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Blog Review: – Product Promotion and Community Engagement

Keller Hawthorne | April 2, 2010 | 4 Comments
Blogging 101
Blog Review: – Product Promotion and Community Engagement

Have you met Dana Slatkin yet? She was the Best Newbie Blogger winner and second place winner of my Best WordPress Design Contest of 2009! In this blog review, we’ll take a look at how Dana has used the Internet and WordPress to build a community around her passion (cooking) and product (Summertime Anytime). I will highlight what I believe she’s doing right on her blog and offer suggestions for how I think her blog might be improved. I hope you all enjoy this blog review!

What is is the online presence of Dana Slatkin, chef, consultant, culinary teacher and blogger. After working in France with three-star chefs, holding the position of General Manager at L’Orangerie in Los Angeles, launching the Beverly Hills Farmers Market and selling her own line of food products to supermarkets and airlines, Dana published her first cookbook, Summertime Anytime, in 2008.

Launched in 2009, Dana’s WordPress powered blog is her online platform for sharing recipes and ideas with the everyday cook. She highly supports and promotes the use of local farmers markets and fresh foods with her recipes – an idea that fits perfectly with today’s growing trend of going natural.

Dana has been featured in several magazines, including Town and Country and has even graced the television screen with appearances on The Today Show and Extra.

Blog Review – What Dana’s Doing Right

Now that we’re familiar with Dana and her blog, let’s dive into our review. First, we’ll look at what she’s doing right with her site. Then, I’ll offer some suggestions for enhancing her blog.

Using WordPress

You don’t have to have a blog to use WordPress. Corporations and small businesses can benefit immensely from utilizing WordPress to publish their website. I’m guessing with as busy as Dana is, she doesn’t have time (like many website owners) to learn html, web design and coding. So, what could be more perfect than utilizing a free publishing tool like WordPress to post your ideas to the web?

It’s so simple – buy a domain and hosting, install WP, purchase a Premium WordPress Theme or invest in a custom design and start writing!

With WP’s edit post section, adding content to your website is much like using Microsoft Word to write a paper. With the widget section, you have control over what content you want placed in your design. WordPress gives you the control to manipulate your own site – no need for html experience!

Design, Design, Design

There’s a reason Dana came in second in my Best WordPress Design of 2009 Contest – her design rocks! It’s clean, organized, unique and interesting. With the changing background and large photo of Dana herself, you know exactly whose blog you’re at when you land there.

You don’t have to go with a standard WordPress Blog Theme just because you’re using WP. You can follow in Dana’s footsteps by investing in a cool and completely unique CUSTOM design. Your WordPress site doesn’t have to look like a blog, which Dana has proven!

Media (In the Press Page)

Have you been mentioned on another website or in a book? Shouldn’t your readers be made aware of those mentions? Absolutely!

A media page is a fantastic way to show off the buzz surrounding you or your business. You can create an individual page for this purpose as Dana has done ( or simply add this section to your About Page as I have done (

Events Page

It’s so important to keep an updated calendar of events on your website or blog if you meet with the public or offer classes of some kind. But remember, this is only valuable if you keep it current! Dana maintains hers properly by adding upcoming cooking classes.

The Book

Though Dana’s main purpose with her site is to connect with your readers and build a community around her passion for cooking, she absolutely must take advantage of your online real estate by promoting her cookbook.

If you offer a product, make sure you promote it with a dedicated sales page and ads in your sidebar, header or footer.


Absolutely one of the best ways to build a community around your website and inspire participation from your readers is to offer contests. In Dana’s case, she runs monthly cooking contests where readers submit their own recipes or cooking advice. The best entry is published on her blog and the winner receives a free signed copy of Dana’s cookbook. Not only does this build an audience, it helps further promote Dana’s product!

Links to Other Posts

At the end of every post, Dana links to other related posts. This is extremely beneficial for her blog as it helps to optimize her internal linking structure and increase page views per visitor.

There are several WP plugins you can use to add related posts to the bottom of your articles. If you don’t use WordPress or prefer not to use a plugin, simply end every post by recommending another post to your reader. Keep your audience engaged and let them know there’s even more for them to read!

Allowing Comments

Whether or not you own a blog, it’s a great idea to open your content up to comments. This allows you to build a community of engaged visitors. People like to share their opinions, so make sure they can chime in! Dana encourages visitors to leave comments about her recipes or share their own ideas.

Blog Review – Suggestions from Yours Truly

I really love Dana’s site and think she’s done a great job with it. Below, I’ve listed some features I think could either be added or enhanced to even further support her growing audience and online presence.

Make the Blog More Prominent

At this time, Dana showcases her blog categories (kitchen, market and style) on her home page and in the header of every page (except her home page). However, I’m afraid the buttons in her header may not be doing a good enough job of grabbing visitors’ attention.

By increasing the width of her site, Dana could add another button to her black navigation bar for her blog. That button could lead to a main blog page that would showcase her latest posts. There, visitors could easily find the latest information, recipes and events on her website – all in one place.

How About a Sidebar

Dana’s design is unusually thin in width, which makes it interesting and unique. However, if it were widened just a bit, a sidebar could be added to every page allowing prominent information to be featured on the entire site.

