Most jobs can't be done right without the right tools. In this blog post I'm going to share with you the best blogging tools for beginner bloggers.
These blogging tools include both software and resources, both free and paid, that I personally use to run my six figure blogging business.
To be successful (in anything) there is no secret sauce. It takes:
The right tools + the knowledge + putting in the work.
I can't emphasize this enough. That one formula is all you need to change . your . life.
I can help you with the first two, can't do shit about the other one though. That's on you.
This is one of the most important blog posts I've ever written. I have already done the work of trying everything and eliminating what works and what doesn't, what you need and what you don't need.
This list of blogging tools will save you time, money - even your sanity.
On with the list! On with the list I say!
Blog writing tools
If you are a blogger, writing is important (duh). It is how we connect with our audience.
Great writing, to me, is when you don't notice it. It's when you and your reader are connecting seamlessly. Bad grammar gets in the way of that.
I'm not gonna lie, my grammar is atrocious - but it would be so much worse if I wasn't using Grammarly. This tool is a free add-on you install directly on your browser.
The free version checks critical grammar and spelling checks. It's good for spelling mistakes, using words in the wrong tense and for missing commas.
For example, it will correct this:
"Also don’t forgot about the environment benefits of grow your own foood."
"Also, don’t forget about the environmental benefits of growing your own food."
However it's the pro version where this tool helps you become a pro writer. I use it to eliminate wordiness and show more confidence by identifying power words. This helps me rid my content of weakness and uncertainty.
For example, it will change:
"I think we should be able to solve this issue."
"We can solve this issue."
And it will correct this:
"I was very happy when I learned that Grammarly can help my writing get better."
"I was thrilled when I learned Grammarly can help improve my writing."
To be successful, sometimes we miss the most obvious things. You know, like if you want to be a successful blogger, you should probably use a tool that helps you become a better writer.
Google Docs, as I'm sure you know, is a word processing app similar to Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. The difference being that Google Docs doesn't exist as an app on your computer, but is accessible through your browser. That means your docs are with you wherever you go.
Google Docs is good for writing because it auto-saves your files as you write and keeps your revisions so you can go back to a previous version.
Here's how many bloggers use Google Docs:
While Google Docs works great for writing a blog post, I don't use it that way. I feel too removed from WordPress and feel like I'm writing a paper for school. I start write blog posts right on WordPress itself.
Update: Since 2019 I now use Thrive Architect to create + design my blog posts, since I'm not a fan of the Gutenberg editor on WordPress.
Writing headlines is really important. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that if your headlines suck, your entire business will fail.
When you run a blog, you're actually running a business. Your blog is just the content marketing arm of your business. We bring traffic (future customers) to your business by writing content on your blog. And you get that traffic when users click on your headlines.
"Learn to master the art of writing the perfect headline and you will never be short on traffic."
Headlines are so important I even devoted an entire blog post on how to write headlines for your blog.
Writing a good headline is all about trial and error. But without data you won't know what works and what doesn't.
That's where Thrive Headline Analyzer comes in. With it, you can split test your headlines and let the data lead you to the best one.
Here's how it works:
Not only will it leave your blog with only high-converting headlines, but it will also teach you how to write better headlines for your blog.
Before you ever write a thing, always start with keyword research. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time writing articles nobody is searching for.
Using Google to search for a keyword and seeing what autocompletes is a good way to get an idea over what keywords are popular in your niche. You can do the same for Pinterest and their search engine.
But we need some more data first before deciding whether it's a keyword phrase worth writing about.
Knowing how hard it is to rank for a keyword is also important information. For example, the last thing you ever want to do is write a generic weight loss article. While the search volume is high, it's downright impossible to rank well for that search term.
With UberSuggest, you can get an idea of volume and difficulty to rank for a keyword. It's also useful for getting related keyword ideas.
You can also use it to get content ideas, by seeing what other bloggers who target that keyword have written about.
The blog tool that pro bloggers use is Long Tail Pro. Like UberSuggest, you get the monthly search volume and a keyword difficulty score for any given keyword phrase.
