I've been blogging for the last three + years and have learned little by little the ins and outs of using WordPress, the different themes that are available, as well as how to optimize my site for Google and search engines (SEO).

Yesterday, I decided to attend my first WordCamp which was held in San Diego.  I have attended plenty of REBarCamps and a RainCamp, but this was my first outing with the developers and brains that create, design and optimize business sites on WordPress.  To say that I was a bit hesitant is an understatement.  I really thought that everything would be over my head.  And... honestly, 80% of the presentations were.  Code, code and tons of geek talk.
However, I was able to accomplish several things.

1.  I met two of my favorite website developers.  The great minds behind Headway Theme - Clay and Grant Griffiths.  A father and son team who have revolutionized and simplified the design and functionality of a WordPress Theme.  I've been using Headway now for several years on several of my sites and have been very impressed with its flexibility and above all the customer service and support that is available.

Headway above all, allowed me to design my own site without having had any coding experience.  So imagine my surprise when I learned that Clay is only 18 and is an absolute genius.  Can you imagine being able to create such a powerful tool at 16?  I am just amazed!

[caption id="attachment_2449" align="alignnone" width="553" caption="Clay Griffiths, Steve Zehngut (from Zeek.com), Irina (me) and Grant Griffiths"]Headway - Clay and Grant Griffiths[/caption]

2.  I was able to pick up some tips and tricks that I wanted to share with you and document while their fresh in my mind.  A lot of my readers have their own sites and may find these useful.  So here goes:

Best FREE Plug-Ins: Thanks to Chris Lema's presentation!

WordPress File Monitor - sends you an email anytime your site changes- hacker alert!
WP DB-Manager - have used this one for awhile and is a great plug-in for repairing your databases!
WP-Page-Navi - Replaces Previous and Next links at the bottom of your search pages with numeric page numbers, i.e. 1-10 which makes it easier for Google Spiders to index your site.
Akismet - an absolute must to reduce spam comments.
Google Analytics - important insights into your blog traffic. If you use Facebook Comments - don't forget Facebook Insights.

Best Paid Plug-Ins:

Securi WebScan - monitors your site every 6 hours and notifies you if there's any strange activity taking place on the site. The goal is to catch any intrusion quickly and ensure that the site is secure. Should the website get hacked, the programmers review and remove the hack. Talk about peace of mind!
Back Up Buddy - love, love this plug in and have used it for awhile now. Makes it easy to back up and transfer your site in minutes from one host to another.
Gravity Forms - I also currently use this plug-in. You can see how it works here - Author for 365 Things To Do In Pasadena®
Slide Deck - helps create a slide show (if you use Headway, it already has a similar functionality built in!)
KissMetrics - more detailed analytics

And... one of my favorite paid plug-ins SCRIBE - for SEO optimization.

WordPress Hidden Gems by Sheri Bigelow from the WordPress Happiness Team

Here are some interesting WordPress publishing tips that I did not know:

  • If you change the slug of your post after the post has been published, WordPress automatically remembers and redirects all "old" slug inquiries to new ones.  No need for 301 redirects!
  • No need to copy HTML code when trying to embed a YouTube video onto your site.  Just copy the URL from the YouTube Video and WordPress does all the work for you.  This works with several  other sites.   Just experiment.   Tried it with my Chalk Festival post and just copied a URL for the video and it works!
  • Press This Feature in your Tools Page - just drag it to your bookmarks and this cool little tool will copy text AND photos from any website into your WordPress Blog.  Don't forget to link back and attribute!  Awesome!
  • Code for Paginating your posts - <!--next page--> - quick way of breaking up long posts.

Hope that all my geeky friends find this useful.  Now go out and create!  And... if you want to buy or sell a home, please call me at (626) 629-8439.  ;-)