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Another Chance to Win 1,700 Visitors: Review Furniture Fashion

Posted By Skellie 4th of March 2008 Case Studies 0 Comments

This week’s community consultation of Furniture Fashion offers you the chance to win a 1,700 visitor StumbleUpon campaign for your blog. Leave a helpful review with some non-intuitive points in your comment and you’ll be in the running to win. If your content is good, those 1,700 visitors could grow into a much bigger traffic snowball as votes for your content pile up.

What we’re looking for: a thorough review of the blog answering one/some/all of the questions below and containing some non-intuitive advice. That’s all you’ve got to do to be in the running. There will be only one winner.

The blog’s owner, John, describes the blog like this:

Furniture Fashion is an interior design blog with a large focus on furniture. Our mission is to provide articles and pictures to readers to give them ideas for their own homes as well as follow design trends. This site was created by John Cavers and Will Maack. Our goal is to make this blog a full-time business with six figure revenue. We hope that the readers of Problogger can share their experiences in the form of constructive criticism to help us accomplish our revenue objectives.

John has asked for feedback on the following areas, but you do not necessarily have to cover all of them in your review. You might even choose to focus in detail on one particular point –it’s up to you.

a) Ideas on how to make more revenue
b) Ideas on how to diversify revenue sources – are there other monetization products that would fit this blog?
c) Ideas on growing traffic
d) Ideas on building more of a community
e) Ideas on growing RSS subscribers
f) Analysis of blog layout – strengths & weaknesses; let us know how we can improve and in effect improve monetization
g) Analysis on writing style, length of articles, and sustenance of article content
h) How to increase page views per unique and average time on site – currently at 2.1 page views and 1:35 minutes.
i) Do we need meta description and meta keywords? We seem to be doing well without them. Movable Type does not automatically create them like WordPress. I am doing well in Google, but wonder if I could do better in MSN, Live, and Yahoo. Further, if I make that switch, will that penalize me in Google?
j) How do we improve? (any general ideas)
l) Ideas to create more international readers/visitors
m) Do we need a clearer tag line or some description at the top of the site? (to let readers know what this website is about) (mission statement)

We look forward to your helpful and respectful advice. Good luck!

    Google doesn’t like their ads to be presented with any other title than “Sponsored Links” or “Advertisements”. The more your ads are in order with google terms, the more you will earn per click.

    If possible, I would also remove ads from pages that don’t really have any relevant content. The contact page, for example example. Google doesn’t like adsense to be presented on contentless pages, also, it looks kinda cheapish.

    One additional important adsense tip: make the links of your site and those of adsense look the same. Either change the categories font / colors of your website, or change the colors of the ads. I suggest you do bot. A more neutral color are the blue links used in problogger posts.

    Also, the top banner about metrokitchen is positioned rather bad and it messes up the entire layout of the blog. It looks like it’s a part of the blog banner logo and makes this banner logo look cheap!

    The images are very large. I just looked at the size of one image, it was over 160 kb. If you use photoshop and “save for web” you can compare quality of different file types and sizes. This is ideal to balance between quality and size of images.

    The website uses a lot of vertical space. I suggest you try to work a bit more horizontal. One thing you could do is: lose the skyscraper on the right and re-position the “daily reads”, “recommended”,etc… next to categories. Replace the skyscraper with a 700px wide Adsense leaderboard somewhere between the first two posts (or above…). These result in some of the highest CTR of all, and if you’re main body is wide enough, it will blend in nicely with the whole layout.

    Maybe try to move some menu’s from the bottom to the top, so you get a better view what the site is all about. (eg. move the “about” description somewhere to the top).

    Try to more more clear what the blog is all about. These days readers go from one site to another. It’s important you immediately make clear what the visitor can can expect from your blog. A message like “get surrounded” could be replaced with a more informative, yet catchy description.

    For example, when you visit problogger.com , the title header says: “Blog tips to help you make money blogging”. You read this and you immediately know what problogger does. After clicking your blog link, I see a title, but I don’t know what you do. Does this site sell furniture? Does it review furniture? People are often way to lazy to find out or even to care.

    Try to make clear what the blog message / mission is from the moment someone lands at furniturestoreblog. (I did not see the “store” in furniturestoreblog,… see how easily things can be overlooked or ignored).

  2. First up – nice looking blog, but without a BG (white BG) it looks a bit strange, kind of like the header is in no mans land…

    Fixed columns on the side will make it look better too. Once the menu text (google ads) ends it looks weird without them

  3. 1. theme could be better, more colors..pro logo maybe?

    2. for a wider audience add an on-site translator, or if you wanna take it to a whole another level, make subdomains with different languages like en.domain fr.domain es.domain..etc

    3. for more money try incorporating affiliates from other sites and better ad targeting and definitely in post ads

    4. possibly reviews of furnitures? like video reviews, tips and tricks to choose the best stuff with a host?

    5. content on that site is really average, needs more “oomph” more personal reviews maybe? definitely longer..

    6. the home page title needs to be changed, seems like you were just trying to nail a serp there, sometimes it turns visitors off i know i was turned off, try something more snazzy, like “Furniture Fashion – Above Average Furniture” ?

    7. Growing traffic : the best thing i can think of is asking your viewers to get pictures of their old furniture and maybe you can give them tips on how to make it better?


    Consultation: Preach what you sell, when people re design their homes they can get 1 on 1 consultation from you on what to buy and where to put it

    8. Over all the blog is average, still a long way to go…new design
    better content structure..
    more features..
    reader interaction..
    most of all the theme

  4. short SEO-advice: don’t nofollow your “Favorite Articles” but nofollow the feed-links in your navigation!

