Middleschooler Hacks Personal WordPress Theme, Makes Money Online


Today I want to ask you a simple question….one that has been fretting scholars and entrepreneurs alike since the creation of dehydrated water.  And it’s this!

Have you ever wanted to add affiliate programs to your WordPress theme….but the idea of touching code was so scary you’d prefer to use a denuded toothbrush to scour up the elephant pen at the zoo?


If so, I’m here to tell you that if you simply give yourself permission to tackle the above…

you’ll see that doing it is as simple as copying and pasting in a notepad text file. 

Bold I am, I know, to make such a statement!  But I know it’s true – I walked my middleschooler throught it yesterday. 

The settings were very basic – I had her go to her domain control panel, open up her theme’s sidebar file, find a spot to add her new idea, and then copy/paste it in. 

It was so cool!  I was in my office, she was in her’s, and the following is our conversation via gtalk.  Enjoy!


Kid: hello

Kid is online.

Mom: close the guest room door please and turn down your music too, please

Kid: my music isn’t on. that’s DDR

Mom: scary Log into your domain control panel
then browse to domains/SupercoolSite.com/wp-content/themes

NOTE – her domain is NOT SuperCoolSite.com .  That’s just a placeholder.

Kid: okay
im there

Mom: see that SAVE directory? don’t touch it. It’s your backup. Remember, every time you hack a theme, you should make a backup copy of the theme directory. now, doubleclick on WORDTHEME-5

Kid: …i dont see it

Mom: okay single click
what’s your URL?

Kid: …./domains/SuperCoolSite.com

Mom: notice how it’s not the one I told you.
you need to go deeper -look at the original url

Kid: you said to go to domains, SuperCoolSite

Mom: …/domains/SuperCoolSite.com/wp-content/themes

Kid: im there

Mom: Idjutness, thy name is daughter

Kid: but before, you said to go to domains/SuperCoolSite!

Mom: dearie, thou needeth to browseth to the themeth directoryeth

Kid: okay, im just going to click on the WORDTHEME-5 button

Mom: ams yous theres?

Kid: yes, i ams

Mom: scrolldown untill you see sidebar.php

Kid: do i click it?

Mom: copy it a file named sidebar.sav  .  Always make backups of files before you change them!
figure out how to do that.

Kid: ummmm…. okay… im trying.

Mom: copied it?

Kid: yes

Mom: great! now open another browser window and go to your blog.  You should always have two windows open when changing your theme so you don’t have to switch around.

Kid: okay
edit theme?

Mom: click ‘edit’ on your sidebar.php

Kid: okay
i just finished my cheescake, if i get food poisoning, im blaming you

Mom: see those


Kid: um…. no?

Mom: did you click on edit on sidebar.php

:3 they say "Feed On" and "Latest Posts" and

Mom: Lets say you want another thingee on your sidebar under Feed On. with me so far?

Kid: yeah

Mom: The following is important.
I need coffee.
but besides that….

Kid: i need Mc Donakds

Mom: to add something, you need to have

balance.  Every
  • needs a

  •     to close it.

    Kid: like algebra?

    Mom: no, more like nested loops.

    Kid: oh

    Mom: So!


    Feed on

  • Paste it right above that last

  • ,

  • save the file, then reload your blog.

    Kid: is something supposed to happen?

    Mom: it did. look closely at your reloaded blog
    you’ll see you have two Feed On

    Kid: oh yeah

    Mom: see, you have made your first edit!

    Kid: ….yay?

    Mom: this calls for coffee to celebrate.


    Mom: Now, go back to sidebar.php and change the secondFeed on to "Hello"


    Kid: oooh
    i got it
    go me!
    it’s mah birthday, i’m a ninja, it’s mah birthday

    Mom: hee hee
    Now, do the following:
    the second

  • Posts RSS

  • Comments RSS
  • with 

    Don’t you?

    Kid: oh yeah!

    Mom: But wait!


    Mom: Why isn’t there a cute little arrow next to it?

