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Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Blog’s Usability

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.

Usability.

Yaaawn, right?

Think of it like this: the art of making it as easy as possible for your blog’s visitors to do exactly what you want them to do.

That simple, super-effective tip on putting your feed icon high up in your sidebar is usability at work. So is putting social media buttons at the bottom of your posts. So is putting popular posts in your sidebar. In fact, some of the coolest, simplest things you can do to get more subscribers, links and loyal readers come from usability.

Setting aside an hour or two to re-arrange your layout with usability in mind will pay long-term dividends for your blog’s growth. Here are my top 5 tips to help you get started.

#1 — Be predictable

When we want to know what a site is about, the first thing we look for is an ‘About’ page.

When we want to contact the owner of a site, the first thing we look for is a ‘Contact’ page.

When we want to leave a comment, we usually look to the bottom of a post.

When we want to subscribe to a blog, we look for the subscribe button at the top of its sidebar.

These things are so common that they’ve become standards — things we expect. When we can’t find the standard, we look for the next most similar thing.

By adhering to these predictable standards you’re actually making it as easy as possible for your blog’s visitors to do exactly what you want them to do. Sometimes being predictable is not a bad thing!

#2 — Be obvious

Look down at your keyboard and you’ll probably be able to spot at least one key that you’ve never noticed before, either because you have no need for it or you don’t know what it does. It could be the most useful key ever, but our hesitation when confronted with the unknown has probably stopped you ever pressing it before. What if it deletes everything you just wrote?

We don’t like not knowing what the result of our actions will be, and so it goes with your blog. Non-obvious links and buttons will very rarely be clicked. In my experiments with private advertising, there can be as much as an 800% difference in click-through rates between ambiguous banners and ones which make it obvious where the reader will be taken when they click on it. Scour your blog and ask this question of every element: would a new visitor know what this does, or where it leads?


Photo by Davichi

#3 — Subtract the unimportant

By hiding important elements (your most popular posts, your feed icon, your comment button) amongst a dozen other unimportant things (widgets and recent comments) you’re making it harder for readers to do what is truly important to you.

#4 — Limit options

A category list with 10 categories is a lot more usable than a list with 50 categories. Too many options creates overload which leads to deferral: a visitor will not engage with that element at all. Your list of 5 most popular posts will get clicked more than your list of 20, and so on. Simplified options make it easier for the visitor to decide where they want to place their attention. Too much choice will actually hurt your blog’s usability.

#5 — Do the little things

A usable blog, aside from the above, is also made-up of many little touches that make your visitor’s browsing experience easier.

  1. Does your header image link back to your main page?
  2. Does your blog have an about page?
  3. Does your blog have a contact page?
  4. Do your headlines match with your content?
  5. Is it clear where your links will lead?
  6. Do you use frequent paragraphs in your posts?
  7. Do you have comment links at the bottom of your post?
  8. Do you use sub-headings?
  9. Are your posts less than 2/3 screen length wide?
  10. Are you making your best posts easily accessible?
  11. Are your links easy to pick out?

Points to review

  • Predictability is a good thing for usability.
  • Be creative with your posts, but obvious in your layout elements.
  • Subtract obstacles to your most wanted actions.
  • Simplify options to make your elements easier to use.
  • Pay attention to little touches that your visitors will find useful.

Another Chance to Win 1,700 Visitors: Review Furniture Fashion

This week’s community consultation of Furniture Fashion offers you the chance to win a 1,700 visitor StumbleUpon campaign for your blog. Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive points in your comment and you’ll be in the running to win. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering one/some/all of the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

The blog’s owner, John, describes the blog like this:

Furniture Fashion is an interior design blog with a large focus on furniture. Our mission is to provide articles and pictures to readers to give them ideas for their own homes as well as follow design trends. This site was created by John Cavers and Will Maack. Our goal is to make this blog a full-time business with six figure revenue. We hope that the readers of Problogger can share their experiences in the form of constructive criticism to help us accomplish our revenue objectives.

