In the sea of impersonal, mindless media which pervades the electronic sphere, blogs are a real breath of fresh air, bringing with them personal opinions, views, ideas, and experiences of people who genuinely care about the content they write.
However, even something as fun as blogging has become competitive, a mere race for hits and clicks. If you truly want your blog to succeed, you’ll have to adapt to this cut-throat competition.
Thankfully, maximizing your blog’s reach doesn’t have to be tough. With a little help from the right blogging tools, you can easily at least keep up with the competition if not surpass them.
This guide will cover all the tools you’ll ever need for running your blog from SEO to web hosting. Let’s get started!
A clever spin on the “a href” attribute of HTML, it is fitting that Ahrefs kicks the list off because it is the go-to tool for bloggers.
It sports several features, such as keyword search, blog analytics, site health, backlink checker, rank tracking, etc.
Still not convinced? Well, don’t forget that leading corporations such as Adobe, Facebook, and Netflix, to name a few, use Ahrefs.
In the company of such great websites, it’s only fitting that Ahrefs should put the work in, and it does, by crawling five billion (billion) websites a day with a database of 16 trillion (TRILLION) known links!
If you’re STILL not convinced, you can try it for $7 for seven days.
Marketed as a one-stop WordPress solution, SEOPress helps you manage titles and metas, develop social media tags and most importantly, improve search engine presence by providing search engines with an XML layout/sitemap of your website.
While there is a premium version which is paid, the basic WordPress plugin for SEOPress is free.
SEOPress also has a YouTube channel which teaches beginners how to navigate the mystical world of search engine optimization.
HotJar is one of the best heat map analytics tools on the market, period.
It uses several tracking methods to track which links are clicked the most, a cursor tracker to record browsing activity, conversion rates, and so much more.
This is invaluable information for you, as the site owner, to get a bird’s eye view on how your audience is navigating your site.
HotJar is available for personal and commercial purposes, with the most basic plan being free to use, though prices escalate quickly once you move up to the paid plans.
Google’s offerings has always been the benchmark for powerful yet free software, and Google Analytics is no different. Being one of the best analytics tools on the market, it captures valuable information such as where consumers are located, sales channels, and on site performance.
Set up is simple, with a simple sign-up process which leads to Google providing you a tracking code to embed on your website. You should easily be able to get this done in 5 minutes.
Yoast is a great SEO optimization tools where they provide you simple recommendations to optimize your website. The plugin is non-intrusive and is a good starting point for SEO.
Basically, Yoast will suggest you to include keywords to improve your SEO, mainly in the meta descriptions. It’s a great feature that goes a long way to improving your SEO.
Yoast is free and comes with an optional paid plan, which includes additional features such as looking up synonyms for your keywords.
Sumo is an indispensable tool for bloggers as it is an all-in-one toolkit that incorporates several functions into one giant tool. Integrations, Google Analytics, contact forms, list builders… it just doesn’t stop! Even at the free-to-use basic level, Sumo provides you with a ton of features, all organized in one jumbo tool.
The advanced version, which is paid, gives you access to features like A/B split testing. If you’re looking into split testing your website, this is a fantastic option.
Siteground is primarily a hosting service, but it does a lot more than hosting.
For starters, if you use WordPress, you’re in luck, because Siteground is optimized for WordPress.
Siteground also offers HTTP2/PHP7 support, uses SSDs for hosting, and offers several cache levels.
However, two things set Siteground apart.
First, its emphasis on security. Siteground has a dedicated team of security experts who actively work to patch vulnerabilities and protect your blog. Moreover, Siteground also uses artificial intelligence for protection, which has thus far prevented 3-million attacks!
Secondly, Siteground has a team of attendants who are online 24/7 to resolve your queries, meaning you can always expect prompt support requests.
Namecheap focuses on the core of hosting, things such as security, privacy, reliability, etc.
It also offers managed WordPress hosting, full integration with services such as G Suite, professional email hosting and cheap SSL certificates, WhoIs guard, and Premium DNS.
The best part is that all of these features are dirt cheap. Their basic plan starts at as low as $2.88/month!
I have focused on pocket-friendly options thus far, but it’s important to splurge a little at times, right?
Kinsta is one indulgence you won’t regret. It offers premium WordPress hosting and incorporates features such as bandwidth tracking, visitor stats, SSL certificate creation, and many more.
Kinsta has several plans, from a basic starter plan for one site all the way to enterprise plans, which host 150 sites. All plans come with free SSL encryption and CDN.
Kinsta is a one-stop blog managing solution with complete management, and best of all, it takes support seriously, which is why the likes of GE and Ubisoft trust it.
