So, you’ve decided that you want to start blogging. You’ve registered a domain name, signed up for hosting, and picked out your niche. You may have also narrowed down the kind of blog theme that you would like to use, thanks to the previous article. Now, you are faced with another decision point.
When it comes to WordPress themes, they come in one of three types: free, premium, and custom themes. Which type of blog theme you ultimately use for your site will largely be dependent on your goals and on your budget. How much money are you willing to invest in your blog in its early days? Your ultimate goal should be to use a custom blog theme, but this may not be financially viable for many people who are new to blogging.
Starting Out with Free Themes
The appeal of free themes is obvious enough: they’re free. Any designer can submit their creations to the official Free Themes Directory on WordPress.org. There are over 1,000 different themes that are freely available for download through that official resource and they’re organized by a number of different criteria. You can search based on colors used, number of columns, included features, and other tags.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that many free WordPress themes do not offer any real support and their features may be lacking when compared to their paid counterparts. Because they are offered for free, it is also very possible that they could be buggy or otherwise result in errors. The coding may not be as “clean” and efficient as the paid professional themes. Further still, many free themes require you to include an attribution link to the theme’s creator, which can sometimes detract from the professional image you may be trying to build for your blog.
Free themes are a good place to start, but unless you have the time and knowledge to customize these themes on your own, you will usually find that they don’t completely fulfill your needs.
Moving Up to Premium WordPress Themes
A step up from free WordPress themes are the paid premium themes. A number of professional designers and coders create these premium themes and sell them either through online marketplaces or through their own websites.
One of the major advantages that you get from buying a good premium theme is that you are more likely to get a theme that has been coded properly and efficiently. Further still, it is generally easier to get in contact with the original developer if you have any suggestions or require any support.
These specialized premium themes oftentimes include more advanced design styles and more robust feature sets than their free counterparts. They may include a number of custom fonts, images, widgets, and other additional content that free themes typically do not include. Thesis Theme is a popular premium theme. It costs $87 for a personal license or $164 for a developer’s license.
Designing Original Custom Blog Themes
The absolute best option you can get is to hire a professional web designer to create a completely original and custom blog theme. This comes with several very important advantages. For starters, because it is a custom theme, your blog will look completely different from all the other blogs on the Internet. This is fantastic for branding and for getting more attention. You don’t want to be blend into the crowd.
Instead of shopping around for themes that can satisfy everything on your desired list of features, you can tell your hired designer everything that you need and he or she can custom code the WordPress theme to your exact specifications. It’s important to hire a good designer and coder that you can trust, of course, but this increased personalization and versatility can be greatly advantageous.
The price of a custom theme will vary considerably. Remember that when you are looking for a designer than you need to look past the price and consider the true value and quality that you are receiving. If you can afford it, a custom theme is definitely the ideal path to take.
This blog post is part of the BloggingTips.com Complete Guide to Blogging. Be sure to visit our Blogging Guide for the full break down of all chapters and posts in this series.
How to Create a Landing Page that Converts with Spark CMS [Step-by-Step Guide + Tips]
A landing page is one of the critical pages to have on your blog. It’s what helps you grow your email list and get your visitors to buy the products and services you’re promoting.
Yet, it may surprise you how many bloggers—and even professional marketers—don’t maximize landing pages. In fact, according to the 2nd edition of Marketing Sherpa’s Landing Page Handbook, 44% of B2B businesses direct their leads to their website’s homepage instead of a dedicated landing page. Another 62% of them have less than 6 landing pages on their website!
Why the disconnect?
As it turns out, the reason even though brands and bloggers don’t utilize landing pages despite recognizing its importance lies in the fact that they find the process of creating a landing page intimidating.
The good news is that those days are long gone. There are now lots of companies that’ll allow you to create a landing page in minutes without even knowing a single string of code. One such company is Spark CMS.
What is Spark CMS?
Spark CMS was created to solve a fundamental problem that many bloggers face: having a blog that’ll wow their readers, give them all the features they need to make money from it, and not have to spend a fortune.
If you’re dead serious about making money from your blog, you got to invest money to make that happen., that amount can set you back as much as $245 in your first three months!
Spark CMS is a self-hosting content management system. That means it doesn’t just help you create landing pages. You can also have a self-hosted blog with a stunning theme and a custom domain and even integrate a host of other features.
Why should bloggers use Spark CMS for their landing pages?
Easy landing page customization
This video below shows you just how easy it is to create a landing page on Spark’s CMS.
Spark’s landing pages integrates with the most used blogging tools and apps like Google Analytics, Facebook, Drift, and other with just one click.
