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    Not so much blogging tools, but rather tools I use in the course of blogging, if you see what I mean! Anyway, here are 12 tools that I find massively useful in and around my blog.

    1. Feedburner

    One of the blogging tools I would recommend unreservedly. While I may not visit the site every day, I run all of my RSS feeds and my clients feeds through Feedburner which allows me to use them so much more effectively than I could otherwise. It isnt just so I can see how many people are following my blog through my feed or that they can automatically receive updates via email if they are not familiar with RSS. I can also use it to brand the RSS feed, create a signature using the feed to promote my blog on my email or on forum postings, add messages about my services to the feed and much more. Oh and its free.

    2. Aweber

    Although I use a bespoke email marketing system for the larger client campaigns that I run, I also run a number of mailing lists including my own free Business Blogging eCourse (over 2500 takers now, BTW!) via Aweber. This started life as an autoresponder system as well as a bulk email system which seems to have gradually expanded so you can do tracking and all sorts now. In addition, they launched Blog Broadcast which will automatically create an email newsletter from your blog posts that you can schedule according to your needs.

    3. Google Webmaster Tools

    Now at the end of the day, a business blog is still essentially a website and as such can benefit from the tools that Google makes available to webmasters everywhere. Lets face it, businesses may run blogs as an interactive mouthpiece with their clients and the good ones benefit from all of the intangibles in terms of trust, relationships etc they can create; however, this doesn’t stop businesses also tapping into the fact that they are inherently attractive to search engines and so ideal to help develop your online marketing. So check in with Google Webmaster Tools over at Google Webmaster Central.

    4. Statcounter

    Its essential to keep track of whats going on your blog, which posts are attracting most attention, where readers are coming from and what keywords they are using to find you. These are all things we need to know to improve and get the most out of our business blogs. For this, I use two tools – Google Analytics, which is comprehensive but the 24 hour delay in getting the stats can sometimes be frustrating if I need immediate feedback on posts or when I get a surge of visitors from sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. For this reason I also use Statcounter free up to a certain limit but not too pricey on the upgrade if you want some additional bandwidth.

    5. RSS Reader

    To keep up with what is going on in my industry or those of my clients, I rely on two tools. Essential tool no.1 – my RSS reader, which provides me with the news and views of selected sites delivered straight to me. Personally I have gone with an offline reader called FeedReader and I like it. However, I would be remiss if I didnt also point you in the direction of the two most popular readers when it comes to people who follow me: Google Reader and Bloglines. My only advice is to check them out and see which ones appeals to you most. Actually Im wrong my real only advice would simply be – get one!

    6. Google Alerts

    Essential Tool no.2 – Google Alerts. A great little tool which keeps me up to date by sending me emails with any blogs, sites and news articles which mention any of the topics or companies that I am monitoring. Daily updates on some keywords but for others I prefer to get immediate notification so that I can follow up if necessary, perhaps leave a comment or be the first to share the information with my own readers.

    7. WordPress

    Im a WordPress fan, I cant deny it. All the blogs I run for myself and those I set up for clients are based on the WordPress platform powerful, flexible and, in my opinion, the best tool to future proof your investment in blogging. (Oh dear, that sounded a bit like marketing speak!) However, there are often things that I want to do with a blog to achieve a business aim that I need to research from a technical standpoint. Enter the WordPress site. Not only an invaluable source of information on themes and plugins but also the support of other developers and users in the forums. Fab!

    8. Yahoo Site explorer / SEO plugin of Firefox

    Linking is such an important element of the development of a blog that it’s great to keep a close eye on who is linking to you. Specific sites like Technorati are really good but I also like to use another tool (or rather tools) to give a view across all areas of the internet – firstly you’ve got Yahoo’s Site Explorer which allows focus on inbound and internal links and secondly there is the SEO plugin for Firefox (from Aaron Wall of SEO Book fame). Both excellent.

    9. Core FTP

    While I could use WordPress to load images and pdfs etc onto my blog, I guess my years on the business development and marketing side of things havent totally suppressed the techie within (I blame my years at Psion for that) and I like to use an FTP program to load stuff onto my blog. Of course it also comes in very handy for setting up WordPress in the first place together with the plugins I use as part of creating fully optimised blogs for clients. Many recommend Filezilla but I still love the rather bare simplicity of Core FTP bless!

