Many bloggers get started because they think it will be an easy way to make money or to have an influence. The truth is, blogging is a lot of work and requires considerable time if you want to achieve maximum results. With that in mind, there are also a number of valuable resources that can help you to simplify and streamline your life as a blogger, resulting in better efficiency with your time.
In this post we’ll take a look at 25 resources, some free and some paid, that will simplify your blogging life in one way or another. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.
Twitter is a great resource for bloggers, but it can be difficult to manage. Fortunately, there are some great tools that can help to organize your Twitter account and make it more productive without requiring all of your time. Here we’ll look at two of the best resources, but you can see others in 5 Firefox Add-Ons for Twitter.
TweetDeck is a great resource for organizing and simplifying the use of Twitter. With TweetDeck you can customize how the data is shown, but you can see all of the tweets from those who you are following, you can separate replies to you, as well as direct messages. TweetDeck will also help you to easily and quickly reply and retweet, plus it has functionality to shorten URLs.
Twhirl is a desktop client for social sites including Twitter, Friendfeed and others. I’ve personally been using it recently for Twitter to see how it compare to TweetDeck. It does many of the same things to make Twitter easier to use and more effective.
Many bloggers, myself included, find it easier to write and edit posts prior to publishing by using some type of editor other than just the blogging platform. WordPress has everything you need to enter posts directly, but using an editor brings some advantages. However, using Word is not the best option as it will add unnecessary code. The are a number of quality editors to choose from.
After trying a few different blog editors, BlogDesk became my choice. It is free and simple to use, plus it has a number of helpful features. You can post directly to your blog from BlogDesk (although I rarely do it this way). BlogDesk also allows you to swicth to code view to have more control if you want.
BlogJet is a blog editor for Windows. It’s not a free option (starts at $39.95), but it does have a lot of useful features, including a WYSIWYG editor, YouTube and Flickr support, integration with browsers and feed readers, and more. There is a free trial available.
Windows Live Writer
Windows Live Writer is the preferred editor for many bloggers. It’s a free option that includes many features. The most recent version will even allow you to include video from your computer in posts, and it will automatically publish to YouTube when the post is published.
ScribeFire is a Firefox extension that gives you a full-featured blog editor right in your browser. Being a browser add-on, it provides a different user experience than the others on this list, so you can see for yourself which type you prefer.
Firefox is an excellent browser for bloggers in part because there are countless add-ons that have been created to achieve a specific purpose. Here we’ll look at a few that can help bloggers to save time and work efficiently, but you can find more in 10 Firefox Add-Ons for Bloggers and 20 Firefox Extensions for Social Media Addicts.
If your blog posts typically include a number of links, LinkChecker can be a big time saver. Rather than manually checking to see if all the links are active, you can run LinkChecker to do the dirty work and quickly point out any dead links that need to be corrected.
Social Media for Firefox
Most bloggers are also at least somewhat active on social media sites. The Social Media add-on will show you data about any page as you’re surfing. You can see how many votes a page or post has on a number of different social media sites, and you can also quickly identify those that have not yet been submitted, which is a great way to build a profile by getting to the best stories quickly.
Amazon S3 Organizer
Amazon S3 is a great service for hosting images and media files rather than hosting them on your own server. Especially if your blog gets high volumes of traffic or bursts of traffic, having images stored on another server can help the blog to perform more efficiently. Amazon S3 Organizer is a great way to upload and manage your files on Amazon S3, which does not currently provide an way to do this without using another program.
The SEO Toolbar from SEO Book is an excellent free SEO resource. With the toolbar installed you can get all kinds of information on any page as your surfing, including link analysis, ranking information, general domain information and more.
WordPress is my blogging platform of choice, and it’s also extremely popular with other bloggers. One of the reasons WordPress is a great choice is the huge number of plugins that are readily available. While there are plenty of valuable plugins to choose from, the ones featured here will specifically help you to achieve efficiency.
