You may have noticed some changes on TimelessFinance over the last week or so. I’ve been heavily focused on blog improvement. In fact, blog improvement has eaten up almost all of my free time.
Blog Improvement #1 – The Header is Fixed
Last week, I detailed my efforts to improve the blog’s header. Well, actually, I outsourced this blog improvement to India. In any case, that work is now done. When I first reported back, it was mostly done, but not yet optimized for IE9. It’s all finished now. If you’re a blogger who uses the WordPress framework, here’s my modified rtPanel Child Theme to help with your own blog improvement. Go ahead, it’s free! If you use it, please leave a comment or email me to let me know; I’d love to see the results elsewhere!
Monday evening update – I spoke too soon! In setting up a new menu bar (adding specific “About” pages for me and ongoing contributor Adina J), I managed to lose the search function in the menu bar. I got a solution from the always-excellent rtCamp earlier today (Monday) but haven’t had the chance to implement it. I restored the old non-custom menu in the mean time.
Blog Improvement #2 – Social Media Overhaul
My previous social media scheme used the Sociable plugin. It was terribly messy, especially in IE9. Remember the random mish-mash of social buttons at the bottom of each post? The floating sidebar skyscraper was even worse – so bad that I didn’t even use it.
I switched to a much prettier, more customizable plugin called WP Socializer. First off, the “Share” buttons (along the bottom of each post) look much tidier. They’re intentionally dull until you scroll over them. Further, Socializer uses the left column effectively with a floating sidebar. This sidebar contains key social media “+1″ buttons.
One major drawback to the Socializer plug-in is that, as soon as I activated it, my front page (which is a list of article excerpts) was changed. Space for the Socializer bottom bar was added to each excerpt – even though I didn’t have these bars on the front page. Since the spaces will exist on the main page regardless, I decided to add the Socializer bar to each excerpt. I think that this drawback is significantly outweighed by the overall contribution of Socializer to my overall blog improvement project. Hopefully it doesn’t make the page look too busy.
Another minor social media-related blog improvement: I replaced my “Like” plugin for TimelessFinance’s Facebook group. The prior widget was atrociously over-sized (vertical waste is my arch enemy). Thus I figured out how to create my own plugin. I customized its dimensions and put the custom widget at the top right of the sidebar. Hint – if you have Facebook, I’d appreciate your patronage! I don’t personally use Facebook. I was a pretty early adopter (January of 2006) who became increasingly disillusioned with Facebook’s lack of privacy and degradation into an unfulfilling waste of time.
Blog Improvement #3 - Back-End Overhaul
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever notice any of my “back-end” blog improvements. In fact, this type of blog improvement is entirely self-serving, because it only makes my life easier. Nevertheless, if there’s any bloggers reading this, they might appreciate my (limited) insights. If you’re not a blogger, you might want to skip #3.
- I finally dealt with SPAM comments by activating Akismet (it’s an amazing WordPress plugin that detects and automatically deletes SPAM). Not that you should care — I always deleted the SPAM so nobody saw it. But that’s what makes me stupid: for months, I manually deleted all of the SPAM comments. I wasted a lot of time, but no more! The other option – that I refused to implement – would be to inconvenience commenters with a CAPTCHA box or a “Click here if you’re not a spammer!” button. I don’t want to offload work onto you anymore than I want to do it myself. A SPAM robot was the perfect solution. Domo arigato!
- I improved the site’s security. WordPress is not a secure system, so I added a plugin to reduce the vulnerabilities. They still exist. In the event that disaster strikes, I’ve always been careful to regularly back-up this site. I’ve now automated the back-up process, too.
- I’m search engine optimizing (SEO) each post now. It’s silly, I know. It’s anathema to what blogging should be about. It contributes to the ridiculous popularity contest dynamic of blogging — particularly in personal finance. But bloggers have one of two goals: to make money, or to be heard. My primary directive is the latter. In the first six months of this blog’s life, I focused 100% on writing excellent quality content. It’s served the blog well. My focus on content will continue (and I’ll only publish guest posts that meet TF’s rigorous quality standards). But now that I have a bit of slack in my schedule, I’m going to undertake some efforts, like SEO, to drive traffic. On that note, I also submitted my blog to a bunch of directories (you can see those links in the footer). In a few weeks, I’ll check which directories listed me and which didn’t, and delete the links to the latter traitorous villains.
Blog Improvement #4 - Footer is Fixed, Too
In the footer, I used to have a custom copyright statement, because the default is atrocious (TimelessFinance can’t own intellectual property because it’s not a legal entity – TimelessFinance is the intellectual property! Argh!). But I digress. My custom statement got deleted when WordPress and, subsequently, rtPanel theme, updated. I fixed this, added a credit for my blogging platform, WordPress, and my host iPage. Finally, I added a log-in/out button so I could eliminate the “Meta” widget from the footer. The result is more space (for all those blog directory links) and a cleaner look (besides all of those blog directory links).
Blog Improvement #5 - Reader Retention Features
A lot of visitors check this site daily to read my regular posts; you guys are my most important visitors (and most prolific commenters). Nevertheless, I’d really like to encourage new visitors to turn into regulars. Then, I will rename my website “Cheers” and complete my slow transformation into a real-world Cliff Clavin. When I have a stellar post that gets broadcast or when somebody stumbles into TF from a keyword search (the latter composes an increasingly large share of my traffic), I want to hook more visitors — rather than have them visit, read the article, and bounce. To this end, I installed a “Related Posts” plugin (at the bottom of each article) and a “Popular Posts” plugin (in the sidebar, near the top). Going on a TimelessFinance reading bender is now easier-than-ever.
Thoughts on These Blog Improvements?
I think the new status quo is much more efficient and attractive, but I’d greatly appreciate your honest feedback — critical and/or positive. Is a floating sidebar obnoxious? Should I add another weekly guest post? Should I make the header float, so it’s omnipresent as you scroll down the page?