Minimalism for Bloggers – Where to Actually Focus and What to Avoid for Optimal Results and Productivity

By Nate McCallister


There are many different things that go into creating a profitable blog and they each merit their own amount of attention and bandwidth.

Going “all out” on every aspect of your website will, ironically, push you further away from results AND leave you with a worse website in the process.

This article focuses on “addition by subtraction” and a realignment of blogging efforts to truly push the needle forward.

I'll show you the things that I suggest you spend less time and resources on and then I'll show you the things that actually do deserve the maximum time and effort

Things to Minimalize

“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Plugins

You absolutely need WordPress plugins for your website to reach its full potential.

I use quite a few on all of my websites, but there is a line where it becomes too many.

Here are the plugins I use and recommend for every blogger. This is the minimalistic stack. 

Here are the additional plugins that I use but aren't mandatory.

Too many plugins can get messy. I had a nightmare scenario this year when I installed a 301 Redirect plugin and the automations went haywire. It ended up diverting traffic to error pages that it shouldn't have and I lost a good bit of money on it. 

Colors

Although it can be tempting to use a lot of colors on your site, fight the urge.

Always use a #FFFFFF white background in your main content editing spaces. Never use a darker color, this image explains why.

Why You Need White Background for Blogs ---

Unless you’re ready to remove the backgrounds of every image you create going forward, use an all white background for your core content areas.

Also, be sure that you have complementary color palettes. Some colors just look better together and others look terrible when paired.

If you use a tool like Thrive Theme builder, you'll have a color palette created for you that will always look good. 

Fonts

Find a good, Google safe font pair and stick with it. Try to remain consistent with that font across all of your design work. 

Here's a great list of Google safe font pairings

On this site, I just use Montserrat Bold for headings and regular Montserrat for the body text. 

Thrive Theme Builder Typography ---

If you use Thrive Theme Builder, setting your font pairings up is easy and it comes preloaded with the best Google safe fonts.

Templates

Although it can be tempting to create multiple customized templates for different styles of posts, more isn’t always more. More templates means...

  • More potential for missed errors
  • More things to edit if you decide to change the entire site

If you have a software like Thrive Themes that supports page and post templates,  I recommend having just one main blog post template and one main page template. You can make other templates for things like Video posts, audio posts etc. but you should try your best to keep as many articles and pages as possible in the same template. 

Thrive Theme Builder Templates ---

I also recommend that you create templates for elements you use regularly. This will not only save you time but it will also help keep your designs consistent across all of your pages. 

I make templates for things like...

  • Table of Contents
  • Content Boxes
  • Call Out Quotes
  • And more.

Templates can be extremely helpful, just be sure you aren't overdoing it and creating additional issues for yourself down the road. 

Thumbnail Styles

Dear God, if I could do one thing differently it would have been to just use an ultra simplistic thumbnail style for all of my posts.

If you’re not a designer, I guarantee that you’re early designs will not be good. Even if they are “good” they will likely be off brand as your design style evolves.

Keep these 3 things in mind when designing thumbnails.

  1. Ensure that it makes the on site visitor more likely to click.
  2. Use JPGs and make the file sizes under 200KB.
  3. Choose a style that can be replicated in less than 10 minutes.

When it comes to your Thumbnail styles, consistency can often be more important than general aesthetic. You can have "ugly' thumbnails if you make them part of your style. Check out this example...

Kopywriting Kourse Example ---

The author (Neville Medhora) always uses these funny stick figure thumbnails. Although they aren't "beautiful" by traditional design standards, they are oozing with style and originality. 

As long as he's not spending hours making these, I think this styling is brilliant. 

Pop Up Styles

Pop ups are a necessary evil for growing your mailing list (which is where most of the blog earnings come from for many bloggers like myself). 

Although all pop up software offers as much customization as you could ever want, I've found that typically, less is more. 

Minimalistic Opt-In Example

Example of a simplistic pop up from Hubspot.com

What really matters most is the quality, relevance and value of your lead magnets

Categories

The rule of thumb is to have many tags and few categories on your site. 

Categories and tags are similar but different.

Categories and Tags

Unlike categories, tags don't need to be front and center on your site. The way that I use tags is for managing the display rules on my website. 

In this sense, the more tags I have, the better I can define my display rules. 

For example, I may have a category for "Amazon FBA" but I also have tags that define that even further. 

Sidebars

Unless you're monetizing your website with display ads, my experience has always been that the sidebar is often best left lean. 

On this site, I typically just have the table of contents and nothing else. I dabble with tests now and then, but leaner is always shown to be better for me. 

Why? Because it takes attention away from the content. If your content is doing the selling, you're losing the focus that you need which means you're losing sales. 

I've always seen extremely low CTRs on my sidebars across many different tests, so I prefer to just leave them empty in most cases and let the content be the main focus. 

