Content and System Updates
Now that Smörgåsjobb has been up and running for a while I have been taking stock of how it worked in practice. Now it’s time to address necessary changes.
When you set up a blog, there’s a million things to think about, and as you run into problems or possibilities you are going to find out that certain aspects of your blog required a bit more thought, or some knowledge you didn’t have before. As expected of a Capability Development blog, though, this is hardly a problem but a great way of showing progress and how-to’s at the same time as upgrading my professional shop window!
The theme I use seemed relatively mobile-friendly, but as I added features and posts it turns out certain elements (such as the side menus) don’t move in place nicely and interfere with the overall look. I also went with a very minimal, business-like design, but I found out that I’d much prefer a more upbeat and professional look.
I also think my site is slow to load; likely there are too many script elements running in the background that I did not realize. The framework rolls up fine, but the posts themselves appear slowly on the front page. That’s unacceptable to me, in the long run!
Improvement: I will be on the lookout for a clean and professional but fun theme. I would prefer a relatively dynamic one, since it would allow me to tailor the design between posts, pages and menus. An option like Modular, No X-Cape or Stack might help me out, but Pepper is a free option that could be a happy medium between premium options and remaining low-investment. Either way, I am looking for:
- Fully responsive theme that looks good on mobile as well as desktop
- Modular, allowing me to get the visual effects I want (Parallax and Carousel are optional, but featured images and Fold-out Side Menu are must-haves!)
- Robust and Fast, I want to keep the number of scripts low, else I am stuck using a CDN!
Note: A Content Distribution Network (CDN) is a caching service that does the heavy lifting for your site, allowing you to load quicker. You will see a lot of these if you use a NoScript addon, because then sites break entirely if you don’t turn them on. Since a lot of people use NoScript or ScriptBlocking, I hope to avoid using a CDN, since it means people need to do extra work to read it – and extra time and work equates to people not coming back!
Expected time: April
Social Media Engagement
A lot of my traffic comes from Social Media, so being able to quickly share my posts on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin is something I really want to facilitate; the default option I had was to have a major “Share” button, and hovering over that reveals a number of sharing options. Clicking that creates a popup window that sends the post flying across time and space. This is a three-step process, and in my opinion the Sharing button is not really visible enough.
I also want to be able to provide people with an interesting news letter that goes above and beyond what I show on my blog, in addition to serving as a roundup of the posts I’ve made,
Improvement: I will implement a plugin that puts social media sharing options prominently in view, either at the top and bottom of a post or as a free-floating element that scrolls down when you do. I always thought it was very annoying I have to scroll to the top or bottom of a post in order to start sharing something, and I think having a free-floating element would be really user-friendly. However, it should not be annoying, in-your-face or blocking post content when seen on mobile.
Making sure that I have a newsletter will require two components: an email list provider and a subscription trigger. For the emails I think I will be using MailChimp, which has the option of creating email templates – which would allow me to make them in the same style as the website itself. Signing up for this newsletter would require some form of popup (sorry!), for which I’d need to install a plugin. There are free plugins that provide a basic functionality, but if I want to have the best-looking result, I may need to look into a premium plugin for this. Of course, I also need to add Subscribe buttons on the blog itself, for those people who have popup-blockers active.
Expected Time: April (after the theme is set up)
Security and Analytics
I have put up a post before about protecting your brand, and how setting up a blog introduces a number of security risks. Now that I’ve seen what attempts are made at accessing the blog, I am very glad I installed some security plugins, including an anti-spam, firewall and login blocker. Last thing I’d need was to have someone access and use my blog’s processing power for spam and intrusion!
Improvement: Seeing as how the plugins work fine, it’s not so much a matter of shoring up a weakness, but improving on a strength. If I find some option (read: money) available I would definitely upgrade one or more of these plugins to their Premium levels. I also use both Monster Insights and Analitify for my analytics needs, and once the time comes to make that decision, I will put their functions side by side and pick one for my premium investment.
Expected Time: As and when required
SEO and Structure
The posts themselves are set up in a structure that made sense when I made the blog, but now that my concept has matured I bit, I realized I’ve been writing myself in a corner. The categories especially are not the way I’d like them, and I will definitely need to rework them. Additionally, my current permalink structure (the links to each of my post) are set to “category/post-title”, which I did not fully realize. I can change that, but it will break all my external links as well as Google’s indexing.
