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When you’re starting out as a new blogger, it’s likely that you’re working with a tight budget regarding the design elements for your website. The reason most people start a blog is to earn money, not spend more of it – right?
While it’s true to a certain degree that you have to “spend money to make money”, there are definitely ways you can make your blog look beautiful and professional without going broke.
While content is definitely the bread and butter of your business and you should be spending the MOST time on that, there are obvious reasons you should want to have an attractive website as well!
Here’s a hard truth: It’s VERY hard to effectively market your blog if it’s ugly! People are very visual creatures, and the “packaging” you use to present your awesome content has a psychological effect as well. If your site is clean and professional-looking and it’s apparent you put some thought into the design, your readers are more likely to take your content seriously.
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This goes for your website itself as well as your Pinterest graphics, Facebook graphics and other design elements you use to promote your content.
Tip #1: Center your ads and other non-text elements with a simple code.
When you’re typing a blog post in WordPress, you use the Visual Editor which is like the word processing software. In a nutshell, the Text Editor screen is the behind-the-scenes look of your blog post; it’s where you can manually add HTML coding to customize your posts. It’s also where, of course, you go to add the codes for your ads and other elements such as email opt-in boxes.
In many WordPress themes, the center-align button in your Visual Editor only works for centering text and (usually) graphics – but not other elements that require HTML code. So, one quick and easy code you should memorize is how to center these items in your post.
When you’re in the Text Editor screen adding a code for an ad, for example, you simply add the <center> tag just before the code for your ad, along with the closing </center> tag at the very end of the ad’s code, so only that element will be centered.
Example of an Adsense ad with center tags
It’s a very basic thing to do, but it really makes your blog post flow better when these items are centered – especially when they’re a square shape and not a full horizontal banner.
Tip #2: Choose social buttons that are professional looking and easy to find.
There are an overwhelming number of choices out there for choosing social share buttons on your site! Some plug-ins work better than others: some will slow down your site and some provide buttons that are just tiny and hard to find on your page.
The plugin I recommend for this (and looks most professional in my opinion) is the one by Social Warfare. Totally sounds like a video game to me but, nope. It’s legit. 😉 It has buttons for every social network you could need.
I also think it’s important that the share buttons are the “normal” colors that readers will be accustomed to – red for Pinterest, blue for Facebook and so on. I’ve seen some very pretty sites with social share buttons that are re-colored to match their site’s design, but in my opinion, they’re much harder to find. They don’t pop off the page and my hunch is it might result in less shares.
In fact, I’ve been on many sites where I couldn’t find the share buttons and gave up trying to pin something.
The free version is pretty sufficient for most people. If you decide to spring for the paid version, one thing I like is that you can configure it to choose the exact image you want to be pinned when someone clicks the Pinterest button to save your post (and not the other graphics and widget images that might show up as well).
Tip #4: Manually exclude graphics that you don’t want pinned with another easy code.
If you do not have the paid version of Social Warfare, there is a way to at least narrow down the choices for which image gets pinned by users visiting your site.
Why is this important? Well, you might have 7 pictures in your post and you don’t want people pinning pictures of your family and other random stuff right? You want the actual pin that you made to represent your post to be chosen – and circulating around Pinterest – instead.
So here’s what you do: On any image you do not want pinned within your post, click on that image to highlight it and go to your Text Editor screen. Find the highlighted code for that picture.
Image code before
Then at the very end of the image code right before the closing tag, add this code: data-pin-nopin=”true”.
Image with “nopin” code inserted
Now, save your draft. After you publish your post, that image should not appear in the box of images to choose from when someone clicks on your Pinterest button to pin the article.
Tip #5: Consider an affordable Premium theme for your site.
WordPress comes installed with a few free themes, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with these, here are a few considerations:
- You may have limited customization options (colors, fonts, layout)
- You can add more customization with plug-ins but too many plug-ins will slow your site down
- You will see a lot of other blogs that look just like yours
- You may not receive great customer support if you have questions about the theme functionality
To avoid paying someone big $ to create a custom site for you, you can purchase a premium theme directly from a theme developer. If you do this, you should take your time and figure out what you really want and need in a website theme first.
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First and foremost, you want it to be functional and responsive across a variety of devices (i.e., you want it to resize correctly and look great on desktop as well as mobile and tablet).
When I first purchased hosting for my site, I didn’t know what I was doing and purchased one of the first themes that I found. It looked pretty on the demo page, but it ended up not being a good fit for me.
This theme had limited functionality and there was an issue with the header area resizing my logo to this crazy tiny size on mobile view. The developer was unable to provide a fix for this issue.
There’s a great article here which explains what you should look for in a theme. If you see another blogger’s theme that you like (you can see the name in the footer credits usually) you could reach out and ask them a few questions – what do they like and dislike about it? You can also contact the developer of a particular theme for specific questions before you purchase it.
Tip #6: Make the quality of your graphic design match the quality of your written content.
When you’re a new blogger, everything takes so.dadgum.long to create! It seriously used to take me an entire week (or more) just to write a post and create the graphics to go with it. Even now that the process is a lot quicker, I am still really careful to take my time on graphics.
Why? The right graphics in your post will accurately convey the message you’re relaying. And, the right graphics will draw people into your site.
I would even venture to say that your graphics (particularly on Pinterest) are just as important as your written content for these reasons.
I’m personally a big fan of PicMonkey for creating and editing graphics for Pinterest pins, Facebook images and other graphics within my posts. I started out with Canva but I found PicMonkey easier to use so I ended up buying the yearly subscription which has a TON of options for customizing your designs.
In fact, I found it simple enough to use that I was able to create my own logo / header graphics and a few other design elements for my blog using clipart and fonts that I found and downloaded for free. I’m still learning as I go and my graphics are far from perfect, but I love being able to add my own personal touch to my site and tweak it as I go (without paying someone else to do it for me).
For Pinterest pins, consider:
○ Dimensions – longer pins are more prominent in the feed, but if they’re too long they’ll get cut off. In fact, many bloggers are reporting that shorter pins are performing better and that Pinterest prefers the smaller sizes. The current size I use is 725×1700 and I plan to start experimenting with shorter dimensions.
○ Colors and typography: decide on a color palette to work within so that your pins will be recognizable. Choose fonts that are easy to read and not too light in color. You can download extra free fonts (check out the Hungry JPEG and Font Squirrel) and use them in PicMonkey instead of the standard fonts they provide- in order to set your brand apart from the rest.
○ When in doubt, simpler is better.
○ 1200 x 628 is the recommended size for Facebook images that you want to attach to your blog post. When I publish a blog post, I go ahead and make my Pinterest pin, then use the same elements to create a Facebook graphic and a graphic that’s sized for my blog post’s “featured image“.
Featured picture for blog post thumbnail:
○ Use the Yoast SEO plugin and attach your Facebook image in the appropriate box when you’re ready to publish each blog post. This way when you’re ready to post your article on your Facebook page or you want to share it within a Facebook group, it will be formatted to display correctly on Facebook.
Where to add Facebook image with Yoast:
There are lots of great, free tutorials for learning more about basic graphic design. You don’t have to be a pro to create images that are eye-catching and professional looking! I’ve even started designing pins for other bloggers as part of the services that I offer, so it’s a definitely a worthwhile skill that anyone can learn and potentially profit from.
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I hope this information was helpful for anyone hoping to grow their blog, look professional and see more clicks, saves and shares!