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How to Use Tools to Save Time and Make Your Blog Stronger
Today’s episode is about the top tools and resources we use on the ProBlogger and Digital Photography School blogs. I share what they are, where you can find them, and how we use them behind the scenes to keep my blogs running smoothly, so you can use them to simplify your blogging life too.
In This Episode
- Why we use apps and tools to help us run the ProBlogger and Digital Photography School blogs
- More than 10 tools that I’ve found useful for my blogs that you can use too
- Links to all the resources and tools I mention
Further Reading and Resources for How to Use Tools to Save Your Time and Make Your Blog Stronger
- Recommended Blogging Resources & Tools page on the ProBlogger website
- The previous podcast episode I mention that includes detail on how we use SumoMe – Episode 68: How to Increase the Subscriber Numbers to Your Email List
Apps and tools that I use (please note, I am an affiliate for some of these)
- Edgar – As promised, here’s a video of how I use it:
(Or if watching videos isn’t your thing, here’s a blog post I wrote on how I use Edgar.)
Editorial and Social
- Google Analytics
- Canva and Pic Monkey
- Fantastical – great calendar app for Mac and iOS
- Mars Edit – desktop blog editor
- Easy Digital Downloads
Episodes in my recent miniseries on the important things bloggers/online entrepreneurs should do to find success:
- Part 1 – The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Do as an Entrepreneur – Podcast Episode 88
- Part 2 – The Second Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Do as an Entrepreneur – Podcast Episode 89
- Part 3 – 4 Questions to Ask Before Quitting Your Blog or Online Project
Darren: Hi there and welcome to episode 91 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and today, I want to talk about the tools and resources that we use and recommend over on ProBlogger. I get asked this question all the time, “What tool should I use for _____?” Fill in the blank and it’s always different. What tool shall I use for SEO? What should I use for my hosting? What blogging platform should I be on? But then also questions around what email provider should I be using? What communications tools do you use? How do you organize yourself?
Today, I want to whip through around 10 to 15 tools that we use on ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. There are many options out there and I will give you a few different options for some of these different categories. You can find today’s show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/91 where I’ll link to all of the tools mentioned in this episode, and where I would love to hear the tools that you use as well in the comments of those show notes.
Creating great content, finding an audience, building engagement, monetizing your blog, this is ProBlogger.
Today, we’re talking about tools and resources that you can use to improve your blog. As I mentioned before, there are hundreds of blogging tools out there. There’s probably thousands of things, if you add in all the plugins that have been built. I’m not going to so much touch on plugins today, although some of the tools that I will mention do have plugins connected to them for WordPress. I’m going to cover all the categories of tools and resources that I could because that would go on for hours. I will link in today’s show notes to the resources and tools page that we do have on ProBlogger, where we do list a whole heap of other tools and recommend hosts for your blog, where to get your domain, and some of those types of things.
Also, we talk about WordPress versus bloggers and some of those types of questions. Today, I want to talk a little bit about the tools we use around email, tools that we use around landing pages, tools that we use for our internal team communications, some tools for organization, social media, editorial calendars, and then just a few other random ones. I haven’t actually counted them all, but I think I’ve got about 15 tools that I want to mention.
I’m not going to go into a heap of depth on each one because in future podcasts and in previous podcasts, I will, I guess, review some of these tools in more depth. I want to whip through them just to give you a bit of an overview of what we are using as we head into 2016.
The first category that I really want to briefly touch on is email. Anyone who’s been listening to this podcast for a while and reading ProBlogger for a while knows that email is an essential part of my blogging. On both of my blogs, ProBlogger and Digital Photography School, we send out a weekly newsletter. That newsletter drives a whole heap of traffic, but we also use that email list to drive sales of our products, particularly on Digital Photography School, whenever we launch an ebook, or a course, or some software, or do an affiliate program promotion. Email drives 90% of the sales.
It’s really important to think carefully about how you collect those email addresses and some of the tools I want to mention after that, but also how you deliver the emails. Let’s talk about collecting email addresses. There’s a couple of tools that I would recommend. One that I’ve talked about in a previous podcast–I’ll link to that in today’s show notes–is SumoMe.
