Niche Recommended WordPress Plugin Series: Blogs About Blogging

niche-recommended-wordpress-plugin-series-thumbnailBlogs about blogging are one of the more competitive niches in the blogging community. These are the ones run by bloggers who have a lot of experience and success in running websites, especially blogs.

Anyone considering on getting into this niche should have experience and success in another blog niche before trying. This post shares WordPress plugins that you should consider installing if you are in the blogs about blogging niche. If there are more than one plugins suggested, it doesn’t always mean that you should install all of them.

All of these plugins are 100% GPL. Most of them are free, but a few may be premium or may only work with certain premium themes.

Niche Recommended WordPress Plugin Series: Blogs About Blogging

Newsletter
MailChimp List Subscribe form

For MailChimp users, this plugin allows you to integrate a widget optin form into your website.

Aweber Integration

This is a plugin for Aweber users needing an optin widget.

Wysija Newsletters
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This does just about all you need for a newsletter. This may not be a good solution for larger websites as it may take up a lot of resources.

Some of the other newsletter and opt-in plugins, I’m not so happy about, especially with their support. You will need to try them out and see what works best for you.

RSS
FeedBurner FeedSmith

This allows you to hook your website up to Google Feedburner to optimize your RSS feed and give you stats too. The plugin is older, but works for most people. There are some cases that this plugin may not work.

Spam
Growmap anti-Spam Plugin (G.A.S.P)

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Growmap Anti-Sam plugin is suppose to help deter comment spam by placing an extra field in to ask commentators to verify that they are human. This tool also has other options for moderating comments.

Akismet – (This comes as a default plugin with WordPress installations)

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This is a plugin under the Automattic company developed to reduce comment spam. It requires signing up for an account and for some users, it may cost a little to use.

Security
WordFence Security
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Better WP Security

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Both of these plugins both identify and help harden WordPress security. I recommend trying out each one individually before selecting the one that suits your needs.

Site Speed
W3 Total Cache

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W3 Total Cache reduces load time to your site by offering to minify your css and reduce page load in browsers by producing a cached copy. This plugin can be integrated with a CDN (content delivery network) to add a level of security and reduce load time even more. If you have a dedicated server with memcache installed, you can take advantage of this plugin’s option to use that feature to store your site’s cached pages.

Comment Additions and Reader Love
CommentLuv
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Top Commentators
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Subscribe to Comments

This adds a field that users can checkmark to subscribe to comments in the case that they are interested in the blog post’s discussion and may want to come back to it at a later time.

Social Sharing
Digg Digg
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Digg Digg offers a few ways to place social share icons on your blog like manual display and floating display.

Flare
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Flare is much like Digg, but is a floating display. It has uniformed design to promote more design congruency with how the social share icons should look.

Floating Social Bar

The Floating Social Bar is a bar you can put on individual posts or pages that float from top to bottom when you scroll down your posts. It also is designed to be fast and offers the most important social share places that bloggers need.

Featured Content Sliders
Meta Slider
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Slidedeck 2 Lite for WordPress
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Both the Meta Slider and the Slidedeck 2 Lite offer several different choices to display a featured content slider.

Genesis Responsive Slider
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The Genesis Responsive Slider is highly recommended for people who use the StudioPress Genesis theme framework.

Forms
Gravity Forms

After a lot of problems with free plugins available for forms, I stopped using them and switched to Gravity Forms. It is user-friendly and has a lot of options. It is more than worth a $40 investment.

SEO

WordPress SEO
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WordPress SEO by Yoast is an in-depth plugin to help you optimize your site for the search engines. You can optimize it for your RSS feeds, and it will even put together a sitemap for you.

Google XML Sitemaps
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Google XML Sitemaps puts together a Sitemaps.org valid sitemap.

As a notation, you can have both WordPress SEO and Google XML Sitemaps installed, BUT you do need to make sure the WordPress SEO plugin’s settings are not checkmarked to allow the plugin to create a sitemap.

Redirection

If you have links coming up as not found, you might want to use the redirection plugin to manage all those links.

Reviews
Author hReview
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Author hReview adds a way to list a product and give it a star rating that an be picked up in the search engine listings. It also has a widget that you can feature the highest rated items you have reviewed.

Polls
WP-Polls

This plugin gives your WordPress installation a section to create and manage polls. You can display the polls and their results in widgets and in an archive page.

Polldaddy Polls & Ratings
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Polldaddy is a third party poll management system that is under the Automattic company… same company that WordPress is under. You create the poll, promote it on your site or elsewhere, and Polldaddy does the rest.

