Free Resources and Tools to Improve Your Blog

Creating and maintaining a professional blog can be a lot of work. Often, bloggers are faced with having to do everything themselves from research, content creation, image gathering, and even editing. Maintaining a professional blog means having to keep in mind all the legal details surrounding any commercial site while building a rapport and reputation with your audience as being a reliable source of information. Typos, bare minimum research, bad titles, grammar gaffes, and a number of other factors will have a cumulatively detrimental impact on your blog’s success.

So how do you go about creating a professional money-making blog by yourself? Sure, you could spend a fortune hiring an editor or paying stock photo companies for rights to their images, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of great resources and Web-based tools out there that can help make your blog even better.

Some of these resources are common knowledge, while others may not be as well-known. At the end of the day, what matters most is what works for you. Integrating new tools and steps into your workflow can be helpful, but you don’t want it to hamper your progress. It’s up to you, the writer, to determine which tools work best with your particular blog.

Images

Adding images to your blog posts can be a great way to provide some visual appeal to your posts. A wall of text can be a bad thing, especially if the subject of your articles can be rather dry. Most people are attentive to visual details. If the image accompanying your post looks interesting on the front page, they’re more likely to click through to read the entire piece. Not only that, but a good image can drive a point home while making the body of your post appear more robust as it takes a little extra space up in the middle of a line.

Unfortunately, stock photos can be very expensive. Finding viable photos takes a lot more effort than simply doing a Google Image Search and taking whatever photos you find and posting them to your blog. In most cases, this is actually a copyright infringement and can cause a lot of trouble for your blog. Google could delist your article if someone files a copyright violation report, you could face legal action, and your reputation among similar blogs that sourced the images can certainly be affected.

Here are a few resources that you can use to find great images for your blog.

Once you have your images, you’re going to want to do some optimization and editing work to make them fit the size and needs of your site. Images should never be bulky or large. Anything above 19 KB in size can cause a delay in page loads, which is detrimental to a site. Sure, you can have larger images, but if you’re just adding a thumbnail to your page, you’ll want to keep the size down as much as possible. For this, there’s Free Image Optimizer, which is an online tool that takes your image and crushes it down to the size you need.

Grammar and Spelling

Let’s face it: Most bloggers aren’t excellent writers. Yes, they can tell a story and meet the needs of the reader rather well. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are often hurdles that even the best writers have to overcome in order to achieve a certain amount of success. It’s been said on numerous occasions that Google page ranking is actually based on these important details at some level. A page riddled with typos and punctuation errors is typically assumed to be spammy or unreliable.

Trusting your browser, OS, and/or blogging platform spell checker may not be enough. Spell checking programs often miss important details that a properly trained editor can detect. Here at LockerGnome, we have Robert Fogarty. He’s one of the best in the business at spotting our typos, grammar, and punctuation issues. [Editor's Note: Shucks. Thanks, Matt!]

With extra help comes extra expense. For everyone who doesn’t the budget for a full-time editor quite yet, there are a number of great tools out there that can help you improve your writing.

With these tools, you can spot some of the common mistakes even some of the best word processors fail to pick up on.

Titles

Another important aspect of blogging is choosing a good title. A title is what determines the subject of your article and how it can be found via search engines. Even a single aspect of your title can make a world of difference in the traffic you receive from search engines.

Choosing a Google-friendly title can be a difficult task. Not only do you need to summarize the main focus of your article, but you also need to appeal to search engines. Some theories out there regarding Google include framing a title around what people search for rather than making it more eye catching or clickable. Titling an article about the new Smurfs movie “I’ve Got the Blues, Two!” might be witty and fun, but people will rarely search for information about the movie using any other terms than the title of the movie or a term that indicates they’re looking for either Smurfs or a new movie.

Here are some tools that can help you determine a good title for your blog posts.

It’s also important that your titles have the correct case. Remembering which words should be capitalized and which ones should be lower-cased can be a hassle. TitleCase can help. Just enter in your suggested title and TitleCase will generate a correct format.

