A huge part of my work as a web designer and online marketer is setting up and designing wordpress blogs for people and companies alike, I can’t tell you how many of the things I have set up and the hours I have spent fiddling with them until they look just right – I’m a perfectionist don’t you know. But as I have ventured in to what I call the ‘mommy blog’ forum to learn more about other review bloggers as well as follow the lives of some truly amazing women (and men!) I have noticed that there seems to be quite a lack of actual blog knowledge when it comes to the forums that their information is being presented on. Today I thought I would share a little of my wordpress knowledge with you in hopes of presenting some valuable information that will both help you to understand blogging from a blog point of view as well as help your blog to stand out from the crowd.
1. Resist Temptation – Click here – go ahead click, I’ll wait. See something familiar? I thought so. There are hundreds of thousands of wordpress themes out there both paid and free styles and yet 99% of the review bloggers out there use this theme. I agree that this is a nice theme, clean cut, lots of advertising space and from my point of view pretty easy to customize…so what’s the drawback? Well you tell me, if you’re standing in a crowd of a few hundred people all wearing the same dress and there is one person wearing a different dress who is going to stand out more?
WordPress themes are by no means hard to find and there are hundreds of people out there who will be able to help you install and customize your theme if you are not able to figure it out yourself so find one that is you, find one that gives you adequate advertising space but most of all find one that stands out from the crowd – sure, your cute header makes you different but when it’s all said and done you are another carbon copy of the same templated design. Try looking around for Premium themes at Premium WP, Elegant Themes and Woo Themes. Looking for something free? Try Rock Kitty and Free WP Blog Themes.
2. Remember Your Audience – So you’ve settled on a theme and you’re customizing it with a stylish color scheme – the classic black and white. Have you ever tried to read white text on a black background?
People with astigmatism (aproximately 50% of the population) find it harder to read white text on black than black text on white. Part of this has to do with light levels: with a bright display (white background) the iris closes a bit more, decreasing the effect of the “deformed” lens; with a dark display (black background) the iris opens to receive more light and the deformation of the lens creates a much fuzzier focus at the eye.
Jason Harrison – Post Doctoral Fellow, Imager Lab Manager – Sensory Perception and Interaction Research Group, University of British Columbia
Instead of causing eyestrain in your readers and sending them running from your page opt for something a little more conventional – there’s a reason why big name websites stick with black text on a white background. Looking for something with a little more color? Try the Color Scheme Designer.
3. Blast From The Past – Remember back in the 1990’s when your e-mail inbox was crammed full of e-mail forwards with hundreds of animated GIF images? Does the dancing baby ring any bells? How about that pointing smilie face? They are most well known for being plastered all over Geocities or Angelfire websites…well, I hate to be the one to break it to you but now they are just plain obnoxious. If you respect your audience and want them to take you and your blog seriously stay as far away as possible from these ugly animated assaults. Opt instead for static images and photographs from websites such as iStockphoto.
4. Banners, Banners Everywhere – Even your least web-savvy visitor to your site knows that you are trying to make a buck and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you do it tastefully. How do you sell yourself tastefully? Avoid making your blog in to a banner farm. Sure, you have a variety of products that you want to feature and share with your readers but make use of WordPress advertising management plugins to allow you to rotate advertisements through your blog rather than placing them all over your blog making you look like an overachieving spammer. Also make sure that you make use of text links to sell advertising space, they allow you more advertising room without being too graphically intense.
5. Sharing the Love – It is a common practice to share buttons with other blogs in your niche, there is nothing wrong with exchanging buttons or linking to other websites (although excessive links out and not enough links in will cause some penalization from Google) but keep an eye on those hot linked buttons. For those of you who are unaware ‘hotlinked’ means that you did not right click and save that button, instead you are using the link provided to you by the button’s blog owner – the button for xyz.com would show up as <img src=”http://www.xyz.com/button.jpg”> or something like that, some websites also make use of Flickr or Photobucket to host their buttons. The problem with using hotlinked buttons is that it is going to slow down the speed at which your website loads considerably. As your blog loads with those 50 shiny buttons to your friend’s blogs the nifty little internet elves have to venture out and pull that button from site xyz for each visitor causing your website to load slower than it would had you saved that button and uploaded it to your server yourself. Avoid excessive use of hotlinked buttons, if possible use text links or else save those buttons yourself but just remember: at a certain point your blog is going to become bogged down by excessive graphics so try to limit your enthusiasm for button sharing.
