I’m working to improve my site (more on this later). In the process, I came across a number of online tools that are really helping. They’re all free, so you can’t beat the price.
I use these tools every day. Highly recommended.
- Site24x7. This free online service pings your site hourly and graphs response times and warns you if the site goes off line. For a few dollars a month, you can get checks every 5m and SMS alerts.
- Windows Live Writer. This is a great, free offline mini-wordprocessor for writing blog posts. It’s much easier to use than WordPress’s built-in tool. It’s also easy to juggle multiple blogs.
- Firefox spell check. When you install Firefox, you get the option to install a dictionary for spell-checking things you type into the browser. This is great for spell checking comments on other people’s blogs and posts you enter directly into your own blog.
Development and techie tools
At some point, most bloggers have to roll their sleeves up and become developers, if only for an afternoon. These tools will help.
- DNS Stuff. This page encapsulates lots of useful tools for site owners. For example, you can check if your domain is on a spam blacklist, look up WHOIS records, ping sites, test for email problems etc. etc. I use 123-reg.co.uk to manage my domains and DNS Stuff helps me check everything is work.
- Web design reference resources. This site is really helpful. It contains links to reference sources for CSS, PHP, HTML, colour swatches, specifications etc. All on one page.
- Firefox developer tool bar. If you do any kind of web development, this is the must-have Firefox add-on.
- Favicon generator. I like this simple tool that turns an image into a properly-configured Favicon (the little icons that appear in browser’s bookmarks). All you need to do is upload it to your site and bingo.
- Embed Slideshare.net presentations in WordPress using this plugin.
Search engine optimisation
Most of my new readers come in via Google. Even for non-commercial sites like a blog, search engine optimisation is essential. These links will point you in the right direction.
- Search Engine Optimisation for WordPress. Okay, this isn’t a tool but it is the definitive guide to SEO and contains links to useful plugins and tools.
- Google Webmaster Tools. Your best insight into how Google’s search engine sees your site.
Visitor monitoring and reporting
Understanding your readers, finding your place in the blogosphere and generally massaging your own ego are essential parts of the blogging experience. These tools will help you get down with your stats.
- Technorati. If you haven’t done it yet, registering your site with Technorati will help you track your interactions with the blogosphere. Who links to you and how much authority your site has. Warning: addictive!
- Alexa. Yes, I know it’s the subject of much debate but if you get reasonable amounts of traffic, Alexa is one useful way of benchmarking your traffic against other popular sites. It’s also a useful way of seeing who is linking to your site.
- Feedburner. This is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife. It provides site and subscriber stats, simplifies RSS feeds, does some social network bookmarking (Digg etc.) and some other stuff. There’s a WordPress plug in that automatically switches existing RSS subscribers over to a Feedburner feed.
- Google Analytics. Completely awesome, interactive, online site statistics. I use Feedburner to monitor subscribers and Analytics to monitor visitors.
Monitoring, validating and quality assurance
Bad code, broken links and poor accessibility can ruin the user experience and damage your searchability on Google. These tools will help you find problems.
- SiteReportCard. I really like this because it does several checks in one, plus – crucially – a page weight and load time report.
- W3C CSS Validation service. Checks for errors and problems in your site’s style sheets.
- Feed Validator. Checks that the RSS feed for your site is okay.
- W3C link checker. Find broken links on your site.
- W3C HTML / XHTML code quality checker. This checks the underlying source code.