They are optimized for search engines
In addition to being mobile-friendly, Spark’s user-friendly interface helps you optimize your landing page so that the keywords you want to rank to appear in the right places. That way, your landing page will rank higher than those belonging to other bloggers.
Ultra-fast loading speeds
How fast your landing page loads can affect its ability to convert and your blog’s bounce rate.
You need to make sure that your landing page should load within 2.4 seconds. Otherwise, it’ll decrease its ability to convert your readers by as much as 68.42%!
Steps to create a landing page using Spark CMS
Step #1: Be clear about your goals
Before you create your landing page, you need to have a specific and concrete goal that you want to achieve. Without this, you have no way of knowing whether it’s giving you the results you expect.
Ask yourself why you are creating this landing page. Is it to grow your email list and send them a follow up email to get the balls rolling? Or perhaps you’re doing some affiliate marketing, and you’re looking for a way to make more money? Maybe you’re a freelancer, and you’re trying to get more clients?
Your answer will give you a clearer idea not only of how your landing page should look like but also the different elements you’ll include here.
Step #2: Choose a template
The next step is to choose the right landing page template to help you meet the goals you set.
Most landing page builders and CMS platforms list their templates based on their designs. Spark CMS categorizes its templates based on their functionality.
By doing this, they not only make it easier for you to find a template design that you like, but you’re also sure that it’s got all the elements needed to make it effective.
Step #3: Tweak the template to match your branding
One of the most critical landing page creation best practices to remember is that it should give your visitors the same look and feel that they’d get if they visit any other page of your website.
If the landing page your create looks very different from the rest of your website, your visitors may feel lost and wonder if they perhaps went to a different site altogether.
You can make sure that doesn’t happen by tweaking the landing page template you’ve chosen to use the “Elements” feature in the Spark CMS dashboard.
Here, you can change the colors on the landing page template so it matches your brand colors. This is also where you can add your logo to your landing page and change the font to match the one on your website.
Step #4: Write an eye-catching headline
Your headline’s the most crucial part of your landing page. It’s so vital that legendary David Ogilvy once said that your headline’s worth 80 cents of every dollar you invest in your copy.
The reason’s simple: your headline’s the first thing that your visitors see when they search on Google.
No matter how amazing your landing page looks, if your headline doesn’t catch the attention of your target market as they scroll through the search results page, you won’t convert them into leads, much less into customers.
One practical tip to make your headlines more eye-catching is to use words that trigger your target market’s emotions, those that’ll touch their pain points.
There are two reasons that a person will take action: loss aversion and gaining pleasure. Of the two, the desire not to lose something is stronger. One study shows that feelings of loss are 2x stronger than feelings of happiness. As a result, when you give your target audience a solution for this, they’re more likely to click and visit your landing page.
Step #5: Focus your ad copy on your target readers
One of the biggest mistakes bloggers and marketers make when writing the copy of their landing page is that they focus too much on them and their offer.
The problem here is that’ll be visiting your landing page don’t care about any of that. They only care about answering one thing: “What’s in it for me?”
Visitors to your landing page are searching for a solution to their problem. So if you want to get them to convert, you got to answer this question right at the beginning of your landing page’s copy. An effective copywriting technique to use is to follow the Inverted Pyramid model.
Initially used by journalists and reporters, the Inverted Pyramid model immediately lays out to your landing page’s visitor the answer to their question. This is then followed by details to support and justify your answer.
The reason this works is that the attention span of people is short when they’re online. By giving the essential information at the beginning, they’ll be compelled to either read the rest of your copy or make a beeline for your landing page’s call-to-action button.
Professional Wingman’s landing page is an excellent example.
Notice how everything you need to know about the service and the CTA button is right in front of their visitors the moment the landing page loads. Even if they don’t read the whole thing, they’ve read enough to convince them to click the CTA button conveniently provided.
Step #6: Create your opt-in form
This is a relatively easy step to do because all of Spark’s landing page templates come with a pre-designed opt-in form that you can quickly customize.
The challenge is knowing how much of your visitors’ personal information will you ask on the form.
On the one hand, your visitors should find the amount of information you’re asking is justified by what you’re offering. If you’re asking too much, they’ll not fill out the form altogether.
At the same time, you need to get the information you must help you convert them into paying customers.
To find that balance, you must understand what buyer’s journey stage your landing page belongs. As a rule of thumb, the further into your buyer’s journey, the more justifiable it is to ask for more information.
For example, if you’re creating a landing page that falls in the Awareness stage, a simple opt-in form asking for your visitor’s name and email address would be enough. There’s also this need to use an email verification tool for confirming the emails.
On the other hand, asking for your visitor’s phone number is understandable to them if your landing page offering is a scheduled demo or consultation, which usually happens in the Decision stage.
