Part 1 explained the reasoning and decisionmaking process, part 2 recommended using WordPress, and in this entry I’ll talk about what WordPress plugins I use here on BrentOzar.com and what they do.
Some of your readers will subscribe to your blog using RSS feeds. I won’t explain RSS here, but the short story is that even if you use Google Analytics, you still won’t know how many people are subscribed to you unless you get a free FeedBurner account. FeedBurner, also owned by Google, gives you easy-to-read statistics about how many people have their virtual eyes on you.
The FeedPress plugin changes most (but not all) of the links on your blog to point to your FeedBurner feed, which gets you the statistics. If you’re using a custom WordPress theme to change the way your blog looks, that theme may have hard-coded links pointing to your own WordPress theme. (I had that problem here on my own blog.) We won’t cover hand-editing WordPress themes here, although I will touch on that in my next and final How-to-Blog entry.
I use Flickr to store my photos online. They have a free service that lets you upload a certain amount of photos per month that fits most people, and a $25/year Pro service for wackos like me who upload gigs of photos per month.
This plugin shows your most recent photos down the side of your blog. I like seeing that other bloggers have a real life in meatspace outside of their blog, and I like looking at their pictures to see what they’re up to. Adds some personality to your site.
After installing the FlickrRSS plugin, you have to use its widget. With WordPress, your sidebars (and in some themes, your footer) is configurable as a widget, and you can drag & drop different things in there. Drag the FlickrRSS plugin into one of your sidebars in the management UI to enable it. I won’t cover that here because it’s about to change in WordPress 2.7.
I know, I know, you don’t care if iPhone users can see your blog or not, but this is really cool and easy. Just grab this free plugin, and your web site will look amazing on iPhones, Blackberries, etc., and it doesn’t change the way your site looks on “normal” browsers. It’s so easy that you can’t help but do it.
Whenever I post a new blog entry here, my blog automatically updates my status on Facebook, Twitter, Brightkite, etc to let people know that I posted a new blog entry.
There’s two parts to this: first, set up an account on Ping.FM and set up your social networks there. Ping.fm is a cool web service that lets you update all of your networks in one spot.
Next, install the PingPressFM plugin and configure it with your Ping.FM info. Then, whenever you post a blog entry, schazam, people know about it. It even works when you schedule blog posts in advance – this particular post was written days before it actually went live, but when WordPress published it on a scheduled basis, bam, out went the Tweets and whatnot. I do this because I’m not always in a writing mood: when I am, I’ll crank out a week’s worth of posts in a few hours.
When I read blogs, sometimes I’ll leave a comment if I have a question for the author, if I disagree with something, or if I just want to thank the author for doing a great job on the topic. But I’ll never know if the person responded, because I rarely go back to the same blog entry again to check for updated comments.
The Subscribe to Comments plugin solves that problem by letting commenters check a box to get emailed whenever a new comment is added to that entry. That way, if a user posts a question and then I answer that question in the comments, they’ll get an email notification. That quick feedback helps viewers know you’re paying attention to their comments.
There’s another way to solve this issue using Intense Debate, a company WordPress bought recently, but WordPress is undergoing changes and I don’t recommend this plugin for beginning bloggers. I use it here on my site, but it’s not quite ready for public consumption. It’s buggy as hell.
Nice blog you got there.
It’d be a shame if something happened to it.
Rather than paying the mafia for protection, grab this plugin and it will email database backups to you every night. Works best with email providers like GMail who allow absurdly large inboxes.
If you want to make money from your blog, you can show Google Ads on it. I’d recommend only showing ads on posts older than a couple of weeks – that way you won’t annoy your regular readers, but if someone finds your older posts via a search engine, they’ll help pay your bills. You won’t get rich – as of this writing, I’m making less than $100/mo – but it’s free money when your site gathers enough volume.
To use it, sign up for Google Ads, then go into WordPress and put your ad codes into Settings, WhyDoWork Adsense.
I’ve covered the mechanics of setting it up, and I’ve left the look and feel for last. Hey, isn’t that how we IT people always work?