We’re back with another Blog Critique from Momcomm and The SITS Girls!
Fran, Gigi and I are dissecting a blog from top to bottom in three areas: design, navigation/functionality and content. The reason? To help the featured blogger meet her blog goals and become even MORE awesome.
The goal of a blog critique is 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.
Remember to click through all of the blog critiques listed at the bottom of this post and see which tips you can apply to your own site.
Lindsay from Lindsay Blogs describes her blog as being about life, product reviews and giveaways, sometimes with a sarcastic or silly undertone. It’s always family-friendly and faith-centered when possible. She’d like to expand the focus of the blog to social media topics and blogging but lacks time at the moment to do that.
Lindsay says that she doesn’t get as much user engagement and comments as she wants, which makes her worry about the quality of her content and whether she’s articulating her thoughts well enough. She’d like to make a decent part-time income while still keeping her content real. And she loves working with companies on reviews and sponsored posts. However, Lindsay says that “integrity is #1 in my book and I will never be less than honest with my readers, no matter how much money is on the table.”
Header & Menu
- I really like the overall design of your header and menu. Elements like having your social media buttons and blog name extend over the top of the white box gives this area so texture and depth. Your color scheme is consistent among your header, menu and background as well!
- As for your tagline “life, reviews, giveaways”, I’d like to see something a little more differentiating, even if you have to make that talk bubble larger to make room for more text. There are tons of bloggers who blog about those three things so how are you different? You mention you are sarcastic and silly so maybe incorporate that tone into your tagline. In marketing we refer to it as a “unique selling proposition.” What would make a reader want to read about your life and reviews over another blogger who writes about the same thing? If you struggle defining that, think of some nice compliments you’ve received from readers about a post, review or your blog in general. What are they noticing? Those elements could be your key differentiators.
- One thing you may want to think about is your caricature. I don’t necessarily think that having a blog name like Lindsay Blogs means you need a caricature or picture. While yours isn’t one I’ve seen that often, caricatures don’t always distinguish your blog’s brand as much as you may like them to. There’s a Momcrunch post about this and when a custom image might be in order. Again, no right or wrong but just some food for thought. Might even be fun to ask your audience.
- Your menu looks great. I would just be sure to add a Contact page. While you offer ways to contact you, many readers and PR people look for a contact page first. Fadra from Social Dialect wrote a great post about contact pages.
- Your sidebar headings look nice and match your blog design well. I like that you’ve kept them consistent throughout your sidebar. Nice going!
- I also love that your face and About Me blurb is at the top of your sidebar. It’s helps build a connection with the reader. The length of your blurb is good but I would cut a sentence out and add a sentence about what you blog brings to your readers. Something as simple as “here you’ll find…”
- Under your “Other Great Blogs” section, I can’t determine if that’s supposed to be a blogroll or not. Are those just blogs you like? I’d remove that and if you really feel they are needed, move them to a separate page so there aren’t so many badges on your sidebar.
- Instead of the Other Great Blogs section, I’d love to see a list of your most Popular Posts. Readers love to be able to find your best content easily, and it also help with click-throughs!
- Visually, I think your main column looks nice. Your blog title font and color match your header and the title is a great size (I often see ones that are too small).
- While this may have to do with your WP theme, you should probably add a “leave a comment” link on the bottom too. People comment once they finish a post and so having to scroll all the way back up can be a pain. That may be one way to get more comments. Keep in mind that you want to make things as easy as possible for your readers.
- You do a great job in your reviews with breaking up the posts with sub-headings. It adds a pop of color and visually guides the reader through your post.
- While the sub-headings are great, some of your paragraphs are rather long. For example, in your Mamavation Monday post, one of your paragraphs is 11 lines deep. Remember to use smaller paragraphs since larger ones slow down readers (we tend to lose our place; plus there’s no mental break to pause and take in the content).
- I really like the sharing button box at the end of your posts. My only suggestion there is to make it so that it shows up on the home page too. Since you have full posts on your homepage (which is good), someone may want to share it from there instead of have to click on the post to share it.
- Your navigation on the site is pretty solid. You make it easy to comment and even offer extra options to leaving a comment like “notify me of follow up comments by mail” and “notify me of new posts by mail.”
