It is a fact of the blogging business: after a while, you need to change. You grow off of your shoes, become more savvy, and your audience also grows and new needs come into play, both on your part and on your audience’s part.
Now that I think about it, it sounds a lot like life.
When I started blogging, I didn’t have many needs. I started blogging because I knew it’s important for an author to have a blog, though at the time I barely knew anything else. In fact, for a long time, I put off blogging because I thought I had nothing interesting to say or share. So I chose my first two themes based only on aesthetics. My very first theme (which you can still see on my old blog) was Bold Life, which was already old when I chose it two years ago. But at the time, I didn’t care. Or better, I didn’t know any better.
Bold Life was in fact so old that when I moved to a self-hosted blog I couldn’t chose it anymore. So I went with Radiate, which is a theme that I still like a lot, even if I see that it too is becoming old at this time. But it had everything I wanted at the time: a sidebar, a clean design and lot of room for costumization.
I liked it a lot, but lately, I started feeling it was time to change. I needed something new, though I didn’t know what.
Then a couple of month ago my fellow blogger Lady Nicci changed her theme and wrote a fantastic article once she was done, An Idiot’s Guide to Freshening Up Your Blog.
In that article she wrote something that really made me think:
“I picked my old theme because it offered space for about ten posts to show on the home page – at the time I thought this was loads. Now that I have tons of posts on my blog, I realised I wanted many more to show on the homepage, so that when a reader clicks on my blog, they have a range to choose from and can see at a quick glance, what the blog is all about.”
You know, I could have written those words myself. That really pinned it down for me and that same day, I started browsing WordPress magazine themes, something I had always avoided because I thought magazine themes looked too busy and cluttered. As I say, you change as you go.
In the end, I settled for the MH Newsdesk Lite theme, which is a busy theme, granted, but in a good way. It gives you the impression that there is a lot to discover and to be sure, the day I shifted from Radiant to Newsdesk my pageviews shot up.
But contrary to what happened when I shifted from Bold Life to Radiate (that is, nothing), this new theme paused me a problem: it wants feature images on all posts and guess what, I had NONE.
So, since I had to work all through my feed to fix that, I decided it was time to do something I had put off for quite some time: a complete makeover of the blog.
This is what I did."Blog Evolution: 3 things you may want to change after blogging for 1 year #blogging #blogger Click To Tweet
The power of images
We are a visual species, this is no news, and as I go on this journey as a blogger, this reality is driven home stronger by the day. Images are vital to any blogger. Sure, you content is king (I do believe it) but you need people to look your way if you want them to read your contet. And nothing does that better than an image.
That’s why, in spite of knowing this was going to be a huge job (I had some 300 posts on the blog) I set about the task willingly.
The first thing I wanted to do was finally branding my blog. I’ve read many articles about why branding your blog is a good idea:
A quick and dirty guide to creating a kickass brand experience through your blog strategy @ The Branded Solopreneur
How to use visual marketing to live your competition in the dust @ Peg Fitzpatrick
Discover and build your author brand @ Your Writer Platform
I was convinced a long time ago, but I didn’t really want to go through the huge job to make over my blog so to respond to a brand, though I had already started branding through the content I’m sharing. Well, looked like the time had come.
- Colour: I’ve always known that when the time would come, my main visual branding tool would be colour. I had already chose a theme that used mainly blue (my favourite colour and the colour of my book cover) plus white, black and grey, which, to me, always create a sense of tidyness.
Colour is a powerful tool for creating atmosphere, that’s why I wanted a theme that would allow me to keep a dark background. Now I have to tell you that, according to many articles, red, orange and white are the colours that most attract people, but for my branding I still wanted more muted colours, because I wanted to go for a vintage, kind of noir effect, considering my subject matter. I actually also used a touch of the other two primary colours (yellow and red) but always in burnt shades, so to add to the vintage feeling
How to brand free stock photo for your brand @ BlogSharLern
- Photoshop: I had to create some 300 feature images… you know. Kind of intimidating. I do use PhotoShop, though my meager skills barely scratch the surface of what the program can do. But I discovered that learning bit by bit what you actually need can bring you a long way.
