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.
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:
Likewise Twitter offers “promoted account” suggestions and sponsored tweets, that are a modern variant of advertorials:
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:
And MediaBistro make their promo’s background the same as the background behind links to related content:
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.
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…
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.
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.
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-