One of the great things about blogging is that you can choose the way you do it. What works for you. Choose your niche or topic. Choose a name. And get writing. Which is fine if you just want to write for yourself. But most people, even if they start out writing for themself, want their blog to become more professional and grow, increasing their audience. I thought I’d share some of the blogging tools I use.
Hopefully it’ll help both those who’re thinking about starting blogging, those just starting out. And maybe bloggers who’re looking to move from the tools they’re using currently.
*Ad – contains affiliate links
Blogging tools I use (and recommend)
Most people (even non bloggers) can probably name one of the largest website hosts because they advertise a lot. But big doesn’t necessarily mean better, and I’ve got experience of using the big advertiser (in the UK at least). I’d definitely say avoid them. I’ve since moved both of my blogs to different hosts based in the UK and have better reputations and lots of happy customers.
When i’m talking blog hosting, I’m assuming self hosted blogs using WordPress (.org not .com). Ideally your blog to be hosted by a company who are either based where you are, or who can put your blog on servers nearest your audience to help with speed.
I moved my main large blog to 34SP about 18 months ago and haven’t looked back since doing so. They provide a managed service which includes support in either migrating from an existing host, or starting from scratch. Since moving to them, my blog is much faster too which was my main reason for moving.
Their customer service is spot on in my experience – tickets are responded to fast via email, and they actually talk to each other. There’s no having to explain to each different person your issue from the start. I’ve always had any questions answered straight away, and so far have had no issues since my original set up. I don’t think I recall any down time, and they’re really good to ask for advice too.
If you want to try 34SP, click via my referral link and you’ll get a month free hosting.
Scheduling and social sharing
If you’re not a full time blogger, you’re probably blogging around a day job and potentially family as well. So efficiency is important. It takes a while to get SEO right, so in the meantime you need to get your blog seen on social media to help build your presence. It will also help your blog get picked up faster by Google. So scheduling really helps.
I do use Facebook’s own scheduler because it’s rare I’ll share something on there more than once. But for Twitter you want to share more frequently across a longer time period. A scheduler will help do this.
I was lucky that I joined Missinglettr through a lifetime deal when they were starting out. It works by each rss feed going into your dashboard, you review the tweets you want to put out by using content they suggest and images pulled from your post. You chose the length of your campaign – short term burst, or evergreen content going for 6 or 12 months. Then it schedules them into times you choose or that you’ve already set up in your settings. With twitter they don’t want you tweeting the same over and over again, and Missinglettr makes sure you don’t do that.
It’s really easy to use and I can have thousands of tweets in my schedule. I also have 3 blogs linked up to the one account. The only downside is I find it a really slow website.
Included in the price I paid is their Curate offer, where you can choose other content to share on themes you want. I only use this for my new blog because I don’t have enough of my own content yet, and don’t have the time to tweet regularly on general chatter compared with my main twitter feed for this blog.
You can check out Missinglettr here through my referral link.
I currently use a combination of Missinglettr and Buffer. Buffer I use the free version which only gives you 10 scheduled posts a day. I used this for immediate scheduling of current posts, just over a couple of days after posting. Sometimes I just don’t bother because I know my posts will go out to a longer schedule with Missinglettr. Buffer is manual for me, although you can pay for different packages, and use it for longer term scheduling.
While you can use Tailwind for Instagram, I only use it for Pinterest. I signed up a long time ago so have a Grandfather legacy lifetime set up, but I did upgrade at one point. I’ve since downgraded again to the lowest price option because I found I didn’t need to use as much as I was paying for.
Over recent years a lot of people have stopped using Tailwind – since Pinterest kept mucking around with their algorithm, all the ads, and lots of people’s reach dropped. For me, the scheduling is the valuable part. It means that I get my content out throughout the night which is the peak time for the US to be online. I do mix it with a little manual pinning too. You can use the scheduler in Pinterest itself, but you can’t edit existing scheduled pins with that, only delete them. And you can’t schedule very far out. I also found it very slow.
Along with the Tailwind scheduler, you can also join communities which can help get your pins shared and seen, but also provides you with content to pin and share as well. I don’t find communities busy enough for me generally anymore, but if you find a good active one, they can still help gain traction.
They also have a create pins function where you can bulk create pins in Tailwind. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and it’s good if you don’t have time to set up templates in another image programme. For me I already have templates, so I don’t use this.
You can usually get a free trial on Tailwind – you can find out more through my Tailwind referral link.
