Audit Your Blog

I once worked in the circulation department for a business magazine publisher. When the auditors came in we had organized chaos for awhile. But, things were set up well and it wasn’t hard to justify the subscription lists to show the statistics we had promised the advertisers. Later, I worked for a department store. Once a year there was an audit of all the inventory, tracked against what was sold versus what should still be in stock. That was a little more chaotic.

Anyway, I think it would be a good plan to audit your blog. Think of your content as the inventory. Take stock of what you have, plan for what you need and make sure it’s displayed correctly. This is what we did when we had inventory in the retail stores.

ProBlogger has written Content Strategy 101. I wrote about content strategy in 2009. An audit would be along those lines with more focus on tracking what you have done and comparing it to your original goals for the blog’s focus.

First, if you never really set out a focus/ plan for your blog you really should. Keep it as a note you can see somewhere while you are working. Think of yourself as the editor of your blog. The editor works for the publisher and part of the editor’s job is to keep the publication on track with the publisher’s needs and the focus and quality which was established by the publisher. You are the publisher and the editor of your blog. But, for a moment, just become the editor. Are you living up to the publisher’s guidelines?

Second, look at the tags and categories as you have created them so far. Which of them are really in focus and which show signs of being sidetracked and which are only used once. (Being sidetracked is not always a bad thing, in moderation). Make a list of everything not included in your original plan for the blog. Some of these could be new directions you could head into. They could even turn up a great new niche you should develop.

Of the tags and categories which have been used most? Could some of them be over used? Is it possible you could split them up into smaller ideas/ subcategories?  Give them a clearer focus and make it easier for readers to find some of the great posts you have made which ended up being grouped into an over-wide category or tag.

Think of your tags and categories as an index to your blog. What gaps can you see as you look at them? What type of content might be overlooked? Brainstorm a bit and see what else you come up with. Find other blogs and sites in your niche and read their list of tags and categories to compare to your own. They may have some you are not interested in at all or you could become inspired with something fresh for your own site.

Be aware of where you started going off track with tags and categories and the blog posts written for them. Consider another site for these topics (could there be a theme including all of them?) or just leave them in your archives and don’t worry about them. From now on you will have your plan to keep you on track.

Now, check your original keywords which you have in meta tags up in the header of the HTML (find out more and get them up there if you don’t already have them). Rewrite your meta tags for the site description. Keep it short. While it’s good to use keywords you want to keep it simple, clear and quick for readers to understand in one glance. In your list of keywords knock it down to just ten.

Don’t pick keywords that are too dead on and exact, those are over used. Instead look at your tags and categories and pick out the words from interesting niche topics you have written about a dozen times. For instance, instead of ‘writing’ you might use ‘copy writing’ or ‘creative writing’ or even better ‘niche writing’. Your site is more likely to be found by someone looking for something specific than someone looking up ‘writing’ and getting the huge list of related sites. If you focus on a smaller scale you have a better chance. Like a small fish in a big pond.

Look at your site navigation now. Log out of your blog so you can see it as a general reader who comes to your site for the first time. If you can, get someone else to look at your site while you watch (don’t help them find anything!). How does your navigation work? Can readers search your site by typing in a word in a search bar? Can they look into your archives and see how long you’ve been posting or pick something to read by date? Can the reader use your categories (or labels/ tags) like the table of contents or index in a book?

Maybe you have given them even more options. How about a list of most popular posts? How about a list of old posts from other years? How about links to posts other people read after reading the current post they have clicked on? There are some nice options. Although you don’t want to create a cluttered mess, it is a good idea to bring attention to your older posts in some way. Don’t let them gather dust bunnies in the archives.

Last of all, don’t have just one content audit. The stores and publishers have an audit every year. You could do the same, part of your regular site maintenance.

BlackBerry Resources

I chose a  BlackBerry for my first mobile phone. But, after a week I changed my mind. Not about the BlackBerry, just the whole mobile phone thing itself. I’ve just never been the phone type. I also didn’t want to spend an extra $50 a month for something I hadn’t even used once in the week I had it.

In the meantime I looked up the BlackBerry. I wanted to find out how to use it and what could be done with it. Also, any groups for BlackBerry users. I found quite a bit, most of it useful and interesting. Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

Flickr:

Are you Your Own Grammar Nazi?

How tough are you on your own spelling, grammar, punctuation and typos? I think everyone should be watching for mistakes. Whether English is your first language or not, if you are using English you should be able to have basic skills. At the very least you should not be letting stuff get by that spellcheck would have caught. Spellcheck isn’t perfect but it does know quite a bit. Why would anyone choose to ignore it or not use it at all?

I do think we are all going to have mistakes at some point, however. Unless you are an English major in university or a paid editor somewhere, we are all going to miss something somewhere. Do your best, use the tools at hand and proofread, self edit and get a friend to check it over now and then. Another person might catch something you don’t realize you are missing.

How are you on proofreading your own writing? Are you your worst grammar Nazi nightmare or do you tend to be pretty casual about it all?

Quoted from Darice de Cuba posting to the 9Rules Blog:

I would like to note that I don’t like what they call grammar nazi’s. Mistakes happens all the time and unless you have an editor or two going over your posts you should not be too hard on yourself.

Article Directories for Your Own Writing?

I’ve been working on my web directory, for links. Today I wandered into a WordPress plugin which lets you create an article directory. Not sure yet if it is part of your blog, a separate page, or a blog on it’s own. Perhaps it could be either way as both would make sense depending on your purpose in creating the article directory.

