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I will be the first one to say that I hated my old theme. I pretty much mention it on every blogging post (just saying). But today I want to talk about the mistakes I’ve made and go over what I did to improve my blog. I hope that you will get some value out of this and improve your blog and make it better.

Why Did I Choose My Initial WP Theme?

It’s not like I didn’t have time to choose a theme. I spent several hours looking at other blogs, looking at demos, and reading reviews. Here’s the thing, my initial theme looked like how I INITIALLY wanted my site to look like.

Initial Blog Theme Concept

Click image to view theme demo.

The theme itself was called Newspaper and it has incredible functionality. You can see that I can have a news feed for my latest articles and subcategories. It was a no-frills site that got information. I won’t dive too much into the details on why it was ‘great’ at the time as everyone has their own preferences. If you want to check out other demos and look at other related themes, click here.

Back to the topic, I had a few other reasons why I thought this was a great theme.

The demo content helped me imagine what my blog would look like

I think they had about 50 different templates for you to choose from, so I was able to mold a lot of concepts of what I wanted to see on here. It seemed like it would be a slam dunk.

Lots of positive reviews

I was pretty sold on the fact that they had nearly 70,000 sales and almost a 5.0 rating. Again, nothing was too alarming on this.

Plug and play functionality

If I wanted to customize my home page, they already had predefined functions and blocks that can create a lot of flexibility.

So What Happened?

On paper, the theme made a lot of sense. So I made the purchase right after I wrote a couple of articles (the site wasn’t launched yet). Because of that, I was able to see how the site developed according to MY content.

Here was early V1 of the theme

Early Theme Site Look

I came to the realization of my mistakes

I’ll point out, that before the nice photo graphics came all I used was generic Pixabay images. There were several things that I realized as I continued to write content.

  1. My content kept evolving compared to the theme. I realized that the Newspaper theme was mainly focused on having dozens of different categories and articles that were posted multiple times a day.
  2. Site structure & design didn’t fit my actual needs – again, the more I began writing content I realized that the design and the way the site structure looked made it much harder for users to find what they were looking for.
  3. I hated the menu/header area – The more I looked at the ‘above the fold’ section it just didn’t resonate with me at all. If I was putting hundreds of hours into my blog and didn’t feel good looking at it, it would keep eating at me.
  4. Regardless of design/colors, it just didn’t look ‘nice’ – The demo gave me an ‘ideal’ look. The reality is that when you start diving into blogging, how you envision an ‘ideal’ state is clouded based on other developers perspectives (eg: demo content matches the devs vision, not yours).
  5. My side ads & top ads were unattractive – I’ve made it clear that I hope to become a full-time content creator to support myself, so having ads helps support me. But at the same time, I don’t want ads that are ugly and placed awkwardly that make the design look hideous.
  6. My primary content on blog pages was too narrow – I feel like I have a good mix of tutorials, guides, and other articles. The problem with having tutorials and guides is that if the content is too narrow, it’s hard to follow directions and easy to lose the readers attention.
  7. Other advertisers were denying me – in my opinion, my previous design didn’t pass the ‘eye test’ on several advertisers. So I wouldn’t be accepted into several affiliate programs. Which is a bummer because I try to only promote items that I firmly believe in (or have been well received at worst).
  8. Limited homepage functionality – right now you probably see my latest blog posts on my homepage. I plan for bigger things very soon and this theme didn’t meet my criteria on having a beautiful home page.

My logo…ugh, I hated it

Debt to Dough Old Logo

I bid you farewell…old logo.

This logo cost me nearly $60. As someone that is trying to grow this blog organically, that’s a crapload of money. You know what the crazy part of this is? This was variation #5 and by the time I got to this variation, I was completely sick of the back and forth.

I really like Fiverr for certain tasks and have had some great results. But now I just couldn’t get my designer to match my vision of where I wanted the blog to be. Why did I hate this logo? Don’t get me started Let’s throw down.