  5. My first impression is a bit anti-climatic. The writing is just press release puff-piece style that makes me wonder if they are being paid per post! Why would I bother to comment on such vapid content? Next the logo is uninspired, bog-standard Sans Serif with an outline. The background image is nice, but the text is a 10 second job in MS Paint! The third striking thing above the fold is that the “Newsletter Subscribe or Blog Feed” (which is it?) is not clickable, just the tiny icon at the end. Lets look at the specific points:

    a) Ideas on how to make more revenue
    b) Ideas on how to diversify revenue sources – are there other monetization products that would fit this blog?
    Affiliate links to shops to buy the stuff you review is the most obvious answer. After the first and second posts I see the same ads – would something like Kontera or Shopping/Auction Ads do better rather than slightly generic ads? I’d also experiment putting a Google Ad below the first article to see if that does better.

    c) Ideas on growing traffic
    d) Ideas on building more of a community
    Move away from the puff and get some character – how much of your traffic is repeat visitors?

    e) Ideas on growing RSS subscribers
    As mentioned above, make the text clickable and disambiguate it! Stick with “Subscribe to our blog” or something, and get a slightly bigger button, and of course see c) and d) and get some character that makes people want to keep reading.

    f) Analysis of blog layout – strengths & weaknesses; let us know how we can improve and in effect improve monetization
    I’m not too good on this aspect, but I think it basically looks fine. I’d drop the link to “houston divorce attorney” as it looks cheap, and make your SiteMeter stats private and hide the button.

    g) Analysis on writing style, length of articles, and sustenance of article content
    It’s all just “Here’s a chair”, “This is a nice table” – make me want to buy it, then give me the opportunity!

    h) How to increase page views per unique and average time on site – currently at 2.1 page views and 1:35 minutes.
    I’m actually surprised your page views are that high! Perhaps it’s people searching for content…

    i) Do we need meta description and meta keywords? We seem to be doing well without them. Movable Type does not automatically create them like WordPress. I am doing well in Google, but wonder if I could do better in MSN, Live, and Yahoo. Further, if I make that switch, will that penalize me in Google?
    I think META keywords are overrated. It takes longer to do well in MSN and Yahoo, I think, but Google usually delivers the most readers, so don’t sweat so much.

    j) How do we improve? (any general ideas)
    One obvious idea would be to start doing series examining themes; Scandanavian designers, minimalistic furniture, recliners, etc. Also stuff on interior design in general, tied in to book or service reviews.

    l) Ideas to create more international readers/visitors
    I think the general idea of making valuable content will attract more domestic and international readers.

    m) Do we need a clearer tag line or some description at the top of the site? (to let readers know what this website is about) (mission statement)
    Yes! “get surrounded” is actually a bit threatening…

  6. It looks like it’s broken, visual design to me looks like unfinished. Background color could make wonders..

    I like the huge photos in posts, but then again that column is too wide, too much characters on one line. It could be easier to read, if it had less characters on one line.

    Areas are bit unclear and the header does not work well, it looks cheap. Header area over all should be seriously improved. And for example the colors in the date thingy aren’t good together, the contrast isn’t great and for some people it is probably very hard to read.

    Navigations are lost somewhere in there, one of the most important things in page. I’d take a look to those ad places too, those can be affective, but also so annoying that first time visitors never come back. It is pretty obvious that there is a need to make money, but it shouldn’t be yelled so loud to regular readers. I think there are lots to do with the layout.

    As a potential international reader, the lack of serious linking and information of product prices, purchasing options annoys me. And I’d divide the information in posts somehow, short intro, facts etc.

  7. building community: can I suggest you check out how fashiontribes.com has integrated a Q&A service? look for it at the header nav. bar under Fashion Forum…

  8. I don’t like it at all. Lack of SEO and Design. Adsense is on wrong spot and looks horrible with blue link.

    To Owners of FF:

    Please consider next time professional webdesign or design that looks more towards “Furniture and Fashion” type of style.

    This might hurt but it’s for your own good, you wanted feedback!

  9. I tend to be better at the visual/layout stuff rather than the traffic-driving stuff, so I’ll speak to that…

    I like the plain white background. I take it that your intent is to show off the furniture or design pieces that you profile in each post, and a stark black or white background is best for doing so.

    However, the combination of weak header/title image and oddly sized ad right at the top of the page really draw my attention away from your posts. I’d recommend moving the small rectangular ad down a bit lower. Is there a way to make it appear after the top post?

    The header at the top of the page could use some work. It looks quite unprofessional now, and even though the red text on the image ties in with the red text on your side bars, it all looks a bit smammy. I really like a lot of the pieces you feature in your posts, but the image you use in the header doesn’t seem to be as nice as the rest … reminds me of the Sunday circular from Levitz or something. A more artistic shot–a zoomed-in, muted image of the sideboard from the February 29th post, or something like that, might work well. Right now, I see the header image and think, “Oh, not my style,” and would have been inclined to skip reading the site all together. When I scrolled down, though, I liked a lot of what I saw. A more closely cropped picture will give just the impression of a piece, and not reveal so much that potential readers could vote “no” on the spot.

    The page as a whole is a bit wide for my browser window, and I see the Adsense bar along the right side of my window. I don’t see the column with your content links unless I intentionally scroll over.

