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Blogging Experiment — a ProBlogger Community Blog Consulting Project

This week we’ll be looking at a fellow make money blogging blog — one that some of you might already be reading — called Blogging Experiment.

If you’re new to the project, it’s recommended that you read the launch post. This week there’ll be yet another chance to score an iPod Shuffle and a link to your blog under the winner’s name in the summary post.

To be in the running to win, give some useful feedback on Blogging Experiment in the comments section of this post.

The blog’s owner, Ben Cook, describes the blog like this:

Blogging Experiment is just what the name suggests. It’s an experiment to see if I can take a brand new blog from earning absolutely nothing, to a full time income in only one year. I’m documenting every step along the way in hopes that my successes can be replicated and my mistakes avoided. The blog just turned six months old and last month it made just over $1,000. While that doesn’t put me in the same league as Darren, Shoemoney, John Chow, or some of the other high profile bloggers, I think I’m well on my way to accomplishing my goal.

Blogging Experiment.

Ben is particularly interested in feedback and advice on the following:

  • How can I better convert visitors into subscribers?
  • How can I use the blog to make more sales of our WordPress theme?

He recommends his Lessons on Blogging series if you want to get a better idea of the blog’s content. He’s also looking for feedback on these key areas:

  • Design — usability, visual appeal, readability, navigation.
  • Content — got an idea for a great viral post the blogger could write?
  • Promotion — how would you suggest the blogger promote the blog?
  • SEO — can you see areas for improvement?
  • Monetization — could this be done more effectively? Do you see any missed opportunities?

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible. I’m sure Ben is looking forward to your advice!

You can send an application to Darren if you’d like your blog featured and reviewed at ProBlogger for $250. Click to get more information on our community blog consulting services.

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Comments

  1. Scam says:

    Is it just me that can’t connect, or is that site down at the moment?

  2. I think the site has a lot of colors and kinda bothers other wise it’s good, seo isn’t bad but I haven’t seen post that can be used on google as “top searched keyword”.

    Also trying to reconsider the website for better PR (google webmaster tools) wouldn’t be bad Idea I got my blog ranked from PR0-7.

    Content isn’t bad I like it, the only thing I would suggest, hit the audience in the first 160 characters.

    Monetization, since the blog is new, don’t get too much involved with other stuff like that scratchback, it’s good if you have more visitors like for example in a year or so. But now I don’t think it would do you good.

  3. Chantelle says:

    Darren,

    I’m disappointed, I usually am eager to participate in these Consulting projects, but this one just seems cheap and desperate. The blogger has no other motives for blogging other than making a quick buck. Why should we, as professionals, try to encourage this type of blogging?

  4. Scam, I don’t think the site is down right now. Where are you trying to connect from?

  5. I just purchased the theme from Blogging Experiment and I am very satisfied with it. Check it out live in my blogs:

    http://homeboyastronomy.com/
    http://homeboyski.com/

    Cheers,
    Marko

  6. Justin Dupre says:

    Interesting experiment. I guess that all new bloggers are after that kind of goal, myself included. Glad to see someone really making steps toward it. 569 subscribers in 6 months, absolutely amazing numbers. I was excited to have 15 on my old blog. Starting a new myself so we will see if I can’t produce identical results.

    My only gripe is the use of the RSS symbol so much, but it doesn’t detract from the important material in the blog (Content…duh!)

    Good luck and best wishes

    Justin Dupre
    http://www.blogosis.com

  7. Scam says:

    I’ve tried the link in the RSS, and also typing the url in directly. I just keep getting a page cannot be displayed error.

    Strangely, I’m not experiencing that with any other sites I’ve visited today.

  8. Matt says:

    The thing that stuck out the most for me when I first opened the site is that this blog looks like a lot of other blogs out there. I know its hard to set yourself apart from everyone else but the design elements could be changed up a bit.

    Even if you look at the very top navigation bar on the site, does it look that much different from ProBlogger’s? I guess there is a bit of a catch-22 here since it would cost money to get a new design implemented but it might be well worth the money. Change it up – the look and feel of the site reminds me of ProBlogger and Zen Habits.

