We all start blogging with the best of intentions.
The thinking goes a bit like this. Writing a short blog post once or twice a week won’t take much time. An hour or two at most, right? That small sacrifice seems worth it to have a way of expressing ourselves, and potentially of earning a bit of cash on the side. You’ve got endless ideas of what to write about. What could possibly go wrong?
To begin with, blogging is a breeze. Exactly as you imagined. You give your two hours a week, write your posts, publish them, and all is dandy.
Then you decide you’d actually like some readers. After that, the real work begins. And I don’t just mean the marketing.
Once readers start pouring in, you have stats to check, comments to moderate. You have SEO to manage. And life would be way easier if you learned some html, but who wants to do that?
You’ll likely discover your most popular posts are multimedia, so you’ll want to start finding images for every blog post, and learning how to make videos.
After a while, your wellspring of ideas gets a little murky. They’re not flowing so fast from your fingers. Everything feels stale.
Then one day the heavens fall in and your blog gets hacked. Having unspeakable images on the homepage of your family blog is heartbreaking. And it takes you a week of time you don’t have to get it fixed.
What went wrong?
You’re like a carpenter without a hammer, a plumber without a spanner, an electrician missing his “let’s see if this wire is live without creating sparks or making my hair frizzy” tool.
You’re two slices of bread short of a sandwich, my friend. A baker without flour, a pilot without a plane, a farmer without a tractor.
You need to free up time to focus on what really matters, and the reason you started blogging in the first place: writing awesome content. CLICK TO TWEET
How to do that? Where can you get all that time from?
By having the right tools.
Here’s what you need. We’ve got the software, web apps, WordPress Plugins and hacks that will make your blog happy again.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Set up your computer system to cut through your blogging tasks like a ninja sword slashing virtual fruit.
1. Get a Razor-Sharp Focus on Creating Content (Block the Internet)
Maybe it’s a tough truth to swallow, but we bloggers often have a streak of narcissism running through our veins. Why would we putting ourselves out there online if we didn’t feel some egotism and pride?
While ambition can be healthy, it can also prove your downfall. I know I (David) love browsing through and admiring stuff I’ve written, instead of knuckling down and putting words on the page.
After I’ve delved through my entire online canon, there’s a ton of shiny things to distract me – it’s called the Internet. So much to read, and so little time. On every webpage there’s stuff that’s way more interesting to read than actually doing some writing.
Blocking the Internet for the time you’re writing kills two birds with one stone. It stops you admiring the content you’ve already created, and it prevents you from wasting time “researching”. Sure, you will need to do some research. But write your article first, then fill in the gaps of research afterwards. You’ll find you’re way more efficient that way.
2. Quit Messing Around With Formatting (And Just Write)
Writing a blog post might only take 20 or 30 minutes. But formatting headers, BOLD, italics and links takes forever. It’s even worse if you copy and paste your post from Microsoft Word, and you’re forced to undo all the damage Microsoft did to the html.
One solution is to learn how to write in html. However, stopping to write code every time you start a new paragraph isn’t my idea of fun. Plus, it’s all too easy to forget to close off your html tags.
Instead, there’s a far simpler language you can learn: Markdown. You can pick up markdown in a few minutes.
I promise, learn markdown, and you’ll never regret it. CLICK TO TWEET
Once you’ve learned the basics (or even before you’ve learned anything) there’s custom-built software available designed to make composing blog posts in markdown super simple.
When you’re done, the software converts the markdown to html, and you paste the html into WordPress. No more time wasted formatting, and no more messy coding. Just beautiful looking clean blog posts.
3. No More USB Cables (Have everything everywhere)
Do you work from more than one computer? Or do you have a Macbook, a smartphone and a tablet? Transferring files between devices by USB – whether by drive or cable – takes up valuable time, especially when you inadvertantly lose a file, or accidently replace your latest masterpiece with a blank document.
If you don’t already, it’s time to start syncing through the cloud. In layman’s terms, that means everything you save on one computer (or device) will be on every computer you own. Sounds like some kind of wizardry, and it probably is, but it works.
Top tools for syncing: Our favorite is Dropbox (Multiplatform). Even better, with the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin, you can use Dropbox to keep your blog safe, even if it gets hack or gets lost in a server crash.
For Apple fanatics, iCloud does the cloud syncing for you, but there’s no WordPress plugin.
