The 60 Minute Blog Audit (How to Increase Reader Retention and Subscribers)

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 09/04/17 •  21 min read

Note: This post has been updated as of September 2017.

The 60 Minute Blog Audit (How to Increase Reader Retention and Subscribers) (1)

I’ve seen a lot of crappy blogs

No really.

I hate to say it, but I get a lot of emails from people asking me to check out their blog and give them feedback on it.

I do my best to be kind and respond with some tips, but I’ve found that without fail, almost every single time I’m giving the exact same advice.

Now, I may not have the world’s best blog, but I’ve worked with a lot of Location Rebel members and others to help them position their blogs in the best possible place to be successful.

“What do you mean you need a tagline?!”

“Oh, I need a photo on my about page?! Says who?!” 

“Wait, people won’t sign up for just email updates?”

These are all mistakes I’ve made and I still see people making even today.

So in order to save myself a lot of time (yeah, I’m selfish like that), as well as hopefully help you improve your website, I’ve put together this 60-minute blog audit.

This is the exact process I go through every time I look at someone else’s site.

It may take you longer to actually implement changes, but by addressing some of these key sites attributes you should be able to encourage more interaction, subscribers, shares, and in turn have more success in whatever form you quantify it.

Before We Get Started:

Get out a piece of paper, Evernote, a word doc or whatever it is you use to take notes. At the end of this post, you’ll have the option of downloading my blog audit checklist which covers these steps in checklist form.

Here’s the cheat sheet for those of you too lazy to read the whole thing (although I really encourage you to spend more time and read each section). It’s broken down into ten simple questions:

  1. Do You Have a Professionally Designed Logo?
  2. Do You Have a Clear Message (or Tagline)?
  3. Do You Have an About Page (and Has it Been Updated in the Last Year?)
  4. Is Your Email List Set Up?
  5. Do You Have a Killer Free Offer to Get People to Opt-In?
  6. Do Your Headlines Suck?
  7. Are You Communicating With Your Subscribers?
  8. Are You Writing for the Reader, or Yourself?
  9. Are Your Posts and Pages SEO Optimized?
  10. Are You Leveraging Social Proof?

For the things that need work, take notes based on my recommendations. When you’re done, sit down and start going down the list, making improvements where necessary.

Over time, you’ll be amazed at how a few small changes will increase just about every metric you have for blog success.

Ready? Got your blog open? Note taking device?

All right, let’s do this.

Question #1: Do You have a Professionally Designed Logo?

Have you actually got a real logo designed for your blog?

Or do you still have the stock text that you entered into your WordPress backend that looks like this:

old logo

Having a well-designed logo does a number of things:

Notice how a good logo just conveys a better sense of professionalism:

B80 banner retina 04


It’s not difficult to get a logo designed.

Check out sites like Fiverr and Design Hill. For less than $100 you should be able to get something well thought out and specific to your goals.

Question#2: Do You Have a Clear Message (or Tagline)?

One of the worst things that can happen is someone lands on your site and have no idea what the hell it’s about.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

When you’re getting your logo done you should also consider whether you need to add your tagline into the design as well.

I see so many people make mistakes with their site taglines.  They get too cute with it, and in turn, tell the reader nothing about what the site is actually about.

So, do you have a descriptive tagline or message? Do you even have a message? If you answered no to either of those questions you should fix this asap.

By considering these issues with your site’s tagline, it will keep first-time visitors more engaged, and make it much easier for people to describe to others what your site is all about. After all, if you can’t describe what you do in a single sentence, how the hell is someone else supposed to?

Question #3: Do You Have an About Page (and Has it Been Updated in the Last Year)?

Remember how I said a first time visitor should know exactly what the site is all about in 3 seconds or less? When you do this it gives people a reason to want to stick around and keep reading.

Another way to help ensure that happens is to have a great about page.

After your homepage, this is often the next thing readers will look at and oftentimes, it’s what will make them decide whether or not they should stick around and listen to what you have to say.

You don’t want people searching all over the place to figure out who you are. YOU are the most important component of your website.  Most of the people who read Location Rebel do so because they’ve felt some connection or interest in me – the advice and everything else is just bonus.

People follow personalities, and you want to make sure yours shines through.

Some tips for crafting the perfect about page:

All too often I see vague about pages with no real information on the author or the blog, which completely defeats the purpose of having it there.

My about page is one of the 5 most visited pages on my site, so people are obviously curious. Make sure what you’re telling them is an accurate portrayal of what the site is about.

