Investing in a WordPress theme is a big decision.
This is how your site is going to look and feel to your customers for the next few months or years.
It’s going to be a deciding factor in how much traffic you get, how people view your business and how much money you make.
If you get it wrong you can find yourself with just another lifeless, moneyless blog tucked away on the 18th page of Google, writing to the same five email subscribers over and over again.
But if you get it right you can enter the world of high-traffic, high converting and highly successful blogs out there.
In this article I want to advise you on how to choose the best WordPress theme for blogging, and give you the tools you need to get all of these great benefits.
What You Will Learn
- Why your WordPress theme is critical to your success
- 7 critical things to look for when choosing your WordPress theme
- How I chose the best WordPress theme for blogging
- Where to download my theme
- 3 hacks to help you optimise your new design
Meaning you’ll come away armed with the knowledge you’re choosing the best WordPress theme, for the right job and at the right price.
Ready? Let’s get started…
Why The Design Of Your Blog Is Critical To Your Success
The design of your blog plays a huge role in the success of your site.
On the surface it may feel like it’s just a design. But there’s a reason you – and countless other bloggers – spend hours scrolling through pages of themes looking for the right one.
Because you know the design of your site speaks volumes about the type of business you run.
In this section let’s look at why the design of your site is important and how it affects your bottom line.
It’s The Body Language Of Your Site
Visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than words. Meaning that when someone comes to your site the design says an awful lot before they’ve gotten into the content.
Now, as you’ll read in point #3, this isn’t about how pretty your site is. Instead it’s about sending the right message to your new readers, and how you want them to feel:
- Do you want them to picture you as an authority?
- Do you want them to feel a particular emotion?
- Do you want them to feel a certain way about your product?
For example the Zen Habits blog talks about mindfulness, removing excess and creating new habits. It’s about having a clear message through the day to day clutter.
And you can feel that on your first glance:
Because the blog is so stripped back the design matches the message. Can you imagine if this site was cluttered with pop ups, lots of hard to navigate menus and distractions?
On the flip side Amazon focus on being the everything store and giving you access to buy as much as you want. So the cluttered and full-on nature of their page matches the message too:
So it’s important to have a design that matches what you’re trying to say and the point you want to make. Don’t preach productivity and have a slow to load site that’s hard to navigate.
Your Design Builds Trust
Have you ever been on a website that you’re just not sure you can trust?
Perhaps you thought they might take your money and never send you a product. Or that downloading would fill you computer with viruses.
Well, as Business2Community write here, a lot of that comes down to the design of your site.
And choosing the right WordPress theme can be the difference maker between being a site your users will trust, or one they’re going to avoid.
Ease Of Use Is The Bottom Line In Everything
You probably think the prettier your site is, the better it will convert. But there are thousands of ugly sites out there that are converting highly right now.
For example take look at Irish Around Oz, an expat travel site for Irish people in Australia.
It’s probably the least beautiful site in the world. But according to Glen over at Gaps, it’s making in excess of $10,000 every month.
Having a pretty site can also mean that you convert. For example the MailChimp website is gorgeous to look at and they have millions of customers to date:
So it’s not really a question of how pretty or ugly your site is.
Instead it’s a question of how easy to use your site is. Is your audience easily able to find what they’re looking for, read your content and access the points where you want them to convert?
If your site is hard to navigate, slow to load and filled with distractions then you’re going to take a real hit on conversions. Regardless of whether you spent $10 or $10,000 on designing your site.
Which brings me to swiftly to my next point…
Even Simple Changes Affect Your Conversions
There are hundreds of case studies out there to back this up.
Just a quick look through this Kissmetrics Article shows over 40 instances where design changes have improved conversions ranging from 30% all the way to 400%.
This can be as simple as changing the colour of a button, or redesigning your site. But design is integral to them all.
If you get it wrong, your site will start to lose out on cash.
So that covers why design really is that important to your site.
Now let’s look at what should you be looking for in a WordPress theme…
7 Things To Look For When Choosing A WordPress Theme
Here are a few of my recommendations for what you should be looking for in a WordPress theme.
These are core values that, if not there, show you’re going to be wasting money on your purchase.
Be sure to read these carefully and understand each one before going out to make a purchase.
#1 – Simple And Clutter Free
The simpler and easier to read your site is, the better.
This allows your content to shine through and you can use your powers of copywriting to make the difference in your sales. Meaning silly little design bugs don’t hold you back.
As HubSpot write here, whitespace is one the most integral parts of website design.
It’s basically all of the unused space that surrounds the content on your site, like in the image below:
Because white doesn’t draw the eye in this case, it focuses the attention on the words on the page.
Much like reading words on paper; you don’t notice the paper, just the words you’re reading.
So a theme that allows you to have lots of whitespace around the words you’re writing, the menus you’re using and the images you’re sharing is essential.
#2 – Mobile Responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is non-negotiable right now. Mobile usage has overtaken desktop usage and it doesn’t look like slowing down.
But let’s not forget Google told us explicitly way back in 2015 that if we want our site to rank well it must be mobile friendly.
