Which Themes Will Best Build Your WordPress Blog?

A Theme Is Expected To Make Your Content Look Good

First Steps In Blogging: Choosing Your Theme

I have been blogging ever since 2004, and for the greater portion of that time I have used WordPress for the platform (although I have also used others including Blogger). I’m one of those experimenters who is always changing things around, so I have used countless theme templates for my blogs.

I know it can get confusing sorting through the thousands of template choices, which seem to do a hundred different things, so I thought new bloggers, or people thinking of setting up their own blogs might benefit from some of my experience.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE:

  • A quick rundown on what it takes to start blogging, and then a look at some of the types and choices of themes that will help you forge your online presence.
  • Start with a simple theme that best serves your site’s purpose. Or go with a professional theme that gives lots of support through forums, etc. Once you are used to the way a designer structures the themes, especially if there is an underlying framework (like Genesis), you will find your way around it and get it to function for you through familiarizing your self with the way that particular theme works.
  • This won’t tell you that any particular designer is the best, but just to give you, the new blogger, a beginners guide to sorting through a huge playing field of theme designs.

5 Blogging Decisions

Top 5 Website Decisions

  1. Choose your platform
  2. Choose your theme
  3. Choose plugins
  4. Write content and decide frequency of posting
  5. When and how to monetize your site

These are the most important decisions to make when you begin a blog.

Beginner’s Guide For A Headstart

WordPress Websites: Beginner's Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4)
WordPress Websites: Beginner’s Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4) Once you have your site up and running, will they come? They will if you get smart about the use of social media and the art of gaining readers.

Choose The WordPress Theme For The Purpose Of Your Site

Because WordPress is one of the most popular platforms, it has been extended through themes and plugins for all sorts of special uses. Some themes have special plugins incorporated right inside to make things wonderfully flexible and useful.

It used to be that each theme had its plugins for common features like slideshows, etc.

The prevailing wisdom is to allow those features to be handled by plugins as they are commonly used: separately.

News, Food, Photos? Ecommerce?

  • Most of the professional lines of WordPress theme designers have a whole slew of specialized themes all ready for you to create the exact type of site you want.
  • Photo blogs need to highlight their great pictures. Art blogs are similar. Portfolio highlights which have images instead of text for entries or large images with minimal text serve these sites well.
  • News site and how-to sites are well served with magazine style themes.
  • For most blogs a typical 2 column style with either a left or right hand sidebar is the classic theme choice.

WordPress blogs are so versatile that they can look like almost anything and function for many purposes from ecommerce to community sites (with the addition of buddypress or bbpress). The more complex the use requirements the more likely the theme will be highly complex and probably professional, costing a fee.

Those themes are a far cry from the early ones that had just a small number of templates.

What Is A Template?

The structures inside the theme which create posts, pages, contact pages, 404 pages, archives, etc.

 

How To Install A WordPress Theme In Your Site

Your Blogging Experience

Free Or Professional Themes For WordPress?

In blogging, one of the first things you will decide is the platform. This is the general software that supports your blogging site. WordPress is one of the most popular today, and can be both self-hosted (you pay for your hosting and run your blog on the server space of your hosting plan) or free, through WordPress.com.

Other platform examples:

  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Tumblr
  • Drupal

But since you have made the choice for WordPress, the next big decision is how you want your site to look and act, and that “frontend” experience is dictated by your “theme”.

Themes can be both simple and extremely complex, they can be free or professional (themes that you buy) also known as “Premium themes”. When I first blogged, I used only free themes. I now need more features and I have purchased professional themes.

Once you decide on WordPress, the fun just begins

At first it might seem there is little difference between free themes and pro, especially if you can find a free theme with support, with a community centered around troubleshooting and guiding newbies. There are even free themes with complex features, and a great look. But generally, a pro theme will have a higher level of design expertise, good code, and be kept up to date in compliance with the many upgrades that WordPress has engineered in recent years. In the case of the “Hybrid core” themes: the themes are free, but the support forums and articles require a paid membership.

I found many years ago that keeping up with the complexity of code, features that I wanted, and time to design were just too much for me as an individual blogger. I broke down and purchased a Pro theme membership.

Membership- what’s that?

OK. In professional themes there are often two ways to go:

Buy a single theme for a set amount of money OR buy a membership to a design company you like and have access to many themes and the support of experts. The choices are yours (choices, choices!).

