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Blog Critique: Life on the Buy Side

Getting an outside opinion on your blog is always a good idea, but especially at the beginning, and especially when you have a great deal of expertise in comparison to your average target audience member.

Why is this?

A little thing called “The Beginner’s Mind”.

When we start learning a topic there are all these questions that we need to answer. Once we have moved forward in our understanding we forget these questions, or even worry if we should cover such things for fear of being patronising.

We don’t always want to appeal to beginners, but we MUST cater to people who have not seen our site before and make them feel welcome. First time beginners are even more important to make feel welcome.

lifeonthebuyside.com, the subject of today’s critique, is a perfect example.

“John Q” (a pen name) has done a great deal very well:

  • A good choice of niche with a interested audience and a clear ROI – ROI, or Return On Investment, is not essential to have a successful blog but it sure does help. If people can perceive a clear benefit from reading then they are more likely to invest their time, or even money, with you and companies will be more willing to invest advertising dollars if that is how you want to monetize. When selling a product or consulting then it is even more important that people will imagine the investment being worthwhile. Identifying an eager audience makes attracting attention easier, providing you can put forward a unique hook or take on that niche.
  • Memorable name with good tagline – Once you have identified an audience with a clear need, then you need to think up a memorable name and provide a clearly beneficial tagline. Having “Guide to a Career in Investing” tells the reader that they are going to be helped on their way to their big dream mission. Here’s how to create catchy blog names if that is something you are struggling with.
  • Premium blog theme with good legibility – If you want your site to be usable, attractive, stable, secure, work well with search engines and look credible, then I recommend always going with a premium theme or custom design from a good designer. Even more so if you want to attract a “professional” (or wannabe professional) audience.
  • Signs of credibility – In the about, even though there is not much to go on, some creds are dropped in the form of qualifications. Even a Sitelock button to give the impression of security and trustworthiness. With a pen name, obviously those things could be made up, but we will give benefit of the doubt right now!
  • Promoting with Community – Right now the main promotion has been from engaging the community in discussion forums and some guest posting – that has clearly worked but can be taken further.

Now obviously this is a critique so I need to share what should or could be improved, right?

  1. Increase engagement – There is little to suggest that the audience is engaged, so that needs to be worked on.
  2. Attract beginner readers – The products are guides that would appeal to anyone who wants to become a financial analyst or has interest in the industry, therefore the strategy needs to be to appeal to those people and deliver them the relevant offers when appropriate.
  3. Welcome new visitors – At present a new visitor is dropped into the site and expected to know where they are, what they can do, and where to go next. Far better to orient new readers.

Let’s take a look at what I mean …

What are your first impressions?

The site isn’t unattractive but there are certainly things that can be done to make it more welcoming.

  • Graphical header? – Images in the header to show rather than tell would be good, both to suggest the topic and make it more visually inviting. Perhaps some iconic “Wallstreet” photography?
  • More images in posts – Following the imagery line, a better graphics to text balance?
  • What Would Seth Godin Do – Perhaps use the WWSGD plugin to welcome new readers?
  • Boost Your About – I realise hiding your true identity might feel important, but other pseudonym authors might have approaches that could work for you. Take Johnny Truant for example, who has a fake name but presents a “real” persona. What is your story? How can people connect more to you as a human being? You can still build relationships and connections even without using your own identity, it is just harder.

Those are small, easy to make tweaks. Now for the big stuff.

Bring Readers Into the Fold with Orientation Content

Your “About” information is a key piece of Orientation Content, but you can do more.

What is Orientation Content? It is content that welcomes a brand new visitor, explains key concepts, and gives the reader a starting point.

