Favorite WordPress Plugins

March 14th, 2006


What follows below are some of my favorite WordPress plugins and why. Many of them I have in common with Cavemonkey’s excellent Top Ten WordPress Plugins list. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • PodPress – makes it super-simple to post podcasts; includes an inline media player
  • Popularity Contest – offer a leaderboard of your Most Popular posts based on views and ratings
  • Google Sitemaps Generator – creates a Google Sitemaps XML file. What’s killer about this is that it uses Popularity Contest’s ratings for the priority scoring that Google uses to determine how frequently to spider your pages
  • Akismet – you’d be a fool to run a blog with comments turned on and not use this plugin to stop the flood of comment spam. ’nuff said!
  • Adhesive – gives you the ability to flag certain posts as “Sticky” so they float to the top of the category page regardless of whether it’s the most recent
  • Ultimate Tag Warrior – creates tag pages and a tag cloud. Great for SEO as I’ve said before.
  • EmailShroud – an email address obfuscator to thwart those evil email harvesters. Scans for email addresses in posts, but won’t work on email addresses hard-coded into your theme.
  • Transpose Email – another email address obfuscator. Doesn’t automatically scan for email addresses, but can be used from within your theme files.
  • WP-EMail – “Email this post to a friend” functionality
  • WP-Print – Printer-friendly version of posts
  • Subscribe2 – let your readers subscribe to your blog updates via email
  • In-Series – link posts together into a series, regardless of dates posted or categories selected
  • Permalink Redirect – fixes the canonicalization problem where the same page loads whether the slash is there or not. Important for SEO.
  • Gravatars – puts the commenter’s “Gravatar” image next to their comment
  • Subscribe to Comments – a commenter can check a box on the comment form so that they get notified of further comments to that post
  • WP-Notable – places a row of buttons alongside your posts so the reader can easily add your post to their favorite social bookmarks service (, digg, etc.)
  • A Different Monthly Archive – a pretty way to display links to archives by month
  • Related Posts – link to related posts automatically based on the content of the post
  • Related Posts for your 404 – your File Not Found error page can now suggest related posts to the misguided user. Cool!

What are your favorites? Did I miss any important ones?

The Business Blogger of the Future?

February 19th, 2006


A report conducted by the recruitment firm OfficeTeam, the Office of the Future: 2020, looks ahead to the future of office work and the kinds of jobs that will be invented in the coming years, which they purport will include such things as Virtual Meetings Organizer, Human Resource Coordinator, and Information Integrator/Abstractor.

It was the Information Integrator/Abstractor role that intrigued me the most. According to the report, the job will include the collecting, compiling, and indexing of text, data and images in order that this content can be searched in a variety of ways.

It occurred to me that the business blogger of today is the predecessor to the information integrator/abstractor of the future. After all, what does a business blogger do but the following:

  • identify a wide variety of trusted sources of novel and important news and commentary
  • take in an overwhelming amount of information from these sources
  • ruminate on this information, analyzing and making a judgment call on its value and relevance to his/her constituents
  • cull, aggregate, categorize, prioritize, and comment on the information collected, in an effort to make it more relevant, timely, useful, and actionable
  • republish it in a format that can be easily disseminated and further analyzed / commented on by others of his/her kind in disparate parts of the world

This could be the job description for a Corporate Blogger in 2006 as much as it could be one for an Information Integrator/Abstractor in 2020!

Fast forward to the Year 2020: Jobs in search and blogging

February 18th, 2006


You’ve probably heard it before, that the vast majority of the jobs that our children will hold when they grow up haven’t been invented yet. But what you may not have heard yet are some example future job functions being postulated.

According to the Office of the Future: 2020 report, these new roles will include:

  • Virtual Meetings Organizer
    who will help employees schedule conferences and set up the required cameras, projection systems, electronic whiteboards, meeting software, audio equipment and related tools
  • Contract Resource Coordinator
    who will bring together the right contract workers for a given project, like a movie producer assembling a cast, camera crew and production team
  • Information Integrator/Abstractor
    who will collect, compile, and index text, data and images so this content can be searched in a variety of ways

It was this last role that most intrigued me, since I am a search geek after all! I just imagine a scene from The Minority Report where the Information Integrator waves his/her hands in the air purposefully and talks to a computer while within a virtual world of information projected onto the back of his/her retinas. In this world he/she categorizes schemas for datasets, slices and dices incoming datastreams into more manageable segments, gives directions to an AI to do further categorization on its own, and so on.

As a business blogger, I also got to thinking that the business blogger of today is the predecessor to the “Information Integrator/Abstractor” of the future.

Think about this, what does a business blogger do but the following:

  • identify a wide variety of trusted sources of novel and important news and commentary
  • take in an overwhelming amount of information from these sources
  • ruminate on this information, analyzing and making a judgment call on its value and relevance to his/her constituents
  • cull, aggregate, categorize, prioritize, and comment on the information collected, in an effort to make it more relevant, timely, useful, and actionable
  • republish it in a format that can be easily disseminated and further analyzed / commented on by others of his/her kind in disparate parts of the world

Sounds like a plausible job description for an Information Integrator/Abstractor of the Year 2020!

