October 2007: Creating A Better Blog

October has been a big month for me. I’ve tried to take my blogging, coding, and designing skills to the next level, and I think I’ve accomplished this. I hit quite a few goals, blogged on a regular basis, and learned a lot about creating a better blog with valuable content in the last month. I’ve learned more in one month than in the last four years.

A few weeks ago, in New Directions: Which Path Should My Blog Wander Down?, I actively started seeking out a permanent place for this blog in the blogosphere. Although I was a little unsure of what direction to go at that moment, I had at least started actually answering questions that I’ve had for a while (e.g. What’s my topic? Do I want to make money?).

Now, I know where my blog is going. I know what my topics are (at least to some degree). The official blog name and description is now Justin Tadlock: Life, Blogging, and WordPress.

Mostly, I’m writing about WordPress, but just in case I want to write about some other stuff, my readers will know that I might venture out into life and more general blogging topics on occasion.

I think that narrows it down from a previous description that ended with “other random stuff.”

Now that I know what my topics are, what do I do with them? Simple. Enjoy blogging. Enjoy knowing that there are countless things I can blog about without having to ask myself, “So, okay, what do I blog about today?” I know I have content that someone will need in some way.

Why WordPress?

Sure, there are countless others blogging about this wonderful content management system, but I think I have a few things to offer. I’ve been using WordPress since May 13, 2005 and I want to push my coding / designing skills to the limit with it. There’s still lots to be done. In part, this is my way of giving back to the WordPress community.

WordPress custom fields:

The first thing I wanted to tackle was custom fields. I’d been using some basic custom field scripts I coded for a while, but wanted to take them a step farther. Now, I’m writing a WordPress custom fields tutorial series. So far, I think it’s going well. I hope my readers are enjoying it because I’m enjoying learning new things.

This should be an interesting series to watch. I would always appreciate feedback on what anyone would like to see done with custom fields. They’re such a powerful, but rarely used, feature of WordPress. My goal is to release at least one (possibly two, if I have the time to do all the testing) post in the series each week until the topic is pretty much exhausted. Afterward, I plan to release a free e-book compiling all of the information in one spot.

WordPress themes:

Another goal I wanted to accomplish was creating more WordPress themes. It’s tough to continually put out quality themes on a regular basis. Right now, I have my goal set to design at least two WordPress themes a month. This is a reasonable amount, and it gives me time to focus more on the quality of the theme instead of just putting them out there as quickly as possible.

I think my two latest themes, Magtastic and Newspaperize, have offered loads more quality and functionality than any of my previous themes, and I want to continue this process.

WordPress plugins:

I’m not a hardcore PHP coder, and this makes it fairly difficult for me to code plugins. However, I occasionally come up with ideas that I want to use on this blog that I can’t find anywhere else. The problem is that I haven’t been sharing these with the community. My goal has always been simplicity when it comes to blogging, especially with plugins. I plan on releasing at least one WordPress plugin per month.

Mostly, I want to continue learning PHP and pushing my limits by using it to code plugins. My most recent plugin is Themes List. It give WordPress theme designers a simple way of listing their themes on one convenient page. There’s still a lot that can be done with it, and I look forward to continuing its development.

Weekly Roundup:

Another feature I’ve been hosting here is the Weekly Roundup. Weeks 1, 2, and 3 have went well so far. I haven’t gotten much feedback from regular readers on whether they like this feature though. At the very least, I may have brightened another blogger’s day by thanking him on my blog.

Basically, I wanted to just give a list of things I’ve found interesting throughout the week and pile it all in one post.

Google PageRank:

If you take a quick look at my Google PageRank, you’ll notice that this blog’s index page is ranked 4. While many other bloggers took a hit and are complaining about the system, I’m thanking Google for their recognition of my site’s content and boosting me up the ladder another three spots.

Justin Tadlock now has a Google PageRank of 4/10

This may not be a big deal to some of you, and it’s not really as big a deal to me as my subscriber count, but it still makes me feel pretty good about my efforts. It’s like someone out there is recognizing them.

October's goals:

Did I reach my October goals? Yes, but my goals were very general. When laying out a gameplan, I still didn’t have all the details, but now my path is becoming clearer. October has been an eye-opener. I’ve seen what a little effort, narrowing down my blog topics, and planning can do for my blog.

I’ve been amazed at my subscriber count’s increase. My daily subscribers have multiplied by 21. That’s enough to keep me happy for a while. Site visitor and page count have been a little erratic (mostly because of some days with loads of traffic), but has seen an gradual increase over the month.

Setting goals for November:

Now that October is finally at an end, I have to come up with some new goals. I listed most of these in the previous sections of this post.

  • Continue the WordPress custom fields tutorial series. There's still a lot of ground to cover in this series, and I have a few ideas ready to share in the coming weeks.
  • Write a series called "How to create a photoblog." This is something I started on a few weeks ago, but haven't pieced it all together yet. The idea behind it was that I wanted to easily share daily pictures with my family over the next year (I'm currently living in South Korea). I've put together some neat concepts for this tutorial and can't wait to finish the work on it.
  • Double my current subscriber count. This will be tougher than it was in October because I now have fair amount of regular subscribers. But, I'm up for the challenge.
  • Triple my average daily visitors and pages visited counts. This is a fairly lofty goal for me. I think it's still within reason though.
  • Make more money. I don't want to set a price tag or percentage increase on this yet because I'm at a point where I don't want to set definite earnings goals. I want to release quality content first, then see what kind of money I can make.
  • Implement an Advertising program. Right now, I'm in the early stages of building a business model for this blog and am thinking about putting together some advertising packages. If you're interested in advertising on this site, feel free to contact me.

November goals set. I’m ready to see how well I do with concrete monthly goals.

Why set goals? The simple answer is that it challenges me. It not only challenges me as a blogger, designer, and coder, but as a person. I strongly believe that we can only become successful if we push ourselves to success, and well thought-out planning always helps.

What would you like to see more of on this site? What kinds of things are you doing to push your business model, become a better blogger, or challenge yourself? Do you have a plan in place?