Over the last few years I have been blogging, I have tried many different tools and resources to help make my life easier and my blog run smoother. Out of those I have tried, there are a few that really stand apart, and have become essential in my regular blogging routine.
I wanted to share with you guys which tools I find essential to run my blog, because I remember what it is like starting out, trying to figure out exactly what I needed in my blogging ‘tool kit’. With the immense number of resources available and marketed towards bloggers, it can be hard to truly know what you need and what would just end up being a waste of your time.
I’m hoping that by sharing my top must have blogging resources and why I use each, you can get a better idea of the tools you truly need to run your own blog efficiently and successfully. And the best part is, all but two of these tools are absolutely free! Let’s dig in, shall we?
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase one of the products I recommend using these links, I will make a teeny, tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps keep Label Me Merrit running 🙂
WordPress & Genesis
The first thing you need for a successful blog is a strong base for your site. I run Label Me Merrit on the Genesis Framework, and use WordPress software to power my back end. I shared here why I prefer self hosting your blog using WordPress over sites like Blogger.
After doing a ton of research, and reading about what people who know way more than I do have to say, I found both these resources to be the industry standard, the creme de la creme if you would. As far as my experience with these two, I have had nothing short of an excellent time utilizing these tools to run my blog and website, and highly recommend both of them.
The very first thing I do after I set up any website – whether it be my blog, my Etsy shop, or even my YouTube channel – is immediately hook it up to Google Analytics. I am a numbers girl, and my heart just skips a beat for statistics and tracking & analyzing number patterns. Nothing can do this as well as Google Analytics does.
While it may seem a little complicated and intimidating, I promise you your time cannot be better spent than getting yourself acquainted with the basics of this powerful tool. No other website is as well respected and trusted, nor gives such a complete and in depth look at all the important numbers and statistics about your blog. A few basic examples of the type of information you can collect from Google Analytics include:
- Pageviews on your site each day
- Top performing posts
- Where your audience is located
- How long visitors usually stay on your blog
- What sites are sending your blog the most traffic
- Which pages on your site are causing people to leave
- So much more
You can use all the information Google Analytics provides to improve and optimize your site, to see what’s working and what isn’t, to make your blog the best it can possibly be.
Additionally, one of my favorite features of Google Analytics is that your analytics history is never deleted. This means you can view analytics for any time period you desire, going all the way back to when you first hooked your site up to Google Analytics. So I can dig back in my records and see exactly how many people visited my site on say March 26, 2013, or which post was the most popular in August 2014.
You can also compare different time periods, so I could figure out if the extra time I’ve spent working on my Pinterest over the last 6 months has truly increased my blog’s referral rate from that platform. I could truly go on and on and on about the many amazing things you can use Google Analytics for, but you guys get the idea ;).
While it is no where near as complex as Google Analytics, I use Bitly for an extra bit of analytics for my site (I told you… I’m a numbers girl). Every single link I share (except a few special types of links) gets turned into a shortened bitlink for sharing. Then, Bitly tracks and records information each time your bitlink is clicked.
This allows me to easily see a few extra statistics on my links, such as how often they’ve been clicked, how recently they’ve been clicked, and where they’ve been clicked. This just helps me get an overview of how well a post is doing, or which platform people are most likely to click over to my blog from.
Even if extra statistics isn’t your thing, I would still recommend picking a link shortening service to use when sharing your posts. At least in my opinion, shortened links are just cleaner and neater for sharing, instead of posting long, ugly, cluttered post links across your social platforms.
As bloggers, we find ourselves needing to post to many social media accounts multiple times every day. This can be a great way to promote your content, and create a community around your blog, but social media can also take over your life if you’re not careful. Not to mention the huge time suck it can become if you actually start scrolling your feed after posting.
Here is where a social media scheduler can be a huge help to your productivity. By scheduling your tweets and Facebook statuses for the day or week in bulk all at one time, you free yourself up to devote your time to other important tasks. One less thing to worry about and take up your precious time, yes please!
