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One beautiful thing about a WordPress blog is the never-ending ability to add plugins that completely change the way your blog looks and functions. It’s absolutely essential for successful blogging.
A lot of these plugins would cost thousands (or even tens of thousands) if you wanted to pay someone to build those features in to your blog individually.
For example, before e-commerce plugins came about, you’d need a team of developers constantly working on your online store. These days you can do it with a few clicks.
Here are some of the best WordPress plugins that you can install to make your blog instantly more professional. It’s not the biggest list in the world, but we’ve only selected the very best.
NOTE: There are two affiliate links in this post. I’ll let you know which ones they are. I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through that link. Thank you for the support.
The best WordPress plugins for a professional blog
Let’s dive in now and have a look at some of the plugins we’ve chosen that will help you to build a more professional blog in just a few clicks. As always, let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below.
Slide out boxes and pop ups done very simply.
Boxzila is the successor to the very popular plugin, Scroll Triggered Boxes, and is an improved version that allows you to create a variety of scroll and pop up boxes for your blog. For example, you can see on in action on this post. You can set it to open when people exit the blog, after a certain amount of time, and you can build boxes that only appear on certain pages.
A comprehensive e-commerce platform built in to your blog.
WooCommerce recently celebrated its ninth birthday and has grown to be one of the best loved and most trusted plugins for building an online store with your WordPress installation. While it’s not the most simple plugin to use, the list of features are absolutely phenomenal and the support and community makes it a great choice for anyone looking for a way to get started selling physical products online.
3. Pretty Link
Better looking URLs for affiliates and less confusing linking.
Pretty Link is a plugin that allows you to change the way your URLs look. For example, if you’re directing people to an affiliate product that has a horrible looking address that might put some people off, you can use Pretty Link to set up a URL that incorporates your own address (like www.blogtyrant.com/blue-host/) so that it looks a bit more friendly to users. Also gives stats on how many people click the link and so on.
4. Social Warfare
Beautiful social media icons for your blog.
Social Warfare is the plugin that I use here on Blog Tyrant to add scrolling social media buttons in the sidebar, and to manage social buttons on the site as a whole. It has good options for setting your style and colors, and allows you to make a lot of optimizations. For example, you can have different settings for mobile vs desktop social buttons.
5. Smart Podcast Player
Gorgeous podcast player that integrates with your existing set up.
If you have a podcast on your blog I highly recommend Smart Podcast Player as a plugin that allows you to quickly build a beautiful player that integrates perfectly with your podcast hosting. It’s clean, simple to use and the player is mobile responsive. I’ve used this plugin on some other sites and can attest to the support staff being extremely patient and friendly with all the setup questions that I had.
6. Shortcodes Ultimate
Use little codes to make buttons and more.
Shortcodes Ultimate is a very lightweight but valuable plugin that allows you to use little snippets of code to add some great features that would otherwise probably have required a designer and coder. For example, you can add little buttons with icons, or upgrade and get testimonial boxes, pricing tables, etc. All of these things can make your blog look more professional by adding formats that are slightly more involved than plain text.
7. Better Click to Tweet
Perfectly designed options to encourage others to tweet your quotes.
This is a very cool plugin that allows you to add a click to tweet quote box within your posts. It styles the box according to the format of your choice, and lets you set things like the tweet text itself, the display text, and the Twitter handle that gets mentioned.
This is a really simple yet beautiful plugin that can add some nice extra functionality to your blog without having to use an external site like the old days.
8. To Top
Simple buttons allowing people to scroll up.
This is a very simple plugin that allows you to add a little arrow on your blog so people can scroll back up to the top with one click. This is quite a useful feature if you have a lot of long form content or a list post (like this one) where people might need to go up and down frequently. You can style the look and feel to make it fit with your design.
9. WishList Member
Build a membership site from your blog.
This is a very comprehensive plugin that allows you to lock content on your blog in order to create a membership site, school, or paid training course without needing to send visitors to a separate site or company.
It has over 80,000 active customers and has been used by some really popular bloggers to extend their content into a paid arena – a very good way to make some extra money from your blog if you have a unique offering. Allows you to drip content to students, password protect different areas, sneak peak content, and much more.
Forums and bulletin boards from your blog without hassle.
This is a beautifully simple forum-building plugin in its setup and technology, while still having so many levels of comprehensive features that it impresses everyone who tries it.
If you’ve ever wanted to add a forum or bulletin board element to your blog then this is the place to start. It’s had over 300,000 installs and is used by some of the biggest forums in the world. A great way to add extra community to your blog without needing to develop a whole forum from scratch somewhere else.
11. SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle
Huge amount of widgets and icons to create yourself.
This is a really clever idea that can save you a lot of time. SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle basically gives you a huge selection of widgets that you can customize for your own needs. It includes icons, colors, etc. so that you can create things like map widgets, buttons, call to action links, headlines, etc. It’s a very simple way to update your blog and brand without needing to change your whole theme.
12. Visual Composer
Totally change the way your blog looks with a drag-and-drop editor.
This plugin really is a game changer when it comes to how the back end of WordPress works. I’ve been using it for a few months now on a few side projects, and it’s safe to say it has totally transformed the way I use WordPress.
With a simple drag and drop editor, you can now change how WordPress looks and is structured without needing a new theme. You can build landing pages or buttons or full screen photo banners without any coding. Absolutely wonderful plugin and worth the fees simply in the amount you save by no longer needing a coder.
13. Yoast Comment Hacks
Redirect comments to a thank you page and much more.
If you’ve ever left a comment on Blog Tyrant you’ll see that you get redirected to a little thank you page that encourages you to sign up. That is done with this plugin, which has now been expanded to include other features like emailing people who leave a comment, disallowing comments if they are too short or too long, etc.
If it’s by the team at Yoast you know it is trustworthy. We’ve been using this for years and highly recommend it for some really cool and necessary comment features.
How to install a WordPress plugin
If you’re new to WordPress then you might not know about the absolutely wonderful world of plugins yet. Basically they are bits of code that developers have written that allow you to change the way your blog works.
They cover all sorts of features from photo galleries and security to social media buttons and design changes. Here’s a beginner-level video on how to install a WordPress plugin quickly:
Before installing any plugin on your blog you should do a few basic checks. Make sure it is compatible with your version of WordPress, make sure it has good reviews from users, and make sure it has been recently updated.
What’s your site’s best WordPress plugin?
I’d really love to know whether you think there are any awesome plugins that absolutely must be included on this list. Do you use anything that really transforms your blog and makes it feel or look more professional?
Please leave a comment below and let us know.
Welcome to the complete list of all the blog sites on the web (that we could find!) where you might consider starting a blog for the first time.
The goal is to give you a list of all the options out there so you can start researching to determine what is the best for your budget, goals, technical requirements, etc. We’re going to keep adding to it and updating it each week.
Oh, and this whole page doesn’t contain a single affiliate link, but it does have a cool scrolly graphic to watch over and over!
How to choose the right blog site for your needs
Choosing the right blog site to use can be a really confusing process if you are new to the whole thing. You have to consider pricing, features, upgrades, etc. and all of this can get a bit overwhelming.
Let’s start this post by having a quick look at some things to keep in mind when determining what blog site is best for you. These factors could go on forever so don’t take too much time thinking about it – just keep it in the back of your mind as you research.
Note: Here at Blog Tyrant we have our own blog hosting recommendations if you want to get started with WordPress on your own server as quickly as possible. We still think it’s the most comprehensive blogging option.
If you like this graphic I’d really appreciate a share on Pinterest as it helps get the word out about the article. This one took a really long time to put together so any support would make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The complete list of blog sites
Please keep in mind that these blog sites are not all created equal. Some are simple website builders while others are open-source, comprehensively featured mammoths. Thus, we are not recommending/reviewing each and every one, but rather are creating a comprehensive list so you can see the options and research further.
If any of the information below is incorrect please let us know. We researched all of these by examining the list of features on the sites themselves (as well as some external reviews), but sometimes this information is a little bit vague and it changes regularly. Ideally we would have signed up to each one and tried it out but it would have taken months and tens of thousands of dollars.
We’d be very happy to change or add things if anyone, including the sites themselves, would like a revision or correction, and we’ll do our best to keep adding sites and updating information.
1&1 Website Builder // Go
Is essentially a small web hosting company in its design and operation, but offers some other features for bloggers like 24-hour support, nice clear interface, and a bunch of design templates to choose from on the top plan.
Pricing: 99 cents per month for the first year and $9.99 per month thereafter. At this level, you get a choice of 10,000 industry-specific design templates, 20 million stock images, and a custom domain name.
Angelfire // Go
Angelfire has been around for a really, really long time and was where I had a website with flaming text back in school. I still have a big soft spot for it.
Has a free plan but shows ads. It’s a little bit outdated by today’s design standards, unfortunately, but still has a very fun and friendly style.
