The Third Ingredient of a Successful Blog

This is a guest post by John Saddington (aka “Human3rror”). He is the Creative Web Director of North Point Ministries and the owner of Milk Engine, the Web design firm that built my blog. He is also the founder or partner in a number of successful startups, including ChurchCrunch. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

A successful blog is more than just design. But you knew that already, right? As someone who’s not only been blogging since 2001 but who’s also been designing/developing blogs for nearly just as long, it’s been fascinating to observe how unbalanced blogging strategies can be when it comes to being successful.

Standard Theme Screenshot

For example, many blogs bank on their custom design, look-and-feel, and try to capture an audience by how “pretty” their blog is. You know as well as I that this is only sustainable to a point. Any design, as good as it might be, gets old. A fresh coat of paint might do the trick, but most people can’t afford a redesign every three months or so.

As a result, many blogs will tell you (or scream at you) “Content is King!” and they are right—to a point. Good content, from my perspective, might be “good” on it’s own merit, but it doesn’t do any good without people reading it. I think most people believe they publish good content; the difference is the amount of people (site visitors and page views specifically), that actually get there.

So what’s it going to take?

The easiest answer is, “All of the above.” But there’s one factor that many people don’t consider nearly as much as they should. This is what I call the third ingredient of a successful blog: Good quality code. Solid code paves the way for strategic site architecture, load speed optimization (which is a factor is search rankings), search engine optimization (SEO), and a good end-user experience.

That’s one of the reasons I developed the Standard Theme, an amazing blogging theme for users of self-hosted WordPress installations. Essentially I was tired of having to design on top of blog existing blog themes that weren’t polished or by people who didn’t care about how the actual blog ran in the “backend” (or underneath the hood).

But what I’ve learned is that some of the most successful blogs out there not only have great content and a decent (doesn’t have to be crazy-awesome or pricey) design, they are also crafted well in terms of their code. They also:

  • Are SEO-optimized (so people can more easily find you)
  • Take into account load-speed
  • Are cross-browser compatible
  • Use valid technical standards (e.g., XHTML/CSS, PHP, advanced asynchronous analytics, etc.)
  • Employ best practices for making it easy to virally share the content with a neat persistent twitter and facebook sharing option)

These are only a few of the things that we’ve meticulously included in the theme. You’ll want to check out all the options and features right on the Standard Theme homepage.

Note: I will give away 10 copies of this theme—a $49 value—to ten people who comment below. All you have to do is tell me why you want this theme. I will make a decision on Monday, March 15th.

Finally, while you might think the design of the Standard Theme unimpressive, there’s a strategy involved with that: Here’s what I’ve learned from helping many new bloggers launch their blogs: Spending too much time on design is not smart for the “new” blogger. Why? Because in my experience they’ll want to change it after a few months or so. We did that here with Michael’s blog. As he began using WordPress (having switched from TypePad), he learned what his readers wanted and desired. Based on that, we adjusted the strategy and changed the design.

As a result, “new” bloggers need to be concentrating primarily on developing good content, getting it out there to the public (social media sharing), and developing their particular niche and/or culture. The design can always be changed later. Fortunately, Standard Theme makes that a snap.

Regardless, you want to start with something solid and flexible. That’s exactly why I developed Standard Theme. It provides a great foundation that you will not outgrow.

Question: What limitations or frustrations have you experienced with your current theme?

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