blogging basics

15 Tools {Free and Paid} That Bloggers Should Be Using

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I love tools, apps, programs and gidgets-and-gadgets related to the blogging world. I am always on the look-out for the “next best thing” that will save me time, generate extra traffic and make me extra $$. Throughout my travels in my 8 years of blogging, I have seen many a “bell-and-whistle” come and go, but here are 15 Tools {Free and Paid} That Bloggers Should Be Using that have stood the test of time for Franticmommy.

Tools for Bloggers

7 Paid Handy Blogging Tools That are Well Worth the Money

1. Carbonite: Have you ever seen that TV commercial from Carbonite? It’s a good one. Honestly, if you business revolves around the Internet, you need to protect yourself with Carbonite. I am Virtual Assistant so my LIFE is on-line. Carbonite protect my (and my clients) files and information “in the cloud” so if my computer ever did decide to bite-it, I would still be able to function, work, and earn an income. Carbonite is affordable too so grab some peace-of-mind HERE.

2. Focus Booster: Distractions are a fact of life when working from home. The phone rings, the dog barks, your Skype pings at you…and before you know it you are distracted and flustered and there’s been virtually NO progress in getting your blogging work done.  Some people have short attention spans or a bad case of “Shiny Object Syndrome” and some of us are just experiencing non-stop “life happens” moments. Whatever the reason, sometimes sitting down to write a 30 minute blog post can take an hour+ of our already precious time.

Enter Focus Booster. Focus Booster is a neat tool that many bloggers/writers can use to increase writing productivity. It’s designed to help you eliminate the anxiety of time and enhance your focus and concentration. Focus Booster has been designed based on the principles of the pomodoro technique . This technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as “pomodoros”) separated by breaks and is based on the idea that frequent breaks refresh the mind and increase writing efficiency.

3. AWeber:Amazing email list software and is the online gurus top recommendation for building a subscriber list and staying in touch with them. Aweber will collect and organize all of the contact info, allow you to sort it into lists and send out all of your messages. Amazing one stop shop for everything you need to control and manage a very powerful email marketing campaign, not to mention powerful tools for automated follow-up. A basic account with aWeber runs around $19/month.

4.Freshbooks: I am bookkeeping illiterate. A scary prospect for a business owner. Freshbooks is an amazing system to keep track of your hours and your clients. At the end of the billing cycle, all it takes is a few clicks and Freshbooks will tally your hours/projects/rates and fire an invoice off to your client via email. Freshbooks is free if you have 3 clients and under. www.freshbooks.com

5. BlueHost  Website hosting, where you buy domain names, ideal for any type of site. BlueHost also makes it sure seamless and easy to start a WP.org blog. You can buy your domain name, buy hosting, start your WordPress blog and even have a matching email address in place in less than an hour.  A very reliable service, the BlueHost customer service ninjas have saved my bacon on many occasion. I’ve used both GodDaddy and HostGator and I much prefer BlueHost.

6. Hootsuite: Skype may be your BFF, but Hootsuite runs a close second. Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to connect to multiple social networks from one website. This free platform allows you to schedule Tweets, LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, and now even Google+ updates way in advance leaving you free to do other things…like sell stuff or take care of clients. HS is free, but there are upgrades for-pay versions as well. http://signup.hootsuite.com/signup-pro/

7. PicMonkey: By now you should know that images RULES social media including blogs. Images catch the reader’s eye and raise the chance of engagement by as much as 44% (Source: ROI Research) Photos and images on Facebook generate 53% more Likes than the average post. (Source: HubSpot). Creating fun and “share-able” images is quick and easy with PicMonkey and their basic account is free. I love this site because it is a simpler alternative to PhotoShop for creating eye-catching images with text that tell a story, pique interest, and pull the reader in to want to know more. If you want to more of about Picmonkey, my Creating Awesome and Shareable Images with Picmonkey pdf guide and tutorial is only 99 cents right now is a wealth of information of getting started and making the best use of this free tool.

8. Easy Ad Maker: My new personl fav. Create amazing looking boxes, squares and banner that are sharp looking and linkable.
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 Bonus-4 Ways to Improve Your Blog for Free

1. Change up Your Template: Think of it like when you give a room in your home a fresh coat of paint. The fresh new look is uplifting and exciting and the same applies to your business blog. Most of the blogging platforms – WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad – allow for easy template changes, and even if your blog is self-hosted simply you can find great templates by Googling “free WordPress templates.”