    10. SnagIt

    After trying a number of other products to capture images on screen, I finally forked out for SnagIt and dont regret it for an instant not that that makes me a big spender either at $50. Whether it is for putting together my training courses on blog promotion, creating manuals so clients can really use their blog properly or just to liven up posts or forum comments, its easy and very flexible. Well worth the money.

    11. Dreamstime

    Having looked at a number of different graphics sites, Dreamstime is the one that I use the most when I am looking for images and graphics to use in my posts. There are a number of others such as iStockphoto or Big Stock Photo which are widely used but I found that Dreamstime has an excellent range of images and a reasonable price structure so have stuck with that.

    12. Technorati

    Still the daddy of Blog Search Engines and Blog Directories all rolled into one. If you want to find a blog in your chosen area of expertise then Technorati is where to start and then just follow the links that you find there. Since its important to check out blogs that already exist as part of your own setup process, then this is definitely a site to be familiar with.

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    If you are serious about developing your blog for your business then the likelihood is that you will be keeping a keen eye on tracking visitors to your site, seeing which posts are attracting most interest and which keywords are being used to find you.

    There are a number of tools of the market which can help you in this, many of which are free. Most of these are generic tracking packages are aimed at websites in general, but there are also some excellent ones which are specifically aimed at blogs which should also be considered because of the additional elements they bring.

    Blog Tracking Tools

    There are four services that I have looked at specifically, though there are of course many more which exist in the market. The first two, MyBlogLog and Feedburner, were created with blogs specifically in mind while Statcounter and Google Analytics are general analytics packages, designed for a wider audience.

    MyBlogLog: (recently acquired by Yahoo) is much more than just a tracking package. You are given a dashboard overview of where readers came from, what they’ve viewed and what they clicked on, as well additional more comprehensive details in the detailed area, but I believe that the real value comes from the community element it also offers.

    With MyBlogLog, you get the chance to make contact with the people who read your blog, make contact and link up with others as well as join communities on individual blogs or sites (join the Better Business Blogging community here). You can see which members last visited your blog in your profile area on MyBlogLog and, through an easily installed widget, also display it on your blog encouraging others to join.

    Overall, a nice set up combining relationship options and tracking combined, though I notice that the statistics reported are generally lower than through other packages.

    Feedburner: Feedburner is perhaps best known for its RSS tracking and manipulation but during 2006 they also bought blog tracking company BlogBeat. This has now been integrated as a blog analytics element into their free StandardStats package which sits alongside their more familiar RSS feed services.

    Following the familiar Feedburner look and feel, you get page and visitor tracking, entry and exit pages together with browser information and location delivered in a “tag cloud” format. There are also a couple of nice touches linked to the RSS feeds, insofaras you can identify sites where your content has been resyndicated including other blogs and directories and you can track downloads of podcasts etc.

    Lots more integration to come by all accounts so definitely one to keep an eye on in terms of new developments.

    Statcounter: Real time stats and a whole host of information about who’s doing what and where on your site. A comprehensive and very popular stats package which gives a whole host of information across every aspect that you might need, perhaps with the exception of detailed information on exit links clicked on. Other than that you have everything that you might need from Search Engine referencers, keywords used, visitor tracking, popular pages etc.

    The free service offers all the functionality but retains only 100 page views to drill down into for detailed information – however, upgrading is relatively inexpensive if required. The interface is functional without being anything to write home about but the fact that it is real time statistics from the word “go” is a real plus if you need to know what is happening on your blog immediately.

    Google Analytics: After a few initial teething troubles of its own making (I guess that’s what happens when you give away something like this for free), Google Analytics has settled down to be probably the most comprehensive free tracking package out in the market.

    In some ways in fact, it’s possibly overkill for what most blogs require but it is certainly very complete in what it tracks, and it presents the information in graphic format as well as raw data. The click paths are particularly nice but there is going to be a lot of the functionality which will probably not be used.

    Which to go for

    All contain more than enough basic information in their tracking to satisfy most users, so it is really their individual specialist additions that make the difference where they play to their own strengths.

    There is of course nothing stopping you using more than one package and this is the road I would probably recommend. If you use a comprehensive overall analytics package such as Statcounter or Google Analytics, then these will certainly cover all your indepth tracking requirements. But the community elements at MyBlogLog are an excellent addition and Feedburner’s RSS expertise offers tracking through your feeds that the others can’t provide, so incorporate these as well and get the best of all worlds!

    One word of warning – it can get addictive! So try not to keep popping back to your stats every 5 minutes to see who’s visited, the information will still be there later.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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