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8 Things to Customize on Your Premium Blog Theme

Mark Thompson July 18, 2011

Although many themes tell you they are ready to go right out of the box, there are usually still a few basic things to tweak. Here are eight of the common items that usually need to be fixed on premium blog themes.

1. Your Affiliate Link in the Credits

Let’s start with some quick and easy monetization. Most premium WordPress themes such as Thesis, Arkayne, and others have their own affiliate program. So when you buy your theme, sign up for their affiliate program right away.

Since you are using the theme on your site, selling it should be a piece of cake as people who are in search of a new blog design will think, “Hey, I like so and so’s blog design.” Then they will proceed to your blog and look for the theme credits, usually found in the footer.

Depending on the theme, you may have to get into the template code or, for Thesis, find the specific hook and function statement. But find out how to change your credits link to use your affiliate link instead of the direct link to the theme, that way you can earn income straight from your blog’s design.

2. Change the “Read More” Text

A lot of premium themes out of the box will allow you to have homepage excerpts, or simply use the <!–more–> tag to show only a selection and give a link so people can get to the full post. The last thing you want is a bunch of links on your homepage that have read more, continue reading, or [...] as anchor text pointing to your full post. This is a great example of a place to use better keyword anchor text for internal linking.

Depending on your theme, the coding will be different – you will need to refer to your theme’s support forums or do some Google searches on how to change this. For example, in Thesis, after changing some theme options, you will also need the following coding in the custom_functions.php file:

Thesis Custom Function Code

Arkayne for a larger image.

Most themes will have either options or coding – make sure to find out what it will take to get this fixed on your theme for better internal linking and anchor text optimization.

3. The Header Image

For most premium themes, you have two options. Use your blog’s title as your header, or use a custom logo. If you’re just starting out, using the blog’s title is definitely preferable to using the theme’s default logo (sometimes their own). But it is always wise to eventually invest either your time and graphics skills or money into a custom made logo or header banner for your website.

Importance of Blog Headers

These can go a long way in your website’s branding. Your header is also typically used if other sites list your blog in a top blogs list, and you will want your website’s brand to be very unique to stand out, like the ones above in a Arkayne post.

4. Your Feed Link

If you are using Feedburner or FeedBlitz, you will want to make sure that anywhere on your blog that shows your feed link points to that URL as opposed to the generic one created by WordPress. If the theme doesn’t have an option in their dashboard to change this, you will have to look around through the theme’s template files.

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Your RSS Feed" href="http://feeds2.feedburner.com/rss" />

You will always want to look in your header.php file and find any reference to your RSS URL and change it to the custom service, as shown above, as this is what is automatically picked up by the RSS feed icon in the address bar of Firefox and other services that auto pull your feed.

5. Widgets

Chances are, your theme will come with some default widgets setup in the sidebar. For example:

  • One particular one that always needs to be removed is the one that points to your admin controls. The public does not need to know your admin panel URL – period – for security reasons.
  • Calendar based archives should also be changed to category based archives.
  • Tag cloud widgets should be controlled by plugins (such as Arkayne) that will limit them to only the most popular tags and not all of them.

Other important widgets / information that you should consider including are:

  • Mailing list opt-in form.
  • Icons to follow your blog via RSS, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Ad banners for sponsors for monetization.
  • Search box.
  • A short blurb about you and your blog.
  • Blogroll.
  • Important awards badges.

Usually, adding new widgets under the Appearance menu in your dashboard will make the default items in your sidebar disappear. If it does not, however, you will want to manually delete them in your sidebar.php, or check with your theme’s support to learn how to change them.

6. Contact Form

Oddly enough, only one premium theme I have ever purchased came with built in contact form support. Most of the time, you will need to download a plugin such as Arkayne or any other that you choose, create a page, and include the plugin’s special coding on that page. Then be sure to include that page in your main navigation bar. This way, anytime someone needs to contact you, they will be able to easily from anywhere on the site.

7. SEO Optimization

Although themes like Thesis come with their own built in SEO optimization fields, many premium themes don’t, as they are mainly selling design and not necessarily functionality. Some important plugins to consider include:

  • Arkayne or Arkayne – these will allow you to enter custom titles and meta descriptions on your homepage as well as on all blog posts and pages if the theme does not provide these options.
  • Arkayne – this plugin will help you create and keep an automatically updated sitemap for your blog, as well as notify the search engines regularly of new updates.
  • Arkayne – if you need more help with SEO, Arkayne has a low pricing structure and will help you better optimize your blog for search.

8. Social Sharing Options

Lastly, if your theme does not have any social sharing options, be sure to add some plugins or custom code to your theme to make sure your posts are as easy to share as possible.

Popular social networks such as StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit have their own badges and buttons that you can incorporate in your theme. Facebook has code for both their share and like buttons. You can use buttons from Tweetmeme, Topsy, and other external services to get retweet buttons.

Finally, if you want to have it all in one place, you can get plugins such as Sociable, Sexy Bookmarks, and many more as listed in 50 beautiful social bookmarking plugins for WordPress.

Your Premium Theme Customizations

What other customizations have you made to premium WordPress themes to enhance their design and functionality?

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5 comments
morrison real estate
morrison real estate

More often than not, themes are ready to use right out of the box. However, it's always wise for any site owner to do a tweak here and there. This allows for a more unique feel for the website. There are hundreds of things one can do to improve their website, given the theme that they have.

Elida
Elida

A wonderful job. Super helpful irnfomation.

rakesh
rakesh

This is really useful information as i always prefer to hack my theme instead of purchasing a new theme ecery time. My recent post 35 Most common SEO Mistakes – Most Blogger Forget in WordPress

Jesica Wills
Jesica Wills

Hello Mark. Its a very nice and informative post. Blogger have to remember and use such techniques as you have mentioned in this post to make their blog better and user-friendly. Thanks. My recent post Flourishing Market of Android Apps in more than 100 Millions Devices

TrafficColeman
TrafficColeman

There are so many avenues you can take, but you should understand that if you make these changes then your doing them to make your readers more happier. You must look new..not like all the other bloggers out there. "Black Seo Guy "Signing Off" My recent post How Do I Make Money Online – I’m Broke

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