By Anthony Fisher
User engagement is what separates a great blog from one that is mediocre. In fact, usability is even more important than Google results.
Getting to the top of Google’s search results is useless unless your visitors stay around long enough to take in what’s on your site. The longer visitors stick around, the more likely they are to buy your services.
Make it Readable
Choose your font carefully. Font size and color have a massive effect on readability.
Many websites use small pale gray fonts on a white background. Lack of font/background contrast is a usability #Fail that creates another hoop for readers to jump through. Small type also means that every line has far more than the optimum 60 characters.
Ditch the Ads
Ads might make you a few dollars a month, but until you have at least 1,000 unique visitors a month, they are just an added distraction. And they make your page slower to load – especially on mobile.
If you think people are going to click on those annoying Infolink in-text ads, you must be crazy. Forget anything that says it uses a CPM model – Anything that only pays cents per thousand views is harming your reputation and contributing nothing to your bank balance.
Make it Fast
Every plugin you add to WordPress slows down your site. Check your site’s speed on GTMetrix.com before you add any plugin, switch to any new theme and with every change you make.. That’s the only way you can be sure of finding the problem.
Nonetheless, WordPress is not optimized for SEO and you need good infrastructure if your want your blog to do well. Neil Patel’s guide to setting up a blog is a good start to research the necessary SEO and monetization plugins.
You also need a caching plugin. This will store your images and other data-intensive components and reduce the time taken for your site to load. Many cache plugins allow some free usage. The best example is W3 Total Cache.
Use Social Media Icons
Social sharing is valuable. There are many social media plugins to look at, but most load multiple scripts and slow down your site to an unacceptable degree. DiggDigg is one that is worth testing because it only loads scripts when users hover over the sharing buttons.
Reconsider the Sidebar
Yes, I know you want all those lovely photo, clock and text widgets in your sidebar, but all that clutter might be distracting your visitors.
Sidebars are useful in many ways because they let you link to social profiles and they reduce the line length in the main content column to the optimum.
The only way to tell if sidebars are helping or hindering your user engagement figures is to run A/B tests until you are confident in the result.
Think very carefully before you add any plugin. A/B test any plugin you add to your blog to find the one that is most effective and has the least effect on your site’s loading speed.