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Free Studio Designed WordPress Theme

One of my favorite blog design houses, The Blog Studio, have released a second free theme for WordPress 1.5 and 2.0. It’s called Liquid Summer and you can see it in action here. It’s a three column design and has a nice feel about it (even though that green is a little hard on my retinas on my screen.

The cool thing about it is the ‘liquid’ content section that expands and shrinks depending upon how big your reader has their browser window.

Of course the problem with free themes is that they are not unique – but it might suit some bloggers who are just starting out and saving up for a unique pro design.

Liquidsummer

Optimizing your Title Tag for SEO on 3 Different Platforms

This post has been submitted by regular contributor – Aaron Brazell

A lot has been made of SEO as it comes to blogging, both here at Problogger and elsewhere. If you are a regular reader of this site, then this is especially critical to you. You read this blog because you want to know how to most effectively leverage your blog to make money. A lot of those earnings will come on the back of traffic from search engines.

A few weeks ago, we looked at how to get a very effective integration of Adsense into your WordPress-based blog. I realized as I interacted with you in the comments that my affinity for WordPress would help many out but that there are a large portion of you who use non-WordPress solutions.

Today, there’s another tip I’d like to pass along – one that Darren turned me onto and that I have been implementing across my blogs. It’s optimizing your <title> tag for Search Engines. Specifically, how to implement a “Entry Title – Blog Description” style title scheme. This time, I’ll cover more than WordPress.

The Importance of Title Tags

I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you that title tags are important. They could very well be the most important piece of your blog. We know a couple of things about title tags.

  1. Title tags describe a page. They are a one line summary of what the page is about. The common (and semantic) understanding of the tag is to wrap the title of the site. Unfortunately for many people, the title of the site is completely un-descriptive of the content of the blog. For example, my blog is called “Technosailor”. If I put this in the title tag, search engines really have no clue as to the content of my site. It means nothing to spiders. It would be much better for SEO to place a keyword-rich description (e.g. “Technology, Blogging and Politics”) in the title tag.
  2. It’s the Title Used in SERPs! The content of your title tag is what will be displayed in search engine results. Before I optimized Technosailor to use a “Entry Title – Blog Description” titling scheme, I had results like this in Google:

Okay, Title Tags are Good, but How Do I Tweak Them?

Depending on the blog platform you use, and the theme/template in use there are a few options.
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How to: Placing Adsense Strategically Between Posts

Greetings, fellow Probloggers (and those who aspire to be probloggers). It’s somewhat surreal to be posting here. Darren’s highlighted who I am pretty well (though I’m not sure where he dug up that photo!), so I’ll simply add that my strength lies in WordPress. I have been an active part of the WordPress development community for some time, so it will be natural to pass along some things I know from my experience with the platform. Some of the tips I write about will be very easy for some, and hopefully there will be entries that challenge even the most advanced. As long as someone is learning, I’m happy.

A few days ago, Darren posted an entry about ad placement that took an interesting turn in the commentary that followed.

Commenter Tom asked:

What is the plug in that you use to put the ads between the 2nd and 3rd post, or do you do so manually?

That, my friends, is the tip of the day. WordPress is a very flexible platform that allows for quite a bit of “munging” to make things work right. For starters, the basic building block of WordPress is a block of code called “The Loop”. It is called that because, literally, it is where the posts for a given page are “looped” through repeatedly to be displayed on the blog.

The standard Loop in the index.php file, is a block of code that might look a bit like this: [Read more…]

Do Ugly Blogs Convert Better?

I’ve been meaning to link to and comment on Robert Scoble’s post on The role of anti-marketing design (or how ‘ugly’ designs often do better – especially with AdSense). He refers to ‘plentyofffish.com‘ as an example of one site that is reportedly making some big dollars from AdSense despite it’s fairly humble design.

My reaction to Robert’s post is twofold:

1. I don’t want to agree – I appreciate good design in all aspects of life. I like blogs and websites that have obviously had some time put into the way that they look. I also find myself reacting against ‘ugly’ on some levels (yep I’m a bit of a snob – but it’s the way I’m wired). That doesn’t mean I ignore or avoid poorly designed sites – I just am not drawn to them as much and they have to have something really worthwhile in terms of content to get me past their look.

I do believe that well designed blogs have some distinct advantages in terms of branding, marketing, creating first impressions, being stickable and with advertising optimization.

2. There’s some truth in the idea that ‘ugly converts well’ with some forms of advertising – I’ve seen many examples of sites that will never win design awards that are very profitable. I’ve also owned a couple of blogs that have proved it to me also.

[Read more…]

Time Stamps on Blogs – How Many Does a Blog Need?

Rachel has been asking some interesting questions about Time Stamps on blogs in an attempt to de-clutter them.

I think it could be an interesting discussion so head over and have your say.

Blog Design for Beginners Part 2

The following post is part 2 (of 3) of a series of guest posts on the topic of Blog Design – written by blog designer, Peter Flaschner from Blog Studio.

In my last post, I described the process we use at The Blog Studio to design a web site. Today, we’re going to take the finished design and turn it into a fully functional WordPress theme.