That is a key ranking factor and who doesn’t way lots of free targeted high converting traffic from Google?
So avoid buying a theme that doesn’t appear natural on mobile phones as it will seriously cripple your ability to grow.
#3 – Optimized For Speed
It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful site in the world. If it takes 60 seconds to load and 10 seconds to jump between pages, you’re going to lose out.
Not long ago I was able to increase my site earnings by $30,586 just by making some tweaks to the site speed. It goes to show that even a few seconds goes a long way.
#4 – SEO Ready
SEO is a big source of traffic for blogs. And whether you plan on focusing on it or not, it pays to be SEO ready.
These themes are made in a way that makes them: easy to crawl, simple to use SEO plugins with and do as little as possible to stand between you and high levels of search engine traffic.
Make sure your theme is clearly labelled as SEO ready or SEO optimised and do some basic spot checks like making sure there is only 1 H1 tag on posts/pages.
#5 – Easy To Customise
You want a theme, not a prison.
So the site design you choose should be easy to customise so that you can set yourself apart from the other sites in your niche. And you should be able to do it with a few clicks of a button.
You don’t want a theme where you need to dive into the code and start playing around with assets that could backfire and break your site.
#6 – Built In Shortcodes
Shortcodes allow for an extra level of customisation to your blog posts.
They’re simple copy and paste codes that allow you to make some really cool features of your theme come to life:
I use embeded videos, quote boxes, highlighted texts and sharing buttons where they’re needed.
This can really help your content stand out on the page and look super professional.
#7 – Good Support
The final point is good support.
The last problem you want to have is spending $100 on a theme and it break with no support to be found. Trust me, it happened to me in the early days and I never want you to live through that.
Make sure the theme you’re looking at offers a support package for at least six months, and is renewable when it’s needed after that.
Think of this as your theme’s insurance policy.
How I Chose The Best WordPress Theme For Blogging
I’ll be honest with you:
When I first bought my theme it was a horribly coded mess that I hacked to death.
It was a stock theme that I just threw up there to make do. And it quickly became outdated and I found myself in a world of problems.
So I decided enough was enough and I reached out to the team at MyThemeShop to help me turn my hacked to death theme into something I could actually use to grow my business.
I needed a theme that would help me build my brand, optimise my SEO and that I could perform multiple tests with. And I needed it all without compromising speed, usability or readability.
I wanted the best WordPress theme for blogging period.
And that’s how the theme that you’re seeing on the blog right now was born.
Working alongside the guys from MyThemeShop, I was able to create the best WordPress theme for blogs that is-
- SEO Ready
- Easy to brand
- Advertising friendly
- eCommerce ready
- User focused
But on top of that, this theme was integral to positioning me as an authority in the SEO and Affiliate Marketing niches.
The design of the blog instantly makes you, the reader, feel like you’re on a blog of someone who knows what he’s talking about.
Whether it’s the subtle branding at the top of the page:
Or the sidebar:
Where the author box that draws the eye-
Or the clarity of the words on the page (more on why that’s important later). All of it positions me as someone in the know before you even think about how many subscribers my blog may (or may not) have.
The fact you’ve stayed with this blog post this long is testament to that.
And thanks to the wonderful team over at MyThemeShop you’re now able to access this exact theme and use it for your own site, too.
The theme, titled Authority, has been even further improved to make it flexible to any brand or niche.
In fact you can see everything you can do with the theme right here:
So if you want a theme for your site that builds trust, loads quickly, ranks well and positions you as the authority in your niche, then you need this theme.
3 Blog Design Hacks To Improve Your Site
Once you’ve got your theme in place it’s time to refine it and turn it into a well read, high converting, blogging machine.
In this section I’m going to talk you through 3 hacks and adjustments you can make to increase on page time, customer conversions and sign ups.
So if you’re ready to supercharge your blog, read on…
01: Remove Your Sidebars For Longer On Page Time
This is a place where bloggers – myself included in the past – love to put adverts, sign up options and links to other content.
After all it’s dead space that could be used for making money, right?
Well it turns out your sidebars could really be holding you back, especially on your article pages.
For example, I found that by just removing the side bars from my content, I was able to instantly increase my session duration and on page time by 25%. Not bad for just a few clicks work:
This can also have a direct impact on your conversion rates and overall profits, too.
In this blog post from Crazy Egg, they found that Video Fruit managed to increase their email sign ups by 26% and Impact Branding and Design generated 71% more leads.
Why does this happen? Well, it has a lot to do with Jam.
In an experiment Psychologists ran two tests in a supermarket. The first group was shown 24 different types of gourmet jam and gave everyone who tried a sample a $1 coupon for them to purchase their favourite.
The next group was shown just six different types of jam and given the exact same $1 coupon.
The first display with lots of jams generated a lot of interest.
But when it came down to people buying an actual product the people who saw 24 jams were one tenth less likely to buy than the people who only saw six types of jam.
By giving people too many options you create choice paralysis.
They can’t decide which option is better so they take no action instead. Unless the value proposition is so good that they can’t refuse.