  • What will they want to know right now? – The about page is an example of something people might want right now, but also it could be a burning question that is on their minds, such as if your site is about Widgets, you might have a piece of content that answers “What is a widget?”. In this case, do you need to have “What is Financial Modelling?”
  • What will they need to come back to reference later? – Don’t just think of beginner content as something people consume and discard, good in depth resources and reference material such as glossaries and jargon-busters can become useful years after the visitor firsts discovers them AND get linked and bookmarked over and over. This is one of the reasons Wikipedia does so well in search rankings!
  • Where should they start? – What is the first step? Could you have a “Start Here” piece of content?
  • Where are they going? – What is the big dream, the end goal, the destination? In my case good portion of my readers want to build a business around their knowledge, ideas and expertise. The dream is around freedom, being helpful, a well-known, liked and trusted expert or advisor. How can you share your vision, or your reader’s vision? What is it really like to work in the money industry?

The key point is you want to grab the visitors attention so they will be drawn into the site rather than click away, and be incentivised to want to stick around.

Promote Engagement to Gain Insights

Interacting in community forums is a brilliant way to understand the prospect you are trying to serve. Don’t stop there though, once you have a group of people who regularly read then you should be able to gain insights there too. Why? Because these are the people you attracted to your site. For whatever reason they connected with you when others didn’t.

  • Cross-promote between your community, blog and social media – Drive people from Twitter to your blog, from the forums to your blog and twitter, and from your blog to your social media accounts. This isn’t just about having buttons but about mentioning it as a call to action in posts and your emails (which will be mentioned in a moment).
  • Ask for comments – At the end of a post give an open-ended call for comments. If you ask for comments and don’t get them, invite people from the forum and your social media accounts to comment. Email people and ask.
  • Get interactive – Starting with comments, move to polls, surveys, maybe a teleseminar or webinar? Show that you want to help and that you have answers to share. (Great for traffic and list building too). You can start putting on Teleseminars and Q&A calls for free using Freeconferencecall.com and other related services.

Build Your Email List

I just mentioned that you could build an email list by putting on expert telephone conference calls, as Q&A, seminars or interview authorities. You can also use a list to build engagement, promote your products, get insights, and so on.

Most important for this discussion though is it might be a great way to deliver orientation content that naturally leads to your paid products.

Consider a sequential email delivered beginners course that gently leads the reader by the hand from absolute zero to being ready to take the next step and book your products? That would mean getting more sales would be a case of getting people onto your list.

Right now the email subscription is a tiny feedburner button. Instead build a prominent email signup box using an autoresponder service such as Aweber.

Bringing it All Together

Here is how it all comes together, from first-time visitor through to helping your prospect or customer in achieving the big goal:

 

Content Marketing Stepping Stones from Prospect to Customer
Content Marketing Stepping Stones from Prospect to Customer

At the bottom we have where the prospect is right now. Due to your community engagement you are already showing empathy and being helpful – that is fantastic, but as you have identified that is difficult to scale. I would not give up hanging out in forums but you might scale back if you need to. Rather than pull back, instead increase your guest posting and partner up with people who have large audiences that match your target market.

Be clear that you understand, have been where they are now, and that you have experience and knowledge that can help. Lead people to sign up to your email list and autoresponder sequence.

This free content will give more clarity, a path to follow, and early results. It pre-sells the next-steps that they have to pay for, but brings them closer to their goal.

All the while you need to remind people of the goal, why they want it, the difference it will make, how their life might look when they achieve it. This is because people need motivation to stay on course and not get discouraged. These things are not easy – we all know how many people give up before they achieve what they set out to do.

Final Thoughts and a Valuable Prize

Lifeonthebuyside.com is a great blog with a lot of potential. I am looking forward to seeing where you go with it. In my view it needs some minor theme tweaks – such as interactive elements and promoting your best stuff (even just putting a best of or most popular in the sidebar) – content that takes the reader on a journey, and actively promoting email subscriptions.

Got some feedback? Here is an incentive 🙂

One random commenter with feedback, suggestions or thoughts about lifeonthebuyside.com will win a 30min critique call on the telephone, skype or gotomeeting. If you want me to give you advice about YOUR site or blog, then leave something in the comments right now to help John Q with his 🙂

(Competition over, sorry if you missed out!)