Link exchange requests that work… or not!

February 18th, 2006


There’s an art to making an effective link request. For starters, you should not propose a reciprocal link, for 2 reasons: 1) the reciprocal nature of the link will basically nullify the SEO benefit you would have gotten, and 2) all the link request spams flooding webmasters’ inboxes are of a reciprocal nature and you need to differentiate yourself as much as possible from that rubbish. Say these sorts of things and rest assured that your link request will go straight into the recipient’s Trash:

  • “Hi, Let’s swap links!”
  • “I’ve already linked to you.”
  • “Great site!”
  • “You already link to our competitor and we offer a better/complementary product.”
  • “Please use the following text in your link…”

When requesting links, think and act like a PR professional or a biz dev director, not an SEO. Or even think and act like an end-user of their site. “Hi, I found a broken link on _____. Have you thought about adding features like _____ to your ______ on your site? BTW, you might want to add and as links.” Just don’t be disingenuous; provide real value with your suggestions. Even suggest links to competitors or sites that you have no vested interest in.

We all get link request spams, even Google engineers! (such as this one posted by Matt Cutts). Here’s one I got recently:

Subject: Quality link request


I found your website on Google.

We have a quality website at that will be well ranked on Google.

We are happy to upload a link onto this website in any way you request in exchange for a return link. I’m sure you appreciate that this would be of great benefit to us both.

To go ahead with this exchange please upload our link information below to your links page.

Please reply to to say where you have uploaded it.

If you would like your return link presenting in a particular way please include this information in your email.

I will then arrange for your link to be uploaded and email you again to let you know.

Thank you.


Please note, the link needs to be set out as below in order for it to be returned.
[rest of email ommitted]

All I’ve got to say to that is, “Yeah, right!”

Eric Ward shared some secrets on how he crafts link requests that work in Thursday’s link building webinar for MarketingProfs which Eric and I co-presented. MarketingProfs will post the archive of the webinar in their Premium Library soon. And for those of you who aren’t MarketingProfs premium subscribers (you should join, btw, it’s well worth it!), I’ll see if I can get permission from MarketingProfs to post an archive of the webinar here on my blog.

Build Linkworthy Content and They Will Come

February 6th, 2006


If your blog isn’t linkworthy, it’s not going to get very far in the blogosphere. Indeed, links are the currency of the Web, at least as far as search engines are concerned. No links = no rankings, and lousy links = lousy rankings.

One might even go so far as to valuate a business blog on its links (at least in part). For fun you might try out the free tool at the Business Opportunities Weblog and see how much your blog is worth. The computation is based on the link-to-dollar ratio of the AOL-Weblogs Inc deal. According to the tool, this blog is worth $200,000. Anyone want to buy it from Rick? 😉

So how do you make linkworthy posts? In The Art of Linkbaiting, Nick Wilson and commenters offer some great suggestions:

  • Offer a niche-specific blogroll, tool, How-To, or compilation of news stories.
  • Post a scoop.
  • Expose a story as flawed or a fraud
  • Be a contrarian about a story, product, or prominent blogger’s opinion.
  • Be humorous. Good topics include a bizzare pic of your subject, “10 things I hate about…”, and “You know you’re a when…”
  • Publish or commission some original research
  • Creative-Commons-license photos you made of an event you’re blogging about
  • Make available for free a theme, plugin or piece of software
  • Start a meme that others can replicate and that links back to you (e.g. buttons/stickers/tools for bloggers/webmasters to post on their sites, contests, quizzes, surveys, etc.)

Building links is both art and science. It requires a great toolkit as well as loads of creative ideas.

MarketingProfs is holding a webinar on Feb. 16 on the topic: “Inside Secrets to Building Links for Online Publicity, Buzz and Search Engine Optimization”. The undisputed link guru Eric Ward and I (Stephan Spencer) are both presenting. Sign up here.

My first screencast: installing and using the Google Toolbar

December 22nd, 2005


I’ve produced my first screencast, using TechSmith’s excellent software program Camtasia Studio. In it I show how to install and configure the Google Toolbar in the Firefox web browser to display PageRank scores on any web page that you visit. I also show how to change the display of the Toolbar and some other settings. If you don’t have the Google Toolbar installed on your PC or Mac, this little 6 minute video will show you the process along with some of the benefits.

I’d love feedback on how to improve my screencasting. I intend to do quite a few more of these, so feedback early on will help ensure that these screencasts are the best they can be.

Note that I will be providing beginner, intermediate, and advanced level SEO tips and tricks. This particular one is beginner level.

Download the screencast as either a 5 megabyte WMV file or a 6 megabyte MPEG-4 file (iPod video compatible)

Favicon and Robots.txt – Must-Haves for your Blog

December 20th, 2005


I heard at the Search Engine Strategies conference earlier this month in Chicago that the Ask Jeeves spider doesn’t cope well with websites that don’t have robots.txt. So if you don’t have a robots.txt file hosted on your blog’s document root, create a blank one.