SumoMe is a way of, I guess, delivering opt in forms on your blog. It may be that you use them in your sidebar or underneath your posts, but in the previous episode, I talked a little bit about how we use the welcome mat tool from SumoMe. If you go to ProBlogger and you haven’t been there before, you’ll see a big drop down invitation to subscribe to our newsletter there.
That’s operated through SumoMe’s welcome mat. That has significantly increased the sign ups to our newsletter on both of my sites. I’ve previously been using a popup, and I know popups, some people don’t like them, pop ups do work very well, SumoMe does have a popup option as well. The welcome mat well and truly outperformed any popup that we’ve ever tested before. They have a whole heap of other types of opt in forms as well. Hello bars which are right at the top of your site, opt-ins via sidebar, so you don’t have to use as aggressive ones, but SumoMe is a great option.
The other one that we have used in the past is OptinMonster, which gives you a similar array of tools that you can use. I’ve actually found the SumoMe ones sort of suit the way that our site operates a little bit better and has been very effective for us. But either way, check them both out, again links in today’s show notes.
You’re listening to ProBlogger.
That’s how you collect your emails. The other tool that we have been just starting to use is a landing page tool called Leadpages, many of you will be familiar with it. On Leadpages, you can create those I guess landing pages to get people to sign up for your email address, to give you their email address, but there’s a whole heap of other types of landing pages that you can also develop using Leadpages. For example, if you’re running webinars, you can do lead page, a landing page for that webinar. If you’re wanting to give away a free ebook in exchange for an email address, you can do that with Leadpages.
Again, I’ll link to Leadpages and we will do a future podcast on it to go into it in a lot more depth. It’s actually something that we’re going to be using on ProBlogger in the coming months to give away an opt in, which I’m really excited about. We’ve got something pretty special for anyone who subscribed to our newsletter and new subscribers, and we’re going to deliver that through Leadpages. Once we do that, I’ll be able to talk a little bit more about how we’ve used it in that way. We’ve got an exciting little partnership with Leadpages hopefully coming up as well.
Email is really important in the way you collect those email addresses, but then you’ve got to also send the emails and there’s a whole heap of different ways of sending emails. One thing I would highly recommend you don’t do is send it from your Gmail account to anyone who subscribes. That’s just going to not be delivered well. It’s going to get you in trouble with Gmail. You really do need to have an email service provider. Now, there are a variety of them that we have used on ProBlogger and Digital Photography School over the years, and I know many of our readers, in fact we just surveyed our readers recently and there’s a whole heap of different providers that you use.
The first one, the first paid service that I started to use was AWeber. Up until probably a year or two ago, that’s what I solely used, but we started to experiment with a few other different providers as well. We’ve used MailChimp. Particularly on Digital Photography School, we do a big end of year campaign with our readers and MailChimp has been really great on that front. There’s a new one that we’ve started to experiment with over the last few weeks and months called ConvertKit, and the jury’s still out with that, I’ll be up front, but so far we are really liking it. It has been built with bloggers in mind.
I think on their sales page, they actually say that it’s an email provider built with professional bloggers in mind, that’s their kind of catch cry. You can see that as you use it. This will be something that we will talk about in future podcasts, but what I really like about it is the workflow for creating automation within your email sequences and the ability to really simply tag people who subscribe to you.
If someone buys an ebook, to be able to tag them very easily and intuitively, automatically, so that you don’t send them further sales emails about that product. That’s something that we’ve kind of struggled a little bit with. You can do it on Aweber or MailChimp but it’s really not as simple a process as we are seeing over on ConvertKit. Again, the jury’s still out on ConvertKit, but I’ll update you on how we found it in the coming months, so you might want to check that one out as well.
Okay, so email, it really is important. I would encourage you to consider a paid option there. Really, you want high deliverability and you want a system that is not doing dubious things. I certainly got into trouble many years ago now, the first email provider that I used was doing really good stuff. And then they sold it, and it went into the hands of people who weren’t using it very well. As a result, my deliverability went down and impacted my own brand as well, because a lot of emails were ending up in spam filters and that type of thing.
Do invest in a good email provider. It’s not free, but it’s one of those things that does pay for itself if you use your email well. There’s a whole heap of resources on ProBlogger about how to do just that.
