We can spend hours and hours searching for tools which will make blogging easier for us, or we can ask other bloggers what they use and like.

Today I’m sharing five of my favorite blogging tools.

Today’s Lessonwoopra homepage image

Although I continue to compare statistical programs, my favorite stats tracker is Woopra.

I’ve been using Woopra for over two years now and thoroughly enjoy all it offers. As the photos show, it’s colorful and has loads of options.

For blogs and websites with under 30,000 pages views per month, it’s free. After that, an upgrade is required (rates start at $4.95 per month).

Some of Woopra’s features are:

  1. Live, real time tracking
  2. Real-time analytics
  3. Ability to manage multiple blogs
  4. Deep analytic and search capabilities
  5. Live chat
  6. Rich user interface

Woopra also offers a plugin so you can easily review your Woopra stats from your dashboard, plus they also provide a desktop application for Windows, Mac & Linux, which I highly recommend.

A good spam blocker is essential to blogging.

I use Akismet which is preloaded in WordPress, in conjunction with Bad Behavior. If you look at the footer of this blog, you’ll see how Bad Behavior stopped over three thousand spam commentsΒ in the last week before they reached my spam filter. How cool is that?

CommentLuv is my all time favorite plugin.

I like how it rewards those who comment by adding a link to their latest post. With a catchy sounding title, chances are others will click through and this added exposure can possibly increase your readership, as well.

Gravatars, or avatars are another blogging favorite of mine. I like how just by using a small photo helps to brand us in blogosphere as well as on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. The power of avatars was proven when we played a guessing game in the “Who’s Who In Blogosphere” post.

LinkWithin is a new favorite of mine. The thumbnails it produces and displays at the end of each post adds a little bit of pizazz, plus may inspire our readers to dig deeper into our blogs. Since adding it to this site and The Blog Boutique, I’ve seen an increase in my page views.

So there you have it. My fave five.

How about you?

Today’s Assignment

What blogging tools, plugins, or widgets can’t you live without?

Care to Share?

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  1. Keith DavisNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara
    CommentLuv and subscribe to comments plus Akismet are my first three favourites. Closely followed by All in one SEO for setting up tags in posts. Don’t have a stats plugin – not sure what I’d do with all the info.
    Worth mentioning that I do use a few security plugins… nuf said.

    I’m getting ready to use a caching plugin such as WP Super cache or W3 total cache to reduce page loading times – wordpress is great but it is soooooo slow.
    Check out Keith Davis’s awesome post.A splash of colourMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Keith,

      I like that, too – All in One SEO. That’s a good plugin as it makes it so easy to add search engine optimization to our blog posts.

      I’m surprised you said WordPress is slow. I haven’t noticed that, and when I do notice my blog being slow, it’s usually my computer, not WordPress. I don’t know if you’ve updated to the latest version of WP, but I believe it was in version 2.9 they did something to speed it up.

      I also use WP Super Cache. Keep in mind, when adding plugins some have compatibility issues. In the past WP Super Cache was notorious for that, but it appears they may have fixed the bug as it seems to be working fine now. (another good reason for keeping our blogs and plugins updated)

      No stats plugin? When you have a chance, try Woopra. I like how it tells me how others find this blog (i.e. keywords). Although I don’t use a lot of SEO, it’s nice to know which posts attract new readers.

  2. Alien GhostNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    “What blogging tools, plugins, or widgets can’t you live without?”

    I have probably no more than five or six of them, including CommentLuv, Gravatars and LinkWithin, so I’ll check the other two you mention and maybe add them to my blog.

    Thank you for the info πŸ™‚

    Check out Alien Ghost’s awesome post.Role Reversal Guest PostMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Raul,

      You’re smart not too add too many plugins as like I mentioned to Keith, there can be compatibility issues, and that can be a headache. Plus I was told, too many plugins can slow down our blogs.

      Check out Woopra. I like it’s interface (on the desktop application). It’s not only pretty cool to look at, but by clicking all of the tabs, you can really dig deep into how others are finding you, plus so much more.

  3. george angusNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Barbara,

    Some good old stand-bys and some new goodies. What a treat! it occured to me that I’ve not looked at my google Analytics in maybe 4 months. I like the look of Woopra and will give it a try along with linkwithin.

    Can’t live without commentluv either.

    Thanks for pointing me the right direction!

