I’ve been blogging for a VERY long time. I started blogging in May of 2007, so in blogging years, I’m practically an antique! Over the years, I’ve learned a LOT and one of the best things I’ve learned is which are the tools worth paying for and which are garbage.
Over the years, I’ve tried various hosts, various platforms, and MANY, MANY tools. The nice thing is that I’ve been through the good ones and the bad ones, so I can definitely steer you in the best direction. Trust me – I ONLY recommend the tools that I personally USE and LOVE!
Disclaimer – Many of the tools I have will carry my affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small benefit at no cost to you. This is one of the ways that I use to support my site and pay for all these lovely tools.
Here is my best list of the blogging tools worth paying for
Price – Starts at $15/month, but varies depending on services.
Tailwind HAS to be first on my list. Obviously Pinterest wasn’t even on the horizon when I started, but it’s definitely the 800 lb. gorilla in the room these days and Tailwind is definitely the gold standard for schedulers. Well, I’ve heard that Board Booster is pretty good too, but I haven’t used it personally. I did use an early product called Viral Tag and I do still maintain a membership for it, but it’s definitely an inferior product. It doesn’t have the analytics or the flexibility of Tailwind, but it is useful for building boards in large volumes and quickly.
I’ve had a very beneficial relationship with Tailwind over the past several years. They’ve not only been helpful in scheduling hundreds of thousands of pins for myself and my clients, but they’ve also managed my analytics, and my Tribes. I also use it for my Instagram scheduling, such as it is. They’ve also given me hundreds of dollars in $15 commissions for referring people to their services – see my post on How I get my Tailwind for FREE. Even nicer, they are paying to promote that article and a couple of others on all their social media, which drives a lot of my traffic. See why they’re my favorite?
Disclaimer: As with any tool, your mileage may vary. Here are some stats to show you the results of typical users with this tool. I think that’s true of anything. I’ve seen people get AMAZING results with tools or strategies that I can’t always duplicate.
2. SiteGround Hosting
Pricing: Plans Starting at $3.95 per month (that’s less than a cup of coffee per month!)
My #2 recommendation would be my SiteGround hosting plan. I recently moved from an off-brand host you’ve probably never heard of – WebHostingHub. They were not only WAAAY more expensive, they were AWFUL. My site was SLOW, customer service was sketchy, I had to pay for lots of things that SiteGround offers for FREE (backups, SSL, virus scans, for example).
So it was basically costing me an extra $300ish a year to be with that crappy host. Moving to SiteGround was like a breath of fresh air! I can get a chat with a live person to help me literally within about 90 seconds and that is ANY time night or day! They set up my SSL for FREE in less than 15 minutes. That other host – it took like 2 weeks and cost me nearly $200 bucks. The point is, do you your homework before you select your host. It’s a critical choice. I just went with that bad host because that’s what the lady who set up my site recommended, but then I stayed with them for like 3 years – duh!
Here’s a post all about SiteGround that gives you more details. If you are looking at changing hosts, consider SiteGround, and please be sure to use someone’s link or affiliate code. It will give YOU a better deal, and it generates a nice bonus for the person recommending it. It’s just good karma! Here’s mine – https://www.siteground.com/go/helpfornewbloggers
Pricing – $9 to $49
This is another good and bad situation. When you sell Ebooks and other digital products, you need a service to handle your online payments and deliveries. I first tried a service called E-Junkie. It was cheap – just $5 a month, but it was BAD. It was so unprofessional looking, I think it was scaring off my potential customers. I only had a handful of sales for nearly a year because of a massive cart abandon issue. I actually feel pretty dumb that it took me almost a year to figure it out.
The switch to SendOwl was dramatic. It was not only hugely easier to set up and use, but my sales quadrupled. I’ve also been able to easily set up affiliates to increase my sales. If you sell digital products, SendOwl is definitely a great choice! They also have really nice customer service.
Prices – FREE to $100ish per month (for LOTS of subscribers)
I’ve had a pretty bumpy ride with Email services. Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly! I’m not usually indecisive, but I struggled with this one. I started with Active Campaign, but HATED it! It was really complicated and inflexible and seemed like it was made for professional marketers rather than little bloggers like me.
