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MLB Trade Rumors — a Community Consulting Project

This week we’ll be looking at MLBTradeRumors.com, a blog about Major League Baseball trading (one I’m sure the baseball fans here will enjoy reviewing!)If you’re new to the project it’d be a good idea to read the launch post.

This week there’ll be another good chance to score an iPod Shuffle and a link to your blog under the winner’s name in the summary post.

Thorough and original feedback left in the comments here will help you get our notice when it comes to awarding the prize.

The blog’s owner, Tim, describes his blog as follows:

MLBTradeRumors.com is a clearinghouse for baseball trade and free agent rumors. All legitimate rumors (typically from major U.S. newspapers) are gathered and published on the site in a timely fashion to create a one-stop shop for rumors, trades, and signings. Additional analysis plus a commenting community is provided.

MLB Trade Rumors.

Tim is especially interested in feedback and advice in the following areas:

  • How can I make the site more professional and attractive to advertisers?
  • Suggestions for de-cluttering or redistributing the links on the sidebar, and improving navigation in general?
  • The white text on black background is a point of contention with some readers, though 70% said not to change it in a survey. I feel that it has become part of the MLBTR “brand” but I do receive regular complaints about it being hard to read. Should I change this?
  • Suggestions to increase RSS feed readership with an audience that is not always well-versed in RSS feeds?
  • Anything else about the site is welcome!

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible. I’ve got no doubt that Mark is eager to hear what you have to say!

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. I have seen the site. As a reader, there is one feature I have noticed. I have nothing against the color because it does look sophisticated to be black. Personally, I like black. However, the font color which is white (and only white for all) makes the site look very boring and tiring to the eyes. It is very true especially for your blog supporters who are looking for a certain topic. The page looks monotonous and lifeless.

    I think with some color enhancement you would make it great. Something that makes more contrast to black (like light blue and yellow shades) will worth a try.

    Moreover, I have noticed that the font is a bit small for the baseball fans. Maybe this is the thing they have been mentioning about. Keep the black!

  2. Bas says:

    Nice site!

    About “increase RSS feed readership”… although of course it is recommended to put up above the fold a “signup for our feed” kind of message (with icon) I have some good results myself with putting a “If you like this post then please subscribe to my full feed RSS. You can also subscribe by Email. Not sure how this works?” above every single post (links to feedburner email / rss subscription pages)…

    Yep got this from John Chow… :)

    And for your concern about RSS savy crowd: you can solve it by creating a page that shows the benefits for your audience and slides in the notion of getting a rss reader and signup. You will understand it if I show you:

    http://blog.softwareprojects.org/free-project-management-education-subscribe-to-feeds-97.html

    Hope this makes sense…

    Good luck
    Cheers
    Bas

  3. Justin Dupre says:

    Baseball is a colorful sport, that is moving forward. I could understand the black and white theme if you were studying the history of baseball, but thats not what it seems to be. Liven up the place with a change of colors. The White on Black text isn’t a favorite of mine. I’d say atleast reverse that.

    My 2 cents.

    Justin Dupre
    http://www.blogosis.com

  4. Luke says:

    Tim is concerned about having it be more professional and appealing to advertisers but there doesn’t seem to be either a page with advertising information or any real estate for advertisements; so including each of those would go a long way.

    A good way to de-clutter the sidebar would be to put all of the links and “about us” information, etc. etc. would be to move all of that info to its own page.

    And, its often been said that one of the best ways to increase RSS subscribers is to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe. The best way to do that on Tim’s site is to move the RSS buttons (and feedburner counter) to the top of the site, rather than 2/3 of the way down the sidebar.

    Lastly – I don’t know if the white-on-black is really the problem; I’d say the theme on the whole is pretty boring. Maybe by making it a little more fun – more interaction, having a “most popular posts” section, having a warmer, more inviting color-scheme and making the width of the whole blog larger (the whole thing feels really cramped right now) would do wonders, I think.

    I think the topic is a great one (I’m a HUGE baseball fan) with a ton of potential. The posts are good and I think it’s definitely something that could get a whole bunch of attention — from readers & advertisers alike — with just a few tweaks. Good luck, Tim!

