Google rules the Internet. Luckily for us, they do a great job of providing all sorts of sweet free tools that bloggers can take advantage of.
Below are 3,500 words, 12 screenshots, and 4 original videos showing and telling about the best of these tools. They’re organized based on how often I personally use them. Ready?
I’m not going to spend time telling you HOW to use them. The main goal of this post is just to let you know of Google’s tools that are useful to bloggers. For most of these, you need a free Google account.
Oh, and before I forget, I added a Daily Blogging Diary section to the blog here. Go check it out!
I use this tool so often that it’s been granted permanent residency in my browser’s bookmark bar:
It can be used for the following:
- To find out how often certain words and phrases are searched for in Google. This is mainly what I use it for. I’m always on the lookout for new domain names to buy, and I try to get keyword-rich domains that have a relatively high volume of searches.
- To check what the estimated CPC (cost per click) is for certain keywords. In other words, this is an approximation of how much you would be paying per click if you were to advertise for this keyword in Google’s search results using AdWords. It’s also a good relative indicator of how much you as a blogger will get paid if someone clicks on one of your AdSense ads that is targeting that keyword.
- To see how much search traffic the keyword gets per month. Here’s a screenshot of one of the rows in the search results:
On the left is the keyword phrase. To the right of that (right of the magnifying glass) is the AdWords competition (which is low in this case). Then comes the number of times the exact keyword phrase “red eyed tree frog” is Googled every month (12,100 times!) worldwide. Then comes the number of times it’s searched for locally (you can change this; the 8,100 figure is the number of searches in the US). The bar graph on the far right is the relative search volume poor month. You can see that it peaks in May and drops off dramatically by June.
There are several other uses for the tool, and I could do a whole post just on how to use it. Go play around with it (making sure you select [Exact] in the left sidebar after the search results show up) and ask me if you’ve got any questions. Or just Google it, because there are about a bazillion tutorials out there on how to use this thing.
Everyone knows what Gmail is, so I won’t talk about it much. Let me just say that Gmail is the only email service you should be using. I’ve used all of the big ones before, and Gmail is the best. Its spam filter is AMAZING.
Want to combine Gmail’s awesomeness with your own domain name? Then check out Google Apps! I, for example, use tristan at bloggingbookshelf dot com and can log in to my Google Apps account to check it. Pretty sweet.
It’s not SUPER easy to set this up and configure it, but it’s not too terribly difficult, and it doesn’t take longer than 15 minutes.
I don’t think it’s essential that bloggers have email addresses at their own domains, but I definitely think it would look good on a business card… if I had one.
I actually just have my Blogging Bookshelf account set up to forward to my personal Gmail account. It makes things easier.
Duh. Google owns YouTube, so I figure that makes it eligible for this list. You know what YouTube is, but do you know that it’s the second largest search engine in the world? By creating videos for your blog and uploading them to YouTube, you can gain access to an entirely new traffic source.
I don’t post videos as much as I could/should, but here is Blogging Bookshelf’s YouTube channel, if you’re interested.
I haven’t gotten a ton of traffic from YouTube (I don’t have many videos!), but I have had people leave comments telling me that they found the blog through YouTube. And hey, every little bit helps, right?
And just imagine the traffic you’d get if you actually focused on this as a traffic attraction method!
Feedburner is the service that most bloggers use to manage their RSS feed.
Once you transfer your feed to Feedburner, you can track the number of RSS subscribers you’ve got and easily add email inbox subscription services (new posts get emailed to the subscriber) like I have here and as you can see in the right sidebar.
You can also track your clickthrough rates to see how many people are clicking through to read your posts.
And you can easily add AdSense to Feedburner feeds, meaning that you can earn yourself a little bit of moolah.
If you’re interested, you can click on the image to the right to see what Blogging Bookshelf’s feed looks like without and with Feedburner.
