Plug-ins. They’re not the sexiest thing to talk about (unless you have a geeky side, like I do). So why have I been dedicating an entire 5-part series to them on this website, which is supposed to be about ‘ethical marketing’?
I’ve mentioned before that I believe blogging is one of the cornerstones of marketing in the new business paradigm we aim to foster at the 7 Graces Project. Here are a few reasons why:
- It is one of the finest examples of free speech.
- It encourages dialogue between businesses and consumers.
- It helps level the economic playing field between big business and independent businesses.
- Its aim is to inform and empower your audience, rather to ‘capture and convert’.
- It encourages innovation and ‘out of the box’ thinking.
- It encourages sharing – rather than hoarding – of useful information.
But many bloggers have a gap in their technological understanding, and don’t know how to get make their blog (or their social network) work so it ‘gets the word out’. That’s the purpose of this ‘unsexy’ discussion on plug-ins. It’s all well and good to talk about social issues and the values of creating a new business paradigm, but unless we also inform, empower and enable independent business owners with practical knowledge and skills, there will be little potency in our talk.
For that reason, I hope you’ve been sticking with this series, even if it’s been more technical than many of our other pieces. I guarantee if you take time to go through the content slowly, you’ll start to see an improvement in the effectiveness and influence of your blogging efforts.
Today’s Topic – Expansion Plug-ins
In Part 4 we looked at ‘Engagement’ plug-ins. Engagement is all about ‘attraction’, where we ask the question, ‘How can we encourage people to come closer to us?’ Attraction is like breathing in: we breathe in our audience, welcoming them into our space.
Expansion plug-ins are the opposite. They are about ‘breathing out’. They do not bring people into our space, but encourage people to take our content outward across the cyber-sphere. If you think of it this way, you’ll understand the logic behind my choices for each of the 5 plug-ins we’re going to look at today.
But before we start, here’s a recap of the 17 plug-ins we’ve looked at in Parts 1-4, where we covered Optimisation, Security, Operational and Engagement plugins:
- Google XML Sitemap
- All in One SEO
- Keyword SEO links
- Limit login attempts plugin
- Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin
- UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore
- Page links to
- Duplicate post
- W3 Total Cache
- WPtouch Pro
- Feedburner Widget
- Flare Follow widget
- Social Comments
- Contact.Me forms
If you missed any of those articles, you can read them at:
- 22 Essential WordPress Plug-ins for Business Bloggers – Pt 1
- 4 Vital WordPress Plug-ins to Keep Your Blog Safe and Secure
- 5 Back-Office Plug-ins to Make WordPress More Efficient
- Don’t Press the Shiny, Red Button! WordPress Plug-ins Pt 4
As this is a continuation from the last article, the numbering will start from where we left off last time.
TOP 5 EXPANSION PLUG-INS FOR WORDPRESS
18. WordPress Ping Optimizer
Plug-in URL: http://onlinewebapplication.com/wordpress-ping-optimizer/
This plug-in requires a bit of explanation. When you post a new article on your blog, it gets announced to other sites that are actively seeking for newly syndicated content. This announcement is called a ‘ping’. In order for sites to receive your ‘ping’, you have to specify them in your WordPress settings. Many new bloggers don’t know how to do this (or even that they should), so here’s the non-technical explanation of what to do:
- Log onto your WordPress blog
- Go to ‘Settings > Writing’
- Paste in the services you wish to ‘ping’ when you post a new blog. If you don’t have a clue what to put here, you can click HERE to download a text file of ping sites I use. Please note that this list might be out of date; it might also contain redundant information, as more and more ping services like ‘Pingshot’ will ping to multiple directories. Please take care to review this list before using it.
- Once you save your settings, whenever you publish a new post, WordPress will automatically notify all the site update services you have specified.
Sounds good, right? If we’re talking about ‘expansion’, what could be better than an automated update service that goes out all over the web to blog directories like Google, Yahoo, Technorati, etc.?