One of the first things I learned about images, back when I had a Etsy shop, is that you can’t use them as they are. You need to optimize them in terms of light and contrast, in order to make them look good on the screen. At the beginning, I used just that command on PhotoShop, light/contrast. Easy. But more recently I discovered a better way to go and not difficult:
How to get brighter, better photo in PhotoShop (in 60 seconds) @ Melyssa Griffith
It takes a bit to get the gist of it, but once you get accustomed, it allows you a better refined job than the light/contrast does. And photos do look a lot better on the screen
- Canva: Branding relies on templates. Your images must all have a certain feeling, look, design and colour palette to create that particular atmosphere that belongs to your blog. Now, I know you can create a template with Photoshop (A quick and dirty guide to using PhotoShop to Creating images… that kickass @ The branded solopreneur), but I had used Canva for creating the images for the AtoZ Challenge and I was very happy with it. Sure, it isn’t as flexible as Photoshop, but it’s a lot faster to use.
How to make a Blog Post image template with Canva @ Bridgid Gallagher
How to create beautiful Blog headear image template @ Emily La Grande
You don’t really realise how intimidating it is to find a way to brand hundreds of posts. But I’m a firm believer that you can accomplish the biggest goal by getting at it a piece at a time, so I grouped my posts by category and work on each category at a time. After a while, I started noticing that I use some elements more than others and some colours more than others, and so my colour branding kind of started coming together all by itself.
SEO, I hate you, I love you
There are two very different theories out there about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). One is that SEO are obsolete. That modern searchs engine work on so many different levels that SEO don’t really influence the result of the search. The other says that SEO are as important as ever and bloggers would be mad not to look into it.
Me, I’ve seen that if I care about SEO, my blog gets more hits, so I go with it.
I don’t obsess over SEO, many of my blogs are just OK with Yoast, but I do keep it under observation when I optimize my blogs.
I won’t get into SEO because I really don’t have the knowledge for it, but you can find lots of very good article out there. Here are some:
SEO basics for bloggers. 10 tips for better Searching Engine Optimization @ The Wonder Forest
A Rookie’s guide to SEO. 8 simple SEO tweaks you can make in a day @ The Branded Solopreneur
Grow your traffic with keywords research @ The Daily Post
- WordPress SEO PlugIn by Yoast. If you’re a WP blogger, you’re probably already using it. I started using the WP SEO plugin by Yoast only recently, so most of my posts weren’t optimized. I’ve read time and again that you should delete underperforming content, because this makes the rest stronger on search engines. As I had to go through all my posts, I decided to clean up my feed too. I eliminated some 50 posts that didn’t have a reason to be here anymore (well, I marked them as private, so they are still here, but you guys don’t see them. I’m never one for throwing things away), then I optimized with Yoast every remaining article.
What I like the most of Yoast is that it allows you to rewrite the preview string that Google allows people to read on the result page. You can write a string that make sense, optimize it with keywords, even if that’s not the beginning of your actual blog. I love that feature.
- 2. Alt description on images. The optimization for images is something that took me some time to understand. A part of it is very easy: give all your images a name that makes sense (don’t leave a number for them) and add a description, because that improves your discoverability. I went through this a first time a year ago, but actually I didn’t really understand the difference between ‘alt description’ and ‘description’ and above all I didn’t really understand the importance of using keywords.
Now I had a whole bunch of new images to deal with (they turned out to be more than 250) and in the meantime I had started looking into Pinterest more closely (that’s one of my favourite platforms). So, I took my determination with both hands and went through the job of optimizing my images. And let me tell you, it does show on the search results!
How to Optimize Images for Web Performance without Losing Quality @ WPBeginner
- Ewww Image Optimiser: I actually already had the Ewww Image Optimiser Plugin on my blog, but I want to mention it because I think this is one of those things you don’t think about when you start your blog, but you need to address sooner or later. Last fall, my blog nearly collapsed at a certain point. Traffic came to a trickle because my loading time was too high, and most of it was due to the images. I use lots of images on my blog now, but I didn’t realise this was becoming a problem. But it was.
I tried a few plugins (there are many out there for WP), but in this end, this is the one I like the most.
Blogs and Pages
Was I done? I wished I was!
Many of the older blogs went private, but the ones that stayed needed work. I am not going to rewrite them (even if many would need that. I learned so much about how you actually write a blog in just one year), but I could at least optimize some of them, the most interesting.
