9 blogging tools that I use (and one that I can’t)

Tools, services and plugins that I count on

The business of blogging keeps overflowing with things to do. As well as researching your next post you’re coming up with ideas for the one after and you still haven’t finished promoting the one before. You have to keep on top of what’s happening in your industry, what your readers want to see on your blog and how to reach out to people scattered across social media. After everything else you need to assess how well all these clicks are converting.

Here are the tools that I rely on to take the strain…

  • Hootsuite Pro

    Hootsuite-pro-blogging-tool

    Hootsuite Pro is an essential tool to put you in control of the social media sprawl. It saves me time by scheduling messages across channels. You have a tab for every network, you can track keywords and responses and analyse your performance, all in one dashboard. It not only gets things done it makes me feel organised.

    There’s a free version available that lets you do the basics or you can visit Hootsuite to start a free trial of the pro version.

  • Siteground

    If you want a blog with your own domain name you need someone to put it online. I host this website with Siteground. They provide secure and reliable hosting for all customer needs big and small, from shared hosting to dedicated servers and at an affordable price – they are by far the best webhost I’ve ever used. Siteground offers a one-click install for WordPress, they back up your database and if you have a site to move as I had (again) they offer a free migration service. Plus their customer support team is by far the most helpful I’ve ever encountered, it’s 24/7 and they get back quick too.

    The most important factor for me is speed – visitors click away from a slow-loading site and Google gives it a lower ranking. In many reviews such as this one by top5hosting.co.uk Siteground consistently gets 5 stars for speed and glowing customer reviews.

    You can find out everything I like about SiteGround in my full review.

  • EasyAzon 4.0 – new version just launched

    EasyAzon-4.0

    With EasyAzon 4.0 you can create quick Amazon affiliate links from within the WordPress dashboard. The software lets you bypass the long-drawn-out process that Amazon makes you go through on their website.

    I use this WordPress plugin in several different ways across the entire site. You can customise each link individually, there’s a range of image sizes, you can choose to open links in new windows and provide a choice of product details. The pro version enables you to set a cookie length of 90 days, giving more time to make the sale and you can direct users throughout the world to their local Amazon website automatically. And affiliate marketers will appreciate the importance of it’s ability to cloak the affiliate links it creates.

    Visit the EasyAzon 4.0 launch website for more information. I’ve found this plugin delivers affiliate links that are both easy and effective, and it’s one of the blogging tools I can’t do without.

  • Pretty Link Pro

    Pretty-Link-Pro-blogging tool

    Pretty Link Pro is a WordPress Plugin that enables you to shrink, cloak and track any link you create. The result is a ‘pretty’ link, i.e. it hides straggly URLs by creating a short memorable URL that people want to click on.

    The plugin generates a customisable link for each post and page automatically. It’s the link I share on social media, which gets my website name shared rather than bitly.com. For example, I’ve created the format ‘crosswebideas.com/idea-67′. You could choose something much shorter for your own site if you prefer.

    I use Pretty Link Pro to cloak affiliate links (other than Amazon links which EasyAzon 3.0 cloaks automatically). For a discussion of the benefits of cloaking please see 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Cloaking Affiliate Links.

    There are many other features which I haven’t begun to use… Visit the Pretty Link Pro website for a run-down of everything this software can do.

  • WordPress

    Wordpress-blogging-tool

    WordPress.org provides the free software that enables you to construct a blog according to your needs. You can extend the blog you build with the themes, plugins and templates that match your particular requirements. WordPress is so widespread that designers create blogging products with integration in mind. You begin with a core product that has the flexibility to grow in whatever direction your business takes. The same software can scale from a small blog to a multi-national corporation. If you’re serious about blogging move away from the ‘ready-made’ less flexible platforms, such as Blogger.com or Wodpress.com.

    What WordPress offers me over other content management systems such as Joomla! or Drupal is simplicity – there are still plenty opportunities for coders to dive in but you can also use the software to get the job done.

  • Evernote

    Evernote-blogging-tool

    Evernote is the hub of my post creation process. It’s where I save everything of interest, whether I’ll be blogging about it or not. It’s where I store pages I don’t have time to read and details I want to refer to later. The material builds up and you have at your fingertips an archive of relevant information for every post you write.

    You can access the software on the desktop or online so your whole library is available wherever you go. Evernote captures everything from web pages to images, offline notes and even voice notes. You have the ability to search through all notes (including PDFs in the premium version) which is useful when you’re creating a blog post. You can gather all relevant articles for a particular post into a temporary notebook and write your article within Evernote.

    A habit I picked up in my student days is to highlight every article as I’m reading it and Evernote has at last provided this feature. I checked out the software a dozen times over the years to see if highlighting was available, as without it I wouldn’t bother reading…

  • Hemingway

    Hemingway-blogging-tool

    Hemingway is a free web app that analyses your text for readability. You paste in your text and it highlights sentences that are hard to read, adverbs that you could replace with verbs and instances of the passive voice. The app takes this information and calculates a readability score. The point is that no matter how well you think you write the complexity of your writing may not be appropriate for your audience.

    I recommend using the tool for only part of a post and then examine the highlighted points. In this way I use Hemingway as a learning tool rather than a conveyor belt that processes every word I write.

    As well as the web app there’s a desktop version which you may prefer for offline use.

  • WP Smush

    WP Smush is a WordPress version of the image-optimising service once offered by Yahoo. The Yahoo service became unreliable so this plugin works independently. When you upload an image to your site the plugin compresses it automatically. It uses several lossless techniques that together result in a much smaller file-size. The saving is usually about 10% but I’ve seen reductions of over 20%, and that’s even after compressing in Photoshop. If you use a lot of images on your site the impact on page-speed is dramatic.

