You don’t have to look far to find a list of the best tools for beginning bloggers. A benefit for them, no doubt.
But those of us who have been around for a number of years often know about most of the conventional tools. So while the usual best-tools-bloggers-should-use lists are fine for the greenhorns in the field … what about the rest of us? What about those who want to go from undergraduate to graduate work? Who want to blog like Chris Brogan, Michael Selzner or [insert your favorite pro blogger here]? What tools do professional bloggers use? And why?
We asked pro bloggers what they use and recommend to come up with this ultimate list of tools for pros and experienced bloggers. Some are “blogging tools,” others aren’t.
Great blog posts start with a great idea. Here’s what the pro bloggers use to find, collect and develop those ideas.
- Twitter Search
When Chris Brogan needs story ideas he turns to Twitter search. Perfect for identifying trending topics, popular ideas and developing concepts. Free.
Use this free app to jot down notes, capture ideas online and access this information from anywhere. Evernote plays nice with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device out there. And the search function rocks. (Editor’s note: Raven’s Jon Henshaw loves Evernote a nearly embarrassing amount.) Free.
Mindmapping is a brainstorming tool designed to help you chase multiple angles to any given idea. You basically build a web of interconnected ideas. Free and written in Java.
Another free mindmapping tool that allows you to build and plan an idea. Includes collaboration feature and syncs with your mobile.
- Google Insights for Search
Uncover and compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and other Google properties. Free.
Become an arm-chair psychologist with this scientifically-based Twitter personality tool. Simply enter a Twitter handle, click and voila: you’ve got dirt.
Once that brilliant blog post idea is chosen, the next step is to find content to support and flesh out that idea.
Online screen capture app. Skitch Lite is free. Robust model costs $19.99. “Skitch is something I really miss when I have to work from another computer (unfortunately it’s Mac only),” said pro blogger Chris Garrett. “Makes screen grabs, crops and text, arrows really fast and easy, even has its own image library as well as ability to upload to Flickr.”
Free voice and video calls, instant messaging, unlimited file sharing and much more. Free software application you download to your computer.
- Ecamm Call Recorder
Allows you to turn your voice and video calls on Skype into Quiktime movies. This Skype add-on is completely free, but it’s for Mac users only.
This free web-based software allows you to collect online media about a single topic in a neat, clean interface. Once you’re curated all the information you can then share or embed in your blog.
- Flickr/Creative Commons
Search through the work of users who’ve chosen to share their photographs, images and illustrations under different types of licenses. Free.
Another source for royalty-free images and illustrations. You buy stock with credits, which cost $0.95 each.
Create visually compelling clips and quotes of web content that are easily embedded in blog posts, email, forums and websites. Includes built-in attribution, backlinks and tracking. Free.
- Simple Note
Keep notes on the web, your mobile device, and your computer. Find notes quickly with instant searching and simple tags. Share a list, post some instructions or publish your thoughts. Free.
When the idea arrives at this stage, it’s time to write. Or speak (if that’s your cup of tea).
“The real difference between a beginner and an EXPERIENCED blogger (not all experienced bloggers get money from their efforts) is the development of their style, voice and following.”—Frank Reed, Managing Editor of Marketing Pilgrim
- Writer for iPad
Eliminate all distractions so you can do what bloggers do best: write. It’s “astonishingly simple,” according to Stephen Fry. “Everything goes away except for the writing experience.” App costs $4.99.
- Byword Mac
Simple text editor by Metaclassy that brings a bare-bones, distraction free environment to Mac users for under $10.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking
Count pro blogger Sean Platt among the fans of this voice-recognition software that types when you speak. “I LOVE Dragon,” he said. Once he got the hang of articulating punctuation, the tool “cut my writing time to ribbons.” Base package costs $99.99.
- Scribe Fire
If you run more than one blog, then this free Firefox and Chrome extension allows you to post to all of your blogs no matter the platform (as long as the blog supports MetaWeblog or MovableType APIs).
