New to blogging or simply looking for trustworthy reccies for the best blogging tools?
Great stuff! You’ve sashayed into the right shindig, my friend. Below is a carefully curated list of the very best products, tools and services I recommend to help you build your blog and community.
As someone who’s been in the blogging trenches for over a decade, I’ve tried and tested a ton of stuff, but these are the tippety top of the list of what I’ve personally used and love. Feel free to reach out with any questions by clicking here.
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*This list contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of my links, at no extra cost to you. For my full affiliate disclaimer, please click here.
Their logo may look like it was designed by a pre-schooler on acid, but Siteground is the dog’s doodah’s when it comes to website hosting for new to intermediate sized blogs. I’ve previously used several of the usual suspects – Bluehost, Godaddy etc but Siteground is hands down the winner in terms of speed, reliability and customer service. And all for an incredibly budget-friendly monthly fee.
With free database back-ups (trust me you’ll be grateful for this), a choice of server locations (choose the one closest to where the bulk of your audience reside) and the best security levels and uptime record against all the main rivals, Siteground have proved absolutely worth the hype!
Better still, they’ll migrate an existing website from another host for FREE (do it) and unlike most hosts who try to upsell this service, make it super-duper easy to install an SSL certificate – from a recognised certificate authority – also for FREE. Oh, and did I mention their customer service is second-to-none? No-brainer. The Grow Big plan offers the best value for new bloggers. Still not sure? Check out this post ‘which shared host is right for your new WordPress blog‘
DOMAIN NAME Provider
I’ll confess to being a total tramp when it comes to purchasing domain names. I have absolutely no loyalty and simply go with the cheapest option for a two-year initial purchase (including domain privacy). I don’t include any other add-ons or upsells. There’s a caveat – always take note of what it’s going to cost you to renew. The initial offer is often ridiculously low and renewal costs can jump significantly.
A word of caution on Domain Privacy. You may prefer a little more transparency and decide to forgo Domain Privacy in the belief it will make you look better to search engines. Good luck fielding the endless spammy callers from India trying to sell you web services you probably don’t need (I speak from bitter experience on more than occasion).
Right now Namecheap is offering the best deals, including free ‘Whois Guard’ (domain privacy) so hot-foot it over to their site without further ado and grab the perfect URL before someone else does!
Find a domain starting at $0.48
powered by Namecheap
GENESIS FRAMEWORK BY STUDIOPRESS
When you’re first starting out, the ‘which platform/ framework/ theme/ host’ conundrum is bound to boggle your brain pretty darned fast. With so many conflicting opinions, it’s enough to make you run to Blogger and be done with it (don’t do that).
In the interests of brevity let me save you 5 years of trial-and-error: go with a self-hosted WordPress website using a responsive premium HTML5 theme from a reputable designer. While a content framework isn’t strictly necessary – you can use any WordPress-compatible theme directly with WordPress.org – I personally use the Genesis framework, a powerful content management system optimised for speed, search engines and security (and alliteration).
Often described as the ‘engine’ on which your site will run, Genesis framework requires a ‘Child theme’ which sits on top and works like an exterior paint job (see Design & Branding below for recommendations). There’s a slightly steeper learning curve involved than something like Squarespace (a decent alternative if you’re very technically challenged), but you’ll have complete control over all aspects of your site and will appreciate the level of customisation available to you down the line.
Don’t listen to critics who complain about the amount of coding knowledge required. Choose a quality theme from a reputable designer with excellent support and you should find it relatively easy to customise. If coding is your thing, however, or you grow to learn and love the versatility of using HTML, Genesis gives you complete control in this respect.
I switched from regular WP to Genesis a couple of years ago and love it. I advise starting with a free child theme from Studiopress just to get a feel for Genesis then purchasing a premium theme which is closer to your design requirements when you’re ready (see my recommendations below). Visit the Studiopress website to learn more about Genesis.
WEBSITE ‘DRAG AND DROP’ PAGE BUILDER
One of the main objections to Genesis is the perceived level of difficulty required in order to ‘code’ pages. Enter Thrive Architect – an incredibly powerful marketing-focused ‘drag and drop’ page builder plugin for WordPressthat even the most technologically challenged will love. I’ve tried several competitor’s drag and drop page builders (Elementor, Beaver Builder etc) but this plugin is my favourite. I’m slightly obsessed with just how good it is because it allows me to create pro-looking landing pages without needing to use any code.
