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10 Best Blog Tools for Beginners

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Blogging can be challenging for beginners. We’ve all been there: the early days of blogging when it’s exciting just to receive a single comment on one of your posts, when writing good content takes up all of your free time, and when it feels like you’re talking to no one on social media.

So today, I wanted to share with you all the best blog tools for beginners. These tools can help you make friends online, find new readers, save time, and avoid common blogging mistakes. And of course, I hope there are a few tricks in here for experienced bloggers too! I didn’t start using some of these tools until late in the game, simply because I didn’t know about them.

1. Windows Live Writer

I know I’ve mentioned this tool before, but I have to start by mentioning it again – it is super valuable if you’re a blogger on the go (and who among us isn’t?). Windows Live Writer can be downloaded onto your desktop so you can write blog posts when you’re offline, making it perfect for travelers, and because you can link it to your blog (or multiple blogs), when you type, you’ll see how the blog post will look when it’s live on your site, which is invaluable for placing pictures and doing other formatting tasks. When you’re connected again, you can simply upload your posts straight to your blog without having to copy/paste. So now you can make use of otherwise wasted time during your day by writing blog posts for later.

2. Zemanta

Another tool that you may not be surprised to find on this list, since I’ve mentioned it before, is Zemanta. This plugin sits on your dashboard in the “new posts” page and allows you to quickly link to other resources as you’re creating your blog posts. You can set it up to hunt for related posts from people you know, and you can also insert posts from members of the Zemanta community you don’t know yet. Linking to others’ posts is a great way to make friends in the  blogging community. They also have a new image insertion process, which makes adding high-quality fair use images easy to insert into your posts, saving you time.

3. PicFont.com

Need to add text to a picture? Unless you have a photo editing program like Photoshop, you might find yourself resorting to *eek* Paint. No more! You can simply go to PicFont.com to add outlined or shadowed text in a variety of fonts and colors. It doesn’t take and technical skill to use this site and get a really professional look. Remember, having great images is part of what it takes to be successful on Pinterest.

4. Google Alerts

If you aren’t already using Google Alerts, definitely set up this tool to use in conjunction with your blog. Even if you don’t report the news, it’s good to know what is going on in your niche. You can also set up a Google Alert for your name (if it isn’t too common) and for your blog’s name so you get an email every time someone else talks about you. Even if you’re new, you might be surprised how often other bloggers link to your site or mention something you’ve written.

5. Skype

It never fails to amaze me how many people are not yet using Skype, but this free calling tool is invaluable! You can use Skype to interview others, talk to fans, record podcasts, and more. You can even set up a business line so you don’t have to give out your home phone or cell phone.

6. Survey Monkey

One of the best ways to get better as a blogger is to ask your readers what they like and don’t like. Survey Monkey is a great tool for doing this. Like most of the other tools on this list, you don’t need technical skills to set it up, so it’s great for beginners. Even if you only get a few responses to your questions right now, it’s still better than not knowing what your readers want at all.

7. Visual.ly

Infographics are certainly hot right now, but many bloggers avoid posting them simply because they do not have the skill set to create them. Not to worry; there are many designers out there who would love to have you share their work, as long as you credit it. Visual.ly is one of my favorite places to go to find free infographics for your blog. If you are a designer, you can also create infographics on this site for others to share.

8. Twitter Lists

Twitter in and of itself is a great tool for blog promotion, but what I find especially helpful is the list function. I create private lists (so others can’t see them) in categories I want to follow, which makes it a lot easier to weed through all of the tweets to see what’s most important. You can set up lists for others blogging in your niche, which makes it easy to connect with these people regularly (important to any new blogger’s growth), and you can also create lists for any conference you’re attending (like BlogWorld of course) so it’s easy to meet up with other attendees.

9. Evernote

I swear, sometimes my lists have lists. Evernote is a great way to keep track of everything you have to do, and it’s totally free. You can sync it across your phone, tablet, laptop, and other devices, which I absolutely love, so if you have a great blog post idea while you’re out getting your hair done, for example, you can simply write yourself a note to remember when you get home. Easy-peasy, no more sticky notes all over your desk!

10. PDF Converter

Lastly, if you’re going to create some free eBooks or guides, one tool that I love is this free PDF converter. There are tons of PDF tools on the market, but this is one of the few free ones I’ve found that will actually keep any links you’ve inserted into the text. With other PDF converters, you’re more limited, since the links won’t carry over from a Word document.

Okay, those are my 10 favorite tools for beginners – now it’s your turn! Leave a comment with the best blog tool you’ve come across to make your job easier.

And of course, if you’re a beginner, definitely consider checking out BlogWorld in June. We have sessions for all levels, from beginner to experience, so everyone can walk away with awesome education!