Pricing: Free with ads.
Blog.com // Go
It’s such a shame that this site isn’t dominating with that great domain name, but we couldn’t even get it to load. Don’t bother.
Blogger.com // Go
Blogger is now owned by Google and has been one of the most successful blogging platforms in history.
All Blogger blogs are included in Google’s AdSense program by default, which means that the users can immediately start advertising on their blog. It lacks many features such as advanced plug-ins and tools but has all the basics like commenting, theme editing options, built-in analytics, and so on.
The platform supports up to 100 authors on a single blog and offers a free mobile application. Good option for new bloggers and has been the choice of many popular bloggers as it is easy to learn, but may be too limiting for a few advanced uses.
Pricing: Free. Charges for other additional services such as custom domain or premium themes.
Bravenet.com // Go
This is a drag and drop style website hosting with options for bloggers as well. Has over 15 million members and options for email lists and some other email marketing with responsive design options.
Pricing: Blogging is free and paid options for further features.
Breezi.com // Go
Credits itself with being the world’s fastest website builder and has a pretty cool drag and drop live interface that a lot of people will enjoy. That being said, here’s what its CEO said on Quora: “It’s not a good platform for heavy bloggers.”
Cargo Collective // Go
Cargo Collective is a personal publishing platform that enables its users to create accessible tools within a networked context – to enhance their exposure on the Internet. They have a lot of new releases about to happen and so the difference between the options is a little bit complicated, but some of the new functions and features seem pretty awesome. Keep an eye on this one.
Pricing: Cloud hosting, 12 Projects, 3 Pages, 100MB Storage, Edit CSS, 5 Membership Invites with upgrades for $66/year or $9/month: Unlimited Projects and Pages, Unlimited Bandwidth, Advanced Editing, All Templates (30+).
Codepen.io // Go
Great for coding enthusiasts and those who want to show of coding and front end development. It offers some unique features. Some of them include a collaboration mode which allow users to works together, professor mode which lets the user share his/her code with other students, live and interactively and send to phone via SMS. Most basic plan is the starter plan which allows two users, 10 projects, 10 people for professor mode, 1GB storage and unlimited bandwidth.
Pricing: Ads will be shown on your site in the starter mode, so you’ll have to go for the developer mode which costs $14.25 to avoid them. There are also team plans available.
CityMax // Go
Founded in 1999 and has launched over 500,000 websites. It’s a pretty simple and old-school design that doesn’t really sell its features very well. That being said, has things like an integrated store option, backups, integrated email marketing, support, etc. Some excellent specs but possibly not the up-to-date solution for new bloggers given it’s a bit on the expensive side.
Pricing: $24.98 per month. Free 10 day trial available.
Duda // Go
Duda is mainly aimed at agencies who need to build a lot of responsive sites for clients and has some really cool features like a library of millions of free images and drag-and-drop site builders.
You can sell 10 products on the free plan. Mobile-only sites available as well. But it seems as if you cannot migrate your site else where which could be an issue down the track. Strong focus on website speed and is used by some pretty big brands.
Price: Free plans and paid plans starting at $14.25/month.
DoodleKit // Go
Doodlekit markets itself as a website builder with a lot of code-free template building tools and lots of things like icons, fonts, backgrounds, etc. Most basic features like shopping cart, forums, form builders and image galleries are available. Free plan is available and offers 100 GB Bandwidth and 100MB storage.
Pricing: From $10/month with a custom domain, five extra users, unlimited bandwidth and 3GB storage.
Edublogs.com // Go
Powered by WordPress, Edublogs is widely used blogging platform for education services, Universities, colleges and schools.
It offers 250+ themes and no ads in the free plan. Edublogs lets you easily create and manage student and teacher blogs, quickly customize designs and include videos, photos and podcasts – it’s safe, easy and secure. Founded back in 2005, Edublogs Powers over four millions blogs. Even Stanford University, Cornell University, and City University make use of this service for their educational purposes.
Emyspot // Go
Emyspot aims to give beginners and easy website or blog building service that is responsive, free to use, etc. Free hosting, unlimited assistance, and other basic features are all available.
Pricing: Free option available with some limitations, but there are some more expensive options for showcase sites or online stores, etc.
Ghost // Go
Ghost is one of the more beautiful blogging sites out there, and I suspect it will keep growing. It is very simple and flexible to use for beginners. There is a separate screen for your content creation and preview, which means whatever you type on the content creation page that will reflect on the preview page of your blog.
The Ghost dashboard is really stunning and easy to use, and you have the option to sign up for a preview and test it out live before you sign up. It’s missing a lot of features like plugins and so on, but it really does well for what it is for – a minimal blogging service.
Pricing: $29 billed monthly – 1 blog, 50,000 views / month, unlimited transfer and storage. Ghost does not offer a free hosted plan (has 14-day trial). However, you are not limited in the hosted version in any manner. Then there are advanced, team and business plans.
HubPages // Go
Squidoo, once owned by Seth Godin, was sold to HubPages. The idea is that you write about your passions and can earn experience points and even an actual – the more page views you get the more they pay you. It’s a really clever idea and, although not really suited for many uses, it could be a fantastic place to practice and get used to how networks of people who are focused on one topic or niche work and interact.
IM Creator // Go
This is a really simple but visually attractive website builder where you choose a theme and customize it and then get going. Unlimited hosting, connect your own domain, access to all themes. There’s more features on the higher plan and reseller options are available.
Pricing: There’s free options but then the reseller accounts start at $350 and go all the way up to $25,000.
Jimdo // Go
Jimdo is a really cool looking website and blog hosting platform that has some very funky templates and theme options. They’ve put a lot of emphasis on making it as clean and practical to use as possible.
Has a template builder and seems to have a focus on blogs that want to showcase a bunch of photos as there is a big focus on images and galleries. Has a separate App for editing your blog on the go, which is something a lot of platforms lack.
Pricing: Starts at $7.50 a month.
Joomla.com // Go
Joomla.com is the free blogging version of Joomla.org and has all of the basics that you’d expect from a large blog site. It is an open-source platform where the .com version is hosted for you and the .org version lets you download it for yourself so you can tinker away. Has millions of users and a very large community which is good if you run into trouble or need some support.
Joomla.org // Go
This is the paid version of Joomla.com and is one of the world’s biggest blogging and website hosting services. It’s fully open source and has an incredible community that is constantly updating and working together to build something that they enjoy. Over 3% of the entire web is powered by Joomla and, as you’d expect, has a huge host of features that you’d need.
It’s worth exploring all the core features as there is a lot to go through. I spent about a week using a Joomla website once and, although it did everything we needed it to, I found it a lot harder to customize and tweak and expand than a similar WordPress installation. The back end feels somewhat dated, but I know many people prefer it.
Highly recommend you jump in and look at the features and try their live demo and see if it is a fit for you.
LinkedIn Pulse // Go
All you need is a LinkedIn account to get started. However, just like other platforms, there’s no guarantee that it’ll exist forever if the site itself becomes unpopular and therefore your content may be at risk as compared to when it’s published on a self-hosted blog. Has the potential for a lot of reach but also mainly only read by people on LinkedIn and about topics related to work and those niches.
LiveJournal.com // Go
Template-customization options. An active social-networking community. Mobile and voice-posting options. LiveJournal isn’t as user-friendly as the competition, but an extremely active community and a good amount of customization options for Web-savvy users make this blogging service worth a look.
Pricing: Free. Some paid services and themes through the LiveJournal shop. Shows ads within dashboard.
Medium // Go
Medium is a free platform which is specifically content-focused and suits writers. It’s made a lot of waves in the blogging community lately and is easy to use and very beautiful in terms of it’s simple layout and white space.
I’ve chosen it as one of the recommended free options as it is a really good way to learn to blog and, although it won’t be the right choice for a full website/blog option, it connects and integrates with Twitter nicely and as such can help you get your stuff noticed easily.
Has nice features like the ability to highlight and share certain paragraphs of text, bookmark articles, etc.
Moonfruit // Go
Moonfruit has been around since 1999 and seems to be a quick and easy option if you want to get a website up as fast as possible, but after that it seems like the template might be pretty locked in once you’ve built it. Has great support options and is always mobile responsive. While it has some cool features I don’t think it is robust enough for a long term blogging solution. They do seem to have new features on the radar so maybe keep checking back and see what’s new.
Pricing: Lite plan starts at $6.75 and offers one site, up to five pages, 10GB Bandwidth, 500MB storage.
Onepagerapp.com // Go
This is a pretty cool looking website builder that could be quite useful for agencies. However, we discounted it immediately from our recommendation list as the starter plan only allows you to send one newsletter per month, which is really insufficient for bloggers. That being said, there are a lot of good testimonials for this site so it may be worth investigating if you want a really easy way for building a quick website and the specs are quite good.
