Note 1: Not sure why you should start a blog? Read my 13 + 1 Reasons Why You Should Start A Blog article which outlines why you should start a blog!
Note 2: Not sure how to start your own blog? Check out my How To Start Your Own Blog In 9 Minutes article which will teach YOU step by step how to start your own blog in just minutes. No previous experience or technical knowledge is required.
One of the most common questions I get is what products, services and tools I use to power my blog and which ones do I recommend to others. So I’ve put together a list of the best blogging tools that I have used in the past as I was growing my blog or that I still use. I highly recommend all of the blogging tools on this list. I also constantly update this list as I discover new better tools.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of blogging tools listed below. If you are a beginner blogger you don’t need all of the tools to start your blog. That is why I have divided the tools you absolutely need, from the nice to have’s and the advanced tools. The advanced tools are for bloggers who have a bit of money to invest with the goal of turning their blog into a refined money-making machine. Before digging into the awesome tools, please read our affiliate disclosure in our Terms of Service.
MUST HAVE BLOGGING TOOLS / NICE TO HAVE BLOGGING TOOLS / ADVANCED BLOG TOOLS
Bluehost – This is one of the best blogging tools of all because it is the most affordable web hosting for new bloggers. It’s fast, reliable hosting that is easy to set up. Their support is wonderful and they include a free domain registration ($15 value) and the WordPress software that powers your blog. I have created a step by step article, How To Start Your Own Blog In 9 Minutes, that shows you how to quickly and easily get your blog up and running on Bluehost. $59.40 for 1 year / $94.80 for 2 years + Money back guarantee.
WORD PRESS THEMES
WordPress is the software that runs 99% of the blogs out there. Themes are what gives your blog its appearance. I recommend one that is updated regularly so you don’t have to worry about holes in security. Both of the below themes have these features. You only need to buy one theme from either of the below companies to get your blog running. One is not necessarily better than the other, it all comes down to the appearance you’re looking. Note: If you need help to set up your blog on WordPress either with the technical and/or the design side the team at WPCurve offer some great services to help you.
StudioPress – They offer many visually appealing themes that are responsive and secure. Their Genesis theme is their most popular ($59-$99 depending on the theme you choose)
Thesis – Another great professionally designed and secure WordPress blog theme. ($87-$197 depending on the theme you choose)
On the back side of your website in your WordPress control panel is where you customize and manage most aspects of your blog. WordPress plugins are little programs in themselves that easily install to provide you the blog owner with added functionality. They are just like apps on your phone except for your website. There are thousands of both free and premium paid ones you can install. Some companies have free ones but you have to pay for certain add-ons. From my experience you can find a quality free one to do pretty much anything you want so there is not much need to buy premium ones. Some of the more popular free ones are listed below. They’re free why not try them out!
Tiny MCE – A WordPress free plugin that scans your blog posts for grammar and spelling issues and recommends corrections. It’s a must!
Akismet – Protect your blog from spamming you through your comment boxes. It’s free.
Jetpack – Jetpack is a bunch of free, useful tools all packaged together in one plugin including site statistics, extra security, image optimization etc. I use it mainly for its site statistics.
BackWPup – This free tool allows you to schedule automatic updates of your whole site in case your site crashes or gets hacked. This is a must if you don’t want to potentially lose everything.
WordFence – I believe this is the best free security plugin for your blog. It does a lot. You can never have enough security.
MashShare Social Media Sharing Tools – After days of scouring the internet for the best blogging tools for social media sharing, I discovered MashShare. You need to check these WordPress plugins out. The good folks at MashShare have 9+ different plugins including social media sharing buttons, sharing and liking toolbars and widgets, url shortener, analytics, and other amazing tools. I use them on this site and so should you to help grow your social media followers. I strongly feel they are the best valued social media sharing tools out there. You can buy each plugin individually for 9+ Euros each or all (except the video plugin) for 39 Euros. It is well worth the money.
Yoast SEO – This is the best blogging tool for search engine optimization (SEO). This plugin allows you to edit post meta-data and other search engine optimization (SEO) options. While SEO is more of an advanced topic this little plugin is self-explanatory, it’s free, and it can only improve your web site’s search engine rankings.
Zemanta Related Posts – This plugin puts related blog posts at the bottom of each blog post you write. It helps to get visitors to visit more pages on your blog and stay longer which will improve your blogs popularity.
Imsanity Image Optimizer – I use a few free tools to manage the images on my site. I use Imsanity to automatically resize how large images are when they are uploaded. I then optimize those images automatically with TinyPNG, and organize those images automatically with Enhanced Media Library. Finally, I serve up the right size image for the right size screen with RICG Responsive Images. These plugins are all free so use them as they will make you pages load faster.
Easy Digital Downloads – A shopping cart WordPress plugin if you want to sell products on your blog. The plugin is free.
Genesis Simple Hooks – This plugin is specifically for blogs running the popular Genesis theme by Studio Press. It allows you to add code to various areas of your blog without disrupting your theme files.
GRAPHIC DESIGN TOOLS
Canva – An online graphic design tool that is super easy to use with its drag and drop features. I use it everyday to create many of my images for various social media sites. I feel it is the best blogging tool for graphic design – at least the best free, online graphic design tool. The only time you’ll be charged is if you use and of the $1 premium images in your design. Highly recommended.
UnSplash – A website for free images that you can use without providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash (copyright-free). They are good quality and are organized into categories. Unfortunately there is no search option yet and their collection is not very large.
