Essential Blogging Tools
EDIT: This post on essential blogging tools has been updated since it’s original publish date in February 2016.
I’ve tried a lot of tools, platforms, tricks and tips and these 50+ essential blogging tools are legit THE BEST that I have experienced to date.
Of course in another year or maybe even next week I’ll stumble upon a new handy tool but that’s part of what makes blogging, and what I continue to learn from it, so great.
Things are always changing and evolving and the tactics and devices I use to produce content changes from month to month and sometimes week to week. Through trial and error, I’ve found some resources that have become essential blogging tools for me. Still, this is by no means a complete list of all the options out there. A lot of the tools I’ve listed are free but those that aren’t are noted.
Prime APP for Instagram (Paid)
I only recently discovered this app. Someone mentioned it in a Facebook group that I’m a part of and I figured I’d give it a try. When I downloaded it this was being offered for free for an entire week. I think it’s still currently for free so I’d give it a try! It should also be noted that I’m an iPhone user so some of this app may or may not be available for Android.
Why is this app an essential tool? This app is one of the best because of how much ground it covers. Ever want to know what time you should post each day? Want to schedule posts? Want to analyze your engagement?
Prime covers all of that. I used to test the user experience and interface for apps for work and this app is not only useful but beautiful.
Later & UNUM for Instagram scheduling
Later and UNUM are apps that I’ve used extensively for a while now. In full disclosure, I used Later for a while and then stopped for some reason that I honestly can’t remember. Then I picked up UNUM and have only recently switched back to mostly using Later. Want to know why?
Although both apps allow you to move images around in order to see what your feed will look like, Later is the only one that also has desktop compatibility. I know Instagram is a mobile app but it’s a lot easier to arrange your images and write out the individual copy for each picture when you’re doing in on your laptop.
One of the advantages of sticking with UNUM, however, is that their free version has more features. Normally analytics are something you have to pay for but with UNUM you can find out things like the best time to post, top hashtags and more. Free users also have the ability to can change the look of the overall app, go from light to dark, purple to blue etc.
VSCO & Snapseed for Instagram Editing
Everyone has their favorite editing app. For me, the combination of VSCO and Snapseed is the perfect recipe for my images. Since I post a lot my artwork on Instagram I don’t want the colors to be different from what they look like in person. In order to avoid that I stay clear of filters and instead focus on editing and enhancing the images in order to get them as close to real life as possible.
VSCO has a ton of filters and plenty of them would look great in any feed. I might use them on a low intensity if I’m feeling more daring but it’s really all in the eye of the beholder. The one thing I can say with certainty is that each of these apps have so many features there is bound to be something that suits the aesthetic of your feed too!
I put both of these options here because it really depends on your taste and I don’t even know which one I like best. Buffer has a really clean design and allows you to post to 3 social accounts for FREE. The downside, however, is that it only allows you to schedule up to 10 posts at a time.
Hootsuite also allows you to post to 3 accounts but it also shows you multiple “streams” or threads of content at a time. So for example, if you’re managing your Twitter account in Hootsuite you’ll be able to see your tweets, your mentions, your direct messages, your home page and popular tweets all on the same page. If simplicity is what you’d prefer then I’d opt for Buffer but if you want to have more options and also schedule Instagram then Hootsuite is for you.
Google Sheets for Your Project Management
It might not be a revolutionary thought but Google Sheets is hands down my go-to resource and one of my top essential blogging tools. I use it for practically everything!
The only downside with using Google Sheets to manage your projects is that it’s an entirely DIY resource. When you open up a new sheet it’s blank. You have to input information and organize your workflow from scratch and if you don’t know how you want to move forward it can lead to a lot of trial and error before you find a project management system that works for you.
For me, it’s been a fantastic way to keep on top my blog related projects and has totally changed the way I handle my editorial content. You can read more on that here or grab my exact editorial calendar strategies for yourself!
Write Better Headlines & Google Trends for Your Content
These are two essential tools if you want your content to potentially gain more exposure. Neither of them are magic bullets but they are useful. I don’t use them as much as I maybe should but I can’t deny that when used together they pack a mean punch!
Try Google Trends to see how many people are interested in your post topic and see what sub-categories people are searching for. Then, use Write Better Headlines to test out if your post title is optimized to gain people’s attention, strike a chord with them and of course get them on your page. It’s brought to you by the folks over at CoSchedule and is FREE to use.
