I recently updated the design and features for my blog and have received plenty of emails with questions about how other bloggers can do it as well. I decided to create a blog post describing in detail how I made the changes and why I did it.
Before we dive into the how-to part of this post, lets talk about the results so far:
Note: all stats compare March 2012 to April 2012
- Traffic: increased by 6.5% – I think mostly due to the guest blog posting I’ve recently done
- Pageviews: increased by 10.3%
- Time on site: increased by 7.8%
I don’t have any conclusive data yet because it’s only been a month, but I’m pretty happy with the numbers I’ve seen so far.
What you will learn in this post:
- How to optimize a wordpress blog through Thesis as my platform of choice
- The SEO plugin that I use
- How to install a Tabbed Widget in the sidebar with popular post settings
- How I strategically use different Aweber forms on different pages
- How to install an after-the-post sign-up form
- How I increased pageviews with 2 simple plugins
Why I chose Thesis for my WordPress theme platform
I coded and designed all of my WordPress themes from scratch since I started blogging in 2007. But I finally gave in and chose a WordPress theme platform for the latest iteration of my blog.
The platform I chose is Thesis: my affiliate link (thanks for contributing to my blog by choosing to click on the affiliate link)
I chose Thesis for the following reasons:
- It’s SEO friendly
- Some of the top bloggers that I follow use it, such as Neil
- Compatible with the majority of browsers
- Really easy design customizations
Check out this image from the admin section that allows you to customize the site layout.
It’s very easy and intuitive
Most importantly, Thesis allows me to customize the CSS, giving me the option to design and manipulate my theme in any way that I want. Plus, not having to worry about coding for Internet Explorer is a huge bonus 🙂
The best SEO plugin for WordPress
My favorite SEO plugin is the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
I can go on and on about all of the detailed features this plugin has, but you really only need to know this one cool feature:
(click on the image to enlarge)
Snippet Preview: How cool is this! It allows you to see a preview of what the search result will look like on Google
SEO Title: Enter a title here if you want it to be different than the current title for your post
Meta Description: Optimize the 141-character-limited description that is displayed on search engines
This plugin is quite simply the best way to search engine optimize your blog.
How to install a Tabbed Widget in a WordPress sidebar with Popular Post settings
I love the tabbed widget on my sidebar because it allows me to condense a lot of information into one section. Check it out below.
Here are the steps to install the sidebar widget:
- Download and install the Tabber Tabs Widget
- In your wp-admin, go to Appearance -> Widgets
- Add the tabs for your widget in the Tabber Tabs Widget Area
- Add the Tabber Tabs Widget to your sidebar
I chose two tabs for my widget:
- Current Hits: the most popular posts and pages in the last 7 days
- All Time: my all-time most popular posts
To add popular-post functionality, I utilized the WordPress Popular Posts plugin
How to display different sidebars on different pages for WordPress
Take a look at my sidebar for my home page:
Now compare that to my sidebar for a post about “Careers”
Both sidebars use an Aweber form; however, my home page has an Aweber form about startup tips while my post about “Careers” has an Aweber form about interview tips.
Here’s how to do it:
- Download and install the TS Custom Widgets wordpress plugin
- Click on the TS Custom Widgets section of your wp-admin
- Utilize their admin tool to select on which pages and posts you want your widgets to appear
How to add a custom “After the post” content box in Thesis
Check out what is featured after every one of my blog posts:
I utilize this box to increase sign-ups to my newsletter. It’s actually quite simple to create a post like this using Thesis and Aweber.
Go to wp-admin -> Thesis -> Custom File Editor
Select custom_functions.php (careful, if you mess up here you can bring your whole blog down, and the only way to fix it is to fix it directly through your FTP)
Here is the code I added to add the after-the-post content:
<h3>Join my Startup Lessons newsletter</h3>
<p>Join my Startup Lessons newsletter to learn my secret startup lessons that I don’t publish anywhere else.</p>
Change the text in blue to whatever you want it to say.
Replace the red section with your own Aweber script code.
How to increase pageviews with 2 simple plugins
I use two simple WordPress plugins to increase pageviews for my blog.
The first is called Digg Digg, which adds a social share bar that follows the reader as he or she reads your post. Check out the image below.
The second is called upPrev, which adds a notification window to the bottom of each of your posts that encourages the reader to keep reading more posts on your blog.
Now that you know the techniques, go and optimize your blog. Let me know if you have any questions.