Are you struggling to get to grips with all the new technology that seems to be part of the blogging experience?
Heavens knows, there are enough options out there. So where do you start and how do you pick the good from the bad?
Here’s a round-up of the many free tools I use daily or weekly. Rest assured that all those useless tools I’ve tried and wasted my time on are not included.
These free blogging tools will actually help, not hinder you, as you start your blogging journey. They will help take you from blogging newbie to confident, efficient and well-seasoned blogger.
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Yes, there are other blogging platforms and some of them may be easier for new computer users and non-techies to use. But none of them is better than WordPress. While WordPress may be slightly harder to get started with because it offers more options, it’s well worth the time investment. WordPress is still easy to use, yet powerful enough that it can adapt to do anything you want with your blog in the future.
Like many other bloggers, I started with Blogspot and then changed to WordPress. Switching blogging platforms is a pain in the bum and will lose you readers so the quicker you change to WordPress the better.
If you haven’t started blogging yet then choose WordPress as your blogging platform from day one. You’ll thank me for it. If you already use WordPress then congratulations – you should be set for life.
I have many email addresses which all automatically send to my Gmail email account. That way I can check all my emails from anywhere, anytime – even if I’m not at my computer since Gmail is web-based. I use the archive to store emails that have been replied to, labels to sort mail so, such as all invoices are stored in one place and easily browsed, and stars to highlight important emails.
Best of all every single email is backed up free of charge and I’ll never need to change my email address when I change Internet Service Provider or move overseas.
3. Google Analytics
I use Google Analytics to see which of my blog posts are the most popular and check which websites send me the most readers. I also use it as a reliable source of reader demographics and site statistics which I share with advertisers and sponsors in my media kit.
MailChimp is an email management system that tracks your email subscribers. It’s currently a free blogging tool for lists with up to 2,000 subscribers which should be enough for new bloggers, then there’s a monthly charge after that. MailChimp has great statistics so you can check how many emails sent actually get opened.
You can capture anything including Web pages, images, text, and voice notes with Evernote which is available as an app for your cell phone or iPad as well as web-based. Your notes can then be accessed later from just about anywhere via a computer or mobile device. You can also use Evernote search through all of your notes so you can find the information you need fast.
6. My Hours
My Hours is an online time-tracking tool to help you work out where all those hours in the day disappear to and see which tasks take more time than they should. I’ve just started using it to track how my time is spent in a bid to increase productivity. It seems easy to use and useful too.
7. FlipBook Plugin for WordPress
Content repurposing, especially in the form of visual content, is a great way to keep your blog fresh and updated and it’s one of the best online strategies. Additionally, creating an eBook from the blog, especially creating a flip book, is one of the most effective and attention-grabbing techniques.
Here is a FlipBook WordPress Plugin that lets you create amazing interactive content that you can share polished and highly visual content.
There are no excuses for not backing up your work now. Dropbox offers free automatic storage of all your files for up to 2GB.
9. We Transfer
WeTransfer is handy free tool for sending big files like PowerPoint presentations or videos which can’t be emailed.
10. Open Office
Open Office offers free word processing, spreadsheet, and database management software so you don’t need to buy Microsoft Office.
Free phone calls all over the world, instant messaging, free video calls and free conference calls are all available once you download Skype. We live in an amazing world. Let’s take advantage of it.
12. Google Docs
Google docs are handy for sharing documents online, but best of all you can use them to create free online surveys with the results all shown in pretty pie charts like this one. (If you want to stay away from Google, check this out.)
13. Google Calendar
Google calendar is part of Gmail. The calendar sends me reminders of my appointments every morning and I can update it on my cell phone too when I’m out and about. I’ve also just given my hubby access to my calendar so he can see what I’m up to without having to ask me. Hmmm, there could be some drawbacks to that though.
Do you have a little image that displays when you leave a blog comment or are you stuck with the default grey man? If you’re a grey man, hurry over to Gravatar (it stands for globally recognized avatars) and spend a few minutes uploading a fab photo of your dear self. This is such an important part of your online branding but one which many new bloggers overlook.
15. Google Reader
Once you have a Google email account you can use Google Reader to follow all your favorite blogs from one spot so you’ll be able to find out when they’re updated without actually visiting them.
Search Flickr’s creative commons for photos that will make your blog posts pop like the one up top. Just be sure to add a photo credit at the end of your post.
PayPal drives me nuts. Their anti-money-laundering policies are so stringent that almost everyone who ever receives payment via PayPal seems to have their entire account frozen at some point. It took us months to get it sorted out when it happened to us. But it’s still the best way to send and receive money internationally which you’ll need to do if you want to buy blogging resources or earn money by selling products or services through your blog.
18. Easy Clock
This is a tool in the Chrome browser which is far and away the easiest way to compare time zones and work out a time that will suit you and your overseas clients when you want to book consultations or a Skype call. First, you need to download and install Chrome then add the easy clock app to it.
19. Dragon Dictation App
I’ve just treated myself to Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium which is speech recognition software for your computer. Yes, no more typing. The free Dragon dictation app has limited capacity but you can use it on your cell phone or tablet to record short messages or conversations which is handy.
Hootsuite is a social media management tool that lets you manage Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn from one dashboard. I love it because it allows you to add RSS feeds so you can auto-tweet blog posts, both on your own and on other blogs. The free version lets you add two RSS feeds and will give you an idea if it’s worth spending a small fee each month for the professional version.
21. Focus Booster
Focus Booster uses the Pomodoro technique to increase your productivity. It times you for 25 minutes then gives you five minutes off. Wash, rinse and repeat. Productivity magically increases and time-wasting is a thing of the past.
22. Bitcatcha Server Speed Checker
One of the most important factors in regards to your blog’s performance is its loading speed. Bitcatcha’s proprietary server speed checker tool allows users to assess their website server performance from eight locations worldwide. The test results include a benchmark of your blog’s hosting performance against the top 10,000 sites on the web.
Cloud storage and a great way to send large files effortlessly. Check it out this post on sending large files.
The term VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Basically it is a series of computers networked together over the Internet. Pixel Privacy has a good post about them at “What Is A VPN and What Does It Do”.
25. Free Invoicing
Check out how to create free invoices at Invoice Home.
Now don’t just read this list and bookmark it, although you should do that too. Start downloading what you need so you have all the tools at your fingertips and can get blogging faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Then getting to grips with new technology won’t be such hard work, technology will work for you.