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Barb and I meet online some months back, and I have already given her a little Blog Coaching to help her accelerate her blogging success.
Now that she has a larger audience, Barb wanted me to take a look at her site, and make some suggestions regarding email list building.
The following is my review of her site: Simplify Technology Blog.
First I will run through my impressions of her site, reviewing areas such as: layout, style, blog posts, sidebar etc.
In the second part of the review, I will discuss her current list building efforts and provide some tips for improving.
When I first opened your site Barb, I must say it leaves a great first impression.
It appears clean and well designed, and I can easily understand what the site is all about. Simplifying Technology!
Your site name is exactly on target, as is your tagline, which expands further on your main theme – help make people’s lives easier with tech.
The main negative impression I got was that the header is a little too busy and there are some inconsistencies in style.
My first suggestion would be to make the content area a little wider. It seems to compete with the sidebar (which is proportionally quite large).
This may not be easy to fix, but it would add to the overall feeling of space when reading content on your site.
You could really benefit from a rework on your header area. So let’s dive in!
1. The main image I would change, because it detracts from the idea of tech, and focuses too much on coffee.
Instead, I would use something that is visually dynamic in terms of color, and blasts “tech” to the person when they land on your page.
2. Within the header there are too many messages (text) including a partial bio. This confuses the reader a little.
I would simplify this, and only have the main tech image and your tagline below the site name / logo.
Clarity, simplicity and focus are the goal here.
So no text on the image. And remove the bio. If you still want your image.
1. The navigation is split-up which I find confusing. Let me expand on that.
To begin with – it is hard for the visitor to know where to look for navigation.
I would consolidate the two nav bars into one, for simplicity and ease of use.
This of course would mean rethinking some of your navigation to get it all into one nav bar.
2. I also found the drop downs difficult to use, and the links on them not always clear (in terms of destination).
I would sit down and think about what areas of the blog you want people to visit and focus on.
Make those your key menus. Perhaps it is category groups, or a specific page like you have now.
The rest can be found via archives or search.
If you previously found you need to have lots of drop downs, I would move that information into a single page instead.
Three level drop-downs are too hard to navigate with a mouse, and I imagine even more difficult on a mobile .
3. The navigation bar is the same color as the background which means it does not stand out enough.
Find a new color that fits with your color scheme, but highlights the navigation in some way. It does not have to be bright, just different.
4. A few final points.
You want your navigation to be clear, easy to read and easy to use. So remove the underline from the links. Perhaps make the font larger and bold.
There is no specific blog link in your navigation. I would add one.
Also be careful with opening new pages/tabs all the time.
Inside a post, it helps the reader keep their place when they are reading. But on Navigation links, it is not good practice.
I would reorder and change your sidebar content, which is an area I have focused on in other reviews .
1. Move your search bar from the header and add it to the top of the sidebar.(Sometimes the header it ok too. Depends on the design)
2. Alternatively you could have your optin form at the top. If not, have it second. It is one of your most important elements.
3. The bio you have in the header, should now appear in the sidebar (photo and a few sentences).
4. A highly debatable topic – consider moving your soclal media connect icons somewhere less obvious (contact page). This drives people to your signup form.
That is the theory. If you prefer to get connections on social media, then you could leave them.
5. One of my pet peeves. Google ads. Are you making any money from this? Enough to allow them to take real estate in your sidebar (and footer).
Have a serious think about that. It always detracts from a website.
6. Some of the colors you have chosen to make things stand out do not fit your general color scheme.
I will give you some tips on that in the list building section below as this affects your signup widget too.
You can still have colors that fit your color scheme and stand out.
There are a few tweaks I would suggest to bring things to the next level.
Underlines are usually reserved for links , so I would not underline your headings (or much else for that matter).
It sets false expectations for web users, who are used to underline meaning links. I actually tried clicking on them too.
Throughout some areas of text, you use a variety of colors, bold and highlighting.
In the image on the right for example, you have used a bright blue highlighting on sections where you want to show what to click in a menu.
Use bold or inverted commas instead.
It is not as easy to read when you change color, font or style too often in text.
Keep to the basics: headings, bold, italics.
People will still understand what you mean if you use clear layouts and simple formatting.
And if not, use an image. It is worth more than 1000 words (I checked on Google :>)
* Similarly you have used a lot of variety on the home page (Technology in a specific color, links with some bold). Keep it consistent and simple.
List building is a key area of blogging that is often forgotten in the beginning. Mostly because people are not aware of how important it is (I made this mistake too :>)
You already have an optin form on your side bar, which is a great start. And better than most.
To begin building a list I think Mail Chimp is one of the best ways to go. And I also see that you have chosen to use them.
I personally prefer and use Aweber, which I have detailed in a post before. But if you do not need an autoresponder (emails sent out automatically to your subscribers) then Mail Chimp is a good alternative.
Other alternatives include things like Get Response, which a good friend Tim Bonner recommends.
1. It is a great idea to have your optin form and call to action button in contrasting colors.
This gets people’s attention. And you have certainly done that with your choice of yellow.
My only issue with your choice of color is that it is a little too different from your color scheme.
Perhaps try something like Color Scheme Designer to help you get the right css hex codes for a contrasting color that still fits within your color scheme.
You can use colors from your current styles as a base and still find ones that stand out.
2. The optin form itself should be as simple as possible.
That means less fields. You currently have 5 fields.
I would only use two – Name and Email.
Some use only email. You will get more people to optin with a simpler form.
3. Your optin also takes me to a new page.
I would add these two fields within the optin box on the sidebar. That way there are less clicks to get someone there.
Currently you are asking people to subscribe to get tips and tricks.
If people are already fans of your blog, they may choose to become a subscriber.
But if you want to get the more hesitant people, it helps to have an offer – i.e a giveaway.
1. Create a simple giveaway to encourage your readers to subscribe.
It can be an ebook or video course. But I find the simplest things are often the best.
Find out what is bugging your readers, and create a simple “best of” ebook (tips, resources, how tos).
You could even rehash some of your old content into an ebook. New subscribers are unlikely to have seen it before.
2. Then change your optin message to attract readers to subscribe.
Currently you have a welcome message, which leads me to think that area is not for subscribing.
Create some compelling copy to really “sell” your giveaway such as:
“Get my 5 best secrets to using tech online”
Or something similar.
Your optin button text should also be similarly enticing like: Get Instant Access
And make sure the button stands out too. And do make it a button (current it is a link)
3. Add optin forms in various places
Once you have your giveaway and your messages, you can add the same form to:
This will get more readers’ eyes on your form, and therefore more changes of optins.
From all the suggestions I have given you, you would think you site is in bad shape. It is actually far from it.
There are just a lot of small things you could change to really improve the layout and usability of your site.
The above email list building fundamentals, once implemented should see you increasing your optins in no time.
As always, I am happy to help and give further suggestions. So feel free to get in touch.
If you are interested in reading my other website reviews, just head over to this page.
Header Photo Credit: Dirk Schaefer on Flickr
Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).
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