Content Editors

The text and image editors that ship with most CMS's leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately there are some excellent extensions available that ad extra options and extended formatting abilities not offered by the existing visual editor in WordPress. This is one of the first plug-ins you should install as a good content editor will save you hours of time adding and editing copy and images. 

Settings for Tiny MCE Advacned
                           Control panel for Tiny MCE Advanced

Tiny MCE Advanced
This plug-in enables the advanced features of TinyMCE, the editor that ships with WordPress, which is pretty lame. This is one of the first plugins you should install. TinyMCE Advanced allows you to add, remove and arrange the buttons in the visual editor. It includes 16 buttons for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on what buttons are chosen. Some of this plugin’s features include support for creating and editing tables, the ability to search and replace in the editor, editing inline CSS styles, and adding and removing HTML tag attributes.


                                            UI of the  WP Edit Plugin

WP Edit 
Formerly Ultimate TinyMCE, WP Edit  provides new buttons, extra options and extended formatting abilities not offered by the existing visual editor in WordPress. This plugin allows you to easily insert images, video and clip art, create tables via a graphical interface, access shortcodes and insert columns.

Site Backup Utilities

Backing up your site regularly and restoring it to another server or location on your server is one of your most important administrative tasks. Modern CMS's are complex and "break" easily. To protect yourself from these inevitable site breaks, you need to learn how to use a CMS backup tool and develop a regimen for using them so you regularly backup and restore your websites.
Backing up a site is usually very quick and simple. It is the process of restoring the site that is complex and fraught with challenges for beginners. You will need a backup tool that will reduce this complexity and streamline the process you. Only then will you regularly and routinely backup and restore your websites.
Luckily, there are a few excellent backup tools out there that are not hard to use.

(free and pro versions)
This is the best WordPress backup utility I have found for students and is one of my favorite WordPress plugins. It's free and works pretty reliably, as long as you keep your sites small and avoid large image files. Large sites give Duplicator problems so it is important that you link all images and audio and video files from other servers such as Flickr or DropBox for images and SoundCloud and YouTube for video. 

Backup Buddy (commercial $80 for two sites)
Backs up your entire WordPress installation. Including widgets, themes, plugins, files and SQL database - the entire package! The key with this tool is the easy restore functionality. Entire WordPress site is saved to a single file. This is the easiest backup solution I have found for WordPress but it is also one of the priciest. Easy to both backup and, most importantly, restore your websites anywhere you want. Some of the other, cheaper solutions are easy as well but do not let you restore to other servers or directories on your server. Extract this single file using a PHP executable and your entire site is restored! Backup buddy has excellent documentation and a logical, easy-to-follow workflow to make backing up and restoring your site as easy as possible.

WordPress backup to Dropbox (free)
It is always great to integrate into your workflow tools you already use and love DropBox so this tool gives great peace of mind knowing that your backups are secure and safe on the DropBox servers.

Email Management

All of the successful marketers I follow stress the use of mailing lists to build relationships with site visitors. They go to great lengths to build, maintain, and work their mailing lists to promote their websites and keep visitors coming back.

Email management is such an important aspect of modern websites that the software developers have come to the rescue again. Many excellent plug-ins are available to help you grow and manage your customer email lists. There are even tools to help you create attractive email collection forms, turn abandoning visitors into email subscribers, send customized emails to parts of your mailing lists, setup auto-responders, track conversions, and more.

Optin Monster (commercial,  $49/year)
I have noticed that a lot of successful marketers use Opt-In Monster. This is an effective a pop up email catcher that allows you to turn abandoning visitors into email subscribers. Yes, these can be a bit annoying, but popup email catchers are simply the best way to increase the size of your email lists and this one is very easy to use.

Mailchimp (free for the first 2,000 subscribers, starts at $10/month)  
This is the email manager I use and is very popular with a lot of books and tutorials to help you climb it's steep learning curve. The free subscription allows you to send 12,000 emails every month, more than you need when just starting out. The free option doesn’t have autoresponder cababilities but you can choose to upgrade and pay monthly, or if you’re going to send less emails, you might want to choose the prepaid option.

File Management

Managing website files usually means using the default file manager in the CPanel provided by your Host. This works well enough, but better to use a dedicated file manager extension to make the work managing your files easier and more efficient. File management tools make it easy to browse files and folders, show names, file sizes, file types and permissions, as well as copy, move and delete files. They also make it easier to search for files and folders, uploading and download files and create new files and folders. 

                                 MiwoFTP UI in the WordPress Dashboard
This is a smart, fast and lightweight file Manager.   

WP-FileManager (free)
FileManager for WordPress allows you to easily change, delete, organize and upload files. WP-Filemanager works right from the Wordpress admin page. and includes the following features: Create Files & Folders, Upload, Download file, View, Edit files, rename and delete files.  

