When I first set up the blog, I was a total novice – I didn’t even know what WordPress was or even have a twitter account. My only desire at the beginning was to be able to chronicle our adventures. But as with everything in life it’s never as simple as that, is it? If it was just about the writing, then I think I would be winning every day.
I’ve had to learn how to become a videographer, a presenter, a social media manager, write reports, pitch to brands and companies, take interesting photographs, become an SEO expert, get over technical glitches, understand Google analytics – the list goes on. So if anyone thinks blogging is an easy way to make a living, then they’d be mistaken.
10 Handy Travel Blogging Tools for Beginners
There is no denying that successful bloggers work extremely hard, and in my experience, it has taken many years for me to gain a greater understanding of how to manage all the different components – however, there are many tools and websites I use throughout the week to help me manage and run My Travel Monkey. And while there have been some that I’ve tried and tested, that haven’t been at all useful, they are also several that I can’t do without – that have become an extension of my working sphere and helpful to me in many ways.
And while I don’t profess to be know everything (in fact I am still learning all the time), if you’re thinking of becoming a travel blogger, or any type of blogger – perhaps some of these blogging tools for beginners will help you achieve your goals – or at the very least, make managing your blog a little easier, giving you more time to do other things. And we’d all like that now wouldn’t we?
Okay, so this one is necessarily mind-blowingly technical but if like me, you are afflicted with a scatterbrain or occasionally get a passing lightbulb moment, the notes application on a smartphone is a lifesaver. I use them for to-do lists, to write outlines for blog articles, to compose captions for my Instagram posts or to make a note of important contacts or ideas – because the option of being able to not only copy and paste but to sync to my laptop on the go, is pretty handy and can save so much time.
I wish I was an amazing whizz at photography and, while I do sometimes have an eye for good composition, lack of skills means my photos can look lacklustre. People will tell you that Adobe Photoshop is the best application to use when editing photos. Not only is it pricey, but unless you’re a design whizz there really is no need to get all complicated. PicMonkey is a great alternative, and not only can you resize, edit, crop, airbrush and clone images, you can also create pins, collages and design templates. And a cost of $48 per year, it’s well worth it. I use PicMonkey every day.
Unsplash & Pixabay
‘A picture paints a thousand words’, some bright spark once said. And while it’s great taking your own photos, more often than not, your portfolio of work won’t have an image that will always convey the message of a post or article you’re writing. So what then? Stock photos cost money and if you need one or two a week, that’s also not financially viable. Luckily, there are several free stock image sites out there and my two favourites are Unsplash and Pixabay. Just use their search tools and ‘voila’ a whole host of photographs are available to use and for nothing!
Put simply, Canva is amazing. Not only is it easy to use – even a design dunce like me has managed to create some eye-catching documents and social media banners. I use Canva to design digital magazines (for my other job), create media kits, reports as well as invitations, flyers, pins and even my business cards. It has a whole arsenal of templates that you can tweak and modify – and the best thing – the majority is free to use and download. Some templates require a small fee, or you can upgrade to a premium subscription which has extra features.
If you use Pinterest and create pins for your posts then Tailwind will be your best friend. One of my biggest traffic drivers to the website is via Pinterest and this is because I use Tailwind to not only schedule my own but other bloggers’ pins, too. Not only does Tailwind’s clever scheduling calendar predict when the best time is to post your pins, but you can analyse how they are all doing on a week by week basis – and also use it to schedule Instagram posts. You can also join Tailwind tribes – groups of like-minded bloggers who can reciprocally share and engage with your pins, and increase blog traffic all at the same time. I use the basic plan which costs $9.99 per month which gives me unlimited pin scheduling.
I found this WordPress plug-in many years ago. Although Twitter has never been the main focus on my social media platforms, it still pays to keep it ticking over – and this is where Evergreen Tweeter comes in. You can set up the times, days and what posts or pages you’d like to share and even choose which categories and tags you’d like to filter. You can even add text to the tweet. It just means your evergreen posts ie: those that are still relevant and useful no matter how old they are, will still be generated on a regular basis.
Writing comes fairly easily to me, but being a social media manager? Not so much. And having used several different schedulers over the years at varying costs, I am currently using recurpost – which I am finding to be the best for my needs. I like the Smart Queue aspect on recurpost’s calendars which knows the best times to post your content. It’s also easy to set up the content library and split them into colour coded categories. You can then choose when they should be shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Instagram. While it’s not fancy, it does allow for your old but popular blog posts to be recycled over and over again and hopefully catches those people who didn’t see them the first time. The free plan will only let you schedule a certain amount of content, so I am now paying $23 per month for their medium package.
KeySearch is a relatively new tool that I’ve begun using, but it really has changed the way I go about writing my blog posts now. SEO (or search engine optimisation) is a big deal when it comes to your content, because there’s no point in spending hours writing something, if search engines such as Google won’t rank them high enough for them to be seen. KeySearch allows you to find search terms and keywords that will help your posts be read – and also rank them in terms of difficulty, as well as show you which websites you’d be competing against. For instance, if I was to compete on a keyword that is used by Tripadvisor, then there would be absolutely no point in trying to go up against them. For $17.99 per month, you get up to 200 credits per day to perform searches which is very useful, especially as I am going back through all my old posts to make sure they are all optimised.
Yoast, which comes as standard if you use WordPress, goes hand in hand with KeySearch above. This SEO software has a traffic light system enables you to really optimise your blog posts so they can be found – from making sure your titles and alt text on images are related to your keywords, to pointing out if your sentences are too long and clunky. It really does pay to make sure your SEO is nailed down before you hit publish, otherwise, like me, you’ll be spending months going back to rectify them all. And there is something extremely satisfying when the green light appears – indicating your SEO is good to go!
My video editing skills are nothing to shout about. And even though I do have iMovie on my laptop and use it occasionally, I do struggle with it. I don’t find it easy to use and much prefer doing it on my phone. Videoshow is a downloadable app which really makes video editing a doddle. By paying the one-off fee of £7.99, it allows you to take videos and photos straight out of your library and begin editing immediately. You can add music, audio, and text, as well as cut clips, and add overlays and stickers, or use their different video templates. Once happy, you can then download an HD version to share wherever you need to.
Do you have any blogging tools for beginners you’d like to add or suggest? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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