What's modified within the newest running a blog assistant redesign (and our up to date tech stack)?
I've made some subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes to the blogging assistant over the past month.
In this post, I'm going to share all of these changes so you can gain some useful insight to aid your own blogging endeavor.
I will also be releasing an updated tech stack. If you've ever wondered exactly how the Blogging Assistant is built and what main tools I use in my business, this article is the answer.
What's changed in the latest blogging assistant redesign?
1. Switched to the Kadence topic
In early 2020, I hired a developer to code a custom Genesis Child theme from the existing website I built with Elementor.
The subject was excellent. It was a lot faster than the Elementor version, but I ended up wanting to change the typography and a few other things.
So I needed a topic that was more flexible. But I like tweaking things (a little too much). This meant that I had to strike a balance between the Genesis theme and the extensive customization options of a theme builder.
My goal wasn't to drastically change the look of the blogging assistant. I just needed a bit more freedom to tweak the settings.
I found a promising looking topic called Kadence. I tested it out on some of my smaller sites first and was able to easily create a very similar looking website.
Here are a few cliff notes:
- Kadence is ultra light but extremely customizable.
- The free version of the theme allows you to create a website that looks a lot like the blogging assistant. Aside from the homepage, I'll talk more about that in a moment.
- There is a Pro version of the theme that has support for WooCommerce, additional header elements, scripts, conditional hooks, and more.
- Gutenberg has a free block plugin that includes some templates for creating home pages, information about pages, and more.
- Kadence is page builder friendly.
I've waited a long time for a topic like Kadence to come out. If you are looking for a new topic in the market, I highly recommend you check it out.
2. Recreate the homepage with OptimizePress
The previous home page was custom coded as part of the topic. I was able to switch parts, but it was quite 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.
So I created a wireframe of what the page should look like and created it using a landing page plugin called OptimizePress.
I could have chosen Thrive Architect, which would have worked well given the integration of Thrive Leads. While OptimizePress has a visual editor that is a bit more restrictive, it has a custom checkout builder that I plan to use for products in the future. So it made sense to use OptimizePress now and save changes later.
Let's take a look at the changes I made:
The yellow was overwhelming, the social proof wasn't over the crease, and the CTA was weak:
Here is a look over the folding area of the new homepage:
The new CTA is much stronger, social evidence logos are visible above the crease, and I've added a personal introduction that provides additional social evidence.
The old version had a content block where our column articles were displayed:
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 added a link to the blog's index page. The link to the blog index page was important as I am no longer displaying a block of updated content.
In the old version of the homepage testimonials were missing, so I added a testimonial block:
After the testimonials, there is a CTA block that is very similar to the original.
3. Minor changes to the header and the navigation area
The original header area had a white background with a yellow background behind the page header area.
I wanted to separate the header from the content, especially for blog posts, so I changed it to a black background.
And I've changed the yellow background behind the page titles to blue so it's easier on the eyes.
In the first iteration of the redesign, I actually removed the search bar from the footer.
But you noticed immediately and asked me to add it back.
Instead of putting it back in the footer, I added a search button to the main navigation area to make it more prominent.
I have a little love / hate with this search feature because WordPress internal search isn't great and I wanted to avoid adding an extra plugin to improve it.
That's why I usually recommend googling something like this: "Keyword" bloggingwizard.com.
Regardless, the search function is back and easier to spot than before. Thank you to those who shared their feedback!
4. Optimized the footer area to focus more on popular content
This was another small change.
The original footer looked like this:
I recently moved categories to a submenu in the navigation to make them obsolete and I was missing some sort of widget that explains what the First Time Visitor Blogging Assistant is all about.
The new version looks like this:
Now we have a widget with a brief introduction, links to social accounts that stand out more, and additional internal links to popular content.
5. Opt-in forms have been switched back to Thrive Leads
Since I left Elementor, my opt-in form has been a bit weak.
I migrated my forms to ConvertBox for convenience, but I didn't have an easy way to add things like forms after post-opt-in.
Now I've switched my sign up forms back to "Thrive Leads" so I can take advantage of the deeper WordPress integration they offer for targeting sign-up forms.
I'll probably play around with the design of these forms and do some more split testing, but this is what they look like right now:
If you are looking for an opt-in forms plugin or tool in the market, you can't go wrong with either. Remember, ConvertBox has a simpler editor. This is ideal for quickly creating registration forms. They also have ultra specific targeting capabilities.
However, Thrive Leads offers a lot more customization options and deeper integration with WordPress.