Broken Link Checker (free)
This plugin checks your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notifies you if any are found. This tool can save hours of your time performing this routine maintenance task.  


CMS websites in general, and WordPress sites in particular, are prime targets for bad guys trying spam you, steal private information, install malware, or worse. It is absolutely essential that you use some of the security extensions described here. These tools excel at blocking spam, testing plug-ins, secure admin passwords and other sensitive data, scanning files for mal-ware, and much more. 

Good CMS security tools work on four fronts: 

  1. They obscure sensitive areas of your site.
  2. They protect  vulnerable parts of your site
  3. They detect suspicious behavior or altered files
  4. They recover sites when the unthinkable happens  


Akismet (free for personal blogs; paid subscriptions for businesses and commercial sites.)
Akismet is a must-have plugin if you allow people to leave comments or subscribe to your site by managing comment spam, instead of laboring through the removal of page after page of spam. This great plugin now comes as part of the standard core WordPress installation but you still need to Activate it in the Plugins area of the Dasboard.
This tool filters your comments and tags comments that are likely to be spam based upon some conditional criteria. Each time a new comment, trackback, or pingback is added to your site, it's submitted to the Akismet web service which runs hundreds of tests on the comment and returns a thumbs up or thumbs down. As a result, you don't have to waste your time sorting through and deleting spammy comments from your blog.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (free)
Akismet stops comment spam but the problem with it is that Spam bots are getting smarter and sometimes fool it. Some experts have noticed less spam with G.A.S.P. Just remember to deactivate Akismet, before you activate this spambot plugin.


WordFence is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins. It checks your website for malware infection by scanning all the files of your WordPress core, theme and plugins. If it finds any kind of infection, it  notifies you. It also claims to make your WordPress website faster by using the Falcom caching engine. This plugin is free, but a few advanced features are available for premium users. If you can afford it, do it.

WP Blog Security Tips (free)
This is not a plugin but all the tips mentioned here should help you in securing your WordPress sites.



Designing and building websites is only half the effort -- the other half is driving traffic to your web sites and keep them coming back.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the art and science of getting a web site to appear prominently in the organic search results of a search engine, when a search is conducted using terms relevant to that web site. It means getting noticed, before all of your competitors, when a search is conducted on a topic related to your site. 

WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress out of the box is already technically quite a good platform for SEO, but that doesn't mean you can't improve it further! This plugin is written from the ground up by WordPress SEO consultant and WordPress developer/guru Joost de Valk to improve your site's SEO on all needed aspects.

This is one the most popular plug-ins (bordering on rock-star-status in the WP community) and now comes pre-installed with all new WordPress installations.  This plugin's great for the less technically inclined as it actually teaches you while you work with it. It clearly explains WHAT to do and also WHY you need to do it.  It first and foremost helps you write better content. It forces you to choose a focus keyword when you're writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.

This tool will help you to optimize posts and includes helpful features like social integration and link elements. This last feature is especially helpful for ensuring that your content includes a link back to your own site, even if someone shares it without attribution.

All-in-one-SEO-pack (free)
Another classic that consistently showed on all the "Best of WordPress" lists I researched. This plugin was also automatially installed on my last WordPress site! This tool excels and helping you optimize your content for Google and Bing. This plugin automatically optimizes your WordPress site for search engines by generating meta tags and helping you optimize web page titles. Advanced users are given the ability to customize post titles, descriptions, URL structures and tags for each post.



The best websites engage their visitors much like an engaging conversation, with all parties both listening and speaking. The listening part of your website can be done with forms. Make good use of forms, they are one of your best tools for creating content that engages visitors and everyone is used to filling them out. 

There are many excellent plug-ins out there for creating custom forms from scratch or generating them from a template. Forms can be used for all kinds of things, including email lead generation, contact forms, registration forms, quizzes, surveys, file uploads, and much, much, more. The better form tools integrate with other services like MailChimp or DropBox and allow the creation of robust forms without writing a single line of code.

Gravity Forms (commercial $39/year)
This plugin makes it easy to setup all kinds of forms and integrates with other great services like MailChimp. I have created very robust  forms with Gravity Forms without having to write a single line of code. Use the drag-drop interface to create regular contact forms, registration forms, quizzes, surveys, and so much more.

Contact Form 7 (free)
Just another contact form plugin. Simple but flexible. Excellent plugin. 

Disqus Commenting System (free)
Disqus is an awesome replacement for the default Wordpress commenting system. People who would like to leave a comment on your site can simply login using their Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus accounts. This can drastically decrease comment spam, since spam bots don’t login to these social networks when leaving a comment.


As soon as your website is up and open for the public, you’ll want to know the Who, How, Where, What and Which. You will want to know who is visiting your site. How many are visiting and where are they coming from. You'll want to know what browser or devices they are using, and which pages are they visiting. To get answers to these questions, and much more, you”ll want to use Analytic software in the back-end of your site.

