Present a Consistent Brand in Your Blogging

In this video post I reflect upon the one of the downsides of changing your blog’s brand and/or design.

While updating blog design, logos and avatars in social media sites can bring a lot of life to a blog and present you with an up to date and fresh web presence – one of the negatives is that you can actually stop the momentum that you might have already created with your previous branding.

This is a lesson that applies when thinking about blog design but also even the simple avatars you choose for your Twitter and other social media profiles.

I’m interested to hear your experiences of both how changing your online ‘branding’ has led to confusion but also how you would suggest bloggers do it in a way that builds upon previous branding.

This post was brought to you by Business Week Exchange.

PS: sorry for the audio quality on this video. I recorded it in a public space and there was a little too much background noise.

Thesis WordPress Updates and Offers a Weekend Bonus

I’ve been behind checking my email this week and it could have cost you a great deal….

Apparently the fantastic Thesis WordPress theme (see my first impressions of Thesis here) is running a special this weekend. They’ve just updated the theme with some great new features (see below) but if you buy it before the end of 31 August you get another theme from DIYthemes ‘Cosmo’ (a magazine style theme) for free.

The update of Thesis includes:

  • A new ‘design options’ panel which gives you the ability to customize fonts and font sizes. This will help set your blog apart from others using this theme.
  • Also in the design options it the ability to change the layout of your blog by selecting different number of columns and column width.

There’s more new stuff too – see it all at Thesis WordPress theme.

PS: sorry I didn’t post this earlier – I hope it doesn’t mean any of you miss out, it’s been one of those weeks in the Rowse house with sick little guys everywhere!

Split Testing: How To Increase Your Adsense Earnings 94% Overnight

In this post Brian Armstrong from shares some tips on using Split Testing to increase his AdSense earnings.

Long time readers of ProBlogger know that Darren is a big fan of split testing ads to improve your earnings. I took this advice to heart, and wanted to show you some real world results that I got on my own blog.

Feel free to take these results and apply them to your own site. Or better yet, do some of our own testing and improve on them even more!

I split tested 3 separate regions of my site and looked mostly at eCPM to compare them. If you aren’t sure what eCPM is click here. I think it’s better to use eCPM than click through rate (CTR) because it incorporates not just how often it’s clicked, but also how much you make per click.

Right Aligned vs. Left Aligned Ad In Post Body


This ad region makes the most money for me, and was smack dab at the top of each individual post page (but not on the homepage).

  • The right aligned ad got a 0.78% CTR and $1.41 eCPM
  • The left aligned ad got a 1.30% CTR and $5.31 eCPM

Clear winner: left aligned (276% improvement)

It’s hard to say why this is exactly. Maybe the left aligned ad looks more like it’s actual content instead of an ad. Whatever the reason, the difference was substantial.

Top Right: image vs. text


This ad resides at the very top right of every page. I had been running it with image ads for a while and decided to test it against text ads (with some appropriate color choices).

  • The image ads got a 0.35% CTR and $1.74 eCPM
  • The text ads got a 0.33% CTR and $2.15 eCPM

Interesting to note here that although the CTR went down slightly, the eCPM went up. This seems to indicate that the text ads were paying more per click. So even though it was clicked slightly less often it still made more money overall.

Winner: text ads (narrowly)

Under Posts: image vs. text


This ad was placed at the bottom of each post page and also on the homepage under the excerpts. I again decided to test some text ads against the incumbent image ads.

  • The image ads got a 0.58% CTR and $1.86 eCPM
  • The text ads got a 0.43% CTR and $2.27 eCPM

Again here the CTR went down and the eCPM went up. Also worth noting is that the color scheme I used on the text ad block is consistent with my site. “Blockquote” tags on my site use a similar color scheme.

Winner: text ads

Conclusions & Next Steps

For those who are curious, here is the actual data from an excel spreadsheet. You can pull this out of Adsense under the “reports” tab if you use different channels to compare different ads.