And when you look at the design of a blog, the same applies. There are often options to:
- Opt-in to a mailing list
- Click on your most important posts
- Click on your recent posts
- Click on an advert
- Like you on Facebook
- Check out your latest tweets
- Download a free eBook
- Redeem a members only discount
Meaning their being hit over and over and over again with options before they get to the call to action in your blog post or on your sales page.
So when it comes time to decide what to do – be that opt in to your mailing list or buy a product – they’ve got no idea what to do. Resulting in a reaction like this:
But by removing those side bars and all of the other distractions you allow people to focus on your overall call to action.
02: Adjust Your Fonts For Better Conversions
When all of the distractions on your blog have gone that only leaves two things for the reader to contend with. Your content and your fonts.
A font is the body language of your text. If your blog uses Times New Roman chances are you’ll read a lot more formal. And if you use Comic Sans chances are people will think you’re a four year old.
But a font can also affect how much of your page someone reads.
If a font is too small, it’ll be too much work to read and people will switch off.
If a font is too artistic or hard to make out, people will also switch off.
Bigger fonts often lead to higher conversions and longer time on page. So when it comes to choosing your theme it’s important to make sure you’re able to adjust your fonts as and when you need to.
And if you want optimal results it pays to pay attention to this next piece of information.
To quote this brilliant article from ConversionXL, there’s a lot of research to back up these next three points:
- Small font sizes & low-contrast are the #1 complaint for web users as it relates to reading online.
- Due to the effects of aging, at 40, only half the light gets through to your retina as it did at age 20. When you’re 60, it’s only about 20%. (See: Presbyopia) also 3/4 of Americans use corrective lenses
- All readers – but especially low-vision readers – experienced better reading speeds & comprehension when line-spacing was set to 1.5
All of which points to using bigger, easier to read fonts with lots of white space around them. Making your page easier to read and digest.
If you look at lots of high converting blogs – even the ‘ugly’ ones – you’ll see that this practice is often used.
Just like this excerpt from the Jeff Goins blog:
Or this one from Seth Godin’s blog:
This was one of the important points in creating my theme, which is why there is so much white space and clarity with my fonts. There’s nothing to distract you from reading the words.
Now you don’t need to go over the top and turn this into big fonts like you’d find in a children’s book. But there are some best practices I’d recommend:
- Make sure your font is between 11pt and 14pt
- Make sure your font size is consistent between mobile and desktop
- If you’re not sure on a font, choose Arial or Georgia
And, in the long run, it would be a good idea to split test which fonts work best for your audience too.
03: Focus Above The Fold To Capture Attention
I hate to break it to you but there is no perfect design. Or, we’d all be using it and I’d have reached a seven figure income much sooner.
But in Sumo’s research they found that while no one particular factor makes a blog design perfect; when you focus on your scroll rate the results drastically improve.
Your scroll rate is how many click onto your site and continue to scroll down the page.
While this might sound arbitrary it actually quite important. This scroll rate controls how much of your content new visitors see.
Especially if they’re landing on your home page from guest posts, adverts and other links pointing to your site.
So it’s the difference between someone seeing just your first post and all the content that could grab them.
To distill their research a little they found that everything sits above or below the fold. What does that mean?
- Above the fold is everything your readers see when they land on your page without scrolling
- Below the fold is everything they see when you readers do scroll
As Justin Brooke over at ClearVoice found when he spent $30,000 on testing his site, putting important elements above the fold makes a huge impact on how much time people spend on your blog.
By putting the most important information in this real estate you’re able to focus attention on where you want it to go.
For example when you land on my homepage you will see this-
That is powered by Thrive Leads and currently converts at 5%.
But I actually have a second “above the fold” for the 95% of people that close the welcome.
Normally WordPress lists the latest posts first but if you click through to my blog the first post you see isn’t my latest one.
Instead it’s the most important post I want people to see at the moment:
Because this above the fold area has purpose – it shows I’m an award winning blogger and funnels people to my highest performing post – people inherently know that there is more than one post on the site.
So they begin to scroll down when that’s not the post they’re looking for.
For most blogs the above the fold area is going to be the most important. This is somewhere people are guaranteed to see.
So, coming back to the research from the guys at Sumo, it’s important to have a purpose here.
For example SmartBlogger have the purpose here of displaying their sign up offer:
While Canva uses the above the fold of their site to focus on one particular post and tease at new posts below:
When you’re designing your theme – be it the authority theme, or another you’ve bought – be sure to have a real actionable purpose for the above the fold area of your site.
This could be something like:
- An email sign up box
- An free download offer
- Your most important/featured content
- Your latest blog post
- A brand led video
Where you want to drive traffic, sign ups and prompt people to scroll further down the page if they need to.
Wrapping It Up
I hope by now you’ve got a much better idea of what to look for in a WordPress theme and how it affects your bottom line.
Everything that you’ve read so far has been at the heart of designing my own Authority theme.
And I honestly feel that if you want to build a blog like mine that has generated over seven figures in income so far, which easily makes it the best WordPress theme for blogging.
If you want a proven, fast, SEO ready, customisable theme that gives you complete control over the future of your site, then Authority is also the theme for you too.
Download your copy of my theme now and get a head start on the competition.