I’ve been blogging for a WHILE now. More than a decade, which makes me something of an antique in the blogging world. So, I wanted to give new or struggling bloggers some recommendations for the very best blogging tools that I use in my own business to boost my productivity. That’s the big trick to blogging. You’ve got to know a lot about just about EVERYTHING and somehow keep all the plates spinning. That’s why these tools are going to help you be a much better blogger.
Disclaimer: These are affiliate links, so if you click them and make a purchase, I’ll get some money from that – might be just a couple bucks, might be more. I think that’s OK – it’s kind of like tipping your waiter. But if you just go straight to the site and sign up, I don’t get a dime (sad face). This is a major way bloggers make their money, so it’s always good karma to try to use an affiliate link when signing up for new tools.
Best Blogging Tools for your Website
Let’s start with the foundation – the hosting plan. This is the company who gives you webspace to run your site and they can also help you fix some of the problems that might happen with your site. Mine also provides free SSL security, free daily backups and free site scans, unlike my previous host (who shall remain nameless). My top pick is absolutely SiteGround.
In fact, I’ve just renewed BOTH of my sites with them for the next two years! It cost me a chunk of change, but that’s how much I like them. Their customer service is outstanding. I can get a live chat going within less than 2 minutes any time of the day. And usually they have my problem sorted out within 10 minutes. Now that’s my idea of PRODUCTIVE! Go here to my SiteGround post to learn more.
Next is your theme. That’s the software that creates all this pretty background and sets up your header and all your sidebar stuff. I’ve used several themes over the years and some of them were pretty bad. So now I use Bluchic themes on all my websites. This one is the Isabelle theme, which is terrific for bloggers, but they have several others. Shop around a bit. They have some new ones that are set up especially for female business owners.
I like them because they are simple to set up – they have great tutorials and it was super easy to customize my colors and create my header and slider images. I’ve tried some other themes that my clients used. NOT EASY to set them up at all and very limited choices in some cases. You can have pink or purple or blue on one site I was working with. Those were not the choices my client wanted, so she had to get a different theme.
People just starting out always want to use FREE THEMES, well because they’re FREE. However, you get exactly what you pay for and most of the time, free stuff is CRAP. That’s why it’s free. Also, the coding is critical so your website is properly mobile responsive, and also resistant to hacker attempts – very important. It’s like the transmission of your site – it’s gotta work right. Check out my really helpful post on WordPress security.
My last theme WASN’T coded properly, so I had a lot of trouble with it looking terrible on mobile and loading VERY SLOWLY. A good theme costs a bit, but it’s totally WORTH IT. This is one place where you WANT to take some time kicking the tires and be prepared to spend some money.
They also have some professionally designed social media graphics like this one so you can coordinate your look across all the different platforms. I highly recommend having a theme like this – it gives a cohesive and professional feel to your social media.
Jetpack is like the Swiss Army Knife of plugins. It can do all sorts of things, which might save you loading several different plugins that might not play well together. It can do site backups, update your plugins, send Emails to your subscribers, help with spam comments, give you quick and easy stats, all sorts of stuff. It can be a bit of a memory hog, but if you are eliminating 3-4 additional plugins, that might be a good tradeoff. It has a free level and a paid level, so you can try it out and see if you like Jetpack enough to upgrade to a paid plan.
Here’s something else you absolutely NEED for your site. You need to have all the proper GDPR privacy policies and cookie popups in place, along with your site’s terms and conditions. Happily, this is very easy to do with this Legal Bundle from Amira Law, a lawyer specializing in online policies and processes.
She also has a number of different legal templates on her sites for photo releases, sponsored posts, independent contractor agreements, etc. I have a whole post on this topic – Legal Protection for your Blog.
How ’bout a great course in how to learn to create and maintain your WordPress site? And it’s FREE. A 5 day course for free. That’s a pretty unbeatable deal. Here’s how to sign up for the course.
Email Campaign Blogging Tools
Once you’ve got a website, you need to get some subscribers and start creating newsletter content. I get a lot of questions from my clients about this one. Which one is the best service to use for the price? It’s a very important question because changing providers is kind of a big hairy PAIN. I’ve used several of them, so I am VERY confident in my choice of MailerLite as the best tool, especially for a smallish list.
