*Expert Tip* – Plugin and Supercharge Your Blog
One of the reasons I recommend WordPress, is that it allows easy customization through themes and plugins. I have found that a few carefully chosen plugins have literally SUPERCHARGED my blog.
In this subscribers-only “Expert Tips” post, I will give an overview of the plugins I am currently using in my own blogs, explain how they work, and tell you how to install them on your own blog to give it power and flexibility you won’t believe. Keep in mind that although this post is specific to wordpress, most blogging software offers the use of some plugins, and while you may be using another blogging tool, you can take the suggestions in this post, and use them as a jumping-off point to search for similar plugins for your blog. Also, don’t feel constrained to using the plugins I have suggested. There are usually some great competing plugins for each of the ones I am using. For example, visit the plugin page at wordpress.org, wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ and search for plugins to allow you to add a Digg link to your posts. Just enter “Digg” in the search box. You will be amazed at how many plugins allow you to do this one thing. The same is true for almost all of my plugins.
While all of these plugins are available for free download at wordpress.org/extend/plugins/, wherever possible, in this post, I will link to the homepage for the plugin or designer. To install them, download them from either the WordPress.org plugins page, or the designer’s page, then unzip them and copy them into your wp-content/plugins file using an FTP program, or your webhost’s control panel, file management software. Once you have placed the plugin in your wp-content/plugins folder, log in to your WordPress dashboard, and click the plugins button at the top right of the page. From there, follow the instructions on the page to activate and set up the plugin.
Akismet is, without a doubt, my favorite WordPress plugin. like most great tools, It does one thing and does it very well. Akismet is a comment spam filter.
If you have ever had to deal with comment spam, you know that it can quickly eat up your time, frustrate you, and cause you to lose faith in humanity. Before I found Akismet, I used to have to moderate approximately 200 spam comments a week. After a few times, spending 10 minutes deleting spam comments, and finding that I couldn’t even weed the spam comments out of my blog, without losing the good ones as well, I turned off the comments on my blog. I hated to lose the power of allowing comments on my blog, but I couldn’t stand the trouble that they brought.
Akismet has fixed this problem, for good. Now, I allow comments on all of my blogs, and never have to deal with comment spam. Akismet is such a great plugin, it is now included with every installation of WordPress. I encourage you to activate it immediately when you install wordress.
One of the most powerful SEO tools I have found, is Google Sitemaps. Sitemaps are XML or HTML documents that tell search engines what, and how many pages are on a website. They also tell search engines when these pages were created, and how often they are edited, and how to find them. The idea behind Sitemaps is, “why wait for search engine spiders to find pages on your site, when you can just tell them where they are”. I have found Sitemaps to be a very quick way to get ranked on Google, and like I have said before, If you can get found on Google, you can get found anywhere.
You can visit Google’s Sitemaps page here. While you are there, take a look at the rest of Google’s Webmaster tools. They are very powerful.
With small sites, it is possible to build XML and HTML sitemaps by hand. But if you have more than a few pages, or if you update your site often, it gets VERY time consuming to keep your sitemap up to date. If you regularly post to your blog, say weekly, it is nearly impossible!
This is where Google XML Sitemaps comes in. This plugin will automatically update your XML sitemap every time you update your site, then it will automatically notify Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask.com about the changes. Very Handy!
Social Bookmarking sites allow users to submit links to sites, pages, videos, blog posts, or other content that they like, and then, allow other users to vote on the the submitted links. Links with more votes move further up the list. While this is a somewhat obscure concept, it is simple to understand the effect of these sites. Digg is the most popular social bookmarking site, right now. If you have a blog post that gets voted to the top of Digg, you will get literally thousands, and maybe tens of thousands of hits to your site. It is not uncommon for sites to be knocked offline, due to high traffic, when they hit the front page of Digg.
In order to benefit from the HUGE amount of traffic that these sites provide, you have to actually get people to link to you (Digg you). If you have a really great site or post, they might do this manually, but it is much easier to get people to Digg you, if give them an easy way to do it, then encourage them. This is what the
“I Love Social Bookmarking” plugin does. It places a link at the bottom of every blog post that allows people to Digg that post, or submit it to any of several other social bookmarking sites, in a few easy steps. To see it in action, Purple heart and “Social Bookmarking (Digg This)” link at the bottom of this post, then DIGG THIS POST. I’d do it for you!
SEO Friendly Images automatically sets the proper ALT and TITLE attributes for images you put on your blog, and if you haven’t added these tags, it adds them according to criteria you set. SEO Friendly Images also validates the xHTML in the post, to W3C standards. That’s a lot of technical gibberish to say that this plugin cleans up your posts and tags images, so they are easily indexed by search engines.
Tell-a-Friend adds a button to the end of every blog post, that allows readers to email the post to a friend, or group of friends. To see this plugin in action, click the “SHARE THIS POST” button at the bottom of this post. In marketing, “calls to action” are very important. While you might expect that your readers, clients, or customers should know exactly what you want them to do, you can be reasonably assured that you will have a much better response, if you just ask them to do something specific. That’s what this plugin does. It asks your readers to spread the word about your great content.
I have found Google Analytics to be an irreplaceable tool, in that it allows me to very effectively, guage the effectiveness of certain aspects of my sites. It allows me to work to increase the “stickiness” of my site, by adding more of the features that my readers like, and it allows me to track the effectiveness of different advertising campaigns, because I can see which landing pages people are entering through, then what they are doing once they are on my site.
For anyone who is serious about conducting business on the web, I highly recommend a good statistics program, and Google Analytics is by far the best that I have used.
WordPress Automatic Upgrade does just what it’s name implies. It automatically upgrades your wordpress installation to the newest version. This is a great time saver for me, because I have multiple WordPress blogs that I manage, and manually upgrading all of them would be a real hassle.
yaCAPTCHA adds a CAPTCHA field to the end of forms. CAPTCHA is the technology that creates distorted text images, to ensure that the person filling out a form is an actual person. In concert with Akismet, yaCAPTCHA insures that the only comments I get on my blog, are from real people. I also use CAPTCHA technology on my subscription form. To see this plugin in action, comment on any post on this blog.