Categories
Blogging

Contests and Spending Social Capital

So, USA Today has been running a series of weekly contests for travel social media people where you vote for the best whatever. This week it was photography and I was put on the list.

Hooray for me. It is nice to be recognized by an outlet as prestigious as USA Today.

I’m here to announce that I’m not going to win. Not that it is that big of a deal. There is no prize money. There isn’t even a certificate to hang on the wall for all I know.

Maybe I could put together some sort of campaign to try to win, but there is no point. Not only is there no point, it is actually positively harmful to try to win these sort of voting contests.

When you have an audience of people who follows you, you only have so much social capital you can spend. If you ask people to do something, you might get a large number of them to do it. They might do it just because they like you and they support you.

The more you ask of them however, the less you are going to get. The goodwill you had developed can be exhausted by asking too much.

The issue is what you should spend your limited social capital on. It could be supporting a cause. It could be buying a product. Whatever it is, it should be something worthwhile.

Clicking contests are not worthwhile.

I mentioned it on Facebook yesterday and that was more of a thank you to USA Today than a call for votes. That is all I will do.

Some of you will remember back several years ago (I think it was 2011) when Lonely Planet ran a blog contest that was based mostly on voting. It became ridiculous the amount of pandering and nagging people were doing online to get votes. Many people totally used up their social capital trying to win a clicking contest.

Lest you think that these clicking contests have merit, just realize that anyone can go to Amazon Mechanical Turk and buy clicks for as little as $0.01 per vote….and it doesn’t violate the rules because there are no rules.

So, to whoever ends up winning this clicking contest, congrats. You are a champion clicker.

Categories
Blogging

7 Concrete Steps Travel Bloggers Can Take To Stand Apart From The Crowd

In my previous post, I spoke at an abstract level about what travel bloggers need to do. Today I’m going to go into more depth about what you can do to set yourself apart and what actions you need to take.

For the record, none of these things are easy. None of these are as simple as adding a widget to your site or flipping a switch. They will take time, effort and thought.

All of these steps have something to do with building your credibility and authority. Unless you have been doing this a very long time, you should start with the assumption that you have zero. It might not be true, but it is helpful from mental standpoint in that it puts you in a struggle mode.

1) Create a Consistent Content Schedule, and Stick To It.

Back in 2007 I decided I was going to post a photo every day on my site. On November 24, 2007 I posted my very first daily photo. You can view it here.

Since that date, I have posted a daily photo on my website for 2,321 consecutive days. There were days I was late, but I have never missed a day in over six years.

Johnny Jet sends out his email newsletter every single Wednesday. He has never missed a week. Doesn’t matter where he is, or how late he is up, he never misses a week. EVER. Not surprisingly, he has a huge audience.

Whatever schedule you pick, you should stick to it. Let people know that on this day, they can expected your next piece of content. It doesn’t have to be daily, but it does have to be consistent.

A good negative example is the podcast a co-host, This Week In Travel. We are extremely inconsistent because it is difficult to get all 3 of us on at the same time, and I’m always traveling so my internet connection usually isn’t very good. Our traffic and audience has certainly suffered as a result.

Most bloggers post inconsistently and eventually die off. If you fanatically stick to your schedule, you’ll never have that problem.

2) Start Freelancing and Guest Posting

Ever notice how when traditional journalists are introduced or provide a bio of themselves, it is usually a list of the largest publications they have written for? That is a form of social proof. Without actually reading anything they’ve written, by associating themselves with big media brands, it is implied that they must be good writers.

There is no reason why you can’t do the same thing. Make a list of the top travel websites and develop a plan for appearing in them. Find out who the editors are and pitch them. (Find out how to pitch them before you pitch them.) This will take a very long time. You might get rejected many times. However, the process of doing this will improve your craft. You will have to think harder about what you are doing when you know more people will be seeing it.

Also, here is an insider pro tip: If you have an option of being in print or being online….always go with being online.

In some circles being in print may be considered more prestigious, but you can’t click on print. Paper doesn’t have links. If you primarily work online (and I assume you do if you are reading this), the benefits of being on the website FAR outweigh the benefits of being in print. Try to share a print article on social media if you doubt it.

If they wont pay you, do it for free. I know that advice will piss off freelance writers, but this is about your marketing budget, not making money. The marketing benefits of being on a big site are worth far more than what they would normally pay you anyhow.

