Blog Critique: Crunchy VT Mommy

Each week, I dissect a blog from top to bottom in three areas: design, navigation/functionality and content. The reason? To help the featured blogger meet her blog goals and become even MORE awesome. The point of a critique is to learn and grow, even if our blogger doesn’t take all of the suggestions. The good parts of the blog are jumbled in with the suggestions below. Here we go!

Blog: Crunchy VT Mommy
Blogger: Veronica
Platform: WordPress

Up until very recently Veronica’s blog was about her adventures living in Vermont with her husband and two children under two. Her husband is currently attending Cornell’s MBA program so now they live in Ithaca, NY. She plans to blog about similar topics since Ithaca, NY is a lot like Burlington, Vermont (crunchy, green, localvore-ish) but will write a lot more about the life of an MBA wife. Veronica feels like her blog is “all over the place” in terms of writing quality and content and wonders if she holds back too much. She’d like to improve her writing and grow her blog as a business.

Design:

Header & Menu

  • I think it’s interesting that your header and your menu are right beside each other. Really helps maximize your space, keeping a good amount of room “above the fold.”
  • The font you use is nice too. It has a handwritten feel and is easy to read in small doses.
  • That being said about your font, I think there’s a bit TOO much of it in your header. It really makes the menu navigation and your tagline kind of blend together. Having the two different colors does help but I think you could use a different font for the words in your menu. In addition, the font is a little hard to read on the nav menu. It’s also hard to distinguish the separation of the tabs (ex. at first glance the word “details” looks like it’s own tab).
  • The bright pink is a neat contrast to the green. The green plays off the “crunchy” fact while the pink reinforces a feminine side. Design is so subjective but I think the bright pink is a little too bright given how much you use at the top. What’s throwing me off is how bright the welcome bar at the top is. The color bleeds into the white text and the blue “by voting” part, making readers have to strain their eyes to read it. I personally think that would look better in that warm green color. If you tried that, I don’t think the pink in your header would be too bright.
  • The word Momspotting in your nav menu catches me eye (cool name!) but when I click to it, I get no indication of it’s purpose until I scroll through all the pictures and find it’s about selecting a mom who needs a makeover. I LOVE the idea! You need to describe that BEFORE the pictures though or you’ll lose people. They’ll just hit the back button before getting to your form. At first I thought it was just pictures of a group of your friends. :-)
  • I’d move your About Me to Momspotting’s place in your nav menu. It’s the second most important page for a blog to have and it’ll be more prominent there (I know it seems like a small shift but slight location changes can make a big difference).

Sidebars

  • I like that you use your main font again on your sidebar. Helps carry the branding through your site.
  • Where are your social media buttons? I see Pinterest on down the page but no links to your Twitter profile, Facebook page, etc. I see your Twitter widget but some people don’t know that it links to Twitter when you click the title. Find some cool social media buttons (I have links to tons of them in this post) and add them to the top part of your sidebar so they’re easy to find.
  • It’s a small thing but I’d center your business button. Heck, play that thing up! I’d add a page about your business and include it in your navigation menu. Make it a page that tells the reader what services you provide, show screenshots of your work, etc. It’s a great way to drive people to your business site.
  • Consider putting all your “associations” (SITS, Clever Girls, etc) within one box on your sidebar. It’ll add to the cohesiveness and you can title it instead of just having logos with no explanation (it may not mean anything to someone who doesn’t know that they are).
  • Your blog button is your old design. Consider getting a new one made with your new colors.

Main Column

  • I really like the font in green for the headlines! With such a scripty font, I would go with it even being a little bigger (or a heavier stroke, i.e. bolder). I don’t know how if it can be coded that way but just a thought. On the top post, it sits a little too close to your header. Just a bit more space between your header and your first post/start of your sidebar will help the main post title stand out more.
  • I like the pops of pink in your main content. It’s not too overwhelming and helps add emphasis.
  • Again regarding spacing, I think there could be a bit more space between posts to help visually break them up a bit better.
  • For your sub-titles in your blog posts, use header tags instead of bolding (i.e. h1, h2, etc). This is just a drop-down selection when you’re writing a post. It’ll help visually and be good for SEO (search engines give more weight/importance to header tags).

Elsewhere

  • You have a favicon (the little icon beside the URL) but I see that it’s the old design. I think a little dose of pink with the letters VT would look great in your favicon.
  • I love that you have a custom footer! I’d use that third “Meta” column for something reader-focused… maybe even a plug for your business!

