Pro blogger Chris Garrett offered a very generous service on his blog last month. He offered to review other peoples’ blogs and provide feedback on how they could be improved. Make no mistake: having an outside, impartial source with his expertise give feedback is worth its in gold. Weight
I was so impressed with Chris’ generosity I decided I would give back to him by reviewing his blog. In doing so, you might also learn ways to improve your own blog.
Let me start by saying that I really enjoy Chris’ blog. He does a great job providing fresh, relevant content on blogging and marketing and his eBook “Killer Flagship Content” should be required reading for all bloggers.
What follows are suggestions, nitpickings, and personal preferences of mine on things he could do to improve his blog. While the following are aimed at Chris’ blog, the suggestions offered could apply to most blogs. So have a read and see if your blog could also be improved by the following suggestions.
1. RSS Feeds
Today, via means of feed readers, users can read your website without ever setting their internet foot through your website’s door. Because of this, you must optimize not only your website, but also your feeds.
Chris has an RSS feed which he wisely allows FeedBurner to host and manage. This is an excellent move because it allows FeedBurner to take the bandwidth hit for him. In addition, FeedBurner can provide statistics on subscribers.
WordPress (by default) only syndicates your last 10 posts. As long as FeedBurner is taking the load for you, you may as well kick this up to 20. This way subscribers are less likely to miss a post.
As stated earlier, thanks to RSS and feed readers it’s become common-place that your blog’s content gets read from a source other than the website. Because of this I would enable FeedBurner’s FeedFlare feature.
FeedFlare allows you to place a footer at the bottom of each post with such choices as to Digg this post or to add to Technorati or del.icio.us.
FeedFlare is certainly worth checking out. It’s located under the Optimize tab once logged into FeedBurner.
2. No Comment
If a post has yet to be commented on, WordPress will display (by default) “No comments”. For the experienced blog reader this is easily interpreted as, “no one has left a comment thus far”. However, this could conceivably be interpreted as, “the author does not allow comments on this post.”
I would modify it to read, “Add Comment”. This is more inviting and can only be interpreted one way.
A favicon (short for “favorites icon”), is that little image (16×16 pixels) you see in the URL address bar of modern browsers. It’s also located in the tabs of tabbed browsers and in bookmarks. I’ve also seen some blogs use the favicon instead of Gravatars.
To create a favicon simply create a 16×16 pixel image and save it as favicon.ico, then place it in the root of your domain and add the below line to your head.
<link rel="Shortcut Icon" href="/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon" />
It’s pretty simple to do, so you may as well do it; besides, it’s fun.
4. Search Results
Chris’ blog provides the viewer an easy way to search for archived post. About half way down, on the right, you’ll find the typical search box with the “Go” button. This works just fine, but I think it can be a little unclear that the search did in fact take place.
When I perform a search for a topic like “Yahoo”, I expect to see something that says, “Results for Yahoo” and then a list of results. When I press the Go button on Chris’ blog the page just flickers with its reload and then displays post again. Of course, upon further inspection you find that these are the post results for your search, but it’s just not clear; at least not to me.
Try the same search for “Yahoo” on Search-This. You’ll find the search box located in the upper left hand corner, directly below the logo. Notice what you get? At the top it says, “Search Results for Yahoo” and even tells you how many results there are; in this case, 6.
5. The Archives
My gripe here is similar to the above search. He has his Archives links about half way down on the right. It’s not that there is anything wrong with what he has; it works fine, it just doesn’t feel right to me.
I click on the link “February 2007″ and after the page reloads I’m looking at post again. It does have clearly marked at the top “Archive for February, 2007″ which is good, however if someone was looking for a particular post it could be a chore to find it.
Once again notice the difference with Search-This’ archives. It’s a lot easier to find a particular post with this layout.
6. Page Title
The title of a web page is one of the most important elements in SEO. Search engines give a lot of to a page’s title because it is the over arching descriptor for the page; much like the title of a newspaper article. Weight
The title for Chris’ blogs home page is “Chris Garrett on New Media”. There’s nothing technically wrong with this title and if one is trying to brand themself then it’s a good choice. But, it does little to help a site be found in the search engines; with the exception of a search on “chris garrett”.
The reality is that there isn’t going to be a ton of competition for “Chris Garrett” in the search engines so he probably could obtain the number one position with little effort. In fact, using the “Keyword Suggestion” tool at DigitalPoint shows that Wordtracker has no data for the phrase: chris garrett. This means that not enough searches on chris garrett take place in the search engines to even create data.
Also, if someone is searching for “chris garrett” it’s reasonable to believe that they already know a little something about who chris garrett is and should not have a hard time tracking him down.
I would suggest going after keywords that people actually use in the search engines. Perhaps these keywords might work:
- internet marketing – 1611
- website promotion – 476
- blogging – 660
- blogging advice – 25
- marketing tips – 45
(Stats from WordTracker – Numbers on the right indicate results taken from all Dogpile & Metacrawler queries over the last 90 days)
In days gone by people once read from a non-digital form. Some of us still do. Often times when I’m in the middle of reading a good post and nature calls I will hit the print button and stop by the printer to retrieve the article on the way to the bathroom.
Nothing pisses me off more than when I’m sitting on the throne and part of the article I’m reading is missing because the content exceeded the paper size. Thankfully Chris’ blog doesn’t have this problem, but it does have a less annoying problem.
If you go to Print Preview mode on one of Chris’ posts and scroll to the bottom of the post you will notice it prints his entire navigation section. That’s two pages of unnecessary printed material; the trees cringe.
The solution is easy, create a CSS file dedicated just for printing. For more information on how this is done read the article, “WordPress – From Install to Pimped Out“. You may decide to print it and read it the next time nature calls.
Wikipeda defines a blogroll as a collection of links to other weblogs. That’s pretty close, but they aren’t just random links, they are links to other sites that the author enjoys. I know that I personally like to see what blogs the author finds useful or interesting.
I would say that more times than not when I come across a new blog that I like, I eventually end up looking for the author’s blogroll. Of course, Chris’ blog is not going to suffer for a lack of a blogroll, but his viewers are just not privilege to that personal side of him. A blogroll is just a glimpse into the author’s personalty, almost like looking at what’s on your friends’ iPod.
Well that’s it, those are my suggestions, some are pretty insignificant like the Favicon and blogroll, but others may even increase traffic to his blog. I’ll close by saying that Chris’ blog is all about the content and the content he provides is top notch. If you have not experienced Chris Garrett’s blog then now is the time to do so; you can thank me later.