I love to blog. In fact, I like nearly everything about it, except feeling like I have to be on Faceboob, but don’t tell anyone. I have tried loads of plugins, ad networks, classes, conferences, affiliate groups, you name it.
I like to dig in and learn new things mainly because I have no attention span, but also because isn’t it awesome when you discover something that makes your life easier? Here is what I arm myself with during my blogging days. I will only tell you the good stuff. I will leave the bad, yucky stuff out. I made this page because I was dying for a page like this when I started blogging.
Photo Tools: PicMonkey is amazing. It revolutionized how bloggers made pin-worthy images and photo collages, and we’ve never looked back. Seriously, you can do anything on this site, and I didn’t bat an eye when they started offering a paid plan. They are the. best. in. the biz. period. Besides, where else can you easily do this to your children?
Okay, some of you adore Canva, so that’s another option, but one I don’t use often.
Free Images: Sometimes you’re in a hurry to get your post published, or you just need a great image to help your writing stand out and you don’t want the hassle of making your own images. Yes. Here are some links to sites that have free images for you to use (make sure you follow their rules for linking and giving photo credit!)
- Creative Commons
- Fotalia (free images each week + low cost images)
- Every Stock Photo (search engine for free photos- they’re hit or miss)
Behind the Scenes Tools
Hosting: If you have millions of pageviews per month, you’re probably already with a fancy host. If not, I recommend Bluehost. They offer great plans, great pricing, great customer service, and are easy to get set up on.
Platform: Wordpress! You’ve probably already heard this a million times. I use and LOVE Genesis (by Studio Press) for my theme. They make it so easy to get everything set up, most of their child themes are mobile ready, and there’s something magical with them about SEO that I don’t quite understand. Essentially your blog posts will rank higher in Google search results though, so BONUS. I use the Foodie Pro child theme.
Now. If you just want to get a quick, gorgeous website up, without worrying about all the backend stuff that goes along with WordPress, you might want to check out Squarespace. They have some lovely out of the box templates to choose from. The only thing I would be worried about is looking like other Squarespace sites, but there are website designers out there who can customize your Squarespace site when and if you get to that point.
Analytics: Check out your traffic, best referrers, most popular posts and more with Google Analytics. There is so much to learn here, but at least get it up and running on your blog so you can keep on eye on the basics.
Keywords: Looking to boost your SEO? Use Google Keyword Planner to find the juiciest terms people are searching for.
Plugins/Tools: Sumome is a fantastic potpourri of tools for your blog. You can copy and paste a bit of code from them onto your blog (or install their plugin, but too many plugins slow down your site!) With their tools you can: Use popups to get email subscribers, encourage readers to share your content, see where people are clicking on your posts by using a heat map, etc.)
Newsletter/Email Service: I love writing my newsletter. I know people like my newsletter, because they tell me so, and that makes me beam with pride. Also? If you collect email addresses from people, you can reach them on a different level than through unreliable social media It means they really want to hear from you and look forward to what you have to share, and I can’t recommend MailChimp enough.
Affiliate: I am an Amazon affiliate because I order items from Amazon nearly every hour on the hour. I am obsessed with Amazon Prime. I’m also an affiliate with ShareaSale and Commission Junction, and between the two they represent a ton of brands/products you probably already recommend to your readers anyway.
Learning: Sign up for Amy Lynn Andrews’ Useletter. It’s her weekly newsletter jammed full of highly useful blogging tips/info. I also love Melissa Culbertson’s courses (Content Brew will help you organize your blogging self and plan out an editorial calendar!) I’m eyeballing the Media Kit course now.
Organizing and taming the social media beast
Favorite Social Media: Pinterest drives the most traffic to my site because of my crafty tutorials. Pick 2 or 3 social media channels and give them most of your attention. Dabble half-heartedly in the others so you don’t get sucked down a wormhole of social media/not being productive. My current faves: Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter.
I use Hootsuite and Buffer to manage and schedule Twitter, and I really need to take a weekend to fully understand what they are capable of, because I know I’m not using them to their full extent. Check out Mike Allton’s #HootsuiteSeries on Google+ to learn lots of good bits.
I use TailWind to schedule pins. When they first came out I wasn’t a fan, cause it was all glitchy, but now they are so freaking great. By far the best of the pin-scheduling apps, and the coolest thing is that they are always open for suggestions to make the user experience better.
Accounting: I’ve tried a few different sites and apps to manage my money, and would always steer clear of Quickbooks because I had heard how confusing it was. Then my lovely husband told me about Quickbooks Online Simple Start, and I am using (and actually sort of enjoying) that. Miracle of all miracles, I’m actually keeping track of my cash monies.
I use bit.ly to shorten links and track if people are clicking through what I share. I have their Chrome plugin installed on my toolbar, and it makes it easy to bit.ly a link from there.
Evernote is quickly (I mean slowly) becoming my place to organize everything. I have set up files and stacks of files to keep my blogging efforts organized, but I wish to the sweet lord above that they would give us the ability to color code our stupid files because some of us are visual and like colors. I use the web app (not the site) and the iPhone app.
I now use Trello in combination with Evernote. I couldn’t ever really fall in love with Evernote like so many people have, but I am keeping it to use as a virtual filing cabinet. So I file images and sites and documents away there.
For my everyday organization, like to do lists, tracking blog posts, bigger projects, etc. I use Trello. I LOVE TRELLO. It’s intuitive and visual.
I sorta like Bloglovin’ for keeping track of blogs, but I’m finding that I really like Feedly more. It’s easier for me to save and share things on my phone from Feedly, so that’s where my vote goes.
WHAT?!? You hate CSS? You don’t want to spend the next 3 hours trying to figure out how to verify your site on Pinterest because there’s some weird glitch? Hire a Fiverr person. They can usually take care of my issues in approximately 1/millionth of the time that I could figure it out. In fact, if you use this link to Fiverr, your first gig will be free. FREE!