10 Free WordPress Plug-ins Make Blogging Better

All in One SEO Pack

Search engine optimization (SEO) is "black magic" according to one Computerworld developer. Nonetheless, there is some value to writing content and code specifically to improve a site's ranking in search engines such as Google. (Click image below for larger view)

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If you want to make it easier for search engines to find your blog, you can write keyword-laden headlines or rely on WordPress's SEO-friendly features. But neither of those options will do much to distinguish your blog or its pages. With All in One SEO Pack, you can define a description and keywords for your site and each individual post, using the post's tags by default. All this information is put into your blog's HTML, where readers won't see it but search engines will.

Your main audience should always be your readers, and your blog should be written for them. But the behind-the-scenes magic of All in One SEO Pack will help your audience find you in the first place.

Exec-PHP

WordPress is written in the versatile scripting language PHP. However, PHP code can't be used directly within blog posts - not without the Exec-PHP plug-in. (Click image below for larger view)

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Why would you want to embed PHP code in a blog post? It depends on how wily you want to get. If you need to disable WordPress's automatic formatting of line and paragraph breaks, a single line of PHP code can do it. Some plug-ins are meant to be used as sidebar widgets, but with PHP they can be called from within a page or post instead. Or maybe there is no plug-in to accomplish what you want to do in just a few lines of custom code.

By default, WordPress does not enable embedded PHP code, partly because of security concerns: Should malicious or broken code find its way onto your site, WordPress will safely ignore it without this plug-in. Any user who can edit your site can take advantage of Exec-PHP, so be sure you know and trust your content providers before activating this plug-in.

NextGen Gallery

WordPress 2.5 introduced a robust media library for uploading and managing files, but the library is best suited to storing individual pictures or PDFs to embed or link to in your posts. For full-fledged photo galleries, look to NextGen Gallery.

NextGen accepts image uploads via HTTP or FTP in both graphic and Zip format. Once placed into a gallery, each picture can have its own title, description and keywords, as initially defined by the images' Exif, IPTC or XMP metadata. Galleries can be sorted automatically using this metadata or manually via drag-and-drop, and related galleries can be grouped into albums - sort of a gallery of galleries. Configurable thumbnails and display sizes ensure the pictures fit into your WordPress theme, whether viewed individually or in a Flash-enabled slide show that offers both mouse and keyboard navigation. (Click image below for larger view)

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Photoblogs - sites that focus almost exclusively on still media - would be better accommodated by integrating with a dedicated photo service such as Flickr. But if your site only occasionally needs to present image albums, or you want everything bundled into WordPress without signing up for another service, NextGen has you covered.

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