Overall these results were impressive. The site-wide eCPM from these three ads went up overall from $5.01 to $9.73 which is a 94% improvement.

I could just convert all ads to the better performing version and call it a day, but what I’ll do instead is continue testing….forever.

There are plenty of other things to test, such as…

  • Trying text ads in the post body (since they performed better elsewhere)
  • Left aligning ads under the posts
  • Trying different color schemes
  • Trying other types of ads (Amazon, Performancing Ads, Text-Link-Ads, etc)

Most people focus on growing their blog’s readership to boost earnings. This is a critical component, but don’t forget about the other major tool in your arsenal: split testing.

What ad formats and placements have worked best for you? Leave us a comment below.

To get more tips like these, check out my blog at It’s is a blog for people who’d like to quit their 9-to-5 jobs, start their own business, and achieve financial freedom. I’ll even give you 3 of the top 10 books on building wealth for FREE when you subscribe, instantly delivered to your inbox! Check it out.

5 Methods to Enhancing Page Load

‘How do I make my page load faster?’ – it’s a question I get a bit so I thought I’d ask Aaron Brazell from Technosailor to tackle the question and offer some suggestions around enhancing page load times.

“The internet is dying.”

This phrase, though probably a bit sensationalist, is also not far from the truth. As we all now understand, thanks to U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, the internet is a series of tubes and the more stuff you put into the tubes, the more it gets clogged. Trust me, the Senator from Alaska was probably more dead on than most give him credit for.

Everyday, internet servers and bandwidth pushes new highs, and even though there are political solutions to such global economic problems, the reality is that bloggers, and really, website owners as a whole, are affected the most.

This site is loading so slow.

I can’t get to the site.

Down for everyone or just me?

1. Avoid images

Everyone likes an aesthetically pleasing site. Many blogs, particularly out on the long tail, tend to get very artsy in their designs. Colorful headers made from pictures of serene prairies, busy metropolitan night scenes taken with a Nikon D3 set at 100 ISO, 61 second shutter speed and a 1.2 Aperture (Oh, sorry. Wrong site).

You get the point, though. Lots of images can increase your site load time. In the event that images are necessary, either in posts or as the site structural elements, consider that images should be optimized for 72 DPI and never be “resized” in the HTML itself. If the image is bigger than the spot you want to put it in, then resize the image itself as opposed to letting the HTML do the work for you.

2. Avoid Third Party Javascript

I realize I’m talking to an audience that is keen on advertising on their blogs, so I may step on some toes. Third party javascript might be the worst culprit when it comes to page load.

The problem is not the javascript itself, though there is certainly that possibility on occasion. More than likely, third part javascript is invoking content, whether advertisements or widgets, from another server that could be running slow at any given time.

It’s generally easy to spot slow loading javascript. Because a page loads, usually, from top down in the order that the HTML is written, when the browser encounters slow loading javascript the page will stop rendering for a period of time. Usually, you can identify the specific part of the page that is loading slowly, and refer to your widgets or source HTML to figure out who exactly is the culprit.

3. Flash Video

I’m fighting a losing battle, it would seem, on Flash but if my observations are correct, Flash has an ongoing memory leak that is most manifest when it comes to online video. Almost all video players are written in Flash and, in most cases, after running a significant amount of video you might notice your browser crash or everything slow to a place where you have to forcibly quit the browser. These symptoms manifest themselves, for me, in Safari 3.x/Mac and Firefox 2 and 3 on Mac. I cannot speak to the lesser browser on the lesser operating system.
Memory Leak

The problem exists when many Flash invocations occur. Flash seems to not give up the memory that a player uses – or at least not all of it. So the more videos viewed, the more videos embedded on a site, the higher the likely for slow browser experiences for readers.

4. 80/20 Rule

The Yahoo UI team released an interesting set of findings a few years ago that brought the concept of 80/20 rules back to the forefront. In geek speak, the 80/20 rules states that 80% of a sites symptoms (slowness) come from 20% of the site features.

