Home Technology Montreal (HTM) is a blog by Bob Benedetti who is a TV reporter and producer for the Canadian Television Network (CTV). I share this because this makes Bob officially our first celebrity basher! Although I expect that soon we’ll be bashing other such celebrities (Tina Fey has my number on her speed dial, I’m sure we’ll hear from her soon).
Bob’s blog is focused on personal technology and toys (mostly technology) with a bent on things available in Montreal. However as Montreal is a major international metropolis I would suggest that the “Montreal” angle is somewhat irrelevant. But I get it, he’s a local celebrity in Montreal so it makes sense to use the regional angle.
Bob asked us to focus on his content and submitted this post as a favorite sample of his writing. The post focuses on the sale of a cute tchotchke (which is amusingly misspelled as chuchkies) that helped raise significant funds for the Canadian food bank. It’s a nice enough post but it doesn’t seem to really represent what Bob does best on his blog which is…
Product reviews. Bob is a passionate and natural tech reviewer. The posts that quickly stood out were those focused on product reviews. Bob is a strong writer with a very natural writing style and his enthusiasm for technology comes through in a very organic way. His reviews are great: full of useful images, videos, personal observations about the item, and he backs up his opinions nicely. They read like a conversation with a buddy who is excited to share his thoughts about his latest toy with you.
The HTM home page uses a clean minimalist layout. The subscription options are easy to find in the upper right hand sidebar and while there is some advertising, it’s relatively small and unobtrusive. The header graphic is OK although it could be stronger if the obscuring swirls were removed from the otherwise lovely Montreal skyline image. Also given Bob’s celebrity status, I would opt for removing the HTM (which is vague and generic) and use the reclaimed header real estate to make the tagline larger and more legible.
There are two areas where Bob’s blog is failing and navigation is one. There is almost no way to access Bob’s posts except via date archives or paging through older posts (which isn’t working correctly). The obvious answer to this would be to develop a strong category scheme of no more than 7-10 categories (handhelds, cars, televisions, etc.) and use this to enable readers to quickly navigate to everything he’s had to say on the subject. Of course this would require consistently using categories which he doesn’t. In fact a number of his posts are uncategorized.
Blog Rule #57: Never publish a post without assigning a category.
I don’t know what his bounce rate/page views are but I suspect they could be improved significantly by adding more useful navigational options to his site.
Keywords and SEO
Bob’s blog would also benefit from some work on SEO. I understand and share the belief that most of us “smaller bloggers” can’t compete with the SEO gunslingers who have turned keyword optimization and backlinking to a finely honed science. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking at least the basic steps to help readers find you. And Bob is missing out on a lot of opportunity here.
- Bob’s posts never use any sub-heads (h1, h2 tags). Thus he is making his content less scannable for readers and missing an opportunity to tell Google what he is writing about.
- Bob doesn’t use meta data (description and alt tags) for his images. For Bob this is a huge missed opportunity because most of his posts have multiple images.
- Bob is using Yoast SEO but he isn’t using it correctly. This is easy to do, Yoast is a wonderful powerful WordPress plugin. It’s also a bit confusing. Luckily there are some great Yoast tutorials available to help people figure it out.
- Work with keywords. Bob’s content is great – useful technology information and reviews. These are great terms! A quick search on Google’s Keyword tool suggests that things like: tech, reviews, gadget, etc. are all high volume low competition terms. Great news! Now he just needs to make sure he is optomizing his content to make sure people searching for those terms have a chance to find him. Thus…
- Call them reviews. I don’t believe he uses this term anywhere on his site. And he should. They are reviews and people love reviews.
- Don’t call them toys. They’re not toys. I would lose “toys” from the tagline also. A better tagline would be something more like “Bob Benedetti reviews the latest tech gadgets.”
- Use a tagline. Right now his is invisible to Google as it is “hidden” in his header image. WordPress gives you an easy out to fix this. He should go into Settings->General and put his (or better my suggested) tagline in there.
Anybody else have some helpful thoughts for Bob’s blog?