 

New Posterous Spaces Makes It a Breeze to Share with the Right People

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Blogging tool Posterous (created in 2008)  introduced a new system this week called Posterous Spaces. It features more up-to date sharing and social tools.

They announced the new system on their blog saying, “Why did we create it? Simple – because we think you should be able to share online like you do in real life. That’s why you’ll find Posterous Spaces has intuitive privacy controls that make it a breeze to share with the right people, every time. ”

Here’s a video which explains Posterous Spaces.

Introducing Posterous Spaces from Posterous on Vimeo.

The company also announced Posterous Spaces for the iPhone. You can have all of the functionality right in your pocket.

Other new features they’ve added include “five new professionally-designed themes, a beautiful new reading experience, 3x faster loading times, slick new profile pages and more”.

According to cnet, Posterous still isn’t making any money, but say they are doing well and are focusing on user growth instead of revenues.

Do you use Posterous or know anyone who does? If you use the blogging tool, tell us what you think of the new system and if this will take the company to the next level.

55+ Ways to Bedazzle Your Blog

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I have a confession to make: I’ve always wanted a Bedazzler.

There’s a reason I hadn’t purchased one. If I did, everything in my life would be bedazzled. My clothing. My blankets. My curtains. My cat.

Let’s just say that it’s a situation that would not end well.

The point is that I’m a huge fan of accessorizing. I love things that sparkle and glitter, and I love showing off my personal style. If you see me at BlogWorld Expo this year, you’ll likely notice that I’m wearing something that I’ve either modified or made myself.

And if you visit any of my blogs, you’ll notice that I like to modify there, too.

Over the past five years, I’ve talked myself to hack WordPress themes through trial and error. It isn’t always pretty, but I’ve learned how to slice together multiple themes to make the exact theme I want. This isn’t just about themes though – I like my sidebars, posts, pages, and more to reflect the exact style I want for whatever blog I’m working on. Just like I like my outfits to be perfectly styled to my taste, I like my blogs to be…well..bedazzled.

I’ve come across a number of tools over the last several year to help make that happen as easily as possible. Sure, you’re still going to have to get up close and personal with your css and php files if you true want to stylize your blog, but these tools, widgets, buttons, and more go a long way in helping you create the perfect blog style.

(Most can be used across a number of platforms, though some are specifically for WordPress)

RSS Buttons

  1. RSS Button Maker
  2. Adam Kalsey’s Button Maker
  3. Online Marketing Blog’s RSS Button Tool

Twitter and Facebook Buttons

  1. Social Media Buttons
  2. Buttons Hut
  3. 100+ Twitter Icons and Buttons (from various designers)
  4. SociableBlog.com
  5. Web2gfx

Other Social Networking Buttons

  1. Digg Button
  2. JPF Add to Reddit
  3. Share This
  4. Sociable
  5. Socializer Plugin

Load Graphics Generators

  1. Ajax Loading Gif Generator
  2. Ajax Load

Music, Pictures, and Video

  1. Flixn – webcam streaming (currently unavailable, projected to be back late 2010)
  2. Flickr Flash Photo Stream Badge
  3. TubePress – create a YouTube gallary
  4. BlinkxIt – embed videos
  5. Scissors – simple image editing
  6. Facebook Photos
  7. ImageShack Uploader
  8. WP Wetfloor – creates a reflection effect for pictures on your blog
  9. iTunes Spy – shows recently played songs

Weather, Clocks, and Maps

  1. iBegin Weather Widget
  2. ClockLink
  3. Google Map Widget
  4. ClustrMaps.com

Graphs and Charts

  1. Create a Graph
  2. XML / SWF Charts

Show Off Your Stats

  1. PageRank Button
  2. del.icio.us Tagometer
  3. WP-UserOnline
  4. Alexa Rank

Communication

  1. 3Jam – receive messages to your cell phone without giving out your number
  2. Skype Button
  3. IM Online – shows you IM status across a number of services
  4. Shout Box

Poll Creation

  1. Poll Daddy
  2. Poll Code
  3. Vizu
  4. WP-Polls

Form Creation

  1. Web Form Factory
  2. PHP FormMail
  3. Wufoo

Favicons

  1. Favicon.cc
  2. 256pixels
  3. Web Script Lab Favicon Generator
  4. HTML-kit Favicon

Make Money

  1. Create an Amazon store
  2. ebay Sales Lister

Other Ways to Bedazzle

  1. LibraryThing – show the latest books you’ve been reading
  2. WP-PostRatings – allows readers to rate your posts
  3. Gravatars – displays gravatars with comments on your blog
  4. Netflix – display your Netflix queue

At the time of publishing, there were 55 ways to bedazzle your blog on this list. Leave a comment with your favorite tools, and I’ll update the list to include even more awesome ways to make your blog shine.

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