We all know about the benefits of blogging to our personal or corporate brand. Blogging can…
- Establish ourselves as the expert
- Allow us to engage with our users
- Encourage repeat traffic
- Improve our search engine visibility
The problem is that these benefits come at a cost – our time. Blogging can be time consuming especially if you want to blog regularly.
If you are determined not to let your blog fall by the wayside, it is important to have a process that is as painless as possible.
What follows are some valuable lessons and powerful tools I use to help me make blogging more cost effective.
1. Get organised
The first lesson of pain free blogging is to get organised. There are two ways you need to be organised:
- In your blog idea generation
- In your post scheduling
Capturing blog ideas
In ‘5 lists every website owner should keep‘ I warned how ideas for posts can strike at anytime and that you need to be prepared.
How you do this is entirely up to you. Personally I use a task management programme called Omnifocus that exists both on my iPhone and Mac. This allows me to record ideas wherever I am. I can even mail myself ideas if I do not have my phone or mac with me.
The secret is not so much in the application you use, but in the ability to capture ideas anywhere and have a list you can draw upon when you blog.
An extra tip: When capturing ideas for a post try to write more than just the title. Also write down the key points of the post. This will make life easier when writing later.
As well as having a list of ideas you also need to organise the scheduling of your posts. It is important when blogging to do so regularly, so that users come to eagerly expect your next post.
The problem I had was that in most blogging systems it is hard to see what is released when.
Find a blogging tool with a calendar showing when posts are due to be released. This makes it easy to spot ‘the gaps’ that need to be fill.
In the screenshot below is Editorial Calendar a plugin for WordPress that clearly shows what is being published when. It also allows you to drag and drop posts to easily organise their release.
2. Find a good editor
My second tip for more streamlined blogging is to get yourself a good editor.
Generally speaking the built in editors for blogging platforms are poor.
Even those who do have a half decent editor (such as WordPress) require a web connection to manage and edit posts effectively. This obviously limits when you can blog. For example, I am writing this while flying at 33,000 feet over the Atlantic, something that would be impossible with an online editor.
My editor of choice is Marsedit for the mac. I chose this editor because…
- It is a desktop editor and so can work offline
- It provides a real time preview of how my post will look when released
- It gives control over everything from release dates to category and tagging
- It can manage media such as images, video and audio
- It allows me to markup content using keyboard shortcuts
- Its functionality is extendable through the use of scripts and plugins
- It integrates with every type of blog. This means I can move blogging platform later.
Admittedly a lot of desktop editors provide these types of functionality. It is not really the application that matters, but rather the functionality that allows you to save time.
The biggest time saver in my opinion is the ability to quickly markup posts through keyboard shortcuts. For example, the list above was marked up in a single key press and links have been grabbed straight from safari (no typing at all).
3. Streamline sourcing and uploading images
Probably the most time consuming part of blogging is sourcing and publishing imagery to your blog post. In fact it can be such a painful process that many bloggers give up entirely on using imagery.
Although I can understand this decision, imagery adds a lot to blog posts, increasing user dwell time and engagement.
Fortunately there are tools that help find, capture and upload imagery.
Most bloggers cannot justify paying for stock imagery. Sure a quick Google Image search will provide you with thousands of images you could use. However, with no licensing information you could easily be breaking copyright.
The answer to this is Flickr because you can search based on licensing. There are millions of creative commons images available on Flickr. These can be used for free as long as you reference the original creator.
However, finding the right kind of images on Flickr is time consuming. That is why I use a program called View Finder. View Finder is a desktop application that allows you to quickly search for imagery that is creative commons. It also makes it easy to add these images to your blog along with the associated image credit.
Capturing and uploading imagery
Of course in many cases you do not need a photograph. Instead all that is required is a screenshot (such as you can find throughout this post).
There are many tools that provide this functionality. However there are two applications I would like point out in particular.
The first is Skitch. Skitch is a free mac application that allows you to easily capture, resize and upload screenshots. It is by far the most streamlined application for getting imagery into your blog posts. Not only does it upload to your choice of location, it even provides HTML to copy and paste directly into your post.
The only problem with Skitch is its annotation tools. If you want to add text, arrows or boxes to your screen capture then you have to endure their horrible styling.
Fortunately there is an alternative to Skitch for those times when annotation is required. Little Snapper has some beautifully styled tools including text boxes, arrows, highlight boxes and more.
The only downside of Little Snapper is resizing. You cannot manually resize in the application and then upload to the web. However, when annotations are required the slightly more convoluted process is worth it.
Increasingly adding imagery is not enough. Video is a great way of grabbing users attention and spicing up your blog.
4. Add some video
The problem with adding video is that it is time consuming and the applications are often expensive. Fortunately there is an application called Screenflow that is very reasonably priced and simple to use.
Screenflow for the mac is capable of capturing desktop, webcam and audio. Combined with its ability to import external video this makes it the ideal blogging video tool.
Best of all the videos produced using Screenflow look amazingly professional. It has some superb transitions and allows you to do basic animation and effects.
Once you have your video the next question becomes hosting. There are certainly no shortage of options available many of which are free.
However, a word of warning – check their terms and conditions before uploading. Many assert rights over your videos while others like Vimeo only allow your video to be posted to sites free from advertising.
If you care about your video then a paid service like Vzaar maybe more appropriate. Performance is often superior and the player is more customisable. What is more they do not have draconian terms and conditions.
An extra tip: When choosing a hosting provider check whether your videos will be available without flash. With devices such as the iPhone growing in popularity it is becoming increasingly important to offer a non flash version.
5. Spread the word and track
Finally, there is no point of having a great blog if nobody sees it.
Increasingly the main way of promoting a blog post is through Twitter and other social networks. However, when you are scheduling posts weeks in advance it is not always easy to remember to tweet about them.
That is why I use a plugin for WordPress that automatically posts to Twitter when the article goes live. This takes the hassle out of monitoring your posts status. Once it has been scheduled you can forget about it.
To be honest there are many more plugins I could mention here. That is one reason I like WordPress so much. It has an amazing plugin community and you can find plugins to do everything from publish a podcast to twitter your posts.
Because social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are so important, it is not enough to look at Google Analytics to see if a particular post is popular. You also need to see how many times the post is referenced by Facebook, Twitter, Digg and so on.
However, checking these sites manually is time consuming and almost impossible. That is where PostRank Analytics comes in.
PostRank Analytics gives you a report on the effectiveness of each blog post. It looks at page views (pulled from Google Analytics) and mentions on social networks. It boils all of this data down into an engagement score rated from 1 to 10.
This is a great tool for tracking the popularity of your posts and identifying what kind of subject matter is popular.
How do you make blogging pain free?
So that is my 5 techniques and 10 tools. What about you? Are you a regular blogger? If so how do you streamline the process to make it less painful. I am always keen to hear other people’s tips and tricks so I can apply them to my own blogging.
Please share in the comments below.
Paul Boag, the author of this post, is speaking at FOWD. Paul is speaking on 5 new skills every web designer needs to know and doing a workshop on running a successful web design business. Why not come and meet him? Book now!