I made it through the first week of #BookBlogWriMo! Unexpected stuff at work made it more difficult than I thought it would be, but what a thrill! Seeing you all so excited about this makes the craziness of organizing the challenge, maintaining it, and participating in it worthwhile!
And what better way to celebrate one week in than talking about blogging smarter? One of my favorite things is finding ways to get more done with less effort. Especially with blogging, since doing so gives you more time to spend writing.
This post is gonna be a long one, so let’s dive in.
Oh, WordPress, you are amazing. Like I mentioned in day 1’s post, I can no longer tolerate other blogging tools, even WordPress.com. WP gives you endless possibilities, it’s easy enough that anyone can use it, but if you have the tech skills, you can make your blog or website do pretty much anything.
In my opinion and experience, MailChimp is the best email marketing choice for bloggers. The features are insane for the low price (aka, free until you have a few thousand subscribers), and it’s a lot easier to use. Mad Mimi is another good option for bloggers, but for me, it’s too simple. I like being able to build my own templates and designs.
I also love that if I decide to employ some marketing automation for Book Bumblings (which I’m thinking about), I can do so without moving to an advanced option priced for big businesses.
Plus, their customer support rocks and they have great integrations with WordPress and social networks. I’m pretty sure they’re the only service in their pricing tier that supports Twitter lead gen cards.
But most importantly, it has an RSS-to-email option, which is the most important email marketing feature for a blogger.
Canva is graphic design tool for non-designers. (That’s not their official slogan, but it should be)
Canva is an amazing tool, and what I use to create all graphics for this blog and others I manage. I do love PicMonkey, which I know a lot of you use, but Canva has a lot more to offer for bloggers. Where PicMonkey is more of a photo editor, Canva is for creating.
You start with a blank slate (after entering the image’s dimensions or selecting one of their templates, like Facebook cover photo or Twitter image), instead of uploading a photo. There’s also a ton of free icons, images, and textures to add to your graphics, along with stock photos. You can get the stock photos for $1 each, which is much more affordable than dedicated stock photo sites.
I use Google Calendar to bring together my calendars elsewhere. I use Zapier and IFTTT (more info on both of these in the Productivity section) to log activities on Google Calendar. For example, when I add a task with a due date to Trello (also more on that below), a Zapier zap makes sure it gets added to my Google calendar. I also use IFTTT to add to-dos to my Google Calendar once they’re crossed off my Todoist list.
Also, I like to think that most bookworms would be jealous of my New Releases calendar. Whenever an author I like announces a new book and it’s release date, it gets added. I also go through Goodreads “New releases by authors you’ve read” section every few weeks.
Expect a Bumblings Blog Tip about how I use Evernote once all the #BookBlogWriMo craziness is over. Because I have a lot to say about it. Today, however, I’ll keep it brief.
Evernote is where a lot of my blog posts start. After I finish a book, I create an Evernote note with a bulleted list of what I want to put in the review, since I rarely write them soon after reading. If I review a book on NetGalley but my blog tour date isn’t for a few weeks, I keep the review there to make it easy to find when I start to put the post together.
I also have a stack for blogging tips, where I make notes of ideas and links I want to include in the post.
Finally, it’s where most of the planning for #BookBlogWriMo, including lists of everyone’s blog URL and email address, and links to the Google forms, are kept.
I’d like to start getting more serious about my Feedly RSS reader. I use it a lot for my catching up on PR, marketing, career, and productivity blogs with a separate account, but I don’t use it as much as I should to keep up with the book blogs I read.
But I do have a few folders and feeds set up. My two main categories are Book Blogs and Book Blogging. Book Blogs is for following book blogs. Who’d a thunk it? The Book Blogging folder is for sites like Nose Graze and Oh, the Books!, who are book blogs that also give tips for book bloggers.
For my “must read” blogs, I also subscribe to them via email, so that’s probably why I don’t find myself using my bookish Feedly account daily.
Erin Condren Planner
Or any paper planner, but I just got my 2015 one from Erin Condren and I can tell it’s going to be the best I’ve ever had. It’s the 2015 Life Planner and it’s amazing.
