Should You Use a Third-Party Commenting System on Your Blog?

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

If you’ve been blogging for anything more than a few months, you probably have come across blogs using third-party commenting systems like Disqus, Livefyre, Facebook Comments, Intense Debate, and more. You may have asked yourself, “Why do other blogs use these systems? Are they helpful? Should I use a third-party commenting system on my site?”

I have used both the built-in WordPress commenting system and a third-party commenting platform for an extensive period of time. In this article, I will share the pros and cons, from my personal experience, of using a third-party commenting system, and point you to some of the plugins that I use to extend the power of built-in WordPress comments.

Pros of third-party commenting systems

1. Single login (authenticity)

There are a lot of trolls on the web leaving anonymous comments. By using a third-party commenting system, you can require the user to register before the comment, and so cut down on trolling.

If you’re using a popular third-party commenting system like Disqus, Livefyre, or Facebook Comments, then the chances are that the user already has an account with those services. Users can surf from one website to another while staying logged in to the commenting platform, and this allows them to easily track all of their comments—and those of others—throughout the blogosphere.

2. Expanded social media presence

Almost all third-party commenting platforms offer some sort of expanded social media presence, Facebook Comments being the leader because it gives you the viral aspect. Your users’ comments can be posted on their walls, as long as they leave right the checkbox checked.

Other platforms allow users to integrate with Twitter and Facebook. Livefyre, in particular, allows the user to tag their Facebook or Twitter friends within the comments. This tagging sends a tweet or Facebook message to their friend(s) notifying them about your post.

3. Spam control

Requiring a commenter to log in to comment virtually eliminates the chance of a spam bot attacking your site.

4. Increased engagement

Most third-party commenting platforms claim to increase engagement. Some do it by making your comments appear in real-time, simulating a chat-like feel within comments. Others allow users to easily subscribe to comments via email to keep up with the conversation.

Cons of third-party commenting systems

1. Change and frustration

While the concept of using one login across all websites sounds noble, it doesn’t always work.

If your current commenting system doesn’t require user registration, then your users will likely be frustrated when you introduce a new system. This change “forces” them to create an account with a third-party service to leave a comment on your site—and that may seem as if they’re losing their freedom to comment on your site. This can drive some of your most loyal users away.

2. Lack of control

If you are the kind of blogger who likes to fine-tune and tweak every aspect of your blog, then third-party comment systems probably aren’t for you.

You will lose control over most aspects of your commenting platform in terms of formatting and design by adopting these systems. Your users will also experience slower page loads while the third-party commenting platform loads (especially during maintenance and occasional server outages), which is totally out of your control. Last but certainly not least, you will not be able to add features, such as lead-generation option or comment policy text links, without mastering the commenting system’s API.

My choice: default WordPress comments

After using a third-party commenting system, Livefyre, for over a year, I decided to switch back to the default WordPress comment system. While I could go into the excruciating details about why I switched away from Livefyre, the main point was the cons outweighed the pros. I wanted more control over the look and functionality of our comments, and I also wanted to keep our users happy. Lastly, I was able to replicate just about every advantage of a third-party commenting system using WordPress plugins.

So let’s go through that pros and cons list again, and see how it caused me to switch to WordPress comments.

  1. Authenticity: While requiring users to register is one way to ensure authenticity, it was really annoying. So we just use Gravatar, which allows others to recognize the same commenter over multiple platforms. No need to use a plugin for this! WordPress has built-in support for Gravatar as long as your theme is properly coded (most good themes are).
  2. Expanded social media presence: I was able to add Sign in with Twitter and Connect with Facebook options to my blog fairly easily while leaving the default method as is. I used the plugin called Simple Twitter Connect which allowed me to add the Sign with Twitter option. I used the plugin called Simple Facebook Connect to add the Connect with Facebook option for my comments.

    Social comment integration

  3. Spam control: While requiring registration can reduce spam, it is also very annoying. I thought of a less annoying method that has been working great for us—the awesome Akismet plugin, which comes with every WordPress installation and does a fairly decent job of detecting spam comments.

    I noticed the main reason why people leave spam comments is to get backlinks. Well, I decided to get rid of the link feature altogether. This required me to edit the comments.php file, but it wasn’t very hard. All I had to do was get rid of the Website field from the comment submission form. Then, I just edited the way our comments were displayed in the theme by removing the hyperlinks from the name and Gravatar image. This takes away the backlink incentive for most spammers. Another thing I did was disabled pingbacks/trackbacks on all posts. I noticed a lot of folks were trying to send trackback spam on our site, hoping for a backlink from posts. However by doing this, I totally avoided that issue.

  4. Increase in engagement: You can add the Subscribe to Comments feature to your comments using a popular plugin called Subscribe to Comments. I also added an opt-in checkbox to our comments that allows readers to subscribe to our newsletter using Newsletter Sign-Up.

As you can see, I was able to get almost all of the benefits of a third-party commenting system that people want while still using the built-in WordPress comments. Not to mention that I was able to customize the look of our comments, so they look good and are in keeping with out site.

Do you use third-party commenting systems?

Despite my experience, third-party commenting systems work perfectly for some bloggers and their blogs. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences of using a third-party commenting platform—or choosing to use the default system that came with your blog.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as other comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress Hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.