    Kid: because we took away the script that put it there

    Mom: Nope…because the cute little arrow shows up only for list items.

    Kid:  Oh.

    Mom:  So put a

  • before the Well, don’t you?
    and tack on a
  • after it
    then reload

    Kid:  Oh!  So

  • stands for list.

    Mom: yep, list item

    Kid: OMG YAY

    Mom: tell me when you’re done….

    Kid: im done

    Mom: see cute little arrow now?

    Kid: yes
    it’s arrow-y

    Mom: now click on the /domains/SuperCoolSite.com/wp-content/themes/WORDTHEME-5 at the bottom on the page for a sec
    and open the file style.css

    Kid: okay

    Mom: copy that whole file to a notepad file on your computer and then go back to sidebar.php

    Kid: okay …

    Mom: hang on…
    look at this file
    just click on it
    see the cute little arrow?

    Kid: yeah
    its a bullet point

    Mom: in your style.css, search for
    find it?

    Kid: in my style.css?

    Mom: in the notepad page you just pasted

    Kid: yeah
    i cant find it

    Mom: search for it, it’s there
    in notepad,do Find| bullet.jpg

    Kid: …oh

    Mom: see it?

    Kid: yes

    Mom: okay! Look a bit above you’ll see
    #main .sidecol li li

    Kid: yeah

    Mom: this section tells your blog how to display items in the sidebar. ie, list-style-image
    that’s how you change the defaults.

    Kid: okay

    Mom: www.SuperCoolSite.com/wp-content/themes/WORDTHEME-5/img/bullets.gif is another list item for a different section of your blog.
    can you tell me where they would appear?
    Pouring coffee, back in a minute

    Kid: wait, so the bullets in style.css are different from the bullets on www.SuperCoolSite.com/wp-content/themes/WORDTHEME-5/img/bullets.gi?

    Mom: no, they’re both used but in different areas on your blog.
    where is the bullets.gif used?
    you tell me.

    Kid: well, there’s the sidebar

    Mom: look in your style.css
    or the notepadthingee. 🙂

    Kid: in my notepadthingee, that’s the only place where bullet.jpg comes up

    Mom: Idjut wonderfulness, i didn’t say bullet.jpg
    i said bullets.gif

    Kid: …that doesn’t appear at all

    Mom: search UP
    Edit | Find | bullets.gif

    Kid: right
    i found it

    Mom: okay, what’s the label above it that starts with #

    Kid: just a sec, sneezing

    Mom: Don’t implode.

    Kid: I already told you

    Mom: no you didn’t
    you found where it is
    you didn’t TELL ME what it is.
    what’s above it that starts wtih #?

    Kid: #content ul li

    Mom: YES! And that means, any content (ie post) you make that has a list will use that button instead of the one you see on the sidebar.

    Kid: no, before i meant i already implode

    Mom: this is how people can get little neat changes in their blogs in different sections.
    you set up the section via CSS and then wrap the text with it (well, wordpress does the wrapping….)
    Ready to get back to into your sidebar.php?

    Kid: sure

    Mom: go back to sidebar.php
    tell me when yo’ure there

    Kid: i’m there

    Mom: Dark chocolate in the coffee isn’t half as good as English Toffee, btw.

    Kid: that’s very nice

    Mom: Okay, so now you know why you have that cute little arrow in front of

    Well, don’t you

    So! what YOU need to do now is
    search online for
    wordpress feedburner email plugin

    Kid: www.google.com/search?q=wordpress+feedburner+email+plugin

    Mom: search for a plugin that lets you add an email form for me to sign up to your site via feedburner

    Kid: …english? 
    i heard that sigh

    Mom: You know, you should really do better grammar. anywhos, you’re familiar with plugins, right?

    Kid: kind of

    Mom: the thingees you activated…

    Kid: yes

    Mom: you want to add a
    Subscribe via email
    with a text field.

    Kid: okay

    Mom: so you’re looking for that to see if anyone built it. But! Can you think of another way to find the answer?

    Kid: ask you?

