11 free blogging tools you can’t live without

Increase traffic, brainstorm post ideas and keep an eye on your competitors without touching your budget.

Are you having a hard time blogging? I did when I started.

Blogging has evolved over the years, and many new platforms and tools have appeared. Most of the tools aren’t very useful, but a few are.

Here are the 11 tools that have made blogging easier and more successful for me:

1. Buzzsumo

Coming up with topics to write about isn’t easy. Buzzsumo can help.

Simply head over to the homepage and type in a keyword related to your industry. For example, the phrase “content marketing.”

Once you click the “go” button, you’ll see a results table that looks like this:


Buzzsumo crawls the Web for blog posts and indexes them, kind of like Google. It sorts the results by social media shares and puts the most shared posts on top.

You will see what type of content has done well in the past, and come up with article ideas based on the list.

For example, I found that one of the most shared titles was “An Internet Marketing Education in 16 Ebooks and 20 Emails. No Charge.

I then came up with my own variation called “Get Your MBA in Internet Marketing with These 12 Guides and 2 Courses.” The post performed well. It received 285 Facebook shares and 455 tweets. That’s not too shabby for an article that only took 30 minutes to write.

2. Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout has a free content marketing tool. To use it, simply enter your URL (or your competitor’s) here. You’ll see a report that looks like this:


When you click on the social media tab, you’ll see a table that looks like this:


This table shows all of the pages on any given domain and sorts them by social media shares. If you want to see what blog posts work well for your competitors, input their URLs into the tool. The table will show you the popular posts.

By analyzing your competitors, you’ll understand what works for them, as well as the content you should run on your blog.

3. Open Site Explorer

Do you want more search traffic? Of course you do.

Open Site Explorer is useful because it sorts all of the URLs within a domain by backlinks. The more backlinks a website has, the more search traffic it typically receives.


This will show which of your blog posts bring the most backlinks. You should write more posts like those.

The tool also shows you the most-linked-to posts on your competitors’ blogs. See what works for them, and replicate it on your blog.

However, don’t copy your competitors. The goal is to one-up them and create better blog posts. Then you can email the people who link to your competitors and ask them to also link to your post. If you need email templates for this, check out this blog post.

4. Emails

Do you know what the best traffic source is for my sites, Quick Sprout, Smart Passive Income, I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Social Triggers?

Email.

That’s why I have tons of email opt-ins all over my blogs. Use tools like Bounce Exchange and OptinMonster to create your own opt-ins.

Once you have a list, email your subscribers through a service provider such as GetResponse, MailChimp or Aweber.

If your blog makes money, use a solution like Maropost. It charges a lot more, but its deliverability is noticeably higher.

Notify your list of each blog post you release. But if you release more than three posts a week, consider sending a weekly blast to avoid flooding people’s inboxes.

5. Yoast SEO

If you take the time to write a blog post, you’d better ensure your blog is optimized for search engines.

Luckily, search engine optimization (SEO) is pretty easy if you use WordPress. All you have to do is install this plugin and follow the instructions in this video:

Yoast SEO has everything you need. From allowing you to adjust your meta tags to creating an XML sitemap, the plugin does everything for you. And best of all, it’s free.

6. W3 Total Cache

Did you know the faster your website loads, the more traffic you will receive? By improving the load time on Quick Sprout, I increased my traffic from 121,311 visitors a month to 244,923.

I achieved those results in Feb. 2013, and since then my traffic has continually risen as I’ve improved my load time.

You can improve your load time in a few ways. One of the main ways is to pick a good host. WP Engine or Rackspace are great places to start.

Setting up a CDN can also help. CDN is a technology that replicates your website across multiple servers around the world. That way, when someone from India visits your website, he pulls it from a server in India.

Both Rackspace and WP Engine offer CDN solutions with the click of a button.

In addition to picking the right host, you need to ensure your website is optimized. A messy website will decrease your load time.

By using W3 Total Cache, you can optimize your blog’s code with a few clicks. Just make sure you follow these instructions or the ones in the video below. And don’t worry. It’s not too technical.

7. Google Analytics

Yes, you already know about Google Analytics, but have you directly increased your search traffic because of it?

To increase your search traffic with Google Analytics, use three specific reports. Based on those reports, you can increase your click-through rates and rankings with a few small tweaks.

Just follow the steps in this blog post.

8. Crazy Egg

Have you wondered how many people read your blog posts? With Quick Sprout, it used to be 40 percent—until I used Crazy Egg.

With a few simple Crazy Egg tests, I was able to see how many readers actually read each blog post. With a bit of testing, I increased the number of people who read each post by 62.5 percent.

How? I followed the 6 principles in this post.

9. Hello Bar

It doesn’t matter what kind of blog you have, you’re trying to achieve a goal, whether it’s getting people to give you their email addresses, gaining more social media followers or bringing more awareness to your brand. The possibilities are endless.

Through Hello Bar, you can achieve all of the above goals and more. Hello Bar places a fully customizable bar at the top of your website.


Sign up for a free account, pick your goals and Hello Bar will help you achieve them.

My favorite part of Hello Bar: Built-in A/B testing. You can test goals to see which yields the best results.

10. Qualaroo

Do you want to avoid writer’s block? Qualaroo can help you brainstorm ideas.

It creates an unobtrusive box that allows you to ask your readers a question. You can ask, for example, “What else would you like me to blog about?”


Your readers will tell you their opinions. The cool part: Qualaroo will analyze responses and show you the commonalities. It will tell you which topic is in demand so you can blog about it.

11. Simply Measured

Simply Measured has a handful of tools, and my favorites are their free ones.

You can put your social media handle in one of them, and the tool will tell you the best times to send a tweet or share a Facebook post.


The reports will break down data such as:

  • The words and phrases your users want to see in social media posts
  • The time of day users are on social media platforms
  • Your top followers and when they log in

You want to use these tools so you don’t tweet at 8 a.m. when all of your followers are on Twitter at 4 p.m.

Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. There are tons of free tools that can help you brainstorm ideas and increase your readership.

The 11 tools above are the ones I use. Give them a shot. They’ll change your blogging.

What blogging tools do you use?

A version of this article originally appeared on Quick Sprout.

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