blogging basics: free blogging tools i use and love

I’m changing things up a little a lot here today. I was telling someone the other day how I was ‘new’ to blogging and realized that I’ve been doing this for about 2 years now. In fact, I just realized that last week was my ‘blogiversary’ and I forgot to celebrate…oops! Anyways, I’ve definitely learned a ton and have come a long, long way (believe me – don’t look at my archives). I am no expert but in the first few months of this year alone, I have seen more growth than I have in all the months prior combined. My redesign had a lot to do with it (thanks, Megan!) but I’ve also started dedicating more time and effort to my blog and started treating it more like a business and less like a hobby.

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Since I know a lot of my readers are bloggers too (or maybe you’ve thought about starting one – do it!), I decided to start a new series covering some some topics and tips that might help others out. I learned a ton about blogging from reading posts just like this so my hope is that I can help someone who is just starting out or thinking about taking the plunge into the blogging world.

Today I’m talking about some free tools I use (and love!) on a daily basis. From being able to schedule posts to looking at the data and numbers behind the website, these tools make my blogging life a lot easier and have allowed me to grow this blog to where it is today!

I work a full-time job during the day so scheduling social posts to promote my content while I’m at work or busy is really important to me. I just started using Hootsuite this year and it’s made a huge difference in my social media presence. I don’t use it to schedule all of my posts but when I know I want to promote a certain blog post or article I found on Twitter or Facebook, it’s really easy to schedule it the night or week before.
I use as my CMS. Keeping with the scheduling theme, I love that WordPress allows you to schedule posts. I usually write posts the night before they go live and schedule them for the following morning. Without this feature (and many other great WordPress features!), it would be really hard to work full time, have a life and blog.

I don’t currently have Photoshop or another editing software so I just use good old iPhoto to edit and store all of my pictures. I don’t know a ton about photography (though I want to learn!) or editing so for now, iPhoto works just fine.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I often host giveaways. Rafflecopter is a free giveaway tool that makes it so easy. You plug in what you want the entry tasks to be (such as follow your account on Twitter, tweet a message, visit a Facebook page, etc.) and then Rafflecopter gives you a code that you place right into your post to display the giveaway widget. Users can interact with the widget to enter the giveaway and all of the data is housed in Rafflecopter. At the end of the giveaway, they pick a random winner for you. It couldn’t be easier.

Google Analytics
I am a digital marketer by day so I know that behind every website there is a ton of data. Google Analytics is a free tool that can give you all sorts of great information and data about who is visiting your site, what they are looking at, how they are getting there, etc. in order to drive your blog strategy. It’s set up with a simple code that you place into the header of your website and collects and reports on all sorts of metrics – from very high level to very granular. I could go on and on about Google Analytics (and maybe I will in a future post) but for now I will just say if you don’t have it, you need to set it up!

Polyvore is great tool for creating collages and fun images. When I don’t have time to make my own collage, it’s easy to go to Polyvore, search for the product(s) I want to display and drag and drop them into a collage format. It’s also a fun way to discover new brands and products that I’ve never heard of before.

There are plenty of ways to make money off of a blog but one very easy way is through affiliate links. Basically, if I use a Shopsense retail link in my post (they support almost any brand or store you can think of), I receive a small commission when someone clicks on it. It’s a no brainer really – if you’re going to link to products, you might as well use this (or a similar) service.

Are you a blogger? What tools make your life easier? What topics would you like to see featured in this series?