31 Days to a Better Blog: The final days

Firstly before I begin my summary of the final tasks, I’d like to say a big thank you to Paul Webster from the ICT Hub, who boldly took on the final days of the challenge whilst I hopped on a train with the family, leaving all technology behind and unplugged for a much needed vacation in France. Paul on his Watford Gap blog (about ICT support in the regions here in the UK, with a bit of railway coffee for good measure!), did a fine job of tackling the final days really well and I no doubt will be a slave to any of his requests in the future as compensation.
A big thank you too to the 31 Days to a Better Blog community who not only welcomed Paul into it all at a late stage, but a personal big cheers to you all. With thanks to this challenge first instigated by Michele Martin of the Bamboo Project Blog, I have a new circle of global friends who through the project have introduced me to a wide range of ideas, concepts and inspiration too. Congratulations to the MiniLegends, the fabulous class of 9 year olds in Australia with the support of their fabulous teacher Al Upton who won the Chocolate Challenge.
Do take a look at the MiniLegends site, they’ve used VoiceThread recently which I mentioned to them a while back. These young people are just fabulous!!!

Anyway, August is now over, and officially so is the challenge. I had a good excuse to fall behind with my holidays, and a few of us are still plodding through the final tasks.
It hasn’t ended there though, nearly all of us and quite a few extra have joined in as a new community to learn and discover more in our journeys with blogging. You can read more about the ideas behind this in a recent post by Michele Martin, or head straight over and join in on the new Building a Better Better Blog community. Also, I’d highly recommend that you keep looking at the taskmaster of this challenge, Darren Rowse’s site at Problogger. The interest and learning that have been shared on his site are really useful too, with many of the readers and participants giving their tips and experiences.

I’ve not had too much time to do all of the final tasks in great detail but listed them here, and I hope that you, my readers have enjoyed my journey into building a better blog. I still have much work to do. This challenge has inspired me to really understand the role of my blog, and also of my main website, and redesigns and tweaking will be much of a feature in the coming months ahead to refine my sites usability and look more.

So here is the run down on the final days tasks…

Day 23: Go on a dead link hunt

A really useful task which encourages us to go on a hunt for old and dead links. This can be applied to all websites including blogs, and I highly recommend this to everyone as part of their spring cleaning on their sites. It helps your readers too, saving them frustration at not being to follow links from old articles. For this task I used the W3C Link Checker.

Day 24: Do a Search Engine Optimisation Audit

This task of looking at search engine optimisation highlighted some simple tips to make your articles and sites work more effectively at getting traffic to your site. One of the key ways that I find helps is to ensure your site is W3C compliant in the first place, endorsed also by the comment made by Stephen of Web Design Wexford in one of my recent articles for usable websites.

Day 25: Go Shopping and Improve your Blog

Surely that has to be every Geekgirls best title for a task eh?!? This task was to help you to see for real how people are making their decisions when shopping. What draws them in and what makes them buy something. Another useful marketing idea which can relate to your site. If you understand the needs of your readers and users you’ll work harder to ensure that you are getting it right for them. Well, I couldn’t get a shopping centre as Darren suggested. I live in a rural village and we do have one small but essential little shop. I couldn’t bear to do this task for a whole hour there (I would have been the centre of conversation at the next parish meeting no doubt and banned from the shop probably forever more!). But as an avid people watcher whenever I go into real urbanity, I do observe well how people look at things and will aim to remember that in future design and content work.

Day 26: Link up to a Competitor

This task followed on from a previous one earlier in the month. I admit to not having done much with this as yet. Or have I? Since this challenge began, I am now linked up to a wider range of other bloggers, many with the same aims and ambitions as myself. We’re promoting discussion amongst ourselves and inspiring each other on new articles to write. So I think I can tick this one off.

Day 27: Find a Sponsor for your Blog

Not relevant for me now, but I know that I’ve been asked about this from a fair few nonprofits. The task of finding a sponsor for your blog has lots of good advice and tips to help you think deeper on finding and making sponsorship work for you. I may come back to this at a later date after doing some more research in the area on nonprofits and effective relevant sponsorship.

Day 28: What is your Blog’s Mission Statement?

I dreaded the idea of this one rearing itself and it did with the task to create your blogs mission statement. Much of my day job is helping to support new organisations especially pull all their ideas and innovative ideas together into a simple clear mission statement. Something simple and concise that wraps up their being in a few words. I’m going to take some time in evolving mine, as my blog and its content is still finding its feet. My readers will shape the way that my blog evolves to some extent, so will the work that I am involved in. I don’t want to pin it to anything specific yet. Saying that though, if any readers can come up with suggestions for my mission statement, you’re welcome to submit ideas. As I mentioned in my recently updated ‘About‘ page, as to why I use the title Popokatea; sometimes when looking inward at the work you do and what you are trying to convey, you can get a creative block. So there’s a challenge for you my readers!

Day 29: Email a blogger that’s linked to you to say thanks

This task helps to keep us mindful about our relationships and communities that we are building. I’m fascinated about how our perceptions of communities in the nonprofit sector are changing to not just geographical traditional communities, but evolving into thematic communities. Since this challenge began, I’ve done more communicating with others than ever before on the internet. And its great! If you use WordPress for your blog, you’ll easily see who links to you on the dashboard area of your site when you log in to the back end. For this reason alone, which saved me a lot of searching online was one of the main deciding factors to transfer my blogging activity from Modx over to WordPress.

Day 30:Explore a Social Media Site

Again I haven’t spent much time on this task (you can tell I’ve just returned from holiday into a hectic week!). Just before I embarked on this challenge, I really began to dip my toes fully into the waters of social media. I’ve begun to learn a lot on how people and organisations use them and also explored different ways to see how nonprofits can communicate with them. I don’t push or plug my trade too much on social media sites, I personally find it off putting when people self promote too much, although if I like what I see, I’ll follow their links to their professional sites. Darren’s post on the topic gives some really good pointers that can help those to get started with social networking.
If you are new to all social media and desperate to understand easily about what it is and how it all works, head over to the Common Craft website that have some really great videos and examples in simple plain English to help get you started (such as RSS, social bookmarking and wiki’s).

Day 31: Run a SWOT analysis on your blog

If you are involved in a nonprofit, you’ll be very used to planning with a variety of tools including SWOT (strengths, weakness, Opportunities and Threats) and analysing your outcomes too. Do you do this with your website or blog?
The task to run an analysis on your blog is a great one to end on. I don’t think I can report on this in one short paragraph. I’ll post some of my findings in future articles.

Learning observations of the 31 Days to a Better Blog challenge?
Well, this is just a short summary. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, although it did make me really work much harder than I had anticipated. It’s not over yet either. I still have work to do, refining my blog and I have the community of us, and the new additions taking part in a continuing challenge. In brief, my readership has more than trebled with subscribers, I’ve had more visits and comments and interactivity than ever before. I’ve also made new friends too!
I’m looking forward to continuing my blog and getting back to writing about what I want to write about rather than just the challenge tasks. I aim to report on some of the results of my taking part in this challenge in the coming weeks.

Just one last note, thanks to you, my readers for joining me on this journey!