    Check out george angus’s awesome post.Kick Your Amazon Account Up A NotchMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome George,

      Like you, I haven’t looked at Google Analytics for months. I check Woopra stats about once a week just to make sure I’m on track or to see if what I’m sharing is getting any search engine hits.

      LinkWithin is super easy to install. Just a few clicks and it’s on your blog.

  4. JamesNo Gravatar says:

    I’m going to have to check out Woopra. Seems I had a plugin for them somewhere.
    WP Hashcash is a great spambot blocker. Right now it’s the only antispam system on my blog. I’ll need to add Aksimet sometime I imagine though. Those copy and past spammers still annoy me. Of course, a good sign of a spammer is no Gravitar.
    Kinda new here so this is the first I’ve noticed Linkedwithin. That looks really good. It should really help with bounce rate. Another plugin to look at.
    Check out James’s awesome post.Should You Start Your Own Blog Or WebsiteMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi James,

      Yes. Woopra does have a plugin too so we can see our Woopra stats on our dashboard. I usually forget it’s there as I prefer the desktop application since it’s prettier to look at.

      I haven’t heard of WP Hashcash. Since Akismet was preinstalled on my blog, I just activated it. Then when the spammers started going crazy (probably because I write about them), I added Bad Behavior too. That made a HUGE difference.

      I also like the looks of LinkWithin. For one it’s easy to install and I haven’t noticed that it slows down the load time, so that’s good too.

  5. sharboriNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara, after reading your comments, I am wondering whether I should migrate from blogger because most of the cool stuff are not with them. I like what commenluv does in your site or in others. similarly is linkwithin workable with blogger? what is a good anti spam for blogger?

    great informative post. thanks
    Check out sharbori’s awesome post.Where do we go from hereMy Profile

  6. sharboriNo Gravatar says:

    and yippie! i just installed linkwithin and it works! thanks Barbara!
    Check out sharbori’s awesome post.Where do we go from hereMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Sharbori,

      I was just on your blog and see where you added LinkWithin. Look good. Keep in mind, if you add photos to your posts, it will also pick up those.

      CommentLuv is available for Blogger blogs, too. Here’s the link, ComLuv.com. What they say is:

      Commentluv is now available as an IntenseDebate plugin and can be activated through your IntenseDebate dashboard. Visit the ID site by clicking the link below to learn how to install it to your Blogger blog.

      As for a good anti spam program for Blogger, I don’t have an answer on that since I’ve always been on WordPress. You might try Googling it.

      As for switching to WordPress. I’ve been told it’s easy to do since WordPress has an “import” function, however I’ve never done it so don’t know where to tell you to start.

  7. Dear Barbara:

    Sitemeter: Simple and serves the purpose.

    Linkwithin: For the same reasons you have stated.

    I am planning to check out Commentluv and was wondering whether I can use it in Blogger.

    Somehow the whole of blogger is something I don’t want to change. It was the first I started with and I don’t want to part with it.

    I love the way I learn something new whenever I come by to your place.

    Joy always,
    Check out Susan Deborah’s awesome post.Kindness for kindness sakeMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Susan,

      As I mentioned to Sharbori (see comment above), you can use CommentLuv on Blogger.

      I know what you’re saying about switching. If I had to switch to another blogging platform I’d be hesitant, too. When we get used to one, it begins to feel way too overwhelming just thinking about learning all over again.

      I say, if Blogger works well for you, just keep doing what you’re doing. πŸ™‚

  8. Bruce DanielsNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbra,
    Another great post!
    Aksimet and Gravitar are the only two I’m using. Need to take a serious look a commentluv.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Bruce,

      Definitely. When you get your car/truck/automobile blog going, CommentLuv could work real well for you. Especially if others in your niche are dropping in and leaving comments.

  9. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    I am not using all that many plug-ins, but CommentLuv and Akismet definitely are musts for me! I also like to be able to subscribe to comments by email. There are a few different plug-ins that can do that.

    Now I got to check out Woopra!
    Check out Kelvin Kao’s awesome post.A Little of EverythingMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      Yes. Subscribe to comments is another great plugin.

      If you have a chance to check out Woopra, let me know what you think. With you being a “tech” guy, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it.

  10. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. as you know I’m in base and basic mode – using blogger .. but I love the way you teach us ‘new’ things or those of you who are way ahead .. guide us with your thoughts. Always learning – shortly I’ll start applying!

    I do love blogs with CommentLuv – I agree .. and Avatars as a visual reminder, I see your spam blocks .. yikes!