Let’s move away from email now and talk a little bit about some of the other areas that I particularly get asked about. One of the questions I get asked all the time is how do you communicate with your team? Many of you already have heard me talk about our team. I think there’s five or six of us now working part time, I’m full time and most of the rest of the team are part time, but they work remotely. Most of them are in Melbourne where I live, but we have one in Toronto, and we have team members in Mexico, so we do have some remote. One at the moment is in Nepal.
We do need to communicate online, and traditionally we’ve always used Skype for that. That’s been a big part of my business since as far back as I can remember, particularly for chat and for our calls. We still do use it for our calls, but over the last year, we’ve transitioned all out chat instant messaging to Slack as have probably most people in the world. I suspect Skype’s really suffered in terms of the chat features and Slack has really taken over.
We love Slack. We have two different, I guess, accounts, one for Digital Photography School, one for ProBlogger team and we use it for direct messaging, one on one, but also group chats. We have little channels, I’m just opening it up here. On the ProBlogger account, we have a channel for our events speakers, so anyone in our team who’s involved in working out who should be speaking at our event is a part of that. We have a chat for the podcasts, so anyone who’s part of the podcast can see that one. We’ve got a chat going for editorial for ProBlogger. There’s the opportunity there for anyone in the team who’s got anything to do with editorial to have a chat there.
That way, if we are looking for a previous conversation, we’re able to really narrow it down by just being able to go into that particular chat. Now obviously, that is going to be useful for you if you do have a team.
Another tool that we use which you could get a lot of value out even if you are a solo entrepreneur, but we use it for our communications, but also for I guess planning and organization, it is Trello. Trello is one of those things that’s kind of hard to describe it to you, but it’s kind of almost like the way someone described it to me when I first saw it. It’s kind of like cards. You have cards where you’re able to write things and move them around. You can setup folders for different cards.
It’s kind of like in the old days where you have those little cards with lines on them. I used to use them when I was delivering speeches. A lot of people use them for organization. Check out Trello. I think it’s really useful if you do have a team to help organize projects.
Another thing that I love about it is it’s great for brainstorming and mind mapping as well. You might want to check that out. I may do a future podcast on Trello because I think there is a number of different ways that you could use it as a blogger. That’s where a lot of our communications happen. Since moving to Slack and Trello, our email between our team has really decreased a lot as have our communications on all the other messaging. In the past, we used to have some messaging going on on Facebook, and some going on on Skype, and some via email. Now having them all in one place via Slack and a little bit on Trello has been fantastic.
The app that I use for my own personal organization is Evernote. I’m not going to talk in great depth about that because I have mentioned that numerous times in the past. The app that I use for my social media scheduling. Again, I’ve talked about this in a previous podcast is Meet Edgar, and there’s quite a detailed video that I’ve created about how I use Edgar that I’ll link to in the show notes as well. It’s just a great tool for not so much scheduling future posts on Twitter or Facebook, although you can do that. It’s more for those tweets that you want to happen periodically.
You can build a schedule of those evergreen tweets that you just want to appear maybe once a month or once every couple of months. It really is like a personal assistant who manages your social media for you, but it’s all automated. A very powerful tool and I know since doing that video and talking about it in a previous podcast, many of the listeners of this podcast have moved to Edgar, and I get all kinds of thank you emails from people who have enjoyed it. We’ll link to that.
Another tool that my team is constantly thanking me for moving to in the last year is CoSchedule. We’ve moved ProBlogger over on to CoSchedule and it’s a really powerful tool for a number of things., but the thing that I think my team loved the best with CoSchedule is its editorial calendar features. I guess we do some of their internal communications on CoSchedule as well and particularly around anything to do with editorial. It’s really helped us to map out and get smart about upcoming posts, who’s doing what within those posts.
Also, I know Stacy loves being able to schedule her social media from within CoSchedule. To be able to publish a post and then to say, “I want this to be tweeted on these days at this time, and to go up on Facebook these days and this time, and to go on LinkedIn these days and this time.” To be able to sneeze that out onto all the different social media accounts in a smart spread out way that’s not going to be too intrusive for our followers, but it’s going to be seen over time, is something that we love. We have noticed all social engagement around our new posts going up just through using CoSchedule. Check that one out, and again, that’s something that we will do a future podcast on as well.
How to build and monetize your blog, this is ProBlogger.
