My Secret Weapon for Creating Incredible Blog Posts
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Designing Your Blog the Easy and Cheap Way
Have you ever wondered how much it costs to design a blog? If you want one that is custom made for you, having a blog designed by a web designer is pretty expensive.
A very cheap bare bones version will usually come in at around $5,000.
And for a really good one with all the bells and whistles? You can often pay $20,000 or more.
For most people this is both financially out of reach and completely unnecessary.
When you are just starting out as a blogger you don't need to have a custom-made blog.
Even most intermediate and advanced bloggers don't truly need this!
It's really more of a luxury than anything else.
So what's a smart option for budget minded bloggers who want a fantastic looking website?
The Best Inexpensive Blog Builder for Non-Tech Wizards
A couple of years ago I was in the same boat as many other bloggers. I needed a blog building system that was inexpensive, well supported, easy for a non-technical person to figure out, and pretty. Talk about asking a lot!
I don't know about you, but I'm just not a very techy person! I don't want to worry about CSS, complex blog customizations, or trying to figure out which softwares will integrate with which others. I'm not good at it and my time is best spent on so many other things.
At the time I was using Michael Hyatt's GetNoticed blog theme, and let me tell you, it didn't solve my tech problems! The theme didn't come with tech support, you couldn't customize it very much to make it your own, and being a stand-alone theme meant that you had to use other software for your email and commerce platforms that would integrate.
To say it was a constant pain in my butt would be an understatement! (And to be fair, I don't blame Michael at all. It's a good theme as far as themes go, I just didn't realize that I needed a full blog building suite of tools to make it all work.)
After getting fed up with trying to make all the different processes in my blog work together without a constant stream of tech headaches, I started researching full blog building tool kits.
That led me to start using the Thrive blogging suite, which I still use to this day.
What is Thrive and How Does It Work?
Thrive is a suite of ten blogging tools that lets you build your blog and integrate all of the softwares you will need to run it as a business. Everything is visually based, drag and drop, and simple enough for a kid to use! It has been the perfect solution for me, and I always get compliments on my blog design.
Let's look at the different tools in the Thrive blogging suite and talk a little bit about how they work.
The basis of any Thrive blog is their theme builder. Thrive offers an amazing drag and drop theme builder that is perfect for bloggers who want a clean, efficient, and beautiful design.
You can consider your Thrive theme to be the backbone of your blog. It's the very first thing you need to install to start building your blog. Thankfully, this process is really easy!
Once you have your theme installed, the next step is to use Thrive Architect to begin customizing it. Architect is, in my opinion, the coolest integration Thrive has to offer. I use it everyday, and I can credit it for making my blog pages and posts incredibly easy to customize.
Take a look here…
As you can see, Thrive Architect shows up as a suite of tools in the sidebar that allow you to drag and drop any of a few dozen different widgets anywhere on your post. Whether you need a simple text box, an image, social sharing buttons, or an email list form, all you have to do is drag the block you want onto the page and customize it.
Architect currently includes the following blocks for drag and drop:
- Background section
- Content box
- Templates & Symbols
- Click to Tweet
- Content Reveal
- Evergreen Countdowns
- Credit card suite
- Custom HTML
- Custom Menu
- Disqus Comments
- Facebook Comments
- Fill Counter
- Google Map
- Lead Generation
- “More” tag
- Progress bar
- Social Share
- Star Rating
- Styled List
- Table of Contents
- WordPress Content
- Call to Action
- Content Form
- Guarantee Box
- Numbered List
- Post List
- Pricing Table
- Styled Box
Wow. And you know what else?
The toolbar on the left changes for every block that is highlighted. This gives you a full customization toolbar for any block you drag onto the page. These customization options are pretty easy to understand, but don't be fooled! You really do have unlimited capabilities to customize just about every piece of your blog using Thrive Architect.
I only use a small fraction of the tools and techniques that are available to me, and it has been more than enough to design my blog exactly the way I want it.
If you've ever tried to integrate an email marketing service onto your blog before, you know that it can be a bit of a technical pain sometimes. Not all email providers integrate well with all themes, and it can get very complicated very fast.
One thing I love about Thrive is that they offer a tool within their membership called Thrive Leads. Leads is another drag and drop tool that helps you set up pop-ups, inline opt-in forms, and landing pages that convert.
What's even more special about it is that the Thrive blogging suite integrates seamlessly with dozens of email marketing service providers. As long as you aren't using one that is crazy obscure, you can bet that they integrate with it already. This will save you a ton of technical headaches and time wasted!
