From young bloggers, I often hear how hard the first months of blogging are. You have not found your voice. You feel everybody is already talking about the same topics. And you are afraid of not finding enough topic ideas to write about.
You should not be intimidated. Most bloggers started out at the same place you are in right now. But that did not stop them. And they used all the help they could get. And you should do, too.
Here are 12 tools that can help you with your blogging efforts and make you a better blogger.
Generate and Capture Ideas
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Do you know the feeling when a friend’s birthday comes up, and you try to come up with a perfect gift idea? And you are absolutely sure that sometime during the past 12 months you had the ultimate gift idea for this friend – you just can’t remember what it was.
The same happens with blog post ideas. You have them. All the time! And then when you sit down and want to start writing it is all gone. Blank.
The solution is to write down the blog post ideas as they come to you. I use Wunderlist for that. This way when I am stuck for a blog idea, I simply take a look at my list for „blog article ideas“ and browse through them. I choose what speaks to me most – or even have a new idea just from looking at the other ideas I put down.
One advantage of Wunderlist is that it is shockingly easy to use, free of charge and you can access it from all devices like tablets, mobile or desktop.
Wunderlist also allows you to add a date when an item on your list should be finished to each of your entries. Thus you can add time-sensitive blog ideas like a recipe for asparagus which only makes sense before the season is over.
My list of blog ideas that I have not written about before usually contains around 20 ideas to choose from.
2. Pen And Paper
You may simply not be a friend of too much technical stuff. As a blogger or writer, pen and paper could well be your best friend.
There is nothing wrong with using pen and paper, they have some advantages. Even I use them to write down some quick thoughts when I do not have my tablet or laptop around.
A simple notebook will do the trick – lose sheets of paper get so easily lost. As with Wunderlist, write down your blog ideas as you have them. That can be on the daily bus ride or while you are sipping your morning coffee.
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Whenever you need a fresh idea, you can quickly flip through the pages and get inspiration from your notes.
There are more ways to help you with idea generation, try some of them and see what works best for you: You can Google for keywords and see what kind of posts come up. Several times in the past, I have simply asked my Twitter followers what I should write about – they never failed to come up with great ideas.
Create better headlines
The perfect headline for your blog posts will give you extra success. A boring headline can easily be the final nail in the coffin of your blog – while a great headline that gives you likes, shares and clicks can multiply the reach of your blog.
Creating perfect headlines for blog posts is a science that you will have to learn. But there are tools to help you get better at creating headlines.
Tools like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer will give you feedback on the „quality“ of your headline from a marketing perspective. These tools obviously know about the best types of headlines for marketing like list posts or how to posts. In addition they take emotional words into account and will downrate your headline if you use too many generic words that are overused.
There are other tools that work in a similar way. When I tested these tools before for some headlines I had already tested on Twitter, it became clear that they are not human and can only give you a hint at what might work. But these tools are great when you are starting out and new to the headline game.
Why did I put this tool into the headlines section?
The tool is rather basic when you have three keywords to think about topics, you should already have a topic in mind. But the blog topic generator has the most common headline structures that marketers use and that convert built in. The suggested „topics“ may well serve you as a starting point on your quest for a great and converting headline.
Create better content
When you first start out blogging your posts will not be perfect. Most successful bloggers will admit that looking back they deem their first blogs far from perfect.
It is as with everything else in life: We all get better with practice. Write more, read more, listen more – and you will get better at blogging.
But there are tools that can help you to avoid some of the downfalls of blogging.
I am German native, English is not my mother tongue. And my writing is probably far from perfect. But I do not want to have unnecessarily many spelling and grammar mistakes in my posts. Grammarly helps me to find the most serious mistakes and helps me correct them.
Grammarly provides a browser extension that allows you to check all text you type into your browser. It highlights all spelling mistakes it identifies – and gives you a suggestion on how to correct them.
Also, Grammarly will provide you with some hints on bad style, unfinished sentences, and sentences that are too long.
