Before skipping this post as “yet another infomercial”, let me tell you a few things about myself. My name is Dragos Roua, and I blog for 6 years now. DragosRoua.com, my main blogging outlet, has more than 100.000 unique users per month. I don’t buy links, I don’t do any black hat SEO, I don’t do AdSense or AdWords. Yet, I make a (more than) decent living out of this blog. I’m also one third of WPSumo, the main topic of today’s post.
Why did I tell you that? Because what follows is one of those rare occasions in which you will be exposed to a few secrets from somebody who (really) does blog for a living. Some of them may surprise you, some of them may make you raise an eyebrow, while some of the may even look familiar, but somehow not so obvious. Without further ado, let’s start.
1. Stay In Control
Each and every part of your blog must look exactly like you want. The blog is your visual identity. So that’s why I want to have total control when it comes to the places from where I can tweak my style settings. I want to be able to modify the header, the footer, the titles, the distance between various layout blocks, pretty much everything. Without writing code, that is.
And WPSumo comes with a very powerful visual style editor which really makes this job incredibly easy. While we were working on that, we had a few times the acute sensation that we will never finish it. Because each and every time we discovered a tiny setting that we were not including. And we started to add this and then that and then the other thing too.
But as we advanced, we came to a point where we actually start to use our visual editor instead of the CSS files. That was a real milestone. Now I get back to the CSS files only when I really want to get hardcore. And I don’t want that very often, because I have something much better to do with my time: writing viral posts and create a real, sustainable business.
2. Be Flexible. Really Flexible
Working in a standard, fixed layout, like the one you get with a vanilla WordPress installation is good. It forces you to become disciplined and find the best available space for your message. But after you write 100 or 200 (or, in my case, over 500) articles, you start to get bored with that fixed layout. Ok, I get it: I have the content area and two columns, now what?
So that’s why we started to work on an incredibly flexible layout manager. A layout what? A layout manager. It makes each and every posts or page from your blog unique. You can have on this post one column for the content and two sidebars (for the recent posts and comments), while for the next one you can have only one sidebar. Or no sidebar at all.
The effects of this layout manager are huge from a business point of view. Imagine you write a review for a really cool product. Now you can make the entire post look like it’s co-branded. For instance, add a sidebar with an affiliate banner, only visible in that post, so the reader will be totally captured in your message. Oh, and this layout manager, we made it visual too.
3. Just Keep Writing
Many blogs are starting great, but only a few are keeping the pace for more than 6 months. Writing constantly is not easy. This is why, 2 years ago, I wrote a plugin to help me with that. It was called Blog Audit, and, until recently, it was one of my best kept secrets. With Blog Audit you set up certain writing goals and then just watch the stats, as you progress with your writing.
I cannot tell you how important was the Blog Audit functionality for me. After the first few months I could clearly see what kind of posts were generating reactions, how many comments I had and how the category distribution of my posts influenced that. So, when we decided to create WPSumo, I instantly decided to integrate this plugin into the core of the framework.
And the charts were also refined to show more clearly the 4 key metrics, including comments, pingbacks/trackbacks and category distribution. Yes, you get Blog Audit for free, because it’s part of the core framework. I know it’s hard to believe, that’s why I felt the need to confirm it. Oh, and we even made it multiuser too. ;)
4. Use Handy Building Blocks
Want more tools like these? They’re all in the shortcodes area. We’re talking buttons, icon boxes, notification boxes, titles, even layouts and columns. Because that’s what a premium wordpress framework should offer: premium tools.
5. Keep It Simple
No more dozens of different plugins (hard to maintain and update), just a really big fat layer of functionality, integrated with everything you ever wanted to. So, here are just a few things that you get for free in WPSumo, thus completely voiding the need for extra plugins.
- integrated mobile theme (with its own plethora of options, too)
- google +1 share button, twitter share button, facebook share button, stumbleupon share button (with custom placement options too)
- facebook comments (you can have standard comments, facebook comments, or both. For each and every post you choose to)
- export and import of your settings (tweaking on the localhost, then just importing the settings in the live site)
- a simple and effective way to manage your ads (three units per post / page with custom placement options)
- a state of the art featured area (those nifty animations you see on top of some popular magazines, that’s what I’m talking about)
- a powerful portfolio section (just in case you sell something really cool on your blog)
- SEO settings for posts / pages and other related options (noindex, nofollow, robots.txt and more)
- more than 80 custom fonts (Google Fonts, Cufon Fonts, Generic Fonts)
- customizable home page (with your custom content, your latest blog posts, blogs from a certain category, pretty much everything)
- custom widgets for Facebook Like Box, Recent Posts, Twitter feeds, Flicker photo stream, Contact Forms and more
- last, but not least, more than 50 hooks and extensions are available if you really want to go under the hood and transform your blog into a spaceship (which will be really cool, isn’t it?)
As you can see, only in this list there are at least 12 plugins that can be completely eliminated from your WordPress setup, because all the functionality is already inside of the framework.
Now, face it: you don’t make any money by endlessly tweaking your theme. You don’t make money by installing a new Twitter plugin. You don’t make money by trying to make that Facebook Box fit in the sidebar. You make money because you write compelling content. And that’s you should do pretty much all the time.
There is this mental blog that you gotta “pimp” your theme constantly. Maybe, if you already have 200.000 visitors per day and you get easily bored. But if you’re just putting yourself out there, if you try to make a difference, if you want to create value, then endlessly “pimping” your theme is just a big, lousy and expensive waste of time. That’s where WPSumo really shines. Although it does that by putting itself in the shadow, so to speak, and getting the garbage out of your way, so you can create fantastic content in your fantastic blog.
So, here we are. This post wasn’t intended as an infomercial, (although if you buy a developer license of WPSumo, I think you’re gonna make a pretty wise decision), but rather as a way to understand what are your real needs when it comes to blogging and the tools you need for that.
So, if, from now on, the moment you’ll want to buy a theme for your next blog, you’re gonna stop and get back here just to see if that theme is compliant with those 5 requirements, I consider my job here done.