Top 5 Google Chrome Extensions For Bloggers

This guest post is by Anthony Wijaya of techexperience.

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the Google Chrome extensions that have made my daily blogging tasks easier.

These are my top five.

1. SEO For Chrome

SEO For Chrome allows you to check, well, pretty much everything about SEO in your site. All you need to do is type in your URL and tons of information about your site’s SEO will pop out, from your indexed pages in Google and Bing, to your Pagerank and traffic levels.

SEO  for Chrome

Another good idea to use this extension for is to check your competitors’ SEO status—do a little competitive analysis. You can also do some quick keyword research within the extension itself!

2. Evernote Web Clipper

Have you ever seen an interesting article or piece of news that you might want to post about later? It’s quite easy to get sidetracked and forget all about it while you’re browsing.

I usually take note of any ideas I see while browsing through the Evernote Web Clipper extension. Basically, all it does is note down the link for you through a darn simple click-and-drag selection function.

Evernote Web Clipper

The Evernote Web Clipper also doubles as a handy screen capture for occasions when you see that awesome screencap you want to take.

3. Google Dictionary

Nothing is more embarrassing than a grammatically incorrect word or sentence in your article. Not only can readers see it, you might even get criticized for those errors!

For safety’s sake, I use the Google Dictionary extension.

With this extension, you can:

  • double-click any word to view its meaning/definition
  • view the complete definition of a whole phrase.

Google Dictionary

It supports a myriad of languages, including German, French, Italian, and so many more.

4. Ruul screen ruler

I use this for, well, those times when I need to measure something in my browser. The Ruul Screen ruler was quite handy in my blog’s first week, since I want to have images on my blog at the perfect size.


You can also use it to find out which font size works for you without doing any trial-and-error corrections. Just use the extension and measure, on a blank page, how much space you want for your font. The result (in pixels) will show you your perfect font size. Mine is 13px.

5. G.lux

This is actually the Chrome’s version of F.lux, which is a tool for the desktop. G.lux functions basically the same way, changing your screen color’s temperature to the warmer side for easier viewing at night (midnight typing anyone?).


Ever notice your eyes getting tired in front of that monitor? It’s probably because of blue-ish monitor rays. This extension will at least reduce those blue rays to some effect, but keep in mind that it’s still not the perfect excuse for midnight blogging. If you want its big brother for the whole desktop, check out f.lux.

Do you use Chrome extensions in your daily blogging tasks? Show us your favourite options in the comments.

Anthony W. is a 17 year old who starts out blogging for fun and writes tips, news and reviews about technology in techexperience. He hopes that every post he write will be useful to that particular someone out there. Subscribe to his blog here or follow him on Twitter (@AnthonyNotStark) to get more of him.

Use Email to Post to Your Blog

This guest post is by Anurag Bansal of Techacker.

Owners of blogs don’t get the flexibility to post by email through a WordPress service. It’s very surprising to see that such a popular platform doesn’t offer a native way of creating blog post by sending an email—especially since owners can update their blogs using native WordPress functionality.

If you have a blog on Tumblr or Posterous (which was recently acquired by Twitter), you know how convenient it is to update your blog using email. It naturally increases the frequency with which you update your blog.

Today I’m going to introduce you to an easy way to post by email to your blog using a service I am a big fan of—ifttt.

ifttt stands for If This, Then That. This service, which was introduced recently on ProBlogger, makes it really easy to do many online tasks, some of which are mentioned below.

How to post by email to a blog

  1. Create an ifttt account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Activate and authorize the blog you want to post by email to. To do this, click on WordPress logo under Channels on ifttt. Then add the appropriate details to authorize your WordPress blog to use with ifttt. Once activated, you will see a similar screen to the one shown below.Authorize your account
  3. Activate the email channel connection to the email account from which you’d like to send posts. All you need is to click on Email icon and enter your email address. ifttt will immediately send a PIN to this email address. Copy that PIN from the email into the box on ifttt. Once your account’s confirmed, you’ll have successfully activated the email channel.Activate email channel
  4. Use this recipe to create a task. While creating the task, you can edit the details shown in the screenshot below to suit your needs.Create task
  5. Once the task is activated, all you have to do is send an email from the email account you confirmed in Step 3 to [email protected] with the specified # tag in the subject line. In ifttt terms, that tag says, “if email is received from the account specified earlier, then post it to the WordPress blog set up earlier.”
  6. ifttt will create a post on your blog, using the email details as follows:
    1. The subject of the email becomes the title of the blog post.
    2. The body of the email becomes the content of the blog post.
    3. Tags for the post are specified in the recipe. You can change these in the task details on ifttt.
    4. Categories for the post are also specified by you in the ifttt recipe.

There are many other recipes I use to update my blog, including:

  1. Post photos simultaneously on Instagram and a WordPress blog.
  2. Cross-post from a Tumblr blog to WordPress blog.

I have been able to successfully post many updates to my blog using this process. It’s easy, painless and quick. All it takes to update your blog is an email!

Stop postponing that great blog post idea just because you didn’t have the right tools at the time. Now, there’s no need to install any plugins—just use email.

How do you update your WordPress blog now? Do you think email updates would make it easier for you to update your blog? If you’re already using emil updates on another platform, is it helpful? Let us know in the comments.

