8 Great Tools for Building Your Blog
I get the irony of blogging about blogging but given I already talk about talking, I’m okay with that. This isn’t a topic I typically hit on but as the thoughtLEADERS Blog continues to grow and thrive and I get people asking me about what works and what doesn’t, I figure it’s worthwhile to dedicate some airtime to the topic of building your blog following and turning it into real value.
No, I’m not Chris Brogan and this isn’t going to be some massive SEO/SEM treatise. This is nothing more than a list of the best tools, techniques, and widgets I’ve learned and used over the years. I use and believe in these tools and I hope you’ll get as much value out of them as I have.
First, allow me to spell out some social media principles and beliefs so you understand how and why I use the tools I do.
Outposts: I believe in outposts (e.g., twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) serving as a first point of contact for someone to run into me and my business. From those outposts, the primary goal is to get folks to come here to the blog or our main website. I always want to build the conversation and relationship on “my turf” so to speak. Those outposts also allow us to interact with folks in their “natural element” so we’re in front of them when they’re looking for content. If you want to see examples of our outposts, check us out on Twitter at @Figliuolo, @thoughtLEADERS, and @1PieceofPaper. On Facebook we’re at thoughtLEADERS and One Piece of Paper.
Make it Fun: Entertain first. Engage second. Sell third. No one is coming to a boring-assed business blog. If you want their attention, entertain your audience. Do things like talk about your topic of interest in terms of wookiees, superheroes, rappers, and heavy metal bands. If they enjoy coming to your site, you’ll have more opportunities to engage them and they’ll eventually (hopefully) either buy your services or refer you to those who will.
Cash: I’m a capitalist. Yes, I LOVE writing but I have to fund my completely irresponsible lifestyle and that takes cash. That means I sell my book, our training courses, and advertising space. I’m not ashamed of it. This is a for-profit enterprise. All that said, ensure the selling doesn’t get in the way of the content.
Guest Bloggers: Make it bigger than you. I could write a little leadership blog with nothing but my own work. Sure, that’s fun but it gets old. I regularly seek out and invite other people to come write posts here. Noob bloggers freak out at the notion of someone else having the stage in their arena out of fear the readers will defect to the guest blogger. I see it differently. When I bring in a guest, I’m creating value for my readers by finding and screening new content and perspectives. I’m also getting new readers because invariably that guest blogger tells their audience to come read their work on our blog where they also get exposed to our work. It also allows me to be lazy – it’s easier to copy/paste a post by someone else than it is to write it myself, eh? By the way, if you want to write a guest post here sometime, just contact me for guest post parameters.
All that said, here are some of my favorite web tools for blogging easily and successfully:
Ad networks – Ones I use/prefer are PulsePoint (high fill rates and payouts), BuySellAds, and Text Link Ads.
Feedburner – if you want people to read your stuff, get in their inbox. Feedburner makes it easy to capture names/email addresses, send new posts, and manage your list (and to get on our list, CLICK HERE to sign up and you’ll see how easy Feedburner makes it). Their code is pretty easy to customize to fit your blog too.
Outbrain – Once you have people reading your stuff, you want them to read more. See those three little images at the end of this post that say “You might also like:”? Yeah. Outbrain. Easy piece of code. People love clicking pictures. They read more of your stuff. And Outbrain’s customer service is OUTSTANDING! Immediate issue resolution.
Site Meter – analytics matter. I know a lot of folks love Google Analytics (which I use too – a little). Sitemeter is super easy, inexpensive, and gives me some interesting data insights.
Tweet Adder – OHMYGOD! Incredible twitter automation tool. You can autofollow/unfollow, push RSS feeds, use search terms to follow, etc. The impact of it for building an audience is unparalleled. Go. Get it. NOW!
Constant Contact – You need a bigger email platform to do newsletter-y things that Feedburner can’t do. I like Constant Contact (although MailChimp has a couple of good features I wish Constant Contact had but I hate some portions of the MailChimp UI). Open a Constant Contact account now.
Amazon Associates – if you recommend books, music, movies, etc., you should be an Amazon Affiliate. The commissions aren’t bad at all.
Add This – great customizable social sharing widget. If you write great stuff and want people to share it, you need this button.
There you go – 8 little tools that help me make this blog work. I’d be interested to hear what tools and techniques you use. Also, if you see any widgets, plugins, or techniques on our site that I don’t mention above and you’d like to learn what they are, feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to share what we do and hear your suggestions on what we might do better. Happy blogging!
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
And there’s one more essential element of any blog or website generally: web forms. With a lot of fantastic tools out there for building and customizing them in minutes. My recommendation is 123ContactForm – easy to use and full of features. What do you guys think?