    Great thoughts – thank you .. Hilary
    Check out Hilary’s awesome post.Painted Ladies of the World who stop trains A year later!My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Hilary,

      Keep in mind, LinkWithin, Woopra and CommentLuv are available for blogger, too. Although what I share in the way of plugins is usually WordPress, I like how some applications have expanded their reach and are now including plugins for Blogger.

      I see that as a good sign. Blogger blogs can have just as big of an impact as WordPress, or any of the other blogging platforms.

  11. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    You inspired me to add CommentLuv and LinkWithin. I just tried to add CommentLuv, but it turns out I have to first upgrade my WordPress … I’m a bit behind πŸ™
    Check out J.D. Meier’s awesome post.Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week LongMy Profile

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi J.D.,

    Yikes! I’m guessing you’re probably behind a bit considering you’re currently publishing a post a day in your phenomenal series.

    Until then, the plugins will wait. πŸ™‚

  13. Okay, I confess, I am a plugin junkie. And I have a whole slew of tools and apps, external to WordPress that are related to my blogging activities. But here are 5 of my favorite plugins:

    iDrive For WordPress – a plugin that backs up your complete WP install to a thrid-party server. Free for up to 2 GB of data. Must register at iDrive for an account to use. Better safe than sorry.

    Dagon Design Sitemap Generator – creates and automatically updates and submits XML sitemaps for Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com search engines. Let’s them know when new static pages and post pages are added to your site.

    WP Security Scan – checks your WP install for security vulnerabilities and recommends how to fix them. In some cases it actually fixes them for you. Helps prevent your blog from being hacked.

    Widget Context – Allows you to choose which pages a widget will or will not display on certain pages. On my blog, 3 widget sections display just below my header on my homepage and post pages. However, thanks to Widget Context they don’t display on my static pages, such as Contact and About.

    Smart Update Pinger – corrects a deficient behavior in WordPress, where every update to a published post sends out pings. Many services see this as spamming. This plugin pings only once, at the time of publication. Also et’s you customize the services you choose to ping.

    Oooooooh you’re so lucky you limited me to just five. I could have gone on forever. πŸ™‚
    Check out Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella’s awesome post.Keep Future Blog Post Ideas Organized In WordPressMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      LOL Joella,

      I didn’t realize you were a plugin junkie. πŸ™‚

      I use the Sitemap Generator and the WP Security Scan plugins that you mentioned, but I have not heard of the other three. I’ll have to check them out.

      iDrive For WordPress sounds fascinating. I like the idea of having a third party server that’s separate from our host and/or computer.

  14. suzenNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barb! Well as you would probably expect of me, I’m fairly tool-less as well as clue-less and I thank God every day that there are no techy required by law skills to blog or the blog police would have locked me up years ago! πŸ™‚
    Check out suzen’s awesome post.Healthy Intentions and Blah blah blahMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Suzen,

      Yes. I know you’re not into this techie stuff, but you’re a good example of how we can blog and not even worry about it. I commend you for doing it your way. πŸ™‚

  15. Angelia SimsNo Gravatar says:

    I absolutely LOVE the commentluv plug in. But, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to add to my blog, and it might be because I am not self-hosted.

    All these that you listed are GREAT! πŸ™‚
    Check out Angelia Sims’s awesome post.Grounded Again! A Story of YouthMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Angelia,

      I hear you. CommentLuv is fabulous. I think you nailed it. With your blog being a WordPress.com blog, if I remember right, you’re not able to use plugins (or at least some of them). However, I’m guessing that could change as WordPress improves and makes changes.

  16. I can’t imagine my life as a blogger without Askimet spam protection!
    Check out vered | Blogger for Hire’s awesome post.Seven Reasons Your Social Media Campaign Isn’t WorkingMy Profile

  17. TimNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara: I’d have to say that Akismet has to be my favorite plug-in. But I like CommentLuv and anything that allows a reader to re-tweet a blog post. I’m not picky in that area. Thank you for the heads up on Woopra…do you know how the stats compare to Google Analytics?

    All in all, I try not to have too many plug-ins because I hear they can slow down things, but I know they’re necessary tools, as well. Thanks for the post!
    Check out Tim’s awesome post.The Magic of Diagramming SentencesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Tim,

      That’s true. It’s good if we have an easy way for our readers to tweet our posts.