    The posts, also, seem a bit crammed together. I like the little calendar page icon, but I don’t know if it’s necessary here since you have the date at the bottom of the posts (which in itself is a bit confusing, since it appears below the line–almost as if it’s part of the previous day’s post). The calendar page is something that might work better for a personal blog, where the date things were posted is a bit more important. There’s no need to highlight way up top what day you posted a particular piece. I’d also move the day of the week and time to the bottom as well–or perhaps scratch the day of the week all together. The post title by itself, with your name directly below, would be sufficient and have more impact, I think.

    Okay, I totally nitpicked your poor blog … basically, the gist of all my criticisms is that you should streamline your image to create a more authoritative, professional look. Good luck!

  10. a) Put Adsense in individual archive (each post)
    a1) between the title and the text (468×60)
    a2) between the text and comments (325 x 250)
    a3) after the comments
    Remove adsense in the column
    make background and border of adsense with the same colour than the background of the blog

    don’t forget to put the special tag adsense in the individual archive template to orient the choice of the pub

    b) adbrite
    amazon (new widgets are amaz.. ing

    – subscribe in all dynamic rss systems , search engine
    – coment on olther blogs, and forum, and sites with “furniturefashion.com as nickname (the name of your blog without www)

    d) forget concept of community. this concept is has been. The community IS the web; Don’t loose time in “stuff” that have potential life of 6 months or 1 year (like secondlife, facebook, twitter) except if it”s easy to subscribe and to publish automatically your feed

    e) use feedburner
    put chicklet for my yahoo, google/ig, netvibes, bloglines at the top of the banner.
    Propose rss by mail (possibility of feedburner) at the top of your banner
    if you have more than 100 rss readers, publish your feedcount at the top of your banner
    inside your feed, make a good teaser like “other news about … in “name of your site”..

    f) the home page has no interest. the individual page is more interesting to catch new people from the search engines.
    – put the last posts in column
    – put the last comments in the column
    – put categories AFTER comments in the individual templates
    – put “relatited entries” after comments in the individual archives (plugin in mt or wp)

    g) write with the words that SEARCH the people and not with the words you think..
    use google.com/trends and search keyword tool in google adwords to understand what kind of words search the people in your business

    h) understand that if you want to earn money with adsense , your content doesn’t have to be very good :-)
    people is in google, searches something, finds your blog, goes to your blog.. if content is very interesting, people read but doesn’t click on adsense. if content is bad, people go back to google
    To keep people in your blog, propose last posts, comments, relatives entries, etc.. AROUND your post (column, under the post)
    Propose the most commented entries, the most readed entries too.

    i) if you use wordpress, use the seo pack plugin . if you use MT, change the code, and put as meta description.. Then the meta description will be different for every post.
    Do the publication to have ;;;.com/title-of-your-post and not ….com/2008/03/category/title of your post

    l) write some content in russian and register it in yandex.ru (THE search engine in russia). Do the same in China. Do some french content too ;-))

    active PING inside your feedburner account

    j) do link inside your blog –> other posts, category
    When you write a new post, rewrite a old post with a link to the new one


    If you are in France (or want content in french), contact us :-))))

    ps: excuse my english !!!

  11. I wish I had more time to write but I will say what struck me the hardest – the design. The design is very confusing. There are no definitive “sections” to the site. The catagories are to the far right outside of the ads, which does not seem right. The ads really overshadow the content so when I first looked at the site, I immediately thought spam. You want to be content driven… not $ driven. You will have loyal readers if you provide great content and photographs and the money will come. Not a fan at all of the red font. Good luck! Will revisit later to see how everyone’s feedback helped. You are brave (and smart!) to open your doors for feedback like this. I hope you do well!

  12. Honestly, my first impression of this blog was, well, for lack of a better word, boring. And that’s not good because you have an interesting focus. I mean if your site is about “interior decorating with a concentration on furniture.” Then you better be presenting yourself as a style fashion icon and your layout/graphics doesn’t do that. Get a more architectured look. Your site should represent the furniture and fashion that you want to project.

    Also, think of a new navigational scheme other then the blog default “categories”. Chunk the categories under headings like “By Room” “By Piece” maybe even “By Designer”. This will allow people to navigate the site in the way they want instead of having to sift through a billion categories just steaming down the side of the page.

    Ad placement and integration could be a bit better but that would come with a redesign. Right now it looks like a site where you just want me to click on an ad and go away. Your content should be the focus not the bright blue google ads streaming down the right hand side of the page.

    As for building a community. Have some design challenges, or ask your readers to what they think about a piece. Invite the user to participate and contribute. It’s the only way to build a community were people will come back to not only read what you have written but also what your readers have to say as well.

    Hope that helps!


  13. Hello, John Cavers and Will Maack. First of all you have a great site with rich content. Now, here are my suggestions:

    1) The top image can be changed to a more better image.

    2) The first few seconds (5 seconds exactly) of visiting your site concludes that this is a more ad oriented site rather than a furniture blog oriented site.

    3) The heading “Newsletter Subscribe or RSS Feed” has to be seperated.

    4) In posts such as “http://www.furniturestoreblog.com/2008/03/03/rento_swiss_coffee_table_from_dietiker.html” you have linked the image to the relative images only. I think you do not have to link it to anywhere other than the relative blog itself.

    5) The advertisements below the blogs (234 x 60) does not suit the page, instead you can use a rather long type of images of advertisements.

    6) The footer links also look quite complicated. You have to maintain a standard for the links.

    7) Differentiate links from texts in the web page. For example, the top header links.

    8) Differentiate the content and the sidebars. I mean to put some more spaces between them for more readibility for the users.

    9) I’d almost forgotten about the meta tags like you have. You don’t seem to have put them in place. :)

    10) Oh yes, my fav is the “favicon”. This is my request ;)

    Hope your site does well and you achieve your goal:


  14. First – get focus. Decide if you are a “Catablog” (see article: How To Sell Niche Products with Your Blog ) or you are an interior design e-zine.