Well thats really good piece of information, from now on i will keep these useful things in my mind, and willl try to increase the members on my blog!
i tried the outbrain one…but for some reason, it isn’t showing up on my blog :/
Try the Outbrain help site (https://www.outbrain.com/help#tr_3) and if your answer isn’t there, drop their support team an email – they’re EXTREMELY helpful. I hope you can get it working.
I really appreciate you sharing the wonderful tools that you have used to make your blog even better.
I will implement some of your suggestions in my business blog.
Keep up the excellent work!
To Your Success,
Woman in Leadership Founder
I joined the 21st century last week and started blogging on http://www.doublelinx.com – Thanks so much for your tips – I’m gonna need them!
As a blog reader, I want to strongly disagree on your point of inviting guest bloggers.
I start following blog because I like what that particular blogger has to say. All guest blogposts dilute that value. If you want to curate and share other people ideas – fine! Just take their blogpost and give your take on it.
I already abandoned a few blogs when author was pusing more guest posts than original content. THAT gets old.
I think you make a fair point if the blog is positioned as being EXCLUSIVELY one person. But if it’s a team and the articulated value of the blog is to bring different perspectives on different topics and deliver those perspectives through experts in their field, I think you must go down the guest blogger/team blogging route. You make a very fair point on “original” content too – that’s why I try to ensure I personally write at least one post per week and the second post is either by me or by a guest.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Mike, I love your idea of guest bloggers.
I provide almost all content for my blog but love it when guest bloggers pitch great ideas—and deliver the goods. It keeps the blog interesting.
Several of them have written about topics in my niche that I’ve never heard of or knew little about. So I, as well as my readers, learn from them.
I’m very picky about who I let write for me, and the content must be original.
Love your other ideas! Thanks for offering them.
I appreciate hearing your perspective about guest authors, however, contributing authors are not such a bad idea.
I do agree with your point of blogs getting diluted by losing the original voice.
Anyone who does allow guest authors should form guidelines that fit the blog host. After all, they do have complete control over their blog and should make the best decisions when it comes to using the content of others.
How about a REGULAR guest blogger? That might go down well?
What do you mean “regular?” The same guest all the time? I’d see that as a blogging team. I view guests as less frequent. Can you explain more about what you’re getting at?
Great tips ..! I am a beginner in blogging and i write for nature/environment at http://www.slidingdrop.blogspot.com.
These tips are really helpfull to me and i m going to use many out of these. Thanks..!
Glad they were helpful. Good luck as you build your audience!
Yes, I agree. Great list. I also just started my own tech blog and it’s great to get advice from an established blogger.
You’re welcome. I hope it helps.
We started Levitynews.com January 1, 2012. I believe blogging will be a key ingredient in attracting the right kind of people to READ Levitynews.com. I am a complete beginner when it comes to blogs, so I appreciate the info you gave us.
Glad it’s helpful. Pro tip – you only need to mention your site name once in a comment (and that doesn’t give you “link juice” – having it as your site when you fill in that field does and even that isn’t much). Good luck building it and stay with it – it’s definitely a marathon!
Great article Mike! I will definitely be working on how to insert these new ideas into the daily business of maintaining and marketing my auto blog. I found the part about guest bloggers particularly interesting. Can you provide me your email address? I have a few questions that I want to ask you (my email is firstname.lastname@example.org). In the meantime I will get about the business of retweeting this article on all my social media platforms hahaha.
Hit me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Really great article Mike. As an information fiend, I really appreciate the practicality and clarity of your suggestions. I’ve been playing around with my online presence as I re-tool what I offer and your article has cleared up some questions I’ve had.
I’m following you (in the best way possible – it sounds *so* strange to say that!) and will share your great info with my network.
I have a question…and it’s somethign you could even do a blog post about:
How do I get people to start reading my blog? (build an audience)
You’re in luck Mark – I just wrote a post that will publish on Monday, 7/9. It’s 31 Tips for Building Your Blog. I hope it helps!
Can’t wait to read (and share) this list, Mike.
Thanks for sharing these tips to your readers,
though I am a blogger since few years,expect
one or two most of them are new to me, I would
like to try it out. I like the idea of guest post,
it surely give a kind of publicity about your blog
thru the guest’s posts.
Will come again to read more here.
Happy you found them helpful!
Making money is indeed important and one of the ultimate objectives for professional bloggers. However, in my experience, it is best to not think about it till you have built an excellent repository of content and have gained some following and readership.
I respectfully disagree (but think we’re indeed saying the same thing). If it’s the ultimate objective, I’m simply saying to acknowledge that and understand the objective up front. You can’t get somewhere without knowing the destination. That said, I think it’s okay to not focus on the money aspect until you have content/readership but you still must know how you’re going to monetize down the road as that will dictate architecture, content, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for being a reader.
So glad I found this article! I’m a newbie!
