Blogging & Social Media Tips, Technical & How-to

How to Review a Blog #BlogCheckup

9 Sep , 2018  

Now and then, it’s a good idea to step back from the blog and take an objective look at its design and usability. Better yet, ask a few friends to do it!

Here’s a checklist of things to look at when reviewing your blog, or a friend’s.

Domain & Website Naming

☐ Is the blog hosted on a free or paid platform?

  • WordPress.com is fun and functional, free to use, and a great place to experiment with blogging!
  • WordPress.org is the free blogging platform a blogger can install on their hosted domain (they’ll need a web hosting account, first). It can usually be installed with one click, and a simple set-up and configuration takes only a few minutes. (A blogger can spend years tweaking it and customizing it to their liking.) It requires a little more technical know-how than blogging on a free platform, but any ads run on it will be the blogger’s own – and only if they want to run them. They can install any themes or plug-ins the platform supports, so it is very flexible.
  • There are many others to explore; just Google: blog platform (free OR paid)

☐ Does the blog exist on its own registered domain?

  • Does the domain “go with” the site name? (For example, mine is jahangiri.us, and my blog title is “A Fresh Perspective.” These don’t match, but it is my personal site, so they do “go together.” If my domain were randomthoughts.com and my site title was “The Lab for Highly Focused Innovation,” the two would not “go together” at all.)
  • Do the domain name and site title relate to, and promote, what the blogger is trying to promote?

Legal

☐ Does the blog have a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service?

☐ Does the blog have a Comments Policy (spelled out above Comments or within the Terms of Service)?

  • A comments policy isn’t really needed; a blogger is free to do as he pleases with regard to comments, for the most part. HOWEVER, the author of a comment has copyright on the comment itself. Does the blogger claim rights in any comments left or reserve the right to edit – and how extensively? Spell it out, if the answer to any of these is “Yes.” I would also recommend referencing the Terms of Service prominently, above the comments section, if this is the case. It’s always okay to accept comments and to delete any deemed inappropriate, but it may be completely unacceptable to the author of the comment for the blogger to alter their words in any way.

☐ Have EU cookie laws, GDPR, COPPA, and FTC Guidelines been taken into account? Has the blogger made reasonable efforts to comply?

  • If collecting any personally identifiable information from readers, or runing plug-ins that land any cookies on visitors’ sites, or operating as an affiliate marketer, or selling products from the site, it’s important to be familiar with these regulations and exert reasonable efforts to comply with the laws, whether residing within the jurisdiction of the EU, US, or other countries.

☐ If advertising, endorsing, or selling anything from the site, is it secured with SSL? This is not a legal requirement, but with a large percentage of users using Chrome as their browser, failure to secure the site with SSL will result in scary warnings to visitors that the site is not secure. It’s a wonder they haven’t hired the town crier to yell out, “Unclean, unclean! Lepers! Plague!”

☐ Is everything posted the original work of the blogger? Bloggers should take special care to avoid violating the intellectual property rights of others. Copyright crosses boundaries (see “Berne Convention”)! Stealing, plagiarising, “spinning” articles and images is NOT OKAY. If you did not write it, draw it, make it, or take a picture of it with your own camera, did you use it in accordance with the creator’s licensing terms? Just because a thing is posted on the web does NOT make it “public domain.” If in doubt, ASK. Proper attribution does not include lifting the whole work, saying “I don’t claim any rights in this” and mentioning the creator of it. “Fair use” is a DEFENSE if you are charged with copyright violation, but there are some very narrow requirements to claiming “fair use”: for critique, for educational purposes (generally in a classroom, and not for profit!), and for parody (think SNL, and no, making fun of a thing is not necessarily parody).

Purpose

☐ Is there an “About” page that tells readers who the blogger is and what your blog is about? This is a chance to talk about credentials, interests, and why this blogger is the best person to write this blog.

☐ Is there a photo – a real photo of the blogger or a custom logo if the blog is a business – visible on the front page and/or the About page?

  • Authors: Consider creating a downloadable Media Kit and making it available here.

Attracting and Keeping Visitors

☐ Has schema.org markup been applied?

☐ Is there a sitemap.xml (and has it been submitted to search engines)?

  • There are plug-ins, at least for WordPress, that will handle schema markup and create sitemaps, if the technical specs are too time consuming or complex to implement by hand.
  • The sitemap.xml can be manually submitted at webmaster.google.com and webmaster.bing.com. The blog should be set to “ping” search engines when new posts are published.

☐ Are new visitors to the site assaulted with pop-ups and demands to subscribe to a mailing list, follow the blogger/blog on other social media sites, buy a book, enroll in a workshop, etc?

☐ Is the page loading fast or slowly?

  • Ask 10 friends in different regions of the world, if possible, and send them to one of the more image-heavy posts.
  • Reduce image sizes, where possible. Online images can be 72dpi (unlike print) and still render beautifully. Use compression and reduce the dimensions of the image until it is just as big as needed, and no larger.

☐ Is the front page visually attractive?

  • Can the blogger write a post explaining the design choices? (Not that this is needed! But were they just “some pretty free theme found on the web” or were all design choices deliberate and reader-centric?)

☐ Is the site easy to navigate?

☐ Does it have a prominent search box?

☐ Are posts organized into Categories, and tagged with relevant keywords? Are there Category and/or Tag menus?

☐ Can visitors click on a category or tags, to find related posts?

☐ Is it easy to follow the blogger and/or blog on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.?

☐ Is there a translation button?

Interesting & Shareable Posts

☐ Does each post have a “featured image” and is it appropriately sized and marked up for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+? (See https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-image-sizes-guide/ )

☐ Are all images the blogger’s own? If not, do they have written permission or proof of a Creative Commons license (and are they complying with all terms, such as proper attribution)?

