Monday, January 15, 2018

My 5 Essential Tools for Blogging




"A blog is neither a diary nor a journal. Many people think of blogging in relation to those two things, confessional or practical. It is neither but includes elements of both."

As many of you know, I started blogging because I wanted a way to document the skills and knowledge I was acquiring in the hopes of helping young people, and/or career transitioners wanting to get into digital marketing, learn from my journey. I started writing about certifications I was taking, digital marketing tools and software, essential topics in the field, and my personal favorite - features of marketers. Being able to produce and share content with you would have been almost impossible without the awesome people who have crossed paths with me, and the blogging tools I have picked up along the way. So today, I want to share some of these tools with you.
Here are my 5 go-to blogging tools I live by,  and a couple of additional tools that cover the basics of content planning and creation, design, copywriting and editing, and promotion. I have added a bonus tool at the end!

1. Blogger for Content Management

Blogger is the content management system (CMS) I have used for the past two years to store and publish content on the blog. It also hosts my website. Once I decided I wanted to start the blog, I chose a template, personalized it, decided on a domain and bought it through Google domains for $12 a year.

Blogger allows you to preview your posts to ensure that everything looks as it should. You can write posts and save them for later, schedule posts to publish on a specific day at a particular time, or tag them as part of a series. You add photos, link to other blog posts on your site or external links. You also have access to stats to see how many times each of your posts were read, your readers' geographic locations, how they found your site and what kind of device they used.

Blogger is very easy to use, and I would recommend it for people are starting out with blogging. If you know how to code or have someone who can help you with code, you can access more out of the layouts and templates. Some other content management systems for blogging and creating websites are WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.

2. Canva for Images and Graphics

Early on this journey, I learned that every blog post needs good images and graphics to attract readers and present the ideas. Not having the budget to pay for some of the other products I have heard people use in the past, I did some research to see what low cost or free options existed for image editing and graphic design. I came across Canva and the rest is history. As a D.I.Y blogger, I design a lot of my own graphics and edit my own images. If you create (or are interested in creating) your own images and graphics, Canva is an excellent choice, for both novices and experienced designers.

Canva is easy to use. It comes with existing designs and templates, and you can also design your own graphics from scratch. You can use photos and icons from Canva's image bank or upload your own. You can use most of the functionalities for free, but the paid version gives you access to more photos and the ability to save pictures in .png format with no background. You can learn more about Canva, in this blog post.

3. Excel for Content Planning and Wunderlist for Project Management

I use Microsoft Excel to create an editorial calendar to help me plan out content for each post. I tend to plan for about 5 weeks of material at a time and target to fit in one to two posts a week. I think of potential titles, topics, keywords, target audience or personas, which links to include, what elements are needed to complete the post, publish date and how I will promote the blog post. The spreadsheet I use is a modified version of a free calendar I found on HubSpot's website. They offer advice on how to use it as well as additional tools and calendars.

Once I plan the content out, I use a free project management tool called Wunderlist to track my progress. Wunderlist allows you to make lists of projects, add to-dos to each list and then add subtasks for each to-do. In addition to subtasks, under each to-do, you can also put in a due date, a reminder, and add notes, comments or files that are essential or beneficial to completing the tasks. You can check-off subtasks as you finish them and/or complete a to-do when a particular project is done. You can invite others to collaborate with you on projects. They have a freemium model so you can pick which model works best for you and your team. You learn more in this post I wrote about Wunderlist.

4. Grammarly for Copyediting and Spellcheck

I think it is safe to say that we could all use a little help with our grammar and making sure we didn't drop a word here or there. I am fortunate enough to have a writer and editor for a sister, who helps me with my writing when she can. Before she takes a look at my work, I like to send her the best version I can, which is why Grammarly is so helpful.  

Grammarly is an application that acts as a grammar and spell checker. It is widely agreed that the application corrects more errors than most word processors and can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes in emails and on social media.  Grammarly has a grammar checker, a spell checker, a plagiarism checker and a proofreading tool. The app can help you eliminate errors, enhance clarity and meaning, and become a better writer. The app's algorithms allow it to find the mistakes and suggest changes, propose synonyms for overused words, and questions your choice to write in the passive voice, among other grammar issues. The company also operates on a freemium model, and you can learn more about Grammarly in this blog post.

5. Social Media Platforms for Promotion

In addition to the email notifications, I use various social media platforms to promote new posts. I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and Instagram in varying degrees. For Facebook, I use both my private account and the Facebook Page I created for the blog. It allows me to reach a broader audience, mainly when I feature someone that friends know or talk about a topic in marketing they are interested in learning more about. Using LinkedIn helps me connect and share the content I create with my professional network. I am also able to tag the marketers I feature or companies I am writing about, which helps me appear in more feeds.

A lot of my Twitter followers are marketers and small business owners, so my articles tend a get a lot of traction there as well. Relevant hashtags and tagging companies on this platform help expand the reach of my blog.

Instagram is the platform I use the least for article promotion, but if I feel I have a really catchy graphic as the feature photo or think it is an article that will relate to my followers there, I'll post it on Instagram. It is a perfect platform for bloggers who have excellent photo content and/or relevant hashtags they can use for the topic.

Facebook has a publishing tool, but the rest of the platforms don't at the moment. If you are able to plan your promotional posts in advance, you can use publishing software, Hootsuite or Buffer for scheduling. They have both free and paid options depending on the volume of posts per month and any added features you may need.

Bonus: Title Capitalization or Capitalize My Title

You can use Capitalize My Title to ensure that your blog titles and subheadings are capitalized in the right way. It offers four main title capitalization styles: Chicago style, APA style, MLA style, and AP style. You can also set it to Title Case, Sentence case, UPPER CASE, lower case, or First Letter case.

So there you have it. These are the tools that help me keep things together and produce content for my blog. Do you use any of these tools? What are some other tools you would recommend? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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