4. Collect Inspiration (and keep it close to hand)
The hardest part of writing is facing a blank screen. In the olden days, writers used to keep pen and a notepad in their pocket, and write a note to themselves anytime inspiration would strike. That way, when they sat down to write, they’d have an idea to get things moving.
Nowadays, nearly all of us carry a notetaking tool in our pockets. It’s called a smartphone. So start using yours to help you remember ideas you have while you’re day-dreaming at work, out shopping, or on the commute home.
The best note-taking apps now store notes in the cloud, so you can access them from anywhere. You write the note on your smartphone, and read it on your home computer.
You can also use these apps to take research notes direct from the web. Some even allow you to snap photos, or convert handwritten notes into a text document.
Top tools for notetaking: Evernote is the mother of all notetakers. It stores text notes, handwritten notes, images, audio clips and other files. What’s more, you’re given an email address to email notes to yourself. Notes can be organized into notebooks and tagged.
Evernote is great because it also includes a web clipper for grabbing research notes from the Internet.
For those who prefer a bare bones approach to notetaking, there’s Simplenote. Notes are text only, so they sync fast. It’s also less resource intensive on your computer or smartphone.
WordPress Insider Hacks
Optimize your WordPress set-up to make writing posts as simple as sending an email or pressing a bookmark button in your browser.
5. Write Your Posts in GMail (or any mail client)
If markdown doesn’t appeal to you, an alternative is to write your posts as emails. This tip works well because, honestly, who doesn’t spend half their life buried in their email inbox?
Because we write emails all the time, writing an email often feels less intimidating than writing a blog post. It’s a way to overcome writer’s block by tricking your mind into getting words onto the page. CLICK TO TWEET
In the WordPress dashboard, head over to Settings>Writing to get Post via e-mail set up. You’ll also have to set up a top-secret email account. And seriously, keep it secret, because anyone who has access to that email address can write posts on your blog.
6. Set Your Default Categories
Do most of your posts go in the same category? Save yourself time fiddling with the categories by selecting the category you always use as the Default Post Category. Do this from the WordPress dashboard in Settings>Writing. Sure, it’s only a few seconds you’ll save for each post, but every second counts.
7. Grab Ideas While You’re Surfing
This tip’s not for everyone, but it works well if you get inspired by things you find online.
WordPress allows you to write blog posts direct from your web browser using a bookmarklet called “Press This”. When you find a picture, video or quote online that sets off your muse, you hit the bookmarklet and get writing.
Again, you’ll find this tool in Settings>Writing in the WP dashboard. From here, you can drag and drop the “Press This” button into your bookmarks bar. Why not give it a whirl and see how easy it makes posting new content?
Websites and Web Apps
These are magical places on the Internet that work in the opposite way to the rest of the cyberwebs. That is, instead of sucking up time, they help you save it.
8. Find Stunning Images for Free
Very few bloggers are professional photographers, but nearly every blog can benefit from professional images.
If you’ve got the cash to splash, then stock photos will give you thousands of fanastic photos at relatively low cost.
For bloggers on a tight budget, there’s creative commons images. These are donated by photographers and designers, and anyone can use them, even you! As long as you give credit to the photographer in your blog post, you can include their image.
9. Automatically Post to Social Media
If you’re doing your social media marketing right, you should be sharing every post you write on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But that takes away your valuable time when you could be writing.
Never fear, Twitter Feed is here!
Twitter Feed is a free tool that automatically shares all your new posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Alternatively, if you want more control over your tweets, consider the WP to Twitter plugin, which gives you the option of setting up templates for tweets from your blog, or manually editing the tweets that go out to promote new blog posts, all from within WordPress.
(Ideally, you should update Google Plus too, but Google are a cagey with their API, so there’s no way to post on Google Plus except good old DIY.)
10. Do Your Social Networking In One Place
What about when you need to reply to tweets and Facebook comments, or post other updates?
Being active on social media has become a vital part of the successful blogger’s daily life, and it can be the biggest time zapper of all.
Instead of flitting between networks, and finding constant distractions at each of them, do it all from one dashboard. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer App, whatever. The key is to choose your poison, and stick with it.
Embedded from Pardot
Most plugins seem to give you more stuff to do, not less.
Which plugins are the real deal when it comes to cutting down on wasted minutes? CLICK TO TWEET
11. Fight off the Spammers
Nowdays WordPress comes with the spam busting plugin Askimet installed by default. You must activate Askimet for it to work properly, so make sure you’ve done so.