Likewise, appearing on popular blogs can often do much more than being on the website of a big media company. Unlike working with editors, DO NOT blindly email top bloggers. Unsolicited emails for guest posts are usually deleted before they are even read. Get to know them first or get on their radar.

I’m always amazed at how many bloggers at TBEX shy away from me because they think I only hangout with other big bloggers. The most fun I’ve had at the last two TBEX events in Toronto and Dublin were drinking with bloggers who I had never heard of before. Say hello. Buy me a drink! Free beer goes a long way. Don’t just give me a business card, because I’m not going to keep it. The bloggers who regularly comment on my site or retweet me are ones I know to take the time and say “thank you” to when I meet them in person.

I am sure more other bloggers with large followings would say the same thing.

3) Join the Club

If you can meet the requirements, join one of the professional travel journalism organizations. These are not travel blogger organization, but travel media organizations. They’ve been around a lot longer than blogging has and most of the members are not bloggers.

Here is a short list of some:

  • Society of American Travel Writers. The oldest and most prestigious travel journalism organization in North America. It is open to Americans and Canadians. Bloggers need an average of 10,000 unique visitors per month over the course of a year to join.
  • Travel Media Association of Canada. Open to Canadians. Membership is based on a points system. Blogging can only earn you 1/2 the points necessary for membership regardless how successful you are.
  • North American Travel Journalists Association. NATJA isn’t a member based organization like SATW. It is more a business like TBEX. Membership is looser and open to any “legitimate, working, professional writer, photographer, or editor in the travel, food, wine, or hospitality industries.”. You also have to submit 8 examples of your work.
  • International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association. An international organization that covers much more than just travel. To join, bloggers must have a blog that is 1 year old and publishes at least twice a month.
  • British Guild of Travel Writers. Sort of the UK equivalent of SATW. Currently, they don’t let bloggers become members unless you are also doing considerable freelance work.

All of these organizations have annual dues and I know many bloggers question the value of joining. So few bloggers are members, that I think the benefits to a blogger can be greater than for a freelance writer.

The organizations also skew rather…..old. I’m one of the older people at TBEX, but I’m one of the younger people in SATW. That can work to your advantage if you are under 40, or even 50.

4) If You Can’t Join Em, Beat Em.

Publications love awards. I’ve had several newspaper and magazine editors tell me flat out how important it is for them to win prestigious awards every year.

What if you could beat the best travel publications straight up, head-to-head?

What I am talking about are judged travel journalism awards. I am NOT talking about is anything which requires public voting or awards given out by travel companies to bloggers (which are really just SEO schemes to get links. You win and then they give you a badge to put on your site.)

Blogging isn’t just a numbers game. There is a qualitative element to it. The only real way to provide proof of quality are through awards.

There are a handful of travel writing and travel photography awards which are given out each year. The publications in competition for these awards include National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, Afar Magazine and many smaller niche publications.

Can a single blog compete with these big brands? Yes, but it isn’t easy. You have to really be on top of your game and submit the best of your best material. If you can win, it is something you can really be proud of and will take the notice of people in the industry. Even if you don’t win, the act of preparing something for submission will probably make you better.

Here are some of the major awards:

  • Lowell Thomas Awards. I consider these to be the Oscars of North American travel journalism. They are similar to what the James Beard Awards are for food journalism. The contest is run by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. You do NOT have to be a member of SATW to enter. The competition is open to any journalist who lives or works in North America. There are 25 categories ranging from newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, audio, video, individual articles and photography. In each category a gold, sliver, and bronze medal are awarded. There is also a Grand Prize for the Travel Journalist of the Year. The submission period is usually from January to the end of March. SATW members which win an award have their dues waived the next year.
  • Bill Muster Photo Competition. This is a photography competition which is limited to members of SATW. There is an overall prize, the winner of which is declared the SATW Photographer of the Year. There are also prizes for individual subject areas. Submission period is usually during the month of June.
  • NATJA Awards. NATJA has an annual awards competition. There are 52 categories with separate categories for articles which have appeared online vs in print. There are also Grand Prizes given away for the top writer and top photographer. You do not have to be a NATJA member to submit, but you do save money on your entry fees if you are a member.
  • Solas Awards. These are given out by Traveler’s Tales, a travel publishing house. There are over 20 categories and the only categories are for writing. There are no awards for publications or for photography. You can submit entries at any time, but the cutoff for this years competition is September 21.
  • British Travel Press Awards. This is run by a group called Kingley Event Management Solutions. There are 18 awards, most of which either honor overall individuals or publications. I am not sure how the submissions work, but the awards are given out near the end of November.
  • British Guild of Travel Writers Awards. These awards are limited to members of the BGTW. As it is difficult for bloggers to join and the entry rules are located in a password protected part of their website, I have no idea how this works.

