I have been blogging for a long time – and over the years I have tried a ton of blogging tools.
I think I was looking for the secret weapon that would make my traffic explode overnight.
Well, I have come to realize that the secret weapon is ME.
The amount of work that I put in directly correlates with the results that I get out.
So, I decided that I was really going to pare down the resources that I use for my blog.
I wanted to spend my money on the things that provided the biggest bank for my buck.
So here is the list of the tools that I actually use right now.
Every blog needs a host and mine is Big Scoots.
Love love love! I can't say enough good things.
I have a managed WordPress hosting plan and the price I pay is worth every penny.
In the past I tried shared hosting on other hosts and I wasted so much TIME trying to figure out things like cpanel and databases and whatnot.
I am not a technical person and I would rather have people with experience handle all of that for me.
That being said, Big Scoots also does offered shared hosting plans at a fraction of the cost of managed hosting.
So the good news is – if you can't swing the price of managed WordPress hosting, you can still use Big Scoots!
Another thing that bloggers need is a rock solid WordPress theme.
You don't want to waste time trying to get your theme to do what you want it to do.
I recently moved my blog to the Trellis framework by Mediavine and I love it!
Right now it is still in beta and not available to the public – but it will be soon and I will give you more details when it is.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a WordPress framework and theme – I would go with the Genesis Framework and a child theme from either Restored316 or the Feast plugin (includes all Feast themes like Foodie Pro).
Before I moved to Trellis I had been using Genesis for at around 10 years – since it first came out and it was solid.
When it comes to WordPress plugins – less is more. Try to only install ones that you are going to use.
I won't talk about caching plugins here because I let BigScoots handle that.
But here are a few that add functionality to my blog that I can't do without.
AdInserter – this is a great plugin to insert code into all or a subset of your blog posts at once. It is not just for ads. I use the free version but there is a pro version as well.
Create by Mediavine – Create is a plugin that you use to insert recipe cards, lists, or how-to guides into your posts. The plugin is free and you don't have to be a part of the Mediavine ad network to use it.
Pretty Links – this is a plugin that you can use to create clean redirection links for your affiliate links. The biggest advantage is that if your affiliate partner changes their link structure – you can just change the target of your Pretty Link and you are good to go.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer – I use this plugin to compress my images and improve my site speed.
Yoast SEO – this plugin is to help me maintain good SEO practices.
Photos and Photo Editing
Creating good blog photos can be very time consuming.
After much trial and error – I have found PicMonkey to be the easiest and most flexible tool for editing blog photos.
There is very little learning curve, great templates, and lots of graphics built in.
I also use the native photo editor which is included in Apple Photos on my iPhone and also on my Mac.
Which brings me to the equipment that I use to take photos.
As far as cameras go, I primarily use both my iPhone camera and the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II which is not a DSLR but a large point and shoot with lots of features.
For good sound quality I use this Koah microphone which attaches onto the camera.
For overhead shot of flatlay images I use this contraption from GlideGear.
These days I try to use a lot of my own photography on my blog.
But when time is tight or for a post where my own photos don't make sense, then I use one of two stock photo services.
Haute Stock is my favorite for feminine stock photography. The pictures are gorgeous and there is always new content.
I use Convertkit for my email service.
It is easy to use and is reasonably priced.
A lot of bloggers like ConvertKit because of the tagging and automation capabilities.
They also recently updated their email builder. This new visual style builder is a HUGE improvement over the old basic one they used to have.
So if you haven't checked out Convertkit in a while – it might be worth another look.
Previously, I used MailerLite – which is also a powerful email platform and quite affordable.
However, it does not natively integrate with LeadPages – which is the landing page builder that I use.
So I decided to switch to Convertkit.
Social Media Schedulers
I could write a whole post about social media schedulers but in nutshell my advice is this: see which platform brings you the most blog traffic and focus your efforts and money there.
For me Pinterest is that one. So, for the longest time I used Tailwind to schedule my pins.
If you want to schedule your pins, Tailwind is the best one out there.
Read my Tailwind review here to find thoughts on whether Tailwind is worth it.
Recently, I switched to just plain old manual pinning. If I decide to start scheduling pins again I will sign up for Tailwind again.
I also use another scheduler called SocialBee for other social media platforms.
It is a good all purpose scheduler and is one that I picked up on AppSumo a while ago.
Other Blogging Tools
TextExpander – this is an app that creates keyboard shortcuts on your computer for lines of repetitive text and even long snippets that you use over and over again.
It saves me so much time! I really could not do without it.
You can read my TextExpander Review here.
I am pleased to be able to offer my readers a TextExpander coupon for 20 percent off – simply click here.
New Blogging Tools
These are the new blogging tools that I snagged at the end of 2020. I am very excited to dive in and apply them to my blog and business.