Creating and running a blog can be difficult, but not if you use the right tools and tech. I am here today to share with you some of the free and paid things that have made the biggest impact on my blog. I hope that these tools are helpful for you too! Did I leave something out? Let me know by leaving me a comment down below as I'd love hear your favorite tools and courses.
I. Blogging Platforms & Domains
Okay, first and foremost, I think it's important to note that I really stand by using Squarespace, that is what this blog and The Happy Arkansan are both hosted on. I love both of my blogs on this platform and it has so many possibilities. I am constantly surprised at all the amazing things it can do. In case you were wondering, The Happy Arkansan is built using the OM template, and I built this blog using the Five template. I love both of these templates and I think they are really customizable, you just need to play around with them for a bit.
Om Template Makeover (Designed by Bri Long)
Five Template Makeover (Designed by Me!)
For my domain names I always use Namecheap. I couldn't imagine a better way to buy domain names. Of all the places I have tried in the past, I keep coming back to Namecheap. I feel that is the best way to purchase. It doesn't run any crazy $1 domain deals, but I feel much more comfortable with Namecheap as my domain provider than I do with the other ones. Some people swear by other domain service providers, but I can't get enough of Namecheap.
II. Creating Great Content
There are so many tools out there to help you create great content.
Do you need help brainstorming great content? Join some Facebook groups and take a peak at what people are talking about the most in them. If you have a topic in mind you can even use the search bar to look that topic up, see what people are talking about, and use that to have some direction with your post. If you can find a Facebook group that discusses topics related to your niche, this can be a really great way to gather content ideas.
Another great way to find content ideas is to listen to podcasts, read articles, and read books related to your topic. Don't go on information overboard here, but go through and gather
If you need help really honing in on the language you should be getting at, I really suggest starting to type your topic into a Google search to see what autocompletes and/or using Google's Keyword Planner tool to plan your keywords out. Keywords are important, because once you know what they are you can use them throughout your blog post when it feels appropriate (I suggest doing it when it makes sense while writing, and then going back when you edit to see where you can add them more, don't stress out about keywords while you are writing your post.)
Once you have a topic, in my opinion, a good headline really helps put things into perspective. I personally love to use CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer to help me brainstorm ideas that will grab my readers and potential reader's attention while scrolling through their Instagram feed. It is such an easy to use tool, but I couldn't imagine blogging without this awesome tool in my arsenal.
III. Let's Edit Your Content
Now that you have written amazing content, it's time to start editing your content. My absolute favorite way to edit my content is by using Grammarly. I use this tool to edit everything! I use it to edit blog posts, emails, tweets, and even academic papers. Grammarly is such an amazing tool for all bloggers and biz owners to become familiar with. Grammarly is your grammatically correct best friend. I love this tool, and I have the Google Chrome extension so it catch my errors all over the internet.
If you try Grammarly and it's just not your style, I really encourage you to check out Hemingway. I have never used it, but I heard that people really love this editor as well. Hemingway is similiar to Grammarly in how it goes in depth with the editing process, and I know a lot of people love both of these editing tools. Either way, you are getting a lot deeper with your editing than you would if you just stuck with the normal spell check route.
IV. Make your content picture perfect
There are so many ways to go about making content that looks beautiful. I have a lot of tools that I think will really help you.
If you want to go the picture taking route, but you aren't great at using Photoshop to edit your pictures, my favorite picture editing site is PicMonkey! PicMonkey makes it so easy to edit your pictures and you don't have to learn all the tools and techniques that you have to learn with Photoshop.
If taking your own photos makes you weary, I really suggest using stock photos. Two of my favorite stock photosites are Ivorymix and Wonderfelle’s Styled Stock Society. I seriously cannot get enough of both of those sites. I use both site's stock photos consistently. I also have been loving Haute Chocolate for stock photos lately.
Another great program is Creative Market, it's the most addicting site you will ever witness, but I am pretty obsessed with it. It's a marketplace for creatives to post all their amazing products. I use it to purchase things like fonts, stock photos, and fun backgrounds for my products. Creative Market is perfect for anyone who needs a lot of creative downloads, but doesn't want to go to a million places at once. Some of my favorite people are on Creative Market, even Kayla from Ivorymix!
