To create and run your blog, you need to think about much more than the words you write. In the 21st century, we have many tools and resources to manage the essential things we have to think about when blogging.
From image creation to grammar checks, getting your blog started to keyword research to know what you should write about, and tools to keep your productivity and focus in check, there is an app or website for all you need.
The following is a list of tools I use in my day to day life to help me manage my writing and many other aspects of my life. Some of the links are affiliate links. This means that I will get a small commission if you buy. There is nothing on the list that I don’t use myself, so all links are genuine referrals on my own good experience.
Table of Contents
Creating your website
- Buying your domain – Namecheap
- Website hosting – Siteground
- Content Management System – WordPress
- WordPress Theme – Divi
- Email Marketing – ActiveCampaign
- Project Management – Trello
- Research storage and note taking – Evernote
- Writing and collaboration – Google Docs
- SEO – Yoast
- Editing and writing quality – Hemingway App
- Editing and writing quality – Grammarly
- Use of language – WordHippo
- Images – Unsplash, PixaBay and Canva
Creating your website
The first thing you have to do when you decide to start your blog is to buy your domain. I use namecheap.com to buy my domains because they offer lifetime domain privacy free with every order. Domain privacy means that you won’t get bombarded with spam when you register your domain, which was a massive problem for me before discovering Namecheap!
Once you have your domain, you need to buy web hosting. You can host your domain through Namecheap, but I prefer to take it into Siteground. I currently host all my websites and email accounts on Siteground. Siteground offers easy installation of WordPress and other Content Marketing Systems (CMS) and is GDPR compliant. It also has decent ‘green credentials’, which is also important to me. I am currently looking into hosting with GreenGeeks, which rates far higher for their green credentials. I will update this post when I know more.
I have used WordPress since around 2010. I began my WordPress journey on wordpress.com. I soon learned the benefits of self-hosting using wordpress.org. WordPress is a powerful, well trusted CMS that allows you to create an effective site relatively quickly and easily. As with all things, you can make it as simple or as complex as you need. There is a wealth of information out there to help you get up and running with your WordPress site.
Divi from Elegant Themes
WordPress requires the use of themes to create and style your website. There are a wide range of free themes available through the WordPress ecosystem. But if you are running your blog as a business, you will find that you need more functionality than you can get from a free theme.
I have used Divi, from Elegant Themes, for all the sites I have created for many years. The functionality Divi offers ensures that you can create a powerful, beautiful site with relative ease. It comes with an array of pre-designed templates. You can adapt these templates to your style, and create a professional-looking site.
When you start your blog, you want to build an email list to nurture and grow your community. There are a lot of email marketing services you can use. It is vital that you use one to email your subscribers, rather than emailing them through your personal email provider. This ensures that you are collecting and storing their information, and sending emails according to data protection and spam laws.
I use ActiveCampaign for my email list building. There are different levels of service depending on your list size and business needs. The lowest price basic package allows up to 500 subscribers, unlimited email sending, and a suite of automation ‘recipes’. It is the perfect place to start when you are beginning your blogging journey. As your list grows, you can upgrade your plan at any time.
Research your content topics
If you want your blog to impact the world and create some sort of transformation in your reader, it is crucial to know what people wan to read. While keyword research isn’t the only thing to consider when you are writing your blog posts, it helps to make sure that your posts are likely to be of interest.
There are a lot of tools out there that you can use to do keyword research. Some of them are very complex and in-depth. They are helpful if you plan to go deep into Search Engine Optimisation, but probably over and above what you might need when you are starting. In the early days of your blog, you can get the information you need from free tools. These are three that I use.
Answer the public
Answerthepublic.com takes Google search data and presents you with a vast array of ‘long tail keywords’ (phrases people type into search engines that you can use as keywords on your website), and questions that people ask around that search term.
While it doesn’t give you data on how much (if at all) these terms are used, it gives you a good starting point for thinking about creating content.