There are tons of amazing pre-built conversion-focused elements like buttons, polls, testimonials, animations, countdown timers etc. It also integrates with most popular Email Marketing Platforms so you can easily add opt-in forms and pop-ups to capture new subscribers. You won’t need to add plugins such as Click To Tweet, Google Fonts or Shortcodes because they’re all built in and super easy to use.
Did I mention my fave bit? Landing Pages! Forget Leadpages, Instapage or whatever crazy expensive landing page software your fave blogger is telling you to buy. You don’t need ’em! Thrive Architect does it all and has tons of slick, pre-designed templates or you can start from scratch. The possibilities are mind-boggling. Thrive Architect also comes with a natty Thrive Lightbox feature – which allows you to create modals (pop-ups) that can be used to grow your email list. You can also use them on product descriptions in a web store or wherever you want a box to pop up on a user action. I absolutely LOVE this feature!
What’s truly groovy is the price point. A one-off fee of just $67. This is way cheaper than paying a monthly subscription for a dedicated landing page builder and more versatile. Thrive actually has an entire suite of plugins and website themes and offer even a monthly membership giving access to all website themes and plugins for just $19 a month. Their support is fantastic too, with tons of helpful tutorials and videos. Definitely one of my favourite blogging tools!
I’ve only really just started with video (and still slightly terrified) but this was without doubt the best tech investment I’ve made recently. I’ve used it for streaming as well as recording and love the crisp quality of the video. A huge improvement from my previous camera and sound quality is excellent too, meaning you don’t have to record sound separately. Ideal if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution rather than purchasing a separate microphone.
Other WordPress plugins
If increasing your website traffic with a social media sharing plugin sounds like a decent game plan, oh boy, was this ever made for you. Social Warfare Pro is hyped by a lot of bloggers, and for good reason; social proof and word-of-mouth recommendations are the holy grail in the quest for traffic and subscribers. This aptly named plugin is your secret weapon.
There’s a free version, which is pretty great, but the Pro version has all the whistles and bells you’ll be grateful you shelled out the extra spondoolies for. If Pinterest is at all part of your strategy – and as a blogger if it isn’t then you’re not doing it right – then you need this plugin!
In a nutshell it gives you complete control over how your users share your website’s content to each social network – we’re talking the exact images and text you’d like shared to those networks. Goodbye random snippets of truncated gobbledegook and ugly, incorrectly formatted pics that don’t represent your brand. Social Warfare Pro has been designed by folks in your shoes who share your frustrations. It even retrieves lost share counts if you’ve changed over to HTTPS or changed your domain!
Alongside Rich Pin functionality (snazzy Pinterest Pins featuring pro-looking blurbs), it allows you to activate Twitter Cards (large-format image tweets) adds ‘via @username’ on shared tweets. You can also place sexy looking social sharing buttons just about anywhere ya like. Best of all? It’s lightweight and won’t slow your site down like *some* plugins. What’s not to love?
I love this plugin and actually use it in tandem with Social Warfare (if you’re Pinterest-focused, it’s totally worth the investment for both). Developed by the super-successful husband and wife team behind top food blog A Pinch of Yum, this Pinterest-focused plugin fills the gaps of all other social sharing tools. It allows you to ‘hide’ multiple pins in your blog posts, and there’s a powerful feature that allows you to ‘disable’ any images you don’t want users to pin, along with the ability to add a Pinterest-optimised description that won’t conflict with your images Alt Text, giving you complete control over what is shared to the platform. Read my review here.
Ranking on the first page of Google is a fine art requiring more than a wing and a prayer. Thanks to AI, search engines are getting seriously good at matching only the most relevant and highest quality content to user searches. Keywords and semantically related phrases along with things like url links, readability, article length and formatting all affect how search engines find and rank your content. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a handy tool pointing you in the right direction as you craft each blog post?
Luckily, Yoast SEO has your back. It’s totally free (with a premium version available) and is an essential addition to your roster of WordPress plugins. The Yoast blog is a mine of helpful SEO tips and advice too. Don’t blog without it!
Spam sucks. One of the hazards of running a blog is becoming a target for sleazebag spammers who bombard your blog with fake comments and dodgy links in order to improve search engine rankings for their own sites. Despite changes to search engine algorithms it’s still a huge problem and fielding them manually is no fun. Akismet is your go-to plugin for filtering out pretty much all of this unwanted crap spam so you can get on with the business of blogging.