  5. I’m no problogger, that’s for sure. And I wouldn’t even consider myself a baseball fan. But I was trying to think like both when I visited this site.

    A – This feels more like a news magazine than a blog. I would suggest a magazine template (like Mimbo maybe). That way you can feature articles.

    B – Tim may already be doing it, but a plugin that automatically tags key phrases as links (i can’t remember the name of it). He has been and will be typing the same phrases all over. There are only so many team names, so many players. But they come up so often that a plug in like this that when the players name is published it automatically goes to a collection of post where that name was mentioned. Or team names automatically point back to the team page.

    C – I’ve found excerpts to be good also. When looking at this blog from the main page, it’s too much to scroll thru if I’m not interested in every rumor. Excerpts would help me scroll thru more info faster, see more headers and opening paragraphs and not get lost in info I don’t need.

    D – Pictures would be good also. Everybody loves action photos. Pictures of the players in question. Good stuff there (and it brings more color in to the page too).

    E – Color wise, I think in general B&W isn’t a great color scheme for a news site. If it were artsy or underground or something like that, It makes sense. I would suggest a flip flopped scheme with color in the masthead. I could even see it being randomized with different teams or leagues. And when I’ve selected a specific teams news, the masthead would match that teams colors and mascot.

    F – I don’t know how deep, say a Cubs fans general interest goes, but I would guess that I wouldn’t be so interested in the whole MLB’s trade rumors. I can select teams in the bottom left. That’s a nice feature. If I were able to click a link that was a Cubs RSS feed to receive only Cubs news, That would be great.

    G – One more thing would be dates. Since this info is time sensitive, I would think having the date and time more prominent on the post. Right now it’s tuck into the bottom of the post and out of site. If it were at the post title or even one of those little date blocks like are on some many other blogs (like mine) would make that info stand out more.

    H – The ads I saw on the site never were relevant and didn’t fit into the site. Relevancy might be hard to find. I don’t know how many baseball relevant advertisers there are. But the fit can be addressed by adjusting the colors on the site (see above). Most people agree that good ads work by looking like they are supposed to be there. If you can change the way the ads look, good, but the ads I saw were white backgrounds and those probably won’t change. But they would have looked better on white.
    Granted, this isn’t my blog, and if everyone made blogs like me, it would be a boring blogsphere. But as a blog reader, if baseball were an interest to me, I would have MAYBE just signed up for the RSS because I wouldn’t want to spend time on the site.

    If one were to make these changes it also means a good deal more work (especially the pictures, mastheads, and most magazine style themes) but I think the site would be much more appealing and keep visitors.

  6. TheOzz says:

    Tim,

    I am in the minority on the color issue relative to your survey at least. I believe adding color might bring your theme to life. The title of your site and sub-line sort of blend into the header image. On the other hand, the advertisers that you have now really jump out because the color of the ads contrast well against your color theme. As for clutter, I am the last to give advise on clutter. I really don’t see a clutter issue with your site.

    Oh yeah, as for RSS subscribers, I have the same problem with GrowingKids.org where the readers are often not RSS or even blog savvy. About 80% of my RSS subscribers are though email so far. To increase RSS readers, you might consider moving the feed subscriptions tools up on your sidebar. When a person lands on a short post they will not see a way to subscribe unless the scroll down a ways. That said, your sidebar is a bit long not that I think about, especially compared to the length of the average posts that I have browsed through. You might think about changing to a theme that has a two-column sidebar.

    In general, I like your site. You place well in the search engines on the searches I did to look for your site. Keep up the good work.

  7. Lid says:

    Tim, what a great blog you have; a few tweaks and it will be perfect. Here is my take:

    The platform:

    I’m guessing you’ve chosen Typepad as it allows advertising, but still takes care of the backend stuff; something WordPress.com doesn’t do. My suggestion would be to consider moving to WordPress and hosting it yourself. It gives you much more flexibility in what you do, handles pings better and is almost SEO out of the box.