    With regards to converting sales: the advert seemed to get lost with the others for me. You’re taking up a large amount of realestate in the header before you get to any form of content or adverstising. Rejigging the layout might be worthwhile.

  9. LiveCrunch says:

    @Scam: Site works just fine
    @Marko: Good for you I hope you like it, I checked your sites. Looks cool

    @BExper: How many blogs do you own? Do you do g.posting?

  10. I haven’t tried doing this yet, but thought I would put my 2 cents in on this one.

    I think the colors are a bit bright (glaring) for me – the blue and orange combination is a strange one, for sure. The use of so much bright blue in the header is a turn-off in my case, instead of drawing me in to want to read further. Also, there is a lot of information in the header before you actually even get down to a post – maybe relocate the ‘recent posts’ and ‘most commented’ further down in the site. People may not want to have those options shoved at them before they even read their first post on the site…

    I also think that the ads could be better placed for greater visibility – the way that they’re all put together on the right side, my eye just went right past them at first. Maybe change up some of the ad sizes and styles to create more visual interest in each ad.

    In terms of content, I didn’t get a real clear idea of the blog’s purpose, other than to highlight how to make the blog (and therefore others) produce a full-time income. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the posts on the site. Maybe instead of the links at the top, a well-written explanation of the blog’s purpose and some quick hints on how people can take advantage of the information the blog presents themselves might help. The sentence in the ‘About Me’ could be expanded on for this. If I’m looking at the site for the first time (which I was), I want to know within the first few seconds, what kind of a value I’m going to get and how the site can help me. Whether or not the blogger makes a full-time income off of the blog is less interesting to me than learning how I could use his experiences and tips to do so myself…

    I also see an opportunity to help out new or not as established bloggers by maybe offering some regular features on simple tips and tricks to help get started – I’d be more likely to subscribe or stick around a site that did that (one reason I subscribe to ProBlogger is the ways in which Darren’s advice applies even to non ‘Pro’ bloggers or those of us who haven’t been at it for very long.

    And last, maybe some kind of a running total near the top as to how the ‘experiment’ is going – that would make me want to keep coming back to check and see. Having to scroll down for an update is kind of cumbersome.

    I think it’s a fun idea for a site – and I’m looking forward to reading all of the other suggestions! :)

  11. Sangesh says:

    I did browse to this website just a few days back. I had found this website on del.icio.us

    Quite a website with lots of content to go through. But this website can do a lot in user interface. Yes, Ben, hope you will also focus on the website design too.

    Best of luck to you Ben.

    Cheers.

  12. Tiago says:

    i´m new in the blog world, and i have my first portuguese blog with one week.The tips of the Blogging Experiment are very good and help me a lot! thanks for the help.

    You can convert visitors into subscribers doing competions.One example: to participate in the competion you have to subscribe the Feed RSS until 30 january, then in 31 you grab the mails of all the subscribers RSS, go to Random.org insert the mails and you have a random list of the mails.The first mail can win money, second a review in your blog….

    sorry for my bad english

  13. I thought I would add something for those that say that the header takes up too much room and they have to scroll down too far before seeing content. This probably has a lot to do with the different screen resolutions that users visiting your site might have and it is something that Ben might want to consider. On a smaller screen the user would probably be overwhelmed when 80% of their screen is taken up before they even see the content that would make them want to stay around.

    I actually liked the header and found the subscription portion to be something that I would like to implement on my site.

    I agree that the positioning of the ad space on the right side made it more convenient for me to just skip over the ads without giving them a second though.

    I also agree that a running total at the top would be a good idea.

  14. Steven Smit says:

    Ben can definitely ad the archives widget to the sisebar. Took me a while to aee it on the top bar….

  15. OK Ben, here are what I have to suggest you:

    1) the top widgets can be put in the bottom of the page, like in problogger.net.
    2) change the page background color…
    3) and yes, may be change the design as well…

    best of luck Ben.