Update: Winners!

Random.org served up the result, all that is left to do is announce …

We had so many entries I decided to give away two calls, so ….

Congratulations to Thomas Kristensen and Matthew Bailey!

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Comments

  1. Chris, this was an exceptional post. I’m still struggling to keep current my company’s blog and even though i KNOW what I’m supposed to do, this is the sort of thing that provides a swift kick in the behind.

    It’s easy to forget the basics – especially when we’re all fragmented into a million different directions. Circling back helps to keep us on track.

    Keep up the good work. I really value your content.

  2. While I liked that your site is super clean and easy to navigate, one of the things I felt it was missing was personality. It reads as very “generic.” Maybe that’s your intent since you also blog under a pen name, but I would suggest not being afraid to let a little of the person behind the blog shine through…in whatever way feels appropriate to you.

    • I think the blogger would want to capitalize on the “Insider” aspect of why the site is not giving full name. Perhaps switch the wording to: Guide to a Career in Investing from an “Insider” or Insider’s Guide to a Career in Investing. Then expand on that with the About Page (perhaps add a bulleted list such as: Insider Tips will help you learn * * * * *)
      Could this be a case where you can take a weakness (trust issue) and turn it into a strength? I’d drop the Buyside last name and go with your real first name and initial. Will be curious to see where this site goes after all the critique.

  3. Hi Chris,
    My first impression was underwhelmed by that image. I would like to have the option to read or hear from the person behind the blog. The about page also has no photo.
    I would suggest John has a video welcoming the reader saying who he is and what will you do for me the reader. Why would people be coming there- what’s the problem that you solve for me. how I will help you.

    Just my initial thoughts, you have highlighted many points and there is nowhere for people to get more info- the free offer etc

  4. First impression: It’s a little boring. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, maybe it’s a lack of images to break all that white background. Maybe some more navigational stuff in the sidebar would be helpful too.

    The topic of the blog isn’t my strong side, so I can’t vouch for the viability of the content. I presume it’s good, but personally I’d be a little hesitant accepting advice from a pen named person. I want to connect to a real person if I’m going to accept advice on anything.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  5. Hey Chris / John Q,

    I agree with the sidebar being a little empty and not fully maximized. Although simple is better than cluttered in my opinion, A widget that displays the top posts and top comments and even a better widget (maybe intertwined with the last couple) displaying the different categories. Something nice and clean to go with the rest of the site.

    A “Start here” page is definitely an asset for new readers to get an idea of the valuable information they will learn by sticking around.

    I think maybe a better pen name or a little more persona would be great as well. I’m sure many people use pen names but John Q is like using John Smith. People know right away that it’s probably fake and it kind of takes away a little bit of the credibility factor. I ask myself “Who am I listening to?” “Is he really a financial analyst?” or just someone pretending to be. I suppose you may not be willing to add a picture but maybe just some great images that involve money or the industry to spruce it up a little.

    Great job. Like the colors. Hope you do well with it!

  6. I love the clean look of the site.
    I would like to see a logo because the header needs a little bit more – something.
    I would add a sign up form with a cookie above the current orange banner.
    A tweet this button at the top right of each post would be good and also a FB like button at the end of each post.
    Either a question or call to some type of action at the end of each post. He could even suggest the guide he’s selling.
    I would like to see a photo of the actual blogger as pen names and anonymity just don’t appeal to me. Unless he’s being secretive for a reason of course. This would put me off though.
    If he’s not hiding then a video would be good too 😉
    Related posts at the end of each post.
    List of popular posts somewhere in the side column.

