Become A Better Blogger - What Tools We Use...

Published: Mon, 11/03/14

I love eye-catching “pinnable” images and, as I mentioned earlier, I believe they are THE most important part of content these days, but it can be tiresome to focus so much on the images of a post or an email.

So while I am eventually going to make a header image for this email series, at the moment I’m putting it off and enjoying JUST writing words.

One day, you'll see a graphic at the top of these Become a Better Blogger emails. 

But before I add it, I’d like to hear from you… do YOU ever miss the days of posts without images? How do you feel about this email not having any images?

Hit reply, and tell me if you think. 

Okay, so in our last edition, I promised I’d tell you want websites, services and tools we use. 

But first, if you’re new here, you’ll definitely want to catch up…

Tools of the Trade

Knowing and using the right tools for any business is key to success.

I'll share the most important websites, services and tools we use regularly in our blogging business. Some of these links are affiliates, and we recommend that you also sign up for affiliate programs for tools that you use.

Website Hosting

We have had some rough hosting situations in the past and I told part of the story in this post in 2010

In that post, I sang the praises of our website host at the time Liquid Web. We were so relieved to finally have found a good company with phenomenal customer service.

We stayed with Liquid Web for years. But despite their awesome customer service, our site was slow and the amount we paid kept creeping up. In the end we were paying tons of money for our dedicated server, yet nothing they did could speed up our site. 

Then several months ago we switched to WP Engine. It was a very scary move for us, but so worth it. Our site instantly became way faster and basically never crashes. We also save hundreds of dollars per month compared to what we paid at Liquid Web.

But soon we will be making an even scarier transition. We are moving to the Rainmaker Platform by CopyBlogger Media.

It is a hosted Wordpress platform that handles hosting, maintenance and upgrades for you. Since we have wasted lots of time and money over the years with technical issues and hosting fees, we’ve decided to migrate to this new all-in-one solution. 

It will end up saving us hundreds of dollars each year.

We'll tell you more about it when we make the switch in the next month or two.

Wordpress Plugins

When we move to Rainmaker, we won't necessarily be using the same plugins as we are now. It's a totally managed solution and they have their own plugins. But at the moment, the following are the most important plugins we use.
  • Akismet
  • Sucuri Security
  • PrettyLink
  • ClickToTweet
  • GravityForms
  • EasyRecipe
  • Platinum SEO Pack (But we recommend Yoast instead)
Social Sharing Tools

We use a few tools to help schedule and automate some of our social sharing. 

My absolute, all-time favorite is BufferApp. I cannot recommend it enough. It's so simple to use yet powerful enough for me to schedule all the tweets for a Twitter Party.

While we do use HootSuite somewhat, it is useless for scheduling Twitter Party tweets as it only allows tweets at 5 minute intervals. I also find the interface messy and overwhelming. 

I prefer the simplicity of the actual Twitter website used along with BufferApp. And for Twitter Parties, I'll sometimes also use in another Chrome Tab.

Our editor Anna also uses CoSchedule within Wordpress to schedule some of the shares for our posts.

To schedule Pins on Pinterest, we use both ViralTag and Ahalogy. I tend to prefer ViralTag over Ahalogy, but find they each have their own benefits. I'll go deeper into detail in a future email.

For our Facebook posts, we only use Facebook itself because Facebook seems to favor updates via its own scheduler. 

And to send out emails like this and our newsletter, we use aweber. However, that's because we started with it so many years ago. Another good option is MailChimp.
Photo Editing

These days everyone needs to know how to edit a photo. Fortunately, it gets easier all the time.

The most important tool you can have for photo editing is PicMonkey. The basic version is free and the upgrade is only a few dollars a month. It's crazy powerful and super easy.

You can find a ton of tutorials on our PicMonkey Resource Page.

Another photo editing site you may also want to use is Canva. We use PicMonkey and Canva regularly to create our "pinnable" images. They're quite different from each other and we depend on both. I'll share lots more about these in future emails.

Now, if you're serious about photography, then you'll also use Adobe Photoshop and possibly Adobe Lightroom. Janice uses those daily, whereas I don't even own them. 

Janice takes our photos and does the basic editing to fix lighting and improve the actual photo using LightRoom and Photoshop. Then we both use PicMonkey and Canva to create "pinnable" images. 

We also use lots of Stock Images. In the past we've used iStockPhoto a fair amount, but it's gotten way too expensive.

Now we rely on and my new favorite The Dollar Photo Club is the least expensive with the best range of images I've found so far. 

There are many sites for stock images - both paid and free - in a future email I'll share more options. 

If you have any great stock photo sites to suggest, shoot me a reply... I'd love to check them out too.

Video Editing

I used to do our video editing in Final Cut. (I use a Mac while Janice uses a PC.)

Since Janice is now shooting and editing our videos, she's using Adobe Premiere because it's part of the Creative Cloud subscription that she pays for monthly.

She's working hard on improving her video skills. Check out her first sewing tutorial here.

(It'd be super nice if you gave her a thumbs up... If I tell you how long she spent on that video, she'd kill me.)

Important Extras

We work as a virtual team, so we rely on Google Apps with Gmail and Google Drive as well as DropBox and, of course, Skype to meet face-to-face.

My most helpful organization tool is TeuxDeux. It's a simple to-do list, but I love it.

And finally, we use Roboform or 1Password to store all logins and passwords. I recommend Roboform and that's what Janice uses... after I nagged her for years, she FINALLY started using it.

I use 1Password only because Roboform wasn't available for the Mac. It is now, so if I were starting over, I'd choose Roboform.

I'd love to hear if you recommend any tools, websites or services that I haven't listed here.

Shoot me back a quick reply and let me know.

Next week I will talk about how to avoid blogger burnout and come up with fresh content ideas and inspiration.

If you have any questions or topics you want me to write about, just reply to this email and let me know. 

Talk soon,

Susan (and Janice)
5 Minutes For Mom

ps. To tell your friends about this "Become a Better Blogger" ezine, you can send them here.

pps. You may have noticed that I missed sending an email last week. I actually had intended to send this email but I must have not hit "send" as it was still in my drafts when I went to write this week's email.