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The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most from a WordPress Magazine Theme

Written by Alex Denning on in Tutorials 12 comments
magazine-guide-1

We’ve been making magazine WordPress themes since 2008.

When Yamidoo Magazine was released (it’s still available but has been completely revamped and received twenty four updates since release) it was one of the first magazine-style WordPress themes.

We’ve been able to watch the magazine theme niche grow in popularity over the years, see (and influence) a wave of easy-to-use themes and see how customers’ demands have evolved.

Our experience – and feedback from customers – means we’re very well placed to help you get the most from your WordPress magazine theme.

In this post we’ll cover how to:

  • Set up your theme like the demo (and when not to)
  • Get great images for your posts
  • Transform your readers to loyal subscribers
  • Personalise content
  • Get more social shares
  • Get the very best WordPress magazine theme

This is going to be a post jam-packed with value, so you’ll need to be ready! Let’s get to it.


1. Site set up like the demo

Theme demos show off WordPress themes in their best possible usage-cases and give customers an idea of how the theme will look in real life on their sites. As demos are maintained by theme developers and are (essentially) a tool to sell themes, they do look good.

There’s been discussion in the WordPress community recently that theme demos look too good with the suggestion it’s difficult to get them to look as good in practice:

You do need content for your website, but it’s perfectly possible to get your site looking as good as, if not better than the demos you’ll see.

The first step to getting the most out of your magazine theme is to set up your site how you want it. We’ve heard from customers initial setup can be difficult so have introduced one-click import of widgets and demo content.

You’ll find these options under WPZOOMTheme OptionsImport/Export:

widget-import

Once you’ve imported widgets and/or content, you can customise to get the look you want. We can cover 80% of the groundwork straight away, just leaving you with the final 20% to tweak.

Or DON’T set up your site like the demo

Here’s an alternative option: every site is different, and content-heavy sites using magazine themes will typically already have a lot of content written. Instead of adapting your content to suit the theme, adapt the theme to suit your content.

We frequently see incredible uses of our themes and these typically follow this approach. Russell Aaron explains the eureka moment realising this:

Say a theme’s demo content adds seventy-five posts to your site, but your blog only has fifty unique posts. Does that mean you should write twenty-five more posts…? Absolutely not.

I started looking at every WordPress theme demo in a new way. They’re simply a template for your content and not a rule. A WordPress theme demo does not set the tone of your content; a WordPress theme demo only shows what your site will look like in the future.

Theme demos are a template, not a rule. Seeing themes this way is a game changer! You can get a great looking site copying the demo, but to make your site your own you’ll want to adapt the theme to suit your content.

To get the most out of your magazine theme, you’ll want to be doing this. It’s not complicated: just head to AppearanceWidgets and start playing around with the number of posts you’re displaying, the categories you’re showing and which widget you’re using where.

Here’s a video showing you how quickly you can set up from scratch our flagship news magazine theme Tribune in a bunch of different layouts:

Make your magazine theme work for your content – and not vice versa – and you’ll have a unique site that’s perfectly suited.


2. How to find the best images for your posts

Magazine themes are image-heavy and good imagery is essential to get the most from your magazine theme. But where do you find the best images for your posts?

Using your own photos

The dream mobile office, writing this post.

The dream mobile office, writing this post.

Where possible, accompany your posts with your own photos for a unique look. When all your competitors are recycling the same stock images, your own snaps offer a new perspective.

Smartphones have really really good cameras these days, so it’s possible to take great photos on your phone and easily add them to your site. Take photos using the default app, edit with VSCO Cam (Android and iOS) and upload straight to the WordPress media library (iOS only – on Android Google Drive works great).

This isn’t going to work for every site or every post but where it is appropriate, it’s a great way of adding personality and avoiding illustrating your posts with the same photos your competitors are using.

Use really good stock photos

Stock photos are the mainstay of newspapers and magazines: these are generic – or “stock” – photos which can be used alongside relevant stories and posts. If you don’t have your own photo to use, a stock photo will work perfectly.

A generic stock photo.

A generic stock photo.

Historically, stock photos have looked really bad. In recent years, though, stock photos which are outright really high quality photos have become popular. If you’re going to use stock photos, you should be using these. Here are some of the best sites:

  1. Unsplash
  2. Death to Stock Photo
  3. New Old Stock
  4. picjumbo
  5. StockSnap

Look through all these sites and you’ll find very high quality images to accompany your articles.

Bonus tip: use Stock Up to search twenty eight really good stock photo websites at once and save yourself a bunch of time.

Make sure your images display really fast

It’s important to outright have a fast site but when working with big images (stock or otherwise) it’s important to make sure they’re well optimised and display really fast.