Always Changing

The internet, and thus the type of writing and the look of websites, is always changing. The one thing that impacts wp theme choice today is the transition of web users to mobile phones. No longer is the desktop the primary way we access the web. This has resulted in another choice that we ought to be making:

CHOOSE A RESPONSIVE THEME FOR YOUR BLOG.

A responsive theme is one that looks good in a variety of size screens, and adjusts well to mobile users.

Most web designers are creating their frameworks and themes to be responsive now, but if you have made a previous decision, check to be sure your present one has “responsive” features.

My Own Challenges

I write lots of content and the field I blog in is crowded, and getting more crowded every day, so I need something that will stand out. One of the biggest problems for me has been the pagespeed, or time necessary to load a page on your computer screen. The template is going to impact these challenges.

CHILD THEMES ARE RECOMMENDED

The updates for WordPress result in the need for the templates to update, as well. When that happens many of the customizations are lost. Some themes have an interface which helps to preserve your changes either through use of an area to add your css or to add a “child theme”. I like it when the designer adds easy customizations to the backend or admin are of the theme.

Tips To Help You Choose The Right Theme

  1. Make a List. Do you want a blog, a gallery of photos or art? Need a portfolio for clients or e-commerce possibilities? What do you want people to do on your site?
  2. Check how much support is given for the theme. Is there support from creator or forum? How satisfied are the users of the theme? Take note of these things and add it to your decision.
  3. Check structure and flexibility of the theme. Does it have the type of pages you need? Are the style and your content a good fit?

About The Major WP Theme Players

Who Are They? What Are Their Benefits?

Some of these well known designer companies started with free themes. I used them in the past. This is not a definitive list, just some comments about the ones I know enough about to have opinions about their themes. The first two are theme platforms (theme structures that support many different styles).

Divi Is ET’s Cadillac Theme

Divi is their premier theme.
Divi is their premier theme.

Elegant Themes

This is the one I ended up paying for, probably because I am kind of artsy in my predilection for theme looks, and Elegant themes has one of the most artful, and just plain pretty, looks to their themes.

Elegant Themes, by Nick Roach, are a bit complex, but made easier with the back end epanel that automates most decisions of style and action. Support is so-so, but I don’t have other experience to compare it with. The entire line of many themes- all sorts of styles and basic purpose (they have a dynamite portfolio page) themes to choose from.

I have some affiliate links, if you decide to buy their themes and want to possibly support me in some small way. Note: I became an affiliate after I liked their themes, and am not advocating because I am an affiliate.

It seems like many of the best free themes went professional, and some of theme have limited free versions available. “Platform” Pagelines is one of those, look for others.

Platforms are the software that run the blog. WordPress is a platform for blogging. “Framework” is the basic structures under the “parent themes”, underneath those are the”child themes”. The platform runs all the functions and bells and whistles in the background, the theme or the framework has the basic and not so basic features that creates the look and use of the site. A parent theme is alone or under the child theme, which “sits on top” and is called for creating the specific look of the theme- the colors, graphics, and typography, as well as special templates. It can completely change the way the parent theme is experienced by visitors.

Not all themes are built apart from special frameworks, but many of the pro theme are, and the looks are usually the result of child themes. Look for Thesis and Genesis family themes to have this type of setup.

Best Theme? Review And Advice

What Are The Big Changes In Themes?

  1. Mobile friendly has gone from a suggestion to mandatory. This is driven by the shift of users from desktops to their phones for most internet use.
  2. Design plainly favors a “flat look” that is directly related to its good looks on a phone screen.
  3. Functions increasingly move from inside the theme to a separate plugin.
  4. Style ranges, but a light modern look reigns. Alternatively, handcrafted, like watercolor elements has grown in popularity.
  5. Clean interface and fast loading becomes ever more important for a professional site.

Thesis Theme by DIYThemes

Thesis is used by some of the most successful bloggers, but so is Genesis. It has a more open look.

At first this was the premier theme platform that all the serious bloggers wanted, Genesis has since caught up.

I used the designer’s, Chris Pearson, famous ‘Cutline’ theme for quite awhile on one of my blogs. His design technique is clean and he was known for his beautiful typography. The Thesis theme has a distinctive clear grid that supports all sorts of features. I have not purchased it. Some love this theme, others found it complex to work with (word on the street of bloggers I “follow”.)

Personally, I would consider working with it just because of its nice open feel.

Genesis Theme

I used Brian Gardner’s themes before he started “Studiopress” and loved them. If I had been ready to buy a theme at that time, I would have stayed with and bought what turned into the “Genesis” theme. I am still considering it, although I hate to switch from themes I am familiar with ( learning curve when starting to use a new type of theme).