I’m not interested in becoming a mutated zine editor and being publishing articles by others again. I did that, formatting them was the most niggling and annoying part. However, that is in my past. I did start to wonder about an article directory for my own articles.

First, there is debate about how well tags work in directing anyone to your articles, past blog posts. Does anyone click on them? Do they pull up your best work? (Not likely in that case as they pull up the most recent first, not the best).

Second, if you want a collection of clips online isn’t an article directory a lovely, polished way to set that up? Rather than give links to several articles you can send the link to the directory of your best articles. One link, one click. If you were an editor or employer wouldn’t one link look nice? Of course, you would add an explanation about the directory so no one would think you just had one article to send as your sample of work.

Third, can you really pass up a new project? Something unusual and unique and completely self centred. Who doesn’t need a new self-obsession every now and then?

Writer Heal Thyself

We all make little mistakes. It seems the longer and the more you write the more mistakes you make – and take for granted. I think we just get used to thinking we know what we are doing.

Being your own editor can only get you so far. Every now and then have someone else look over something you have written. Get them to spot check your grammar, your over use of any certain word(s), your punctuation and spelling.

Of course, pick a day when you are able to listen to their critique. You can’t ask for help and then argue with them or defend yourself as if you have just been personally attacked. When you ask for help accept it graciously. You can be sure you will need help again.

Make note of everything they tell you and keep it all in mind when you write again. You might notice how right they are once it has been pointed out to you.

Top Five Blog Tips

Yes, you can be happy with a blog which doesn’t have all of these but we are all just a bit greedy for a little fame. Here is what you can do.

1. Content.

Content is still king. It is what you have to offer. Have something to say. Say it in a way that is readable. Have a look at how news stories are written with the point of the story first and clearly stated right away. Afterwards come the facts, the spin off points. By the end of the story the information has trickled down to minor details which could be cut off should the news editor not want to give the space for them.

2. Layout.

There is a lot included in layout: navigation, colour, white space, avoiding clutter, etc. A blog needs to be easy to read, easy on the eyes. Having a dramatic or exotic (technologically) layout/ template does not always work out well. Your layout should showcase your content, present it all to be read, found and enjoyed. My favourite layouts are simple, clear and don’t include much colour or scripts. Not that I do that on my personal blog. I love colour and trying things my own way and that is my place to experiment.

3. Links.

Some blogs have no or very few links. Links are how we share and discuss new things, they matter! Isn’t it great to wander into a blog and find some great new thing, a blogging group, an interesting new kind of art/ craft, even another clever blog widget/ gadget. The best part of blogging is the adventure of the discovery of new things and ideas.

4. About.

It’s not just who you are or what your blog is about. Write it as a guide for yourself, to keep you focused on what you plan to do. Include a whole FAQ if you get ambitious.

5. Promotion.

Promoting your blog is not just a marketing scheme using SEO tactics, joining pyramid linkback schemes and piling on keywords. Commenting on other blogs (and giving feedback to the comments on your blogs) is better and gives you the chance to shine, show off your writing, and who you are to the blogger of your choice. Don’t pick a blog to comment on based on phoniness and traffic. If you want real, sincere readers show yourself to be the same.

With each comment you leave your link on another blog. Write something relevant, interesting or an opinion or experience you have had. If you lure someone to your blog from your comment on another blog, you’ve just successfully promoted your blog. Comments take time but so does any kind of blog promotion. However, you can choose which kind of promotion speaks for you.

About Dmoz

Now and then I read comments about Dmoz, the web directory run by volunteer editors. I was an editor from almost the time it began, before it was called Dmoz. Negative comments from people who want to get their site listed are common. You will always find them in any kind of discussion about web directories. Dmoz began as a good idea but it grew faster and farther than the available volunteers.

If the directory submissions could be strictly filtered we would lose some actual good submissions but it might out weigh the good in losing a tonne of complete garbage. If you could look into the submissions in one category second from the top or at the top, like Arts/Weblogs for instance you would find submissions for porn, submissions about monetizing your blog, submissions about travel to India and you might even find weblogs about the arts (dumped in the main category instead of the right subcategories). You would not be likely to find a site you would actually list in Arts/Weblogs. Maybe if you spent a couple of hours going through all the submissions… But you’re a volunteer, how much time do you really want to put into Dmoz today. More than that, how long will your patience and interest hold up?

I wrote the below comment in reply to yet another person bad mouthing Dmoz. Even though I quit Dmoz for a few reasons, I still think it has value and I still think the biggest problem is the quantity of junk submissions. There is no way a few volunteers are going to keep up with the volume. No way they would even want to stick with a chore like that. It’s not fun. There are so very few decent sites that you come across that it is not even interesting work.

I was a dmoz editor for 8 years. The idea behind it was great but we were soon overwhelmed with garbage. In the end, there are only so many volunteers willing to wade through the trash to find something actually submitted to the right category and not just another splog or ad farm. In the current directory you are fed up in a week, all your beginner enthusiasm is gone. Most new editors quit. It’s not like you’re getting paid to do that job. I read complaints about dmoz like yours and I’m not impressed. Most often those complaining have the worst sites. Or, they have a decent site until it gets listed and then it changes to become craptastic and full of spam/ ads. Dmoz doesn’t have enough volunteers to keep up with the submissions, to fix errors in submissions and to check sites again once they are listed. It’s not the system that sucks its the crap that gest submitted that chokes the life out of the directory.