Maybe you’re just starting a brand new blog.
Or perhaps you’re looking to grow your existing one.
Either way, things can be a bit overwhelming when looking for just the right tool for all of your blogging needs.
I totally get you! That’s why I only share the tools that I personally use on my daily blogging activities (with just a couple of exceptions for those who need it).
Below, you’ll find a list that should have everything you need to grow your blog efficiently, and be productive while cutting down on time when it can be saved. Trust me, I know time is of the essence, especially when you’re a side-blogger!
Let’s now look at some of the best blogging tools that I recommend to all, shall we?
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Blog Hosting and Domain Registration
Hosting For All New to Intermediate Bloggers
Over here at The Side Blogger, I teach people how to be a serious blogger. And to all serious bloggers, my recommended blogging platform is self-hosted WordPress without exception!
All self-hosted WordPress blogs need a hosting company. My recommended hosting company is also the one I use myself for The Side Blogger — SiteGround.
SiteGround is by far the best hosting company that has the most bang for the bucks with fast and secure performance. I recommend all new to intermediate bloggers to sign up for their GrowBig or GoGeek shared hosting service to get all the cool benefits and features.
Hosting For High-Performance Blog/Business Owners
If you’re a blogger and business owner with a larger budget and demanding needs, I suggest WP Engine as your hosting company. They are one of the most expensive hosting companies with the fastest website load time, iron-tight security, global CDN (one of the reasons why they’re so freakin’ FAST!), and a bunch of other pretty neat features.
Another cool feature of any WP Engine hosting package is that they offer all StudioPress themes for free!
All serious bloggers should have their own custom domain. In fact, you need one to have a self-hosted WordPress blog. Pretty much all hosting companies come with domain registration option, however, I personally like to have all my domains from NameCheap.
One of the reasons is that having a domain and hosting from separate companies adds an additional layer of security against malicious hackers and viruses. Also, in case you want to change your hosting company down the road, it’s a lot easier (and time saver) to do so when you have your domain registered on a separate company than your hosting.
For Serious Bloggers
If you’re a serious blogger, you MUST start building and growing your email list from day-1. It is the ONE most important thing you must do as a blogger. And to make you the most efficient in the act of list-building, I suggest you sign up for ConvertKit.
ConvertKit was designed to work with bloggers, which means, they have created a platform that is stripped of the distractions that a lot of other email marketing platforms come with, making it so that you can do the things you need to do with maximum efficiency and minimum effort.
Free Option for Complete Beginners
I share this grudgingly.
I recommend that you sign up for ConvertKit even if you’re a brand new blogger. The investment is totally worth it! You see, my email list has been the driving force behind my blogging income, so, I don’t take it lightly.
However, I understand that not all of you have the budget to invest in your blog from day-1. If that is the case, I recommend (again, grudgingly) signing up for MailerLite. I do not like it as much as I like ConvertKit, but it is definitely better than some of the other free platforms (specifically one that rhymes with Shmailchimp).
There’s a free theme that I love because it’s extremely powerful and well-coded. Not all themes are! It’s called Astra. In fact, I use Astra as my base theme right here at The Side Blogger.
Now, as I mentioned, my blog’s base is the Astra theme. However, this blog’s looks and feels are completely custom-designed with the fantastic page-builder plugin called Elementor Pro.
With Elementor Pro, I can create multiple themes on a single site (you can even create different header and footer for different pages), and it has eliminated any need for an external landing page builder. Elementor Pro has been one of the most significant investments I made for my blog (right after domain, hosting and email marketing platform)
Elementor comes with a free version as well, and if you’re on a budget, feel free to start with the free option and then upgrade when you can.
While I love my Astra + Elementor Pro duo, I understand that not many of you have the time to design a custom blog. If that is the case, and you still want a pretty blog right out of the box, I suggest you look at StudioPress themes.
If you want beautiful and feminine themes, check out Restored 316.
If you’re not using Pinterest to promote your blog, I don’t know what you’re doing… Like seriously, if you have a blog, get on Pinterest pronto!
There was a time when I was a fervent supporter of manual pinning. Well, I still kinda am when you’re brand new and with limited resources… like, when I started blogging, I didn’t have the money to invest on a pinning platform. But man, since I started using a Pinterest scheduling app – TailWind – things have totally changed!
