Running a successful blog is an incredibly challenging process – and it doesn’t help that there are so many different advice-giving articles on the subject out there that it can seem nearly impossible to piece together the latest blogging best practices.
So today, I’d like to share with you the blog auditing process I use to determine whether a blog is on the right track, or whether potential areas of improvement can be identified that will make the site even more successful. I hope you find this framework useful when it comes to improving your own blogs!
1 – Content Quality
The absolute first thing I look at when it comes to blogging is the quality of a site’s content. Remember, if nothing else, blogging is a highly-personal, text-based medium. In order to be successful, a blog must deliver content that’s informative and engaging, while providing some sort of differentiation from other site’s in its niche.
To evaluate the quality of a blog’s content objectively, we can look at a number of different factors:
Average Length of Posts – While there’s no “ideal” average post length for a blog, it’s also important to keep in mind that it’s difficult to say anything substantive on an industry topic in fewer than 500 words. In addition, the shorter your posts are, the fewer opportunities you have to get your content indexed for particular keywords within the SERPs.
When analyzing content length, look for a combination of both short, “news-y” update posts and longer, evergreen “authority” posts, with the average length falling around 500 words or more.
Breadth of Topics Covered – In addition to the average length of posts on a blog, it’s also important to look at the range of topics covered. While the specific niche you’ve chosen for your blog may influence how wide of a range you’ll be able to cover, look for any missing holes or unanswered questions that arise from past blog posts. Chances are if you’ve stumbled across any gaping holes missing from your breadth of topics, your visitors will have noticed these omissions as well.
Engagement Factor – Finally, when it comes to analyzing blog content quality, take a look at how engaging your writing style is. Do the posts on your blog feel dry and unimaginative? Or, are they filled with personal anecdotes and a friendly, conversational writing style? If you notice deficiencies in this area, invest more time in the future on making your content as engaging as possible, as this will increase reader investment and social sharing.
2 – Visitor Connections
Of course, unless you’re writing for yourself, improving the quality of your content is only part of the battle. Because blogging is an inherently social medium, it’s also important that you provide your readers with the tools necessary to share your content with the world.
Here’s what to look for when conducting your own blog audit:
Social Media Icons – Every page on your site should have links to your social networking profiles, in order to encourage readers to connect with you on these interactive sites. For maximum visibility, most blog owners include these tools in their blog sidebars.
Social Sharing Tools – In addition to encouraging readers to connect with your profile on social networking sites, it’s even more beneficial to get them to share your content on their own profiles (as this is what typically causes articles to go viral). To do this, you’ll need to have social sharing tools (for example, the WordPress plugins Digg Digg or Shareaholic) installed on every single post-level page on your site.
RSS and Email Subscriptions Available – Finally, keep in mind that not all of your visitors will be active on social networking sites, so make sure that RSS and email subscription options are clearly advertised to give these readers additional opportunities to follow your blog. In addition to displaying these forms prominently on your site, be sure the benefit of subscribing is clearly advertised to encourage signups.
3 – Site Structure
Part of what makes blogging so challenging is that, in addition to making your site as engaging as possible to readers, it must be appealing to the search engines as well in order to generate a steady stream of natural search traffic.
For this reason, any good blog audit should include a look at your site’s structure, as well as the identification of any issues that could be preventing it from being indexed correctly.
Permalink Style – For maximum keyword exposure, ensure that the permalink structure you’ve chosen for your blog incorporates your post titles in some way.
Post Level SEO – WordPress and other blogging platforms make post optimization a snap with handy plugins like All in One SEO or Yoast SEO. However, these plugins only work if you use them correctly, so use your audit to ensure that they’re installed and optimized for each post on your site for best results.
Category Page Optimization – When readers choose to delve into your past posts, they’ll likely do so by examining your category archives, instead of reading past articles by date. For this reason, it’s a good idea to ensure that your category pages are optimized for both readers and the search engines to improve your overall SEO.
Search Engine Accessibility – Because WordPress relies heavily on scripts to function, it’s important to be sure the presence of these code snippets isn’t preventing the search engines from indexing your content correctly. To learn more about accessibility from both a user and a search engine standpoint, check out the Accessibility Basics article from W3.
4 – Metrics Tracking
Finally, when conducting your blog audit, keep in mind that blogs should be treated like any other web property when it comes to metrics development and tracking. If something isn’t being measured, it isn’t being managed, so use your audit to ensure that all of the following areas are addressed:
Monetization Strategies Offered – Take a look at the different monetization strategies being used and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are my chosen monetization strategies a good fit for my audience?
- Are my monetization elements featured prominently or are they buried in content?
- Do my monetization elements provide demonstrated value for my users?
If you’ve approached monetization haphazardly in the past, taking an objective look at the strategies you’ve used in the past could help uncover opportunities to make your blog even more successful.
Goal and Funnel Setup – As with traditional websites, blog owners should have stated website goals that are being measured with web analytics goals and funnels. If these important tracking features aren’t present on your site, add them as soon as possible in order to improve the effectiveness and results of your blog.
Split Testing – Split testing (aka – running different website versions against one another to determine which combinations of factors give the best results) is a vital website development task that even blog owners need to be aware of. Although setting up split tests on blogs can be more challenging than on static websites, several plugins exist that can take the pain out of the process.
Obviously, this audit isn’t totally comprehensive, as the process of running a successful blog involves many other factors beyond these criteria. However, checking in with these basic blogging principles through regular blog audits should give you enough of an overview to determine where improvements should be made in order to make your blog as successful as possible.