Last month here on ProBlogger we ran a community review on a reader’s blog. I posted a link to a blog with some comments from the blogger and then opened it up for readers of ProBlogger to review it.
The response from the post was great. 120+ comments were left including some great advice. I also had a lot of emails from readers saying that they learned a lot by reading the suggestions of others – many wanted to see these reviews done regularly.
As a result I’m going to try to do these reviews on a weekly (ish) basis – today we have another one. As a little bonus to ProBlogger.com members I’m going to choose the blogs being reviewed from members blogs (with their permission of course).
This month’s Review – Man vs Debt.
What follows is some information from the blogger behind Man vs Debt – Adam Baker.
Before you give your review in comments below please read through this information as it’ll give you context for your review as well as some of what Adam is hoping to pick your brains about.
Please also note that while you’re welcome to give your honest feedback on the blog that we’d love for this to be a constructive experience for everyone. Don’t just tell us what you don’t like – share what you’d do to improve it.
I started Man Vs Debt. in the last week of March 2009 (this year). I originally started it to chronicle Courtney and my journey to get out of debt. We were in the final stages of selling all of our possessions, paying down our consumer debt, and relocating to what we thought was going to be Australia (ended up being Australia -> New Zealand and soon Thailand).
It’s been amazing so far. When I got started I knew absolutely zero about blogging, just that I liked reading them. I didn’t know how WordPress worked or even what SEO stood for. But I was quickly amazed at how strong the blogging community was (and still is). This is especially true of the personal finance niche. I received an overwhelming amount of help early on from many experience bloggers, whom I would have never guessed would have taken the time to help.
Over the last 7 months or so, I’ve decided to concentrate almost all my effort on building a community. As I’ve been traveling, I’ve found a home sort of between the personal finance niche and the life design/travel niche. The blog has become even more transparent than I originally designed (which is fine by me) with us sharing our list of possessions, finances, and ups and downs of traveling.
Early on, I decided to not feature advertising on the site. Recently, I’ve picked up a small group of affiliates that I either use everyday or that I’m a hardcore fan of. I still haven’t moved promoting these to the front page, but did set up an ‘ Endorsed‘ page (pictured in part below) where I list them.
My largest goal right now is to increase my monetization. I’ve decided to focus this into product creation. I’m working a my first eBook (a joint venture), which will be a cheaper price point and will be the start of several products over the next 2-6 months. I’m trying to plan where to put this design wise on the blog, too. I’m torn between putting it in the top position in my sidebar as I’ve had a lot of success prioritizing this space with RSS, Twitter, and e-mail subscriptions.
I’ve also thought about moving some affiliates to the main page. I’ve avoided this so far, as to keep my main sidebar as clean and simple as possible. I’ve decided to focus attention onto my subscription and highlighting my most popular content.
Besides increasing monetization a bit, I want to continue to increase the ‘community’ factor of my blog. I’m proud of the amount of comments and want to continue to find ways to encourage people to comment. I want to feature my twitter account and facebook account(facebook currently not featured) to connect deeper. I’d also like to focus on having people use StumbleUpon, Twitter, and E-mail to spread articles they enjoy. I think focusing in on these 3 platforms only would provide a way for different audiences to spread, but not confuse with 100 different options. I like simplicity (aka, I’m torn on whether to use the ShareThis plugin, etc…).
Also, I’d like to drive more people to convert to my e-mail list, called the Militia. I need to allow people to sign up from the main page (right now they have to click through to separate page). I run product giveaways exclusively to the list and give out special information on upcoming features, events, etc… I know I could do this a lot better. And because I will be monetizing primarily off my own information products, I need to improve sooner rather than later! :-)
Lastly, I want to continue to promote transparency on the blog. Courtney and I keep an up-to-date list of all our possessions ( Our Stuff page) and also track all our expenses and budgeting on a daily basis (Our Financespage). While not everyone may care for this, the majority of e-mail I get from new visitors is about these sections. It really helps establish a connection and I’m not sure I’m doing enough to promote these pages.
What Advice Would You Give on How to Improve this Blog?
OK – there’s Adam’s story and some of what he’s trying to achieve with his blog. I hope that it not only provides you with some context for commenting on his blog but gives some insight into the life, goals and approach of one blogger which may help inform your own blogging.
Adam has agreed not to make any changes to his blog over the next week (except for new content) so that we can all see the same thing and have plenty of opportunity to look his blog over and comment on it.
Over to you – what constructive advice do you have for Adam? What do you like about what he’s doing on his blog? What could he improve upon? I’m looking forward to hearing what the community comes up with and to seeing how this impacts Adam’s blog.