Then there was the matter of pages. Most of my pages look messy, because so far I have gone with whatever looked the best in an empiric way. That means, I tried to make a good looking page by trying and trying until the result was good enough (ehmmm…)
- Better Click to Tweet: This is another WP plugin that I already had on my blog, but I had sparingly used so far. I started using the Better Click to Tweet function during this year AtoZ Challenge and yeah, I see that you need a lot of traffic to see it used, because apparently most reader just use the sharing button at the foot of the article, but it’s a nice addition and I often use it as a design devise, to make the page a bit more lively.
- Page Builder: The WordPress Page Builder Plugin takes a bit of getting used but it’s worth using, in my opinion. Getting the page to look good when you have many elements on it is sometimes hard on WP and I discovered that this new theme doesn’t seem to accept side by side images. Most of my pages have gotten messed up.
This plug in allows to build a page using different fields, the only thing is that you need to build the entire page by scratch, you can’t just adjust the old one. But the end result is a lot better than even the best old results.
- About Page: It needed rewriting, end of story. I wrote my old About page even before starting blogging, having no idea of the potentialities. But lately I read a lot about the About Page because I’ve seen that, indeed, that is one of the most visited pages on my blog, just like so many articles say.
What I now understand is that the About Page is a kind of landing page for you brand. As many article point out, it isn’t about you at all, but it’s about what you can offer to your reader. That is a completely new way to look at it, but one that I really like.
Operation: Rock that Effing About Page @ nosegraze
How to create a successful About Page @ Suzie Speaks
Writing and About Page @ White Oak Creative
4 mistake I was making on my About Page (and how to fix them) @ Katelyn Blook
This is my new About Page. Not the one I want, still, but better than before, I believe.
Welcome to my new blog
And this is my new Homepage. I’m quite happy with it, although there are lots a things I’d like to do and can’t at the moment. I’m considering purchasing the paying version of the theme, because it allows a lot more customisations and has many cool features, but I’ll content myself with this for the time being. Maybe I fall in love with a different theme, who knows?
But I’m really happy of the way my new homepage displays my content, I think that, as Nicci said, it helps making clear at a glance what my blog is about and people visiting the first time still may have fun here, even if I haven’t been posting for a while.
I hope you like the new look. In case you feel like cheking it, this is my Writers Promote Pinterest board, where you can find most of the articles I’ve referenced and many more.
Now, are you considering changing you blog looks?
Wow, you’ve done your research, that’s for sure. Thanks for the links to the ‘About Page’ posts, I’ll definitely be reading those.
This journey is an ongoing one, and I’m glad you’ve started a new chapter. Love seeing you ‘grow’.
Happy you found it useful 🙂
I like reading about blogging and marketing, always new things to learn out there.
The About Page is a very tricky one. I’ve always read it is one of the most visited of a blog. Well, it is true. So I’ve increasingly felt the need to make mine more intersting and possibly interactive. I’m not happy with my page yet, but it’s a lot better than the old one 😉
Emily la Grange
Superb post Sarah! great content and resources – bookmarking right now! Also off to check out your Pinterest Board – very handy!
Thanks tonnes for mentioning my post, so very much appreciated!
My blog has defo evolved over the last year and when I look back I can see how far I’ve come. Looking forward to reading more and following your journey!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Emily, I’m so happy you like the post and it was a pleasure to mention you. I actually learned how to use Canva from your video!
Great post. Thanks for this information.
Thanks Don. I’m happy it was useful 🙂
Wow, you have been working hard! I’m a hobby blogger so I don’t have the same needs as you but I do feel I need to make changes from time to time (can’t remember when I last changed my theme). I’ll be keeping this by me for future reference.
I think a little change is always good. It helps you feel you’re doing progression and new things often bring new energy and passion.
So I’d say, Anabal, definitely chang eyour blog theme! 😉
There are so many beautiful themes coming out every day for WordPress. That’s what made me what to try something new in the first place. Choose one of the newest and go for it!
Thanks for sharing such a great informative post it really helpful and amazing so keep it up and all the best.
You are welcome. Happy it was useful 🙂
Thank you for sharing your journey, Sarah. There’s no reason to keep a blog the way it always has been if you are ready for a change!