  1. I wanted my site to be easy to read, the logo was too loud. By that I mean, it’s distracting. If I wanted to have a sticky header it was hard to not look at the logo.
  2. It was too ‘manly’. Here’s the thing, image is everything. This is a blog that is meant for nearly everyone, the last thing I want is a logo that alienates half of my audience. Oh, since I am currently focusing on Pinterest as a traffic generator, I don’t want to shun 2/3 of my audience.
  3. It just wasn’t professional – if I continue to guest post and start getting my name out there, this logo would ultimately hurt my credibility
  4. It takes up too much space – I can’t really explain this one, but the logo was too long and took up too much space in the header section. Even when I tried condensing it to the left side of the header it just felt out of place.
  5. It angers me – even as I write this, looking at the logo makes me shake my head and boils my blood. Or maybe that’s the caffeine /shrug

Steps I took To Improve My Site Experience

My initial goal was to write content first and then make adjustments later. I think the big mistake I made was that my initial adjustments WAY TOO FAST! All the steps I took were made over the last 7 days (yay extra 40 hours of blogging work outside of my consulting work).

Before I dive in I want to point out that at this point I had nearly 45 articles written. This is more than enough content for me to have an accurate idea of what I wanted out of my blog at this point. For you, having 10 or 15 articles might be enough before you jump from your starter theme to making a complete design change.

I Found a Theme that Fit “Me”

I got really lucky in that I purchased a theme 3 years ago that I never used called Creativo. The overall design was favorable to me and I actually have used their blogging tool in the past and it makes a lot of sense.  There are some major benefits that I like with the theme:

  • I can design the home page the way I want to (note, I haven’t done so yet, but you’ll see soon.
  • I can adjust the page width. Right now I believe it’s set to 1160 pixels. It’s wide, but not too wide.
  • I LOVE the responsiveness, if you are viewing this page on mobile, you likely agree.
  • I can adjust my content/sidebar sections, so that means my content is no longer narrow.
  • Ad placements are better placed and better quality
  • Content is now much easier to digest
  • I didn’t need to spend countless days updating links/colors/etc. I tweaked some predefined settings but I am happy overall.

If you like more open concept/graphical types of blogging, check out Creativo.

New Imagery For Each Blog Post

One of the biggest changes I made was that created new graphics on all of my older blog posts. Each image has an easy-to-read graphic that sums up what each post is about.

I used Canva and created a custom size graphic (800 x 440 if I recall? I used a 16:9 aspect ratio). The goal was to make each image as easy-to-read as possible.

Here was my order of updating each featured image.

  1. I focused on my top 10 blog articles (most traffic the last 2 weeks)
  2. Then I updated the most  15 recent blog posts as any new user that lands on the home page should have a good impression
  3. Followed by updating my earliest posts until I caught up with all the posts.

Here is a before/after

Writers Blog Meme Life Is Hard

Old Graphic for my “Writers Block” article

Overcome Writers Block While Blogging

New featured image for the same article

This was just one example! I can’t definitely say that these graphics will be a game changer, I’m only trusting my ‘joe everyman’ intuition.

Including High-Quality Pinnable Pins For Each Post

If you happen to look at other articles, you’ll see that I’ve included a Pinterest optimized graphic (with a pin button) at the end of each post. Since a good portion of my traffic currently comes from Pinterest, I want to make it easier for them to pin.

Add “Related Articles” at the End of Each Article

I’m not using any special software, I wanted to make sure I included related articles for each post manually as they would be the most relevant. I can’t say for sure if it’s working (it’s been less than a week), but I wanted to make it easier for people to binge content if they choose.

Including Instagram In My Footer

I’ve been kicking off my Instagram account as a way to provide tips for anyone. Right now I have 6 (but about 30 posts planned) so that will fill out soon. Again, I just want to provide value for my users.

Sidebar Tweaks / More Personality

I initially had an ‘about me’ page and that was it. I wanted to keep building trust/credibility by being more front facing. If I plan to become a leader in the financial space (or at least a nomad) I should be put myself out there. So I’ve included an ‘about me’ section, and recently included some of my top posts in a graphical form.

I will have to tweak the ad placements because there are a lot of sidebar ads, too many for my liking.

On The Horizon

I know we are on week two of July, but I’ve made more than $40 so far on the blog! That means I can start reinvesting in ways that build/keep my audience around. I’m working on a couple of mini-freebies that will build an email list. So expect some well-placed opt-in forms in the future.

I can’t for sure say I’ve had positive results, but these past several days I’ve seen an uptick in pages per session.

Pages:Session Uptick Progress

I do plan to get a new logo, if you know of someone or want to help, let me know!

Why am I telling you all this? I want to be as transparent as possible in the world of finance and my blogging journey. I’m sure my current traffic is small potatoes compared to bigger blogs, but I am always trying to learn and progress.

If there are any tips/gems that you would like to share, feel free to include them in the comments!

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