John has asked for feedback on the following areas, but you do not necessarily have to cover all of them in your review. You might even choose to focus in detail on one particular point –it’s up to you.

a) Ideas on how to make more revenue
b) Ideas on how to diversify revenue sources – are there other monetization products that would fit this blog?
c) Ideas on growing traffic
d) Ideas on building more of a community
e) Ideas on growing RSS subscribers
f) Analysis of blog layout – strengths & weaknesses; let us know how we can improve and in effect improve monetization
g) Analysis on writing style, length of articles, and sustenance of article content
h) How to increase page views per unique and average time on site – currently at 2.1 page views and 1:35 minutes.
i) Do we need meta description and meta keywords? We seem to be doing well without them. Movable Type does not automatically create them like WordPress. I am doing well in Google, but wonder if I could do better in MSN, Live, and Yahoo. Further, if I make that switch, will that penalize me in Google?
j) How do we improve? (any general ideas)
l) Ideas to create more international readers/visitors
m) Do we need a clearer tag line or some description at the top of the site? (to let readers know what this website is about) (mission statement)

We look forward to your helpful and respectful advice. Good luck!

The Top 5 Recommendations For Free Money Finance

It’s time to summarize and consolidate almost 13,000 words worth of advice and suggestions given to Free Money Finance as part of our community consultation program. While there’s a great depth of knowledge to be mined from the comments on the launch post, I want to highlight the top five most common recommendations here.

Before we start, congratulations must go to Tori Deaux for winning our 1,700 StumbleUpon visitor prize for the best review. Thanks for outlining your tips in such a practical, conversational and, most importantly, easy to apply way.

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued Free Money Finance:

1. Improvements to the design

A number of ProBlogger readers found the number of strong colors and shades in the design (green, yellow, red, black, white and blue) jarring and dissonant, and that the logo looked a bit like a DIY job. While these sacrifices are usually inevitable when just starting out with a blog, I think it would definitely be worth re-investing some of the blog’s advertising revenue into a professional design and logo.

Several users also commented on ease of reading within the content, saying that this was actually very good. If FMF (the blog’s owner) decides to go with a more professional design, I’d hope that this ease of reading would transfer over into the second version of the site.

2. Width and exerpts

Few reviewers had a bad word to say about the content. It struck me as very clear and concise. However, I probably wouldn’t want to read it on the site as my screen’s resolution is 1680 x 1050 and the content area stretches very, very wide. Consider fixing the width of the site to fill the screen at 1024 x 768, but allow for whitespace or a background on the sides at higher resolutions.

In regards to the color of the excerpts (FMF had wondered if red was working) I would suggest switching this to an easy to read gray. A number of readers pointed out that red is more eye-catching than black and thus excerpts are emphasized more than the author’s content. In the context of some critiques on the amount of colors utilized in the design, it makes sense to strike red off that list by switching to gray.

3. The final frontier: tapping into social media

The blog is already established and beginner level traffic generation strategies like commenting and so on probably wouldn’t be worth the time investment. The blog has a large enough audience that it could start to mobilize social media votes and bring in traffic through those sources. Here’s how FMF could start doing this:

  • Use post excerpts on the main page with a WordPress ‘More’ tag. This will encourage readers to navigate to the post-page to keep reading. When they click their browser’s social media buttons, they’ll be voting for the specific page, rather than the site as a whole. Specific blog posts tend to do a lot better than whole blogs.
  • Use more descriptive and aspirational headlines. As seen in the ‘Best of’ list in the sidebar, post headlines which tapped into reader aspirations (being ‘Rich’ or a ‘Millionaire’) have tended to do very well.
  • Develop the habit of adding images to posts. Social media users browse the web very quickly and rely on visuals to communicate with them initially. An eye-catching image can mean the difference between a visitor who stays on your blog and a visitor who leaves the way they came.
  • Consider writing longer, thematic posts or resource lists. Short posts rarely do well on social media unless they’re incredibly profound or very useful. Longer, value-packed posts tend to be a favored format.

4. Revenue tips

A number of readers suggested placing some form of advertising in-post, as these tend to perform better in comparison to ads in sidebars. More AdSense would probably be too much, so FMF might look into affiliate banners or privately negotiated banner ads. Several readers also mentioned that the Amazon widget in the left-column seemed to be serving up irrelevant products. If this ad-unit is under-performing, it might be worth removing it to place greater emphasis on the more targeted ads on the site.

5. Ease of use and directing focus

There is an incredible amount of stuff packed into the sidebars on either side of the content. There are some really important elements in the sidebar coupled with a lot of unimportant elements, and I think a lot of what’s important is probably getting lost in the clutter. Here are my recommendations:

  • Move a Feedburner subscription icon above the fold.
  • Move up and emphasize: reviews (good social proof from sources who’re authorities to your target audience) and ‘Best of Free Money Finance’. People want to see the best very quickly when they first visit your blog.
  • Remove: recent posts element (it’s easier for users to just scroll down), recent comments (“person I haven’t heard of” commented on “post I haven’t read yet” — not so exciting for a new user), simplify your category list down to 10 – 15 (it’s so big as to be intimidating), move the blogroll to a separate page, remove lists of posts from the sidebar or put them on a separate page.
  • Move your About and Contact information above the site sponsors on the right. Your About page must be easy to find because new visitors will often give up if they can’t get quick and concise information on what your site is about.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, ProBlogger readers felt Free Money Finance offered stylish and useful content but felt the blog was hampered by an unprofessional design and clutter which made it difficult to use. We wish FMF a lot of luck in implementing the changes!

