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• Fine tune your features as you want • Backwards compatibility with other plugins
Basically, all the stuff that a blog needs to do to look nice and pretty to Google and its search brethren is done by All in One. I’m surprised it’s not a standard part of the installation yet like Akismet since so many people use it.
Once you install All in One, make sure to activate it in the Plugins menu and then go to the All in One menu located in your Settings widget to make sure you have all the right things checked off. • Home Title – The title for your home page. By default, it’s the name of your site, but you’ll want to include categories and niche keywords as well. • Home Description – This is set by default when you install WordPress, so overwriting it with a more SEO friendly description is a good idea. • Home Keywords – Same thing as the other two. Get a good mixture of keywords here to make sure your blog’s home page gets the attention it needs to perform. • Titles and Formats – A number of title options allows you to set the format that your title will take, using categories, tags, or post names. Most of the defaults are good here. • META Keywords – You can choose to generate META keywords automatically from categories or tags on a given post – something I think is a good idea to make each page unique.

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• NoIndex – If you don’t want any of the general, duplicate content pages of your site indexed, click these options.
Most of this content can be left as is, and when you go into a single blog post, you’ll find a new section at the very bottom of the screen, where you can edit your title, description, and keywords if you don’t have them set to automatically generate. The choice is up to you – I generally leave them on automatic generation, unless I know I need specific phrases included in a particular blog post.
XML Sitemap Generator
As a website owner, you’ll need to make sure you are properly indexed in Google at all times. To do that, you need to have a sitemap on file with them that accurately displays every URL on your website so they can see what you’ve written, when it was updated and how much was changed.
That’s where XML Sitemap Generator comes in. This plugin will automatically generate a new sitemap every time you write a new post and submit it to the three major search engines – Google, Yahoo! and Bing. If you decide to update Yahoo! you will need an Application ID from Yahoo! Site Explorer.
The other major search engines do not require you to do this. There are quite a few options for this plugin, but for a new blog without a lot of content on it yet, don’t worry too much about what happens here. The frequency and updating methods are all good as the defaults. Only start messing with options here if you have a good idea of what you’re changing.
Gravatar

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Wordpress automatically provides avatar support in it’s current version, but it’s not very good. You have to use defaults and they don’t work well most of the time. So, if you want to have your own avatar or allow your readers to upload one of their own, Gravatar is a good plugin to have on hand.
Once you’ve installed Gravatar, go to the “Avatars” menu on the User section of your dashboard. Here, you’ll find a complete list of all users and their avatar settings. To add an avatar for any one user, click on “update” next to their name and upload a new image or choose one from another website.
Below the user list you will find a series of options that allow you to choose the level of content your avatar can have, the default avatar if they don’t upload one, how users will upload their avatars, and some more complicated technical options that you won’t need to mess with unless you want to place avatars on your site independently of comments.
Related Posts
For whatever reason, WordPress still doesn’t do this automatically, so you’ll need to download a plugin for it. You’ve probably seen it a few dozen times on other blogs anyway – a list of posts that are thematically related to the one you’re reading.
Once you install the plugin, you can change a few settings that will determine which posts appear, including the use of common tags, categories, or keyword matching. I like to use tag matching as most posts with similar tags are related (due to how those particular posts get defined).
Permalink Redirect
For whatever reason, the permalinks for your pages can get crossed up and misinterpreted by search engines, outside sources or even your own WordPress installation. For that reason, you can end up with multiple URLs for the same post, which can hurt your search engine standings and be very confusing for your readers.
That’s why Permalink Redirect is a good plugin to have on hand. It will automatically use a 301 redirect to send your readers to the correct URL for every post they read. That way, no one ever accidentally gets stuck on the wrong URL and Google doesn’t think you have forty pages of duplicate content floating around your site.
Simple Tags
As WordPress stands, tags are pretty boring. You can add or delete them, and with your SEO tool you can use them for keywords. That’s not horrible, but if you want to really get the most out of every post, you want to be sure you don’t miss any potentially awesome tags.
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That’s where Simple Tags comes in handy. Once upon a time, WordPress didn’t support tags at all, and these plugins were vital. Today, they are more of a handy booster for your existing tags. You can use them to generate tags automatically using the keywords in a post, you can look up tag suggestions in the search feature, or you can tag your posts on the fly as you edit them. I don’t recommend automatic tagging, if only because it can lead to some pretty bland, and sometimes repetitive tags bordering on spam.
However, the other tools included with Simple Tags allow you to mass edit tags, click on them to see related posts in the dashboard, embed tags in your posts so you can link to related posts, and use tags that will show up on aggregate sites like Technorati. All in all, it’s a very useful tool that provides a lot more ways to insert content into your blog.
Akismet
This is the one and only plugin that comes default with all WordPress installations and for very good reason. Akismet works to automatically recognize comments on your blog that could be spam. And if you haven’t run a blog before, trust me – there will be a LOT of spam. You might not notice it at first, or even after a month or two, but once your blog starts getting real traffic and is indexed in search engines, expect between 5 and 100 spam comments a day from a variety of unsavory sources.
So, it’s best to install and use Akismet from the start to remove the comments before they can become obnoxious. To use Akismet, you’ll need to go to Akismet’s website and get an API key (you can also get one from WordPress.com). Here’s the link for Akismet:
http://akismet.com/personal/