Has Your About Page Been Updated in the Last Year?

You change. Your business changes. What you’re offering evolves. You about page should always reflect where you’re at currently in your business.

I’ve visited sites before where their about page does not relate at all to the rest of their site. This can really be a red flag to people, especially if you’re offering services on your site.

Would you want to work with someone who can’t even get their message right on their own site?

Didn’t think so.

This timing isn’t an exact science, but schedule time in your calendar six months to eight months from now (if you’re brand new to this) and a year from now (if you’re more experienced) to revisit your about page for updates.

Question #4: Do You Have a Your Email List Set Up?

Whoo, this is one I see all the time. I don’t care how new or fresh your website is, you need to have your email system set up from the very start.

Don’t wait on this.

There are two main reasons behind it:

  1. It’s way more professional. If you’re looking to work with a client, what email is going to make a better impression [email protected] vs. [email protected]?
  2. You want to start collecting emails from day one.

Sure, you likely won’t get a rush of subscribers in the first few months, but with email, it’s all about consistency. You want to work on building that relationship that grows over time.

We use ConvertKit at Location Rebel, but you can also check out email service providers like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign.

So don’t skip this part.

If your site is already up and running you need to get your email marketing set up right now. If you don’t, the next step is going to cause you some problems because it’s all about getting more people to sign up for your email list.

Question #5: Do You Have a Killer Opt-In to Incentivize Readers?

I’ve covered the importance of this in a couple blog posts, including:

Bottom line, email is the best way to communicate, build relationships, and sell to your audience. But they aren’t just going to sign up because there’s a box there for them to do it – there has to be an incentive.

Your list is also one of the few true assets you have for yourself online. Google can strip your search rankings or toss out your RSS subscribers, but your list is yours, and even if everything else blows up, not all is lost.

Consider the following points when crafting your offer:

This is the place where you are really going to start building a connection with your readers. Make it easy and a no-brainer for them to sign up for more from you.

Question #6: Do Your Headlines Suck?

One of the most important things I’ve done for my business is improving my copywriting. It doesn’t matter how good your content or website is if you can’t get people to go there in the first place.

So how do you do that?

You have to garner attention with solid, descriptive, headlines.

It doesn’t matter if people see it via social media, in search results, or as a link from another site if you don’t have a way to hook people in.

Review your blog headlines and ask yourself honestly, “if I saw this on Twitter from someone I didn’t know, would I click on it?” If the answer is no more than 50% of the time, then you should probably re-evaluate what you’re doing.

My friend Dane Maxwell once told me the most useful piece of advice I’ve ever received as it relates to copywriting. He gave me his formula what he calls his instant clarity headline, and it looked like this:

End Result Person Wants + Specific Timeframe + Objection Handled

Offering one of those is a good headline.

Two is a great headline.

All three is an irresistible headline.

For instance, on my Location Rebel Academy sales page I’ve used the headline: Make $1,000 in Extra Income in Three Months (Even if You Still Have a Full Time Job).

Result: Make $1,000 in Extra Income

Time Frame: 3 Months

Objection: “Does this work if I still work full time?”

Headlines are more important the actual blog post the or page itself, here are some other things to help:

If you’re only spending 5 seconds to come up with a headline you’re doing something wrong – put serious consideration to you post headlines and why you’re choosing them.
Here are a couple of good tools that can help you improve your headlines:

These tools aren’t the end all be all, but they can help you spot some patterns and come up with better headline ideas.

Question #7: Are You Communicating with Your Subscribers?

Your blog should be a way to facilitate relationship building, and the more you treat it as such, the more successful you’ll be.

How are you engaging the people who are reading your site? Are you responding to their comments? Answering their emails? Does your email series encourage them to actually engage in a conversation with you?

If not, you should seriously reconsider how you’re approaching this.

The bottom line is, if someone signs up for your email list and then doesn’t hear anything from you until you decide to send them some pitch to buy a product, they aren’t exactly going to be very receptive, are they?

Here are a few ways to increase communication with your subscribers and build relationships not just fans:

As soon as you make the transition from thinking of your fans as statistics and begin to look at them as real people that you want to get to know everything changes.

Question #8: Are You Writing for the Reader, or Yourself?

This is a tricky one, and something I’ve definitely struggled with.

You need to decide if your blog is going to eventually be a business or if it’s simply something for you personally.

If it’s just a way for you to write and tell friends and family what you’re up to, then by all means, write about whatever your little heart desires.

