My Favourite Tools for Blogging - Awesome Programs, hosting, apps and software to help grow your blog
I'm coming up to my 6th year of blogging (what?!) and so I can safely say I know a thing or two about tools that help you blog better. Most of what you need to know about growing your blogs can be found on Pinterest, right? This is all very well, but whenever I head to Pinterest to search for blogging resources I get sucked into images of beautiful quotes, cute puppies and ways to save space in my home (tell me I'm not the only one?).
So I thought I'd create this post for you. And to make your life even easier, I've created a PDF cheat sheet of all the tools mentioned in this post. You can get your hands on the cheat sheet in the CGScreative resource library, which is filled with stock photos and loads of other blog & biz resources) Clicking below will give you instant access to loads of resources to help you in your blogging journey.
P.S. Some affiliate links have been used in this post (indicated by a *). What this means is if you sign up through my link I earn a small percentage of the sign up fee. These affiliate links help keep this blog running and cost you nothing :) You don't pay more or lose anything by signing up through these links. Thank you for your support.
This site (CityGirlSearching) is built on the SquareSpace platform. I started blogging back in 2010 on Blogger, and have since then dabbled in Wix & Wordpress too. Hands down, Squarespace is the best platform I've used. It's the most user friendly and is gorgeous 'straight out of the box'.
I was so tired of fiddling with plugins and all those other extras with Wordpress, and I was so frustrated with trying to keep up with plugin updates. With Squarespace there re no plugins. It works beautifully with a whole bunch of other programs & software (Mailchimp being one of them!) and the ones it doesn't naturally integrate with can be connected with a just a few tweaks.
All Squarespace plans include fully-managed cloud hosting, and domain names (if available) so you don't have to use another service like GoDaddy to buy your domain name. If you already own a domain name, you can connect it to Squarespace easily.
There are so many reviews of the differences between all the blogging platforms, but simply put, I've tried most of them and find Squarespace to be the easiest to use. P.S. I'm not getting paid to say that, that is my honest view of the platform :)
Design & Photography
Being a professional photographer means I have it easy when it comes to creating images for my blog. When I first started blogging I used a basic point and shoot camera and then used Photoshop & Photoshop Actions, as well as PicMonkey to edit my photographs.
Now I use a Nikon D750 (+ my favourite 50mm 1.4 lens) and edit my images in Lightroom. I didn't always own such a fancy camera, and started with a simple point and shoot camera. You really don't need ALL the fancy things to have a beautiful blog.
I use Photoshop everyday to design all the graphics on my blog. I would love to start learning Illustrator too, but I've become rather set in my ways with PS and know my way around it after using it for 4 years. But this is on my list of things I want to learn for 2016 (if you know of any great resources for learning more about Illustrator please drop me a comment below! I need all the help I can get!).
I first bought Adobe CS5 with their student discount, (did you know that if you can prove you're a student/teacher/work for an educational institute you can get HUGE discounts off of their programs??). Photoshop, Lightroom and all the other Adobe programs are now only available as part of the Creative Cloud, which is a monthly membership service. Prices start at around $10 a month for Photoshop & Lightroom and go up to $50 per month for access to ALL the Adobe programs.
I've got lots of beautiful free stock photos in my resource library (see the image below)! Click here to join (for free!) to start taking your blog to the next level with beautiful visuals.
If you're looking for some handy tips on taking better photographs for your blog using your phone, then you'll enjoy this post:
When I first started collecting email addresses, I really had no idea what I was doing. Sending out newsletters what what everyone else was doing so I jumped on the bandwagon too. I sent out about 4 (pretty, but rather useless emails) mostly filled with previous blog posts and nothing much more of value. Since January this year,
Since January this year I have become very strategic with my email marketing, and now I understand why it's so important to build an email list of people interested in what you have to say (blog post to come soon!).
When I first began sending newsletters, I was using Mailchimp (which is free for your first 2000 subscribers) and I really like the platform. In the past few months I have needed something a bit more powerful, and recently switched over to *Convertkit.
If you'd like to read more about email marketing, and to find out whether Mailchimp or *Convertkit is for you, then click the link below:
Creating Collages & Re-sizing images for my blog
One of the BEST programs I have found for blogging (especially if you use a lot of photographs like I do) is Blogstomp. I use this awesome image re-sizer almost every day. Having large images on your blog slows down the speed of your site, and no one likes a website that takes forever to load. Thats why it's important to have your images the correct size for your blog. I resize my photographs to 800px wide which fits my blog width perfectly.
Yes, you can use a lot of free image re-size tools but Blogstomp works in batches. Simply upload your photos, select them and then hit 'stomp' and based on your saved settings it will resize each image in seconds! It's like magic!
You can also create collages, add borders, add your watermark and all sorts of other things. Here is a post you might on how I use blogstomp:
Blogging 2 to 3 times a week can be hard enough to manage (keep in mind that it's better to only publish 1 good quality blog post a week versus 4 roughly thrown together pieces of content that make your work look rushed and haphazard) and lately once a week is all I've been managing. Don't feel bad if you're in the same boat!
Time is always against us, and so I wanted to share some of the platforms I LOVE that have saved me so much time, allowing me to focus on the parts of blogging that I love.
This super cool platform is for Pinterest! It allows you to schedule your pins & it does something called 'looping' where it will re-pin pins on your chosen boards so they are shuffled around and can get more exposure. This increases your chances of getting your pins re-pinned! How cool is that! All you have to do is choose which of the boards you want it to go through, and then you choose how many times you want the pins shuffled and re-pinned, and then Bob's your uncle, it goes to work for you. *Boardbooster has a free plan and then you pay per number of pins you want 'looped' or scheduled. I used their free plan for a month and have since upgraded to 1000 a pins a month which costs me a mere $10.
Since I started using Boardbooster (I have been using it for 3 months) I have gained over 2000 new followers and had so many of my pins re-pinned. I can't recommend this tool enough!
I started using Buffer last year and Just LOVE this platform. They have a free & paid platform (I have been making do with the free version). Buffer allows you to schedule out your social media posts (Facebook, Twitter & Google+ on the free version and then Pinterest on the paid version).
If you've ever seen my tweet or post on Facebook and wondered how I managed to be 'everywhere at once' this is how! You choose a timezone to schedule out posts and then pop in your links & images and Buffer does the rest. I usually put one hour aside a week to schedule out posts for Twitter and it's saved me so much time! You can also see how many times people have clicked on your links/re-re-tweeted/commented and you can then 're-publish' those same posts. Buffer also shortens your links and image links saving you more space on Twitter. If you'd like to read more about Buffer, check out this post I wrote a little while ago:
Pin now for later:
Have you got your cheatsheet yet? Click the image below the join the CGScreative Resource Library & get your hands on checklists, cheatsheets, stock photos and lots, lots more!
What blogging tools do you use and love? Leave me a comment below, as I always love finding new tools to try.