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Once you register, you’ll get an API key that you will then paste into your Akismet options screen. Once it’s installed, go to the Plugins menu to find the Akismet options
From here, you can enter your API key, and set up your spam filters. The default settings are usually good for young blogs, as they will filter out all posts with two or more links or that contain a certain number of numbers. If you are ever uncertain of your spam settings, you can go into you spam folder in the comments menu and remove anything that was inadvertently filtered (much like your email inbox).
Wordpress Popup Scheduler
There are a few plugins for this as well, and while many of them cost money, they don’t need to (unless you want a lot of fancy features). We’ll discuss flying popovers later on so don’t worry if you’re not sure what to put here or how to make it look.
The basic idea is that you want to convince people who have spent a small amount of time on your site to sign up for your list so they can continue getting updates about your site. This plugin will provide all the tools you need to make that happen. Later, when we go over how to create a list for your blog, I’ll go into further detail of how your popover should look and what it should do. So leave this option disabled for now.

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Simple Link Cloaker
There are a few link cloaking tools out there that cost an arm and a leg for no good reason, because Simple Link Cloaker is free and does everything you need it to do. Basically, it allows you to enter affiliate links, then create sterile URLs to use in your affiliate marketing campaigns so that your readers won’t be turned off by a big long, messy link. Here’s an example.
Instead of http://jim342.starworld23.clickbank.net/?32
You can use http://www.YOURBLOG.com/RECOMMENDED
The result looks much nicer and the reader can still be sent directly to the end result page. Now, don’t forget that new FTC rules require you to disclose that your readers are about to click on an affiliate link for which you will get paid, but the conversions are still better with a pretty link like this.
There are other plugins out there that will also track click throughs, but with Google Analytics and your basic analytics tools from Clickbank and the other networks, those bulkier tools aren’t really necessary.
Star Rating for Reviews
Don’t ask me why it is, but people like star ratings. I like to place the blame (or honor) at the feet of Amazon, a website that has acclimated people over the course of the last 10 years or so to associate instant recognition of quality with a star rating.
You can boost your own readership by using that star rating with your posts, doable with this little plugin. The only downside to this plugin of course is that you will need to maintain high quality in your posts if you want to maintain readers. People won’t click on a 1 or 2 star post, so if you write short, grammatically dicey content, this may not be your best bet.
However, since that kind of content isn’t going to help you sell anything anyway, I fully recommend upgrading your content and using this to help increase how many articles your readers peruse when they visit your site.
Sociable

