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Which WordPress Plugins Do You Use?

Wordpress-Plugins-1A quick question for WordPress users:



WordPress Plugins – which ones do you use?

18 months ago in a post titled (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours) I shared the WP Plugins I used and asked readers to tell us which WordPress plugins they used. The response was great and I then compiled a list of WordPress Plugins for ProBloggers which summarized everyone’s favorite WP Plugins.

That was a year and a half ago so today I thought it might be time to do the exercise again.

I’ll kick us off with a few of my personal favorite WordPress Plugins and then will open it up for you to submit yours:

  • Ad Rotator – this is what rotates the 468 x 60 ads that you see at the top of ProBlogger.
  • AdSense Deluxe – for inserting AdSense (and other types of ads) into posts
  • Akismet – comment spam filtering (which has stopped just under 2 million comment spams on ProBlogger since I installed it).
  • Democracy – Poll plugin (the one I currently use here at ProBlogger in the sidebar)
  • Landing Sites – I have used this off and on with my blogs – it greats readers arriving from search engines with suggestions for further reading
  • Popularity Contest - a modified version of this runs the ‘Best of ProBlogger’ section on the front page of ProBlogger
  • Random Redirect – a cool little plugin that I use on DPS offer readers a random post from my archives (people do actually use it)
  • Related Posts - not the sexiest plugin but pure gold at driving people deeper into your blog (also good for SEO)
  • Share This – a plugin that lets your readers share your post via email or social bookmarking
  • Subscribe to Comments – used by quite a few ProBlogger readers to track comments left on posts

One WordPress Plugin that I’m keen to experiment with in the coming months:

So now it is over to you. Which WordPress Plugins do you classify as your favorites?

Please limit your answer to 10 if you can (if you have more – get it down to your 10 ‘must have plugins’). I’ll compile a summary of all the plugins submitted in a week or two. Stay tuned to ProBlogger’s RSS feed to be notified of that post.

YouTube offer Publishers AdSense Embedded Video Players

Adsense Preview 1I’ve had a number of readers email me in the last 24 hours to let me know that they’re seeing options to monetize sites using YouTube custom video players with AdSense units in them.

Perhaps this was announced previously without me noticing it – but I can’t find any official announcement of it – but YouTube now have pages that talk of how this is available. Their blurb on it reads:

Video Units

Enhance your site with high quality, relevant video content from YouTube partners, and earn extra revenue along the way.

* Relevant, Premium Content

Deliver high quality video content to your site. Choose categories, individual content providers, or have Google automatically target your site’s content.

* Targeted, Non-Intrusive Ads

Earn revenue from relevant, user-friendly ads targeted to your site and to the videos being played.

* Enhanced User Experience

Attract and retain users with highly relevant, frequently refreshed video from popular content providers.

* Customizable Players

Customize the color theme and layout of the player to best fit your site.

* Ready? Get Started!

You’ll need to sign up for an AdSense account to start using Video Units.

Sign up for AdSense now.’

The screen also has a little screen shot of the ads in action with the ads appearing above the video in a new kind of YouTube Player (pictured above and below).

Adsense Preview 2Like I say – this may have been announced somewhere previously – but it seems to be new and something that only some YouTube account holders are seeing at the moment (I can’t see it as an actual option on my account yet). It’s a little odd because on the page which talks about this it says to click a button to use it – but there’s no button – just a link to AdSense.

Here’s a screen shot of the page which mentions it:

Adsense-Youtube

Have you seen this anywhere else (or have I been sleeping)? Is it available to your YouTube account?

Here’s a link to the page where the AdSense/YouTube program is mentioned (update: YouTube seem to have killed this page).

Thanks to JKK Mobile who was the first to email me about this.

How Much Screen Real Estate do You Dedicate to Ads?

Serverdome has a good little survey of some blogs about blogging and how much of the space on their blog above the fold is dedicated to advertising.

Like I commented on the post – I’d love to see them do the same thing with the 10 Ten Blogs on Technorati’s Popular list – to see how blogs that are not about blogging do it as a comparison would be interesting.