Pricing: Starter plan is $8.
Pen.io // Go
This is actually a pretty cool site that, while not a blogging platform as such, is a super fast way to get a piece of content online. All that it asks for is a name for your page and a password – you’re done!
No email required either. Others can access your content through the initial password. Might be useful for those who wish to share something with their circle confidentially.
Penzu // Go
This one is an interesting option that is focused on those who wish to have an online journal. You can use three types of journals using Penzu blogging platform: DailyDiary (public can read your content), Expressive Journal (private), and Travel Journal (especially designed for travelers).
Pricing: Free plan is available. Pro plan available at $19.99 per year. Pro+ plan available as well.
Postach.io // Go
Only one of its kind. The whole premise of Postach.io is to negate the need for users to use a separate blogging tool, working instead with the popular note management system, Evernote.
Postach.io essentially turns Evernote into a content management system, which allows users to sync notes directly to their Postach.io blog. Very cool idea and worth taking a look at if blogging is new to you.
Postagon.com // Go
This is a pretty cool minimal option that lets you do some unique things like posting from your email. While it is marketed as a “no fluff” option, there are also some basic features that are quite useful like being able to view all your subscribers, make images retina friendly and so on. There’s a free demo which I would try before committing to the platform too much.
Posthaven // Go
Posthaven’s main point of difference seems to be the strong statements that they make regarding their pledge to keep your content online forever. The promise not to get shut down or acquired and, as such, your posts will always be safe with them. They have their own themes or you can build your own, and you can post by email if you like.
Scriptogr.am // Go
Hasn’t been launched yet but we’ve included it here because it looks like it could be cool.
Sett // Go
Sett is a blogging platform that lets you tap in to an audience right away by syndicating blog posts to other Sett users in similar interest groups. They claim that people who use Sett experience almost a 98% increase in comment counts, which is pretty impressive. There are quite a few examples on the homepage of posts that have gone somewhat viral, but the platform itself is missing some flexibility that you might need for professional blogging. Still worth a look.
Pricing: Free plan available. Paid plan with additional features starts at $12.
Silvrback // Go
Another minimalist platform with most of the essential features included that works as a subscription service. Several themes available and there are two UI options to choose from. One unique feature is its Github support to directly upload Github articles and they offer a 14 day trial for you to explore. The typography they chose on the site is a little unfortunate and I don’t think it enhances the minimal branding they are going for.
SITE123 // Go
SITE123 is a multilingual website building platform that offers 69 different languages to build your website. Responsive design, free image library, 24/7 support, and lots of other useful features such as restaurant menus and online store integration for those who need it. Looks like a good basic option but it’s uncertain about how advanced it can go in terms of integrations that you need to grow a blog.
Pricing: Starts at a free 500MB storage 1GB bandwidth option and then pricing goes up.
Sitey // Go
Sitey is yet another website builder that is difficult to tell how it really differentiates from the other options despite having some nice features for beginners. There’s 24 hour support, shop options available, a drag-and-drop editor and hundreds of responsive templates.
Pricing: Starts at a free option for 50MB storage (which is barely anything) and then moves up.
Strikingly // Go
Strikingly is a very beautiful looking blog site and website builder that has a very simple model for building sites that will appeal to a lot of beginners. It has been used by some pretty big entrepreneurs and has some nice endorsements.
Has scrolling single-page design with sections to which you can navigate. Free accounts get a yoursitename.strikingly.com address, show a Powered by Strikingly badge at the bottom, let you sell one product, and limit you to 5GB throughput per month. Could be good for simpler needs.
Pricing: For $8 per month, you add a custom domain, increase the monthly bandwidth to 50GB, and raise the number of products to five.
Squarespace // Go
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast you’ll know about Squarespace as they are prolific sponsors and have done an excellent job of encouraging people around the world to start a website or blog on their platform. It’s popular, beautiful and it’s easy to see why people love it.
Responsive design for mobile screens. Lots of website-building tools and options. Deep selling capabilities, including digital downloads. Free SSL certificate. Good help and analytics tools. Less straightforward than competing site builders. Fewer and more-restrictive templates than the competition. No free level. Lacks third-party widget marketplace. Little customization for mobile sites.
Squarespace has a real focus on design and as such it is the choice of a lot of brands that want to showcase their work, products, or art in a very stylish and modern way. Although you don’t have the same level of customization as a blogging site like WordPress, a lot of the stuff you want is already built-in and ready to go. Worth a look for many bloggers.
Pricing: Free 14 day trial available. Personal plan starts at $16.
12. Svbtle // Go
Really cool concept that claims that you blog will remain online forever. It is set up to help you come up with concepts and ideas as you blog, and so might be slightly different than just a blog hositng platform or regular site builder.
Very minimal and beautiful feel to the site and clears out all clutter as you write which is an idea that really appeals to me on the days I just need to write.
Pricing: $6 monthly membership.
Tumblr // Go
Tumblr took the blogging world by storm and is now one of the most popular services on the planet. It has a very distinctive feel and set of features that seems to appeal to younger audiences and fast-paced content like memes and so on.
It’s generally a micro-blogging and social networking website owned by Oath Inc. (Verizon and Yahoo!) that allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. It’s somewhere in between Twitter and Medium.
Users can follow other users and blogs. You can use a custom domain but don’t expect a lot of plugins like WordPress. It has a mobile app. Tumblr’s biggest advantage is the community of users that share content with one another that often go viral
Pricing: Free. Tumblr sells premium themes for prices ranging from $9 to $49 each.
Typepad.com // Go
Typepad offers robust tools for site management, SEO and controlling how your blog is promoted. Designing capabilities are limited without HTML coding, so this would be a service best suited to bloggers experienced in web design, but they do promise excellent support. TypePad requires a premium subscription, and its preset templates and themes aren’t as varied as other services, even free blog platforms. Seth Godin uses this.
Pricing: TypePad Basic service, for one individual, starts at a reasonable $8.95 per month, while TypePad Pro service, allowing multiple authors, costs $49.95 per month.
Ucoz // Go
Ucoz is a website template builder that comes with some good features but it seems as if you have to pay for one of the higher monthly plans to access things like a true responsive mobile design that, we think, should be default by now. Has some strange features like image watermarks added on your photos unless you choose one of the higher plans. There may be a reason for doing this but, to us, it really seems like it would scare off users.
Pricing: Free plan shows ads, storage up to 400MB, mobile version is a basic PDA.
Ukit // Go
Another website template builder with some extra features added along the way that seems to be aimed at small businesses instead of individuals. Live chat support. Automatic and manual backups. 200+ designs to choose from. You need the Pro plan in order to be able to edit HTML.
Pricing: Plans start at $4 per month.
Quora // Go
Quora’s aim is to make knowledge more available to the masses and it has done a really good job of doing what it was designed to do. It is based around a question and answer format and isn’t really a blogging platform as such but a place you can share the things you know, answer people’s questions, and so on.
You regularly see Quora posts on question-based SEO results like the one above, which is pretty cool. Your domain will have “quora” in it. Perhaps a good optional extra to have alongside your blog, but possibly not the best for your main base.
Virb // Go
Essentially a website builder but with unlimited space, large collection of themes, mobile responsive and widgets. Can be connected to an external Tumblr blog.
Pricing: Single plan is $10/month. One year free virb student program.
Voog // Go
Voog is a stripped-down, beautiful yet simple website builder with a particular focus on the easy creation of multilingual responsive websites. It supports contact forms, online store and other basic features like mobile responsiveness.
Pricing: Plans start at $8.71/month which includes 2 GB storage, 3 users, 30 pages, 3 languages, custom domain password protected pages, fully customizable design, API access, etc.
Webnode // Go
Webnode is a really simple website builder that has some visually stunning themes to work with as well as features like an online store option, mobile ready, and no ads on site. Over 27 million people use this service which is an excellent endorsement.
A little bit confusing as home page says it can be free but the pricing page only lists paid options, and the templates on the personal/free blogging section look a little dated. Would be good to explore this before starting.
Pricing: Basic plan has 100MB storage, 1GB Bandwidth and starts at $3.95/month.
Webs // Go
Simple drag and drop interface makes building websites easy. Has a free option, but displays ads on your site. A custom domain name comes free with all paid plans. Need to pay extra for things like advanced stats and the ability to integrate a store.
Pricing: Starter plan is available for creating a basic site for $5.99/month.
Webstarts // Go
Webstarts claims to be the number one website builder of 2017 and hosts around 3.8 million websites, which is pretty amazing although I couldn’t find any criteria for the rating.
Online store option available, automatic domain setup and online store and CDN. Free plan available and offers 1GB storage but appears to show ads.
Pricing: Pro plans starts at $4.89/month and offers storage up to 5GB, bandwidth of 25GB, and removes ads, along with providing some additional features.