Another Chance to Win 1,700 Visitors: Review FreeMoneyFinance.com

This week’s community consultation of Free Money Finance boasts a very useful prize for bloggers: 1,700 visitors. Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive points in your comment and you could win a stampede of 1,700 StumbleUpon users to your favorite post. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering all the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

The blog’s owner, who writes under “FMF”, describes the blog like this:

Free Money Finance is a personal finance blog designed to help people grow their net worth. As such, the site covers all money-related topics including investing, retirement, saving money, making money, getting out of debt, etc. The blog is written anonymously by FMF and he shares the strategies he’s used the past 20 years to create a substantial net worth. The blog is updated five times a day every weekday and once each on the weekends. Some content is completely original, but most of it features quotes from other sources and commentary from FMF on his opinions about what is being recommended.

Free Money Finance screenshot.

The blog’s owner has asked for feedback on the following areas:

  • Design – This is NOT my expertise at all and I’d be interested in what ProBlogger readers suggest to make the site look better and become more usable.
  • Posts – Currently when I quote a source, I put the quoted areas in red/maroon shaded text. What do your readers think of this? Good? Bad? Better suggestions? (FYI, I use Typepad and hence might be limited in some design options.)
  • How to drive traffic – The blog is doing well in terms of traffic, but could do better. Other than the standard ideas for driving traffic, are there any suggestions I may not have thought of?
  • Generating revenue – The blog earns a decent income from Adsense and a few affiliate programs, but more is always better! Any suggestions for doing this? (FYI, I give all my income to charity – details here.)

We look forward to your helpful and respectful advice. Good luck!

Top 5 Recommendations for MarketMe.com

It’s time to summarize and consolidate over 10,000 words worth of advice and suggestions given to MarketMe.com as part of our community consultation program. While there’s a great depth of knowledge to be mined from the comments on the launch post, I want to highlight the top five most common recommendations here.

Before we start, I’d like to congratulate Jim Goldstein for winning our 1,700 StumbleUpon visitor prize for the best review. It’s no surprise — Jim is a web marketing strategist and was kind enough to share his recommendations for free.

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued MarketMe.com:

1. More gripping content presentation

The most frequently mentioned feature of the blog was the ultra-short and image-free post-excerpts on the main page. Many readers felt that this made it difficult for them to become hooked by a post before deciding to click through. The lack of images also contributed to what a number of readers felt was a design without enough visual interest.

It seems that the blog operates on the WordPress platform, which makes this problem easy to fix. Switch to using full posts on the main page and insert a ‘More’ tag in posts to excerpt them where you like. This will allow you to insert the ‘More’ tag at a natural segueway, allow images to appear in the excerpt and prevent post previews trailing off at random points with an ellipsis. Having images on the main page will also help to add more visual interest.

2. More visual interest

Many readers also felt the blog didn’t excite their eyes or grab their attention enough, some using the word “clinical” to describe it. While I do think image-enabled post excerpts will help with this issue, other possibilities include:

  • Adding another color or shade to the site.
  • Using more interesting typography and bigger headlines.
  • Adding more graphical elements to the design.
  • Experimenting with a more lively theme.

3. Adding more professionalism

A number of readers were disappointed to see irrelevant links in the footer of the site, some of which link to low-quality webpages. Needless to say, links to adult and poker websites do not lend a business blog any degree of professionalism, even if they are hidden in a footer.

Proofreading mistakes were identified by several readers and seemed to inform the way they saw the authority of the site. I think a few slip-ups are inevitable but if it’s a regular problem it might be worth getting someone else to go over posts before publishing. Sometimes there’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes to spot mistakes.

4. Emphasizing key points in posts

A few readers felt that the content wasn’t effective enough in emphasizing key points and gripping scanners with sub-headings and so on. Dividing separate ideas with H3 or H2 sub-headings is good for readability and good for SEO. Bolding key sentences and using italics to emphasize certain words and phrases can also help add a gripping texture to each post.