    Ali x

  7. I really love this critique Chris! So without even reading what you wrote I took down a few notes of my own and then of course you covered them…but what I initially wrote down was from someone never having seen the site before…here are three things that came to my mind right off the bat…

    1. My first thought was to get an email subscription box right there where that green box is. Now while that may very well be one, it did not appear to be to me and the one thing you want more than anything with this site is email subscribers…that said, also include an opt-in email box directly in the actual post content or at least at the end.

    2. The pen name idea is great for johnny b. truant and james chartrand but I had a different thought when it comes to financial information. I would use a real name and here’s why. When it comes to financial advice and information and guidance, especially investing that is just one of those topics where I really need to trust someone a lot to keep reading and conversely take their advice. So in my mind, a real name would make me feel better…and when I say real name…I mean a real believable name whereas john q. buyside just sounds “fake”.

    3. My only last thought was the pages with the little visa symbol. If this is for something to buy, then there might want to be a little bit more build up of who it is, what benefits it offers, and quite possibly offer something for free like an informative video or free 10-step guide or something….just having a little visa symbol there did not build up enough trust for me to click it 🙂

    I love the look and the idea and these are the only things that came to my mind and I would personally love to see this blog take off as the topic is one we definitely need to see more of 🙂

  8. A huge tip to help keep visitors on the site is added a “related articles” block at the end of each article. Also a “popular posts” block.

    From experience, I can tell you that the related articles boxes skyrocketed my on-site time and my page views.

    • And on Chris’s great suggestion also only add what is absolutely necessary to your sidebars, etc. When people have more choices they make less decisions 🙂

      This is highly debatable but if you only offer them to read other other articles and an email opt in..then they have less decisions to make and usually choose at least one…

  9. Not a bad site. I do think the header could be improved on. And he definitely needs to have ab opt in box in the sidebar to start building a list.

  10. The site does not feel personal enough. It’s way too corporate for my taste. I would not want to invest here.

  11. The site does not feel personal enough. It’s way too corporate for my taste. I would not want to invest here.

    To further this idea, I suppose you can say the brand is not well enough established. Sure, there are lots of investment sites that are not personal, but they probably have an established brand that builds trust somehow.

    I went to the Twitter feed to find our how “real” this person is and got no good feedback on that. There is no 2 way engagement there. Just as you mentioned, the engagement on the site is lacking, too.

    Does JQB *need* to stay anonymous? If so, then engagement is a bigger challenge, but not impossible. He would just need to say Hey, I’m staying anonymous because of XYZ!’ and at least we would have a reason to be more accepting.

    It’s a trust issue.

  12. I wouldn’t trust a guy for one second who’s giving advice to wannabe financial advisers and hiding behind a pseudonym. I don’t care how pretty his blog is, that’s a serious trust issue.

    Why does he need to hide? Is he doing this behind his employer’s back? Is this just another example of the ethical challenges facing Wall St. insiders?

    Does he need to hide because he’s got no actual experience to base his advice on?

    Is he in the witness protection program and trying to make some money without blowing his cover?

    Come on, man (or woman) up and tell us who you are. Until you do that, everything else is just window dressing.

  13. So as to not repeat some of the excellent assessments above, I think the big neon green icon on the right is competing with the bright orange in the theme. I think a nice neutral gray with white text and orange “buy side” text would compliment the existing theme and appear much more cohesive.

  14. Great critique. You were thorough, and gave many detailed items for work. Doesn’t leave a lot for me.

    One thing I might suggest: Connect them with other folks you trust.

    A good way to get folks coming back is to connect them with each other and with others you do network with. Especially if it’s a niche area. New people likely know very few others involved in that field.

  15. John Q. Buyside? Really? Seems like all he wants to do is sell his e-books and I have not idea who he really is. With no real content on his site, I have zero trust in this person and wouldn’t buy a thing from him.

  16. About Page!

    From experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if the About Page is currently the most visited page on his site. That’s a piece of real estate that is currently not being used to its full potential on his site.