In our ultimate guide to making your site load quickly we cover how to get your images optimised and loading quickly. You can read the full section here, but here’s a brief summary:

  1. Install Jetpack by WordPress.com.
  2. Follow prompts to sign into WordPress.com or create an account.
  3. Go to JetpackSettings and activate the Photon module.
  4. Enjoy well optimised images.

The full guide will show you how to further optimise your images, but activating Photon will deliver 95% of the benefits and takes five minutes. Essential for getting the most from your magazine site.


3. Turn your readers into subscribers

Email marketing is a fantastic tool to capture readers and turn them into subscribers who will keep coming back to your WordPress-powered magazine site again and again.

The best way to capture subscribers is to ask people to subscribe and offer convenient boxes in which they can do this in various locations across your site. After posts, in the sidebar and in the footer are popular locations.

Newsletter signups in the Foodica theme.

Newsletter signups in the Foodica theme.

If you’ve got a WPZOOM magazine theme such as Monte then we’ve got this sorted for you. Signup boxes are available as widgets which you can drop all across your site – and they fit the design perfectly.

If you’re not using a WPZOOM theme then a WordPress plugin can help you out. WP Subscribe is the best option. It’s fairly basic and has limited styling, but it’s free and will get the job done.

Entice subscribers with content upgrades

“Content upgrades” are bonuses added to posts which typically offer an enticing addon but ask for something in return (typically a social share or email address). These are easy to create and an effective way of providing extra value to readers.

You won’t want to include these on short pieces, but for more in-depth content and #longreads on your magazine site, these are a great accompaniment.

The key part of this is to create valuable content readers will want to access after reading a quality post. Here are some ideas:

  • Expand on a key point mentioned in the post (works especially well if you’ve written this but had to cut it to get the main piece to a decent length).
  • Summarise the post into a checklist (great for list posts or resources).
  • If you’ve interviewed someone for your article, offer the full thing here.

You don’t want this to be a huge amount of work when you’ve already finished the post, so be creative – but make sure you add value.

It’s easiest to offer your content upgrade as a PDF, so you’ll need to create one of these. Exporting straight to PDF from Word or Google Docs is fine, but something which matches your site’s branding is even better.

foodica-print

You can utilise a print stylesheet to control how your site looks when you print a page from it. Add Jetpack’s Custom CSS module and head to AppearanceEdit CSS and you can add a couple of lines to make your site look great. For most WPZOOM themes adding something like this will work (our support team can help if needed):

@media print {
.navbar, #sidebar, #footer, #comments, .entry-footer, .site-footer, .sharedaddy, .jp-relatedposts-post, .rw-rating-table display: none 
.content-area width: 100%; }
}

For other themes other customisation may be required.

Once you’re done, save the CSS and when you now go to print a post on your site, you’ll be able to print to PDF and get a beautiful content-only PDF, complete with your styling and branding.

Note if you’re using Foodica then upgrade to the latest version to get an updated print stylesheet that makes this easy for you.

To make your content upgrade, then, you just need to create a new post, add content, preview and print to PDF. You can now upload the PDF to your site and distribute as you wish.

Bonus tip – and one that’s easier to use – Social Locker will “lock” content until a reader shares it on the social networks you set. Whether visitors will be prepared to share content they haven’t read yet (and leave instead) is up to how you use the plugin, so give it some thought before diving in.

Grow your audience with exit-intent

Exit-intent popups are a really powerful way of capturing visitors who are about to leave your site. They work by showing a popup as the user is about to leave your site (and do this by detecting mouse movement). This popup grabs attention and can keep users on your site – and get them to join your email list too.

The popup plugin space has exploded in popularity in recent years. The best options are all premium and come with highly variable price tags:

  • OptinMonster ($348/year on the “Pro” plan, the only one including exit-intent): easy-to-use admin panel and some nice pre-made templates, but difficult to customize. If you want all the features this gets expensive.
  • SumoMe ($708/year on a mid-traffic site): a feature rich option but it gets very expensive very quickly. The free plan is generous, but you’ll need to pay to remove branding.
  • ThriveLeads ($67/year): can be difficult to use but decent feature-set at a reasonable price.
  • Bloom ($89/year): lots of pre-built templates but lacking genuine exit-intent. You can still set the plugin to have essentially the same result.

Exit-intent popups can accelerate your email list’s growth, but their expense means they’re not for everyone. If your website is a business then you want to be in the business of building your list as fast as possible.

If you’re not generating revenue to cover costs then it becomes difficult to justify the cost, especially when users typically find to be annoying and Google is starting to crack down (but makers of the big WordPress pop-up plugins aren’t concerned).