Podcast
Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting plugin
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PowerPress or Blubrry allows you to host and play audio on your website, especially for podcasts.

Video

While you can use shortcode within WordPress to embed audio and video within your own site, with video, you probably will want to use Youtube’s embed. This helps for SEO and the Youtube’s iframe embed is more responsive.

Photo Gallery

FooBox

The WordPress Media Library by default allows you to create a gallery. However, you may want to add effects to make the navigation much easier. The FooBox plugin allows a lightbox effect to your photos that also allow people to share them on the social networks. I know there are similar plugins, but this premium plugin is a great investment.

Monetization
Chitika
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LinkWorth Plugin

Text Link Ads Advertiser Plugin

Adsense Explosion
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Chitika, Linkworth, Text Link Ads, and Adsense are all third party advertising services. You can place their network ads in widgets, and posts, and earn money from each click of your visitors.

Ads by datafeedr.com

WP125

Both Ads by datafeedr.com and WP125 allow you to have in house advertising on your website in order to earn money.

I do want to note that I would mention Amazon, but there are several states in the United States that cannot use Amazon affiliates.

Do you use any of these plugins for your blog in the Blogs About Blogging niche? What other plugins do you recommend?

The Ultimate Checklist to Setting Up a New WordPress Blog

Blogging has evolved over the years to becoming a cultural thing. Each blog represents the voice of someone passionate (at least I hope that each blogger is passionate about what they do) about what they like to write about. However, it is no longer just open up a new blog and write away. There are tools that bloggers should use that can help their site. Here is an ultimate checklist to setting up a new WordPress Blog.

Please note that this checklist covers several areas for a blogging and not directed toward a singular blog niche. The areas of the checklist are separated into the following areas.

  • Focus of Site
  • Branding and Design of Site
  • Security
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media

Focus of Site

Without a focus, why bother having a website? Your readers would be confused on what to expect on your site. It is okay to have a blog that has random topics, but focus boils down to several areas.

  • What the site is about?
  • Who are you trying to reach? (your target audience)
  • What do you want to do with your website? (your goals for your site)

Each one of these areas are what you will always turn to as it is much like a business plan. You want people to do something on your site whether it be share, comment, subscribe, or buy something. Without establishing the answers to each of these questions, you cannot master how to convert your site’s visitors to the areas of your site that you truly want them to visit.

So, in a way, this is where you do your brainstorming.

For this area, please feel free to read more on site focus in the other articles on my site:

Branding and Design of Site

People connect and remember brands that have done something to get them to react. Aside from the obvious products or services that a brand may provide, with online blogs, it can be done through:

  • Site Name
  • Design / WordPress Theme

Your site name is of course going to say something about you or the services you provide. Whether you are focusing on optimizing it for search engines or in the case of this site, Blondish.net, you are wanting something memorable for people to associate you with, it all ties into branding. Once you have chosen a name that fits what you do, you need to be consistent with how your brand is portrayed. For example, if you provide internet technical services, obviously, you do not want people to confuse you with fashion.

The design of your website is definitely factor with branding. It IS a virtual business card. People should be able to come to your site and within the first minute, get a clear gist of what you are about. Design can be from the actual graphics of the site and logo, to even how your site is organized or viewable in multiple browsers including mobile devices.

In this section for branding and design, some of these articles may help you.

Security

Billions of people are online, and some of them are not very nice. Your blog can be at risk if you do not take serious action to prevent your site being hacked. The number one piece of advice when running a WordPress powered blog is to make sure it is up to date. After that, your plugins and theme need to be up to date. This is the first line of defense.

Of course, you definitely can harden you WordPress site’s security with hardening techniques or even security and anti-spam plugins. I normally suggest Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin and Akismet (which is provided by default with each WordPress installation) for handling comment spam. However, Akismet tends to produce false positives, which means that you may be missing comments from people who are really not spammers. There are other plugins out there, but I have found them to be a bit bulky and therefore, not really a viable option for larger blogs.

Hardening the security of your site usually involves placing code snippets in the htaccess file of your web hosting account that prevent spammers or other people from accessing specific areas of your WordPress blog or even the backend administration area.

Feel free to check out my article on hardening or securing your WordPress site.

Another issue with security involves with who you allow to use your website. If you have a multi-author website, you will need to pay attention to what roles you are giving them and furthermore, what they can do on your site through that role. Role Manager plugin does a great job of specifying in detail what a person can and cannot do.

Another great plugin is Login Lockdown. Please note that from the time this article has been published that the plugin has not been updated in 2 years, so use at your own risk

Search Engine Optimization

A lot of people use to believe search engine optimization was based on just backlinking and tweaking your content. It is more than that. It involves:

  • Keywords
  • Linking from within your site and outside of your site
  • You site’s design and organization
  • How much engagement and syndication is going on about your site.