Research

Research is, in many ways, the great divider between different blogs. Whether you’re writing as a hobbyist or a professional, doing a little extra research can be a big help to your blog. The great thing about research is there are plenty of resources on the Web. After all, it is the largest single collection of information in human history.

Instead of giving you a list of resources that are good for gathering information, I’ll give you a list of places you should never use as a primary resource. The reason here is that every article and every topic is different. Ultimately, you want to interview experts and make a few phone calls if you want a leg up on the competition. Never copy and paste a press release. Instead, head over to the website of a company you’re writing about and reach out for a statement from its PR department.

While they might be okay for springboarding ideas and tracking down supporting data, here are some sources that you should never depend upon 100% for your primary research.

  • Wikipedia
  • Another Blog
  • Mainstream Media
  • Rumor Sites

Passing along the same story that has already been told by countless other blogs is pretty much the same thing as rumor spreading. Even if you feel like you have done everything you can to reword the other site’s material, it’s really not contributing anything new or interesting to the story. Again, the best and only place you should start your primary research for any article is the original source. If you’re writing about a new Nook model, reach out to Barnes & Noble and ask someone for a quote. Ask a question no one else has asked and take the story in a new direction. Simply repeating the same story that a new Nook is coming out is a lot less appealing to an audience than explaining why that Nook has (or doesn’t have) what it takes to beat the competition. Talk about rooting or go into more detail about what version of Android it’s running. Trust me, your audience will thank you.

The best rule of thumb is that if you catch yourself rewriting someone else’s story, you’re probably better off not writing it at all. For all you know, your second-hand source may be a rewrite of someone else’s second-hand source. What’s more useful: a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy, or an original master created from the sharpest content available? Let other bloggers refer to you as the purest distillation from the source rather than a cheap copy of a copy of a copy.

With these tips, you might find that the quality of your blog’s audience will only increase. Numbers themselves don’t tell the whole story, especially to advertisers. Potential sponsors care a lot more about those 100 potential buyers than 1,000 kids who participate in flame wars in your comment threads. Ultimately, quality will always beat out quantity when it comes to a blog’s long-term success.

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • foxumon

    There’s also a lot of amateur stock sites where you can use their photos for free.

    I both use and contribute images on http://sxc.hu/  :)

    A few other sites with free photos are: http://www.dreamstime.com/, http://www.freestockphotos.biz/, and http://www.rgbstock.com/

    And if you just need a texture - http://www.cgtextures.com/ is superb :)

    • Jeroen van Zeijl

      Thank you for these websites! It is helping a lot. Thanks! :)

  • http://lijrobertsreview.blogspot.com/ Lijrobert

    Bookmarked :D

  • Christopher Allega

    Nice post

  • http://twitter.com/barryrutherford Barry Rutherford

    Thanks for this great information.

  • Zpeed

    Very useful. I’m thinking on maybe starting a blog.

  • Robert Rush

    Excellent post – thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/askingCPA Nicolas Liu

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Chris & Lockergnome, this is really helpful especially the links, proud to be part of lockergnome members

    • Anonymous

      You might want to thank Matt too! He wrote this

      • Anonymous

        i thanked lockergnome(sir matt) if you couldn’t get it, i love all the authors here, and chris for directing my attention to this piece of content, hope that clears it for u   

        • Anonymous

          Sorry, Not a LockerGnome regualar

          • Anonymous

            its alright keep visiting us, good to have u with us :)

          • Anonymous

            I wish I would have time on my hands as I write on my own blog and school = no time to browse the internet!

          • Anonymous

            thats cool, let me follow u on twitter i ll check ur blog

          • Anonymous

            Thanks!

      • Anonymous

        i thanked lockergnome(sir matt) if you couldn’t get it, i love all the authors here, and chris for directing my attention to this piece of content, hope that clears it for u   

  • Staylor733

    Good article. Thanks for the tips.

  • Coryewing1

    Very helpful I actually just started designing my website/blog yesterday! :) Thank you for the great tips!

  • http://twitter.com/CmHall9 cmhall9

    Thanks for the links to the Spelling and Image sites.

  • http://twitter.com/CmHall9 cmhall9

    Thanks for the links to the Spelling and Image sites.