I will let you determine how geeky you want to get with your site, but I have found profiling my site useful in determining bottlenecks and best fixes. Firebug may be the easiest profiling tool for average users. It is free, but requires Firefox as it is a Firefox extension. In order to use Firebug, you must have the “Net” panel option enabled in Firebug.

5. Cache, cache, cache

Any site that has some degree of traffic should have basic caching in place, and the larger, more high-trafficked sites should consider multiple levels of caching.

For WordPress users, plugins like WP Super Cache do wonders for load. In essence, WordPress writes pages to the filesystem for quick access by WordPress. Once an hour (or other interval if changed), those cached pages expire and a new version is fetched from the database. By end-rounding the need for repeated trips to the database on every page load, load time is drastically increased.

More aggressive caching can be used in larger contexts, or when multiple servers are in play. For instance, at b5media, we implemented Memcached, which is supported by WordPress as well as core memcache support by Movable Type.

Other alternatives include proxy caching with Squid. MySQL has a query cache that can be explored as well.

Interview with Blog Designer – Chris Pearson

One of my favorite blog designers is Chris Pearson – the designer behind the newly released Thesis premium WordPress theme (which I reviewed here).

Chris has consistently produced great blog designs over the last few years so after the launch of Thesis I thought it would be worthwhile to do a short interview with him here at ProBlogger to talk about Thesis and blog design. I hope you enjoy this interview.

1. There are a lot of WP themes out there – why did you create Thesis?

After selling Cutline in March of 2007, I began to realize that I really missed fostering and interacting with a community of users. Running a theme and being immersed in the development, use, and feedback cycle is a uniquely fulfilling experience, and I suppose I finally came to terms with the idea that maybe this is what I ought to be doing.

Also, I spent the latter half of 2007 learning how to create dynamic sites with PHP, and in doing so, I began to realize some of the untapped potential of the WordPress theme market. The platform is set up in such a way that you can literally build just about anything you want, and I’m convinced that idea has legs. Because of this, I decided it was time to build Thesis and get movin’!

2. What part of Thesis most excited you as you were designing it? What is exciting those who are using it most?

For me, the most exciting thing about Thesis (and developing themes in general) is the idea that I can give users more functionality and more control over their sites than they’ve ever had. When a user who has little or no knowledge of HTML and CSS can use an options panel to accomplish tasks that would normally require coding, that’s a big deal. The sky is really the limit here, so as a developer, I find that to be a huge source of motivation.

I think my users are keen on the idea that I want them to be able to control even the finest details of their site, and that’s probably the thing that excites them the most. They want to know what elements of control they’re going to have next, and I’m just as excited to produce those elements as they are to receive them.

3. How much development can we expect to see on Thesis as a theme? Or will you be spending more time developing other themes?

thesis-jennae-peterson.pngI’ve still got tons of ideas for Thesis, so I fully expect to be developing it for quite some time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I’m not even 40% finished with the functionality that I eventually want to achieve. In spite of this, I’m going to begin introducing new frameworks in August, and eventually, DIYthemes will offer an outfit of code platforms that should be adequate for just about any type of Website.

4. Where do you see blog design going in the next 12 months?

Blog design as we know it is going to change entirely, and this is probably the most compelling (and controversial) aspect of the philosophy behind DIYthemes. At this point, everyone is familiar with the notion of a “custom blog design,” but with each passing day, paying for a fully customized design (which includes code) is becoming a far less intelligent choice for bloggers and Webmasters alike. Not only is custom design prohibitively expensive for all but the most successful bloggers, but also, the odds of any designer/developer nailing a functional, flexible, easy-to-modify codebase from scratch on the first iteration are a zillion to one. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

Essentially, this means that people who have fully customized designs end up with far less functionality than people whose designs are “skins” of a battled-tested framework like Thesis. Because of this, the future of blog design is a complete abstraction of design and code. In this type of environment, designers can stick to pure design, which is something they’re way more qualified to do. In addition, savvy designers can develop a working knowledge of a few quality WordPress frameworks, thereby allowing them to focus on the art of skinning them for clients.

