Essential Blog Tools and Resources
With my background in computers, I know the tech world is always changing. That's why I'm always reading and checking out what other bloggers, especially those in my niche are using. Even with my background, I know there are others who know more than I do.
I try out new tools every day, and everything on my list I have personally checked out, but there is a ton more out there. I know people say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Clearly, they weren't talking about websites or anything remotely like it. Don't be shy about trying a new plugin, but do make sure you've backed up your site first.
Technology changes every minute, or at least it often feels that way. Through trial and error, I've come across these resources that I'm about to share with you and personally, I've found them essential to working on my blog.
Later and Grids for Instagram (Mac OS) are apps that I’ve used extensively for a while now. I've used Grids for years, but only recently found Later. Grids lets you repost and like, but not direct post. Later gives you both browser and mobile app access, so you can post from anywhere.
Later allows you to move images around in order to see what your feed will look like. Later is the only app that also has desktop compatibility. Although Instagram is a mobile app it’s much easier to arrange your images and write out the description for each picture on your laptop.
Other essential blogging tools: Planoly, Unum, Snapseed (Mobile only), and A Color Story (Mobile Only).
Social Media Tools
Hootsuite & Buffer
I have used both of these. To me, Hootsuite has a Tweetdeck feel but does a lot more and Buffer has a really clean design. Buffer allows you to post to 3 social accounts for FREE. The downside, however, is that it only allows you to schedule up to 10 posts at a time.
Hootsuite also allows you to post to 3 accounts but it also shows you multiple “streams” or threads of content at a time. Like I said it does a lot more. If you’re using your Twitter account in Hootsuite you’ll be able to see your tweets, your mentions, your direct messages, your home page and popular tweets all on the same page. So, it can be a bit overwhelming. If you’d prefer a more simple layout, then Buffer is probably a better option. If you want to have more options and schedule Instagram then perhaps Hootsuite is more for you.
Crowdfire & Tailwind
Both of these are also great options for scheduling. Of the two I'd use Tailwind for Pinterest and Crowdfire for Instagram. I know Tailwind has added in Instagram scheduling, but I like the layout of the post in Crowdfire more. Both have free and paid options.
Blog Management Tools
There a few options out there that are premium, but if you're just starting and on a budget here are a few FREE options and a few PAID options as well. If you use Gmail, there is a suite (or Drive) of options available to you. Google Sheets and Google Docs are two good options. The only downside with using Google Sheets to manage your website or blog projects is it's fully DIY. The sheets open blank, and there are very few Templates for them as well. You can search, but I wouldn't expect much.
Trello has a free (basic) option for project, site or blog management. You can even add in collaborators, if you have any, and each one will see it live. Very cool! They also have a mobile app so you can update anywhere.
Other Blog Management Options: CoSchedule (PAID), Physical Planners, and DIY Planners using Printable Pages.
Blog Content Tools
Google Trends, Write Better Headlines and Uber Suggest
These are all essential tools if you want your content to potentially gain more exposure. None of them are magic bullets, but they are extremely useful. Honestly, if used together they can send your content much farther.
Try Google Trends to see how many people are interested in your post topic and see what sub-categories people are searching for. Then, use Write Better Headlines to test out if your post title is optimized to gain people’s attention, strike a chord with them and of course get them on your page. It’s brought to you by the folks over at CoSchedule and is FREE to use. Finally Uber Suggest by Neil Patel. I use this a lot. Put in your topic, key phrase or other phrase and it returns posts, keywords, and related content. It is uber useful when writing content.
Canva and Photoshop
I’m comfortable using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. However, if you're looking for a cheaper option would FREE be good? Then Canva is it. Honestly, with Canva you don't really need to be techy. They even have a mobile app that allows you to create and edit just as if you were on your laptop. There are thousands of free templates, shapes, colors, and styles to try and modify the way to want your graphic to look.
I think the only drawback is that you can’t edit your photos here like you can with Photoshop. Still, I'm very happy with all my Canva graphics.
One of the things all bloggers look for is high-resolution stock photos. You can take photos of your own if you have a DSL type camera then you are all set. If however, you don't, there are a few options to get Free and lower cost photos in addition to the premium ones.
Burst by Shopify, Pexels, Pixabay, Ivory Mix and Creative Market
Burst by Shopify, Pexels, and Pixabay are all free. Pexels does have an upgrade to Premium as do the others. With attribution, the photos are free to use. Creative Market offers free membership and sends out weekly Freebies. They lots of images from Graphic artists from all over the world and the prices start at only $2. Ivory Mix is another Premium site and well-reputed in the blogosphere
The main source of all analytics is Google Analytics, but many social media networks also have their own. Pinterest is one of them, but to avail of it, you must have a Pinterest Business Account. I have detailed how to do convert a personal Pinterest account into a business one in my post How to Start a Blog and Pinterest Account! So, if you need to convert your account, please refer to that post. Tailwind also offers Analytics on all posts on Pinterest, as well. Although, I'm sure that comes through Pinterest.