To date, very few bloggers have won any of these awards outside of a special travel blog category.

5) Start a Podcast

There are 1,000’s of travel blogs. Staring one is easy to do and the barrier to entry is low.

How many travel podcasts are there? Maybe dozens, depending how you define it. Go look on iTunes. Most of those are are about Disney World or are just specials by Rick Steves.

Creating audio and video content is much harder than writing. That is why so few people do it.

If you can start a podcast, publish it consistently and have a reasonably high production value, you can probably find some success faster than you could with a blog.

6) Take a Class

As I noted in my previous post, you can’t assume the content you produce is good. Especially if you are starting out.

If you don’t have a background in writing, photography or journalism, take a class on the subject. Think about attending the Book Passage Travel Writing Conference outside San Francisco in August. Not only will you learn something, but you’ll make some great contacts.

This is especially true if you really want to try and win an award which I outlined in #4. It isn’t just a matter of knowing how to write well, but also knowing what judges are expecting. The judges tend to be the people who teach at these sort of workshops.

7) Do Something BIG

If you want to grab people’s attention, try to do something big and out of the ordinary. Something which few people have done or are willing to even dare to do.

Walk around the world. Visit every country on Earth. Visit every baseball stadium in North America.

Put a wrapper on what you are doing and you might get the attention of the wider media. At a minimum, you might get a bigger audience as you get people who follow what you are doing.

Categories
Blogging

12 Things Travel Bloggers Can Do To Achieve Success In an Insanely Crowded Space

When I started my travel blog back in 2006, I knew most of the other travel bloggers personally. Eventually it grew so even if I didn’t know them personally, I was at least familiar with their site. Today, I see many blogs popping into existence that I have never even heard of before.

Many people have dreams of traveling around the world and making a living as a travel blogger. The reality is that very few people are able to do so and given the large numbers of travel blogs today, even achieving moderate success is becoming more and more difficult.

Now that I’m in my 8th year of travel blogging, I’ve seen enough to have an idea of what will work and what will not.

If you are too lazy to read everything, let me summarize by saying there is no quick path to success and the fact that you are too lazy to read an entire article means you are probably deeply screwed on multiple levels.

1) Take a Long Term Approach

It is going to take years to become an overnight success. One thing I noticed early on was that the longer I traveled, the more interested people became in my story. You need to be producing at a high level for years before you get any serious traction. This is true for almost every type of blog. The travel aspect only adds to it. If you aren’t prepared to blog and do so consistently for at least 3 years without any prospect of making money, they you probably shouldn’t even start.

2) Focus on Quality

Your content sucks. Well, at least you must assume your content sucks. The only way you are ever going to improve is by being extremely self critical. Despite having won several major travel photography awards, I constantly think my images suck and I look for ways to improve. Most bloggers don’t come from a media background and assume that if they are literate with a high school or college degree, it is good enough.

It isn’t.

Consider attending a writing or photography course, or at least spend more time researching and hanging out on writing/photography forums than you do talking online about how to make money. Yes, there are some people out there who have achieved some monetary success despite being horrible writers and photographers, but as the saying goes, “anything which can’t last forever….won’t”. Or to use another cliche, “the cream always rises to the top”.

Blogging is a craft just as much as it is a business and you should focus on improving your craft.

3) The World Does Not Need Another Blog About Backpacking Through Thailand

Thailand is a great place. I’ve been there. I’ve spent a lot of time there and I am sure I will return many times.

However, it has been done to death. It seems like the first destination for every 20-something backpacker and many people never seem to leave.

When you first start traveling, going to a new place such as Thailand is fascinating, but from a blogging standpoint, you aren’t adding anything new to the conversation.

The same applies to other common destinations. Paris, London, New York, etc. Visiting these places might have been your fantasy for years, but it can’t be your bread and butter for content.

4) You Have to Travel a Lot

Unless you are running a multi-author site where you are relying on other people’s content, your success will in large part be dependent upon how much you travel. If you created a list of the most successful travel blogs, there would be a large correlation with how much and how long the bloggers have traveled.