Thanks for these tips! I’m a newbie and I’ve been focused on my style and content up until now, happy with that now and am ready to upgrade my promotion and you’ve given me some great ideas. I blog about the visual, creative and cultural on Jacarandachick.wordpress.com
Thanks for the solid tips and I will definitely put them to use. Check out my page the URL is above, keep doing your thing. It is greatly appreciated. Thanks again,
Really helpful tools! Might give Amazon Associates a try although I believe I already have an account from my old Blogger blog, I really haven’t used/displayed it.
I dont know how i stumbled on this site but so glad i did. You must be the last blogger left that has a sense of humor and OMG uses the word “cash”, ahhh, i mean “quality content to improve your life”
i always wondered about tweetadder, will give it a try.
I just got a flashy new social media sharing button that goes on the side of your blog. i cant remember the name, but you can check out my blog. one good tool that i did just install was facebook comments for wordpess…
would love to get hated on and guest blog for you. I’ll be sure to talk about the dirty cash business that i love – info products – my focus at the moment. Let me know if you are interested. Or not, ill be back anyway, refreshing to get some laid back humor that most americans just dont seem to get. Um, im joking (sort of) but not really, and if you dont get that then you just dont get it.
Glad you enjoyed the post and the blog. Would be happy to consider a guest post sometime. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for guest post parameters. Thanks.
Love your advice about making it fun. But we shouldn’t spread it around too much, Mike, lest the good sites lose their competitive advantage!
Hey your posts are copied by a idiot pls report that blog
Thanks for the heads up Aravind. I appreciate it. I’ll reach out to him as appropriate. From the looks of it, he’s a 14 year old kid so bravo to him for getting into blogging. I’ll explain the rules of the road with respect to reprinting content and hopefully we can turn him into a great blogger one of these days! Thanks for being a reader and for having my back.
It is a good idea to have a guest blogger to your site to make your blogging experience more interactive. Thank you for the information.
“…ensure the selling doesn’t get in the way of the content.”
I think it’s funny that the ads on your page (or marketing content) occupies 50% of the width of the page, and ads extend beyond the content of the blog itself.
Banner ads are becoming the public phone booths of this decade – nobody sees them, very few people actually use them. Your blog is fantastic – the actual content is super valuable. Why do you make the page look like a Nascar racer?
Thanks for the feedback Beau. While you might ignore the ads, many people don’t. We’ve tried to strike a balance here: the top half of the right sidebar isn’t banners – it’s listings of resources, other blogs, top blog posts (content), leadership books we like/suggest. We’ve relegated the other ads to the lower right sidebar. On individual posts I understand they extend past the post itself but on the main page they run even with the content (I’m sure there’s some whiz bang dynamic HTML we could use to have different templates for individual posts vs. the main page and have different sidebar arrangements but candidly, I’ve got bigger fish to fry). By putting that stuff on the lower half, we minimize its intrusion while at the same time giving our advertisers some space that will be seen. And I’ll be the first to say that they’re there for commercial reasons and people do see them/click on them and the income we generate from it is not insignificant (especially when I have kids heading to college!). One thing we will NOT do is have “sponsored blog posts” that are paid spots that look like content but are actually ads. I know some blogs do that – we never will. Thanks for the kind words about the content (which by the way is free to readers). Given I’m running a business, I’ve tried to strike a balance between tons of great content with some income potential. I hope that explains. Open to other feedback/suggestions.
I used to use Amazon Associates and it rocked but not it isn’t available in a number of states
Wow, great list! I have a few bookmarked. This will very helpful with my new small project.
Constant Contact is a good point. It is more professional and business-minded. We are using it and it helps us with the big number of subscribers we send newsletters to. Good tools!
I called the developer and we will put today out there a feed, thanks to your blog post Mike!
Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re
working with? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult
time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to
My page; Charisma Dell
We’re on a custom self-hosted WordPress installation. It’s been great. Hope that helps!
Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with
SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
If you know of any please share. Thank you!
I use All in One SEO (https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/). Good luck.
Thanks Mike, very generous of you to share! What are your thoughts on sticking to the same subject / topic? As in, if my blog was about general leadership topics but I wanted to do something on say, E-Commerce, would that deter readers who were specifically following me for my Leadership related content?
I generally stick to my primary topics but I think it’s fine to occasionally cover a different subject. Just be sure it’s a subject that’s also germane to your audience. For example, I cover mostly leadership but occasionally hit career, social media, communications, strategy, and other topics a professional audience will find interesting. I think mixing it up occasionally is a good thing. And if they don’t want to read that topic, that’s fine – if they like your other stuff, they’ll come back for it.
Hi Mike: Thanks for a great post! Terrific information that I think marries well with a post I recently wrote about Successful Blogging http://justcoachit.com/blog/2012/06/28/blogging-success-tips/.
Thanks for sharing Irene. We’ll be sure to check it out.