When people are able to focus on the things they do best, you end up with more efficient, cost-effective solutions all around. My goal with DIYthemes is to help push Web design (and Webmastering, for that matter) in this direction.

5 . What 3 blogs using Thesis do you think are using it best?

thesis-eric-scouten.pngLisa Firke (pictured top right) is a really talented designer who quickly grasped the concept of abstracted customization, which is something I’ve tried to push to the forefront with Thesis. Her site is a perfect example of how you can leverage a working knowledge of CSS to produce a unique design that is simply a “skin” of a solid WordPress framework.

Jennae Petersen (picture middle right) runs an awesome site about green (eco-friendly) home decor, and she has really taken to the art of creating a unified design “brand” with Thesis. She makes liberal use of in-post styling elements and images to help shore up her brand, and as a result, her site looks to be far removed from the humble framework it rests upon.

Finally, I’d like to point out Eric Scouten (pictured right), a photographer and developer who works on Adobe’s Lightroom software. He’s used Thesis in a pretty unique way on his site, modifying it to power his portfolio, photoblog, and blog sections. On top of that, the site just looks fantastic, and I think it deserves a mention on that basis alone.

Check out the Thesis Theme Here

GRAB Your Reader’s Attention and HOOK them into your blog

Hook-1Do you want to learn how to SNAP readers out of their zombie like surfing and HOOK them into your blog?

If so – read on….

Image by Essjay in NZ

Before I was a blogger I did a lot of public speaking. I did a number of courses in public speaking and used to spend a lot of time with my head in books on the topic.

One of the techniques that I was taught that I found to be very helpful was to include something at the start of every presentation that was there unashamedly to grab attention and create interest.

The theory was that in most presentations (whether it be in a work context, conference, church, school or even in a social context where a speech was given) the majority of your audience quickly will slip into a zombie like trance even as you’re getting up to speak. The act of sitting down and listening to someone speak in a monologue is not really something most of us are wired to do.

So to snap your audience out of this state where they’re incapable of comprehending your 16 point presentation the theory is that you do something, say something, show something or claim something that grabs their attention.

Whether it be a joke, question, controversial statement or claim, powerful story, funny title slide or intriguing and surprising opening line – the primary aim in the first moments of your presentation is to grab attention and create interest in what you’re about to present.

This same principle applies to blogging in two ways.

1. Grabbing Attention on a Post Level

Let me start with the more obvious place that you can (and should) be thinking about grabbing the attention of your readers – within each post.

Every time a reader see’s one of your posts in their RSS feed, stumbles upon it in search engine results, spots it linked to on another site or even sees it on your blog – they make a snap judgement whether they’ll read it or not. This is based upon a number of factors:

  • The post’s title
  • The opening lines of your post
  • An intriguing question
  • A Story
  • The topic being covered and how relevant and useful it is to the reader
  • Visual cues on the page (pictures, sub headings, comment numbers, page design)
  • A controversial statement or bold claim
  • A great promise
  • The voice and style you’ve written in

We could probably add a lot more to this list – but I guess the point I’m wanting to make is that ‘grabbing attention’ is something a blogger needs to think about in the writing of each post.

2. Grabbing Attention on a Blog Level

While grabbing attention on a post by post level is important there’s another one that is worth thinking about also – on a bigger picture level as you think about your whole blog.

What hooks a first time reader into your blog?

Not just into the post that they’ve arrived on – but to your whole blog?

I’m not just talking about how to make your blog sticky (although many ‘sticky’ techniques will help a lot) but I’m talking particularly about getting ‘attention’ of readers.

Many of the points on a post level (point #1 above) come into play on this as they will be the first thing that a new reader sees – however there are other factors too – particularly:

  • Clear Communication of Topic – Communicating what your blog is about, who it is for, what needs it will fulfill etc all can potentially hook a reader.
  • Distinct Site Design and Branding – Whether it be a bold logo, distinct colors, an eye catching picture or some other factor design can stop readers in their tracks momentarily and get them to take a second look at your blog.