The features that set it apart are:
If you want to climb the Google rankings ladder, you need to do a lot of things. One of them is interlinking your old content to your new content - and vice versa.
I used to do this manually - and it was a pain.
Enter LinkWhisper, a WordPress plugin that lets you add internal links right from the WordPress post editor.
My favorite feature is the link suggestions, which makes adding links super easy.
Another is the data the plugin lets you see. I can see how many internal (and external) links any given article has. This is helpful because if I have an article that is important to me, I want it to have plenty of internal links pointing to it.
I recommend bloggers use Divi from Elegant Themes as their WordPress theme. With Divi you can fully customize your blog - so it looks exactly as you want.
So often bloggers waste so much time trying to get your blog to look just right. With free themes, your customizations are limited. And if you want to make additional changes, you need to learn CSS or pay a designer.
You can take a massive shortcut and just use Divi and design your blog exactly how you want it. They have a drag and drop visual builder - which means you can design your blog without needing to know a bit of code.
While you can design a blog from scratch with Divi, you can also just choose a template to start with and then make your changes.
If you want more info on this, I wrote an article on how to design your blog from scratch here.
You can't just use any image you find on Google Images on your blog. There are copyright laws and you don't want to be caught using an image without permission.
To avoid all this, stick to using stock photos only.
There's plenty of stock photo sites, but by far my favorite is Pexels. It has everything you need, a fast website, a search bar, and oh yeah, boatloads of royalty-free images!
I use Pexels for all of the pictures you see on this blog (other than screenshots of course).
If you're doing any kind of visual marketing (like Pinterest pins or running ads on Facebook), you will want to use Deposit Photos instead. That's the premium stock photo site I recommend for finding images nobody else is using.
If you want to provide a good user experience, you need a fast blog. And to have a fast-loading blog you need to optimize your images. Badly optimized images are the number one cause of a slow-loading site.
Not only is it annoying, it can destroy your Google rankings.
Luckily there's a really easy way to optimize your images. You can download the ShortPixel WordPress plugin and let it do all the work in the background.
Simply upload the image to your blog and the plugin will optimize the image automatically. There are no extra steps you need to take.
I use the Glossy setting, which creates images that are almost a pixel-perfect copy of the original image. It usually takes a 130KB image down to 90KB.
If you need simple fast image editing, use BeFunky. It's a web-based app you use right on your browser for simple image editing.
I've found it is the fastest way to crop and resize a picture, much faster than using an external program or doing it on WordPress itself.
Here's my image editing workflow:
They have a pro version where you can make additional customizations, but I don't use it. I just need it to resize and crop before uploading to WordPress.
I use Canva to design all my Pinterest pin images. It's incredibly simple to choose a template, make your changes and have a pin created in minutes.
I have Photoshop but never use it to design pin images. It's just not necessary when I can get the same result in Canva faster.
I also use Canva to create the featured images on my blog. Those are the ones that get shared on Twitter and Facebook.
Canva is awesome because it's so easy to use. You can drag a picture into your design, add some text overlay, change the font and color and it is done.
I use PDF Escape to edit my PDF's for free. You don't need to download an app, you can do it all from your browser. To use it, you need to have a PDF file to start with.
To create a PDF file in the first place, you can create an image in Canva and save as a PDF. You can also create a PDF using a word processor like Word or Pages. Just save your file as a PDF instead of a doc.
But that is the extent of what you can do on those programs.
With PDF Escape you can bring your PDF file to life by making text boxes fillable, checkboxes clickable and more. Adding these elements bring a level of interaction to a PDF file that would otherwise just be static.
Here's how I use it. In my Launch Your Blog course I have a bunch of bonuses included with the course. They are all PDF files I created in Canva. The files are guides, checklists, cheatsheets, etc.
One, for example, is a checklist of what needs to be done before + after publishing every blog post. Since my PDF file has been edited with PDF Escape, the user can open the file and check off each item one by one.
You need Google Analytics installed on your blog, like yesterday. You need to know who's coming to your blog, how they are getting there and what they're doing once they get there.
Each of these pieces of data are so important to building a successful blog (and business).
