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Blog Design For ROI Rule #7: Blend Ads With Content & Encourage Comments

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.

What happens when someone comes to the end of your post? Their eyes keep reading downwards, so it’s wise to optimize the area with advertorials and an encouraging comment area.

Advertorials

What do I mean by advertorials? And why should they be present at the end of a post specifically?

In the news-media world, there’s traditionally been a distinction between “editorial content” and ads.

An advertorial is an ad designed to look like regular, non-sponsored content. Advertorial design aims to increase readership by avoiding traditional ad blindness.

As you can imagine, advertorials’ appearance varies according to the media they appear in, to better look like the content they’re designed after. Traditionally advertorials looked like news articles.

Today, Facebook offers “sponsored stories” in the News Feed, which are essentially advertorials:

Advertorial

Likewise Twitter offers “promoted account” suggestions and sponsored tweets, that are a modern variant of advertorials:

Twitter advertorial

What’s the key takeaway?

As Fred Wilson writes on AVC:

“In both examples, the ad unit is the same atomic unit of content as the users create in the service.”

The takeaway for bloggers is that advertorials for blogs need to look like blog posts, or at least inhouse content.

And what better place on a blog for an advertorial than where people are most likely to read it—after another post?

In other words, place the advertorial either after a few posts on a category page (where it looks like another post in the category page’s list) or after a blog post on its own page. In both cases your placement contributes to the impression that the advertorial is regular, non-paid content.

Some of the top marketing blogs use this area for advertorial promotions, be it for inhouse marketing (most commonly), or also for other people’s products.

Social Media Examiner uses their branded cartoon-jungle-explorer style for their newsletter promotion:

SM Examiner

And MediaBistro make their promo’s background the same as the background behind links to related content:

Media Bistro

And of course Problogger does this as well, featuring affiliate marketing for the Genesis WordPress framework. The advertorial uses the Problogger-brand-orange in the advertorial title and the light-blue of the related content box above the advertorial, having it blend in easily with the rest of Problogger content.

Problogger

Summary On Below-The-Post Ads

Style the ad like your content by featuring elements of your branding. These can include design styles like a border – visible in SocialMediaExaminer’s worn jungle map style and on Chris Brogan’s jagged-border advertorials – or your brand colours, or the background color used for some of your content blocks, like MediaBistro’s previous-link and next-link blocks.

Another approach that I struggled to find an example of but that can be even more impactful is adopting the exact styles of your post for the advertorial.

If you have graphics indicating the start of a post (following Blog Design For ROI Rule #4: Make Posts Easy To Read), you can repeat these at the end of your post to start your advertorial. This maximizes the impression that there’s more editorial content following the post … exactly as intended with the whole idea behind advertorials.

(NB: You need to indicate that the content is an ad, if promoting a third-party. However, leave the notice to the end, as Facebook and Twitter do, because if you immediately tell people that what follows is an ad, you may as well say “the following content is useless, so skip it.” The goal in using the advertorial approach is to overcome this obstacle. You then disclose that the content was sponsored at the end, so that people can decide for themselves what to think of the ad.)

Persuasive, easy-to-use comment design

As business bloggers, we want the most comments possible, of the best quality possible, so as to generate a vibrant community that helps build their repeat visitor traffic. Yet comment design rarely does anything to encourage this behaviour, being seen as a merely functional element rather than a serious opportunity.

Tell people Why they should comment

Tell them about incentives

It’s true that many people don’t comment for lack of time or for lack of anything to say.

Yet I know from giving away links to people who left thoughtful comments on my SEO ROI blog, that incentives can get some of these otherwise-passive readers to comment. And I know that SEOmoz, which has probably the richest, most thoughtful comments on the web, owes their success in part to rewarding participation with points, recognition (e.g. speaking engagements at events they run), and free memberships.

So offer a reward, and write a brief blurb near the comments saying so. For example, a while ago I saw a blog offering a monthly cash prize for its most prolific and best commenters.

Tell people about author engagement

If you’re able to, commit to responding to every single comment left on your blog. While it’s common knowledge that responding to blog comments encourages others to comment, that’s only for people who bother to read the comment section.

What if the first thing you see is that there lots of comments, though? Chances are you don’t expect the author to respond to each comment, in which case there’s less incentive to comment. No one likes talking to a brick wall.

So to answer people’s concern, you can explicitly state that you respond to all comments (say, except for “I agrees”).

For blogs that take contributions from multiple authors, you can either ask authors to commit to responding to all comments or even show what percentage of comments got a response from the post’s author.

An upper limit might also be appropriate in such a case, such as “I Gab Goldenberg commit to responding to the first 50 comments that state something beyond ‘I agree’. (Early thanks goes to those who comment just to show appreciation.)”

Tell them about rewards

If you run contests or offer prizes for reaching fixed participation levels, don’t hide the information elsewhere. State it explicitly above the comments area!

Auto-complete commenter names

The 80-20 rule applies to comments. 80% of comments come from 20% of the audience. Why not save time for repeat commenters by asking, once they’ve submitted their comment, if they’d like their names to be stored for future-auto-completion? Similarly you can get them to register at the same time, and use this for community rankings as described in “Shower Love On Your Blog Community.”

Display people’s profile thumbnails

It may seem obvious, yet most blogs still don’t show a thumbnail photo of their commenters. Probably this is partly because of non-registration, since most people don’t want to register separately for a blog (it’s yet another thing to register for…).

