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Why Doesn’t Anyone Read My Blog?

So, you’ve set up a blog. You post consistently, your topics are relevant and helpful to your readers, and hey- you aren’t too bad at this whole writing thing. So why does it still feel like the only person reading is your mom?

It may be a matter of accessibility. People won’t look at your blog if they don’t know how to find it (or worse, if they don’t know it exists). You’ve already done the grunt-work, now it’s time to add a little hustle to the mix. Here are four places you can apply said hustle:

1) Can people find your blog within your website? If you’re blogging as part of a business or a larger website, is there clear navigation to the blog portion of the website? Many businesses will link their blog right from the main menu, but there’s more than one way to get from A to B (with websites, anyway). Take a look at your sidebar, it’s another important piece of navigation real estate. Could you put a Recent Posts section in there, like Stonyfield does below? Or, maybe it’s a matter of creating a button or image that directs people to your blog home page when they click on it.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Problogger has their blog as menu item 2, pretty hard to miss.

Take a look at other pages on your website- are there ways you can link to your blog on these pages? I got to this article about Organic Farming on Stonyfield Farm’s website  by clicking a link in their About page.

Stonyfield_Blog

If you look closely, they’re using the sidebar for additional blog posts AND linking in the menu. Way to hit the trifecta, Stonyfield.

If you’re having a hard time critiquing your website, have a friend take a look. Adding an unbiased brain to the mix  can only help, after all! Giving people alternate routes and clear signage is a great starting point. Now, let’s forge beyond your own territory.



2) Are you sharing on Social Media? Sharing a link to a blog post, old or new, lets people know that your blog is active and ready for readers. It also guarantees more eyeballs are going to see it- Facebook has over 1 billion users, after all. This could be a status update on Facebook or a quick tweet on Twitter. If it’s industry-related content, share it on LinkedIn. Think about where your people hang out online- those should be your target places. Facebook may have a bigger audience, but if your particular audience is hanging out on Google+, don’t turn your back on them!

This step can be accomplished in a few different ways, depending on your preference. If you’re more comfortable with the simple write and post, and can’t be bothered to remember to share on Facebook (or wherever else), you can automatically post to social media once the post is published (that link is for Wordpress users- there are other ways to do it if you have a different kind of platform though!). That means less remembering for you, and more readers for your blog! However, if you aren’t keen on automation and/or don’t want to share every blog post, you can always manage it yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to be the only one sharing your content, either. Wouldn’t it be great if people could share your posts once they’re done reading? You may have noticed some places have social sharing icons at the bottom of articles. You can have that, too! After finishing your latest post, all readers have to do is click the little bird icon and presto! your article just got shared via Twitter, my friend.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.

Not only does The Hungry Runner Girl share updates on her Facebook Page, she has a link to the blog in the handy dandy sidebar.



3) How about email? Do you have a list of e-mails? Maybe you have an e-mail newsletter that goes out once a month. This is yet another opportunity to promote your blog. If your newsletter for the month focuses on car maintenance, and you have an old blog post that ranks different brands of windshield wipers, go ahead and link to it. Readers will ideally click on the link, read the blog, and it’ll be in the back of their mind. Depending on what type of software you’re using, you can also integrate a feed that pulls in links to recent blog posts within your newsletter, or create a separate email altogether. Using an RSS component within your email management system pulls your recent blog posts into an email, and automatically sends to subscribers weekly, monthly, or whatever period of time you choose. Again, depending on what software you use, is customizable, so you can play around with formatting (i.e. title and featured image, title and a blurb, title, blurb and featured image- whatever boats your float).

The benefit of RSS is it brings your blog to the people. Let’s face it, we can all be a bit lazy at times, and may not feel like checking a website X number of times just to see if there’s a new blog post. Other times, we just forget. Having your posts delivered once a week/month/whenever is like having the paperboy deliver to your front step as opposed to going out, starting the car, driving to the store, buying a paper, and coming back home. It’s easy for you to set up, and it’s easier for your audience to read.

4) Can search engines find you? Just to clarify, this is not to say you should bend over backwards for the whims of SEO, but there are a few things you can do to make your work SEO friendly. No matter what game-changing rules come down the pipe (like Google deciding to nix authorship), if you are consistently creating relevant, meaningful content, you’ll be just fine. The rest is just detail.