Anurag Bansal is a technology enthusiasts and internet addict. He reviews various internet services, Android and iPhone apps and provide tips on many technology related topics on his blog at Techacker. Anurag also releases a FREE Monthly Magazine – THM – on his blog. You may follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Video Starting Points: Make and Share Your First Video

This guest post is by Neil Davidson of My Web Presenters.

In November of 2011 David Hsieh, VP of Marketing at Cisco famously stuck his neck out by proclaiming that 90% of internet traffic will be viewing video in three years’ time.

The actual figure is already 51% of traffic, and it’s climbing fast. For bloggers like you and I, this has consequences. You can either bite the bullet and get started with video, or you can hide under the sheets and hope the storm passes.

For this post, I am going to assume that you are firmly in the “get on the train” camp.

At first sight it may seem that moving into video content production from textually based content is very difficult, as it requires a very different skillset. Also you may need to speak out loud or, worst of all, show your face on camera!

However, getting into video production and marketing is actually a natural progression for a blogger. Here are some ideas on how you can get started.

1. Video production

Use smartphones for impromptu interviewing

Hands up if you’ve got a smartphone. Many smartphones now have high-quality video cameras built in—some even have HD video. These can be highly effective for taking advantage of unusual situations…

Imagine that you’re at a blogging event and you find yourself standing next to Darren Rowse. You strike up a conversation that gets interesting. Suppose you were to pull out your smartphone, ask him a few questions on video, and post it to your blog. If the “interview” went well, chances are that Darren would be happy to tweet and share that content for you.

Suddenly you would be catapulted out of nowhere into the limelight—all through a chance five-minute meeting. A traditional interview would take a lot longer to capture, as well as to prepare and write up, and the chances are that busy people, like Darren, may well have to refuse an interview request. Compare these two approaches:

  • “Oh, wait a moment, I am really enjoying this conversation and I know the readers of my blog would love it too, do you mind if I just video you answering that question again?”
  • “That’s really interesting, do you mind if I just go and grab a pen and paper and note down the conversation that we are having?”

Use screencasting videos to show how something is done

Another very accessible form of video is screencasting. Essentially, this technique makes a video of your computer screen and films the actions you’re taking on it. This is very similar to the concept of a screen grab for obtaining a static image of your screen.

Screencasting videos are fantastic for making “how to” videos. They allow you to visually and verbally take your viewers through a process to show them how something is done. Here are some ideas from Camtasia, the makers of video software, on how their technology can be used. In this video, they explain how the tool can be used practically:

Camtasia costs $99 for lifetime usage so it certainly won’t break the bank! Perhaps the second most popular screen casting tool on the market is ScreenFlow, which this costs the same as Camtasia and has pretty much the same features. The best thing to do with these products is to download them (both offer free trials) and practice using them to make videos.

One tip that will help you get up to speed more quickly is to write down a list of the steps that you will follow in your video and have it on the desk in front of you whilst you are making the video. With a written blog post it is natural to pause and think, and to go off researching something mid article, but with video, the research must be done beforehand. You need to film to a plan.

Be strict. If you’re not happy with your video, delete it and start again. It gets easier and easier—you will be very surprised by how quickly you speed up and improve your abilities. Before you know it, you will actually be enjoying it, wahey!

2. Video publishing

There are two places on the net where your video really needs to be:

  1. on your blog (or website)
  2. on YouTube.

Initially, you should publish the video to Youtube. If you use Screenflow to make a screencast video then you can publish straight from the platform to your YouTube channel. From Camtasia, you can go straight to Vimeo.

The reason that it is important to publish to Youtube is not just because it is so much larger than the other platforms and is so closely tied with both Google search and Google+, but also because it easily enables your video to be openly used by other bloggers through the video embed code shown here:

YouTube video

Once your video’s on YouTube, anyone who has a website can grab your embed code and plonk your video on their website. This gives you additional exposure via their audience and also gives you a link back to your YouTube video. A side note here is that the number of embeds of a video is factored into the ranking algorithm of videos on Youtube and Google.

When you’re posting your new video to YouTube, there are a number of tweaks that you can make to enhance its visibility both on YouTube itself, and within search engines. Here is a detailed overview of basic video SEO for YouTube.

Once the video is up on YouTube, you can then grab the embed code and put it onto your blog simply by pasting the code into the HTML of a blog post. Don’t forget to write a short textual piece around the video to explain the content of the video and encourage visitors to actually watch it. This little blurb will also enable search engines to understand the context of the video file, since they can’t read video files themselves.

3. Marketing your video

This is where your experience in marketing textual blog posts really comes into play. Great content is essentially great content, and the people you want to reach, whether you’re creating video or textual content, will not change.

There are however, a couple of new tools that will help you market your video effectively.


Oneload (a.k.a. Tubemogul) is an online video distribution tool. The tool allows you to upload a video once and publish it to over 20 video platforms in one go.

Prior to your first use of Oneload, you’ll need to identify all of the video platforms that you want to submit your video to, and go and create accounts with each of them. You can then link them all to your Oneload account for easy distribution.

Realistically, you’re looking at around a day’s work to set up 20 accounts on video platforms and to enter your profile information, but once it’s done, it’s done.

Other distribution tools

Finally I will just go over some tools that you’re probably more familiar with, and highlight how they can be used to market your video content.