    I would start by making the language on that page more engaging and conversational, throw in a picture (could be a kind of fun blurred out photo), and then throw in some links to some of his best work. (Another option in lieu of the “Start Here” page).

  17. Chris – Thanks a ton for the advice! Lots of helpful info that I can work with.

    Thanks to the commenters as well – this has been a great experience.

    A quick word on the pen name since there has been a lot of discussion on it: I am actual portfolio manager at an asset manager with about $3B in assets under management. This blog is on the side and, for the time being at least, I’d prefer not to cross the streams.

    Perhaps I need to do a better job giving my backstory without giving my identity away. Any thoughts?

    • I agree John that you may not want to cross the streams but what you are seeing here is people seeking authenticity. Now if the goal of the blog is to sell ebooks or rather make money then you can approach it in a way to build authority and trust.

      If the goal is to teach others (and there is a lot of money in teaching) then I would get rid of the ebook suff since you really are just starting out anyway and won’t sell a lot of the books. So focus on building high quality content, getting subscribers, and creating a community.

      Then…you can offer up some courses or information products where it seems appropriate for your audience 🙂

      and there are plenty of pen names out there that sound really good…I just think “jon q. buyside” really sounds scammy.

      • I’m a finance guy, not exactly a creative type. 😉

        Any suggestions on a better pen name?

        • Roland N. Dough

        • Well,

          You could pick one like Warren, or Dave or Jim. Something that sounds a tad more authentic and feels a little more real. Heck, you don’t really even need to have your last name be there.

          Look around at various names and pick a few you really like that stand out to you.

          But I would most definitely pen out your goals, and the goals you have for your readers and where you want them to end up and state that.

          Then begin adding really good (and very helpful) content and build up that trust…you want to be guy people come to when they need investment advice – take a look at the Charles Schwab site…that one just feels like you want to invest with them…and thus you have a base trust factor already going just by the presentation of the site and the content 🙂

        • John – also, I see you are using Thesis and I have also used it but just one little suggestion….WooThemes has some very nice and professional themes for those in the finance arena out of the box and also, there are some great Thesis Skins you can get. I just set up a site a few days ago to learn more about thesis and used a nice skin for it – I think I used Thesis Play which was pretty nice in terms of font, etc.

        • How about just a pair of initials? JB. RM. WB. Whatever. Because you’re in a non-jokey profession, a jokey name will likely create distrust, whereas initials could refer to an actual person who prefers to remain discreet…

        • perhaps something like
          “The Hidden Asset Manager”
          or
          “AMBDBBY” – Asset Manager by Day, Blogger by Night
          you’ll of course come up with something better but this direction I think will work better for you.

          Johnny B Truant is not a great example for you as I think her brand is a little more about defying and examining convention while your are focused on pure authority – you are the expert so if you need to protect your day job I like the idea addressing the concept of who you are a little more aggressively. If you get good and get a good following trying to guess who you are will be a parlor game of sort within your own space.

  18. I would just suggest having some sort of logo to make yourself more memorable to your audience.

    It’s somewhat important for people not only to associate themselves with your colors/fonts, but also with an image.

    People think in pictures.

  19. I found it a bit offputting that four of John’s six header links lead to paid products (and the other two are “Home” and “About”). Links to free material (a guide to the blog posts organized by subject? the orientation content Chris suggested?) or free resources found elsewhere would make me more likely to see John as someone who is as interested in teaching as in making money from his products.

  20. When it comes to the financial industry, a pen name isn’t going to build confidence and I am wondering about compliance issues–since I did marketing for a FA for a large national firm I wouldn’t trust the site.

    Why?

    First, I don’t know who is behind it. No pictures, the about is too vague. Plus, no address or contact info is actually on the site. In some cases brevity is good but in this case, it seems suspect.

    I understand perhaps wanting to not disclose who you are based on conflicts in the industry but when it comes to the financial world I think it just raises objections.