    Just install it and forget it, the plugin takes care of everything. The kind of tool that every blog needs and it’s FREE.

    (This isn’t a Yahoo plugin so it’s safe to use for people who are still scarred by what they did to flickr… It’s maintained by WPMU DEV).

  • BJ Lazy Load

    BJ-Lazy-Load

    BJ Lazy Load makes your site load faster which is important for your visitors and for SEO too. This WordPress plugin replaces your images with a placeholder and the real content is only loaded as the visitor scrolls to that section of the page. There are many lazy-loading plugins available. I like this one because it degrades gracefully in non-javascript browsers, it scales down images automatically in responsive themes and it serves jiDPI images for Retina screens.

    You can set the time delay for images to load before the scrolling reaches them. But otherwise it’s another plugin to just install and forget, plus it does the job for FREE.

The blogging tool that I’d like to use but I can’t…

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking

    Dragon-Naturally-Speaking

    I’m Scottish! My accent derives from a small village in the heart of the Highlands. Most voice recognition software mangles every word I say. I’ve even tried talking like the Queen but there’s no fooling it.

    Dragon Naturally Speaking does incorporate a learning feature that adjusts to your pronunciation. It works for the rest of the world but I fear that my accent is one that science could never decipher.

    Voice recognition software would be a boon for all areas of blogging. Above all it would be great for writing comments – it’s the little scraps of typing that take up the most time. The speed of voice recognition is way beyond anything that typing could achieve but for this tool I first have to learn to speak…

These are the blogging tools I’ll be using on every website I ever own. They do the job better than I could on my own and let me get more done in less time. I’ll keep the list updated if anything else turns into an essential.

Not a tool but a technique I use for every post: Where to find free images for commercial or any other use….

Donald

Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links which can earn me a small commission. Of course there’s no extra cost to you. I won’t be recommending anything that I wouldn’t recommend anyway. Many of these have free trials but if you make a purchase, I’d like to thank you for helping to support this site.

Title:
9 blogging tools that I use (and one that I can't)
Description:
The blogging tools I use to get the job done. Tools that I trust to deliver, they get more done and make my day more productive.
Author:
  • Thanks for collating this useful collection of tools. Some of them I already use, but I was pleaes to find your description of Evernote. Will look into that further as I’m always losing interesting bits I’d like to keep hold of.

    Had to smile about Dragon :-) It didn’t get on too well with a Yorkshire accent either!

    Joy

    • Yorkshire’s posh, Joy!

      I do thoroughly recommend Evernote, not just for blogging – every little thing such as receipts where you’re told to ‘print this page’ for your records.

      Thanks for commenting :)

  • Great list of very useful tools – I use similar. Admittedly, my Evernote needs a huge sort out, far too many snips and clips when things inspire me!
    For some reason, Hootsuite and I just have never “clicked”, so I tend to use Tweetdeck for Twitter and use FB/Google as and when. I did use MarketMe for a while until they stopped supporting the desktop version and it died.

    As for Dragon… It doesn’t understand my woollyback accent either. I bought it around 4 years ago now when I started My Local Business Online. Needless to say, I spent far too much time trying to train it and getting frustrated editing that it is confined to a cave somewhere gathering dust!

    • Glad to see I’m not the only one tripped up by Dragon :)

      I’ve used Tweetdeck in the past but it got lost along the way and now I swear by Hootsuite. I couldn’t get by without Evernote so definitely tag everything…

      Thanks for commenting, Jan. Someone just wished me a merry Christmas so I should say Season’s Greetings too!

  • tvjuriste

    Really great tips!! I plan to investigate several of them. Thanks for this article!!

    • That’s great, I hope they work for you too, thanks for commenting!

  • Hi, Donald, nice list and appreciate the descriptions. Wonder how i would fare with my Swiss accent!

    • Ha, I didn’t know you come from Switzerland. Glad you found it useful, thanks for commenting.

  • Hi, Donald,

    What an awesome list, and I use several of the tools you mentioned. :-)

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about Hootsuite, but use Buffer myself.

    As you know, I offer my own web hosting to folks, but have never heard of Tsohost. Thanks for the heads-up.

    For your tips on EasyAzon 3.0 and Pretty Link Pro, I’ve sort of bypassed this because I have YOURLS software on my hosting that allows me to have my very own custom link shortener. My VA gets my Amazon link for me, and I create my own “CarolSentMe” link. Also use this for Google URL Builder links – and love it.

    Your advice about WordPress.org is excellent, in my opinion, and I think you’re spot on. :-)

    I do use Evernote as well as some old-school tangible tools.

    Have never heard of Hemingway, so cool! Thank you for the heads up. I loved to use Dragon Naturally Speaking, however, ever since getting my MacBook Pro, I have been using their built-in voice recognition software and am very pleased.

    Never heard of BJ Lazy Load – appreciate you giving out info on this. I enjoyed your article, Donald, and hope you have a great rest of the weekend.

    Talk soon,
    – Carol

    • Thank you for the comments, Carol. I knew you’d be up and running with everything under control!

      You’re the person who recommended voice recognition for comments and it would be such a good idea. Built-into the MacBook Pro must be even more convenient. I’m not an Apple person but there’s sure to be a Windows equivalent, I just have to learn to speak…

      I used to work for a deaf charity and they trained me to use cutting-edge voice recognition software specifically designed for English accents but my accent was even too much for that too. You can see from the other comments I’m not alone!

      Thank you again for commenting, hope you’re having a good weekend.