This app will help you to write better posts for your readers. It helps you identify complicated sentences, complicated words and passive voice with a color code. You won’t get many suggestions on how to make the text easier to read. But with a little practice, the simple identification of the „problem“ will lead you to better writing.
7. Ask A Friend
Apologies to your friends that I list them as a tool. But the best feedback for your blog post will come from your best friends. They like you, and they will respect your work. But they will also give you honest feedback about what they like, what they did not understand, what bored them or if they would come bac for more.
Make your content beautiful
It is not just for vanity reasons that you should consider adding visuals to your blog posts. Visuals will help you keep the attention of your audience. But they will also enable more and more effective social shares. If you do not provide images for the major social networks where you want your content to get shared, it will not get shared – or the shares will not produce the results you are looking for.
In most social networks an image in a matching format is absolutely necessary to get any relevant results.
And you do not have to be a designer to create beautiful images for your blog posts. There are tools for that!
Canva is still my goto tool for creating images for blog posts. I love the easy and clear interface. For beginners from my experience I say: the templates are your best starting point for your own blog images. Upload your own photos, play around with colors and fonts and add your brand logo – and your blog images are ready for download.
Learn Basics For SEO
If you want to become a better blogger, most of the time there is no way around thinking about search engine optimization. But when you are still new to the game it may well be a little intimidating to read all about links, keywords, longtail and shorttail, keyword density and meta descriptions.
But there are tools to help you with your SEO basics.
When we started out with The Social Ms it was out first real blog – before that, we ran a publishing platform where we published blog post like content. And I quickly had to learn about some optimizations I needed to do after finishing a blog post.
And for SEO the WordPress plugin Yoast gives you simple yet effective guidelines on how to optimize your post. You choose your main keyword and Yoast will tell you what is missing from your post for better SEO results around this keyword: You can learn where the keyword should be used, if you used it often enough (or even too often) in the blog content, if you used it in the alt tags of the images and so on.
To learn the basics of SEO optimization, Yoast is a great starting point. IF you need a more thorough description of how to use Yoast, Jonathan has written about it.
Most niches on the web are already crowded. If you are starting out today, your blog will probably for a fair time not rank for the most commonly used keywords. For instance, The Social Ms may still be a long way off ranking for „Marketing.“
But that is not bad at all. Because most people do not search for the central keywords. Today, a lot of people search for far more specific keyphrases. And that is where your huge opportunity lies even when you are starting out: Longtail keywords.
And WP Keyword Suggest helps you find great long tail keywords related to a central keyword or keyphrase. From the suggestions it provides, you can choose some that are related to your post and put them into your blog post, which now has a chance to rank for this long tail keyword.
Monitor Your Audience
You want to know how your audience reacts to your efforts. Monitoring is key to understanding and optimizing how your audience responds and acts on your blog,
11. Google Analytics
It does not necessarily have to be Google Analytics. You can use any other analytics tool – but Google Analytics is free and provides a huge amount of data and reports.
Without analytics, you are flying blind. You will not know if people come to your blog, where they come from and what they do on your site. You will never be able to become a better blogger if you cannot even tell if anybody finds you.
12. SuMoMe (Rebranded as SUMO)
SuMoMe is far more than a tool to analyze the behavior of your website visitors. SuMoMe provides you with social media share buttons that you can easily install. You get various kinds of signup forms that you can place all over your blog to grow your email list (you know you should grow your list, right?).
I addition you get a ton of analytics tools not even google Analytics offers you. SuMoMe provides heat maps, scroll maps, where people click on your website and so much more. To optimize your blog so that your visitors will take action, SuMoMe is a great starting point.
There are endless tools for bloggers that can help with various aspects. The list in this article is meant as a starting point for your bloggers that want to know what they can use to help them get better right from the start.
Once you have your blog up and running you will notice some more aspects where you would love to get some help from a tool – that is when another list of helpful tools will come to your aid. In case you want to automate some of your social media tasks, this list of social media automation tools can help.