But there IS a potential problem. By default, WordPress will ‘ping’ every time something changes on your site. That means if you make some changes in an OLD post, it will send out a ping. If you write a post and schedule it to be published in the FUTURE, it will also send out a ping (even though it’s not published yet). The problem is, if you ping too often for these unnecessary events, the ping sites may blacklist you as a ‘ping spammer’. That’s NOT good.
That’s where the Ping Optimizer plug-in comes it. It pings automatically to your selected services when you actually publish new posts, but NOT when you schedule future posts or edit previously published posts. It also allows you to limit excessive pinging within in short period of time (this is good for large sites where there are multiple blog posts going out every day).
Using Ping Optimizer is a simple way to ensure news from your blog is actually syndicating, rather than getting blacklisted. It’s a very simple, light-weight plug-in and once it’s set up, you need never think about it again.
19. Flare Sharing Icons
Plug-in URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/flare/
Cost: FREE and Pro versions
I mentioned Flare back in Part 4, when I talked about its ‘Follow Widget’. Today I’ll be talking about Flare’s sharing capability. While technically I’m listing the same plug-in twice, I’m doing so to ensure we cover both functions of this plug-in. That way, even if you choose not to use Flare (as there are so many other options available), at least you will have the function covered.
One of the most essential ‘expansion’ elements in blogging is having an easy way for your readers to SHARE your content with their own networks. Of course, the content itself has to be WORTH sharing; it needs to be well-written, contain valuable information, and be relevant to your intended audience. Assuming that is the case, your audience will be happy to share your content with others if your blog is configured with a good sharing plug-in.
Over the years, I’ve used many different sharing plug-ins. I was dissatisfied with having my ‘share’ icons stuck at either the top or the bottom of my posts, so I started looking for a nice floating widget. I tested out several of them, but most looked ‘clunky’ or covered up parts of my page when viewed on a small screen.
Finally, I found the Flare floating share widget, which you will see on the left-hand side of this post (unless you are viewing this via mobile). In comparison to the others I had tried, Flare’s floating widget is delicate and unobtrusive (especially if you don’t use a background colour). You can also give your readers an option to close the widget altogether, if they don’t want to see it.
With Flare, you can also add your share buttons to the top and/or bottom of posts, in addition to using the floating widget. This is good for when your readers choose to close your floating widget, and for your mobile site where the floating widget is not visible.
Flare’s follow widget includes all the essential networks (in my opinion): Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. It is also the only share plug-in I found that includes BufferApp, which is a big plus for me (as I use BufferApp all the time). It also includes StumbleUpon and Reddit (two popular bookmarking directories), although I have found that the Reddit button doesn’t work on my site (so I’ve disabled it).
As mentioned last time, the Flare developers are no longer developing this current version, having replaced it with a new version called ‘Filament’. I haven’t tested Filament yet, but many users have said it’s not an adequate replacement for the old Flare, so for the moment I’m holding off until I hear more about it.
20. Pinterest Pin It Button for Images
Plug-in URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/pinterest-pin-it-button-for-images/
Like many others, I’ve been catching the Pinterest fever that’s been on the rise over the past year. Pinterest, an image and video sharing network, is a creative way to expand your content in a visual format. Of course, just like written blog content, your visual content needs to be just as compelling and relevant to your audience. Thus, to make Pinterest really work, it’s important to put some time and creativity into the featured images you include in your blog posts.
For now let’s assume you’ve already got some great visual content on your blog (especially if you’re a vlogger), and you’d like to encourage people to share it. The Pinterest Pin it Button for Images is like a ‘Call to Action’ for your visuals; it automatically displays a ‘Pin It’ button over any image on your site any time someone rolls their mouse over it. I think it’s elegant, because it is somehow both subtle AND direct.
Using this plug-in in combination with creatively designed images on your blog can really help to increase your exposure to new audiences across the Web.
