Blogger and WordPress both come with some nice native widgets/gadgets but sometimes you just need MORE for your blog to take your blogging game to the next level. In this post, we’re going to round up our favorite blog plugins and apps to take your blog a step further. All these plugins have versions you can use for either Blogger or WordPress.org based blogs.
Better Blog Post Graphics
Not everybody wants to fork over $9.99 per month to use Photoshop to design their blog graphics. But you’ve seen those amazing blog post graphics by designers like Nectar Collective and by Regina. So, what can you do to get professional looking blog graphics for FREE?
Not only is Canva free, it’s easy to use. There are some in-app premium services and graphics options but the free options will suit most bloggers just fine. I’ve started using it a lot lately because I’ve needed a break from all the time I’ve been spending doing custom graphics in Photoshop.
Canva offers some pre-designed templates or you can start from scratch. They have everything from the most common social media graphics to desktop wallpapers to ebook covers and album covers. The only limit is pretty much your imagination.
It’s always free to upload your own images and they have a nice selection of fonts. The drag-and-drop interface is very intuitive.
Enhanced Newsletters and Subscribe by Email
Blogger and WordPress both come with native widgets that allow your readers to sign up for an email subscription. Your posts delivered right to their inbox. It’s an awesome feature but neither system allows you to customize your newsletter. The email that arrives in your reader’s inbox is generic and could look like a thousand others delivered via the same system.
What’s the point of branding your blog and all those beautiful graphics if your readers see blah, generic emails?
By far our favorite however is…
It’s got about the best FREE package around. Upgrading doesn’t cost an arm and a leg if your grow.
MailChimp’s got a beautiful interface and a delightful drag and drop form and template designer. You can choose from in-page forms and pop ups. And you can design some truly gorgeous newsletter templates to truly brand them as your own. Their Help Center is very handy as well, so if you get stuck, head there for help.
WordPress offers a variety of plugins to help integrate MailChimp easily. Our themes use MailChimp for WordPress with custom styles for each theme but there are lots of valid options out there. Or you can build your form styles in MailChimp and embed using a Text widget.
There are lots of valid MailChimp alternatives if you’re not sold on them. Check out this article for more info.
Forget sidebar ads
Well, don’t forget sidebar ads, but there are better ways to make money with your blog than those boring ad blocks. Recent research is showing increasing ad blindness among online readers. So, if you want to grow your blog income, you need to find more interactive and unexpected ways to present ads.
Our 2 favorites are:
ShopSense (by ShopStyle Collective)
ShopStyle Collective is a division of Popsugar, home to all things popular and trendy. ShopSense offers some awesome interactive ad creation tools and they’re teamed with amazing brands like Bloomingdale’s, Topshop, Nike, Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus and more.
Content creation isn’t just limited to blog posts. They’ll help you monetize your social media as well!
Prosperent is similar to ShopSense in that it helps you monetize your content rather than just sticking ads in the sidebar. Prosperent has ties with over 50,000 retailers.
And their tools are pretty cool. You can build post images with ads linked right into the image. Have you seen those shop sites that have the images with the numbers on them? Then you hover over the number/item and there’s the product info and it links to the purchase page? Imagine how much better that converts for affiliate links than a bunch of links at the bottom of your post.
Like ShopSense, Prosperent can also help you monetize your social media feeds.
Supercharge your Comments
WordPress native comments are ok. Blogger native comments system is usable. If you want to grow your blog, engaging your readers is the key and your comments system should be able to enhance that goal.
Disqus is comments on steroids. Not only does it enhance your comment system, it includes tools to engage your readers and ways to monetize your blog utilizing the comments area and section below it. Analytics are included to take you even further.
Bonus, Disqus can help you reduce SPAM comments, as well. Other benefits include the ability to have comments shared via social media and the ability for commentors to choose to follow the continued discussion on your post.
If your already have comments on your site, Disqus does a great job importing them into their system. Their automatic installation system works great with Blogger (for our templates, make sure you place the gadget in the sidebar or footer). For WordPress, of course, there’s a plugin for that.
There are other Third Party commenting systems available, but Disqus is by far the best and another opportunity to monetize your blog.
Get the Most out of your Site Real Estate
By this, we mean, use parts of your web page you wouldn’t normally think of. This includes the top of the page (if you don’t have a top menu, of course) or the bottom of the page or anywhere you can add a little something.
Every notice those little bars at the top of some blogs that include newsletter subscription forms or messages about the latest post or more? Changes are pretty good it was a Hello Bar.
Hello Bar is compatible with both Blogger and WordPress (there’s a plugin for that). It can only be located at the top of your page so if you use a top menu you may need to adjust your page layout a little bit so that the Hello Bar doesn’t overlap your menu. Set up a Hello Bar in a great, bright color and watch the subscriptions roll in.
Sorry Blogger bloggers, this one’s not for you but I had to include if for the WordPress folks. Icegram is like Hello Bar to the max. With this plugin, not only can you add top bars, you can add footer bars, popups, toast notifications, messengers, overlays, inline messages…and more! And it’s free. Check it out, my WordPress friends.
Our themes and templates include a lot of social media integration elements but you can never have too much of a good thing, right? I kid because seriously you can have too much. But a list of blogging tools is not complete without social media tools.
Add This is a great free suite of social tools for your blog available for both WordPress and Blogger. Tools include floating social share buttons, popups and related content gadgets.
For WordPress users, there is a plugin for the social media sharing icons. For the rest, you will need to embed using a Text Widget.
If you’ve used one of our Blogger templates, you’ll know we recommend Instansive for creating beautiful Instagram feed gadgets. With a number of layouts and design options as well as being responsive, this is the only Instagram gadget we use for Blogger.
For WordPress, you can also use the Instansive gadget, just embed the code in a Text gadget.
Forms for your blog
My WordPress friends, you have a crazy number of options available to create forms for your website, like Contact Form 7 which we use in our themes.
Blogger bloggers, let’s face it, the Blogger Contact gadget is bad. Yes it can be embedded in a page but half the time you don’t get the contact emails from your readers!
There’s a better way:
Even though the forms have to be embedded via code, I still use JotForm forms on my WordPress sites. I know they work. I get the emails. They’re secure. It’s easy to use.
You can make a number of forms using JotForm, from a simple contact form to a information collection form down to survey and payment tools.
Studies are not only showing that online readers are becoming ad blind, they’re also experiencing content fatigue. Plain flat text doesn’t cut it any more. Find ways to make your content interactive.
Surveys, quizzes, polls and reviews, Polldaddy lets you create interactive content to engage your audience.
Whether it’s finding out which content is making the most impact on your audience or what kind of content they’re looking for from you, interactive content will help take your blog to the next level.
Do you run giveaways and sweepstakes? Rafflecopter is a free plugin that can help you take it up a notch. Your readers will be able to enter your sweepstakes via different social networks, the plugin is translated into 6 different languages, there’s email list integration through Mailchimp and others as well as the ability to incentivize entries – like a Tweet This to Enter ! sort of thing.
Rafflecopter is installed via embed.
Well, we could probably list quite a few more but these are hit our Most Favorites list. What are your favorite plugins or apps that supercharge your blog?
P.S. No, we didn’t mention SumoMe. It has some great tools but it really, really slows down Blogger blogs to such a point that it must increase reader bounce rates and hurt your Google SEO. If anyone’s had a positive SumoMe experience, be sure to leave us a note!