Design and image creation
I’ve used a few image editing websites over the years, but use different ones depending on what I’m doing. If you want to pay for one service, think about what you want it to cover.
I love Picmonkey for basic photo editing, although I hate that they increased the cost by more than double a couple of years ago. They also seem to charge more at renewal than it states on the upgrade/downgrade pricing page. So I’m gutted, because I find it really fast and easy to use but I may cancel when my renewal comes around as I could use other options. Bear in mind Picmonkey can’t cope with RAW files, but if you’re a jpeg photographer, then it does the job.
Within the basic version I can do pretty much everything I want to – the only thing I can’t is access all the fonts, and upload my own. There are additional editing options, if you pay for the higher packages.
I prefer Canva for creating Pinterest templates and do most of my design for my blogs there. I’ve never paid for Canva – I use the free version (although I did like the resize option amd the increased image choice which come with the pro plan). If you want everything in one place and basic photo editing, then Canva is probably your best option. Here’s my referral link.
If you want everything that Picmonkey does including batch editing (which I do miss from Picmonkey), then Be Funky is similar but totally free.
Lightroom for mobile
I don’t do much photography using RAW anymore, mainly because I don’t find it makes a big difference in my photos, and it’s easier to edit on laptop for jpegs. But if I do have RAW images I want to edit, I just upload to my phone and use Lightroom for Mobile. I use the free app, and because I’m lazy I have a lot of presets I’ve bought in sales over the years to edit them. You can edit manually as you usually would, but I just find presets faster to use and I know my favourites for certain themes of shots.
For quality photo editing on mobile which is a bit easier to find what you want than lightroom, try the Snapseed app.
If you want to improve your SEO (search engine optimisation), it helps to have SEO tools to hand. I’ve done a few courses over the years (Sticky SEO being one of the best – my referral link here). But you can just read all the free information out there and work it out yourself.
You will need to research and there’s plenty out there for free to build your understanding.
What it comes down to is:
- Understand what terms people search and end up on your blog (or don’t click through). Use Google Search Console for this. You’ll be able to work out your successful posts that are found through google, and what search terms have high impressions with lots of people searching, where you don’t get clicks.
- Understand where you rank currently, which are your top posts, and which are your easy wins.
- What alternate phrases can you use to improve existing posts, and gain more traffic
- What are highly searched for phrases in your niche where there’s a gap in the market that you could fill
Free SEO tools:
- General trends and search ideas
- Google search – auto fill ideas
- Google trends
- Quora – see what people are asking about in your niche
- Ask the People – limited searches each day but provides all the questions asked for your topic
Keysearch is a paid tool which provides different search terms, difficulty/competition level and search volumes by country or region. There are different levels of paid for options. I love this as it’s so easy to use. I don’t use any of the other tools on keysearch but there’s lots of different areas to understand and play with
A tool from Neil Patel. The free option provides limited searches, but lets you assess your own blog vs others, your search strength and areas of improvement needed with fixes. There’s also a chrome extension that’s useful.
Other similar websites include SEMRush, Keyword Finder
Tubebuddy is great for Youtube SEO. Help find good tags, and optimise your Youtube video descriptions, and ensure you’ve got everything covered when uploading videos to increase your visibility. Here’s my Tubebuddy referral link.
I used to earn quite a bit through sponsored posts working with PR companies but there’s a lot more competition now, and I don’t fit much of the family brands. I turn down a lot of SEO links and guest posts as they all want dofollow links and no ad disclosure. So now most of my income from my blog is via advertising and affiliates. As my blog isn’t my job, I just want to make enough money to cover my costs of all 3 blogs, and a little extra pocket money isn’t bad.
Amazon Associates – as long as you fulfil their requirements, you can sign up to Amazon Associates. To make regular payments you will need a decent amount of traffic. I found traffic of over 10k a month started to see better results where before it was a lot more sporadic. Now you can set up OneLink from the US associate site, you don’t need to sign up to all the individual countries which is much easier than before.
Adsense – again, more traffic is going to see you better returns. You can turn on auto ads, or choose where to put them. I have auto on my smaller blog, but choose for this one. Adsense expect you to have a decent number of posts, and proof your blog has been around for a while (3-6 months seems to be normal). Unless you add lots of ad slots, you’ll need well over 20k views a month to get regular pay outs. But it’s better than nothing while you wait to get the traffic you need to get to higher paying ad networks.
If you’re starting out on your blogging journey, do let me know if there are any other tools you want to ask me about. If you’re already set up and growing your blog, are there any blogging tools you use that I’m missing from my list?