I do use Mailchimp’s free service for a charity site that I work with. It’s not bad at all, especially for someone just starting out, but it didn’t really have enough horsepower for my taste. I even looked at MadMimi at one point – it’s super pretty, but again not much on features.
I looked at GetResponse and ConvertKit (you should hear cash register sounds if I had a soundtrack!). They definitely have all the bells and whistles, but at a price. Even with a fairly low amount of subscribers I was in the $50/month range!
Bingo!!! I switched to them – which took me hours and hours (because Active Campaign was such a pain to export my users and automation Emails). But I am SO much happier! They are not only waaaaay cheaper – they were free until I got my whole list moved over. My numbers are still low, so it will be about $10 a month until I grow to the next level.
They also have beautiful Email templates, easy-to-use subscriber management, very responsive customer service, and a terrific dashboard where I can see exactly how things are doing. They also have list segmentation, automations or drip emails (even on the free plan!) and landing pages, which I need to start using. Love it!
MailerLite is the bomb! Seriously, go try them out for free. If you use my code, you get $15 worth of FREE service with them and so do I. How’s that for nice? Here is my code – https://www.mailerlite.com/invite/962f550db27a5
I will even set up your MailerLite system for you – popups, Email templates, delivering your freebie item, the whole deal. See my HIRE ME page.
Pricing: Various prices
Do you like the look of my site? I’m loving it! And it was surprisingly EASY to set up. This is the Isabelle Theme that I purchased from a company called Bluchic. Even though I’ve been using WordPress for years, I’d never set up a new theme and I’ve been terrified to try it.
But this was super quick and easy (a huge PLUS in my book!). They had simple step-by-step instructions with little 2-3 minute videos to show you exactly how to set it up, customize the colors, set up your menus, hook up your social media, the whole enchilada! Yet another happy ending in the blogging world. Click THIS LINK for to see Isabelle in action with a brief demo.
I also have a service where I will set up your blog/website from scratch, mostly for free. See my HIRE ME page for details.
They also have a nice graphics package that I’ve also purchased and used pretty extensively. It comes with matching Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and blog header images, like a couple of dozen of them. These flat-lay feminine themes are all the rage now, so I decided to go with it. Although I do have to tone down the pinky, pink PINK color scheme a bit. I’m not quite THAT girly and I don’t want to scare off any male bloggers who might happen along – (they are rare as unicorns though!) But again, it was super easy to change the pale pink colors in the theme to a pretty gold and navy color scheme that still looks very sophisticated.
Here’s an example – isn’t that just heavenly???
Bluchic definitely gets my recommendation for beautiful products that are very easy to use.
Pricing – $9 bucks a month per site or there are annual plans available.
I’ve just discovered a new tool called MiloTree. It’s a terrific option to be able to trigger your readers to Follow you on your various social media platforms. It’s very easy to set up, takes like 2 minutes and it automatically shows a different platform each time a reader comes to your site. Check out my POST on it. If you sign up with my link – https://milotree.com?rfsn=1564061.78375b I’ll even install it for you.
Price: $19/month up to $149/month
Video is king on every platform. Users view more than 500 million hours of video every day. Yet, making custom videos is time-consuming and can be expensive. That’s why Lumen5 is so awesome! All you do is put in the URL of your post and it creates a little custom video for you in just seconds using snippets and images from your post. Then you can customize it as needed – add in some free stock images from their huge library, change the text around, add music, whatever you want to create an awesome video. It’s brilliant!
Here’s a quick little video I made from one of my posts just to give you a sample of how easy Lumen5 is to use. It took me about 10 minutes to create this video from my post – You Should Probably Be Using this little known Tailwind Feature.
And then you can easily share your videos on the social media platform of your choice. It’s really fun to use and the videos are just top quality. If you are like me – interested in creating video content, yet unwilling to get your FACE on camera and invest in a ton of equipment, Lumen5 is just the tool you need.
Price – $4.95/month
This isn’t specifically a blogger tool, but staying on top of your Email is a critical part of being a blogger. And honestly, most of us SUCK at it. I’ll see posts on Facebook about people bragging about having 10,000 or even 20,000 unread Emails. That’s just dumb and not efficient. Email is a super important tool to treat so carelessly – definitely not good in a business-owner. You need to keep track of comments, social media posts, sponsored campaigns, and collaborations with other bloggers. And people get MAD when they think you are ignoring your Emails. Don’t get MAD, get Mailstrom and get it under control!
