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When I first started my blog, I was not prepared for all that blogging entailed. I had to learn an abundance of new skills, and I also had to find the right tools to get the job done. Of course, I read a million posts written by other more experienced bloggers, and I scoured Pinterest looking for the newest tips and tricks. Although I am definitely still in the learning phase (Uh, I think this phase never ends), I have really begun to expand my arsenal of tools that I use to run my blog.
I thought that some of you might be considering starting a blog or maybe you are just looking for something new to make your existing bloggy life a little easier. So, I have compiled this list of the tools that I use on a daily basis. I hope you find something to help you on your journey 🙂
The Site Tools
Hosting: I have been using Bluehost since I started my blog last year. It was basically the only hosting that I ever saw mentioned by other bloggers or on Pinterest when I was doing the majority of my research. I know of a few others now, but I have been happy with Bluehost and have not had any issues. Getting started was an easy process, and the prices were very reasonable. You can sign up with Bluehost here.
CMS: I use WordPress for my content management. Basically, it is where I work. All of the writing and editing goes on in WordPress. Again, this is a case of being the only system anyone ever talked about…actually, I still don’t know if there is another way to blog 😀 Nevertheless, the system is fairly easy to learn and has plenty of tools to do just about anything you require. If you need a little help figuring things out, you can find a multitude of tutorials on Youtube.
Theme: My theme has changed a couple of times since I started, but I am currently using the Button theme. It is a simple feminine design, and I really like the way it looks. The colors and general appearance are customizable so it is a good fit for just about any brand design.
Plugins: I am pretty sure there is an endless number of plugins and widgets available on WordPress, and I don’t even know what to do with most of them! There were several plugins that came loaded with my site, but there are a few that I searched out and added myself.
- The Pin-it button makes it super simple for your readers to pin from any of the photos or graphics on your posts. Just by hovering over the pictures, the red Pin button will pop up in the corner. Easy Peasy.
- WP Smush “smushes” your photos to keep your site from running too slow. Unfortunately, I did not find out about this gem right away, and I had to spend quite a bit of time manually smushing my earlier photos. Don’t be like me, make sure you grab this one from the get-go.
- InstaFeed adds your latest Instagram shots on your blog. I put mine right on my about me page. It constantly updates to add your newest pics, and you can customize the photo cube.
- Yoast SEO This one is probably a must-have. Yoast rates every one of your blog posts for SEO: red, yellow or green. It allows you to enter your post keyword, and it tells you where you could improve for better search engine optimization. This is still a work in progress for me, as I don’t quite have all of my posts in the green, but I have really been focusing on upping my SEO score since adding Yoast.
Hello, I'm Dara (like Sara) I will likely post pictures of nerdy things and food. Probably lots of food 🙂 see what else I'm up to at my blog
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The Posting Tools
Editing: I started using Grammarly a few months ago to improve my proofreading skills, and I cannot express to you how much I love it. Not only does it check for misspelled words, but It also looks for incomplete sentences, missing commas, and incorrect subject-verb agreement. You get all that with just the free version! I am seriously considering upping it to the premium service just because I love it so much already. Although, I am not sure exactly how they can improve on it…anyone use the upgrade? I would love to chat about it.
Photo editing: For my pics and graphics, I use a couple of different sites:
- When I need stock photos, my favorite is Snappa. This site has a lot of really lovely free photos, and they just so happen to be on-brand for me. The templates are rather great as well, and I have used a few of them for my Pinterest pins and post graphics.
- Canva is probably the editor I use most often because I have the ability to save my work in the free version (a service only available with premium in Snappa). Canva was a little more difficult to learn at the beginning which is why it took me a bit longer to jump on the bandwagon, but now I am a full-fledged Canva fan.
- I don’t use PicMonkey all that often because the free version loads VERY slowly. It is a bit difficult to use because of the loading delay, but I do find myself using it on occasion especially when I need to make a photo collage. It is easier to put photos in a grid and get them to the desired size with PicMonkey.
The Scheduling Tools
Ah, schedulers. These are lifesavers, and I mean that without even the slightest hint of sarcasm. I was literally driving myself mad until I discovered them. (Now since I save so much time scheduling social media, I tend to drive myself mad with the overachieving posting schedule. Sigh.)
The Facebook page has its own built-in post scheduling system that I didn’t even know about until the lovely Anne Marie taught me the ways of the force. I basically use it to schedule my posts for a week at a time (2 shares per day), and then if I want to add anything else during the week, I just manually share.
I use Buffer to handle my twitter posts (3 per day). The free version allows a queue of 10 and I fill it up every few days to keep my Twitter from going silent. I manually share a few posts and retweets per week, but having buffer chugging them out at timed intervals is good for my peace of mind.
Tailwind handles my Pinterest shares, and boy does it get a workout! I have it set to share about 15-17 posts per day, but I recently read that it should be nearer to 30 for better Pinterest engagement. I guess I will have to work on upping my shares soon. Tailwind is the only tool I have purchased so far (besides the hosting, obviously), and I will tell you that it is 100% worth it. I have seen an uptick in my repins, followers, and blog traffic since starting with Tailwind. You can get a free trial here. If you sign-up using my link then I get a credit to use toward my future purchase fees, so if you think you want to try it out, I would greatly appreciate you heading over there using my link. Please and Thank You.
Lastly, I created my own social media sharing calendar using Trello. I plan on doing a future post describing what I have done there because it is a tremendous help to my daily blogging life, and I am pretty certain it will help out a lot of you as well. Stay tuned for that one, mmkay?
Alrighty, folks, that is pretty much my blogging toolkit. I hope it helps you either start the blog you always wanted or help you to run your current blog a bit more efficiently. I will be happy to discuss any of these tools or share my limited expertise on their use, all you needs do is ask. 🙂
What is your favorite blogging tool? Do you have one you just can’t live without?