Five Essential Plug-ins Your Blog Must Have

The main reason people start blogging is because they want to spread a message to and connect with other people.  It might be that they want to share their latest passion for their new dog, a product they have bought or they just like sharing what they do online – for fun and to make money.  But the difference between a great blog and one that remains unread in the dust can be as simple as five little plug-ins that you absolutely should use when you first set up your blog.

All-in-One-SEO:  All –in-one-SEO is a free plug in that can be accessed through your Wordpress Admin Panel.  It provides you with the ability to include an excerpt of your post, a description of your post (that will show up on search engines, and an extra set of tags to help reinforce your post for relevant or targeted keywords.  This is absolutely vital if you want to get traffic quickly to your blog.

The All-in-one-SEO plug in ss really easy to use.  You simply install it from your WP Admin panel (click plug-ins, Search button and put “all-in-one-SEO” in the search box), activate the plug-in through your plug-in dashboard and then click on the New Post link in your dashboard sidebar.  You will see below the traditional editing panel, the extra options allowed by the plug in.  Now all you have to do is to remember to fill them in when you are creating new posts.

Google XML Sitemap:  The Google Sitemap is an easy to use free WP plug-in that you can search for and access as easily as you did the All-in-one-SEO plug in above.  Once you have activated it then you just leave it to work quietly behind the scenes increasing traffic to your website.  What it does is that every time you make a new post, update a post or add or modify a page, it creates a new sitemap for search engines that makes all of your content easily accessible by their bots.  It also pings the major search engines automatically with your new content every time it is added, increasing your traffic in the process.

Akismet:  Akismet is an anti-spam commenting plug in that helps stop your blog being infested with hundreds of spam comments every day.  You will find Akismet already installed with your WP installation – you just have to activate it and get it set up.  Akismet is not a free plug in so if you are trying to keep your costs down with your initial blog set up then you could use SI CAPTCHA anti-spam which is another free plug in you can install through your WP Admin panel.

Dean's FCKEditor - Not a lot of people know about this plug-in.  What it does is extends the usability of your Editor when you are creating your posts.  The standard post editor is quite limited in functionality but by adding this plug in to your blog, you can have the same functions (and more) that you would find in Microsoft Word.

Share and Follow - To maximize the traffic potential of your new blog you have to tap into the social media networks.  This plug in (found and installed just the same as the ones above) will create social media icons that you can have installed automatically at the beginning or end of your post.  It also creates the floating "Follow" icon that you can set to appear on the left or right hand side of the screen.  These buttons offer your readers a simple and immediate way of sharing your blog post with the networks they are aligned with including Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, reddit and a whole heap more.

In the next article we will look at a traffic blueprint that will help you move beyond the traffic that can be generated by the Google XML Sitemap, the All-in-one-SEO plug in and the Share and Follow gadget.

The Wordpress SEO Guide

The acronym SEO shaped label on price tag

Using Wordpress for your content management system is not only smart it’s recommended by most SEO Experts.  In order to rank well today in Google you need to have a blog and a powerful way to manage that content.  Wordpress is close to prefect out of the box but there are still things you need to do. If you are adding a new blog it is recommended to add the blog as a subfolder and not as a subdomain.  A subdomain is considered a new domain and will not carry the weight of your existing page.  Nor will you give your website the added bonus of links and content pages if you use a subdomain.

Subdomain: blog.domain.com

Subfolder: domain.com/blog/  (preferred method)

Tags & Categories

Once you have your blog installed and are ready to go you need to think about duplicate content and how you can prevent that.  The biggest problem with Wordpress is the categories and tags it allows you to create.

Tags

If you have a large website with thousands of pages of content most of the time tags will help improve your SEO.  This creates additional pages that have keywords as titles.  The problem is when you have a smaller blog and not enough articles it creates pages with almost identical content.  Duplicate content is bad for SEO and will actually hurt your ranking potential in Google.

Categories

The same thing that happens with tags also happens with category pages.  Category pages can be near identical to tag created pages and can harm your SEO efforts.

To help solve these issues I recommend to all my clients to use the All in One SEO Pack.  This is a powerful plugin that has many features with the most useful is the ability to “no-index” tags or categories.  It is highly (do it) recommended you install this plugin and set up your blog to not allow search engines to index your tag pages.  This feature alone will solve most of your on-site SEO issues with Wordpress.

