I’ve been making some subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes to Blogging Wizard over the past month.
In this post, I’m going to share all of these changes so you can glean some useful insights to help your own blogging efforts.
I’ll also be sharing an updated tech stack. So, if you have ever wondered exactly how Blogging Wizard is built and which main tools I use in my business – you’ll get the lowdown in this article.
Let’s get started:
What changed in Blogging Wizard’s latest redesign?
1. Switched to Kadence Theme
At the beginning of 2020, I hired a developer to code a custom Genesis Child theme from the existing website that I built with Elementor.
The theme was excellent. It was far faster than the Elementor version but I eventually wanted to change typography and a few other things.
So, I needed a theme that was more flexible. But, I like to tweak things (a little too much). This meant I needed to find middle ground between the Genesis theme and the vast customization possibilities of a theme builder.
My goal wasn’t to drastically change the look of Blogging Wizard. I just needed a bit more freedom to tweak settings.
I found a promising looking theme called Kadence. I tested it on a few of my smaller sites first and was able to create a very similar looking website easily.
Here are a few cliff notes:
- Kadence is ultra lightweight but extremely customizable.
- You can make a website that looks very similar to Blogging Wizard with the free version of the theme. Aside from the homepage, I’ll talk about that more in a moment.
- There is a pro version of the theme which adds support for WooCommerce, extra header elements, scripts, conditional hooks, and more.
- There is a free blocks plugin for Gutenberg which includes some templates for creating home pages, about pages, and more.
- Kadence is page builder friendly.
I’ve been waiting a long time for a theme like Kadence to hit the market. If you’re in the market for a new theme, I highly recommend checking it out.
2. Rebuilt the homepage with OptimizePress
The previous homepage was custom coded as part of the theme. I could change parts but it was fairly limiting.
Building the page with Gutenberg was an option. In fact, Kadence has some great looking starter site templates but I needed some extra flexibility.
I could have gone with Thrive Architect which would have worked nicely due to its Thrive Leads integration. OptimizePress does have a visual editor that is slightly more limiting but they have a custom checkout builder that I’m planning to use for products in the future – so it made sense to use OptimizePress now and save making any changes later.
Let’s take a look at the changes I made:
The yellow was overpowering, the social proof wasn’t above the fold and the CTA was weak:
Here’s a look at the above the fold area of the new homepage:
The new CTA is a lot stronger, social proof logos are visible above the fold and I’ve added a personal introduction that conveys extra social proof.
The old version had a block of content that displayed our pillar articles:
With the new version, I wanted to arrange this more like a step-by-step process. So I changed it to a vertical list and included a link to the blog’s index page. The blog index page link was important because I am no longer displaying a block of recent content.
The old version of the homepage was lacking testimonials so I included a testimonial block:
There is a CTA block after the testimonials which is very similar to the original.
3. Minor changes to the header and navigation area
The original header area had a white background with a yellow background sitting behind the page title area.
I wanted to separate the header area from the content, particularly for blog posts so I changed this to a black background.
And I changed the yellow background behind page titles to blue so it was easier on the eyes.
In the first iteration of the redesign, I actually removed the search bar from the footer.
But y’all immediately noticed and asked me to add it back.
Instead of adding it back to the footer, I added a search button to the main navigation area so it was more prominent.
I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with this search feature because the internal WordPress search is not great and I wanted to avoid adding an extra plugin to improve it.
This is why I usually recommend Googling something like this: “keyword” bloggingwizard.com.
Regardless, the search function is back and easier to spot than before. Thanks to those who shared their feedback!
4. Streamlined the footer area to put a stronger focus on popular content
This was another minor change.
The original footer looked like this:
I recently moved categories to a sub-menu in the navigation so they were redundant and I was lacking some sort of widget explaining what Blogging Wizard was all about for first time visitors.
The new version looks like this:
Now, we’ve got a widget offering a short introduction, links to social accounts that stand out more and extra internal links to popular content.
5. Switched opt-in forms back to Thrive Leads
Since switching away from Elementor, my opt-in form set up has been a bit weak.
I migrated my forms to ConvertBox for simplicity but I had no easy way to add things like after post opt-in forms.
Now I’ve switched my opt-in forms back to Thrive Leads so I can leverage the deeper WordPress integration they offer for opt-in form targeting.
I’ll likely play around with the design of these forms and run more split-tests but here’s how they look at the moment:
If you’re in the market for an opt-in form plugin or tool, you can’t go wrong with either of these. Just remember that ConvertBox has a more simplistic editor. This is great for creating opt-in forms fast. They also have ultra specific targeting functionality.
But Thrive Leads offers a lot more customization and has deeper integration with WordPress.