A few details that might help get your blog some attention: creating compelling headlines (somewhere in between chapter in a 1950s textbook and linkbait for easily distracted people), tagging keywords when applicable and relevant, and renaming your images (i.e. instead of IMG_05948.jpg, use spidermonkey_fights_mastadon.jpg). To reiterate, these changes are not going to move mountains for your blog, they’re simple things that can give you a little boost. For more on headlines, wording, and other content related issues, check out this article from ProBlogger.

Writing a blog shouldn’t feel like shouting into the void. If you have great content, share it with the world (or, at least, the internet) more effectively so that content you spent hours on will get more eyeballs on it!

Stay tuned, we’ll be launching a product for bloggers like in March that involves setting a lot of this up. Get on our email newsletter and you too will be the first to know when it’s launched. (You can also subscribe to our blog via email there. Boom.)



Tech Thursday: Is Your Website Easy to Navigate?

…or is it mangled up in tangled up knots, like the Grinch? Or those Christmas lights you’ve been trying to hang up outside?

We have a few ideas for getting your website navigation un-tangled. First of all, you want to make sure you cater to both the linear and visual thinkers by using the menu (linear) and sidebar tools, such as buttons (visual). Second, interlinking pages to one another will make viewers’ lives easier. If you have a series of blog posts, or a form that you want people to reach, just add a link on the relevant pages, and people will be much happier. And finally, begin with the end in mind (determine what page(s) on your website are the most important, and try to mindfully build around it).

We hope you enjoy this video, and that your website navigation adventure! As Nicole says, we’re glad that we’re better at handling websites than holiday decorations!



New Website Launch: Ellsworth Public Library

We were very fortunate to be trusted with redesigning the Ellsworth Public Library’s website.

Like many of the libraries in Down East Maine, the Ellsworth Public Library (EPL) was still running a basic HTML site. When it was built years ago, it was top of the line.

Since the site was built, not only has the library changed, but its patrons have changed too. The typical library patron five years ago didn’t even have a home computer, and now the average visitor to the EPL not only has a computer, but a smartphone, tablet, and or eReader as well. Serving these customers with an old website platform was becoming increasingly difficult.

The library staff really wanted to be involved with their new site so they could easily add current information, and also they wanted their new website to represent the ever changing and growing community they serve.

The old website had about ten static pages, so in that way, it was fairly easy to navigate. But there were some limitations. For example, some pages didn’t provide navigation so you had to use your browser’s back button to find the menu again. Email addresses to library staff were visible on the staff page, inviting spam. And most importantly, it required a knowledge of HTML for any new information to be posted there. Despite these frustrations, the library staff felt that the overall look of the site well represented the library, and they wanted to stay close to the theme.

To stay with the same feel with the website update, a similar color palette was chosen to provide the consistent look:

The old and the new

Homepage 

While the old website was static, the home page of the new site offers four areas for the visitor to interact:

  • Slideshow of images helping users navigate to resources, see event information, and view important content that the library continually changes.
  • News- Updates of library news including upcoming events and new resources
  • Library Resources- Links to some of the library’s most popular offerings
  • Recent Events- Displaying participation and photographs from past events
The new logo that the library had decided on was also incorporated:

 Menus and Sidebars

While the main navigation menu stays regardless of location in site,  the sidebars reflect the area of the library the page represents. For example, if you are looking at the Kid’s page under Youth Resources, the sidebar offers up links that kids or parents will find helpful.

This plan for the sidebar grew as we got to know the Ellsworth Public Library better. With every conversation, we learned more about what information they wanted online, and they learned that there were possibilities that they hadn’t thought of to make their jobs easier. For example, twelve contact forms each get distributed to a different department or staff member, ensuring information gets to the right staff member quickly and efficiently and that they collect the information they need from patrons.

 

 

The primary goal of  the new website is to offer more information, resulting in more pages and in depth navigation.

  • A current events and news area, where the staff of the EPL can post.
  • Online services offered through the library, with links and  instruction pages are provided on how to use these resources.
  • Contact forms on the website, which connect users to the appropriate staff members at the library, streamlining the communication process between patrons and staff.
  • Links to other social media sites
  • Individual department pages
  • Visual elements like navigation buttons that make scanning a page for information easy
  • Current photographs of staff and the library itself

Because the site needed to be interactive, it was build the site in Wordpress, which has a very user friendly Dashboard set up. This makes training people (even the so-called non-technical ones) easy, allowing them to make new pages and update existing ones. Like most open sources CMS systems, Wordpress has a thriving community of people who are constantly improving the platform. Plugins which allow interaction with other technologies and sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, help keep the time spent on website maintenance down. The library already does a lot of work on these platforms so connecting them with the website cut down on time staff was spent posting information and allows them more time to do what they love: helping library patrons.

