WordPress is used not only as a vehicle for transferring many words but also as the delivery system for all kinds of other content. Blogging no longer operates within the confines of a text-based medium and many people are hard at work trying to make the inclusion of other mediums as simple as possible. Even if you’ve primarily thought of your WordPress blog as text oriented the ease and ability of some of the plugins highlighted here may make you reconsider that. We’ll look at a handful that do wonderful things with images, video, and other types of content. These are great for taking your blog in an entirely new direction or just for experimenting with new ideas. Continue reading
Once you’ve got the hang of using the WordPress administrator dashboard for doing most tasks you’re going to change or expand that functionality. There are an astonishing number of plugins available that can take care of much of the dirty work of administering your site directly from the same interface you already use. We’ll take a look at some plugins that extend the functionality of the administration panel in WordPress to save you some work and simplify some of your responsibilities. Keeping administrative stuff in hand is one of the better ways to make sure that you have enough time to keep creative stuff flowing out of it. Continue reading
One of the more rewarding parts about blogging is when people spend the time to leave comments. This is made more flattering when those comments are well thought out and attributable to a person within the blogging community known for their knowledge or contributions to a particular area of expertise. The focus of this one is on a few ways to highlight commenting and make it worth while for your visitors to leave comments. Because many bloggers take measures to keep spam comments out that place some onus on people leaving comments to jump through some hoops before they’re able to successfully post a comment we’ll take a look at a few ways to make leaving a comment worth the time and effort. Here are some plugins that can assist you in that effort.
1. Blog Follow. This plugin will track the URL that commenters leave in the comment and show an excerpt from their source blog. This works well for both parties involved because it gives those perusing your comments the opportunity to preview other blogs and provides more incentive to pay them a visit. The plugin imbeds the excerpt below the text of the comment so it doesn’t depend on the reader to mouseover a link or anything like that. This is a great step in the direction of blog cross pollination and a good way to forge a friendship with a commenter who would otherwise leave the comment and forget about it.
2. DoFollow. This plugin overrides the “rel=”nofollow” attribute that WordPress will add to links in comments. The intent here was to protect against spam commmenters being able to use URLs included in comments to gain credibility in the eyes of a search engine robot. If you’re using spam protection (and you should be) or moderating comments then this automatic inclusion can hinder the submission of comments. Using this will also build links, in the world of search engines, between the owners of blogs that leave comments and your site so it is worthy of your consideration.
3. TinyMCEComments. This plugins provides the same rich editing tools for creating comments that is available to you when creating a post in the WP Write panel. If you want to encourage people to leave comments what better way then to give them a real environment for crafting them?
4. Edit Comments XT. This one is also a real redeemer for folks that post comments. It allows them a 30 minute window to correct any errors or add more text to comments they’ve already submitted. It does require the editing of WordPress files to implement but the fast/sloppy typists who leave comments will be grateful when they can correct spelling errors or include the essential point of their comment forgotten in haste.
5. Get Recent Comments. If you’re getting comments then why not display them prominently? This plugin allows the display of recent comments in the sidebar and is configurable to limit the number displayed. Give credit where it is due!
These are a few that should get you started. Don’t forget though that the best way to get people to leave comments is to post good content regularly and to leave thoughtful comments on other blogs. Nothing will prompt readers to click through the link next to your name like good information added to the post they were reading elsewhere.
Letting the world know about your blog is one of the trickier aspects of starting a new blog or getting people notice one that you’ve been working on. Google is the most obvious target for these efforts as it dominates the search market and is the default search engine for popular browsers like Firefox. Working around the rules that keep Google and other search engines relevant is arcane at best and at worst will result in your sites being demoted in relevance or delisted entirely. There are many theorists and companies that indulge in this sort of speculation and some are more successful than others at nudging search results in the ways they desire them to.
The general rule is that the better content your site contains then the more highly ranked in search results it will become. The tricky part is how to relay that information to the search engine crawlers and robots without getting yourself into hot water during the undertaking. How does one accomplish this effectively without risking negative repercussions? This is where WordPress plugins again become indispensable as many are set up to safely optimize your ranking without bending or breaking rules to try to cheat the structure entirely.
Here are a few examples of plugins you can confidently use for that pursuit:
1. All In One SEO Pack. This plugin does a huge amount of work in making your blog more search engine friendly. One of its best features is the ability to create META tags in all of your posts, even the ones made before the plugin was installed. You can also manually toggle the keywords for each post or page or create a list from the content of your categories. Overall this plugin gives you a very high degree of control over how each post or page is presented to a potential search engine spider without offering risky options and even giving users the opportunity to remove duplicate content before the site is indexed. This plugin would be the first to install or the only if you’re looking for an all inclusive solution that adequately handles nearly all of your SEO needs.
