The Totally Blogging Bloggers Toolkit is your one-stop shop for everything we suggest a blogger uses after they have sorted out their hosting and are looking for tools to make their life easier.
At the very start of your blogging journey, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed. You have a totally blank canvas and while you may not be too sure how to achieve your goals you have more than a general idea about how to get about it. I've launched more than a few websites and have found breaking up everything into smaller, more manageable chunks really helps you keep focused. The best way I've found to do this is by using Mind Mapping software which, as you can see below, is perfectly setup to help manage your blog creation.
Above is a simple example of how Mind Mapping for blog creation works. In the middle of the map you have the name of your blog and the coming out of it you would have different aspects that you need to do. For me, it is always Content Creation, Technical and Promotion. From those 3 you would then branch off again so if we look at the 'Setup Hosting' branch you can see 'Choosing a theme' and 'Choosing a Logo' are the 2 parts that need to happen before that branch is complete.
What all this means is that I can login one day and just 30 minutes work on a particular part of my site and then click the Tick box on that mind map branch and the completion progress on all the other connected branches will move upwards so you get a constant feeling of progression no matter what part of your site you are working on. I've tried a number of different Mind Mapping software the free (MindMup and GoConqr) through to Paid software and have without a doubt found the best to be SimpleMind. They offer a FREE 30 day trial and the software then costs a 1 time fee of 25 Euros.
The main part of being a blogger is obviously writing content. The last thing you want to do is produce blog posts with bad spelling and grammar. Grammarly is a plugin that you run inside your web browser which lets you know when you have made some kind of mistake.
The plugin is not intrusive at all and only kicks in on pages where you are actually writing content so when you are using your browser to view websites normally it won't kick in and display all the grammatical errors on those sites. I honestly can't recommend this plugin enough, especially when you get into working with brands who want to read your content before you upload it as the last thing you want to do is send them a copy with mistakes that you didn't even know were there.
Grammarly offers both free use (which is good enough for 99% of people) and a paid membership which offers a few more bells and whistles such as a plagiarism checker that will check your content against 16 billion webpages so you don't unintentionally borrow from someone's content.
SEMRush is a tool that without a doubt a blogger will end up using sooner rather than later. It offers a multitude of tools that anyone can use to improve their presence within search engine rankings.
The whole point is SEMRush is that it's a 'helping hand' pointing you to things you can do to improve your search engine rankings. Some of the fixes are easy and some are a bit more involved but all will be explained to you in an easy to follow, broken down way.
SEMRush for bloggers is more of a tool that you sort of dip in and out of. At $99 a month it can be quite an expensive so people tend to just use it for a month and then come back to it maybe 4-5 months later to see if the changes they have made have had a positive effect on their search engine rankings.
The site is vast and there is everything from tools to help you create good ranking content for your blog through to comparing your site with others in your niche to see where you stand in terms of specific keyword rankings. There's no doubt it's an extremely tool and they currently offer a FREE 1 WEEK TRIAL which you can try after putting in your URL below!
What is a blog post without images? Well, it's just a wall of text! Knowing where to go to get access to royalty free stock images is half the battle but one source I've been using for the last 4+ years is Pixabay.
The site is entirely free to use as it's funded by ads and if you create a login you no longer have to do that annoying 'please select all the boxes with a car in them' grid security check each time you download an image. It's an absolute treasure trove and with over 500,000 images available you are sure to find an image to use on your blog post no matter what the content! The images are available in a variety of sizes so are ideal for use both on your blog posts and any social media promotion you may be doing.
Manipulating images is something as a blogger you will do a lot. Maybe you've got an image in a blog post that you want to use for an Instagram post or turn into some other piece of promotional material. This is where Canva comes in. Canva is a 100% free and can be used to produce anything from social media images through to sidebar banner ads and everything in between.
