I'm a huge fan of blogging - whether it's just a hobby or part of your business strategy. While blogs can be a lot of work, they can also be very rewarding.
This week's site clinic focuses on a relatively young blog, BeFitAndStrong.com
that has been up and running since September 2007. Blog owner Curtis Penner is doing many things very well, and I'd like to take some time to point those out as well as suggest a few improvements he can make to better reach his goals. As much as we learn from our own (and other people's) mistakes, we can also learn a lot when we see something done well.
BeFitAndStrong.com is a blog geared towards adults ages 30-55 who are interested in losing weight and getting fit. One of it's unique properties is that Curtis offers instructional exercise videos; they are short 2-3 minute videos each detailing a specific exercise and how to perform it correctly. The primary goal of the website is to gain subscribers; the secondary goal is to generate affiliate and product sales.
Blogging Done Right
The first indicator I saw that BeFitAndStrong.com is a good blog is the fact that I got caught up in reading articles and watching videos ... and forgot that I was supposed to be analyzing the site. Strong Content
Blogs are only going to be successful if they are providing well-written, relevant, interesting content in a format that is easy to read. BeFitAndStrong.com hit that nail on the head.
Curtis has a conversational, yet authoritative tone to his writing that made me want to read more, and convinced me that he knew what he was talking about. He breaks each article up into sections, varies the paragraph lengths, uses descriptive headers, and incorporates bulleted lists where appropriate. The videos are very well done and make the exercises understandable and easy to replicate correctly.
I love the way Curtis has designed his home page. Where most blogs display the most recent articles on their landing page, Curtis has used his home page to feature content and drive visitors deeper into the site. Visitors can quickly scan the homepage and get a good idea of the kids of information they are going to find on this website, and then go directly to it. Incorporating Key Blog Elements
There are several "must haves" for good blogs, and BeFitAndBeStrong.com has most of them:
- Prominent subscribe by rss and email links with text and icons (primary conversion point is accurately positioned at the top of the right column)
- List of categories (primary blog navigation)
- Author photo and brief bio at the bottom of each post
- Links to featured/popular content
- Links to related posts following each article
- Buttons to submit articles to social sites such as Del.icio.us
- Catchy page titles
- Videos/images to supplement copy
- Author responses to comments
BeFitAndStrong.com has almost all of the elements of a great blog. However, there are three very important items missing that are keeping it from reaching the next level: 1. open commenting 2. an about page and 3. the secondary conversion point.
Open Up the Comments
One of the first things I check on a blog is the comments section; it's a quick and easy way to know if the content resonates with readers. With everything else on BeFitAndStrong.com done so well, I was shocked to discover that commenting is restricted to readers who are logged in.
Besides the fact that I have to log in to comment, there is no information about where you have to be logged in. If you click the "logged in" link, you are taken to the Word Press admin log in for the BeFitAndStrong.com site, for which I don't have a user account. Do I log into my own WordPress account? Nope, that didn't do it either. As far as I can tell, there's no way to leave a comment on this blog. And most people wouldn't spend the time to try to figure it out like I did. (While I did find a few posts that have comments, I'm not entirely sure how they got there.)
Requiring visitors to log in before they can comment in general is superfluous and likely to turn away many people who would like to get involved in the discussion. These discussions are an important way to increase engagement, build community around your website, and encourage more loyal visitors. While comment moderating is often necessary to prevent spam, this is taking it a little too far when it makes it difficult for the real people.
Wordpress has some great options for moderating comments, including requiring visitors to have a previously approved comment. If they do, all subsequent comments are posted automatically.
Dig around in your WordPress settings and figure out how to turn off the setting that is requiring visitors to log in before they can comment! Tell Readers About Yourself
Losing weight and getting in shape is a popular topic right now. There are a lot of people out there all telling us different things, and it's very hard to know who to listen to. Because virtually anyone can start a blog about whatever they want, there's a lot of bad information out there. And that makes it especially important to include a prominent "about" page on BeFitAndStrong.com.
If you want to be recognized as an expert, you have to allow people to get to know you. Tell them who you are, why you care about this topic, and what experience and knowledge makes you an expert. In short, let them know why you are worth listening to.
In addition to telling us who you as the writer are, let readers know what this website is about. Because the homepage isn't a traditional format, it's not immediately obvious that this is a blog. Tell your reader exactly what this site is and what it's all about.
The about page should be a top-level link; on this particular site it probably fits best alongside "home" and "contact" at the top.
Make Your Conversion Points Obvious
Every website should have a goal and should always be working to drive visitors to that goal. Here the primary conversion point is to subscribe to the feed, and that's not hard to figure out--or do.
But the secondary conversion point, generate affiliate and product sales, is virtually non-existent. I never would have known that was even an option if Curtis didn't mention it in his submission.
First, if you're looking to create partnerships with affiliates, create a page specifically for affiliates. Because there aren't currently any advertisers on the site, potential sponsors are likely to assume that you aren't interested. Adding a page directed at them will
- show you are interested in such partnerships
- tell them what you are looking for
- tell them what you offer
- tell them what your rates are
Second, if you are selling informational products such as an e-book (which is offered for free in some articles) that needs to be a prominent feature in that right sidebar. Make a button or a feature box right under the subscription that will drive visitors to download the free e-book or to look at the informational products available for purchase. If you aren't selling anything right now, it's because visitors don't know it's there! Tidbits To Improve Your Blog
Just a few other small improvements that could be made on BeFitAndStrong.com (and maybe on your blog, too!):
June 20, 2008
- The link on "Curtis Penner" in the bio box goes to a 404 error page, which in turn lists an about page that goes to the default WordPress sample page (oops!).
- Search Engine Optimization can be helpful on blogs. Target some keywords and use them in your title and opening paragraph. Install the All-In-One SEO plugin and create more descriptive title tags and meta descriptions.
- Make sure your category names are descriptive (not cute) and include targeted keywords.
- Incorporate a benefit statement/tagline in the header to briefly let visitors know what this site is about and why it's unique.
- Consider putting videos on YouTube, where visitors searching there for exercises may come across them, which will drive more traffic back to your blog.
Jackie Baker is an internet marketing analyst with SiteLogic Marketing (http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com) where she focuses on auditing websites as well as SEO, social media, usability, and information architecture consulting. She comes to the industry from a marketing/PR and website development background. Jackie maintains an active presence online through her blog RegardingHorses.com (http://www.regardinghorses.com) where she shares her love all things equine, particularly therapeutic riding.