    This is good to bring more visitors (even though you haven’t mentioned that you want this), because more visitors means you will have more options for advertising. If you’re not ofay with the backend stuff, consider someone like Ninja Blog Setup – these guys will set up a WordPress blog for you for free, assuming you go through their providers (that’s where they make their money).

    Navigation:

    From a navigation POV, is it possible to put tabs across the top for the following pages? It would make the information accessible above the fold, letting people jump to wherever they need to go quickly.

    About (also, you should consider combining all of the about sections onto one page)

    Got a rumor?– this page should provide all of your contact details, not just e-mail – or create another tab for contact details.

    Team Rumors – where each team can be listed alphabetically and searched

    Privacy Policy

    Advertising As Luke points out, a page on advertising is imperative so potential advertisers can read benefits/costs etc. Take a look at the Dosh Dosh advertising page; it describes why people should advertise there, types of ads and how to contact Maki for more information – you could do something similar.

    A search box would be good up near the top as well.

    Additionally, I would consider putting a decent sized RSS button in this area. You mention that your readers are not always well versed in RSS feeds – consider offering updates via e-mail with a link to that right next to the RSS icon rather than halfway down in the sidebar. Also, take a note out of ProBlogger’s book and add a “What is RSS” link very close to the RSS feed icon. Find free icons at Mouse Runner

    Finally, consider moving your sidebar to the right side; it makes it easier on the eye to grab the latest news, and then scan to the right for more content. It is also better for search engines to spot your updated content first.

    Presentation:

    I like the white on black; it is the next best thing to black on white in terms of usability, and if 70% of your readers say don’t change it – don’t change it! However, there are a couple of things I would think about:

    Consider changing your header image to color, especially if you could saturate the colors on each picture you use in your montage with bright ultra pop colors (see Colour Lovers for color ideas). It would certainly make for a grand entrance when someone gets to your page.

    Increase the font size: white on black is admittedly a little trickier to see, so you need to compensate by increasing the font size. It doesn’t need to be huge, just one or two points larger.

    The other thing I would think about is links. At the moment, the only differentiation you have is underlining a link – is it possible for the text to change color when someone hovers their mouse over it? That may make it a little easier on the eye as well.

    I wish you luck and hope even a little of this helps

  8. Mlbtraderumors.com is a great site and any baseball fan worth his salt knows this site.
    First off, the content is great. It’s very useful in that regard. Here are my three items.
    1. I don’t mind the black and white, but perhaps the headlines could be larger. There tends to be a blending of information on the site. I.e. where one post ends and another begins.
    2. To reduce clutter, consider going wide. Perhaps 980? That would allow you to go to 3 columns and make for easier navigation around your site.
    3. Install a footer navigation similar to problogger! This would allow you to focus your content and follow hot topics.

    As for RSS, move it up top front and center. You can use the feedburner buttons to allow for email sign up and avoid the term RSS entirely.

    Going pro, unfortunately, we will require moving from white on black. Think about it, no professional site does it and there is a reason. You can keep the theme of black and white, but perhaps the message well should be black text on white?

  9. Allison says:

    I 100% agree with Luke’s first comment. To be seen as a professional, you have to consider your as a professional. A page with advertising information near the very top of the homepage will help you drawn in sponsors. Be very detailed as to what advertising is available, what it costs, and exactly what they get for their money.

    In regards to the color: If you like the black and white and think that it has become a part of your brand, you don’t have to change it all the way. Perhaps, instead, a bigger font or a more bold-faced font would be easier to read. Or, you can leave the background black and have white text boxes with block or colored texts. I think remaining true to “who you are” is really important. People should always recognize you.

    I agree with the suggestions given already about the RSS feeds, but woudl like to also suggest that you create a page called “what is RSS” or something similar. Link it to your homepage in a manner that is easy for your readers to understand. Instead of linking to the text “subscribe to my RSS feed,” for example, you could use the text “Get the latest updates from MLBTR first!” and then have a page that explains exactly what RSS is and why they should consider it.

    Lastly, I’d suggest considering two sidebars – one for advertising, blogroll, etc. and the other for site navigation. In other words, make it really easy for a reader to look on the left hand and head to your pages, your recent posts, and so forth and then look to the right for “extras.”