One thing that’s a must for me is that a planner has both a weekly view and a monthly view. I use weekly view most, for a combination of appointments, due dates, and to-do lists. Monthly is where I track appointments, due dates, and reminder stuff (when autopay bills hit my checking account, etc.).
What I love most about the Erin Condren planner is that the days in weekly view are divided into “Morning,” “Day,” and “Night.” I, however, use the blocks differently. The first one is for appointments and due dates. The second block is for work to-dos, and the third for blog/personal life to-dos.
There are lots of other fun things, like add-ons (I just ordered “coil clips,” which let you clip loose paper into the planner) and a pull-out calendar for recurring dates and contacts (I’ve always found it annoying to move those things over from one year’s planner to the next.
CommentLuv is a great way to make your blog comments more interactive, get more comments, and let your commenters get a little more out of sharing their thoughts on your posts.
Basically, you know how the basic WordPress has a field for commenters to enter your website URL when leaving a comment? CommentLuv uses that to pull the blog’s RSS feed and include the title and link to one of the commenter’s recent posts in the comment.
I lusted after CoSchedule for so long, but couldn’t use it at work since we moved off of WordPress when our development team built us a custom CMS. I was so excited when I got an offer for an extended free trial.
It definitely took some getting used to. I was so used to tools like Buffer and Hootsuite, and CoSchedule’s social scheduling area is pretty different from those. But I knew that using CoSchedule would help me remember to schedule shares of a post months or weeks in the future.
It’s helped me improve my activity on Facebook and Twitter, which I know will translate into more traffic long-term. I’ve been getting tons of traffic for #BookBlogWriMo, so it’s hard to tell right now how CoSchedule is improving traffic.
That bar you see at the top of my website that lets you sign up for my newsletter? That’s thanks to Hello Bar. It takes about five minutes to install, and over 25% of my email list came from people signing up there.
Here’s another great plugin for growing your email list. When someone gets to the bottom of a blog post, they’re feeling good about you. If they didn’t like your post, they wouldn’t have made it all the way to the end. It’s the perfect time to ask them to subscribe.
This plugin puts an email signup form at the end of each blog post, so you can capture readers when they’re feeling happiest about your blog.
This is a plugin that’s actually a ton of plugins. You install SumoMe has one plugin, and get access to several different tools to grow the amount of traffic to your website. Most of them are focused on getting social shares or more email signups.
On this blog, I’m using Leads, Image Sharer, List Builder, Share, and Content Analytics.
Trello is my go-to project management tool. It’s a cross between a progress report for each blog post, and a to-do list. I use it for this blog, to organize my job search, to manage my company’s blog, and to keep a running list of random ideas.
For book blogging, I have one list for each “stage” of a blog post. I use it for reviews and blog tours, and sometimes for #BookBlogWriMo and Bumblings Blog Tips. Things like release day blitzes, cover reveals, and excerpts go straight to the “To Post” list with the due date set as the publish date. For ARCs, they first go to the “To Read” list, are moved to the “To Review” list once I’m finished reading, and then “To Post” when it’s time to add the rest of the post’s info to the review.
It’s also a great way to organize a to-do list. For example, I have a board for work that’s divided into these lists: “Marketing Ideas,” “PR Outreach,” “Blog Post Ideas,” and “Things to Teach Interns.”
Zapier is an awesome way to connect different apps to each other. As I mentioned earlier, it syncs the due dates in Trello with my Google Calendar. I also use it to back up my MailChimp mailing lists and put links to new reviews in the Google spreadsheet I use to keep track of where I’ve cross-posted them.
You can easily get by on the free plan that allows up to 5 different zaps. I’m kind of addicted to creating these shortcuts between apps, so I’m more than happy to pay for more.
IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that”) is a more lightweight version of Zapier that’s more for personal, everyday use apps than ones for business use, which is Zapier’s wheelhouse.
I use it for lots of things, but it’s a great way to create quick shortcuts. You can use it to cross-post between social networks.
Here are some great IFTTT recipes for blogging.
So, yeah, my toolkit is pretty big, and always growing. Things come and go as I experiment with my workflow and what tools are in it.
What are your favorite blogging tools?