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For successful blogging, you need the right tools.
There’s an old saying that you can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg. It’s just as true in the blogosphere as it is in the kitchen.
Some of the tools in this article are free but some are paid. The paid ones are worth every penny and I would encourage you to see them as investments in your business rather than costs.
Some of the links below are affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you decide to make a purchase.
Regardless, I only make recommendations for products that I use and believe will help you in running your online business.
I use WordPress and I highly recommend it. In my opinion, it's the most most important tool for successful blogging. It’s currently the most popular open source Content Management System (CMS) on the web. It powers more than 74.6 Million websites and more than 18.9% of all websites in the world.
WordPress is free to download, install, and use.
And perhaps best of all, because its such a popular platform, there are literally thousands of plugins (over 29,000 and growing) and templates you can use (most of them free) to jazz up your website and improve your productivity.
Shortcodes Ultimate Plugin
The Shortcodes Ultimate plugin creates smart and elegant design features such as tabs, buttons, boxes, different sliders, responsive videos and much more. Very useful for adding smart-looking icons to items in your sidebar.
There’s a free and a paid version - I find the free version more than sufficient.
Page Builder by SiteOrigin plugin
One of the keys to successful blogging is publishing frequently and consistently.
So you need a WordPress editor that's going to make it as easy as possible to create and edit blog posts.
I've tried a few WordPress Editors, and Page Builder is the best of them all. It makes it easy to format new blog posts or pages. It creates responsive grid-based page content that adapts to mobile devices with pixel perfect accuracy.
Although it is free, in my opinion this page/post editor is as good, if not better, than some of the paid plugins.
I particularly like the ‘Live Edit’ function that allows you to click on the page you’ve created and edit that particular part of the page.
Genesis Simple Edits Plugin
If you are using any of the Genesis Themes by StudioPress, the Genesis Simple Edits plugin is great because it allows you to customize some of the features of your theme without having to do any coding.
I host my website on BlueHost because it’s very good value (starting at $2.95 p/month).
And they’ve made setting up WordPress an absolute breeze (it’s as simple as clicking a button).
The cPanel (where you control various aspects of your domain) has a much cleaner, more user-friendly layout than other web hosts that I’ve used.
BlueHost respond quickly when you need help, using online chat.
Magazine Pro by StudioPress
One of the keys to successful blogging is choosing the right WordPress theme.
StudioPress is one of the most highly rated makers of Premium WordPress themes. I use Magazine Pro because it has a clean uncluttered layout and is ideal for blogging.
Here are some of the reasons I use a StudioPress theme:
- SEO Optimization is built in
- Designs are mobile responsive and use HTML5
- Unlimited support and updates
- Once you buy the framework and theme you can use them on as many sites as you want
- Very good security
- Updates are fast and easy
- Easy to customize
- Lots of layout options
Evernote is hands-down the best web-clipper available.
Let’s face it, successful blogging involves a lot of online reading. There’s a lot of information that you need to get your head around.
I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent searching the Internet for a key article that I read while doing something else, and then couldn’t find again.
Now I clip everything that’s useful to Evernote. If you’re going to succeed in online business, you definitely need a way to store large amounts of information.
For a while I used to copy and paste the URLs of useful articles into a Word document. But it’s clumsy and all you have is the article URL, not the article itself.
Evernote is a much, much better way of keeping track and organizing valuable information. Take my word for it!
WhatFont is an extension for Google Chrome.
When you see a font you like, just place your cursor over the text and WhatFont will tell you exactly what font is being used, what size, and what line spacing.
In the early stages of your blog, when you’re still looking at other sites for inspiration and ideas about format and layout, this is a very useful tool!
I’m a great believer in mind maps!
Simple Mind is the Mind Mapping software I use. There’s a Desktop version (Windows PC and Mac OSX) as well as SimpleMind for iPhone/iPad and SimpleMind for Android.
I’ve tried quite a few mind map applications. This is the one I prefer.
It produces beautifully designed mind maps with excellent options for color-coding.
It also has pre-set formats that allow you to create a horizontal or vertical mind map at the click of a button.
Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin
Optimizing your content for the search engines is one of the pillars of successful blogging.
The Yoast SEO plugin shows you how to optimize every blog post or page that you publish to the web.
The plugin gives each blog post a grade in terms of ‘readability’ and SEO and prompts you to make adjustments until your blog post is optimized.
