Running my own business as a blogger and freelance writer means I work harder now than I ever did before. So, you can bet I am constantly on the lookout for tools and resources that will make my life easier. This list includes my favourite must-have resources for bloggers and digital writers. These are the tools that I have found the most helpful to kick start and continue to succeed in my blogging and writing career.
Note: If you are looking for information on what you need to start a blog, I have a post on that here. Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to read my article on how to write a blog post that people actually want to read!
The Best Resources for Bloggers & Digital Writers
Make Traffic Happen SEO Ebooks
Lining up with keyword research is SEO in general. Again, if you want to succeed in digital writing, you should know at least a little about SEO. Google has plenty of information but I do highly recommend either the ebooks created by Laura and Gemma of Make Traffic Happen. They make it easy to learn SEO so you can turn these best practices into habits and have your content rank in no time. The first book will teach you about SEO and the second one will teach you how to keep on top of existing content and make sure it continues to rank (or boost it up in Google ranking).
Whether you are a blogger of a freelance writer, finding photos will always be something that comes up at some point. Ideally, you will have your own to use but if that’s not the case then you can use stock photos.
There are a few websites that do offer free creative commons photos. Pixabay and Unsplash are popular ones, but make sure to credit them properly. If it’s not a creative commons photo, don’t use it- that’s stealing.
That being said, if you plan on using stock photos on a regular basis, it may be worth paying for stock photo programs. The paid programs have way more photo options, plus, you are much less likely to run into any problems. There have been stories of blogging being chased down by photographers for using their photos which did, at one point, appear as a CC photo but then was taken down. Adobe Stock and Shutterstock are both good bets if you don’t mind paying.
You can have a beautiful blog with tons of information but if your spelling and grammar sucks then nobody is going to stick around for very long. Grammarly is a free tool (there is an advanced paid version, but you don’t need it) that you can download and use to double-check your writing. Personally, I write in a word doc- spell check. Then upload onto Grammarly and do a second check there.
Photo Editing Tools
If you are taking your own photos to use in the articles you are writing then you will want to edit them. I’m not saying you need to be a master photo manipulator but, editing programs can help with a lot of basic things including straightening horizon lines, cropping, reducing shadow, brightening up colours etc. My go-to is lightroom which is a paid program. However, there are a few free apps you can use for basic edits as well. Take a look at Snapseed and/or Lightroom mobile (there is a basic, free version).
By the way, if you are a freelance writer and you are asked to include photos with your articles make sure to have a discussion with your editor that you will be charging extra if they want to use your own photos.
Additional Resources for Bloggers
KeySearch is a paid resource but one of the most useful tools you will use throughout your writing and trust me when I tell you that you will use it all the time. Keysearch allows you to do your keyword research and will tell you how popular the keywords you want to use are, how competitive they are, who are the top-ranking blogs for the term etc. Having the knowledge that Keysearch provides can make the difference in having a blog post that succeeds or a blog post that flops. After all, there’s not much of a point in writing about a topic that nobody is interested in.
Google Analytics is a must. This is how you figure out what blog posts are seeing the most traffic (and therefore, which ones need some work), your blog stats, audience demographics, and more. You should have this for your own insight as you grow, but know that you will also need these stats if you want to apply for advisements down the road (like Mediavine) or are applying for something that requires a press kit. Google Analytics is the golden standard for all blog-related stats.
My Ebook on Affiliate Marketing
Want to make money from your blog? Don’t wait. Start right away with affiliates.
Affiliate marketing can be incredibly lucrative and, yes, you can start right away. I’ve written a detailed ebook all about affiliate marketing- what to know, what to be aware of, and the best strategies to get your readers to book/buy so you get some money in your pocket.
You can find my ebook on affiliate marketing here.
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest but even though it drives me insane I can still admit that it is an incredibly valuable resource that every blogger should be using. Pinterest can drive an insane amount of traffic to your blog if you use it correctly. The key is to treat is as a search engine, not just a social media platform. This means you want to optimize your pin descriptions with keywords. There are plenty of tips online for correctly using Pinterest as a blogger, I suggest you read up a bit if you aren’t sure.
If you plan on using Pinterest, you are going to need to create beautiful vertical images for people to pin. I use Canva to do this. It’s free (although there is a paid version, I don’t use it) and easy. Upload your photo, add some text in different colours or fonts. Design it to make it pretty and download it to your computer so you can upload it to your blog. It’s that easy.
PrettyLinks is a plug-in that will make your life a whole lot easier if you use repeated links throughout your website (especially for affiliates). The plug-in allows you to create your own link of the item/product to use repeatedly across your website. So, if/when you need to change that link, you just have to change it once and will fix all links automatically. So much better than backtracking through all of your content to change them manually! There is a paid version, but I’ve been fine using the free one so far.