Jetpack is another free, multi-tasking plugin that basically allows you to customise parts of your website without touching any code, optimises visual elements for speed, scans for brute force attacks and downtime and comes with a ton of free website themes to boot. Upgrade to the premium version for even more features.
If all those pesky spammers aren’t enough, your site could be in line for malicious hacks, infected malware and brute force attacks. Even if your web host does a great job, this plugin adds extra firewall protection, scans for and highlights any vulnerabilities while blocking any nefarious attacks on your site. Wordfence Security is free with a premium version available.
Slow site load times are an oft-overlooked but important factor in search engine rankings. Not to mention infuriating end-users who hate to be kept waiting. Ever run your website through a speed test tool like Pingdom or Google’s Page Speed Insights, got a less than ideal grade and understood what any of the suggested fixes actually mean? Me neither. It’s OK, nobody does.
That’s why many of us instead opt to install a plugin like WP Fastest Cache. The free version is easy to use and allows you to check a bunch of boxes like ‘Minify HTML’ or ‘Combine JS’. The Pro version lets you perform even more speed boosting tweaks. I still don’t fully understand what any of this actually means, but I’ve tried many of the popular plugins and this is the only one that has made a significant impact on my site speed. Just tick all the available boxes and you’re good to go. You can also enable integration with a Content Delivery Network, if desired. I opted to integrate with Jetpack’s image CDN.
If you use affiliate links on your website, or want to brand links with your website name, this is a must-have plugin. Instead of ugly, long alphanumeric strings you can ‘prettify’ links to something like this: ‘https://blogyoucademy.com/prettylinks’.
You can make them ‘No Follow’ so search engine’s won’t try to index them and what’s really useful is if the affiliate link gets changed by the merchant or you need to swap it out for a new product or service for whatever reason, you won’t need to update all individual instances on your website. Simply change the main link and all your old links will redirect to the new one. It’s also a useful way to see all your affiliate links at-a-glance within your WordPress dashboard – and which are getting clicked.
A fast-loading site is critical for keeping visitors on your site longer. If visitors stick around, they’re more likely to convert and buy from you. This amazing little image optimisation plugin reduced my website load time by a staggering 60%! The free version allows you to run 50 images at a time through the bulk optimiser. After which, it will auto-optimise each image you upload to your WordPress library.
PREMIUM WORDPRESS THEMES
HELLO YOU DESIGNS (Genesis Framework only)
I discovered Hello You’s gorgeous, feminine WordPress themes for the Genesis framework only last year and loved them so much I opted to build this website using one of them (Hello Trending, if you’re interested). These themes are pre-designed to do so much already that you need very little code to achieve a seriously pro-looking site.
RESTORED316 DESIGNS (Genesis Framework only)
Lauren not only creates beautifully clean, feminine themes exclusively for the Genesis framework but offers superlative support and a blog packed with tips and advice for getting the best out of your Restored316 theme.
Bluchic’s gorgeous themes run directly on WordPress. Perfect if you don’t want to purchase a framework. These guys offer great support and are a really pro-active part of the blogging community too, offering tons of helpful blogging tips, strategies and freebies.
WEBSITE PAGE SPEED ANALYZER
Provides insights into your website’s page speed loads times and how to fix them. While I don’t pretend to understand what half these ‘insights’ mean, it’s the easiest way to figure out the top glaring culprits responsible for slowing your site down. You’re then at least armed with the correct terminology so you can try to figure out how to fix them, or find someone who knows!
WEBSITE CHAT BOT SOFTWARE
It’s obviously very early days but I’m slightly obsessed with Drift already. What is it? If a ‘Conversation Marketing Platform’ feels like a mouthful, I’m sure ‘Chat Bot’ will be more familiar to you. See that little organge-y red icon in the bottom right corner? If it hasn’t popped up already, click it and you’ll be greeted with a chat box and my delightful mug to ask if you have any questions. You’ve probably seen these before and sometimes they might even bug you a little bit? Believe me, they work. If I’m available, i’m able to log on and be available in ‘real time’ to handle any questions, along with email notifications allowing me to respond to any when I’m not. Example – a new subscriber couldn’t access the Free Resources today and was able to contact me directly and get a resolution within a few minutes without having to fill out a contact form or send an email. That’s golden. You won’t be able to lose the Drip branding with the free package but you can change the colours and the design is pretty slick and easy to use. The best part? It’s totally free.
