January 25, 2017

12 of the Best (Free!) Online Resources + Apps for Bloggers

If you didn't guess by the title of today's post, I'm sharing the best, free online resources and apps for bloggers. Starting out, I had no idea that there were tools that could help me to blog as efficiently as I could. Social media wasn't in the original plan at all; oh, how things have changed. When I realized that I did need help, I took to the blogosphere. A lot of posts that I've read that mention or describe blogging tools contain affiliate links, which is well and good (no disrespect— I fully support bloggers making money with their blogs!), but it usually means that the post is going to review only the affiliated tool.

http://www.lifeshuffled.com/2017/01/12-of-best-free-online-resources-apps.html


















The lack of comparative posts made it difficult for me to determine which tools would work best for me and my blog. So... I started testing them out. I asked for recommendations, I tried a lot of the free tools out there, and I reached some conclusions. And today, I'm sharing my best discoveries with you! This post does not contain affiliate links: I just linked up everything to make it easier for you :)

Stock Photos


+ Unsplash

Basically the free version of Flickr, Unsplash is my favorite site for stock photos and where I get most of mine. It has a huge selection of high-quality photos in every genre, and you can do whatever you want with them. What I like most, and why I consider Unsplash to be one of the best online resources for bloggers, is that the photos don't seem staged; all the pictures are authentic and perfect for blogs and posts that you don't want to feel too stuffy.


+ Kaboom Pics

Kaboom was my go-to before I discovered Unsplash, but some of their photos are a little funky/oddly specific. They have a big selection, but it's not as extensive as that of Unsplash. If you want photos that are obviously stock photos, Kaboom is the perfect resource for you.

+ StockSnap.io

This site is my latest discovery. It's kind of a roundup of all the other free stock photos on the Internet.


Photo Apps


Snug

Ok, Snug is not free, but it might as well be: it costs only 99 cents to download from the App Store. The app is a grid that displays your Instagram feed and lets you add, move, and delete photos to plan out your feed. If you're obsessive about your feed flow, you need this app.

+ Google Photos

I downloaded this app pre-blogging, but it's proven even more helpful in my blogging days and is definitely one of the best online resources for bloggers. You can delete photos from your phone once they've automatically backed up to the Google cloud, which saves you lots of precious GBs. Now, you have access to your entire photo library from anything with which you can log into your Google account.


Editing Apps


VSCO

Every photo that I post to Instagram goes through a round of edits in VSCO. There are so many different filters (and even more that you can download for free or for a fee), and it really helps to give your feed a "feel," even if you opt not to do a theme.

Snapseed

This app is like magic— kind of like PhotoShop for your phone. One photo of a coffee shop setup that I posted a few months ago is evidence. Before I shared it to Instagram, there was a crumpled napkin and an ugly blind cord. I used the "healing" tool in Snapseed to completely erase both and then flipped the photo, and you'd never know... unless I told you. Which I just did.


Tweet: Here are 12 FREE online resources + apps to help you with #blogging!


Featured Image Tool


Canva

Canva is a game-changer and probably my #1 recommendation from this list of the best online resources for bloggers. Before I made the Canva discovery, I was creating my featured images in a random, built-in tool on my Mac. Those images are pretty scary, and there are still a few on the blog that I haven't gotten around to rebranding yet. All the core features of Canva are free, and you can make any graphic you need: Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blog, or one with custom dimensions. What I like most about Canva is that you can upload your own images, it saves all of your designs, and cohesive branding is simple because it's easy to copy a graphic and use it as a template. I used Canva to create my blog and social media headers, too.


Social Media Scheduling


Buffer

I recently switched from Hootsuite to Buffer, and I love Buffer. You can set up the "optimal timing tool" so that posts go out when your followers are most active online. You can choose to queue up as many or as few posts as you'd like, and it's so user-friendly that I've started scheduling content to Facebook, a platform that I've neglected in the past. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the only social posts that I scheduled were Tweets, so I'm not very familiar with the million other tools out there, but I can say that I prefer Buffer over Hootsuite. I did like that users and hashtags pop up when you type a # or an @ into Hootsuite, so you know that you're tagging the right person or thing, but Buffer offers more and better features than Hootsuite.


Email Marketing


MailChimp

There are tons of email marketing tools out there, and I won't say that MailChimp is the best one, but I'm more than happy with it. It's a great resource for smaller bloggers and solopreneurs because there are few limitations on what you can do with your account, and it's "forever free" up to 12,000 emails a month/2000 email subscribers. There are lots of customization options to make your campaigns feel uniquely "your brand."

MailMunch

All the opt-in forms on my website were created using MailMunch. They're easy to customize (and have lots of different design options), and you can link them up to your email marketing tool to automatically sync your new subscribers to your mailing list. Want to subscribe to mine? You can do so here!


Link Management


Bitly

I don't shorten links as much now because most of my Tweets are scheduled and Buffer shortens them for me, but I used Bitly when I wanted to share a link in real time.

What are your favorite online tools or apps for blogging? Know of any good comparative posts?

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