  • Hootsuite: This social media management tool allows you to manage your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn communications all in one place. You can therefore submit your video to your Facebook page, plus your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts through this tool.
  • Shareaholic and Addthis: These two tools allow you to bookmark content to multiple social networks and social bookmarking sites with ease. They are also perhaps two of the most popular social sharing button plug-ins for WordPress. Install either one as a browser plugin (they work on all major browsers), then select the social bookmarking sites that you are interested in, and you have a one-click way to share your video posts on these platforms.

A word of caution here: don’t expect instant results. You need to build up a presence and some relationships with others in your niche who are active on these sites so that you content gets a kick-start once you submit it.

A wide variety of techniques are available to market your videos solely within YouTube, both to build up a following there and to push these people back to your site. That will have to be saved for another day though, as it’s a huge topic. If you’re interested, though, look into the topic of video annotations with links to other videos.

It would be fantastic to hear some tips from others who have experience with video blogging, as the starting points I’ve covered here really are just the tip of the iceberg. Let us hear your advice in the comments.

Neil Davidson is the Founder of My Web Presenters, who are a leading Online Video Production specialist. They create and market compelling and emotive video that helps businesses to grow. You can keep up with their video marketing blog here.

3 New Tools That Can Help You Create Better Content, Convert More Readers and Conquer Higher Search Rankings

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Anybody can be a content marketer … but not everyone can be a good or even great content marketer who creates articles that convert and rank high in the search engines on a consistent basis.

Over time experience will teach you how to do this, but you also need the right tools.

You need tools that will help you spot the hot topics at that very moment, generate list upon list of high-converting long-tail keywords, automate some of your processes, and even show you the best places to publish your content.

In the last several months four very cool tools have come onto the scene that will help you do just that. Eric showed us one of them—the Content Strategy Generator Tool—earlier today, but I wanted to show you three others that are definitely worth experimenting with.

IFTTT: Automate your content curation tasks

IFTTTYour first experience of IFTTT may seem a bit like a head-scratcher. That’s why IFTTT has given you some very specific “recipes” to add.

What exactly is a “recipe”?

That’s just a set of commands to perform an action when certain conditions are met. That’s what the acronoym means: If This, Then That.

How can this tool help you create compelling, high-converting content? It will basically automate tasks that you normally do.

For example, Evernote is the ultimate tool bloggers use to save ideas we come across on the web. Even though the steps to save that content to Evernote are pretty simple, wouldn’t it be nice to accomplish two tasks in one—and even eliminate some steps in the process?

Standford Smith recently shared his favorite IFTTT recipes that make content curation painless:

When curation tasks like these are automated for you, you can concentrate on creating better content that will convert more readers and rank higher.

Übersuggest: the keyword search tool on steroids

If you want a keyword search tool that will help you build a highly relevant and targeted list of long-tail keywords, then you need Übersuggest.


It combines Google Suggest with other services, and it’s simple to use. Just write a keyword in the box, choose a language, and get suggestions.

You can break these down into just normal web searches, or you can look for terms in verticals like video, shopping, and news. If you click on one of the keywords it then delivers even more suggestions:


There are literally thousands of content ideas you could get from these real user queries.

Click the plus sign and this will put the keywords in a bucket:


After you’ve selected a few more keywords, you can then click “Get” and then copy and paste these keywords:


If you want to take this idea a step further, throw out all those keywords that won’t work for you. Those remaining drop into Google’s keyword suggestion tool.

From that list you can grab the hottest trending keywords and create some high-converting content that also ranks well.

Google Insights: 4 ways to boost your content conversion rates

In its most basic use, Google Insights for Search is great for seeing what people are searching for using broad terms, or narrow ones.

But as a content marketer, you are looking to use Google Insights to help you create highly-targeted content that will boost your conversion rates.

Google Insights offers four ways to do that, using its filters. The first filter we’ll look at is the Web Search.

The Web Search filter

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent in Seattle. You are looking to create some articles for your blog, but you are tired of talking about home prices and want some fresh and relevant topics to discuss.

Google Insights

To keep the content tight and focused on your market, you can filter the content to your region and restrict results to those from the last three months. Then, choose “real estate” as the category.

Note: Leave the “Search terms” box blank if you want to see what’s trending.

This is what you could see:

Google Insights

What you care about here are the Rising Searches and the Breakout search terms.

As you can see, when I did this search, the “Trayvon Martin case” was a hugely popular term in the real estate category. Perhaps you could create some fresh content around issues like the pros and cons of living in a gated community, or a guide to creating a voluntary Neighborhood Watch program. Both are highly-qualified topics that could rank high.

The Image Search filter

The next filter you can use to generate some high-converting content ideas is Image Search. This time you will enter some search terms.

Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you want to see what’s trending among images. You choose “book covers,” “email newsletters,” and “desktop.”

Google Insights

Your results will show you that the email newsletter topic is flat-lining, but the desktop topic is flying high!

Google Insights

That means you need to roll up your sleeves and focus your content on a topic like desktop design. If I were you, I’d use the CSGT or Übersuggest to generate some very refined keywords that will attract that right people and convert well for you.

The News Search filter

The third filter to try is the News Search. This is another one that works really well if you leave the search terms box blank.

Imagine you are a blogger who covers technology, so you enter a search in the News. You make it a worldwide search in the last 90 days, and select Computers & Electronics.

