There are a handful of tools that I use regularly 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, these seem like sensible ways to break up the tools.
The research I do varies depending on the post, but the tooling remains consistent.
Evernote is a tool that allows you to collect notes in various ways and tag them up for offline consumption. I am completely underselling it by saying that and don’t use nearly half the power of it. It is pretty great, you should check it out.
I try and capture as much stuff in Evernote as possible even when not actively researching a topic. There are plugins for clipping websites into Evernote and mobile apps for grabbing content when I am away from my laptop. It even lets you take photos of documents and it will OCR them for you.
What I normally do during research is come up with a unique tag for the piece, for example I was interviewing someone recently and wanted to research all their previous interviews, I created a new tag called #theirName
I was then able to scour the internet and collect all this information into my Evernote, this then syncs with my devices and gets stored locally so I don’t need to worry about having internet access when I come to do the reading part of my research.
I also use Evernote for storing and saving notes, normally just random paragraphs or questions I am asking myself. So long as I am disciplined about how I use my tags nothing gets lost.
Hittail is a service that recommends keywords for you to focus on when writing content. It only recommends keywords that it feels you have a fairly good chance of ranking well for.
HitTail uses the longtail SEO approach in that the amount of traffic searching for your content won’t be as much as for more generic terms, but it is high quality traffic looking for something specific.
I honestly can’t recommend this service enough, I have blogged about HitTail before and probably will again.
On my personal blog (where you are reading this) I am normally never stuck for ideas and normally don’t care if my articles rank well for SEO. On sites were I do care about ranking or if I am just stuck for something to write about I will consult HitTail.
Each week you get new suggestions emailed to you but I tend to just go into the site and start looking at what suggestions they have for me.
If a suggestion seems sensible and works I have my topic and I can start thinking about writing or researching more.
If the suggestion doesn’t make sense as a sentence I will use it to research more phrases I could potentially use.
Google Analytics 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 really useful for several reasons but specifically for blogging, I use it to see what posts have historically done well for two criteria;
- Did the topic bring lots of traffic and attention to the site
- Did the topic 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 compliment or build on them.
If you haven’t used Google Analytics before it can appear a bit daunting, it is well worth learning if you want to take metrics seriously.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools are a set of pages that Google has made to allow you to better understand how Google views your site.
Much like Google Analytics the use goes way beyond what I am about to describe but 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 Google Analytics, you certainly can but unfortunately with Google Analytics you get a massive amount of keywords coming back as (not provided). This is not the case with Webmaster Tools and you can also easily see where you rank for that given search term. Really useful stuff when trying to work out what to write.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is really meant to help you plan out your keywords for Google AdWords (the advertising platform) but without spending any money you can unlock this powerful tool that lets you enter keywords and get suggestions as to what else people search for.
Earlier I mentioned that sometimes HitTail can suggest a phrase that might be excellent for longtail traffic but just doesn’t make sense as English. Using this tool you can see the search volumes associated with similar phrases.
Once I finish my research it is onto the writing and editing stage.
I almost always try and write offline these days, it keeps distractions down to a complete minimum.
Writer Pro is a markdown writing application for OSx. It has features that let you focus in on sentences and highlight certain types of words (just adjectives, for example).
One of the big draws for me are the various writing modes, each that have subtle ways of making you focus on the task at hand, which might be note taking, writing, editing, or proof reading your work.
I write almost all of my posts now in Writer Pro and would highly recommend you at least go onto their website and check out the videos of it in action.
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 a good 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 went into how comfortable it is to use.
Another major selling point is that applications like the aforementioned Writer Pro are OS X exclusive.
One thing I have experimented with recently is using the inbuilt screen reader to read my posts aloud to me, this can really help find odd phrasing.
If your machine isn’t a joy to use you will probably find reasons not to use it.
Amazon are a massive online company that specialise in selling products and delivering them to you. I am pretty sure you have heard of them!
You might have looked the other way when I talked about my computer, but what can Amazon have to do with blogging?
Well, I like to get paid for what I write.
Sometimes I get paid directly by someone and that is lovely.
Other times I get paid by virtue of the fact my posts drive business on whatever site I am running and writing the post for.
When the content I am writing is a personal review of something I like I may as well try and get something for it, so if I mention a product in a blog post I will almost always look for it on Amazon and add my affiliate code.
Amazon makes this incredibly easy. Once you are signed up to their Affiliate Programme you see a bar on every page which lets you copy a link to that page including your affiliate code.
I will never be able to retire off the money but it helps pay for the hosting bills!
Once I have written my post, edited it and put it up onto WordPress 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.
The process and tooling for this changes somewhat depending on the type of thing I have written and who it was for.
Buffer is a tool for scheduling social media updates, you can easily select a page and share it amongst many different social networks and social network accounts. There are also some amazing social analytics you can get about the content you shared. Disclaimer: I used to work for them.
I use Buffer to queue up my posts to be shared at a later date. A lot of the time I finish editing something late at night and it wouldn’t be an ideal time for me to share it.
Buffer allows me to share when it is best for my followers, not for me.
Reddit / HackerNews
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 additional posts that you make.
If this has helped you I am very glad, 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 own list and share the link with me :-)