Blog Critique: Sober Julie

We’re back with another Blog Critique from Momcomm and The SITS Girls, dissecting a blog from top to bottom in three areas: blog design, navigation/functionality and blog content.

The reason? To help the featured blogger meet her blog goals and to help all of us learn and grow. One suggestion for a particular blog may very well apply to multiple members of our community and get us all thinking about how we can improve what we do.

Blog Critique: Sober Julie

Julie’s blog is about the journey through her life: alcoholism, self-improvement, faith, motherhood and all areas of her life. At this stage, she’s looking to get the word out to women that it’s cool to experience life fully without a crutch. As for one of her struggles, Julie said that she wants to quite quality content without sounding too preachy.

Blog Design & Navigation {Mel}

Header & Menu

  • First off, the picture of you in the header is a hoot! I love that it gives readers a sense of your personality. And with your name being in your title, I think you made a good choice putting your face up there.
  • Your “tagline” (if I should call it that) is brilliant. Really love it.
  • I think there could be some more space between your header and the ad at the top though. It gets kinda busy looking and takes away from your header. If you’re making decent money from the ads in that spot, there’s no reason to remove it but adding some space or even making the header a big larger may help your header shine more.
  • I like the design element that comes down into your header. I think it’d be a nice touch to also have one further down on the right side of your page, especially since a lot of that one is covered by the ad. It will help pull a design element through another part of your site and make it visually interesting.
  • While I like that your social media buttons are high up on your page in your header, I’m not sure their style really matches the rest of your site. Consider using some other ones that complement your design a bit better.
  • Overall in your header, I feel like there is a lot of white space. While white space can be a good thing, it seems like the SM buttons are kind of floating there. Consider moving “doing life” beside your name, moving “straight up” under your blog name. That should give you some more space for your social media buttons because I think you could add LinkedIn and Google + there too so they are in one place. Just an idea!
  • Your menu has a clean look and is easy to navigate. The only category I might add is your mocktails!

Sidebars

  • I’d love to see a sentence or two about you and your blog at the top of your sidebar. This is prime real estate here so it’s important to set the tone and introduce yourself to someone new who might be landing on your page!
  • One thing I noticed is that your Stories of Addiction button actually takes you to a page to submit your story, not to actually read those stories. I’d change that to link to the stories and then under the button in your sidebar, have a link that says “Submit Your Story” which would take you to this form.
  • You seem to be writing for lots of great places! However, so many buttons in your sidebar can give a cluttered feel. Plus, they’re all leading people AWAY from your blog rather than getting people to stay on your site. Consider keeping the top 4 or so and then having a link underneath that takes you to a landing page of other places you write. You could even lay it out with the button on the left side of the page and then beside it link to a few posts you’ve written there.
  • So what should you do with all that space? Direct people to some awesome content of yours! Since your blog name is focused on being sober, I think you could focus on topics associated with that. For example, your mocktail posts! They are buried down your homepage so create a cool button that links to a category page with all of your mocktail posts. Another button could go to your Sober Doesn’t Suck store.

Main Column

  • Regarding the homepage, I think there are a bit too many posts to sort through. I counted 14. When you give readers too many choices, research shows they won’t make any choice at all (for us bloggers, that means they’ll hit the back button). Consider simplifying to just one per category and possibly even limit your categories and do fewer.
  • For your individual blog pages, overall they look good! Just a couple of suggestions. I might make the blog title font size a little larger. It gets kind of squeezed between your byline and the breadcrumbs (i.e. the path at the top which says where you are on the site: home/ body/ post title).
  • On posts that have search engine potential (like 5 Tips to Control Your Diet), be sure to use heading formatting for your subheadings versus just bolding words. Using Heading 2, Heading 3 and so on (Header 1 is usually your blog post title) will make those subheadings more important in the eyes of the search engines (headings=more important keywords).
  • Hooray for having sharing buttons at the bottom of your posts. They make it easier for people to share your content.
  • The pop of color in your comment section looks nice and makes them easy to sort through and read.