I use Google Analytics to help me decide what to write about. I look at what type of blog posts are getting the most traffic - and write more of those types of posts.
The same goes for advanced metrics like bounce rate and average time on page. By seeing what types of blog posts retain visitors, I know exactly what my audience wants to see more of.
Google Analytics can also point you in the right direction promotion-wise. Once I started seeing that Pinterest was my number one referrer of traffic, I went all in to get even more traffic from Pinterest.
Likewise, I saw Facebook wasn't sending me hardly any traffic. And the traffic I did get would leave without visiting another page or joining my email list. This made me stop wasting time on that network altogether.
You can do much more advanced things like set up goal tracking, which lets you see the path (funnel) your traffic takes to sign up to your email list (or buy a product). This way, you can see which pages are your real money-makers.
I use ExactMetrics to see analytics data directly on my WordPress dashboard. I customize the look of my dashboard with the metrics that matter most to me. Namely, those are pageviews per session and time spent on site.
For many beginner bloggers, navigating Google Analytics is a bit of a minefield. There's just too much data to sift through to get just the information a blogger needs.
In order to see blogger-friendly in-depth stats, you need to get the Monster Insights WordPress plugin. With it, you can see the most important stats relevant to blogging right in your WordPress admin.
You need to make routine backups of your blog, just in case.
Some hosting companies, like BlueHost, run daily backups automatically for you. With others, you're on your own.
Backing up your blog manually is just not a good use of your time, especially when there's a free plugin that will do it for you.
With the UpdraftPlus WordPress plugin, you can back up both your database and all your WordPress files on a schedule. The updates can be sent to your Google Drive, DropBox or to a backup folder on your server.
WordPress is pretty good about preventing you from losing your work. If you accidentally delete a post it's recoverable in the deleted posts section. And if you mess up on a blog post you can go back to a previous revision.
But what if your site is hacked and everything is deleted? What if you update some PHP code and everything goes bonkers? In that case, you'll need a recent backup to restore your site.
What I like best about UpdraftPlus is that it will not only back up your entire blog, but it will also restore it back to your last working version.
UpdraftPlus is included in my list of the best WordPress plugins for new blogs here.
Broken links leading to 404 pages are a bad user experience. They can also hurt your Google ranking. And yet broken links are inevitable, especially if you're linking to 3rd party sites in your blog posts.
With the Broken Link Checker plugin you can scan your entire blog, look for broken links, then remove or fix them.
It checks for broken links in posts, pages, even in blog comments.
When you're done using the plugin, you can deactivate it. That's because the plugin is set to check periodically for broken links and these scans can slow down your site while they're running.
Slow loading sites are a pain. Google doesn't like them either. Do a quick check of the top 5 search results for any given search term and you'll see all of those sites load fast. So... it's important.
To have a fast blog you need: good hosting, a fast theme, well-optimized plugins, compressed images and a blog optimized for speed.
I wrote an entire article solely on how to speed up your WordPress blog right here.
If you've already taken the steps above and still have a bad score, your slow host is most likely the problem. If you're on a shared server, you can ask them to move you to a different server.
If that still doesn't help, you need to upgrade your hosting plan to VPS or dedicated. With dedicated hosting you are the only one on the server. With VPS you share it with only a handful of others, and are guaranteed resources that no other user on the server can encroach on.
I recommend using Bluehost WP Pro VPS hosting. Prices start at about $20 a month, which isn't too bad for a lightning fast blog.
You can check your blog speed here:
Note: Don't go overboard trying to land a perfect score. The goal here is to have a fast loading blog, not reach a specific number.
To make money blogging you need to have an email list. There's just no way around it. The reason is because it's very difficult to make money directly from your blog.
The way you make sales is by growing your base of fans, because these are the people who trust you and will ultimately buy from you (or what you recommend).
Focus on building your tribe of followers every day, they will be your business' best asset.
"To make money blogging you need to have an email list. There's just no way around it."
The strategy for making money blogging is to collect emails and send them through an email sales funnel. To do that, you need to use an email marketing provider like ConvertKit. It's a platform built specifically for bloggers like me and you.