Genesis themes have a distinctive blocky look that is eye-catching and easy to navigate. They can be highly customized (in my experience). They are very well supported.

What are the assets and liabilities of these choices?

Free Pro
Costs nothing Costs a fee
unlimited styles,some great,some poor pro styling
sometimes supported, usually by fans usually supported, by experts
often has built-in links to theme creator links can be deleted

What Was I Using?

Past tense because I bought a premium set of themes that did not live up to the promises. Caveat emptor.

I bought MySiteMyWay for myself, I liked them so well. Unfortunately they didn’t keep up with updating and I had to count it a loss.

Both Elegant Themes and Studiopress have proved reliable.

I also purchased and used Elegant Themes, and Studiopress, which I had used in the past.
Each one has a learning curve to use, but they also provide forums and support.

Presently, I use Elegant Themes on almost all my sites, but still experiment with the latest free WP theme that comes shipped with the software.

Become A WordPress Ninja

I WISH I HAD A GUIDE IN THE EARLY YEARS OF STARTING A WORDPRESS BLOG

There is no reason for a steep learning curve with all the great learning resources available today. A book will condense all the important steps so you can start the important part: writing all your great content.

WordPress Is The Top Choice, So Learn To Use It

WordPress Domination - Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero
WordPress Domination – Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero

Don’t let your WordPress blog just sit there, learn how to develop it into a powerful online presence. Even if you are starting from zero knowledge, a guidebook like this can take you quickly through all the steps.

 Buy Now

WordPress to Blogger?

Usually it is the other way around, but if the easy route is desired, Blogger is easier to learn.

Switch From Blogger To WordPress

Success Isn’t A Secret

WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)
WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)

The big three for many people starting a WordPress blog: builb a good site, get readers to come and stay, make some income.

 Buy Now

Get To Know Your Theme

Go to the forums or get some initial support to know what your theme can do for your site. It will save you lots of time and otherwise you may not use all the features.

Which is best? Do you have a theme you love?

WordPress Themes, Pro or No?

Which side of the fence are you on?

Blogging Resources and Advice

Starting Your Blog

In updating my Blog Resource Page, all the information written moved here. It is still current and helpful, but things I recommend and why need revision. This post has more explanation of the why and wherefore for using certain choices than I think is best for a no-frills resource list.

If you are new to blogging, sort through the following advice for timesavers and tips.

Free Themes

I recommend the default WordPress themes to start out with, unless you are sure you know what you want. There are free child themes available for them. Between the choices that all have the name “Twentysomething” ( series starting with ten, you should be able to find a theme that suits your blogging needs.

History of the default themes

The Swift theme was one that I used on this site for awhile and warmed up to it.

Update I had to change the Swift theme to the PageLines since the hackers kept getting into the Swift theme, which shows that security is a big deal in choosing a theme.

I have always liked the typography of PageLines, though I did miss the bright colors of Swift. Plus, I don’t think there should be a free theme that only gets updated to work well, forcing you to buy the premium version. That is something to watch out for, although it is much less likely to happen now. Not a problem with the bigger theme developers who have a reputation to stake.

I did a test-drive of the default free themes on this site before deciding to use Divi.

 

Paid Themes

I use Elegant themes (Divi) in my garden sites, and one of the earlier ones on TrueGrit, a religion blog.

I switched from experimenting with their new themes to using mainly their pride production: the Divi theme.
It has pros and cons. Although as time goes on the improvements are wiping out the negative opinions.

Pros

Divi is highly customizable and can do about anything you want it to.

It is responsive (extremely important, now).

Easy to work with.

Cons

The main thing I don’t like is one of the things I also do like: the pagebuilder.

The pagebuilder uses shortcode components that helps you build a page the way you want it. Making landing pages, etc is simple. But if you change from the Divi to another theme like the WordPress default, all the pages which you built show only the shortcode blocks .

This is highly inconvenient, to be locked into one theme.

Solution?

A plugin that helps to sort out the shortcodes coding on the site, or changes made by the ET developers to make all of the shortcode reside within a plugin that remains no matter what theme is chosen.

 

Looking For A Theme

  • Find features you need.
  • Pleasing layout and typography for readability.
  • Responsiveness now tops the list of needed features.
  • Support might be important for you, and regular updating certainly will be.