Google Insights

Your results will look something like this for that time range:

Google Insights

Notice how Apple dominates the top six spots, but doesn’t hold place two and four? Those offer some interesting possibilities for content creation.

For example, “anonymous” refers to the hacktivist group Anonymous—you may want to cover their latest efforts. And the “galaxy s3” refers to the latest rumors about this smartphone. Perhaps you can follow that as a possible story idea.

Either way, these will be hot, trending topics that could help you land some heavy traffic!

The Product Search filter

The last filter we’ll look at is the Product Search filter. Anyone who sells anything can use this—and it doesn’t have to be a physical product. It could be an information product or even a service.

Say you have a blog from which you sell stock buying information in the form of email alerts, and you want to relate something back to one of your products.

Search “worldwide” and “finance” without putting anything in the “search terms”.

Google Insights

Here’s what you will get:

Google Insights

Because it was tax season when I ran this search, most of the searches were around the topics of taxes. But what is sr22? And why is it breaking out? Click on it and you get this report:

Google Insights

This is important, because the “sr22” search term can refer to a number of things, including insurance, pistol, or an airplane.

These particular searches, however, are focused on finance, which should give us a clue that this topics is probably about insurance. The subcategory tells us that it is most definitely about insurance.

Click on “Insurance” and you’ll see that sr22 is a specific kind of auto insurance. Now you can create content around sr22 auto insurance, and then tie it back into one of your products, capturing the attention of—and hopefully some conversions from—highly-relevant traffic.

The blogger’s favorite tool/s

In the end, if you want to succeed as a content marketer, then you need to know what type of content is working, what topics are trending well and which keywords are relevant to your context. The tools above will help you find that out.

These tools as they are your key to creating content that not only ranks well but converts readers into subscribers or customers.

Are there any other new tools that I missed that will help a content market create better content? Share them in the comments.

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

The Must-have Blog Post Topic Generation Tool

This is a guest post by Eric Siu of Evergreen Search.

Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes—Napoleon Hill

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s very hard figuring out how to come up with blog post ideas. And based on that quote, if you can’t come up with ideas, then it doesn’t look like you have a starting point from which to create a fortune.

Over the years, many different aggregators and tools have become standard ways to generate post topics. Some people might use Quora or Yahoo Answers to look for problem-solving topics. Others might use Twitter or news aggregators to check for trends. All these tactics are effective, but it can be difficult to track everything at once.

What if there was an all-in-one tool that could combine these tactics into one, so you didn’t have to painfully click around anymore?

Enter: the Content Strategy Generator Tool (CSGT) by Daniel Butler of SEOgadget.


What is the Content Strategy Generator Tool?

The CSGT is a Google Docs spreadsheet that utilizes importXML functions to pull various data around the web for content brainstorming. That content doesn’t have to be restricted to blogging—the tool can be used to research videos, infographics, or audio.

With this tool, you can spot trends, get great headline ideas, come up with your own spin on topics, view new keyword opportunities, and more—and all in one spot. Talk about saving time!

Setting it up is a matter of completing a few steps:

  1. Get the tool here.
  2. Make a copy in Google Docs (File -> Make a Copy)
  3. Enter your keyword in cell B3 (for multiple keywords, using the ‘+’ operator e.g. pet+stores).
  4. Sit back and watch the magic happen.

What’s inside

The spreadsheet itself can display quite a bit of information. This section will break down the different types of data that is pulled into the sheet so you can begin to formulate a strategy on how you’d like to use it.


CSGT pulls news from Google News and Bing News. For Google News, three columns in the spreadsheet give you the title, author and time posted, and a description of the article. For Bing News, you’ll find two columns: one for “best match,” and one for “most recent” articles. This gives you the flexibility to dig through all the latest topic-related news on Bing.

Digg and Reddit are also included in the sheet. Similar to the information it provides on Bing, the sheet will display “most dugg” and “most recent” data from Digg. It will show you the top posts only from Reddit.

Social Media

If you’re looking for video content ideas, you’re in luck: CSGT also displays the top videos from YouTube related to your search.

Topsy, which is a great tool for displaying trending tweets, shows you the latest tweets in the last day as well as the top trending tweets. You’ll also see the usernames, author names, tweets, times of tweets, and number of retweets for each trend. Twittorati Search will pull in more tweets from the highest authority bloggers, and display the user and Twitterati Authority as well.

Facebook isn’t left out, either. AllThingsNow pulls the hottest Facebook shares for the day into the spreadsheet.


CSGT also pulls in topics from various aggregators like Blog Catalog, Fark, Redux, Helium and Cracked.

These sites are all different in their own ways and, at the end of the day, add more diversity to the scope of topics being presented to you. Perhaps you might look at Cracked and come up with a funny spin on a niche topic—anything could happen!

Q+A Sites

The benefit of having Yahoo Answers in the spreadsheet is that this data shows you popular problems that people are actually having right now.

Yahoo Answers will pull the most-answered questions related to your query, and display them for you. You can then go to Google and search on those specific questions. If the answers on the first page aren’t that good (and you think you can do better), you may just have picked up something to write about.


Uber Suggest is an excellent keyword suggestion tool and CSGT brings it right to the sheet so you don’t need to go to the website to find suggestions for other relevant keywords that you can target.

Google Insights will show you what the top and rising searches are in your niche.

