Blog Tools – What’s in a Blogger’s Toolbox?
The trend around software, including blog tools, certainly is moving toward the Web platform. Nowadays you can run word processing, spreadsheet and even image editing software without installing those software on your computer.
Whatever you want to do right now, there is more than one way to do it. More and more, bloggers need to pick blog tools that help them accomplish things better and faster.
While testing such tools certainly is fun, it can hurt your productivity because almost every day a few very attractive web apps and software seem to be released. And if you have a business to run, who has the time for all of those — except, of course, your blog is about software review.
For that reason, I think a list of blog tools can help. For new bloggers, you may find something that will help you in pursuing your blogging. And remember, if you already have run similar tools, it isn’t necessary to switch over.
What you are familiar with is best because whatever they are, the ultimate goal is to get your stuff done. So, are you ready?
News aggregator or reader is one of the indispensable tools for bloggers. With so many things to track and keep on top of on a regular basis, it is just impossible to visit every web site or blog manually just to see if there’s something new.
If you haven’t learned how to use RSS reader effectively, spend some time to do so. It will boost your productivity and save you perhaps one or two hours per day.
This is the news aggregator that I personally use. It allows me to view all the RSS item headlines on a page, which saves me time when scanning for news that I’m interested about.
With Greasemonkey script like Google Reader Preview, I can even open the blog or site and leave comment within Google Reader.
FeedDemon used to be the my favorite news reader but now I prefer an online reader. Desktop RSS news readers, I think, are suitable for bloggers with slower Internet connection because you can ask it to go out and fetch updates for the feeds and then browse them offline.
Before Google Reader, Bloglines is the most popular web-based news reader. Some bloggers still swear for it though and they still have significant users. Most people either like Google Reader or Bloglines and are not considering to switch.
I personally prefer to use the default blog editing tool that comes with the blog software. Whether it is WordPress or Movable Type and others, they now include a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. Well, not exactly but at least they allow you to format your content without knowing HTML.
Moreover, you may want to check this, your blog software may already support auto save and revision history, which can be helpful if you spend a lot of time on writing the draft of your post.
Despite those features, many bloggers prefer desktop software so they are able to work offline. Over the years, many blog editors were introduced to the market but only a handful of them are still maintained.
The rest of them are abandonware, either because the developers decided to discontinue it, the lack of monetization model to support the software, or simply because there were not enough users.
Here is a list the top 3 blog editors that you should consider if you want a desktop blog editing tool:
Ecto is by far the most popular blog editor for Mac. The software costs $17.95 but free trial is available for 21 days. Ecto isn’t just for editing text in the post, but it also helps if you want to convert and scale images, among other things.
Windows Live Writer
Forget the paid alternative blog editors for Windows. Microsoft has made available blog editor software named Windows Live Writer, which supports uploading pictures to Flickr, automatically send tweets and shorten URL for Twitter, etc.
ScribeFire is an add-on / extension for Mozilla Firefox. For bloggers who spend most of their time in the browser, this is something that can be quite handy to install.
News Search / Trend Spotting
Technorati is a popular blog search engine. If nothing else, you should at least grab an RSS feed of your ego search so you know if someone refers to your blog or mention your brand.
The thing I like about BlogPulse, besides blog search, is the feature to create a chart from the keywords you like to track. It will show you comparison of the trends from month to month.
Digg is a social news site for users to discover hot news, submit stories and vote on them. This is useful for spotting trends and also find ideas.
Digg is also a blog promotion tool. If you’ve successfully got your blog post in the front page of Digg, you may get tens of thousands of visitors in a short period of time.
CoComment is a service that helps you keep track of your comments across blogs and also discover interesting conversations.
Not to be confused with above, co.mments is another service that helps you track conversations. Unlike CoComment, it doesn’t require an add-on to your browser so it works across all browsers.
Polling / Surveying
Polling, and survey, are Thimportant for blogs. They allow you to gain insights into your readers and know what they want. Of course, with this kind of wisdom you will be able to create more compelling content or create a product that specifically cater to their problems.
Polling and surveying software enable you to perform a simple research of your audience. And here are just some popular services and plugins to help you do it.
