12 Step Blog Evaluation

checklist 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:

1.    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?

2.    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?

3.    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?

4.    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?

5.    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.

6.    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.

7.   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?

8.   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?

9.   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?
  • Reference:  3 Ways to Evaluate the Real Activity of the Blog

10.  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?

11.   Is there a means for readers to subscribe to the RSS feed or to subscribe to receive new blog posts by email?

12.   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?

Discussion

1. Have you ever evaluated your blog’s effectiveness from the standpoint of a reader?

2. If so what process did you use to do so?

3. Which of the twelve points in my article resonated most for you?

4. Which of the tweleve points did not resonate for you?

5. If you believe I overlooked any important points, please share what you think ought to have been included.

Related posts found in this blog:
How to select a WordPress.com theme Part 1
Select a WordPress.com theme Part 2
Select a WordPress theme Part 3

48 thoughts on “12 Step Blog Evaluation

  1. Pingback: How to structure a reader and search engine friendly blog « one cool site

  2. Just wanted to drop by and tell you that I was looking on the WordPress forums and found a thread about Translation that you had contributed to and have used the code for the Static Page you posted there and it seems to be working beautifully. I put a link to you at the bottom of the page, meagre thanks I know, but THANKS! :D

    • I’m so glad you did set one up. Thanks so much for the link love. I appreciate it very much. That buttermilk cluster just made my mouth water and my grumbling stomach reminded my it’s time for lunch. :)

  3. This is really helpful for a newbie blogger like me. Hope you check out my blog and comment on it for improvements. Thank you!

    • Hello there,
      I have prepared this as a “do it yourself “post. I also stated in the post that I decline invitations to evaluate blogs. I’m sorry but I don’t have the time to do this for you.

  4. Oh my goodness, so much to know and always so much to do. I could quite happily change my theme on a regular basis – there are so many to choose from but I think I need to sort out my posts and maybe add a few more pages. Thank you for so much useful information!

    • Hi Patti,
      It’s always cool to see a new blogger posting a comment here. :) Thanks for the positive feedback on my post. I appreciate it.

      In the past I have also frequently changed themes. The only difficulties one experienced by doing that is if they have used large images on the current theme that do not “fit” into the maximum displayed image width on the new theme. When that’s the case some browsers smoosh the images and others chop them off on the righthand side. So I recommend that prior to a theme change on a wordpress.com blog users look at this list to determine what will happen if the images they have now are displayed on a theme that has a narrower width http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/maximum-image-width/

      If you are going to create more Pages then you may want to consider creating a custom menu to display in the horizontal menu where your pages now are. Custom menus are cool because we can include Pages, sub-pages (in drop downs) Custom links and Categories and sub-categories (in drop downs) in them too. In case you want to do that here’s how. http://en.support.wordpress.com/menus/

      I notice something I want to give you some feedback on. The title of your blog and the tagline currently total 116 characters. That’s far too many to achieve good SEO. So if you read this post you will see how to pare that down and odds are that if you do Google may choose to display it in their SERPs (search engine page results). http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2009/06/22/creating-an-effective-blog-tagline/

      Happy blogging. :)

  5. Hi
    Great post indeed!
    The last time I made changes to the way I wrote my posts was when I read ‘Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed’ by Joy Victory.
    Now again, I am considering to make some changes and I believe you could be of great help in putting me back on track.
    I will try and state my problems in the order your post brings them in.

    1. Off late, I have increased the number of widgets on my blog. I have also put RSS feeds of my close friends and a number of badges on my blog. As for the page loading time, is there any way I can correct assess how long does it take for the page to load for an average reader?

    2. The kind of posts I publish are very varied. I began with writing technical posts and now I also write a few opinion articles. Basically, it’s about the solutions to the problems I have faced. I wanted to know if the color theme I use goes with what I publish. (I use the theme ‘Structure’ and a custom header in red-blue with white background. )

    3. As for the branding, I could not understand how to achieve that. I think my custom header is the only branding I do.

    4. I found that I am not utilizing the potential of pages. I feel that a blogger profile is requiired but I am unable to put together something which doesn’t reveal my real-life identity completely and yet introduce me well enough. As for the copyright page, I wanted to know how I could frame a good one.

    After reading that, you may feel how confused I am and honestly, that wouldn’t be false.

    Thanks in advance!
    -genobz

  6. Very good post.

    A ‘please review my blog’ WordPress forum (or something similar) would be great, built on the 12-step procedure above to ensure consistent, qualified evaluations (not just a load of opinions).

    There was a sort of mutual blog review forum on Blogger years ago, but that was more for checking the source code and how the design rendered in different browsers, I think.

    The value of ‘blog peer review’ is that:

    1. it can be hard to self-evaluate one’s own work, fresh eyes can help
    2. it is great to get several evaluations from different people, as long as they follow a standard procedure
    3. there is a greater chance that bugs that only show up in minority browsers (IE6?) get picked up, without too much work for the creator of the blog
    4. It is fun and generate inspiration and networks, particularly for new bloggers

  7. Really a good post.i have dought that captcha is important thing. I think it is problem to readers to comment

  8. Oh boy, this post makes me anxious! Had to breathe in and out for a moment after reading it 3 times in a row and answering all the question with “I don’t know.. Nope.. No.. Don’t think so.. and NJET”. But I’m calmed down now. Remembered that I still like blogging anyway :P

  9. Hi TiTI,

    I had finished reading both this entry and the one dealing with “Choosing a theme”. Both provided some great insights. I do like the TwentyTen theme. Just wished they had the colorful sidebar that Intuit has. It is just that my sidebar had 8 widgets..

