Category Archives: Tools and Reviews

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36 WordPress Plugins to Rock Your Blog or Website

wordpress buttonsIf you’re ready to  add some fancy functionality to your WordPress blog or website and you don’t know how to write code, plugins can be your best friend. Of the over 23,000 plugins available there are some that rise above the rest. I’ve outlined 36 of my favorites in the Slideshare presentation below (originally presented at Workbar Boston in January 2013).

How the presentation is organized

The plugins are organized by category – starting with front-end functionality such as sharing buttons and slideshows. The second half of the presentation covers back-end plugins such as analytics and SEO. I give my top 2-3 recommendations for each category, with a total of 36 plugins mentioned.

Quick note: WordPress Plugins are available for self-hosted WordPress sites only (not WordPress.com blogs). If you’re not sure the difference, see this post.

Another quick note: The final slide was added during the session itself to take note of a recommendation from a member of the audience. Consider it a bonus. 🙂

How to install WordPress plugins

To install plugins, login to your WordPress admin dashboard and click Plugins>Add New. Search for the plugin by name (I tried to use the exact plugin names in my presentation, as many of them have similar names). Once you find the correct one, click Install, wait a few seconds, and then click Activate. Configure your plugin per the instructions.

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20+ Resources to Help You Achieve Your Professional New Year’s Resolutions

clockIt’s the beginning of 2013 and if you’re like me, you’re starting to tackle both personal and professional new year’s resolutions. And although many argue that the new year is arbitrary — that we should be continuously striving to do better, no matter what day it is — I like January 1st as a purposeful starting point for improving yourself at home and at work.

No matter what you resolve to do better in 2013, useful resources abound to help you make good on your business-related new year’s pledges.

Check out the following handy resources if your professional new year’s resolution is to:

Read more books

Fast Company put together an awesome list of The Best Business Books of 2012: Find Fulfillment, Get Productive and Create Healthy Habits. At the top of my professional to-read pile is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.

Get organized

Time Management Ninja is one of my favorite organization blogs. They have a nice compilation of their best posts on the Best of TMN page. They (like me) are huge fans of Evernote – the omniplatform app that lets you grab and organize information and content across all of your devices. For example, I used the Evernote web clipper to grab the Fast Company book list, and then pulled it up on my Evernote iPhone app when I was at the bookstore. Instant access to the list when I needed it.

Improve your social media marketing

There are thousands of articles, lists and pieces of advice out there to improve your social media marketing. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are such moving targets it’s hard to keep up with best practices. My advice? Read, read, read. A few articles have stood out to me lately as particularly innovative and helpful. I really like this article from the Australian blog Socially Sorted on doing better at Twitter: Make Twitter Work for You – 10 Ways to Rock Your Tweets. If you’re a Facebook marketer, this 2013 Facebook Marketing Pledge from Jon Loomer is spot on.

Network

I’m a huge fan of the value of in-person networking at events and conferences. Eventbrite is a great resource for finding in-person networking events, classes and conferences. If online networking is your goal, Twitter chats are a great place to connect with other professionals. If you are a marketer like me, I like this compilation of marketing Twitter chats from the folks at Raven Tools. To find chats on other topics– and there’s a chat on just about every topic these days– check out this exhaustive list of Tweetchats by day of the week. It’s also worth searching for networking groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and now Google Plus.

Write more (and better)

Whether your goal be professional writing, blogging or creative writing, help abounds to rev up or refine your writing mojo. I’ve  recently discovered the writing blog Write to Done, which covers a nice scope of topics related to writing technique, motivation, inspiration and promotion. For bloggers, Problogger’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is now a classic reference for launching or relaunching a blog. To keep yourself motivated through the month-long process, assemble a group of blogging friends and do it together.

Polish your brand

If your 2013 goal is to kick it up a notch with your personal or business brand – by launching or relaunching your blog, commissioning a professional logo or creating an email newsletter, I’ve created a resource list of the sites and services I recommend most.

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WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What’s The Difference?

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WordPress, why’d you have to go and give two different things practically the same name??

I get this question all the time… from bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, even big business executives. It’s a point of confusion for MANY people.

Often times people have a WordPress blog but they’re not sure whether it’s .com or .org. Some didn’t even realize there are two versions of WordPress. Others stumble upon my list of WordPress plugin recommendations and wonder why they can’t find where to install plugins on their blog.

I’ve long considered posting a comprehensive answer here on my blog, and then about a week ago I discovered WP101 has already done it for me. And it’s perfect. Simply watch this simple, clear demonstration video and all will be revealed. I’m serious – I couldn’t have explained it better.

