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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.

Make Sure Your Blog Design Communicates Your Voice – Wife Advice Revisited

Late in December we ran a Community Consulting project for a blog called WifeAdvice. I invited Nancy Clark (one of the bloggers behind the site to come back and give some thoughts on the process and show us some of the changes that they made to WifeAdvice as a result of the consulting. I’ve always been fascinated to see how blogs take on the advice given so I hope you enjoy Nancy’s reflections. (by the way – here’s a small screen shot of part of how it used to look).

Be Sure Your Blog Design Communicates Your Voice

wifeadvicescreenshot.jpg
As bloggers, we are always being told to have a unique voice–to be ourselves and let our personality come out in our blogs. You’ve heard it before–if you’re not different or if people can’t tell who you actually are, they won’t see any reason to stick around. But what happens when you are being yourself and have a unique voice and people don’t like it? Or worse–what if they just don’t get it? These were the big questions on my mind after our blog was spotlighted in the Problogger Community Consultation Project a few months ago. We received great, constructive feedback, but we also received a fair amount of criticism–not only about our blog design, but about our personalities and our marriage. I kept wanting to comment back–to justify ourselves, to explain our style, to make people realize that they just weren’t getting it–as in, “Hello people?! We are just joking around here!”. My husband convinced me that we didn’t need to justify anything–luckily he’s one of those people who simply does not care what people think about him (then again, maybe that’s not so lucky, because I’m pretty sure he’ll be wearing sweatpants when he takes me out to dinner tonight).

Once I got over feeling defensive and self-conscious, I was able to see that all the feedback we received was valuable, even those negative comments that didn’t even attempt to be constructive–in fact, those kind of comments ended up being the most valuable. It finally dawned on me: If first-time visitors to our blog can’t understand what we’re saying or how we mean it, then we are not doing a good job communicating. And in our case, a poorly designed blog was to blame. Yes, I know… it could be argued that our content is the problem; but in this case that would mean our blog–or even our marriage–should just cease to exist, and we were not too thrilled with that alternative. Instead, we set out to redesign our blog to match the style and tone of our writing. And here’s how we did it:

Quick Fixes

wifeadvicequickchanges.jpg

There were quite a few quick changes that we implemented right away:

  • Removed the Blogger navbar
  • Changed from a three-column to a two-column layout
  • Added a bit of color
  • Wrote a more descriptive tagline
  • Featured our subscription options more prominently.

We saw an immediate, dramatic increase in our subscriber numbers, and now our blog looked a bit more professional. Incidentally, before our consultation, I wanted our blog to look decent, but I wasn’t convinced that it needed to be “professional” looking. My mindset was, “I don’t care if it looks a little unprofessional, because I want to give the impression that we’re really just a guy and his wife writing a blog” The obvious logic I was missing out on was that we can communicate who we are with our content, but nobody will read our content if our design doesn’t invite them in. Fixing up these minor issues helped us sit tight with what we had while we worked on something bigger and bet

Major Changes

wifeadvicelogo.jpg Our old homemade, clipart logo got the most negative feedback in our consultation, we hoped that a new logo would be the key to correcting things. A friend of a friend showed us a blog by cartoonist, Shane Lewis, and we knew we had to hire him to design our logo. We simply emailed him, asked if he was interested in doing it, worked out the details, and watched him work his magic. The new logo drove the rest of the site design; we wanted to match the colorful, cartoon look, again to communicate that our site is all in fun.

We hired web developer, Richard Worth to help us make the switch to WordPress (we always knew it was inevitable) and design our new blog theme. You know you’re working with a great programmer when you say, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” or “it’s too bad we can’t…” and his response is always: “I can do that.” (It also helps if he’s your brother and will stay up late into the night helping you fix broken feeds, forward outdated urls, and implement last-minute design ideas before you go live.)

Why WordPress?

Quite a few people suggested we make the move from Blogger to WordPress so that our blog would look better. We have always planned to make the move (luckily we’ve always blogged under our own domain name), but it wasn’t just to make the blog look better.–Blogger blog templates can actually quite easily be customized to the point of not being “blatantly Blogger.” We made the switch to WordPress because we wanted more flexibility and function. Our programmer would tell you about how it’s open source, you own and control your data, customize it with plugins, and can basically just make it do whatever you want, etc. From a blogger’s perspective, I especially like the ability I now have to post static pages, get trackbacks, differentiate categories vs. tags, and require email addresses in the comment form.

Unique Challenges, Unique Solutions

wifeadvicepostheader.jpg
By strategically and creatively redesigning our post headers we were able to implement feedback we received about confusing categories and titles. Also, because we have two authors, and because we write different types of posts, we needed a way for readers (especially new ones) to know what in the world they were reading–who wrote it and what kind of post it would be (i.e., serious, or satirical). We customized our header to visually show the author and the category. Our post header design also solved the age-old problem of whether we should write descriptive, SEO-friendly titles OR fun, creative titles (this is especially challenging on a humorous blog). Now we put our (boring, descriptive) post title up above the header, and then have a fun, creative “subtitle” down near the content. Everyone’s a winner!

So, now that we’ve cleaned and brightened things up a bit, I can rest easy. I feel much better about the fact that a few ProBlogger readers didn’t like our blog. That was what it took for us to realize that our blog wasn’t speaking for us–or at least, it wasn’t saying what we wanted it to say. Now that we’re making ourselves more clear, I don’t mind so much when our visitors disagree with us or give us their own advice.
Think about it. What does your blog say to your visitors, even before they’ve read a word?

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 :-)

MLB Trade Rumors: Community Consulting Summary

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.

Attracting advertisers

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).

Selling yourself

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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