2. Headspace2. Headspace2 also deals with tagging and a myriad of other SEO tasks but it has some extras that make it worth investigating. One of its most powerful features is its ability to make per page/post changes like enabling otherwise disabled plugins on a per post basis. It can also theme specific pages with very little effort on the admin side. Headspace2 can also handle things like nested keywords and cleaning up affiliate links.
3. SEO Slugs. This plugin does a simple job but one that is pretty vital to SEO work: it removes common words like conjunctions from post slugs to make them more search engine friendly. It can make a post that initially looks like: a-search-engine-is-an-indispensable-friend into search-engine-is-indispensable-friend. While it may appear as line trash to the human eye, spiders unaware of the subtleties of English grammar and tense will eat these titles up.
4. Google XML Sitemaps Generator. This fella will generate a map of all of the pages on your WP site in a manner that allows more efficient crawling by not only Google but other engines that adopted the XML sitemap protocol including Yahoo! and Ask.com. This is a great idea because it utilizes a protocol approved by the big guns instead of trickery.
5. AskApache Search Engine Verify. This plugin allows the creation of verification codes from both Yahoo! and Google to enhance the validity of your site and to assist in correcting past wrongdoings if you’ve recently purchased a domain that may have gotten in trouble with either engine prior to your ownership. This becomes more important when you’re purchasing domains with the intent to have them appear more relevant to the big boys: it is likely that someone had the same idea and possibly gave your new home a criminal record. You lose nothing either way and have a lot to gain by adding this one to your site.
Spam is a problem that plagues any resource on the Internet that allows any kind of user input. The unscrupulous denizens of the Web are constantly on the look out for more ways to include profitable URLs in accessible locations on the Net and as the awareness and popularity of blogging increases so does the allure of utilizing it for profit. In the blogging universe, this has largely meant comment spam. Comment spam is usually attached to older entries (in hope of escaping the notice of admins) and unrelated to the content of the entries to which they are attached. It’s annoying and a problem that will likely never end. Luckily there are more than a few ways to fend off the would-be exploiters in ways that will save you time and energy better spent adding content to your blog rather than weeding out the rotten apples. Here are five WordPress plugins that can help in this process:
1. Akismet. Akismet would be popular even if it wasn’t incredibly effective because Matt Mullenweg the head honcho of WP development is its creator. Luckily, it is as good as its reputation at dealing with comment spam. It works by comparing comments to a huge database of information about spammers already recorded and taking action against those comments when appropriate. Usually suspect comments are quarantined for a period of 15 days. What makes this tool especially valuable is that it is adaptive to prevent the poisoning of the database with false positives. If Akismet marks a legitimate comment as spam then not only can you transfer it out of the spam queue but it is also reported back to the database as a false positive. This one is included with every download of WordPress so all you really need to do to take advantage of it is to head over to WordPress.com to sign up for a user account, grab your API key, and activate the plugin in the WP dashboard.
2. Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam. This is a Captcha solution to the comment spam problem. Users are prompted to enter a word before they can successfully submit a comment. This is effective in combatting the use of automatic spam bots that try to leave as many comments as possible. This also allows you to granularly control how the plugin is doing its job by creating your own list of source words and selecting whether or not registered users will have to complete the Captcha in order to leave comments.
3. Bad Behavior. Bad Behavior takes a more radical approach to dealing with the problem of comment spam. It filters all requests to your site through a filter that looks at how people are accessing your website in addition to the comment they are trying to add. The advantage here is that BB can spare you the bandwidth costs associated with spam robots that tend to make numerous attempts simultaneously. This one is a little trickier to set up as it requires a little digging around to make sure everything is properly configured but there is no dearth of documentation to help you get Bad Behavior up and running.
5. DNS Anti Spam. DNS Anti Spam compares the IP address of the commenter against a huge blacklist of known spammers and checks to make sure that there are no links in comments that match that blacklist.
This list is a short list of recommendations so it is by no means definitive. One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with comment spam is that the battlefield is constantly changing as spammers adapt to try to work around the tools we use to minimize their harm. Many of the tools referenced above use a centralized database to track results so if given an option always enable your tools to report back when you find false positives or negatives. It’s a very simple and low impact way of giving something back to the community.