Being online, there are a number of ways that you can use software to make your blog more efficient. The overall look of your site, how quickly it loads, and the way you’ve set up your blog to interact with your readers all play a part in how rewarding your blog is for others and for yourself.
The Hybrid News Theme
I’ve gone through several themes to find one that I really like for this blog. In the beginning, I had a very standard WordPress them called constructor that was decent. It’s fairly simple to set up and allows the user quite a bit of flexibility. However, I was particularly interested in finding the them with a much more streamlined look for the placement of my widgets and I wanted to be able to highlight more of my content. Finally, I wanted an SEO friendly theme.
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The hybrid theme was one that I discovered while surfing blogs. You can generally see the theme that a blog uses down in the footer area. Hybrid is a framework with a number of child themes or designs. It’s a free premium theme that can be found at themehybrid.com.
The key points of the Hybrid News Theme, is that it is extremely customizable, SEO Friendly, and I like the organized look of the theme. It has a slider, which rotates through a number of featured posts. I very much like this feature, as I feel that it gives a good sampling of the content on the site. The front page of the site is also designed so that the categories are listed at the bottom, following the content, so that my readers can use that like an index to find articles on the subjects that they enjoy. These two items are very important to me, as I wanted my visitors to see a good sampling of my content right from the front page, so they will stay and read more of my content. This change to Hybrid News has really helped in my bounce rate as you can see from this screenshot of my bounce rate on the day that I changed my theme over to hybrid news.
The theme itself has 15 customizable widget areas, which is well more than I need, but gives me a ton of flexibility over where I place my widgets. Finally, the theme is designed to be SEO Friendly. The creator of the theme designed it so that it will fill in the most common meta data that search engines use. Overall, I’ve had several compliments about my site since I’ve changed over, and as you can see from the drop in bounce rate that it is an effective theme for keeping the readers interested in your blog.
The Great List of WordPress Plugins
I admit it, I’m addicted to plugins! Before I moved over to the WordPress platform, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. I love seeing what kinds of different things can be accomplished with plugins. And I am a firm believer in using available technology to make your life easier. There are plugins to help you moderate comments, view your blog’s stats, and even make your site more interactive. All of these have their own uses in helping you with your site. These are some of my favorite plugins that I use on this blog.
ALL In One SEO
No list would be complete without mentioning All in One SEO. This is a plugin that allows you to manually insert meta data into your site. This is the data that search engines review when they crawl your site, so it’s important to include it in order to make your site more SEO friendly. There are several plugins that do the same thing, but All in One SEO is by far the most popular choice.
SEO-Tool -Keyword Density Checker
This is a great little tool. This plugin simply displays data about the number of times keywords show up in your post. It is visible in the editor, so that you can see how efficiently you are using your keywords when you create an article. This way I can make some edits to ensure that my keywords are showing up enough in my articles. Of course, you need to make sure that you don’t overdo the use of your keywords. The main goal is to always make sure your content is readable for your visitors. But this tool allows me to make minor tweaks to optimize my content.
Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin does exactly what it says. It automatically generates an XML Sitemap of your site. This is complete behind the scenes optimization for the search engines. Search Engines use sitemaps when they index your site. Having one automatically generated shortens the process for them to crawl your site. You make things easier for the search engines, they make things easier for you.
SEO Smart Links
This Plugin looks for keyword phrases that match with the titles for your posts, pages, categories, and tags and automatically converts the keyword phrase to a link to that page or post. This is an incredibly powerful tool for automatically creating deep links on your blog. If you’ve read up on SEO, you’ll know that deep linking on your own site is important for good SEO.
Wow! You don’t know how much spam I get behind the scenes! The reason you don’t know is that this little plugin catches it all. Akismet checks incoming comments against their web service to see if it looks like spam. Let me tell you, this thing is very accurate. It hasn’t let a single spam comment slip through, and there are only a few false positives. The plugin also keeps tabs on the user habits and should adjust to lower the rate of false positives over the course of time. If you don’t want to use a Captcha system to weed out spam, Akismet is really the way to go.
I used this plugin briefly, but I’ve never liked using Captcha on other sites when I leave comments, so I went with Akismet instead. This is really a matter of personal preference. I chose to police the spam myself, to make it easier for my readers to leave me comments. However, this is still a great plugin. When I had it on the blog, the spam stopped cold.
This is a plugin that shows a link to the last post from a commenters blog. It’s good to share. This way, the commenters who are a part of the commentluv network are encouraged to leave a comment. I am always more inclined to leave a comment when I see a blog that has the commentluv plugin installed. I imagine others feel the same way as well.