When you planned your site, you have to know what keywords you want to focus on in order to make sure that it is listed correctly. For example, if you have a site that focuses on technology, you do not want it to be listed with fashion sites. Your articles should also reflect this by keeping true to your site’s focus.

You do want to take advantage of linking to other resources both within your site and from other websites to build links and even more so, your site’s authority. Don’t be afraid to refer to other articles or have a plugin like YARPP (Yet Another Related Post Plugin) to try to keep your readers interested in staying on your site, which decreases your website’s bounce rate.

As for themes, no matter if you use a free theme, a premium paid theme, one that you designer, or perhaps a theme designed by someone you hired, you definitely want it to be clean, loads decently, is flexible for you to work with, and is easy to use. Because of mobile use, it is definitely a good thing if you want to have a mobile version of your site, but please note, that if you are trying to go for valid coding, HTML5 blows that concept out of the water.

You can still check your site at the W3 Validator, but you will want to ignore the errors for code related to your mobile theme.

A really good WordPress plugin to assist with your site’s SEO is WordPress SEO by Yoast. You can customize your search engine listing down to the pages and posts on your site. The WordPress SEO plugin also has RSS feed enhancements, breadcrumb navigation options, and even can build your site’s XML sitemap. So in a way, it almost does it all.

However, if do not use an SEO plugin like WordPress SEO for Yoast, it is important to have a valid sitemap for your site. You can certainly try Google XML Sitemaps which is a nice alternative XML sitemaps plugin that even notifies search engines about your site.

Remember, even though WordPress comes SEO ready out of the box with its well written code and fewer database tables versus other content management systems, you still have to write unique and quality content. Plugins just add a little more help.

Here are some related articles to SEO:

Social Media

Social media has become a big dog in how blogs bite the dust or succeed. Google has even come to recognize that even having a site and relying on a computer to crawl your site, does not mean your site will become popular. The answer is that despite the fact that “Content is King”, our real people are the queen… or as I say – “While Content is King, Visitors are Queen.”

We all know the queen has a lot of power, even in chess, and marriage. :)

For your new WordPress blog, you should focus on the following arrows for your social media strategy:

  • Plugins
  • Where you want to have a presence
  • 3rd party resources

You can write all day, but really, you need to make it easy for people to share your blog’s articles. There are many social share plugins. I normally recommend Digg Digg or even Sociable, which add social share buttons on your site. Both give different ways you can display the icons on your site for the best impact for converting your visitors to sharing.

You need to tell people about your site, so obviously, just sitting at your computer looking at your site is not going to do anything. You need to go outside of your site and find people that are interested in what your site is about, and perhaps even other interests you have. You cannot be shy about it, but you certainly cannot just spam the crap out of people as soon as you introduce yourself.

There are millions of blogs, thousands of forums, and hundreds of social networking websites. Of course, you do want to have a presence with big players like Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter. However, there are also places that may be specific to your niche. That is where you need to be.

WordPress can do many things, but you do not want to overload your hosting account’s data resources. You might want to try using 3rd party resources for pinging your site, or automatically sharing posts across several networks. This saves you time and not having to install another plugin on your blog. One of the 3rd party resource sites I like to use for publishing my articles is Dlvr.it. Another resource I like is the Facebook App called RSS Grafitti that you can put your blog’s RSS feed in and allow posts to publish to your Facebook fan page OR your profile.

Of course, there plugins like Tweet Old Post and Twitter Tools that can be installed in WordPress to publish to Twitter. Tweet Old Post actually allows you to re-share articles to Twitter, so all those evergreen posts will not stay dusty.

Please note that you may want to install other type of plugins based on what functionalities you need for your website. You may need to even make a new plugin or hire someone to make it for you. WordPress can do it! :)

When you are starting off with a new blog, you do not need to overdo it. You are still learning the waters, trying to pump out content, and even trying to engage with people that you hope become regular readers that help syndicate your site.

What type of WordPress blog do you run? What plugins do you use for your site? Any other advice you might like to share with newbies that are setting up a new WordPress blog?

Before You Monetize Your Site…

In the whole set up of a website, you might consider what type of monetizing plan you want to try. There are quite a few options.

- Self-hosted banner advertising

- Banner advertising with a company like BuySellAds, Project Wonderful, and more.

- Text Ads wit Text Link Ads, Google Adwords, and even Adbrite.

Of course, there are more places. These are just a few examples.

