52 Essential Tools And Resources For Bloggers
Below I have put together a detailed list of all of the resources and tools that I rely on day in, day out.
These tools help me and my clients get everything done that we need to in order to thrive online.
I originally published this as a resources page, but have migrated it over to the blog and replaced my resources page with more succinct version
Choose a blogging platform
These are great if you’re blogging as a hobby but if you want to make money from your blog then they could seriously hinder your chances.
You need to be aware that there are certain things that these platforms don’t allow and also the fact that you technically wouldn’t own your blog and if you violate any part of their terms of service (even accidently) you could lose your entire blog and you won’t be able to get it back.
The most popular solution is to use WordPress.org, this is essentially the self-hosted version WordPress.com.
It’s one of the most popular blogging platforms on the planet and it’s also regularly used for straight up websites rather than just blogs.
It’s a powerful platform that’s easily expandable thanks to a wide selection of plugins which allow you to speed up your blog, secure it, serve ads, add social media buttons and all sorts of things.
You can also choose from a large variety of themes that allow you to change how your blog looks.
All you need for WordPress is to purchase a domain name and a web hosting account – most good hosts have a 1 click installer so you won’t need to worry, they usually have extensive support documentation.
Purchase your own domain name
There’s only one company that I use for registering domains; Namecheap.
I use Namecheap because it’s so easy to purchase domain names, pricing is very reasonable and they have good support.
They offer hosting as well but I recommend that you keep your domain names and hosting separate for security purposes.
Host your blog
I have used a lot of different web hosts in the past and have experienced the worst and the best of them.
Note: beware of any web host that offers unlimited hosting for a crazy price – these companies generally cram as many customers on to the server as possible. This kills performance and means a rubbish experience for your users.
I am constantly reading horror stories about sites crashing and being down for long periods of time.
This type of thing could cost you $1000’s and cause you to lose potentially profitable opportunities or just cause people to leave your blog and never come back.
I host with Media Temple because they are upfront about what they offer. None of this pretending to offer ‘unlimited hosting’ while stating that it’s not unlimited in their terms and conditions.
You know what you are getting.
And it’s good, very good.
Planning and research for your blog
The planning and research you do will provide the foundation for your blog and that’s important.
Without a solid foundation, you’re not going to make much money with your blog and you’re going to struggle to be successful in any way.
“Fail to plan, plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin.
Long Tail Pro - this is my go-to tool for the bulk of my keyword research – you can easily identify not only keywords to target but also content ideas.
You can also check your keyword rankings on the spot and research your competitors.
SEM Rush – this is an incredible tool for not only researching keywords but also competitor research. You can find the exact keywords your competitors are ranking for and exactly how popular they are. There are some other features too such as backlinks and rankings.
UberSuggest – this free tool makes use of Google’s suggest feature so you can type any keyword and then it will map out all of the suggestions for each letter of the alphabet.
Pick a professional theme for your blog
You can find a free theme to start off with, but never search for free themes in Google, you can get yourself into trouble that way so only use themes from WordPress.org.
If you want to make people take you seriously then you need to get a premium theme and there are a few key places that I go to before anywhere else:
StudioPress – Themes from StudioPress are a little more expensive (at least on the outset) than others on the market, although you can get yourself a really good deal if you buy all of their themes in bulk.
I prefer StudioPress because their themes are very lightweight so they’re going to load fast and they receive continuous development – they don’t just take your money and run.
Elegant Themes – Elegant Themes have some great looking themes, I find that some of them are not as light weight as StudioPress themes though.
Themeforest – This is a theme market place full of all sorts of themes from different companies. You can find some ground breaking themes here but note that support is offered by individual sellers, for the most part they do give good support.
Optimize Press 2.0 – This is both a plugin and a theme that provides a complete solution for creating marketing pages such as sales pages, landing pages, webinar pages, download pages and more.
I use it right here on Blogging Wizard for my home page and also landing pages for ebooks etc.
It gets even better because it comes complete with a membership plugin so you can create a fully-fledged membership site. These types of plugins usually cost $100-$300 just by themselves.
Recommended reading: Top 50 Premium WordPress Themes for Personal Blogs
Speed up your blog
Speed is important, it means a better user experience and it’s so important that it’s even a quality signal that is factored into Google’s ranking algorithm so speeding up your blog means more traffic for you.
MaxCDN – A CDN (content delivery network) is a network of servers based at different locations around the world. When a user tries to access your site the CDN will serve elements such as images, icons, scripts etc from the closest server to the visitor accessing your site.