I also noted that the banner ad at the top of ProBlogger only serves ads around 50% of the time. At other times I rotate banners pointing people to different parts of this site (in actual fact we were about to move that position to 100% internal banners to give sidebar sponsors exclusive run of the site and have just done so). I guess they are some sort of a combination of internal navigation/ads.

I’d be interested to hear how much screen real estate you dedicate to ads on your blog?

See the mini study at Serverdome.org

Finding Your Blogging DNA

GlenstansberryThis blog post was written by Glen Stansberry, co-founder of the blog network LifeRemix.

No two bloggers are alike. Everybody works differently, and everybody has their own routine when it comes to posting. Some work best on a routinely basis, posting every day. Others work best as the inspiration strikes them, cranking out an entire series in one sitting. However, not everyone works best under the “post-every-day-as-the-rooster-crows” formula. At least I don’t. This post should help bloggers identify what type of posting style to use, depending on the type of blogger they really are.

[Note: This brilliant "formula" that I've concocted is by no means The Gospel, and might only work for me. As with everything I write, take it with a grain of salt. You've been warned... ;) ]

Whatever your posting style, there is usually an optimum “routine” for posting to your blog. I’ve broken these types of bloggers into two (very) generic categories: Musers and Reporters. These two broad categories loosely describe our blogging “DNA”.

Musers- Musers like to take information and extrapolate. Or abstract ideas. Or nothing related at all. But that’s ok… their readers know and expect this whimsical style from the writer. (Think Kottke, SvN, Seth Godin.)

Reporters- Information junkies that think structurally. Information is currency, and these bloggers are stinking rich. (With information, that is.) Reporters typically don’t deviate too much from the facts, and like to be the first to spread the word. And boy are they regular. They’re like prune juice of the blogosphere. (Think Techcrunch, Micropersuasion, GigaOM.)

Both of these categories have typical posting patterns. (Again, see above disclaimer.) Reporters typically post every day. At the same time, if possible. It’s a methodical approach, and they can hammer out a post at will. They’re blogging machines, and they thrive on regularity.

Conversely, Musers tend to have more of a “flighty” approach to blogging. Rules and posting patterns? Who needs them?! Inspiration is the main ingredient to their posts, and they tend to write only when inspiration hits. But when it rains it pours, and sometimes ideas for posts just come in torrents, leaving the Muser no choice but to hammer at them all in one sitting.

The Mindset

Ok, so we’ve got 2 different types of bloggers that typically post with different styles. Hopefully you can at least somewhat identify yourself with one of these categories. Now that you know what your mindset is, don’t try to hide from it. Trying to pose as a blogger that you’re not only spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

If you’re a Muser, don’t feel like you need to have a regular posting pattern. Sure, you’ll probably feel guilty for a while, but it wears off. Trust me. It’s all in embracing the mindset of your “category”. Post when you feel like it, as inspiration strikes. If you get a flurry of ideas, start a series or set the extra posts to publish in the future, so as not to totally freak your audience out with 5 posts in a day, and none for the next 4.

The same applies to Reporters. If you haven’t already, carve out a regular posting schedule within your day that gives you time to blog every day (or some other interval). You’ll find it liberating to sit down and read/comment on the days news. The regularity is key here, as you won’t have as hard of a time finding topics to blog on as there’s never a shortage of news, unlike the Musers.

Embracing Your Blogging DNA

Embracing my blogging mindset was a pivotal point in my blogging career. Previously, I had resolved to post twice a day on LifeDev. Unfortunately, I usually didn’t make my set quotas. Why? Because twice a day was too often for my blogging “style” (definitely a Muser). I felt that I was forcing my posts, and they didn’t receive the proper time and energy because I was too worried about quota than quality. I had tried to post like a Reporter, when really my blogging style was that of a Muser. Now that I’ve embraced my blogging DNA, there is a lot more freedom built into my posting schedule. While I may not post as regularly, my entries have a little more “love” mixed into them. Plus I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t post every day.

If you’re finding it hard to keep up with a posting regimen, carefully think about your blogging makeup (think biology, not mascara), and how it affects your posting schedule. By embracing the type of blogger you really are, you can adjust your posting regimen accordingly.

46 Tax Deductions that Bloggers Often Overlook

Tax-Deductions-Bloggers-1This guest post on Tax Deductions for Bloggers is by Kelly Phillips Erb from Tax Girl.