But STOP! You need to have a site with content, and then have traffic. Without traffic, how can you make money?

A lot of people think that just having a website means people will automatically come. It is not as simple as quoted in the movie Field of Dreams – “If you build it, he will come.”

There is more work involved. You can place all the right keywords, but that might attract and make people stay, subscribe, and become a regular… even a customer. It important to create a reputable presence for your site. Connect with others in your niche and allow them to give feedback. Return comments or make your visitors feel welcomed.

Once your site picks up enough traffic, you can finally start experimenting on incorporating ads and such to make money. Not every program works. Some do better while others do not. However, even if you build a site, be prepared to do more work to build a sturdy traffic flow.

Have you monetized your site? What works for you? (There is a poll in the sidebar related to this article… please try it out.)

The Importance of Sitemaps

Sitemaps are important because they allow the search engines like Google and Yahoo! to index your entire site and leave it available for other internet users to find. A sitemap is defined:

A site map (or sitemap) is a representation of the architecture of a web site. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for web design, or a web page that lists the pages on a web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion.
From Wikipedia. Original definition by Peter Morville, Information Architecture on the World Wide Web, Feb 1998, pp:58

A sitemap allows search engines to crawl your site more efficiently and index fresh material from any website. If a webmaster has move or deleted material, the search engine would recognize and change the search engine results to reflect the website change. Although having a sitemap eliminates most of the work that a webmasters takes in submitting a website to search, it does not totally eradicate the effort.
Sitemaps accepted by search engines are general coded in XML format, not HTML. However, a webmaster may create a sitemap structure with HTML for their visitors. For WordPress users, this can be easily done with the installation of Dagon Design Sitemap Generator. (Of course there are plenty of other sitemap plugins too.) Currently, the Dagon Design Sitemap Generator plugin is not an accepted sitemap, however, there is a great plugin that Google recognizes, which is the Google XML Sitemaps plug-in. Once one or both of the plug-ins mentioned have been installed, it is best to go to Google Webmaster Tools to inform them where to find the sitemap.

Sitemaps are not another new fad as they have been around for years. It was not until 2006, that search engine moguls like Google, Yahoo!, and MSN got together to create the guidelines behind a proper sitemap. Since then, sitemaps have been used as a vital technique for search engine optimization. Why? Well, as said earlier in the article, a sitemap would tell the search engine how fresh the content of a page is on any website and post it so internet users can find information they need. Sitemaps would recognize new material and direct crawlers to the information for indexing.

Outside Related Links:

Do you have a sitemap for your site? Any other benefits you can think of when having a sitemap for your site?

Pingbacks And Trackbacks: Using Them Successfully

A lot of times when I go to my WordPress administrator panel, I look at the trackbacks. Sometimes it may be someone referenced a post in twitter, or another person’s blog.

According to Wikipedia,

A trackback is one of three types of linkbacks, methods for Web authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents.

Same can be said of pingbacks. Pingbacks are more of a request to alert sites that you linked to them. It is different at the trackback is not what you send like a pingback, but what you received- an acknowledgement of sorts. In pingbacks there is no content sent, but only an alert. For a better understanding, you can read about it in the Managing Comments section at the WordPress Codex.

This can be great SEO for you and other bloggers who bounce ideas back and forth over similar topics. While you could definitely use the person’s comment system, in blogging about the conversation and sharing your point while including a reference to the original source will allow your visitors to not just respond to you, but also possibly respond to another.

I find that a lot of times when I have written articles filled with opinion based on another’s article, that I often receive feedback. It is in no way an underhanded tactic. As said, it is a way to share the conversation with other people and encourage more interaction on a topic. This is one way to use trackbacks successfully.

However, it can also backfire and seem like an underhanded and obvious search engine optimization tactic if I were to just blab out a bunch of related subject links without tying them together with valuable thoughts. I would just have to make my site some type of robot that published random stories within a certain niche.

Although posting frequently can create more possible pingbacks, it could prove tiresome and also look to be a desperate SEO tactic. The point is to try to entice quality trackbacks. Those will be sites that have people who are looking to give more feedback on a particular subject if the original article only says so much.

Above all, make sure to give appropriate anchor links when credit original sources. Sometimes listing the article’s full name or specific keywords will do, but if those keywords are quite vague. For example, when I blog about Google webmaster tools, I put ‘Google’ in front, instead of just ‘webmaster tools’. Webmaster tools can be quite vague as there are plenty of sites – in fact millons listed in Google when searching for webmaster tools. Although the link it listed at the top, with ‘webmaster tools’ only the first 2 listings on the first page list what I am exactly looking for while the other lists more relevant links.

