5 tools to help you blog better

365.14 (Blogging)Creative Commons License photo credit: kpwerker

I won’t lie, I’m taking part in Darren Rowse’s “31 days to a build better blog” challenge, and today’s task is to write a “list” post. If you’re encountering a load of lists on the net today, that might be the reason. So whilst the format of this post is perhaps a little forced, the information contained within is, I think, genuinely useful.

I got to thinking about some of the tools that help me write my blog, monitor it, and promote it… these are the ones that came instantly to mind.

  1. Akismet
    Top of the list is Akismet, a built-in WordPress plugin that checks all comments and incoming links to make sure they’re not spam. Prior to installing this I was deleting twenty or thirty spam comments a day. OK, so that’s not much, but I’m glad I installed it when I did because before long the levels had jumped to around a hundred a day. Whilst I still have to scan the spam comments list for false positives (comments marked as spam that aren’t), I’m much more confident that spam comments won’t go live on the site and the spammers won’t profit from them :) If you have a wordpress blog, stop spam and use Akismet.
  2. Google Analytics
    It doesn’t do live statistics, but Google Analytics gives you so much information I don’t think I could do without it. If you want to know your daily visits and pageviews, where your visitors came from, where they went to, and how long they spent on the site, then this is a great (and free) tool. You can even check what kind of browers they were using and what kind of connection they were on.The only part of Google Analytics I haven’t put to good use is the Goals section, where you can define metrics for “fulfilling business objectives”. Basically, it’s something like a payment page, or a download page, so you can measure how many times people hit the page you really want them to. Whilst this isn’t too much use for me, the rest of the Analytics package means this is my statistic software of choice.
  3. Feedburner
    Prior to signing up with Feedburner I sort of took it on faith that people were actually subscribing to Geek-Speak. I could see that there was traffic, but I had no idea how many people were interested enough to actually add the RSS feed to their reader. Feedburner gave me the ability to see how many people have subscribed, and how many click on an article in their feed reader. I also like the ability to sign people up for e-mail digests, and to add the option for them to share articles via Digg, StumbleUpon, or to mail articles to their friends.I’m aware that Feedburner has had a bit of bad press lately for being unreliable, but I haven’t noticed any issues myself. Because of the stats and other options, every blog I set up makes use of Feedburner feeds.
  4. Social Media
    I was going to list Twitter and Stumbleupon separately, but you can only say so much about each. Suffice to say that by building genuine relationships with people through various social media sites, including Digg and Facebook too, you earn (if that’s the right word) the ability to make recommendations for articles they may be interested in. Spamming won’t cut it, but by genuinely being interesting and interested in others you can do wonders for your blog. Of course, don’t just recommend your own articles… show that you know a bit about your niche and recommend good articles by other authors… and then when you do recommend something of your own people are far more likely to listen.Let’s not forget that you can also use social networks for research. Ask questions, telling people you’re putting together an article and want opinions, and you might be surprised at some of the material you gain by it.
  5. Pen & Paper
    Believe it or not, this is probably my most useful tool for blogging… a simple notebook and pen. I can blog on the go using my iPhone, and I can write notes on any internet-enabled computer, but for quickly jotting notes down I don’t think you can beat pen and paper. There’s a freedom to being able to draw diagrams, write, cross out, etc. that just doesn’t seem to come with electronic media. Despite being a gadget freak, and loving hi-tech solutions, I wouldn’t be without ye olde fashioned writing utensils :)

How about you? Are there any tools or tips that make your blogging better? Share ‘em in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Hi.. great tips there. I used no. 2, 3 and 4 and it really helps me a lot in blogging. I think blogging is about connecting people, like social networking too.

  2. Hi Chris
    Found you through 31DBBB and Twitter. Good post this – and I totally agree about pen and paper. I have a memory like a sieve and always have a Moleskine notebook around to jot ideas down.
    Please drop by my blog and leave a comment with a link to this post – my readers will enjoy it and may sign up with your feed. For your readers – you may enjoy my post Eight Habits of a Successful Blogger http://www.mikeslife.org/content/eight-habits-successful-blogger

  3. Could agree more about Akismet, Chris. Saves hours.

    I’d add to your list Flickr Creative Commons photos. They really spice up posts. http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons

  4. @Vince Ong – thanks Vince. I think you’re right, blogging is nothing without those connections between people.

    @Mike CJ – thanks for dropping by. Moleskine is my notebook of choice too… can’t really explain why, there’s just something “nice” about them!

    @Samantha Hartley – absolutely! I can’t believe I forgot about Flickr. I even used a Flickr image in the post and it still didn’t click, so thanks for the reminder :) There’s a great WordPress plugin called Photodropper (http://www.photodropper.com/) that helps with finding Creative Commons images, if you happen to be using WordPress.

  5. I use all of these on my blog. It is a very useful list of products that DO WORK. Thank you for posting it, I am sure it will help a lot of people. I found your blog on ProBlogger and shall frequently check it, some very useful information here.

  6. Thank you Shane, not entirely sure how I missed your comment until now, so apologies for not replying earlier.

    I tried to visit your site too, but it seems to be down for me. I’ll try again later :)