With a lot of new items coming in the next few weeks here at Fire Up Today, I decided to take a close look at our current setup and put this blog through the SPARK ratings system. The five items in the SPARK system really cover the majority of ground in a marketing sense. I asked the question…
What is good about this blog and what does it lack?
I’ve put my thoughts down and also listed a blog in each category that I think rates 5 stars. The comparison should hopefully help me make some constructive changes. I welcome your comments and opinions.
The SPARK Rating system consists of Five Key Areas
- Product or Service
- Key Values
Let’s start with the Story of Fire Up Today. The story here is about 2 sentences long. If you go to our current about page you’ll find a vague statement about the title and not much else. There is a small picture of me so at least you can put a face to the writing. In the Spark ratings system I would give myself a 2 out of 5, or a poor rating. No excuses here, just a lot of work to be done.
As an example of a blog with a great story, I would pick Liz Strauss’s great “Successful-Blog” as a glowing example. She has some great content that really illustrates an ongoing narrative with her audience. Since she is a writer by trade she is really adept at the craft of story telling. Her page entitled “My blogging goal,” is powerful and tells an amazing story of her father and the difference he made in the lives of others.
Liz has over 10 different pages that form her “about” statement. They are clearly listed at the top of the left hand column of her blog and catch your eye quickly. In a few minutes you get a real picture of who Liz is, her purpose for blogging, and some great information to help you become a better blogger. In the different articles she has numerous pictures of herself writing, thinking, and working at the computer. These really help you capture her emotions and make you feel like you have known her for a long time.
Three of her pages really stand out as shining examples of links that every successful blog should have…
Be sure to take a look at how she has crafted a inspirational story that draws you into the pages of her blog.
When we talk about the “product or service” of a blog, we have to ask the question as a reader… “What’s in it for us?” With SBT I think there are two primary “what’s” or products that are available here. The first is motivational writing on inspirational subjects. This is what the blog started out as and continues to be the passion that drives the writing. The second product has become our free downloads in our Five Minute Solutions series. These pocket sized business cards have proved to be the most popular destination here and people have found many amazing uses for the cards.
Overall I think we offer a good product that people find useful. I would give SBT a rating of four. One of my mentors in blogging has been Rosa Say and her 5 star blog called “Talking Story.” Her blog is the epitome of a great product and unselfish service. Her main “product’ is her book, “Managing with Aloha.” The reviews on Amazon are all 5 stars and the book takes a unique look at management through the lens of Hawaiian values.
The thing that really sets Rosa’s blog apart from the rest is her Ho’ohana Community. This collaboration of bloggers presents an amazing “voice” that is diverse with unique viewpoints and ideas. The synergy that is created through the help of Rosa’s blog is remarkable. As a facilitator Rosa offers help and guidance to others and provides a structure for expressing ideas. The overall service that she provides to her readers is definitely five stars and is available free of charge.
Spend some time exploring her site. You’ll find so many examples of a great product or service ideas that can be offered to readers and website visitors. Examples include..
All three of the items above are on my list for future implementation and Rosa’s site offers great inspiration to get them done.
The third item on the SPARK acrostic is Atmosphere. When talking about a blog it’s the design and the look and feel of a site. It’s the colors, the fonts and the overall structure. It’s the pictures, the graphics and the icons. It’s the words, feelings and expressions. It’s the total of all of these items combined into an online adventure.
As someone who enjoys the graphic arts, I’ve spent a lot of time on the design of this site. I’ve tried different WordPress templates, different color combinations, and different header designs. The design has gone from two columns to three and some new plug-ins have recently been added. In the latest iteration I’ve gone for a more professional look and feel.
The problem with spending too much time on design is that the returns do not match the time and energy expended. If I have any advice in this area it is to find a well developed template and do minor modifications. Do enough to make it your own and come up with your own header graphic.
In trying to rate this site for Atmosphere, I had to step back and try and look at the site with unbiased eyes. The blue and silver colors are easy on the eyes, the header has a professional look, and the tag line provides some inspiration. The template fits most screens and three columns provides more information above the fold. Overall a good look, but nothing inspiring enough to garner a five. I would rate it a four.
In my search for an outstanding blog I’ve looked at hundreds of templates and custom designs. Very few really inspire me. Given the available screen real-estate and the abject fear of most bloggers to use Flash or other animation software, most blogs are a compromise to lower resolution screens and older computers.
One blog that has really stood out in this area and has worked through the compromises to present a very unique look is Yaro Starak’s Entrepreneur’s Journey. Using a state of the art CSS template for WordPress, Yaro combines white space, color blends, and smart buttons in a very intuitive user interface.
Above the fold he includes his picture and a welcome audio message that develops his story on the first visit. His placement of popular articles and blog traffic tips keep readers on his site. Overall this is an amazing use of space. Almost any blogger can find inspiration on this site. Be sure to take note of his…
Yaro has created a Five Star interface and provides a great resource to all bloggers.
When it comes to routine, blogs are naturally efficient at providing links to previous posts and custom pages. The blog software automatically produces comment pages and keeps track of visitors and other sites that link to them. What sets apart a blog in this area is smart design and a liberal use of informational links. Fire Up Today is just average in this area. I’ve been re-designing some of the links on paper and I hope to implement a much more intuitive system to help users navigate this site. In the meantime I would rate it a 3.
One site that stands out in the navigation area is Darren Rowse’s great Problogger site. This site is very easy for first time visitors to navigate. Key areas of interest are listed at the top in different colored CSS boxes. It’s easy to find what you are looking for. His left sidebar offers numerous “about” pages and the available FAQ pages will answer most of your questions. Overall a great resource and an exemplary model of organization. Be sure to check out his…
Five stars to Darren for a great roadmap to blogging!
The final area of SPARK is the Key Value. It’s the tag line that you come away with after you visit a site. It’s the one sentence mantra that describes your experience. It may be… “Great site with wild colors,”or “great podcast,” or maybe “what were they thinking??”.
I’m not sure what the Tagline for Fire Up Today might be but it probably have something to do with ideas and the utility of our Five Minute Cards. One of the comments on our Five Minute Organizer was left by Peter Kua. He writes…
Ahh.. the power of the paper and pen! Very cool!
Since the comments have been generally positive I would rate our take away as Good or a 4.
One site that always elicits a comment from me is Seth Godin’s blog. Seth has such a unique style of writing and is always thinking outside the box. As an author Seth has sold thousands of books to marketers and other business people all over the world. His claim to fame is being remarkable. In one of his latest posts from his 5 star blog he lists what people really want…
The same thing everyone else is having, but different.
A menu where the prices aren’t all the same.
More attention than the person sitting next to them.
A slightly lower price than anyone else.
A new model, just moments before anyone else, but only if everyone else is really going to like it.
A seat at a sold out movie.
Access to the best customer service person in the shop, preferably the owner.
Being treated better, but not too much better.
Being noticed, but not too noticed.
I think in blogging people want SPARK.
- Tell us your story,
- Offer a great product or service,
- Package it in a fun and exciting atmosphere
- Make it easy to navigate
- Give us something memorable to take away
When you put all the pieces together you’ll have a Five Star Blog!
I added up my score and came up with a score of 3.4. A little above average but quite a ways to go. With inspiration from the Five Star blogs listed above I’m sure constructive changes will come.
Be sure to take a look at their blogs and be inspired!