    If you choose to go to the “Catablog” route, then find some affiliate programs that sell furniture that you love – and write great copy about each piece.

    If you choose the interior design route, then write articles that give tips about choosing design elements and incorporate products into the article as examples. Go to the bookstore and pick up some Interior Design magazines (Metropolitan Home, Elle Décor, etc.). What are the types of articles they are writing? Who advertises in them? Chances are they have the same demographic you want – so that should give you a huge head start. (In content ideas – and potential advertisers and/or affiliates)

    Second – No matter which route you decide to choose, you should change your theme to a “magazine” style theme. This will clean up your clutter, and put focus on the images which is what will appeal to your demographic. (To be direct – I wouldn’t let somebody with a bad haircut cut my hair – and I’m not sure I’d take design advice from someone whose site had a poor design; while I know technical design and interior design skills aren’t related – the average consumer will be put off by a less than stunning visual design.) I am not familiar with Moveable Type – but I would look for a theme like the WordPress themes by Graph Paper Press or RevolutionTheme. They are visually appealing, and easy to manage.

    Third – logo, domain, tagline – for me none of these work. They don’t match which will automatically hurt (Furniture Fashion is the “logo” – but your domain is furniturestoreblog.com). The domain tells me that you are going to be selling me something – or that you blog about furniture stores. I would try something more “brand-able” rather than keyword rich; maybe iDesignBlog.com? Something with the potential for an appealing logo and brand – and absolutely the brand must match the domain. (BTW – idesignblog.com is available – I checked)

    Finally, after you’ve addressed the first three points, try each of the following:
    1. Submit a press release announcing your new domain and re-launch.
    2. Get very active on Digg’s Arts & Culture section
    3. Get very active on Stumbleupon with Stumblers interested in “Arts” and “Interior Design”

    You have a great start – looks like focus and aesthetics should get you to the next level.

  15. I don’t want to go out on a limb but I think that everybody would like to make six figure income while blogging. With that in mind I recall a statement “a rising tide raises all ships.” Those of us who would like to make money blogging need to help each other acheive their goals. Site traffic and SEO are one of the main things that keep people visiting and visitor’s lead to money. To build a successful community the visitor has to see the benefit for them. It is human nature to want “hope” of income stream for your work. Word of mouth is still and will always in my opinion the most effective form of advertisement. On the web word of mouth is done through e-mail and site advertisment that is not yours. Find other bloggers that are in inter-related industries that can help get your name out. Prior to this though the page must be attractrive and must show what you desire, Although my industry is tapped currently(mortgage) it lends to housing design. In addition Leadership Development one of my focuses is an industry that ties into everything. Together is the way to build effective communities through word of mouth and common goals “six fugure income blogging.”

  16. 1. Goal
    You need to clarify the goal of your blog. You say, “Our goal is to write articles… to provide information on decorating trends, products, pictures and knowledge tips”. Article writing is the means to an end, and so is the information. Isn’t the goal to somehow help your readers?

    Here are a few examples. Is this furniture hard to find, so you are making it easier? Is there something important about the furniture quality that could help readers avoid costly mistakes? Are you helping them envision these pieces in their home? Are you offering expert designers’ opinions on trends? Is your blog going to make your readers more design-savvy? Make it easy for your readers to understand what they will gain by reading.

    2.Tag Line
    It should be a short description of what your blog is about. Is it about being “surrounded”? Most likely, it’s not. This goes back to the blog goal – when you make it clearer, the tag line will follow.

    3. Look and Feel
    Your photos are beautiful, but at a first glance, the blog has a feel of a furniture catalog. Is this the feel you are after? If you want to have more of a blog feel, you need to write more substantive content.

    The top add is so close to the blog title, that it visually looks like continuation of your tag line. I thought the blog is about “bellacor lighting”:)

    4. Content
    Blog post is a story, and sometimes a picture could be a story, but it didn’t feel that way to me. There has to be more of a narrative to capture your readers’ interest. The pictures looked disproportionate to the short text part.

    You will know what to write about, once the goal of your blog is clear. Look at the interior design magazines – they have articles, not just photos.

    Blog post becomes a conversation when your get readers to comment. You may not want comments, but if you do, you need to have a story to go with the picture. With pictures alone, what would you expect as comments – that someone liked a furniture piece, or disliked it, or wanted to buy it?

    5. Ideas for international readership
    Interior design has a big cultural component, and your blog needs to speak to the cultural differences reflected in design. Again, look for foreign design magazine publications to better understand their readers’ design mind set, wants and needs.

    P.S. These observations are from a reader’s, rather then a blogger’s, point of view. I hope it helps. Good Luck.

  17. I enjoyed the porcess of looking over the site, and here are my comments:

    General Layout:
    I agree that the header needs work. The design of the header against your all white background makes it look like a large advertisement, and the placement of the 468×60 ad directly below it, without any padding or centering heightens that effect. As far as a header redesign goes, I’d recommend an image of a great furniture piece or room layout, with a white background and no border. Make the edges blend with the rest of the white page so it doesn’t look like huge leaderboard ad plastered at the top.

    In addition, the navigation at the top needs to catch the eye a little more. I pretty much ignored it my first time looking over the site, and then I had to scroll back up to see where the site nav was located once I hit the footer.

    I’d relocate the info that is at the bottom of your page to the sidebar. Shorten up the About, and stick it right under the RSS feed/Newsletter sign up. Then add a category list in the form of a dropdown, followed by recent posts.

