By default, Blogger offers several options to encourage reader discussion of our blogs including: star ratings; reactions; polls (as sidebar widgets); comments and “Links to this post” (trackbacks). Despite this array of discussion options, you may find that certain needs for your individual blog are not addressed by these forms of blog discussion.
In this post, I’ll offer insight into several highly useful third party applications which can enhance reader discussion through your Blogger powered blog, along with links to useful tutorials and basic installation advice to help you add these options to your template.
Enhanced Commenting Systems
Although Blogger has improved the default commenting system by adding the ability to display a comment form beneath posts, many still feel enhancements to comments are helpful to readers and assist in increasing post discussion.
Here are some third party services compatible with Blogger which offer enhanced commenting:
By signing up with Disqus, you can add threaded comments to your Blogger blog, and display avatars beside the comments left by others. This service also enables you to track your own comments left on other blogs, and those left by your favorite authors.
Adding Disqus functionality to your Blogger blog is fairly simple. If you use a default template, you can simply upload your XML file and this will be returned containing the correct code required to function. Alternatively, you can add the required scripts manually by editing your template’s HTML code.
Learn more about Disqus
This commenting system is similar to Disqus in that comment threading and avatars are supported. However, the real beauty of this service is that you can import and export comments, meaning that all existing Blogger based comments may be integrated into your new comment system, while any comments added can be backed up, ready for export should you choose to change blog host or your blog URL.
Google Friend Connect offers a remarkable level of service allowing you to add widgets and other useful functions to enable greater and deeper interactions between you and your blog readers.
Of the services available, one of the most useful for Blogger users is the “Wall widget”, which allows readers to comment, reply to others’ comments and even upload media in ressponse to blog postings.
Rather than simply add this functionality to a sidebar widget, Antonio Lupetti of Woork has written an excellent tutorial explaining how to integrate the Wall Widget with Blogger’s commenting system, offering a much richer environment for post discussion.
As Antonio explains, the process only takes a few minutes and the resulting effect will appear like this:
Learn more about Google Friend Connect or read the tutorial to add the Wall Widget on Woork.
Ratings systems for Blogger
Blogger’s default “Star Ratings” and “Reactions” widgets are still (sadly) lacking in functionality. While blog readers may be able to see the responses and ratings for a single post, there is yet no way to ascertain which posts acquired the most ratings or have proved the most popular on our blogs.
So if you are seeking an alternative system for readers to rate and react to your blog posts, here are some interesting third party solutions:
Outbrain offers a unique star ratings system which is accompanied by recommended reading links. This allows readers to find similar content which they may like to read, based on the recommendations of others.
The widget is built to blend into your blog’s design, so there’s no need to be concerned about adding CSS to accompany the integration.
Outbrain ratings are also compatible with Feedburner’s Feedflare, so you can add this function in the footer section of your blog feeds, allowing readers by RSS the ability to rate your posts.
This third party system offers a more elaborate method of rating and recommending posts. Using Spotback enables readers to rate your posts using a star rating system, tag and email your posts (great for future reference and to assist discussion away from your blog), and also recommends posts from your own and other blogs:
JS-Kit offer highly useful widgets which can be used to add star-ratings, polls, popular content and much more besides. There is no need to sign up or create an account in order to use JS-Kit’s services (unless you prefer to use some premium services) and integration is added by simply copying and pasting code.
Trackbacks and Tweetbacks
While Blogger’s default “Links to this post” section can be useful to see a few of the sites which discuss your posts elsewhere, many bloggers find this function lacking and prefer to use a more enhanced service instead.
Haloscan is the oldest and probably most well-known third party service to offer trackback functionality. After being recently acquired by JS-Kit, the services offered seem to have greatly improved: we can now integrate ratings, comments and recommended posts along with trackbacks when using this free service.
Learn more about Haloscan Trackbacks
Learn more about Trackbackr
This highly useful function enables you to show how your blog posts have been discussed using Twitter. Created by Dan Zarella, this excellent script displays the “Tweets” and Twitter avatars of those who discuss your posts on Twitter’s social network.
How to add Tweetbacks to your Blogger template
If you would prefer to add Tweetbacks beneath the comments section of your posts, you will need to edit your blog’s HTML code.
Simply go to Layout>Edit HTML and check the “Expand widget templates” box. Then search for the following line of code:
<b:include data='post' name='comments'/>
Immediately after this line, paste the following line of code:
Then save your template.
Now when you view a post page of your blog, look beneath the comments section to see who has Tweeted about your blog posts!
Learn more about Dan Zarella’d Tweetbacks script
While many criticize Blogger’s lack of functionality regarding options for discussion and commenting, I doubt there is any blogging service capable of including everything we could desire! Instead, the potential for adding functionaluty through third party scripts enables us to add those functions we require as and when we need them, rather than be confused by a variety of functions we may never use nor have any reason to add.
I hope this article has provided you with some useful ideas for enhancing discussion of your own blogs and blog posts when using Google Blogger for your publishing needs.
Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.