Larry Brauner
Like you, I typically visit many blogs and websites each day.

Some websites clearly have it together. They have lots of website traffic and appeal to visitors.

Other websites aren’t bad. They have good potential. With a few tweaks here and there, they could enjoy much more website traffic and appeal much more to their audience.

I promised myself that I’d write up some suggestions for improving blogs and websites. I realize that while much is possible, we can’t hope to do everything. We need to apply the 80/20 rule and focus on strategies and techniques that are easy to implement yet promise substantial benefits:

  1. Make Your Text Easier to Read - Some months ago, I noticed that my blog’s text wasn’t visually sharp enough. It was difficult to read. Upon examination, I noticed that the font wasn’t quite black, and the background wasn’t totally white. The links were grayish. After a few minor theme changes, the color scheme was improved. Low contrast combinations or light text on a dark background always require extra effort to read.
  2. Optimize for Human Eyeballs - A site’s title tells search engines and their users what the site is about. The title is the bold headline in search engine results. Using keywords in your site’s title can help you rank higher for those keywords. Recently, I changed the title of my blog hoping to rank higher on more keywords, and my traffic fell. The new title was unfortunately less relevant and less appealing to my potential readers. I changed my title back, and traffic rebounded. The takeaway: Optimize for humans, not just for search engines.
  3. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles - Headings break up an article into sections and help make the article easy to scan and read. Limiting paragraph size helps too. Headings, however, like titles, can tell search engines what an article is about and are an excellent place to insert your keywords.
  4. Link Out - I provided a rationale for linking out to other sites in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments: “Use of outbound links enhances your pages in ways that both search engines and people can easily appreciate.” The advice in that article applies equally to blogs and conventional websites. Unless you’re linking to ads, use only dofollow links.
  5. Link Internally - This can be huge. Linking internally increases a site’s circulation, and it increases the perceived relevance of both the linking page and the page linked to. Link to another page or article on your site when you have the opportunity. In a blog, you can even link to a tag, as I often do. A blog site map such as the once generated by the Wordpress plugin Really Simple Sitemap makes it easy for visitors to find a blog’s archived content. I use internal links on my blog nearly everywhere, even in places which aren’t obvious.
  6. Be Social - Adding a social dimension to your web presence makes you real and credible. Join all the major social networking sites, and let visitors know how they can connect with you. Google Friend Connect and Facebook NetworkedBlogs widgets add sociability to your site and enable readers to publicly endorse you. Bloggers can join blog networking sites as well such as Technorati, Entrecard, BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog.
  7. Make Subscription Simple - Make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your blog or newsletter. Blogs should offer subscription by both email (using a service like Aweber) and RSS (using a service like Feedburner). I’m always amazed when I have to hunt for a way to subscribe to a site.
  8. Use Social Bookmarking - Make your content easier to find and, as is the case with some social bookmarking sites, create quality links into your blog or website. Some of the social bookmarking sites I use are Digg, Delicious, Propeller, Reddit, diigo, Jumptags, Google Bookmarks and iZeby.
  9. Encourage Comments - Not only do I generally ask readers to comment, but I comment back as well whenever it’s appropriate.
  10. Extend Your Domain - If your domain will expire with the next twelve months, you might be signaling to search engines and savvy visitors that your site is only temporary.

I’ve omitted other ways that you can improve your website, because they’re harder to implement, and because they’ll give me something to discuss in a subsequent article. ;-)

In any case, we have our work cut out for us. :-)

What do you think?

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Larry Brauner
What’s the big deal about WordPress?

In Website vs. Web Presence, I emphasize the role of social media in web marketing.

Darren Rouse, the author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to web marketing in which social media sites (which aren’t under our complete control) serve as outposts for our blogs and web sites (which we do control).

For further discussion about the control issue and the trade-offs, read How to Start a Blog Made Easy and Creating a Home for Your Blog.

Choosing WordPress for Blogs

Blogs and Web Sites Which We Own and Can ControlWordPress is popular software for setting up and managing our own blogs and web sites which we are able to control.

Using popular software is like buying a popular car. It’s easy to locate parts and easy to locate mechanics. With WordPress it’s easy to customize using add-on modules and easy to locate technical help when we need it.

Bloggers who use WordPress appreciate the way its functionality can be expanded or customized using plugins, which are add-on software modules (that are easy to append from within a blog’s control panel and often about as easy to use).

Choosing Plugins for WordPress

WordPress PluginThe best way to choose plugins is through word of mouth recommendation. Most WordPress plugins are free. However, if we don’t choose the plugins that are correct for us, our blogs will not perform the way we wish.

I’m sharing my top dozen WordPress plugins. I use more than twelve, and I’ve tried many others. These are the twelve WordPress plugins which I find the most handy for social marketing:

  1. AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget - One of many widgets available which enables readers to easily share and bookmark blog content. There’s an option to register with AddThis and track the widget’s usage.
  2. Akismet - A must have! Without this SPAM filter, life can be quite unpleasant. :-(
  3. All in One SEO Pack - Has had competition, but apparently, this plugin has proven to be reliable and well maintained. It provides control over meta tags and other aspects of SEO.
  4. Easy Icon - Helps set and determine the blog’s icon so the visitor can see the logo on browser title bar. Really is easy!
  5. Google XML Sitemaps - Another must have. Helps Google find all the blog’s content. Works quietly behind the scenes.
  6. Link to Me Textbox - Not a must have at all, but this plugin makes it easier for readers to link-in from their own blog and gives them a not too subtle hint. Cough. Cough. ;-)
  7. Nofollow Case by Case - This is the plugin which I referenced in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments. I love it, but not everybody wants a dofollow blog.
  8. Really Simple Sitemap - Strongly recommended! Helps create a site map like mine that’s helpful for both readers and search engines.
  9. Simple Tags - Has many features. My favorite is the auto-complete feature.
  10. Tag Managing Thing - Offers basic tag management. I like the combination of this plugin and the previous plugin.
  11. Ultimate Google Analytics - In my opinion, the easiest way to incorporate Google Analytics in one’s blog.
  12. WordPress Mobile Edition - Creates an interface enabling mobile users to access the blog. Why not?

Your choice of plugins depends upon your needs and objectives.

Be Careful About User Registration

I have a suggestion that has nothing to do with plugins but is important to mention. Disable blog registrations! Do not let blog visitors set up accounts. Letting in strangers creates an unnecessary security risk.

Instead, set up a subscription system that enables readers to subscribe by RSS feed or email. I’ve found that FeedBurner and Aweber work very well together.

What Are Your Favorite WordPress Plugins?

It’s your turn to share some of your favorite WordPress plugins. You can share as many as you like, but please, explain what each does.

Do not list any plugins which have already been listed. However, if you’ve had a bad experience with a plugin that has been listed, feel free to explain.

I’m especially interested in hearing from other social marketers.

Here ya go. Comment away! :-D

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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