Do you like to use pingbacks and trackbacks? How do you use this linking method successfully? Got any pointers?

RSS Feed 101

What is the purpose of an RSS feed? That is one of many questions I get from people on a daily basis. I decided I would share. First, you have to understand what it is before I go onto explaining how you can use your RSS feed to your advantage.

According to Wikipedia, an RSS feed is:

RSS (most commonly translated as “Really Simple Syndication”) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.

The format is really simple (exactly part of its definition.) In fact, you can view my own rss feed here at Blondish.net and see for yourself. You will be able to subscribe to these feeds too. One way you can subscribe is to plug the feeds you into your Google Reader. You can simply click on the title of the feed on one side and it appears in a window for your to reading convenience.

However, here are a few things to help you with your blog when harnessing the power of RSS feeds:

  • You can use your social networking places and spread the news about your blog and ask those who like your blog to subscribe to your feed. The feed is something that your reader can choose to come back and not forget about after some time.
  • You can make money with your RSS feed. There are programs out there that will allow you to add text links or advertisements to your feed so you can make a little money.
  • You can hold subscription drives. RSS feeds are free to subscribe to. In fact, Chris Brogan holds them on occasion, and encourages others to hold them too. These subscription drives could pull in more readers who are curious about your content. You can also take this time to ask your audience on what they would like to see on your site so they may come back again and again.
  • You can encourage your readers to make comments on your blog through your feed too! This is a great way to keep your blog’s conversation rolling!

The great thing about the feeds are that all you have to do is blog and it will be published not just to your website, but your feed page too. It can drive traffic to your site on days you did not do much to promote your blog, and possibly bring back old viewers you have not seen in some time.

Do you have an RSS feed? If so, what do you do to harness its power? If not, have you ever considered putting one on your site?

Is It Really THAT Annoying to Moderate Comments on Blogs?

I have heard a lot on the verdict about anti-spam plugins for WordPress and even after trying a lot of different plugins, I still come to the conclusion – you will see spam get through. Some plugins less than others, but still… there is always a factor that there will be spammers. It does not matter if you put captcha, a math question, or even a check mark, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SPAM.

It is sad, but really, it keeps every blogger on their toes. Even with the best email spam blockers, spam DOES get through eventually.

Personally, I think it is annoying when spam comments on my blog comes in the hundreds. It is without a doubt that unfortunately Askimet for WordPress is not always doing a good job. I hate to say it, but I am not even sure if I can trust how much better paying for Askimet per month can help any blogger, even some of the top pro bloggers out there!

The problem is that there are people out there, just like everyday hackers devious and thinking on how they can reach you. Whether it is your email account, Instant messenger, social network account, or even your blog comments, they try it.

It could be different keywords, or even typing words a certain way. People still get Viagra and Cialis comments like crazy and it is because they are typed differently: spelled incorrectly, typed in l33t spee (upper case, lower case alternating letters), and even grouped with other keywords.

Bloggers literally have to make it part of their routine to block spammers in any sort of manner.

So far, I have heard that the GASP Plugin for WordPress is great for bloggers. Even though it is a plugin that requires your blog commenters to checkmark a box basically asking if they are a real person instead of a spammer, I have heard that a lot of bloggers have given feedback that their moderation queues have greatly reduced.

What is it about spam that is annoying to you? What kind of spam do you often moderate on your blog? What plugin or plugins do you use to try to reduce spam on your blog?

Deliver Your Posts To Twitter And Other Social Networks With Dlvr.it

Dlvr.it, allows you to connect your site’s RSS feed to social network sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

It also allows you to put in multiple feeds and if you manage several Twitter accounts, you can have multiple routes set up. Other options are replacing text, scheduling, filtering, and it even gives you some stats on how many times your links have been clicked. Pretty nifty, huh?

I think the site is fairly user friendly and just a great third party tool for bloggers. I had no problem adding feeds or taking advantage of the options for each feed I inserted.

FYI: For those who love to share the wealth of knowledge or like to give your trusted circle of blog friends a leg up, inserting their site’s RSS is great!

Another nice tidbit – as a mentioned above, you can replace text. For example, change blog to #blog or even blogging to #blogging. This will help boost your social network streams searchability, especially on Twitter.

Here is a video screencast on a intro walk through Dlvr.it. I will be following up with a more detailed screencast to help those who are not as Internet savvy.

By the way, with using Dlvr.it, those using WordPress, you can get rid of 1 more plugin – Twitter Tools. I hate to remove it, but with this service, but because of my belief in building a WordPress site with few plugins, this actually saves a little of your own site load.

Have you used Dlvr.it?