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Craig Jarrow Talks about Blogger Productivity

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If you’re like many bloggers, chances are good that you’re always crunched for time. You know you need to be consistent with your content creation, but it can sometimes be hard. Work, clients, spouses, kids, pets, and your must-watch TV programs can all interfere with your online goals. As a new blogger, how do you find time for it all?

Check out what NMX speaker Craig Jarrow of TimeManagementNinja.com has to say about finding time to blog. And, be sure to check out Craig’s session at NMX in January, “Productivity Power Panel: Learn the Tools, Tactics, & Workflows of Highly Productive Bloggers.”

To learn even more about blogging, be sure to check out the sessions in the blogging track at our upcoming conference. To learn more about NMX, or to get a conference pass, visit NMXlive.com. See you in January!

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!

 

Are You New to Blogging? We’d Like to Meet You!

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If your experiences are similar to mine, you see the same names popping up again and again across blogs in your niche. This doesn’t happen without good reason – experienced, a-list bloggers have a lot to teach us.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging and new media, especially since beginning my work with BlogWorld, it is this: Everyone has something to teach. Just because you haven’t been doing this for years doesn’t mean that you don’t have good ideas and instincts.

Have you been blogging for under six months? If so, we’d love to feature you as part of our new series, Meet the Blogger. Bloggers from all niches and walks of life are welcome. We want to get to know you and your blog!

What is Meet the Blogger?

  • A way for our community to meet some of the best new bloggers in the industry
  • Your opportunity to reach not only our blog readers, but also our newsletter readers
  • The chance to share advice about the things you’ve learned as a new blogger

Want to participate? I’d love to here from you! Simply email me at allison-at-abcontentonline-dot-com with “Meet the Blogger” in the subject line.  Make sure you include your blog URL and a few sentences about yourself! You can also read more here, including a list of past participants.

Been blogging for over six months? We’d love to post a guest post from you or link to you during our weekly Brilliant Bloggers post!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Controversy (@hugmeup)

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With all the BlogWorld Expo work I’ve been doing, I haven’t had time for Overheard on #Blogchat for a few weeks. Glad to be back this week!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Generating interest in your NEW blog

While at BlogWorld Expo 2010, Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse both mentioned that polarizing topics on your blog can help drive traffic. On tonight’s #blogchat, a similar topic was mentioned.

hugmeup: I’ve noticed that controversial topics gain a lot of interest quickly

Controversy can definitely be good for your traffic. But is it good for your blog? Consider the following:

  • Is the topic going to pit your readers against you?

Chris and Darren talked about polarizing topics, but that’s not necessarily the same as controversy. Polarizing is controversial, but the opposite isn’t always true. If you have a political blog and talk about pro choice versus pro life, that’s a polarizing topic. If you say that you support killing babies, you’re not going to get support from any of your readers – that’s just controversial. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t speak your mind, but if you’re trying to foster community, you don’t want to pit yourself against your audience.

  • Do you know the facts?

If you’re going to get controversial, make sure you have the facts straight. Trust me; on the Internet, if you’re wrong or even incomplete in the information you present, your readers will let you know. And most of them aren’t very nice about it. Cite as many sources as possible and think ahead to the debates you’ll have to face so you’re prepared to defend your position.

  • Are you controversial for controversy’s sake?

Posting something controversial can drive a lot of traffic, but if that’s your sole motivation, you’re not doing anything good for your blog. Believe in what you post. Otherwise, you’re not providing quality to readers, and eventually, they’ll figure out that you’re a fake.

  • Is the topic relevant to readers?

A few months ago, the WordPress/Thesis debate was definitely a controversial topic that many blogs covered, including this one. But did I post about it on the video game blog I manage? Nope. Sure, some of our readers might be interested, but does it make sense to further our blog? Not at all. If you’re really passionate about a controversial topic that doesn’t exactly fit your blog, think about guest posting instead! You’ll still drive some traffic to your site, but you can write something for a more relevant audience.

I’m someone who doesn’t shy away from controversy. Often, what I post here and on my other blogs is in direct conflict of the popular opinion. Do I do it for the traffic? I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t cross my mind. Strong opinions are usually extremely good for traffic, and that’s definitely something you should take into consideration. Just make sure that your controversial posts have a purpose beyond cheap hits. Otherwise, the traffic spike will be just that – a spike, not sustained traffic.

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