Joanna Penn describes The Creative Penn as a site …
aimed at people who are interested in writing, self-publishing/print-on-demand and internet marketing for their books (in print/ebook or audio format).
That is a great niche, there are thousands of people struggling to get their book written, published and sold. I know the pull of books very well myself.
Joanna has self-published her print book using print on demand, and also e-books, along with marketing via clickbank, so she has practical hands on knowledge of what she writes about. She also has created an online course called Author2Zero which teaches people “how to use Web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book”.
You know already what I am going to say … yes, Joanna is an Authority Blogger 🙂
The content of the blog is great, and Joanna has a great personality that comes across very well in text (as you would expect!), audio and video. While the video is not “slick”, and on occasion lighting and audio suffer a little, I actually think the character of them is an asset and warms you to get more engaged rather than putting you off.
In terms of promotion, the site is currently No 6 on Australia’s top writing blogs. This score is based on Google PageRank, Alexa and Technorati scores. Essentially, if Joanna gets a bunch more links then she will be able to top that list.
My first impression was that the red dominates. Spend too long reading and you might get a migraine 🙂 I guess this pushes people to subscribe to the feed, heh.
The layout is also very busy. There are literally hundreds of links per page – far too many choices without giving clear demarcation and some sense of content hierarchy.
Choose what you want the visitor to do next, then work your layout to support that focus.
As it stands the visitor might well get so confused they do not hang around, I imagine this is reflected in the bounce rate statistics.
You will want to guide visitors to
At the moment the clutter will cause the first goal to be hindered – prioritize the content, and put everything else to the background apart from your subscription box (providing a clear call to action) and also give your Author2zero product banners space to breathe.
I have three big recommendations for this blog, and combined they underscore a key lesson in any kind of market.
- Change the colour scheme so red is used only to draw attention to specific focus areas rather than as a block colour. Right now the background dominates, and the colour combinations used in the content cause confusion rather than attract. If you look at my blog, I use spot red for very important locations, and orange as a general “look at me” colour. The rest of the scheme is very much in a supporting role. Make the content come to the fore, the background should, well, be in the background.
- Simplify layout and use graphics and HTML boxes to differentiate, clarify and segment the content to add more legibility and context. Right now the layout is “noisy”. When the visitor is given too many choices they make no choice at all. At the moment rather than being helpful the layout is inhibiting the visitor. You need clear sign posts, and remove the clutter. Reduce the categories down to seven as a maximum, lose the Tweets and the tag cloud.
- Build links by offering viral blog content resources and networking with other bloggers and writers. You already do a good job of networking, and offer some great free content. What you need to do is turn those around to your link advantage. Repackage some of your already written content and put those to work as series or big resource potsts, then promote promote promote in social media. Also create a writing competition where folks can win copies of your books. Anything to bring the links in to boost your link count and traffic, and in turn grow your PR, Alexa and Technorati scores.
As it stands the vast majority of your links go to the homepage, which is not going to help with your search traffic as you want topical, keyword focused deep links as well as general domain linking for good long term growth.
I would also grab the variation of your domain without “the” (“creativepenn” versus “thecreativepenn”) as some people will instinctively write it without as well as with.
You do not need to throw away your branding. In fact I would suggest the DIYThemes Thesis Theme for WordPress as your base theme, with your existing header would be an excellent evolution rather than a radical departure. This will also give you the advantage of an excellent framework that will make full advantage of the links you grow.
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Right now the content is great but being let down by usability issues. These are easy to resolve, either with the help of a great designer or simply by moving over to a customised Thesis Theme install.
Any wannabe book writers should definitely check out the site!
What do you think? Please share your feedback for Joanna in the comments …