    I’m not having a problem with the width on my monitor, but I’d try it out on monitors set to different resolutions to see what happens. I have a feeling this layout is a little wide.

    You also need to clarify the whole RSS feed/Newsletter/Search mash up. Use feedburner to give your readers the option to subscribe via a reader, or via email. Then, drop down a line, and make a clearly defined search box. If you have a newsletter too, that needs it’s own little clearly defines sign up box.

    I’d also get rid of the whole “friends” section. As for the “recommended” section, perhaps that would lend itself more to a weekly or monthly blog feature, where you would list and link to your top most recommended finds for that time period. Then you can add top picks or favorites as a category in your category list so people can easily find a listing of all your favorite pieces.

    Post Layout:
    You need to work on image sizes and find a consistent way to wrap or place text in relationship to your images. In some places there are VERY large images with very narrow sections of text wrapping around them. The text was so narrow in some places, I almost missed it entirely. In other places, images are just kind of sitting there, with little regard for what the text is doing. I think this page: http://www.furniturestoreblog.com/tips_faq/ provides a good example of what I’m talking about.

    I would eliminate the calendar date image, and move the previous and next post links to beneath the post on your single post pages. I’d also change the color to blend with the rest of your links, and align them to center under the post.

    Revenue and advertising:
    To diversify revenue streams, I’d look for affiliate programs offered by the manufacturers of the pieces you blog about. That way, when you publish a post, you can earn cash on any sales that directly result.

    I’d also look into Amazon affiliate advertisements. If they don’t have the exact piece you’re discussing, maybe they have a less expensive alternative. This could lead directly into a regular feature where you could tell visitors how to get a particular designer look for less, or something along that line.

    I’d work on blending the adsense color scheme with the rest of your blog, and consider placing ads directly within posts. I’d place a 468×60 ad directly below the first post, and include an ad within posts.

    The posts are too short in most cases. I’d provide more detailed info about why you like the piece, where it can be found, what kind of room or decor it would complement, cost, and perhaps lower cost alternatives.

    Tag Line:
    The tag line and site title don’t do anything for the blog. In my opinion, you need a domain name, site title and tagline that unify one brand. Then use that brand name you are establishing when you leave (thoughtful, non spammy) comments on other blogs. Right now, the domain name makes me think you are the blog belonging to a furniture store. I’d expect to be able to shop at your site. If you are focusing on design, then a new domain is in order, and then a title that contains all or part of your domain name would help to solidify the URL in your readers minds so they can come back.

    Your tagline needs to tell people what to expect from your blog, ie, what you DO. Something like “Inspired furniture ideas to give your home that designer look.”

    Community Building:
    Ask readers to submit questions and design dilemmas. Say they are looking for that perfect piece to finish off a room – they could submit pics, and you could recommend some pieces that would work to give the room a certain feel or style.

    Ask questions in your posts that invite comments. Have readers tell others how they would have solved a particular furniture dilemma, or what they would have done differently in a designer room.

    These are all my thoughts for now. Best of luck!


  18. Very innovative blog. I would enjoy seeing decor ideas for offices. Business decor is a market that is often overlooked.

    As far as growing blog traffic, perhaps you could feature people who used the decorating tips…before and after photo of the room.

    Best of luck,
    Jessica Bond
    Medical Careerist

  19. PS Don’t forget the medical world…plenty of money is spent on decorating physician offices and hospitals. There is a growing trend to make medical offices and facilities to create decor that calms the patients and gives a sense of well-being. Reader feedback on this topic would be interesting too.

    Wishing you great success,
    Jessica Bond
    Medical Careerist

  20. Some general design things that you may want to consider:
    1) The text on your title bar seemed a little hard to read, especially the tag line. “Get surrounded” was a little small, and the brownish red on green seems to clash a little. Maybe try putting that text in a really dark green?
    2) The banner ads seem a little overbearing and dwarf the content.
    3) There are a lot of different strong colors on the site even outside the pictures of the furniture. The section headers and title text are reddish, the Google AdSense titles are the default blue, the hyperlinks in the posts aren’t the same shade of blue as the AdSense’s links, and the post titles are green. It almost looks like you couldn’t decide. ;) I’d look for ways to tighten the color scheme so that it works together rather than fights itself.
    4) The image on your latest post (the Inge Sempe armchair) isn’t appearing on my screen. On a related topic, what about posting a slightly smaller image and then allowing readers to click for a full-size version? The images are nice but they also dominate the content. Maybe reduce the size of the images and enlarge your post text font size a little so that it calls more attention to what you write? You may get more comments that way.

    As for ways to build community and make more money, it seems that your niche screams for bringing furniture designers, showroom managers, and buyers together. How about a board that allows buyers to request proposals for consignment pieces, and for furniture designers to contact them on a per-lead basis? Or let furniture designers put up a gallery of their work for a per-month charge? There may be quite a few furniture designers that work locally and who might like to try getting some extra exposure without putting up a website of their own. Then you can add value (either included in their subscription or extra) by rotating thumbs of their work right under the title bar.

    (If you do something like this I’ll mention your website to a friend of mine who’s a local furniture designer. ;) )

    Best wishes!

  21. While superficial the design comments of others must be echoed. Given that most of the furniture is black and white – would it not be simple to fit the blog design to the photos? This design might be fine for an average blog but for one about design – hoping for six-figure income – invest in design.

    If the blog is about design, can you write about design and how to integrate this beautiful furniture into a home? As well – how can these ideas work for those on a lower budget. Just guessing here, but how many people that buy designer furniture read blogs?