With ConvertKit you can set up optin forms, collect & store your emails, and send automated email sequences to new subscribers.
My favorite feature is being able to tag a subscriber based on what form they signed up from. If you have three forms (one for each main category of your blog), you can create three separate highly targeted email sequences.
In case you haven't gotten the memo, nobody joins newsletters anymore. This doesn't mean that email marketing is dead. You just need to create an enticing offer to get people to sign up.
This offer is called a lead magnet. It's just a file (usually a PDF) you send to new subscribers. It can be an ebook, a cheatsheet or even a free course.
You also need optin forms that are a little more "in your face". We're talking "welcome mats", exit intent lightbox forms, two-step optins, ribbon forms (that stay on top) and slide in forms (that slide in from the side).
I use Thrive Leads to help me create high converting optin forms. There's 100+ templates to choose from and a bunch of ways to present them.
My favorite type of optin form is the two-step optin. This form isn't a form at all. It's actually just a link (or button) the user clicks on to get the form to pop up. This way, you don't clutter your blog with email signup forms.
There's also opt-in form targeting options so you can show different forms depending on what blog post the user is on.
Some like the content-lock option, which hides the rest of the content until an email address is submitted.
I go over all the ways to grow your email list on this blog post here.
The best feature of Thrive Leads is the ability to conduct A/B testing. Now you can truly compare two optin forms and see which one converts best.
The correct way to conduct an A/B test is to only change one thing on the form (the call to action, button color, lead magnet or headline). Then wait until you see which one works better.
Then, change something else and start another test. You keep running tests until you find the design and offer that converts best on your site.
In order to collect credit card payments on your blog you need a credit card processor. I use Stripe for my course sales. They charge 2.9% plus 30 cents for every order. So on a $100 order you end up with $96.80.
The reason I like Stripe the most is because they integrate with... everything. For example, if I get an order, I can (using Zapier) have the following things happen instantly:
I also like the lack of a payment lag. I get paid 2 days after every sale, direct deposit into my bank account.
Many users prefer to pay with Paypal instead of their credit card - totally understandable. That's why if you're offering something for sale, you need to add Paypal as a payment option.
Paypal is also the preferred way to accept payments for sponsored posts or ads on your blog and to send invoices.
I use SendOwl as the intermediary between my courses and the payment processor.
SendOwl allows you to sell digital goods like online courses. It connects with Stripe (so you get paid) and then automatically delivers the product to the buyer.
For my courses, once a purchase is made, SendOwl automatically redirects the user to the paid course.
It's $9/month which is a good price to pay to fully automate the process of selling digital products.
A great way to make money online is selling digital courses. You can sell a course on just about anything, but the most popular course topics are:
I run my courses using Thrive Apprentice. You can see it in action on blogging courses page. It's easy to start a course and add lessons. It's about as simple as creating and publishing a blog post.
I use Dropbox to keep a copy of my files wherever I go. I have my everyday iMac, but also have a MacBook laptop I rarely use. Then there's my iPhone. Well with Dropbox everything is synced so I can work on one device and pick up where I left off on another.
Most of what I do is just done online though, through the tools listed on this page. So the way I use Dropbox most is just to store important copies of files I don't want to lose. For example, I'll keep a backup of my blog on there. I also keep past courses and ebooks I've purchased.
Dropbox has file recovery and even a version history so you can roll back to a previous version of the file.
With Dropbox Basic you get 2GB of storage and can use it on up to 3 devices. I only have 3 so the free plan is all I need. You also can get half a gig more for every user you invite to Dropbox. I'm up to almost 10GB for free.
I use Meistertask for "project management". I use it in all sorts of ways, every single day. I use it as my to-do list, content calendar, to set up reminders, and blog post ideas to name a few.
I like using Meistertask to visually map out ideas and processes. I like how I can add cards to a list, then drag and drop them around. It's the one tool I use to help me see the bigger picture in things.
