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Improve Your Blog with a Custom Made Theme

Improve-BlogToday John Chow answers my question about how he improved his blog in 2007.

This question is an easy one to answer because there was one thing I did to my blog in 2007 that impacted it more than anything else I have ever tired for John Chow dot Com.

I got a custom made theme

Before the custom theme, my blog ran a free WordPress theme and while it served me well, it was very limiting from a branding and monetization stand point. Nate Whitehill of Unique Blog Design created a theme for me that was not only unique, it allow me to fully monetize the blog.

The different was dramatic. Traffic double the day the new theme went live. It dropped a few days after but overall, the new theme has been responsible for a 25% increase in traffic. Income increase was even more dramatic. The blog went from $17,828.61 in August with the old theme to $27,240.83 in November with the new theme.

Unique Blog Design charges up to $1,500 for a custom design theme. While that may seem expensive, it’s a small price to pay when you look at the big picture. If you want to a problogger, then you have to roll with your own theme.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.johnchow.com/

    The only problem is one does not know if the dramatic increase in traffic was solely due to the theme.

    The theme is attractive – but would that by itself be so alluring in getting increased eyeballs and loyalty?

  2. My own design ended up down at BrisbaneIsHome.com, but because this isn’t aimed at a huge audience it really hasn’t made much of a difference yet….

    I’ll be doing virtual stuff such as visiting cafes and interviewing people, so that should bring in my traffic

  3. A custom theme is definitely needed if one plans on being a problogger and making money from their blog, it makes your blog stand out of the crowd.

  4. Lex G says:

    A theme in itself brings in traffic only indirectly ….

    However theming is part of building your brand. Having a correct theme gives you the possibilities to do new and other things with your blog … which can increase traffic eventually …

    An instant increase of traffic that john has enjoyed could be mainly because of the ‘enthusiasm’ of other bloggers giving his new theme attention on their blogs.

    Lex

  5. Ordnacin says:

    Would have been nice if he could have elaborated on how the new theme increased traffic and allow for better monetization of his site…

  6. A custom made theme, you say? Sounds like a great idea to me… ;) Good post, Darren.

    Steve

  7. Although I agree that a custom theme is very good, in my mind some of the best themes are free. If I had the money I would invest in a custom theme as it is a true investment. I can’t seem to part $1500 on a theme, sadly.

  8. Lex G says:

    For anyone interested … I just wrote a post about this on my blog http://www.newmediatype.com

    It explains why even a theme introduction can make John’s earnings and traffic increase drastically …

    Lex

  9. Sangesh says:

    Well Darren, custom made theme would be quite a high price to pay for small bloggers like me. Rather I’d opt to tweaking a blog template that I love.

    You can check my blog at http://www.sangesh.com.np/blog

    Cheers.

  10. Sean Hodge says:

    I wrote an article a couple days ago on thing to consider when choosing a designer to redesign your blog. I think it ties in with this post well. http://blogelephant.com/article/7_things_to_consider_when_choosing_a_designer_to_redesign_your_blog

    I think its a good point that its difficult to measure success. Though even common sense approaches are beneficial. How are you going to stand out in your marketplace? A good brand and unique design is one ingredient. Thanks.

  11. sir jorge says:

    Small investment?

    Sheesh…I don’t make that in one year blogging…heck…i don’t make that at my job a month!

  12. Fortunately for me, I was able to avoid the monetary cost since I’m a web designer and just created my own custom theme. Instead I just paid the price in time.

    I agree, though, that having a custom (or at least customized) theme is necessary if you really want to stand out from the crowd.

  13. I guess there are two things happening here. One is branding of your website, which is essential if you’re trying to build up long term loyalty. The other is ad placement. What kind of ads you can place on your blog and where. So you will need a designer that understands this when asking for a custom theme.

    I don’t use wordpress but with Typepad it’s relatively easy to customize both the theme and layout without much programming or design knowledge.

  14. Collin LaHay says:

    I have been pondering whether to make the investment for some time now. It is really tempting… =)

  15. I love the look of John’s new design. I think the $1,500 or so that he probably spent was well worth it. A $10,000 increase in income over 3 months probably helped him pay for the new design. I believe he made a wise investment.

  16. darknight says:

    $1500 is really expensive for me. Looks like John Cow is out of the Sandbox now, his PR is 4 now.

  17. paulfromthefuture says:

    Just a correction. ‘Tried’ is misspelled in the first paragraph.

  18. Sure, $1,500 is expensive for someone just getting started, but to John Chow who was already making more than $10K per month on his blog, it’s just the cost of doing business.

  19. Ruchir says:

    “If you want to a problogger, then you have to roll with your own theme.”

    I differ. All the people in the A List, have purchased a unique theme AFTER they became “pro”. I mean seriously, John you yourself did the same thing…Until they actually become a problogger, people just don’t have the money to purchase a custom design…

  20. Ruchir said: Until they actually become a problogger, people just don’t have the money to purchase a custom design…

    That may be true in most cases, but you don’t actually have to get the money for your blog design from your blog. Maybe you already have a bit of money put away and think that investing in a design will help you make money from your blog. It may be unusual (or not) but it still makes sense.

  21. I definitely agree that a theme can make a HUGE difference in the impression a blog makes. My Amateur Traveler podcast looked like this last January:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070101160426/http://amateurtraveler.com/

    Yuck.

    My new theme also has 21 different banners that change every 15 minutes so each time you come you might see a different travel picture that I took.

    Chris Christensen
    Amateur Traveler podcast (http://AmateurTraveler.com)
    Inside Chris’s Head (http://chris2x.com)
    Tripinator – Travel 2.0 (http://tripinator.com)
    The Bible Study Podcast (http://TheBibleStudyPodcast.com)

  22. Nikoo says:

    I think if you are just in blogging to produce content and make money, then sure, the only design

    If your blog isn’t established, then try to learn the ropes on Photoshop and Dreamweaver, and use your best design sense.

    However, if it really matters who reads your blog (ie potential employers, clients etc), or if what you are writing about IS your thing, that you are known for, then i would say design is primary importance after content. Even SEO doesn’t matter as much, since even if you are getting the right people to your page, those peoples first impressions can be hampered. The content IS there, but its organisation is confusing.

    But then again, I am biased, being bought up in a family of graphic designers and typesetters (what they did before computers).

    A really awesome plugin if you have average design and want to emphasize your good content is Recommend it, check it out over at bluehatseo.com/recommend-it/

  23. Caitlin says:

    You might want to fix the link to Unique Blog Design – it’s uniqueblogdesignS.com with an s at the end.

  24. You know, Darren, this is SO obvious that to actually have to TELL people should tell you something about the state of affairs on the web right now. Either you’re scrounging for content, or people just aren’t ready to be famous… or both.

    I mean, look at the first few comments. They’re fighting you even though it’s the truth. I’ve already got my custom-made template in the works – not because I want to be something called “a problogger” but because I feel I’ve “held out” long enough and it’s time to take things over the top.

    Good luck, Buddie…. you should take at least one lesson fro me on creating a little friction in your posts… you’re just a tad too vanilla and it seems to be getting worse. ;-)

    Sam

  25. Jan Alvin says:

    I think, the reason why John Chow increase his traffic is because of the way he blogs. And for the theme, It was alluring at first but as time goes by, people will get used to it.

  26. Anybody know wordpress theme editor available or not. how i can eaaly edit wordpress theme.

    Thanks