Tools

Favorite Blogging Tools

May 18th, 2006

by

In the past I have put together a list of my favorite WordPress plugins that will help extend your blog’s functionality, search engine optimize it and so forth. In addition, there are a number of tools that are not plugins that you could add to the blog or incorporate into your blog. Here is my list of favorites (in no particular order):

  • Feedburner – track readership of your RSS feeds
  • Flickr – a tool for moblogging; it provides a gateway to post your cameraphone photos directly onto your blog just by emailing them as attachments
  • Swicki – add web search and a “what’s hot” buzzcloud to your blog
  • Favicon Generator – easily create a custom favicon for your blog
  • NetNewsWire – awesome RSS newsreader for the Mac
  • coComment – track your conversations on others’ blogs
  • TalkDigger – monitor discussions that reference your URLs
  • Google Analytics – free, hosted web stats service (from Google’s Urchin acquisition)
  • del.icio.us – add favorite sites to this social bookmarks site using the bookmarklet provided, then display your favorite links on your blog’s sidebar with a del.icio.us plugin
  • FeedBlitz – so your blog readers can subscribe to an email newsletter version of your blog
  • Ecto or Qumana – draft blog posts while offline
  • Technorati – “claim” your blog and create a profile to improve your visibility in this blog search engine
  • Pheedo and BlogAds and AdSense – make money with your blog from advertisers

What did I miss? Post a comment and let me know!

Competitive analysis critical to SEO success

May 1st, 2006

by

Understanding your competitors — their strategy, their tactics, their level of success, etc. — is crucial to the success of your SEO initiatives. I’m not just talking about your traditional competitors, I’m referring to the other sites occupying spots in the SERPs (search engine results pages) for keywords that you are targeting.

Many free competitive analysis tools are out there, but you have to know where to look for them. One of my favorite SEO blogs (Stuntdubl) offers a veritable Home Depot of such tools, at Mr. Ploppy’s Monday Tool List.

It’s a bit like walking into a DIY store and being faced with an overwhelming array of options. What is the right tool for the job?

Here’s a sampling of some of the SEO tools that I use for competitive analysis and what I specifically use them for:

Favorite Firefox Extensions

March 24th, 2006

by

Since my list of WordPress plugins was so well-received, I’ve got another list to share. This time it’s my favorite Firefox extensions…

  • Tab Mix Plus – saves your tabs and windows and will restore them if you quit out of your browser or it crashes, allows you to undo the closing of a tab, and lots more
  • Performancing for Firefox – a blog editor for your WordPress, Movable Type, or Blogger blog that features integration with del.icio.us and Technorati, spellchecking, etc.
  • All-in-One Gestures – execute commands by making certain movements with your mouse without having to use the keyboard, menus or toolbars â?? like going back a page, closing a tab, etc.
  • User Agent Switcher – masquerade as Googlebot, Yahoo Slurp, or msnbot etc. to see if a site is doing bot detection
  • Web Developer – tool for doing CSS coding, building web forms, etc.
  • Google Toolbar for Firefox – Get query suggestions as you type into the search box, view PageRank scores, etc. Check out my screencast on installing, configuring and using the Google Toolbar.
  • SEO-Links – hover over a link and it displays link popularity and rankings for the anchor text from Google, Yahoo and MSN Search. I’ve got a screencast on using SEO-Links too.
  • Copy Plain Text – copy-and-paste from a web page into Microsoft Word so that the formatting isn’t carried over
  • ChatZilla – IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client
  • Sage – RSS feed reader
  • ViewSourceWith – view the page’s HTML source using an external editor (WordPad, BBEdit, etc.)
  • ShowIP – displays the IP address of the web server in the bottom right corner
  • StumbleUpon – get recommendations of related pages to check out from friends and likeâ??minded individuals
  • Search engines for the Search Bar – add your own favorite search engines to the search box in the top right, such as: MSN Search, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Technorati, Creative Commons, etc.

Here’s a tip that isn’t quite an extension, but over time it’s a huge time-saver. And it works in IE too.

  • When you want to type in a URL into the address bar, you can leave off the the www. in front and the .com at the end, because, by hitting Ctrl Enter, the browser will automatically add the www. and the .com to the address for you!

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of useful Firefox extensions. Check out the new FirefoxFacts ebook for a bigger list of recommended extensions and tips for Firefox. And if there’s an extension you feel should be added to the above list of favorites, please leave me a comment!