Email Content Media

Save the fancy emails for big corporations and car dealerships. I've found that keeping my emails lean and focusing more on the words and a conversational tone outperforms any flashy design you can add. 

Minimalistic Email Broadcast ---

Minimalistic email broadcast from ConvertKit

This is part of why I use and recommend ConvertKit. It is a very minimalistic email marketing software that makes it easy to keep your emails simple. 

Static Outbound URLs

This one is more about saving yourself a ton of time. Here's what I mean by "static outbound URLs." 

I mean things like affiliate links that look like this -> https://getlasso.co?lmref=8AOqaA

The problem with those is that if they change, I have to do a ton of manual work. So, I use a tool called Clickmagick to avoid this. 

Clickmagick turns that link into something like this -> https://tools.entreresource.com/lasso

It's not necessarily THAT much better looking, but when I use it on my websites, I can change all of the link directs at the same time. 

Let's say that the affiliate link changes from https://getlasso.co?lmref=8AOqaA to https://getlasso.co?affiliate

I can change this across every single page or mention (emails, PDFs etc) like this.

Clickmagick GIF

If you have a ton of links already across your website, check out a tool like Link Whisper to change those quickly. 

They have a feature that lets you find and replace URLs with new ones. I went through my site and replaced old static URLs with the Clickmagick ones. 

Things to NOT Minimalize

Minimalism loses its value if we reduce things that actually deserve the focus. The following are things that bloggers TYPICALLY shouldn't try to go lean on. This doesn't mean that you can't go overboard with them, but in general, these are things that benefit from more effort. 

One thing to note though, if you prefer to create your content a certain way (no images, less text etc.) knock yourself out. Many websites make that work (check out sethgodin.com 

Content Length

Ok don't skim this part because it's not as simple of an answer as "longer content is always better." 

When you review the data at scale, yes, it appears that longer content is favored. by Google and other major search engines. 

Average Content Length of Top Results in SERPs

HOWEVER....

This doesn't tell the whole story. 

Check out this example...

Content Length Doesn't Always Impact SEO

So, what do we do? 

Well, as you can see by the screenshot above, I use and recommend a tool like Surfer SEO to find the sweet spot for content length. I recommend that you use Surfer or a similar tool every time you create content and make sure that the content length is specifically optimized for the topic you're covering.

Surfer will tell you exactly how long they think your article should be when you give them the topic and core search terms your targeting. 

These estimates are based on the competitors on SERPs and what Google has already shown to be favoring. 

I've written more about how much I love Surfer SEO here if you're interested.  

Quantity of Images and Graphics

I used to think that using too many images was negatively impacting my blog's ability to rank high in search engines. 

This is not the case. 

page-loading-speed-does-not-correlate-with-first-page-google-rankings-----x---

Yes, even for relatively large GIFs (often approaching 1MB in size), there is little to no impact on search rankings, even if the page speed is impacted. 

In fact, having a lot of relevant images is a great way to improve your pages and optimize them for search engines. 

Original images can also be a great source of traffic and backlinks (that image above showing the lack of correlation between page speed and page rank for instance just got a backlink from me). 

Images for Traffic in Google ---

Clicks this blog receives from images that rank in Google search

So, it's worth the effort to include relevant images, gifs, graphics,  videos etc. that improve the value of the blog posts. 

One thing to keep in mind though, your images don't need to be breathtaking. You can focus on simplicity if you'd like as long as the elements improve the content and make it easier to follow. 

Examples of Amazing Minimalist Blogs

Here are some great "minimalistic" blogs you should check out. 

JamesClear.com - My favorite author and blogger, his articles are a work of minimalistic art. 

kopywritingkourse.com - An amazing example of creating a brand that has a ton of personality through non-traditional design work. 

seths.blog - Too minimalistic for the average person, but a good example of intense minimalism. Seth is able to get away with these micro articles with little to nothing else on the site because he has a large following from his books and other media outlets. This method wouldn't work for people who don't already have a mass amount of followers. 

Resources Mentioned

  • (ClickmagickSpend less time replacing old links. 
  • (Thrive ThemesThe ultimate tool for creating blogs and growing your email list. You can use it to create sites as complex or minimalistic as you'd like. 
  • (Link WhisperTool for optimizing existing content
  • (Surfer SEOCreate content that is optimized and not too long or too short. 
  • (ConverKitMinimalistic email marketing software that I use and recommend.
  • (Pretty Links) - Turn long, ugly URLs into short, attractive ones.
  • (WP Sheet Editor) Make changes to your website in bulk
About the author

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his four kids Sawyer, Brooks, Van and Lua with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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  1. Hi Nate, love your tips here. I haven't heard of Surfer SEO, what exactly does it do? I love the minimalist look on blogs, So much easier to read. I will check your link on the Surfer SEO. Didn't know a tool to tell you how long a blog post should be – sounds interesting.

  2. Loving all your content and insight. I bought your book and I'm very happy with all the extra info. Thank you

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