Blog Critique: Rags to Stitches

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: Rags to Stitches

Alissa’s blog, Rags to Stitches, is about life, family and crafting. She said that she does her best to let her personality shine through and has a variety of content to attract readers and keep them coming back. She also features other bloggers, crafters and WAHMs on her blog. Her overall goal is to be a respected blogger in the community and someday speak at conferences about blogging. Alissa said that she loves comments and wants to write posts where people will stop by to leave a comment, no matter where they read her post (in the inbox, Google reader, etc).

Blog Design & Navigation {Mel}

Header & Menu

  • Can I just say “ooooh pretty”? Oh okay, well then. I DO adore your blog design. It’s bright, vivid and very nicely balanced with colors. One thing I really love about the design is that your header is large, yet you still manage to capture so many things “above the fold” (i.e. in the reader’s view when they first land on your page before they scroll down. You have: name, tagline, picture, menu, newest post title and your social media button. Rock star!
  • I really like your tagline. It gives readers a good sense of what your blog is about in few words. Nicely done.
  • Your menu is simple and I like the little arrows to show there are drop-downs.
  • My only suggestion is to reduce the spacing between your blog name and the top of the image so that it equals the spacing at the bottom of your image and the start of your blog content.

Sidebars

  • I really LOVE the script font you use. Using it throughout your sidebar makes your sidebars so visual and pretty.

  • Is all the advertising on your blog paid advertising or is it a mix of ads/affililates? Regardless, it looks like you’re making money, so go you! My only thought is that it’s a LOT of ads in one big group and it pushes some of YOUR stuff really far down your sidebar. One suggestion would be to keep the larger advertising in one group, then break with a little of your stuff, then do the smaller 125 x 125 buttons. I think that many buttons in a row will cause readers to glaze over them. Your advertisers will get more eyeballs to their ads if they are broken up a bit.
  • One component missing from your sidebar is a Popular Posts area. As people scroll down through your blog, you want to have spots in your sidebar where people can get more content. New readers love to see what their peers thought were your best posts. It’s just a matter of adding a simple plugin to create a Popular Posts list.
  • Your Advertise Here button isn’t redirecting to your Advertising page, but rather a page with the button image on it. Should be a quick fix.
  • You have two boxes to enter email addresses. While your RSS feed subscription probably goes through Google, I see your newsletter goes through Mailchimp. Consider moving your RSS feed readers over to Mailchimp and then having ONE form where people can select if they want to join your newsletter, RSS feed or both (just create them as “groups” in the same list). You may get more subscribers this way as having two different email fields may be confusing or take too much time to subscribe to both.

Main Column

  • In your main column you do a great job using photographs in your posts. Nice!
  • One big thing missing from your blog posts are social media sharing buttons! I see a Pinterest Pin It button when you click on an actual post, but that’s it. It’s amazing how many more retweets, pins and likes you’ll receive just by making it easy on your readers to do so. There are many plugins that make this easy. My favorite is the Digg Digg plugin, but there are other good ones too.
  • You do a great job with your paragraph spacing and such on your posts, meaning it’s easy on the reader’s eye and makes your posts a breeze to read through. However, on this powerful guest post, I noticed the formatting wasn’t the same as your others and there were no spaces between paragraphs. Be sure to preview your posts before scheduling or publishing them to catch things like this so the posts are easier to read through.
  • I really like that your signature ties back into the branding of your overall design. Even though you have a small line to divide your posts, I think your signature also serves as a great visual division between posts.

Writing {Gigi}

  • Your blog feels very serene and calm…I like how you integrate all of your content, regardless of the topic of the actual post, with a very distinctive vibe. I feel that I “get” who you are. Your writing, images, and layout, all work together for a very consistent voice. Great job!!!!
  • I like the personal feel of your What I Wore posts – they’re not just “here’s what I wore” with some pictures. I like how you weave a story or theme around the outfit. I know you want to encourage more comments, but I think to get 15 to 30 comments on a post like this, you’re doing great!