Google probably has the best set of Analytics tools and they are easy to use and setup. Analytics plug-ins work by adding a Google Analytics tracking code for you to the head tag of all your website pages. Some of the better plug-ins include an Analytics Dashboard so you always have your site analytics at your fingertips.


Google Analytics (free)
Google Analytics is the favorite site-analytics tool of many webmasters due to its meticulously detailed graphs, charts, and traffic numbers—it's also free!:

Ultimate Google Analytics (free)
Ultimate Google Analytics plug-in adds JavaScript to each page (without making any changes to your template) so that you can track outbound links, downloads from your own site, mailto: links, and more, without requiring you to install the code manually. Simply sign into your Google Anaytics account to see your traffic data. The only downside is that Google Analytics doesn't supply real-time traffic numbers.


Performance Enhancement

One problem with WordPress websites is they can be bloated and slow. After loading up your site with all the cool plug-ins described here, you may find that your site has slowed down to a crawl. Upgrading your Hosting to a dedicated server can help, but is expensive. A cheaper option is to use a site Caching Tool or other Optimizers to speed up your sites. Optimizers combine your external JavaScript and CSS files into one to minimize expensive http requests. These files can be minified and gzipped to reduce bandwidth and further optimize download time.

W3 Total Cache (free)
Load time is critical when it comes to increasing page views and subscribers. We never want to keep our visitors waiting. This free plugin has a ton of capability, but the most important is the caching of your site to compress your files and speed up the time visitors have to wait to view your content.

W3 Super Cache (free)
WP Super Cache is a  fast caching engine for WordPress that produces static html files that are served directly by Apache without processing by comparatively heavy PHP scripts.  This plugin should speed up your WordPress pages significantly.

WP (free)
This plugin does one thing and one thing very well. It “shrinks” the size of your images to optimize them for better performance. If you have a image rich site, then optimizing your image file is the best thing you can do to speed up your blogs load time.


1. Advertising

Most website have some form of advertising on their sites, so this is a very effective way to earn income if you can draw large audiences to your site and keep them coming back.

Simple Ads Manager (free)
Simple Ads Manager is a free WordPress plugin for bloggers to serve and manage ads on their website. Even though it's named simple, the plugin is very powerful and full of options. Simple Ads Manager comes with a unique feature called flexible logic which rotates ads based on weight. It can be used to your own ads, third party ads or use Google DFP.

2. eCommerce

WordPress is one of the best platforms for building blogs and general web sites. With the addition of an e-Commerce plug-in, it's also a competent platform for creating and running an online store capable of selling physical items as well as services and digital downloads. WordPress with e-Commerce can offer every feature that a seller and a customer may need.

WooCommerce (free)
WooCommerce is a free, powerful, and extendable eCommerce plugin that helps you sell anything. WooCommerce is built by the experienced folk at WooThemes who also offer premium commerce themes and extensions to make your online stores also look great. 

3. Donations

WP Easy Paypal Payment Accept (free)
This is a very easy to use WordPress plugin to accept donations or Paypal payment for a service or a product in one click. This one is handy for putting a customized donation option in the sidebar of your pages.


Social Media

It’s not enough to have a popular website with good content anymore. If you want more visitors you will need to employ both SEO and social media. It used to be that SEO revolved only around using the right keywords and the number of authoritative sites that linked back to your content via inbound links. Then social media came along and changed everything. Search engines have begun to incorporate social signals such as Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, and so on to inform their search results.

Social media will need to be a part of your website marketing and SEO strategy for years to come. The amount and quality of CMS tools available to help you with this work is astounding. It is going to take some time to find your way around all the options. Here are some of my favorites. 

Share Buttons Flare (free)
Another floaty share bar, but this one has a lovely icon set and counter which brings up the actual share button when a user hovers over it. Keeps those ugly native buttons off your posts.

WP to Twitter (free)
Automatically tweets when you publish a new blog post, and uses your preferred link shortening service. A great time-saver!








Why this site?

I am an educator, writer, and instructional designer focused on the use of technology, specifically interactive media, to inform and improve the lives of others. I have been doing this for over 20 years and am the author of numerous courses, articles, and books, including more than 40 video-based courses in various digital media fields.

In fact, I have so much content spread all over the Internet that I finally decided I needed a place to organize it all and make it more accessble.  Everything on this site is free, although I do required users to Register to access the best content, and I will post some links to some paid content and have advertisements in the form of affiliate partners who I have worked with for years and can whole-heartidly endorse.

Why is everything free? What's the catch?  
No catch, no tricks. If you find this site useful, thank the tax payers of California in particular home owners in Marin County, where as a public educator, I am salaried to teach a dozen 18-week courses per year.  This site is really just an extension of this work. My desire here is share my expertise with anyone interested.