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When I started my first blog, Dairy of an ExSloth, I knew absolutely nothing about blogging and it showed. Those first few months (years?) of blogging were very ad hoc and disorganized. But this time around, I’m determined to get it right from the start and my must-have free blogging tools are the key to making that happen.
Why finding the right blogging tools is essential
Sure, there are ways to get things done without the help of tools, but it usually takes a lot more time and effort. As bloggers and small business owners, there’s always something we could be doing to further our goals. We don’t have time to sit around trying to do every little thing ourselves. Which is where blogging tools come in.
Bonus points if they’re FREE blogging tools.
What free blogging tools should new bloggers use?
There are many tools, both free and paid, that you can use to make behind-the-scenes blogging work easier. And the specific tools you use will largely depend on what you want your blog to do for you. That being said, there is still a core set of free blogging tools that I think every blogger should have in their arsenal.
Tools for Organization
1. Editorial Calendar WordPress Plugin
An editorial calendar helps you manage your content sharing and is an integral part of any successful blog. There are quite a few paid tools that help you manage your content but I love the Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin. It helps me stay up-to date with my writing and recipe development and gives me a clear snapshot of what I have coming up in the next couple of weeks.
2. Google Docs Spreadsheet
I use a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of all the posts I’ve published and where I’ve shared them, as well as copy/text for social media sharing. I’m still working on fine-tuning how I store all the information in this document, but the aim is for it to help me carry out my content sharing strategy smoothly.
Full disclosure: After writing this post, I started playing around with using Trello instead of Google Docs. I’ll update this post if I decide to stick with it
Tools for Social Media
3. SumoMe (for social sharing)
A good social sharing plugin like SumoMe, is one of the most invaluable free blogging tools you’ll ever encounter. Creating epic content and enticing new readers to check it out is great. But if you don’t have social sharing buttons to encourage those readers to share your content, you’re missing out on a ton of exposure, engagement and future traffic.
Tip: SumoMe is so much more than a great social sharing plugin so I encourage you to explore its other features
4. Click to Tweet
Click to tweet is basically a social sharing plugin specifically for Twitter. Most readers need a little push when it comes to sharing content and this plugin does that incredibly well. It allows you to set up content for a tweet, complete with hashtags and mentions and display it in your post. Then all your reader has to do is click a button to auto-populate the tweet and hit send.
Hootsuite is the ultimate social media tool in my opinion. I use it to schedule all my posts on Twitter and Instagram and I have very little issues with it. The auto schedule feature is my best friend when it comes to Twitter since it makes scheduling updates a breeze. I also love that Hootsuite is available on both desktop and mobile, although I only ever use the mobile version for Instagram updates.
Tools for Analytics
6. Google Analytics
It took me a year of blogging to finally set up my Google Analytics account and I was so glad when I finally did it. GA allows you to dig much deeper into your analytics than other free analytics tools do. And if you’re serious about growing your blog and increasing traffic, that added functionality is a necessity. Plus, most brands and ad agencies accept only Google Analytics. So if you’re looking to monetize your blog, do yourself a favour and set it up from the get-go.
Tip: SumoMe and Yoast SEO (more on that below) both integrate with Google Analytics in your WordPress dashboard
Tools for SEO
8. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular free blogging tools when it comes to on-page Search Engine Optimization. I use it mainly to help me optimize my keyword usage on new blog posts, pages and a couple other places around my site. It’s fairly simple to use and is a great free tool to have whether or not you’re new to SEO.
Tip: There’s more to SEO than just optimizing your content. Check out this guest post I wrote on speeding up your blog for more free optimization tools.
Miscellaneous Free Blogging Tools
8. Backup WordPress (or other backup service)
For a long time, I didn’t pay any attention to backing up my files or database. It wasn’t until my site went down a couple months ago that I truly started to worry about losing my data. Luckily, nothing was lost, but I was still an eye opener. Since then, I’ve tried a couple different free tools for backing up my data and eventually settled on a plugin called Backup WordPress, which is a great tool for new bloggers. Setting it up is easy and it will even email your backups to you if they’re under a certain size.
Full disclosure: My host, SiteGround*, includes a backup service as part of my package so I no longer need to worry about that myself.
Askimet, the ultimate spam catching plugin IMO, is included when you instal WordPress. But you need setup an account and activate it before it can start doing its thing. Don’t be one of those bloggers (read: me when I first started blogging) who wastes precious time policing comments. Activate Askimet and let it handle your spam comments automatically.
Tip: Remember to clear your spam comments occasionally
What about you?
- What free blogging tools do you use?
- Are there any blogging tasks you’d like to automate but can’t find a tool for? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can find!