Another detail often missed by bloggers is to create your own custom favicon.ico file. The favicon is a little 16 pixel by 16 pixel image that appears in the location bar on people’s web browsers; many of the RSS readers use it as well. Peter Brady at Performancing has some interesting things to say about whether or not bloggers need to have a favicon. My take on it is this: with a custom favicon, you look cooler and more with it, plus it differentiates you from the rest of the pack in your subscribers’ RSS subscription lists. If you don’t have time to mess around creating one in Photoshop, you can do a quick and dirty one pretty easily using the free web-based tool Favicon Generator. It took me all of two minutes to create my favicon for my blog using this tool.

Scrapers stealing your content for SEO

December 15th, 2005


Content is king on the web. A site without content is doomed to lousy search engine rankings. Search engine spammers can’t be bothered writing good content. Especially when they can easily steal it from other web sites. How do they do it? They use “scrapers” — spiders that trawl web pages and/or RSS feeds and siphon off the content. They then stick your content on their own site and slap their own ads and affiliate links onto it.

The spammers especially want you to use relative links across your web site. That way they can lift your entire website and they don’t even have to go to the trouble of rejigging your internal links to make them point back to the scraped site. Granted, as far as bandwidth conservation, relative links are better than absolute links (also known as “hard links”). But let’s not make the spammer’s job any easier.

So use absolute links throughout your site.

As a side benefit, if your site responds to multiple domains and you use absolute links, you’ll also be helping the search engines reduce the potential for duplicate content by definitively identifying the full, canonical URL.

Also, to check if your site has been scraped, use Copyscape.

Tagging, tag clouds, and auto-tagging

December 13th, 2005


Tag clouds, a Web 2.0 sort of user interface for navigating tagged content a.k.a. folksonomies, gives certain hyperlinked keywords a larger font size treatment than others. These links lead to various category pages, tag pages, or search results pages.

One of my favorite implementations of a tag cloud on a blog is on O’Reilly Radar (on the right).

Another is the one on Eurekster’s blog (on the left).

The latter uses a new approach of “auto-tagging”. Eurekster calls this tag cloud of theirs a “BuzzCloud”. Webmasters can get one for free by signing up for their new Swicki service, which is a personalized Web search engine that is targeted and relevant to your site’s audience. You can seed your buzzcloud with search terms of your choosing, then Eurekster adds additional terms based on which searches are popular with your visitors. Visitors who click on the links are taken to a Eurekster search results page for that term. The results popular with you & your audience are promoted to the top of the search results and marked with an icon — in essence, tagging the results as well as the term.

Tagging that requires manual intervention such as and Technorati definitely have their use, but I think they are primarily for more web-intensive users; the combination of manual control and auto-tagging offered by Eurekster with swickis can potentially lead to mass uptake amongst web content editors. I’ve put a Eurekster swicki & buzzcloud here on my blog (on the right-hand column, near the bottom). Try it out and let me know what you think. Get your own free swicki for your blog or website here.

Affiliate programs that pass link gain (PageRank)

December 12th, 2005


Most affiliate programs do not benefit search engine rankings because the link from the affiliate to the merchant doesn’t count as a “vote.” Thus, the merchant will not see a benefit in their Google PageRank and consequently in their search engine rankings. For example, any merchant using LinkShare or Commission Junction will not see such a benefit. That’s because they all use temporary redirects, also known as 302 redirects. That type of redirect, which is the one programmers and site administrators tend to use by default, doesn’t pass the link gain (e.g. Google PageRank) on to the target (final destination) URL. Only a very few affiliate management services allow the merchant to capitalize on the link gain of the affiliate. is one such affiliate solution. So I checked them out, and it turns out that it kinda works. Yes, kinda.

Here’s the problem. The affiliate solution needs to use permanent redirects (a.k.a. 301 redirects) rather than temporary (302) ones. uses what they call “direct links.” Here are a couple examples of affiliate-tracked direct links that they provided me to look at: or But when you visit either of these 2 URLs, there is no redirect at all. Consequently, this creates lots of duplicate pages in Google when Googlebot finds these affiliate-tracked direct links and follows them. Taking the first URL as an example, if you search Google for inurl:kbid you’ll see 6,980 duplicate pages in Google. In other words, these are pages that were already in Google with URLs that don’t have kbid= appended at the end.

Think about it this way: Yes, with a merchant will get PageRank flowing to all the links contained on the countless duplicates of the merchant’s home page that are getting indexed. But because there is no 301 redirect present, MyAffiliateProgram has failed to collapse the link gain to one definitive version of the merchant’s home page. Then search engine spiders come along and index all these versions of the merchant’s home page which compete with the merchant’s true home page (the one without any kbid=). Furthermore, searchers who click on listings in the search results that contain kbid= in the URL will get counted as referrals from the affiliate and the merchant will pay for that. Ouch!

So, buyer beware when shopping for an affiliate management service that passes PageRank to your site. The devil’s in the details.

Any readers want to recommend affiliate solutions that do effectively pass link gain?

UPDATE: Just found this great blog post from Greg Boser that discusses this issue in more detail.