And finally, How Stuff Works results will give you ideas for potential how-to content that you can generate.

Source and Place

That’s not all, though—the Source and Place tab will tell you how to find the top Twitter experts, bloggers, and editors in your niche. Use this to figure out who you can follow—and start new relationships with.

How to use the tool

Whenever you are stuck or want to spot trends on a subject, just pop open this tool and enter a topical keyword into cell B3. You can use modifiers to do some more digging, but the bottom line is that this is a great starting point for any content campaign.

At the end of the day, the main benefit of the Content Strategy Generator Tool is to save you time while giving you more ideas. The simplicity and the fact that it’s free makes this tool a must-have for any content creator.

Have you used the CSGT yet? Did you find it useful? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments.

Eric Siu is the Vice President of SEO at Evergreen Search, a digital marketing agency in los angeles. He’s also written about Minimum Viable SEO: 8 Ways To Get Startup SEO Right and 10 Immutable Laws of SEO. In his free time, he likes watching football, playing poker, hiking, reading, or eating ice cream. Feel free to follow him on Twitter( @ericosiu) or on Google+:+Eric Siu

The Secret Stats Your Follower Numbers Hide

This guest post is by Courtney Mroch of Haunt Jaunts.

Statistics and their interpretation is often a popular topic on ProBlogger. One of my favorites about the subject was a guest post by Mark Seall called Who Cares How Many Subscribers You’ve Got?

I loved the way he pointed out that some, if not most, of us will never reach 20,000 subscribers, based purely on the nature of our niches. He created a color-coded diagram of measures we should analyze our success by instead. They included both things we bloggers can directly impact, as well as those we can’t. His point was to focus on what you can influence and not get hung up on, or weighed down by, the rest. Good advice.

On the other hand, Deb of Science@home wrote a guest post called Do You Spend Enough Time Looking at Your Stats? in which she defended the importance of paying attention to them. Namely, she suggested using stats to see who’s visiting from where, and what topics tend to pique their interest most. Then you can cater your posts more to their liking to retain your audience.

I’ve adopted a bit of advice from both Mark and Deb into my stats analysis and blog post development. However, what I’m most concerned with these days is how wisely I’m spending my precious social networking time.

Which social networks are really driving readers to my blog?

When I first started tracking my blog’s stats and paying attention to referral sources, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively, were always the top three referral sources. They drove in a significantly larger amount of traffic than any of the other top ten referrers.

However, at some point I decided I wanted more followers. That’s when I discovered StumbleUpon. Shortly after, my stats revealed something startling, something Marcello Arrambide of Wandering Trader touched on in his ProBlogger guest post A Blog Traffic Strategy: Quality vs Quantity: follower numbers can be deceptive.

Large follower numbers don’t necessarily translate into big visits

In no time flat, StumbleUpon blew Google, which had been Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source, out of the water traffic-wise. Not only that, it brought in more traffic than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined. Where Google, FB, and Twitter brought in 1,200-1,500 views a month together, StumbleUpon was bringing in 7,000-8,000 all by itself.

But what was even more shocking was I had maybe 20 followers on StumbleUpon at that time. Haunt Jaunts’s Twitter followers were nearing 3,000, and its Facebook page had several hundred. You’d have thought that, together, they’d be bringing in the most traffic. Not even close.

Noticing trends, tracking down followers

These days StumbleUpon is still Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source. However, it’s dropped considerably. I noticed it after SU made some changes. People got mad and stopped using it as much.

Instead, I saw more people flocking to Tumblr, as well as Pinterest. The former seemed to appeal to many ex-Stumblers because it let them do a lot of what they used to be able to do on StumbleUpon, yet have a little more individuality. The latter seemed to appeal to those who especially liked Stumbling photos.

Facebook traffic also dropped. Coincidently, that happened around the same time Google+ became available.

And then there was Twitter. It dropped off my Top 10 Referrers list entirely. In fact, it wasn’t even in the top 50 anymore. It’s since dropped off as a referral source altogether.

Adapt or die

After analyzing my stats, it was time to re-evaluate my social networking strategy. I thought of Dona Colins’s guest post Is Twitter a Waste of Time?, since I found myself having to contemplate that question, not just for Twitter, but for all my social networks.

Where was I going to spend my time? How much effort should I continue putting into the old sources? Which new platforms should I take a gamble on?

I decided to stick with Twitter. It doesn’t bring in any hits, but I do continue to make valuable connections that lead to other projects. Facebook continues to hold strong in the Top 5, so I’ve also kept it.

I decided to expand into new-to-me social networks, including Google+, TBEX (a travel writer community), Pinterest, and Tumblr.

I’ve found a group of fellow TBEXers who also use StumbleUpon. We’ve sort of banded together. I’ve seen a slight increase in SU’s referrals thanks to this. Not like the results I was once getting, but it’s still my number one referral source.

I don’t know how much traffic Google+ is responsible for yet, but it didn’t even take Tumblr two weeks to climb into my Top 10 referrers once I started using it regularly. I’m curious to see if it will continue to climb.

And then there’s Pinterest. So far it’s generated zilch traffic. I have, however, found it’s a delightful way to spend time that could be better utilized researching, writing, or social networking elsewhere. It’s a dangerous one for me to linger on very long.