I almost feel stupid writing this one. Obviously we all use Google to search. And you probably know that in addition to regular search, there’s the image search, blog search, news search, product search, book search, and video search.
Google’s Realtime Search (ok, I don’t use this every day bit it ties in with the others) deserves special mention because it’s pretty dang cool (and new). It searches Twitter and blogs (among other things). It’s a great tool to, for example, see at what time of day most people are talking about your niche, using the nifty little graph thing.
I expect Google will come out with some sort of audio search in the future. That would be pretty cool, eh?
Chrome is DEFINITELY my browser of choice. I’ve found it to be significantly faster than Firefox. I just opened up Chrome and it opened in less than a second (my stopwatch said .63 seconds but I was a little slow on stopping it!), and Firefox took 3.03 seconds to open. The time that it takes Firefox to open is even longer when my computer has just recently booted up.
Moral of the story: Try Chrome. It’s free (like all the rest of the stuff on this list) and it ROCKS.
EVERY BLOGGER NEEDS TO BE USING THIS. This is the single most effective way to monitor your brand online. You enter in certain terms and get emailed whenever blogs or websites use those terms.
For example, I’ve got Google Alerts set for my name and for the name of my blog (as you can see in the little pic to the right). Whenever someone mentions one of those, I’m notified.
But there’s another way to use Google Alerts. When I used to have a poetry blog, I’d have “poetry” set as one of my alerts. That gave me a constant stream of news and other information for me to write about.
Google Analytics is the best statistics program/application I’ve ever used. Pretty much everyone uses it. It’s EXTREMELY powerful and tracks and records all sorts of metrics, including (but certainly not limited to):
- average time spent on the site
- bounce rate
- % of new visitors
- where your visitors are coming from (countries)
- where your visitors are coming from (websites)
- Google keywords that people are using to come to your blog
- and LOTS more
Once you sign up for Google Analytics, it’s easy to get it set up on a blog. I use the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin.
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site and aren’t regularly checking your stats (it doesn’t have to be every day, but it should be pretty often, IMO), you’re making a mistake. Repent and get to it.
Google Reader is an RSS reader. I know a lot (most?) of bloggers use this religiously to read the blogs that they’ve subscribed to via RSS. I personally don’t use it very often. I’ve subscribed to a very small number of blogs via Google Reader and I go read them once a week or every couple weeks. I visit all other blogs “by hand.”
Google Docs is an online office program suite. You’re familiar with Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in the Microsoft Office suite. Google Docs is the online version. You don’t have to download any software; all of the programs run in your browser.
Sure, none of these are as good, functional, or versatile as their Microsoft counterparts, but they’re FREE, all of your data is stored online, and frankly, they’re good enough!
I just ran over to Google Docs to check it out again and saw that there’s a drawing program that’s actually pretty cool! I played around with it for a bit, and you can create quality graphics pretty easily. You could definitely use this for infographics, charts, or any other kind of illustration you need done.
The graphic to the right isn’t supposed to look like anything or serve any purpose other than to show you that you CAN draw stuff using Google Docs! (Note that the image was saved in .jpg format and lost some of its quality. Had I saved it as a .png, which you can do, it would look perfectly fine.)
Just this morning I saw that I had a trackback from an Italian website. Since I don’t speak Italian, I just Google Translated the sucker and BAM! I figured out what the post was all about and why they linked to my site!
Chrome has built-in website translation, btw. It’s awesome :)
There are a couple other parts of the normal Google Search that are nifty that I want to mention. And they are Wonder Wheel, related searches, and timeline. Here’s a short video I made about how to use these tools and what they can do for you:
Ok, I REALLY like iGoogle, but I don’t use it very much yet! I just discovered it recently, though it’s been around for a while. It was created to be your home base and home page on the Internet. You can add all sorts of cool stuff to it like Twitter widgets, Facebook widgets, RSS feed widgets, and more. Check out the video below where I go through and show how iGoogle could be useful for bloggers.