If you have a hundred bucks to spend on your blog today (more like 120), I suggest you sign up for a TailWind yearly subscription. You’ll thank yourself later!
Please, please, please take your website security seriously.
If you’re someone with significant blog traffic and the budget for it, a yearly subscription to Sucuri is worth it.
If you’re not there yet (in fact, I’m not quite there yet myself…) at least have WordFence. The free version of WordFence is still better than nothing, and in many cases, it may be enough.
The cool thing about SiteGround is that they automatically back up your website one every 24 hours.
But still, I always suggest having a backup plugin to create an additional backup of your blog. Use UpdraftPlus to create a backup of your blog every week or so. You can even automate to save a copy of the backup in your Google Drive or DropBox or OneDrive or some other online storage of your choosing.
Caching and Performance
While SiteGround is one of the fastest WordPress hosting companies at its price range, if you do not have proper caching and performance-optimizing in place, your site will likely not be fast enough. And that can be an issue. First of all, a slow-loading site is detrimental to user experience, and second, Google doesn’t like slow sites. You’ll have a hard time getting your blog posts to rank on Google if you do not optimize your site for speed and performance.
I have had experience with a fair number of caching and performance-enhancing plugins, but I have opted to use WP Rocket as I’ve found it to be the best.
If you’re not ready for a premium plugin, SiteGround’s native SG Optimizer is a decent plugin. Do keep in mind that this plugin is built to work ONLY with SiteGround hosting.
One of the biggest culprits for slow websites is improper use of images. Maybe your images are too big and you forgot to resize them. Or maybe they have hidden EXIF data making the files bigger. In any case, please have an image optimization plugin for your blog.
Here at The Side Blogger, I use Optimole. It is a premium plugin and worth the 10 bucks I spend every month for a subscription.
If you’re brand new with a limited budget, check out Smush. It’s a pretty decent and free image optimization plugin. I have found that my websites perform better with Optimole, however, until you have the funds for another paid subscription, Smush will do the job for you.
Affiliate Link Plugin
Do you do affiliate marketing? If you’re a blogger, then you must! Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table!
When you start doing affiliate marketing, you’ll realize that it’s a headache to have to go back and forth between all these unique affiliate links for each and every company or brand you partner with.
My favorite affiliate link manager plugin ThirstyAffiliates makes this process super easy! And guess what? It’s free! The Pro plan does come with additional features, but when you’re just starting out, the free version is really all you need.
Blog (and Social Media) Graphics
One word: Canva.
I use Canva for almost all of my blog graphics needs. Not only that, but I have also created a pretty nifty side-income stream by selling Canva templates on my blog shop! neat, right?
If you sign up for Canva Pro, you get some additional features that can be pretty useful. One of them (and my favorite) being access to over 2-million premium stock photos, for free!
If you’ve been around The Side Blogger, you know that I don’t worry much about SEO in that, I honestly do not care to optimize my blog posts for keywords. You see, with Google’s algorithms changing so often and with artificial intelligence and machine learning being used on search engines, the traditional keyword stuffing methods are now useless.
However, I do pay some attention to optimizing my on-page SEO for better user experience and just making sure things look pretty when people do find my site on Google. There are also some timeless on-page SEO practices (such as setting meta title and meta descriptions) that are still relevant when it comes to ranking on Google and other search engines. For that, I use a plugin called Yoast SEO. With this plugin, setting meta titles and descriptions for your pages and posts is a no-brainer.
There are some tools that I use to make sure my writing, in general, is as good as I can make them. I’m a terrible editor (you may have already spotted some types here, which is just plain embarrassing considering I’m using tools to make sure there are none… and yet…)
Some of my best friends when it comes to writing blog posts are as below:
Better headlines: I use CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to optimize my headline until I get a “green”. It’s not a perfect tool, so do take its advice with a pinch of salt. but in most cases, it does a decent job of at least helping you come up with better titles and headlines.
Editing: I use two separate tools to edit my posts. One of them is Grammarly. I use the Grammarly Premium version to make sure my work is as good as it gets. Additionally, I use the Hemingway Editor to further refine my posts, making sure I’m not going crazy on my adverb and passive sentence use.
Of course, there is no shortage of tools, but the ones I mentioned above should take care of your most pressing and basic blogging needs to make you a proficient, and efficient blogger, while boosting your performance and productivity.
Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and also, feel free to check out my Resources page for additional tools and resources.
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