2. Add a Search Box and Make it Easy to Locate: Sometimes the quickest way to find relevant topics on a blog you follow is by using the search box feature. Unfortunately, too many business professionals either don’t include a search box in their blog design, or make it too hard to locate! If a reader can’t find what they need, or can’t locate a means to search for it, they simply give up a leave. Another missed opportunity that could have been easily avoided.

3. Highlight Your Accomplishments: Tooting your own horn is never easy, but if you don’t who will! Have you participated in any events or workshops this year? Are you a part of any Mastermind Groups? Did you receive any awards or gain any stellar testimonials recently? All of this lends to your professional credibility and should be displayed on a “Media” or even on your “About” page. Peel back the layers and let your readers know who you are, what you’ve achieved, and what makes you tick.

4. Clean up Your Sidebars: I have to admit, it makes me a little nutty when I visit a business blog and see outdated buttons, ads, or icons on the sidebar. It may be a simple oversight by a very busy business person, but to the average reader it looks sloppy and unattended. Make the time to scan your sidebars and make sure that you have removed anything that is out of date, is no longer relevant, or that you no longer support. Replacing images and cleaning up your sidebar avoids the stale and stagnant look and shows your readers you are on top of things. And remember, less is more when it comes to sidebar images. The SITS Girls just had a great post about Common Blog Sidebar Mistakes.

7 Free Blogging Tools all Bloggers Should be Using

1. Google Docs: I pretty much like “Google-anything” but I do like the sharable aspect of Google Docs especially the Spreadsheet. This handy little bugger works great for sharing info, important links, or blogging schedules with clients or multiple Admins.

2. Is Your Blog is Readable on Mobile Devices: Most blogging platforms provide free mobile-ready templates, but if yours doesn’t then you need to make sure your blog looks presentable on mobile devices. Use mobiReady.com to test it out and to see if your site stacks up.

3. Google Alerts: A social media expert told me once “Google your name constantly to see what’s being said about you or your biz.” Great idea, but who’s got time for that crap much remembering to do it. That’s where Google Alerts comes in.  Set alerts up for your name and your business. You can also set it up for industry words to track news and updates in your field. You want to know when someone mentions your company so you can respond accordingly and this service delivers that notice right to your inbox.

4. Trello: Trello is a free task management application that can help individuals, small teams, and even organizations stay on task in a very simplistic way. With over one millions users, Trello has been a “sleeping giant” of sorts for several years and was named “The 7 Coolest Startups You Haven’t Heard of Yet” by Lifehacker in 2011. In a nutshell it’s a way to organize projects, goals, brainstorming sessions, and even product launches in an easy-to-understand horizontal format. In one glance, users are able to see who’s working on what, what’s “done,” and what tasks still need attention. Trello also has the ability to assign tasks to specific people on your team to eliminate the “who’s working on what” questions that can derail projects. Anyone who has read my blog knows I am a huge Trello fan. This project management system consists of drag-and-drop Boards and Card to help keep everyone on the same page and projects on track.

5. ClicktoTweet:  ClicktoTweet is a way to create “tweetables” right within the body of your blog post or article and make it sure easy for readers to “pass the word” about your information and content.  Here’s how it works;

  • Write the message you want to share in the box.
  • Click the “Generate” button to create a custom link.
  • Use the generated link to turn a sentence, quote or headline instantly into a live tweetable link that readers can click and add to their own Twitter stream. Easey Peasey!

6. Skype:I recently told a newbie VA to GET SKYPE. Skype will be your best friend, I told her. Don’t rack up the minutes on your phone. Use Skype to speak with clients and business partners. You will find out that you will be on the phone a lot in the early days trying to make deals with just about everyone in the universe.Skype is free but more extravagant plans are available. http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home/

7. Take Your Blog’s Temp: Sites like Hubspot’s MarketingGrader is a cool (and free) way to pin-point areas that your blog could use some beefing up. Simply plug-in your URL of your blog and it gracious points out areas of improvement. Cool beans. Another free and easy tool to Alexa.  Alexa is a very powerful tool used to rank web site traffic and it’s used to measure how your blog or website stacks up against all your competitors. The thing to remember about Alexa Ranking is the lower the Alexa ranking number, the more heavily used a site is. For example, Amazon has an Alexa Ranking of 14, whereas the rest of us are looking at ranking numbers of 800,000. Your Alexa ranking is used as a big factor in valuing the advertising space on your website by about 85% of advertisers.

What kinds of tools, apps and programs do you swear by?

Like the images on this blog? Great images for your website or blog are waaaayyyyyy easier to create than you think!

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