In this Guest Post, Benjamin Brandall from process.st talks about the latest blogging tools marketers should have in their tool kit.
It’s not easy to keep your blogging productivity up to scratch every day. From little distractions breaking your writing flow, to stress scrambling your brain, the best way to maintain a steady output is to make the process of writing as easy for yourself as possible.
There’s no better way to do this than by making sure you have the right tools for the job.
In my time writing for sites like TechCrunch and The Next Web, I’ve tested god knows how many different tools and apps, all aimed to give me a consistent output and predictable level of productivity. After all, if I can write three in-depth articles every week, I can boost our audience by reaching out to sites like XEN and sharing useful knowledge on how this is done.
So, here we go; the 6 vital tools myself and the rest of our content team uses to produce three high quality articles every week.
1. Google Docs / Quip
Straight off the bat, we have a bit of a tie, as half of our team is currently trying Quip as a possible replacement for Google Docs. Still, both serve very similar purposes, so no matter which one you choose you’re in for a good time.
These apps allow you to easily collaborate with the rest of your team in real time whilst you write; you can brainstorm in a single document whilst on a call or in a meeting, comment on each other’s work and see the corrections being made and generally have a much more team-oriented approach to blogging.
Whilst there are slight differences, Quip is more team-focused, whilst Docs is better for automatically syncing your files to an offline folder. When you create a document in Quip it’s automatically shared with the rest of your team, who can go in and work on it whenever they please. Docs, on the other hand, requires you to manually share your documents or folders and send a link to whoever you want to work with.
As I said, we’re still on the fence for whether to switch full-time to Quip, but choosing one of these apps as your native writing app will go a long way for keeping distractions to a minimum.
Ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could easily keep track of all of my projects, sorting them into cards and tracking their progress, along with links to all of the relevant resources”? Well then you, sir, have incredibly specific tastes, but you’re also in luck.
Trello is fantastic for keeping track of and generally managing each and every one of your projects. By creating separate boards for each of your teams and team members (eg, “Blog Posts”and “Ben Brandall Tasks”) you can easily collaborate with your colleagues and organise your work day, so that you’re not wasting time wondering what to work on next.
For example, in my personal board I have several columns which I sort my cards (individual tasks) into; “Inbox” is for tasks which I need to organise and assess the importance of, “Upcoming” for tasks that aren’t terribly time-sensitive, “Doing” for tasks that are in progress and “Urgent” for tasks which need to be done as soon as possible. Once these tasks are complete they can be sent off for peer or manager review, or just shifted into the “Done” column.
One of the practices which I have found to reliably boost productivity is tracking your time to see how long you are spending on each project. This not only allows you to see where you need to pick up the pace, but also judge how long that task should take you in the future, allowing you to plan your time more effectively.
Enter Pomello. This app is fantastic for keeping you focused, as it tracks your time effectively, tells you exactly when you need to take a break to stay on top of your game. It also integrates with your Trello account to assign the time you spend to your Trello cards and is as unobtrusive as possible.
Whilst you have the ability to turn it off if you find it too distracting, I’ve found that the ticking timer is brilliant for those who work best when a deadline is looming – it almost creates the illusion of an impending deadline, as you’re hyper-aware of the time passing.
Plus, it puts a little tomato symbol on each of your Trello cards when you begin to assign time to them, and who doesn’t love a cute symbol to sweeten the deal?
Anybody familiar with my name might know that our blog is nuts about automating our business processes, and when you’re trying to write three high-quality articles every week, it’s vital to be cutting out this exact kind of busywork.
Zapier is the king of automating the processes which you shouldn’t have to do. For example, you can integrate your Trello and Slack account so that any card created on a specific board (let’s say, your “Inbox”) will also be sent to you as a Slack message from the person who created the card.
It’s a little hard to describe Zapier is a short space, but seeing as it has the ability to link together over 500 apps, your own creativity is pretty much your limit. Automatically shift Evernote snippets into Trello cards, centralize your team’s messages to make sure nothing is missed, do whatever you want on a cause-and-effect automation model.
There’s little point in writing three articles a week if you can’t keep up the quality of your posts, and the quality of your posts can hinge largely on how good your ideas are. Unfortunately, idea’s aren’t an infinite resource, and unless you’re spending every night reading around your topic for what subjects are going down well with your audience, keeping up the momentum can be extremely difficult.
Unless, of course you’re using BuzzSumo to quickly check the most popular posts on your competitors’ sites, or based around a specific keyword. Doing this not only allows you to quickly draw inspiration from posts which are killing it on social media sites, but reading their content could even tell you how to improve them.
For example, if you notice that posts about a new keyword research technique are trending across several sites, you could write another post on the same topic to jump on the gravy train. Alternatively, you could pick the popular posts apart, find their weaknesses and then go away to create a killer post which will wipe the floor with anything currently out there.
The worst thing you can do to kill your blogging productivity is to stop mid-flow. There’s also nothing more distracting whilst you’re writing than having to constantly worry about getting everything right first time, especially in terms of spelling and grammar.
That’s where Grammarly kills it. Whilst not perfect, Grammarly is a fantastic program which acts as a kind of automatic spell checker (at least, for the programs it is compatible with). Not only does it give you suggestions for what you may have intended to write (making it incredibly fast to run through and correct your work), but it also serves as a word and accuracy tracker.
Our team takes advantage of this by comparing word counts at the end of the week to see who’s written the most. Whilst we don’t offer any prizes (quantity does not equal quality, after all), it’s a great way to help keep everyone in our team motivated and writing at their best.
In the end, many factors can prevent you from working at full steam, but don’t let the blogging itself be a barrier. Take advantage of these tools (or any personal favourites of your own) in order to reduce the friction in your writing processes as much as possible; trust me, you’ll see results.