Google keyword planner
As keepers of the vast majority of the world’s search data, Google knows what we look for online in great detail. I often ‘joke’ that Google almost certainly knows me better than I do! So it is not surprising that they can provide a suite of valuable tools to help you understand what your readers, or potential readers, might be looking for. The Google Keyword Planner gives handy insights into what people are searching for.
Neil Patel is one of the leading experts in online marketing and SEO. He has created Ubersuggest, a keyword planning tool that allows you to find the search volume and value of the keywords you look up. While you get the best from Ubersuggest if you pay for the premium ($290 for lifetime access, a bargain compared to other products such as SEMRush and Ahrefs), you can get three free keyword searches each day. You can also investigate your competitors and see what keywords they are ranking for, helping you compete in the noisy blog space.
Organising your content
Once you know what you will be blogging about and where you will be sharing your work, you need to create systems to research, plan, create, and track your blog content.
There are a vast array of apps and tools you can use to do this. You may be a pen and paper writer and planner. Maybe, like me, be a tech-obsessed apps and websites sort of blogger (although I do also have a multitude of notebooks scattered around my house as well!)
Trello is a kanban board-based project management tool. It can be used to organise all areas of your life and is very useful for planning your content calendar. I use Trello for my content planning and managing my home life, work, and son’s home education. I have created a sample board here that you can use to plan out your blog content. Simply open this link, and make a copy for your use (there is a Loom video to show you how to do this in the board).
I will share more about how you can use Trello in later posts. It is a powerful and valuable tool for managing work and other aspects of life.
Evernote is a practical and powerful app that you can use for note-taking, link storing, writing, and much more. It is beneficial when researching and browsing the web. By adding a browser extension, you can add web pages to your Evernote notebooks and add tags and notes to each saved link, allowing for ease of storage and retrieval.
- sync your notes to multiple devices
- search through stored PDFs and annotate with your own notes
- hold a significant amount (10GB) of information each month, very useful if you are doing a lot of research for your blogging.
I am writing this post in Google Docs. I use Google Docs for most of my writing. You can access it anywhere (there is an app for Android and iPhone), so you can work wherever you are. It saves your work instantly, so you don’t need to worry about your computer crashing and losing your work. Google office apps are designed with collaboration in mind, so you can easily and securely share your work with people. Collaborators can make suggestions, edit, or just be able to view your work.
Grammarly, which I will mention later in this post, works within Google docs.
Google Docs also comes with voice typing functionality, which can be very useful if you don’t like typing or find it harder to type and write your blog posts. I’ve written this last paragraph using the voice typing functionality, and it seems even to be understanding my welsh accent that sometimes confuses voice recognition software.
Readability of your content
You want to make sure that your content contains the right keywords, and is has good SEO throughout.
But SEO isn’t just about keywords. Google might use bots to search the web and ascertain search rankings, but the bots want to know that your blog posts make good sense to a human. After all, your ideal reader isn’t a bot; it’s a human. Your blogs must be appealing and readable for the ways that people read on the web.
We will look into this in far more depth on this blog over time, but here are some helpful tools to help you get the basics in place.
Yoast is primarily an SEO tool. You install the plugin into WordPress, and then on each page, you tell the software what keywords you are targeting on that page or post. Yoast will tell you where your SEO work is good and where you can improve it. It is a great tool to ensure that you meet the requirements for search visibility. And it provides an excellent checklist to ensure that you include all the fundamentals of SEO best practice.
Yoast will look at issues like sentence length, passive voice, repetition of the first word in each sentence, and paragraph length, to name but a few. It will guide you to improve your writing and the readability of your blog. A more readable blog is seen as better quality by the search bots. While that isn’t all that you need to rank in search results, it is a big help. And even if it doesn’t help drive search traffic, the people who read your posts will be more likely to stick around if your writing is readable.
It is important to note that not every issue it highlights will need correcting. Just as with spell checkers and other writing tools, it is not always right. You will sometimes need to ignore its advice, but it is a good starting point for editing and checking your work.