Another recent find and a firm favourite already. Typeform describes itself as a ‘Data Collection Tool’ but it’s waaaay groovier than that. If you’re serious about blogging, and want to know what your visitors actually want to read about, then you need this brilliant survey tool. I love the easy-to-use interface and how it’s super easy to create really slick looking (and fun) surveys in just a few minutes. I include a link to a short survey in my email welcome sequence and so far this has proved incredibly insightful – people love to take surveys! I use a simple ‘0-10’ scale to gauge my audience’s appetite around a number of key blogging topics, but the tool is incredibly versatile allowing you to craft surveys that really get to the heart of your audience’s struggles and pain points so you can craft content around that. Basic plan is free!
EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDERS
Aside from a personal email provider, you’ll need a dedicated ESP to handle email campaigns to your subscriber list. Building your list should be a main priority and it’s why I recommend allocating a budget and starting with a sophisticated provider from the get-go. Don’t be tempted by popular ‘free up to 1000 subscribers’ providers. You’ll only end up migrating down the line. If you’re serious about going pro as a blogger, just allocate the budget and use it as an incentive to generate enough revenue to cover costs.
I love, love love Active Campaign! It’s so easy to create stylish, high converting opt-in forms with ActiveCampaign’s intuitive ‘drag and drop’ interface, without using any HTML. My fave part is the powerful automation features which allow you to create really sophisticated automations along with segmenting and tagging. The reporting features tick all the boxes too. It’s particularly great if you want to create GDPR-compliant forms thanks to the ability to add checkboxes and segment contacts accordingly. Powerful stuff!
ActiveCampaign’s basic plan only offers inline forms but Thrive Architect allows me to easily create modals (‘pop-ups’ or ‘Lightboxes’) and beautiful landing pages with no issue.
At just $9 a month (yearly plan, up to 500 subscribers) ActiveCampaign is an incredibly budget-friendly solution for anyone wanting a sophisticated ESP offering full control over forms, permissions and automations without needing to hire a developer to make the necessary HTML changes. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of up to 100 contacts and up to 100 emails sent.
While a dedicated ESP is essential for handling email campaigns to your subscriber list, you’ll also need a personal account to handle direct enquiries and other business-related emails. For security reasons I always recommend using something other than your shared web hosting account’s email service.
G-Suite is a cloud based, all-in-one business solution offering a suite of Google’s familiar products – Gmail, Docs, Drive and Calendar, Sheets, Hangouts etc. If you’re already familiar with and love the ease of use of these apps, you’ll appreciate why it makes sense to pay the tiny monthly fee to upgrade to a business account. A basic account starts just $5 a month!
This allows you to use your own branded URL with the same seamless, highly secure Cloud-based integration of all these products from any device. As a blogger it’s highly likely you’ll be utilising things like Google docs for sharing, Hangouts for webinars and the amazing Sheets for slideshows, webinars or animated Youtube intros (yes it’s really that versatile!) Another under-used alternative to Trello and Evernote is the excellent Google Keep. Check that out if you haven’t already.
If you love Google’s products, want to continue using Gmail but with your own pro-looking, branded URL (along with all that lovely extra storage capacity and dedicated support) it’s a no-brainer. Sign up here to try it free for 14 days and get 20% off your first year!
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING
Another big fave of mine. Tailwind is a Pinterest and Instagram scheduling app that I use mostly for pinning quality content from other users to build up my boards and increase my following. (Note: I use it solely for Pinterest ).
It’s hard not to overstate just how influential Pinterest is as a platform and source of website traffic. The Biz owners I help are often amazed when I dig into their analytics to show them how Pinterest is their main source of traffic – often without them even having a Pinterest account of their own. It’s THAT big a deal folks, yet still so under-utilised by many, despite what seems like every blogger and her Chihuahua offering a course on the subject!
Tailwind’s ‘Smart Scheduling’ feature tells you the best times to pin along with stats to help you determine which pins are popular and how well your profile is doing. I love the ‘Tribes’ and group boards features which allow you to join group boards in your niche to explode your reach and traffic. While I always advocate regular manual pinning too, the traffic and exposure you’ll gain from automated pinning alongside your manual efforts make it worth the monthly investment. The cost is $9.99 per month on the annual ‘unlimited’ plan or $15 a month on the monthly plan which allows you up to 400 Pins a month
Sign up here to start a free trial allowing up to 100 pins or 30 instagram posts (no set up fees or time limit and you can cancel at any time).