This is another one of those tools that a ton of people swear by, but just doesn’t do it for me. As the name states, this is an online calendar. You can add events and set up reminders so that you get emailed whenever you’ve got something coming up.
How could bloggers use this? I think that this is a great way to plan out your day and the tasks you want to get done. It’s also a great way to set up all kinds of goals (weekly, monthly, etc.).
Since I don’t have much experience with Google Calendar, I’d love to hear from someone who does use it. How do you use it? Do you use it for any blogging-related activities?
You know how you bookmark pages in your browser that you like? You can do the same thing with Google Bookmarks. You enter the name and URL (and also tags and description, if you want) of the page and save it. You can then access that bookmark from any computer that has Internet access (you just have to log in to your Google account).
I can see this being a useful tool for bloggers that are on the move a lot. If you use Google Bookmarks, you can check out your favorite sites while at that internet cafe in Bangkok.
I used to use Google Bookmarks a lot when I was in school. Most of the time I wouldn’t take my laptop with me to my classes. But I’d often have an hour or two between classes when I’d got on a computer in a campus computer lab. I was able to access all of my favorite sites that I’d bookmarked at home. Pretty slick, eh?
Blogger is the extremely popular blogging platform that Google owns. Along with WordPress.com, it is one of the two most popular BIG, free, non-self-hosted blogging services out there.
Blogger is a great tool for people who want to get blogging as fast as possible and for as little money as possible. It’s really easy to set up a Blogger blog. If you wanted to set up a free blog for grandma, this would be the best option.
If you’re serious about blogging, though, I’d recommend getting your own domain with hosting and installing the WordPress.org software (which is different from having a WordPress.com blog).
How can the more advanced WordPress.org blogger use Blogger? You could set up niche sites on the Blogger platform. You could create other blogs that link back to yours to get more backlinks. Or… I dunno. Anyone got any other ideas?
EDIT: Apparently Google Notebook isn’t allowing new users to register. Bummer! Check out Evernote (not a Google thing) for a pseudo-replacement.
This is a really cool little tool that I just discovered while researching for this post. It lets you easily keep all of your notes (including links, text, and images) in one place when researching blog posts.
Check out the video below to see what I’m talking about:
This is how most bloggers start out trying to make money online, and it’s probably the simplest. All you need to do is sign up for an AdSense account, copy some html, and then paste it into a sidebar widget. Voila! You’ve got ads! If/when someone clicks on the ads, you get a small amount of money. The amount varies depending on the content of your blog and how valuable the keywords are to advertisers.
Picasa is a free, downloadable photo editor from Google. It’s been a while since I’ve used it so I can’t really say too much about it.
More recently I have used Picasa Web Albums, which is pretty much Google’s answer to Yahoo!’s Flickr. I prefer Flickr.
Note that since I haven’t used these much, I don’t have as much to say about them.
AdWords are the ads that you see on the right side of Google search results. Like this:
AdWords ads are CPC (cost per click) ads. This means that if you’re advertising your blog, product, or service using AdWords, ever time someone sees your ad and clicks on it, you pay a certain amount (the amount varies depending on the competition for that keyword).
I’ve never used AdWords, so I can’t comment much on using it. The vast majority of bloggers should probably never mess with this unless they’ve got a product they’re selling.
Here are some useful resources if you’re interested in learning more:
According to the Insights site, “With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.”
It pretty much gives you a timeline of searches for a particular keyword phrase, but it also breaks down the searches by country, gives you related top searches, and displays up-and-coming (breakout) search terms.
I haven’t used this a whole lot, but I can see how it would be useful for niche selection and finding related niches/keywords.
Google Trends lets you see what search terms are trending right now.
And apart from that, this one is actually pretty similar to Google Insights… Not quite sure how they’re different enough to warrant entirely different pages. It IS a little bit easier to use and simpler to digest than Google Insights because there aren’t as many options.