    Monetizing – with a highly targeted niche you should try the old school method – pound the pavement and sell premium ad space on your bog to designer furniture companies. If you have decent readership then surely you are guaranteeing the right eyeballs are seeing the ads. I’ll bet you could sell one single ad for more than adsense will bring you.

    Building traffic – get to the people you want reading this – trade shows, high end stores. Perhaps exchange a well placed ad for a local designer store so that you can publicize at their store – well designed cards placed at the til, with every order – I’ll bet they have an in-house mailing list they might be wiling to email for you… not everything would work, but be creative. If six-figures is your goal then invest in a booth at a show…there must be other home design blogs that don’t focus on furniture – how can you help each other?

    Great comment on not forgetting the medical world – maybe you can’t sell posts, but you can target your posts for a while for a group you would like to target as potential viewers.

    Good luck!

  22. John, I can’t tell you the difference between a tag line and a finish line, but I do know strategy. And even the best “online voodoo” can only go so far with flawed strategy, so sit tight. This is gonna knock you for a loop and keep you up more than a few nights, so grab your coffee and your yellow pad, and start writing down ideas:

    A & B) Diversify and make more money.

    Here’s the thing. You aren’t doing enough to help people. You mentioned your mission is “to provide articles and pictures to readers to give them ideas for their own homes as well as follow design trends.” And yet… all you’re doing here for the most part, is functioning as an online catalog. See, you are making the assumption — which I believe may not be true — that your audience knows what the hell they are doing. I’d say a portion of your audience may know, but most do not.

    Why not become educators? Why not put a series of products together that educates these folks about what to do, and then their natural inclination will be to buy the resources which you’re listing (which you can get an override on via a joint venture arrangement).

    So for example, let’s take kitchens. You could interview two or three interior decorators whose expertise is in kitchens. Then you can make one or more DVD’s showing the application of the techniques you’ve discussed in your Audio CD’s (you’ve got enough shows on television now to use as a model). Then you add a three-ringed binder explaining the entire process of decorating a kitchen — “Kitchen Decorating Secrets That Make Your Neighbors Green With Envy” or something like that. And once it’s over you’ve got quite a nice product. One or more manuals/binders, a few Audio CD’s with transcripts, and some DVD’s. Add in some checklists and other “How To” guides or information about pop culture or celebrities that tie in, and you’ve got yourself the “Kitchen Magic” Interior Design System that you could easily get a thousand bucks for.

    You can replicate this across loads of different demographics in your industry. By room, by location, by style, by economics, the list is probably endless. And this, by the way, is another thing I’d urge you to consider — narrowing down your target market. There is such a wide variety here, you’re not appealing strongly enough to any one genre of the marketplace. That’s not to say you can’t set up multiple sites like this, each one appealing to a specific sector of your marketplace, but as is, it may not be compelling enough to attract anyone in particular.

    You could then have membership forums for each of these sectors, monthly guest calls, monthly offline newsletter subscriptions, audio cd interviews… you name it, it’s possible.

    I could go on for hours here, but hopefully you get the gist of what I’m saying. Yes, this involves work, but reaching a 7-figure business here in a twelve to 18-month time frame, is very doable, if you do it right.

    C) Traffic

    Once you target your market or markets, I’d use offline mailing lists to drive them online to your site, by offering them a free report or something. “Free Report Reveals Little-Known European Design Secrets Available For Half The Price Here In America” or whatever.

    Also, right now there’s no incentive to subscribe. “Daily newsletter.” What does that mean? More ads to look at every day? Maybe not, but how is anyone supposed to know?

    D) Community – already mentioned in A (forums with a COMMON interest)

    J) Improving

    At some point, you probably want to tell your story. How did you get involved with this, or why should anyone even listen to you. Are you just passionate about furniture? Was your mother always rearranging the living room floor plan? Inquiring minds want to know. There’s not even a location here. Where are you guys, Canarsie or California? Building credibility is one of the critical ingredients of building trust — make sure you keep this in mind.

    Good luck. I wish you the best and hope this has helped you out.

    Craig Garber

  23. A couple of thoughts…

    Every post seems identical — an elegant pic of expensive furniture along with a approving comments. This is just a furniture catalogue.

    While I like to flip through catalogues from time to time, I don’t linger over them unless it is a product category I am lusting after. I’m not lusting after the kind of furniture you feature, so you’ve lost me after one look.

    A magazine-style format would be much more engaging for me. You could achieve this by having more diverse posts – commentry about designs, colours, patterns, etc; feature homes showing neato design tricks. Add a strand for ‘furniture rants’, for ‘design mistakes’, for comic outcomes, for the trials of looking for exactly the right lampshade, for pet furniture, for … you get it. Be interesting!!

    (I worked with a woman who was proud to be a member of Mensa — i.e. high IQ. She and her partner bought a couch and after it was delivered, they discovered it dominated their small living room. She battled with the retailer for weeks to return it. She might have been bright, but she did not have good spatial skills. The whole office was entertained by her sense of her rights.)

    Large purchases are rare, small purchases are frequent. Build your blog to encourage lots of small purchases – the cushions, the photo frames, the trinkets, lampshades, etc that add to ‘interior design’. Entice people to lust after the big gorgeous couch, then give them the opportunity to buy the photo frame on the table beside it.

    Think about your price point – currently it looks like you’re focusing on top end stuff. If you do that, you’ll need a super-elegant blog design. Your current header looks home-made and not up to the standard.

    Good luck. Have fun.

  24. John Cavers says: 03/06/2008 at 8:02 am

    I appreciate all the community comments. My partner and I are currently working on determining what type of site we are and what the mission will be. This will go a long way in ensuring that we present ourselves correctly to readers.

