How To Look Under The Hood of Your Blog (Without Really Trying)

by Gigi Ross on January 23, 2012

The theme for #SITS31DBBB this week is A Look Under The Hood. It’s a time to dig in and check out the nuts and bolts of your blog and make sure stuff is working optimally. It’s a key exercise in learning how to blog better.

This can be a scary and intimidating process, even for a seasoned blogger. There is so much to think about and stay on top of – it’s truly mind-boggling, and it explains why so many people drop out of blogging after a time.

So..don’t get mired in it all. It feels like a giant mountain to climb, and it distracts you from what you do best – write!

There are FREE tools out there – tools that will take the wrenches right out of your hand and do the looking for you, package up what they find in a nice pretty report in {mostly} plain English, and let you focus on how to actually fix what may be broken or needs improvement.

how to blog better

Today, I’m going to walk you through one of those free tools. It’s called Website Grader, and it’s marketed by Hubspot. They use it as a lead generation funnel for their paid services, so you have to endure a couple of “sign up for this!” links, but if you can get past that, this is a superdillyawesome tool for you to see what’s up with your blog.

All you do to get started is enter your blog URL and your email address. {You can enter other URLs of “competing” businesses, but, er, I don’t recommend that. You’ll go down a real rabbit hole and get very depressed that your blog’s grade is way lower than your BFFs.} Hit enter, Website Grader churns away for a bit, and then spits back out a browser version of your report as well as an emailed copy. Let’s take a look at mine and see what you get.

My blog scores 99 out of 100. Remember that this is a big picture look at your site’s nuts and bolts and on other grader tools, my site scores much lower. After it gives you your general score, you can scroll down and get into the finer details.

how to blog better

A Look At Your Content

First, Website Grader looks at your content. Don’t worry, it doesn’t look for misspellings or grammatical errors! It looks at the reading level your writing is at, how many pages are indexed by search engines, and it looks at some of your recent posts and how often they’ve been retweeted. It shows green check marks where you’re doing well. I’ve had a particularly good week with the posts I’ve written, so my content scored well.  And apparently, I”m writing at an elementary school level. Other grader sites say I write at a teenager level, so as with anything, take this with a grain of salt.

how to blog better

Optimizing For SEO

Next, Website Grader sees how you’re doing in making your site and your content optimized for SEO. As you know, SEO is a beast unto itself, so try to take the high points of this and use it as a way to understand what you need to work on. It looks at your metadata, whether you use header tags, and how you treat your images. It gives you a list of the top domains that link in to your blog, too (very helpful!).

I got red-flagged for having too many images on my home page, which slows the site down. Because I often forget to put alt-text in my images, I got flagged for that too. This is a great reminder for me to clean a few things up.

how to blog better

It also looks at your domain – how long it’s been active and whether it’s coming up for renewal. Google doesn’t like when a site’s domain registration is close to expiring, so after seeing my red flag that my domain’s up for renewal in 4 months, I just went ahead and renewed now.

how to blog better

One of the most important things right now for bloggers to get up to speed on is optimizing one’s blog for mobile reading. More and more of us are reading blogs on the go. I had a couple of missing items on the mobile optimization front. It took me 5 minutes to find two WordPress plugins called WP Touch and iPhone Control Panel that solved my mobile issues in a snap.

how to blog better

Promoting Your Blog

Next, Website Grader takes a look at how you’re doing at promoting your blog in other social media outlets. It tells you how many times your home page link has been tweeted, gives you a Twitter grade (which you can dig into in more detail at their Twitter Grader tool) and takes a look at what you’re doing on Facebook.

how to blog better

Converting Users

Finally, Website Grader looks at how well you do at converting visitors into subscribers. It examines if you have a signup form on your site and counts how many posts link to that form. I don’t do this, unfortunately, so this is on my list to dig into as well.

how to blog better

And that’s it! You can run the report, figure out what to fix, then re-run to see how your score improves. I recommend running the tool every 3 months or so, just to keep your finger on the pulse of how things are going.

Wasn’t that easy? Now go run yours and see what you find!