You can get around this by using Facebook for comments, since most people are registered on Facebook, and Facebook comments include thumbnails. This also gets you auto-completion of people’s names if they’re logged in to Facebook while browsing your site and it also has the advantage of…

Threaded comments

While it’s ironically not possible in regular status-update discussions within Facebook.com, Facebook-powered comments on third party sites use threaded comments. Threaded comments mean that you can respond to the first comment on a post without the comment appearing beneath all the intervening comments, which enables discussion that would otherwise be fragmented and unwieldy.Threaded comments

In addition to threading comments, Facebook-powered comments have the advantage of auto-filling in commenters’ names if the commenter is logged in to Facebook at the same time (e.g. in another browser tab).

So should you just switch to Facebook comments?

As of this writing, there seems to be a bit of technical savvy required, and the WordPress plugins I found for this have mixed reviews. If you have a suggestion in this regard, then please do. In any case, if you can implement it technically, then Facebook comments offer the above advantages as well as some others. And if you use FBXML, you can ensure the comments are indexed by Google, for optimal SEO.

In conclusion

At the end of your post, don’t just abandon the reader with nothing to read or do – show them an advertorial.

Ideally, have it adopt the appearance of your post, complete with header font and colors, category links etc. This will help maximize the percentage of people who read your message, as opposed to skipping it as just another ad.

If you’re advertising a third party’s wares, you should disclose this – at the end of the advertisement.

With regards to your comments, add an area above the comments section where you tell people the incentives to comment. Let them know that all comments are read and responded to.

And as to providing an optimal user experience, you’d be well advised to integrate Facebook comments, as they auto-complete the user’s name and profile picture, while threading discussions.

Gab Goldenberg and Internet Marketing Ninjas are developing a book based on this series – get your free copy at http://seoroi.com/blog-design-for-roi/ . You can also get a free chapter of Goldenberg’s The Advanced SEO Book.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. John says:

    I’ve used the Facebook Commenting system in the past and have to say that I don’t think it’s worth the headache of switching unless you have a huge following on Facebook.

    Yes a billion people use it, but there are people that don’t, and there are people within that billion that rarely use it so you’re limiting your comment base in that effect.

    You also don’t have anyway way to obtain the comments if you decide to switch commenting platforms at a later date. Facebook comments stay with Facebook and therefore you’re stuck with the choice of keeping it or losing all you previous comments.

    For me – after months of searching for the perfect commenting box – I simply decided to stick with the WordPress default one. It might not be pretty, but it’s functional.

  2. I’m using the same strategy and using an advertorial suggesting a theme in a box that I’m using like Problogger.

    I think adding human aspect on your blog will be great to increase the engage. How to add human aspect, you may ask? Of course by responding to every comment on your blog in a friendly way and trying your best to convert the commentators to a loyal reader.

  3. I use the “SEO Facebook” WordPress plugin on my blog for Facebook comments. It literally only took me 5 minutes to set it up and it works smoothly.

    • Does it allow you to keep your own copies of the comments as John referred to above? Curious also if it allows non-FB comments.

  4. I really enjoy seeing who comments on my blog and then responding to them. I think your post is awesome by driving incentive and great tips also.

    I think another incentive is because when you interact with other people you’ll probably really enjoy that. I do that on both my current site and MompreneurMogul. It’s really wonderful to get to know people even if its’ only via the internet sometimes.

  5. Hermine says:

    Powerful way to leverage comments on your blog! I like how you compared these advertorials to the ones found in magazines, I’ve never thought of them that way.

    Aside from offering cash as an incentive for participating in the comments (that could get expensive for a new blogger) you could offer an exclusive guest post or even a copy of a paid product like an ebook that you sell (providing you are the one who created it of course).

    I might even take this a bit further and mention that you offer incentives on your social media channels to get people who might not click through to do so and read the post. They might just be inspired to comment on something they otherwise wouldn’t have read.

  6. Harry Bhanot says:

    Very nice information. Will apply to my blog. To be honest I am not a commentor but this post just encourage me to do so. Would love to see my picture. LOL

  7. Blog design is one thing I enjoy doing. When I redesigned my blog, my conversion rate increased; subscription rate and client base. But you need to plan the design process or you may accidentally mix things up, which is not always good. Thanks for these tips.

  8. marty says:

    interesting tip.I always just accepted the empty space and never knew what to fill the void with I think the will help my blog look less naked

  9. Eric says:

    This is was a very nice write up, and I would fully agree that these days you have to give incentives for just about everything but especially blog comments these days.

    The other day I saw where they would do a blog post thank for all who commented on the blog for that month, and I thought that was a pretty clever idea.

    Enjoyed!

    Eric

  10. Great post,

    Really interested in the whole comment thing – I’ve thought about using Facebook as a comment platform but I can’t see how I would benefit from it in the long-run. I know that a lot of my readers are bloggers themselves and certainly don’t mind some of the traffic I lend them from a URL anchored as their name.

  11. abhishek says:

    Its always a good idea to blend your ads with content . But you should never blend with exactly with your content. Its against adsense tos to encourage accidental ad clicking , and exact blending led to accidental ad clicking

    • Colin says:

      Agreed. This also affects the user experience with your blog from being a positive one to one where they may seemed ‘tricked’ into clicking an ad.

  12. Ankit says:

    I am observing that blending CSS according to ads increases CTR but CPC goes down like anything. Anyone else facing this issue?

  13. Connor says:

    Really appreciate this whole series Gab! I’ve been working my way through it slowly while working on my new website and it’s honestly helped me so much!

    Thanks for being you.