    Next, the images (other than social media) are poor quality. Get a logo or get a pic up with some better graphics and that will help a lot. If this is a financial person (who is selling a few items from almost every nav bar link) it needs to have a unique identity and crisp, sharp images that convey high quality and reflect wealth not boot strap.

    Too harsh? Sorry but seriously that is what hit me right off the bat.

    I’d suggest adding some useful content to build engagement and moving the nav bar links into sales images on the sidebar.

    They look like they are designed as landing pages but don’t really do the job upon perusal. The language isn’t friendly and is a bit too removed.

    You might create unique sidebars that help the person learn more about the topic and why they need the resource you provide.

    In essence, create resources or engaging content for people and then sell.

    I’d also like something else in the sidebar at the top instead of getting lead directly to a sales page.

    Photo with short snippet about why the blog exists and an invite for an autoresponder perhaps? Or how about a short poll they can take and see the results instantly?

    Answering the “What’s in it for me?” for the visitor should be something you address. WWSGD plug-in (mentioned earlier) might be a good idea but I’d spend some time looking at sites involved in finance and explore how the top ones look and how they lead the visitor.

    Finally, good job in getting a site up and having resources for people. Getting help early will really help you progress quickly and hopefully prove to be a good investment–pun intended!

  21. Yeah – I think if I were to sum it up after posting my original comments and then reading others…it would be that it’s a very excellent topic, great looking start and the focus areas are:

    1. lack of trust and authority
    2. thin content with too much focus on sales
    3. pen name not authentic enough to provide confidence

    I would also add that this site really needs to provide a vision for me (the reader). Where will I end up? Where will it take me? What is the plan for me?

    See….blogs all to often lack the key element of providing a good mission and vision for the readers – this is very important because it starts the trust process and it helps me understand where I’m headed 🙂

  22. Ten-second impression on the blog, without reading the critique first –

    1. the big green box says ‘…learn how to model’. that is confusing, is this a modeling site? The alt text explains what you mean. Suggest rewording this to emphasize a benefit of subscribing, e.g. “Fast-track your financial career with timely insider tips”

    2. the tagline says “the insider’s guide to a career in investing”. That is about as exciting a tagline as “A Blog With No Readers”. Where’s the benefit?

    3. the first post headine is not compelling, and is mostly jargon. Who is your audience? Professional investors, or people that might want to be professional investors? If the latter, ditch the jargon, and write snappier headlines.

    4. the next article headline is even more dull and jargon-laced than the first. I’m out of here.

    I’m probably not your target audience, but I might be, or I might know someone who is, if I understood what you were talking about.

    OK, now I’m going to go read the critique.

  23. I suggest giving some “hard facts” about each of your ebooks, starting with how many pages, for example. Also, a link to a sample page of the ebook so people can get a better sense of whether it’s a real product or not. If they see it’s nicely laid out and the sample you provide is well-written with clearly good content, they’ll be more primed to trust and buy.

    HTH

  24. Wow! How much more thorough can you get for a critique? You’ve covered everything, Chris, plus all the commenters have added great ideas too, I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been mentioned except to agree with some of the themes:
    – improve simplicity, offer less choices
    – increase personality
    – add meaningful graphics or pictures
    – use common language

    Thanks for providing such solid content, Chris.

  25. You should always keep your call to action and text above the fold. You want people to see immediately what you offer and give them a way to buy that offer or find out more.

    Right now, the area above the fold (the first 1/3rd or so of your website) shows me a big vote button and the green box. As Chris said, the What Would Seth Godin Do? plugin is a great start, but as a first-time visitor who would be interested in your offer, I want to know:

    A) Who you are and why I should trust you
    B) What you’re offering me and
    C) Why I should take you up on that offer.

    Other than that, Chris nailed it! You’ve got the beginnings to a great site. Keep up the good work 🙂

  26. I’m not sure if I like the orange and black banner, but it’s strong. I happen to like both colors-maybe use them differently.

