Blogging has changed so much since I started in 2007. Heck, it’s really not even blogging any more — it’s influencing (and you can see why I believe so in these predictions for blogging in 2016 and beyond).
It’s gotten more crowded. More competitive. More about money and traffic and less about journaling. Sure. There are some downsides to blogging.
But the tools that are at our disposal — many of them FREE — have also made the process of blogging easier, more efficient and I believe, more fun.
The list of tools and features that I use and love is longer than my arm but I thought I’d share the top five things that have changed my blogging game and I think could change yours as well. The only ones on the list that I get any referral credits for are CoSchedule and Tailwind, and as you’ll see in the video and my endorsement below, I have and will happily pay for the tool whether or not I get any discounts. If you need an invite to Tailwind, you can get a free trial here. If you do use my invitation, I get a free month of my service, but I do currently pay the annual fee for the premium account.
Five Game-Changing Blogging Tools
(Hey, if you hate reading, I did a walk-and-talk Periscope all about these five tools. Recorded on a hot and sweaty day while 31 weeks pregnant, it’s not the fanciest thing you’ve ever seen. But I do go into a lot of details and the how and why I use each tool, so click play!)
(mmmm, pie charts)
This is a MUST-USE tool, bloggers. Are there alternatives like Jetpack and Clicky? Yes. But should you be using those for accurate, reportable analytics? NO. Google Analytics is the gold-standard and gives you so much more insight than just page views and unique visitors.
You can quickly see where people are viewing your site — on mobile or desktop? On Chrome or Safari? In the U.S. or Europe?
You can track traffic patterns, including search traffic (and which keywords are driving readers), referral sources and inbound social media visitors. You can set up campaign goals, measure e-commerce success and so much more.
And you can do all of that over different timeframes. So you can see what post was most viral on your site this week, last month, over the last year and much more.
SO BIG. And don’t just install it. USE it. (And as a bonus: make sure you enable Google Webmasters, now called Google Search Console.)
I have waxed poetic about CoSchedule for what feels like forever. When I changed over from Google Calendar and a few other cobbled-together editorial calendar tools to CoSchedule, my workflow changed dramatically. I still think the editorial calendar features alone are worth the investment (because this is a paid plugin) but when you add in the social media scheduling features, it really does live up to my statement as a game-changer.
Find past Yoast love at “The WordPress Tool That Makes You an SEO Expert” and “Facebook Tip: Link Your Blog Posts to Your Fan Page” as well as my full Yoast page here.
Yoast is FREE and if you are at all interested or concerned about search engine optimization and increasing the chances that your posts appear at the top of search engine results, install and use this TODAY.
The SEO functionality, with its custom fields for SEO titles, meta descriptions, etc., is awesome. Plus, it gives you a score as you go (green=good; red=keep working). And it allows you to create XML sitemaps, easily redirect posts and permalinks, edit your .htaccess files and so much more.
Basically, it takes a lot of the scary stuff out of SEO.
Unfortunately, CoSchedule does not allow you to schedule pins.Boooo. CoSchedule now allows you to schedule pins. Yay! Even so, I’m still using and loving Tailwind, which allows you to schedule pins, get a quick look at your analytics, track patterns, schedule with intervals, schedule in bulk and much more.
Tailwind starts as a free trial, but then it turns into a paid plugin. About a week into my trial, I was ready to fork over the cash (and I have).
There are other options — Board Booster and Ahalogy have a lot of fans — but Tailwind has solved so many of my problems. It allows you to queue up pins from your site and from other sites. It allows you to add to boards en masse (I have six workout-related boards so I can one-click add a single post to all six boards) AND it now allows you to schedule the pins to go live on an interval, rather than all at once.
You get analytics, can track trends, monitor activity from your domain and much more.
For a long time, I used PicMonkey.com to create my blogging graphics. I still do but I’ve shifted almost exclusively to Canva.com. There are so many great FREE features with this browser-based software, but I recently upgraded to the paid version, called Canva to Work and it’s already been worth it.
Among many things you can do:
- create graphics in custom dimensions OR in pre-designed templates for optimal sizes on all social media platforms
- create Powerpoint and Keynote presentation slides
- use free text and graphic styles (or choose from a stock library of paid upgrades, starting at $1/photo)
- save projects to re-edit later
And with Canva for work, you can automatically and batch re-size one graphic so you have different options for different platforms, PLUS you can create a brand kit with your website colors, logos, etc. so that your templates automatically use your “look” for consistency.
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