It doesn’t mean you have to travel full time per se, but it does mean you need to do more than go on vacation a few weeks a year. At a minimum, you are looking at many months of travel per year.

So yes, travel bloggers have to travel, and if this is a problem then travel blogging probably isn’t best suited to you.

5) Visit Interesting Places

This is a corollary to #3. In addition to not just visiting obvious destinations, you need to occasionally go somewhere, where no one else goes. Look at a map and list every country where you’ve never been and you don’t personally know anyone who has ever been. Go there. Go visit a remote island or country you only hear about during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

It is hard to be interesting as a travel blogger if you aren’t visiting interesting places.

6) Stop Trying to Please Public Relations People

There are many seminars on travel blogging which seem to start at “how to pitch destinations” or “how to create a media kit”. Go back up and reread #2. If you are focused on pleasing people who give free trips, you probably are going to be extremely limited in your success. No one, other than PR people, really care about their made up hashtags or even know what they mean.

If you only care about getting free trips, I suppose you can milk it for a while by being a PR sycophant, but you aren’t going to create a real audience in the process. What is pleasing to PR people is kryptonite to real readers. The PR industry is always several years behind the curve and they will eventually figure this out. When they do, it isn’t going to be hashtaggers they will turn to.

I never did it that often, but starting this year I’ve adopted a no hashtag rule if I work with destinations. If I’m posting a photo about Kerplekistan, there is no need to add #ILoveKerplekistan to it. If that is a deal breaker, then I guess I’m not going to that destination.

7) You Need to Occasionally Travel On Your Own

There is a class of blogger which now exists that never travels unless someone else pays for it. NEVER.

I’m not against sponsored trips as a general rule. I’ve been on them and will in the future. However, if it is all you do, and you never just go off on your own, I don’t think it is something which people are going to be interested in, in the long run.

I’d say at least half your travels should be on your own. I spent my first 3 years traveling around the world before the first person in the travel industry ever spoke to me. This year alone I’ve visited Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and two lengthy road trips in South Africa, on my own dime. When I earn money from blogging, I spend it on more travel.

I understand the economics of travel and know it can be expensive, but you at least need to seem as if destinations are helping you travel, not that you are dependant on them for traveling.

8) If You Want To Stand Apart From the Crowd, Then Don’t Be In It

If there is a large group of bloggers all in the same place, doing the same thing, then you are just a part of that group. It is almost impossible to stand out.

I’ve turned down every opportunity to be part of a blogging collective or attend a mass press trip. With special exceptions, I won’t even go on press trips with other bloggers or journalists anymore. It isn’t that I don’t like other bloggers, but I want to stand apart and do my own thing. (Example of an exception: There is a place I was going to visit later this year on my own that will be doing a promotion with bloggers during the same time. I might go with them, but there will be no hashtags and I’ll set my own schedule.)

If I see some blog collective doing a mass trip somewhere, I’ll probably stay away from that place for at least a year. When tons of bloggers visited Jordan in 2011 (I had previously been there in 2009), I didn’t return until 2013 because I didn’t want to be seen as being part of the group.

I like hanging out and talking to other bloggers are conferences, but I don’t necessarily want to travel with them, unless it is something we are doing on our own.

These group trips are the easiest to get and they are often desperate to fill spaces. If you are just starting out, these will be the most tempting and the most difficult to say “no” to.

9) Have a Thing

My thing has sort of become UNESCO world heritage sites and travel photography. I didn’t set out to do that, but it has sort of become what I’m known for, and I’m comfortable with that.

If you are just publishing random articles without focus, then you have no thing that you are known for.

It doesn’t have to be a niche (a term which I dislike). It just has to be something that you are known for. It could be your attitude or style. It could be something you do in every place you visit. Whatever it is, you need something.

10) Have an Original Name

Any domains with the following terms, or offshoots of the following terms, is hereby verboten:

  • Backpacking
  • Nomad
  • Vagabond
  • Global

I’m sure there are a few others I can think of if given time. Sites started before 2011 can be grandfathered in.

11) Focus On Audience, Not Traffic

Traffic is not the end game in blogging. Traffic is good, and traffic is important, but traffic is a means, not an end.

Traffic to your site is like people window shopping at store. Its good, but ultimately you want people to buy something. If most people visiting your site never return, you haven’t really achieved anything. What you want is to get those visitors to commit. You want them to commit to hearing more from you in the future.

