Every profession or hobby requires a set of tools. Painters need a brush, paint, and canvas. DIY passionate need tools like a saw or a hammer. Enthusiasts of jogging need decent running shoes and similar equipment. Blogging is no different – you need a tool set that will help you make the most out of your blog and minimize your effort.
But it can be costly – sometimes even a few hundred dollars a month. So what to do about it? A good idea is to look for tools that offer free packages – you can test them at no cost and upgrade only when you see enough value.
In this article, I’ll present to you the 10 best free blogging tools. I’m not going to write about popular tools such as Trello, MailChimp, or Google Analytics. They are excellent but I bet you know them very well already. In this article, I’ll give you a list of the top 10 free blogging tools you probably don’t know yet.
- Screaming Frog – make your blog SEO-friendly
Write and people will come? Not anymore. We live in an era of information overload. Everyone’s competing for the attention of a potential audience. If you own a small blog, writing a new post won’t attract hundreds of visitors by itself. You must make it easy to find. And where do people look for information? Yup, Google or similar search engines.
Screaming Frog will help you make sure that your website looks good for site crawlers. This tool shows what you should fix to improve search rankings, like filling out missing alt descriptions of images, using the right kind of redirects, or complete missing meta descriptions.
Pro tip: page load time is considered to be one of the most important factors affecting SEO (more on this topic here). Use Page Speed Tools and Pingdom to discover how you can make your website load faster.
- Infolinks – make money from your blog
Why do you run a blog at all? Probably you follow your passion and want to share it with others while also educating them. That’s great. But having a blog is not free. Hosting is not free, templates are not free, you’re likely to upgrade to a few paid tools or plugins. Plus, your time and effort put into developing the blog are valuable. So it would be nice to earn something, right?
That’s what monetization platforms are for. Put banners or promoted links on your blog and get paid when people click them. Infolinks is one of such platforms, used by over 200k websites worldwide.
Pro tip: people are getting immune to traditional banners so choose a monetization platform that offers more types of promoted content, like Infolinks’ innovative ads.
- Survicate – collect feedback & email signups
Do readers like your content? Who knows. You can get some hints from comments or the number of social shares. But these are only hints. You can directly ask your readers how they like what they read. How to do it?
Use a tool like Survicate. You’ll be able to launch targeted survey widgets and collect feedback from visitors. Ask them not only how they like what they are reading, but also what they want you to write about next, what are their interests or what forms of content they like the most. Collected answers will help you create better content than ever.
Pro tip: you can also use Survicate or any similar tool to collect signups for your mailing lists. Exit surveys will be the most useful here.
- Notify – promote your content directly on social media
As we already agreed, people look for information using search engines. But now they also use a more proactive way – social media. They ask for recommendations (like ‘Can anyone recommend me good running shoes for a beginner?’) and for information as well (like ‘How do I increase social media traffic to my website?’).
Finding such conversations is a great opportunity for you to promote your content. Use Notify to be notified on Slack or HipChat about tweets that contain keywords you choose. Jump into conversations and suggest your relevant content.
Pro tip: add names of your competitors to monitored keywords to find out what people are saying about their content.
- ManageFlitter – grow your Twitter follower base
One of the ways to get your content in front of new people is to build a follower base on social media channels. Sounds good but how to do it?
There’s one simple trick – follow people that can be interested in your profile and content that you share. Use a tool like ManageFlitter or Crowdfire to do it. This technique helped us grow the number of followers from 0 to 17000 with little effort.
Pro tip: remember about unfollowing people who don’t follow you back; otherwise you will quickly ruin stats of your account and even can be marked as “spammy”.
- Appear.in – engage your audience with webinars
How can you engage your audience more than with text? Yup, you’re right – use interactive forms of content. You won’t find a more interactive than webinars. They will help you build your position as an expert in your niche and you will get more personal contact with your audience. Downsides?
You need to prepare well. There is nothing worse than a webinar full of silence or mumbling. And choose software wisely. For some reason, the right webinar software is still not easy to find. But appear.in works smoothly and allows you to have up to 8 participants at no cost. You can check how this form of interaction resonates with a small selected part of your audience before you go full-scale, which will require a premium plan.
Pro tip: invite the most active members of your audience to the first webinar and collect their feedback to polish the script and gain confidence.
- Buzzsumo – find hot topics
Tapping into trending topic is a good way to increase readership – people like reading about hot stuff. That’s why after each Apple conference you see dozens of similar articles about released products. It’s especially easy to do with regular events like Christmas or SuperBowl. But there are many topics that appear from nowhere and gain traction in a matter of days or sometimes hours. How to spot them to be able to join the fever?
You must follow trends. Google Trends will help you with that. You’ll see what’s trending right now.
Pro tip: after spotting hot topics, use Buzzsumo to find what has already been published. Next, use skyscraper technique to create better and more in-depth content than already existing.
- Hemingway App – polish your writing
What I’m about to tell shouldn’t surprise you – blogging requires solid writing skills. Your articles should be pleasant to read while also informative and engaging. Everyone has a different writing style but we can’t forget about ease of reading. Keeping sentences simple didn’t hurt anybody. In fact, this one of the factors that made the style of Ernest Hemingway so different and led to a Nobel Prize in 1954.
Unfortunately, Hemingway can’t check your writing – he is dead. But an app called Hemingway can. It will show you where you are elaborating too much, what you can cut and which words are worth replacing for simpler synonyms. For me, it’s a must-have (this text was edited with Hemingway as I tend to elaborate too much).
Pro tip: if you’re not a native English speaker, use Grammarly to check and improve your writing before you upload an article to Hemingway.
- Startup Stock Photos and Pexels – get images
What draws the attention of readers? Pictures. If you produce 2000 words long text and add no images, few people will read it to the end. It’s easy to fix – just add a few images that match the context. You don’t have to take a camera by yourself and shoot pictures – stock photos will work well most of the times. So go to a website like Startup Stock Photos or Pexels and grab some pictures for your blog. Just don’t forget about attribution, if it is required.
Pro tip: if you need to edit photos of any other graphics, take a look at Canva – a simple but powerful browser-based graphic edition tool.
- Keywordtool.io and Keyword Planner – research interesting keywords
How to create content that ranks well in Google? Technical details like those described in point 2 are important, no doubt about it. But what’s even more important is writing about the right keywords. How to find them?
First, use keywordtool.io or a similar tool. Enter the topic you want to write about. You’ll get a list of related keywords. Copy it and upload to AdWords Keyword Planner. You will see how many people search for those terms and how competitive they are (the higher competition, the harder it’s to rank high in Google for a term). Choose keywords that your audience will find interesting with as low competition as possible, write, and see how articles rank.
Pro tip: while keywords are important, keyword stuffing doesn’t work anymore. Focus on quality instead.
As you can see, you don’t have to drain your budget to get equipped with the tools to gather feedback on your articles, polish writing, choose interesting topics, and even earn on your writing. So choose tools that you think will be the most useful and put them to the test.
PS. don’t forget to take a look at Infolinks’ special deals to access discount for a bunch tools useful for bloggers!
Lucjan Kierczak is an inbound marketer at Survicate – all-in-one customer feedback tool that allows collecting feedback with website surveys, one-click email surveys, and questionnaires. Connect with Lucjan on Twitter or LinkedIn.