After receiving more than twenty reviews and view-points on Tim’s blog, MLBTradeRumors.com, it’s time to summarize the lessons learned from this week’s exercise.
If you missed the blog’s introduction, you can read it here and view the review comments directly. If you’re new to community consulting, here’s how you can get involved (and give yourself a decent shot at winning an iPod shuffle).
Thanks to everyone who participated. Here’s what the ProBlogger community thought about MLBTradeRumors.com:
It’s not so black and white
The most contentious element of the blog was the choice of gray text on a black background. While some commenters didn’t mind it, a larger group strongly disagreed with the choice. To further complicate things, a poll held on the blog indicated that around 70% of people who voted didn’t mind the theme. I’m not sure the poll is an accurate reflection of reality because if someone is bothered enough by a lack of readability they’re unlikely to become a loyal reader and vote in a poll ;-).
Those who like gray on black vs. those who don’t will always be an impossible number to tabulate, because you can’t quantify how many readers you lose because of readability issues.
My personal thoughts are: some people may choose not to visit your blog because they find it too hard to read, but existing readers are unlikely to jump ship just because you change to dark text on a light background. Dark on light is now a web standard and even those who preferred the darker scheme will not abandon your blog because of the change. However, there are some people with an instinctive negative reaction to white on black who will never read a blog with that kind of combination.
Any blog hoping to be approached by advertisers needs an ‘Advertise Here’ page, or equivalent. Many readers pointed this out and I couldn’t agree more. Some boxes your advertising page should tick:
- Explains the benefits of advertising.
- Includes stats that make your blog look good.
- Explains what kind of advertising you’re selling.
- Explains what is needed to advertise.
- Explains how advertisers should contact you.
Tim also wanted to know how MLBTradeRumors.com could be made to seem more professional. A theme with dark text on a light background is often perceived as more professional, so making the change suggested above could also have a benefit in this area.
Getting more subscribers
Baseball is obviously not a very high-tech interest and I would expect most subscribers to sign up for email updates rather than track the blog through a feed reader. I agree with commenters who suggested moving subscribe links high up in the sidebar. It’d also be a good idea to add a small form where visitors can type their email address to get updates. I’d also suggest adding a short message at the bottom of each post asking readers if they’d like to subscribe.
The timeliness of news
Several readers astutely pointed out that posts are not dated on the main page. Dates are absolutely necessary for this kind of blog because rumors and news depend on timeliness. Being able to show new visitors that you updated just yesterday or today shows them that your blog is fresh and current (and so are your posts).
The blog’s tag-line (“Today’s hottest baseball trade rumors. If it’s whispered, we hear it.”) does two essential things: it describes what the blog is while making it sound good. My only critique is something that one commenter mentioned: it could be a little more visible. I also like that there is ‘About’ information on the blog as well as its author.
Injecting simplicity into the sidebar
Pruning under-performing ads and moving links to seperate static pages are all things you can do to add greater emphasis to the most important aspects of your sidebar. I should point out that as I write this the ads in the sidebar are throwing up an error and preventing the rest of the page from loading. This error wasn’t occurring at the time of the launch post so I presume it’s the result of some tinkering with the sidebar that might need to be reversed.
A general tip, once the problem is resolved, is something that a few commenters mentioned. Your ads will always be more effective if they are on topic. Try AdSense (which has some decent baseball ads), affiliate programs on baseball products or approach baseball related businesses, magazines and manufacturers to advertise on your site.
Extra eye candy
Baseball is a sport people watch, meaning it’s also been the subject of about a million photos. There’s plenty of potential to add color and visual interest to the site by including colorful photography of players and teams. Just make sure to establish that you have permission to use the images, first.
Let’s get Diggable
Social media has the potential to treat sport content well. I’d suggest Tim experiment with baseball-related top 10 lists, guides and resource lists to start attracting social media traffic. While the content is well-suited to its target audience I didn’t see many efforts to reach out to new audiences with the content provided.
The iPod Shuffle winner
This week’s prize-winner is Andrej (who blogs about web-design) for his comprehensive and observant review of the blog. Enjoy your iPod!
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