If you are a blogger you need to be all over social media. On Twitter that can be quite hard to keep tabs what's trending and so this is where TweetDeck comes in. It's an invaluable website for any blogger to use as you can set up columns to catch whatever hashtags you like. This comes especially useful if say you wanted to have all the tweets people are making that contain #bloggerswanted to you can contact the person should any paid opportunities become available
As you can see it picks up all the tweets that use that hashtag which gives me an easy way to keep on top of things. It's also very useful for joining in conversations during twitter chats. So if one is happening that uses the term #totallybloggingchat I can set up a column to catch everyone using that hashtag and follow everything happening alongside dealing with my own tweets and interactions.
Themes are somewhat of a personal preference when it comes to your blog. You can either get it right first time or be changing the theme for months on end until you end up with something you like. I got quite sick of doing the latter and so paid a bit of money (around £45) to get access to Theme X which lets you 'Achieve virtually any look and layout from within the one and only X Wordpress Theme'. It comes with a handful of pre-made themes for you to use as your template or you can start 100% from scratch. Editing of your content is done via their Cornerstone system which sits inside of Wordpress and making creating blog posts a doddle as you add graphics, text, link, interactive elements with just one click each time!
Commenting and Sharing
Commenting and social sharing are important parts of running a blog. Giving people the ability to leave you some feedback on your posts creates a two-way street that is very much needed in Blogging. For comments, I recommend using Disqus on your blog.
The two main advantages of using Disqus are that you can log in and comment with your existing social media profiles (Twitter / Facebook etc.) and also your existing content with comments on will be advertised below the comments. This gives people who are already interacting with your site the chance to click through and comment on more on them. I find this works really well and you end up seeing a lot of the same people comments on blogs posts that all share a common 'theme' which shows they are liking the content you are producing. As always, make sure you use ANY comments plugin alongside Akismet which is the Number 1 Anti-Spam system to make sure you don't end up with a load of rubbish spammy comments on your nice blog. One tip I will give you though is if you get someone leaving a comment that includes a link to their URL unnaturally then go in and edit that comment to remove it as it's just people trying to sneakily insert their backlinks into your blog!
SEO is a huge part of being a blogger as you jostle with others in your niche to grab the highest spot on Google. Creating interesting content around your chosen keywords is what you should aim for with every blog post you make and Yoast can help you achieve that. Yoast is a free Wordpress plugin where once you have written the post you can tell it the keywords you are aiming for and it will make recommendations to you to help improve the SEO of your existing post.
As you can see the plugin works in a Traffic Light type system which gives you a list of Problems, Improvements, and things are OK. The aim is to try and get as much 'OK' or Green as you can before uploading your blog post. Things that need fixing might be as simple as more internal links or a bit more time consuming such as rewriting your Meta Description (the bit that everyone sees first when they search for something in Google under the URL) It offers a premium version (£79) you can upgrade to if you choose however for 99% of bloggers the free version is good enough and will end up making a HUGE difference to how your site ranks on search engines.
Google Analytics and Google Webmaster
If you are looking to track stats to your site these two are a must. Setting up both of these is very simply a case of dropping an HTML file into your hosting space or inserted a line of code into your homepage. Once your site has been verified with Google you will be able to get access to a wealth of information going forward.
One thing that people often don't realise when they sign up is that your stats are only included from the point of you signing up so it can take a while for you to start seeing meaningful data that you can use.
Google Analytics tends to help you out with what people are doing ONCE they find your site while Google Webmaster is all about HOW people find your site, with the latter being the place you need to submit your sitemap to so that you get indexed in Google. Both are extremely useful and once you link the two account in Google Analytics you can carry information from one side to the other so you can see which search terms people are putting in to get to your site etc.
For some people, the thought of setting up Google Analytics can terrify them and this is where JetPack comes in. JetPack is a WordPress Plugin which amongst other things provides you with analytical data for your blog WITHIN your blog.
The advantage to this is that it's far more accessible when you are working on your blog and I would also say it is probably just the right amount of data for people who are just starting out who don't need to know the fast array of information Google Analytics gives them.
Even pages like the above which is just a simple 'most visited pages this week' I've been able to then go onto my top ten pages and add more affiliate links from Awin or have media.net running to earn me a good passive income as I know a lot of eyeballs are looking at those pages which is a great way in which you can harness these stats.