Mail Chimp VS Mailerlite
When you first start to blog, usually you don't have an email mailing list. There are several options to collect emails for mailing, of the 2 market leaders I prefer Mailerlite over Mailchimp. Sorry, Chimp. I find it very easy to make multiple forms in Mailerlite, in Chimp I get so lost.
Now, I know everyone in the blogosphere seems to promote using Convertkit these days, but it is expensive for those of us just starting and a bit advanced as well. While Convertkit is great from all that I've read, personally I'll wait until my blog progresses a bit.
Other email tools for bloggers: Aweber and Madmimi are both paid platforms.
Email and Domain Email
Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook/Hotmail are all free, I think most of us know that. Domain email hosting is usually a PAID platform. Google Suite costs about $6 +tax a month per user if you pay monthly and if you have more than one person collaborating, there are a few workarounds to keep it at $6 a month. One is to have one general account that you share. I'm happy to share other options just reach out to me on this. Office365 costs about the same.
Zoho Mail for Domains is a free option, however, there are limitations. 1. each mailbox is only 5gb 2: you can only access via a browser or their app. If that works for you then you are in business. Their paid accounts are much cheaper than Google Suite, but you have to pay annually. Their cost is $12 per user per year vs $60 per user per year (Google discounts when you pay annually). It's still quite a difference overall. Their next plan is $24 per user per year and that gives you a 25GB mailbox and still much less than Google.
When I first began blogging on WordPress I used the WordPress built-in Editor. As WordPress has evolved, even with the newer and fancier Gutenberg Editor, they have taken out things that I used to use a lot, like text-justify for one. Even with adding the plugin (any of them) it doesn't work. For me, the answer was using a Page Builder. Now the other advantage of using a Page Builder is they are WYSIWYG. If you aren't family with the term it means What You See IS What You Get. It's an old I.T. term that you rarely see but definitely works here. Essentially in using a Page Builder, you see your content live as you create it. So, no need to "preview".
Initially, when I started using a Page Builder I used Elementor. I think it came in a theme and I really liked it a lot. Then recently I switched over to Beaver Page Builder. Both come with Free and Paid options. I'm good with FREE.
It is essential to have a backup system for your website or blog. I use Updraft Pro. I like that even with the FREE version I can connect it with my Google Drive and save my backups there. There are other options WP Backup is one, I tried it out and it wasn't for me. If you find one you like let me know, I'd love to hear about it. Jetpack also offers a backup, but recently I read that Jetpack can slow your site loads. So, I've stepped away from Jetpack.
With all the images and stuff on our blogs, a caching plugin is essential. I use WP-Optimize it comes from the same people who make Uplift Pro, so I felt confident it would be a good option. Before this, I used to use WP Super Cache. Both are good, but WP Optimize goes further in many aspects. It does a great job of Smushing your photos down and this keeps your site loading fast.
Yoast SEO, 404 to 301, Disable Comments, and Broken Link Checker
Yoast SEO is a plugin most bloggers and content creators rely on. From keyphrase, link distribution and readability, Yoast SEO makes sure you are in the green. It has a FREE and PAID version, but I use the FREE one and it does a good job. 404 to 301 keeps errors from cropping up on page loads, while the Broken Link Checker makes sure the links on your site are working. I use Disable Comments for my pages. That way, if I mess up and forget to turn off commenting, it's ok.
Passster and WP Content Copyright Protection & No Right Click
Passster works to protect my work products from being stolen/seen. It allows me to keep a password protecting specific pages and works every time. Before this, I had used the built-in password for pages, but it seemed buggy. Even though I would put in the correct password, it would reply that it was wrong. Passster fixed this.
Copyright Protection & No Right Click keeps people from being able to just copy my content and using it as their own. I spend hours and days creating my posts, I don't appreciate some stealing my words. I flattered if you like what I've written, but please don't copy and put my words in your mouth. It also keeps people from being able to right-click on my graphics and saving them for their use. Very essential for bloggers and creatives.
Avoiding spammy comments is also essential in my book. I usually prefer to use Facebook Commenting, but with this site, I couldn't get it to work, so I turned to Disqus. I've used Disqus many times before and it's usually a good addition that doesn't slow your site down.
For Facebook Comments, I use WP Social Comments and it usually works like a charm. I may try again after a while and see if I can get it working.
Disqus is also a strong commenting system and works well. Either way, they are good. Akismet is said to be good for spam, but I find even after installing it I get comments.
For security, I couldn't go without Wordfence.
I hope my post has helped you today. Thank you for checking it out and if you have any questions, get in touch!