Now Using Fourteen Sixteen Theme

 

Further Update: WordPress made the good looking magazine theme for 2014 and I switched to it.  I am very happy with so many of its features that I imagine staying with it for quite awhile.

Further, Further Update: I kept updating until the twentysixteen theme. It doesn’t have the customizing plugins, nor is it easy to change the look. I love it for its functionality, though.

It is a good beginning theme. However I will say that for a complex site like my Garden site, the Divi pro theme from Elegant Themes is better suited to what I ask from WordPress.

  1. It supports a large number of post formats
  2. Good looking with cool feature image looks
  3. Showcases content well
  4. Safe and well updated
  5. Plugins made to provide extended control

Plugins

  • Color plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Fourteen extended plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Editorial Calendar is truly useful for anyone. I just started using one for my garden site and wished I had discovered it years ago.
  • SEO is super important and I like Yoast’s plugin the best.
  • There are several good social sharing helps, right now I use Shareaholic, which includes related posts.  I used  YARPP for years, and that worked well,  too -especially with new improvements it has now.
  • Akismet to deal with Spam. Bruteprotect to deter hackers. These are in the Jetpack. Yes, I use it.

There is controversy about the Jetpack, but I used enough of its features to make it worthwhile. It disturbs me to know that some feel it bloats and greatly increases loadtime for the site.

I switched back to YARPP after Shareaholic made changes that I really didn’t like. I no longer recommend it and deleted the plugin from all my sites.

I wrote about some of my favorite plugins, here.

Disclosure: I use affiliate links for some of the resources. This in no way influences the opinions I post. Everything written is transparent and based on my experience.

The Blog Peripherals

What I’ve Learned from 1 Year of Blogging

A new blogger reflects on what it takes to make a go of blogging on her one year anniversary.

It’s not that the writing takes up all your time, it’s all the little things you do in the background. Time spent building your website, replying to emails, researching future posts, being active on social media. It all adds up!

iPad Owner Adventures In Blogging

I originally bought my iPad to be a simpler way to blog while traveling. So how has that worked out for me? And what might my experiences mean for you?

What are the features of an iPad?

  • Small slimline profile means it easily goes into a large purse. It can function as a phone, though I don’t use it that way.
  • Loads of apps, many of them free.
  • Accessories can expand usefulness (I have a keyboard cover).
  • Bigger screen than a phone, while remaining compact.
  • Portable
  • Battery has longlasting properties (compared with a laptop)
  • Works well for reading eBooks and PDFs

I ended up buying an iPad Air 2.

ipad controls

-click home button to awake, twice to bring up app screen.

-screen adjusts to landscape or portrait mode.

It has a camera, but so far I found that a bit awkward to use. Better sound when not encased in the Belkin cover, but still good. Clear, beautiful display.

The Adventures: Traveling with an iPad

I found some things I genuinely liked, but the entire experience didn’t quite work out as seamlessly as I’d hoped. Still, I am not ready to say I have fully mastered bringing this portable device into its full potential.

Things I had to get used to:

  • Apps are not full programs, so graphics may need to be done elsewhere. Luckily there are easy online programs like Picmonkey and Canva. Only Canva has an actual IOS app.
  • Passwords. Setting up the device is just like setting up a new computer, so sometimes I have to go looking for passwords. There might be an easier way, but I didn’t know about it.
  • Can’t get used to using it as a phone… at least not yet.

 

I liked the portability and accessibility of the iPad, loved the long battery life, and the Belkin cover lights up and makes typing easy.

That said, the keyboard features are smaller and more awkward than a full laptop keyboard. I found it harder to feel at home on the tablet and that interfered with my inspiration to write- but that is just me. I feel that as I get used to it, it will be as natural and I’ll stop thinking about it so much.

One app that makes a tablet highly functional is Evernote. When I put something into it, it transfers it to all my devices that have the app- including my phone and laptop. That solves issues with the need to have good photos/graphics for a post.

My eyesight isn’t very good, so the smaller screen is not always best for me. I enlarge, but I tend to like a larger screen. Huge imporvement on a phone, however.

Am I happy?  Yes. Happy enough that I want to further explore which apps are best for me and to get greater skill and comfort in using tablets rather than laptops.

What Apps For Me?

I use many that are on my iPhone:

  • Waterlogue for fun
  • Camera +
  • Pronto for graphics (this is a new one for me)
  • Evernote
  • Weather
  • and 22 other apps, including  basics like camera, mail, etc

Other Opinions about Traveling With An iPad

Gizmodo had a post that sings the praises of using an iPad. Joel Johnson also cited the light weight, small size, and the great battery life. This is essentially the same experience as mine.

