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Happy Plugins! WordPress Plugin Reviews and Recommendations

I’m no WordPress guru, but as I started moving my site to a new host and new domain, I realized there are some WordPress plugins that I simply can’t live without. The new site is still in the storyboard phase, so now is a good time to go over which plugins I want, which ones I can’t live without, and which ones I need to dump alltogether.

The first and most important plugin comes installed with WordPress (from for self-hosted sites). Akismet is one of the best spam detectors. If you haven’t activated it, do this first. You’ll need a WordPress API key for Akismet. Akismet provides one for you here, or you can sign up an account with for your key. All you have to do is enter the key into the Akismet Configuration under Plugins and you’re good to go!

The following Plugins will help with SEO and search engines. I recommend activating them in this order. You’ll see why as we go through the list because they work together to get you the best possible search results.

PC Robots.txt by Peter Coughlin

The robots.txt file serves two basic purposes. It keeps “bad” robots (also known as spiders) out and lets “good” robots in. The good guys, like Google, use the file to index your web content. Spammers use it to scan your site for email addresses and other nasty habits. You can check out the links provided by the plugin to learn more, but all you need to do with this one is add it to your plugins directory and activate it!

NOTE: This plugin will be updated a lot! Every time you see the “plugin needs updating” notice on your Plugins area of the WordPress admin, be sure that you keep this one up to date. It usually means more spammers have been added to the list.

All in One SEO Pack by Michael Torbert

This plugin helps you arrange your posts and pages in a way that will be “search-engine friendly”. You can use it to write your own meta descriptions, or let it generate them for you, as well as generating keywords from your post tags and/or categories. I’ve seen several “SEO gurus” proclaim that meta keywords and descriptions are “out” and that search engines don’t use them anymore, but this plugin, coupled with the others listed here, have gotten my keywords on page one search results in Google within a month the first time I used it (instead of the usual 6+ months it normally takes). Maybe I’m not the expert they claim to be, but as long as it works, I’m recommending it!

Automatic SEO Links by Emilio

I’m still getting used to using this plugin to its full potential, but it’s great for affiliate-style blogging. You can use this to set up specific words or phrases as links so when you type them into a post, they link automatically for you. That way if you need to change multiple affiliate links throughout your site, you can just go in and change it in the plugin and it should change in every post where the word or phrase was used. It also only links the first occurence of the word in a post, so people aren’t innundated with links within the same post all going to the same place. The only downsides: It would be nice to chose to exclude the link on some posts where the word or phrase is used and the link is irrelevant, or you want to over-ride it to a different location. Also, if you do want the link to appear more than once in a post, you still must manually add it each additional time the word shows up.

Dagon Design Sitemap Generator by Dagon Design

This plugin creates an easy to use, set it and forget it Sitemap for your site. Once it’s set up, you never need to worry about adding pages or posts to the sitemap, the plugin creates them for you. Before activating the plugin, create a Page (not a post) named Sitemap, and add the following into the html code on the page:
<!– ddsitemapgen –>

Be sure you’re adding it as html and not in the Visual editor. Activate and configure the plugin with the link to that page in the “Sitemap page slug” field. You can choose whether to show pages, posts or both and the order to show them in. Posts will be arranged initially by Category for ease of use by someone searching for something on your site.

You will be adding an XML sitemap in a later plugin. You can leave the “Full path to XML sitemap” blank for now, but be sure to come back and fill it in after you activate Google XML Sitemaps.

Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold

This plugin generates an XML Sitemap for you automatically for use in your Sitemap as well as notifying search engines about updates to your web site. The plugin generates the XML Sitemap for you, giving you several ways to control what pages and posts are included as well as how often to send out updates to the major search engines.

In setting up your Basic Options, if you used the PC Robots.txt plugin, be sure to Un-Check “Add sitemap URL to the virtual robots.txt file. The virtual robots.txt generated by WordPress is used. A real robots.txt file must NOT exist in the blog directory!”

The other plugin created this file for you.

Because Google XML Sitemaps submits a notification to the search engines automatically when it’s first created, you may want to activate this plugin after you have added some content to your site. By setting up the plugins in the order recommended, you’ll have your robots.txt file ready for the Google “crawler” so it doesn’t index hidden folders, and your pages, posts, Sitemap, and SEO links will all be ready to receive Google and the other search engines when you send them an invitation to “come on over and visit” your site.

Other useful plugins:

Besides SEO and sitemap plugins, I also find the following plugins useful as well.