    The design is a problem and that will be addressed.

    The question on what we are providing readers is a great one. We should answer that in our mission and in each post. Without that perspective we are shooting in the wind.

    For other bloggers considering doing a review, just do it. The comments will help your site get better and help you define a clear direction.


  25. It appears that all of the posts are product reviews. This being the case, you really need to ditch the dates on the postings, and lose the author tags. I would also get a colored content background or page background, and add some type of prominent menu navigation.

    As far as monetization goes, and if you want this to be a 6-figure site, then you really need to treat it like a real business. This means not just posting pictures and descriptions of products, and trying to get to 6 figures from Adsense alone, but maybe cutting deals with furniture manufacturers to be able to even sell the products.

    At a minimum, you need to get some type of kickback for the traffic you are sending to these furniture manufacturers. I would look for a good furniture affiliate program, so that each post can be monetized, not just in an ancillary fashion.

  26. Uninspiring design. Without a focus your just another catalog site in a sea of others.

    To get someone who is interested in new this style of furniture the theme of the blog needs to reflect their style.

    To attract and keep readers: they want to find personal stories and pictures of furniture used in real environments. Guest blog authors and a question- and – answer section would go along way in creating interest.

    I can look at a magazine at the local book store… If I saw a cover that looked similar to your site… I would have passed it up. No Bling!

    Plus… the great thing about an online magazine is the interaction… which can feel personal and immediate.

    You look like you are trying to compete with the big boys and it doesn’t have a hook! Like they say… don’t try to be Amazon… they have been at it too long.

    Be different and edgy. The furniture you are showcasing must have an audience that wants constant information. Why should they come to you?

    For instance… when I click on baby furniture… at this time the first thing I see is a picture of what appears to be a plain crib… and an ugly one at that. It takes me a few seconds to realize that the article is about organic mattresses.

    Is that a message of this site? Is it focused on baby furniture and organic materials? But… when I scroll down the page I come to the greatest looking highchair I have ever seen. Now that is something visual I can sink my teeth into.

    But… the article that goes with that highchair is very hard to read – format is very bad – and it’s boring.

    I can see what you are trying to do… but I think you need to get out a big white board and marker and rethink the strategy of this site. Or at least… get a strategy.

    Oh… and get rid of the adsense at least in the side column and the little calender icons on the posts. Class up the joint!

  27. This is cool – I’ve got a sort of “inherited” knowledge of interior design, as my mother owned an interior design business, and she now works for a large mid-high priced furniture store.

    a) Ideas on how to make more revenue

    For right now, there are WAY too many ads and “friends” links on the page. Both in the sidebars and on the main index. It’s distracting and would normally make me click right off of a site.

    Putting adsense ads under “Finds” makes you look like you’re trying to put links up without the reader knowing that they’re adsense ads – and they VERY CLEARLY are. They’re not even colored to flow with your site’s design. They’re that standout, typical blue. Use custom palettes if you’re going to use text blocks, and get them out of that “prime location” on the sidebar.

    Oh, and when I clicked on the site for the first time, the ad under the header was for getting my credit score. Not sure what that has to do with furniture… it’s just so obvious that you’re more interested in making money than you are in writing a useful resource for people, and it’s a HUGE turnoff – even to the search engines.

    b) Ideas on how to diversify revenue sources – are there other monetization products that would fit this blog?

    Private ad sales. Get rid of the majority of those adsense ads and text link ads type things under “recommended” and start doing private ad sales in the form of 125×125 ads, and no more than 4 or 6 to start. It’s a layout and design thing. You’ve got this enormous sidebar, and then you’ve got this really wide main column, with breaks between posts being 200×200 box ads. There’s no FLOW, and it’s likely to create “ad blindness” because people know to ignore what they’re seeing.

    c) Ideas on growing traffic

    Participate in social networks, and that means don’t just join them, but actively put yourselves out there as authorities and experts. Comment on other related blogs on a regular, relevant basis, and the traffic WILL come.

    d) Ideas on building more of a community

    Let readers send in photos of their rooms and you can do one of two things (or both) – You can have readers make suggestions by going out and finding furniture that they think would work in that room and give links to it (you’ll have to be on top of your spam filters) and/or you guys can do it, by putting together a schematic with new furniture/paint/rugs/window treatments, etc.

    This will get people involved and active, and frankly – it’s something pretty much unheard of for a furniture site as far as I’ve ever seen. ;)

    e) Ideas on growing RSS subscribers

    Hold a contest for a gift certificate to IKEA or something… random drawing of all RSS subscribers. You can check it if you use FeedBurner.

    f) Analysis of blog layout – strengths & weaknesses; let us know how we can improve and in effect improve monetization

    Think I’ve covered it, but to be honest, I wouldn’t buy that you guys are experts in design of anything with this. It’s plain and uninteresting, and says nothing about the topic or style of the site.

    That said, I’d get rid of having the date on there twice (the calendar image and again at the bottom near the comments link), if at all, and I’d make the author names link to your bios, where you explain your expertise and experience that makes you an authority.

    g) Analysis on writing style, length of articles, and sustenance of article content

    The style and length is okay, but I suppose could be a little longer, and more descriptive. Not of the company or the piece of furniture, but more about what other things that furniture might go with… accessories, window treatments, etc. Make it a “whole package” kind of thing, like a vignette, only with the furniture item at the focus.

    h) How to increase page views per unique and average time on site – currently at 2.1 page views and 1:35 minutes.