Want to learn more about how to make money blogging? Subscribe to ProBlogger today for free.

The most popular question in response to my guest post on Problogger last time was invariably some form of “Can I deduct…?” It makes sense. Figuring out what constitutes income in the blogging world is pretty easy. But what constitutes a proper deduction is another story – and bloggers usually err on the side of not deducting enough (and not the other way around).

Don’t get caught leaving money on the table. Here’s a list of potential deductions that you might have overlooked. Consider:

  1. Monthly Hosting Fees
  2. Annual Domain Costs
  3. Design/Logo Fees
  4. Internet access fees – this clearly includes DSL and dial-up, but don’t forget charges that you might pay away from your home or office such as wi-fi charges in Internet cafes
  5. Paid blogging platform charges (such as Typepad monthly charges or “add ons” through WordPress)
  6. Cell phone usage
  7. Long distance usage related to your blog – remember that the IRS will not allow you to deduct the cost of your primary land line but you may deduct long distance charges
  8. Second phone line for business or fax
  9. Design or word processing software – this includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Word and similar programs for business use
  10. Computers
  11. Keyboards, mice and other periphery
  12. Web cameras
  13. Digital cameras – and memory cards
  14. Film processing for traditional cameras
  15. Costs paid to use or reproduce images
  16. Downloaded music or other audio
  17. Blackberry, Treo, iPhone charges
  18. Business cards
  19. Headshots for web site or promotional materials
  20. Letterhead – remember that printed materials not be professionally printed to be deductible!
  21. Promotional stickers and items – Frisbees, magnets, etc.
  22. Web advertising – text and banner ads
  23. SEO services
  24. Paid site submissions
  25. Prizes for giveaways and contests
  26. Postage – it’s impossible to keep track of every single stamp that you use in your business, so buy a sheet or two and keep them in a folder just for business use
  27. Post box fees – I recommend this if you’re working from home, it looks professional, it’s inexpensive and it keeps sales people from showing up on your doorstep late at night (trust me, MCI has seen me in my pajamas)
  28. Transportation – this includes mileage for car transportation, train and bus fare for public transit, cab fare, airline tickets
  29. Dining while away on business
  30. Hotel charges for overnight conventions and business travel
  31. Entertainment for clients
  32. Professional advice (from lawyers, accountants and tax preparers)
  33. Tax software
  34. Accounting software
  35. Copy paper, memo pads, photo paper
  36. Office supplies – pens, folders and post-its can add up!
  37. Books, magazines and subscriptions
  38. Professional affiliation and membership dues
  39. Professional informational sites (like imdbPro)
  40. Paid research sites (like LEXIS/NEXIS)
  41. Trademark fees and related costs
  42. Conference fees – such as for BlogHer and BlogExpo
  43. Promotional sponsorships – golf holes at tournaments, that sort of thing
  44. Charitable donations – limited to the cost of the production, not the FMV of the final product (in other words, if you blog about quilts and you donate a quilt, your deduction is limited to the cost of the quilt materials, not the FMV of the quilt)
  45. Backup tapes
  46. Zip drives

It is by no means an exhaustive list – you make think of more (feel free to add them below). The key is to make sure that the expenses are related to your business. They should also be both “ordinary” and “necessary” (a wide screen TV might feel necessary for your sports blog, but likely isn’t according to the IRS) for your business – if you’re not sure, ask other similar bloggers what they do. You can get some good advice and make great contacts at the same time!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation. If you have a question, ask the taxgirl.

Forget About Page Rank and Build a Better Blog

I get a lot of questions about Google’s Page rank and when it will update again.

I’m not sure if people think I look like Matt Cutts or whether they think I’ve got some inside word – but the question hits my inbox quite a lot.

So what’s my response these days?
[Read more...]

Using Categories and Tags Effectively on Your Blog

Michael Martin PhotoThis post on using Tags and Categories on a blog was written by Michael Martin from Pro Blog Design.

In terms of coding, categories and tags are almost identical. A category system could very easily be used as a tagging system, and vice versa.

So what is it that makes the two different? And how are they best used?

