Blogs have come a long way from their humble roots as online journals. What started out as a way for any person to post random thoughts about what they had for breakfast (known commonly as online diaries) has turned into serious business endeavors, complete with ebook and book publication. Darn near every company, both big and small, now posts articles on various subject matter to their blogs. It is time to do some analysis of your competition!
Serve up Content Fit for a King
Content is king, plain and simple. However, no matter how delectable the the meal, it has to entice your reader. Looking at other sites in your niche is almost like going down to your local all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.
The Meat and Potatoes of Content
The very first thing anyone should do in analyzing a blog is to look at the content, and to look at it through a different set of eyes. What I mean here is that you should look at what the meat and potatoes is of your competition. While you read their blog, ask yourself “What are they posting that I am not, and how are they posting it?” Are your competitors posting items like how to articles or are they pushing a particular service or product in a new way you never thought of?
Sit down and read through a month’s worth of content while you take notes on what you see, and how you see it. Remember this is the stuff your readers are looking at. Speaking of readers, Wired has a wonderful infographic that details how your content reaches readers, and it can be found right here!
Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
Along the lines of content, consider how content on other sites is displayed, and keep in mind there are plenty of ways to show off ideas.
- charts and graphs to help drive a particular point home,
- photos to that demonstrate a new product in use
- infographics can convey a lot of information in a short amount of time.
For example, if you look at our recent post on making your WordPress site lean and fast, we posted a chart that shows the correlation between the length of website load time to dropped viewer rate. While we could have elaborated on this over paragraphs of text, the graph was a quick and visually powerful way to illustrate the importance of making sure your website loads quickly.
As you look at all this, ask yourself how you can use these tools to enhance your readers experience on your own blog. The more ways you can vary what your readers are experiencing, the more likely you are to attract new ones.
Provide Quality Take Out Through Your Feeds
This tool allows people to share your stories, and they do not have to set foot on your site. Yes, that sounds counterintuitive, but this may be the only way some people can read your content when they are at work and their IT department has strict web policies in place.
Always remember, you want your content to grace as many screens as possible, even if that screen is an iPad and the content is being read through an RSS app.
Design Your Site for Conversation
While content is king and interaction is important, your website design will play a major role in attracting, and retaining, new visitors. You want to make sure your site is easy to navigate and the content easy to get to. Consider it the conversation you have with them when you’re not there.
On average, you have five to ten-seconds to grab a potential reader before they turn away. You do not want to lose them because they could not find your blog, or even how to contact you.
Look at how other bloggers in your niche allow for navigation. Does the menu bar stay stationary, or do visitors need to scroll all over the place just to change pages? Pick any website and see if you can do the following in under ten seconds:
- Find the blog section.
- Contact/Email the site authors.
- Subscribe to the RSS feed.
- Leave a comment on the post.
Now, look at your blog and do this exact same test.
Even better, ask friends and/or relatives that have never been to your site to do this test. Take notes of where they have problems and where they have no issues. Those areas that they have trouble, say finding your RSS feed, ask your testers where they are expecting to find this item or what you could do to make it more prominent. The more people you poll, the better data you will have to make good decisions on your own website layout.
Consider What Your Readers Want
We work to make the sites we develop to be elegant and beautiful, but do not sacrifice the user experience in order to do so. The best way to determine how good your website design is is to ask people what they like and do not like about getting around.
As part of our user analysis for a site we’re working on, we posed a question on our Facebook page.
To the same request on our Twitter page, we received these responses:
You cannot please everyone, but if you constantly hear that visitors cannot find your contact page, you may want to do some serious thinking about where you have that page located as well as the overall design and functionality of the site.
Remember, your blog (or website) has a purpose. Your efforts are about achieving a specific goal: be it a portfolio, marketing, or simply telling your story. It’s always necessary to consider how your audience receives, consumes, and processes your content.
Rinse and Repeat
You should take time every month to browse other websites as a visitor and compare how that experience stacks up to your own website. We are all individuals, and thus tastes will vary. However, gaining an understanding of what a top blog is doing can give you ideas on how to design and handle your own page, and ultimately increase your exposure.
Have we left anything out? What do you do to ensure your blog or website is keeping up with the competition? Let us know in the comments.