If you’re struggling to build a blog that meets the needs of your visitors or stands out from the other blogs in your niche, you may want to improve your blog in a way that makes it a bit different. In most niches there are tons of blogs that visitors can go to for similar information. If you can make your site more of an all-around resource rather than just a blog you can have an advantage over some of the others.
Here are some ideas for making your blog more useful and unique by extending it from the typical blog posts.
1. Add a Forum
One of the great features of blogs is the ability for visitors to get involved in the comments by responding to the post or asking questions. However, there’s not always an appropriate place to ask a particular question that may not directly relate to any specific posts. Forums provide a better medium for conversation and communication between a greater number of users, and a number of blogs have helped to strengthen their presence by adding a forum.
There are a number of different scripts that can easily and quickly add a working forum to your site (check your hosting company, they may have some easy installs for forums) and many of them are free. The downside of forums is that they require a decent level of traffic in order to keep active conversations going. No one wants to enter a forum and feel like they just walked into a ghost town. For this reason forums are typically not a good idea for low-traffic blogs.
2. Add a Job Board
A growing number of blogs are adding niche-focused job boards to give added value to readers. With a niche job board you don’t need to have hundreds or thousands of listings to have a useful resource for visitors. The job board at ProBlogger usually has about 20 listings when I check, which still makes it one of the leading resources for freelance bloggers to find work.
Much like the situation with forums, job boards can be a struggle with low-traffic sites. However, for those who are able to build a successful job board you can greatly improve the usefulness of your blog and you can add another form of monetization. (See Blogtrepreneur for some options for adding a job board).
3. Post Community News
My primary blog is in the web design niche, and right now there are tons of design blogs that have a community news section (including my new blog DesignM.ag). These sections are very popular with blog readers because they make it easy to find great new content, and they give other bloggers an opportunity to get some exposure for their work and to build some easy inbound links.
Most blogs that post community news will keep these submissions outside of their main RSS feed to keep subscribers from getting overwhelmed with info. Additionally, most bloggers moderate the submissions and only post what they feel is quality and of interest to visitors. This is a great option because it doesn’t require a high level of existing traffic and it’s an excellent way to get readers involved in your blog and to give something back by sending a link and some traffic their way.
4. Extensive Use of Pages
Blog pages are one of the most overlooked opportunities by bloggers. Personally, I have a few pages on my blogs, but nearly as many as I probably should. When I check my stats for this blog, the categorized list of social media sites is consistently one of the most viewed pages/posts on the site. That page has been great for building links and getting noticed by readers.
If you haven’t put much effort into pages, check out Darren Rowse’s post 20 Types of Pages That Every Blogger Should Consider. This will give you some good ideas, but don’t stop there. Using your creativity is where some of the best ideas will come from.
5. Have a Membership Section
Some blogs, more so the popular ones, have certain content that isn’t available to the public for free. For example, PSDTUTS has a plus membership that costs $9 per month but offers several benefits to members, including some exclusive content. This probably isn’t an option for every blog, but in the right situation it can help you to monetize your blog and to allow you to build a more useful site for visitors. If you’re making money from memberships you can probably afford to spend more time of content and creating something truly worth paying for.
6. Add a Directory
There are some blogs that include a directory to other sites or blogs in their niche. This is pretty easy to do for just about any blog, but it can give you something that makes your blog a bit different from the others. In a sense, this is really what I’ve done here with the list of social media sites. It’s a directory that is useful for other bloggers and social media marketers to find sites that interest them.
7. Offer a Downloads Section
Blog readers love to get stuff for free. Depending on the subject of your blog you may be able to generate a lot of interest by having a section for free downloads. Some designers give away wallpapers, icons, or Photoshop brushes that they’ve created. These items are almost always of interest to readers and they often lead to some good backlinks.
If you’re going to be giving away a lot of downloads from your blog I would recommend setting up a specific page or section just for downloads. It’s fine to mention them in new posts, but having one place on the site that will include all of your downloads can make it easier for visitors to find in the future.
A Question for Readers
I’ve been thinking about adding a community news section to Traffikd where readers could submit a link to one of their blog posts (or just something else they have been reading) that focuses on social media, blogging, marketing, etc. This hopefully would benefit bloggers by giving some exposure and I think it could make this site more useful to visitors.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of blogs in the web design niche doing this, but I don’t know of any in this niche. The news section would be removed from the feed, so subscribers wouldn’t be getting any unwanted content, although they could subscriber to the news feed if they’re interested. All submissions would be monitored before being published and then they would be listed in the sidebar.
My question to you the readers is, would you be interested in a community news feature? Please let me know if you think it could make this a better resource for readers.