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tools for bloggers for your best writing ever

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This post contains affiliate links from Grammarly.

best writing ever

So you’ve worked hard on filling up your content calendar and now you’re writing your posts. You want to make sure that you’re not using “filler” content – higher quality posts will help you get more traffic and build a dedicated base of readers. (Plus, high-quality blogs will attract more brands and sponsors!) These are some of my favorite tools for bloggers that can help ensure you’re putting your best writing forward.

Hemingway: Hemingway is an editor that you can paste your writing into and it will grade it (their recommendation is to write for a ninth grade reading level), offer feedback for hard to read passages and more. You can even write full posts in Hemingway now (including formatting, for easy pasting into your post) and download a desktop app if you prefer to work in a window without website distractions. Readable is a similar service and can grade URLs as well, but their free version only lets you grade a few links at a time.

Grammarly: I’ve posted before about how much I love Grammarly (including screencasts of it in action!) and it continues to be one of my writing must-haves. Since it works in real-time, it really serves my internal editor and helps me make sure I’m not missing any misspellings or errant commas. I highly, highly recommend checking Grammarly out because it’s the number one thing that has helped my writing out more than any other app or service.

Thesaurus: Grab a desktop copy from Amazon or use thesaurus.com – this is one of the most relied upon tools in my kit. Especially when I’m writing a series or very focused post, I might find myself repeating the same word over and over. A thesaurus helps me mix it up and adds variety to my writing!

Byword: A full-screen program for writing, Byword is great for those who get easily distracted when writing in web-based apps. It’s downloadable for Mac and Apple mobile devices, and I love its simplicity. It also lets you export formatted text to PDF, rich text, or HTML for Blogger, WordPress, and other blogging platforms. If you don’t have a Mac or prefer a web-based editor, sign up to find out with Quabel Writer launches. Or for a more extreme option, try BlindWriter – it lets you set a time limit, then blurs out your composition until the time is up. If you’re a merciless editor (like me,) this is a great way to start exercising editing after writing.

Rough Drafts: While blogging shouldn’t bring back nightmares of homework assignments from school, writing drafts of your posts before scheduling them can help you make sure you’re putting the best content forward. I really like Krista’s five question method and printable – her questions help you really focus on your content.

BlaBlaMeter: If you’ve ever wondered about “junky” words in your writing, BlaBlaMeter is a great judge. Paste in your text and it will grade the quality of your writing – if you’re using all the other tools, your writing is probably checking out pretty well here!

Other Bloggers: There’s no substitute for another pair of eyes. Facebook Groups can be a great resource – many of them have weekly schedules, and some of them (like Rock Your Blog & Biz) even have feedback days scheduled in. Check out a subreddit like r/blogging if you’re more comfortable there. Use these opportunities to solicit advice from readers – they might have some advice you’d never have thought of!

Do you use any of these tools for bloggers? Did I miss out on any that you swear by?

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May 24, 2017
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how to quickly fill your content calendar and get ahead on blog posts

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fill your blog content calendar

If you’re just starting a blog, it can be intimidating to think of enough topics to regularly post about to keep your visitors engaged. Having a schedule is really important, though – otherwise, your readers won’t know when to keep an eye out for your new posts! There’s an easy way to quickly fill your content calendar. These are the steps I use to write up my blog posts and stay ahead of the game.

Develop a posting schedule: Do you want to write three times a week, or just twice a week? Block out regular days for posts, and you’ll have a feel for exactly how many posts per month you’re looking at.

Make a content calendar so you can visualize your posts: I’m a very visual person, so I have my month calendars in my bullet journal. Since I have two blogs, I color code each of them so I can tell what post is for what website. You can use a digital calendar like iCal or Google if that’s how you prefer to plan. Laying out a month at a time helps me see what’s coming up, what I have time for, and can even help me plan posts far in advance. If you only have one blog, you could color code your themed posts or series if that helps you plot out your posts better.