Once you have images picked, my next favorite tool is Canva for creating blog post and social media images. I don't think there is any platform that is better honestly. They have SO many different image sizes, templates, and tools to use. Photoshop is fun, but it takes forever to really learn. If you want to jump right into creating blog graphics and save yourself some time, I really encourage Canva.
V. Create Video Content for Your Brand
Besides having great photographs, you can take it a step further and create cute videos for your brand. A great camera I really encourage is the Canon T5i. Not only will this camera step up your photography game, it will also majorly step up your videography game. I recently switched to this camera, and I have produced some amazing quality video with it. It's an amazing camera, and it's great even for beginners as with a little bit of reading you can pick up on it pretty easily.
If creating your own videos isn't quite your style just yet, I really love the site Animoto. It's a site that let's you make little animated videos for a pretty cheap price. Then you can put these videos on things like Facebook, Instagram, and even on your blog to add a little extra something to each post.
If you want to see an example of Animoto in action, I have a cute Animoto video here that I made as an introduction to Amanda Cross Blog. I did everything from the words to the voice overs in Animoto.
There are a few places you may want to consider hosting your videos. I am really fond of either YouTube or Vimeo. I have really been digging Vimeo for video hosting lately though because you can host really high quality video there, and there are tons of added features, especially when it comes to the safety and privacy of your videos there.
VI. Let's Monetize Our Post
Before you officially hit send on your post, take some time to monetize it. If you use affiliate links, make sure you have a disclosure at the top of every post. I have my disclosure on the top of every blog post page using the Five template on Squarespace. It has a before blog post header, so I just copied my disclosure there to save time so I don't have to include my disclosure on every post.
There are many ways you might choose to monetize your post. I have really been enjoying affiliate links lately. It's so easy to just pop an affiliate link onto a post really quick.
My favorite network for finding affiliate programs is ShareASale. Think of ShareASale as like an affiliate link marketplace. There are sll sorts of amzing programs on ShareASale. Once you start playing around with the idea of affiliate marketing, adding more affiliate marketing programs to the mix, and start reaching out past sites like ShareASale, you should be able to easily find other sites that have great affiliate programs.
If you look at the footer of any site that you really like you can usually easily find their affiliate program
VII. Get your Pinterest On Fleek
If you don't have anything as a new blogger, you need to have a Pinterest account. Here are some of my favorite tools for rocking your Pinterest account.
One of the biggest help's to my Pinterest account has been taking Melyssa Griffin's Pinfinite Growth course. Of all the courses I have taken/spent my money on, Pinfinite Growth is the one that I recommend to everyone. Pinfinite Growth is the course that has changed my blog the most (I used Pinfinite Growth to grow my Pinterest account for my first blog The Happy Arkansan.)
If you are looking to grow your account, you need Pinfinite Growth. It is updated all the time and Melyssa puts a lot of effort into making it the best course she can.
Another tool you need if you want to grow your account is BoardBooster. BoardBooster is a simple to use Pinterest scheduler. You can make the boards necessary to pin on BoardBooster and then you can do schedule pins anywhere, becuase you are scheduling pins right on your phone. I have done a video about scheduling pins with BoardBooster that you can watch by clicking this link.
VIII. Schedule Your Social media The Smart Way
Lastly, let's talk about scheduling your social media. Lately I have been obsessed with a new scheduler called SmarterQueue. It's sort of like MeetEdgar, which is another popular site, but it's way cheaper. SmarterQueue takes a second to set up, but once you set up your site, it can really help you shave tons of time off your social media scheduling process. Right now SmarterQueue is really focused on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram but they plan to add Pinterest and Google+ in the near future.
You will adore SmarterQueue if you want a scheduler that recycles old posts, instead of one that doesn't. Recycling content is so important because it makes the entire process of social media a million times easier. You shouldn't constantly need to find new things to post. Your life will be much easier when you can grow your social media on autopilot. Just be sure that you are finding new content to put in your SmarterQueue so that it takes a longer time to get through the content you provide.
If you are not ready to make that commitment, I also really love using Buffer and Hootsuite as options for social media scheduling. I think they are both worthy of your time as a person who wants to schedule out their social media communication.
I hope that you found this post helpful as you think about some of the tools that you would like to purchase for your blog/biz. Tools can really be beneficial as they help you blogger smarter along the way. Be careful with how many tools you decide to invest in, because you never want to purchase unnecessary tools, but if you find a great tool, it can be really helpful for your brand as you move forward with it.