  16. Cecile says:

    I actually liked the colors of the blog, found them easy to read and refreshing. What I didn’t like was the big blue box at the top of the page. My eye was immediately drawn there and it is a bit distracting.

    I didn’t realize that you were selling the theme, since I missed the top bar altogether. Again, my eye was draw to the big blue box.

    I did subscribe to your RSS feed because your posts seem interesting and well written. I also liked your footer box.

    My suggestion: keep the part of the box that says Author. I like the personal touch, but get rid of the rest and move the posts up, I want to get right to the meat of things!

  17. redwall_hp says:

    I like the overall page structure, and the design is not too bad. It vaguely reminds me of the old ProBlogger theme, as well as the current JohnChow.com design.

    I think having two “recent posts” lists is overkill. There’s one in the sidebar, and one in the header. I would recommend keeping only one of them.

    The idea of the blog is great. “…just a regular guy trying to figure out if I can get this blog to generate a full time income.” However, I think it could do with some more valuable posts. There are a lot of John Chow-esque posts saying “I made this much money this month.” I don’t mind having posts like that, and you kind of need to have them with the blog’s overall concept. However, I think there aren’t enough posts valuable to other bloggers. I recommend writing some more posts that will help others improve their blogs. That said, it’s interesting to watch someone try to make a full-time income off a blog, starting from nothing.

  18. Genesis says:

    Interesting site, for sure. It’s one that I think I’ll keep following, but I do have a few comments on it:

    - The color scheme is rather glaring, as others have mentioned.

    - The header takes up a lot of space, I know most of the posts start right in, but the ProBlogger plug with the image at the top really moved things down so there was no text above the fold.

    - If you want to sell your website theme, I´d suggest making it more prominent. I couldn’t find it for the longest time and the only reason I did is because it had been mentioned above.

    - For more subscribers, maybe make the RSS button a different color, it really blends into the overall scheme and doesn’t jump out.

    - Also, I really like Deb’s idea of having a counter to show how much money you´ve made so far, that would definitely add to the appeal of the site.

    Overall, I´m impressed with how far you´ve come in 6 months , a lot further than I´ve gotten in a year! :) The idea behind the blog is a sound one and I think with a little tweaking, it will appeal even more to readers.

  19. I think it is interesting that many people are commenting that they are not a fan of the site design while at the same time one of the ways you are monetizing your blog is to sell the design.

  20. TzuVelli says:

    Ben,

    You have a pretty good blog. Sorry, about the length of this. I hope I do not come off as terse but helpful.

    How can I better convert visitors into subscribers?

    Your blog theme is easier on the eyes than many. As far as converting subscribers is concerned, although your primary RSS badge is large and in the upper right hand corner you would think it would be clearly visible. But, because your header is so large, I believe that the RSS buttons get swallowed up. Moreover, I believe that the RSS buttons are outside of both the “F” and “V” visual usability theories.

    Primarily, due to the size of the header. For a two column theme, that has the secondary column on the right, you need your RSS subscriber buttons at the top of the right hand column and they need to be even with top of you main content area. Currently, RSS subscriber buttons are, by most usability tests, in the “coldest” area of the website.

    Second, at the end of each article, you do solicite your readers to subscribe but, that subscription is so well blended that most people would miss it.

    Solutions: First before you take any advice use a service like crazy egg to get a good idea about the true usability on your subscriber buttons. Outside of that I would suggest three things.

    1. Although because your header is such a large piece of your design, this may not be practical, move the RSS buttons down so they are even with the top of your main content area. Or, you could add alternate small subscriber buttons instead. However, adding the smaller buttons may seem a bit spammy.

    If moving the subscriber buttons to the top of the right hand column is out of the question, then on your single post page, place small size RSS button tactfully below the article title. When a reader clicks through to finish reading an article, we subconsciously look at the title to verify we are where we expected to be. So, having the subscriber buttons there can guarantee that they will see them. This could come off as being spammy but it will get the buttons front and center.