6. Stay with the Times – I cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping your WordPress version updated. Each and every time that WordPress upgrades to a new version give it a week or so to get any bugs worked out and then upgrade your blog. Why? Well the guys over at WordPress don’t just upgrade their software for the hell of it, upgrades come from the discovery of a loophole or a failure of some sort with the current version. These loopholes are usually ways that hackers have found to gain backdoor entry to WordPress blogs and implant malicious code snippets in to your blog which can do a variety of things from erasing your posts to redirecting all of your website visitors to their own URL. With upgrades to WordPress come fixes to these problems and so it is important to make sure that you are using the newest version of WordPress available. Just remember, whenever you go to upgrade your current version back up your theme folder as well as your plugins folder and keep a copy of the version of WordPress you are currently using just in case your theme is not compatible with the newest version of WordPress (it happens.) It is also important that before you upgrade your version of WordPress that you deactivate your plugins, following the upgrade you will reactivate the plugins one by one to identify whether there are any compatibility issues between certain plugins and the newest WordPress version.
7. This is Bravo Company Calling for Backup! – This one may seem like a no brainer but you have no idea how many people don’t regularly backup their blog. Backup includes backing up your current posts as well as your theme and plugin folders. Your current theme and your current plugins can be downloaded directly from your server. To back up your posts you will want to install the WP DB Backup plugin. This plugin will allow you to back up your posts weekly and can be set to email you a data file or else back it up to your server – I recommend having this file e-mailed to you once a week to eliminate losing all of your information if your server becomes corrupted. Backups of database information as well as backups of theme and plugin information should be downloaded once a week as well as following any major blog theme changes or plugin updates or implementation.
8. Don’t Go Changing to Try and Please Me – Pick a blog name and stick with it, pick a blog platform and stick with it. Moving from one domain name to another as well as switching from one blog platform to another ie: Blogspot to WordPress is going to cause nothing but headaches for you and your surfers. Barring legal requests that you hand over your domain because of copyright infringement you want to pick a name and a platform and stick with it. Changing either of these two aspects of your blog can cause loss of data, loss of page rank status, loss of search engine listings, loss of link backs to other blogs, loss of current comments and a whole host of other problems. Just because you changed your mind when it comes to how your blog is set up don’t expect all the blogs who have a link back to you to track down their links and change them for you, Google sure won’t and as a result when it comes to link backs to your site, well you’ll be starting all over again.
9. Don’t Get Cheap On Me! – You’re paying for your domain right? Your paying for your hosting right? WordPress offers you the option to upload images directly through the dashboard right? So what’s your excuse for going cheap and using Photobucket, Snapfish or Flickr to host your buttons and pictures? There is nothing wrong with these services when it comes to sharing images with friends but when it comes to having a professional, well presented blog there is nothing that will tick off your advertisers and your visitors more than that “image bandwidth exceeded” message. It costs you more in advertisers and irritated visitors to your blog than it does to get those images uploaded to your server, you have no excuse.
10. All the Bells and Whistles – One of my biggest pet peeves is bloggers who ask something of me and provide me no way to do the things they ask of me. One particularly irritating example of this is blogs that ask to be Technorati fave’d, Stumbled, Dugg and the like and yet provide no Sociable plugin to allow this to be done. If you are going to ask your visitors to do something for you it is your job as a blogger to make sure that these means are available to your surfers, this includes the implementation of the Sociable plugin on your main blog as well as your individual posts. Another biggie is to make sure that your contact information is easily found, if you want feedback from both visitors and potential sponsors provide your contact information on a button at the top menu of your blog and if you aren’t comfortable giving an e-mail simply implement a PHP contact form.
Well, that’s it for today but I will pop back once in a while with some more useful WordPress tips to mix in with my everyday goings on, grad school updates and product reviews! Just remember, when blogging you are blogging for an audience and that audience is impatient, unforgiving and they know what they want – your job is to give it to them.
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