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:

If you’d like to jump to a specific tool, here is the complete list:

Research

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

Bear

Bear is a note-taking app that works across macOS and iOS.

Stripped back bear image
Bear Logo

I’ve tried so many different note-taking apps, and this is by far, my favourite. With Bear, you can quickly tag notes to cross-reference what you’ve written.

It is a Markdown editor, and I love using Markdown!

I try and capture as much stuff in Bear as possible even when not actively researching a topic. There are plugins for clipping websites into Bear and mobile apps for grabbing content when I am away from my laptop.

I’m trying to use Bear a bit like a second brain if I find something cool I will pop it in so I can have an easier time recalling it later.

Google Analytics

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.

Bar Chart
Google Analytics Logo

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.

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

Google webmaster tools
Google Webmaster Tools Logo

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 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. Handy stuff when trying to work out what to write.

Moz

Moz is an SEO tool that gives you deep insight into keywords that could do well, what your competitors are ranking for, and what improvements you could make to your site to rank better. I’m really underselling it and probably use about 5% of its capabilities (and still feel like I’m getting my money’s worth!).

Moz Logo
Moz Logo

I use Moz in much the same way I use Google Analytics, but it can do things like recommend keywords that they believe would be easier to rank for or that your competitors are using a lot in their writing.

They have an estimated search amount against each keyword, which means you can compare the return on investment between two potential topics.

Writing

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. I use Bear for the majority of my writing.

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.

Grammarly Logo
Grammarly Logo

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.

TextExpander Logo
TextExpander Logo

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.

Apple Logo
Apple Logo

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.

Amazon

Amazon is a giant online company that specialises in selling products and delivering them to you. I am pretty sure you have heard of them!

Amazon Logo
Amazon Logo

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 the fact my posts drive business on whatever site I am running.

When the content I am writing is a personal review of something, 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!

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.

Social Pilot

Social Pilot 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 is also some fantastic social analytics you can get about the content you shared.

Social Pilot Logo
Social Pilot Logo

I use Social Pilot to queue up posts to share 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.

Social Pilot allows me to share when it is best for my followers, not for me.

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.

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