WordPress is a powerful Content Management System on its own, but it is certainly not the be-all, end-all for blogging.
While you may think WordPress does everything besides wash your windows, the reality is that sometimes you need your windows washed. How’re you going to do it?
For the same reason we install plugins to add functionality to our sites, we need to integrate certain off-site web services to improve both the user and visitor experience.
These services are provided by 3rd-party entities on servers outside of ours, which is both a good and bad thing. If my server goes down I know my data is still safe somewhere. If their server goes down, though, I have to rely on the data I’ve saved from their server.
Certainly, there are umpteen services you can attach to your site for everything from file sharing to note taking.
But these 5 web services are so essential to the growth and promotion of your WordPress blog, you just gotta have ‘em!
Here are the 5 Essential Web Services you must have connected to your blog now.
Creating an email list is one of the fundamental benefits of having a blog or a website because every person on that list is a potential client or customer for your business. If you blog, those are your subscribers who intend to read every post you push their way. They are your fans, your foot soldiers in the war of relevancy. They need to be cultivated.
That’s why you need to connect your site with an email marketing service. You could let people subscribe to your site and become WordPress “Users,” but then why not give them the keys to your house as well? You don’t want anyone to log into your site that you don’t know, so give them a place to subscribe down the street from your house.
The beauty of using services like Mailchimp, AWeber, and Constant Contact is the ability to provide double opt-ins signups and customized HTML emails and post alerts.
With double opt-ins, your potential subscribers receive an email asking them to confirm their subscription and then another to confirm their confirmation. That way, you both know they really want what you’re throwing down.
When your posts are published, your RSS Feed shoots the post to the email service, which transmits it using the lovely template you’ve chosen and customized, and then sends the excerpt or full post to the emails on your list at your chosen time of day. Easy peasy.
Most of the big providers have widgets built for them, but I find it better to customize the code on their site and then drop it into a Text widget.
To set up your account you must have an RSS Feed.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and a Feed is the moving of metadata from one place to another. The act of publishing a blog post triggers the RSS Feed to shoot your post to anyone who has your feed address, like your email service.
Creating an RSS Feed is calling “burning” and is essentially like registering your site. Burn it with Feedburner, owned by Google, and they’ll issue you an address that looks like this:
Some people find Feedburner to be buggy, and suggest alternatives, but I’ve never had a problem with them.
Social Media Manager
You’ve got a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google+ account, perhaps a Linkedin profile and maybe a Pinterest board or 5. How can you post your blogs to all those social media accounts in one fell swoop? Enter the Social Media Manager.
We’re talking about Buffer, Social Oomph, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and others that let you schedule, send and view all your social posts on one dashboard. Some, like Hootsuite, show you post engagement and shares. Others, like Buffer, let you post the same link to all of your social channels at once.
Using a social media manager saves a lot of time and energy promoting blog posts that can be better spent crafting them.
Ever wonder where the tiny thumbnails of people’s heads you see on blog comments come from? And the pictures in their post bios? Where in WordPress do you put those headshots?
The answer is Gravatar.
For those who didn’t saw the movie, an avatar is a graphical representation of a user. It could be a picture or a graphic of them or their pet a person uses to represent themselves.
A Gravatar is a “Globally Recognized” avatar, meaning that it moves around the online world along with its user.
Lacking one, when you post a comment somewhere, the image shows a greyed-out image of the “mystery man,” no matter your gender. It’s like wearing a niqab on the web.
Your profile image will henceforth be associated with the email address in your profile. So, if you use different emails in various places, you might want to create a different gravatar for each email address.
Face it, if you want to build trust online, you have to show your face.
[Tweet “Face it, if you want to build trust online, you have to show your face.”]
This is the mother of all essential web services to connect to your site. Without an Analytics account tracking your visitor’s comings and goings, how will you know how many hits you get? How will you know what pages are most popular or what referrers are driving traffic your way?
Connect your site to Google Analytics and all metrics will be illuminated. GA offers so much information, you’ll need to take a tutorial to understand it all.
Opening an account is simple. Follow the steps until you are given an ID number and a tracking code. Take that tracking code and place it in your header.php file.
You’ll find the header.php file in Appearances>Editor. Paste the code as-is just before the </head> tag. It should begin to work as soon you get traffic, but wait a day to get full satisfaction.
Bonus points for connecting to Google’s Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) GA’s younger cousin. It will give you tools to maintain the health of your site.
No single web service is a silver bullet toward maximum conversion traffic. But with these web services integrated into your WordPress blog, you will have all the essential help you need to be more successful at blogging.
Now I want to know what services – not plugins – you recommend for WordPress sites. What are your favorites?