Another beautifully simple and easy to use social media scheduling app. Buffer has been my go-to for years. Their generous free version is enough for most users, allowing you to connect up to 3 social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Instagram – Pinterest is extra) and up to 10 queued posts at any time. At $15 a month, the Pro version allows you to queue up to 100 posts at a time and provides valuable analytics, RSS feed and calendar functionality.
The best thing about Buffer? Being able to post directly to Instagram! No more annoying ‘reminder’ type scheduling. Buffer also offers a natty free Image Creation program called Pablo to help you easily create pro-looking visuals to share on your networks. I also love how Buffer integrates with my Feedly (Pro) account for seamless content curation and scheduling, meaning I’m never without ideas or helpful content to share with my followers. Sign up here.
When you’re creating a brand or blog from scratch, it can be really frustrating coming up with a great name, only to find someone else has got there first. Knowem allows you to run a check across just about every social media platform you can shake a stick at. While all you’ll probably ever need is the free version, the pro version lets Knowem staff take care of securing profiles across up to 25 social networks. Sign up for a free profile here.
A mobile app for creating slideshows, videos and animations for sharing on social media. There’s a lot of these apps available but I’ve found this to be one of the most user-friendly.
If you only choose one blogging tool from this list of recommendations, it should probably be Canva. The Aussie team behind this brilliant software have revolutionised the way bloggers create social media and blog imagery.
Apart from logos and vector graphics, I create almost all my visuals in Canva. From Pinterest Pins to all the header imagery you see on this page, the possibilities are endless and helped by a ton of pre-designed templates and elements so the design process is a walk in the park – even for those without a creative bone in their body!
The free account is pretty amazing and will suffice for most blogging related needs. I long weighed up the pros and cons of paying for Adobe Illustrator, which is more expensive, but Canva for work ($12.95 per month) won out for its ease of use, ability to create brand templates, set colour palettes, upload custom fonts, download files with transparent backgrounds (more useful than you might think) along with unlimited storage, access to free stock photos, templates, elements and more. Sign up here for free.
If you like how ridiculously easy Canva makes it to create gorgeous graphics, you’ll love Adobe Spark, which actually consists of three separate apps – Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video – allowing you to create pro-looking webpages, social posts and video in a shake of a lambs tail.
Like Canva, there are tons of templates, fonts and graphic elements available on the generous free plan though you won’t be able to use your own logo or branding. At $10 a month the Premium plan removes all Spark branding, allowing you to replace it with your own logo and branding and is a serious contender for Canva For Work.
The mobile app has the edge over Canva’s and the ability to create videos alongside stunning social media graphics mean this might actually be the better choice if your audience is mostly on instagram or youtube or you use a lot of video and animation.Click here to start your visual story with Adobe Spark.
Gravit is my ‘best kept secret’: a completely brilliant and 100% free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. There’s nothing you can do in Illustrator that you can’t do in this genius little program (there’s a web interface but I recommend you download the desktop version). I love how it allows me to use fonts loaded on my computer and vector graphics (with transparent backgrounds).
While a little more complicated to grasp than Canva, there are some great tutorials by the Gravit team and it’s what I use to create all my text and vector based logos (which I then import into Canva to add to social media and blog visuals). Use in tandem with Canva and you’ll never need to fork out for expensive graphics software again. Download Gravit here.
When it comes to visual branding, a logo is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Should you DIY it using something like Gravit, Canva or Adobe Illustrator? Or perhaps you might prefer to play it safe and opt for a pre-designed logo from somewhere like Creative Market?
Logojoy is an online logo maker offering the best of both worlds. The interface is incredibly fun and easy to use, with lots of templates, inspiration and prompts to help you create a pro-looking logo in minutes and one you’ll be proud to say you created all by yourself! There’s no obligation to purchase before you get stuck in, so you can play around and even get to see your logo mocked up on a variety of media such as business cards and T-shirts.
