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A 12-step health check for blogs

Every now and then, I like to give my blog a health check. Visitor stats are the obvious way to see how a journal’s doing, but they don’t really tell the whole story. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of questions to help me keep an eye out for potential problem areas.  I thought some folks might find them useful too, so I’ve listed them below, along with some clarifying notes:

1.  If my blog was a person, would I want to hang out with him/her?
What’s your blog’s personality? If a stranger read your last ten blog posts, what adjectives would he/she use to describe the person who wrote them?
Click here for an earlier post which takes a more in-depth look at this question.

2.  Am I ‘social networking’ or ‘social broadcasting’?
Some folks think anything they put online is social networking. I don’t agree. If you ask me, it’s only networking when you’re interacting and connecting with people, which requires two-way communication. Anything else is what I like to call ‘social broadcasting’ (talking at people).

3.  Do the titles/headers of my blog posts stand out from the crowd?
A blog post's title or header is the first (and very often, only) part of your journal entries that folks see. Do yours grab a reader’s attention?

4.  Do I comment on other people’s blogs and do those people respond?
Whether or not you comment on other folks journals (and the way you go about it) makes a big difference to your overall blog traffic.

5.  Do people comment on my blog entries?  Do I respond?
See above 

6.  Am I predictable in a good way?
Do you post on a regular basis? Does your blog have a general theme? Do people know what to expect when they visit your blog?

7.  Are my posts interesting? If I was a first-time visitor to my blog, would I want to come back? Why/why not?
Peruse your last ten entries. If you didn’t know who wrote them, would they be of interest? How does our blogging personality come across (see ‘If my blog was a person…’ above)?

8.  Do I post too often?
How many posts do you make a week? More posts don’t automatically mean more traffic, in fact, it can lose you readers.

9.  Looking at my blog posts over the last month, how many times did I link to someone else’s blog/website/article etc?
If a blog is all about the blogger and what he/she thinks, it gets old fast. A good way to tell if you’re making that mistake is to see how often you point your readers elsewhere.

10.  How do I treat my readers? Do I make them feel like a fan or a friend?
The tone and content of your posts and comments goes a long way to shaping a reader’s perception of you. Oddly enough, ignoring comments says a lot about a blogger too, and not in a good way. 

11.  Am I having fun?
If you’re not having fun, something needs to change. 


I left #12 blank. 
How would you carry out a ‘health check’ on your blog?

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( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
12. I admit there is a higher power when it comes to blogs, and its name is Google. -)

Good list!
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Ah, Google. Where would we be without it?
Sep. 20th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
12. Are there penguins on your blog page?
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Hehehehehehe. So that's your secret :)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
It's interesting what you said about a general theme. I recently told some writer friends about your blog here (they're not on LJ, but I thought they'd be interested). And I realized that I didn't tell them about other friends' blogs, who are also writers, because there isn't a general theme. Like my own blog, some people are just socializing. But others are establishing a place for information and exchange on a particular topic. What I like about yours over some other topical blogs is that personality does come through, and a sense of fun, and always quite a warm welcome.

All your points are well taken.
Sep. 20th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the kind words, Pat, and the recommendation too. They're much appreciated :)
Sep. 20th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
I appreciate your thoughts on the frequency of blogs. Most of the advice I've seen (and admittedly, I've not done an exhaustive study of blogging advice) says Blog Every Day. But I know for myself, when I'm looking at a blog, I check the average number of blog posts per week. If it's up around 7 or more, I may still subscribe, but I don't include it in my Writers and Art folder (even if it's about Writers and/or Art) which means I don't look at it every day. Those blogs (the ones not in the Writers and Art folder) only get read if I decide to look to see what a particular blog is saying, or if I get really bored and there aren't any new posts in the W&A folder, which doesn't happen often. Also, if you're a writer who blogs, how can you possibly have time to write anything else if you're blogging every day?

I also agree that the tone of the blog is important. I am much more drawn to blogs whose writers seem to care about their readers, and who aren't complaining all the time. (Then if they do let loose with a complaint blog,like about censorship for example, it has more impact.) And I'm touched when bloggers take the time to comment on my comments, although I don't expect it always. I'm thinking of starting a blog in the new year, so I appreciate your helpful suggestions.
Sep. 20th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Hi Kathy,

There are no golden rules in blogging - I always say the trick is to find out what works best for you and do that, a lot. I post four to six times a week, but some people just post once in a blue moon. It really depends on what you're trying to achieve with your blog.

