In evaluating a blog, try to understand “the environment” before even looking at the blog itself. Ask the most relevant questions to the blogmaster, so you can form an idea what is in their mind: what is this blog all about? What’s the purpose? How are they set up,..?
What is the purpose of the blog?
Inform people about the project updates? Is it a resource repository, or a reference library for the insiders, for researchers, for the general public? Is it an advocacy or an awareness tool, a fundraiser?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the blog meant for a broad public, or for a more specialized readership? Do they reach that audience already, according to them?
In view of that audience, what is the overall “smell” they want the blog to have: playful, dynamic, serious, sober..?
Always an interesting question for nonprofit organisations working with an audience ‘on the other side of the digital divide’: Does their audience have any restrictions on bandwidth?
What is the real dynamic content on the blog?
Is it the blogposts themselves, as in 90% of the cases? Or are the document repositories more important? Or a series of maps, or a series of feeds? How often do people update the most dynamic content?
What is the lifespan of the blog?
Something which will be used for the next years to come? How much will it grow? Are they thinking of adding other content sections?
How is the blog updated?
Is it centrally updated by a team, or by a single blogger? Who writes and who posts the blogs, the “content writers” or the “webpeople”? Are those people used to blog, willing to spend some time to shape a blog post? What is their typical workflow from idea to blogpost?
How can the content be divided up?
If it is not immediately obvious from the blog itself: is the content divisible in different sections by subject?
Where is the blog hosted?
Is it a selfhosted blog on one of their servers, is it externally hosted, or are they using a blogging service (Blogger, WordPress.com) to host it?
Are they are seeking another layout, theme or presentation?
Have they seen another blog or theme with a layout they like? What do they like about it?
What do they like, and don’t like about their own blog?
According to them, what are the problems they see, the challenges they have? What are they trying to improve? Why?
Have they ever asked their visitors for feedback?
Did they check what their own audience likes, doesn’t like? What their loyal visitors miss or suggest to change? How easy can they find the information they are looking for? How do they appreciate the blog in general?
These questions will draw a background picture for you. Do the rest of the evaluation keeping their answers in mind.
In the next part, we will dive in the numbers: using Google Analytics to analyse profiles and trends.