What about you? Does your biggest referral traffic come from your social network with the most followers or not?

Courtney Mroch is a writer who wears many blogging hats, among her favorite is being the Director of Paranormal Tourism for Haunt Jaunts, a travel blog for restless spirits.

Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using Slideshare

This guest post is by Joel Runyon of Impossible HQ.

How do you stand out and differentiate yourself online when more and more people are starting blogs every day?

Sure, you need to write stuff that’s gong to stand out, but a lot of blogging advice focuses just on writing. Sometimes to really stand out, you need to go beyond writing and create something different. You need to create content (not just writing) that helps you find new audiences to speak to by using new mediums to spread your message.

One of those new media is Slideshare, an online slide sharing community.

The spark

In 2011, my friend David Crandall released a project titled Inspiration Squared on Slideshare. He sent it to me before he posted it and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be big. David is one heck of a designer and his work combined with the inspirational content behind the piece convinced me right there that it was going to blow up and that I needed to do something about it. I didn’t know anything about Slideshare at the time, but he told me he was going to release it there. Sure enough, as soon as he put it up, he got on to the front page of Slideshare and got about 20,000 views in just a few days.

Over the next few months, he released a few more projects, got them all front-paged on Slideshare and consistently grabbed around 20,000-30,000 views in just a few days after each launch.

David was killing it and I wanted in.

The plan

As soon as I saw David’s first presentation, a light bulb went off and I realized that this Slideshare thing could be big—really big. I sent him an email and told him I wanted to do one. I didn’t know what it would be yet, but I knew it would have two main characteristics: inspirational and beautiful.


I talk about doing impossible things, but I can’t control anyone’s actions other than myself. In other words, I can’t make people act, but I can create the impetus for them to do so. Inspirational pieces not only allow you to do that but also tend to be wildly popular. I knew that in order for this presentation to spread, it would have to be incredibly inspirational.


I wanted the piece to be beautiful as well—this is where David came in. I know exactly what I like, but I know absolutely nothing about making design work. I could have attempted to do this on my own in Microsoft paint, but I knew the only person who would actually pass that along would be my mom.

I knew I couldn’t do it myself, so I called David up and asked him if he would consider doing those presentations for other people. After his track record on his presentations, it was a no-brainer and I commissioned him to do a piece based on one of my most popular posts ever—25 Impossible Quotes—a year-and-a-half-old post that gets crazy amounts of Stumble Upon and social media traffic.

Manufacturing viral

I realized if I could make it both inspirational and beautiful, we could get some serious traction in the Slideshare community as well as the other social media channels, and it would have the potential to go viral. I’ll be the first one to say that it sounds really dumb to say you can manufacture something going viral and for the most part you can’t if you’re trying to create massive viral wins of 1,000,000+ views. But, if you just want to do 50,000-100,000 views, it’s much more doable and I knew with David’s track record, we could easily get 20,000-30,000 views and build it from there.

Since the piece was going to be a presentation and downloadable booklet, we decided to beef it up and double the amount of quotes in it, pulling some more impossible quotes from another article until we ended up with a total 50 impossible quotes. With those set, David went to work and did his thing.

(I mentioned before that you could probably do this yourself if you’ve got serious design chops. If not, and you’re serious about this, find someone like David who’s work you’ve seen before and like. It’s worth it to invest in this to make it truly epic.)

The marketing

There were a few different methods we planned on getting traffic from.

My site

I figured my decent sized readership would give the presentation the initial boost we needed to get traction in the Slideshare community and I was right. After a few thousand views from my site, we hit the front page of Slideshare.

Slideshare front page

Getting on Slideshare’s front page is usually good for 10,000-20,000 views depending on how long you’re up there and how compelling your presentation actually is. Ours went up and got us 25,000 views within the first couple days. That was enough to put at the top of the charts for most popular category, which gave the project even more longevity.

I was pumped, but I knew we could do more. I reached out to a few more people and we started to inch up towards the 30-40k mark. Still good, but I felt there was more potential.

The inflection point

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, the seventh largest publishing house in the US, and runs a blog with close to 200,000 visitors. We simply wanted him to take a look at it and through a series of twitter messages we got it in front of him and he loved it. The next thing I know I got a message from Michael, “Cool, I’ll post it on my blog.”

A couple of days later—BOOM.

He posted it and it took off: 60k, 75k, 80k views. Within a couple weeks we doubled the amount of views on the presentation and within a month of the launch, we cleared 100,000 views on the presentation (not to mention several thousand direct downloads both from Slideshare and Impossible HQ). Not too bad for a little outside-the-box thinking.

Make your own Slideshare presentation

Fortunately, Slideshare is a new enough platform that you can get some serious traction without being a superstar. After all, if I did it, so can you. Here are a few tips on making your own Slideshare presentation go viral.

Make it simple, stupid

The highlight of Slideshare pieces that go viral is simplicity. You don’t need to make it complicated. You should have one main thought per slide. Don’t over think this.

Choose the right type of presentation

The types of posts that will do really well on Stumble Upon will also do really well on Slideshare. If you have any posts on your blog that have done particularly well on Stumble Upon, you should probably be able to convert it into a popular Slideshare presentation. Other post types that do well:

  • inspirational posts
  • lists posts
  • compilations of quotes (people really love quotes)
  • simple explanations of complicated things.