5. Improving the header

These key points were recommended for improving the header element of the site:

  • A more vibrant logo. The current logo, while professional-looking, is very similar to the rest of the theme in terms of color. It’s not very eye-catching.
  • A punchier tag-line. A number of readers felt the blog’s tag-line, while descriptive, was too bloated to be read ‘at a glance’ (the way most readers consume tag-lines).
  • The subscription buttons are hidden. It’s great that there are subscriptions icons high up on the page, but they’re so well-blended as to avoid grabbing attention. I’d suggest adding bigger subscribe icons between the header and ‘About’ box — which is broken in IE.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, ProBlogger readers felt MarketMe.com offered well-written and useful content but felt the site’s lack of visual interest made it seem unremarkable at first glance. Best of luck to Brandi and Tim in sorting through the advice and deciding on some changes!

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.

How to Write Posts That Set StumbleUpon on Fire

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.

Since yesterday, StumbleUpon has sent me around 20,000 page views. It’s the single biggest referrer for both my blogs, despite one of them having been on the Digg front page three times! You could say that StumbleUpon traffic (and lots of it) is one of the main reasons I’ve been lucky enough to become a pro blogger.

In this post, I want to share all the trade secrets I’ve learned about how to craft posts that set StumbleUpon on fire. These are tips and ideas I use on a daily basis to get anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand (or more) StumbleUpon visitors every day.

I should note before we start that, while StumbleUpon use is heavier in some niches than others, these principles should help you to tap into SU traffic regardless of whether you’re blogging about blogging or Mexican walking fish. SU is arguably the most powerful promotional tool niche bloggers can use.

Learn the new rules

Your efforts will be hampered if you try to write posts to appeal to social media ‘in general’. Each service likes certain types of content and dislikes others. Digg likes mass appeal. Del.icio.us likes anything its users like, but an item won’t go popular unless the source page gets thousands of hits.

If you’re in a niche without mass appeal, SU can help you where the other services won’t. Digg’s categories are deliberately broad to avoid diluting its power to send waves of traffic. StumbleUpon’s categories can be much more specific. While the traffic is not always as targeted as you’d like, it’s still much more targeted than Digg’s.

This also fundamentally changes the way you approach ‘writing for social media’ when you’re writing for StumbleUpon. You no longer have to worry about pleasing everyone. In fact, sticking within the confines of your niche — even if it’s a small one — can mean the difference between badly targeted traffic vs. highly targeted traffic.

My first piece of advice on writing SU optimized content is to write posts for your target market, not for the many. This increases the chances that your post will be submitted to a more specific category yielding better targeted traffic.

Stumble no-go zones

Before I discuss the types of content that tend to do well on StumbleUpon, it’s worth outlining a few types of posts that rarely go popular on the service. I’m not suggesting that you cut out these content types, but it might be worth thinking about how you can make them more attractive to StumbleUpon.

  • Weekly link round-ups. One solution is to change your link round up to a weekly themed resource list.
  • News. Time-sensitive content is favored by Digg and Reddit, but StumbleUpon will generally only pick up timeless content. If it’s not going to be relevant in a month, it’s probably not going to get Stumbled much.
  • Posts that don’t make sense out of context. If your post doesn’t make sense without context it probably won’t get picked up by SU. Potential voters know that the visitors they send won’t ‘get’ your post.
  • Short, breezy posts. A short, value-packed post can do well on StumbleUpon, but breezy content without pithy tips is usually bypassed.
  • Posts that don’t sell themselves properly. New visitors don’t have much patience. If your mind-bending, life-changing post takes 500 words to really get going, your loyal readers will probably love it, but StumbleUpon will yawn. The value inside your post should be made clear as soon as possible.
  • Overly personal posts. Sorry personal bloggers, but this one is tough. If you’ve ever re-told a story about a friend to someone who doesn’t know them, you’ve probably noticed that the story doesn’t entertain them nearly as much as it entertained you. Highly personal content can be met with a fanatical response from readers who know you, but your average SU visitor won’t know why they should care.

Each of these content types may have a home on your blog and not everything can be optimized for StumbleUpon. The main reason I want to share these no-go zones is so you don’t pour unnecessary effort into one of these post types, only to find that it doesn’t send the traffic and potential readers you’d hoped.

StumbleUpon traffic.
Photo by swruler9284

Stumble-friendly post types

Just as there are certain content types that rarely sizzle with SU traffic, there are certain types of content that seem to be particularly well-loved by SU users.

