Coachology: Redesign your blog and get more readers

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Just after I redesigned my blog last March, Cory Miller sent an email to me giving me some suggestions on how to tweak the layout to get more traffic.

My first instinct was to delete the mail because I had just spent $3000 on a blog design and I didn't want to hear it was already out of date. But I have learned my lesson about ignoring reader advice, so I gave some of his suggestions a try.

It's because of Cory that there is suggested reading at the end of every post. The suggested posts are supposed to be related to the post at hand, but in fact, I find they are seldom related. That doesn't seem to matter, though. As soon as I implemented this feature, my traffic went up.

Cory also told me that I could put search toward the bottom of the page. I was shocked to hear that most people don't search blogs. But when I looked at the record of recent searches on Brazen Careerist, it was true: Almost every search was one I had done myself, looking for a specific post to link to.

It was around this time that my book publicity was heating up, and I was launching a home site to promote the book, and I needed to hire someone to help me. When Cory saw that I implemented his changes, he offered to do work for me for free.

That would have been great. But I know myself. I make lots of little changes and I work really late at night, and I overreact to problems like the day I accidentally turned my whole blog bold and I couldn't figure out where the missing HTML tag was. I need to pay someone to make it worth putting up with me.

So I hired Cory at his regular rate. And it was worth every penny. But hold it. You know what I did first? I read his blog a little more carefully because he is an evangelical Christian.

As a liberal Jew, I have never really come into contact with someone like him. And, now that I think about it, I have managed to live among a heavily gay population in New York City and Los Angeles, and in a bastion of atheist academics in Boston, and the most conservative place I have ever lived is in the spot in Chicago where tourists go to bars “? not outright liberal, but I certainly didn't meet any evangelists there.

After reading his blog, I decided that hiring Cory would broaden my world. And it has. For one thing, Cory is smart about search engine optimization and how it relates to design, so I am getting smarter. And he is an ace with WordPress to the point that he's made me love it. But he has also taught me about living ones values at work.

Of course I asked him about all the religion stuff. He was shocked to hear I was Jewish, and I was shocked that he didn't know. But maybe Jewish radar is like gay radar and straight men don't have any. Anyway, the final thing I have learned from Cory is about living life according to one's values. He does it in a more extreme way than I could. I cherish my moments of hypocrisy. But I really admire him for believing in something. I think that's important. I want to live life according to my values, too. I am just less certain than he is about what they are.

But I digress. This is Coachology, right? Cory is offering to create a new blog design (and implement it) for someone for free. It's gotta be in WordPress, (technically called a WordPress Theme) and he's going to give you six hours of his time. If you are high maintenance, indecisive and difficult, you are going to find that six hours is a tight limit. (But maybe you can change. Here are instructions on how to be a good client during the design process.)

Cory's expertise is creating blog designs that boost traffic, so the people who will benefit the most from this offer are not brand-new bloggers, but people who have established some sort of an audience already.

If you'd like this chance to spruce up your blog, send an email to me at with three sentences about why you'd be a good candidate for the award. The deadline for submitting an email is Sunday, and Cory will pick a winner next week.

13 replies
  1. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    Wow, after that plug I went straight to Cory’s blog to check it out. Or rather I tried to go there. It appears to be blocked in China…. :(

    * * * * *

    Melanie, That’s really interesting. Thanks for leaving this comment. Makes a large, hotly debated topic somehow seem more understandable at this micro level.


  2. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    A very interesting posting because, I suppose, it’s on the other side of that intersection of life and work.

    I admire people who have the strength live by their values too. But, at the same time, a little bit of doubt never hurt anybody. And this guy sounds like a fine fellow but, perhaps, a touch too certain.

    A former Torontonian who was a highschool classmate of the guys I play cards with has recently written a really good book about Mussar, which is a method of training yourself to live your values.

    His name is Alan Morinis. The book is called “Essential Holiness” and, yeah, it’s a religious book but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy or it or profit from it. And it’s a Jewish book but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it either. (Just as you don’t have to be a Hindu to practice yoga).

    I don’t Alan personally but I’ve seen him speak. He’s very good. And he’s is on tour right now promoting his book. So, if he comes to your town you might want to take the time to go and hear him.

  3. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Great post — it is helping push me to improve my blog. Timing and platform isn’t right for the Coachology opportunity.

