Many of you might be confused by the title and the term “smart”. To me a “smart” blog is a blog that behaves differently depending on its visitors’ behavior and characteristics.
A simple example of this is a blog that displays a list of today’s most popular posts on the sidebar. The list changes based on visitors’ behavior so to this is definitely a smart blog feature. There are plenty of WordPress plugins out there that do this for you automatically (e.g. Top 10), but that is not the point. The point here is that having the ability to morph your blog per visitor activity can assist you in meeting your conversion goals (whatever they may be). A list of popular posts is quite a simple feature, so let me take you to another level by showing you more ways to make your blog smart.
List of “Smart” Features to Implement on Your Blog
1. Display a different welcome message to different people
A great way to meet conversion goals is to display different things to different types of visitors. For example, you can show a welcome message only to new visitors and not to returning visitors. The message could be used to encourage new visitors to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed, to download your eBook, to follow the your Twitter, or to satisfy any other conversion goal. You can also specify a call-to-action in the message depending on where the visitor is coming from. For example, you can ask your visitor to Digg your post if the visitor is referred to you from digg.com.
There are already some plugins that automatically do this for you (e.g. WP Greet Box and Referrer Detector) in case you were wondering how you can implement such a feature on your WordPress blog. Again the point here is that these plugins give you the ability to morph your blog based on your audience.
2. Show where other people went from current post
This feature is similar to a list of related posts, but is a bit different because the list is determined by visitor behavior. Most related posts plugins use an algorithm to determine post relativity, but algorithms only go so far. Why not trust your human visitors to generate this list of related posts for you?
To implement this feature, you can install the Where did they go from here? plugin. This plugin will add a “Readers who viewed this page, also viewed” section after your blog posts and track visitor activity to fill up these lists.
3. Show related post based on search queries
When a visitor comes to your site through a search engine, they are looking for something very specific. If they land on your site and do not immediately find what they are looking for, they are as good as gone. It would be smart for a blog to detect these search terms from search engine visitors and display a list of posts that closely matches these terms. That way if the current post is not what the visitor is looking for, they will be tempted to visit other posts relating to their search terms before they leave your site.
4. Thank a first time commenter
Most people love human interaction. I love reading blogs because I know that there is somebody on the other side that I can email and chat with. A good way to gain loyal readers is to thank first time commenters for contributing to your blog. This helps you breaks the ice and assure your new reader that you are there if they ever want to email you.
For this feature, you can use the Comment Relish WordPress plugin.
5. Display custom message to people who use Ad Block software
I know I’m going to get flamed for introducing this feature, but here goes anyway (please don’t flame me too much).
If you are a blogger that makes the majority of your money from advertisements, your income is definitely hurt from ad block software installed with your visitor’s browser. A smart blog would remind visitors with ad block software that they are using ad block and suggest that they turn it off to support the blog. Of course this message shouldn’t be displayed more than once or the blog will definitely lose traffic.
If you are interested in this feature, you can check out the Anti-AdBlock WordPress plugin, which will display any message you like at any frequency (I recommend once) to visitors with ad block enabled.
6. Selective advertising
As you may know, Google Ads does “smart pricing” to determine how much they pay you per click. This means that if your ad has high click-through ratio, then they will pay more per click. You can optimize this click-through ratio by not displaying ads in situations where you know that they are not going to be clicked. To do this, you have to realize that there are two types of visitors to your blog: new and returning. New visitors are more likely to click on an advertisement than returning visitors so it is best if you do not show these ads to returning visitors at all.
You can implement this feature by installing Who Sees Ads?, which is the ultimate plugin for selectively displaying advertisments.
7. Mini “About” section only for new visitors
Have you even been to a blog that as a mini “About” section in the sidebar? (If not, you can check out Planet Ozh‘s sidebar) Doesn’t it make sense to show this section only to new visitors? Hiding the section for returning visitors helps you reduce clutter in your sidebar and helps you bring other important content above the fold.
You can also implement this using Who Sees Ads?. Just treat the “About” section as an ad unit in your sidebar and specify that it should only be displayed to new visitors.
8. Ask for donations from returning visitors
To me, it doesn’t really make sense to ask a new visitor for donations because I’m not sure how they feel about my content yet. Now if the visitor returns quite often, then I know that my content is useful to them. I am more comfortable asking regular readers for donations as they are more inclined to donate anyway. To me, this feature implemented along with feature #6 makes a whole lot of sense. New visitors only see ads and returning visitors only see donation requests.
You can also implement this feature with Who Sees Ads?. Just treat the donate banner as an ad unit and specify that it should only be displayed to regular visitors.
9. Display “Out on Vacation” message
Everybody needs to take a break once in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice to let your readers know that you are on vacation and let them know when to expect you back? That way you don’t lose readers from inactivity or lose readers who comment expecting an immediate reply.
This is not really a feature based on visitor behavior, but I feel that it is still a smart feature because the message is only displayed to visitors that visit within a certain time period.
You can again use Who Sees Ads? to display an “Out on Vacation” message near the top of your blog between a specific date range. I love this because when you come back from vacation, you won’t have to remember to take down the notification banner. You can also reuse the same notification banner the next time you go on vacation.
By now, I think you guys get what I mean by a “smart” blog. Hopefully, these powerful plugins can help you reshape your blog into a more visitor oriented blog.
Got a “smart” blog feature of your own? Please share any other “smart” blog ideas in the comments section.