Top 20 list of WordPress plugins for bloggers

March 15th, 2006

by

I’ve posted onto BusinessBlogConsulting.com a list of my favorite WordPress plugins and what they do and why I like them. If you’re blogging under the WordPress platform, you might want to trick out your blog with some of these great plugins.

The list includes: PodPress, Popularity Contest, Google Sitemaps Generator, Akismet, Adhesive, Ultimate Tag Warrior, EmailShroud, Transpose Email, WP-EMail, WP-Print, Subscribe2, In-Series, Permalink Redirect, Gravatars, Subscribe to Comments. WP-Notable, A Different Monthly Archive, Related Posts, Related Posts for your 404.

That’s not quite 20, so I’ll add one more to that list — a suggestion from commenter Neville Hobson (thanks, Neville!) — FeedBurner Feed Replacement, which makes it easy to “migrate” your pre-existing RSS subscribers over to Feedburner once you sign up for the service (which is excellent, btw).

Favorite WordPress Plugins

March 14th, 2006

by

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 (del.icio.us, 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?

My first screencast: installing and using the Google Toolbar

December 22nd, 2005

by

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

by

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.

Tagging, tag clouds, and auto-tagging

December 13th, 2005

by

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 del.icio.us 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.

Coverage of SES San Jose: Favorite SEO Tools

August 11th, 2005

by

Here we are, the last session of Search Engine Strategies. It’s been a great, but exhausting conference. The session I attended was on SEO Tools. Three of the five panelists provided their Powerpoints on their websites (just so happens they were the three best presentations), which you should definitely check out because they show screenshots of these tools in action. Download the first two Powerpoints from www.webuildpages.com/ses and the third from www.epiar.com/ses.

Jim Boykin:
Wayback Machine
Find Age of Website Tool
Poodle Predictor (spider simulator)
Copyscape (website plagiarism search)
URLinfo
Backlink Anchor Text Analyzer
KwMap (a keyword map for the whole Internet)
Hubfinder (looks for co-occurring backlinks, which may be authoritative links that help satisfy topic dependant link authority algorithms. To use Hubfinder enter a subject, and / or competing URLs to analyze linkage data of top ranked competing sites via the Yahoo! API.)
Keyword Tracker

Todd Malicoat:
Domain/server level information: Whois Source, DNS Stuff, and Check Class C IP Address (this last one is to make sure the links that you plan on buying are on different class C blocks)
Competitive information tools: GoogSpy, SwitchProxy extension for Firefox
Backlinks & offpage information tools: Pages Indexed, Backlinks Domain, PageRank, Allinanchor, Keyword Density tool, Yahoo! Link Harvester
Keyword information: Google Sets, Keyword Density tools, Google Suggest, Snap.com Keyword Stats
Header & page level information: Server Header Checker
Spidering & indexability: Xenu’s Link Sleuth, Sandbox Detection Tool

Ken Jurina:
Firefox extensions: SEOpen, Web Developer, Search Status, PDF Download, Roboform toolbar, Search Keys, IE View (all downloadable from http://extensionroom.mozdev.org)
Web CEO
Click Tracks
LiveSTATS
Roboform
Marketleap Link popularity check, Search engine saturation, Keyword verification

Bill Hartzer:
OptiLink
OptiSpider
Keyword Combinations
Keyword Helper
URL Trends domain analyzer (it also supports notifying you via email or RSS when changes happen)
Sources of other tools: www.seocompany.ca/tool/seo-tools.html, www.digitalpoint.com/tools/, www.seotoolset.com, www.seochat.com/seo-tools

Paul Bruemmer:
Alexa
RankingManager
Linxviewer
Yahoo! Finance
Hoovers Pro Plus
Print Screen Plus

Well I wanted to blog many more sessions than I did, but it ended up being a lot harder than I thought it would be. Thankfully for you, dear readers, there were many other capable bloggers blogging the SES sessions. In particular check out the coverage on Search Engine Roundtable blog.

By the way, a big hello to all the bloggers I met for the first time at SES, including Scott Miller, Aaron Wall, and Barry Schwartz, to name a few.

Link Popularity Checker

March 4th, 2005

$url “;
if (++$c != count($urls)) {
$prev_seeks .= ‘ / ‘;
}
}
} ?>

Use this handy tool to check for inbound links to your site that the major search engines know about.

Enter a web site URL (for example “www.netconcepts.com”):
(Note: www.netconcepts.com and netconcepts.com returns different results!)


Pages (3):123