Understanding and Using Categories

Categories are best imagined as a paper filing system. Each page in the system must be filed away in the appropriate drawer. There are only a set number of drawers, and so each must cover a rather wide blanket.

In your blog, categories are best used in exactly the same way:

  • The number of categories should be small. Resist the temptation to add new categories because a long list of them will not be read or browsed by anyone and so, is of no use.
  • Each post goes into one category. The categories are a way of giving a post permanent storage, just as the drawers do. You cannot put one piece of paper into two drawers, and in the same way, a single post should go into a single category.
  • Categories are navigation elements. Categories are not simply a way of labelling posts, they are a core element of your navigation. Your categories should be factored into your site’s architecture and navigation, and displayed appropriately.
  • Categories in URLs. A category represents the traditional folder system of a HTML website. Using permalinks with category names included is a good way of displaying the tiered architecture of a web site. Consider this URL – http://domain.com/category/post-name/ – If I want to return to the post’s category (i.e. go “up a level” in the architecture), I simply slash the post-name off the URL.

Complement the Categories With Tags

The most common problem with tagging is that it is used for the same purposes that categories are. Your tags aren’t categories. They are complements to your categories.

Think of tags as the colorful little page markers you might use to flick back to your favorite pages in a book. The tags don’t describe the book as a whole, instead they describe individual sections of the book.

  • Use the same tags over and over again. The tagging system is useless when the tags you use vary. For instance, if you have a series of posts on writing articles, you could tag them as “journalism,” “writing,” “copywriting,” or a hundred other variations. The important thing is that you choose one of them, and then reuse it on every post you ever write on the topic.
  • Tags do not need to be displayed in the sidebar. Tagging is not a part of your navigational structure, and so it does not necessarily have to be displayed in the sidebar. Why not simply list a post’s tags at the end of the post? The contextualisation will make them much more valuable to readers, and could even be used to replace “Related Posts,” plugins and such.
  • The tag cloud is easy to scan. If you do use your tags in your sidebar, then use the tag cloud. A list of categories is very easily recognised because it is in a list. A list of tags will be clearly recognised as such if it is in a cloud. The cloud works because it fits a lot of information into a small space, and is easy to scan over.

Tags have a lot of potential. To a certain extent, they could be used to replace searching, if done well. Let’s say I’m interested in posts about FeedBurner. Am I more likely to get good results by searching and having every post that has ever mentioned FeedBurner returned to me, or by clicking a tag and only seeing the posts which have been specifically tagged as discussing FeedBurner?

Categories and tags are both very useful assets, provided they are each used for their own purpose. The upcoming WordPress 2.3 release will include tags by default, which can only serve to heighten their popularity. Are you using tags on your blog? Will you be using them in the future?

Blog Maintenance Start Pages using Netvibes

Internet Duct Tape has a pretty cool blog tip on Creating a Blog Maintenance Start Page with Netvibes.

Using Netvibes you can watch comments, check your blog stats, watch email, twitter, social bookmarking plus much more. As I say – very cool.

Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon

Skellie AvatarThis guest-post on Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon is by Skellie. She gives away big and little ideas like these to bloggers, webmasters and web workers at her blog, Skelliewag.org.

If you think this is another post about voting up your own articles on StumbleUpon, you’re mistaken.

Every blogger should have a StumbleUpon account. Regardless of which social media service you prefer, StumbleUpon is by far the easiest and least time-consuming to use.

How StumbleUpon works

When you come across something you like online you can vote for it with a button on your toolbar. The page is then shared with others who have similar interests.

When you’re bored, or looking for inspiration, click ‘Stumble!’ and great pages others have liked will be shared with you.

It’s really that simple.

As with most things that seem simple, however, there’s much more to it beneath the surface.

This post doesn’t intend to be comprehensive overview of StumbleUpon. What it does intend to do is show you how you can build your blog and your blogger profile by participating in the StumbleUpon community — while having plenty of fun at the same time!

Getting started with StumbleUpon

If you already have an account, great. If not, sign up here. Don’t put it off — the process is worth it.

One tip: make sure your username and profile picture are branded in line with your blog. Use your blogging name for your profile, and a photo or logo your readers will be familiar with.