  • Images found on the web, regardless of where found, may be copyrighted. Just because a site claims they’re not, doesn’t automatically guarantee that’s the truth.
  • alt= and title= attributes should be used on the IMG tag to provide descriptive text to the visually impaired reader, so that they aren’t missing out on the information conveyed in any images/illustrations.

☐ Is the post title is both catchy and informative? (Bloggers should err on the side of meaningful and informative, if writing click-baity headlines is not their thing.)

☐ Is there a custom Excerpt field? If not, the first 55 words of the post work will be used, and the blogger should ensure they provide a good summary if that’s what shows up in search or on a Twitter card or Facebook summary. Don’t give away the conclusion here – make sure it’s a good teaser that leads readers to click for more!

☐ Spelling and grammar count! Anything that interrupts the “flow” of the post and slows the reader down is likely to cause him to click away and go to a more appealing source. “White space” (visible breaks in the text) should be used to give the eyes a rest and the mind a cue – between paragraphs, between body and sidebar, before and after headings, etc.

☐ Anchor text – do both internal and external links go to things like “read more” (useless) or “how to set up a new blog” (lovely!)?

☐ End each post with a call to action. What do you want the reader to do now? ASK THEM (POLITELY) TO DO IT.

  • Buy and read a book;
  • Read another of your posts (or someone else’s);
  • Leave a comment;
  • Get involved in a project/cause;
  • Other.

☐ Are readers able to easily leave comments? Are they encouraged to do so? Things that get in the way of commenting:

  • CAPTCHA codes, math puzzles, and visual acuity tests
  • Third party commenting systems that require visitors to register with them before leaving a comment
  • Having to enter more than Name and Email Address

 

Your Turn

Is there anything you’d add to this checklist? Anything you particularly like to see on a website or blog, or any pet peeves I’ve failed to mention here? Please leave a comment, below.


Featured Image Credit:

post-it notes by Dean Hochman

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3 Responses

  1. BellyBytes says:

    A good list of points to remember while making a blog . A good list also to audit an existing blog……

  2. Time for a book! lol Well, maybe not that much, but we’ll see…

    “the author of a comment has copyright on the comment itself.”

    I’ve never thought much about this; still not thinking much about it after reading what you wrote. I can’t imagine how I could alter someone’s comment (well, maybe one of yours, long as they can get lol), but what would the point be? Who’d even remember? I’ll answer more after the next one…

    “Have EU cookie laws, GDPR, COPPA, and FTC Guidelines been taken into account? Has the blogger made reasonable efforts to comply?”

    No, no, never heard of it, yes. Cookie laws and GDPR I’m ignoring. I’m in the United States, and until there’s a cooperative between the US and the EU regarding these things and their penalties, I’m not doing it. I hate seeing those messages on every single site I visit; how is that improving the user experience? I’ve never heard of COPPA so obviously I haven’t done anything about it. As for the FTC guidelines, I was highlighting things years before they came about so I’m good. Of course, I’m marketing very little these days; sigh…

    “secured with SSL?”

    This is problematic for someone like me. I have 5 websites and I only get one https for free. To get it for all my sites will cost me $155 a year for each of them; that ain’t happening! I put it on my main business site because… well… it’s business! The others I’ll just have to deal with until I learn how to code it somehow (which means it’s never happening lol).

    “plagiarising”

    This one caught me off guard because I thought it should have a “Z”. I looked it up and it seems both work; thus, I’m sticking with Z! lol

    “Is there a translation button?”

    Do you have a translation button? I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Maybe I need one for all the Indian and Pakistani visitors I get; then again, they seem to know English well enough… way better than I know their language!

    “End each post with a call to action”

    My last one, and I’m probably horrific at it. Sometimes I’ll ask a question but that’s about it. Even in posts where I’ve talked about my own products, I’ve never done a call to action; I’m a bad marketer! 🙁

    • YOU pulled a ME!!

      Yes, and my translation button is hidden in the menu under the big purple circle with the down-arrow. Click that. Surprise!! Woo hoo! More hidden goodies!!

      Hahahaha… wondered if anyone would even notice I used the (more traditionally) British spelling. I keep catching myself doing that on a lot of words, lately. Must be all the Indian bloggers I’m reading…

      I agree with you on SSL; it should be free, dammit. If Google’s going to treat us all like we have the PLAGUE or LEPROSY or something if we don’t have it, it should be free. (Though I get it, if you’re processing credit card transactions or banking or some such. I just don’t get it for smaller, non-commercial blogs. But never mind… I did it anyway. For my MAIN domain, anyway.)

      Mitch, COPPA is the US law protecting minors. You can’t collect personally identifiable info from the under-13 crowd. It’s not a big deal for you or me – I don’t allow (and I don’t think you allow) anyone to just become a member of your site, or fill out a bunch of personal info. It’s been in effect for what, a decade? I can’t believe you’ve never heard of it. It’s the oldest one on there. 🙂

      And finally. I used to make people remove my comments from their blogs if they ran those damned Infolinks (or similar) ad schemes, and did not limit them to their OWN words. I cited the definition of an unauthorized derivative work and insisted. Never had one refuse; I think people can tell when I’m NOT bluffing. None of them wanted to lose their websites.

      Copyright is real, folks. It’s real. Remember when I thought the Russian mafia was after me, but the guy was just yanking my chain, writing in transliterated Russian that he wasn’t drunk and preferred wine to vodka? By the time I was done with him and his article spinner, his own mama couldn’t read a word of that nonsense. 😉

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