Spring cleaning my flat is as much part of April for me as eating Easter eggs. I am quite good at keeping on top of day to day matters and maintaining a level of cleanliness that my mum could cope with living in, but twice a year I like to go deep (and as I may be moving in the next few months, this is even more necessary.)
My blog is now just over one year old and it is my first opportunity to give it a spruce up. Like with a home, I bet you're quite good at keeping on top of the obvious 'chores': answering emails, checking your comments etc. But when was the last time you really went deep and thought about cleaning up the experience for your readers?
So, is it time to Spring clean your blog? Well, of course....it's not warm enough to go outside, and unlike washing your carpets, drinking hot chocolate while performing blog 'cleaning' is positively encouraged...as are biscuits!
- The more stuff on your blog's homepage, the longer it will take to load. Take down any buttons that advertise past events (link-ups, package swaps, hops) or events you no longer take part in. Also consider using an Image Map for your links rather than separate buttons. You can save lots of space by using this approach. Something Swanky offers a great tutorial for making a tabbed system using Picmonkey and Image Maps.
- Review your current button swap/sponsor system. If your page looks cluttered, with many misaligned buttons it can be unappealing to navigate. You want your reader to stick around and click your other content. If they can't find it, they probably won't take the time to look.
- Check that your design is consistent and not too 'busy'. If you have more than 10 different fonts on your home page, then it is disorientating. You don't need a fancy design to do this. Pick 2-3 fonts you like and stick to them!
- Go through each of your permanent pages on your blog and check the relevance of the information. This is particularly important on pages like the 'About Me' page. People read your blog to get to know you. If you've had kids, changed job, gained new hobbies that are regularly shared on your blog then this is a great time of year to ensure your information reflects these changes.
- If you have a project gallery, check that you have added all of your tutorials. I know I need to update mine as I have been very short of time the last few months. Likewise, if you have a page which links to the blogs you like to read, then update that too...you will likely have made new friends over the last few months that deserve a spot in your top blog list.
- Take a new
mug shotI mean photograph to welcome people to your blog. This is a priority for me as mine is more than a year old. Watch this space to see what lucky snap makes it onto my sidebar in 2013.
- You can improve the reader experience further by making sure your page loads quickly. Host photographs via Picasa or Photobucket and then link to them rather than uploading lots of images onto your blog. I use Photobucket as you can copy the URL link really easily. This step by step guide by Small Business is really useful for the first-timer.
- To speed loading time up even more, you could also consider truncating your blog posts. It is a big decision to make for your blog, but it does have the benefit of displaying more posts on your home-page, which is exceptionally useful if you write really long tutorials or guides. Anja at Cocalores has just released a great tutorial on how to make this change. I have been thinking about this now for 6 months and still haven't decided what to do!
- Make it really easy for someone to follow your blog. Place links to your social media by your signature, as well as in your sidebar to make that snap decision to follow you easy to do. (You can see my graphic below as an example of one way you can do this.) Also, please don't put your follow buttons in the bottom half of your blog. It's not a treasure hunt people!
4. Quality control
- If you have a number of posts which help people find information around Blog Land, you need to check the links to make sure they are still valid. You can't obviously check every link in a few hundred blog posts, but the ones that are link-based posts should be checked each year to make sure the tutorials or 'freebies' are still alive and kicking.
- Check your own links, particularly your own blog buttons and tabs. There is nothing more frustrating than finding one of your pages has been offline for an indefinite period of time without anyone telling you.
- Spot check some of your posts to make sure they truly reflect you. Take care you're happy with the standard of writing, formatting and style of each one. You can always retrospectively tweak content, or remove it if you are visibly cringing whilst reading. I did this recently and realised that I have lost some of my humour in my writing as I have increased the number of craft posts on Craftbotic. Unless I find a way of making craft 'funny', then I am going to need to balance my content better. Reflecting on your writing is such a great way as developing as a blogger.
- Try and resist redesigning your whole blog. Your readers need some consistency in design to recognise your brand. If you do want a redesign, consider investing in a pre-made or custom design and work closely with your designer to get something you will want and will love for a LONG time.
What do you do to Spring Clean your blog? I'd love for you to leave your tips and tricks in the comments below. Also, have you noticed that I have changed the alignment of my blog posts so that it's no longer centred? Seriously, what do you think?
Happy Thursday, peeps!