    2. Make your subscriber request at the end of each article stand out more. Change the font size and color. Give your readers a chance to see and react to the subscription request. This subscriber request is your final argument to seal the deal. Maybe some add copy here.

    3. Use a stop gap subscriber link in your footer. I don’t normally do this but some people may look for the subscriber link in the footer.

    4. On your about page you should have a subscription section. If some one is taking the time to learn more about you by going to your “About” page then they are more likely to subscribe to your blog.

    5. You need a Contact page: On your contact page you would highlight, among other things RSS subscription. This could be classily done at the end of section highlighting your social media and forum profiles. You could use a separator statement like “Subscribe Now To Keep Up With The Experiment.”

    How can I use the blog to make more sales of our WordPress theme?

    First, the 125X125 button you are using to advertise the theme is not very eye catchy. I did not see it until I looked for it. Second, it is good that you have created a landing page for the theme, with a link in the main menu bar. But, it is in one of the visually cold areas of the website. Third, your landing page for the theme needs to be reworked as a sales pitch and look less like a blog post.

    Solutions:

    1. Rework the 125X125 to be more eye catchy.

    2. Change the color and slightly increase the font size of the main menu link.

    3. Rework the landing page to bullet point and highlight the pros of the theme for each section; like the dynamic header, the sponsor area, etc) If the theme is SEO friendly, you should highlight those points as well. If the theme is easily customized then you should also highlight this as well.

    4. Create buzz for the theme: Run a contest where the prize is a copy of your premium theme. As a part of the contest have other bloggers review the theme linking to your front page and your theme’s landing page. It is a really nice theme there are a lot of bloggers that would love to win it.

    5. Place a wide add banner permanently at the top of your right sidebar for the theme. If selling the theme takes precedent over RSS subscriptions then I would place it above the subscriber buttons. But, if the subscriptions took precedent i would place just below the subscriber buttons.

    6. Start an affiliate program for your theme. Offer whatever you want but I would suggest $25 per sale as the commission. You are better off having 10, 15, 20, people selling your theme other than yourself. The volume will greatly make up for the commission.

    Key Area Feed Back:

    Design: The design is good. It is appealing to the eye and not overpowering. However, on the navigation I would suggest implementing a breadcrumb.

    Primarily, your readers currently have two choices the Home link in the menu or a category link. Think about this: when a reader does a search on your site and they click through to read an article, unless they click the “back” button on their browser they will have to redo the search each if they wanted to read another article found by the original search.

    Content: I actually subscribe to your RSS. I think your content is pretty good. I don’t think true viral content is created it is born of your social media networking. On your about page you list Digg but are you a member of other social media; like StumbleUpon. Being member of multiple Social Media sites and multi-teering your posts has more potential for pushing content viral than just writing bait articles. My advice for viral content is build your social visibility. Being a bit viral is still viral.

    Promotion: as far as promoting your blog I am going to stick to the advice of elevating your social visibility. You don’t have to be a social media maven just, be a bit more visible. You will get more traffic because of it. I am not sure about your activity on other blogs but if you are not commenting you may want to do so. The power of commenting is that it makes other readers aware that you exist. Comment on blogs outside of your niche, people that are not in your choir.

    SEO: I looked at only one post for this: Your recently successful post “South Park: Lessons on Blogging”

    I would suggest using either the “SEO Title Tag” plugin or the “All-in-one SEO” plugin. First you will be able to control the pages meta title, URL, and on page title using like titles but hitting SEO friendly terms.

    For example: If I search “blogging lessons” you are not on the first 10 pages, I stopped looking after page ten, for neither Google, Yahoo nor MSN. But searching “south park lessons” or “blogging lessons south park” you are number one in Google and 2 in Yahoo but not listed in MSN. I think there are probably a few long tail phrases that you could have used to help in the SERPs. One of the above tools would have enabled you to implement a more SEO friendly titling. Moreover you could have altered your title tag to have your keywords first.