Just a few other what I would say essential tools for us in our team, Google Analytics. I know most bloggers are already on it, but I do come across bloggers from time-to-time who aren’t measuring their stats or don’t know which tool to use. You just got to get on to Google Analytics, it’s almost an industry standard. It’s free, it’s very powerful. it can be a bit overwhelming, but even just a glance at the status they give you on their dashboard are going to help you to have an understanding about what’s happening on your blog.
Another tool that we are in the process of switching to at the moment is FeedBlitz. This is something that’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now. Traditionally, we’ve been using FeedBurner to manage our RSS feeds. Google really haven’t been looking after FeedBurner and there’s rumors constantly circulating that they may in fact kill it off at some point, but we’re in the process of moving our RSS feeds on ProBlogger over to FeedBlitz and we’ll do the same for Digital Photography School once we’ve made that transition for ProBlogger.
A couple of tools that we use for graphic design that many ProBlogger readers already use are Canva and PicMonkey, just great for creating visual content. I also use a little app on my phone called Word Swag for Instagram particularly. Those of you who’ve been following my new Instagram account @influencetalks will have seen a lot of the graphics that I create pretty much purely on Word Swag.
A couple last tools, Fantastical is a great calendar app that I use on my Mac. I have two Macs actually. I have a laptop MacBook Pro and then an iMac desktop. I use it on those, but it also is on my iPhone and even my Apple Watch. It’s just a tool that I find just a little bit clearer. I like the layouts a little bit more than the calendar app that comes with Macs.
The last tool that I have been quite a long term user of is MarsEdit. MarsEdit, I guess you’d call it a desktop blog editor for Macs. It’s again just a Mac tool but allows me to write my blog posts without being in the back end of WordPress. It’s just a little app that sits there. I don’t know, I just find it really useful for writing there, save my drafts without actually having to upload them to WordPress, and then I just upload them when they’re ready to go live. Stacy then takes over and makes sure there’s no spelling mistakes and that type of thing. Then, she schedules it through CoSchedule. MarsEdit is the last one that we are using. I
‘ve been using it on ProBlogger for a year or so now and we’re kind of in the process of starting to move Digital Photography School over. It’s our shopping cart and that is Easy Digital Downloads. Some of you will be familiar with that. We previously used E-junkie which is cheap and really doesn’t have the features that we need with the amount of products that we have over on Digital Photography School. We have over 30 ebooks now and a number of courses. E-junkie really for up-selling and managing who’s bought what and all that type of thing. It isn’t really doing it for us on E-junkie, but Easy Digital Downloads is better on that front. There’s a whole heap of plugins that make it even more powerful as well. That may be something that we can talk a little bit more about in future episodes because I know those of you who are selling products are constantly asking about shopping carts.
As I said before, there’s a resources page on ProBlogger which I’ll link to. I will link in today’s show notes to all of those tools and products. Some of them are free, some of them are paid, some of them I’m an affiliate for. I want to disclose that right up front, but all of them I use, and are in the process of using, and almost all of the paid ones, I pay for myself.
In fact, I can’t think of any that I get for free. I’m not doing a cash for comment there, but I do make money if you purchase some of those things. I want to be up front about that. That’s how we keep ProBlogger operating for free, I hope that’s okay with you.
Creating great content and building your audience, this is ProBlogger.
Hopefully you found some good tools there. I would love to hear what you’re using. I’m always on the lookout for what other bloggers are using to operate their blogs. There’s constantly new tools being released. I get emailed about a new tool every day. It’s hard for me to keep up with them all, but one of the things that I’ve wanted to do is just listen to what other people are using and when I hear the same tool being used by multiple people, that’s when my eyes light up, my ears prick up a little bit.
Just do let us know if you see a new cool tool that you think other bloggers might benefit from. You can do that over on the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/91. I can’t wait to hear what you use and I hope you’ll give us some feedback on the tools that I’ve mentioned as well. Chat with you in episode 92.
You’ve been listening to ProBlogger. If you’d like to comment on any of today’s topics or subscribe to the series, find us at problogger.com/podcast, tweet us @ProBlogger, find us at facebook.com/ProBlogger or search ProBlogger on iTunes.
How did you go with today’s episode?
Do you have tools you use on your blog that have saved you time and made your blog stronger? I would love to hear what tools you have found useful in the comments below.
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