    Make it more interesting to look at, and use things like “related posts” at the bottom of each entry. Write “pillar articles” (do a search here on PB).

    i) Do we need meta description and meta keywords? We seem to be doing well without them. Movable Type does not automatically create them like WordPress. I am doing well in Google, but wonder if I could do better in MSN, Live, and Yahoo. Further, if I make that switch, will that penalize me in Google?

    It depends on a large number of things, but if the only thing you’re concerned about with the switch is whether or not it’s going to give you meta tags, then don’t bother. However, WordPress gives you MUCH more flexibility in terms of SEO than MT does, in my opinion.

    j) How do we improve? (any general ideas)

    Expand yourselves just a little bit. You need to think of it as drawing people into the site with “interior design” and “home furnishings” and then keeping them there with a focus on furniture.

    Write more articles that AREN’T sales pitches for specific pieces.

    l) Ideas to create more international readers/visitors

    I think you should concentrate more on getting everything else right and pumping before you try to do too much, but what you could do is study design trends in various other countries, and have sections with posts about that. I think right now you’re overwhelmed with trying to get things going as it is, and possibly with the amount of time and work it’s going to take to get it to become a popular blog. Start local, spread global.

    m) Do we need a clearer tag line or some description at the top of the site? (to let readers know what this website is about) (mission statement)

    “Get surrounded” is vague and doesn’t quite focus on furniture. When I hear that in relation to interior design, I think more of accessories and mirrors. LOL

    All that said – I think you’ve got a great idea, and it’s something that few people have been able to pull off successfully and for a long period of time. It’s clearly a passion of yours (which I only know because you’re here on PB asking for help – not because of your site), which is wonderful when it comes to a niche, however you’re not showing that to your readers. Let them know who you are, why you’re doing this, and what the benefits are to them to keep coming back. :)

  28. Interesting site. Without having read any of the other comments, here’s my take on it. I would first address some site design issues. A tagline and/or mission statement at the top would go a long way towards converting visitors into subscribers. Having that in the footer means that casual traffic is going to click on out before ever finding out what the site is there for in the first place.

    The banner at the top is lovely, and ties in nicely with the footer. But they’re so far apart that they look disjointed. May I suggest uniting them with some color between? Perhaps putting that lovely pale green from the pictured sofa as a background in the sidebar?

    The writing is concise, which I appreciate. However, it sounds a bit like copy from a catalog or magazine. Is this a website dedicated to selling these furniture pieces? Then keep the text as is. If it’s a blog, then having a more personal approach will help you develop a devoted following. People are attracted by good site design; they stay for compelling information and personality. I don’t learn anything about the author(s) when I read the posts. Which brings me to the about page. I learn about the site, but not the authors. Adding information about the authors would go a long way toward making the blog more personal.

    I clicked randomly through some categories, and the site seems heavily biased toward modern furniture. (Apologies if I’m mistaken. I’m not tremendously knowledgeable about style). Why not capitalize on that and specialize as a niche site on modern design?

    The friends blogroll is a bit confusing. Why is a divorce attorney’s site linked on the front page of a furniture site? The second link is to an artist, but I have no way of knowing that unless I take the time to click on the link. Perhaps a phrase telling what her site is and why I should go there? The gadget review name is enough to get me to click on the third link. The other blogroll didn’t even catch my attention until I went back and looked a third time. The list blends in a bit.

    Having Google ads in the Finds category seems impersonal. I’m not likely to click on an ad, but I would be willing to check out a discovery that one of the blog authors made.

    I would make the rss button bigger. Also, have you put any thought into what it means to be an authority site? I subscribe to sites that entertain, teach, or inform. You’re already informing, how about doing some article series that teach? That would help build your subscriber base (and email list). There are all sorts of furniture topics I would love to learn about: how to pick a quality piece, what to look for in a couch, what types of fabric wear under what circumstances, child friendly brands, and more.

    I see there’s a daily newsletter. Does this mean daily post? Or an entire newsletter? The word newsletter to me means multiple articles. Honestly that overwhelms me and I’m less likely to subscribe. I’m not willing to dedicate a lot of time to a newsletter that frequent. I would be willing to read a post daily though. If it is indeed just a single post, perhaps describing the newsletter as an ‘update’ or switching to a weekly or monthly email would be helpful.

    I personally would close comments on the advertise page, and add in some text describing what size ads are for sale and how much they cost. Also, a paragraph or two explaining why someone would want to advertise there is a good idea. Some details about site traffic and perhaps a list of any awards the site or its creators have won would be helpful.

    Now that I’m coming to the close of this, I guess my one biggest concern is the impersonal nature of the site. Ramping up some personality would help you increase comments, readership, subscribers, and ultimately advertisers and affiliate sales.

    Good luck!

  29. Nice clean look you have there.

    1. I recommend that you avoid those dead white spaces at the end of each description next ot the photos.

    2. I also think that you should change your adsense colors to better match your site. The bright blue lettering may grab the readers attention, but it also screams out ” this is an ad.”

  30. Your site is great except that it needs a translator so you can get those international readers to visit and you need a few pictures of different types of furniture that you will be telling your readers about. You also need to change the header or change where it says get surrounded it should be larger and if you add two more words it would be more interesting to the readers eyes like ” get surrounded by elegance” it sounds better then just get surrounded. Your ads also need to be directed to what your site is all about. Also be sure to post and let your readers know what your site is about as well..Other then these few changes I think you have a pretty neat site. Best of luck and be sure to join communities to get the word out about your site like myblog and stumbleupon and blog catalog you can always get a few readers from those sites when you make new friends.

  31. Cool idea for a promo and we love their models! ;)

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