Thrive Quiz Builder
Another fun blogging tool in the Thrive suite is their quiz builder. Quizzes are a fantastic way to grow your email list quickly, because people love taking them. In the past the rub has been that quizzes can be complicated to code, and they were often difficult to integrate with your blog builder.
Since Thrive has created their own, you can bet that it integrates seamlessly with the rest of your website and all of the tools you are using.
Like all of their other products, the Thrive Quiz Builder is also a drug and drop visually based builder that helps you create really nice looking quizzes quickly. I've found that their quiz builder has really good functionality, and while I've only created one quiz so far I definitely plan on creating more in the future.
Ultimatum Countdown Campaigns
This is a tool I haven't used yet, but oh boy am I so glad they offer it! A few months ago I was trying everything to figure out how to add a countdown timer on to one of my pages. I downloaded plugins, purchased different softwares, and ultimately spent a ton of time and money on a countdown timer that never came to fruition.
Why I had suddenly forgotten that Thrive had an integrated countdown timer I could use, I will never know. I blame the mom brain.
Countdown timers, used sparingly, are an effective marketing tool that can help increase sales from your sales pages substantially. Here are a few ways to use a countdown timer during your next promotion.
1. Add a countdown to your thank you page.
When someone signs up for your email list, what does your thank you page say to them? This is a great opportunity to thank your reader for signing up and to also offer them a killer deal on one of your products while they are there.
On my thank you page I offer a deep discount on my Sassy Styled Stock Blog Photo Collection that is only good for 15 minutes. This serves a couple of purposes. First, it helps people get to know the quality of my work and trust working with me. Someone who buys from you once is much more likely to buy from you again, so offering a preliminary product at a low price is often more than worth it down the road.
Another reason I offered this is because I want to build a deeper relationship with my readers. Offering them something really valuable for a great price sets us off on the right foot to talk more and get to know each other over email. A small sale can really set apart those who are just curious about what you have to say, and those who are ready to dive in with you.
The last reason I offer a flash sale like this one is because it does add to my monthly income. It's a much smaller percentage than some of my other promotions, but smaller amounts still add up.
2. Split test with a temporary sales page.
Have you ever wanted to create a second sales page to split test against your default one? Split testing is always a smart idea, and one way to do that is to simply clone your sales page and add a countdown timer to the second one.
Give it a few weeks for months to assess your sales versus traffic. Which one does better? My money is on the timer!
If you've ever wanted to include some clean and pretty looking testimonials on your page but couldn't figure out how with all of the clunky plugins out there, drive ovation may be the product that saves you.
Ovation is the Thrive blogging tool that is designed specifically for integrating really nice looking written and video testimonials on any of your blog pages or posts. When you write a sales page or landing page, it's important to use design to your advantage. If the sales page and testimonials look a little rough around the edges, people subconsciously assume the same about your product.
Thrive Comments Builder
Another one of Thrives blogging tools is their comment system. Blog comments are an important part of increasing engagement on your site, and you don't want it to look janky. One of my favorite things about Thrive’s commenting system is how smooth and clean they look. They really integrate with the rest of Thrive's style, and that consistency shows across every piece of your website.
I'm currently using Disqus comments, and while overall I think it is a pretty good commenting system, there is one thing that drives me a little nuts about them. Disqus does their best to get commenters to go back to the Disqus website instead of staying on your blog.
This means that you can potentially lose readers who might otherwise spend more time on your blog getting to know your work. I understand why they do this, but it does have me leaning towards moving over to Thrive Comments since they host all of your comments on your site, and they don’t try to redirect readers back to Thrive.
Thrive Optimize for Landing Pages
If you've ever wanted to split test one of your landing pages, but couldn't figure out the tech, now is your chance. Thrive offers an optimizing tool that allows you to easily set up split tests between different pages. It's really easy to use, and it integrates with all of your pages.
You can combine this feature with the countdown timer feature to test your sales conversions with and without a countdown timer. You can also use it as a standalone to help you figure out which types of text, images, style, and videos are converting at the highest rate.
This tool alone is worth the price of the Thrive membership to me, because when you can increase your conversion rate substantially with testing, your income goes way up.
Clever Widgets is Thrive’s way of helping you to round up your content based on category, tag, and other criteria so that you can strategically place content widgets on your site. The goal of this blogging tool is to help you show the most relevant and useful content to your readers as possible (making them love your blog all the more!)
You can create different content widgets for a wide variety of purposes, including things like:
- Popular Posts
- Newest Posts
- Posts by category
- Posts by tag
Once you’ve created the widget, you can add it to any area of your blog that you’d like to share your best content at the perfect times.
