I have been working in digital marketing (in various roles) for over ten years and blogging for six years. I used to run a travel blog called wayoutfar.com but it’s taken a bit of back seat since launching thisbrightonmum.com last year as travelling with a toddler isn’t as easy as travel in the old days pre-kiddius. I’ve spent quite a few years perfecting my set up to the point where I have been able to help friends launch their own blogs quickly and I think I have mastered the various day-to-day management of running a blog. That said, I’m not a guru in any way but I thought it would be good to share with you my top 13 tools for running a mum blog.
Please note that this list is being shared for the LOVE OF BLOG! I am not being paid in any way or affiliated with anyone. It’s pure BLOG LOVE baby…
1. Domain and Hosting
I have been using tsohost.com for the past few years and can’t recommend these guys enough. It costs £14.99 for the year to host and if you get your domain with them then when you set the site up it does all of the re-pointing for you. No faffing with IP redirects and A records. Once you have set your site up you can then install WordPress to the server via the control panel and you never has to see any code EVER. In the old days you needed to install WordPress to server via FTP and I learned to do this myself years ago rather than hassle my long-suffering coder brother. Letting these guys do it for you via the Control Panel is a dream because NO EFFORT!
So yeah, as you can tell from above, I’m all about the self-hosted WordPress site. There’s countless reasons why self-hosted is better than using an online blogging service but if you have no cash then doing it via the web on WordPress.com is OK too because it’s free and you don’t have to pay for hosting. Self-hosted means you can have your own domain (not a wordpress.yoursite.com one) and there’s more options to add extra functionality and themes. Other great options are blogger.com and medium.com.
Divi is a WordPress theme. Once you have a self-installed WordPress site, you can go with their default theme or use one of the free ones. I have invested cash in the rather glorious Divi however which is so customisable that I have been able to create several sites from it that all look very different. It’s a workhorse and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re confident enough to tinker about with configuring it.
Askimet is the first plugin that you should go and download once you have your WordPress site set-up. It’s a free tool (although they do ask for donation) that will filter out spam comments on your site. I had never heard about it and spent months deleting trackback spam until I found it. It’s invaluable as you won’t spend your evenings deleting Nigerian Prince scam comments from your post about leaky boobs or sleep regression.
5. SEO Yoast
SEO Yoast is my other go-to Plugin once I’ve set up a new site – this one installs a small box below each post that checks your title, page content and general SEO-ness based on an inputted keyword. If you are new to SEO then it’s a must-have because it does the thinking about how to optimise your content to be seen by search engines (and by search engines I mean Google as that’s all we pretty much use in the west).
6. Google Analytics
In the old days you needed to go and set up an account, get some code and then install it in the code of your website. It was such a FAFF. These days there are hundreds of plugins that you can install into WordPress and have it do all that work for you and Google Analytics is the king. Once you are tracking your site you can see exactly where your traffic is coming from and what users are viewing when they get there. This is invaluable stuff as it tells you what is and isn’t working so that you can improve every day. I am amazed at how much stuff I can learn about tracking even after all these years and recently paid someone to help me understand why I was getting so much spam traffic (that said pro-Trump stuff in it ARRRRRGHHHH) and how I could filter it out. I wanted to start to put my site on platform where PR-friendly people would see and link the Analytics account and didn’t want them seeing 1000 visits a month if the reality was only 200. If you’re in the same boat try Carlos at ohow.com who can help you out.
7. Google Webmaster
This is vital tool if you want to understand how your site is being indexed by Google and want to improve your general search engine visibility. Google Webmaster (now called Search Console but I am old school) checks the indexing status and allows you to optimize visibility of your website. If you want to understand how people are searching for your site, then you really need to have this enabled. Once you get a bit more savvy about SEO then this is for you.
8. Google AdSense
Google AdSense is the ad serving network of Google and allows you to run ads on your site if you have the spaces set up for them. My theme, Divi, has a space on individual blog post pages and running down the right hand side of the page, that allows you to add code for ads to show. Why bother you may think? Well, these ads serve contextually, so if you are a travel blogger and have identified the site as such then Google will serve related videos and so the click rate should be good. The same related to parenting blogs and ads that are shown should relate to the content. It means a (mostly) better experience for the visitors to your site if the ad looks Ok and is relevant and you can earn some vital cash on the side. I don’t profess to ever making much money off of this but some bloggers swear by it and in fact make a living off of it.
Buffer is the kind of scheduling tool that I was always looking for before it came along. You log in using your Twitter credentials and can add several account using the free version. Once set-up you can then schedule up to a month’s worth of posts to publish to your various social channels (even more with the paid subscription) without having to be there to press the ‘publish’ button every single time. It means you can get on with the important job of writing content. GAME CHANGER.
I have been using Photoshop since the early Noughts and so can;t really live without it. It’s the best photo editing software in the market and if you are into your photography, it ‘s a real must. There are loads of great tutorials on YouTube you can watch and learn from and a monthly subscription will cost around £10 a month these days meaning you don’t have to fork out hundreds upfront.
if you don’t have the cash and just want a simple tool that can help you create simple posts for your blogs and social feeds, then should should get Canva. You pick a template, whether it’s a Facebook post or YouTube thumbnail, and then update using your own pics and words. It’s also FREE!
Fiverr is a skills marketplace and is named as such because you can head there and buy services such as logo creation or copywriting for just $5. Some suppliers will charge more for extra services too but it’s there way of building up a portfolio and making lots of cash especially if the service can be automated. I was able to get my YouTube ident done on Fiverr as I had no idea how to get really good video graphics done and it’s not something I could do myself. You can see it action on my YouTube page.
It’s hard to explain IFTTT (If This Then That) but essentially it’s a “recipe” app that allows you to tell apps and websites how to interact with each other and automate that process. So for example you can post a Twitter update automatically to Facebook (don’t do that – it’s a bit naff) or if you post a pic to Facebook, it automatically gets added to Dropbox. It can get quite sophisticated especially when you add in fitness trackers and wearables devices. For now, I would recommend using it to enable you to post Instagram pictures directly to Twitter. At the moment if you do this from Instagram you’ll just post the link back to Instagram which isn;t a great user experience for those on Twitter. This means I’m making my Twitter feed much more relevant and interesting!