While written in 2010, I think the plus and minus of the iPads are the same today, six years later.
I do use mine differently since blogging is my main activity on any computer.

Useful Accessories For Tablets

From experience texting, I knew I couldn’t get very far with writing posts, or even social commenting  without  a keyboard. I just can’t. But I found a Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2, after much searching through reviews. I have to say it was a great purchase which I am very happy to use most of the time I am on the

Device Warnings -be sure to keep your OS up to date.

Summed up

I like this device more as I learn to use it. It is very user friendly with apps like imovie along with a decent camera, its size, and its good battery life. The screen makes watching video a great experience and Siri is there to help, too. I think it was worth the money invested.

Setting Up Your Blog

For those who have already:

  • Purchased their hosting
  • Purchased and set up their domain name
  • Installed their WordPress installation

This is a checklist of sorts for setting up a blog that will work well in the longrun.

Permalinks

First, change the permalinks from the default setup.

At first the blog will have a permalink address based on numbers. It looks like this:

http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123

The permalinks left like that will not be good for SEO, since urls are important keys in determining what the page is about.
Yoast, a well known WordPress expert who develops very useful plugins (a word about those later in the post), recommends simply using the

 /%postname%/

He also has a tool and instructions for those of us who set up their blog long ago. Change Your Permalinks Structure in WordPress. which I followed, just today, in fact.

Mine involved adding a line of code to my htaccess file (which is a little scary for non-coders like me).

So my best advice for you, if setting up your blog for the first time is to make sure your permalinks use the post name choice unless you are a news magazine of some sort.

Themes For Your Second Setup Task

Pick a theme. This could be harder than it seems, due in part to the sheer number of them, and the fact that a good theme for you is one that caters to the way you will use WordPress.

I think one way to save time is to sign up with a major theme developer. One of the best is Studiopress, with their Genesis framework. I used them in the beginning and sometime’s wish I had stayed with them, although I am also happy with my present Elegant themes choice.

Of course there are good ones that are completely free, and I tend to use the ones that ship with the new updates for the WP.

After choosing which one, follow these steps to install it.

The Old Way
  1. Download and unzip the theme.
  2. Use a ftp client (Filezilla is free) or your file manager to upload the theme files to the wp-content/themes
  3. Login to the admin section. Click on “Appearance” then click on “Themes”.
  4. Look for the name and picture of your theme. You can either preview the theme or activate it from there.
  5. Customize it if you wish by choosing the “Customize” link.

You can also search for and upload new themes directly on the Appearance/ Themes page. I prefer this way:

Now, The Recommended Way

Go to the “Appearance” tab in the admin sidebar. Choose the “Themes” tab, choose “Add New”, then,

  1. Choose a zipped theme file from your computer and upload it.
  2. Customize. That’s it!

 

If you want a template that goes the distance, use one of the fine professional ones listed here (affilate link).

Foodie Pro
Thesis Theme for WordPress

Adding Plugins

Plugins vastly expand the things your blog can do. They add function without the need to know code, and go digging around in Php pages. From free to premium, these plugins can do many things from creating an ecommerce store to sitemaps. I use many plugins, including those which serve up recipes, protect my blog, and the jetpack group.

The one caution is to not install too many or untrusted ones. They can slow down your site, unnecessarily or open vulnerabilities.

My report on the ones I use, WP Plugins.

These are the basic things you will need to setup, after which it is time to write, write, write, and join social media.

But those are topics for another time.

Online Income, The One Rule

There is only one rule and this post will outline how that rule worked for me as I’ve been working to turn my blogging hobby into an income.

The only rule about online income:

It constantly changes.

Yes, that is it. Simple, isn’t it? And yet, that is what can make it incredibly challenging.

There may have been a time when millionaires were made overnight, but if they are still looking for their online business to provide income revenues they are working hard and still hustling.

In that sense, it is the same story as with any business. Success depends on hard work, and wild success is engined by people who love the process.

…Like gazillionaire Les Wexnerexample of someone who loved the process, who built his Limited empire less for the money and more for his drive to make his business grow and succeed ( I heard him on an interview given to a PBS show).

That seems to be the factor that almost all wildly successful business people have: they are driven to compete, most of all with themselves.

You may disagree with me… if you think it is something else I would love to read your opinion in the comments.