    Then sidebar needs some work. It’s a great place to add value.

    Huge potential, your niche doesn’t seem very crowded!

    The Franchise King®
    Joel Libava
    #SOBcon11

  27. First, I agree with everyone – the trust factor is very limited.

    A potential suggestion: you niche down a bit and focus more on college students looking to enter the investment space – that way all your blog posts could also be focused a bit more in terms of providing value for a specific audience – granted this means your customer base is likely a little more limited and once they get the job they no longer need you, but it will also allow you to be an expert in something specific.

    The About Page copy needs to be re-done – I read this line and I’m gone. I read this line and I’m 21 and I’ll never come back:

    “Life on the Buy Side is written by John Q. Buyside. Who is John Q. Buyside? With a name like that he must know what he’s talking about!”

    Typo on top 100
    “Because I know remember what it was like as a young job seeker with minimal funds”

    Good luck!

  28. My first reaction was being somewhat repelled by the very large “vote” badge – I would have connected more to an image of a person – there is nothing subtle or special(to me)about badges. The appearance, to me, is not sophisticated or “testimonial”, to inspire confidence to read on. I have to admit, though, that the subject is not one I would seek out.

    Just some thoughts,

    Ian

  29. I would write the about page from first person instead of in third person. Right now it is a bit cold sounding.

    Also-the subscribe by email should be highlighted and not easy to miss.

  30. Hi Chris,

    The first thing that jumps out at me is that there is no “real” person attached to the site. Of course it is different for everyone, but I buy into people first and the message second.

    I didn’t go any further than the about page.

    I would suggest he follow your lead. It’s easy to see that you are the driving force behind your site. Your name appears several times as does your image (along with your clones.)

    Web sites are like political campaigns. You need to show up. People need to see you, get a sense of who you are and what your story is, then they will take the next step and invest in your story telling.

    DD

  31. I went to the site to investigate the pages and upon closer inspection love the orange and black, but think visual man. Each page needs a visual connect. It’s a visual medium and as beautiful as the orange and black are they only reach a minimally visual person who is probably picking up a newspaper today. Blog people love colors and shapes and thought bubbles.

    Even if the visual is a chart, it still gives some other place for the eye to go when you pause in thought while reading. Since your talking money, show money, the people checking out your blog want to raise more capital and you can inspire.

  32. If John Q wants to be an expert in his niche then he needs to make the design more professional looking. It’s too boring. I do like the colors but it looks like a very basic template.

    The about page does need to say more about his experience. Why would I want to read this page? What qualifications do you have? I know he wants to remain anonymous and probably not put a pic but a photo goes a long way to making that connection with readers.

    I am not a fan of people writing about themselves in the third person. It’s not a press release.

    I see there’s discussion about a new pen name. Good idea.

    This site has potential and I believe he could provide great free content that will lead eventually to selling his own products. But need to make that great impression first.

  33. Chris,

    That was a review well worth the time to read with plenty of lessons to apply to other projects. I’m putting in my name and my main blog, MoldBlogger, for the 30 minute slot, either slot one or two :).

  34. Kevin Houston says:

    Some short points (all negative-sorry!)
    1. Dealt with in other posts but that name John Q Buyside has to change. Why need a pen name if you are doing something legitimate?

    2. The big green box looks like someone else’s advert – it doesn’t seem to fit the colour scheme.

    3. The badge makes it look like a political site.

    4. In what way does a ninja learn financial modeling? We all know ninjas are cool and ultra good at their job but they aren’t connected with financial modeling (as far as I know).

    5. It is not clear which ebook format is being used. Is it pdf or do I need a Kindle? Puts me off buying.

    — Kevin

  35. I agree with those indicating the person’s real name is a must for a site with this area of focus. Otherwise, what is the person trying to hide?

    Complete transparency is a must in the financial services sector these days.