Best Service Provider
ActiveCampaign is an email service provider with a clean UI that’s super easy to use. It comes with the usual features you’d expect from an email service provider: automated sending, easy UI to design emails, marketing automation and unlimited sending, but they throw in a few extras too, such as free migration services and one on one training with their higher plans.
You can’t go wrong with ActiveCampaign, and you can get started with their Lite plan at just $9/month.
GetResponse is aimed squarely at small businesses, so those with higher demand are best suited looking elsewhere in the list.
GetResponse aims to provide an all-in-one marketing suite for small businesses that requires the full suite of marketing tools at a basic level. Instead of offering individual features, it provides complete solutions, some notable ones being email marketing, landing pages creation, ‘autofunnel,’ wherein the entire online marketing process, including social media presence, is handled by GetResponse.
Apart from all this, GetResponse also provides webinar solutions. You can pick out a custom title, schedule the webinar, protect it with a password, and encrypt it via SSL.
The basic plan starts at $15 per month and goes all the way up to $1199 per month.
Optin Monster also provides complete solutions; interestingly, they are categorized by industry (eCommerce, Publishers, Agencies) and solutions (grow an email list, reduce cart abandonment, and increase sales conversion).
What’s great about Optin Monster is that it directly integrates with the APIs of most renowned email marketing programs, thereby making its implementation alongside those programs a hassle-free experience.
Moreover, as any marketer worth their salt knows, A/B testing is very important, and Optin Monster allows you to carry it out seamlessly and without too much bother.
As with all great software, Optin Monster doesn’t come free. Plans range from $9/month to $49/month
Many people put in fake emails just to get a freebie or content upgrade that you offer. If a high percentage of your email bounces, your sender score is lowered and your email marketing efforts might end up in spam. If you suspect you have a bloated email list of fake emails, you may want to run your list through Norbert. Norbert is an email verification service that helps you clean up your list, removing invalid email addresses.
There are a few benefits from doing this. For example, you get to reduce your ESP costs (having a huge list of fake is an unnecessary expense), you get to improve delivery rates, and your open rates will automatically improve.
Best Plugins & Page Builders
If you’re looking to spice up your blog with custom elements such as widgets, buttons, pop-ups, etc, we can’t recommend Elementor enough.
Elementor Pro features a rich widget builder, theme builder, pop-up builder, integration support, and several other useful features. It comes in three plans, ‘personal,’ ‘plus’ and ‘expert,’ with ‘plus’ being our plan of choice.
Oh, and, the best part, Elementor also lets you add animations to the interface!
P/S : Our site is also built on Elementor 🙂
Thirsty Affiliates is a breath of fresh air from premium products, as it is free to download and use.
Thirsty Affiliates helps you keep track of your affiliate marketing links. Some of the services offered include cloaking links (to tidy them up and comply with Amazon’s policy), automatically link keywords and update links, and more importantly, comply with cyber laws by disclosing affiliate marketing.
The freemium deal and legal compliance makes for a fantastic deal, but I recommend you go for the Pro version as the insightful analytics are worth it.
If you’re going to invest in a paid WordPress theme, let it be Astra, one of the best themes on the market.
Astra also comes with a bunch of starter sites which are ideal for a budding eCommerce website.
GeneratePress is another freemium WordPress theme which is largely similar to Astra; an excellent option for those of you that want a taste of Astra’s quality for free.
It is incredibly lightweight at 30kb and, thanks to its squeaky-clean code, it is one of the fastest-loading themes for WordPress. Like Astra, it prevents render-blocking jQuery. Moreover, GeneratePress also has features aimed for accessibility, following WCAG 2.0 standards, enabling the differently-abled to navigate your site without any hassle.
The theme works well with most page-builders and lets you control the hooks, layout, colors, typography, and plugins.
The Premium version kicks functionality up a notch, providing you with options for spacing, elements, etc.
Gleam is an excellent plug in if you intend to run lots of giveaways, prize distributions, and competitions on your website.
Perhaps Gleam’s best feature is its varied integration with several platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Twitter, and notably, Twitch. Moreover, Gleam also lets users redeem their rewards instantly.
Apart from competitions, Gleam also lets you create stunning collages from social media platforms. Gleam also runs an email-capturing service, which integrates directly with the email provider.
That’s Gleam’s charm, it is four apps in one, which is why it is paid, though prices start at a very reasonable $10/month.
While it is important to keep content fresh by uploading new articles, it is also important to keep your readers’ memories fresh, and that’s where Revive comes in.
