engagement. Before you go, be sure to share your own blog design tips in the comments below!