Looking to learn more about WordPress? I’m a fan of the whole series of videos from WP101. They’ve got a large collection of free material on their site, and for those who want a deeper dive, you can sign up for a paid subscription to the entire tutorial video series. There’s also a premium WordPress Plugin that will allow you to watch the videos right in your WP dashboard. Cool.

I love it when I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

photo credit: Peregrino Will Reign via photopin cc

WP101 Video embedded with permission.

Ready to take the next step?

5 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

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Ready to take the next step?

This past Saturday I conducted brand consults for 14 fantastic mom bloggers at Springboard Conference in Boston. For me, doing one-on-one consults is incredibly rewarding because in just a short period of time, you can give people individualized recommendations and concrete to-dos that are specific to their blog and their goals. It’s much harder to do that as a speaker in a conference session. Plus, I get to learn more about what people need, and create content to fill that need. A win-win.

Although everyone had questions and concerns that were about their individual blogs, several common themes came up. Everyone I spoke with had the goal of growing and improving their blog and/or business. In other words, taking it to the next level. I found myself sharing the same list of mom blogging tips and resources many times over. And so I’ve decided to share them here AND in a new resource area on my site.

Quick note… my first three tips pertain to WordPress self-hosted bloggers (or those who aspire to be). If you’re a dedicated Blogger or WordPress.com user, skip to Tip #4.

1. Switch from Blogger or WordPress.com to a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll tell you again. If you want to own your content, customize your site and look more professional, a self-hosted blog is the way to go. One blogger told me this analogy she had heard: Blogger is an automatic car and WordPress self-hosted is a stick shift. In other words, it’s tough to learn in the beginning, and a little scary, but after a while you feel so much more in control.

A large number of bloggers I spoke with at Springboard were interested in moving their blog to their own domain and web host and switching to the WordPress.org platform (vs. hosting it on a site such as Blogger or WordPress.com). For those who want to do this, I recommend Hostgator for web hosting services, and their partner Registry Rocket for domain purchases. Even if you already have your own domain (Blogger and WordPress.com both give you the option to use a domain name that you’ve purchased), in order to move to a true self-hosted site you will need to sign on with a web host such as Hostgator. Hostgator can also help you move your blog from Blogger or WordPress.com to a self-hosted site on the WordPress.org software platform. On the Hostgator site they have detailed information about moving your WordPress.com blog or Blogger blog without losing data with minimal disruption to your readers.

2. Use a Premium WordPress Theme

Although WordPress self-hosted bloggers can choose from hundreds of free themes, many of those can be tricky to customize, don’t get frequent updates and lack support. I use a WooThemes premium WordPress theme to power this site and they’re fantastic. I have also used and recommend Headway Themes for those who want even more power to customize. Friends and colleagues use and recommend Thesis, Genesis and Elegant Themes.

3. Customize Your Site With WordPress Plugins

If and when you decide to make the move to a self-hosted site using the WordPress.org software, that opens a whole new world to you in terms of plugins. Plugins are like neatly wrapped up bits of code that make your WordPress site do new and wonderful things. I have been playing around with plugins for several years now and you can see a list of my favorite WordPress plugins by category on this slide deck.

4. Create a Professional Logo

Unless you’re a graphic designer or have some mad design skills, you probably want to hire a designer to create your logo. Designers can be quite expensive but the results are worth the money and are an excellent business investment. If you’re looking for a professional logo or other design elements for your blog, such as a header, a budget-friendly option is 99designs. For $299, you hold a “design contest” where dozens of designers from around the world compete to create a winning logo. 99designs has an extremely detailed form to help you identify exactly what you are looking for (something serious? humorous? favorite colors? styles you like?). And while the contest is running, you rate the designs as they come in so the designers can make tweaks and changes. I used 99designs for my company logo and had a fantastic experience.

5. Use Interesting and High Quality Photos (Without Stealing Them)

Beginning bloggers are often surprised to learn that they cannot use Google Images to grab photos to use on their blog. As I’ve written in the past, Google Images merely searches ALL images on the web and returns them regardless of copyright. For paid stock photo images, my top choice is iStockphoto. And my new favorite for free images is Photo Pin, which is an application for searching the Flickr Creative Commons database. This database of millions of photos that can be used with attribution, and Photo Pin provides both better search results than the native Flickr site and a handy copy/paste area for placing the attribution link at the bottom of your post or in the caption. Like I’m about to do, right now.

photo credit: on1stsite. via photopin cc