It is an automated task scheduler which makes light work of sharing old posts by automatically sharing random posts which have aged over a certain limit. ROP has seamless WordPress integration, and Facebook and Twitter support have just been added.
While it can be used for free with basic functionality, I recommend getting the full-fat version.
Best Collaboration & Project Tools
Think Asana as a Trello, except specifically for marketing.
Asana helps you and your team stay on track by planning and structuring work in an effective, time-bound manner by converting it into deadlines and tasks. This helps you and your team follow projects and tasks in a staged manner and with complete transparency.
Moreover, Asana also offers a new ‘Workload’ feature, which lets you see how much work any given member has at any given point of time.
Slack is the workplace chat app that needs no introduction. If you work on your blog with someone else or a team, you need to get on Slack.
Slack uses channels for organizing communication, and channels are organized by team, project, topic, etc. Moreover, all communication in Slack can be searched by anyone, leading to transparency in the process.
Apart from communication, Slack integrates perfectly with several apps, such as Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, etc. Slack also takes security pretty seriously, with features like SSO.
Best Media & Resources
Think of Canva as a large repository of templates which allows you to create visually stunning images that boost the appeal and traffic of your blog. It’s interface is super beginner friendly and frankly anyone can produce a decent looking design on Canva with their drag and drop tools.
However, Canva is a lot more than that, featuring several overlays and effects that are designed to attract the reader’s attention. Their paid plans also include some powerful features such as background cropping and more.
If you’re a beginner and want to take on graphic design yourself, it’s a no brainer to go for Canva, as it be used all of your graphic design needs without the immense learning curve compared to the full fledged Adobe Photoshop.
Design Hill is a different take on conventional way to pay for graphic design.
Probably works by letting you set up something like an auction for your needs, where you decide who’s offering you’ll take, allowing you to get the best images budding designers and artists have to offer.
Design Hill is very personal and involves communication with the designers, therefore, it is best suited for businesses with a bigger budget or for crucial designs.
If you’re driving sales through your blog, you know that every aspect of the purchasing funnel must be seamless, and Paykickstart helps with the most crucial part of the funnel : checkout.
It lets you bill subscriptions and payments, setup trials, set membership levels, easily convert payment methods, charge VAT, integrate PayPal and Swipe support and best of all, track affiliates and their commissions.
Moreover, if you get stuck at any point, Paykickstart offers industry-leading support in 32 countries, translation in up to 20 languages and help with VAT systems.
Lastly, Paykickstart also offers world-class analytics that provides insights into your sales, traffic, transactions, etc. While these are fantastic features, it does come at a slight premium, at $29/mo even for their cheapest plan.
Thinkific is a tool that is intended primarily for educators, tutors, and the like. It allows them to distribute the videos that they produce via the Thinkific website. Think of Thinkific as the Vimeo for pair educational content.
It features a user-friendly interface which allows said educators to drag-and-drop topics to tailor curriculums. All forms of content, forms, quizzes, videos, etc. are supported to keep students engaged throughout the lesson.
Moreover, Thinkific also lets you schedule the delivery of course content, allowing you to set a certain pace for students to go through the content.
Thinkific supports full HTML and CSS and most of their outstanding features are available even in their free plan, making it the perfect option for those on a budget.
Used by the likes of Google, Adobe, and IBM, Hunter helps you find email addresses of people who you want to connect that are relevant in your niche.
Hunter has several clever tricks up its sleeve. It uses clever indexing to separate personal and professional addresses. It also allows you to save ‘leads’ and to verify an email address, as long as it’s available on a public source.
With 200+ million email addresses indexed, effective search filters and scoring, Hunter is by far the most powerful email-finding tool ever, and is a godsend to gather emails for outreaching purposes.
Cold emailing is one of the most dreaded parts of outreaching, as you’d usually get low response rates despite putting in so much time crafting the perfect email to outreach to people.
With Mailshake, you can send personalized cold emails at scale, all from your Gmail account, and set tasks to engage with prospects via a premade sequence, on one dashboard.
As you can imagine, you can easily combine this with Hunter where you use Mailshake to outreach to the emails you gathered from Hunter to truly scale up your outreaching efforts.
The blogging tools covered in this guide are all low hanging fruits to grow your email list, find and rank for awesome keywords, and ensure that your blog loads fast.
On top of that, most of them are free or affordable, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to take advantage of these perks.
Running a blog can be the most profitable and fulfilling side hustles online, and by utilizing these essential blogging tools, you should be able to drastically improve your chances of success with your blog, and make all of your effort in running your blog worthwhile.