    With the help of the “mirror” blog, I was able to experiment with the placement of the Blog subscription button. I had it buried on the bottom of the sidebar. I’ve since added some clear text. Plus, I got rid of the Top post widget as it was originally meant to draw attention. Now that I have over 40 posts, I don’t see the need for it.

    Right now, I’m running on empty, as I’ve finished a solid story and was knee deep in re-evaluating my blog’s theme. Hopefully, I got ever.

    I better wrap up before I decide to crash. I was up to about 12 midnight, two evenings ago and up at 5, this morning. Need sleep. :) I’m going to need a wife to keep me, in line. :)

  10. I can adapt many of these points to evaluate my blog. I think that the important message above all is that it’s easy to get complacent with a blog and it’s very important to periodically take a step back and look at it though the eyes of a new reader.

  11. I like it. I am still evolving my page, and this is good information. I generally make the decisions on what is “important” to have on my blog by what I like to see on blogs. But it’s also good to not only have an outside opinion on this, but also a very educated opinion of someone who’s blogging knowledge I believe in.

    Amazingly, especially in light of my recent issues, I don’t have a copyright statement. lol. I’m gonna have to work on that

  12. Hi TiTi, I’m new to the blogging ‘thing’. This set of questions really made me think of my blog. For some of them I don’t have the answer, but I know I can adjust and make my blog better. Thanks

    • I believe we can all benefit by periodically taking a step back from our blogs so to speak and imagine we are readers — oe even first time visitors. By doing that we can see our blogs through different eyes and make adjustments where required.

      You’re welcome.

  13. Hi Titi,
    I’ve been enjoying your posts and Twitter presence, and wanted to stop by to introduce myself (hello!) and also tell you I am thankful for your list and tips.

    Greetings to you in BC and thanks for your online presence.
    I think I’m doing okay based on your tips (woot).
    Enjoy your day and take care.
    :)

    • Hi there,
      I’ve been running so far behind that I haven’t been Tweeting much. I have visited your blog only briefly but I definitely intend to return. I’m glad to hear you read my post and found your blog is doing okay. Best wishes to you. :)

      P.S. I hope this doesn’t sound opportunitsic but you may prefer the themes I publish on in my personal blog to the content in this one.

  14. Thanks Titi, a great way for me to look at my content and make any necessary changes that I can think of! I have already learnt a lot and have customized a lot as per your awesome recommendations over the months.. I have always felt the need to have a good site map.. One day, I hope to get there.. :)
    Have a great Sunday!
    Rachana.

    • Hi Heart,
      I’m happy to hear you have been learning and making changes to improve your blog. Please forgive me for taking so long to answer. There’s a health crisis going on in my family. As much as I love my readers, for me, family always comes first.

  15. Pingback: Tweets that mention 12 Step Blog Evaluation « one cool site -- Topsy.com

  16. I think I’m doing OK via your criteria, not great but OK. I believe my header of a one of my cats sitting on the microwave gives off just the right ambiance of “quirkiness.”
    Love the post! Have a good weekend!

  17. HI TiTi,
    This is an excellent round up of questions to truly evaluate our blogs.

    I have been planning a simplifying and clarifying detox for my blog…and might just go back inuit type theme cause it just makes my blog feel at home and less cluttered. I do get enticed with the new themes around….but to get something that is ‘perfect’ without the css upgrade is a major task.

    I am confused TT and would love your input. You have seen how my blog looked with Inuit Types and now with spectrum. Which one do you think “feels” my blog content more. I am so confused now…..

    I love the colors on Spectrum..but i feel its taking away from the content…and I dont particularly like the huge fonts in the sidebar. With Inuit Types the only thing I miss is the header. Everything else is perfect. ….

    I might sound desperate..but please help me make this decision..pretty please.
    Love all your input and how much you teach me….Believe me..when it comes to blogging technicalities..you are my Numero Uno :)
    Love you lots,
    Z~

    • Hello Zeenat,
      May I please reply tmorrow? My husband is giving me the “it’s late and time to log-out” look. Sleep well and tomorrow we shall confer.

      • Yes Titi…I know how darling husbands keep us in check :) mY hubby does the same. Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. Till tomorrow then :)
        Love,
        Z~

    • Dear Zeenat,
      I provided this evaluation so I could escape from being cornered by questions like yours. lol :D

      1. You can have a header on Intuit Types by using the “Front Page Intro ” box.
      “Use a Text Widget in this widget area to add an introduction to your front page” See here for more > http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/header-image-in-inuit-types/

      I do this and use the other feature images options layouts from time to time to change and freshen up the front page od my blog.

      2. I don’t believe the colors in the Spectrum theme are taking away from your content. As the theme does allow for a custom background you could remove the colorfulness bu either uploading a more subtly colored background. I just noticed you have done that now, or you could simply remove the header.

      I too find the font size in the sidebar of Spectrum to be on the large side. But, provided the blogger keeps the sidebar clutter free, that larger sized font that can work well for some readers.

      If my back was against the wall and I had to choose one over the other for your content I would choose Spectrum. If the font size really annoyed me then I would get a CSS upgrade and reduce the size.

      So there you have it ie. my opinion. Now you can evaluate your blog and make your decision. :)

      With much love,
      TiTi

      • Thank you TiTi! Valuable advice….but then again I’m racking my brain…you really did put the ball back in my court hmm…;)
        I have been thinking of a css upgrade too recently…but dont know css AT ALL….lets see how it all unfolds :)
        Thank you for taking the time to reply….
        So Much Love,
        Z~

        • The CSS upgrade is a possibility but those aren’t the only two themes to choose from. Don’t be hasty about making changes. Your site looks lovely to me as is. You’re most welcome Zeenat.
          Love and peace,
          TiTi

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