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 goal of a blog critique is to help all of us learn and grow. One suggestion for a particular blog may very well get us all thinking about how we can improve what we do.Here we go!
Blog: The Well-Rounded Home
Kacey’s blog is all about the process of turning a house into home. She covers everything home-related – cooking, decorating, organizing, DIY, cleaning, entertaining, faith and family fun. She also started two new series: Cribs (where readers get to show off their homes) and Wisdom Wednesday (where newbies get to learn from some been-there, done-that homemakers).
Her goal right now is share what she’s learned along the way and to build up an audience of engaged readers. She hopes that people see her blog and take comfort in being around a bunch of other like minded folk that don’t have the perfect home or are are still trying to figure the mom/homemaker thing out. Kacey said that she struggles most with waiting patiently for her numbers to grow (she’d like to be as big as Pioneer Woman right this minute) and she feels she’s missing out on a lot of opportunity not knowing SEO. Along with increasing readership, she worries that her blog header comes off more serious than her posts really are. She also mentioned that she struggles with figuring out what she should and shouldn’t write about. She said that she seems to get the most feedback when she’s talking about experiences rather than giving how to’s.
Design & Navigation
Header & Menu
- The first thing I notice on your header is the “Well-Rounded” font. It’s lovely and full of personality. I’d really love to see your blog name even larger to bring attention to that even more. Right now, the stand-out element of your header are the swooshes above your name; however, I think it sort of cramps the blog name. Consider removing those swooshes or at least making them smaller so they don’t overpower your name. I also think the stripes from the top part of your header may work nicer as part of your background pattern (may be too much stripey but worth a try).
- I like the color scheme that you use for the blog but I agree that it may come across as more serious of a blog. What about a pop of yellow? Or drop one of the colors and use yellow instead? Yellow is cheery and peppy and has a liveliness to it. Something to consider!
- The orange ribbon for your menu bar is nice and I like how it wraps around the “back” of the main section of your blog. I think the tab names could be a bit bolder to stand out more. Also when you’re on a tab, it turns red and there’s a visual effect behind the word that makes it a bit hard to read (red on orange isn’t a great contrast to begin with).
- I think the things you chose for your tabs could use some tweaking to be more specific to your blog. About and Contact- yep, those are great and imperative. Also, home projects is a good one! But Archives and Disclosure really aren’t too appealing to someone coming to read more about turning a house to a home. I’d move the Disclosure to your footer and perhaps mention it in your sidebar too if you feel the footer isn’t enough. As for Archives, if you had others things up there, that could be okay to stay but move it more to the right to make sure your awesomey awesome stuff is first (since people read left to right). Stuff like what? What about a page of home-related products and things that have helped you in your house to home journey. Things like the 31 Days to Clean ebook would be a good thing to mention here. This page could also contain affiliate links. When you’re making things easier on someone (i.e. pulling together a resource), they don’t care that it’s an affiliate link. You helped save them hours of research! Also, if you have a popular series you did, you can turn that into a page as well and then link to the individual posts of the series.
- One thing that’s confusing about your blog is the URL and blog name. Your blog name is THE Well-Rounded Home but your URL is wellroundedhome.com. If I type in thewellroundedhome.com, it doesn’t go anywhere. I think it’s key to decide which one you are and then make your blog name/URL consistent. Personally, it’s way easier to just drop the “the” so you don’t have to change the URL. Even so, I’d purchase thewellroundedhome.com too and redirect it to your current URL. Whew- is your head spinning yet?
- Hooray for social media icons being at the top as well as your newsletter! With the rest of your site being bolder colors, the social media icons seem a little faint to me. I think it’s the highlighting at the top of the Facebook, Twitter and RSS icons that’s doing it (the half circle “scallop” that’s supposed to look like they’re reflecting light). I know those are standard-looking icons but I’d love to see custom icons that incorporate your header design into them.
- I know I say this a lot but for personal bloggers, I love seeing a About Me blurb and picture of you! It helps build a connection and adds some visual interest towards the top of your sidebar as well.
- As with the menu, I think a more custom look for your sidebar headings would be a great tie in to your header design.