Goa trip January 23, 2012 at 6:05 am

I am totally agreed with you these are the perfect tips for make good our site/blog in front of all over the world and if we will use these tips to our site/blog step by step then definitely we will make huge money as well after popularity of site/blog.

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’m not sure about huge money, but that would be nice!!!

tracy@sellabitmum January 23, 2012 at 6:29 am

Great info!!! Off to try it. Also a bit

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’m sure you did well. We 43 year olds are smart cookies :)

Lea Ann January 23, 2012 at 6:38 am

Thanks Gigi, I’ve never heard of this one. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you got a 99. And I think you should get extra credit for writing this post about it! :-)

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

I know, right? Where are my bonus points?????

Galit Breen January 23, 2012 at 6:45 am

Such great, and I’ll admit slightly intimidating, info Gigi! Thank you!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

It is a bit intimidating, but fortunately, most of the stuff is easy to fix.

Alison@Mama Wants This January 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

I’m going to do this right now, thanks Gigi!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

You’re welcome!

Greener Cleaning mom January 23, 2012 at 6:49 am

Wow! I had no idea there was a resource so comprehensive. I’ll be using this as soon as I get through the sign ups!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

Great! I’m glad you came by!

Kristin @ What She Said January 23, 2012 at 7:42 am

Great info! I did it and was pleasantly surprised (OK, shocked) to find that my site scored a 97. I also need to better format my blog for mobile devices – I use WP Touch, but thanks for that other plugin you mentioned. I’ll definitely look into it!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

The other plugin solved the last red flag that Website Grader gave me and it showed up as a green check in the report when I ran it immediately after installing the plugin!

Eric Storch January 23, 2012 at 7:52 am

Eep! I only scored a 70. :-(

Lot’s of things need fixin’

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

At least you know where to start now, right? :)

Jamie January 23, 2012 at 7:54 am

Thank you for this! As a newborn Blogger I really needed the direction. I did it and it wasn’t as bad as I thought and I now have some direction!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

I’m so glad it was helpful to you!

Mrs. Jen B January 23, 2012 at 8:33 am

I absolutely love this report! A few aspects of my blog which I hadn’t thought to dig into – awesome. Plus I scored a 98 which of course makes me happy. :) Thanks for making Monday a bit more enjoyable. 😉

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

My pleasure Jen, and good job on your score :)

Christina {Chrissy} Berry January 23, 2012 at 8:59 am

Thanks for the information! I tried it, and I was surprised that my brand new blog is already scoring an 85 in less than 30 days of being active. This is a great tool for seeing what’s working – and what’s not. Thanks again, Gigi!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

Glad you liked it!

Allison January 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

Thanks for sharing this great tip! As a new blogger, I love this easy tool!

Robbie January 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

Very helpful info..especially for a newbie. A lot of it is over my head but just means I have more to learn!

Elizabeth January 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

Looks like a great tool! Thank you! I admit that still being new to the blogosphere, I’m scared to run it on my blog. But I think I’ll just suck it up. Although I imagine I’ll look at the results the same way I watch a scary movie…eyes half open and hiding behind both hands! :)

Motherhood on the Rocks January 23, 2012 at 10:52 am

I’m also participating in SITS. Thanks for this great explanation!

Motherhood is Messy January 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

All of these little bits of information are so helpful. I appreciate it! Not so sure I want to see my results…yikes

Nicole@MTDLBlog January 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

I did not know about this tool! Thanks for the fabulous information. I scored 96 on this particular ranker. 43.8 on the Woo ranker….Yeesh!

Leigh Powell Hines (@Hinessightblog) January 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Fabulous information. Thanks for getting us on the right track. A lot of these things, I just have no clue. I appreciate it.

Susan in the Boonies January 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

This is really intimidating to even contemplate doing.

I should do it.

I should start a fan page, too.

Oh, why is that so HARD for me????

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I have a tutorial on how to set up your fan page. it’s so easy. be not afraid.

Susan in the Boonies January 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I went looking for your tutorial, but I am missing it.
Would you link me?
Or…I can try googling it…

julie gardner January 23, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Okay. I’m doing this now.

And I’d say I’m scared, but I already know my under-the-hood area needs some work.

Sorry that sounded like a euphemism for gynecology.