Websitebuilder // Go
Another website builder with all of the expected features including over 10,000 theme combinations, custom domain names, mobile responsive templates, support, etc. Has a free plan but it is extremely restrictive with things like no option for mobile responsive sites or email.
Pricing: Premium plan starts from $5.99/month and provide free domain, free hosting, free ad credits, seo and marketing help, mobile sites. Higher plans include free email, priority support and ecommerce.
Web Start Today // Go
Web Start Today is a premium DIY website builder that helps you create professional websites for free. Has a widgetized site builder, but it seems as if you have to pay extra to have a mobile responsive design which is a bit of a shame.
Pricing: Has free options but uses their domain name. $4.99 p/m standard plan with 10 Pages, limited storage and bandwidth, ad-free, 2 email accounts.
WebyDo // Go
Weby Do is a really beautiful looking platform that focuses on being able to craft nice designs without using code and is really meant for web designers building sites for clients. Might be a little on the expensive side for beginners, but could really suit some custom situations. Really like that you can suggest and then vote on the next features you want added to the platform.
Pricing: $75.00/month (monthly plan) with email support for up to 10 sites.
Weebly.com // Go
Weebly has become a pretty recognizable brand name among small businesses and people who are just starting out on the web. They’re marketing has been very good in that sense. It’s a simple, reliable free option that now powers over 12 million websites.
The place a lot of emphasis on helping you do your own marketing and email list management which is really nice if you need a blog site that will help you build a blog for the purposes of growing, for example, a physical store or business.
Pricing: Free plan available but you’ll want to go up to at least the third plan tier to get all the things you’ll need over your blogging career.
Wix // Go
Wix is another blog site and website builder that has made huge inroads in the booming small business website market – you see it almost every day for local businesses around your town. It has some good and some not so good features.
They offer over 510 professional templates, and have a drag and drop website builder and features that is focused around industries like Art, Music, etc. There’s a mobile editor that allows you to edit the mobile version of your site separately. With Wix app market, you can add functions to your website, such as live chat (for customer service), newsletter, testimonials, reservation/booking tools, contests, pricing tables, etc.
One of the drawbacks is that it seems as though once you’ve picked a template to use you can’t switch to another template without re-inserting your content. If you are using Wix’s free website builder, it includes advertisement logos. To remove the advertisements, you will need to upgrade to at least their “Combo” premium package. It’s not designed to manage complex e-commerce needs.
Pricing: Free and then paid plans start at $4.50/month.
WordPress.com // Go
WordPress.com is the free version of WordPress.org where you essential use their blog site for your blog instead of installing it on your own server. It is extraordinarily popular and has some (but definitely not all…) of the features we love about WordPress.org for professional blogging.
Users can upgrade to a custom domain name. The solutions to user’s problems are found within the active forums and the site’s in-depth tutorials. It can be used for building a site, blogging, or an eCommerce site but lacks a lot of the themes and plugins and customization options that you get with the self-hosted version unless you upgrade to the Business Plan.
We often recommend this as a good free starting point as it is then quite easy to migrate to a WordPress.org setup as opposed to if you started your free blog on a totally different platform. Read the next one to see why it’s a step up.
Pricing: Free. Charges for other additional features such as custom domain or third-party themes and plugins.
WordPress.org // Go
WordPress.org is the open-source free platform that you install on your own server. It has been the most popular blogging and website building software for a long time now, and it has been the basis for all of our online businesses, including Blog Tyrant.
We have some more details about how the WordPress.org and self-hosting setup works here if you’re interested, but the main thing to know is that you need your own server and domain name, and then you install WordPress on that server and use it as your blogging platform/dashboard. It sounds simple but it only takes a few minutes and the process is automated on most hosts. Here’s a guide on how to do it.
WordPress’s main advantages is that it is open for programmers and designers to design themes and plugins and as such there are literally hundreds of thousands of ways you can change your whole blog by just installing a simple plugin or theme that behaves differently.
Xanga // Go
There seems to be a re-launch of this blog site happening soon but the website is a little bit confusing at the moment. We’ve left it on the list and will update it should they launch the new thing.
Yola // Go
You only get a three page website on the free option and have to upgrade to the top platform to get most of the necessary features. Has a 30-day money back guarantee which should be essential for all blog site and website builders.
Pricing: Free and upgrades available.
Zoho // Go
Zoho is more than just a website or blog builder in that it encompasses and entire cloud software suite that businesses can use to run a lot of their operations from finance to marketing and promotion and sales.
A lot of bloggers will find these features unnecessary as they are intended for bigger companies, but it’s interesting to find a place where they are all integrated nicely, and it’s been around since 1996 so has a very solid reputation.
Pricing: Basic plan available for $5/month. Most requisites for a well working blog are only fulfilled by the Standard plan available at $10 and beyond.
What blog sites or features are missing?
We’d really like to make this resource as accurate and comprehensive as possible so that people can easily browse a list of blog sites and then dive deeper into their own exploration. What blog sites are missing, and is there anything you’d like us to change with the format or features listed?
Please leave a comment and let us know.
I remember setting up my first WordPress blog and then sitting back and thinking nervously to myself: this is going to be a lot of work.
It’s quite interesting to note that, while many new bloggers have trouble with technical aspects like plugins, getting a blog host, optimizing for Google, and so on, it’s actually the practical aspects like finding time to write blog posts that can cause the most stress.
And while I confess to being a big lazy procrastinator, I have managed to find a few little strategies that help me be a more efficient blogger. Actually, maybe the laziness is why I went looking for them!
In today’s post I’m going to try and help you figure out how to write more, and discuss why you’d even want to do that in the first place.
I hope it’s useful!
More is… more
Usually people tell you that less is more.
But when it comes to blogging it’s fascinating to note that there are some scenarios where it’s pretty true to say that more is more. More words, more posts, more links, etc.
And while there is no point in posting more if the content is ordinary, it’s good to learn how to write more if it means you can create longer blog posts that solve more problems, rank well on Google, and form a solid basis for your blog’s long term success.
So, let’s take a look.
How to write more
Here are a few strategies, ideas, and tools that have helped me write more over the years. We’ll begin with the more theoretically tips and then get on to some practical methods.
1. Have a solid set of goals with a timeline
It is really hard to sit down to research and write super-long articles if you don’t have a reason to do it. Knowing your short and long term goals and setting them to a timeline makes an enormous difference.
I made this error for years and years and it wasn’t until my older sister asked me over dinner what my goals were for the year. I ummmed and aahhhhed for so long and went away feeling embarrassed enough that I decided to sit down and figure out exactly what I wanted to do that year.
The result was extremely motivating; when you set a timeline for an outcome you start to work backwards and see all the small steps that you are going to need to get that. And, for us bloggers, that usually means writing more content in order to help more people.
2. Know exactly why you are doing it
This is closely related to the first point but is different enough that it needs its own mention because it has really helped a lot of bloggers I know.
I have personally found it crucial to have a reason to get out of bed each morning. For some people it is because they want to get better at a skill, for others it might be making more money to support your family or perhaps even a charity. Whatever your motivation, it can help a lot if you isolate it, make it clear, and then recall it regularly.
Not only does this keep your writing focused and careful, it also helps to support you emotionally when you are having down days where the writing doesn’t flow or you feel like progress isn’t happening fast enough. If you can recall to mind the stakeholders of your progress then it puts a fire under your butt.
3. Read, read, read, read, read
If you talk to almost any writer, author, journalist, or blogger about what helps them be good at what they do I can guarantee that a large portion of them will tell you to read more.
A lot of fantastic things happen when you read – especially when you go outside your comfort zone and look at various sources. First of all, your mind opens up to new ideas. Secondly, you start to discover new ways to express those ideas with your writing. Thirdly, your writing happens with less difficulty because the tones and styles of those authors start to absorb into you.
If you are having a period of writer’s block then one of the best things you can do is take a few hours to read. Look around at the best blogs in your niche, but then go further to excellent long form sources like the New Yorker, WIRED, Mother Jones, etc. and see if something sparks.
4. Find a place to write and go there… even if you can’t
Finding somewhere to write is extremely important. It doesn’t need to be National Library of the Czech Republic inspiring but it should be enough that it allows you to concentrate in the zone.
The most important thing, however, is that you actually go there and write. This is really easy for me to say – I don’t have kids or a “real” job to go to. And I imagine that if you’re a stay-at-home parent or someone trying to blog while raising a family then it could be extremely tricky. But it is also extremely important.
Try finding a cafe nearby or even a place in your house that is just for sitting and writing. Let your family know that for the time that you’re in there (it might only be 30 minutes a day) that you’re not to be disturbed. You can get a lot done in a short amount of time when it’s just one thing.
5. Start with an extraordinary headline and keep coming back to it
For me, it’s really important to have an excellent headline sorted before I start doing any of the actual content writing. This helps me to stay focused.
