Most bloggers are consistently working to better our blogs. And for good reason. Things like learning new ways to market and network, improving our blog and post designs, and staying inspired to produce great content are essential to helping our blogs shine and grow. Many of the questions I got in response to my post about our new FAQ page (which will be live soon!) involved asking which tools I use to assist in my blogging efforts. So I thought I'd put together a list for you guys of my favorite online resources that I utilize for Bubby and Bean, along with my suggestions for how to use them in ways that are actually beneficial.
Pinterest is now a better tool than ever before for bloggers. It's an incredible place to visit for inspiration when you need a creativity boost. It's also a great tool for bringing traffic to your blog. Adding a "pin it" button to your posts will allow your readers to easily pin images from your posts to their pin boards, which is an easy and instant way to promote your blog. You can find out how to add the button to your posts right here. (My Pinterest page)
Bloglovin' is probably my favorite reader. Instead of just links/titles to posts, you get a photo and the opening paragraph of each one as well. This makes it easy to read the posts that interest you most when you just don't have the time to read all of your subscriptions. When you click through to read, Bloglovin' also takes you to the actual blog instead of just a feed, which is especially awesome because it allows your entire blog to be accessible to readers. It's a great way to discover other cool blogs too! You can increase your Bloglovin' followers by inserting one of Bloglovin's widgets on your blog, or creating your own graphic to link to your Bloglovin' page. (Bubby and Bean on Bloglovin')
Google Analytics is an essential tool for learning about your blog traffic and visitors. You can find out exactly how many visitors you're getting, how many page views you're getting, how long readers are staying on your blog, how many pages your readers are viewing, where your traffic is coming from, and so much more. It's simple to set up and install, and once you spend ten minutes to do it one time, you're set. I check my Google Analytics account every few days, and it has helped me with everything from improving my content to knowing where and how I should focus on promoting my blog.
Facebook 'fan' page is a wonderful way to engage your readers in a forum outside of your blog, and also a way to introduce your blog to a larger audience. You can post links to your recent posts, create polls, post photos, ask for feedback, and use apps to integrate (and thus promote) other tools you're using like Pinterest and Twitter. When you also incorporate Facebook share and/or like buttons within your blog platform, your readers can share your posts, helping to spread the word. Over half the content shared online is shared via Facebook, so it's an important marketing tool. When one person clicks 'like' on your page, that's the first step to it going viral! You can find different Facebook plugins for your blog right here. (Bubby and Bean on Facebook)
Feedburner is a service that burns your feed and delivers it to various readers, but it's got a lot of other helpful features too. You can use it to track your reader stats, allow your readers to subscribe via RSS or email right on your blog, add "FeedFlare" so your subscribers have the option to tag, share or email your posts, set your content to automatically post to Twitter, and more.
Pixlr and PicMonkey, both of which are free. Flickr also recently launched a new free editor to replace the now defunct Picnik called Phoenix. All of these have the basic tools necessary to improve the quality of your images, crop, add text, etc
Twitter is an easy, effective way to interact with your blog readers on a daily basis and to attract new readers. In my experience, the key to using Twitter is to actually interact. Yes, post links to your blog posts. (As I mentioned above, Feedburner has a tool to do this automatically when a post is published.) But don't only post links. Participate. Read other tweets and respond to them. Retweet other tweets that you like. And share a little of yourself as well. You are a real person with a life outside of your blog, so why not tweet about that from time to time? Everyone is different and I'm certainly not a Twitter expert. But I personally like following others who tweet bits and pieces of their life or funny one-liners or inspiring quotes or pictures of something they did that day. I'm less inclined to follow people who only post self-promotion type tweets or have accounts that resemble news feeds.
Dafont features tens of thousands of fonts that you can download and use for your blog's graphics and design, and most of them are free. Some other cool free font resources that I use include Urban Fonts, The League of Moveable Type, and Font Squirrel.
Vimeo. Videos are a fun element to add to your posts, and thanks to the capabilities of today's smart phones and programs like Movie Maker and iMovie, they're really easy to make. Even slide shows of images with music added can spruce up a simple post and add variety to your content. Youtube is, of course, another great free resource for video sharing. I personally prefer Vimeo because it tends to have more creative content and legitimate videos (rather than a sea of random uploads), the video quality is better, and they accept more file types. It's also a really great place to get inspired, with hundreds of beautiful videos produced by independent artists and filmmakers being uploaded everyday. The aesthetic of Vimeo is also cleaner and more professional looking, but this is by no means a reason for you to choose it over Youtube, unless, like me, you are a design nerd who sometimes cares a little too much about that stuff. :) I made the switch to the paid Vimeo Plus account last fall, but Vimeo Basic is free and easy to use. (My Vimeo page)
I hope this list and the tips provided are able to help some of you who are looking to give your blogs a boost! Keep in mind, every blogger is different, and everyone has different resources and methods that may (or may not) work for them. These are just suggestions for tools that I enjoy using and that work for Bubby and Bean. Do you have any favorite online resources that work well for your blog?
FILED UNDER: blogging tips