Goodness! Are we seeing a pattern here of me trying the free or cheap tool and then switching to a paid tool for better results? I started with just regular Gmail, tried a free service called Unroll.me for about a year – it was good, but not great. Then I switched to Mailstrom and it’s really brilliant!
Here are my two favorite ways to use it. I love the “expire” feature. If I don’t read newsletters or other information-type Emails in a few days, I’m not gonna. So I can set them individually by user to simply disappear from my Inbox after a set number of days. They all appear in an Expire folder, so I can rescue them if needed, but it’s SO helpful.
The other way I use it is to gather up Emails by type. I can grab 10 different threads from my son’s Scout Troop and pop them into a folder in 3 seconds. Or find all my Facebook or Pinterest notifications for a month and delete them all in one pop. This is the first time I’ve ever felt so in control of my inbox.
Pricing – $24
Couldn’t have a list like this without having my own products on it. I’ve just recently updated my Ebook with new chapters, new strategies, new videos, and new BONUS items!
I share all my BEST Pinterest tips – how to get Followers, how to set up your boards, how to autoschedule your pins with Tailwind, and how to use those lovely Bluchic social media templates to make wonderful pins. I even show you my top-secret Group Board Strategy that has been a lot of my success on Pinterest. It comes with a bunch of bonus items – a 25 point checklist to find your trouble spots, some lists of no-limit Group boards and Tailwind Tribes for all niches. Plus my unique Style Guide with over 100 different color combinations and a series of font pairings to make gorgeous pins.
Pinterest seems simple, but it’s sort of like chess. There are moves within moves and arcane strategies. It can be really complicated to do it properly and there are multiple ways to use it. I’ve worked with over 100 different clients so I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. (REALLY ugly in some cases.) And I love to give advice, so this is perfect for me. I actually put a lot of time into these sessions – I review your competitors, look at your analytics, tell you what you’re doing wrong or right. At the end, you end up with a BIG list of changes you can make to improve your account.
CLICK HERE to order your Pinterest Review. I will come back with a checklist of items to fix and a personalized video or Zoom call to walk you through them.
BONUS: I have one more possible option – if you want to make the changes, but don’t have the time, energy, or technical know-how, you can hire me as a VA (Virtual Assistant) to make the changes for you, and even do your weekly pinning schedule for you. You can just get on with your business and leave the driving to me! Check out my HIRE ME page for details.
So, I hope that helps you make some of these critical choices. I would LOVE it if you would Pin this Post or share it to Facebook. Go ahead – use my sharing buttons below.
Blogging resources I love and recommend:
Tailwind – I’ve been working with Tailwind for about five years. They are the pin scheduler of choice and it is jam-packed with great features. If you haven’t already, sign up for a FREE month of Tailwind HERE.
The Isabelle theme by Bluchic – is my favorite theme for WordPress websites. I’ve used it to build a bunch of different websites. It’s pretty, easy to customize, and really simple to use. It’s shown in a very pale pink, but I’ve done it in turquoise, emerald green, and navy/gold color schemes. For safety and security reasons, I will not ever use a free WordPress theme. This is the engine that powers and protects your website. Learn about the Isabelle theme HERE.
Legal Templates – You are required by law to have a certain package of legalese on your blog. You need to have copyright notices, privacy policies, and various other terms and conditions to protect yourself from being sued. The package I recommend is created by Amira Law – a lawyer who specializes in all aspects of blogging and internet business legalities. Learn more about these Legal Templates HERE.
Pinterest Resources – Pinterest is definitely my jam. I have an Ebook that is very affordable and is packed with helpful tips. OR, if you want a more personalized touch, I will do a Pinterest/Tailwind audit where I go over your account with a 30-point checklist and then set up a Zoom call with you to give you TONS of suggestions. Order the Ebook HERE and the Pinterest Audit HERE.
HIRE ME – I make a full-time living taking great care of my blogger peeps. I’ve done Pinterest Management for the last five years for dozens of clients. I set up mailing lists, automations and build pop-ups for people. I can also build you a new website pretty much for FREE. To learn more – go HERE.