Thrive Apprentice for Online Courses
This is one feature I can’t wait to dive into, because I’ve been using Teachable for quite a while. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Teachable! But if Apprentice is as good as I suspect it is and it’s already included in my membership, I may just have to host my next course on it.
Apprentice is Thrive’s all in one course building and hosting platform for content creators. It’s really amazing that Thrive offers this product, because to be honest many companies like Teachable and Kajabi do only this. And the price is much, much higher than even the entire Thrive suite alone.
Apprentice helps you build a course, host it on your own platform, and manage subscribers and payments all in one. It also includes as many courses as you want to build, so you won’t be limited like you often are using other course platforms.
One smart way to utilize this right out the gate is to think about creating a few short, simple online courses that you can give away for free to build your email list. Not only do courses tend to convert email sign ups quite well, but you can also promote your paid courses at the end of your freebie. Win win!
The Thrive Membership Offers All of These Tools in One
Thrive now sells their blogging tools as a single suite of tools under their Thrive Membership. You can still purchase their products separately, but after having done that for a while and then switching to the membership… I highly recommend just getting the full membership!
It’s cheaper than buying what you need separately (if you’ll need a few of them) and it’s so nice to have all the tools at hand to build your business.
If you've been trying to figure out how you can integrate all of the moving parts of your business without the cost, time, and headaches, you might give Thrive a shot. I've been using them for several years now and have no intention of moving to anything else.
What I Love About Thrive
In case it isn’t obvious, you can probably tell that I love using Thrive. We'll get to the downsides in a minute, but before that I want to list off the things I love about Thrive the most. (AKA, the things that have saved my butt on more than one occasion).
1. Drag and drop is easy to use-
Everything Thrive does is visually based, and I love that. I don't have time for complicated techy tinkerings, and it makes me so happy when I go to use a new feature and can see how simple and straightforward it is.
2. Everything integrates seamlessly-
I love that each of their tools integrates perfectly with each other. It can be really tough trying to find a blog theme, and email marketing service, a shopping cart, and a variety of other plugins that all work together without causing technical issues. I've had more than my fair share of those, and it makes me realize how wonderful it is that just about all the blogging tools that I need to run my business play nice together under Thrive.
3. Support is very knowledgeable-
Thrive employs some really knowledgeable support people, and I've always had my questions answered in an easy-to-understand way. For me, good support is one of those non-negotiables I have to have. When something breaks or you can't figure out how to do something, knowing that you can talk to their support and get an answer is a major relief.
4. They offer integrations with many other platforms-
Not only do the Thrive blogging tools work seamlessly together, Thrive also makes it a point to integrate with other major softwares as well. For example, if you use ConvertKit or another major email marketing service, it's really nice to know that Thrive integrates with them so you can use both together. Right now I use Thrive lightboxes (included with Thrive leads) to design and display my email opt-ins, and these forms connect directly to my ConvertKit account.
5. The membership price is forever-
One feature I absolutely love about Thrive is that they lock in the price of the membership you purchase it at. Even if they raise the price down the road, the price you sign up at is the price you keep. Who does that??
6. Use the Thrive membership on up to 25 websites-
The basic Thrive membership can be used on as many as 25 websites, which is great for most bloggers. Whether you have several blogs, or you only have one but might want to create some spin-off pages with other URLs for a particular promotion or sale, you'll be able to use your blogging tools on all of them. Hallelujah!
What I Don’t Love About Thrive
To be honest, there really isn't a lot that I don't like about Thrive. That being said, there are a few small things that bug me and I'll list them here.
1. Support isn't crazy fast-
My biggest gripe about Thrive is that their support can take up to a day to get back to you. Oftentimes they are quicker, but it isn't an immediate chat. You post to their support forums, and they get back to you sometime that day. This hasn't really been too much of a hang up for me, but it can be a little annoying when I'm trying to fix something and I know it'll be a few hours before I hear back.
2. There isn't a monthly payment option-
With Thrive you can pay quarterly or yearly, whichever works out best for you. I do wish they had a monthly payment option because they advertise their pricing as being $19 per month. Really, that's $19 per month paid annually. For the service and everything they offer, it's still an incredible deal! But I will admit that it does annoy me when companies offer something as X dollars per month but really it's X dollars per year.
If you’re looking for a super simple drag-and-drop blog building system to grow your online business, Thrive just might be the perfect option! I’ve been using them for several years now and won’t be switching anytime soon.
You can sign up for your Thrive Membership right here and get your online business growing fast.
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