Blogging has been around for a while now – over a decade depending on how you define blogging. But over that decade, blogging has evolved and changed by leaps and bounds. If you monitor the blogging industry, you’ll notice that it’s in a constant state of change as new tools and apps replace old ones and as new methodologies emerge.
In other words, you don’t have it all figured out yet, and neither do I. Reaching success as a blogger requires constant evaluation and experimentation. If you sit still long, you’re toast.
So I want to challenge you to do a periodic evaluation of your blog just as you might have an annual physical or a quarterly oil change. And as you evaluate yourself, here are the questions on the exam.
How Does My Blog’s Design Stack Up?
There are a plethora of great design showcases and galleries around the internet, such as Blog Design Heroes and The CSS Awards. Peruse them. Some designs will stand out to you and they probably represent your own tastes and personality. Having looked at the ones that really appeal to your own sense of beauty, how does your blog’s design compare?
Is My Blog Actually Usable?
It’s okay to get creative with your layout and navigation, but always think of the user first. Decide to impress the user at every possible turn. Know that if you give equal weight to everything, people will probably see nothing. Help them to know what to click and where to go.
Is My Content Helpful?
Real community doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as people gather together around valuable content. And in today’s culture, “valuable” means meeting needs. That’s why “how to” posts and tutorials are often so effective. One of the goals of content creation is putting ourselves right in the proximity of the questions people are asking with all the right answers.
Can I Be Found?
That is, have I implemented some very basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so that my blog is well-indexed and high-ranking in the results of searches performed on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines? “Inbound marketing” is the art of having people arrive at what you have to offer without your having to disrupt the flow of their lives to alert them to your presence. Can your blog be found?
Is My Readership Growing?
Search engines provide us with immediate clicks from strangers, but it’s even more valuable to recruit a loyal readership. If you’re using Feedburner, you can already track how many people are reading your site’s content in a feed reader or in email. These people may not visit your blog and register a page view, but they’re highly valuable to your success.
Are People Talking About My Blog?
In other words, is your blog being mentioned on other blogs and social networks? Are people passing along your links? We tend to be quite protective of our influence and are therefore more careful than ever that we pass along to others only what we truly find valuable. So handing people your content on a silver platter is important. Make it shareable.
Am I Selling Anything?
This question rubs people the wrong way at times, but if you’re trying to earn an income by blogging then you certainly must sell something, whether it’s your own product or someone else’s. So at the end of a post, or in your feed, or in your sidebar, or in your in-text links, are there products or services that people are buying because your content presentation has convinced them of its value?
Are New Opportunities Opening For Me?
When you’re doing things effectively, your traffic, readership, and community are bound to grow, which will open new opportunities. Those opportunities might be in the form of interviews, contributions, or collaboration with a team.
Can I Still See Room for Improvement?
If not, as I said before, you’re toast. If you ever “arrive” then you’re on the way to being obsolete. I’ve been designing websites since 1998 and one constant over the years is that I’m never satisfied with a project. Tweaking is always in order. If you can’t make a list of things to work on, look more closely. Or better yet, ask your Mom, your accountant, or your Pastor. Blog health isn’t a state of perfection, it’s a state of growth.
What did I not ask that I should have?
photo credit: William and Mary Law