Once you’re happy with a design, there are three package tiers available. I’d skip the basic package which only offers a PNG file and instead opt for the Premium package (currently with 50% off at just $65). This includes high res PDF, PNG, EPS (vector) and SVG (vector) files along with brand guidelines and full ownership rights to your logo and lifetime phone support. The Enterprise package is a pricier $195 but it does include a full hour’s ‘tweakery’ time with their in-house graphic designer, based on your detailed written feedback. Click here to start creating your logo.
I can’t live without PDF Escape! While the interface feels a bit dated, it’s another of my fave free tools for creating clickable/editable PDFs to offer as freebies and opt-in incentives to subscribers.
Simply create PDFs in Canva then drop them into PDFescape and add checkboxes, or fillable fields as required. Save and download to desktop. No need to create an account. What could be simpler? Click here to start editing your PDF.
CREATIVE / GRAPHICS MARKETPLACES
Don’t have the skills, time or creativity to create unique, pro-looking graphics? Creative Market is a huge online marketplace featuring stock photos, social media and website templates, logos, fonts and tons of other graphics all created by independent designers from around the world. It’s a treasure trove of goodies and very easy to get lost trawling through its pages!
It’s free to join and new members get a one-off 10% discount and each week there are 6 new high quality freebies for you to download. Click here to grab your 10% discount and free goodies!
Similar to Creative Market, Envato is a huge marketplace featuring seven specialist sub-sites – AudioJungle, Videohive, 3DOcean, PhotoDune, ThemeForest, GraphicRiver and CodeCanyon. This is another site I can’t live without!
From youtube intros and music to website themes, 3D graphics elements, fonts, stock images and just about everything in between, Envato offers a huge selection of quality, pre-designed goodies for your website, social media, video and podcast projects. Sign up (free to join) to receive high value freebies each month.
If you plan to use a lot of these assets the Envato Elements monthly subscription offers good value at just $19 a month (paid annually). Click here to sign up for a free Envato account.
Pixelify is the newly launched sister site to Creative Booster and is chock full of free fonts, vectors, mockups, graphics, templates, themes and add-ons from independent designers. There’s even a handy dandy feature that allows you to sort by ‘free for personal or commercial use’. A good place to start if you’re on a tight budget and need a professional, pre-designed element for your project.
Finding a regular supply of stylish, female-orientated stock photography for your blog and social media posts is often harder than it sounds. Freebie sites like Pixabay and Unsplash offer plenty of decent, non-cheesy images, but you can be sure everyone else is using the same images too. Search engines are getting smarter at recognising this too, meaning your content could be viewed as being less original.
As a successful online entrepreneur (with an Insta-famous pooch called Mochi) Elle Drouin knows exactly what her readership craves – ‘unapologetically feminine’ styled stock aimed at female bloggers and entrepreneurs. Think lots of bright, fresh flatlays, lifestyle shots and mock-ups featuring marble and gold, chic office supplies, fresh flowers, oh and lots of pink!
Memberships starts at a resonable $69 (billed quarterly) and include access to over 1000 images, Canva social media templates with 50 new images added every month. Sign up for a free account and enjoy 10 new free photos every month. Click here to check out the membership options.
Kayla Butler also creates female-focused stock photography for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs. Her style is fresh and clean with an eclectic mix of themes such as ‘Grey Business’, ‘Kids & Home’, ‘Style & Travel’ along with motivational quotes, mock-ups and a fab selection of styled vector props for use on flatlays, social media posts and websites.
Unlike many stock membership sites, Kayla uses female models of varying ethnicity, and even the occasional guy! Images can be purchased individually but the Membership options represent pretty amazing value for money.
The Elite tier is just $24 every two months while the VIP tier is just $97 per year. Members get access to over 1900 images, with over 100 images added each month (VIP members get access to special VIP resources too). If you’re on a budget there’s even a free tier offering over 300 images, with 4 new photos added each month. Click here to sign up.
A fun, easy to use online colour palette generator. Choose from on of the 1000s of ready-made palettes or create your own by hitting the space bar to generate a new palette. Lock in the swatches you like and keep hitting the space bar until you have the perfect brand palette!
Font inspo heaven and a handy resource for free fonts. I love how it allows you to generate custom web fonts (only use this if you have the correct license and permissions).
A free online image optimiser. To reduce image size before uploading to your website, it’s as easy as dropping them on to the desktop uploader. Your file is then instantly compressed for optimal page load times without losing visual quality.
