Posts Tagged ‘tools’

5 Essential Items Every WordPress Blog Should Have

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Every blogger starts at the same place – a theme you chose and your first article. But once you start writing and getting your groove, you will want to do more for your blog to help promote it and follow it’s growth. Although there is a ton of advice available on what every blog should have, these 5 items that I have chosen are a good place to start if you are just starting a blog or just starting to look under the hood to see what you can do to improve it.

A Robots.txt file – If you do not have a robots.txt file installed inside your blog, you might be allowing the search engines to see duplicate content and other content that you do not want indexed. This is very important because you only want your content to be indexed at places like Google, and not, for instance, your categories, certain informational pages, your RSS feed, or your admin pages. You can normally see anyone’s robots file by just putting robots.txt after the domain name – “”. You can create this file in any text editor, and there are samples available everywhere on the internet and on most major sites. Check out your favorite blog and see what theirs says! Once you have created the file, you should save it as “robots.txt” and place it in your root folder of your blog through your FTP program.

A Google XML Sitemap – This easy-to-use plugin generates a map of your WordPress blog for, Google, MSN Search and Yahoo. A sitemap basically tells search engines how your blog works, where the content is, and anything else that helps the search engines index your site correctly. I use the plugin that is actually called Google XML Sitemaps. Set up is easy – download the file, FTP it into your Plugins folder, and activate it. Once you have done that, click once on “Rebuild Sitemap” to create your sitemap the first time.

Akismet Spam Killer – I was a big fan of Spam Karma for stopping spam comments and trackbacks; that is, until I started using Akismet instead. Each day, I was receiving tons spam comments and trackbacks, no matter how much work I put into blacklisting IP addresses or deleting comments. So I switched to Akismet, and BAM – it stopped. Not one spam comment or trackback in the first 5 days of use! Amazing. This is another simple plugin – download, upload to your Plugins folder, activate. In order to activate though, you do need a WordPress API key, which you might already have. If you don’t you can get by signing up for a simple account at (even if you host your own site somewhere else). That’s it, you don’t have to do anything else!

All-in-One-SEO – Probably the easiest to use Search Engine Optimization plugin available, the All-in-One-SEO pack is something no WordPress blog should be without. I mean, you want the search engines to find your great content, don’t you? With this installed, you can automatically optimize your titles for search engines, generate META tags automatically, and helps to avoid duplicate content. Even if you don’t do anything other than install the plugin and activate it, this plugin will help your blog get noticed by the search engines. But if you do decide to tinker with it, there is a lot you can do to optimize your site, and the explanations on how to use it is very well done. A definite must have that I have used for a long time.

A way to track visitors – You want to know where people are coming from and what they are looking at, don’t you? Sure you do! I have both Sitemeter and Google Analytics installed on all my sites, and each of them serves a purpose for me. Sitemeter I use as a basic “quick-look” stat counter, where I can see how many visitors I get in a day, where they came from, and how long they stayed. I take a look at it daily so I get a feeling as to how the site is doing. Google Analytics, on the other hand, is a monster of a tracking program – you can see traffic referrers, bounce rates, item uses, time of day vs. amount of visits – basically anything you could want to track, you can do with Analytics. And I think the coolest part is that you can run weekly or monthly reports, and export them as Excel or PDF files. These come in very handy when advertisers want to see your traffic numbers!

All of these things are free and very easy to use, and no blogger should be without them. And although there are many more things that every blog could have installed, if I had to pick 5 to install right away from the beginning, these are the 5 I would pick after blogging for quite some time. In another post in the near future, I will cover each plugin that I have installed on my sites, and how I use them all to my advantage. Happy blogging!

12 Essential Companion Accounts for a Successful Blog

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Aside from the standard accounts for your blog — i.e., domain name, web hosting, and WordPress — there are several companion accounts that I think are very useful. Below are 12 essential companion accounts, plus two that are worth mentioning.

For Money and Monetization

  • PayPal – This is an online payment web site that allows you to accept money and credit card for products or services that you sell. I have used PayPal to accept payments, pay other online service providers, and even accept donation for my free products.
  • Google AdSense – This is service allows you to display advertisement on your blog and you will get paid for both impression paid and click through. You can see Google AdSense ads everywhere, including the ones on this blog. This is perhaps one of the best monetization tools available for blogger today.
  • Amazon Associates – This program allows you to sell products and earn up to 10% commission. This hasn’t been a big money maker for me, but I heard some people have done really well with it.
  • Commission Junction – This program allows you to pick products and services from hundreds of advertisers. Each advertiser offers different referral plan, so you will have to read each one. Like Amazon Associates, it hasn’t been a big money maker for me, but it’s a decent option.

For Subscribers Count and Management

  • FeedBurner – Their service basically put your RSS feed on steroid. With its companion FeedBurner FeedSmith plug-in for WordPress, it allows you to accurately measure the number of subscribers. I use it to consolidate my subscribers count, accept subscribers via email, monetize my RSS feed, and show off the number of subscribers. However, there are a lot of great capabilities and I haven’t fully explored them all yet.

For Traffic and Networking

  • Stumble Upon – This is probably the best social site at the moment. I enjoy stumbling to find new and interesting sites (note: I choose the topics, so I only look at a blogging and finance sites). To get a network going, gives thumb ups to sites that you like, leave a comment, and add other people who gave thumb up to the same sites as your friend. If you have a group of friends, you can submit each other sites to stumble upon for some traffic — however, don’t over do it and only submit your best work.
  • Technorati – This is a blog search engine and tag search service. When you use tags on your blog (note: tagging is a native feature in WP 2.3.x) and ping Technorati with updates, people who uses Technorati can perform searches and easily find you blog. I occasional use Technorati to find other “on topic” blog articles to link to.

For Search Engines Optimization

  • Google Sitemap – This is part of Google Webmaster Toolkit. The program allows you to check many important aspects about how well search engine spiders (specifically Googlebot) can go through your blog and index it for searches. There are also many interesting tools within this site — e.g., report that track top search queries and top search positions for your blog.

For Statistics and Traffic Analysis

  • Google Analytics – This is a statistic tracking tool that shows many useful information such as the number of visitors from various sources, page views, search terms, most viewed page on your blog, etc. This is a good way to find out which articles your readers like, where your traffic is coming from, etc.
  • Site Meter – Another good and simple statistic and analysis package. I use this concurrently with Google Analytics. I like the hour-by-hour reporting. It’s quite addictive.
  • Crazy Egg – This tool allows you to visualize clicks on any web page on your site. It’s a great tool to help you understand users’ behavior. I use this tool to help me determine how I can move elements on my blog around to maximize usability and revenue potential.

For Spam Protection

  • – You will need to set up an account with them in order to get the WordPress API key needed from plug-ins like Akismet and Stats. And you don’t want to run your blog without Akismet, so the account is essential.


  • MyBlogLog – This is a community that allows you to connect with your readers. If you install their widget on your blog (I don’t do this due to clutter), you can see people with MyBlogLog account that visited your blog recently. A good use of MyBlogLog is to make sure you are logged in so that your avatar shows up when you visit other blogs. You can get small amount of traffic this way.
  • BlogCatalog – This site also provides similar services to MyBlogLog, but with very robust discussion forums where you can meet and network with other bloggers.

If you have other companion accounts that you use to help improve your blog performance, please share it here.