We’ve heard your requests for more informative blog posts, so we’re starting a series called Blogging 101. In this series, you’ll find how-to guides, information, and tips from other 20sb members who might call themselves experts on these subjects. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, please send a suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org!
So you have something to say and you’re ready to say it, but what’s the best tool for the job? You could walk up to a giant crowd of people and start yelling, and you may even turn a few heads, but by no means is this an effective means of mass communication. I spent a lot of time early on figuring out my toolset and which tools were best for the job.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s settled on WordPress. According to w3tech, WordPress powers 1 in 6 websites of the top 1 million sites on the internet. What’s even cooler is it accounts for more than half of those sites using content management systems. This includes sites like Mashable, CNN, The New York Times, VW, NASA, presidential candidates and more.
If you’ve taken that extra step to host your blog yourself, CloudFlare kind of sits between your website and your server to help it run faster and protect it from malicious attacks. I normally wouldn’t include something so techy in my list but it’s free and it saves lives. Well maybe it doesn’t actually save lives but it’s a very powerful service everyone needs to know about.
I was hesitant to put this in here considering Google’s recent announcement to shut off the API. Still, Feedburner is an easy way to ensure your RSS feed is formatted properly for the rest of the internet. Personally I’m not sure that’s as much of an issue as it used to be but I still like Feedburner for their analytics and ‘subscribe by email’ functionality.
If you do end up using Feedburner, be sure to check out the My Brand option. This will allow you to easily move off of Feedburner if you ever have to without losing any of your subscribers.
I already mentioned WordPress and how I think it’s awesome. WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress which comes with a lot of these feature out of the box. WordPress users not hosting on WordPress.com can still take advantage of stats, forms and a few other WordPress.com specific features by installing the Jetpack plugin.
Once problem with blogging on the open web is dealing with spammers and trolls. Akismet is another plugin from the folks at WordPress.com that lets us make use of their master database of spammers to filter out spam on our own site. This has been the single most effective solution to combat spam on all of my WordPress sites.
Gravatar is a web service that attaches an avatar to your email address. A lot of websites use this to associate an avatar with your account when all you’ve provided is your email. One popular example of this is the comment area of blogs. Most comments will automatically pull your gravatar to display along with your comment so it’s important you go to Gravatar.com and set it up.
I personally believe that providing actionable social sharing buttons on your site will encourage more shares of your content. Shareaholic takes this a step further by providing excellent analytics and a “recommended posts” widget you can drop into any blog. I strongly believe these guys will rise up as leaders in the social sharing space.
Not so much a blogging tool but a powerful automation tool that plugs right into WordPress, Posterous, Blogger and Tumblr. This site lets you set up triggers and actions for several popular web services. For example, I’ve set up my tumblr to automatically populate with my new instagram photos, YouTube favorites, Soundcloud favorites and Reddit upvotes. You could also set it to tweet new blog posts, notify you of new comments, schedule events, the possibilities are endless.
They’re Just Tools
None of these services guarantee you blogging success; that’s on you. What are some of your favorite blogging tools?
Jon Bishop is a Web Developer at AMP Agency with a love for writing open source code and playing with the latest web technologies. Jon maintains a few plugins in the WordPress plugin repository, helps run the Boston WordPress meetup and spends the rest of his time blogging at JonBishop.com and the AMP Agency blog.