I’ve been creating and managing websites for over 10 years and for me it was a continuous learning experience. The websites setup by me which are most dear to me are PSD Dude and of course the Coding Dude blog which I only recently started.
In this post I would like to share with you a couple of the online tools for webmasters and blog admins that I find very useful and effective. In the website and blogs world, I call useful and effective anything that brings more visitors to my website. Of course, content is king, but if nobody gets to see your beautiful content then blogging is not really worth it.
I know that you might think that this is a sponsored post, but it’s not and you will just have to take my word for it. I’m not saying that these tools are the best invention since sliced bread, but they worked for me.
I was just about to start with Google Webmaster Tools, but then I figured: let’s not make this post too boring by listing tools that everybody knows about. If you don’t know about Google Webmaster Tools already then it’s not likely that you rank very high with Google Search, so start with that and maybe then come back to this post.
Twitterfeed.com is a website that can scan RSS feeds from your blog and publish them further on your different social network accounts. I find it very useful as when I write a post this tool helps me publish it automatically to my Facebook page, my Twitter account and my Google+ account.
So, as soon as a post is published on my blog, it will go in my posts feed and from there it will be picked up by twitterfeed.com an republished on the varous social networks configured. This of course translates to visits.
Setting up an account for this tool is free of charge and configuration is quite easy to do: add the URL of your blog’s feed and the authorize the application to post to your social network accounts.
Mailchimp is a newsletter management system. It allows you to setup subscribers lists, define newsletter templates and send them via email to your subscribers.
This is a commercial tool, but it also allows you to send for free up to 12,000 emails to maximum 2,000 subscribers per month. If you are only starting with your blog / website this should be enough. Of course, once you grow you can opt for the paid options, which you can check in their pricing section. In my opinion the paid version is a little expensive, but on the other hand, the features they offer, with the pre-made newsletter templates they offer are quite great.
Also, services like this have the advantage that you don’t have to bother with the bother with the newsletter road block of spam filters. If you send your newsletters personally it is quite likely that due to some users marking your emails as spam will permanently flag all your outgoing emails as spam and then you will be cut off from your audience. With Mailchimp and similar services, their email servers have a strong reputation and also a very nice system for tracking bounces (unreachable recipients) and spam reports.
I have used Mailchimp in the past (the free version). As I said I find the paid version a little expensive for me, as I don’t really sell enough to cover the costs for sending out newsletters. But, I do use Mailchimp to create my newsletter templates which is very easy to do and has very nice results. For sending out emails I use Mandrill (see the next paragraph).
Mandrill is actually the back-end system for Mailchimp. It is the email sending infrastructure thorough which Mailchimp sends out it’s emails. It has a free version allowing you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. For more than 12k emails you have to pay, but I find the prices quite reasonable.
I do use Mandrill to send out the newsletter for my websites and I find it quite effective. It allows you to use templates created with Mailchimp (which is great) and it also provides you with lots of analytics related to email bounces, spam reports, open rate, clicks on links in the email (conversion rate) etc.
There is one downside for using Mandrill in the fact that you have to use an API provided by them to send out the emails, but once you get a mechanism for that working, you can reuse it time and time again.
For my newsletter I’m using a Java JUnit test which goes over all my subscribers list and then connects to the Mandrill API to fill the email template (created with Mailchimp) and send it. Please drop me a message if you are interested in finding out how I send the emails through the JUnit.
The WordPress SEO by Yoast is a WordPress plugin which I use for this blog. I have to confess that I don’t particularly like the idea that there are SEO rules that a blogger must follow, because I think that bloggers tend to over-exaggerate with optimizing their content, which can actually lower its value. But, we do live in the real world where search engines make the world wide web go round, so we do have to be aware of some aspects of SEO.
I use this SEO plugin from Yoast, because when writing a post, it helps me focus on a keyword, helps me decide on the title of the post, and helps me not to forget things that are important if I want to be found on search engines like: having the main keywords in the URL of the post, in the title and in the description. There are a lot more indices and scores and so on that this plugin calculates for a post, but I must confess that I do not use them as that would also make me one of those who over-exaggerate with optimizations.
Forums, Yahoo Groups and Google Groups
I know that these are not exactly tools, but for me and my websites these have been a great source of quality visitors. As forums I’ve used forums.digitalpoint.com and of course stackoverflow.com. In your case you should look for forums on topics related to your content and get in touch with people having interests similar to your own.
It so happens sometimes that you don’t find the forums but the forums find you. That happened to me with www.psd-dude.com and a Russian Photoshop forum. I noticed at some point in my Google analytics a significant number of visitors coming from that forum. I went there and I was very pleasently surprised to find a lot of users discussing my Photoshop tutorials and even translating them to russian. So, it was very nice to get in touch with people that were already fans of my blog, and fairly easy to get them back on my blog when having new posts.
Groups are another fine way to get visitors for your site. I registered for several groups in Google groups and Yahoo groups and found there a lot of people interested in my blog and what I do.
Best thing about forums and groups is that they are free to register and you get in direct touch with potential visitors.
Hope you found this post useful and please don’t hesitate to drop me some comments. One of the purpose of this post is that you tell me “Hey what about this tool or that tool” so let me know what else I should put in here.