Step #6: Add a compelling CTA
Next to your headline, your call-to-action is the most vital element of your landing page. It’s that final step that’ll turn your visitors into either a lead or a customer.
Two critical elements go into a compelling CTA:
The first is the text. A compelling CTA should include action words so it prompts your visitors to take the right action. Your CTA’s text should tell your visitors what they’ll be getting when they click it.
The second is its location. Most bloggers and marketers would only add the CTA on the bottom of their landing page’s copy. While that will convert some visitors, not all of them will have the time nor the patience to read everything.
That’s why it’s essential to include a CTA on the upper third of your landing page. This is what they call “above the fold.” This is the first thing that loads on your visitor’s screen the moment they arrive on your landing page.
Combined with the right copy, your visitors won’t feel the need to scroll to the bottom to learn more or to sign up.
Step #7: Test your landing page before publishing
Although you may be excited about launching your landing page, there’s just one last step you must do, and that’s to test its effectiveness.
Most bloggers skip this part because they don’t know how to do it. Marketers do the same because it’s downright tedious.
Spark CMS’ dashboard has an A/B testing tool that’ll allow you to test each section of your landing page to get the most from it the moment it goes live.
Also, as you can see in the short clip below, it’s straightforward. Just click on the section you want to test, fill in the details, and Spark will do the rest for you.
Spark CMS makes it easy to create a landing page that converts
Landing pages have now become an integral part of any blog or website. Spark CMS’ platform is a cost-effective and convenient way for professional bloggers and online business owners create a landing page that looks professional and reflects your brand.
However, it’s not enough to have a professional-looking landing page. You also must hone your copywriting skills so you can capture the attention of your target audience and get them to keep reading. Only then can you get them to take action and convert.
How to Develop a Customer Experience Strategy with Your Blog
Customer experience or CX is about the interactions between your company and customers.
These interactions include the moment he navigates your website for the first time and when he buys your product.
If you think giving importance to customer experience won’t make a big difference in your business’ success, think again.
CX is vital to the growth of your business. Feedback from 10,000 consumers shows that customer loyalty levels change based on customer experience.
Therefore, you’ll learn how to develop a customer experience strategy with your blog in this post.
This way, you can turn fairweather site visitors into rabid and loyal customers.
Write a clear About Us page
A brilliant customer experience strategy should start with a clear customer-centric vision.
A part of this is about finding out what your customer wants. And the other part is about creating statements that will serve as guiding principles for him.
For this, turn to the About Us page on your blog.
There, introduce your company and share your vision. Remember to always be clear with your message to avoid misinterpretations.
By writing your core values on your About Us page, readers have tempered expectations on what you publish on your blog.
With every post, they start to understand and familiarize themselves with your company.
To get your creative juices flowing, check out these awesome About Us pages from different brands.
Determine a customer avatar for your blog
Creating a persona helps your customers identify with the person they’re dealing with.
It’s one of the best ways to connect and empathize with each of them.
With a carefully-chosen avatar, you have a clear idea of how to help your target audience from your blog.
You’re also doing something to overcome the different customer misconceptions.
To guide you in the process, here’s what you need to do:
- Do your research – Find out what characteristics you want your customer avatar to have. Give it depth and purpose
- Take note of negative personas – Determine the type of people that you don’t want to attract
- Use a spreadsheet to track the results – List down the results of your research so you can narrow them down easily
Get readers to care about your content
Conducting keyword research or using the right search phrases into your content is the way to go.
By writing about topics that people search for in your niche, you fill in a gap that helps these people improve their lives.
Think about it:
Readers are already on the lookout for certain pieces of content. What the keyword research process will do is to help bring your content to them!
To achieve desirable results, you should use keyword research tools like Ahrefs.
You should also consider leaning towards the use of long-tail keywords because of less competition.
On top of that, remember these things as well:
- Write unique and updated content – Compared to older content, the newer posts are much more useful for readers and are therefore prioritized by Google on search results
- Consider questions – Think of how people would turn to Google to ask questions in a natural manner. For example, “how do I increase sales for my product” sounds like something a person would say than “sale increase guide.”
- Variations matter – The search terms “music file” and “audio file,” for instance, may not be too different. But one receives more keyword hits than the other
Find ways to capture feedback
Interacting with your customers is simple.
It’s also a smart approach to know if you’re delivering customer satisfaction.
So if you head to your blog’s comments section, you can gain actionable insights from what they are saying.
Aside from referring to the comments section, a live chat system or chatbot will help you get useful customer feedback.
It keeps people engaged and it helps them keep in touch with your brand from your blog.
Some of the tools that you can use are as follows.