    Mom: ummmm gno

    Kid: but it works

    Mom: Do math (ie logical thinking). What are you trying to achieve?

    Kid: the finding of a plugin that let’s viewers to subscribe via email, with the cute widdle text field

    Mom: or in other words, letting people subscribe to your feed via email. Right?

    Kid: no duh

    Mom: what’s the name of the service yo’ure currently using?

    Kid: gmail or actually, gtalk

    Mom: ahem.
    Well golly mom, I think it’s called Feedburner, right?

    Kid: yeah what she said

    Mom: Log onto your feedburner account and tell me when you’re there.

    Kid: okay
    im at the home page

    Mom: did you sign in?

    Kid: yes
    they remembered me

    Mom: upper right hand side – see that ‘Help’?

    Kid: dont make me click it

    Mom: Heehee!
    Click in. On what do you think you should search?

    Kid: email siubscription?

    Mom: try that and tell me if it meets your needs
    (Mom said, chuckling evilly because Mom knows you’re going to go batty in about 3 minutes)

    Kid: ummm… it came up with a lot of things that aren’t plugins

    Mom: yep. think it could still be useful?

    Kid: ….yes?

    Mom: See, when you’re hacking your site, you have to keep a completely open mind. Sometimes you’ll use a plugin,sometimes you’ll find you just have to (insert dramatic music HERE)….
    copy and paste some code in your sidebar.php

    Kid: alrighty

    Mom: Do you see the link for FeedBurner Help Center – FeedBurner Email Overview and FAQ

    Kid: yeah, its at the top

    Mom: Click on it.
    What’s the page you end up at?
    I’m sorry
    At what page do you end up?

    Kid: www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?answer=81423

    Mom: you clicked on the wrong link.

    Kid: …oh

    Mom: Look again. FeedBurner Help Center – FeedBurner Email Overview and FAQ

    Kid: OOOOH now i see it

    Mom: The light dawns

    Kid: its an FAQ thingy

    Mom: now where do you end?

    Kid: www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?answer=78982

    Mom: Yes! She CAN follow directions!

    Kid: and the light dawned about 11 hours ago at around 6, i’d say

    Mom: We’re talking valedictorian here

    Kid: what does that mean?

    Mom: Read that page and tell me what you should do next.
    dont make me have to die an agonizing death because you don’t know the word ‘valedictorian’

    Kid: …i dont
    and i install Feedburner Email?

    Mom: that might be a wise choice….
    did you see:

    From within the Publicize tab of the application, publishers activate the service with a simple click, then paste code into their blogging template or website. See what this looks like on a blog or built right into your BrowserFriendly page. A daily digest containing new content from the feeds is delivered to subscribers who have opted in to receive this content. View sample email.

    Kid: yea

    Mom: click on the link See what this looks like on a blog

    Kid: oooh

    Mom: Master Keet is eyeing my thumb.

    Kid: he wants to chomp on it.

    Mom: Is that the thingee for which you are searching?

    Kid: yes it is

    Mom: no, he just wants to peel away the skin on my poor fingernail

    Kid: lol

    Bit me again

    Kid: i laugh in your general direction

    Mom: Hee hee!
    So what do you think your next step is?

    Kid: ask you what to do next?

    Mom: Pretend Mom is currently comatose from telling Sensei Matt and Sensei Ryan and Sensei Casy and….to ‘Bring it on!’

    Kid: or go to the site and copy the code

    Mom: copy what code?

    Kid: ….nevermind

    Mom: That ‘nevermind’ had better be because you found it.
    Open a new browser to your feedburner account.

    Kid: okay

    Mom: Clickee on your feedy

    Kid: …what?

    Mom: Click on your feed name.

    Kid: okay

    Mom: I cannot believe I’m still awake….

    Kid: i found it

    Mom: Anywhos, the FAQ page tells you on what page you’ll find the Email thingee to activate.
    What tab is it?

    Kid: publiciae publicize

    Mom: Neat! Do that now.

    Kid: okay
    and then i click on email subscriptions

    Mom: Do you see something so shrouded in mystery that oh, you found it.