I also think I would like to have a rating system that shows the complexity of the post; Some posts are going to be on average or common topics, but I also realize that it might be very jarring to then suddenly have a topic that goes very in-depth into job markets, psychology or HR-support structures. Creating a rating structure would allow me both a horizontal (topics in categories) and a vertical (topics by complexity) hierarchy for my posts. I think this would be more user-friendly as well as allow me to see parts where I might need to add additional content.
Improvement: Changing the categories is as simple as designing the new structure and placing all posts in their categories, which takes a bit of work but that’s not the end of the world. However, if I change the permalink structure, which I do want to do to make my posts easier in their URL structure, I will need to fix all external links. Instead, I am going to install a plugin which does a “301 Redirect”. What this means is that all incoming traffic to one of the old, broken links will be immediately sent to the new, functional blog post link. This works well, but adds a bit of a delay, so I need to make sure that my blog has better performance.
I also have a color coding plugin which color-codes post titles based on their categories, and I definitely want to keep that one active.
Adding a complexity rating can be done using Tags or Categories, but I also want to shop around to see if there are any ratings plugins that could give me additional benefits. I suspect that something normally aimed at an arts&crafts blog (beginner to advanced level ratings) might do the trick.
As for SEO, I am already using All-in-one-SEO for WordPress, which helps me get the titles and taglines Google-friendly, but I am interested in more tooling under the hood. Things like an addon to display word count, keyword density in a post (like seasoning, not too little, not too much!), or the like.
Expected Time: April-May
Event Calendar and Contact Form
I’ve had the Event Calendar active for a while, but I have not yet seen the opportunity to add events in there. This is partly due to design fail (I wanted it, but didn’t consider what I wanted to display here) and partly because it took more time to set up and maintain the blog than I thought. I also have a Contact Form, in case people want to reach me. Now, I realize that this might be superfluous given the email/twitter/facebook/linkedin integration with my blog, but I consider it user-friendly and a common courtesy for readers.
Improvements: I consider an Event Calendar to be a great option when it comes to giving people something to look forward to. If you ever intend to organize or attend events, seminars, online courses or do international consulting, these are all great options to share your presence and let people know when you’re in the area.
I want to improve my Contact Form a little, likely by adding more fields to fill in, which should emerge when making certain choices. For example, if you are selecting an option “I want to give feedback on your blog” you can then have a choice field come in that offers choices such as “I have a correction”, “I have an idea for a post” or the like.
Expected Time: May (it is one of the lower-priority changes)
I have been looking long and hard at the investments and costs for running Smörgåsjobb; it’s not a major investment, so blogging as a hobby does not break the bank, but when you see the benefits of premium themes and plugins, email lists and marketing, it can really help to upgrade a niche blog into a powerful resource that people refer to as an authority in the field. I want to make that happen, but I want to feel clean while doing that. I also think that ads, popups, PayPal tip jars and affiliate links water down the message of my blog. I want to become a resource, and authority, not a link-farmer.
I have looked into options for advertisements and affiliate marketing when it comes to Smörgåsjobb, but I don’t like running ads. You don’t always know what will be displayed next to your posts, results are very flaky on the whole, and most people have an ad-blocker these days. It didn’t feel good to me, so I opted out and closed my ad/affiliate accounts for my blog. I’d feel better if I were sponsored, or if I’d use affiliate marketing for products I actually use and endorse – but that is not an option right now.
Improvements: I have set up a Patreon account for Smörgåsjobb, meaning that anyone who wants to support my blog can do so on a per-post basis. People get what they pay for and everything is clear and transparent. No pandering disingenuous product placements, sponsored links or handouts. If I am worth it, someone might decide to chip in for a premium upgrade on my blog. If not, it means I need to keep improving my blog and content.
Patreon also has handy features in that it offers goals to strive for, various reward levels to give people more than option to support the blog, as well as engaging directly with my readers in a transparent fashion about what I do for the blog, why and when. Where Smörgåsjobb is focused entirely on content, my Patreon can be about the nuts and bolts behind the blog, leaving the channels here clear.
So in short:
- No monetization on the blog itself, you can support Smörgåsjobb on Patreon
- No tip jar, advertisements, affiliate links or sponsors – clean and focused
- Clear separation between professional content (Blog) and blog mechanics (Patreon)
Expected Time: Patreon is already live!
I thought I was well-prepared and structured when I set up my blog, but reality has a way of showing you how much work you have yet to do! The next few months are going to be busy with setting up all these changes to make Smörgåsjobb a better place, but I will keep up posting on a weekly schedule.