Tools I Use When Blogging

A summary of the tools I use when blogging, updated for 2019

There are a handful of tools that I regularly use when I blog; some of them are massively well known; some of them maybe not so much. I wanted to write about them here for two reasons.

The first is to help people who are maybe looking at tooling for their blogs.

The second is to get feedback from people who know much more than me to see where my tooling can be improved.

There are three main stages to most of my blog posts:

Research

The research I do varies depending on the post, but the tooling remains consistent.

Plausible

Plausible is a web traffic analytics tool; it lets you know about the types of people coming to your site and what they do once they get there.

It is beneficial for several reasons but specifically for blogging, I use it to see what posts have historically done well for two criteria;

  1. Did the topic bring lots of traffic and attention to the site
  2. Did the subject convert well against the site’s goals

If I spot a few topics that have been doing particularly well, I can use this to research other topics which could complement or build on them.

It is similar to Google Analytics only much more performant, privacy focused, better designed.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is a set of pages that Google has made to allow you to understand better how Google views your site.

Much like Google Analytics, the use goes way beyond what I am about to describe; I use this tool to find what people have been searching for to find my website.

You might ask why I don’t do this within Plausible, you certainly can, but this is straight from the horses mouth, and you can also easily see where you rank for that given search term. Handy stuff when trying to work out what to write.

Writing

Once I finish my research, it is onto the writing and editing stage.

TextMate

I almost always try and write offline these days; it keeps distractions down to a complete minimum. I use TextMate for the majority of my writing.

TextMate is also my text editor of choice which means I’m in it most of the day writing code anyway, so it feels very natural to me.

Grammarly

After I’ve created my first draft, I copy and past it into Grammarly. Grammarly is a tool that will do advanced grammar checks on your work. It goes above and beyond what grammar checks are usually performed by writing tools.

One of the things I love about Grammarly is it can run in your browser and help correct typos and grammar errors that you make when filling in text boxes online, say when making tweets!

TextExpander

TextExpander is text expansion software available on pretty much all platforms at this point.

I’ve written an entire review of TextExpander, this is a tool I use a lot to help reduce the number of characters I need to type.

With TextExpander, you can type a short code, and it will expand into a larger block of text. For example, when I type llorem anywhere on my computer, it will add:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Mauris sollicitudin laoreet felis, tincidunt ultricies odio laoreet ac. Vestibulum porta euismod sapien, a blandit nisi congue id. Pellentesque feugiat orci nec tellus consequat consequat. Nullam sit amet quam cursus leo vulputate mollis feugiat nec elit. Integer neque eros, sagittis euismod malesuada eu, congue eu sapien. Quisque pharetra pharetra dolor eget tempus. Vivamus fermentum, enim eget lacinia hendrerit, est quam aliquam mi, sit amet convallis metus metus sit amet leo. Curabitur sed metus massa.

I’ve written up some of my favourite TextExpander snippets.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is one of the high-end laptop computers created by Apple.

The MacBook Pro is my workhorse; it is where I do my coding and my writing.

You might wonder why I bother to mention that here. Having an excellent machine to write on can make all the difference.

Naturally, you don’t need the majority of the spec that my MacBook Pro has, but a lot of thought has gone into how comfortable it is to use.

One thing I have experimented with recently is using the inbuilt screen reader to read my posts aloud to me; this can help find odd phrasing.

If your machine isn’t a joy to use, you will probably find reasons not to use it.

If you’re interested in reading more of our setup, we have a post all about it. Read about our setup.

Publishing

Once I have written my post, edited it and put it up onto the website I’m writing for it is time to Publish. In literal terms, I just hit the Publish button, and the content is there for everyone to see, but that isn’t when my workflow ends.

Reddit and HackerNews are link aggregation websites, people share links they think the communities would find interesting, and people can vote on them.

Voted up links get more visibility, voted down links tend to get hidden and forgotten about pretty quickly.

Depending on the content I will share on one or both of these sites because I find it is an excellent way to get an initial burst of traffic and get immediate feedback from folk.

Very few people on my social media networks are going to tell me my point of view sucks or my writing is terrible. People on the internet at large, however, will go out of their way to tell you something sucks.

This type of criticism (when constructive) is hugely useful and can inform edits or new posts that you make.

Wrapping Up

If this has helped you, I am delighted. Please consider sharing this post with others as it might help them also!

If you have different ideas for what works and what doesn’t, please let me know in the comments. Better yet, post your list and share the link with me :-)

2019 Update

This post was updated in 2019 to add my current tooling. Here are the tools that I have stopped using since this was first published:

  • Evernote – I used to love Evernote but found it just wasn’t justifying the cost to me and seemed to get worse with newer releases.
  • HitTail – This was a fantastic tool that would show you content ideas based on Google searches. Unfortunately, it relied on data Google provided which Google turned off some time ago. RIP.
  • Google Keyword Planner – I replaced this with Moz.
  • Writer Pro – I’ve replaced this with Bear.
  • Buffer – I’ve replaced this with Social Pilot. My time at Buffer wasn’t great.

2021 Update

This post was further updated in 2021 with current tooling, I have removed and replaced some tools:

  • Bear was removed as my note taking tool, I’ve reverted to use Apple notes for everything, I don’t love it but it works for the type of notes I generally take
  • Google Analytics was replaced by Plausible
  • Moz was removed, I don’t do much keyword research these days
  • I’ve removed the reference to Amazon for their affiliate program, I still use affiliate programs but that is too broad a topic to cover here
  • I don’t use any social media posting tools anymore, so Social Pilot has been removed

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