A (by no means definitive) list of some cool (and free!) additions for your blog or website
As a supplement to my last post about using WordPress to set up a personal or business website for free (minus the price of domain name registration and/or hosting), here are some ideas for enhancing the functionality of your site or blog with some plugins and other third-party add-ons. Almost all are free, although there are a few that have a nominal fee, based on what you require:
Must-have WordPress Plugins
(Note: to install and activate a plugin, first download and uncompress the file, drop it into the directory wp-content/plugins and activate it in Dashboard under the Plugins section. I suggest keeping a copy of your WordPress files and directories on your local disk, dropping the plugins into the wp-content/plugins folder, then uploading via FTP. Just my .02¢):
- Akismet will help catch comment spam and holds it in queue for you to check out and give the comment the thumbs up or thumbs down;
- Inserting a Flash file into your post or Page is easy with Kimili Flash Embed. Once installed and activated, you’ll see a little Flash button in your toolbar when you are writing a post or creating a new page. Browse from your uploads and you’re all set;
- Social bookmarking is all the rage and a great way for your site/blog to get some exposure. AddThis! for WordPress gives your visitors choices for bookmarking a post to their favorite site (like Digg, for example);
- If you want to start making Benjamins with your site using Google AdSense, Acme Technology’s AdSense Deluxe makes inserting ads simple. Once activated, customize it under the Options section in Dashboard with your AdSense code (from your Google AdSense account). When composing a post, switch over to the code view, type <!--adsense--> exactly like that and save. Your ad block will appear in your post wherever you’ve entered the tag;
What’s that? You want to edit the HTML of your web pages?
Great! There’s more stuff you can add. And, no, it’s not a spinning mailbox gif that tells people to email you, nor is it a sawhorse or man digging, telling people your page will be coming soon:
- AddThis! is also available as copy-and-paste HTML for your site. You can choose to add a feed widget or bookmarking widget to keep track of how many of your posts are being shared on social bookmarking networks, and how many people are subscribing to your feed;
- Google Analytics is a great tool, with very detailed reports, but it’s not the only kid on the block. Tracksy is free and easy to add: just sign up and grab the code. It will tell you what people looked at, where they came from, their computer platform, etc. A pretty straight-forward way of getting some quick stats;
- A fresh way to exchange messages and ideas through your blog/site is with Evoca. People can leave a voice message for you using a regular phone, a computer mic, Skype or an uploaded recording, then you get an email that lets you login to your account and listen. You can also broadcast voice messages, produce a podcast, tell a story, etc. A unique way to communicate with potential employers, clients, blog visitors, etc. A free account gets you 15 minutes; $4.99/month covers 180 minutes;
- An alternative voice messaging add-on is MyChingo. You can moderate what comments people can listen to or throw caution to the wind and operate it as an open system. Free accounts allow a maximum of 2 minutes recording time per message; paid accounts ($3.95/month or $45.00/year) allow 30 minutes of recording time per message;
- Add a shoutbox in a few minutes with ShoutMix. Interact with your visitors in real time thru your blog/web page;
- Spread the word about your blog (and increase traffic) by creating your own widget at Widgetbox. Or, grab the code for a widget you like and add it to your blog/site;
- See who your visitors are with MyBlogLog; it turns your blog/site into your own community.
One more powerful (and, yes, free) feature you can add is your own search engine, which you can create with Google Co-op , thru your Google account. You can customize your engine, based on your interests or profession, in just a few steps and have a search field on your site that will yield results based on the parameters you set. Link it to your AdSense account and you can also generate some revenue from your visitors’ searches. Read more about the latest news, tips and updates on the Custom Search Blog .
There’s tons of free stuff out there to help you monitor your traffic, enhance communication and interaction with your visitors, and even help generate some revenue. If anyone has some favorites I’ve overlooked, feel free to add them in your comment.