What does it take to run a World Class Blog?

World Class Blog

Hey everyone, I know that many of my readers are also bloggers and that you are faced with choices every day. With so many themes, hosts, plugins, and paid services available it can get pretty confusing and I regularly get questions about the tools and services I use to power this blog. This page is intended as a bloggers resource to answer those questions. Let’s face facts; it requires a variety of tools and services to run a world class blog. But it gets confusing because everyone who is selling related products tries to convince you that they have the best solution.

Every Tool, Service, and Plugin used to Run This Blog

To answer the question What does it take to run a World Class Blog and to help you sort through the confusion, I’ve decided to throw open the hood and show you EVERYTHING I use, along with a brief explanation of what it does and why I chose it. If something isn’t covered and you still have a question, just use the contact form and I will be happy to respond.

Some items on this list will have links to articles, videos, or other helpful resources. Some of them will be articles I have done; others will be off site resources. I will only list things that I actually use. If I use it, that means I like it and feel comfortable sharing it with other bloggers. As important as it is to have the tools you really need, page load time is also critical. For that reason it is also important that you don’t slow your site down with too many bells and whistles. You can check your page load time at Pingdom.

I’ll start with the big five and work my way down from there.

Theme: THESIS is a paid wordpress theme and quite honestly, it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. It’s a world class bloggers dream theme. Every free upgrade makes it even better. I seriously doubt that any theme will be able to give you the features, upgrades, support, and cutting edge technology of Thesis. It’s as SEO optimized as a theme can get and that means the kind of clean coding that the search engines love. You can totally change the look of your blog without any alterations to the internal structure. These Thesis videos are well worth watching if you want a little education on the value of a truly optimized WordPress theme. If you are serious about blogging, you should watch the videos even if you have a different favorite theme. Pricing for Thesis is $87 for the personal option and $164 for the Developers option. Both include free lifetime upgrades (about twice a year so far).

note: In conjunction with the Thesis theme, I also use the free plugin called: Thesis Openhook. This plugin allows you to insert arbitrary content into the manyhooks used in the Thesis Theme framework (not as complicated as it sounds). If you use Thesis, I recommend this plugin. You can download it here.

SEO: Search engine optimization is extremely important if you want your blog and your articles to rank highly in google and other search engines. The problem is, SEO is just plain hard and many bloggers ignore it. Having an SEO optimized theme like Thesis is very important, but it’s equally important that your individual posts are fully optimized. To accomplish this I use an ingenious plugin/service called SCRIBE. I am so impressed with the results I get from this service that I did an article and walk-through video that shows you step-by-step how the plugin version works.  Scribe is a real blessing for non SEO bloggers (like me). There is also a Web-Based version included with this service. Here is a Scribe video tour that walks you through that. There are several pricing plans depending on usage. The one I use is $27 per month.

Web Hosting. My web host of choice is HostGator. They are extremely reliable, have a huge support team, and all the latest features and tools to simplify blogging. For bloggers, make sure your web host has a Cpanel and fantastico (HostGator does). For a world class hosting company, they are also extremely inexpensive starting at $3.96 per month with live, real person customer support available around the clock 24/7. You can also build a professional website in minutes, without any web hosting experience by choosing from over 4,500 templates! Whether you need a shared server, a dedicated server, or something in between, HostGator has a reliable and affordable solution. To save an additional $9.94 off their already low prices use coupon code >>> ALSDISCOUNT

Autoresponders and email service providers. If you are going to have a newsletter (and you should), or any other type of email list Aweber is the only way to go. You have probably heard that before and there is a reason. They are hands down, the best autoresponder service on the planet and the #1 choice of the vast majority of world class bloggers. Right now you can get a one month $1 Trial Account, that’s the best way to get familiar with this service. I pay $19 per month for unlimited service. Don’t even consider going with anybody else. Here’s an informative article with some really important “need to know” information about what it takes to get your emails delivered in this spam happy world we live in. It’s pure, grade A content. More email marketing tips.

Membership program. If you are going to run a membership site, Wishlist Member is the plugin to use. For most world class bloggers a membership program is their primary source of income and Wishlist integrates seamlessly with WordPress. Regardless of your application (watch – Top 10 Membership Models), they have excellent training that will get you through the learning curve. Wishlist is the gold standard of membership site functionality and as you might suspect, there are lots of reasons why that is so. You can read the details and watch a video if you are considering adding a membership program. I bought the multiple site license.

Wishlist Insider – This is actually a membership site that provides ongoing training, bonus plugins, and membership site strategies for those who use the Wishlist Members plugin. It is only $20 per month and the training they provide is almost priceless. Of course, it’s only valuable if you run or our planning to run a membership site. | Visit site

That takes care of most of the big five. Next, let’s look at PLUGINS

I use the following paid plugins (in addition to Scribe and Wishlist mentioned above)

WP Affiliate Platform The ‘WordPress Affiliate Platform’ is an easy to use WordPress plugin for affiliate recruitment, management and tracking that can be used on any WordPress blog/site. This amazingly affordable little plugin lets you run your own affiliate program from your blog. It allows your affiliates to see everything in real time. Here’s an example from my coaching site. Price: $49.95 | Visit plugin site.