This is an interesting little tool. It’s another great one for coming up with keywords. You enter in a few words or phrases and, true to its name, it comes up with a set of other related keywords for you.
Check out this Google Sets demo video of mine:
This lets you essentially create a custom searchable database that you can put on your site. For example, if you’ve got some kind of little network of blogs going on and have one main website for that network, you can create a custom search that lets you search all of those blogs and nothing else.
Here’s an example of one at Traffic Generation Cafe, and here are two at Barbara’s site. You can also set it up to search only your blog, and it’s more accurate than the default WordPress search. I own KeywordLuv.com and I’ll eventually be setting up a Google Custom Search where you can search all KeywordLuv-enabled blogs.
This is pretty cool. You can search patents by keyword. So let’s say you’ve got a blog about ice cream (that’s the first thing that popped into my head; I’ve got an empty Haagen-Dazs container next to me). Search for “ice cream” and you’ll find all sorts of ice cream-related patents.
Why would you care about this as a blogger? Well, when’s the last time you saw someone blog about funny inventions in your niche that never made it off the ground? Exactly. Probably never. So do a quick patent search, find some odd contraptions, and write a post about them.
This nifty little tool lets you see how much of your blog is visible in different screen resolutions. Here’s Blogging Bookshelf:
The downside is that you can’t adjust the left margin. This would be nice because most blogs have some spacing on either side of the main body of the posts and sidebars (the dark gray here on Blogging Bookshelf), and that space automatically adjusts (to a point) depending on screen resolution/browser size. Does that make sense?
Lets you search scholarly publications. This would be great for doing in-depth research for blog posts.
Follow Finder is a Twitter tool lets you do two things: 1) You enter your Twitter username and it gives you a list of people and says, “People on Twitter who follow the users you do also tend to follow these accounts.” 2) If you want to find more people to follow, you enter the Twitter ID of the person and get a list of similar users.
Click on the screenshot below to see what I mean. Note that I used @problogger as my example.
I haven’t used this at all so I can’t really add my own 2 cents here (I know I’ve already said that a few times in this post, but there are just so many tools here! I can’t use all of them!). But apparently it’s a Skype-esque VoIP service. If I understand correctly, you get your own US-based phone number and can set up an online voicemail account, among other things. Here are some useful links:
Can anyone give us a little mini review or summary of Google Voice?
This is a complete-what-you-start-typing thing. It’s kinda neat, but I haven’t quite figured out how it could be helpful for blogging. Any ideas?
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never actually used Google Webmaster Tools. It’s something that I need to explore more in the future. Until then, I stole the following information from Wikipedia.
- Submit and check a sitemap
- Check and set the crawl rate, and view statistics about how Googlebot accesses a particular site
- Generate and check a robots.txt file
- List internal and external pages that link to the site
- See what keyword searches on Google led to the site being listed in the SERPs, and the click through rates of such listings
- View statistics about how Google indexes the site, and if it found any errors while doing it
- Set a preferred domain (e.g. prefer example.com over www.example.com or vice versa), which determines how the site URL is displayed in SERPs
Well… Actually not really! But this post is already about 3,500 words long and has taken 6 or 7 hours to write! There are several more, including
- Google Directory – Web directory based off of DMOZ
- Google Merchant Center – If you’ve got a product or products, you can upload them here to get them indexed for the Google product search.
- Google Reader Play – A fun, fast way to find interesting articles online.
- Google Transliteration – I played around with this a few days ago and it’s very cool! It lets you type out non-romanized writing systems (like Russian, Chinese, Arabic, etc.) using our “normal” keyboard.
- Google Checkout – A fast, easy way to set up an online store and accept credit card payments.
Let me know which of the bazillion above tools are your favorites and least favorites!
What other stuff do you think Google should come out with?
Are there any tools here that I missed?
Are there any tools here that you’d like to see detailed tutorials for in the future?
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