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I want to share two services with you today. One of the more tedious aspects of blogging can be properly hyperlinking your content and finding relevant images to spruce it up. I know I've spent upwards of an hour in the past looking for Creative Commons images relevant to my topic. Then I had to go through the trouble of making sure I was properly linking back to the images source to be sure I wasn't stepping on any toes. Apture The first tool I started using to help with the image and linking problem was Apture. In the past, you could find it in use on a few popular sites like The Washington Post, The Economist and Scribd. The easiest way to see it in action now is to go to the Apture About page and highlight any piece of content. My favorite feature at the time was the ability to search for Creative Commons images right from within my WordPress Edit Post screen. Apture would then properly link back to the source and I was good to go. You could also create links to rich media popup boxes as well to encourage users to click a link rather than waiting for them to highlight some text. The service looked great with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia. Sadly, they stopped supporting the plugin, and the community was not happy. The current state of Apture is still something worth exploring. You can request a customized line of code to insert into your WordPress site that will enable the media popup functionality. The real benefit of using the service to open links in rich media popups is your reader will stay on your site longer. In fact, according to the Apture website: "When visitors use Apture, they spend 2-4x more time on the page and view 1.5-2x more pages per visit". Try Apture Now Zemanta So what I lost from Apture when they stopped supporting their WordPress plugin, I found in Zemanta. Zemanta adds a few extra boxes to your WordPress Edit Post screen similar to the way Apture once did. However, the main focus of Zemanta is to assist in the hyperlinking, tagging and insertion of relevant images into your site. My favorite feature is the ability to personalize my sources so Zemanta can recommend better content for my site. I can also refine my Zemanta results to find better images and links without every leaving my WordPress dashboard. Half of the links in this post and all of the images were created and found using Zemanta. Zemanta also takes recommending posts to the next level. The system uses my own sources as well as popular sources around the web to find posts relevant to the topic of my post. The list constantly refreshes itself as I type, making the links more and more relevant to my content. When I hover over the links to decide whether or not to insert them, it tells me how old the post is as well as how many Tweets and Facebook likes the post has. Another cool part of Zemanta is how many different ways you can use it. You can install the WordPress plugin to use it on just that one site or any one of their browser plugins to use it on an array of popular blogging sites. Try Zemanta Now Just Scratching The Surface These tools are just a small subset of what's out there to help you create better content. If you know of any similar tools, please share them in the comments below. Image by Sami KeinÃ¤nen
I've spent some quality time with social sharing buttons mostly because of my experience developing a social sharing plugin for WordPress. Most of that time was spent researching best practices and analyzing implementations on some of the more popular blogs I could find. Did you know: Among the 10,000 largest websites, those that feature Twitter share buttons are, on average, mentioned in 27 tweets that contain a link back to the site, whereas those not featuring tweet buttons are mentioned, on average, in only four tweets that contain a link back to the site. via Entrepreneur.com Without getting too much into which social sharing buttons you should be using on your site, I wanted to share some additional insights into how you can make those buttons display faster and how to measure their effectiveness. Sharing Analytics You have a few options when it comes to measuring social media engagement on your website. The easiest being to just look at the button counts of the share buttons on your website and manually tracking their success over time. I prefer a more integrated approach. Google Analytics It's actually not too hard to track social engagement on your site with Google Analytics. The problem is only a few buttons can do it (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus as of when this post was written). Joost de Vaulk has some excellent posts to help get you up and running with trackable social sharing buttons if you decide to go down this road. AddThis AddThis could be credited with starting the social sharing button revolution in my opinion. I remember using their buttons in the early days and watched closely as they expanded the services features to compete with similar services popping up. One of my favorite features they added was analytics which is not only easier to set up than Google Analytics tracking but can also integrate Google Analytics tracking to your AddThis buttons on top of the AddThis analytics. This option definitely seems like a win for everyone. Bit.ly Remember tinyurls back in the day? Well, bit.ly quickly took over with a short but lucrative relationship with Twitter that made it the undisputed king of short urls. One of bit.ly's coolest features has to be it's analytics which come with every URL you shorten and can be easily accessed by adding a "+" sign to the end of your shortened bit.ly link. Many people use bit.ly to measure their social media reach by tracking click throughs on their links. This is definitely a good solution and something we do on top of our Google Analytics integration here at AMP. Optimize Load Time Social sharing buttons can be resource intensive and are the number one culprit of slowing down many website. The easiest way around this is to limit the number of buttons we show which I'll get to in the next section. Assuming you do not want to limit the number of buttons you display it might be worth investigating asynchronous solutions. Asynchronous loading allows multiple files to load parallel to each other instead of the files loading sequentially. Usually this is done once the document is fully loaded and displayed on the screen so the user can begin navigating the page while the buttons finish loading. There are a number of ways you can approach this and most people using WordPress will resort to a plugin that manages the asynchronous loading for them. We use the Socialize plugin here at AMP but there is also Digg Digg. Other solutions include custom implementations of the official sharing buttons as mentioned in this post from w3-edge or using a third party library like Socialite.js. Be Selective As I mentioned earlier, displaying multiple social sharing buttons on your site can have a dramatic effect on your page's load time. Also, displaying seven social sharing buttons with big fat zeros on them doesn't do much to help establish any social proof. Instead you should focus on the few buttons that are actually performing. This will keep your page's load time down and drive more clicks to those services you already have a presence on further increasing your posts reach. Be Aggressive Just because you're being selective about which social sharing buttons you display doesn't mean you can't remind your readers to share your posts in the first place. It can be as easy as a call out next to your social media buttons asking your readers to share and subscribe. Every little bit helps. I also see a lot of blogs abandoning the default social sharing buttons and widgets for their own homegrown solutions that are often smaller and less actionable then their counterparts. I prefer the default buttons with share counts because they are both actionable and people are used to them. Share counts are an important part of establishing credibility and social proof on your blog, and the actionable buttons with share counts are necessary to encourage more shares and increase time on site. Give Us Your Tips I could turn this one post into a series of posts if I wanted to get into all the other ways you can track, measure and optimize your social sharing buttons ... and maybe I will. In the meantime, leave a comment with which buttons you think perform best as well as any other tips you might have for faster loading or better tracking. Image by webtreats