Yes, I know a lot of people are going to say go with MailChimp. I do use it for a charity site I work with and honestly, I just don’t like it. The templates are kind of clunky. I had a hard time setting up my subscriber list the way I wanted to, and I don’t think their open rates are great.
I use MailerLite to push content out to my subscribers every week (every Sunday morning!) and also to share tips and great deals with them. I had previously used Active Campaign which I HATED. I’ve found MailerLite to be cheaper (it’s FREE up to 1,000 subscribers), easier to use, much PRETTIER, and it just works better.
I can even set up multi-step automations on the free plan to send out an Email series to my subscribers. That’s pretty awesome. Since it’s a free tool for a small list, you can try it with a small group of subscribers to see how you like it while you are building your list.
There is ConvertKit, which does seem to be the Cadillac of Email programs, but it’s got a Caddy-sized price tag too. If you’ve got 8,000-10,000 subscribers, that may be the right tool for you, but if you are small potatoes like me, I’d give MailerLite a try.Here's a cool productivity tip for you! I use a free Trello board to keep all my affiliate links in one place. Then I've got them right at my fingertips anytime I want to share them. Smart, huh?
Social Media Blogging Tools
Obviously, Pinterest is my big traffic source/money maker/obsession. And I really couldn’t do it without Tailwind and don’t think I haven’t tried. In addition to manual pinning, I’ve tested several of the other blogging tools on the marketing and I just didn’t find them as useful and feature-rich as Tailwind. They also have Instagram auto-posting with their patented hashtag finder and now auto-posting to Facebook and Twitter. Plus their Tribes, board lists and analytics are huge time-savers. Their looping feature is now in Beta testing (shhhh, I’ve been secretly ALPHA testing it for them for months now and it’s pretty cool!).
Best of all, I get my Tailwind for FREE and have for years due to their generous referral program. You can’t beat free, especially for a great program like Tailwind.
Of course, my own Ebook is my top recommended tool! Since Pinterest is the best traffic source, your first strategy move is to learn exactly how to use it effectively. I’ve seen so many hours-long courses that cost HUNDREDS of dollars and take you weeks to actually get going. Mama ain’t got time for that! This is a simple Ebook with a couple of short videos, so you can read it and implement it in a weekend and best of all, it’s only $25 bucks. Click here to learn more about it and see my BONUS ITEMS.
Hopefully, you’ve seen my MiloTree popup inviting you to Follow me on one of my social media platforms. It’s a simple way to grow your social media Followers with almost no effort. And it takes like 2 minutes to set up for ALL your different platforms, including your newsletter. I think it’s quite brilliant and it’s worked extremely well for me. More info about it here.
Miscellaneous Blogging Tools
There aren’t a lot of courses I recommend. I just don’t have the patience for them, but I think the Micro-Influencer’s Toolbox is definitely one of the best, especially if you are a small site that is just starting out. I am proof that you can make a successful business with a small site and a smallish following. You just have to be strategic and smart and this course teaches you exactly HOW to leverage even a small site to become extremely profitable. It’s still work, but it’s fun to see your income grow and grow. I love to wake up to new money in the morning! I wrote a whole post about the Micro-influencer’s Toolbox. Check it out here.
Quickbooks/PanicFree Tax Prep
When you are just starting out in business, all that tax and money stuff is SOOOOO confusing. What can you write off, what records do you need to keep, do you need a tax ID (yes!), do you need separate business accounts (YES), do you have to file quarterly taxes. All of these are very important questions you need to answer. Happily, I’ve got a whole post right here that gives you all the answers about these things and even offers you a 50% off deal on six months of Quickbooks Online. Sweet! Click over to the post here.
Did I mention that I recently escaped the clutches of Corporate life to pursue my VA Business full-time? It was wonderful to have a viable option when things at work got bad and I needed a Plan B. A qualified VA can make between $30-$50 an hour or even more, so it’s definitely an option worth pursuing.
The courses I recommend are created by Gina Horkey. And she has General VA courses, Email Management, Project Management, Real Estate Assistants, the whole enchilada. She even has one for how to start your own VA Business in 30 Days or Less. Sweet!
Well, there you go – my best recommendations for you. If you have any questions or need help, leave me a comment. I’d also love it if you’d share this post with your blogger friends! Sharing is caring…