Your audience are people who have made at least a one click commitment to hear more from you in the future because they know who you are and care about what you have to say.

If you have a strong, engaged audience you can do anything. It doesn’t even have to be that big if they are engaged. It isn’t easy and it is something I still struggle with all the time. All my future plans surround engaging more with my audience.

12) Do It For Love, Not Money

Running a travel blog is a lot of hard work. The more you travel, the harder it is. Moreover, even if you reach the pinnacle of success, you would still be better off financially getting a regular job.

Too many people jump into this and expect to make money from day 1. Putting aside the fact that it is a horrible way to make money, they have their priorities all wrong.

If you can’t be a good amateur blogger, you’ll never be a professional blogger. Focusing on money will get in the way of the more important things such as improving the quality of your content and building your audience, the very things which are necessary for long term success.


Most of the thing I’ve listed I’ve been guilty of violating at one time or another. It isn’t hypocrisy, it is learning through making mistakes.

No matter where you are coming from, or how long you have been doing it, the basics are the same. Be consistent, do good work, travel to interesting places and engage with your audience.

Keep doing that and eventually you will have success.

Categories
Blogging

Engagement, Metrics and How Blogs Change

I’ve been focusing the last several months on engagement. In particular, social media engagement. For the purposes of this discussion, “engagement” is just making a countable, one click action to share or show approval with a piece of content. In particular, in this post I’ll be talking about engagement with posts on my travel blog.

I’ve been tinkering with variables such as post timing, formatting and other factors. I’ve only focusing on boosting engagement on my content, not for content that isn’t my own. In particular, images with quotes on them which always seem to do well on Facebook. (I played around with that over a year ago, but gave up on it as I thought it wasn’t really authentic and it was sort of cheap. If they aren’t liking my images or words, I am not really interested.)

One of the metrics I’ve been informally following is daily gross engagement (DGE). That is a fancy term I made that means I’m just looking at the total of all countable social media engagements on my blog. Because I post an image every day, it is actually pretty easy to see how each day is doing.

What I do is count up the total number of Google +1’s, Facebook Likes, Twitter Retweets, and Pinterest Pins. I don’t count StumbleUpon or Reddit as they tend to be very feast or famine and I don’t count LinkedIn because I have a consumer focused site and I’ve never gotten any traction on that platform. I also don’t track Instagram as that isn’t really linked to the website.

To give you an idea, here are some of the DGE numbers from my daily photos from the last week. These numbers are never final, as people can always continue to engage with those pages, but well over 95% of the engagement on most posts will take place in the first 24 hours.

Photo Date Google+ Facebook Twitter Pinterest DGE
February 1 93 217 38 88 436
January 31 125 136 23 8 292
January 30 87 79 10 1 177
January 29 112 76 6 20 214
January 28 72 90 13 1 176
January 27 86 90 26 2 204
January 26 108 241 29 12 390
Average 269

This isn’t intended to be the final word in metrics. In fact, it really isn’t much more than a back of the envelope calculation to see how posts are performing over time. Nonetheless, it is helpful and does provide some insight.

Just doing a cursory look at how the same days performed in 2013, I know that I’m getting, on average, well over 200 points of engagement more per post in 2014! I haven’t done a hard look, but it appears to be about a 4-6x increase. That’s not too shabby.

Google+, Facebook and Pinterest are both up dramatically for me. Twitter is actually slightly down. I have two theories as to why Twitter engagement is down:

  1. Twitter is just getting more noisy and people don’t catch as much as they used to.
  2. I’m finding more and more people are now clicking “favorite” instead of “retweet” on Twitter. Easily half of the engagement on Twitter I’m getting is from favorites, but that doesn’t show up in the button on the page. This is a shift I’ve noticed over time where people used to never use the favorite feature, where as now it has become quite common.

The main reason for the increase it that engagement is something that is on my radar now. 7 years ago when I started blogging, these things didn’t even exist. 12 months ago I didn’t pay attention. Now I do pay attention and you see the results.

Things change. The advice you get a year ago might not be valid today. You have to keep your ear to the ground and constantly experiment and get feedback. I’m sure in 2015 things will be totally different again.

Categories
Blogging

Tools I Use to Manage My Travel Blog

I am often asked what software I use to keep my site up and running. Here is a someone complete list of everything, and the reason behind why I chose it.