    I would also use a good meta description for the post. Other wise you will end up with “Up next in the Lessons on Blogging series is another of my favorite animated shows, South Park. I usually keep things pretty family friendly” as the description for the post in the SERPs. Not much there about blogging lessons. So, you may not get alot of SE referals for the post. Using Google search for “south park lessons” or the other terms listed above and look at the given description.

    I would also suggest broader use of subheadings that are a bit more keyword rich. Not spammy, just rich. Also look at your keyword density: the article is at a low 2% for blogging, .85 for blog and blogs. “Blogging lesson (s)” does not show for a 2 word keyword phrase.

    Monetization: “The million dollar question.” Implement your RSS advertisement; as you mentioned in your RSS footer article. Implement some form of in article advertisement, affiliate or whatever. Otherwise you seem to be hitting a lot of the normal monetization routes. Unless you are filling a lot of slots for your SEO site reviews I would reduce the price and go for volume sales. I would also consider doing a landing page for each service outlining why someone should buy the service from you and not another SEO consultant, what they will get with the review etc…

    Anyway good luck.

    Sorry for this being so long.

    Beau Hooks
    TzuVelli.com

  21. Ben Cook says:

    Wow, I got tied up in meetings this morning and come back to find already a ton of input. The community consulting concept is really incredible to me, even more so now experiencing it from the other side.

    It’s going to take a while for me to digest it all but I will say that a running count or some sort of indicator of where I’m at in terms of my goal is definitely needed. I’ve been discussing that with the designer for a week or so and just haven’t been able to figure out where and how I want to do it.

    @ Climbing, I agree, it’s surprising to me how broad the spectrum is when it comes to the color scheme and header. I really hadn’t had any negative feedback about the theme before so I’ll definitely need to consider the things mentioned here. This is just one more reason this concept is so valuable.

    One of the first comments stated that my only motivation for blogging was to make a quick buck. I must admit that stung a bit and after considering it for a bit, I just don’t think it’s accurate. Obviously the stated purpose of the blog is to see if I can generate a full time income from the site in just one year. However, I think the content, specifically the documentation of what I’m doing, illustrates that I’m in it for more than just a quick buck.

    With that being said, it could very well be the case that I need to better organize my information and make it easier to see the benefit or value as someone else mentioned. If nothing else, I can see that at least in one instance, that message did not get through.

    Thank you all very much for your input so far, and I look forward to hearing from others!

  22. CatherineL says:

    I’m not usually into blogs that are purely about making money from blogging. But I like that one. His post titles are appealing. And he shares his mistakes as well as his successes.

  23. Chantelle: What makes you a professional? Do you have a website yourself? What do you do?

  24. Dan Cole says:

    Some people have pointed out that the point behind the site is bad and that Ben is just in it to make money. I think that is a little fast to judge. He did say he has 3 years experience in SEO and is now 6 months into this site, so he has to like it to some point.

    To get more subscribers and more returning visitors you need to do a couple of things. Improve your website design. Improve the information your giving. Improve the way you talk about yourself and the site. Lastly, lay off the money.

    When I first arrived on your site I though I was at some domain parking page. The colors are very cheap looking, if you know what I mean. The blue and orange are opposites and don’t complement each other very well. The glare in the orange also makes the site look as if it was from the 90s. Lets also go over the colors you have: Gray, white, orange, darker blue, blue, lighter blue, black, and some tan. You also have a RSS icon as a logo… why? RSS = Experiment…

    Now to the information your giving in your header, sidebar, and footer. Most Commented, Stop spots, Recent Comments, Most Commented, Top Commenters… Do you want me to comment on a post or what? This is a real turn away. Where are your “Best Posts” or “Most Popular Posts”. Hint: Look at which words I selected… it’s not the word “comment”.

    As for the way you portray yourself and the site. It’s not very good. If Problogger wouldn’t have suggested the site, I would have left. You talk down about yourself and the site. You talk about money a lot and don’t say enough about how your going to help me, the visitor! I would suggest changing your tag line… include words like: “Learn how to” or something.

    Lastly, you mention money too much. Why not give the theme away for free to attract more visitors.

