I’ve been blogging for just over a year now! My first post published back in November of 2016 after I took a two-week vacation to Europe, in what would ultimately inspire me to start blogging about travel. And I must say, it’s been a fun ride since then!
I’m still learning as I go. I’ll do research and check out what other bloggers are doing. But at the end of the day, I’ll always try things and stick with things that work for me. And that’s how I approach all of my blogging-related rounds up, too. I’m not just compiling a list based on what other people are saying. I’m compiling a list based on what I’ve tried and continue to use.
And that’s why I wanted to create a roundup focused on tools and widgets that I use to help with my blog. Since I’m still considering myself a “newbie”, I wanted to share some of my go-to widgets and tools with other aspiring travel bloggers. These are my favorites (right now), but I’d encourage you to research and find tools that work for you.
And by the way, you don’t need to spend a ton of money on tools/apps. If you’re just starting out, definitely stick to the free options. And if and when you decide it’s a tool that’s super valuable to you and your blog, then I’d look into upgrading to get access to those extra features! Just a little tidbit I’ve learned and I’ve read on a few other blogs!
Tools and widgets I use all of the time for my blog:
Google Analytics: I use GA a lot for work, so it only seemed natural (and easy) for me to add a Google Analytics tracking ID to my blog. It’s a great way to see where traffic is coming from, observe on-site behavior, and create “conversion” goals that you can keep tabs on. I get some traffic analytics right from my WordPress dashboard, but Google Analytics is much more robust and you can dig a little deeper to learn more about your audience, top performing pages, and more!
Canva: I love this tool! It’s been my design resource when I need to create quick assets for a blog post. For example, I use it to create Pinterest assets (check out the one I created for this post). I even used a Canva template to help me create my media kit!
In fact, there are all kinds of templates you can choose from: social media posts, invitations, banners, logos, and more! Most of the templates I’ve used are free. But some templates have a small usage fee you’ll need to pay before you can download. For examples, my media kit design, I just had to pay a one-time usage fee for an icon that was used in the doc.
Instagram Business Account: If you’re trying to grow your Instagram following, go to your profile now and change it to a business account. There are so many great perks to doing this. You’ll get insights into your account, posts, and stories. This includes audience info like gender, age, and location, best days to post, profile views, website clicks, and more!
Here’s a quick screenshot of follower insights. San Francisco, representing!
But wait, there’s a downside! By transferring to an Instagram business accounts, you’ll lose the connection you had to your personal Facebook profile. This was kind of a bummer for me since I post Instagram photos to Facebook a lot. By creating an Instagram Business account, it will also automatically create a Business profile on Facebook, that it connects to instead. If someone knows how to fix this, please let me know!
Also, why I included an Instagram app in this post is because if you can grow your social following, you can grow your blog following as well!
To switch over to a Business Account, just click on the three dots at the top right in your app. Then, scroll down until you find the Business Account option, and toggle the button on.
WordPress Widgets: If you use WordPress, they have a lot of on-site widgets that you can use to customize your blog and make it more user-friendly. My favorites are:
- Top Posts by Jetpack
- Social Icons by Jetpack
- Recent Posts
It’s these little additions that help visitors (like you!) navigate my blog and find content that you’re interested in.
Planoly: I love the Planoly app for a couple of reasons. The first being that it lets you post directly to Instagram. A lot of Instagram planning apps don’t do this, so this is definitely one of my favorite features. The other feature is, of course, the visual platform to help you plan out your Instagram feed. It shows you all the photos that you’ve posted, and then you can upload photos (or add in placeholders) to figure out what pictures to post next.
You’ve heard all the strategy behind posting photos on Instagram. You don’t want to post similar photos next to each other, change up colors, switch up landscapes and photos of people, etc. Planoly makes it super easy to make those decisions. Just shuffle things around, and when it feels right, schedule out photos right in the app.
If I have enough photos, I like to plan out photos for the next week. But of course, things can change up, so you can easily unschedule photos, too.
MailChimp: Even with a free account, MailChimp has a lot of options to help you set up email programs as well tools to you can use on your blog to get people to signup. When creating an email, the drag and drop feature makes the setup super easy. And when integrating email to your blog, you can easily add subscription forms and pop-up widgets just by embedding a bit of code to your site.
Bit.ly: I use bit.ly all the time to condense link length when posting on social and see stats on who is clicking on your links. Once you’re in your dashboard, you can also see what your top-performing links are, as well as Referrers and Locations of where people are clicking on your links. You can definitely get this information in Google Analytics as well, but bit.ly is a quick and easy dashboard to review if you’re just interested in specific links.
With bit.ly, you can also create Custom Bitlinks, which is a great way to personalize your links rather than show your followers the generic link with the 7 letter/number combo. You can do that right as you’re creating a Bitlink. This is especially useful if you’re not quite ready to purchase a Branded Short Domain (BSD).
PayPal: I recently integrated PayPal into my blog as I decided to offer up a trip planning service. It was an easy solution for me because it didn’t make sense for my blog to become an e-commerce platform, but I still needed an easy way to receive payments from people.
I already have a PayPal account setup, so all I needed to do was utilize their PayPal.Me link. Each account has their own unique link, so all you need to do is send that to customers when they’re ready to pay for your services.
I hope that roundup was helpful! Like I said, they are tools that I use all the time to help me manage my blog, and so I wanted to share them with you. As things change, I’ll definitely either update this post OR just create a new one. Stay tuned!
Let’s go places,
What are your favorite tools/widgets for your blog? Share them with us in the comment section below.
All photos on this blog are mine. Feel free to share but please credit me with a link back to the blog. Much appreciated and thank you for your support!
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