Dagon Design Form Mailer by Dagon Design

Great for creating contact forms on your site and designed by the people who created the Dagon Design Sitemap Generator. Simple and easy to use. Warning: May be incompatible with other plugins that use CAPTCHA.

AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget by The AddThis Team (not to be confused with the AddThis Sidebar Widget. Be sure to get the one created by The AddThis Team.)

There are tons of Social Bookmarking widgets and plugins available for WordPress. I recommend this one for a variety of reasons.
You can set up an account with AddThis and enter your account information into this plugin to have linking statistics sent to you. The Bookmark icons may not be as big or fancy as some plugins, but the bonus is that the Bookmark icons aren’t as big, fancy and downright overwhelming as those plugins can tend to be. Seriously, am I the only one tired of visiting a blog article and having trouble finding the article for all the fancy “web 2.0″ icons all over the place?

Twitter Tools by Crowd Favorite

When you install this plugin, you’ll also get “Twitter Tools – URLs”, “Twitter Tools – Exclude Category”, and “Twitter Tools – Hashtags”. This is a great plugin for sending your new posts to Twitter automatically. For anyone following me on Twitter, you’ve already seen this plugin in use every time you see “New Blog Post” for my blog. As I add new items for sale on my ecommerce site, I’ll be using this plugin as well. Follow me and watch for them!

I also use “Twitter Tools – URLs” and “Twitter Tools – Exclude Category”. You configure these in the Twitter Tools control panel, and once again, with a account, you can track your twitter linking statistics. Other options for Twitter tools, include creating a sidebar widget showing your tweets, or creating a blog post or digest from tweets.

Plugins I’m breaking up with:

It happens. You decide it’s just not working out, or you’re not compatible anymore. I’ve decided it’s time to pull the plug on the following plugins. That doesn’t mean you can’t try them out and be very happy with them. If you do, I wish you well and have no hard feelings that they survived without me. *sniff*

CAPTCHA-Godfather. I don’t know what happened or when our relationship went wrong, but I wondered why I wasn’t getting any comment love and a friend told me finally that they were getting errors when they tried to leave me a comment. It turns out that the Godfather plugin was to blame. It seems this plugin is no longer compatible with newer versions of WordPress (2.8 and higher). I guess the Godfather was too jealous to let anyone else give me comment love, so he had to go.

TweetMeme Retweet Button. It’s still a nice plugin, but like I said earlier, I see no need to have every style of social bookmarking links under the sun crowding your page. With the advantages of AddThis and Twitter Tools, I just no longer needed TweetMeme.

Wishads. Designed for users and affiliates of CafePress and Zazzle, Wishads came highly recommended and had great potential but I was never able to make it work. I contacted the developer and was told they are no longer able to support it. If you have it and it works for you, you might consider holding off on updating your WordPress.

Hello Dolly. The other plugin that comes with WordPress. Cute little plugin, but as I add more, I found it’s better to keep my Plugins Admin area clutter-free of plugins I simply don’t use. Sorry, Dolly, it’s not hello, but good-bye.

(I am not associated with any of the above sites, nor do I receive affiliate credit or payment for recommending these. They are simply a list of tools that I find useful in building and maintaining my web site using WordPress. With all the information and self-proclaimed “experts” out there it’s hard to figure out what’s going to be useful and what isn’t. Need some serious WordPress help? Let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.)

If you enjoyed this, found it useful or even a little entertaining, be sure and use the AddThis plugin below the post to share it with all your friends, family and strangers! And don’t forget to share some comment love too. I promise my new spamguard, Akismet, won’t get too jealous. ;)

Facebook Faux Pas

Like?It’s been a week since Facebook made changes to their site that affected anyone with a “Fan Page.” We no longer have Fans, we have people who “Like” our pages. Users and page owners began noticing the change on April 20, the day before F8, the Facebook Developer’s Conference. Before the conference even began, and long before the keynote speech by Mark Zuckerberg and Bret Taylor, thousands of upset page owners began putting up pages and groups asking to bring the “Fans” back. One group alone had 3,000 new members within an hour. I not only understand their frustration, I felt it too. If we only have people who “like” our pages now, how are we supposed to recruit new Fans? Do we say, “Please like me!” and sound like we’re begging? Or, “Become a Liker”, which sounds . . . well, that just sounds a bit dirty. “Become a Fan” was easier to understand. Now page owners are scrambling to change websites, advertising campaigns and any outside references to Facebook. Not to mention, that now when someone “likes” a Facebook page, 1. their friends can no longer comment on it; and 2. if a friend “likes” that they liked it, that friend is suddenly a fan of the page too. Which, ok, is fine, in theory. Facebook figures if I “like” that they liked it, I would want to be a fan too. But I would rather not become a fan of pages like “Real women ain’t a size 0 … Real women have curves”, even though I might “like” that my male friends are fans of that page. ;) I discovered F8 in my search to find out what had happened to our pages. If you want to see the keynote speech for yourself, as of now, it’s still available here: The keynote itself is geared for developers, so be warned. Some interesting facts for Facebook users that have been misreported and misunderstood all over the web (and sparked some heated comments over at Mashable) – the changes to their policies.