      Woopra appears to show higher counts, but if I remember right (and it could have changed) Google Analytics cannot count page views if the visitor has java script disabled. Personally I don’t watch the numbers as much as how others are finding my blogs.

      You’re right. Plugins can slow down our load time. I’ve heard it’s best to delete any plugins we’re not using; not just deactivate them. And WordPress Super Cache supposedly helps, too.

  18. Tony SingleNo Gravatar says:

    What can I say? Akismet is my favourite plug in, but I have only tried one other of your Fave Five: Commentluv. Unfortunately, I seem to have gotten my accounts garbled or something, so haven’t been able to avail myself of it thus far. Still, there are worse things in the world than that, no? πŸ™‚

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Tony,

      I know what you’re saying about getting things garbled behind the scenes. Eventually they work themselves out, or we figure out what we’re doing wrong.

      P.S. I see you’ve changed your theme again. Looking good! And bright! πŸ™‚

  19. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    It Girl is flying in tomorrow and I am going to bring her to your blog…my stats are so crazy….I did a huge SEO Keyword post and was told I was getting about 100 readers a day by WP admin…then when my analytic s came out it said I only got 22 readers on one post and very few on the other for the week…that was down right discouraging.
    I do like comment luv but mine seems to run a post late…

    I just seem to need to know more about the IT stuff and it takes me so long to learn it and I get frustrated…

    Now I am reading all these things about being in the zone of your own creativity…and I am realizing I only have a few times where I have ever been in the zone….or a zone…I am beginning to think it is the dyscalcula and I just didn’t know about this part of life until now and reading all these blog posts about creativity?
    Kind of worried about my blogging skills tonight and writing skills…hmmm
    Check out Patricia’s awesome post.Healthcare of the DIY KindMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Patricia,

      Stats can be confusing. Some of the programs count our own visits to our blogs, others don’t. What’s a “visit” on one program, might be a page view on another. So, until we learn each stat program, it’s hard to decipher where we’re actually at.

      I’d say, just follow your heart. With so much “out there” and with some of it being contradictory, it’s difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong – not only with stats, but blogging and/or writing, too.

  20. Thanks for the post! I learned something today. Above mentioned, I’m only familiar with Gravatar because I’m using it right now. It’s great since your picture will show if you’ll post some comments in other blogging or commenting sites. I’ll try the these other sites because I know it will help me a lot in the future. A good spam blocker is needed. =)

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Lyan,

      That’s true. Gravatars/avatars are perfect for branding us online. When others learn our picture, they apt to say, “There’s Lyan (or whomever) again.” I think they work wonders for gaining us recognition.

  21. Hey, Barbara!

    Woopra sounds AMAZING! And Bad Behavior, another good one, I bet!

    I too am a bit Comment Luv fan.

    And this post makes me think more about Link Within — yes, I think I will maybe give that one a whirl! Why not?! No down-side to try, and I can even upload and activate plug-ins myself — whoo-hoo!!

    Check out Jannie Funster’s awesome post.Song Baby a flash 55 poemMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jannie,

      Yes. Woopra is a great stats program.

      And LinkWithin. Definitely give it a try. It’s easy to download and the results look great.

  22. Link Within sounds like a really cool idea. All In One SEO is by far my favorite because it allows me to take care of my optimization requirements at the time I write and publish a post.
    Check out Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s awesome post.Hope Floats … TemporarilyMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Tom,

      I also use All In One SEO and like it’s ease of use. And yes, LinkWithin is great, too. I think it would be a good addition to your blog, as well.

  23. Hi Barbara,
    Even though I got my own domain, I’ve found it easier to be hosted on wp.com. For me the techie stuff is a bit overwhelming. I love to tweak the design etc..and i do add widgets, but wp.com keeps updating their software so often that I really dont worry about the widgets.
    But, yes, I’m still gonna check out the ones you mentioned, cause apparently thats the only way I can really keep a track on the happening on the blog. I think woopra sound great! I might just take it for a spin πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing your awesome info πŸ™‚
    Much Love,
    Check out Zeenat{Positive Provocations}’s awesome post.What is in Your Happiness ChecklistMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Zeenat,

      I know what you’re saying. When we’re self hosted there’s a lot more we need to do behind the scenes, but it also helps us to learn some of that techie stuff which in turn, helps to make it seem less intimidating.

      If you take Woopra for a spin, let me know what you think. I really like their interface on the desktop app.