Patrick Meninga, aka skinnyninja to forum members, won this blog critique in the Blogger of the Month competition. If you would like to win a blog critique or Authority Blogger membership there is still time to win the June prize, you just need to participate in the forum by being friendly, asking excellent questions that spark discussion, or answering questions well.
The blog is called Spiritual River and is about addiction, or rather I guess is more about sobriety by being more spiritual.
By using the Thesis Theme, many of the techy things you need to do are handled already, so in terms of SEO and having a good web framework, this is well sorted. Patrick has used a basic Thesis install and added a custom header and some adsense for monetization.
There is nothing wrong with the base Thesis look but you get better results by properly skinning it to your own, unique appearance. You should avoid looking like every other Thesis install on the planet! That said, the header looks good.
Another issue design wise is it is not very obvious for a first time visitor what they are being offered. You must communicate where the visitor has arrived, what they can see and most important, why they should be interested. This is fundemental, as a confused visitor is not likely to hang around.
Put some text in the header, a benefit focused statement, such as
“How to achieve sobriety through spirituality“
(although having just read that back, you might find a phrasing that suits your audience better!).
A key part of your differentiation is that you are a person who has been through it. You have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. I often say to my coaching and Authority Blogger clients that “you are your secret sauce”, and here it is especially true. The people in your audience will likely have well-meaning experts telling them what to do but someone on the exact same wavelength, just a bit further ahead of the them on the path, will be a valuable person to know.
Keeping that in mind, you need to personalize a little more. Your about pages are excellent, but even better would be a small about box with your image in it right in the sidebar. You can link to your main about page and bio from there.
As well as this, engage the reader more in a conversation. If you go back over your recent posts, most end with a statement. Switch that up and instead end on a question. You will see wherever I write I normally end with a question of some sort, it is rare that I do not. Something like “What do you think? Please share in the comments …” works a treat.
The key to getting comments is to spark the conversation using questions that have no right or wrong answer. Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone dare answer a question in case they end up looking dumb or worse. So make a good, welcoming environment, where people feel safe to respond, and also make sure that people know they can be anonymous as much as they need to, because it is a sensitive niche.
If people do not want to comment you still need to engage them. Really push your contact form as a place where people can interact with you. Ask questions and ask them to ask you questions. Some of my very best content ideas are simply questions I have been asked by readers and customers. These are beyond precious.
As well as reaching out to readers, also reach out to other bloggers. This networking will help you boost your link profile (although you are already doing pretty well in that) and help you raise your referral and search traffic. It might also lead to profit opportunities.
This can start with Twitter connections, and guest posting, which can also lead to paid writing gigs which is something you mention on your site.
If you are serious about getting paid writing opportunities then you need a service page and to mention this in your sidebar, about page and when you guest post. You could list experience/appearances, how to book you for writing and the kind of work you do. Of course you do not have to stick to only writing on addiction sites. You have a particular frame of reference that would allow you to write personally on many subjects and a writing ability that would allow you to write on topics that you have not personally experienced but could research. After all, I have written about rehab without experiencing rehab or addiction!
Consider the related subject areas you can connect to:
- Self help
- Life Coaching
All of those are topics that you could expand to or network with but also when you look over those again, they are all areas where there are products and services that can be reviewed or joint ventured. You could make advertising deals, affiliate commissions or partner to develop products.
When you look at your blog as aimed at an audience rather than a subject, your opportunities expand.
Speaking of which, I am not sure how much money you will be making with Adsense, but consider getting sponsor ads (Thesis allows you to add a column easily) as I imagine rehab could be a high paying niche, but also look closely at making money via affiliate and your own products. For the affiliate side, because people in your audience will be vulnerable, you need to be even more open and honest in your recommendations, but there is a lot of potential there. I know that rehab leads are worth a lot of money, and are not as ugly as Adsense 🙂
Finally work hard to show your subscription options and provide a call to action that shows why someone should sign up. Why should they subscribe? Also provide subscription links under your articles as this is where someone who has enjoyed your content will want to see them.
What do you think of Spiritual River? Please help Patrick by adding your feedback in the comments …