Actually, this was a tip I got from a lecturer in University who said that you should write your essay topic at the top of your screen and always have it in sight. Refer back to it again and again and it will help you stay on topic in every paragraph, sentence, etc. I found it useful and so applied it to blog writing.
There are so many tactics for writing a good headline or blog post title but here’s a little summary that should be enough for this article:
You can also look at the cheat-sheet made by Jon Morrow for some wonderful tips on how to write good headlines. It’s well worth the email submit.
The thing to remember here is that once you figure out the perfect headline/title for your blog post you often find that the content writing flows a lot easier. You know what question your are trying to answer, problem you are trying to solve, etc. and as such everything feels very consistent.
Try working a little longer on your headlines, even if you have to re-write them 50 times, and then see whether you find that the rest of the article comes out a lot quicker.
6. Develop an article structure that you can use as a base
Another little trick that has worked quite well for me is to come up with a post structure that I use for every article that has all the elements that I’ll use laid out in front of me. Here’s a rough look at what most posts on Blog Tyrant will look like:
The reason I think this helps us to write more is because it gets you in to a pattern that you can repeat over and over again. As opposed to sitting down and trying to figure out the content, structure, layout, etc. you just sit down and start filling in the familiar format that you’re used to.
This takes a little bit of time and will be different depending on the theme you use, the niche you’re in, etc. so it’s a good idea to do a few tests and see what the majority of your traffic seems to like.
7. Get better at typing and editing
Another important consideration is the physical act of writing. For more of us, that means learning how to type faster and edit more efficiently.
The above is a screen shot of my best result for a typing speed test – I cheated and had a few goes! I am not very fast at typing when compared to people who have trained properly, but I have definitely improved a little bit over the years.
Quick interruption: I’d absolutely love to see your results! Click the link above to take the test and then post your score in the comments below.
These websites can also teach you how to type more efficiently by giving your courses, tools and information on the best keys to use, etc. I would put too much time in to this, but it’s good to see if you’re making any huge errors.
When it comes to editing, the best thing you can do is get some help so that you’re not left doing it all yourself. This is one of those areas that can take up a lot of valuable time that would be better spent working on the income-earning activities on your blog, or just writing more words, practicing.
If you don’t want to pay anyone to help you edit, you can use tools like the Proofread Bot above that is actually really excellent at making suggestions for how you can improve your writing from a grammar, spelling, and readability point of view.
8. Use the Pomodoro technique for efficiency
The Pomodoro technique is one of many similar styles that can help you become more efficient by breaking your work routine up into small segments that are supposedly supposed to give you the right amount of work and the right amount of breaks.
Glen over at ViperChill wrote a massive post about this and I couldn’t say anything better, so all I will do is encourage you to look at it a bit deeper and see if it works for you.
If it’s not Pomodoro, see if you can find a similar efficiency technique that will help you write more by keeping you focused on task and balanced between working and fatigue and inspiration.
9. Remove distractions
We’ve touched on this in the point about finding an inspiring place to go and write more, but this one is a little more hard-core. We’re going to actually try to remove distractions.
For example, the now-famous app, Flipd, is outstanding if you want to do things like hiding distracting programs, locking your phone for a certain amount of time, and so on. There’s another app called Forest that helps you stay focused and actually plants trees to reward you.
This is a really good idea if you’re perhaps working from home for the first time and are still adjusting to the freedom. It’s a really good way to help you move from one schedule into another.
What helped you to write more?
I’d really love to know if you think anything is missing from this article. Have you ever set out to try and find more time to write and had some luck making it happen? Have you ever increased your writing output and productivity over time? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
Top image: © Danomyte.
Guest posts form an integral part of any blogging strategy. But can you still get them in today’s overcrowded environment?
Actually, the issue of guest posting is not an easy one to cover.
Some blogs that used to offer guest posts are now totally closed to the idea. Others that would never dream of accepting them are opening up to the idea of having multiple authors.
So how do you get a guest post in today’s blogging landscape? And do you even want to still try and get them?
Let’s take a look.
A quick overview of some guest posting tactics
Let’s start this article by taking a quick look at the overarching principles behind pitching for guest posting opportunities in today’s environment:
Now let’s get into the real details of this article. Hopefully by the end of it you’ll have some new ideas for your guest post pitches and approaches.
So, is guest posting still possible these days?
Shall we touch on a little bit of history first?
Go back in time 10 years and you would have seen a thriving guest posting industry in almost every blogging niche.
People were swapping articles on each others blogs and it was helping them get traffic and even boosting their Google rankings up and up.
Some bloggers were even making a lot of money by charging advertising to put links on their site in the form of a guest post because they knew how valuable that backlink was for the person doing the post.
Some bloggers wrote about how this was not exactly accurate but, for the most part, it had the effect of making it a lot harder for people to get a guest post on another blog because everyone started to get afraid of Google penalties.
Guest posting to increase exposure to your brand, tap into different audiences, etc. are still very important and valid reasons for wanting to write on a blog that isn’t your own.
Well, the good news is that, despite all of this, guest posting is still very possible and can have extremely positive results for everyone who takes part, as long as it is done cleverly.
How NOT to get a guest post these days
My intention here is not to embarrass anyone who sends out guest post pitches but rather to highlight a few issues that pop up in the hope that it helps in the future.
As someone who is fortunate enough to own a pretty big blog, I get approached by people looking to do guest posts every single day. Sadly, most of these pitches fall on deaf ears because the majority of them contain the same errors that get repeated again and again and, as the guy who sees the emails every day, they start to stand out a lot.
Here is one example from this week:
At first it looks like a pretty decent email pitch. Short, to the point, etc. But when you see these every day (and they all look the same) you start to notice some things.
- Nothing is personalized
The first thing that you notice is that they haven’t addressed me by my name or role. This automatically makes anyone in the internet marketing space think that it’s auto-generated.
- Incorrect link
Secondly, they have pointed to my blog archive at /blog/ and said that it was a post and that they liked what I wrote. This doesn’t bode well for someone hoping to write on a blogging site – either they don’t know what a post is or the email is incorrect.
- Generic details
The last paragraph has no details about their idea for a guest post, what they are suggesting for my site, how it will help my readers, etc. Again, it seems a lot like a mass generated email.
This is all a little bit frustrating when my contact page says at the very top that we do not accept any guest posts at this point in time, even if you are Seth Godin himself.
Interestingly, I’ve started replying to these pitches asking politely where they got the email address from and have never once heard back from any of them. I’m not sure what that means…
How to get a guest post in today’s landscape
If you are a new blogger that is looking to start guest posting then I applaud you – it’s a good strategy that still works.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the same tips that worked for me when I first got started still have a big effect now. Guest posting has changed, but a lot of the same things are still working.
Let’s have a look.
1. Build relationships before engaging
As we saw in the example above, it’s very unlikely that you are going to get a guest post by emailing a blogger randomly with a half-baked pitch. The reason is simple – your pitch is getting received with dozens of others and there is no way for it to stand out.
What this means is that it’s really important to build relationships with bloggers first. This helps to differentiate yourself from the masses and makes it more likely that you’ll get a leg up.
One example of this is my Internet-friend, Vishal, who you might have seen in the comments section of Blog Tyrant leaving massive essays that are filled with value (seriously, some of them are like 1,000 words long!).
After a while I began chatting to Vishal and he expressed that he’d like to learn more about my industry and that if I needed any small jobs done that he’d be interested in helping. I remember feeling instantly excited about this idea because I’d seen the quality and care of his comments and knew that he was a trustworthy person.
I ended up hiring him to do a few little research and writing tasks which will be published very soon, but the main point is that it was much easier for me as a site owner to take the step towards working together when I’d seen him around the blog creating value and sharing knowledge. When Blog Tyrant gets opened up for other authors I’d be delighted to ask him to participate.
Actually, it has always been like this. Back when I was fortunate enough to be asked to do some writing on ViperChill I had been friendly and communicated with Glen for a long time before. It absolutely wouldn’t have happened from a cold email.
2. Show legitimate value first
Closely related to the idea of building relationships is the fact that you’re much more likely to get noticed if you can show something interesting or valuable that you’ve done.
For example, at least half of the guest post pitches that I receive are from bloggers with no existing blog, or from those with a blog that is brand new.
While I appreciate that they are trying to get guest posts so they can build that new blog up, it’s also a little bit like going for a job interview for a manager’s position without having any experience in the entry-level positions first.
One of the most incredible things about starting a blog is that you can use it as a digital resume that shows people your skills, your brand, and what you are about. They can explore it on their own time, and you don’t have to explicitly describe anything, you just let your work do the talking.
So when you’re trying to land a guest post on a particular topic, it’s important that you already have some kind of successful content on that topic. This doesn’t mean you need viral posts with millions of views, but show that you can actually write a long-form piece that is well researched, helpful, etc.