MaxCDN is the CDN service that I am using here on Blogging Wizard and for a number of other sites.
Despite the excessive number of plugins that I use, MaxCDN was still able to reduce the load time from 6/7 seconds to around 3 seconds.
Backup your blog
Some web hosts will back up your site at specified intervals and others just claim to. A lot of them charge you extra for this service and its best that you use it.
It’s never going to be fool proof because if you roll out a major update on your blog and then are forced to restore it from a backup you may end up rolling your site back to a time before you rolled out the update.
That’s why you should back up your blog before you do anything, for example installing a plugin or updating a theme.
If you don’t have a backup plugin then you’re asking for trouble, especially since our blogs and websites are our livelihoods.
Backup Buddy – this is the backup plugin I use for WordPress and it’s helped me out of some difficult spots. You can schedule backups (full or just database) and save them locally and/or send them to another location, such as a Dropbox account.
It also supports website migrations which can come in handy too. Backup Buddy has earned the money back that I paid for it and then some.
Recommended reading: 8 Best WordPress Backup Plugins for Complete Peace of Mind
Secure your blog
Security is important and if you don’t put measure in place to protect your site then you could lose it all.
Better WP Security – This is one of the best security plugins for WordPress and it’s now maintained by iThemes, the same company behind Backup Buddy.
Sucuri – The team at Sucuri are experts in cleaning up hacked sites and they don’t just support WordPress. For a yearly fee you will get malware monitoring and malware removal, whether your site was infected before or after you sign up. There’s some other great services they offer too such as CloudProxy.
Rank better in search engines
Some people say SEO is dead, but I don’t agree – I have managed a lot of different clients over the last few years along with my own websites: all of which get some great traffic from Google.
Here are some tools that help me get results:
Raven Tools – This is the closest you can get to a full on marketing & SEO toolset all in one. There are over 30+ tools here, right from a site auditor to social media management tools.
SEO Pressor – This is a great plugin for optimizing the on page SEO of your blog’s pages and posts. Just add your keywords and it will give you a score. Support is really good too.
Advanced Web Ranking – If you prefer desktop software then this is exactly what you need, you can track your rankings for unlimited keywords on almost any search engine you could think of as well as keyword research, competitor research and a number of other powerful features.
Monetize your blog
Myself and a lot of other bloggers all over the world make passive income from our blogs and you can join us. These tools will help:
OIO Publisher – This is a WordPress plugin that allows you to sell advertising directly from your blog. It completely automates the process from the sale to removing the ad after the specified time period. No need to share commissions with ad networks.
Get 10$ off your purchase with this coupon code: HELLO14-BLOGWIZ
BuySellAds – This ad network will allow you to put your ad space directly in-front of advertisers so it can make ads easier to sell, although there is a trade-off – they take a commission.
Shareasale.com – This is an affiliate network that will allow you to find products to promote and if you have your own products you can use it to setup your own affiliate program.
E-Junkie – you can find products to promote as an affiliate here too, although where this system really excels is in providing you with a straight forward shopping cart system that will take care of the delivery of your digital products. You can also recruit affiliates too.
JVZoo – this is another system that will allow you to sell your own products and recruit affiliates. This platform is geared towards internet marketers so you can find some great features here. You will find that a lot of products here are created by internet marketers but you can find some other good stuff too.
Source images for your blog
When you’re looking for images to use in blog posts you need to be careful about the license that is given with them. Below are a few sites that you can use to get images to use on your blog:
– A paid stock photo market place with photo’s to suite any topic.
Flickr – You can use Flickr to search for images to use, but some aren’t available for you to use, you need to check the license of images and make sure you give attribution for those that you use.
Compfight – This handy site is a Flickr image search engine that will show you which images are available to use and it also generates the attribution code so you can add it to your blog post.
Sxc.hu – This is a free image exchange, last time I checked you don’t need to provide attribution unless it specifically says on a particular image but it’s worth checking before you use any images just in case the licensing agreement has been changed.
Manage your social presence
Social media is an essential part of my content promotion strategy and is one of my top traffic sources. Below are the tools that I use most:
Hootsuite – For my day to day social media management, via desktop or mobile – Hootsuite is the answer.
Recommended reading: 13 Best Social Media Management Tools
Build your mailing list
If you aren’t building a mailing list you’re missing a big opportunity, here are some tools to help:
GetResponse – I was a big fan of Aweber for a long time and while they had good support and an easy to use system they failed to keep up with their competitors in terms of features. GetResponse adds a new dimension to email marketing that Aweber seriously lacked. Find out exactly why I switched in my review.