However, if you’re trying to garner a larger audience and build a business out of your website you need to stop writing for yourself and start writing for the reader.

This is a fine line.

You have to be interested in what you write about, willing to share about yourself and be vulnerable, but in the end, most of what you write needs to have a takeaway and value for the reader. Otherwise, they’ll go get the information they’re looking for somewhere else.

Why do you think articles that start with “how to” are so effective?

Anytime you can teach someone how to do something there’s tangible value. Sure you may love writing your travel stories, and there will be people that like to read them, but you need to make sure the overwhelming amount of your content has something of value for everyone else.

A big part of this is creating a target persona you want to write for. When you do this it’s a lot easier to know what to write about because you’re writing for that person rather than picking ideas you think might work out of thin air.

Check out a post like this that will help you get started with creating customer personas.

A couple things to keep in mind:

Think about why you’re writing.

If you’re still writing for yourself, it’ll be hard to garner the attention that you’re looking for.

Question #9: Are Your Posts and Pages SEO Optimized?

While writing for people is the key, you also need to know how to get your posts and pages SEO optimized so your stuff gets found online.

If you need a crash course in SEO, check out this post where we cover all the basics.

You want to apply simple SEO optimization to your posts and pages. Don’t skip this part either. If you’ve got a site up and running, be sure to go back and at the very least fill in the keyword and meta description for every post and page.

As you move forward but sure you do the following for every new post or page you create.

Here are the basics to check to ensure SEO keyword optimization for your posts and pages:

As you get more comfortable with keyword research, get to know your audience better, and write more, this will all become second nature.

And, obviously, it’s a lot easier with one of the SEO plugins installed. We recommend either Yoast SEO or All In One SEO if you’re using a WordPress based blogging system. Then you can see at a glance if your SEO meets all the requirements for good optimization.

Question #10: Are You Leveraging Social Proof?

Everyone loves to jump on a bandwagon.

If you’ve had some big wins or been featured in other places around the internet, you should make that known! Do you have 10,000 Facebook fans? 30,000 RSS subscribers? Featured in Forbes?

Those are all things that should be advertised.

Even if people don’t want to, they will still look at that and say “Oh, if so many other people think this is good, it must be.”

If you only have 20 Facebook fans, five email subscribers, and a brand new site, it’s usually best to wait on displaying numbers. However, you can absolutely start displaying places you’ve been featured in, guest posts, and testimonials, for example, from the very start.

Here are a few ways you can leverage social proof:

Social proof can be one the most powerful positive forces on your blog. Assess where you can leverage this, and if you’re at a place where you can’t – then make more of an effort.

So How’d You Do?

The key things in this article are some of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers make.

No one is perfect, but if you make some small changes based on this audit you’ll have the potential to see a huge shift in the direction of your website over the coming months.

Now, ready for the checklist? Get it by signing up in the box below. And, bookmark this page so you can come back to it each year.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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31 comments on "The 60 Minute Blog Audit (How to Increase Reader Retention and Subscribers)"

  1. Fantastic post, Sean! A few of these points I already have covered (mainly because when I was building my site, yours was one of the main ones I looked to for design inspiration), but I know I have plenty of areas to improve upon. It’s great to have some direction and a defined list of things to chip away at.

    1. Sean says:

      Thanks for the kind words Andrew, and good luck as you keep building up the site!

  2. Aaron says:

    Very Helpful Sean. It’s given me a few actions to take over at The Everyday Language Learner. On to the about page ….

  3. Alan says:

    Sean, as part of my job I’ve reviewed hundreds of corporate blogs over the last couple of years. This is a great breakdown of many basic but SUPER IMPORTANT elements to nail. Thanks for putting this together.

  4. Jon Bishop says:

    Damn Sean!! This is such a great post. Definitely top 3 you’ve ever written. I am constantly overwhelmed by the support you offer your readers. Love it!!

    1. Sean says:

      Now this is the stuff I like to hear!

  5. Bobbe says:

    Great value here, our blog scored better than I thought on this checklist, we just need more good content! Feel free to check out our site and see what you think.

    Thanks for the post!

  6. John says:

    Thanks Sean, this post hits the nail right on the head. There’s so much marketing tripe thrown at you when you’re trying to build an honest blog, so it’s a real breath of fresh air to read your post.

  7. Carlo says:

    Fantastic content here Sean!

    Once again you’ve given me some inspiring ideas to work into my website.