What attention grabbing techniques have you tried on either a post by post level or a bigger picture blog level?

PS: As I’m hitting publish on this post I’m reminded of a great little book – Hot Button Marketing: Push the Emotional Buttons That Get People to Buy.

This book looks at a variety of buttons (or hooks) that marketers use to make customers buy. While this might not seem that relevant for blogging – I found that as I read the book that a lot of the buttons described were similar to what I’d seen work at engaging readers on my blogs.

Dates on Blog Posts – Should You Have Them?

Last week in my post exploring how to make blogs sticky I suggested (in point 14) that one technique to consider is to remove the dates from your blog posts.

My theory is that dates can either add to or take away from a post. Let me explore this a little further:

When you put a date on a post you signal to your reader when the post was written. This is useful to readers wanting to make a judgment on how relevant the post is for them at any point of time. It signals to them that a post is current or recent when the date signals that it was written within the last weeks and signals to them that a post could be dated when the date is years back.

The Problem of Dates on Posts

The problem is that when you have a post that is ‘timeless’ (ie it doesn’t really date because the tips you give or the principles that you talk about will always apply) a date can act as a distraction to your reader. They arrive at the post and see that it was written in 2006 and a little warning bell goes off in their mind that what they are reading is not ‘current’.

As I mentioned in last week’s post – I’ve had comments numerous time on ‘old’ posts saying things like “this is old” or “this is out of date” even when the post was anything but out of date.

When a reader has this reaction no matter what your post contains – it’ll seem ‘old’ to them and you lose reader engagement. This might only happen to a small percentage of your readers but over time this adds up.

On the flip side – when a reader arrives on a post that IS recent and sees the date showing this you can actually get a good reaction because they get a sense that what they are reading is the latest thinking that you’ve had.

So dates can be good and bad. They can make a post seem dated or cutting edge.

So What’s a Blogger to Do? Should You Have Dates on Posts?

The key question to ask when it comes to whether or not to include the date of authorship on a post is – ‘is it relevant to the post?’

The answer to this question has led me to take two different courses of action on my two blogs.

Here at ProBlogger I include a time stamp on each post.


I time stamp (date) posts here at ProBlogger for two reasons:

  1. The industry is moving fast – when I started ProBlogger 3 years back blogging was very different to how it is today. The tools have changed, SEO principles have shifted, social media has become more important and bloggers are developing blogs in new ways. As a result some of the articles in my archives here at ProBlogger are less relevant and need to be put into the context of the time that they were written. While some principles have not changed more often than not I feel that dating posts can actually help readers determine what’s relevant for now.
  2. I’m on a steep learning curve – when I started this blog I had been blogging full time for only a few months. While I’d accumulated some knowledge on the topic I look back and see that I was somewhat naive and very inexperienced. While I’m far from knowing everything on the topic I feel that I’ve come a long way and I hope that dates on posts help readers to make a call on where I was at when I wrote older posts.

At the Digital Photography School Blog I don’t time stamp posts (and never have)


My reason for removing time stamp dates from DPS posts is simple – in the vast majority of posts on the blog they have no relevance to the post itself.

DPS is not a news related blog and aims to provide camera owners tips on how to get out of Auto Mode. While cameras are changing the basic principles of photography are not (or are changing a lot more slowly). In short – the posts have more of a timeless and evergreen quality and dates would only serve to distract readers from the content itself.

If I write a post that needs to be anchored to a point of time I will usually add it to the title of the post.

