Visitors expect to quickly access specific information when they visit blogs. First impressions are critical when it comes to them making the choice to linger and read and perhaps return, or to click out and not return.
When a visitor enters a blog and clicks out without clicking an additional link in the blog this is referred to as a “bounce“. Ideally a blogger wants a zero bounce rate but that’s next to impossible to achieve. How high is your blog’s bounce rate? And, how long does the average visitors spend on your blog?
I am frequently asked to help bloggers going through the blog evaluation process and I always decline. I prefer to share the steps I take when I evaluate a blog with my readers here, so they can review my approach and share their feedback with me in discussion.
After blogging for a while you need to assess whether or not your blog is on the right track or if adjustments need to be made. The results of your evaluation may be branding changes, setting new goals, a change in theme, or even a complete blog make-over.
“First impressions are lasting impressions”, so they say. The word “effectiveness” is the key word when I assess the following points:
Step 1 – Page loading time
Page loading time is a ranking factor.
- How quickly does the site load?
- How many widgets and gadgets are there in the sidebar?
- How many scripts are running?
- Is there autoplay music?
- How much decorative “tat” (clutter) is in sidebars and/or footers?
Step 2 – Content’s Theme
- Is the theme in keeping with the content?
- For example, does the theme in use appropriately reflect and showcase the true nature of the blog content?
- Or are you looking at a professional content business blog being presented in theme that would better be suited for use on a parenting or personal blog?
Step 3 – The Color Scheme
- How is the color scheme for readers?
- I it in keeping with the blog post content?
- Colors evoke emotions and can provoke readers to either move on or to linger and read.
- Do the colors chosen evoke a calming mood that encourages to readers to relax and read content?
- Or do the colors evoke stimulation of emotions that may provoke readers to click out?
- Does what’s been placed in the sidebar tend to detract from the blog design and distract readers away from reading content?
Step 4 – Theme
- Does the theme quickly communicate branding and the purpose of the blog to new visitors?
- If the theme is not unique, then has it been customized and personalized (eg. custom header image, logo, unique graphics) to reflect individual branding?
- How does the quality of design and the customization aimed at personalizing it compare with other blogs in the same niche?
Step 5 – Search Engine Optimization
- Is the blog search engine optimized?
Note: If you are using a WordPress.com theme good SEO is a given. However, going beyond the theme what the blogger has done within that structure is worth evaluating.
- Do the URL, Blog Title and Tagline reflect branding?
- Is the blogger using basic SEO in posts and on images?
- Is the blogger using Categories and Tags appropriately and effectively?
Step 6 – Content
- How readable is the content by readers of all ages including the visually impaired?
- Is the background black or dark?
- If so is the font color easily readable against it?
- Is the background “busy” as in patterned and/or extremely colorful?
- If so then are the fonts easily readable against it?
- Is the background distracting?
- Does it draw the eyes and mind away from the post content?
Note: Presbyopia, the loss of up-close focus that forces billions of people to wear reading prescriptions by 40 years old, is commonly considered an inevitable fact of aging. The condition affects 100% of the population by age 50.
Step 7 – Pages
- Are pages being used effectively?
- Is there an About page with a blogger’s profile, blog description, contact information, and copyright notice?
- How is the blog structured?
- Is it post based, or page based with custom menu?
Step 8 – Navigation
- Are navigational aides provided?
- Does the theme provide next page and previous page links?
- Is there a sitemap, archives, categories and tags?
- Can readers easily locate deeper content found in earlier posts that doesn’t appear on the front page?
- Have links to related sites in the same niche been provided for readers?
Step 9 – Content’s Quality
- Is the post content well written, properly “sourced” and are links in working order?
- Are the tiles attention grabbing and do they accurately reflect the content?
- Is the content free of typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors?
- Are the posts written in an engaging style that flows?
- Do the post contain links to sources for verifiability, acknowledgment, examples, and context?
- One of the most common problems that readers encounter is dead links. Do an random check for broken and dead links and see what you find.
- Are media (images, audio, video) being used effectively?
- Do posts contains invitations for readers to participate in discussion and/or requests for reader feedback?
- Do posts have social networking sharing buttons?
Step 10 – Comments
- Are the commenting links obvious, inviting and easy to use?
- Has a commenting policy been provided?
- Does the blog have a CAPTCHA for commenting?
- Does the blogger reply to comments?
Step 11 – Subscription
- Is there a means for readers to subscribe to the RSS feed or to subscribe to receive new blog posts by email?
Step 12 – Ads
- How intrusive are the ads?
- Is the blog content above the fold, or does advertising occupy the best real estate positioning on the blog?
- Are there pop-ups, pop-unders, toolbars, etc.
- Are the ads minimal in number, tasteful in appearance, and in keeping with the content in the blog?