Blogging. Everyone's doing it - and for a good reason, too. There's a surprisingly large amount of money to be made through things like advertisements, sponsored posts and collaborations. Some bloggers have risen their way to notoriety, all the way to owning their own businesses, getting book deals and creating their own product or line of clothing. So it's no wonder why so many people start their own blog...the potential success is worth any risk. Plus, it's just plain fun to have a platform and to be able to write whatever thoughts pop into your head.
Those factors can present some difficulty though, especially for first-time bloggers wanting to share their thoughts with the world and make a name for themselves. With the millions upon millions of blogs that currently exist on the internet (not to mention the thousands that start up every day), the hard part isn't creating the blog itself - it's making your blog stand out and showing people why they should read YOUR blog, as opposed to the other million they could just as easily find.
I'm no famous or successful blogger myself - I run a small operation and am perfectly content with that. I have, though, been an active blogger for quite some time now (about seven or eight years) and have gone through a lot of trial and error in figuring out the best way to run my own site. It requires a lot of time and patience, but luckily, there are literally TONS of tools out there to help bloggers get through the process and make their presence known.
Here's a list of tools and apps that I find the most helpful in running a blog:
Buffer is an app that you can use to schedule posts on social media in advance, so you don't have to worry about doing it all at once. Personally, I use it to make sure I promote my new blog posts across every social media platform. I write one little blurb about my newest post, then simply pick a time on my Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn for the post to be published. Being able to write once instead of manually writing and posting on every single one of my accounts is so incredibly helpful in maximizing the potential audience of my blog - plus, it's such a timesaver.
(You can connect up to three accounts on Buffer for free, or you can pay a subscription to connect more accounts and analyze your posts' performance.)
Let's face it: stock photos are boring. No one wants to look at the same pictures they see all over the Internet or a picture that's sloppily made and boring to look at. People want to look at something eye-grabbing and artfully made. That's where Canva comes in: Canva is an online tool and application where you can create virtually any sort of image or graphic you desire. They have a huge list of formats that you can customize for anything you need, whether it's a blog banner, logo, infographic, or a post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Plus, they have a ton of free templates that you can change around to fit your needs, or you can start from scratch with their huge selection of backgrounds, text fonts and stickers. Canva has been instrumental to me in creating my own logo, promotional graphics to post on social media and eye-grabbing visuals for my blog.
(Canva has a huge amount of features for free, or you can pay a subscription to unlock more "premium" features and templates.)
If you want people to read your blog, you have to have solid writing and grammar skills - otherwise, it'll just come off as super unprofessional and lazy. That being said, though, no one is perfect. I went to school for journalism, which, as you might expect, was just CONSTANT writing - but I still make a ton of little mistakes in spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. I use Grammarly as a last step in the writing process: once I finish up a blog post, I run the text of it through Grammarly, which then highlights any mistakes in spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. that I might've made. I would recommend that every blogger use Grammarly, just in case - it might save you from misunderstandings or embarrassing errors that people won't hesitate to call you out on in the comments.
(Grammarly will check your writing for "critical grammar and spelling checks" for free, or it has a paid plan that scans for advanced writing mistakes, vocabulary and even plagiarism.)
EveryPixel, Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons.
Okay, I know I just said before that stock photos are boring (which is a statement I stand by), but sometimes they're necessary, such as in cases where a post would be best accompanied by an actual photograph rather than art or a digital graphic. For example: when shared on social media, posts that have a cover image with actual people in it are clicked on FAR more often than ones with just text or an image that's used every single time. But stock photo sites can be extremely expensive and out of the budget of most new bloggers, including myself - which is why I use EveryPixel, Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons. These sites all have a huge selection of photos that are 100% free, so you can have a dynamic cover image that won't break the bank.
(EveryPixel and Pixabay have a ton of free stock photos, plus a paid premium plan that unlocks even more. Wikimedia Commons is completely free - just make sure to check the usage rights in the description of each picture.)
While building an email subscriber list isn't my personal goal for blogging, many do recommend it as one of the most helpful ways to drive traffic and attract more readers to your blog. The website SmartBlogger even recommends that "building your email list should be your primary focus as a blogger from the day you start." So if that sounds like something you want to do, use MailChimp - a clean, simple tool to have your email list in one place. You can use it to organize multiple lists and segments of lists at once, too.
(MailChimp has basic features to use for free, but it also has a paid version that gives you access to more features, like the ability to create emails that automatically send when someone subscribes to your list.)
IFTTT is a really neat tool that bloggers can use to create functions between a bunch of different online channels. It can link a bunch of social media platforms or other online services and complete helpful tasks for you, like automatically sharing Instagram photos to your Facebook page, sending notifications every time news breaks in your preferred industry, emailing you lists of videos from your favorite creators or songs from your Spotify account, etc.
(IFTTT is completely free, with literally hundreds of functions and automations available - or, you can create your own inside the app!)
If you're anything like me, you always have a ton of tabs of articles, videos and other blog posts open to mark ideas, inspiration or research for your blog posts - which can easily get super messy and make it hard to find that link you swore you opened last week. Since I've started using Pocket, I've been so much more organized, and it's been substantially easier to do the adequate research I need for my articles and blog posts. The app lets you save content from the Internet, your email and social media platforms and even add tags to organize the different sections of saved links. I would highly recommend Pocket to any blogger with a ton of ideas or sites they need to reference throughout their posts.
(Pocket is totally free!)
If you're not looking to start your own blog, all of these applications and tools can be used for other creative or organizational purposes, so feel free to use them! To anyone who already has their own blog or is looking to start one for the first time, I hope this list helps. Happy blogging!
(Also, feel free to visit my own website/blog here!)