    While you should portray yourself as the same skill level as the visitors, you shouldn’t do it in a way that makes you unattractive, untrustworthy, and unreliable. Which is what your currently doing. I hope this point you in the right direction without sounding to mean.

  25. Lani Giesen says:

    I actually subscribe to the blog so I only have good things to say about the concept and the content. I disagree that it comes across as a way to make a quick buck. To me it’s about picking the whole process of monetization apart, testing to see what works, and what makes it work.

    I do agree, however, that the theme isn’t working for you. The contrast of the orange and blue looks like an advertising palette which probably has a negative effect on people’s perception of your credibility. It also dims the advertisements on the site, which isn’t a good thing if you want people to pay attention to them.

    If you decide to revisit the colour scheme, I would suggest picking one dominant colour and using less saturated or neutral contrasts.

    The other issue I have is with your logo. Obviously I can’t say for sure if this is effecting your subscription rates but I think it might be. When I see it, all I see is the RSS icon. And then I see your RSS button. And then I see your logo again in the advertising section of your sidebar. I “get it”, but I had to stop for half a second in order to.

    People move fast on the web and there are automatic responses to that symbol. We don’t need to think about what it means. While sometimes it’s good to make a visitor slow down and think, this is one area you can’t afford to do it.

  26. Simon says:

    I’m a subscriber, reader and commenter at Blogging Experiment, so I obviously like the content. I have to admit I’m less keen on the design. The above the fold area is a little too busy and ends up looking low rent. There are too many things competing for my attention (it reminds me of John Chow’s site. I’ll go through everything individually.

    The very top list of links gets very confusing once you leave the main page. For example, when you go to the theme page the links all change and it’s very difficult to get back to the blog from on page links. The links in the header should be consistent and, in usability terms, provide a grounding for visitors. If they get lost, they know those links are always there to bail them out. This encourages visitors to explore without fear. This isn’t the case currently.

    The logo looks too much like the RSS subscribe button. First time I visited the site I wasn’t sure whether clicking the header would take me back to the front page of the blog or subscribe me to the feed. Again confusing from a usability standpoint. Although generally, the text in the logo looks a bit too “wordart” for my liking.

    From an SEO/general design rules point of view, you have multiple links to the same locations on the home page. For example, you have the latest six links appearing in the blue above the fold area and then also have the first five articles printed in full on the front page, along with links to them.

    Some more general things. You’re not really pushing the WordPress Theme. There’s plenty of space in the sidebar you could use to advertise it. I know there is a constant battle for space, so you need to prioritise everything. Do you want to push your theme (and other parts of the blog) more than, say, the Top Spots widget, which currently has a very prominent position. I’d also like to see a high level indicator of the progress your making. There’s a counter which has how far through you are, but there’s nothing to indicate how well you’re actually doing. I know it’s cheesy, but something like a thermometer or something might work. And as your success grows, it will certainly act as a beacon to inspire others. Currently, if you want to find out how well you are doing, a visitor has to dig through the posts.

    I think you’re doing a great job by the way.

  27. Jo says:

    This is my first visit to the site, and these are my first impressions.

    1. From a reader’s perspective, what’s in it for me? I know YOUR purpose for the blog, but why should I read it? What am I going to learn? For example, you give a run down of your income for the past 6 months on the front page, but where did that income come from? I realize some of this is probably covered elsewhere in the blog, but don’t make me go digging for it.

    2. The blog seems a bit cluttered to me. There are lots of adds, lots of colors. The RSS subscription area is a bit large. Overall, I think it has a bit of a cheap feel to it, like the ads are more important than the content. I think this will impact your sales of the theme as well.

    3. Give me some reasons to subscribe to the blog. Again, what am I going to learn from you? I want more than to just watch your progress and see if you make your income goals. I want lots of info about how I can do it too. Maybe you could replace the “Recent Posts” section in the blue header bar with a list of most important posts, how to get started posts, etc. Something like that would get me to dig in to the site a bit more.

  28. Shawn Hoefer says:

    * How can I better convert visitors into subscribers?