Oh lord, help my blog.

julie gardner January 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Don’t tell my English professors that my blog apparently has a reading level of elementary school.


Now I’m off to read the Thesaurus. Again.

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

It’s fairly embarassing that I have a law degree and my blog is at elementary school level. Clearly, I’m not using my training. :)

Anne January 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I use this grader every few months, and I think it’s helpful to a point. I scored a 95, and they docked me because my domain expires in “less than a year”. They also red flagged the fact that I’m not using any automated marketing, which I feel strongly about. I don’t *want* to automate my “marketing” – I want it to be authentic and “me”. But it is always nice to see the things that I’m doing right!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Yes, they flagged me for that and I don’t really care whether I’m doing marketing or capturing leads. That’s why I take some of it with a grain of salt, but it’s good things to think about for other blogs I work on that *are* trying to capture email lists or do marketing. I’ve heard that it’s recommended you autorenew your blog in 2 or 3 years at a time, but I just don’t like forking out that much $ at one time :)

Alexandra January 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I”d like to do this, but January is a mentally frail month for me.

Don’t need that extra little nudge off the cliff, you know?


ConnieFoggles January 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Does it matter that you have to enter the “www” before your blog url when you don’t normally use it? And thanks for this info. And I got a 99 too!!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I don’t think that it matters! Glad the info was helpful!

JDaniel4s Mom January 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I haven’t done this in awhile. Thank you for reminding be to check it.

Tina @ Life Without Pink January 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Great advice! I just went and did this!

Amy* January 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I have been reading your blog for over an hour and can’t thank you enough for all of your helpful tips. I’m relatively new to blogging and have been trying as best I can to “learn on the go”. I’ve read a lot of “How to Blog Better” posts and yours are the BEST. Not only are they informative but fun to read as well. Thanks again! Off to get my site graded….*shudder*

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

so glad you found my blog helpful. If you search my blog for B2SBSB you’ll see a lot of older blog posts with tips as well. Actually, I’ll be creating a sneeze page for them all tomorrow as part of 31DBBB. I hope. :)

karissa January 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for this advice!! I must do it NOW!

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

hope it goes well *fingers crossed*

Craftwhack January 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm

You are freaking amazing. You’re like an extra bonus class all rolled into the SITS class. I send big hearty smooches your way for sharing your knowledge with us.

kludgymom January 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm

My pleasure! I love doing it!

lori January 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

This is such good stuff. I’m learning a lot. Like, that I have lots to do to improve my blog. Sigh.

Jamie January 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm

That was so so so COOL! It was great reading through that, finding out where I excelled at, and what areas I could work on a little better.

Great info Gigi!

Brainy Pint Sizer January 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Thanks so much for this great post and really priceless info. I, too, had no idea this tool existed. I’m a very, very new blogger (less than 2 months old), so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. My score was 65 — crushing. I have a lot to work on. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and since I’m the only bricklayer, I have to be patient and do one thing at a time. Thanks again! The #SITS31DBBB community has been terrific for a newbie like myself.

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:01 am

You should not be so hard on yourself. 2 months in blogworld is like being an infant. The universe of what you need to learn is gigantic. As you said, be patient and tackle one thing at a time. It’ll come. :)

Deanna @ Little Green Bow January 24, 2012 at 1:46 am

Thank you for posting this. I had actually heard of this tool and used it for my day job, but why I hadn’t ever graded my blog is beyond me – total palm to forehead moment!

One of the comments above talked about being embarrassed about writing at an elementary level. I remember reading somewhere that it’s actually a good thing because you want to go with the lowest common denominator when it comes to your audience. If it’s well written, albeit simply, it will be understood by a larger audience and thus appeal to more people, translating to more readership!

kludgymom January 24, 2012 at 8:00 am

It is a good thing for your blog writing to be at a lower level of reading for sure as it appeals to more folks. I think it’s hard for people who have a professional writing background, though, to be told their writing is simplistic enough for a 1st grader to understand. LOL!

adriel @ the mommyhood memos January 24, 2012 at 5:47 am

Ohh…. I’ve got my blog improvement mojo on right now so this is perfect timing. I can’t wait to try this out. THANK YOU! x

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