Other Solutions for Dates on Your Blog

There are more than just the two options open to bloggers when it comes to adding or removing dates from posts. Here are a few that I’ve seen:

  • Dates on Recent Posts But Not on Older Ones – I saw one blogger do this last year (I’m afraid I don’t remember who it was). They had hacked WordPress so that dates appeared on recent posts (within the last 3 months) but anything older than that did not have time stamps either on the post or comments. This meant that the blogger benefited from new posts looking new and took the potential distraction of old posts away from readers. I don’t know exactly how the blogger did it but presume they set up a rule that looked at the date of authorship and then determined whether the date would be displayed or not.
  • Dates on Front Page but Not Single Posts – another solution that I’ve considered on DPS is to add dates only to front page posts and to have them removed from single pages. This shows visitors to your blog’s front page that you have recent content while hiding distracting dates from older posts.
  • Subtle Dates – you can keep dates on posts without having them ‘scream out at your readers’ that the post is old. For example dates at the bottom of posts, dates in more muted colors, dates in smaller font than headings etc all can give your readers the date without making a big point of it. In a sense this is what I’ve done to some degree on ProBlogger with a lighter color and smaller font with my dating of posts.

I’m sure there would also be a way to hack WP so that you could flick dates on and off in each post as you publish it. This is actually a mini feature that I’d love to see WP add.

What Do You Think?

  • Do you have dates on your posts? Why or Why Not? (PS: I surveyed my twitter followers on this and found that 75% of them date their posts)
  • Do you think blogs should always have dates on them?
  • What other ways do you control how the dates on your bog appear?

Thesis – a WordPress Theme Design Worth Considering

Thesis.pngWhat do you get when you take one great blog designer and match him with a fantastic blogger with superb writing ability and marketing skills?

Not it’s not the start to a bad joke and yes the answer could be many things – but today I’m excited because one of my favorite blog designers, Chris Pearson has teamed up with one of my favorite bloggers, Brian Clark from CopyBlogger to put together a fantastic Premium WordPress theme called Thesis.

This theme is already getting some great reviews around the blogosphere (you can see some testimonials here) and it is no wonder – because it’s got some great things going for it including:

  • SEO – WP is generally pretty well optimized to start with but Thesis takes it a step further and gives you every chance of ranking well in Google.
  • Accessibility – this theme will be able to be accessed by those using all kinds of browsers, mobile browsing and those with special needs
  • Customizable – you don’t want a design that looks exactly the same as everyone else’s – Chris has put together a theme that can have different backgrounds, has support for custom CSS and more. You can have rotating images to make your design even more unique. Alternatively you can use this multimedia box show six 125×125 ads, a video or even disable it. All this is done from within WP’s admin (see picture below) – very cool. Check out the ‘showcase‘ page on the Thesis site to see how others have been using the theme already.
  • Feature Rich – it plays nicely with Google Analytics and Mint, manages your RSS feed for you, separates comments and trackbacks, gives you lots of control over whether to show dates and author bylines on posts and much more.
  • Well Laid Out Design – Thesis is easy to get around and quite intuitive for those arriving on your site of all levels of web experience
  • Simple to Use – Thesis is easy to use and while I’m sure Chris will continue to add features and ways to use the theme it’s quite intuitive to get up and running and looking the way you want it.
  • Support – one thing that I love about Thesis is the support forum that Chris has built for those who invests in this theme. It’s already pretty active and covers a lot of the questions that you’d have as someone using it.
  • Free Upgrades – Chris has already released an update to Thesis which gives an indication that he’s still

You’ll want to check out Thesis for yourself – a good place to start is on it’s About Page.

Thesis comes with two license options. The personal license is $87 and the developer’s license is $164. The main difference is that the dev license allows you unlimited use of the theme across as many sites as you like.

If I were starting out today with a new blog and didn’t have the budget to get a custom design or the ability to design my own – Thesis would be something I’d serious look at investing in. In fact if I were starting a blog network today it’d be an ideal investment to grab the dev license as it is a great way to have a variety of blogs that share a similar look yet are customizable.

PS: here’s a look at the fantastic options panel that gives you control over many aspects of this theme (click to enlarge).


Best WordPress Template Designs

Every week I’m asked by readers to recommend a WordPress template.

I thought it’d make an interesting discussion – which WordPress templates are your favorites?

I know it always varies from blog to blog when you’re choosing the best template for the job but I’d love to see some of your favorites.

Feel free to nominate both Free and Paid ones.