  8. marianney says:

    This is my first comment here although I’ve been reading for a little while now. Super useful information here, I’m surprised that most of the tips I knew and am implementing on my soon-to-launch blog but a few I hadn’t thought about. The headline formula is spot on and I’ll be using that for sure. Also, asking a question when someone subscribes to your list, great idea! Couldn’t agree with you more on the logo, tagline and about page. Definitely a great post, thanks!

  9. Leigh says:

    This is just what I needed to read as I am placing the final touches on my website before launching it.

    Thanks for the great advice.

  10. Glen says:

    Lovin’ this, thanks bro!

    I’m sketching out ideas for a new blog as we speak and you’ve just thrown down the foundations for me, all the way to the bedrock, booya!


  11. benay says:

    Awesome resource – thank you for putting it together. Are you still in Thailand?

  12. I published my blog only a few weeks ago and most of the stuff I’m still working on.

    Took me a minute to include the “Follow” button on my bio box. Thanks for that!

    Things I really have to work/improve on ASAP: Clear tagline, Opt in incentive, and my writing in general. Hehe

    Thanks Sean!

    1. Sean says:

      Sounds like you’re on the right track Chiara!

  13. Jo says:

    Perfect timing! I sat down today to redesign my blog, and was just popping over to your site and a few others that I admire, to see how they do things, and WHAM, there’s the blog post I need. Thanks a lot, Sean.

  14. Sidney says:

    Hey Sean, I was just thinking about this – you just read my mind! Great post!

  15. Jeff Tse says:

    Good stuff man!

    I’m going to take your advice and update my blog with a bio box…

  16. Peter Santenello says:

    A very well thought out and detailed post. Thank you!

  17. Pamela says:

    It isn’t that I didn’t know these things (and I’ve done many of the things you suggested already) but I needed a little push. Definitely need to swap in my new About page which I’ve written but not loaded. Time to get some better pictures. Oh yes, and stop procrastinating on making a welcome video.

    Thanks for the nudge.

    1. Sean says:

      Glad I could help Pamela 🙂

      Sometimes we just need a little push in the right direction to do the things we already know how to do.

  18. Pawan says:

    Very impressive information. I think “Are you Writing for the Reader, or Yourself?” bloggers should now concentrate over this particular point. They need to write for readers but instead they are doing it for search engines. I always insist on Unique + High quality content instead of just unique content. Thanks for sharing all the stuff here, your knowledge and experience are awesome. 🙂

  19. Kent says:

    Excellent post, Sean! A very well-defined and ACTIONABLE list. Thank you!

  20. Brooks says:

    Duddddeeee — good stuff!

    I think Im failing at many, but have done well at others.

    Who your audience is will be one of the toughest. If you aren’t interested in it yourself, then you won’t do a good job at writing about it.

    I guess you have to create content where the 2 circles of personal interest and audience interest intersect.


  21. This definitely made me take a long hard look at my site. But I use Tumblr which is bloody hard to find plug-ins and widgets for. I definitely want to improve the design and navigation but without mad developing skills I’ll just concentrate on the content and headlines. Great advice and well written. Thanks for posting

  22. Lisa Jackson says:

    Thank you Sean! In a world where there’s so much information, this is the best post i’ve read on what a website should do and be.
    My website needs a lot of improvement, but I already know that these changes will have an impact on it. Simple but effective!
    Thanks again.

  23. Wow.
    I’ve just gotten my blog up and running after only reading your posts and not even joining Location Rebel yet. Thank you so much for all your help. And for this post especially. It’s what I need right now. You’re amongst my favourite sources of information.
    I appreaciate the time and effort you put into the detail of all your posts. You have helped me a great deal 🙂

    Now all I need to figure out is what to do with this blog. Not sure if I can focus on only one thing..

    P.S I never used to comment alot before this. Guess I was ashamed that I didnt have a blog yet. I feel so much more confident now.

  24. Kevin Rozario-Johnson says:

    Thanks Sean, this post is so helpful. I’ve yet to get a site up and running but this is such a useful step by step guide which will give me confidence when I do.

    I’m really impressed with your approach to engaging with everyone who approaches you, it’s very inspiring.

    Thank you! 😎

  25. Thank you for your good advice. worth spending time & reading it.

  26. Unforace says:

    Hey Sean, thank you a lot for the tips on how to optimize and get the site better.
    I made my own only a couple of days ago and still figuring out everything. Your points will help me to improve everything at the very start.

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