    Isn’t that the million dollar question we all would liked answered? Read on…

    * How can I use the blog to make more sales of our WordPress theme?

    This is going to sound harsh, and realize that I am speaking for myself only and others will (and have) disagree, but my initial response is “get a better template to sell.” The template does nothing that I can see that 1000s of free templates do just as well or better. If you want me to look at and buy your template then you had better grab me with a whiz-bang right at the start! I don’t care if it’s 100% compliant with every last spec on the planet… I don’t care if there’s a hidden feature on page 3… I want to see the greatness right up front here and now. People don’t buy a Porsche because it’s got nice carpet… they buy it because it looks fast (and it has a huge historical reputation, but let’s ignore that for the purpose of this analogy)

    * Design — usability, visual appeal, readability, navigation.

    See above. Further, the colors are a bit loud, the page is a bit long and there is a lot of duplicated content (I count recent post and recent comments twice). As before, grab your reader in the first three inches or so… if they have to hunt for the content they’re going to… oh, wait, shiny… what was I saying?

    * Content — got an idea for a great viral post the blogger could write?

    No idea… and if I did would I share it here? And, if I shared it here, would the blogger it was intended for ever get a chance to write it?

    * Promotion — how would you suggest the blogger promote the blog?

    For starters, getting accepted into the ProBlogger Community Blog Consulting Project couldn’t have hurt. Not knowing the history of your site I am uncertain what promotion schemes you have tried in the past. Perhaps a contest involving the community such as, um, er, this one!

    * SEO — can you see areas for improvement?

    I don’t do SEO often enough to have any advice.

    * Monetization — could this be done more effectively? Do you see any missed opportunities?

    Actually, I would reduce the number of ads and try to rotate them… I would remove or reconfigure adds that are not working (your Top Spots widget with many blank spots makes me think it’s not so successful) and what’s with the FBI Most Wanted mugshot?

    It seems as though everything I’ve said is negative. I’m sorry. The content seems solid. The design is not bad in spite of what I’ve written above…

    Hope this helps!

  29. Rinaldo says:

    First to all, great blog, the way you write is quite fresh and really keep you reading the blog.

    To attract more suscribers you should do a post highlighting the benefits of subscription and how it helps in your experiment then update the header to have a link to that post.

    Now about the theme… Is not bad, it reminds me a little to a modification of a K2 theme which isn’t bad but looks a bit generic like others said. Now to sell it better you must use a more flashy ad and keep bringing variations to it like the Green version. In the same vain you might want to redesing your own blog and keep selling the theme so others can give you credit without being scared of others seeing the exact same theme of both blogs (I’ve seen some bloggers being ashamed for that).

    I think the general design is ok. The top bar needs a little work in the spaces between bars and words which is a small detail but for some reason I noticed it right when I loaded the page.

    Also drop the 2 Recent Posts lists like other have said. The one in the sidebar is perfect to have a Best Posts list and keep the readers looking at your site more time.

    I think that a big problem in the Blog-Theme page is that since you’re using the same theme is easy to get confused when I want to go back. If I click “Home” I go back to the same page instead to your blog, same with the other links.

    The text is easy to read and your use of images is excellent so no recommendation there :).

    Your content is quite good… I think that having a post with a bulleted list resuming all the key points that have brought you to where you are now is an excellent viral post, same with a list of your biggest mistakes and how did you solve them.

    For promotion, keeping the work in Social Media Networks is the best bet for you. Is inexpensive (not in time :P) and works for bringing new people to the blog as well as keeping a solid community. Since you already talked about Guest Posts is obvious that you know that making guest posts for the best bloggers in this area would make your name even bigger.

    Since you’re working with WordPress, you should use a SEO plugin, they really help you resolving those pesky meta tags and other stuff. All-in-One SEO is the best choice for me. I also saw that you don’t have a Sitemap done. Having one REALLY helped me have all my posts in Google and Yahoo and has worked in getting my page in the first batch of results with the keywords I put in my Meta tags. To do one use the Google Sitemaps plugin for WordPress.