3. Find a way to be different
As I showed in the example above, when you pitch is just like every other pitch it’s easy for the site owner to think that you’re just mass emailing with no real value to add to the blog.
One of the most important things you can do in any marketing exercise is find a way to be different and memorable so that you stand out in the mind’s of the people who encounter you and your brand.
One incredible example of this is a guest post that appeared on Copyblogger by a dinosaur robot called Fake Grimlock.
This entire post was written in a kind of broken English with the caps lock button turned on for the whole thing. I remember laughing out loud to myself when I saw it – it was such a contrast to the other perfectly formed grammar masterpieces that usually appeared on Copyblogger.
This is a really fascinating (if not extreme) example of how you can approach your pitch differently. It’s important to remember how many emails your target gets on a given day, and to try and find some way both in the email itself and leading up to its sending to set yourself out from the pack.
4. Link to the people you want to work with
This is something we have talked about before in posts about blogging strategies and the like, but it’s really important to remember when you are trying to get a guest post.
The idea here is that you want to “give before you receive” by linking to the sites that you want to work with in the future.
This is something that every website owner appreciates because links are such valuable currency in our industry. If someone gives you a link in a guest post that they’ve done you really take notice because the act of citing your blog in a guest post is extremely kind.
Kristi Hines was someone who did this extremely well by creating highly useful content around the web that always linked back to a copious amount of bloggers.
For example, this compilation post that she did on Unbounce was one of my top traffic referrers for a long time. It got almost 400 comments and thousands of social shares.
After seeing this post I linked to Kristi more often and I noticed that her profile kept growing and growing until she was guest blogging on some of the biggest sites in the world. I am convinced this style of blogging really helped to showcase her writing skills to the right people.
I really don’t want this all to sound too much like I’m encouraging you to link to Blog Tyrant, I’m just being honest about the things that stand out when you get dozens of pitches every week. When someone has a demonstrated history of knowing your blog and citing it in other articles it really does go a long way.
5. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away
Guest posting is a hard gig and it’s important to remember that it can take a long time for the results to start showing up. I had an interesting chat about this topic on Twitter the other day and Brendan Hufford shared a very on-point insight:
@BlogTyrant Yeah. I measure results with long-term relationships and playing the long game. I also don't do it like a total d-bag (I hope?)
— ☕️Brendan Hufford (@BrendanHufford) May 13, 2017
Sure, there are bulk/mass/automated ways to do all of these things and sometimes the work. But often when they work they usually only do so for the short term and then you are left scrambling to find the next thing that cuts through.
Try to keep track of the things that work for you and then try to replicate them for different campaigns, sites, etc. And if you ever stumble across something that is done well, consider popping it in a “Inspiration” folder in your bookmarks so you can refer back to it later and try to learn from it.
So many small wins in blogging come from just looking at what is working well for others and then trying to replicate or improve on that for your own blogs.
Have you had any luck guest posting?
As we’ve talked about throughout this article, guest posting is a lot harder than it used to be. I’d really love to know if you’ve had any luck and if you’d recommend anything to new bloggers who are hoping to get started and chalk up some early wins. Please leave a comment and let us know.
Getting more comments on your blog can be a very hard task, but there are some new strategies to try that might make things easier.
One of my favorite parts of running a blog is the friends that get made in the comments section.
The conversations that have been had on this site over the years, for example, have been a truly wonderful experience and something I’m so grateful for.
As I’ve often said – and I mean it – the comments are usually more valuable than the articles I write.
But not everyone seems to get a lot of interaction on their blog. Today we’re going to try and fix that once and for all.
Let’s take a look.
Are these basic issues discouraging comments?
Before we get into some of the strategies that can help you get more comments, we want to take a look and see whether there are any basic errors that could be getting in the way.
- Is your site mobile responsive?
If your site is (still!) not mobile responsive then there is a good chance you are making it too hard for a good portion of your visitors to interact and leave comments. Remember, upwards of 50% of your traffic could now be coming from mobile devices.
- How is the load time on assets?
We know that your blog’s loading speed is important, but you also have to make sure that certain assets are also loading fast. For example, if you use a comment plugin like Disqus you need to make sure that it isn’t slow.
- Are the questions answered?
Some article are so complete that there isn’t much room left for discussion. It’s worth going back to see whether your headers, content, and conclusions leave anything left to chat about. Every good blog post should be extensive but perhaps not totally solved.
- Is your design too complicated?
Sometimes bloggers, in a genuine attempt to be on top of trends, add way too many things to their design which leaves less experiences web users confused about what action to take. How many options do you have available on your blog? Any more than two or three and you’ll be losing people.
Now that we’ve got some of the negative things out of the way, let’s take a look at some new things bloggers and marketers are doing to get more comments.
New strategies that lead to more comments
I should mention at the top that not all of these things are take from blogging examples but we can take lessons from each one and apply it to our own blogs.
1. Asking for mentions or tags
There is a new trend going around on social media at the moment that mixes humor an the innate power of social networking sites to get people to embarrass their friends.
The above example is a screenshot from a local football Facebook page that asks their fans to tag a mate who is losing his hair. It has over 45,000 comments…
Now, this isn’t exactly the best example to give, and a lot of these meme-based ones are sexist or stupid, but they do give a good insight into what people will respond to when asked. It’s important to note that it is totally okay to ask your readers to perform an action.
At the end of almost every blog post I like to devote a whole paragraph and closing statement to encouraging people to leave comments, and to expand on all the things that I’ve missed in the post.
In this post on starting a blog for the first time, for example, I really noticed that by asking people to comment on their own experiences or the factors that were omitted from the article that I was likely to get more comments.
2. Taking a popular event/theme and applying it to your niche
One tactic that has been working really well lately is to create marketing material out of the latest news events or themes in the world and apply them to your niche.
Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness does this really well, and one of his latest articles called You Are Flawed. And So Are Your Superheroes. is a fantastic combination of brilliant long form content and a twist on a modern topic that every one is talking about or seeing in the movies.
One niche where we see this more and more is on late night TV where hosts like Stephen Colbert are raking in tens of thousands of comments, links, shares, etc. by commentating, night after night, on the current political climate. Just a few years ago, it would be interviews with celebrities that got the main attention, but now it is commentators like John Oliver making sense of news and politics that is getting talked about.
One way you can make the most out of this while still helping people is to create content that touches on these subjects but guides people through a difficulty. For example, if you were parent who ran a blog that talked about family, schooling, politics, etc. you could do an article about how to talk to your kids about [insert law] that Trump passed.
Another example of this can be seen on sites like The Oatmeal who go into incredible detail to study a different angle about something everyone is talking about. Their latest comic is all about how hard it is for people to change their minds and is extremely relevant for the current political climate.
It has had almost 100k shares and thousands of comments, a lot of which are really touching stories and experiences that people are sharing.
Remember, the point is not to be controversial for the sake of it, but rather to add something useful and truthful to the noise that is out there at the moment that often seems like it is trying to do the opposite.
3. Asking a popular question and making it the headline
Making headlines a question is not a new tactic, but it has definitely been getting more effective as social networking sites allow you to share that question in different formats.
Last week in the article on whether WordPress is still best we had some incredible discussions and I really learned a lot about the different options that were out there, the problems people had with WordPress, etc. All of this meant that the comment count got pretty high.
I don’t share this one to brag (the comments were often showing flaws in the post!) but rather to show you how powerful it can be to make your article about one evergreen question that lots of people have experience with. It can lead to some really wonderful conversations.
The same occurred in posts like Is Blogging Finally Dead? and Will Your Blog Ever be Profitable Enough to Support Your Family – both questions that touched a lot of people and something that was easy enough for everyone to weigh in on.
Although they don’t have a comments section, the New Yorker does this type of headline extremely well as you can see this week with Is the Gig Economy Working?. These are always in the most popular section and you regularly see them cited in other blogs and discussion threads which makes them extra valuable for building links.
Another example of this is BBC News who often post images and videos to instagram with a question over the top of the photo. This creates a lot of discussion as you can see in the post above on whether or not this is the best way to get a crying baby to go to sleep.
Making your headline/topic part of your marketing collateral on social networking sites or advertising campaigns is an extremely good way to increase organic reach because you get people discussing on and off-site.
4. Running a contest in your mail outs
Another strategy that I have found to be quite effective is to run a contest that asks people to leave a comment on a certain post in order to get entry to win some kind of giveaway.
This works especially well when you promote it to your mailing list first as they are more likely to be active in getting involved with something that takes a few more steps than usual.
As you can see in the example above, some physical businesses do extremely well by mixing a “tag a friend” promotion with a giveaway. This particular one is celebrating a cinema’s birthday with an iPhone giveaway and has over 55,000 comments so far.
It’s unclear how successful these things are – some niches will be more likely to get ongoing traction than others. This cinema, for example, probably did quite well because all of the comments would be from friends of people who already like the cinema and are in the same location.
