In theory, blogging doesn’t sound that hard. You start up a site, pick a layout, write some content, and hit the post button. For casual bloggers, that’s all it takes—you’ve got a site up and running in no time at all.
Actually getting and maintaining traffic is another matter entirely. You have to understand how to bring in traffic, where it’s coming from, how to appear in the search engines, and how to make sure your site’s appearance, functionality, and content is the very best it can be. That’s where it starts getting complicated.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great tools out there available to bloggers. Some are free, and some are not. Either way, if they’re on our list of the 6 blogging tools all bloggers need to use, they’re worth the investment.
If you’re serious about blogging—especially if you want your blog to gain a lot of traffic, help your business, or make you money—these are all tools you need to have and know how to use.
1. Google Analytics
I know, I know. How many times now, in how many posts, have I talked about Google Analytics? A lot. But it’s for good reason.
No matter what platform you’re on, Google Analytics is one of the—if not the very most—important tool that you could be using.
Google Analytics tells you exactly how your site is performing. It tells you how much traffic you’re getting, where it’s coming from, how long users are staying, and what pages they visit.
You can use this information to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t, and then to come up with a plan to increase traffic, pages visited, and the amount of time spent on your site.
Best news! It’s free and easy to set up on your site. And so, so valuable.
There’s a lot of great blogging sites out there, but WordPress takes the cake. Like Google Analytics, it makes your job easier, more effective, and it’s free to get started on (though there are paid options with WordPress).
WordPress is a Content Management System (essentially this just means how you publish your blog posts), and it’s got great support, is easy to customize, and easy to navigate. It’s also extremely easy to optimize, which for a busy site (which yours may not be at first, but may become) is extremely important.
As far as CMS platforms go, WordPress also comes with what seems like an endless number of plugins available to help you achieve your blogging goals. We talk about one a little further down.
It’s frustrating to go to a site that always seems to be down, especially when you’re trying to get business taken care of. You don’t want that site to be your site, particularly if you’re trying to run a business from it (or it is your business).
Pingdom lets you know if your site is down, and for how long. This way you don’t lose customers without even knowing there was a problem. More than that, you’ll be able to see if there is a recurring problem either with your site, or perhaps with the host of your site. No matter where the problem is coming from, Pingdom will help let you know if you have one, before you start losing customers and visitors for good because of it.
Pingdom can detect even relatively minor server flakiness and shakiness, and it’s because of that we recommend it above all the other server monitoring tools.
4. WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast
WordPress SEO is an amazing plugin that we’ve been using for months—and a lot of the other big name sites and blogs are using it, too. This plugin breaks down each page individually, letting you know the strong and weak points that contribute or take away from the page’s SEO influence.
SEO is crucial to getting your site ranking on search engines—if you don’t rank, users can’t click because they can’t find you. SEO is crucial to expansion (even if not right away). SEO can also be incredible complicated, and using this plugin will help you to monitor what you’re doing right and wrong. Overtime, this will make a huge difference when it comes to helping you show up in search engines. And we all know that’s a really big deal.
MailChimp is one of the most frequently used e-mail applications, and for good reason. Not only is it affordable, it’s easy to alter customizable sign-up sheets and templates, and just as easy to embed them on your websites or Facebook Page.
MailChimp has great features like pre-made and easy-to-customize templates, subscriber profiles, automation, and some great analytics. All of these features are unbelievably useful.
Having an e-mail subscription sign up is so important to long-term success. It helps you remind users that you’re there. Whether you use this information just to let them know about new posts, or to push them along in the buying cycle, getting their contact information and using it will help expand your blog and your business.
Added bonus: MailChimp’s low cost and easy-to-use interface, like WordPress, makes it ideal for both beginners and professionals alike.
6. Free Stock Photos
Sites with free stock photos. While many bloggers are able to take their own stunning, beautiful, artful pictures, many—definitely including myself—are not able to do so. For those of us who don’t excel in photography, photo editing, and/or graphic design, we have two choices: we can either have a mediocre-looking blog that screams amateur hour (even if the rest of it is really great) or we can use stock photos.
The problem with stock photos: they’re often really, really expensive. If you google “free stock photos,” the first ten sites that come up are not actually free. Fortunately, there are great sites out there with beautiful high resolution, high quality stock photos—all for free.
To see more about our recommendations for free stock photos, you can see our entire blog post on the subject here.
What blogging tools do you use to help your blog find success? Do you use something not on our list? Leave a comment and let us know!