    So, if I wanted to find someone (ideally locally near my home) like Cory to hire to help me re-design my blog (in blogger) and increase traffic, stickiness, etc. where might I look?

    I googled a bunch of words related to this and could only find “online marketing specialists.” And they talk about helping companies increase sales on their website — I just want more people to read and participate in my blog.

    So, I’m not sure if what I want is an “internet marketing strategy” – is it the same thing as what Cory did for you?

    Thanks for any insight!


    * * * * *

    Hi, Wendy.
    These are good questions. First of all, I really encourage you to not worry about location — this type of advice is not location dependent, and you can look for someone all over the Internet.

    Building blog traffic is an issue of Internet marketing. You have to figure out where you want to improve — getting search engines to notice you, having a design that encourages people to read more, becoming more involved in a network of similar bloggers, all these are ways you can increase traffic, and often, an internet marketing specialist, like Cory, is good at one or two of these things.

    For example, Cory can create a WordPress theme, which few Internet marketing people can do. But he wouldn’t be the guy to get copywriting advice from. That’s just not his specialty. Most people who are copywriting experts don’t know how to solve design problems like where to put a link to Digg.

    So my point is that you need to sniff around to find out what each person’s specialty is. If you email me with the thing you think you most need help with, I might be able to point you to someone. Or, you could go to any internet marketing blog and email the blogger to say what you need help with and that person will probably suggest one or two people for you to check out.


  4. Stephanie Sheaffer
    Stephanie Sheaffer says:

    Coachology is such a great concept. I am on a perpetual quest for mentors and coaches in my life – and it’s incredible that you offer your readers the chance to work with people from a variety of backgrounds.

    I’d love to see a coachology offer to work with a career coach, a personal trainer, an accomplished author, or a literary agent. I’d also jump at the chance to win tuition for graduate school classes, a certificate program, or a writing/speaking conference.

    * * * * *

    Thank you for your feedback. It’s great to hear suggestions for the kinds of offers you’d like to see. I’ve actually already done a few of those, but you make me realize that I could offer some of the same types of coaching again, with different people.


  5. Spencer McKeehan
    Spencer McKeehan says:

    I decided to look up your blog after seeing your book at Barnes and Nobel this weekend. I’m going to take some of the interview advice to an informal interview I have this week.

    So, your comments about Cory really caught my eye. You see, I am also an evangelical Christian. It really encourages me to hear about other Christians who are living out their values, their faith and are not only doing well in their trade but are having an impact on others. But it’s your reaction to him I really found…amusing?

    It’s like this: I think Christians have done a really poor job at getting out the message that we’re not all the drones of conformity and blind ignorance a lot of “popular” media makes us out to be.

    So here’s my recommendation to anyone reading this. If you’ve been put off by Christianity and religion in general, or if you are like Penelope and want to learn to live out your values, find a good solid Christian (someone like Cory I suspect) and have an honest talk with them.

  6. dave
    dave says:

    Penelope, Is it not absolutely fascinating what folks derive from your message? Cory’s name is going to be floating around my periphery when I think of SEO. But do you know what just screams at me about this post of yours? You. The evolution of Penelope.

    And within your own evolution right here for the whole world to see, lies a treasure chest filled with the gold of wisdom. You see, for me this isn’t about building web site traffic or connecting with an evangelical Christian, it’s about watching you be open to possibility. And it’s about the effort that you put in to learn about a potential biz partner.

    The stuff you do and talk about here is worth the price of admission. But the things that seemingly motivate you in what you do are going to be what you are remembered for.

  7. maryam in marrakesh
    maryam in marrakesh says:

    I wish I had wordpress. But at the same time, every time I have put myself out there to get help for my blog, I get shafted. Once a huge pro-blogger site picked my blog for a makeover (along with a number of others). They ended up making over two bloggers and left the rest of us promised bloggers in the lurch. Another time, a site promised to have someone “soap” (ie critique) my blog if I would critique someone elses. I dutifully spent 3 hours critiquing my assigned blogger’s blog. And as for my blog….I am still waiting…

  8. Neil
    Neil says:

    Yes, you are so correct. There is much emphasis on content, which holds true when I read your blog but design is just as crucial. getting those visitors to convert is an art and much to do with it is design and layout of a website. Yours is simple and clean, with links going really deep within your blog to keep us readers consumed for well over 10 minutes… well done!

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