Before running a contest, make sure you think carefully about the goals and outcomes, the prize you giveaway, and then any local laws that you need to abide by. Some countries/states have very strict things about who can run a contest and the language and prizes that can be offered.
5. Requiring a comment for a result
This is quite similar to the one above but is more like a request or registration that is a little more public or accessible as opposed to a straight email submit form.
For example, in this article Glen asked people to leave a comment if they wanted to get access to his private Facebook group as a way to protect members. It’s had over 1,000 comments and continues to grow.
I really like this idea as it creates a bit of discussion around the topic and gets people anticipating the result. It’s also a very clever way to keep the site looking alive and busy which can be very valuable social proof for new visitors who are encountering the content for the first time.
Some tricks to help with your comments
If you’re running a WordPress blog there are some really cool plugins that you can utilize to help make your comment areas more engaging and useful for both you and the readers.
- Redirect your comments
You can redirect first-time-commenters to a landing page that encourages them to sign up to your list, shows them new content, or just says thanks!
- Email when someone replies
A plugin like this one will automatically notify someone by email if their comment got a reply. This is essential for encouraging good ongoing discussion.
- Add extras features
A plugin like wpDiscuz allows you to add extra features like emojis, searchable comments, tagging commenters, replying directly from email, and much more. This can make the comments section feel more like a forum.
- Avatars next to your comment
If you’re new to WordPress you might want to head over to Gravatar to get your globally recognized avatar next to your comments whenever you use the same email to post a message in a comment thread.
- Display your most popular posts
If you have articles where ongoing comments is important then consider adding a widget somewhere on your blog that shows those most commented on articles so people know what is being talked about right now.
As always, make sure you test these things on your own blog and make a determination as to whether it is adding the right type of functionality to your blog and not detracting from important things like email sign ups or affiliate conversions.
Do you have any tricks for more comments?
I’d really love to know how your blog goes for comments. Do you find it hard to get them, or is it something that has happened quite easily for you? If you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share please leave a message below as it might really help someone who is struggling.
I am a huge fan of WordPress.
I’ve run my business on it for a decade, recommended it to thousands and feel eternally grateful for what it’s allowed me to do.
But is it still the best option?
As you might have noticed, the blogging scene has changed a lot in the last five years.
There’s free platforms like Tumblr and Medium that are now absolutely booming and doing things slightly differently.
Squarespace, the ultra-sexy hosting service (and podcast industry mega-patron!) is everywhere and is pretty awesome too.
Then there’s the fact that a lot of people blog on social networking sites like Instagram and Facebook and that seems to be enough for them.
Today we’re going to take a look at whether WordPress is still the best bet for bloggers and website owners who are just starting out.
As always, I’d love your comments below.
Every platform as it’s own advantages
One of the first things to note here is that each platform will have some features and advantages that are lacking in the other platforms.
When you’re looking to start a blog or website it’s important to note these features because one something that’s important to you might be completely irrelevant to me.
For example, if you write a blog on LinkedIn you’ll enjoy the fact that it’s pretty easy for all of your contacts to see the articles that you write, and everyone who reads it will be pretty targeted to your niche. Try to integrate a product to sell or a mailing list, however, and you’ll be pretty stuck.
So, when reading the rest of this article please note that the evaluations are made based on what I consider to be the most important features and options for running a successful blog.
So, what does WordPress have going for it?
Let’s start this little analysis by looking at some interesting facts and stats about WordPress so you have an idea of what we are working with.
- Over 24% of the entire web is powered by WordPress.
- There are over 500 new sites created per day.
- Over 1,200,000 people have downloaded WordPress plugins.
- WordPress is available in 56 languages.
- 17 posts are published every second on WordPress
It truly is the most popular platform in the world and for good reason. Here is why I still use and recommend WordPress for bloggers and online entrepreneurs of all levels.
Please keep in mind that I’m talking about a self-hosted WordPress blog here as opposed to the free version.
The main advantage that WordPress has always had over its competition is the seemingly unlimited ability to customize everything from the source code to the look at feel.
As you can see above, there are roughly 40,000 plugins available – each one giving you new abilities and functions on your blog – and it’s all usually for free or a very small cost (compared to actually building the feature).
You might add a store, harden your security, add icons, generate opt-in forms, change your header design, improve your SEO… the list is endless.
And if you don’t like the way a particular plugin works you can open up the code and tweak it yourself. Or you can pay someone to re-write the whole darn thing until it works exactly like you need it to. You can do this at the plugin level, or open up your server and change it from that level. You have complete control – something missing from many other platforms.
Now if we take that same idea over to the topic of themes/templates you’ll see that the WordPress theme directory itself has over 2,000 themes in just the popular section alone – all of them free. There are thousands more available.
Then you can go premium and look at sites like Theme Forest which has around 9,000 premium themes designed by professional WordPress designers whose sole job is to design themes that function well.
People who say that places like Squarespace are better because they offer better support often overlook this fact. Sure, you can get support on the free WordPress forums, but you also have support from your theme designer and your WordPress host.
Once again, if you’re not happy with the way your blog is looking you can open up the source code in five seconds and change colors, fonts, or engage a designer to help you re-work the whole thing.
For me, having a WordPress blog is all about owning your asset, controlling your future, and having complete freedom to tinker and tweak whatever you like.
On most other platforms (Medium, Tumblr, Squarespace, etc.) you are limited to their servers or their APIs and as such there is always going to be something that is limited. It might not be a big things, but when you’re trying to run a business it might just be big enough to be a problem.
There’s got to be some downsides, right?
As was mentioned at the top of the post, every blogging host or platform has it’s downsides. And, as seems to happen with WordPress, sometimes your big advantages can turn into weaknesses.
Security issues come with popularity
For example, as WordPress becomes more and more popular we see increased instances of security breaches. It makes sense – the more people using the platform the luckier the intruders can get by sheer statistical probability.
This issue is compounded by the fact that the open source nature of WordPress means that anyone can build a plugin and that plugin can either have bad intentions behind it, or just be coded in a way that leaves it vulnerable.
To avoid this, it’s important to always use up to date plugins, make sure you read the reviews first, and follow basic security protocols on your blog to ensure it stays safe. And remember, WordPress is not less secure than anything else it is just a target because more people are using it improperly.
Lack of direct sources of traffic
One of the reasons Medium and Tumblr have been doing so well as new blogging platforms is that they have their own little ecosystems that feed your blog’s traffic and chances of success.
For example, the front page of Medium has staff picks and popular items for the day, and you’ll see recommendations from those in your social networks.
This means that content has a good chance of being seen and shared by someone without all of the blogging SEO work that we need on WordPress self hosted setups.
And here’s one I found on the front page of Tumblr today that has had around 60,000 shares within the Tumblr network itself.
The way that these newer platforms have started to bridge the gap between “website” and “social network” is very interesting and I think it will be a trend that we see more of in the future.
This does not mean, however, that it’s the best place to start a blog or website (especially if you want to make money with it) because you simply don’t know if it’ll be around in five years. Look at MySpace and Google+ and similar websites which everyone thought would be around forever. If you’d invested your time and effort into building a career there you may be in trouble.
So what’s the verdict on WordPress?
While some other blogging platforms have made some big inroads recently, I still can’t imagine moving away from a self-hosted WordPress setup.
For me, it really comes down to the fact that WordPress offers you near unlimited options for configuration, design changes, feature development and expansion. You are never going to run out of room or power, and you’re never boxed in to a different company’s API or strictures.
And while a lot of people decry WordPress updates as annoying, what they really represent is constant improvements, security patches, feature additions, etc.
It is actually pretty amazing for something you essentially get for free.
If you want to build a blog that supports your family or perhaps is the basis of a business that allow you to work from home then I would 99 times out of 100 recommend a the WordPress and host combination for the sheer fact that it’s changeable and you control it.
What do you think about WordPress?
As always, I’d really love to know your opinions on how WordPress compares with the other platforms out there. I sometimes am a bit worried that I’m blinded to the features of the new players because I’ve been using this setup for such a long time, so please feel free to teach me a thing or two in the comments below.
A number of active blogs numbers over 100 million, so how do you make your blog a standout? Whether you are starting a blog for the first time, or you are looking to get more traffic to your blog, there are always trends to follow to make your blog shine. Follow these blogging trends to get your site the following it deserves.
Include Engaging Media
Blogs are no longer just made up of blocks of text and a few images scattered here and there. In today’s blogging environment, a variety of content is key. This means not only making sure your images are high quality, but varying your use of different types of media. Fun and creative videos are the latest and most popular trend in blogging. Do not hesitate to create videos and encourage followers to follow your social media accounts.