    As well, I would suggest placing the link in the top navigation for the About page at the end of the right. It will likely be only accessed by some one new; once they know what this person is ‘about’ they’ll likely not go to it again.

    The Top 100 link in the top menu is a bit misleading. It simply takes the visitor to a page where they can buy an ebook. I would rather see, yes for complete transparency, if a page is to have resources to purchase that the navigation button indicate this with a title of ‘Resources’ or ‘eBooks’ or ‘Reference Material’ or …. etc.

    Same for the ‘Primer’ page.

    Same for the Interview Guide top navigation link; again, it just takes the person to a page where they can buy another eBook.

    I don’t mean to be critical, but it seems like the pages simply are there to sell stuff. Why would I return? ‘Ask not what I can do for the site, ask what the site can do for me’.

    I hope that helps,
    Dan

  36. Telling a great story will really help with the about section. If you do want to keep the pen name make it an outrageous story, kinda like Dos Equis has done with The Most Interesting Man Alive. Then you can have a picture of yourself below as his assistant or something.

  37. Chris,
    Here are my initial thoughts about this site.

    1. He needs to add more information to his About page. Maybe a little more detail about his credentials. Anyone can claim they have an MBA and give advice.

    2. He needs to add a welcome box in his sidebar above the fold.

    3. He needs an opt-in box. Why not offer a free product as the offer?

    4. Add images. The site is too bland although the orange color is catchy.

    5. Too much empty sace in the sidebar. I suggest some interactive widgets like Tweet Blender. Avoid ads.

    6. Needs social proof. Add Facebook/Twitter icons in sidebar.

    7. Work on developing video and or audio content.

    8. Spend more time writing informative posts instead of short ones. I’m a fan of Glen at ViperChill.com, who writes epically long and useful posts.

    9. Ask questions at the end of each post to start reader interactions?

    10. He is selling several products? What is the goal of this site? Is it just to sell these? He needs a strong call to action regardless of what that action is.

    11. Develop an email newsletter to truly help his readers.

  38. This is great! I’ve done a lot of comment asking with no results, and then realized disqus was messed up! I have such a diverse audience. Many are other professionals in my field, but I also get a lot of my clients reading my blog. I have been trying to address both at least once a week.

  39. Here are my suggestions for this site:
    1) Adding an e-mail opt-in form at the top of the right-hand sidebar.
    2) Changing the color and customizing the banner ad to increase appeal. The current green unpleasantly contrasts with the rest of the site.
    3) Remove the topics from the right-hand sidebar. They don’t add much and just take up space.
    4) Change the orange color to something less harsh. Maybe a lighter orange.
    5)Customize the banner with a logo and banner image.
    6) Add popular post list in the sidebar in place of the topics. I have no idea which posts are popular on this site.
    7) Keep more than two posts on the home page.
    8) Limit the posts to excerpts so people click in to read more.

    These are my first suggestions from glancing at this site, and they’re all suggestions that we at Blog Tweaks can implement. 🙂

  40. The website does look plain on the home page. Also in my opinion it’s not clear from the tagline if this is about finding a job, or learning how to invest your own money.

    There is a separate page for each product offered – may I suggest having one “Resources” page with a list of products.

  41. Chris! I love this idea… that your reader’s should critique this blog. It’s so engaging! The problem, for me, was that I am not really the target market for this blog — no interest whatsoever in becoming a financial analyst — so I found out to be too technical right off the bat, using terminology unfamiliar to me and so I felt as though I didn’t belong. It’s a nice clean site and, at first glance, easy to navigate…but I don’t think I’d be a fair judge otherwise.

    Would still love to win a critique of my site though! :0)

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  42. Chris, I think this is all excellent advice, but I gotta say that for the most fun part is promoting engagement. It not only helps to “gain insights,” but that’s my passion and raison d’etre for blogging. I learn from commenters and love to engage in a conversation. And as you point out, to paraphrase you, it’s a great form of market research.