6. Migrated web hosting to Cloudways
This happened a while before the redesign process began, but it's worth mentioning.
At the beginning of the year I started looking for an alternative web host as the blogging assistant was slowly growing beyond its current host (WPX hosting).
My experience with WPX hosting has been excellent, but the offer is still technically shared even though it goes insane.
I needed a scalable host. In the end, I chose Cloudways.
Cloudways is a little different from most web hosts in that, technically, it doesn't offer hosting of its own. It offers the choice between hosting with various cloud hosting providers such as Digital Ocean, Linode or Vultr.
Cloud hosting offers many advantages over traditional hosting – flexibility, scalability, etc.
In my initial testing, I found that Vultr Standard servers offer the best value-to-performance ratio.
Note: Cloudways recently introduced Vultr High Frequency, which I may switch to in the future. If you are planning on moving to Cloudways I recommend starting with Vultr High Frequency as it doesn't cost much more.
The blogging assistant migration process went smoothly, but most of the settings that were made behind the scenes at WPX Hosting could now be adjusted.
The freedom was refreshing, but there was a learning curve.
Regardless, it's amazing that I can now scale hosting resources infinitely to meet the blogging assistant traffic needs. Implementation only takes a few moments.
Now it is important to remember that the right host for you depends on your needs. Here is a brief overview of what I recommend for different situations:
- Cloud paths – Affordable, high performance hosting that can be customized to suit your needs. Not always the best for beginners, but if you have any hosting experience this is great. And it's perfect for high traffic websites like the Blogging Assistant.
- DreamHost – Ideal for beginners. Once your website receives traffic or grows beyond shared hosting, you can easily migrate to a more suitable platform.
- WPX hosting – Perfect for those who get blog traffic but don't want technical issues. Malware scanning, malware removal, CDN, SSL, etc. Everything is included. It's still technically shared, but it's affordable when compared to most other managed WordPress hosts.
7. Additional performance optimizations via WP Rocket
WP Rocket has long been my favorite WordPress performance plugin.
In a newer version they have added some nice new features:
- Link Preloads – WP Rocket loads pages that you link to before a user clicks. Great for UX.
- Improved Web Core Vital Signs – Several under the hood changes have resulted in better vital scores for the Web Core. This is important to Google, or at least it will be in the future.
In a recent article, Colin shared some impressive test results for improving performance with NitroPack – an all-in-one performance platform with a built-in CDN.
I'm thinking about converting some of my websites to it in the future. Until then, however, I'm very happy with the performance improvements made by WP Rocket.
8. Selected images are renamed
It is time to update our featured images.
We have been using a very consistent style for a while now:
We had some great feedback on these images, but the design style didn't leave much room for creativity. We're switching to a different image style that my design Pickle Designer worked hard on.
Here's an example:
And here is one more thing:
After thinking about it, I've spent far too much time changing the design of these featured images so I'll try to do this the last time I change the style.
If there is one important takeaway from this particular change, it is:
Don't spend too much time playing around with your featured images. Make them look professional and eye-catching. However, changing them will not make your blog more profitable.
The Blogging Assistant's current tech stack
I keep getting messages asking what tools and plugins I use in my company.
At some point I'll be writing a dedicated article, but until then, here's a quick rundown of the main technologies that power the Blogging Assistant and the rest of my business:
- Cloud paths – Scalable cloud hosting.
- Cadence – Ultra-fast and customizable WordPress theme.
- Sucuri – Firewall, security and CDN.
- BlogVault – My WordPress backup tool.
- WP Rocket – Optimizing WordPress performance.
- All in one SEO pack – A great free SEO plugin.
- Perfmatters – Additional WordPress performance improvements.
- OptimizePress – Landing pages (some are still running on lead pages).
- Flourish leads – WordPress opt-in form plugin.
- ConvertKit – My email marketing platform.
- SE ranking – A powerful rank tracking tool that covers many other SEO functions.
- Sendible – A full featured social media management tool.
- term – A customizable project management tool that I use to manage my entire company.
- Google documents – Content creation and collaboration.
- Google Drive – Offers a good amount of free file storage and integrates well with Google Docs.
In certain situations, these tools may not be suitable for your needs.
There is always more than one tool that you can use for everything. And what exactly makes the most sense to use depends on your individual situation – your budget, the growth phase of your website, etc.
Thank you for checking out this overview of the recent changes in the Blogging Assistant.
It's rare for me to do an article like this, but if you'd like to see more insider-style articles like this, log on to Twitter and let me know @adamjayc.
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