Every blogger has only so many hours in a day to select great content, write, network, promote and market. Whether growing a new blog or leveraging an old one for more business, you’ll need tools that support you and make you more efficient, but how do you know which ones are right for you?
Understanding your blogging goals is the first step. Next, matching your particular personality with the right product can increase your productivity and help your blog boom. Then you’ll need to figure out what matches your audience.
Step 1: What Are Your Goals?
First, consider your goals for your blog. Are you trying to capture your first 1000 page views? Are you trying to eliminate blog spam? Are you launching a newsletter, or aiming to grow one of your social media accounts? Don’t generalize your blog goals here.
List S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (that is give them a time frame, such as one month.) Then prioritize them in order. Each goal may require a specific tool or a group of them – an email subscriber system, a new theme, plugins, testing, analytic, content tools, etc.
One thing every blog needs is great content. A tool like Google Alerts comes in handy for regularly emailing you content in your niche.
However, there are tools that pull it all together for you. One great one is Storify allows you gather stories from any online service and share them, and even posts directly to your blog. Feedly aggregates all the sites you regularly visit for content. Pocket is a great tool that let you store and organize content to view or read later; Kippt is a similar tool that runs a interface which resembles Outlook and allows you to share it publicly or with a group.
Timers and billing software are necessary tools for professional bloggers, procrastinators and those with deadlines. Annika Helendi at Toggl – which has a free timer tool – has an article on how to determine the best timer for your needs.
For professional billing, I use Intervals, which is $25 a month for 15 maximum concurrent projects. You can also bill clients through Paypal services if you don’t need a project management tool.
Step 2: What Fits You?
You can have dozens of tools but if you don’t use them, they are simply wasting space.
Find tools that fit your personality and work habits. Are you Type A – prone to great detail and a need to be engaged all the time? Then you’ll need productivity tools that make your work time more efficient, leaving ample time to network and build your brand. For example, Buffer and HootSuite are tools that let you schedule most of your social media in one place, allowing you to organize all your shares in one sitting.
You’ll also want tools to keep you organized. I’m a big fan of Evernote, which lets you organize note, files, links, PDFs and more. It also comes with a nice line up of additional products. One of my favorites is Evernote Clearly for browsers, which eliminates visual distractions in your browser so you can read just the article.
Foodie bloggers will want to use Evernote Food that allows you to organize your outside dining experiences. If you work with others, DropBox and Google Docs are specifically for sharing files across the web. You can also use an app like Trello, which is extremely flexible for organization and sharing across a group.
But if you’re Type B, like me, and prefer kicking back and approaching things with a more relaxed attitude, scheduling tools won’t appeal to you but you do need to space out your shares.
That means you’ll need reminders – an electronic calendar system is a must-have for someone like me, so I can schedule shares at my leisure. And while it’s great having the ability to schedule things, using too many tools is a drag for me. I don’t like the layout for HootSuite , nor do I like seeing Buffer or HootSuite come up whenever I want to share anything in Facebook. I prefer to manually schedule my Facebook or Google+ posts and I use TweetDeck for scheduling tweets when I’m already engaged on Twitter.
For those that only want to be notified when something is critical, a tool like IFTTT can be a life saver. You simply an “If” and a “Then” to automate actions in social media or through other online channels. For example, one that is currently preprogrammed on the site is: “If I star an email in Gmail, create a reminder to take care of it.” Or you can automate to share an item to DropBox, for example.
Finally, know your budget. There are great free tools and even better tools for a fee. Paid tools for bloggers run from $.99 apps to pricey software and monthly services. If a paid tool, app or service looks like a good fit, use the trial or free version to get an idea if it will work for you. Before spending the big bucks, find other users among the people you trust to get an opinion of whether it’s worth the price for your purposes. You should also look for deals. Cult of Mac Deals and Mighty Deals are two that I subscribe to that offer lots of great apps, discounted software, freebies and resources that work great for bloggers. In addition, iTunes and Amazon regularly post free app deals as well.
Tools are also a matter of what is going to work well for your audience.
Returning to your blog goals, run them individually – or at least give each goal a running head start before you dive into the next one. For that, you’ll need Google Analytics (GA) – it’s simply a must for every blogger. You should be keenly aware of your audience’s habits, devices, locations and more. GA can help you figure out which social media outlets are gaining you the most traffic, where your audience is located, and how they are getting to your site (mobile? PC? Mac?). Once you’re aware of this, you can make sure that your apps fit their needs or can store the data you need to know about your niche to make you more relevant to your audience.
For example, your blog design might look awful or too large on a mobile device. If you’ve noticed your mobile visitor stats dropping, it’s time to either look into a theme that is responsive or use a tool to create a mobile site that won’t look like your browser site but will function better for your audience. DudaMobile and Mobify are two very easy tools to accomplish this.
Plugins for your blog are helpful, but as always, keep your readers top of mind. While plugins can make things easy for them, those that perform complex or consuming action can drain your site’s resources and slow down or crash your blog. Always load plugins one at a time and test your site afterward to make sure they are not harming it. In addition, plugins can get hacked, so do your best to ensure they are working properly and up to date. Check out my basic primer on plugins, WordPress Plugins 101.
Gina Badalaty is the owner of Embracing Imperfect, a blog devoted to encouraging and assisting moms of children with special needs and restricted diets. Gina has been blogging about parenting, raising children with disabilities, and allergy-free living for over 12 years. She’s blogs at Mamavation.com, and has blogged for major brands like Silk and Glutino. She also works as a copywriter and brand ambassador. She loves engaging on social media, travel and cooking gluten-free.