Monday, July 30, 2012

Blog Critique: Tasha Seegmiller

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Well, I'm about two days from finishing my current WIP's first draft and I plan to take a break before revising. Also, the kids will be back in school (SCORE!). All this means that I will be back to blogging more seriously. Finally. Hopefully. Yes, let's leave it at that.

On to our blog critique. We have Tasha Seegmiller. Please note, it's pronounced T + ashes - s. That's important info, in my book. Take a peek and meet below.
Tasha, there's a lot I really like about your blog and, for the most part, you have a very functional site. Some of the things I like the best:
  • Your name is prominent and is part of your title.
  • You have great, informative posts that are interesting to read.
  • Your profile is nice and high on your sidebar.
  • It's easy to follow your blog and subscribe by email.
  • You have an About Me page.
  • You use pictures in your posts.
  • You watch the Olympics. Yay!
Lots of good. But I like to spend most of my time in these critiques mentioning the things I suggest changing. Because not only is that more fun, but these make better lessons for us all. So here goes:
  • Your header is simply your name and that's okay, but not very catchy. I'd like to see something more substantial. This is where I say do as I say, not as I do because I also have a simple header. A subtitle or just something that sets it off.
  • I would like more distinction between your sidebar and post area. Does your template allow you to make the sidebar a different color? I'd make it darker than your post area.
  • Tell us what you write. Do you write poetry? Adult fiction? Children's books? I'd like to know in your profile or About Me.
  • Speaking of your About Me section - it's very well written, but I'm distracted by the text format. You obviously copied and pasted from somewhere else. That's fine, but after you do that, use the "Remove formatting" button to remove all the other formatting. It's the button that looks like a Tx.
  • When you have a link going to another page, mark the box that says "Open in New Window". Otherwise, when we click on your link, we leave your page and may not return.
My biggest suggestion relies on advice from the graphic designers. The colors you use in your blog, while not awful, do not pop the way they could. The turquoise and red that you use are fine, but they don't relate to your background as well as they could. We suggest picking some of the colors in your background and pulling them into your blog. That orange and green and purplish-grey colors should be in your headers and tabs. Choose at least three different colors or shades of colors. Two isn't quite enough. Maybe something from this set of colors:

Alright, that's all I got. Thanks for being a victim, Tasha. I enjoy your blog and am glad to be a follower!

What are your thoughts, folks?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blog Critique: Lifestyle on Jamaica's South Coast

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

I meet so many interesting people through these blog critiques. Generally, writers, but sometimes I have the opportunity to step outside my small world and meet bloggers from different genres. Today's blog comes from June who blogs about Lifestyle on Jamaica's South Coast. You know the drill.

June, when you are blogging just for the pure joy of keeping a blog, I'm not going to be quite so picky about certain elements that your blog is lacking. However, I'm certain there are things you could do to increase your readership - something I'm sure even the most "for-fun" blogger is interested in. Also, I suspect you might have a motive since you are involved in real estate - is this true? Do you want to draw readers to purchasing real estate from you in Jamaica? That will make a difference in what I have to say.

If you are blogging just for fun then there isn't much to say. You have a straight forward message with cool, island blue. It's easy to read. You use pictures to attract readers. That's all good. 

I would suggest putting more contrast in your sidebar and your post area. Having it all stark white makes everything blur together. I'd also suggest you get a color palette - something more than just blue and white. That's too dull. Even if you are really set on just blue and white, you could get a few blues like this. Maybe use one of the lighter blues as a background for your sidebar. Choose another for your header background. Change your dates and footer info to one of the blues. Even better would be to add some orange like this.

After that, if you're blogging for fun, then I say you're done. Enjoy it. Blog often and passionately.