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I fully expect that sooner or later WordPress will integrate its own tools for adding social bookmarking links to your posts as it’s an extremely common request and a very regular. But for now, it does not support this and you’ll need a plugin.
Basically, what it does is add a line of social networking icons to the bottom of each blog post that look like this:
You can change which ones appear in the options menu and even where they appear on your blog post. The rest of the data is automatically entered when someone clicks on any of those links. Keep in mind that many premium blog themes will already have a social networking plugin built into the code. If you are using a blog theme, double check this before installing Sociable, because two different social media tools can interact with each other sometimes and cause all sorts of glitches.
Exclude Pages
Right now, this plugin might sit dormant, not doing a whole lot on your site. But, eventually it will be a good friend that helps keep all that content you’ll be writing well organized. Here’s how.
When you create a new “Page” – the static content that you link to at the top of your blog (image below) – it automatically gets added to that menu.
By default, you cannot control which of the pages appear up there. It’s all automatic and if you have 30 pages, it would become a giant mess that is hard to navigate. Exclude Pages allows you to uncheck a box that says “include this page in menus” when you create it. This way, if you want to create a static page of content, you can do so without having it on every menu of your site, taking up space and making it very confusing to navigate your site. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later for installing this one.
WP Banner Plugin
As an affiliate, you might decide to populate your site with a variety of different banner ads. The problem, however, is that it can be hard to keep track of those banners and where they appear and whether the links are all correct. That’s where WP Banner comes in.
With this plugin, you can easily manage multiple banner options from one affiliate program, multiple banners from different affiliate programs, and the time ranges and impression counts for all of them. In fact, you can even use it to sell ad space to advertisers if you ever become one of the guru bloggers with a million hits a day.

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Because banner rotation is so hard to maintain manually, this is more or less a must-have tool. To top things off, it will keep track of clicks for each banner so that you can compare data. It’s an instant split-tester which makes it easy to determine which banner ad deserves more screen time.
Advertising Manager
I already recommended a good plugin for Google AdSense, but there are dozens of other ad networks out there and I wholly recommend you give them all a shot if you’re trying to monetize your content through impression or click-based advertising.
That’s where Advertising manager comes in. This plugin will allow you to manage campaigns from AdSense just like the other plugin we discussed, but it also works for AdBrite, AdPinion, Commission Junction, ShoppingAds, Adify, AdGridWork, AdRoll, CrispAds, Yahoo!PN, OpenX, and WidgetBucks – all solid ad networks in their own way. And other ad networks are constantly being added to the list of supported options.
You can choose ads by category, tags, author, page type, template style, and much more, allowing you to customize content on each page. You can also manage your accounts for the 15 biggest networks through WordPress’s backend instead of through their own sites, making it much easier to have all those accounts running at once.
You’re probably still quite a way from getting this many ads up and running on your blog (content must come first), but install the plugin now and you’ll be ready to go when you start monetizing that screen space.
Choosing Your Plugins
I want to make a quick note here. Just because I’ve listed more than a dozen plugins above doesn’t mean you’ll need all of them. And it doesn’t mean these are the only plugins you’ll want or need for your site either. In reality, you’ll probably think of a dozen other things that you want to do with your blog that require a plugin.
In my opinion, the reason that WordPress is so fantastic is that you can be as creative as you like and someone, somewhere has already thought of a way to make your ideas come to life. So, as you start putting your blog together, sit down and determine which of these features you need and how you would like them integrated into your blog.
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wIDgets Another thing you’ll see in your blog’s backend a lot is “widgets”. Widgets are not necessarily installed. Rather, they are little bits of code that you can move around on your blog’s pages. For example, if you have a right side bar on your blog, you can add widgets for categories, recent posts, search, or your picture.
These are all predefined segments in your theme’s code that will automatically update all that information whenever your blog changes. It’s a pretty simple way to manage all that content without having to spend additional time generating content.
So, you never really choose your widgets. Rather, they will be a built in part of your theme. Whatever the theme creator has coded into the design you’re using will be available.
Changing Widgets
When you go to the Widgets menu under “Appearance”, you’ll see something like this:
On the left will be a list of all the possible widgets you have available to place and on the right will be the different modules of your site where widgets can be added. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to show you exactly what your own widgets will look like because I don’t know which theme you’ll be using, but here are a few examples of what widget changes will do to your page.
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The Primary Sidebar
For the most part, I ignore any of the secondary sidebars that a blog has. Most blog themes will have a primary sidebar and possibly a left side bar if you have a three column design:
Most of your features should be placed in that right side bar, or below your blog posts, out of the way. Advertising especially needs to be placed in a prominent location, but not supplanting your content. By default, most themes will have “search”, “recent posts”, “categories” and sometimes “meta or login” information in the primary sidebar. How you want it to look will determine what goes there, but I usually remove everything except search and recent posts or categories.
This provides you more space for advertising in the sidebar above the fold. What I mean by this is that you will be able to place ads in a location where your users can see them without having to scroll down. If you place five or six widgets above the fold, they would need to scroll down the page a bit to see your ads, which you don’t want to rely on.
Another important thing to remember about widgets is that you don’t need to use them all – not even close. If you have thirty widgets sitting there as options, you may only use five of them and that’s okay. If you try to jam all that content onto your blog, it will look like a mess. And don’t forget you have things like “bottom content” and “footers” where you can place things like archives and tag clouds.