  • Posts that look as if they took a long time to craft. SU users respect carefully crafted content. If your post is chock full of detail, examples, images, links or otherwise looks as if it took some time to put together, they’ll generally reward your efforts.
  • Unique how-to guides and advice posts. Certain topics have been done to death, but if you can tap into something people want to learn how to do but haven’t yet been told, SU will probably reward you.
  • Unique, novel and useful resource lists.
  • Pithy posts with poignant take-home points. If you can find the right words to say something important, or think of an apt metaphor, your post is likely to be popular even if it’s quite short.
  • Visually interesting posts. Captivating images can be a lot more gripping than a wall of text. I start each post I write on my blogs with an interesting image from Flickr and this always appears in the above-the-fold area of the screen. I think this might have a big part to play in my success with SU traffic. A gripping headline and a gripping image help to draw SU visitors into each post.
  • Treasure-trove content. Posts containing cool rarities and free stuff are usually highly popular.

There are other types of content that do well, but the above represents the most common formats for blog posts that fare well on StumbleUpon.

SUO: StumbleUpon Optimization

There are a few things you can do to optimize any post for StumbleUpon.

1. The Value/Curiosity headline formula. The two most effective ways to encourage someone to read your posts is to a) promise value that will make the time-investment worthwhile or b) make them curious. For option A, pick a headline that makes your post sound unmissable. For B, pick a headline that begs an explanation. For example: What’s the scariest fish in the Amazon? Hint: It’s not the Piranha. It’s far, far worse (source). Another simple hack is to make your headlines really big and eye-catching, so they gather more attention.

2. Start with an image. Our eyes are drawn to interesting images. Once you can bring a StumbleUpon visitor’s eyes down into your post, it’s a tiny step for them to make the move into your text.

3. Sell each post. Dedicate the first paragraph of each post to making it sound like something worth reading. Tell readers what they stand to get in return for their time investment.

Strategic tips

Having a core base of active SU users who read your blog is all you need to tap into a steady stream of SU traffic. If you haven’t yet developed this core base yet, here’s what you should do:

  1. Start using StumbleUpon and voting up content from other blogs and websites in your niche.
  2. Friend those who Stumble your articles and thank them. This will start a dialog that could turn them into a loyal reader of your blog.
  3. Write about SU and encourage readers to add you as a friend.
  4. Swap Stumbles with other bloggers.
  5. Link to your SU profile on your About page.
  6. Befriend active StumbleUpon users and stumble and review some of their content if they have a blog or website. Active users command more traffic and they’re more likely to repay the favor because they’re Stumbling all the time anyway!
  7. Add a Stumble button/link under each of your posts.
  8. Add a Stumble link to your Feedflare (find it in your Feedburner control panel).

Points to review

  • When writing for StumbleUpon, focus on writing value-packed posts for your target audience. Don’t try to accommodate everyone.
  • Be mindful of the post types that tend to receive little interest on SU.
  • Remember the post types that SU loves best.
  • Practice SUO.
  • Work hard at turning active SU users into loyal readers of your blog.

Win 1,700 Visitors by Reviewing MarketMe.com

This week’s community consultation of MarketMe.com offers you another chance to boost your blog. Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive points in your comment and you could win a stampede of 1,700 StumbleUpon users to your favorite post. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering all the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

The blog’s owner, Tim, describes the blog like this:

Marketme.com aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their business in today’s online marketplace. It’s co-authored by Tim Paulino and Brandi Cummings, both of which have degrees of expertise in different aspects of Internet marketing. Tim’s expertise is with website design and programming and writes on subjects such as Website Architecture, Search Engine Marketing, Pay-Per-Click and various Internet Marketing Trends. Brandi’s expertise is with content development and writes about Article Marketing, Social Networking, Press Releases and Business Blogging.

As authors, our goal is to connect with our target audience and establish ourselves as “experts” in what we write about. We don’t claim to be know-it-alls, but we do aim to be honest in our advice and write in a way that is helpful to our audience.

MarketMe.com.

The topics your review should touch upon are:

  • 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. Good luck!

Top 5 Recommendations for Retireat21.com

It’s time to summarize and consolidate over 14,500 words worth of advice and suggestions given to Retireat21.com as part of our community consultation program. While there’s a great depth of knowledge to be mined from the comments on the launch post, I want to highlight the top five most common recommendations here.

Before we start, I’d like to congratulate Easton Ellsworth for winning our 5,000 StumbleUpon visitor prize for the best review. I can only hope that will be a proper reward for Easton’s work. Congratulations!