6. Migrated web hosting to Cloudways
This happened a while before the redesign process started but it’s worth a mention.
Earlier in the year, I started to look around for an alternative web host because Blogging Wizard was starting to outgrow its current host (WPX Hosting).
My experience with WPX Hosting has been excellent but their offering is still technically shared, despite being crazy fast.
I needed a host that was scalable. I ended up settling on Cloudways.
Cloudways is a little different to most web hosts because it technically doesn’t offer its own hosting. It offers the choice of hosting with several different cloud hosting providers such as Digital Ocean, Linode, or Vultr.
Cloud hosting offers plenty of benefits vs traditional hosting – flexibility, scalability, etc.
In my initial tests, I found Vultr Standard servers to offer the best value to performance ratio.
Note: Cloudways recently rolled out Vultr High Frequency which I might switch to in the future. If you’re planning to move to Cloudways, I recommend starting with Vultr High Frequency because it doesn’t cost much extra.
The process of migrating Blogging Wizard was smooth but most of the settings that were handled behind the scenes at WPX Hosting were now available for me to adjust.
The freedom was refreshing but there was a learning curve involved.
Regardless, it is amazing that I can now infinitely scale hosting resources to meet Blogging Wizard’s traffic needs. And it only takes a few moments to implement.
Now, it is important to remember that the right host for you depends on your needs. Here’s a quick breakdown what I recommend for different situations:
- Cloudways – Affordable high performance hosting that can be scaled to meet your demands. Not always the best for beginners but if you have experience with hosting, this is great. And it is perfect for high traffic sites like Blogging Wizard.
- DreamHost – Ideal for those just getting started. Once your site is getting traffic or outgrows shared hosting, you can easily migrate to a more suitable platform.
- WPX Hosting – Perfect for those who are getting blog traffic but don’t want any technical hassle. Malware scanning, malware removal, CDN, SSL, etc. All is included. It is still technically shared but it is affordable compared to most other managed WordPress hosts.
7. Additional performance optimizations via WP Rocket
In a recent version, they added a few nice new features:
- Link preloads – WP Rocket loads pages you link to before a user clicks. Great for UX.
- Improved web core vitals – a few under the hood changes have resulted in better web core vital scores. This is important for Google, or at least, it will be in the future.
In a recent article, Colin shared some impressive test results for performance gains with NitroPack – an all-in-one performance platform with built-in CDN.
I’m considering switching some of my sites over to it in the future. But until that point, I’m very happy with the performance improvements from WP Rocket.
8. Featured images are undergoing a rebrand
The time has come to refresh our featured images.
For a while now, we’d been using a very consistent style:
We had some great feedback about these images but the design style didn’t leave much room for creativity. We’re moving to a different style of images that my Design Pickle designer has been hard at work creating.
Here’s an example:
And here’s another:
Upon reflection, I have spent far too much time changing the design of these featured images so I’ll try and make this the last time that I change the style.
If there’s one key takeaway from this particular change, it’s this:
Don’t spend too much time messing around with your featured images. Get them looking professional and eye-catching but beyond that, changing them isn’t going to make your blog more profitable.
Blogging Wizard’s current tech stack
I get messages all the time asking which tools and plugins I use in my business.
At some point, I’ll get around to writing a dedicated article but until then, here’s a quick rundown of the most important tech that powers Blogging Wizard and the rest of my business:
- Cloudways – Scalable cloud hosting.
- Kadence – Ultra fast and customizable WordPress theme.
- Sucuri – Firewall, security and CDN.
- BlogVault – My go-to WordPress backup tool.
- WP Rocket – WordPress performance optimization.
- All In One SEO Pack – A great free SEO plugin.
- Perfmatters – Extra WordPress performance tweaks.
- OptimizePress – Landing pages (some still run on Leadpages).
- Thrive Leads – WordPress opt-in form plugin.
- ConvertKit – My go-to email marketing platform.
- SE Ranking – A powerful rank tracking tool that covers a lot of other SEO features.
- Sendible – A full featured social media management tool.
- Notion – A customizable project management tool that I use to manage my entire business.
- Google Docs – Content creation and collaboration.
- Google Drive – Offers a good amount of free file storage and integrates well with Google Docs.
Now, there are certain situations where these tools may not be the best fit for your needs.
There’s always more than one tool you can use for anything. And exactly which makes the most sense to use will depend on your unique situation – your budget, growth stage of your site, etc.
Wrapping it up
Thanks for checking out this overview of the recent Blogging Wizard changes.
It’s rare that I’ll do an article like this but if you’d like to see more ‘insider’ style articles like this, hit me up on Twitter and let me know @adamjayc.
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