CONTENT PLANNING & SCHEDULING
A relatively new find for me, but now hands-down my favourite all-in-one editorial tool – and totally free! If you find Trello too fussy (like me) you’ll love Airtable’s clean interface. I love how I’m able to see my content calendar, affiliate spreadsheets, content ideas and just about any type of document on the same screen – just tab through. I also love how I’m able to link individual items together from different docs and include images and clickable URLs for reference. Create your own ‘Base’ or use one fo the pre-designed templates.
I’m still a big fan of Evernote and previously have always used this to organise my blog. The basic free package offers plenty of storage but if you want to be able to do things like access your notes offline, annotate PDFs and forward emails the Premium package is just a few $/£ a month. I love the Web Clipper feature which allows me to ‘clip’ things I find on the web using a Chrome extension.
Everyone’s fave spelling and grammar check tool! Grammarly is really easy to use and helps you check for spelling and grammar errors in your blog posts and email copy. The free version comes with a handy chrome extension allowing you to write mistake-free within your browser environment (websites, social media etc). The premium version offers more insights along with a plagiarism checker.
Ever stuck for quality content to share with your followers? Feedly is my content curation secret weapon! It’s essentially an RSS feed of all your favourite blogs, keywords or topics but with a clean and easy-to read-interface. The basic version is free to use but the pro version ($7 a month) allows you to integrate directly with apps like Buffer and and Evernote, making content sharing seamless and easy.
A cloud-based alternative to Dropbox. Ideal for storing and delivering all those juicy freebies and content upgrades to your followers! All customers receive 5GB of free storage and then you pay only a nominal fee for what you use over this. Requires a little more technical know-how to set up and than some storage providers, however, the delivery is lightening fast and you can be assured of high levels security and encryption.
Short for ‘If This Then That’. A brilliant, free platform that helps you streamline and automate a mind-boggling array of processes between your favourite online tools, apps and services. Want to create a spreadsheet in Evernote with all new subscribers assigned a certain tag? Search for an ‘Applet’ to do the job for you, or simply create a new one. The sheer potential of Applets on offer will boggle your brain – from the ‘oh my goodness this will change my life’ kind of automation, to the fun and faintly ridiculous: ‘Get a notification when the International space station passes over your house’.
A popular link shortening tool that does exactly what it says on the tin: shortens and prettifies links so they look better and won’t take up valuable ‘real estate’ space when posting to social media. Also offers basic tracking and analytics functionality.
KEYWORD & COMPETITOR RESEARCH
One of my fave tools for competitor research and generating content ideas. Enables you to find the most shared content online for any given keyword or phrase.
Neil Patel’s super easy to use keyword tool and a good free alternative to Google’s Keyword Planner
The most popular free Keyword tool but worth bearing in mind that it’s aimed primarily at advertisers looking to gauge competition for phrases when placing ads. With that said, it’s still a reliable indicator of search volumes. Find phrases with high search volume and low competition to help you rank higher in search results. You’ll need a (free) Google Adwords account which will require you to set up an initial ad, but once that’s approved you can immediately take it down so it doesn’t actually run.
This is probably my favourite tool as I believe it gives a more accurate result based on actual Google searches, rather than ad-related competitiveness. It also takes into account a variety of factors – Domain Authority etc – to determine your own website’s potential to rank for that term. Not all websites are equal in this respect based on age, backlinks and other indicators and why Google’s Keyword Planner doesn’t quite give you the whole picture.
Another type of keyword and search term tool, but with a twist. It provides a handy visual representation of results gleaned from the ‘autosuggest’ feature found in Google and Bing, allowing you to see all the potential phrases you could rank for from a given keyword. Also really useful when brainstorming content ideas.
Blogging can be an insular and frustrating world where Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and comparisonitis is an all-too-common, and often paralysing force. Sometimes it helps to look to successful entrepreneurs to know the bumps in the road are worth it. If you love learning from others, what better place to find inspiration than a good book?
Sadly, I don’t always have time for reading so my go-to now is Audible for ‘listening on the go’. For the price of little more than a couple of coffees your monthly credit allows you to choose one book from a huuuuuge selection of professionally-narrated titles across every genre – much cheaper than the physical book.
It’s a brilliant, cost-effective way to access premium titles at a fraction of the price. Want to give it a whirl? Get two free audible books by clicking this link for a no-obligation free trial! (it’s totally worth it for the freebies alone!)