Here were the top 5 recommendations made by the ProBlogger readers who critiqued Retireat21.com:

1. Too much hard sell

A number of commenters felt the free eBook was over-sold as it appears on almost every page. It was suggested that it be moved out of the center of the homepage, or displayed only on the homepage and not elsewhere on the site. What I’d also suggest doing is creating a ‘sales page’ for the eBook which explains what’s inside and how the newsletter works. Before giving away their email address people want to know 1) what the eBook contains — is it even something they want? and 2) how their email address will be used, i.e. how many emails are you going to send them and what will they’re going to contain.

I found it illuminating that while a lot of ProBlogger readers noticed the eBook, none of them seemed to have taken the next step and downloaded it. I think this is because too much emphasis has been put on diverting attention to the eBook without any accompanying persuasion, which is probably why a few people found it annoying.

Other readers were bothered by the gaudy, animated 125 x 125 banner ads and felt that they, coupled with the insistence on the eBook, made the site look spammy. Replacing them with non-animated versions or trying different advertisers could be one solution.

2. Proofreading needed

ProBlogger readers noticed a lot of spelling and grammar errors on the page. While the content can still be easily comprehended, these kinds of errors do make the content seem a little unpolished and unprofessional. My suggestion to Michael would be that if it’s personally difficult to spot and correct these errors, it’s probably worth hiring a VA to proof-read new blog posts or new copy you want to put on the site.

3. Content could be more valuable

In a few words, I’d describe the problem like this: aside from the interviews, which are quite valuable and seemed to be enjoyed by reviewers, the rest of the site wants to take a lot without giving much back. The blog content is quite one-dimensional, as are the entrepreneur ‘Answers’ on the main page. I didn’t see much information that the target audience was unlikely to have seen before. You’ll get more links, traffic and search engine love if your content is packed with value. Here are some questions to ask as guiding principles for content creation:

  • What information do young make money online entrepreneurs need to know?
  • What kind of tips might they not be aware of?
  • How can I be as useful as possible to my target audience?

There were some great viral article ideas shared in the comments on the launch post and I’d suggest Michael jot those down and act on at least a few.

4. Usability and readability issues

Sponsors do take into account subscriber numbers when determining how much an ad spot on your site is worth. The total subscriber count will also be an important factor in deciding how much the blog is worth if it’s ever sold. Aside from the money making stuff, subscribers will help your blog thrive. I’d strongly suggest adding a ‘Subscribe to feed’ icon near the email subscription form, rather than just showing the feed count. This simple tip has seen many bloggers boost their subscriber count.

A few readers also cited that the links at the top of the page are too small and close together to be interacted with. I also found the blog and ‘Make Money Online’ sections were too wide without enough whitespace on either side to separate the text from its surroundings. The line-spacing between paragraphs is also very narrow and makes the text seem jumbled together.

5. Greater emphasis on the blog

While the main page does an excellent job diverting attention to the interviews, the blog is strongly down-played and a new visitor might miss it completely if they didn’t read the small links at the top of the page. A simple fix I’d suggest would be to add a big ‘Visit our blog for more tips’ link above the featured article on the main page.

Thanks again to Michael for participating and best of luck with the site!

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.

Win 5,000 Visitors by Reviewing Retireat21.com

That’s right: by participating in our community consultation and leaving the most helpful comment reviewing Retireat21.com, you could win a 5,000 visitor StumbleUpon campaign for your blog.

How it works: You give us 1 URL, we send 5,000 stumblers to that URL. If any of them vote up your content, you get even more traffic. If your blog has never been on the front page of Digg, this prize will give you a taste of what it’s like.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering all the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

Darren and I are very pleased to bring you a prize with the potential to launch your blog into the stratosphere. Good luck!

The blog’s owner, Michael, describes the blog like this:

Retireat21.com is a resource for young entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. The site is quickly becoming the authority for young entrepreneurs, and contains valuable information and exclusive features such as: interviews with successful young entrepreneurs, the young rich list, ask an entrepreneur, ebooks and courses, recommended resources, and a whole lot more… in fact, it contains everything a young entrepreneur will need in the journey to success. Quite simply, Retireat21.com is young entrepreneurs making money online.”

Retire@21.

The questions your review should answer are as follows:

  • The site features a good number of Young Entrepreneur interviews (accessible via the main page) – do you have any suggestions for better interviews, better questions etc?
  • What can Michael do to improve the interviews?
  • 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. May the best comment win :-)