Tip: When you categorize your blog post remember not to select too many categories for each blog post.  I always recommend one category.  If you start selecting several categories for each post then you run the risk of creating more duplicate content.  

Social Media

How is social media important to SEO of Wordpress?  In today’s Google algorithm it is estimated that 7-15% of the weight comes from social media signals.   This is why it’s important to help promote your blog post via social media websites.

Social Media Plugins

Before we tell you what websites work the best it’s important you install the right social sharing buttons so readers of your blog can easily share your content.  Again, there are many out there but one of our favorites is Social Discussions

Off-Page Optimization

Your off-page optimization should consist of two main factors.  The first is getting as many shares on social media websites as you can.  Tweet your articles, post them on Facebook and hope your followers like the content and share it.  It helps to ask them to share it as well. Although Google says they aren’t currently using the data from Google+ I still recommend to start embracing it now.  There will come a time in the near future when they start using the data.

Depending on the content of the article you might consider submitting it to the following social sharing networks:

Reddit

BizSugar

Blokube

Business Exchange

Digg

What’s great about sharing on the websites is if the article gets popular it will draw in more social shares and even gain some links.  It’s not uncommon for a popular article to receive 15-200 natural links.

The next is manual link building.  If you are new to link building I wrote a long write-up about Google SEO which mainly covers link building.  This is the step where you contact bloggers and see if they might use your blog post as a citation in their blogs.  Another good strategy is to reach out to other bloggers within your niche and see if they need content written for their blogs.  Maintaining a blog is hard work and most bloggers welcome guest to write quality articles as it takes some workload off of them.

Benefits of a Bespoke Website over a Standard Wordpress Template

Custom Templates Example

Whether you are trying to promote your business, your cause or anything else, you will find that one thing that you absolutely need is a website. While many people consider that it is enough to have a presence on places like Facebook, there needs to be a place where people can get all of the information that they need about you right away. When you need a website, it is very tempting to pick up a free Wordpress template, but the truth is that it is always better to invest in a bespoke website, that is, one that is made especially for you.

Unique Look

Take a look at the other websites that are in your field. Once you start looking around, you’ll find that just about everyone is using the same, rather small set of Wordpress templates! Some hide it better than others, but when you get right down to it, there are more and more sites that are simply taking their template from Wordpress whole cloth.

Now that you have noticed it, you will also note that this creates a look where their sites all have the same appearance. When you are told that you need to stand out to get your business or cause of the ground, this is the last thing that you want!

Increased Functionality

If you are a unique cause or a unique business, chances are very good that you need some unique functionality.

For example, if you are an artist, you need to have a gallery setup for your work. You need to have a space where people can page through a number of images, and these images need to be set up clearly and simply. Wordpress does not offer this kind of functionality. Think about what you need your customers or interested parties to see.

A bespoke website gives you a great deal of freedom when it comes to design.  

Custom Looks

When you choose a bespoke website, you are essentially making sure that your website suits you.

“Bespoke” is a term that originally comes from tailoring; a bespoke suit is one that is cut to fit you personally.

A bespoke website works the same way. You will be working with a programmer who will help you figure out what you need and how you can get it. While it will take a great deal of planning and tailoring to get a site that completely suits you, the truth of the matter is that the result is worth it!

Instead of having to pound the Wordpress template into something that suits you, you will be able to get something that is tailored to your needs from the beginning.

Your website is essentially your home on the Internet, so make sure that it is presentable when people drop by. While plenty of people think that using a Wordpress template is good enough, a bespoke website will always be better for your needs.

Think of a bespoke website as a chance to present yourself to the world in a professional manner.

Publishing with Wordpress iPhone App

Wordpress for iOS iPhone and iPad Screenshot

Writing and blogging via the WordPress App for iPhone (iOS) and iPad has evolved tremendously.

Saying that the early versions of this app were "clunky" would be a nice way of putting it. I would argue that using the WordPress iPhone App to publish or author content was a nightmare.

I, like many urban lifestylers, spend a good part of my day on some form of public transportation.  That used to be a time that I would spend writing blog content on my old Blackberry.  I would at least have time to get a good post started or nearly completed.  Often, I could have an entire post done by the time I got to work.

