I recently came across the Apture Site Bar on my web travels, when I saw it pop up on a site I was reading. Simply put, it is a thin, floating top bar that appears when you scroll down below the fold.
It features the logo of the site that you’re on, links to share the page that you are viewing, on Twitter, Facebook and through e-mail (along with the current count of Twitter mentions and Facebook shares) and a search box that allows people to search from your site.
It all has a real slick feel and appearance. Scroll back up and it disappears, unless you’re using it already. The search itself appears on a popup overlay tied to the box. Certain types of content can even be viewed in additional boxes. For example, go to their demo and search for your favorite music video. If it’s on YouTube and embeddable, you’ll be able to watch it from a resizeable box without leaving your site. It all seems to work as it should.
Up until yesterday, I hadn’t yet deployed this on any of my sites or looked deeply into it, but so far, I’m liking it and think it could be a great fit for certain audiences and communities. Instead of having share icons (or in addition to them), you can have this bar.
Once you have your bar set up, you should create an account with them because that gives you access to certain advanced settings, the most noteworthy of which is the ability to set your own Twitter name so that when they RT (or retweet) something from your site, your Twitter name is included in the tweet.
They allow you to “auto enhance” certain types of links on your site, if you choose, so that rather than clicking and leaving your site, the link will work like it does within your Apture Site Bar. In the example above of the YouTube video – if you link to a YouTube video, the link will be an overlay window when clicked, showing that video. Finally, there is some light monetization via an Amazon.com affiliate program tie-in. Their blog is a helpful source of tips and information.
So that you can see a live, custom example, I’ve set it up here on ManagingCommunities.com for, at least, a limited time. If you want to check it out… you should be seeing it now, as you’d probably have to scroll down to read this bit of text. It is very quick to set up and you can be up and running in literally 10 minutes.
Update (10:52 AM on June 9): They also send you a nice stats e-mail every week with data related to the bar, such as pageviews, usage of the bar, number of times people shared your content through it, number of times people used the search bar, what they searched for, what content they shared and what type of media they viewed via the bar.
Areas for Improvement
There are a couple of things I’d like to see enhanced to provide some deeper options. I’d really, really like to have an on/off ability for a few of the automatic things that it does. For example, it behaves with search engine referrals. Go to Google and search for “reporting someone to their ISP” (without the quotes) or just click this link. Hopefully, a post I wrote here at ManagingCommunities.com is number 1. But, if not, it should be there somewhere. Click it.
Basically, what happens is that the bar automatically triggers and pre-fills the search box in the bar with the term that the visitor was searching for – allowing them to search for that term on your site. I can see this being helpful for some sites, but I can also see it being something others would like to turn off.
Edit: I had forgotten about this, but I was reminded of it by Andrew Machado, the Community Manager for Apture. Another one is the the highlight to search feature yet. Highlight a term in this post and you’ll see a “Search” button pop up. Click it and you get a search for that term, derived from the Apture Site Bar. Now, don’t get me wrong. I can see how this might be cool for some. But, I’d like to be able to disable that.
In general, I’d really like to be able to do more with the search bar. I’d like to be able to limit it, so that it can only be used to search content on my site, for example. Or, for bonus points, to search my site and a specific YouTube channel, Twitter account, etc. Make it a search for your properties, in other words. It would also be useful if you could turn it off. This would seem to shut off their only current method of monetizing these bars, which appears to be sponsored links on the search results that people see within your bar.
And, of course, some will say that they wish they could turn on or off certain sharing options. Like adding Google Buzz, delicious or Digg or removing Facebook, etc. I won’t be shocked if they allow you to do something like that in the future.
Finally, though it’s really not needed, some sort of bit.ly API integration (so that the traffic from the links could be tracked) would be a nice bonus.
Right now, you essentially get what you see with the service and that’s not a bad thing. With some programming knowledge, you could probably make your own bar like this, but if you’re like me and don’t have that knowledge or just would rather not spend the time doing it, I think that the Apture Site Bar is definitely worth some consideration as means of helping your visitors to share your community and your content more easily.