But Back To My Story

This is about how to make money, but mostly about not worrying if you don’t (yet)
source: Ilona Erwin
source: Ilona Erwin

Right. I was going to sum up my online pathway in generating income and how that looks:

  • At first I wrote entirely as a free service to others. I benefitted the “free” hosting, and in return I didn’t have to pay money for hosting. We weren’t allowed to have competing ads on our sites.
  • Then I discovered AmazonTheir rules have changed since my early days. You will need to make a sale or two to stay in the program. For years I made $0.00 -and was doubtful that anyone could make enough to qualify for the minimum for a payout.
  • Soon after I was able to sign up for Google Adsense. That also made me nothing, and with a higher qualifying payout. At least it kept whatever pennies were earned in an accumulating amount. Eventually, years later I did get that first payment.

Alrighty- the story here is that there is a learning curve to understanding what it means to monetize blogging.

Initially I was handicapped by the idea that it was crass to have ads on a blog. Yet, my html website was given ads that weren’t even my own while at Geocities. My idea translated into:

“I can’t make money with integrity on my own writing, but it is okay for others to reap income from all my hard work”

It was hard work I most willingly gave because I loved having readers enjoy and benefit from what I was offering. I wanted them to see beauty, to be inspired, to learn from me.

I can’t emphasize enough what hard work it was. But it was fun, stimulating, and gave me creative outlet. I also cannot emphasize enough how much I needed that as a stay at home wife with ten kids.

But I was using my life to give the blogs so much time and effort, and at the same time my husband and I were struggling financially.

I needed to improve the blog, and I needed for it to pay for itself. It wasn’t until much much later that I felt it should become a business (or even had the idea that it could)

Keys To Adsense and Amazon

The keys are placement and traffic.

key
source: tawheed manzoor on flickr

Now more than ever, there must be enough eyeballs visiting a page to create income from these two sources. That is traffic.

For you this means that you should not give up if you don’t see results. Keep writing. Keep building your blog

Along with those two keys, which are particularly important for Amazon affiliates, is that you must have enough places where products are included included within the posts and pages of the blog. One on the front page or a few in the sidebar won’t do it, for most of us.

That was always so hard for me because I am primarily a writer. Photos were a challenge, graphics were a challenge, and now including relevant items from Amazon? Yes, it seemed to be one more hurdle to writing a good post.

For years I didn’t even try. And I made so little income I privately thought it might be a scam. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t know how it worked.

So for Adsense there are two main things- having plenty of traffic to the blog and lots of content.

For Amazon, take the time to include links to the products you are advocating anyway. I always like the magazine resource pages that told me where I could get featured items, and that is what Amazon links on a blog can do.

I usually qualify for the minimum payout for Amazon now.

That isn’t something to boast about exactly… it is small potatoes, but at least it is potatoes on the plate.

Amazon Learning Center

lensThat is what I would call my time on Squidoo. Before I participated in that writing community (which is what it was for me), I had no idea how to include products within my writing. Not really incorporate them, or write income producing pages. I just wrote.

Squidoo (It is no more, it was sold and closed) had so many tutorials and tips from many writers. It had traffic. And it shared income.

Google Adsense is very up and down for me. My sites were google slappeddrops in search engine placement due to changes in how google gives results, like their Panda update so many times, that if I depended on that to pay the hosting bills, this story would be over.

Squidoo articles added up in small increments. The more I wrote the more I was making, sometimes it would surprise me which topics and pages could give me support.

Eventually, it paid the way for my other sites, including my garden site, Ilona’s Garden. I was able to buy Premium themes, which was necessary as WordPress had become more and more complex, and my sites were hacked. (Hacking meant I had to keep everything updated, and have reliably secure themes).

There is so much more to these stories that can only hinted at here … but it shows that income switched from Google ads to Squidoo ad-sharing community.

And a side effect of those pages was that my own Amazon affiliate earnings were finally increasing. They sent me traffic, due to their liberal policies on linking and adding your own affiliate products.

Squidoo became Hubpages, and for me, the adjustment is only in format. The income levels are about on par. I have no idea how long that will last.

But that could change at any time.

And that is the point of my story, online success depends on making the changes, and keeping abreast of what works and what doesn’t.

Secondly, but Importantly

Always, for me, everything is servant to the writing. I am one of those people who likes to craft, who wants to provide my readers with something worthwhile. Something that means something to me.

Making money from this is always secondary and I have had issues and difficulties because of that.

