The Blog Critique 12 | The Native New Yawker

The Blog Critique #12: Gaining Followers & Promoting Engagement

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It has literally been months since I’ve done a blog critique. Let me just thank all the bloggers that are still submitting their blogs for critique even after this series has gone on a mini hiatus. I’m slowly but surely going to make my way to everyone’s site.. eventually.

I’ve been thinking about switching the medium up for this post and turning it into a video series instead. I feel like some points could come across better via video than text, so we’ll see. So just don’t be surprised if you see one of the next critiques a video. Moving right along with today’s critique.

SmoothingFrogs.com
Dating & Relationship Blog

Veronica is getting ready to approach her first full year of blogging as of March. When first setting up her blog, Veronica had two goals in mind: build traffic and reach out to women everywhere. Since she started blogging last year, she’s managed to pull in over 2000 unique visitors, but like all bloggers, she’s facing some challenges. Deeming me the “godmother” of better blogging, Veronica submitted her blog for critique to not only get my feedback on the aesthetics of her blog, but she wants to know what she can do to gain a following as well as promote people to leave comments on the site. Like I always say, *that default Godfather accent* you’ve come to the right place.

The Good

When first arriving on your page, you don’t have some of the major blog mistakes that would make me leave instantly. No automatic music, everything is legible and I’m about to locate anything I’d need—whether learning more about the blog or finding specific categories to read—above the fold. Your social media links are what I call ‘quick access’ social links, which basically means your reader can like and follow your social handles without having to leave your page. So kudos.

There are definitely a lot of things we can do aesthetically to your blog, but before I offer some solutions, let’s address your main issues.

The Concerns

I want to know how I can gain a following & promote people to leave comments on the site.

Gaining a following and getting that following to engage always seems to be one of the top challenges bloggers face. Let’s address gaining a following first. How does one gain a following in the first place? Especially when you’re new to the blogosphere and don’t really know where to start.

Get to know your ideal reader & where they ‘hang’. If you’re looking to gain a following, you must have an idea of the type of follower you’d like to have. Running a dating and relationship blog, it seems like your ideal reader would be a woman that’s either single or in a relationship, right? Well, kind of. Sure, you want to reach women everywhere.. but when you try to include everyone, it’s easier to fail. Exclusivity breeds success. I would recommend you narrow down the type of ladies you’d want to reach so it’s easier to find them. I think your ideal demographic would be women in their 20s that’s either single or in a relationship. Start small. Once you know who your reader is, it will be easier to understand where they ‘hang’. Nowadays, everyone is on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. Based on your demographic you may find some of those networks work well than others. If you’re on Twitter, I’d definitely recommend following other dating & relationship bloggers and follow people who are following them—usually this will be people that you’re targeting.

Guest post to drive readers to your blog. Since you’re new to blogging, I’d highly recommend reaching out to other dating & relationship bloggers and pitch a guest post or two. By guest posting you’re allowing your content to reach new eyes which hopefully converts into new readers & followers.

Create more ways to engage with your followers than just using post. This is something I’m constantly telling other bloggers to do. Experiment with using different ways to engage with your audience. As a dating & relationship blogger, there’s so much you can do to get these ladies talking about love, sex & relationships.. for starters, maybe a monthly Twitter chat. Depending on where you’re located you may want to make a Meetup.com account & have monthly cocktail talks at local restaurants with your readers. I know so many women that just need a nice bottle of wine to open them up to spill all their problems. You can start an Ask.fm page where ladies submit anonymous questions about dating & relationships and answer them via video on a YouTube Channel you’ve created. The options are endless. You have to think of your readers as friends and think of cool, interesting ways to get your friends to share more with you.

Aside from these recommendations to boost your following and engagement, you can elevate the level of your blog’s aesthetics to pull readers in even more. Sometimes all it takes is a well designed blog to have readers browsing your pages for hours.

The Solutions

  • Migrate over to a self-hosted WordPress site. First thing I’m going to suggest is definitely recommend is using WordPress as your blogging platform. When using WordPress.org, you have access to hundreds of thousands of plugins that can help make your blogging easier.
  • Use better stock photography and/or use your own images. Let’s be real… most stock photography sucks. If you don’t have time to take your own photos, that’s fine. But just know there are better stock photography sources such as Stocksy.com or Deathtostockphotography.com. You can then use free sites like PicMonkey to help spice up your images thus making them more ‘pin’ friendly. Make sure your main article picture at least include the title of the post and blog URL so that if anyone pins it, people can find your site ASAP.
  • Make photos same width as blog post. A quick, simple way to get your blog looking a bit cleaner is to make sure your images are the same width as your post. It looks like the width of your content module is 616px, so that means your image width should at least be 616px.
  • Sexy up that sidebar. I know sometimes bloggers like to be anonymous on their blogs, but if that’s not the case… throw a picture up with a little excerpt about yourself linking folks to your About page. I think when it comes to discussing dating & relationships, females feel a little more comfortable knowing who they’re talking to.
  • Refine your categories. Right now it’s a little vague what exactly each category is about. I know people like to get witty with categories to coincide with their brand, but it only works if it’s a clear indication as to what it is. At the current moment I’m confused as to the differences between ‘What’s Leaping off the Lily Pad?’, ‘Tales from Across the Pond’ and say ‘Celebrity Frogs’. I have no real idea what I’m getting into. If you want to keep your witty category names then I’d maybe think about adding a ‘Start Here’ page that gives readers a brief blurb about what each category is about and the most popular articles of that category.

Overall Critique

Overall Veronica, you’ve got a lot of great stuff going on. I checked out your social profiles and see that you do have some engagement going on—loving your Question of the Day you post on Facebook. I think what you need to focus on is really defining who your target reader is so you know where to find them so they can find you! Keep asking questions to get engagement, just consider using other platforms as well, such as Instagram. As far as your actually blog goes, I’d definitely recommend migrating over to WordPress as you’ll be able to add and do more things to your blog in the long run. I hope I was able to help you with some of your issues today. Looking forward to seeing what you do with your blog.

If you didn’t know already, I just released the 2014 Blog Action Planner that comes with access to a private Google+ Community, Blogging Better. Use the planner to help you stay on top of all your blogging plans & goals, and use the community to further connect & learn from other bloggers. Use promo code NATIVE02 to receive $2 OFF the planner.

If you’re interesting in having your blog critiqued, please submit your name, URL, blog category and reason why you think you need a critique to laura@thenativenewyawker.com.

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  • Woot woot!! It’s back 🙂 Nice critique Laura!

  • Roni Dasher

    Thank you so much! These are great tips that I plan on implementing ASAP. I may tarry with the migration a bit until I I’m more familiar with WordPress. The ideas and resources were more than I expected!

    Again, thank you so much Godmother. You’ve given me options I can’t refuse 😉

  • Oh, a video series would be TERRIFIC! I agree that some points come across much easier/clearer through video (or even talk/podcast).

  • Great critique as always Laura. I went to her blog and I couldn’t find the comments section. She definitely has a great content and has a super fun logo as well. I am going to check out those sites for photos because it’s hard to find great quality stock images.

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