- Addict o matic
“Inhale the web.” That’s Addict’s tag line. And it fits. This simple tool searches the web for the hottest topic, spits out the results and then you can create and share a custom page. Free.
Optimizing content for search engines isn’t hard once you understand the fundamentals AND they’re staring you in the face. ScribeSEO makes those things happen. Plans start at $17 a month.
Great blog posts don’t go viral unless they have a little help. Enter syndication and the tools that promote a blog post across the web.
Your content can be instantly syndicated to another publisher, blogger or website with a few clicks and no prior business relationship—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
With the click of one button you can submit your content to 26 social media sites. Includes analytics. Pro plan starts at $10 a month for 1,000 submissions.
Share your blog content across social networks with this free web-based app. Bit.ly shortens, shares and tracks your links. Chrome extension available.
Another syndication service that allows you to share your blog or online video content. Contact NewsText for pricing information.
Update multiple social accounts in one click. Use on a mobile. Track results. Collaborate. Customize interface. Assign tasks. Schedule updates. Monitor mentions. What else could you ask for from a social media dashboard? Base model is free.
Automatically feed your blog content (or any RSS feed you create/curate) to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. Includes analytics. Pro blogger Scott Abel—a.k.a. The Content Wrangler—loves this free tool and shared tips for using Dlvr.it at the inaugural Confab conference.
Most pro bloggers are metric mad, eager to know the ROI on a post or landing page—and how they can make it perform better. Content may be king, but conversion is its tight cousin.
- Google Analytics
The leading web-based analytics tool allows you to measure the ROI on your advertising and track your Flash, video and social media applications and sites. Free.
- Yahoo! Web Analytics
Another robust online analytic tool that allows you track, measure and analyze blog data to help you make better decisions about content, publication and advertising. Free.
Self-hosted website analytics. Simple interface with robust metrics on visits, referrers, popular pages and searches. Single site license start at $30. Favorite of Michael Selzner at Social Media Examiner.
- Google Website Optimizer
Easy-to-use tool so you can test your blog’s content. Main benefits include the ability to listen to readers, increase conversion and eliminate guesswork. Free.
- Google Webmaster Tools
Want detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google? Then this is the tool to use. Easy to get started and easy to use. Free.
Online tool that manages you blogs feeds. Control syndication, delivery options and publication terms over multiple blogs. Then analyze the results to optimize your feed content. Free.
- Mongoose Metrics
If you publish a phone number on your blog, then this tool is for you. Track a user the moment he arrives on your site, calls you, talks and hangs up. You then have the intelligence to improve your conversion. Pricing is based on a monthly tracking number rental fee and per minute usage fees. Call for quote.
- Raven Internet Marketing Tools
Raven combines Twitter, Facebook and other social media analytics with Google Analytics in one platform. See which content, distributed where, is driving the most people and engagement to your site. Free trial. Plans start at $99.
A/B testing is a widely-known but rarely-used method to improving conversion. With Optimizely and it’s drop-dead-easy interface, you now have no excuse. Plans as low as $59 a month.
- Search Manager
Mastering the art of search engine marketing is made simple for the one-man blogging shop. Minimum package costs $149/month or 5% ad spend.
- PostRank Analytics
Like it or not, but most engagement and conversations are happening off of your blog and on the social web. With PostRank you can track, measure and analyze these conversations. Free.
- User Testing
If you care about why people are leaving your site, then this crowdsroucing product is a must. For $39, watch and listen to a video of someone as they work through your site.
For a pro blogger the choice is easy: no free blog sites. Ever. Not when you’re trying to brand yourself as a world-class professional. So what platforms do you use?
“A personal blogger might be someone wanting to share things about their life with their immediate circle. A professional blogger might be anyone who is using blogging to manage their brand and/or earn a living by sharing their knowledge.”—Avinash Kaushik of Occam’s Razor
Arguably the most recognizable blog platform on the web. Free and easy to use, it’s a favorite of pro bloggers, but certainly not the only one. There is competition.
