Often people will ask to see one of my websites and depending who is asking I will show them a website with content they would expect from me. Example if it’s a photography friend I will show them my photography website dslrpro and if it’s a mountain biker or cyclist I will show them my practical bike website. My geeky friends and obviously folks looking for help I will send them a link to this site. I can often tell by their faces they are expecting these websites to blow them away in appearance. Make no mistake everything I do on the web is purpose driven and I have learned many lessons along the way.
I am in the business to make money from website content I am not in the business to make money selling pretty websites. This is an important distinction.
So your thinking now “but cant you have great looking websites that also have great content, drive a lot of traffic and make a lot of money? The answer is of course yes but it’s not as easy as you might think and there’s often a lot of negatives to great looking “artistic” website. Also often times the details that make a site look good have a negative effect on performance. Below I break down some of my rationale that I use in my day to day. At some point some of these topics will be discussed in greater detail.
Content is King
First and foremost content is king. This simply means in the eyes of visitors and google it’s the subject matter on your pages and posts that matter most. A beautiful website with useless or sparse content will not attract google and therefore will not see much traffic. All of my websites including this one focus on content first often at the expense of appearance.
Optimized Website and Content for User Experience and to Satisfy Google Requirements
When Google examines a website the importance of details looks like a funnel. The largest part of Googles metrics, the top half of the funnel is the content as stated above. After the content other variables in our funnel become important beginning with website organization and site structure. If users can’t find what they are looking for they will “bounce” to the next site. If human visitors can’t find your content easily than it’s a safe bet that neither can google. Additionally if a website is graphic intensive and has a lot on unnecessary things going on to make it look nice chances are Google will penalize the website. Google goes as far as looking to see that images are optimized for size so the load fast. A slow website is a bad website. At my day job we had an intern come in to make our website look better. Unfortunately he loaded pictures that were not only not optimized for file size they were also not dimensionally optimized. He essentially used the pictures as they came out of a phone or camera. Visiting our home page required downloading 12 megabytes of pictures. We went from a Google page speed score in the upper 90’s to failing Google’s page speed test. Website page speed can be tested at the Google PageSpeed Insights website. I also use a website called GTMetrix as it runs additional tests and ranks tougher than Google. This website scores a 92 on mobile and 94 on desktop with Google PageSpeed Insights. These are awesome scores and some of the reason this website looks like it does. I only use pictures where it’s necessary. More on that later.
Search Engine Optimization aka SEO
Gone are the days when you could start a website, upload some pictures, write about a subject you know well and have Google deliver traffic to your door. Today the the internet has become a battle of big budgets and marketing teams. Translated this means content should be written in a way to make certain Google understands pages, posts and what a website is about in the first place. To me SEO can be broken down to two parts. The easy part is what is called “On Page SEO”. This refers to how your content is written, formatting, titles, captioning, alt image text etc. Those are the easy items. The remainder of the SEO is where things get tricky. To begin with there’s all kinds of information that can be added like meta descriptions, structured data, Schema markup that aid google with understanding a website. Unfortunately not all, in fact most WordPress themes do not contain a way to manually edit these items and 3rd plugins need to be utilized. This site uses the “All In One SEO” plugin. But wait there’s more. Some themes are designed with SEO in mind. They are designed from the ground up to be fast, have the various scripts and pictures load in certain ways and times. They are designed to be fast which as stated in the previous section is very important. This website uses the WordPress “Schema” theme from MyThemeShop. Schema is the fastest SEO optimized WordPress them. That’s another reason this site looks the way it does. Focus on fast not pretty.
Avoid WordPress, Theme and Plugin Customization’s
Maintenance and customization’s take time to create, implement and maintain. Whenever possible I try to use WordPress themes and plugins as designed by their authors. Inevitably anything done custom will come back to haunt. It’s compounded if these modifications are done at multiple sites or when switching to a new theme. WordPress updates break enough things, I don’t look for more trouble. Note: A child theme should always be used to protect theme modifications, at least that’s what they say. In my experience child themes can also be problematic. It should be noted I’m not referring changes that can be handled within the theme customizer or a themes own control panel. I’m referring to manually editing theme files in the theme editor or CSS style sheets. This website operates on the Schema theme. There are no changes to theme outside of the theme options panel.
I use three themes on my websites, Elegant Themes Divi, Elegant Themes Extra and MyThemeShop Schema. The respective themes are setup nearly identical. This makes sharing common site settings between them easy. If they were all different it would be a maintenance nightmare. I have a saying I use a lot. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Testing WordPress Themes and Plugins
I have websites that do not generate income. These websites are test beds for themes and plugins. This website is such a test site. It uses a a WordPress theme and several plugin’s that I do not use at my revenue oriented sites.
Why Does this Site look like It Does?
- The focus is on content
- This website is using the Schema WordPress theme that is optimized for speed not appearance
- I keep my themes default to reduce problems and maintenance
- This is a test website. If a different, better SEO WordPress theme comes out I will switch to that one.