Everyone knows a blogger! They are always on the lookout for the newest plugin, widget or theme to improve their blog just a little bit more. This Christmas list contains some of my most frequently used and/or coolest tools that I have come across. You cannot go wrong by giving any one of these or a combination to your favorite blogger.
There are plenty of blogging platforms available to choose from. TypePad, Blogger, and WordPress are the leading platforms within the business community. Arguing which platform is better and why is a bit like my uncles arguing the advantages of Ford over Chevrolet or Chrysler in years past. There was not one right answer. Rather than tackle that argument here, I am going to share several of the most helpful web tools for bloggers that use the WordPress.org version of WordPress. This version of WordPress is free, but you must decide on a hosting company where you will load your software, or in other words, self-hosted WordPress. Here are the tools that will make your blogger smile on Christmas morning.
Scribe SEO is designed to take the guesswork out of squeezing the most out of the search engines. It’s slogan is “SEO made Simple” and it delivers. Scribe guides you through three key areas after you have your post written and they are Keywords, Content and Links. It does it’s job very effectively and accomplishes it’s job with just a few clicks. I have found that after having used it for some time now that it has trained me how to do these things correctly to start with. It is always a good feeling after crafting a blog post to hit the Analyze button and it comes back with a 100% score. Available plans begin at $17.00 / month
FeedFabrik might be the #1 gift listed if your Blogger is also an aspiring writer. FeedFabrik uses the posts within your Blog and transforms them into a well-formatted book. It’s easy to generate your very own BlogBook in just a few clicks. You can get your book as a PDF or as a properly printed book, whichever you prefer. I have tried many solutions that tried to do what Feedfabrik claims, and was disappointed with them all. Simply put, FeedFabrik simply blew me away. The company is based in Germany and provides excellent customer service. Feedfabrik PDF creation is free at this point, and you pay for the printed books at what appears to be competitive rates.
Tynt Insight makes link-backs to your content effortless for readers and helps you gain new insight into user engagement. At it’s core, when someone copies some or all of your blog content and then pastes it somewhere else, it appends a link attributing the words to your blog. Here is what it looks like when I copy a portion from yesterdays post about Christmas Gifts for Small Business Owners:
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By automatically and effortlessly attributing content to you, increased traffic, increased SEO benefits and improved reader insight is realized. It is one of those tools that works immediately upon installation and you quickly forget that it is even there. Tynt Insight is free to use.
Gravity Forms is easily the most versatile Forms creation and Forms Management plugin available. It allows readers to send you information in a multitude of formats including Contact & Support Forms, Surveys & Polls, User-generated content, and even guest post submissions. Creating a form that actually looks good and is able to act upon the data provided is a common reason for bloggers loosing their hair prematurely. Gravity Forms uses a point-and-click approach and helps the blogger create forms that not only look great but pack powerful capabilities behind the scenes. Over the last year they have released add-ons that connect directly with the popular Mailchimp Email software system and the Freshbooks invoicing software. Try doing that with any other forms plugins or software. Pricing is $39.00 for a single blog site, or $99.00 for up to five sites.
PHPurchase is a relatively new plugin that provides a blog site with full E-Commerce capabilities. At some point, your favorite blogger is going to want to collect money on their blog. Whether selling digital or physical products, memberships, subscriptions or payment plans, PHPurchase is able to deliver immediately upon installation. It also provides inventory tracking, real-time UPS shipping rates, and integrates into Paypal, Authorize.net and other popular merchant gateway services. I have tried most of the other products that attempt to offer this service, and have left each experience frustrated and disappointed, ultimately uninstalling them. By the way, PHPurchase now features interaction with Gravity Forms mentioned above. The PHPurchase site provides examples, FAQ’s and their customer support is excellent. Pricing for a single site is either $49.00 for the standard version or $99.00 for the Pro version. Multiple site licenses are available.
