Review: Better Blogging with Michael Martine

As I announced in my post called free website review I will review at least 5 websites from now on, but I guess more. #1 is Michael Martine and his Better Blogging weblog.

Michael Martine is a renown blogger and popular WordPress template designer. Even WordPress.com uses one of his designs. He wants to assist you with blogging and to make it “better”. What strikes me first is his huge popularity on Technorati, his unique custom WordPress template with three columns and the fact that he does not rank in the Google.com search top 100 for blogging in spite of that.

Usability:

From the usability point of view Michael does many things right. Large headlines, readable font sizes on white background and not too many colors. The three columns divide the contents logically into posts, internal links and mostly external services. A good way to do that.

Nonetheless I get a little confused every time I look at the site. Why? It’s probably the usage of the colors and different font sizes but also the fonts themselves. The contrast of the colors is too piercing to focus your eyes. The different fonts, font sizes and variants force the reader to look very closely todistinguish them.

Design:

The design is unique although it uses a widely spread platform and it underscores the personality of the blogger showing his picture and his name as one of the main pillars of the website. The design is not strict enough though and lacks a central motive.

Visiting the site for the first time, the user does not know what part of the page to focus. He ends up looking at the photo which is all right but should not be the main focus. Maybe a logo or a header motive would alleviate this. The pictures in the content could use a frame of several pixels, simply a border in CSS. Nowthey can get confused for ads or part of the overall website design.

The search form in the upper right corner breaks the design pattern. The header should not be used to include part of the functionality. The form should be moved to the 3rd column.

SEO:

As WordPress is SEO friendly anyways, the site is already prepared for Google. The above mentioned link popularity takes care of the rest. We have some duplicate content or supplemental results though. Some URLs end up there because they do not exist anymore, or have no real content like this one. Even some RSS feed pages end up in the index. Those should be made invisible to the Google bot in the robots.txt file.
The front page is cached with the date of today, that’s perfect and he’s got over 500 pages in the Google index that’s OK for a blog which is online for more than two years.
The blog does not target any main keywords it seems or it targets too competitive ones (blogging, free wordpress themes). So either it should target less difficult keywords or rather phrases like “professional blogging” and “simple wordpress themes” or it should use SEO 2.0 superpowers:

SEO 2.0:

To tackle the keyword problem Martine can build upon his best assets: High popularity of his WordPress Themes and thus also the blog. He should release a made over theme he uses for his own blog and call it something that matters as a keyword like “better blogging theme” or “probloggers delight”.

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