The dark ages.

At the time, I was using a post-by-email plugin that allowed me to email posts to a secret email account.  Any email sent to that address would automatically be converted to a blog post.

The email subject line became the post subject line, etc.

It worked well enough but the formatting was always a little wonky.  There was no way to insert links or other basic HTML markup.  At the time, there was no such thing as a Blackberry with a camera in it.  That meant no embedded photos in my mobile posts either.

Eventually, Wordpress made post-by-email part of the core platform.  During that change over, formatting continued to get even more difficult to manage.  Also, if you changed devices from one phone to whatever was next, there was a good chance that there would be some extra markup in the email that would cause formatting to be a disaster.

Fast forward a few years to the debut of the iPhone.  I immediately could not wait.  Once I saw the potential of apps on this device, I knew that the Wordpress community would build a Wordpress CMS App for iPhone.

And they did.

Sadly, it sucked.

The first few times I attempted to use the iOS app, I was very disappointed.  Publishing, including links, adding images, tags, content categories, etc. were all difficult to manage or completely impossible.  

Time to suck less.

Fastforward one more time to today, and I think they've finally figured it out.  I hope that the project continues to evolve (there's lots of work left to do).

Once I had honed my iPhone typing skills, I was exited to at least us my commute time to write the plain text copy.  I suppose I could have used any other notepad app or even an email to accomplish the same thing. But there was something about the promise of being able to do it from right within the Wordpress "platform" that was appealing, if only in concept.

Until more recently, the app did not perform well if there was not a strong 3G or WiFi connection.  First it seemed that the app wanted to sync all of my old posts down to the handheld client.  That took forever.

The app also failed me a few times when I went to save a post without a good wireless signal.  The app did not really know what to do if it wasnt able to communicate with the cloud.  The app crashed a few times on me, and my post was gone.

Today, pretty much all of my major concerns have been solved.  The app works great if you are in some sort of "offline" mode.  The post content will simply save locally until it can be pushed up to your server.  Now I can continue to work while on the train, underground.

There's also basic HTML formatting available including Bold, Italics, etc.

The most convenient factor is the overhauled photo publishing feature.  You can finally take a raw iPhone image and embed it appropriately into your content right from your phone.  The app will upload the photo to the cloud where it will get crunched and resized.

Complete post via iPhone app.

This entire post was written on the Wordpress App for iPhone.

I find myself publishing directly from the app about half the time.  The other half, I end up saving as a draft and simply giving it a little final polish later on, once I am able to get in front of my laptop.

However, by then, the hard part is done.  Just do some last edits, maybe add a couple of links, and hit publish.

If you've got a 20+ minute public transit commute, you have no excuse (nor do I) for not having enough time in your day to write your blog.

Facebook Creates Official Plugin for Wordpress

Facebook and the Wordpress development community have teamed up to build a more integrated Facebook sharing plugin. An official Facebook plugin for Wordpress. The plugin is available at Wordpress.org for free.

Wordpress is the largest digital publishing platform powering over 16% of the sites on the Internet.  Stop and think about that for a second.  A single platform powers over 16% of the sites on the entire Internet.  That's pretty amazing.  As you've read here before, we are big Wordpress fans.

Official Facebook for Wordpress plugin

The plugin allows Wordpress authors to tag their friends on Facebook from within the article that they are writing.  That tag shares the story snippet onto your friend's wall.

You can also tag pages (fan pages) from within the post, or update your own status.

Make your WordPress site social in a couple of clicks, powered by Facebook.

This kind of deeper Wordpress integration makes sharing authored content onto Facebook that much easier.  No more having to copy/paste the link to your latest update and ping it out to everyone manually.  You can all your Facebook promotion and post syndication from right inside the Wordpress platform.  To use it is just as easy as the tagging feature in the Wordpress core.

The setup is a little tricky.  The plugin requires some extra steps and signups to pass the security muster of Facebook.  Basically, you have to create a Facebook "application" in order for seamless system interplay.  The whole process is fairly painless as long as you follow all the setup instructions.

The new plugin also comes with some extra Widgets for your sidebars.  Very easy to drag and drop into the site.