Hemingway is another app that assesses the quality of your writing. Much like Yoast, it looks for issues such as sentence length, passive voice, and unnecessarily complex language. It isn’t perfect, and there will be times when, as with Yoast, you will need to trust your own understanding of language. But I find it handy to make me think about how I structure my writing. I have seen improvement in my writing when I use Hemingway. It makes the writing sharper and forces me to cut out many of the fluff words I will use if left unchecked!
A spell checker is every writer’s most valuable tool. Even the most skilled writer will fall victim to typos and spelling errors in writing. If you install the Grammarly browser extension, it will check your spelling and grammar as you type. I find this distracting, so I deactivate it while you type and use it only when I want to edit. You can use Grammarly for free to get basic spell checking and grammar checks. The premium version will also help improve your writing, make suggestions of better words, improve tone, better sentence structure, etc.
Images are vital for many aspects of your blog. The images you choose create a sense of brand identity, help your readers to connect to your blog.
Images can break up large posts to make them more readable. And if they are well named using keywords, they can help readers find your site through image search.
You must use permitted images on your site. Taking someone else’s pictures from the web without permission is theft. It is tempting to think, ‘oh, my site is tiny; they will never know’. Because one day they will, and you will have to pay a hefty price for your copyright infringement.
And aside from the risk of expensive legal action, it’s just not right. You wouldn’t like it if someone else stole your work from you and claimed it for themselves without thanking, paying or even acknowledging you, so why would you do it to someone else? You’re better than that; I know you are.
Use images legally
And it’s ok. You don’t need to steal other people’s images anyway. There are some great sites where you can get beautiful photos for free to use on your website. Sites such as Unsplash and Pixabay offer millions of beautiful, top quality images that you can use for free. Pixabay also offers videos and music. You don’t *have* to credit the photographers, but I think it is good to, wherever possible, common courtesy and good karma! Remember the old adage, “treat people how you would like to be treated”, and you won’t go far wrong in life.
If you want to get somewhat more exclusive pictures for your website, you can find plenty of images on paid-for sites. Depositphotos lists 202 million photos, videos, vectors, and music that you can access. You can pay a monthly subscription or buy credits. I get credits through fairly regular deals on AppSumo, where I’ve been able to buy 100 images credits for a mere $39!
If you can’t afford to pay a graphic designer, but want branded images and other resources for your business, then Canva is a powerful tool. I couldn’t live without it anymore! Canva allows you to create beautiful branded images, workbooks, presentations, posters, social media posts, and so much more. There are hundreds of templates, so you don’t need to have any design skills (I rely entirely on templates)
Canva offers a free version and a premium version. I have tried to work off the free version, and while it is adequate, the benefits you get from the premium version are almost impossible to live without once you have experienced them.
For just over £100 a year, you can get
- Premium images
- You can resize images at the click of a button, vital if you are producing images for different channels.
- You can store your brand identity so you can access your fonts, styles and colours in moments.
- Almost half a million templates
- You can schedule your content straight to your social media channels
- 100Gb of storage, so you can keep your designs for future use
Canva is one of the must-haves for my business, and I love to play with it!
Organising your time
Now, this is probably one of the biggest challenges I have as a writer with ADHD. As an anything with ADHD, time management is a massive challenge for me. While self-care and medication are a big part of how I manage my time and emotional energy, I use tools to help me stay focused and on track with work.
It is no understatement to say that the Google calendar revolutionised my life. Before I had a calendar that I could access and update through my phone, my life was littered with missed appointments, forgotten tasks, double bookings and broken promises. This is now a thing of the past. Before I make any plans, I can check if I am free and able to do that thing (instead of agreeing to it and hoping for the best!). I don’t have to worry about losing appointment cards from the optician, doctor or dentist, as I can add in the appointment at the time of booking from my phone.
I also sync Google calendar to my business booking schedule, so potential clients can book right in the calendar, and to Focusmate, putting my sessions straight into my calendar (see more about Focusmate later in this article).