Have you decided on a blog host yet? I prefer Live Journal because of the comment thread system, which allows you to easily follow a conversation, and also the friends page, which makes reading other folks blogs a lot easier.

Thanks for the input :)
(no subject) - ext_258289 - Sep. 20th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Sep. 20th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 20th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
As stated in a blog post last week, I've fallen down on the job. It's too much about ME lately. I need to rectify that. I do most of the other things I feel I should be doing (your list is GREAT!) so that's something.

This is a community. All its members need to participate to keep it alive and enjoyable. It's a great venue for writers, who live words 24/7 no matter what other jobs they have.
Sep. 20th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
When you're about to have a book published, a little upswing in the number of 'Me' posts is understandable. I wouldn't worry about that :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Sep. 20th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Sep. 20th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 20th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
I just thought of something while I was looking at your other comments! An agent at a writer's workshop I attended was asked if he thought it was good for writers to blog, and he said something I thought was worthwhile. His answer was, "Not if it scratches the itch to write." So maybe item 12 should be, "Is more of my writerly energy going into my blog than into my writing?"
Sep. 20th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that's a good one. Thanks Karen :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Sep. 20th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 21st, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
Hehehehe, nice try :P
Sep. 21st, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
12. Do I mix it up every so often and do something unexpected? If I do, how do people respond?
Sep. 21st, 2010 11:01 am (UTC)
Great point, Katherine :) In fact, brainstorming that 'Try something out-of-the-box' approach is how I came up with the idea for the Puddle awards.
Sep. 21st, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
12 could be, Do I offer a piece of cake to my visitors?

All very good points, Jon. This teaching thing has got my blog writing all twisted. I am preparing power points all the time. And when I'm not doing that I am doing edits on my WIP. I want to write something for my blog, but every time I sit down to do it, my brain gives me nothing. Ugh!!!!
Sep. 21st, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
'I want to write something for my blog, but every time I sit down to do it, my brain gives me nothing.'

I know that feeling. Next time you get a few minutes, instead of trying to write a blog post, why not brainstorm a few ideas for posts (say) twenty or so.

I find it really helpful to write posts in advance, or at least the bare bones of posts. A quick check of my ideas folder tells me I have about fifty PiPs (Posts in Progress). Some of them are all but finished, others have just a couple of notes and some just a title. It really takes the pressure off on the days when I fall behind.

(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Sep. 21st, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 21st, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 21st, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for posting this. I'm relatively new to the blogosphere as I only started blogging this summer, so it's wonderfully helpful advice. It would also be great 'How To' advice for someone just starting a blog to point them in the right direction. In fact (see No.9) I may link to this post when I blog later this week :o)
Sep. 21st, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Jenny.

Anytime you want to link to my posts is fine by me :)
Sep. 21st, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
A health check? Seriously? XD I guess my poor, neglected blog's muddling through then... Most of it lately has been birthday wishes (for the past several months), with the occasional YouTube embed.
Sep. 21st, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
The Summer months throw everything out, but in a good way, don't you think? :)
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Sep. 21st, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 21st, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
I view my blog primarily as a way to keep in touch with my friends, actually. And while it's good to be interesting to one's friends and so forth, analyzing it the same way someone trying to create a base of readers does would be ... kind've scary. :)
Sep. 21st, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
For sure. This is just aimed at folks who are looking to increase their blog readership :)
Sep. 22nd, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Doing a health check periodically is an excellent suggestion, Jon. It's way too easy to put energy into setting up a blog and then settle into a rut that lets it get stagnant. I totally agree with Karen on checking that blogging isn't taking the place of "real" writing, but after that my #12 would be "Freshen the site periodically." Updating personal info if applicable, checking that sidebar links still work, choosing fresh images and header, all help renew the blog's appeal. It doesn't look professional when a blog entry celebrates the launch of a new book while the sidebar or another page mentions, "Coming in April 2009." :)

Carol Garvin
Sep. 22nd, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
You saw that, huh? ;)
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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