  1. One step permission – From now on when someone wants to allow an application (that would be all those games that you play, quizzes, gift apps, etc) or a website that might use this in the future, you click “Allow” only once for the application developer to access your Facebook information. If you think about it, when you enjoy or trust a game or app, don’t you generally “Allow” it to access your Facebook information already? (If you’re not sure, you can check your account’s application settings. You might be surprised how many apps you’ve allowed access to your profile.)
  2. Removing the policy for developers, “You must not store or cache any data you receive from us for more than 24 hours. . .” What does this mean to users? Absolutely nothing. As a user, once you gave an app access to your information, they were allowed by Facebook to go and retrieve that information anytime they wanted. They just couldn’t keep it. The change is on the developer’s side only. Now they don’t have to ask Facebook’s permission to access your profile every time you play their game (Admit it! You know that’s almost every day!) And it is up to the developer to remove your information if you ever stop allowing them access. As a side-note, what I learned while chatting to developers during the keynote is that nearly every developer out there got around that policy anyway. If you ever allowed any unscrupulous developer access to your information even once, you may as well have given him access for life. Most of the developers out there are using your permissions only for what it was intended – for you to have access to their fun games and widgets.
  3. The third important item relates less to policy change and more to Facebook implementing a new feature for other sites outside of Facebook. We can now add the Facebook “Like” button to our sites, along with comments and other nifty little Social Plugin features. Does this mean I automatically have access to your Facebook information? No. I have no more access to your personal information on my site than I do if you become a Fan of my page. The only way sites have access to personal information is just like Facebook already uses: The user must allow the site access, through a secure Facebook-hosted application.

Quote directly from Facebook: “None of your data is shared with the site when you view social plugins. Social plugins pull information directly from Facebook and the site has no access to the data being displayed to you.”

Zuckerberg is clearly pushing the new “Like” button that Facebook has made available to other websites. If you want to see this in action, I’ve added a “Like” button to this blog and a “Like/Comment” button to my Supernatural page for Dean’s Amulet. So, yes, I can start to see where they were going with the new “Like” feature. Zuckerberg wants you to “Like” a particular restaurant or band. I want you to Like my blog and the products I sell on my site. :D I saw some page owners calling the change a “database grab”. Uh, hello? It’s their database. We’re just along for the ride. What Facebook did not consider were the implications the change would have to other people. Facebook now has 400 million users. Three-thousand of them jumping up and down ranting about the “Fan” button probably aren’t going to make a very big wave. And that’s the biggest faux pas they could make. Facebook seems to care only about Facebook. Rolling out a significant change to the functionality of their site literally overnight, and with no mention of it other than in a conference for developers – in other words, obscure to most of their actual 400 million users – comes across as a cloak and dagger scheme. And this from a company who claims to be open about their policies. Open source for developers, maybe, but as secretive as Google when it comes to their users. Why is Facebook not out there announcing to its users what they’re doing and why? Why aren’t they telling them “No, we’re not going to start charging to use our site.”? (They aren’t.) Why aren’t they letting Page owners know in advance that something important is about to change on Facebook Pages? If I had seen the announcement about the “Like” button before suddenly discovering it on my page without warning, the transition would have gone much more smoothly. Facebook can’t seem to see the forest for all the 400 million trees. Their developers are busily rolling out changes (That weren’t ready to be rolled out. There were some serious errors on the Open Graph/Social Plugins documentation that weren’t corrected until almost 2 days after the conference, again, in cloak and dagger style.) without giving thought to all the possible scenarios or impact on the one thing that makes Facebook what it is – each of the 400 million users. Here’s hoping that by the time their next developer’s conference comes around, they’ve learned a very important lesson – People are what make “social interactions” happen. Not programs. Oh, and as for the question of how do I recruit new users to my Facebook Page? I simply ask you to Connect with Me. :)

“Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc.”

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