PollDaddy and WordPress are two projects and services owned by Automattic. An integration of the service into WordPress is available via a plugin. With PollDaddy, you can setup polls with unlimited total votes per month and surveys with a maximum of 100 respondents per month.
Free service includes a link to PollDaddy though. Take a look at the pricing plan here.
SurveyGizmo also has a free version that allows you to create unlimited surveys for up to 250 respondents. A WordPress plugin allows you to quickly edit, preview and grab your survey publishing links.
Compare both PollDaddy and SurveyGizmo before you sign up with one. Here’s link to SurveyGizmo’s plan and pricing.
If you simply want a poll, a free plugin is available. WP-Polls is customizable via template and CSS styles too, so you can match it to your blog or web site design.
Tracking, Metrics, and Stats Packages
Web stats package is an important part of a blog. Not only you need to know the number of your visitors, but also where you get most of your traffic from, which keywords they type into search engines to find your blog, and if you set it up, how well you are doing in converting visitors into RSS subscribers and even how many clicks that turn into sales coming from those readers.
The potential is huge and unlimited. Even if you don’t start using any of the data, it is recommended that you set tracking up first so you may have more complete data at later date.
FeedBurner provides you many useful data for your RSS feed, such as subscriptions and clicks. It also includes features to make your RSS feed more interactive by adding social media links and information.
Tips: If you want to track clicks coming from your RSS content, you may use Google Analytics. I’ve created a plugin that makes the process easier for you. The BBU’s RSS Feed Campaign Tagger is available on the WordPress plugins page.
Google Analytics is urchin-based analytics package. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ignore that sentence. For now, suffice to know that it is a commercial-based — and enterprise-grade — web analytics available for free.
Sitemeter is very popular among bloggers. It gives you details about referrals, entry pages, exit pages, and even geographic area of your blog visitors. Sitemeter is free to use but upgrade to premium is recommended for more added features.
The most unique thing about Woopra is live tracking. Woopra lets you track over 40 different statistical events and analytics. It includes a desktop software counterpart so you can watch your stats live on your desktop.
Images for Your Blog
Everyone can afford to make his/her blog more interesting by adding images because everystockphoto is free. You can search images with different licensing options including Creative Commons and public domain.
iStockPhoto features high quality photos from photographers around the world. For web use, you can get each photo for as low as $1 a pop.
Delicious lets you save your web pages and bookmark them. With tagging, you will be able to find your bookmarks easily and wherever you are. Delicious is also a place to search what other people’s bookmarks.
A lot of things may happen within 140 characters. Twitter is about concise and to-the-point communication. And I’ve met great people every day there.
Really a great networking opportunity for bloggers, in whichever niche you are.
Well, pick your favorite social networking site. Facebook goes beyond just a place to find old and new friends. You will be able to interact with many different ways including joining groups, creating events, etc.
Miscellaneous Blog Tools
Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”
Picasa is free software for organizing, editing, and sharing photos and images. Also worth noting its auto-sync feature with Picasa Web Albums.
There are a lot of players in the image hosting industry, but flickr without a doubt is the most favorite one. This is where my WordPress Design Inspiration project is hosted and soon I’ll be upgrading to Pro.
If you want to take your blog a step further and include videos, YouTube is by far the most popular site to post your video. You can embed those videos on your blog very easily, either by copy and paste or using a plugin.
Copyscape allows you to search copies of your page on the web. This is a great tool to track down other web sites that are stealing your content illegally.
Payment processor is outside the scope of this post but PayPal offers a convenient way to send and receive money online. This is a nice and quick option if you choose to accept donation on your blog.
You can create a still or animated favicons from regular images with FavIcon from Pics. For those who wonder what’s a favicon, it is a small icon that is displayed besides the browser tab if you use Firefox or Chrome.
The list above is just a small percentage of sites and tools bloggers use on a regular basis. Being technical savvy is not required, but if you can work and learn new services quickly, that is an advantage by itself.
This article doesn’t cover about blog hosting or platform because I’ve covered them in other articles.
Return to Blog Software — Packages and Services to Get You Started.
Return to Blog Tips for a Better Blog — Blog Building University.