Navigation:

  • Your feed is burned. This makes it easy to keep track of subscribers and for readers to add your feed.
  • I notice that you have an email subscription as well. To make it even easier, add a field from your homepage for them to enter their email address instead of having to click to a new page to do it. When I worked on websites in the business world, the less clicks to do something the better. You can generate a box with an email field from Feedburner.
  • Great that you have Comment Luv enabled. It’s an easy way to give back to readers.
  • Commenting on your blog was easy as pie. Yay!
  • I think your navigation menu may be having trouble linking properly when you mouse over a menu item. For example, if I move my mouse up past your “my homies” link and try to click on About Me, it has a hard time as it gets stuck on “my homies” even though my mouse is over About Us. It happened more than once and for “contact me” and “momspotting” too. I think the clickable area is probably too small and some space should be added between the lines of your menu. Hopefully that’ll fix it.
  • Did you realize that you have three sets of sharing buttons on your posts? Pick one and ditch the rest. It’s confusing for readers to have too many choices. Studies show that they’ll do nothing instead. Chose whichever one readers are using the most (if you can tell).
  • You have a TON of keywords listed for your site. Limit it to 10 or less and choose keywords or phrases that you’ll actually be able to rank in. For example, listing a general, popular keyword like “MBA” will never benefit you. “Husband getting MBA” will do you more good. Use Google’s keyword tool to help you find keywords to focus on. Stay away from the keywords that millions of sites use (infant, parenting, mba, new york) and focus on keyword phrases instead that have less people searching for them. You’ll be more likely to get higher rankings for those.
  • I didn’t see a meta description. This is the description of your site that search engines pull if your site comes up in search results. If you don’t control the message yourself, it’ll pull the first sentences from your most recent post which may or may not be relevant.

Content:

  • I just love the tone of your posts. Love your snarkiness and sense of humor. For example, in the “update” post about your kids turning 8 and 22 months, you write: “It is most unfortunate that I can no longer watch Maury [Povich] in his presence since he is well aware that something just isn’t right with those people. It sucks, I really miss the paternity pandemonium.” Hahahaha.
  • Regarding this post, I also like that you made the typical “baby milestone” post interesting by pairing what Babycenter says your kids should be doing with your own commentary about what they are doing.
  • About the formatting of your posts, I notice that “C: 8 months” is hanging alone instead of being more prominent as a header. It made it hard to see where the milestones for one kid stopped and the other one. My suggestion is to always preview your posts not only to catch typos but from a visual standpoint. Any paragraphs that are too long? Any spots that look confusing? Any places that you need to bold or make a sub-heading? It’ll really help the readers be able to follow your posts.
  • This may sound silly but when you reference your kids I’d keep using Pweezy instead of P and Cmoney instead of C. It breaks up the flow in your writing to just see the letters C and P. People have to stop and think who is that again? It’s a split second thing but I noticed it really slowed down my reading of your update post. Also, people will feel a greater connection to your kids when you use Pweezy and Cmoney instead of simply C and P. As a blogger, we want people to connect with us (and our kids) in a non-creepy way, of course. I think associating names with people has a lot to do with that.
  • Okay the fact that you call Calliou a douche just makes me crack up. Go you for being ballsy enough to not filter what you say. I imagine that’s one reason people come back to your blog. You have an opinion and aren’t afraid to share it.
  • I love your photos and how you lay them out in a collage like in the stream of consciousness post. Beautiful!
  • You mention that you worry about the quality of your posts. I think the overall tone and personality of your posts is great. You could make it even stronger though by tightening up your writing a bit. You use the words “is” and “it” a lot. I tend to do this too when I write real stream of consciousness then I go back in and “liven it up.” Replace those words with something more descriptive. If that’s too hard with the sentence as is, rearrange the sentence to make it work. I’m not saying to NEVER use those words but use other words when you can. You’ll see your posts liven up even more!
  • So, you guys moved to a new state but you still have VT in the name of your blog. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. But you know what I’d love to see in your sidebar? A picture of you and a few sentences about you and your blog. You’re a Vermont girl who’s living in NY for the moment, trying to balance motherhood, crunchiness and having a husband in grad school. Not necessarily those exact words but it’s important to give someone a frame to view your blog, especially if the first post someone reads is about NY but your blog header says VT.
  • You mention that Ithaca is similar to VT in the “crunchiness” factor. I think that’d be a cool thing to blog about. Maybe a series (doesn’t have to be weekly or even a regular thing) about trying to keep up your crunchy or localvore ways in a new place. What are you learning? How is it a struggle?
  • Same idea about your hubby being in grad school. A series about the challenges of being a mom to two young ones while a hubby is in grad school would be pretty interesting.
  • If you’re interesting in working with brands, I’d rework your PR page to be more focused on what YOU can do for a brand. How reviewing their product or working with them will provide them value. While there’s nothing wrong with saying you’re selective and that you don’t do reviews and giveaways often, your page doesn’t say much else and brands may pass because they figure you’ll just say no. If you want to be selective (and I think you should be), tell them what you DO want to review (besides jet skis- haha). I like how Cool Mom Picks lays out their page.
  • I wouldn’t worry about being “all over the place” in terms of content. You’re a personal blog and don’t need to confine yourself to writing about a small list of topics. Instead, keep that snarky, fun humor in your posts. Keep your posts sounding like YOU; that’s what matters.