I actually put very little effort into website maintenance anymore. It really isn’t necessary. I have a set up that is relatively secure and stable with reasonable performance. I only monkey around with it about once every six months, and today was one of those days. I figured it would be a good time to list everything I use.


Blogging Software

I use WordPress and I’m not sure there is really a close second. You can use sites like Blogger and Tumblr, but you are really limited with what you can do. If you take your blog even semi-serious, you should be on a self-hosted WordPress installation.

Web Host

Last year I moved to Websynthesis and I couldn’t be happier. Websynthesis only does WordPress hosting. That’s it. That means everything they do is optimized around WordPress. They’ve locked down everything that is a potential opening for hackers. The databases and webservers are all optimized for serving up WordPress. Since I moved, I can’t recall a moment of downtime. The site is also significantly faster. They work on a system wide level with Sucuri to check for malicious software.

There are other WordPress only hosting sites that I have also heard good things about. I highly recommend getting away from the Hostgators of the world and move to a dedicated WordPress hosting company. You pay more, but it is worth it.

DNS Hosting

Many people ignore the hosting of their DNS and just let their registrar handle it. I’ve moved all my DNS hosting to Cloudflare and I haven’t regretted it. Cloudflare has both a security component to filter out attacks and a content delivery network component as well. That means your site will be more secure and perform better. The best part is, it’s free. There is no excuse to not use Cloudflare.

Image Hosting

I’ve been hosting my photos for years on Smugmug. With them I get unlimited storage and bandwidth for my images. I host ALL my images on Smugmug, including all the small little images that are part of my WordPress theme. I have moved literally everything I can to SmugMug. With Smugmug I can use my own domain< for my photo hosting, so everything is kept under the same umbrella as my site. While I use other services for my RAW files, Smugmug also serves as a way to backup your travel photos.

I always recommend to bloggers to move your images off your webserver. The biggest bottleneck for most servers isn’t bandwidth or storage, it is the processor. By removing everything you can off the webserver, you are off loading most of your http requests, which means your webserver has nothing else to do except to serve up web pages.

Plugins

Akismet This should be installed on 100% of all WordPress installations. It doesn’t stop 100% of comment spam, but it is pretty good.

Align RSS Images I’m fussy about layout. The layout you’d see in an RSS reader always looked different from what you’d see on the blog. This helps solve that problem.

Digg Digg This manages the floating bar of social media buttons you see on every page (except the home page). After I installed this, I saw a significant uptick in sharing.

FeedBurner FeedSmith This has been around forever. Google may have killed Reader, but they seem content to let Feedburner just limp along. This should also be installed on every blog that uses Feedburner.

FourSquare Localizer This was a custom plug-in written for me by my friend Jason. It takes my last check-in on Forusquare and puts it at the top of my blog under the “Gary is currently in ______” section.

Limit Login Attempts A simple little plugin that can help prevent against brute force login attacks.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions A tool that will remove old versions of posts and optimize your WordPress database. I only have to run it a few times a year.

Outbrain All those related post thumbnails at the bottom of my page. I’m not thrilled with Outbrain, so I might move to something else this year.

Page Link Manager This is a simple plug-in that just lets me select which pages get displayed in my navigation bar.

Page Links To This is another small plug-in that lets me redirect to a different site as if it were a page in WordPress. I basically just use this to put my photo hosting site in my navigation menu.

Sucuri Security I was hacked several years ago and have since signed up for the Sucuri service. The plug-in will do an audit telling you what you can fix on your site to improve security. I’m signed up for the service through 2014, but after that I’m going to cancel it as it is bundled into my web hosting service.

Use Google Libraries This is a little-known service which Google offers that more people should take advantage of. Google keeps many common javascript files on their servers all over the world. This plug-in just tells users to grab the files from Google, rather than off your own webserver. Again, like photo hosting, it is a form of poor man’s load balancing.

W3 Total Cache Another must for every blog, this plug-in works well with Websynthesis and can dramatically improve performance.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox How do I handle my backups? I just have this plug-in back everything up to Dropbox every day. I never have to worry about it. Websynthesis also offers a backup service as well, but this is much easier to deal with.

WordPress SEO Created by Yoast, this will let you set several site wide preferences. It will also manage your sitemap files and can provide special inserts into your RSS feed.

wp-dropcaps This is just a simple app that lets me add drop caps to posts. I don’t use it all the time, but it is a nice feature I wish they integrated directly into WordPress.