We’d like to thank Charlene and the rest of the staff for being a pleasure to work with. Nicole and I enjoyed learning more about the library’s resources, in particular the digital ones. Congratulations EPL on your new website!

Do you want to know more about your website options? Here’s our short guide on different kinds of websites. Want to support the great work of the Ellsworth Public Library? Like them on Facebook or join them on any of the other social media sites they are a part of.

Marketing Monday: Goop

Editor’s Note: Thank you all for your kind condolences about the death of my dog. I appreciate your compassion, and am happy to report that I am feeling much better this week. Many thanks.
Know an individual or business doing something cool to promote themselves online? Let me know about it and they might be featured as part of Marketing Monday!


Goop's front page. Flash driven and a little vague (bad) but graphic and simple (good).
I’d first of all like to keep this blog a positive one. There are so many people doing so many good things online, to promote their business or otherwise.
Today, I wanted to review Gwyneth Paltrow’s website called Goop. It’s mission is to ‘nurture the inner aspect’ and is supposed to be about things in Gwenyth Paltrow’s life.
Recently, her post about a New Year’s cleanse recieved some media attention at both Nerve and Huffington Post and just this past weekend, the site came up in conversation over lunch with two of my friends in the media.
The only reason this website seems to work is because it belongs to Gwenyth Paltrow. I haven’t found anyone who ‘gets it’.
Goop does not embrace internet terms.
A web magazine written by one person about their life is called a blog.
Goop can call its posts ‘articles’ all it wants but in doing so alienates itself from the blogging community. I could see the use of another term if this website was launched five years ago when blogs weren’t nearly as prevalent . But nowadays, bloggers are used as experts on television news programs and followed by media types on social media for story tips.
Bloggers are far from obscure and distancing yourself from a group of people also trying to create online content seems like a silly thing to do. Let’s not mention the fact that bloggers spend a lot of their time talking about and linking to other websites. Not one of them? That certainly makes it hard to become part of the community.
It’s unclear whether the site is compensated for the products it endorses.
A whole section of Goop is called ‘Get’ and seems to endorse cool products. No where on the site could I find policies about these products. Does Gwyneth Paltrow receive financial or other compensation for putting these products on her site? Does she personally use them? It’s hard to say.
As a reader of the site, I’d like to know. A simple ‘About’ section of ‘FAQ’ would do wonders at answering some small questions about the site and its policies.
Goop doesn’t link to other sites.
Not linking to other sites makes you 1) less connected with other web developers and 2) doesn’t help your search engine ranking. This is why all bloggers have a blogroll or list of links we like: because it’s good for us and good for the people we link to.
Not having many (or perhaps any) links off the site seems like a missed opportunity, not only for increased traffic to Goop but also for Paltrow to use her star power to help out smaller sites. You can’t buy the kind of good buzz that would create.

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div>In short, celebrities can get away with things the rest of us can’t.

Most regular people can’t get away with a ‘this is stuff i like’ blog, if only because most of us have a limited audience. There are probably 30 people in my life who would care about everything Nicole Ouellette likes in my case. I am not Oprah, and this is why my blog entries have an undercurrent of money and marketing. It is why most blogs have a topic or subject they are about: more universal appeal.
What is Goop about? Whatever Gwenyth Paltrow feels like needs to be covered that particular week.
As my Twitter friend Marc Pitman puts it, it looks like Goop is “trying to do WAY too much”. I agree.
Some people do like a website that covers a lot of ground though, but for those of us who like to know what to expect, it’d be great if there’d be a preview of what’s coming up. No doubt the staff that maintains this site plans ahead for content and letting readers in on the not-so-distant future offerings I think would lead to increased overall satisfaction with readers.
Also, it would be great if Goop engaged it’s readers in some way. Featuring helpful comments in the weekly newsletter or having reader guest bloggers would no doubt increase Goop’s appeal and further connect it to other cool things going on online.
While Goop has interesting written content and a clean design, the posts have no photos.
The posts on Goop are text heavy; it would be great to have some graphic elements to get the content more skimmable and make the website prettier. Perhaps this is a place where readers could contribute if they knew about the topic ahead of time. Just an idea…
In short, Goop is not the world’s most terrible website but it could further its mission with some thoughtful tweaks and increased reader engagement.
Want some other opinions besides mine?