Do recurring series or themed posts: There are a lot of themed weekly linkups to participate in: I’ve done Music Mondays, Tune Tuesdays, Workout Wednesdays, and Fashion Fridays here on the blog. Sometimes having this kind of theme makes it easier to focus and sit down to write. Right now I’m working on developing series, focusing on remote work as well as blog management. I’ve found that picking a broader topic like that makes it a lot easier to get ahead on my content calendar – in March, I was already planning content into May. (This is also a really great way to keep fresh content coming on your blog if you plan to take some time off.) Plus, using a series allows you to re-use the opening paragraph – this gives the series cohesion, and saves time on writing the post!

Another benefit I’ve found in developing a series is that it’s made it super easy to brainstorm topics and build off each post. For example, this series on blogging stemmed from an idea I had on doing a walkthrough of my blogging bullet journal. I’m still going to do a larger post on that, but breaking them down into individual topics allows for more in-depth information to be shared. Be sure that once you’ve written the new posts, you go through any related posts to drop backlinks in so your readers can easily access related content!

Dedicate a few hours each week to developing future content: There’s always going to be some part of blogging that has to be done every day, like sharing posts on Facebook groups, submitting to StumbleUpon and Pinterest, and responding to comments. (If you aren’t into that, think about hiring a VA to outsource the parts of blogging you find icky!) Getting ahead on writing your posts and shooting photos frees up a lot of your daily time – instead, I like to sit down a few Saturday afternoons per month and churn out posts. (Of course, if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired, this might not work.) I prefer doing this because it lets me tune out any other distractions and really focus on creating great content – once I get in the zone, it’s easy to stay on task!

Write some unscheduled evergreen posts: Life happens, right? One way you can stay on top of your posting schedule is by having evergreen posts you can lean on when you have off weeks (or months.) If you see a blank spot in your calendar that you’re struggling to fill, pop in and post one of your evergreens. Even if it doesn’t exactly fit into a series you might be working on, at least your visitors have new content (and are probably getting the chance to learn more about you!)

Do you plan your blog in advance? What’s your process like for planning your content calendar?

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May 17, 2017
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where to find beautiful stock photos for your blog

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This post contains affiliate links.

stock photos for bloggers

Blogging is primarily a written medium, but it’s important to make your posts interactive and pretty – that’s what attracts readers! Paid stock photography websites have been around forever, but not only are they expensive, a lot of the images they have feel very rigid. Smaller, more boutique styled photography sites have been popping up more and more lately, and many of them even offer free photos or assets.

An important note is to always track your permissions when downloading and using stock photography so you a) don’t get sued or b) have proof that you obtained the image from a stock photo site legally and didn’t steal it from somewhere. I do this by taking a screenshot of the photo as well as the uploader (usually the photographer) on the screen, and saving those in a folder on my computer. I also save photos with the photographer’s name as the file name – that way, if I ever need it, I’ll easily be able to find it.

stock photography permissions stock photography permissions

Here’s one case of a blogger being sued for using an image improperly and here’s a story of a blogger obtaining the image and using it properly, but an unsavory photographer claiming otherwise. (If it seems like a lot, that’s why photography subscription sites are becoming so popular – or, even better, shoot your own photos!) Whatever you do, don’t just go to Google Images and save the first photo without a watermark that you like!

Be familiar with the terms of service for the photo site you’re using as well. Maybe the image you fell in love with is free to use as long as you don’t edit it in any way (like adding text for a featured or Pinterest image.) It should be fairly easy to find this kind of information on the website you’re using in the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy on the page.

Here are a few of my favorite resources for high-quality free stock photos for bloggers!

Death to the Stock Photo: I’ve subscribed to Death to the Stock Photo for almost four years, so I have a huge library of images just from them! Every month they email photo packs around a specific theme, but most of them are outdoorsy/travel-inspired. They have a paid subscription service as well that allows you access to a larger library, as well as the past photo packs only current subscribers could access. DTTSP also has a “plain English” license that might help you get comfortable interpreting all that fancy legalese!

stock photos

Creative Market: Though it’s not explicitly for stock photos, this design resource website does have a photos section with lots of different topics for your blog. Many of the images are paid, but if you sign up for their mailing list, every week you’ll get 6-9 free assets – sometimes it’s fonts or Photoshop brushes, and sometimes it’s a set of photos. It’s worth signing up – it’s one of my favorite ways to get free design resources for my blogs!