So, guys, did you learn anything? Was it helpful? Let me know in the comments below. If you have an extra moment, head over to Crunchy VT Mommy and give Veronica some comment love.
Hey y’all: These critiques have been more popular than I ever could have imagined! Since I have nearly a year’s worth of ladies in the queue for blog critiques, I’m closing the critique request for now. Don’t worry- it’ll open back up later this year!

Comments

    • melissa says

      Mine or Veronica’s? I just checked mine and it seems okay but so does hers! I did have to refresh mine in the RSS reader though.

    • melissa says

      You’re so very welcome. I really enjoy your blog (I’ve read it for a while now) and I’m glad you found the suggestions helpful. Weeeee!

  1. says

    I love Veronica so I was super excited to see your review. I think the advice about labeling the SITS/Clever Girls buttons is very smart. I never thought about that before. I am labeling mine immediately.
    Amy recently posted..Project 365- Days 147-153

    • melissa says

      Thanks Amy! I love Veronica too- been a follower for a long time!

      Glad you found that tip useful. I’m always explaining SITS to people. I figured everyone knew about them but I guess I should never assume!

  2. says

    I had no idea what a meta description was before I saw this post. I’m going to be getting on that ASAP! Thanks! :)
    Also, I have seen your post about finding buttons to use for social media, but I am having a trouble making them link back to my social media sites. Do you have a post on how to get them to link to your sites and how to install them in your blogs?
    Missy recently posted..Cleaning with Basic-G

    • melissa says

      No problem!
      The social media button issue is just html code for an image that leads to a URL when clicked on. I’m not on Blogger but in WordPress, if I drag a text widget to my sidebar I can then paste code into it. Blogger has the same feature just different terminology I think.

      Anyway, upload your social media icons to somewhere like Photobucket (since Blogger blogs aren’t self-hosted) then use those URLs in your code:
      Then simply use a little code to link the image to your archives page. For my Twitter button, the code is:

      The first part tells you where the button will link to. The second part (img src) is the location of the image. If you pasted that in your browser, you’d see just my twitter icon.

      Upload your images to Photobucket (will have to set up account), grab the URL for each image, then link them to your corresponding profile.

      Hope that helps!

      • melissa says

        hmmm okay so that didn’t help since it actually tried to use it as HTML. I’ll email you the code!

  3. says

    Melissa..haven’t read the rest of the post yet but you may want to clarify the first sentence…I don’t think she was living there with your hubby…hee hee. “Up until very recently Veronica’s blog was about her adventures living in Vermont with my husband…” Going back to read the rest now! :)
    Paula@Simply Sandwich recently posted..9 Summer Jobs for Teens

  4. says

    I had no clue what a meta description was either, and google only further confused me… From what I gather, it’s a site description thrown somewhere into your html code. Can someone steer me towards a how-to that’s understandable to the common (wo)man? : ) Thanks in advance!

    • melissa says

      Yep, it’s your site description in 150 characters. If you google, “Real Simple” for example, the magazine is the first result. Look at their description. THEY chose what to write there. If you don’t have a meta description, Google will just pull the first few words from your post which may or may not be relevant (like if your recent post starts with “wanted to let you know I’ll be on vacation next week so I won’t be blogging.”

      In Blogger, you have to add it to your code. Here’s a list of the code to use: http://www.tizag.com/htmlT/meta.php

      Hope that helps!

  5. says

    what did i learn this week? key words. :) i didn’t realize that “less is more” and to limit it to 10 or so. have not re-done this for my site now that i’m over on WP but it’s on my list to do soon…. and hopefully i’ll do a better job now that i know that. thanks!! wait a second… or is this something you do through your domain and i’ve already done it and need to change it? it goes along with the meta description, right?? now i’ve confused myself…… typical. :)
    adriel recently posted..half-full and hopeful- how a doctors news about our baby is changing my life for the better

    • melissa says

      Nope it should all be done through WordPress. In Thesis, I have a section where I can enter my page title (also important), meta description and meta tags (keywords). You could also download Yoast or All-in-One SEO pack which I THINK let’s you add SEO stuff to your overall site. I know it for sure does it for individual posts. Does that help?

  6. says

    Fantastic critique! Can’t wait ’til you’re offering these again because I’ll be the one yelling, ‘DIBS! DIBS!’ hahahahah. Seriously though, Melissa, this post was really great. It was great to be able to look back at CrunchyVTMommy’s blog and see it with a different eye… and still be able to relate your advice to my own blog.

    Thanks to both of you… and CrunchyVTMommy? Please keep writing. Caillou got my son under his spell within minutes of watching it. He actually cried to see it again and he doesn’t watch much tv. Shocking attachment. Had to ban it here too.
    ajira recently posted..Baby rolls! sigh

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