Once you have your account and StumbleUpon homepage, make sure you customize your interests to suit your tastes. You can ‘manage your interests’ via the sidebar. This is important, as it will effect what kinds of pages you get when you Stumble. It will also change the kinds of people who take an interest in your votes.

There are plenty of other things you can customize, but we’ll stick with the basics for now. Let’s get started building your blog and your blogger profile with your new account.

1. Connect with other bloggers

To start connecting with other bloggers through StumbleUpon, all you need to do is vote up their content (when it’s good). The more traffic you send them, the more likely they are to go and investigate the source, or even add you as a friend. StumbleUpon can be a great networking tool.

On top of that, supporting blogs you like is just good karma. What more could you ask for?

2. Drive traffic back to your blog with great stumbles

When you vote up a site that hasn’t been voted up before, you ‘Discover’ it. This means that you write its first review and your profile information appears in the sidebar of the reviews page for that item.

Great content can drive a lot of (influential) stumblers to the page profiling you, as they rush to vote and review it. Some of them will be drawn into visiting your profile, simply because you have such great taste. But how can we encourage these visitors to check out our blog?

3. Highlight your blog in your StumbleUpon profile

This is easy. Enter your blog URL as your website address, and this will be displayed above your image on the main page of your profile. You can also write a bit about yourself and add a link to your blog in your About blurb.

4. Connect with your readers

When you start to see traffic coming from StumbleUpon, take the time to visit the reviews page for the blog post readers have voted up.

The stumblers on this page have been enthusiastic enough about your content to want to Stumble it. If they’re not already loyal readers, this makes them great candidates for becoming one.

Take the time to thank them for their Stumble, and add them as a friend. Little acts of generosity like these leave an impression and may encourage the Stumbler to see what other types of great content you’re capable of.

5. Make friends for a more powerful profile

The StumbleUpon algorithm is a mysterious thing, but evidence seems to suggest that the most active and popular stumblers are rewarded with the ability to control large traffic-flows. The ‘active’ part is up to you — how much time are you willing to put in? The ‘popular’ part of the equation, however, depends on how many fans you have. Fans are those stumblers who’ve added you as a friend in order to see the pages you stumble.

How do you get fans? Great, properly labeled stumbles will do it. Another successful strategy is to add those who vote up your content. If they took the time to explore your blog they might recognize you as the author of the content they liked and add you in return. The friendship will enhance both of your profiles and you’ll be connecting with another potential reader.

6. To submit or not to submit?

Some bloggers believe that repeatedly stumbling the same domain will see the benefits of your stumbles at that domain peter down to nothing. Others believe it’s absolutely necessary to submit your own articles to ensure they’re placed in the category best-suited to them. I’d be interested to hear which approach you think is best in the comments section of this post.

7. Send great content to your friends

StumbleUpon users have the ability to send pages to specific friends, or all of them. If you’ve written something you’re really confident is worthy of a stumble then you might consider sending it out to your friendship network. They’re much more likely to vote up your content than the strangers who routinely find themselves at your blog.

Moderation is key when using this tool. If you overuse it there is a chance your friends will tire of you. An alternative to a wide-ranging send-out might be to send an article to one or two friends you know will be particularly interested in the content.

8. Create a profile people will visit for its own sake

Treat your profile like another blog. If you make it a place people will want to visit for its own sake, the chance of visitors engaging with it and following the link back to your blog increases.

Take the time to play with the colors, add images to your reviews, and explore the functions on offer to create your ‘blog’ (StumbleUpon actually refers to it as such). Fill your profile with votes and reviews for great content your friends will want to visit, and tell others about. A great profile will naturally attract interested and admiring visitors, and raise your profile in the StumbleUpon community.

9. Use it for inspiration

When StumbleUpon is at its best, it serves up a long line of great content suited to your tastes. A stumbling session can be a great source of inspiration when your well of ideas runs dry.

A tip: don’t stumble only within the topic you blog about. Sometimes the best (and most original) post ideas are found by trying to relate radically different content to your niche.

10. Have fun!

I hope this post has convincingly argued that the secret to building your blog with StumbleUpon is to participate actively, genuinely and enthusiastically in the community there. The rewards are sure to filter back to you and your blog.