Anything that is simple, easy to understand and apply do really well in the Slideshare format.

Note: Please do not do a PowerPoint presentation. It will not go over well and no one ever wants to read 5-7 bullets on a slide. Remember: keep it simple!

Find a Slideshare Insider

I compiled the quotes and knew it would have certain traction with the backing of my branding, but the secret sauce of working with David is that he’s already been established in the Slideshare community. He’s done a lot of the heavy lifting of making connections and getting known because he’s good at what he does. He’s built up a reputation so people pay attention when he creates something.

Don’t underestimate the value of working with someone great. Scan the top creators of Slideshare and find someone whose work you like and see if you can commission them for your project. Not only will their knowledge help you make a better looking presentation, but once it’s made, you’ll have more traction within the community.

Market the heck out of it

Share it with your audience. Share it with people you know. Talk to people who know people and share it with them. If you’ve done your work and made your Slideshare presentation awesome, share it with them and ask their opinion and you’ll make it easy for them to pass it along.

The hidden benefits of Slideshare

The best part of creating content Slideshare is that it’s a whole new audience. Guest posting and interviews can always bring in different amounts of traffic, but it’s often hard to avoid incestuous blogging—blogging to the same audiences that read the same blogs over and over and over.

Slideshare is a whole different medium than blog readers. Similar to podcast listeners, Pinterest users and YouTube users, they’re an entirely different market that may or may not read blogs. By using your content in a different way, you can reach these audiences where they’re at and draw them in.

The flip-side of this is that most of your blog readers have never heard of Slideshare either. So, when you create a killer presentation, it looks incredibly impressive—even if you’re simply repurposing your content into a new arena. It’s a whole new medium with a lot of wide open opportunity, so don’t wait.

Have you used Slideshare yet? Tell us how it went in the comments.

Joel Runyon is the creator of Impossible HQ and the Blog of Impossible Things where he pushes his limits by doing the impossible.  You can follow him on twitter.

19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog

This guest post is by Eric Siu of Evergreen Search.

WordPressers are always looking for helpful plugins for their blogs, and if you’ve been following today’s posts on ProBlogger, especially Install Your First WordPress Plugin, you’re probably in the same boat.

So I thought I’d compile a list of the most popular to get you started. To make things simple, the plugins in this post have been broken into different categories.

SEO plugins

  • WordPress SEO: If there’s one plugin from this list that you should get, this is the one. It sets up title tags, breadcrumbs, meta robots control, XML sitemaps, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and much more.Wordpress SEO
  • Broken Link Checker: This handy plugin will tell you which links on your site are broken – an automated problem spotter.
  • WPTouch: Easily create a mobile version of your site.
  • nRelate Related Content: Make it easy for people and search engines to find related content around your site.
  • WP Editorial Calendar: Make blogging more manageable by setting up a blogging calendar with this plugin. Very simple drag-and-drop editing on a calendar.
  • SEO Auto Links & Related Posts: Autolink words to URLs of your choice—great for internal linking.
  • WP Super Cache: This plugin will speed up your blog—and site speed is an SEO factor. While not necessary for smaller blogs, bigger blogs will definitely want this plugin.
  • Blogging Checklist: Sometimes you might forget to include some important steps while blogging. Blogging Checklist allows you to add a list of helpful reminders before you place a blog post. Forget no more!
    Blogging Checklist

Social plugins

  • Social Analytics: Want to see which users are logged in via Google, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter? You can do it with this plugin.
  • Social Sharing Toolkit: This flexible plugin allows you to add “social bling” to your posts or pages. You can add buttons from various social networks in a clean and minimalistic manner. Here’s how it looks:
    social sharing tool kit
  • Tweet Old Post: If you have content that you’d like to resurface to your audience every now and then, Tweet Old Post lets you do it.

Analytics plugins

General plugins

  • Subscribe to Comments: Gives your audience the option to subscribe to comments so they will be alerted when people are posting new comments.
  • Outbound Links: Automatically makes all outbound links open in new windows. Helpful in the sense that you don’t lose your audience completely. These clicks can be tracked in Google Analytics.
  • Post Ender: Add a message at the end of each post—think email subscription and RSS subscription opt-ins, like this:

    Post Ender

    Image via ConversionXL

  • Akismet: Eliminate comment spam. This plugin is already installed—all you need to do is enable it and get an API key.
  • Widget Context: A custom sidebar widget. Sometimes you might need to rotate in different ads or use different widgets for various pages or posts. This plugin helps you accomplish that.

Maintenance plugins

  • WP Database Backup: Backing up your blog is extremely important—you don’t want a freak accident to destroy all your work. This plugin allows you to schedule backups. I personally send them to different gmail accounts for each blog.
  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox: Back up your WordPress files to your Dropbox account.


There are a ton of great WordPress plugins out there—this list is intended just to help you get a head start. You’re sure to find some incredible plugins that suit your needs down the line. What are some other essential WordPress plugins that you use?

Eric Siu is the Vice President of SEO at Evergreen Search, a digital marketing agency in los angeles. He’s also written about Minimum Viable SEO: 8 Ways To Get Startup SEO Right and 10 Immutable Laws of SEO. In his free time, he likes watching football, playing poker, hiking, reading, or eating ice cream. Feel free to follow him on Twitter: @ericosiu :)