But, as I suspect you may be doing, if you are blogging to interest people in real estate, then I would suggest a lot more.
  • First, definitely fix up the color palette. It will make your information pop and help you appear more professional.
  • Second, get your personal info up near the top. Who are you? Let us know in a profile at the top of your sidebar.
  • Then, add pages for depth. Include contact info on one of the pages. Another page should include links to real estate available currently. You may even want to include some of your more popular posts about cost of living on the island or reasons to move to Jamaica as individual pages. Things to get people interested in your island.
  • I'd also make your background an island picture. You want your blog to make people desire being in Jamaica, right? It doesn't do that right now. Include as many enticing pictures as you can. In fact, include a page with just a photo gallery. My husband worked on this website. It's a website, not a blog, but it's a good example of drawing people in with pics. Don't you want to book La Villa Bella now?
  • I also would include the Link Within app. It draws people to look further through your blog.
  • I would work on getting links from other sites, places that talk about Jamaica or real estate in Jamaica, to lead to you. If you do that, you should also have a "Resources" page that includes links back to those sites. That would increase your traffic and your search rankings.
  • Be consistent with the font you use. Make sure it's the same size and font throughout all your posts. 
  • I love that you have the Google Translate option. That's ideal when you might have people from other countries visiting your site.
I love the things you write about. It's a great subject and you seem to enjoy what you write about. You stick to your "message" well too, which is sometimes tricky for people. 

The biggest issue, I think, is that when I look at your blog I can't tell for sure if you are blogging for fun or for purpose. This needs to be cleared up. It would help if you included that in your profile. Well, and include a profile. 

I hope this was a helpful critique. Again, I didn't know for sure what your intentions were, so I tried to give you the best advice I could with the information there.

Any advice from the readers?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blog Critique: What Type of Character Are You Hanging Out With

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Someday when I'm rich and famous I'm going to buy Betty Alark, I don't know, something. Something nice. See, I'm having an abnormally crazy summer. My three kids, out of school, of course, have somehow discovered how to all be equally needy and obnoxious. My husband's job has been demanding 60 hour weeks. And I've taken on an extra load of marketing work to pay for the vacation that we already took. Long story short, there's just not as much time for writing and blogging as I'd like (hence the reason everything has been on hiatus). 

Anyway, today's blog critique was supposed to come Monday. Last Monday. Ah, you knew it felt like you were missing something. Poor Betty had to endure my constant emails: "Can I push you back again?" And that is how we arrived at this special Sunday Blog Critique. Without any more delay, let's jump in. Here's Betty's blog. Let's discuss below.
Betty, thank you again for your patience with me. You've been a good sport. 

As for your blog, right away I'm just a little confused about what you intend your blog to be. You haven't posted in awhile, and your header is the same as your book so I'm not sure if you are wanting your blog to be a blog or a sort of faux website.

I have spoken many times about blogging, but not very much about people who use their blogs as static websites so I'm going to go with that angle today - not much difference, but a few key distinctions.

Before we begin, some terminology - When I say "static" I mean unchanging. You know, a website that doesn't have regular post updates. The two key things I expect to see in a website that I don't look for in a blog are brevity and design.

First, brevity: A website is not meant to be something you "read" like a blog. It should have key information that can be spotted in a relatively short time and the reader shouldn't have to scroll very far to get to the bottom of your page. I'd like to see, if you are indeed going the route of a website, a shorter home page. Spotlight your book in the center of the page. Give readers a link to purchase. Anything else, including reviews of your book, testimonials, or info you'd like to expound upon should be maintained on separate pages. Remember this is if you aren't planning to update your blog on a regular basis and are planning on treating it as a website only.

As for design, this is much like all the key design points I give for blogs but even more crucial. Without your words to captivate people and draw them in (because of the brevity thing) you must have a stellar design that  does this for you. This is where you really need to focus. The design you have doesn't speak to me as much as it could about your book. The mountains seem to match your wolf, but it's so generic that it means nothing to me about you when I see it. 

This layout also leaves little options in the way of color palette. The change of colors throughout your posts are fun to create, I'm sure, but lack the professional edge I'd like to see from someone who wants me to buy something from them. Some of them are hard to read on the transparent background. I would choose a more relevant template that you can tie into your book.

Some other elements I'd like to see whether you are a blog or a website are your contact info, a prominent link to order your book, and other ways to find you (Facebook, Twitter - if you're on there, that is). 

For other tips I recommend going to my page that says FAMP (From a Marketing Perspective) and reading past critiques. Hope what I have her is helpful and thanks again for your patience.

Anything to add, my dear readers?
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