    Seems like a lot of criticism, but your site really isn’t as bad as many of the sites I see out there! Kudos for running a great website!

  10. kevin says:

    The black background has to go, it is just painful on the eyes to try and read it.

    The advertising page suggestion is a must and I would also try and spice up the sidebar. Maybe for your facebook page link you can make a facebook button or a banner, something that breaks up the eye.

    Also I would highly recommend using pictures in posts, not only will it help you with search engine results it will break up the look of the page. Right now it is an eye strain to go through it, too much text and horrible colors.

  11. Shawn says:

    Black sites and blogs were a fashion thing about a year or two ago. While I understand Marks concern about the “Brand” you can do a revamp, and relaunch and possibly attract new advertisers in the process.

  12. Andrej says:

    Right I’m going to try to answer all your questions, and add some more comments concerning your blog.

    I’m using this text box instead of a notebook to jot down ideas so don’t complain about the formating or my English (I’m only 15 and I’m still learning English)

    White on black is perfectly fine, to make the whole thing more readable I suggest you change the font and/or font size.

    Your links are kinda hard to see, I suggest changing it to another (not too bright) color.

    The width of your theme is around 760px personally I’d change that, who uses 800×600 nowadays?

    The header is waaaaaay to small, and it’s not informative. The first time i opened your site, it took me about 1 min to figure out what your website is about. I suggest you use a big header with a colorful and striking logo.

    In the header I had a hard time reading your tagline, I suggest you increase the font a bit.

    You sidebar doesn’t look very nice :(

    I suggest moving any links to pages (such as those about links) to a horizontal nav menu below your header.

    Maybe it’s just me, but not many people look at the recent posts (I suggest moving it to the footer). Instead of using a section of your sidebar for Archives you could make a page for them.

    You want to improve your RSS count but your Syndication box is waaaaay down below. Move it up, it should be the first box in your sidebar I suggest using a big RSS logo or something next to it so people know its a feed box. Also include a WHAT IS RSS/ATOM? and make a page about it.

    Your privacy policy should go into the footer, in fact people are used to looking for privacy policies in the footer.

    The search box is also to big. You could make it smaller by removing the title of the “box” and removing the search button (like at problogger).

    Great, now that we have a minimalistic sidebar!

    As for the posts they look OK, i suggest increasing the size of the post title, and possibly adding a grayish background to your meta data. This will help reader quickly differentiate posts.

    (oh at the end of each post instead of an Email this you could put something like “If you liked this post subscribe to my feed”.

    The google adds you have should stand out, use another color don’t try to hide your ads!

    This is just a personal remark, but I think every internet user has by now learned to distrust big banner ads.

    As said before make the font used in posts bigger and also add some spacing.

    Emphasize the comments! There are loads of people commenting on your posts yet the small link showing the number of comments is so small I had to squint :) .

    That’s it for the content.

    Your footer has….. wait…. an ad???? And a small line of text. Possibly the biggest mistake of every second blogger is that they have a tiny footer (me included even though i’m editing it as we speak). A footer should be a useful gathering place for all your dedicated readers. Put in recent posts, recent comments, maybe even a small about section, as well ask links to those other Team Rumor sites, and remove that ad!!!

    All done, almost…

    Your blog gets 106 errors when I run it through a validator. Correct those mistakes and get it to 0 errors, personally I like seeing a website say that my code is valid, but having valid code brings bonuses, first of all you wont get comments like the one you’re getting right now and second of all it’s beneficial SEOwise.

    Oh and the comments, please make sure you can distinguish between two comments ! :(

    Also instead of having two about pages, use only one – please.

    Also it would be nice if you referred to yourself as “I” in your about page instead of referring to yourself in third person.

    I don’t know if you’re doing this, but as Darren likes to say, experiment with your ad positioning!!!

    Also, must you use that favicon? Change it to like a baseball or something.

    Also I suggest you expand your community, allow free commenting, begin networking, position links leading to your blogs technorati profile, or MyBlogLog profile.