BudURL.pro is one of my favorite web tools period. It is not a plugin specifically for WordPress, but rather a tool to use after you create your post. BudURL.pro is a custom URL shortener, taking the long web address for each post ( which can easily run into 50-60 characters or more) and shrinking it into a short, easy to remember and distribute URL. What makes BudURL.pro my recommended choice for this is that you are able to create your own, custom url for this. As an example, my company is Fill the Funnel. I am able to use www.FTF.sh/xxxx as my custom branded format. Anytime you see something from me on the web with a link, you will see the FTF.sh format. Most importantly, by using this tool, you are able to track how many people are clicking on the url, where they are from, and how often they open it. Very helpful when you are trying to learn what your readers and customers respond to the most and/or the least. Pricing for BudURL.pro version starts at $24.00/ month.
Wishlist Member is a powerful solution for creating an online membership site – all built using WordPress as the foundation of the system. Wishlist makes it easy to control access to your content, accept payments, manage your members and provide a robust set of products and services available only to your members. It essentially provides a privacy curtain, that only “members” that you have allowed in to see behind the scenes. This works well for a blogger that has consulting services to sell, allowing access to a much deeper pool of videos, white-papers and content to those who have paid for these services. Anytime that you would like to provide a level of secure access to information for a subset of your readers-Wishlist will do this in a straightforward and elegant way. Think about a blog for a non-profit, where financial information reserved for the Board of Directors can be placed behind a curtain, leaving the front end of your blog available to the general public. If exclusive, controlled access to some portion of the blog’s content is desired, Wishlist Member is the ideal tool to use. Pricing is $97.00 for a single site license with multi-site licenses available for $297.00
Odiogo is one of the web tools that does not seem that important until you need it. With Odiogo you can turn readers into listeners, and transform your blog into a high quality broadcast that can vastly expand your audience reach! Once you have installed Odiogo on your blog, it translates your post automatically and converts it into a voice for podcast distribution. I have many readers that listen to Fill the Funnel from their iTunes podcast feed. A benefit that was discovered and pointed out to me by one of my readers was that it allowed a blind person to continue to learn about web tools by listening to the posts. She said that her father, an executive for most of his life, had lost his eyesight and was legally blind. Due to Odiogo’s service, he was able to stay current on many of the topics that were of interest to him. Odiogo empowers you to convert your blog posts into high quality audio files that can be listened to in many different ways, and it all happens automatically. Look for the Odiogo “Listen Now” button at the beginning of any of the posts on this blog to hear how it sounds. Pricing for Odiogo is free.
WPTouch Pro converts your blog content into a mobile format that is easily readable on your iPhone or other smartphone. Once installed, it does it’s work automatically, sensing which browser is being used to read the blog. With mobile devices fast becoming the primary platform for reading blogs, you cannot afford to not have your content appear in an easy to read format on whichever device the reader is using. A feature that I value is the automatic nature of this tool, converting your site content without any further intervention on your part. Install and forget about it. The reader can also select to view the site in the “normal” view by clicking on their choice at the bottom of the page while on a mobile device. Pricing is $39.00 for a single license and multiple site licenses are available also.
Backup Buddy is an all-in-one solution for backups, restoration, and migration. The single backup ZIP file created by the plugin can be used to quickly and easily restore your site on the same server or even migrate to a new host with different settings. Every blog will experience a failure at some point. It is not worth risking the loss of everything contained in the blog, sometimes content spanning over a number of years. This might well be the gift that your blogger friend will thank you for now, and really thank you again when it saves them from a catastrophe down the road. Backup Buddy provides the peace of mind that we never value until it is needed most. Pricing is $45.00 for a single site or $75.00 for a multiple site license.
These are a few of my favorite Blog tools. There is always something new coming down the path, and it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the web tool world. If you want to follow the release of these WordPress plugins and widgets, bookmark a new site that we have started that focuses only on this topic – www.pluginsandwidgets.com. Just getting started over there but much more to come in 2011 and beyond.
I look forward to read about your favorite plugins and widgets in your comments below.
(Please note that several of the links above, if selected, create a small payment to me equivalent to one of my favorite latte’s at Starbucks.)