Other Things I Won’t Compromise

  • My family comes before the blog
  • I write from my inner muse, not in response to whether it makes money
  • I must be honest as possible.

Sure I make mistakes and sometimes deviate from the path, but those are my guiding principles in what I do, to create the blogs and to build income.

More Changes That Challenge

Blogging today is so different than when I started, although I saw many of these things coming.

What I didn’t foresee is how important the visuals would become. And how it would be a more proprietary environment.

We now need to have our own professional photos. Our own professional looking graphics. Participation on many social platforms ( which means lots of writing that never finds its way to the blog.

This makes a difference in income. Presently I have plough more than I make back into this blogging adventure.

Your Takeaways From My Experience

To sum up

  • Have diverse sources of income for your blogging/writing
  • SEO and traffic building are important
  • Each manner of generating income has its own rules and learning curve. They change.
  • Implicit, but previously unsaid, is the fact that you should concentrate on growing your own blogs and creating your own products.
  • Don’t give up too soon. The one thing it all takes is patience, work, and time. If it changes, change with it.

And it ought to be fun. You ought to enjoy creating and giving, or it just isn’t worthwhile.

Evernote Helps Organize

I’ve been organizing my life. It is a twofold process, one with decluttering and getting rid of distractions; and two, organizing resources to best access what I need to keep and use.

In my online/computer work, Evernote is proving invaluable.

I started using it ever so slowly, but now that I realize how important it is to seamlessly go from the iPhone to desktop to iPad and back, this is proving such a mind and time saver!

I am using it for blogging ideas, random notes, saved links, and clips of information. I also created a file to keep track of my blog business expenses, which are piling up as I buy hosting, domain names, graphic files, premium themes, premium access to Picmonkey and apps like that.

Evernote organizes me. I am always losing paper scraps and making notes in whatever notebook was at hand was a losing proposition! This way I put everything in one place and can find it by just logging in, or through the program on my computer. It is super easy.

Some useful ways to people use this program/app:

  1. Cooks use it for recipes, making their shopping lists, and clipping directly from a cooking webpage.
  2. Homeschoolers could gather unit study materials, teaching tips, fieldtrip ideas, lists of curriculum or materials, science experiment info, just about anything! List of addresses and phone numbers, useful videos, urls of best resources, special graphics… I wish I had this in the years I was schooling my kids. I would have made a separate notebook for each subject, and one for each child. Keeping track of goals I had set would be smooth sailing with the many ways to search and access notes.
  3. Bloggers and writers can have a field day collecting and recalling all the places they find their research. The spurts of inspiration jotted down, the bits of finely tuned prose that swirls in our heads ; all now have a safe place where we can find them .

 

What are the features?

  • I use it on my PC, my iPad, iPhone, and Mac Laptop. I understand it can be used also on the Blackberry and other devices.
  • Most used? Type a note, clip from webpages (or the whole thing), screenshots, photos… lots of ways to gather info and data.
  • Everything can be searched. That is a huge help when you have collated lots of things that you want to use for a topic, especially over time.
  • Making a swipe file for things you need often: blog descriptions, social urls, etc. and it become so easy to find, on any of your devices that has the app.

Need more ideas?

 

workchat

Almost forgot! a new feature lately is the Workchat. You can share with team members or whoever you wish, the notes and the what you are working on. Cool. You just click the button and a window pops up for collaboration.

And that graphic? I made it with Skitch which can be synced to share directly into your Evernote file.

Assorted Tips To Help You Blog

  • People love  “how-to” posts, illustrated with photos; they love lists “10 Ways To…” and reviews.
  • Make your titles interesting, clearly related to the post topic.
  • Fill in the “alt” tags on images with descriptive keyword that identifies the subject.
  • Link to your own content within your posts.
  • Create a Newsletter and publish it with interesting things to reward your loyal fans.
  • Add at least one picture to each standard post (this is an “aside” post type).

Continue reading “Assorted Tips To Help You Blog”

Blogging: Tend Your Vineyard

Blogging Tips

I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. That seems hard to believe, but it is true. During that time I’ve cycled through a number of trends and “pro” advice, and one thing about internet writing that is ALWAYS true is that it will constantly change.

So how do we find “evergreenContent that keeps having value over time” advice?

Quality

Like any business certain things don’t change very much and one of those is quality. Quality lasts, and that is true of writing and photos.