- One thing we noticed is that sometimes your video ad in the sidebar plays automatically. It doesn’t seem to do it all the time (so maybe it was just with the one brand, which was Febreeze)? Nevertheless, auto playing music or videos can trigger users to hit the “back” button or “x” out of the screen (especially if they’re at work or have a sleeping child nearby). Double check your ads and make sure none of them autoplay (again, could have been a fluke since it only happened once).
- Consider moving your email subscription box closer to the top of your sidebar so it’s above the fold. This might lead to an uptake in subscriptions.
- You’ve done a good job at keeping your categories trim. If you find you aren’t adding too many posts to a particular category (like Compassion only has 3), it can either be a trigger to write more about that topic or delete that category and merge it into another one.
- Mel mentions putting a “best of” post category in your sidebar, which is a great idea. Another suggestion to consider are sneeze pages, which can be helpful to highlight your best content, as well as optimize your content for search engines.
- I love, love, LOVE your PR Friendly page. It outlines exactly who you are, what your current stats are, and how PR reps can get in touch with you. (Totally in line with the advice we’ve offered on how to work successfully with PR too!)
Some of the goals and concerns you outlined for your blog were:
I don’t get nearly as much user engagement as I want – the comments often just don’t come. That, in turn, makes me worry about the quality of my content and that maybe I’m just not articulating my thoughts very well to my audience.
I want my blog to be my business. I’m not going to quit my job or anything rash, but I want to be able to bring in a decent part-time income while still keeping my content real.
- Your reviews are well done and honest. Great job! I really like how you try to include both pros and cons of the product in your reviews. It gives the review much more legitimacy. Your Havaianas review made me want to go out and try those espadrilles!
- Your personal posts are real and authentic. I enjoyed reading Become Like Little Children. It was sincere and heartfelt and gave me a window into you.
- Focus on the 80/20 rule. I took a look at the roughly the last 30 days of posts on your blog. About 50% of your posts were either sponsored posts or posts related to your participation in Mamavation. The other 50% were personal posts, guest posts and the like.
I think this breakdown reflects your competing goals and concerns. You want to monetize and work with PR, but you also want engaged readers and real content. In the end, you are publishing two very different types of content.
The good news is that you’re not alone! The challenge you face is similar to many, many bloggers. It’s tough to walk the tightrope between reviews/giveaways and personal blog posts. Why? Because sponsored content does not easily lend itself to engaged readership.
The bottom line is that you can’t have it both ways – at least not 50/50. You need to decide what the overall thrust of your blog is going to be, own it and move forward! That doesn’t mean that if you focus on giveaways, then you can’t ever write a post about your faith. It also doesn’t mean that if you focus on writing personal stories, that you can’t ever do giveaways. But think about moving toward an 80/20 model versus a 50/50 model. Just know that if the blog ends up being 80% giveaways, you need to be okay with not a ton of comments. And if it ends up being 80% personal, then you need to be okay with making less money. The choice is yours, and I’m sure you can find a healthy balance!
- Simplify your posts, add images and get on Pinterest. You had a lot of great ideas in the post 8 Valentine’s Day Breakfast Recipes. This post could have easily been a two-week long series. Each day would have featured a different recipe, complete with luscious images.
After you completed your series, you could pin those lovely posts to Pinterest and get a boost to your traffic. People are going crazy right now pinning Valentine’s Day crafts and recipes. Instead, this post got a bit lost in the shuffle because there was just too much content (albeit great!) and not visual enough. We wrote a post on how to run a great blog series that you might want to check out.
- Watch your disclosures. I actually read the Valentine’s Day recipe post twice before I realized it was a sponsored post. Kudos to you! You’re doing a great job of trying to incorporate sponsored content in a very authentic way to your blog. However…your disclosure on this post made me a bit twitchy.
My gut reaction was: Wait a minute! Who compensated her for this post? I moused back over your links and then realized you took a paid link opportunity with a UK floral company that asks lots of bloggers for posts like this. I’d like to see your disclosure be more up front about who you have a relationship with. This directly goes to your concern about your content being real and trustworthy.
- Overall, I think you can have a much more impactful blog if you decide on your direction. You’re managing both types of content in a positive way, there simply needs to be more focus. Only you can decide which path you should follow, and I know there may be a few tough tradeoffs…but you can do it!
Now it’s your turn. What do YOU think about Lindsay Blogs? Do you agree or disagree with our recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.
And be sure to head over to visit Lindsay Blogs and leave her some comment love.
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