I use it to create my blog posts and see the "flow" or the order of things. I do the same for mapping out my courses, figuring out how to separate the modules and moving the lessons around. I use it to write my email sequences, moving around the email subjects in the right order. Finally I use it to map out a customer journey or sales funnel I'm creating.
Meistertask is actually meant for teams to collaborate on ideas, to assign projects and track their progress. But I'm a one-person show here so I don't use most if its' advanced features.
I use LastPass at least 20 times a day, if not more. LastPass is a password management app you can use on your phone and computer. You can store your passwords there so you won't have to remember any, except for your LastPass one of course.
We're all signed up to a ridiculous amount of accounts and using the same password everywhere is a recipe for disaster. With LastPass I can have a long password automatically generated, filled out and saved for me.
When you want to log in, I have the LastPass browser extension automatically sign me in so I never even see a log-in screen, a username or a password.
As much as I use it on my computer, I use it on my phone even more. It logs me into WordPress or any other website I visit with Face ID which is pretty neat.
I use Zapier to connect some of the tools I use so they can communicate with each other. Here's a few examples of some "Zaps" I use:
When I get a new email subscriber, I want Zapier to get the email address from ConvertKit and...
And when I publish a new blog post, I have Zapier grab the RSS feed and...
When someone orders one of my courses, I have Zapier:
There are hundreds of apps you can connect to, so I know I'm not using it to its' full potential.
Tailwind is the Pinterest scheduler I use to automate my Pinterest marketing. Let me go over a few features of Tailwind:
Use this link to sign up with Tailwind and you can schedule 100 pins for free (no credit card info required). Plus you can join 5 tribes and add 30 pins to your tribes every month.
I use Social Pilot for my hands-off social media marketing approach. With this tool I schedule tweets and Facebook updates for months in advance.
I just upload a spreadsheet full of my messages, one per line, then upload it to Social Pilot. I choose my accounts, choose how many per day and let them do the rest.
This way I only spend about 5 minutes every few months setting up my social media updates. This lets me focus the rest of my time and energy on creating new content, updating my courses and on Pinterest marketing.
How do you achieve anything in life? By working towards it, of course. It's a simple concept, but yet many people still think there is a way to lose 100 pounds in a week, get ripped in 30 days or become a millionaire overnight.
Many people believe in what Jeff Olson calls the "Quantum Leap Fallacy", that success happens overnight to lucky people.
It just doesn't work that way.
If you want to be successful, you have to take small steps every day (every second!) towards your goal. The way he puts it, success is EASY. But the problem is that not succeeding is just as easy.
This is a good read for beginner bloggers because it shows that every step you take is part of the process. You don't just become successful overnight, success comes by focusing on growing every day.
You go to school, get a job, work hard, save money for retirement. Then when you're old and gray you can retire so you can start enjoying your life. That's the life many of us are being groomed for.
That life path scares the crap out of me. That is not going to be me.
This book explores another option. What if you didn't have to spend all day, every day going to work, being stuck in the rat race. What if there was another way. No, not another job, but another way of life.
In the 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss advocates for creating your own business and then outsourcing as much as you can. Because time, not money, is our most precious asset.
Starting a business is the best decision I ever made. And it's one that has given me the freedom to work the hours I choose doing what I love.
It's amazing how one turn you take (or article you stumble across) can change your life forever. I hope this blog post and this book can inspire you to dream bigger. I know this book has definitely inspired me.
In 1896, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The 80/20 rule (also called the Pareto principle) states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
I apply this principle to my business all the time.
When I first started blogging, I spent an equal time trying to get traffic from Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and guest posting. But just one glance at Google Analytics and I can see that I was getting more traffic from Pinterest.
Even though I was just spending just 20% of my marketing energy on Pinterest, it was delivering 80% of my traffic.
The same goes for the content I write. I noticed that I was getting 80% of my traffic from 20% of my articles.
This rule also applies to time management. I was only effectively using 20% of my time.
When we identify and focus on the 20% that works and eliminate the 80% that is not working for us, that's when real progress can be made.
Did you learn about any new tools here? Let me know which ones!
And... if there's any tools you use, let me know too. I'm always on the lookout for new tools to add to my workflow.