Hybrid Connect – This is the most feature packed mailing list plugin available for WordPress right now, it’s easy to customise your opt-in forms, built in A/B split testing and great support. Read the review here.
Optimize Press 2.0 – I mentioned this earlier but this is also a great solution for building your mailing list through landing pages, shortcodes to embed opt-in forms into blog posts and the theme version allows more options for using opt-in forms.
LeadPages – An incredible platform that makes it super easy to create and deploy landing pages in minutes. With over 70 high converting templates and the ability to use landing pages on WordPress, the LeadPages server or any HTML based site, you will love this.
Improve and monitor your blog
If you’re ever going to make a living from your blog then you need to know exactly what is happening on your blog and have the data that you need to improve conversions (a conversion is just turning a visitor into a subscriber or customer for example).
Google Analytics – This is probably the easiest system to setup, it’s free and provides you with a lot of data so you can track your blogs performance. You can also track goals (e.g. mailing list sign ups) and more.
Crazy Egg – This tool will allow you find the leaks in your website, there will no doubt be particular elements that don’t work and hurt your conversions, Crazy Egg will show you what’s working and what isn’t, helping you to understand user behaviour.
I put a lot of time into my blog and I’m sure you do too (or will, if you haven’t started yet), but it’s easy for the time we spend to spiral out of control which is why it’s important to be on the lookout for ways of improving productivity. These tools will help:
Evernote – This is my go-to note taking application that comes packed with features and it’s free to use. You can use it on your desktop computer along with various mobile devices.
Asana – I have tried a bunch of different task management tools and this one is the one that I have stuck with. It’s free to use and very straight forward to use. It’s also available on mobile devices.
Lastpass – It’s been a long time since I got to the point where I couldn’t remember the password for all of my accounts. Lastpass is an incredible password management system that supports multiple browsers and you can even use it on mobile devices.
Dropbox – I used to have to transfer all of my important files between my laptop and my desktop, whenever I used other systems I would be unable to get files I needed.
Dropbox allows you to keep all your files backed up and share them between devices (including iPhone and iPad). Get 2GB of space free, but if you sign up using my link you will get 500MB of free space added to your account.
Recommended reading: Blog Efficiently And Productively: How To Blog More In Less Time
Other WordPress plugins
There are plenty of WordPress plugins on the market, both free and paid but which are worth using? Below are some powerful plugins that have helped me make my site more engaging, more sharable and get better results:
SeedProd Coming Soon Pro – This plugin allows you to build your list before your site is launched and provides some impressive features. This plugin lives up to the name; the ultimate coming soon and maintenance mode plugin.
Disqus – I’m currently using Disqus to handle the comment system here on Blogging Wizard and a number of other sites. This completely replaces the native WordPress commenting system but does a good job at stopping automated comment spam and helping to build engagement with your readers.
Digg Digg – This plugin by Buffer makes it easy to add social sharing buttons to your site, either above, below or floating beside your content.
Shareaholic – If Digg Digg doesn’t work for you, Shareaholic is a great alternative and supports a lot of different social sharing sites. You can also use it to display related content.
Author hReview – This plugin will enable you to display the review rich snippets in search engine results. Author hReview will also allow you to display a review box with various pieces of information along with a call to action.
This works great for increasing your affiliate commissions.
You also get access to the WP Reviews plugin which you can use to build entire review sites and easily display ratings. You also get the customer testimonials plugin as a bonus.
I upgraded from the free version a good while ago and I’m really glad I did.
Gravity Forms – Contact forms are seemingly straight forward but I have always faced problems with free plugins such as incompatibility issues, lack of features and lack of support.
Gravity Forms is a tried and tested plugin that gets regular updates, loads of features and some great add-ons to extend functionality.
PostSkin – I love the idea of bringing more attention to already popular blog posts and this plugin makes it easy and visually appealing. There are some great features here and you can customise it to match your theme.
Nrelate Related Content – A great free plugin that allows you to display a list of related posts below each of your blog posts. The plugin works out which posts are related using its own algorithm, rather than utilising categories are tags.
Digital Access Pass – Setting up a membership site is a great way of generating recurring income and building a strong community, this plugin has stood the test of time and continues to see new features being added. Read the review here.
Over to you
Which tools have worked for you? I would love to hear more in the comments below.
About Adam Connell
Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously Operations Manager for a UK based marketing agency, Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.