The sidebar could showcase a welcome box (like on the top of my sidebar) introducing Dana to visitors. Underneath that, a jazzy promotion of her book could help increase sales. Next, she could showcase links to her “Latest Recipes,” “Upcoming Events” and “Latest Tips and Ideas” (much like the standard “Recent Posts” widget in WordPress). And finally, she could showcase “Recent Comments” or “Monthly Contests” to help encourage audience participation and enhance the feeling of community on her site.

Tracking Purchase Conversions

I’m not sure if Dana currently tracks her visitors and conversions, but this is extremely important for understanding how well your website is working for you.

If you’re not currently tracking your traffic, I urge you to stop what you’re doing and immediately sign up for Google Analytics. It’s free! It’s also one of the most powerful tracking tools I’ve ever used. Learn where your visitors come from and what they’re doing on your site once they arrive!

Next, it’s important to keep track of your conversion rate when selling products online. Google Analytics offers a “Goal” feature that allows you to track conversions. In my blog’s case, I’ve set up my newsletter signup confirmation page as a goal page in GA. Every time a visitor reaches that page, it’s tracked in Google. I can then grab stats on how well that page is converting.

This might be difficult for Dana as her product is actually sold on Amazon, not on her own site. I suggest contacting Amazon and finding out if they offer some kind of integration with GA. Otherwise, she could set up GA to track all outbound link clicks to her Amazon page – at least this way she could find out how often people click through to her book listing.

End of Every Post add Product Box (like Author Box)

Ever notice those “Author Boxes” at the bottom of blog posts? Those are great for introducing the author of a post to the audience. In Dana’s case, I would take that box one step further and add a book promotion box to the bottom of every post. A little image of her book along with some verbiage (Find even more delicious recipes and tips in my book, Summertime Anytime) and a link to her Amazon product listing could drastically increase conversions.

Organize/Categorize Recipes More

This isn’t completely necessary at this time, but I do suggest that in the future Dana begin organizing her recipes into subcategories for easier browsing. As her kitchen page fills up, people will want to search by “meal,” “season,” etc.

Facebook Fan Page

Dana’s site is a PERFECT candidate for a Facebook Fan Page. People can follow her on this powerful social network and be updated every time she writes a new post. She can update her fans with news about events and classes and help further encourage discussion and community. Plus, with special html widgets, she can place a promotion for her book on her fan page – helping to further promote her work!

Offer an RSS Feed Subscription

Dana offers some really great tips and free recipes on her blog. Unfortunately, I can’t find an obvious way to subscribe to her blog’s latest posts, except for a form sitting on her contact page. That means every time a visitor leaves Dana’s site, they may never return.

An RSS feed offers your visitors updates on your latest content. By using a free service like Feedburner, you can offer your feed by email or through RSS readers.

You absolutely MUST find a way to get your visitors to RETURN to your site. RSS feeds and newsletters are fantastic tools for building repeat visitors.

I highly suggest Dana offer her RSS signup on EVERY page of her website. This is a call-to-action that needs to be spotlighted.

Slow Load Time

I noticed that sometimes Dana’s site loads slowly. There were times when I had to wait 5-10 seconds until a page would begin to render in my browser. There are a couple standard culprits of slow loading that I want to advise everyone of:

Tons of Large File Sized Images
Dana’s site has a lot of images – even her navigation bar is made up of images. Text always loads quicker than images, so keeping images to a minimum helps increase load time. However, if your design relies on the use of images, like Dana’s awesome background, ensure you’ve optimized your images for faster loading. Simply reducing their file size (being careful not to lose quality) can make a big difference.

Heavy Traffic
Since the slow loading time wasn’t consistent, it may have been a sign of heavy traffic periods. If your site receives enough traffic to slow down its loading, it may time to upgrade your hosting to the next level.

Quick Q&A with Dana

I love the fact that Dana has decided to use a blog, a super modern publishing tool, to connect with her customers and community. I asked her a few questions about her blogging activity to get a better idea of why she chose this particular online platform…

Why did you choose to become a blogger?

“I chose blogging as a way to have a presence in the blogosphere so people can learn more about me and my cooking adventures. I wanted to create a community around like-minded foodies who enjoy shopping for, cooking, serving and reading about good food!”

What do you like most about blogging?

“I like the discipline it forces on me to create new recipes each week. I love getting comments and hearing about readers’ cooking adventures.”

What do you like least about blogging?

“Sometimes blogging can be a burden because it competes with everything else in my life, but I accept the fact that a slow pace is okay and I am never going to be a daily blogger.”

Where do you hope to be with your blog in 1 year?

“In 1 year, I hope to add many more readers and a new cookbook!”

What advice can you give to someone who is considering becoming a blogger?

“My best advice would be to write a business plan for your blog, complete with a mission statement, an outline of its contents, and an estimate of expenses and income. Once your blog is launched, the most important thing to learn is patience. It takes a while for your blog to blossom and to build readership.”

What makes your blog stand out amongst all others?

“It’s colorful and makes you hungry!”

Connect with Dana

I urge all of my readers to visit Dana’s site to see how she has built her online presence. Study her blog design, read through her scrumptious recipes and connect with a fellow blogger!


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