Writing {Gigi}

  • Julie, you expressed that one of your concerns was trying to strike the balance between being inspirational and not sounding preachy. To start off, your posts are well written, have a welcoming tone and you’re great at making readers feel comfortable.
  • Overall, you’re doing a good job of striking that balance you’re worried about. Your content is not overly weighted on any one area. I like that you have a mix of information, so that there’s something, literally, for everyone. If a person is interested in health, you’ve got Motivation Monday. You have reviews and giveaways. You cover travel. All of these things take the laser focus away from “Julie is here to tell us all only about God and sobriety.” So, great job on that front!
  • The flip side of that coin is that you’re covering so many topics that I actually wonder if it’s too many. You’ve got seven high level categories of topics and more than 15 subcategories. Speaking as a person with a nicheless blog, I know this is another delicate tightrope to walk. I never like to discourage people from writing about what they love. I would suggest, however, that you think carefully about adding any more topics.
  • I found there to be some interesting dialogue on your post about attending Oprah’s lifeclass. As you know, stuff like religion can be polarizing for people. While I did not think this post was too preachy, it definitely invited some light controversy. So a question you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you are comfortable with your blog being a place for people to openly disagree with your views and – even if you’re not trying to be – accuse you of being preachy. Because people will do this – it’s the nature of the topics you’re tackling.
  • I also encourage you to further tackle motherhood topics with a Christian bent. Your posts Google Didn’t Teach Me To Be A Christian Mother and God Made Me A Mother were fabulous. I really liked how you used the Google post to have an open discussion about your own parenting struggles. It covered a topic with a religious focus in a very approachable way. You should continue to do more of this – I think people will really respond and you’ll get some great dialogue in your comments.

Christian Mother

  • One thing that surprised me about the current spread of content on your blog was how little there was on sobriety. When I think of Sober Julie, I think about stories on sobriety.  Yet on the home page, of all the posts you have listed, only 2 are related to sobriety. I agree with Melissa that it would be great for you to call these sobriety stories out a little more prominently somewhere on your home page or in your sidebar. Many readers are likely finding you and expecting to see that content, so make it easy for them to find!
  • Consider reaching out to other blogs that are about inspiring women and trying to guest post. I think it will be a nice fit for the audience you are trying to reach. Just.Be.Enough comes immediately to mind!
  • Finally, I think you’ve carved out a nice little space for yourself in the blogosphere. Keep up the good work!

Now it’s your turn. What do YOU think about Sober Jule? Do you agree or disagree with our recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.

And be sure to head over to visit Sober Julie and leave her some comment love.

how to blog

Want to Read More Blog Critiques?

Accept no substitutes! Blog critiques from Momcomm & The SITS Girls are the best you’ll find on the web. You can find all of our past blog critiques here.

The blog critique queue is currently closed but if you feel like critiquing your own blog, grab a copy of the DIY Blog Critique, where Mel from Momcomm walks you through 43 points to critique your blog in design, navigation and content.

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Comments

  1. This is really helpful information for ALL of us, not just Julie. Thanks for all the info and insight!

  2. I like her blog and her content but I think her best, must luring content (christian mommyhood and sobriety are hard to find). I think Julie’s blog has so much potential.

  3. Fantastic critique! Lots to think about for an already, fabulous site and lady!

  4. What a thorough critique – well done ladies!
    I quite agree with your thoughts on Julie’s blog.
    I am one of her regular readers and love her blog – I do think that by taking some of your suggestions, it will make her blog just that much better than it already is.
    I love your suggestion about featuring her Mocktails and Sobriety more!

  5. Great ideas as usual! I always here you suggesting putting an about me in the sidebar…how do you include a picture with it as well?

  6. I love these critiques!

  7. First of all, I hope it’s cool for a Dad to invade your space, lol! Great observations about Julie’s site! I’m a regular reader as well and think some of the suggestions will really help it grow. The best thing about Julie is that she’s a genuinely good person, which comes through in interactions with her. That’s always o e of the first things I gravitate towards when deciding whether to become a regular reader. Great job Julie and SITS Girls!! Chris

  8. Great observations about Julie’s website. I am a reader of Sober Julie and I think some of your suggestions would make it even better. It also gave me some ideas for mine!

  9. Wow thank you so much for such a great critique! This is going to take a bit to digest but I’ve already implemented a few changes. Once again, thank you indeed!

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