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Later on, when we discuss advertisement placement, I’ll discuss the best places to put those ad blocks. For now, I recommend keeping your search box at the top right with at least one widget below it for finding old posts – either a tag cloud, categories or archived posts.
tHeMes Finally, we have themes, the primary tool you’ll have in changing the look and feel of your blog. Themes are awesome in so many ways because they cut out all that unwanted outsourcing, creative struggling, and design back and forth that goes into choosing the look and feel of a new website. Instead of thinking of something new, you can shop for an existing look and either download it for free or pay for it.
Premium vs. Free
One thing to keep in mind with themes is that they come in two very different categories – free themes that cover the basics and provide a general look or paid themes that include very specific tools and are usually supported by customer service and forums where you can ask questions.
Which one you choose will depend partly on your needs and partly on your budget. So, you’ll want to sit down and determine where you will be headed with your site before you choose what kind of money you want to pay for your themes. Free Themes

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Wordpress.org has a number of free themes, or you can search other galleries on Google to see what is out there. For the most part, free themes are very limiting. They provide a specific look, some basic widget controls, and sometimes a few cool effects. The problem with free themes, however, is that they are often designed for artists and hobby bloggers, not marketers.
If you’re only planning on putting together a basic blog where you write posts and people read them without any frills, a free theme may be all you need, assuming you can find one you like the look and feel of. Premium Themes
On the other side of things is the premium theme market. Here, you’ll find themes that are catered to specific styles of websites, including affiliate marketing and as such they come with the widgets and plugins you’d expect and want to make your site fully functional.
An added plus with premium themes is that you can also often get technical support from the programmer through a website or forum that they maintain. In fact, I usually recommend that if you don’t get this kind of support you skip the theme. Why pay hard earned money for something that doesn’t help you when you have problems?
The biggest problem with premium themes is that there are so many of them. You’ll need to sort through hundreds of websites and dozens of themes to land on the perfect one for your needs. It can cost quite a bit of money as well if you don’t know 100% what you want ahead of time.
My recommendation is usually to start with a freebie and once you have a good grasp of what you need out of your blog, start looking for a premium theme to upgrade to. Changing themes is instant and simple as long as you haven’t made any edits to the original, so you can always make changes later.
Capabilities of Themes
Themes do a little bit of everything depending on what they’re designed for. To start with, they make it possible to change how your blog looks to fit your particular audience and style. They also allow you to change specific pages on your blog without having to go in and manually change anything.
Good themes will also provide customization options for things like social networking buttons, tags, categories, and the home page display of your posts. A very basic blog might just have a listing of recent posts, but advanced themes might have sliding windows with recent posts, news-magazine style layouts, or blocks of content that can be interchangeable.
Just visit any of the top blogs online like Boing-Boing or Mashable and see how the content is laid out. Those blogs are almost all based on a WordPress platform, and while they likely have custom themes made for them, they are still using the same tools you have at your disposal.
That’s why it’s such a good idea to spend time investigating which themes will work best for your particular site. Look at their features, the widgets and plugins they offer, and the sites that currently use them. You want to be sure you get the right tools for your particular needs. But, even if a theme you really like doesn’t cover everything you want it to do, don’t forget that you can always use plugins to expand its capabilities.
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Customizing a Theme
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s possible to go in and make changes to a theme to add features or insert code of your own into the background. I really don’t recommend you do this. Those themes are custom coded by experts in their field and not every theme will react the same to outside code, even if you have clear instructions. If you really need to change how a theme works, consider a premium theme or hiring an outside coder who can help make those changes. The results are often a lot less dangerous to the integrity of your blog. Getting Help
