Many of you know that by day I am a PR manager, and a large part of my job is collaborating with bloggers and influencers to create meaningful partnerships. That means I look at a LOT of blogs and Instagram accounts every day. As I do, I make mental critiques when I notice certain elements are missing or I click on a broken link. Today I am channeling all of these passive thoughts into a (hopefully) helpful checklist for you!
Take the time to spring clean your blog. Update the look and feel, discard old posts, add new images, fix broken links, and more.
Check how your blog looks on all devices.
You may think you’re safe on this one because you purchased a mobile-friendly, responsive design. However, it’s important to view and use your blog as readers do to make sure you’re not missing a key element. Search icon? Content? Social icons? Make sure it translates across all screen sizes.
Click on your social icons.
Double check that your social links work. This is the most common issue I run into while exploring blogs. At some point, a blogger changes their Facebook page’s vanity url, or they switch their Instagram username, but they forget to update their blog links. Also, check to see if you list social links in multiple locations: header, footer, sidebar, about.
Update your “About Me” picture.
I am incredibly guilty of using a particular profile picture for way too long. I had the same LinkedIn headshot for three or four years, which would have been okay if I looked anything like the photo I used. Unfortunately, the photo featured my short, angled bob haircut, but nowadays I rock the long and natural curls. This one is currently on my to-do list again.
Update your “About Me” bio.
Really challenge yourself to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’ve struggled with bio writing since the days of LiveJournal and Xanga, yet I have no issues writing about my life and opinions constantly. My advice is to start with the small details and build from there. Why did you start your blog? When did you first realize you had passion for food/beauty/etc? Who are some of your role models? Where do you live? What’s your relationship status? I took a story telling, timeline approach to my About Me, and I’m pretty content with it. Next, if you have a mini bio in the sidebar or an author slug beneath your post like I do, check that those are all up to date as well.
Include contact information.
Listing your contact information is important if you want to receive PR emails or be contacted by fellow bloggers. A contact form is good, but an email address is better. I can’t explain why, but I don’t like contact forms. I’ve always listed both my email address and a contact form to give people the options, and I can tell you I have never once been contacted via the form. Additionally, tools that brands use for influencer outreach scrape your website for relevant data: name, email, latest blog posts, etc. If it can’t find an email, that’s one more step a brand has to take to get in touch with you.
Many bloggers focus solely on their local geography while others take a national/international approach to their content. If you have any desire to work with local restaurants, boutiques or small businesses, I highly recommend listing your location in your About Me on both your blog and social profiles. A lot of businesses, even national businesses, geotarget for various reasons. For example, I was approached by Bailey’s because I live in Denver and at the moment their Bailey’s Almande is only available in select markets.
Update your plugins.
That little update icon at the top of my dashboard is forever displaying some ungodly number. Shame on me! Get everything up to date to keep your plugins working.
Check on your plugin functionality.
WordPress and plugin creators are constantly pushing updates with new features and bug fixes. If you’re not checking plugin performance after each update, I suggest you start. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve updated my EasyRecipe plugin only to find it obliterated my custom css.
Additionally, do some extra spring cleaning on your plugin list. It’s so easy to click and install new plugins constantly, but they have the potential to take up space and slow your site speed, not to mention clutter your WordPress admin. Start by purging your inactive plugins. Then, look at the active plugins one by one and ask, What does this plugin do? Am I currently using this plugin? After 5 years of Modern Martha, I’ve accrued plenty of mystery plugins.
Install the Broken Link Checker plugin.
When your blog posts contain links that later become broken, it reflects poorly on your site to the user as well as search engines. That’s right, if you link to my site and I delete the page you linked to, your site will be negatively impacted in SEO. To keep my blog clear of broken links, I use Broken Link Checker. It scans my site automatically and alerts me anytime it detects a broken link. I can then relink the text or remove the link altogether.
Click on your menu links.
This goes back to using your site as a reader would. My menu links are all for different content categories. I like to look through them to see if there are any categories I haven’t updated in awhile. If you haven’t posted to a category in a year or more you may decide to remove the category from your menu OR add a new post to your editorial calendar to fill the gap. Sweeping the archives can also help you find old posts that should be deleted. For example, I used to create posts that featured themed Pinterest boards I created, but over time Pinterest has changed their widget coding so much, that instead of showing my boards, it shows absolutely nothing. Noooothing. Awesome. Thanks, Pinterest.
Consolidate your sidebar.
While sidebar styles vary greatly from blog to blog, there are a couple key elements the blogosphere has agreed on: about me and social links. At the time of this writing, my social links are in the header and footer (and the header travels with you as you scroll), so I left social links out of the sidebar. Some bloggers choose to not have an “About” in the sidebar if their identity isn’t central to the blog. Beyond those two elements, much of your sidebar is just opportunity for clutter. If you have an embedded Facebook page or Twitter feed, I would encourage you to remove them in favor of smaller social icons. Social icons are industry standard at this point, so these feeds often look dated.
Do a photography audit.
Look at your top 25 most-read posts. Is there room for improvement on some of your older photos? Consider adding new photos to an old post to make it more appealing.
Look at your Google Analytics.
There are a million ways to use Google Analytics to improve your blog, but the stat I look at most is Bounce Rate. In your Google Analytics dashboard, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and sort by Pageviews and adjust the time frame to span 3-6 months. Now scan the Bounce Rate column. Do you see a lot of 80-100% in there? Check on all of your posts with a super-high bounce rate and ask yourself why people are bouncing from this page. A bounce is when someone clicks on a page and instantly clicks away. It could be that your post is very short with little information to read, OR your post is dominated by pictures so it takes but a split second to digest, OR your post is ALL text and it’s overwhelming to the viewer, OR your images are broken, so the page looks spammy. There are so many possible reasons why people don’t stick around, it could have something to do with that 8 second attention span, or it could have to do with the quality of your post. Probably a combination of the two.
Clear out your drafts.
I don’t often leave posts in draft form, but once in a blue moon I venture into my drafts folder to find an abandoned post. If a post is worth saving, do it! If not, don’t feel guilty about clicking delete.