Database Backup Plugin
Backing up your WordPress database is an essential security measure. The Database Backup Plugin makes it easy to set automated backups that you can have sent directly to your email address. It makes an essential task something that you won’t have to worry about.
If you need any kind of contact form on your website, cforms II makes it easy to set up. You can create multiple customizable forms, including tell-a-friend options.
Managing your own ad sales can be much easier with WP125. It allows you to easily set and manage 125 x 125 banner ads within the WordPress dashboard. I used the plugin for a few months before moving to a third party network, and I was very pleased with WP125. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use plugin that allows you to sell and manage your own ads, this is a great choice.
Even with Akismet, comment spam can become overwhelming. Bad Behavior is a plugin that will help to cut down on the amount of spam comments that you receive. “Instead of merely looking at the content of potential spam, Bad Behavior analyzes the delivery method as well as the software the spammer is using. In this way, Bad Behavior can stop spam attacks even when nobody has ever seen the particular spam before.”
Aside from personal blogs, most bloggers have the intention of making money. Unfortunately, making money from your blog can be a huge task in itself. There are some ways, however, some resources to help make the monetization process a bit simpler and less time consuming.
BuySellAds is an advertising marketplace that allows you to sell ads on your site with little to no work, plus BSA makes it easy for the advertisers as well. Payment is handled through PayPal subscriptions, so renewal rates tend to be high if the ads are priced well. I use BSA on all three of my sites and highly recommend them, especially to bloggers in tech-related niches.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize a blog, but having tons of different affiliate programs means that you’ll have to spend a lot of time tracking results and managing the accounts. Commission Junction is one of the largest affiliate marketplaces that allows you to promote many different programs while tracking all of them from just one place, and getting one paycheck.
LinkShare is similar to Commission Junction. With LinkShare you can promote a number of different affiliate programs without needing to track and manage them all separately.
Most bloggers want to be able to give their blog a professional, attractive and unique look. While there are thousands of free themes to choose from, you’ll probably want something better or more customized if you view your blog as a business. Custom themes are always an option, but they are out of the price range of most bloggers. For this reason, premium themes have become very popular. For anywhere between $20 and $100 you can get a premium theme that has an improved look and possibly better functionality than a free theme. Premium themes are a great way to save yourself some headaches and expense when it comes to improving the look of your blog.
Envato’s theme marketplace, ThemeForest, offers very affordable WordPress themes, as well as HTML/CSS templates and themes/templates for other content management systems. There is a wide variety of WordPress themes available, including many for specific purposes and types of sites. You may be able to find the perfect theme for your needs for around $25 or $30.
Brian Gardner, the designer behind the popular Revolution series of themes, has a number of excellent themes for sale at StudioPress.
iThemes has a number of WordPress themes for sale. They create themes of all kinds, for blogs and for CMS purposes.
Thesis is an incredibly popular premium theme from DIY Themes. It’s flexibility, features, and optimized code make it a favorite among bloggers.
WooThemes sells a number of great premium themes from some very talented designers. The have themes for many different purposes and they frequently run specials and promotions.
Elegant Themes is a different type of premium theme marketplace. Designer Nick Roach offers all of his premium themes (currently more than 20 themes) for a price of just $19.95 per year.
Hard Drive Backup:
Most bloggers have valuable information on their hard drive. If your hard drive crashes you could lose hours, days, or even weeks worth of work. You can protect yourself from this by having a system to backup your hard drive. Automated, online services are very popular and affordable. If your hard drive ever crashes, having one of these services will most certainly simply your life.
I have been using Mozy for about a year now to backup my hard drive. It’s one of those services that I hope I never have to use, but if I do need it, it will be well worth the money. Mozy will automatically backup your hard drive at specific intervals so you don’t even have to remember to do it. You can get unlimited backups for less than $5 per month, and a personal account with 2 GB or less for free.
Carbonite is a similar service to Mozy. The cost is $54.95 per year, with the a free trial period of 15 days available.
Intronis is another similar service. Their pricing is the first 2 GB each month are free, and each additional GB is $2.99.
What other resources do you use that make your life easier?