WordPress eStore Plugin This sleek WordPress shopping cart plugin allows you to sell any form of digital products and services from your own wordpress blog securely with complete automation. Most e-commerce WordPress plugins are a nightmare. This one works extremely well, is very lightweight, and inexpensive. Price: $49.95 | Visit plugin site.

WP Lightbox Ultimate
  – The WordPress Lightbox Ultimate plugin allows you to embed your media files using a lightbox overlay display. This plugin can be used to display images, mp3, flash, YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler video in a lightbox popup. To see an example click the player image in the right column of my coaching site. Price: $34.95 | Visit plugin site.

PopUp Domination– This is the best email list builder I have found | Visit plugin site

I also use the following free WordPress plugins

Akismet – Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not.  You can review the spam it catches under “Comments.”  | Visit plugin site

AntiVirus – AntiVirus for WordPress is a smart, effective solution to protect your blog against exploits and spam injections. | Visit plugin site

BlogAudit – Audit your blogging performance. | Visit plugin site

CommentLuv – Plugin to show a link to the last post from the commentor’s blog by parsing the feed at their given URL when they leave a comment. Rewards your readers and encourage more comments. | Visit plugin site

Contextual Related Posts – Show user defined number of contextually related posts. | Visit plugin site

Dagon Design Form Mailer – The WordPress plugin version of my secure php form mailer script. | Visit plugin site

Dagon Design Sitemap Generator – Generates a fully customizable sitemap that is more reader friendly than the google sitemap generator (which I also use for search engine purposes). | Visit plugin site

Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com to better index your blog. | Visit plugin site

Login LockDown – Adds some extra security to WordPress by restricting the rate at which failed logins can be re-attempted from a given IP range. | Visit plugin site

PrintFriendly – Creates PrintFriendly.com button for easy printing. | Visit plugin site

Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors | Visit plugin site

Subscribe To Comments – Allows readers to receive notifications of new comments that are posted to an entry. | Visit plugin site

Thesis OpenHook – This plugin allows you to insert arbitrary content into the many hooks that the Thesis Theme Framework provides. | Visit plugin site

WordPress Database Backup – On-demand backup of your WordPress database. | Visit plugin site

W3 Total Cache – The very best caching plugin for WordPress. | Visit plugin site

WP Smush.it – Compresses your images for faster page load | Visit plugin site

Ping List: Get your new posts out there – this is important

When you publish a new post, WordPress automatically notifies the sites on your ping list. A ping list is also called an update service. For more about this, see Update Services on the Codex. Most people use Ping-o-Matic which, with just one “ping” from you, will let many other services know that you’ve updated your blog. Ping-o-Matic is a good service, but is by no means complete. I have added many other services to my ping list and you can do the same in about one minute.

In your WordPress dashboard, go to => settings => writing. Then scroll to the very bottom of the page where it says: Update Services. That box is your ping list. You can add the following 59 ping services with a simple copy and paste. Make sure there are no duplicate entries (Ping-o-matic is already included in my list), and that you separate each multiple service URL with line break. When you are done, save your changes. >>> Click here to open my Copy and Paste Ping List in another tab. <<<

I think that about covers the basics

Remember; don’t overload your blog with every new plugin that comes along. Stick to the ones that are reliable and necessary. If a plugin goes down it can scramble the code on your site and locating the problem can be tedious and time consuming. Plugins are great because they simplify things and add a lot of functionality, but having too many can create problems.

I hope you found this information helpful and I want to wish you success on your journey to creating a world class blog. In case you are wondering, yes, I am an affiliate for many of the plugins and services mentioned here, but that has nothing to do with my recommendations. After much trial and error, these are the products I have come to trust to run my blog and that’s why I recommend them. If I stop using one of them at any time in the future I will remove it from this page and recommend something else. As always, your feedback, suggestions, and questions are invited and welcome!

Do you use any of these plugins or services?
Did you know about the importance of a ping list?
The lines are open!

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Easton

Jonathan, this is wonderful. I just noticed this page today and am checking out all these links right now. What a wonderful resource from someone I trust. It can be overwhelming in terms of knowing what to trust, what is good and what is simply more junk. To find information like this from a trusted friend is SUCH a relief. Thank you very much. Robin

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

My pleasure Robin, we are all in this thing together and I am happy to share what works for me. I also welcome anyone else sharing what works for them.

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Mike King

This is a great idea Jonathan to share with your readers. Very helpful to other bloggers to see a well managed and successful “behind the scenes” view of your blog setup. Thanks for the backlink tips, I definitely need to look into that! I share most of these plugins and such, and have a number of more to ad as useful ones I feel.
All in One SEO Pack – If you don’t use Thesis and Scribe
Clean Archives Reloaded – To generate a good archives page for past articles
Drain Hole – Great plugin to protect and track downloads (for downloadable content)
FeedBurner FeedSmith – You should definitely use this to ensure all feed connections go through one source
Ultimate Google Analytics – Ensure easy stat tracking integration including external links

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Thanks Mike, I need to look into the last 4 and make sure I’m covered. Always appreciate a heads up on a helpful tool.