An open source content management platform for websites and applications. It’s built, used, and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the world. Free.
Another open source content management platform for the developer in us all. Free.
- Square Space
Square Space bills itself as the best platform to build a beautiful blog. That’s true. But it’s not free. Build, host and design packages start at $12 a month.
- Concrete 5
Think of Concrete 5 as a content management platform “made for Marketing but built for geeks.” Open source and free but with the ability to adapt the look designers love.
- Movable Type
This Perl based open source web content management platform is great for developers. Not a developer? Then visit movabletype.com. Britney Spears did. Free.
A great blog run by a great blogger needs the assurance that his content will always be up and running smoothly—even if Drudge links to it.
- Host Gator
Great for pro bloggers who have complex needs that require a dedicated hosting plan. Plans start at $3.96/month.
Best for bloggers who don’t mind paying premium prices for the comfort of working with the largest hosting company out there. Base plan starts at $1.99/month.
- Blue Host
With instant blog setup and an intuitive control panel design, Blue Host also provides options to purchase additional professional-grade site builders. Starts at $4.95/month.
- Host Monster
Professional bloggers who want a plan offering unlimited email accounts and speedy customer phone support pick Host Monster. Starts at $4.95/month.
Want to make a grown man cry? Tell him three years of blog posts are gone. Forever. Pro bloggers do not sleep at night until they’ve got this right.
- Syncback Freeware
Losing weeks of data is one thing. Months? Years? This free downloadable tool backs up and synchronize files with ease so you don’t have to fear that catastrophe will happen to you.
For those who draft blog posts with Google Docs or other Google Apps or who want to back up Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, Backupify should be a contender. Data is backed up nightly. Basic social media account backups are free; Google Apps backups start at $3 per user per month, with free trials.
It’s still in beta, but that doesn’t stop CodeGuard from being a great tool to “rescue” sites from mistakes and malware, taking them back the the last best version. Most pros will want a Basic ($10/month) or Pro (20% of hosting costs) plan.
As you can see, pro bloggers are one busy breed. That’s why they need robust efficiency systems in place to help them keep all those plates spinning.
37 Signals gives you an intranet for your business. Share information with your team. Keep your documents, discussions and schedules in one place all the time. Web-based and backed-up daily. Basic plan starts at $24.95/month.
Online project-management tool that distinguishes itself by focusing on communication and collaboration rather than graphs, charts and stats. Basic plan starts at $49.95/month.
- Things Mac
Simple and personal task management for the Mac. Set due dates, repeating to-dos and a daily agenda. Easily organize projects and sync with your iPhone. $49.95.
- Google Calendar
Organizing a pro blogger’s schedule shouldn’t be a burden. With Google Calendar, you can share your calendar, go mobile, send and track invitations, sync with other calendars. And it’s free.
Free web-based task manager allows you to create tasks with nested sub-tasks (think hierarchy). Paid subscription gets you reminders, iCal support and email task creation. Editor’s note: Raven’s Arienne Holland can’t stop raving about Todoist.
Would you like to be able to track what you do on a computer all day? Install RescueTime and you’ll get an analysis at the end of the day. Perfect for those who are ferociously expedient. Base plan starts at $6/month.
If you don’t want to install RescueTime, this online time-tracking tool lets you track and analyze the time you spend while working on different projects. Solo users pay $5/month.
Pro bloggers tend to have their fingers in every online software app pie, which can make managing passwords a nightmare. Enter LastPass, a browser-based tool that generates passwords and fills forms quickly. Base plan is free.
What am I missing? Are there any blogging tools out there that you think a pro wouldn’t be caught dead without? Are there offline tools that would improve the pro blogger’s life? Share your thoughts in the comments. Brutal and all.
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