    Kid: lol

    Mom: Click on it and tell me…
    which code do you use?

    Kid: there’s no code
    not on the page i see

    Mom: Whats your URL?

    Kid: www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailsyndication?divToShow=subscriptionMgmt&id=XXXXXXXXXXX

    Mom: The good news is you’re on the right page.

    Kid: bad news?

    Mom: The bad news is your eyes are obviously closed.

    Kid: i was born blind
    im a mouse


    Copy and paste the following code into any web page. Your subscription form will be automatically inserted each time the page is loaded. From there, readers can subscribe to receive daily email with your newest content.

    Kid: its not on there

    Mom: You DO know I will just HAVE to make a blog posting out of this conversation.
    It’s not there.

    Kid: OOOOOOH
    i have to click on activate
    i so knew that

    Mom: Mom always has a method to her madness.

    Kid: so i copy and paste that into my sidebar.php?

    Mom: That might be a wise choice…..
    Here’s what you do first.
    First, copy/paste it to a new notepad file

    Kid: okay

    Mom: so you don’t have to bounce between browser and browser and have a backup copy
    do that yet?

    Kid: yes

    Mom: go back to sidebar.php

    Kid: im there

    Mom: Where do you think you should paste the code? Hint – you’ll be overwriting something.

    Kid: where the i like cheese thingy is?

    Mom: Be specific And try it. 🙂

    Kid: omg yay i dids it

    Mom: hang on, your brother is crying, must comfort.
    Did it work?

    Kid: yes i am happy

    Mom: I’ll subscribe and see what happens.
    and voila, you have just hacked your first wordpress theme to make it the way YOU want.

    Kid: awesome

    Mom: That’s me kid.

    Kid: it’s in the right category, though, right? it belongs under Feed On?

    Mom: It belongs wherever you want to put it. You can redesign your whole layout any way you want

    Kid: but it makes sense if its under feed on, right?

    Mom: Sure! But I’d probably change to
    Enter your email address:
    to something more spiffy

    Kid: okay
    ill do that


    Don’t miss an update! Subscribe below!

    or something like that.
    Now, go to your plugin list and activate Admin Theme Preview
    If you don’t want to do live hacking, you can make a backup copy of your theme and use the Admin Theme preview to check out how new code displays

    Kid: activated

    Mom: Okay, go to designs
    See the link Theme Preview?

    Kid: yeeeeeees

    Mom: Activate the first WORDPRESS-5 you see
    (methinks that’s the SAVE

    Kid: yeah its the old one

    Mom: You can now hack the sidebar.php in that one and test to your heart’s content without messing up what everyone else sees.

    Kid: cooooooool

    Mom: 🙂 This means you can upload plugins, try new designs…
    and remember, you need to sign up for the eBay affiliate program so you can start monetizing.

    Kid: awesometastictastical

    Mom: That is how the majority of the world describes your mom.

    Kid: very funny

    Mom: The truth often is.


    And that was our conversation yesterday.  I checked her site today and indeed, she added more tweakies to her sidebar and tried out other plugins as well.

    Remember!  This is a middle-school kid who doesn’t do any programming. 

    But because she gives herself permission to tackle anything new….she was able to approach the above with no fear at all and be successful to boot.

    You can do the same thing!  Just make a backup copy and a testing copy of your WordPress theme, use Admin Preview to start viewing your testing copy, and hack away.  You’ll be able to view the changes online while the rest of the world still sees your current theme!

    Once you’re satisifed with your new layout, you can then activate your new theme and enjoy.

    Ain’t life grand?



    #BEGIN highlights of this blog writing post:

    Beginners blogging tips: Don’t be afraid to learn how to change your theme code.  Always make certain you have a backup so you can restore.

    Intermediate and/or Advanced blogging tips: You can add eBay or Amazon.com affiliate code to your sidebars very easily by the above.

    #END highlights of this blog writing post

    Like this post? Please feel free to Digg It – I very much appreciate your time!


    ps – speaking about wordpress:


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