I have personally used Hootsuite ever since I started blogging. And while I do absolutely love it, I recently discovered Buffer, and have been considering switching over. Honestly the main reason I’m thinking about the switch is the user interface on Buffer is just so much nicer in my opinion. Pretty and intuitive site dashboards just make me want to use them more, which is always good for productivity. I’ll let you know if I do decide to switch over, and what I think if I do!
Another super helpful productivity tool to lessen your load is IFTTT (If This Then That). This awesome website is designed to automate certain workflows, so you don’t ever have to worry about it. You create ‘recipes’ between certain channels, and IFTTT will automatically perform the action you ask it to.
For example, a recipe I use and love is “If I post to my WordPress blog, then save a copy of the post to my Evernote”. This creates an automatic system for backing up my posts, so I will always have a copy of every post I write safely backed up in a separate location.
There are tons of channels and recipes to choose from on IFTTT, to automate as much of your workflow as you’d like, and free you up for other more important tasks!
Oh my gosh. You guys, I didn’t have Photoshop for the first 3+ years of blogging, and holy cow was I missing out! Up until a few months ago, I used the free Paint.net program, which was fine for a beginner, but doesn’t hold a candle to Photoshop.
In the couple months that I have been using Photoshop, I have just been kicking myself for not taking the plunge sooner. If you are under the same misguided impression I was that all photo editors are created equal, and basically do the same thing, trust me, they’re not and they don’t. I have seen such an improvement in my pictures since I started using Photoshop (the screen filter will be your best friend… just trust me).
And if you are intimidated by big, scary, complicated Photoshop (again like I was) I promise it’s not as complicated as it seems. I’d go so far as to say it’s super simple to start off with the basics, like cropping or adding text overlays, and slowly build up your skills as you go. There are tons of YouTube videos and free tutorials available that go over every inch of Photoshop. There’s no day like today to start learning!
This is another newer addition to my arsenal of blogging tools, and it is again one that I’m kicking myself for putting off for so long. MailChimp is a subscription email management service, and helps you organize your blog’s RSS email subscriptions or newsletter.
MailChimp’s user interface is such a breeze to maneuver, and makes it so easy to create and customize an email campaign. I was previously using FeedBurner to send out my posts to email subscribers, and I honestly shudder thinking about how ugly my email subscriptions used to be.
MailChimp allows me to create customized and personalized campaigns, so I can include a blog logo at the top of each email, links to all my social media accounts, as well as suggestions for the reader to share my post on social media. I haven’t fully dug into all the options MailChimp has available, but I am loving that MailChimp will clearly allow me to create and build anything I can imagine for my email campaigns.
As a blogger, it is very important that you are also an active follower of other blogs. Being an active member of the blogging community helps you build relationships with other blogs, as well as stay on top of trends and being aware of what others are doing.
After Google shut down Google Reader (still in mourning over that one), I picked Feedly for my new feed reader of choice. Feedly allows you to organize all your blog subscriptions into groups (I organize by niche). I just find Feedly simple and easy to use, doing exactly what I need it to do, no more and no less.
Follow me on Feedly here <3
The resource I consider most valuable in my blogging career, is other blogs themselves. Blogs allow you to access information others have gained through their own research and experience. I recommend finding a few bloggers that regularly post about blogging that you trust to share useful and accurate information to help your own blog.
A few of my all time favorite blogging and business blogs include Elle & Co, Amy Lynn Andrews and ByRegina. These ladies are all fountains of information and experience they freely share with their readers. On top of providing quality and in depth information, their posts always leave me inspired and so excited about blogging all over again.
You can also find all my posts on blogging here
That finishes up all of my absolute must have blogging resources! I hope you picked up a new tips or two, and are excited to give some new blogging tools a try! Let me know in the comments what your favorite blogging tools or resources are, I’m always on the hunt for the next thing to better my blog!