So, ready? Excellent. For today’s lesson, you’ll need your graphics editor (Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Gimp, etc), an ftp program to upload files to your server, and a pencil and paper.

I’m going to gloss over a whole bunch of technical stuff here. The point of this post is not so much to teach you how to write html as it is to give you an insight into the process we use to design and build blogs.

Step 1: Plan the attack
Let’s take a look at the design I whipped up:

[Read more…]

An Introduction to Using Images on Blogs


The following post was submitted by Duncan Riley from the Blog Herald, Weblog Empire and b5media. I asked Duncan to explore the topic of using Images on Blogs. I think you’ll agree that his article below is a very comprehensive exploration of the topic which I hope you will find helpful .

Any good blogger will tell you that images and imagery are vitally important in the development and rise of any good blog, but they are often also quite often the most frustrating, annoying and time consuming aspect of any blogs life as well. None the less its important that you know about them

Types of Images

For ease of use I’ll categorize images on your blog into two categories: design imagery and content imagery. Naturally design imagery incorporates any images you may wish to use in the design of your blog, be that in the header, sidebar or footer. Comment imagery is photos and images you post as part of, or exclusively as a post to your blog. It’s important to understand the differences between the two because although we will be covering a lot of common ground in dealing with both types of images, there are also some separate consideration as well.

Toolbox

Some new blogging tools (such as Performancing for Firefox) allow you to drag and drop images you see on websites and other blogs into your posts, however they serve this image from the source, and that’s generally considered very poor form by most bloggers. You are going to need to be able to save, copy and edit any images you want to use. To do this I would recommend that you consider using Image Manipulation software to give you the freedom to do as you please to your images.

Free vs Paid

Personally I use Adobe Photoshop for all my image editing needs, however, particularly when you are starting out, it would be not dissimilar to learning to drive on a brand new Ferrari. Photoshop is the industry standard image manipulation tool in professional business and is available on Mac and PC, but it’s not a cheap option. Personally I don’t use the latest version of Photoshop because I’m happy with the slightly older version I use as it does everything I could ever want it to (and a whole lot more). You can pick up older versions Photoshop at places like eBay second hand if you can’t afford to buy an new copy off the shelf.

Other commercial programs that are available include Corel Draw and Paint Shop Pro.

If you don’t want to spend money on image editing software though I’d highly recommend downloading The Gimp, which is available for PC, Mac and Linux. It’s a fully fledged Open Source (free) image software package that many claim is as powerful as Photoshop.

[Read more…]

Blog Format Discussion

There has been a bit of talk in the last few days about the need for new ways of formatting blogs.

Michael Parekh talks On Blogs Stuck in a Rut:

‘I’ve long wondered how great it would be if my current blogging platform Typepad (a part of Six Apart) or someone else like Google’s Blogger, WordPress etc., offered more flexible and alternative ways to present content in different forms within the same blog. In many ways, the blogging platforms companies have offered blogging templates that have essentially been frozen in time since blogs were first conceived…. For instance, why can’t we have a blog template with the ability to have multiple tabbed pages?’

Jeff at BuzzMachine suggests that it is Time to blow up blogs:

‘Blogs have already become prisoners of their format. Time to light some dynamite…. The problem isn’t the tools, it’s the templates. Blogging tools are merely content management systems without the million-dollar consultants and bills; that’s what I’m telling newspaper folks who complain that it’s hard to put content online. Templates let you format or unformat your stuff however you like and also include stuff of any medium. I’d love to see more clever examples of templates.’

My own reaction is that while most blogs seem to be doing much the same thing as each other there are many blogs doing interesting things with their templates. Most of them are on non hosted options like WordPress, MovableType and Drupal but really the sky is the limit when it comes to creative formats for blogs.

[Read more…]

Blog Design for Beginners

PeterThe following post is a guest post from the very talented blog designer, Peter Flaschner, as part of the blogging for beginners series.

Hi all. I’m Peter Flaschner, the founder and creative dictator at The Blog Studio. I’m going to walk you through the process we go through when designing a blog or other website. This is part one of two. When we’re done, we’ll have a super flexible WordPress theme perfect for anyone looking to make a buck with a blog.

Design can add tremendous value to a blog. When it comes to making money with your blog, proper web design can make a huge impact on your bottom line. For some reason, I get a lot of resistance when I say this. I think it has to do with one’s perceived definition of design. The typical response I get is ‘ugly sites do well with adsense’. That may very well be true. I bet though, that those same sites would do even better with proper design.

Before we get into this, I need to dispel one further myth: design is not about making things pretty. It’s about making things work to their best ability. Let me quote from dictionary.com:

  • To formulate a plan for; devise: designed a marketing strategy for the new product.
  • To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form: design a building; design a computer program.
  • To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect: a game designed to appeal to all ages.
  • To have as a goal or purpose; intend.
  • To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner.

So, without further ado, let’s design a site. Here’s what we’re going to need: pencil, paper, and a graphics editor (such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, or Gimp).

We’re going to start by collecting a bunch of information. I know the instinct is to jump straight into your drawing program and start messing around, but it’s not the best approach. You’ll see why as we move through this.

[Read more…]