    Don’t be shy, add a picture of yourself in the sidebar say who you are and all of a sudden readers will know how you look and like you even more :)

    The only images your are using are, well, none (apart from the ads). Put in images, brighten up your posts!

    Don’t be afraid to post content that is not related to baseball, but is, to you.

  13. Nascar says:

    I play a lot of fantasy baseball, and it make me want to come back to the site again and again to watch for trade rumors, a lot of pictures would help me in connecting names to faces. Right now it is too dark for the general public.

  14. BW says:

    I think you really need to consider the color scheme.

    I knwo that you did a survey and 70% were Ok with the black, but it does not go with the sport. I’m not a baseball fan and being a Brit gives me know expertise in baseball, but a different color scheme will bring the site to life. At the moment you have a black background with your left sidebar showing colored ads, that just don’t blend.

    Background should really be white and then play around with reds, blues etc..

    Layout width is too narrow – try to check your stats to see what resolution most visitors are using. You will probably find that you can increase your realestate (blog width).

    This increased width will open up numorous advantages – better ad placements, better placement of navigation (as it is your main navigation is below the fold) – consider a layout with left margin, center content, right margin.

    Another option would be to have some horizontal navigarion along the top.

    As for ads – consider links to Amazon products – MLB vids, books etc..

    Finally for subscribers – add a promenent RSS button at the top along with an email option. I did this on my site and subscribers doubled.

    Good luck with your site

  15. I detest white on black. The only site that was good enough to get away with that was ArsTechnica and even they eventually woke up.

    I can’t stomach professional sports, so I can’t offer any more..

  16. jd says:

    My quick feedback:

    What I like …
    - the clarity in purpose and focus
    - visible tag line – today’s hottest baseball trade rumors. If it’s whispered, we hear it
    - the writing is concise
    - the writing is informal

    What I don’t like …
    - overall look/feel (the color scheme is dark and dreary)
    - in the left nav, it’s tough to distinguish between clickable items, headings
    - the ads don’t seem relevant or contextual (windows, quest and comcast)
    - the text is tough to read
    - lack of scannability – it’s tough to tell moving from one post to another when scanning

    I think the key significant actions for improvement would be:
    1. a look/feel overhaul (to improve the readability and “feel”)
    2. focused link building efforts in the niche (for example, any relevant links from authority sites or forums for baseball) Write articles in EZine for example.
    3. remove the ads that are out of context; focus on relevant/contextual ads that can deliver reader value
    4. to make it easier for readers to subscribe to RSS, add a big RSS button with “subscribe to RSS” text near the top of your page.

  17. ming says:

    In terms of colour and design: I suggest a more ‘sports channel’ kind of pallete. I also suggest photos of managers or pundits next to short blurbs of what they say.

  18. Patrick Burt says:

    I’ll keep my comment short. ;)

    The text is grey. If readability is an issue, boost the font-size and/or leading and/or bring the font’s color up. Right now your font is CCCCCC, bring that to EEEEEE.

  19. Jason Peck says:

    way too many ads. And some are irrelevant.

  20. Joe says:

    Wow what a sweet deal for ProBlogger. Someone pays him to review a site, and he then has everybody in the comments review the site. That’s some quick money! Keep up the reviews guys, problogger needs the money.

  21. Darren Rowse says:

    @Joe – I’ve said everything that I want to say in response to your comment previously in numerous comments on this post.

  22. Glenn Abel says:

    Lose the black background. Don’t make people work to read your text. It’s hard enough to draw them in.

    I immediately downgrade a site in my mind when there’s a color scheme like this. Assume it’s a kid running the site.

  23. Andrej says:

    “Lose the black background. Don’t make people work to read your text. It’s hard enough to draw them in.

    I immediately downgrade a site in my mind when there’s a color scheme like this. Assume it’s a kid running the site.

    I would argue against half of the previous comments, first of all notice how the feel has become part of the “brand”, the fact that the blog is dark also immediately distinguishes it from numerous other blogs.

    I did a little research on this topic, if you read the comments following this post you’ll see that all of them support the idea of a black background.

    The fact that 67.3% voted “yes” for the black background further justifies my claims.