The basic version is free and is quite adequate for my needs.
This plugin also has a very useful feature that allows you to tell Facebook what image you want Facebook to use as the ‘featured image’ when you post an article or blog post to Facebook.
Hemingway App is an app that checks the readability of your articles or blog posts.
Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear. The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors so that you can improve your style and make your writing more readable.
To succeed in blogging it’s vital to develop a writing style that people find easy to read. If you’re like me, and have a tendency to write long sentences, Hemingway is a must!
The app is priced at $19.99 but you can use the web-based service entirely free of charge:
LEAD GENERATION & E-COMMERCE
I tried several lead generation softwares before settling on Thrive Leads. It's easily the best, most easy to use, and most affordable of all the options I tried. I highly recommend it.
Every time I publish a new article I always include an in-line content upgrade - it takes me about 5 minutes flat to set up a dedicated optin form plus delivery mechanism.
One thing I particularly like is that Thrive Leads is just a one-time (very affordable) fee instead of recurring monthly charges. My advice: get it!
Pretty Link Lite
One of the most effective ways to monetize your blog is to sell affiliate products.
This works especially well if you recommend affiliate products that you yourself are using in the running of your online business.
When you sign up to become an affiliate you’ll be given an affiliate link.
These links are often very long and visually quite ugly. Also, some people mistakenly believe that they are paying more for something when they purchase it through an affiliate link.
So it’s a good idea to shorten/mask your affiliate links. One of the best affiliate link masking tools is Pretty Link Lite
If the original affiliate link looks like this:
your masked affiliate link will look like this:
I use Hootsuite to monitor key influencers in my niche.
By setting up ‘Streams’ within Hootsuite I’m able to see what kind of content the key influencers are posting. This information helps me make decisions as to what content to generate for my blog.
Of course, Hootsuite does much more than this. It’s mainly designed for scheduling posting on social media.
Google Analytics is essential for anyone running a blog.
You need to be able to see where your traffic is coming from, what your visitors are doing on your site, what your bounce rate is, and which pages are the entry and exit points.
For a free service, it’s an amazingly detailed piece of software.
For details on how to set it up see this article of mine.
Mail for Mac
I’ve tried about 10 different email clients!
Because it’s where I spend a good part of my business day, I’m constantly looking for an email client that will make my workflow easier.
Mail for Mac or Apple Mail is the default email client that comes with every Mac using OS X 10.0 or later. In my opinion, it’s one of the best email programs out there.
The two features that I particularly like are:
- Search allows you to search for emails using subject, ‘from’, ‘to’, etc
- Smart Mailboxes allow you to set up mailboxes that search for incoming emails according to rules that you specify.
I recently surveyed 71 leading online entrepreneurs about what email program they use - the results may surprise you:
Gmail for Android
Again, I’ve tried various email apps for Android.
The one I prefer is Gmail for Android.
These are the two features that I really appreciate in Gmail for Android (and that are missing in other Android email apps):
- The app displays email from multiple accounts in the same window (i.e. without having to switch account)
- The text of the email is wrapped so that you don’t have to scroll to the right to read the entire email.
When I start putting together an Expert Roundup I typically have the name of the expert and the URL of their website but no email address.
Not a problem! Just copy the website URL into Email Hunter and the software will give you the website owner’s email address.
ScreenFlow is a Mac OSX app for creating instructional videos.
Let’s say you wanted to make a video on how to upload an mp3 file to WordPress. You would want the viewer to see everything you’re doing on your computer.
This is what ScreenFlow does. It is similar in features to Camtasia, but quite a bit cheaper.
Sketch App is a professional vector graphics app that does the same sort of things as Photoshop and Illustrator.
But it has a much simpler, more user-friendly interface.
And, it’s a fraction of the price.
I use it to design blog graphics and logos for my website.
If you’ve never used graphics software before, don’t be put off. This program is quite simple and easy to use, once you have understood the principle of layers.
Sketch has a 14-day free trial, so you can decide whether it’s for you.
Not keen on learning a graphics program?
Canva is an easy-to-use online tool for creating Blog Titles, Twitter Posts, Pinterest Posts, Facebook Posts, Instagram Posts, Tumblr Graphics, etc.
Canva has some beautiful text layouts that you can customize with your own text. In just a few minutes you can make a really professional looking graphic, without paying a cent!
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