Two years ago Melissa Culbertson entered the blogging scene with Adventuroo, a place where she writes about “motherhood, the outdoors and capturing the adventures in the everyday.” Though new to the blogging world, she quickly realized something about the bloggers she was reading and connecting with online: they were eager to learn how to improve their blogs, and she could help.
With an extensive professional background in marketing communications (often shortened to marcom), Culbertson launched a regular series on Adventuroo called Momcomm (a play on the word marcom). She offered readers resources and education on improving their blogs, including customized blog critiques, where she reviewed each site and shared her professional knowledge and gave helpful suggestions for improvement. The Momcomm series met with great success, and earlier this year Culbertson decided to spin the series off into a blog of its own.
The blog critiques have been an especially popular feature on Momcomm, and Culbertson had to put a temporary freeze on accepting requests. Knowing all bloggers could benefit from having a critical review of their sites, though, Culbertson ultimately decided to put the power into the hands of bloggers themselves and has now published the eBook DIY Blog Critique.
The eBook helps bloggers focus on three main areas of concern: content, design, and functionality. Using hard research, helpful resources, and a sense of humor, Culbertson offers a 43-point “checklist” of sorts for bloggers to use in critiquing their own sites.
Reviews of the DIY Blog Critique eBook have been very positive. Business 2 Blogger says: “Deeply rich in resources, you can find information and links on everything from how to choose the right colors for your blog to what size your header should be to what sidebar elements to avoid. The e-book also covers the tricky question about advertising and even delves into the scary world of SEO- in ENGLISH.”
She Posts recently talked with Culbertson about her new eBook, as well as her experiences in critiquing others’ blogs and how her marketing experience factors into her involvement online.
In the eBook, you explain that your Momcomm blog experienced 3,000% growth in just three months. Why do you think readers responded so quickly and strongly to it (and specifically the the Blog Critique portion)?
I had spent time building up Momcomm as a weekly feature on Adventuroo, my personal blog. When I launched Momcomm the website earlier this year, I already had a built-in set of readers ready to subscribe, comment and follow.
My readers DIG the critiques. [author's note: the Momcomm Blog Critique queue has been closed but opens back up in September.] I think the strong reaction to them is because it’s not high-level fluffy advice.
For example, I’ll never tell someone “your header should more reflect your brand.” I’ll tell them HOW to do that. People also love the critiques because each week is a learning experience for them too (not just the lucky one being critiqued). Readers tell me all the time that they toggle back and forth between the critique and the blogger’s homepage as they read through the critique. Then they apply the advice to their own blogs, which I just love.
As for the Momcomm as a whole, bloggers are passionate about their blogs. Hobby or not, we bloggers want to improve, want to learn, want to interact. I try to make Momcomm a place where bloggers of all levels can learn tricks and tips to kick some more awesome into their blog.
There are 3 main sections of your ebook: design, navigation & functionality, and content. In your experience doing blog critiques, have you seen any one area where bloggers tend to struggle the most?
Many bloggers struggle with bigger things that they may not realize are due to shortcomings in these three areas. I get a ton of bloggers who tell me they don’t get a lot of engagement from their readers, which we all want! The solution is actually in one or all of these three areas. They could better word a question at the end of their post (content), put their social media sharing buttons in a more obvious spot (functionality) or change their hard-to-read font so that people don’t just skim their posts (design). From what I’ve seen, it all boils down to those three areas.
What particular benefits or advantages do you have as a blogger with a marketing background? What would you suggest to other bloggers who do not have a marketing background, but are wanting some of that industry perspective to help them in their blogging?
I think there are tons of advantages to having a marketing background- understanding of branding, how to write, how to promote. My marketing specialty is communication and sometimes it’s a subtle change in how you word something that makes all the difference.
That being said, it’s ABSOLUTELY not a must to having a successful blog. While some may have a natural knack for it, marketing can also be learned to an extent. For those who don’t have a marketing background, I suggest immersing yourself in marketing sites and blogs. Don’t just read blogs in your niche; read marketing sites like Hubspot, Social Media Examiner and Web Ink Now. You can apply so much of that knowledge to blogging.
Have you ever encountered flat-out resistance to any of your suggestions during a blog critique?
Surprisingly, no! Some suggestions I give aren’t easy to implement either. I think those I’ve critiqued are genuinely open to any and all suggestions, especially because try to educate them on why I’m recommending something. Some aspects about blogging are so subjective though. I could love a design that someone else hates. It’s really up to the person being critiqued to know their audience and themselves and then make the best choices based on that.
The DIY Blog Critique eBook is now on sale for just $14, and Culbertson is so confident it will help readers that she’s offering a money back guarantee. She’s also offering a sneak peak of the book before readers decide to buy – just go “Like” the Momcomm Facebook page for an exclusive excerpt.