- TARS – This bot builder features drag-and-drop functionality. It’s easy-to-use and various customizable templates.
- Flow XO – If you want a complete solution for chatbot building, check this out. You can even use it to integrate with many third-party platforms or build bot widgets that can help you share your bots
- Botsify – You can turn to this simple chatbot builder for awesome integration features. You can use it to integrate with Shopify or create conversion forms
Track and measure results
Find out if your customer experience strategy is working.
To get around to it, you should use NPS or Net Promoter Score.
It presents valuable information that can help you measure the effectiveness of your approaches.
It uses a very straightforward question about whether a customer recommends your company to a peer.
If he does and gives your company a high score, you’re in for some good news: your strategy is working!
A winning customer experience raises customer loyalty levels and lets you herd in loyal customers.
And it also gives your company a competitive advantage and significantly drives up revenue!
Therefore, don’t set aside the importance of a great strategy.
If you want to follow the lead of many successful marketers, you should also invest in customer experience.
A Quick Guide to Blog Analytics
Your blog traffic is the key indicator of its overall performance.
And if you do not truly understand how blog traffic works, then you need to ask why you’re even blogging at all!
In fact, there’s more to blog traffic than the number of visitors your blog.
You must understand where the traffic is coming from, the quality of traffic your blog receives, and more!
Knowing all these things should steer you in the right direction as far of improving your blog’s process is concerned.
To help you make better blogging decisions, you must use one of the most powerful tools for analyzing traffic: Google Analytics.
If you’re not using it yet and want to learn more, then read on!
How Can I Check My Blog Traffic?
Your blog traffic is the metric to weigh your blog performance.
However, and as mentioned above, traffic is just an overall term to call all the users who visit your blog.
A user coming in from social media is not the same as the one coming in from a guest post.
For example, if you haven’t set up any social media presence yet, then you’ll question the traffic you are getting from social media.
It could be because people are starting to share your blogs now, which can give you a clue on what people like to read.
Here are some traffic metrics to track and analyze:
- Source – Describes where your traffic is coming from. Use this information to identify sources you need to focus or improve on
- Bounce rate – The percentage of a single session where your visitor has no interaction with your page. It tells you how frequently users leave your blog without visiting any other pages
- Average Time on page – The average length of stay of your visitors on your page. Aim to make your visitors stay longer by writing better content and optimizing your page speed
Knowing and understanding all of these using Google Analytics helps you fix any leaking holes that you didn’t know existed before.
Your content marketing strategies, better blog post, and the development and design of your blog are all going to benefit if you can analyze what you are currently doing.
How do I use Google Analytics for my blog?
Installing Google Analytics is easy and doesn’t require any plugins.
Here’s a quick guide on how to install it regardless of what CMS you use.
Create a Google account and make sure that you’re logged in to it before you head to go to the next step.
Go and sign up a Google Analytics account for free and fill out all the needed information such as your website URL and country.
From there, Google will automatically create a property for you. You will find a tracking code similar to this below:
This the Global Site Tag, a unique tracking code that you need to paste on the header or footer file of your website.
Once you have it all set up and installed properly, you can wait for a few days and review all the traffic your blog receives. Note that it will take approximately 24 hours for GA to start collecting data from your site.
Once GA has collected enough data for you to analyze, you can click on any metric buttons they have available.
Here’s a screenshot that shows the acquisition channels which includes source, number of users, bounce rate, and average time on site for seven days.
As you can see, the referral channel is lagging in all the above metrics compared to other channels.
When someone clicks on a link to your blog, GA marks it as referral traffic. In the data above, this traffic source shows a higher bounce rate and a much lower average session duration.
What this data tells is there could be better improvements on what kind of websites the link building strategy is doing or focused on.
Additionally, the average session duration on all channels can also be improved by working on the quality of the content and fixes for a few design properties.
But, you don’t always have to look at the negative side of things.
This GA screenshot shows that almost 90% of the users are from organic search, meaning, the SEO efforts are going quite well and just needs a few tweaks for improvements.
These are just some of the details GA will show you to help you understand what your blog’s traffic is about.
However, web analytics only uncovers your blog’s traffic information.
Most of the performance problems of a blog stem from having SEO problems. In this case, you can ask Pathtorch to identify the problems for you and help you understand what’s wrong.
Blogging is a great platform to share your ideas with an audience.
However, to truly be effective, you need to understand how your blog is performing under certain factors.
Understanding these allows you to create better content and promote it in the right places to generate even more traffic.
The post above should shed light on the value that Google Analytics brings to the table.
So if you are serious about your blog, Google Analytics tells you the next steps if you deeply analyze what your data tells you.
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