The crème de la crème of blogging at the moment, however, has to be live streaming. Live streaming is at this time the most immersive experience for viewers because it puts them right there with you. Followers have the ability to interact with you, ask questions, and comment while you are streaming. More and more people want to buy into a totally immersive experience in which they are engaging with the content as it happens in real-time. In many cases, it goes farther than what many blog videos and images cannot do. Depending on the brand of your blog, you can conduct interviews with special guests or even immortalize your travel adventures.
Go for Quality Over Quantity
Today, there is simply too much content on the web to sift through. The sheer amount of blogs that may surround your topic can be overwhelming, so the answer to this is simple: less is more. Readers and viewers today want quality work. Their time is precious and they want to find something worth looking at. If they cannot find it in your content, they will quickly move on to something else. The cure to this is to elevate the quality of your content. Feel free to go in-depth about your specific entry, or divide the topic into a series whether it be politics, lifestyle, or media. Sometimes this means writing more, and sometimes this means writing less. If you are not the best editor, perhaps have a trusted friend or family member who has the skills to elevate your work for you.
Keep in Touch With Your Followers
A great deal of criticism has surfaced about the cold and impersonal nature of social media. While these critiques do have their merits, they don’t have to hold true for you. You can influence your followers by becoming more personable. This means that when a follower reaches out to you, you should make an effort to reach out to them. Often, a popular blogger or YouTuber will have followers that look up to them, so making yourself accessible via a bio, a question and answer session, or a live stream will help your followers connect to you. It may be impossible to answer everyone’s questions, but you do have the ability to reach out when it’s appropriate.
Try Guest Posting
Instead of competing with your fellow bloggers, try contacting them for a guest post on something you enjoy. It need not be a direct competitor, but you can write for a variety of blogs that cover a vast network of topics. Form relationships with your fellow bloggers and you may be surprised at the following you will gain.
Blogging should be a fun and engaging experience for both you and the audience. If you want to continue to have a successful blog in the future, follow these tips add a nice polish to your blog.
Don’t Miss The Hottest Blogging Trends Of 2017 was first posted on April 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm.
Ads are still the primary way that bloggers try to make an income online. But is it really the best solution? Probably not.
There seems to be a common perception (among newer bloggers in particular) that the best way to make an income with a blog is to write content and then put some kind of advert in the sidebar or at the top of each post.
I regularly hear from people who want to know how to get more AdSense clicks, or where to find advertisers to pay them for a prime piece of website real estate.
In my experience, this is one of the worst ways to make money online.
Today’s post will take a look at why ads are not the best way to make an income from your blog, and what alternatives are available to us in the short and long term.
Note: I’m always happy to be wrong and learn new things so make sure you read to the end if you’ve got a different point of view!
Why I don’t like ads on blogs
Let’s start this post by jumping right in and looking at why advertising and programs like AdSense aren’t the best fit for blogs.
- Lack of quality control
One of the first things you notice when you sign up to a program that delivers ads on your blog is that you often don’t have much control over the ads that are then displayed on your blog. I often find it a bit sad to see a high quality magazine, for example, displaying ads from questionable products that they would otherwise never approve.
- Site load time
If you run a speed test on any website that uses an advertising network you can almost guarantee that it will be slowing down their site. As we know, a fast loading blog is essential for good Google rankings and, as such, we should be a bit careful about installing anything that affects this negatively.
- Low earnings per lost reader
When you think about it, a program like AdSense is sending readers away from your site for a few cents (or maybe a few dollars in a good niche). While this can add up to a lot, it’s still a relatively cheap way to lose readers that are quite difficult to acquire through content creation, SEO, networking, etc.
- Intrusive display options
From an advertisers points of view, they are going to want to maximize the amount of coverage they get on your blog. But from your readers point of view, that represents an annoying intrusion or a big break in page momentum. This can have a huge effect on bounce rate and subscriber conversion rates.
- Lack of trust
In some extreme cases, ads can cause readers to lose trust in the site. For example, there are some blogs that have so many ads and pop ups that I no longer visit them (even with a pop up blocker) because I don’t like the scripts and cookies and some of the nasty things they can do to your computer.
We’ll take a look at the flip side of all this in a minute, but these are the main reasons why I don’t think bloggers should consider ads as a main source of income for their long term careers.
A quick example of the problem with ads
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I thought it would be good to look at an example of how advertising might have a negative effect on a site. Please keep in mind that this is me talking personally as a user/reader of a site. I don’t have any data on this particular example.
The above is a screenshot from News.com.au which, at the time, had at least five ads on the homepage for well-loved painkiller, Panadol. For many web users this makes it extremely difficult to determine where the news ends and the advertising begins. I think there would be a lot of accidental clicks, which, to me, doesn’t do any favors for the advertiser or the seller.
I acknowledge that news sites in particular are in a difficult position at the moment as revenues fall, fake news gains popularity, and budgets are tight. But I can’t help wonder whether this is doing more harm than good over then long term, as opposed to sites like the New York Times and New Yorker which are adjusting quite well with subscription models.
Note: This is also why I don’t recommend free blogging platforms where ads are often a non-negotiable part of the user experience.
So, what’s the alternative?
At this point you’re probably wondering what a good alternative is. That’s where it gets a little bit tricky and we have to start thinking from a more long term perspective.
- Develop a strategy for the future
The first thing we need to do is develop a long term blogging strategy that factors in all the different goals and ideas you have for your blog over the next five or so years. This really helps to make the next stages more focused, and gives you ideas about where to go next.
- Explore temporary sources of income
In my guide on how to make money from a new blog we go into some better details about what is possible for short term income sources that enhance your blog instead of detracting from it. For example, using your blog as an Internet business card to sell services to businesses in your area, freelancing, etc. This really helps while you’re getting established.
- Build a mailing list around a particular niche
Throughout all of this, we should be focusing the majority of our efforts on building a mailing list that is very closely targeted to the area that we want to monetize in the future. For example, if your blog is about Bonsai growing you could set up a mailing list with a weekly Bonsai expert tip and, throughout this process, introduce people to some affiliate products that you use with your own Bonsai garden at home.
- Create a product that appeals to your mailing list
The majority of bloggers who have gained some level of success have created a product that they then sold to a mailing list that was primed for the sale. Examples include ViperChill opening an SEO training course after writing about Google for months, Darren Rowse selling photography guides to his enormous community at Christmas, Pat Flynn building a podcast player while also having the best how to podcast guide on the net, etc.
- Reinforce these systems with more traffic
Once you have a good system of email list > affiliate products > original products set up then your main job is to drive relevant traffic to those posts and pages that promote the funnel. This can mean getting more traffic Google and then exploring things like advertising, guest posting, instagram marketing, etc. as a way to ensure that you get a continuous and reinforcing flow.
One of the main reasons that I like this style of monetization is that the whole process, if you so choose, can be of value to your readers – the content that originally lands them, the email course, the products – all of it can solve problems and help people in their daily lives.
A quick example of this being done right
There are so many places to see this type of strategy but I thought I would just show you one that I really like in the hope that it’ll give you a few ideas for your own blog. This example is from The Chess Website.
This is a fantastic demonstration of how to use free content as a way to encourage people to sign up for a highly relevant paid product – in this case the unlocking of further strategies.
The Chess Website is also prolific on YouTube and its videos get millions of views to its free training and strategy videos.
Once you visit the website to practice more chess openings or strategies you see that you can get many more tutorials unlocked by paying a small membership fee. This is a really flawless transition from free to paid content and gives them so many opportunities for further promotions as they already have an active and very engaged customer base.
When are ads on blogs a good idea?
I couldn’t end this post without taking a look at the inevitable situations where ads are a reasonable idea.
This mainly occurs where traffic is relatively large but the time on site is relatively low because readers are getting the information they need quite quickly, or the information doesn’t require much analysis.
For example, product review sites where the products aren’t that interesting (think fridges, vacuums, etc.) are going to really struggle to get people subscribing for a mailing list. It’s different when the product has a cult following (think iPhones, video games, PC hardware, etc.), but where someone is just looking to see if a thing is good or bad based on others’ reviews then there isn’t much more you can do than ads.
Another situation might be where you site gets a lot of traffic but is about a very generalized group of sub-topics. Some magazines and newspapers run into this issue – while one reader might like to see articles on climate science updates that doesn’t mean they’ll want to read about elections in New York. In this situation it’s still preferable to use affiliate product where you can, but some advertising might be necessary.
The last option I wanted to throw out there is when an advertiser approaches you directly and wants to place ads on your blog exclusively. They might buy naming rights, or sponsor your site for a period of time. This could happen, for example, if your blog is about a new movie or video game that is coming out. In that scenario you have complete control over the ads and the price.
Do you use ads on your blog?
I know that a lot of you gals and guys use ads on your blog and I’d really like to know whether you disagree with my assessment, or whether I’ve missed any important point. Have ads worked well for you? Or have you found another alternative that you think bloggers might like to know about?
Please leave a comment.
Top photo © Danomyte Scared Man.