Independent Blogger Photography Services: One of the best ways to find unique styled photography is from bloggers who provide stock photo subscription services on their websites. These might seem harder to find, but since they’re smaller, not as many people will be using the same images. They’re often built on a subscription model, but offer free photos – sometimes even multiple packs per month! Here are a few of my favorite sites – sign up for their mailing lists to get access to their free stock libraries!

Unsplash: Another website with a huge library of photos, Unsplash has become really popular in the past few years, and even powers stock photo libraries for other websites. Thoughtfully composed and really pretty, their collections are for a wide variety of different subjects and topics. You can sign up for your own account and create collections to organize photos you like, or browse collections created by other users (like me!). Since Unsplash is very popular and one of the biggest stock photography resources, you may see the same photos over and over – so if you want to be really unique, I might stay away from this website.

The Hungry JPEG: Similar to Creative Market, the Hungry JPEG is another marketplace for design assets. They offer one free freebie every week, and sometimes they’ll have stock photo sets! They have a $1 deal section too for really affordable ways to expand your own photo (and design) library.

Canva: Though Canva is primarily a design editing software, they do also have stock photography available in their interface. This is even more helpful as they keep a record of stock permissions for you, so if you’re a total novice at design, check out Canva and try out their templates!

Be sure to sign up for the mailing list for stock photo websites and more blog resources!

May 10, 2017
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I need your help!

Posted in Blogging by

Hope you don’t mind me coming in on a Sunday with an extra post!

Over the last few months, I’ve worked hard on taking the blog in a different direction – a direction that benefits you more. If you have time, I’d love for you to fill out this reader survey. It will help me see what I’m doing well, what’s not working for you, and what will help more!

As a thank you, I’ll be selecting a winner to receive a bag of some of my favorite products and goodies.

Click here to open the survey in a new window, or fill out the form below!

April 15, 2017
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how to improve your writing with grammarly

Posted in Blogging by
This post contains affiliate links from Grammarly.

Writing can be overwhelming and tough – sometimes when you have the great ideas going, your fingers might not want to keep up and you have some spelling to go back and fix, or some grammatical mistakes don’t get caught right away. Last summer I was looking for an extension that worked a little better than the built-in one offered by Chrome: enter Grammarly. Grammarly is an app that adds to your browser that double checks your work, underscoring any mistakes you don’t catch so editing is much easier. Not only does it catch typos, it also alerts you with suggestions to improve your writing.

Because Grammarly runs as you type in real-time, you can quickly and easily update those typos or misspellings. It also allows you to add words to your own personal dictionary (super helpful for those of us with less common first or last names.) That way,

improve your writing

You can also create a new document in their online interface, or upload existing documents to scan them to improve your writing. In this preview, you can see how it checks your writing and grammar to help improve your blog posts, emails, reports, papers, or any other copy!

grammarly

Having clean and well-written blog posts can help your engagement – the easier your blog is to read, the more people will want to follow along! High-quality blogs also rank higher in search engines, so Grammarly can even help you with your SEO.

Grammarly also features a plagiarism checker, which is another way to improve your search ranking. The more unique your content is, the more favored it will be by search engines as well.

In addition to the free version that checks your spelling and grammar, there’s also a paid version that can improve your writing even more. Grammarly Premium checks out your sentence structure, word suggestions, and corrections based on what you’re writing specifically. Grammarly Premium even integrates directly with Microsoft Word!

I’m a really big fan of Grammarly and highly recommend checking it out!

Do you use a spelling or grammar checker as you write, or do you prefer to run a check after you’re done?

April 12, 2017
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