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Steve-Personal Success Factors

Hello, Jonathan! Thanks for an information packed article. I am definitely planning to upgrade to Wordpress and Thesis for my current blog. I just need to figure out how to migrate it from a Blogger platform to Wordpress (any ideas?). Also, part of my personal development excellence plan is getting debt free, so I’m in saving mode for Thesis. I love the section on all your plugins, since I do have another Wordpress blog, and I’m still learning the ins and outs of Wordpress. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Steve, your hosting company may be able to help you make the transition. I know others have done it seamlessly so there must be a way.

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Jen

Thanks so much for this information. I had never heard about the Ping list before and have just sorted that on my own blog and am going to look through the plugins now. thanks for a great resource!

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Jen, I am really pleased that this was useful for you. I think the ping list is overlooked most of the time, but it really is important.

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Sandra Hendricks

Thanks Jonathan for this page. I just added the related links to my blog. Now I am off to share this on facebook and twitter. Very good page!

Sandra

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Thanks Sandra, I am more than happy to help.

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Stan Young

Hey Jonathan
Thank you for all the valuable information I found the plugins very useful its great that you are able to share this. One point that I got stuck on was in setting up Ping under Writting settings Mail server I wasnt sure what to use, it gave 3 examples I didnt quite understand it could you please clarify this in laymans terms what I need to enter for the mail server. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Stan, The ping list goes at the very bottom of the page in the box under “Update Services.” The “mail server” choices under “Post via e-mail” are only if you want to post to your blog using email. I have never done that so I’m not sure what goes there. I did a google search and found some helpful information at WordPress.org. I think this will answer your question.

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zach

Thanks for all the link & information

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

You are welcome Zach, I hope it turns out to be useful for you.

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Flora M Brown, Ph.D.

Jonathan,

Thank you so much for giving us an extensive tour of the backstage of your blog. This comprehensive list gives me much to do for days.

I especially appreciate your strong recommendation of Thesis and the plug-ins.

Blessings to you.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Greetings Flora, I bought Thesis when they first came out and it was good then. But since the early version the upgrades have made it even more amazing. I love the fact that you get free upgrades for life and that they are constantly making groundbreaking improvements.

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David

Wow, this will really help me a lot with my blog. Thank you so much for sharing all this information! Definitely great to be able to learn from someone who’s blog is successful. Thanks again!

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

My pleasure David, I know how hard it is to wade through all the promotional hype and figure out what really works.

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Mike

Great post. Thank you. I had no idea about the ping service. Thanks for the advice! Mike @ Brainsuperiority.com

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Mike, the ping list surprises a lot of people. All I know is that between Thesis, Scribe, and a big ping list, I can land on the front page of google for almost any keyword within minutes of publishing a new post. It’s made a believer out of me!

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Gina

I am looking into Scribe SEO, I will subscribe through this page once I hear back from them regarding whether they are compatible with Blogger. I’m new to blogging so I really needed this information. :)

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Greetings Gina, I’m not positive, but I believe that Scribe requires a self hosted site. This is true of many plugins, especially the more complex one. And of course, those are the ones that really rock. Let me know what you find out so others who use Blogger will know whether it is compatible or not.

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Gina

This page is an amazing resource, thank you for compiling the ping list. I just updated my site with this list in the Writing section. Thank you! :):)

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dr. crowhurst

This info will save me lots of time! Thank for looking out for fellow bloggers :)

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Stephen

Wow this is a great article. It is full of good information. I know I appreciate that you took the time to post this. I’m sure many others will also benefit. Great job and thanks!

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Graham

Hi Jonathan,
Thanks for these tips. I particularly liked the list of plugins you use; I hadn’t heard of BlogAudit before. Keep up the good work!

cheers,
Graham

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Gladys Cruz

Good afternoon
Before anything.. Thank you Thank you. I am a novice and I do not even know how to cut and paste codes or for that matter, anything. I do have a question… I do have a blog with Wordpress.com. I read somewhere that If I have the one with .com and not org. that I cannot add anything. Please help.I am afraid of adding because I don’t know how to. Thank you so much. I wrote everything down. Sir I am just starting out….

Gladys

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Susan

What about Google’s free service to make Blogs? Do you need all of this as well in order for your blog to be read and easily managed? Of course, my income source is very limited. So, I do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on enhancements such as all of those listed. I want to start a Blog similar to this one, but also want to include some income makers. I just killed my website because it was no longer producing any traffic. My problem is that I have to work full-time out of the home, but yet I want to work towards creating an inexpensive Blog that would be read by many. I am willing to put in some hours during the week and on the weekend in order to maintain it, but I really need a cheaper means to promote and enhance the results. Any suggestions?

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Henri

Jonhatan,

Thanks for sharing these informations.
Very useful post.
I am currently using blogger. I know, this is not the best service ever to blog but still, I like how it is easy to handle. Would you definitively recommend I move to Wordpress or do you think I could go along with this just fine?
Thanks

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