    Finally, is there a reason why you have that disclosure page?

  30. kristarella says:

    This site has all the elements that I think make a site easy to get around: a search bar, about page, popular posts list, obvious way to subscribe.

    The content is emphasised (with links to recent and popular posts at the top, then the posts). However, I felt like it took my eyes too long to get to the posts.
    Recent posts are repeated under the category list as well. I’m trying to think of how you could pull new readers in to subscribe. Perhaps it would be better the move the Author block to where the RSS section is, the Most Commented to where Author is now and RSS to under the current author position. Then move the posts up.
    That way you can glimpse who the author is, get into the posts and have the option of subscribing after you’ve read a bit of the post.

    A little thing, that many wouldn’t notice, but it was one of the first things I saw – the header text is too compressed. Instead of it being “shiny” it’s fuzzy.

    I like the post layout, with the date on the side. The post titles could be a bit bigger – to match the size of the date.

    To get people to buy the theme – make the fact that they can buy it more obvious. I didn’t even notice that you could buy it, I had to look for the link because it was something you asked for feedback on.
    You could make the link a different colour. You could also move it to the left of the navigation menu, since we generally read left to right. My eyes pretty much stopped at “Free Stuff” :P

    That’s another point, people like free things. Offering something with subscription could be good (e.g. Chris Garret gives an ebook, LaurenMarie gives a handy pdf download of Photoshop shortcuts). If you don’t have something to give, see if you can get a sponsor to give something.

    Good luck, Ben.

  31. Natalia says:

    I have to agree with the people above, I really had to look to figure out where your theme was available for sale, had it not been mentioned in this post, I would have missed it.

    As for how to get more people to buy the theme, I have to admit that your blue and orange color scheme is so aggressive, that it is difficult to look at it and try to picture my own colors instead. I would be more inclined to give your theme a 2nd look if there were a couple of examples to show what can be done using your theme as a starting point.

  32. Bryce says:

    I shall comment momentarily about getting more people to buy your theme.

    I didn’t even know the theme was for sale until I looked in the navigation bar.

    I would suggest adding a banner somewhere advertising the fact that the theme is for sale, maybe offer 10% off or something/

  33. Brandon says:

    I agree with everyone who has suggested that the design and layout take away from the content. The first impression of the site might make people think its just a bunch of referral links to affiliate programs or something.

    I suggest atleast removing the ScratchBack widget to remove some clutter from your advertising space. You can often make more and improve the quality of your site and advertisers by charging a little more and having less ad units then selling a ton of ad spaces for dirt cheap.

    As far as selling the theme, I would suggest putting a buy link at the very bottom of the page by the copyright info because thats where most bloggers would expect to find information about the theme if they are interested in using it.

  34. Cathy Moore says:

    I’ll have to agree that the design and colors made me think “not for me.” They suggested that the blog has a less professional focus than I would want.

    Your lessons from your own experience will be useful to many readers. Some of the other content didn’t seem to support your goals as well.

    I prefer to read reviews that I know are independent rather than sponsored. Your disclosure states that you write sponsored reviews but there’s no disclosure that I could see on the review itself, at least the reviews I glanced at. Or maybe I just didn’t see any reviews that were sponsored.

    In a quick glance through your content, I also noticed that you posted an email and criticized it harshly (“Review, but don’t be negative?”) and had a public discussion about the ownership of your theme that probably should have been done in private and then simply summarized. While drama and controversy can build traffic, these are things that would keep me from subscribing to your feed.

    However, I’m not in your target market, so you can probably happily ignore the above. I blog in a business niche to build my consultancy and will not be monetizing my blog.

  35. Fiar says:

    I think the number of criticisms on not liking the theme is a major indicator of why you aren’t converting sales of it.

  36. I’ve never been a fan of the writing style over there. Blogging Experiment tends to have a lot of large paragraphs that has turned me off. Making it more concise might increase his subscription and retention of readers. Just my thoughts.

    -Rich

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