My toolkit for writing blog posts
Oh, lists! We all love them. Especially the ones that offer loads of new free apps to make our lives easier.
The world of blogging is no exception. Anything promising “15 awesome free tools to improve your blog” is my internet catnip.
But the trouble with these lists of awesome free stuff is that they’re just lists. How are you supposed to make them work together? Do people really use five different editors to write a single blog post?
The trick is to stop hammering screws
None of my tools are good at everything. But each one its place because it can do a specific job that none of the others can do. And more importantly, a job that I need help with.
Outlining and drafting. I need a simple editor for initial ideas, rough outlines, and first drafts. Some people like a dedicated outliner - I prefer to use the same text editor for outlining and drafting.
Headline checking. I need help to make my headline and description search-friendly as well as click-friendly.
Simplifying and shortening. I can cut anyone else’s copy with ease. My own stuff? Not so much. I need help applying the red pen to make my posts easier and quicker to read.
Search optimisation. I’m not a massive search nerd but there are some things that are easy to get right. So long as I’m reminded to do them. I’m usually dashing for publication at this point in the process, so a checklist is vital.
Proof-reading I don’t have anyone to check my articles. I know errors will get past any checking tool, but I try to cut as many as I can.
So how does that list of jobs translate to editing tools?
Marxico for notes, outlines and drafts
As I’ve mentioned before, I write in Markdown syntax if I’m writing for my own blog on Squarespace. It’s quick to add links, formatting and inline HTML. I do most of my research and note taking in Evernote. Marxico lets me write in Markdown inside Evernote. If I’m writing for other publications where the submission is via Word or Google Docs, I just use Evernote.
WebTextTool for search checks on the headline
WebTextTool appears twice in my process. Once I have a rough draft, I use it to work on a search worthy title and description. My draft is still in Marxico at this point. I’ll paste the whole post into WebTextTool for final search checks later in the process.
WebTextTool analyses my text from a search optimisation perspective. It suggests improvements as you type - like more keywords or extra subheadings. It also has a useful keyword checker.
Hemingway for cutting and simplification
Once I have a draft I’m happy with, I copy it out of the Marxico preview pane and paste it into Hemingway. (I don’t need Markdown at this point. Hemingway doesn’t understand it.)
Hemingway highlights long and complicated sentences, adverbs, fancy phrases and passive voices. It’s that magical red pen that solo writers need. The built-in statistics are handy for checking reading grade, word count and estimated reading time.
Grammarly for spelling and grammar
Grammarly is a browser plugin that checks my writing in any web application. It starts working on my blog posts during the Hemingway edit, underlining suspect phrases in red. Grammarly will stay with me like a concerned teacher through the later WebTextTool edits, and it'll still be there flagging last minute errors in Squarespace. A total hero!
Back to WebTextTool for search checks on the full draft
At this point, I copy the post from Hemingway into the WebTextTool editor and deal with any shortcomings on the search front. I rarely get 100% on the built in scoreboard but it’s nice to have something to aim for.
I use WebTextTool for editing, not storage. That means I can use the free plan with a single document that I overwrite every week.
MarkItDown to convert back to Markdown
This was the trickiest bit of the process to get right. How could I convert rich text from WebTextTool back into Marxico, without losing all the formatting?
Enter MarkItDown, a conversion tool designed for exactly this job. All it takes is a copy/paste, one button, and another copy/paste, and my post is back in Marxico.
We’ve come full circle. Only now my text is streamlined, simplified, search-optimised and checked for spelling and grammar issues. And it’s still in the right format to paste straight into Squarespace.
How do you write blog posts? If there’s a new tool you think I should try, do let me know!
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and download or buy the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use myself and believe will add value to my readers.