- Your sidebar is clean and uncluttered but I’d love to see a little more that’s directly related to house to home. I think even having a list of top home-related categories would help and make it easy for people to navigate to the topics that interest them most.
- The main column is a wee bit plain but it’s mainly because you are using partial posts which leave no sort of visual to draw a reader in. While a partial post setup may work for a site with lots of modular components on the homepage (like Problogger‘s site), for a site with a column/sidebar layout, I think it would be more effective for 1-3 full posts then some partial “teaser” posts at the bottom.
- I like that your blog titles are red, which make them stand out. As for the font, I’m not sure it really matches with your header looks and feel. If you like that font, consider incorporating it into the header (or likewise, use a header font as your blog titles).
- When you actually click on a post to get into full post mode, I think you do a nice job of balancing subheadings, images and other things that not only make a post visual, but help tell your story. I noticed there are some posts with no photos and I think adding a photo (even a free one from a place like Stock.xchng) would be a nice touch.
- I know that you mentioned SEO and I do think there are some great opportunities that you’re missing (but not just for SEO purposes). For example, your post title Under the Deep Blue Sea: A Bathroom Story is cute but doesn’t really tell the reader OR search engines that it’s a post about a bathroom makeover. A better title might be Fish-Themed Kids Bathroom Makeover (you can use the Google keyword tool to find out what keywords people are using). Consider saving the cuter title for a subheading under the main blog post title (like using Heading 2 format in italics at the beginning of your post as the subheading).
- For an example of a non-SEO opportunity, let me talk about your post Say Hello to My Little Friend. Again,while it’s a cute title, the post is about Homegoods and there’s actually no mention of the word HomeGoods in the post! While I doubt it’s possible to rank in search engines for the term HomeGoods, many brands have social listening tools that might find posts like this. Or if you were to write more about your love of HomeGoods (like maybe a “HomeGoods Haul” type of post), you could potentially reach out to them, show them that you’re a fan and pitch working with them in some capacity (sponsored post, ambassadorship, etc). Score!
- I really like your Wisdom Wednesday posts and would love to see you do more of those! They seems to fit well with your blog’s purpose.
- Don’t forget to go back into posts and interlink posts at times. On your bathroom remodel post, you mentioned you’d be making over the kid closets and toy boxes. And on the Super Hero Party post, you mention a party planning checklist. Once you write that next post, go back and interlink those words to the new post! While it may show up in LinkWithin, you’ll be more likely to get click from actually having it within your blog content.
- Speaking of the checklist, those are the kind of things that can really drive mega traffic to your site via places like Pinterest. And you can promote it on your sidebar. Consider checklists or printables with tips for this house-to-home concept. You could even have separate ones for each room in the house.
- While you mentioned that your stories are what people seem to comment on versus how to’s, I do think that how-to posts with a personal spin can be a big hit with both readers and search engines. So don’t be afraid to blend the two!
- One thing I’d suggest regarding your content is to keep focused on your purpose of a particular post. For example, for your Bushes Gone Wild post, it started off as a fun post about your bushes but then, while it’s still fun, it goes on to talk about your backyard space in general and ends with talks about a grill and porch lights. Both before and as you’re writing a post, think about what you’re wanting readers to get out of it. If it’s a fun, light story about bushes, then let that be it. If it’s about your backyard as a whole, then rework the title. This will help keep focus to your posts and more easily open up engagement with your readers.
- Finally, you talked about growing your blog and jokingly mention you want to be like Pioneer Woman right now. Kidding aside, I think you can look at Pioneer Woman as someone who writes about many things yet her blog has an underlying theme of being a pioneer woman. As for your blog, think about the posts you write and how they can relate back to having a well-rounded home. Sometimes even a sprinkle into a personal post that hints at this notion of well-roundedness ties it back into your blog’s purpose. Also, look at how she brings readers in. She does lots of photo contests, quizzes and things that are interactive and encourage participation. I think your Cribs idea would be like this too. People would really love to see other people’s houses and it encourages participation. Win win!
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 The Well-Rounded Home and give Kacey some comment love.