Grammarly for Your Grammar
Having proper grammar goes without saying. If you want to appear to be professional in any capacity then you need to make sure that you don’t have a bunch of errors all over your copy. I’m not the best at grammar and spell check will forever be my friend. Still, there are some things that a basic spell checking tool might overlook that the Grammarly app will not.
This app has an extensive free version that you can download onto your browser as well as a more in-depth paid version. I love having it in my browser because it allows for me to type faster and correct less. Grammarly underlines anything that might be out of place which saves time when I’m writing posts or emails.
Other essential blogging tools: Capitalize My Title.
Canva for Your Graphics
I’ve used Photoshop but if you’re like me and are always looking for that FREE deal then Canva is it. Some people use other programs but to me, Canva is really all I need. There are 1,000s of free templates, shapes, colors and styles to play around with.
If you look back at my featured images you can probably pinpoint exactly when my friend Canva came into my life. But seriously don’t look back it’s a bit embarrassing hah. The only downside is that you can’t edit your photos here like you would with Photoshop.
My graphics all drastically changed once I started using Canva and that alone makes it one of my favorite essential tools. I admittedly got a little (amateur) graphic design happy and took a #useeveryfeature approach to my graphics but since then I’ve streamlined and polished my graphics in a way that I’m happy with.
Befunky for Your Image Edits & Design
Befunky is another graphic designer with a free and premium option. I partnered with BeFunky to show how easy it is to use their tools to make a business card for creatives. You can see that Tutorial for yourself and determine which designer is right for you.
I personally think that either will do the job, but since the user interfaces are so different you’ll probably prefer one over the other. However, if you want to be able to edit your images as well as design them then BeFunky is the way to go!
Other essential blogging tools: Photoshop (Paid) & Serif (Paid). Tiny PNG & SmallPDF to resize and convert images. UnSplash, Death to Stock Photo & CreateHer Stock for free stock photos. Creative Market for fonts, graphics etc.
Google Analytics for Your Tribe
This might be an obvious tool. You might be thinking but duh Monika of course, Google Analytics would be on your essential tools list. Still, I think it’s only obvious if you’re already using it. When I first started blogging I definitely was NOT using it.
If you want to understand your tribe more and the people who find their way onto your site, sales page, portfolio (etc.), then this is the tool for you. You’ll be able to easily see what people are clicking on, how long they stay, at what point they leave and whether they come back for more. You can also see how they managed to find your site and a bunch of other priceless details.
Mailchimp & MailerLite for Your Email Lists
When I first started blogging I didn’t have a mailing list. I know, that was a tragic newbie mistake. There was almost an entire year where I didn’t even attempt it. Thankfully I got with the program and signed up with MailChimp. Now, I know everyone in the blogosphere seems to be head over heels for Convertkit these days and that’s cool. Still, I think Convertkit is a more advanced email marketing tool that I’m simply not ready for.
If you’re just starting out I think MailChimp is the best way to go. MailerLite is another great alternative that I personally use for my free email course. I went this route instead of using Mailchimp because I wanted to make use of their free automation tool.
The Best Plugins for Your WordPress Blog
Violet Roots is a WordPress blog so if you use Blogger, Squarespace or some other platform this section might not be relevant to you. If you’re also on WordPress then pay close attention! These plugins are not just essential blogging tools they’re just ESSENTIAL! All of these plugins are free and I wouldn’t be able to effectively do half the things I do on this blog without them.
Broken Link Checker helps me to monitor the content on my blog and update dead links. I also use Content Protector to hide the free resources I offer to my email list and Download Monitor to keep tabs on my most popular freebies. Yoast SEO helps keep my content on good terms with the SEO gods and 404 to 301 allows me to get rid of error pages altogether!
There are more plugins, many more, but I’ll leave it there for now.
Facebook Groups for #AllTheThings
I’m surprised that I’m writing this but Facebook groups are actually really fun and really valuable. I thought Facebook was dead but boy was I wrong.
Since dedicating time a few months back to dive into Facebook groups I’ve gained a lot of insight into my blogging brand, have generated more traffic and have been able to connect, and collaborate with some insanely creative ladies. There is no blog without its community and Facebook groups have helped me to spread my wings and network with people who “get it”.
What are your essential blogging tools? Anything you want me to elaborate on?