21. Facebook LikeBox Widget
Plug-in URL: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/facebook-like-box-widget/
I hesitated to include the Facebook LikeBox Widget in my Top 22, but decided to keep it on the list. The reason why I hesitated is not so much because of the plug-in itself, but because of Facebook. Virtually any plug-in or code that interfaces with Facebook will slow down the loading time of your site. On the other hand, if you have a Facebook page, you’ll really want to have some sort of widget on the side where people can ‘like’ your page without leaving your website. So, for now, using this plug-in (or another like it) is in my ‘must have’ list.
There are so many plug-ins that can provide you with a Facebook widget. You can even bypass plug-ins altogether by using Facebook’s proprietary code (which some people find unwieldy). But while it seemed a bit arbitrary for me to choose one of the many options, I finally settled on the Facebook LikeBox Widget because it is extremely simple to set up.
As a bonus, like Flare, Facebook LikeBox Widget also has a floating share widget option. However, it’s a bit ‘bulky’, especially on smaller screens.
ABOUT TWITTER: If you’re active on Twitter, I think it’s equally important to have a Twitter widget in your sidebars on your blog. Fortunately, Twitter makes this much easier to do this than Facebook, and there is no need for a special plug-in. Just log on to your Twitter account and go to ‘widgets’. Set your parameters and then copy the code into a plain text widget on your site and – presto! – you’re done.
Launched in April 2013, Repost is, in my opinion, a revolutionary concept. When you install the Repost plug-in on your blog, it enables others to PUBLISH your blog articles on THEIR sites. In their own words, ‘Repost makes complete, fully licensed articles embeddable – just like video.’
Some of you might wonder why you would want this. After all, isn’t this just leaving you wide open for plagiarism and loss of your intellectual property? Repost circumvents these concerns by republishing your full articles with original branding, attribution, ads, photos, videos and links. If someone shares your content through Repost, they CANNOT make any edits to it, and it states clearly that the article is reposted from your site (with the link back to your original article). Everything in your article – your bio, your calls to action, etc. – are included. Their developers say, ‘Repost has gone beyond links to help publishers, bloggers and brands protect their content, increase viewers and potential ad revenue, and generate increased page views, click-throughs and page depth.’
I’ve been using Repost for a few months now, and it has generated thousands of new readers on this site. What’s more, these visitors seem to keep coming back to this site after they’ve found us elsewhere. In my experience, Repost is a brilliant way to expand your influence, as well as to see which articles garner the most attention in markets that may be slightly different to your own.
Also, if you are in need of content for your site, you can also Repost other people’s articles onto your site directly from the Repost syndication stream.
Repost is clever, clean and innovative. I love this service. It’s info-sharing at its best.
The 22 plug-ins I explored over the past 5 articles do not, by any means, constitute a ‘definitive’ list that every blogger MUST use. Besides, plug-ins (and WordPress) are changing every day. New technologies arise, as do new, unforeseen conflicts. And apart from software compatibility issues, personal preference and aesthetics always play a big part in which plug-ins are right for you.
In summing up, I’d just like to offer this piece of advice: If you don’t like (or cannot use) a particular plug-in I’ve suggested throughout this series, don’t just leave it out. Instead, find a plug-in that performs the same function. Always ensure that the different aspects of the 5 categories (Optimisation, Security, Operational, Engagement and Expansion) are covered by whatever plug-ins you use.
And as you add new plug-ins, please refer to Part 4 of this series, where I talk about the need for care when installing new plug-ins. If you follow these guidelines, and ensure you have covered the 5 categories, you’ll have a blog that can do amazing things with your equally amazing informational content.
The materials in this article are part of the groundwork for my upcoming book on blogging (title to be revealed soon!), which will come out in Spring 2014. That book will not just contain technical information, but will also be a strategic marketing guide for how to create and distribute your content as a powerful marketing vehicle for your ethical business. Please stay connected via subscription or social media so you can find out more about the release of that book.
If you would like some support in getting your blog and your blogging strategies up to par for your ethical business, drop us a line on the contact form on this site, so we can set up an appointment to discuss our 7 Graces Platform Building Package.
AND…please EXPAND the message, by sharing this article!
26th November 2013
P.S.: Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers in the USA.
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Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)