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Monthly Archives: June 2013

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Customizing WordPress Themes

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WordPress offers a massive library of themes but there are also a lot of websites out there that use these themes. So the likeliness of using the same theme as someone else is pretty high. There are a few ways to customize your theme to set your site apart from any site that might also be using the same theme.

Changing Colors in the Style Sheet

colorful stripesColors are very easy to change, so when shopping for a theme you don’t need to base your decision on the colors used in order to match your brand. The first thing to do is access your style sheet(s) which can most likely be found in the Admin panel under “Appearance” and then “Editor” though it might also be located under your theme’s options. If you are unfamiliar with CSS that is ok, changing the colors just involves substituting the hex codes of the color that is already there for the one you want.

Scroll through your style sheet and notice how it is divided up in sections like Header, Footer, Layout, and Fonts. Find the section that corresponds to the element whose color you want to change (for example if you want to change the background color of the header, look for the h1 tag). (* In CSS, “background-color” pertains to the background of an element while “color” pertains to the color of a font) When you’ve found the element you want to change, paste in the hex code of the color you want in-between the hash tag and semi-colon (those are important so make sure you leave them). A good tool I use for picking colors and getting hex codes is Adobe Kuler. You can also use it if you see just a hex code and are unsure of what color it is.

(* If you don’t have write permissions to make changes to the style sheet, contact your hosting company.)

Using Google Fonts

Google Fonts is a free and easy way to customize your website in WordPress – there’s even a plugin for it that allows you to choose which fonts you want for specific elements. However, if you would rather not use the plugin, you can also just add the fonts you want to use with the snippets of code that Google Fonts gives you on their site. After choosing the font(s) you want and adding them to your collection, click the “Use” button in the bottom right corner. Uncheck the styles that you don’t want. Then in step #3, copy and paste the code within the head section of your “header.php” template. Then copy and paste the CSS to the corresponding selector in your style sheet.

Changing the colors and fonts used on your theme is a quick way to customize your WordPress site. While there are many other options, like adding unique graphics, widgets, or other features, these are a good start.

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WordPress Design

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WordPress makes lots of things very easy to manage but ultimately you still need to have good design skills to make a website work. Beyond the basics of a few standard pages a well designed website needs to support the SEO, PPC, and Landing Page strategies. So most pages can be separated into classes of either Generic, SEO, or PPC.

Generic Pages

Generic Pages are the base of your website and typically include home, about, contact, services, products, and blog. In most cases this content is similar to what you would expect on a company brochure. While all these pages are critical the tough one here is the home page. As a business you only get one home page and it can only be optimized for one keyword. This page is the highest hierarchical position so its keyword target is a major decision.

Optimized Pages

SEO pages vary based on the strategy in the account but consist of those pages where the primary goal is to optimize the page for a specific targeted keyword. In most cases there is a page for every targeted keyword and these pages are linked to the generic pages most typically off the services or products page. If the SEO strategy includes a focus on location there are often optimized pages for location specific keywords. For example a Plumber in LA might have a city page that is optimized for each critical city in their service region.

Landing Pages

Landing Pages are designed for one purpose and they are NOT keyword optimized. The goal of this class of pages is to take specific paid traffic and ask for action of value for the business. In most cases this means getting an email subscription, sales lead, sales order, or some other item that the business deems of value. One mistake people make with these pages is they ask for too much and they confuse the message. The person came to your site with a specific search and the landing page is a continuation of that conversation. Do not make the mistake of trying to shift the message from the search term.

It’s about the words

Optimization has some basic rules that confuses many business owners and here are a few to think about:

  1. The more your page is about one keyword the less it is about any other keyword.
  2. You cannot optimize a page for more than one keyword.
  3. Pages serve people and search engines and what they want is very different.
  4. It takes more skill to write a short page than a long page.
  5. Long copy works for some part of the audience.
  6. Short copy works for some part of the audience.
  7. Smart designers understand the balance between #5 & #6

Rule 1 causes challenges when the business creates a list of keywords and wants their site optimized for those words.  This is why rule 2 says one page one keyword. Rule 3 causes difficulties because a page purely optimized for a search engine would be an embarrassment to the business.  Rule 3 forces the design to find a balance between the optimization rules and the quality of the web experience they are creating. Our general guidance is to design for the experience and then adjust for the optimization in ways that do not degrade the experience.  Smaller, Faster, Better is the credo of any good web experience and writing really strong good copy is one of the great challenges of any website. If you run into a web designer that tells you that they will do the design and you just need to write the copy you should immediately protect your wallet and run to the nearest exit.

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