If it makes business sense to be using these and popups are a good fit for your site, they’re a great way of accelerating growth.


4. Content personalisation

Content personalisation is a really powerful way of better engaging your readers. A couple of simple tweaks let you deliver a different version of your site to different visitors.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Greet first time visitors (and add an intro to your site or email signup).
  • Display different content for different locations.
  • Promote your email newsletter on a user’s second or third visit.

inSite is a powerful plugin which makes doing all this straightforward. Install and activate the plugin as you would with any other plugin. You’ll then be taken to the main inSite options page where you can choose pre-built inSites.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-17-27-16

Select the type of site you have (as a magazine site, you probably want “blogs and online publications”) and browse through what other people have created. The tabs across the top will offer different ideas for different goals.

You can add any inSite by pressing “Add Now” and following the prompts on the next screen to tweak the design and “trigger” as you want. Once you’re done, click “Next” and then “Activate”. You’ll now find your active inSites under the menu tab from the WordPress Dashboard.

It’s well worth playing around with the different inSites to get the ones best suited for your magazine site. There are a huge amount of options available, so use your imagination!


5. Optimise social sharing

More social shares is a key tactic in getting more traffic, more attention and higher rankings. As a producer of a lot of content on a magazine site, this is really important.

How do you get more shares?

Here are three tactics you can utilise on your site.

1. Display social sharing buttons on your site

Just displaying buttons that readers can click to tweet to their favourite social networks will vastly increase the number of shares a piece of content receives.

If you’re using a WPZOOM magazine theme this is already sorted for you: our themes have social sharing built in by default or integrates smoothly with the ones included in Jetpack.

Social sharing buttons at the end of a post using Monte.

Social sharing buttons at the end of a post using Monte.

If you’re not using a WPZOOM theme (then why not! you’re missing out) you can use a plugin such as DC Simple Share Buttons or AddToAny. The ever-useful Jetpack plugin also has some sharing buttons built-in.

2. Automatically post to your social networks

Whilst you’re installing Jetpack, there’s another feature to make use of: Publicize will automatically post your content to linked social accounts as soon as it’s published. Automation makes it easy for you :)

3. Optimise social description and images

Final tactic to employ is making sure your content looks good once it has been shared. Yoast’s SEO plugin can help you out here: the “social” tab for the plugin on any post or page gives you the option to set custom text and images for Facebook and Twitter.

By default WordPress will set these for you, but set them yourself and you can get the most attention-grabbing accompaniments to your content.


6. Get yourself the very best WordPress magazine theme

With the tools and tactics we’ve discussed here you’ll be well on your way to showing more engaging content to readers – and getting that content in front of more people. The WordPress magazine theme is perfect for sites with lots to say, and the tools here will help you say it better.

All of that, though, counts for little if your magazine theme sucks. The final piece of the puzzle is to get yourself the very best WordPress magazine theme.

monte-theme-responsive (1)

Your best option is to get a WPZOOM theme.

We have 14+ magazine themes for you to choose from, but we’ll make it easy for you: here are our favourites:

For video magazines: VideoBox

For lifestyle magazines Foodica or Monte

For newspapers Tribune, Gazeti or Chronicle

For image heavy magazines Domino Magazine or Insight

Or see the whole collection here.

For more WordPress tricks, tips and news make sure you follow @WPZOOM or like us on Facebook.

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  • Alina Stephan

    Site set up like the demo is good idea when you want to save time. Can you share some working tips to Turn your readers into subscribers?

    • Alex Denning

      The advice covered in the post is a great place to start: email opt-ins at the end of posts, content upgrades to encourage signups and exit-intent popups to catch those leaving before they’ve signed up.

      • Thanks, Very good tutorial

      • Thank you, Alex Denning, for share the great tutorial. I try to implement in my site.

  • I think if you are looking for the setup the company then this theme is for you

  • Thanks for your tutorial,

  • Is this wordpress theme support AMP? I once read about AMP excellence in the Search Engine. According to information I read, blog with AMP feature is getting good rankings. Please reply my comment..

    • Alex Denning

      Hi Ruswandi, you can get AMP support by adding this plugin from Automattic, the makers of WordPress.com.

  • Thanks for sharing such amazing post.

  • i really like that Magazine Theme i use on my blog and i am happy with that

  • Modifying stock photos to use in magazine theme is fine sometimes, but not always. Is it really that difficult to make customized photo , when it can contribute significantly to the aspect of exclusivity. The energy one is investing in editing a stock photo, should be spent for making new image instead.

  • ajundi14

    After reading this guide i was thinking of trying the free version for my other blog :)