21 days to a (better) blog – part 2

Please be sure to refer back to Week 1: Up and running if you didn’t get a chance to read the first installment of 21 days to a better blog last Friday. This week I am focusing on some of the devilish little details that separate a fun blog from one that has the potential to be a business generator.

Remember, I am laying out a daily publication schedule because that is the frequency that works for me. Adjust that part of the plan to fit your publication schedule. I would encourage you to post consistently at the same time and on the same day(s) each week.

Week 2: The devil is in the details

Day 8 Obtain a WordPress API key and activate the Akismet plugin. This is the plugin that protects your blog from comment spam. The instructions for obtaining the API key (requires you to set-up a WordPress.com account) can be found in the link listed earlier.
– proofread/edit your seventh post
– schedule your sixth and seventh posts for publication
– and write your eighth post

Day 9 Set-up a Google Analytics account and install support for Analytics on your blog by using a plugin like Google Analytics for WordPress. (Don’t let this step discourage you. Google Analytics may not be right for you and I present alternative statistics on Day 11.)
– proofread/edit your eighth post
– and write your ninth post

Day 10 Install the Editorial Calendar plugin. Chris Brogan did a great job explaining why to Use an Editorial Calendar.
– proofread/edit your ninth post
– schedule your eighth and ninth posts for publication using Editorial Calendar.
– and write your tenth post

Day 11 Install WordPress.com Stats plugin. I like this plugin because it organizes the traffic and search terms used to reach my site in a way that is meaningful and useful to me as an author. There’s more about the plugin on the WordPress blog filed under Sexy Stats.
– proofread/edit your tenth post
– and write your eleventh post

Day 12 Take some time to learn about and understand WordPress widgets. While plugins typically extend the functionality of WordPress widgets improve the appearance of your site.
– proofread/edit your eleventh post
– schedule your tenth and eleventh posts for publication using Editorial Calendar.
– and write your twelfth post

Day 13 Set-up a Feedburner account so your content can be distributed via RSS.  Feedburner also allows readers to select delivery of content via email each time you publish a new post. About half the readership on this blog occurs via RSS feeds. You’ll then want to install a plugin like the Freedburner Subscription Widget to make signing up for posts via email easy. (It’s a plugin that makes a widget available to install on your sidebar.)
– proofread/edit your twelfth post
– and write your thirteenth post

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Day 14 Add the ability to easily follow you on Twitter. Making yourself easy to find in the social space is important. Many times conversations about your blog will occur on other social media channels. Make sure your readers know where and how to find you.
– proofread/edit your thirteenth post
– schedule your twelfth and thirteenth posts for publication using Editorial Calendar.
– and write your fourteenth post

Make sure to check back next Friday when I tackle: Fine Tuning.

If  you have been playing along at home please be sure to share a comment with you sites URL so we can all go check it out.

18 Useful WordPress plugins

Recently while speaking at the Central Wisconsin Social Media Conference I was asked by Jim Carlson for a list of the WordPress plugins I use. I figured as long as I was taking the time to pull the list together I may as well share it with you as well.

18 WordPress plugins I like and use

The link included with each plugin is the one reached by clicking on visit plugin site from your WordPress plugins page. To install any of these plugins search for the exact name I have provided below as the link. While I use these plugins without issue, every WordPress install is different. Personally I won’t install or upgrade anything on my sites until I have backed up. Even then, I sometimes choose to test plugins on a development site.

1. Custom Contact Forms – There are plenty of options for WordPress contact form plugins. Right now this is the one I like and use. I like that it lets me easily widgetize a form and add it to a site sidebar (or header/footer for that matter).

18 WordPress plugins I like and use

2. Disqus Comment System – As a replacement for the built in comment engine I love it. I can reply to comment via email. All my comments from sites that support disqus are in one place. Adds lots of functionality to the discussion on your blog.

18 useful wordpress plugins

3. Google XML Sitemaps – Since adding this plugin my search engine related traffic has increased. Google likes sitemaps.

18 useful wordpress plugins

4. List Subpages – Some pages, like the ColorMetrix Support page are landing pages to find deeper content. This plugin allows the list of sub-pages shown below to be built dynamically. Any sub-pages of Support created will automatically be displayed in the list shown below.

18 useful wordpress plugins5. Login LockDown – I self-host my WordPress sites so security is my job. Plugins like this are just one layer of that defense. This one is simple to set-up and discourages a lot of would be hackers.

6. Scribe SEO – I have an affiliate relationship with the publishers of this plugin and most recently wrote about it in my Scribe SEO new (beta) feature review. It’s a great easy to use product that helps me achieve decent SEO results with very little additional work.

Useful WordPress Plugins

7. Shopp – WordPress ecommerce solution. Supports multiple shipping and payment gateways which is key for any serious ecommerce solution. This is a premium plugin and cost me about $100 to setup for one site with the options I required. I do not have an affiliate relationship with Shopp.

18 useful wordpress plugins

8. Smart 404 – combined with the Thesis Theme (aff link) and this little bit of custom code you end up with this 404 page.

9. TPC! Memory Usage – If you are self-hosting your WordPress site and running into memory problems (a pretty common thing) this little gem can help you figure out when that’s happening and which plugins are causing the problem. You will need to deactivate all your plugins and then activate them one at a time. I’ve ceased using more than a few plugins based on the memory leaks exposed by this plugin.

18 wordpress plugins I use and like

10. Tweet This – Used primarily to get this list of sharing buttons at the end of each post. There are other sharing options you can chose to activate. The plugin also support auto tweeting of new posts when published. There is a final new feature I need to explore that allows schedule multiple tweets. Very useful, robust and well maintained.

18 wordpress plugins I use and like

11. WordPress.com Stats – Who doesn’t what sexy stats – right? I’d suggest reading what was said about Sexy Stats on the WordPress blog. I find these stats much more useful to a blogger. I still look at Google Analytics but only about once a week.

18 wordpress plugins I like and use

12. WordPress.com Stats Smiley Remover – Just a little utility that makes sure the above plugin is not messing with your Theme. Pretty much required if you use WordPress.com Stats.

13. WordPress Editorial Calendar – If you told me I could only have three plugins this would be one of them. Since I started using Editorial Calendar I view each posting week as a project. I am able to layout what I want to say over the week and then start filling in the blanks. This plugin allows you to look at your blog schedule in a visual way.

18 WordPress plugins I like and use

14. WP Security Scan – For self-hosting bloggers this is another tool you should have in your security arsenal. No single tool or layer of security is going to keep hackers out.

18 useful wordpress plugins15. WP-Testimonials – For a business site nothing says you’re awesome quite like the words of your current and past customers. This plugin allows you to manage multiple testimonials and then have then randomly displayed in a sidebar widget.

18 useful wordpress plugins

16. WPtouch – The whole world is going mobile. Your blog should be too. This plugin makes viewing your site on mobile devices a snap. Take a few minutes to review and configure the options or large parts of your site may not be viewable on a mobile device. I just switched to WPtouch from WordPress Mobile Pack which is also a quality plugin.

18 useful wordpress plugins

17. WP Tweet Button – A quick and easy way to add to official Twitter Tweet button to your posts. I use this and Tweet this because they offer similar yet different functionality.

18 useful wordpress plugins

18. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – At the end of each post on this site there is a list of related posts. No, I don’t generate that manually for each post. (My secret is out). This This plugin does all the hard work for me and provides you with additional reading options if you enjoyed the current post.

18 useful wordpress plugins

There you have my 18 useful WordPress plugins. Are there any you would add to the list?