Did I mention I have something of a phone addiction? Well, I do, and it can sometimes lay waste to the most well-intentioned plans. Early morning plans can be thwarted by ‘I’ll just quickly check Facebook’. Early bedtimes get lost in ‘just one more episode of Schitt’s Creek’. And focused work sessions can be waylaid by the constant flickering of notification lights for my various apps.
Enter Freedom. It does what it says on the tin…. As long as you define freedom as the ability to manage your attention rather than the ability to do whatever you want to do on your phone!
Freedom is a web and app blocker that can work across your devices. You set up which apps and websites you don’t want to access and when. You can have regular recurring schedules, or you can set up sessions on the hoof. You can tailor the settings to precisely what you need, allowing you access to what you need and restricting access to the distracting sites and apps that get in your way.
Freedom has given me just that. Distracting apps are inaccessible to me in the mornings, and evenings, so I can get sleep at night and do my morning self-care before I even get a sniff of the distractions of the internet!
Freedom also offers a range of discounts for a range of other productivity apps, so you get a great deal when you sign up!
Plus, it puts George Michael in my head a lot, which is never bad for this George Michael loving 80’s kid!
Check it out and start your free trial here
Focusmate was my salvation in 2020 when the pandemic struck.
I was trapped in my house, unable to see friends and family, and trying to juggle parenting with working in a new part-time job, working on a business and trying to stay sane. I’ve written before about how Focusmate helped me get through the awful isolation and productivity sapping stress of 2020, and it continues to allow me to this day. I have completed tasks in a few hours that would have taken me weeks of procrastination and unhappiness. I have made some beautiful connections that now feel like friendships of a sort, and there are people I get genuinely excited to work with now.
You can get three free Focusmate sessions each week, or for just $5, you can get unlimited sessions. Paying the monthly fee was such a no brainer for me. It is worth ten times that for the way it has helped me manage my life!
Book a free session with me, and try it for yourself!
Write Now with Erin Chamberlain
As well as the connection I get through Focusmate, I am also part of Erin Chamberlain’s Write Now writing accountability group. This is a precious part of my week. Erin hosts three zoom sessions each week, from 9-11 pm on Mondays, 11 am-1 pm on Tuesdays, and 6-8 am on Wednesdays. I am writing this in the Wednesday group and have set myself the goal to get this piece finished by the end of it.
Erin is encouraging and very helpful. She is a book coach and helps entrepreneurs write books to support their business. So she knows a lot about writing and business. In her sessions, you can have a short 1:1 with her in a breakout room to get her expert advice about writing for business.
Aside from Erin’s support in the group, the space is invaluable. Sitting with people and committing to writing reduces isolation and gives a strong sense of connection and community. It also provides a clear window for writing, which is especially helpful for the time blindness of ADHD. A 3000+ word blog post could take forever to get written and never be completed, but Erin’s session is giving me a clear deadline to meet.
At the time of writing, Erin’s Write Now community is £40 a month, for which you get access to all sessions and the community she has created around them. You can sign up here, and you can cancel any time you need to. You can join here. You won’t regret it.
Research has shown that music, both playing it and listening to it, can increase focus, enhance creativity and improve productivity.
I know that I function a lot better with music playing, although it has to be the right sort of music for the task at hand. For housework, for example, I get a lot more done if I am listening to rock music, such as my beloved Queens of the Stone Age, so I can dance as I work. When I recently had to do a lot of spreadsheet and data work, I found the Hamilton soundtrack helped me work much faster with a lot of monotonous copy and paste work.
When I am doing creative work, such as writing this blog post, I need something different. I cannot write my own words when I have someone else’s words in my ears. This is when Brain FM has proven to be invaluable.
BrainFM uses brain science to create music that impacts on how the brain works. It has several modes, including focus, creativity and relaxation, offering music to suit whatever you need.
You can get a free month of Brain FM when you sign up through this link.
What tools do you use?
I am sure I will add to this post in time. New apps and tools are released all the time, and as an ADHD magpie (ooh, new shiny thing to play with!) I try them all eventually!
I hope that this resource has been helpful to you. If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments, and if you have used any of the resources I refer to here, I’d love to see what you think of them.