StockSnap – Another website for free good quality images that you can use without providing attribution to the photographer or StockSnap (copyright free). The service has a search option but like Unsplash, the collection is not that large.
iStockPhoto – When a good quality photo from Unsplash or StockSnap won’t suffice IStockPhoto by Getty Images is my go-to resource for the highest quality images. They have millions of royalty-free images you can pay to use. I also find the pricing to be better than the other royalty-free sites. You can buy credits to pay for the images you buy or for the best pricing you can sign up to a monthly plan. The plan I use is the $40 CDN/Month plan that allows me to download 10 images a month and the downloads roll over to the next month if I don’t use them all. New customers can get 20% monthly subscriptions with coupon code 2RGPC46N.
The Noun Project – The site I go to find icons. You can pay $2/icon or $10/month for unlimited icon downloads.
Easel.ly – Another free web-based graphic design tool. This one is geared specifically towards creating infographics. The beginner blogger need not worry about creating infographics, but if you’re interested in what they are or if you’re looking to make complicated visuals this may be the tool for you.
PicMonkey – Another useful tool for creating images. It is one of the most feature-rich online image editing sites I’ve come across. I never used most of Photoshop’s features so I looked for more simplified alternatives and came across PicMonkey. Best of all they have a free trial and their full feature plans only cost between $3-5/month.
Fiverr – Need something created. Fiverr is your place to find someone to get the job done. You can find writers, editors, proofreader’s, graphic designers, marketing professionals, models, programmers, and just about anything else. I use the service on a regular basis because I can get jobs down for a lot less than I can on other outsourcing websites. Plus if you sign up through the above link and use the code Fly20 you’ll receive a 20% discount on your first job.
99designs – Need a logo or graphics designed and you’re not up to creating them yourself. 99designs is one-stop shopping and amazing value for your money. You’ll choose a design package and designers will design what you’ve asked for and compete to earn your business. You then pick the design you like the most and 99designs will pay the winning designer and you get to download the finished product.
EMAIL MARKETING TOOLS
AWeber – An email newsletter management tool that allows you to collect reader email addresses. This is a must if you are looking to make money from your blog as email lists are the most effective way besides writing good content to keep readers coming back. $19/month to start.
Instapage – A powerful tool to create landing pages for your blog. It couldn’t be any easier to create a landing page with the drag and drop features. It’s the easiest landing page service I’ve found. Don’t know what a landing page is? If you’re looking to make money from your blog you a landing page is essential. It’s basically a dedicated sales page where you convince people to buy something or give you their email address in return for something. The blog link on the Instapage website explains everything you need to know about landing pages. Starting at $29/month.
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT SERVICES
CoSchedule – This is currently the best blogging tool for all around social media and content management. I used to use Buffer but CoSchedule tops Buffer for my needs. I started to use this service as an editorial content calendar which allowed me to keep track of which blog articles I was going to publish each day. However, it has since morphed into a platform in which you can create your blog posts and schedule them to automatically post on all of your social media profiles. I highly recommend it. It saves me hours every day! I have been so impressed with the service I wrote an article about it. Learn how you can automate your blog with CoSchedule. Starting at $15/month.
Board Booster – I also love Board Booster. It is a Pinterest pin scheduler! I use it in conjunction with CoSchedule to automate 95% of my Pinterest posting. It quite possibly saves me more time than other tool on this page and allows me to supercharge my Pinterest account. It has resulted in Pinterest being my largest source of visitors to my site. It starts at $5/month and comes with a free trial where your 100 first pins are free.
Sprout Social – Another social media scheduling tool that I’ve used to manage my social media interactions on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. It automates the process and posts new content to my Facebook and Twitter accounts at whatever times I desire. Starting at $59/month which looks expensive but it is comparable as their least expensive plan has many of the advanced features that other services like CoSchedule don’t include in their least expensive plans.
Evernote – A program that allows you to write blog posts offline when you aren’t connected to the Internet. You can also use it to make notes and brainstorm blog articles. Their lowest plan is free.
iBooks Author – This is a great piece of Apple Mac software to create eBook’s. Best of all its Free. You can download it from the Apple website directly on to your computer.
There are many ways to make money blogging. Earning money through placing advertisements and/or through placing affiliate links on your website is the place to start. The resources below are two of the most popular ad network and affiliate programs.
Amazon Associates – Amazon’s Affiliate Program. The other main way bloggers make money is through recommending products by placing links to those products on your blog. You then earn a referral commission for each customer who clicks on the link and buys that product.
AdSense – Google’s Ad network. One of the main ways bloggers make money by showing ads on their blog.
ANALYTICS / INCREASING TRAFFIC TOOLS
Google Analytics – The best blogging tool for analytics. Did I mention it’s free? It’s a must if you want to understand who is visiting your blog.
Social Crawlytics – A tool that shows you the most shared/followed blog posts on any site including your own. This allows you to know which blog posts/topic are the most popular with visitors so you can write more similar content. This is very important if you are trying to grow or monetize your blog. It’s the same idea as Buzzsumo but free. In comparison, Buzzsumo charges you $99/month. The only thing that Social Crawlytics requires of you is to tweet about their product each time you need more research credits. I don’t know about you, but this is something I’m happy to do in order to save $99/month.
Hit Tail – Is a service to mine your own search data for underperforming long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are search phrases that usually contain 3+ words and highly relevant to very specific topics or niches. Based on the data, it provides keyword suggestions that can help boost your positions in search engine results like Google and therefore deliver more qualified visitors to your website. Plans start at $10/month. This is a great price for this service as some competitor services like Longtail Pro cost $37/month.