I want to be interactive with my readers. This little plugin lets me send out a simple thank you note automatically whenever someone leaves a comment on my site. I will also send out my RSS Feed link so that they have one more way to get my content. I am a firm believer in thanking my readers for stopping by. A little good will never hurt anyone.
Share and Follow
This plugin puts that follow tab on the right on my blog. I like the utilization of the white space on the site. It also puts a set of share buttons following the posts, but I limit this feature as I prefer to use a sexier plugin for sharing.
SexyBookMarks puts an attractive set of share buttons following each posts. There’s nothing new about share buttons, but this plugin spices things up a bit. I want my plugins to enhance the overall look and quality of my blog. This plugin meets that criteria.
This is a third sharing plugin that I really like. This plugin allows you to create the floating vertical button bar to the left of your posts. Overall, it’s an eycatching plugin that I like. However, I does slow down the load time of your site, and I ultimately went with speed. If this is not an issue for you, and you are looking for a good looking sharing plugin, Digg Digg is a good choice.
Social Media Manager
This plugin really makes life easier for promoting your site. It allows you to set up automatically publishing your posts to various social media sites. If you have Facebook, twitter, tumbler, dig, etc… These social media sites will automatically be updated with your content whenever you publish. This way, I can focus on creating content.
Tweet Old Posts
If you have an archive of content, this plugin helps you keep that content fresh. You can set it up with your site’s twitter account and this plugin will automatically tweet out you old content. It’s set up with a variable schedule so that the tweets appear at a more natural pace. I definitely saw a rise in visitors to my old content after I installed this plugin. Of course you want to make sure that your site has enough content, otherwise you’ll end up tweeting out the same 5 posts over and over again.
What Would Seth Godin Do
This plugin works the same way as WWSGD, using cookies to present personalized messages to my visitors. However, this plugin is geared specifically towards people who visit the blog from StumbleUpon or Digg and invites them to give us a thumbs up.
This is a combination of WWSGD and Increase Sociability with some extras. I’m still deciding which combination of the three I will use on the blog. Primarily, the main issue for me is some minor compatibility issues with GreetBox with my theme. GreetBox sends out a personalized message for all the visitors from search engines as well as social media sites, so it does everything the previous two plugins do and more. Also, it has a nicer graphical design, so if I did not have compatibility problems with this plugin, it would likely be my first choice.
Owagu Clickbank Ads
This plugin is specific to Clickbank affiliates. It simply pulls clickbank products that fit your specific keywords and automatically creates a hoplink with your affiliate Id to the product.
I don’t favor auto-blogging, however I understand the need for it on occasion. I don’t use this product on this blog, however I have demoed it for other blogs and use a plugin with similar functionality by the same authors. The reason I don’t like to auto blog, is that most of the time, the content is unoriginal and is of poor quality. Sometimes, the content is entirely unreadable because of poor sentence structure and grammar. Of the programs that I’ve seen out there, I think WP Robot is the best of them. It does the best job of pulling content from good sources and setting up a posting schedule that gives you plenty of time to review and make any edits necessary. If you want to automate the process of content creation, WP Robot is a good choice.
This is a plugin from the same people that created WP Robot. It works much the same way as WP Robot, however it only posts products from Amazon.com. You can set up this plugin to automatically pull products and their descriptions based on keywords from Amazon.com and automatically create posts for those products. This is a great tool for any Amazon affiliate.
OIO Publisher basically assists you in automating the ad buying process for your site. It allows advertisers to buy adspace on your website directly from you. Advertisers can order, pay for, and upload their ad directly to your blog. You only need to approve the ad. This is a great money maker for sites with a decent amount of traffic. It is a premium plugin that costs $47, but it’s definitely worth the price. This is one of the few plugins worth it’s weight.
MaxBlogPress Stripe Ad
I’ve never liked pop up ads. I feel like they are annoying and distract me from the content that I’m reading. I try to stay away from those kinds of ads for my readers as well. This is a great non-obtrusive way to display a single line advertising message at the top of the blog. See the stripe ad at the top of this page? That’s MaxBlogPress Stripe Ads. This is a free plugin from MaxBlogPress. They also make other premium plugins worth taking a look at, but this is definitely one of my favorites.
So this is the theme that I use as well as 21 great plugins that I have running on this blog to make my life and yours a little bit easier. How do you make your blogging life easier? Is there a theme that you like to use, a program that helps you keep track of your blog or a plugin that you particularly love?