While custom themes are available in plenty, you never know when you might want to find someone to help you produce content that meets your particular needs. It might be a very specific widget, or a design style that is built for you alone, or your own graphics being placed into the template. Whatever the case, it might come up that you need to outsource a bit of coding for your blog.
First, make sure you find someone who will work at a reasonable rate. You don’t need to spend $300 for someone to add your custom graphics into a blog’s theme. It takes 20 minutes and minimal knowledge and they should charge you accordingly. Sites like RentaCoder or Odesk are good for this because they allow you to find people willing to work based on time investment and at a reasonable rate – especially when overseas.
There’s a lot to be said for outsourcing in general (and a lot that has been said in the past), but I won’t go into it all in detail. But, if you need a very specific piece of code or change to your theme, look for someone who will do it at a reasonable rate. Best Themes for Affiliate Marketers
Out of all the themes on the market, there are a few that stand out as particular powerful options for marketers. They offer specific tools designed for link tracking and cloaking, image incorporation, video posting, list building and more. Beware though that almost all affiliate marketing targeted themes are premium and some of them only offer single license use so you’ll need to purchase them more than once to use for multiple blogs (though most offer unlimited use after purchase).
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WP Unlimited
The WP Unlimited Theme costs $59 for a personal license, which isn’t that bad for a premium theme that does so much. This is by far one of the best all-around themes for affiliate marketers because it has only the stuff you need and none of the stuff you don’t. I’m not trying to sell you on anything here, but I will do my little schpeil so you can see what it comes with: • AdSense Generator – The AdSense functionality is very nice because it’s all built into the theme already. Plugins are great but they can have bugs when paired up with a separate theme – something you’ll never need to worry about with WP Unlimited. • Design Customization – Most free themes have a handful of different options for how things will look, but WP Unlimited is loaded with color, font, layout, and size options, allowing you to essentially choose exactly how your theme will look. It’s also very easy to upload custom headers and footers, making it easy to personalize your site. • SEO – A lot of the features you come to expect from plugins like All in One SEO are all here and easily integrated into your layout, which makes for easier to access tools. I won’t say that WP Unlimited offers anything that you can’t get elsewhere for free in your SEO, but it’s already there and you won’t need to set anything up.
In short, a theme like WP Unlimited puts all the tools you need in front of you without the need for any plugins or upgrades. That may be well worth the cost for most of you.

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Affiliate Theme
Affiliate Theme costs a bit more than WP Unlimited at $97 for a single user license ($147 for unlimited multi-use package) but it does come with a number of additional features for those that know they’ll be building a LOT of blogs in the near future.
It comes with 6 layouts that allow for a wide array of customization in how your blog looks, and the changes are very easy to make. Additionally, there is a color picker and easy to use layout tweaking tools that make it super easy to change how the theme looks without having to recode anything. The options are surprising robust and if you don’t know anything about coding, it’s a godsend to have it so easy.
Additionally, it is optimized for SEO and PPC, similar to the above themes, allowing you to easily get the right titles, descriptions, keywords, and everything else in place before anything goes out to the search engines. The support for this theme is pretty solid too with quick response customer service and an easy to use forum to ask questions. In short, changing, adding, and tweaking your settings is super simple and you’ll never need to worry about tech problems.
This is only a sampling of possible themes you can integrate into your blog for marketing purposes. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your new IM blog, make sure you find one that has a lot of solid support and people who can answer your questions if and/or when something comes up.
Create Your Own Theme
For those of you that don’t want your site to look like anyone else’s, and have a very clear idea of what you want the graphics and layout to do for you, there is a tool that has become quite popular in recent months. It’s called Web Artisteer and it’s a custom theme editor that allows you to pretty much change anything you want on your site without having to do any coding – a major plus for most marketers who are just getting used to blogging, let alone building a website.
It also works for more than just WordPress, allowing you to create custom themes for Drupal, Joomla, and

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