A visitor’s initial perception of your blog determines whether they stay or leave, and what they think of your brand. What does your blog look like to a first time visitor? Are you providing them a reason to stay? What does your blog say about you and your mission? These are questions a blogger should ask regularly.
When was the last time you reviewed your blog and your blog design? It might be time to schedule a blog audit to ensure that your viewers’ experience is a good one. Checkups are valuable to determine:
- Whether your blog is optimized to achieve your goals.
- How you can improve it to increase performance.
- If the User Interface works for your blogging goals.
Now Is The Time For Responsive Blog Design
If your blog is not mobile-friendly, the time to redesign is now. On April 21, Google will roll out its mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. What does this mean to you? Penalties in searches leading to reduced traffic and loss of income may happen. Is it worth the risk?
Google believes that your blog is either mobile-friendly or not. There is no room for ‘almost’ mobile-friendly in this algorithm. Google recommends you test your site with the new Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Read the updated documentation in the Webmasters Mobile Guide to learn how to create and improve your mobile site. Check out their guide to mobile-friendly sites also.
Here is the result of my personal blog test:
Several preventable errors arise in the mobile-friendly report. The first is flash content. Google issues warnings for this type of content. Another red flag is a missing viewport meta-tag for mobile pages. Viewability is also important as it will tag tiny fonts that are hard to read on mobile, fixed-width viewports, content not sized to viewport, and too many clickable links or buttons too close to each other.
Taking a blog from non-responsive to responsive should be completed with thought and planning, just as your audit. If you need a blog redesign, plan to do it right. It is much more than just having a responsive theme. Performance is the key to mobile-friendly design. A mobile web experience must be lightning fast. Keep in mind that you may need to hire a blog developer/designer to accomplish this conversion.
Blog Audit Checklist
The benefits of a blog audit include:
- Improved performance
- Enhanced SEO
- Improved conversions for your monetizing goals
There are many ways to audit your blog – for content, for design, for SEO, for conversions, etc. Assessing both the technical aspects and the content are the focus of this audit. There will be some overlap in the two; however, the goal is the same: improved user experience. This checklist can guide your strategy.
- Is your blog responsive? (See above.)
- What does your blog look like to a first time visitor?
- Is your website optimized for maximum usability?
The design and overall navigability of your blog should correspond with what your reader persona would come to the site to find. The main goal is that they find what they need quickly.
- Is your site structure optimized for SEO?
Great site architecture is all about improving how users and search engines find their way around your site. Linking to older posts in newer posts helps. Read this Effective Site Structure for SEO article from Search Engine Land.
- How is your overall performance?
Do your pages load quickly? Is your site down often? Does your HTML and/or CSS need to be cleaned up? Fast-loading and optimized pages will lead to higher visitor engagement, retention, and conversions.
- Are your URLs optimized?
Keyword stuffed, overly long URLs are difficult for a search engine to index. Learn more about SEO Friendly URL Syntax Practices in this article from Search Engine Land.
- Are your images properly sized and optimized?
You want the smallest size files for your images. If they are larger than your text box width, they are too big.
- Do you use Flash? (See above.)
Search engines may have problems with this, and it can be a user nightmare. Frustrated visitors will click away.
- Do you have an XML sitemap?
An XML Sitemap is something every website should have. It tells search engines what pages on your site should be crawled and indexed. Sitemaps help ensure your pages are found, and found faster. Especially if your sitemap dynamically updates your new web pages.
- Is your blog Error Message free?
Broken links and dead ends are annoying for readers. Google’s Webmaster Toolscan be helpful in cleaning up these messages.
- Is your content high quality?
Perform this audit from your reader’s viewpoint. Quality content should appeal to the interests, needs and problems of your reader persona. Do you solve their problems and answer their questions? Is the information relevant and timely? Do you provide other resources? Do you have a clear call to action in your posts?
- Is your content optimized for SEO?
Content drives searches. Your content must be worthy of being found. Read about on-page SEO best practices in this HubSpot article that includes a SEO template.
- Do you review analytics regularly?
Review keyword performance often. Which keywords are giving you the biggest gains in traffic and leads? Do you factor these results in your content strategy? Review your basic on-page SEO elements like URLs, page titles, meta description and copy.
- Do you evaluate the effectiveness of your ads?
CPC ads do not usually do well in banners and sidebars, so it is best to limit CPC ads to inside posts. If you have CPC ads in those locations, replace them with CPM ads. Look at the ad companies you already work with to see if they have CPM ads. If not, apply to a couple of companies that do.
- Do you use your sidebars to increase engagement on your site?
Use images that link to your top posts in widgets on your sidebar. You can step this up a notch by using custom sidebars for different categories and then put the images linked to top posts for each category.
- Do your social media follow buttons open in a new tab?
If they do not open in a new tab, you are sending those people away from your blog and there is no guarantee that they will return.
- Do you have a way to capture email addresses?
Your email list is future income. Make sure you have one.
- Do you have a simple yet intuitive website design and page layout?
Make sure pages are not too cluttered and littered with ads, CTAs or links.
Top Blogger Alea Milham of Premeditated Leftovers uses PEEK to gather information. PEEK performs usability testing for free. Alea says, “Users get three Peek user tests a month. The five-minute video you receive gives you insight into how a new person views and uses your site. I do not recommend making changes based on one test. Gather information from readers, peers and the PEEK user tests to determine what changes are needed.“
A visitor’s initial perception of your blog determines their user experience, whether they stay or leave and what they think of your brand. Your answers to the above 19 questions impact that experience. Do you know how your blog is performing?