This is a variation on the oft-repeated “Content is King”.  Besure you putting up content, because the online reader is voracious. I used to joke that that blog always wanted to be fed more content, “Feed me!”, but it isn’t a joke, so pace yourself. And post the best, constantly improving, content. that you can.

Consistency

This was my hardest lesson; and the most important.

You must develop consistency as a blogger.

It doesn’t have to be every day, or even week, but it must be regular and something your readers can count on.

Since it was always my biggest challenge in life to be regular about anything… I have suffered most in building my blog from shortcomings in this department. So here are some motivators for you:

  • Being a consistent writer will improve your writing.
  • It will help build your loyal “tribe” of fans.
  • It will keep the search engines happy with your blog, if you continually add content that is original and of good quality.
  • It will help you to develop good business work habits.

Writing with consistency helps you develop a rhythm that also creates something of a flow and is a generator of inspiration.

 

Pick Up The Pace

Aim for two posts a week if you can. I have several different blogs, and some of them only recently have congealed into their topic focus. They started as experiments or I had some loose idea of what I wanted to write, but now they are gelling into a true fix on subject and intent.

Now that I know what I want to focus writing about, I am posting. Choosing a subject that is large enough, but that I’m interested in, has helped to give me motivation to write.

Take this blog for example, it began as a revival of one single page that I had originally developed long ago in my first website. I remembered how I needed to compile my most helpful tips and links in making my website at that time. All the things that I was learning, although I was a newbie, could be helpful for other newbies!

Now that blogging has changed so much and the learning curve is steeper before we see results, I know these articles will serve a need.

Writing more often has become one of my main goals for these newly minted blogs.

Tend Your Own Vineyard

I spent a lot of time writing on free sites, most recently writing for Squidoo, and now Hubpages.

There were several reasons for this:

  • Squidoo ( now defunct) was promoted as a way to increase links to my website.
  • It was fun with an active community of new acquaintances. It taught me a great deal about marketing.
  • It earned me money.
  • Hubpages continues in the vein of earning money online, but all sources nowadays are diminishing.

Tending ones own vineyard is advice from the Bible. It means taking care of what you own and can harvest from. Everyone wants you to jump onto their wagon and work in their field of dreams. We do that for the kinds of reasons that I listed, but we ought to, first, grow and maintain our own blog.

Write for your own domain and sites, first. Be very judicious about the time you invest in others blogs and sites.

Why?

  • They own it, run it, and make decisions about it without you. Your interests come very low on the totem pole.
  • They can change it, close it ( witness Squidoo, and Geocities before that) and there is little you can do, but be ready to change gears.
  • You may lose work.
  • You will keep increasing your time and effort investment.

And those are not even all the possible “cons” in the equation.

So while I like to keep my hand in writing for such places, and they do pay me (which is often reinvested in these self-hosted blogs), my best advice is to mainly work on your own blog. Build it, improve it, keep consistently adding articles and creating a masterpiece of work.

 

In Sum

You know the drill by now:

Write.

Produce quality and keep adding to quantity.

Be a consistent writer and post regular articles.

Add to this (very important today):

Participation and growth of your social media.

You don’t have to be in everything, but you should be growing a presence in the communities that bring value to your blogs. Google Plus 1, Twitter, Facebook Pages, Pinterest (this one is huge for me), Instagram, and many others including their byways that help to collate the many social media avenues (Rebelmouse is one).

Write for yourself, your own domain and sites, first, and in a regular way.

Go ahead and participate as a content writer elsewhere, but remember your priorities.

Tend Your Vineyard

Using Evernote

evernote
How Evernote clipper looks in the sidebar

Since discovering this app ( it isn’t new, just to me), I installed it on my phone, and in the browsers on both the laptop and desktop. I hope that this, plus dropbox, will get me up to speed  in my endeavor to become serious in writing and blogging.

It isn’t that I am not serious about writing, just that it had to take a back seat to homeschool and my duties at home. At age 61 I am just now over the the hurdle of the homeschooling demands and while I’m much slower than I used to be, the raising of a family is no longer as effort and time intensive.

I really like the Evernote Clipper that is ready to use in the browser.

I am starting to “get it”.

  1. Download Evernote into your computer
  2. Practice using it- they make it easy with video and prompts.
  3. Get  the app for your phone
  4. Get the extension for your browser(s)
  5. Start clipping.
  6. I also downloaded Skitch which is integrated into Evernote now.

There could be 7.  or more steps but this is as far as I’ve come on this portion of organizing and blogging efficiency, Have more tips that I can use? Leave me a comment please.