rags to stitches

  • As Mel said, I’d like to see more share buttons for your content. Consider adding a plugin that will install share buttons at the bottom of posts. I would also recommend adding retweet and FB share buttons at the top of each post. Some people expect them at the top and that’s where they will go to look for them if they want to share!
  • Your blog is perfectly suited for Pinterest, because you utilize so many gorgeous photos. Posts like How To Styling for Your Jeans and Don’t Smile, Peek-A-Boo and Some Pictures should have Pinterest friendly images. The SITS Girls have been running all sorts of great Pinterest tutorials, so be sure to browse here for some good ones!
  • Your comments and giveaway entries are pretty good, given that you don’t write about a lot of stuff that necessarily encourages commentary.  I find that the posts that encourage the most comments are posts where people can weigh in on something specific that relates to them (not just you) and topics that are how-to, DIY, tip sharing, and so on.  You can do this without changing up your content that much. For example, if you’re talking about What I Wore Wednesday, post two different outfits you wore that week and ask people which they like better. Ask them how they’d style it differently. Solicit suggestions on how to dress the outfit up or down. I really don’t think you should be worried about comments, but if you are, these might be ways to try and encourage more.
  • One other idea is to think about how you structure your content. Clearly, your blog is a place that you enjoy sharing a lot about you, your life, interests, passions, hobbies and more. It comes through loud and clear and I think your readers enjoy this. But I’ve found through my own blogging experience that when I focus posts TOO heavily on me and my perspective, I get much less commentary than when I remove myself just a bit from the post and make it more general. Example: I wrote a post about holding kids back in kindergarten. The post’s first draft started off 100% about my personal experiences. I could feel that people would read it, but not be moved to comment. I edited the post and talked less about my own kids and more about kids generally. The post did very well and there was terrific dialogue from my readers. Let me be clear: I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong right now! But if your goal is more comments, keep in mind that the cardinal rule is that people (your readers) want to talk about themselves more than they want to talk about you. :)

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

And be sure to head over to visit Rags to Stitches 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. I love the colour combination on Rags to Stitches. Very soothing and pleasing to the eye, makes browsing longer without pain :)

  2. I just learned a lot from your great critique. I do think her blog is very colorful and I love the content. I will incorporate some of this tips unto my bloggling as well.

  3. I love her blog design!!! So bright and pretty! :) Her posts are so genuine and heartfelt. Her coffee break series are some of my favorites!

  4. Another great review. There’s always something that you all point out that I’ve never considered before.

  5. Just want to say: great job on the critique ladies.

    And the cardinal rule of comments that Gigi mentions is right on, and pertains to all areas of life.

    People want most to talk about themselves. So when I’m trying to generate participation, (which is not ALWAYS the case, but in general I do), I try to keep that in mind.

  6. As usual, so many great tips here, girls! Thanks again. I’ve actually just downloaded the Digg Digg plug-in myself, and see that this will greatly help with shares. Thanks for all you do! Now off to check out Rags to Stitches–I love her header!

  7. Great critique! Do you just randomly pick blogs to critique or do people sign up for it? I like the suggestion to add a most popular posts widget. I need to do that once I get some traffic and not be such a blogging newbie.

  8. I enjoyed the over-all feel of the blog. I rather enjoyed the sea of buttons on the side bar… but I was looking for the “tag cloud” and the “calendar”. For me, how would I know what I am looking for and I find that the catagories are on top in the page navigation – that is different.

    Also, it seems that on the front page, all of the entries are full articles. It’s ok for the first “featured” or “sticky” article should be the full article. But I would have like to see excerpts… so I can see more choices on the front page. And that brings me back to … how would I know what I am looking for.

    I would really like to know how the group give away was done… what plugin,
    I would have liked to see some “commentluv” but…

    And I went to the “shop” area… would love to have a cozy for my android phone… oh well.

    I did enjoy this blog so… I will go back to it from time to time.

  9. Great tips yet again! I love Alissa’s blog. The colors are great, and I love that she uses only one side bar. i can’t wait to read through it – I love all things crafty. ;)

  10. Gotta say I love your critiques!!! Love, Love, Love… I have a list of improvements that I have to get to!!! But more than your critiques, I love the blogs you introduce – wonderful stuff!!!

  11. You go Alissa!! That’s a shining review, and well deserved…I love your blog! :)

  12. Awesome ideas!! Her blog looks fantastic and I as well learned so much from this. Off to explore the share buttons you mentioned right now. Thank you!

  13. Excellent critique! I can’t wait to check out her blog now. :) I was also able to take away some suggestions I could apply to my own blog!

  14. Jamie @ Roubinek Reality says:

    Readers really want to talk about themselves. So true!! That will help me in my writing. Thanks Gigi!

  15. Good tips! I like the suggestion for adding social media links to each post to encourage sharing. I am going to try that!

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