However, even Askimet isn’t perfect, and spam will still get through. Who wants to waste time moderating spam? Spam busters, here we come.
Math Comment Spam Protection makes sure everyone who comments on your blog is a genuine human being by asking them to do a simple Math quiz before they leave a comment.
Alternatively, consider using the Disqus Comment System. Disqus makes people log in using Facebook, Twitter, Google or Disqus before they can leave a comment. The login system creates an effective wall against spammers, so you can leave your comment moderation safely in Disqus’s hands.
12. Stop Creating Work For Yourself
Link building is vital for an optimized blog, and that includes internal links where you link one of your blog posts to another.
By default, when you set up an internal link, WordPress records a “Ping” that it will ask you to moderate. That’s a waste of time. Why moderate pings when you created them? You know you want them.
Instead of scrolling through your own pingbacks, and clicking to approve each one, you can tell WordPress to self-moderate internal pings. Do this with the No Self Pings plugin.
Internet Marketing Infographic by Vertical Measures
13. Optimize on the Fly
As well as promoting your blog through social media, you need to be sure you’re getting as much traffic as possible from search. Which means SEO, and SEO is a drag, right?
Not with WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s amazing how much this does for a free plugin. Yoast gives you an SEO score for every post you publish, and tells you if you need to add your targeted keyword to the page title, post header, or in the meta of the post. It also gives you control over the meta title and description tags for each post.
14. Avoid Getting Hacked
If your WordPress blog has yet to be hacked, you’re one of the lucky ones. There are cyber brutes out there, right now, attempting to smash the lock of your blog and wreak havoc on your site. These bullies are automated, so if they come for you, it’s not personal, but it is a huge pain in the backside.
Restoring a hacked blog takes up time you don’t have, and it’s just not fun.
Muscle up your WordPress site and make it as strong as possible with Better WP Security. It guides you through the process of making your blog as secure as possible.
Bonus hint: Choose a secure password. Sounds like simple advice, but I bet at least half of you reading this will ignore it.
15. Turn Tweets Into Comments
Blogging is a conversation, and like all good conversation, there’s an art to it. CLICK TO TWEET
A skilled conversationalist knows how to pull in as many people as possible into the discussion, even if they’re on the margins.
The Social plugin from MailChimp sharpens the conversation on your blog with little extra effort on your part. Facebook replies and Tweets about your blog post are included beneath the blog post as part of the conversation. That way, you’re pulling more people into the discussion, and creating more value for anyone reading your blog. What’s not to like?
16. Keep Your Old Content Live and Kicking
You spend hours crafting each blog post, yet it seems like every post has a shelf life of only a few days. After that, it’s done, and we’ve all moved on.
Maybe you’ve seen some bloggers who tweet from their archives. Seems like a great idea, but wouldn’t it be time consuming to go back through everything you’ve written and make tweets from it?
It doesn’t have to be.
Using Tweet Old Post (inspiring name, huh?), you can set up an autotweeting schedule for your blog’s archive.
You choose which categories you want to tweet, throw a few hashtags into the mix to boost visilibity, and boom! Your old content is valuable again. CLICK TO TWEET
17. Fix Broken Links (Fast)
As a blogger, your reputation is what sustains you. So when a reader emails you to let you know there’s a broken link on your blog, your heart sinks. “How many other people have clicked the broken link and not bothered to get in touch?” It’s a good question. Yet browsing every single post for dead links will take a short eternity.
Get those links fixed with the Broken Link Checker. Does what it says on the tin.
18. Keep an Inventory of Ideas
Creativity often comes in bursts, and it’s usually while you’re writing one idea that your mind gets flooded with others.
If you prefer to keep your workflow within the WordPress dashboard, then Post Ideas is the perfect tool for you. Rather than having a never-ending list of drafts, it provides a way of prioritizing your ideas.
Then, when you sit down to write, you’ll know where to start work.
7 Ways to Save Time Writing Your Blog Posts
Time Management Ninja
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For More Tips + Tricks
- Chris Garrett
- Write to Done
Over to You
What tools and tricks do you use to streamline your blogging time? Share your tips in the comments.
Like this? You can find more social media tips and tricks in the Social Caffeine Collection, a collection of 24 books on social media marketing.
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