Whether you are launching, growing, scaling or monetizing your blog, you’ll need tools along the way. I’ve compiled this list of resources for you based on what I’ve used and recommend.
I’ll be updating this post as I discover new tools, so make sure to bookmark it for future reference.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, however I’m only recommending products I’ve used and can vouch for! If you make a purchase using one of my links, it will provide me with a small commission.
Blogging Platforms (or Content Management Systems)
There are two main content platforms I recommend to my clients over and over again. They are:
Read this post about the differences between launching a blog on Wordpress versus Squarespace.
There are others that I have used, but DO NOT recommend. I recommend against using Wix.com or Weebly. I know a few people who build on Blogger (the Google owned platform), however most find they are very limited in their ability to customize their site.
Blog Hosting Companies
If you end up using Squarespace, they offer built-in hosting as part of their fee. Further, Squarespace does not accommodate any plugins. But if you go forward with a Wordpress based blog (about 80% of my clients go this route), then you will need to purchase a hosting service. Here are the hosts I’ve worked with and recommend:
WP Engine (our technical team at The Blog Girl Chronicles LOVES this hosting service)
Check out this post about why I feel Bluehost is the best host if you are just launching a blog or have fewer than 10K pageviews right now. You can also read this blog post about how to technically launch a Wordpress Blog. It explains a bit more about what to look for in a good hosting company.
Once I outgrew Bluehost, I moved up to SiteGround and was able to stay with them until I consistently had about 100K pageviews per month. If you have a feeling your site is going to scale very quickly, you should consider starting out on Siteground. They have excellent support and customer service and offer site back ups as well.
Since my blog has grown to a significant size, I moved up to BigScoots and cannot say enough AMAZING things about this hosting company. They go above and beyond and are truly able to manage my site flawlessly. The customer service is fabulous and they can handle quite complex situations seamlessly.
They will also talk you through a custom hosting plan if you have an image heavy site, as most lifestyle blogs do.
WP Engine is the other hosting company I recommend. It comes with incredible support and they build in some useful features to your dashboard that make updating your site a breeze. For example, they will take instant back ups of your blog before you update any plugins just in case things go wonky. They also offer their own blog security systems which keeps your site running smooth and light.
Your blog theme is like the paint and window dressings of your site. Where the content management system is like the 2x4s that hold up the walls. :) Your theme is something you purchase as a set of files and upload into the backend of your site. Your theme will then allow you to customize the look and feel of your blog based on the theme’s designs.
Some are better for photography blogs, others are best suited to magazine formats and more text based blogs. Make sure you pick a theme that you love and feel will grow with you over time. I’ve had the same theme for six years and have simply used built-in custom options to refresh my website every couple of years. If you buy a good, adaptable theme, you shouldn’t have to purchase another one for a long time.
Here are some places to look for gorgeous Wordpress themes:
Wordpress Plugins for Social Media
These three plugins are ones I use and ADORE. They aren’t the only plugins I use, but they are top notch when it comes to making your site more shareable.
WP Tasty - this is really great for recipe and food bloggers. It allows you to insert Recipe cards into your posts and formats them for you, along with nutrition info and so on.
Tasty Pins - this plugin is AMAZING if you plan to use Pinterest for your blog growth. Among the things I love about it is that it lets you write your Pin Descriptions right in Wordpress and it also allows you to select which images you want your readers to be able to pin (force pinning). Cannot recommend enough.
Social Pug - this plugin has a paid and free version, both of which are excellent. The paid version has a lot of similar functions to Tasty Pins, but is great for platforms other than Pinterest as well. The free version puts floating share buttons on your posts.
Social Media Schedulers
When it comes to social media scheduling tools, I’ve pretty much used them all. To be honest, it all comes down to personal preference, with the exception of Tailwind. If you are doing anything with Pinterest at all, I can’t recommend Tailwind enough.
Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling - Sign up using my referral link here and you’ll get a free month! The bonus with Tailwind is that they also do Instagram scheduling. Click the banner image to the right to sign up for one of their FREE masterclasses on how to use a scheduler to grow on IG!!
Later.com - I use Later to manage my Instagram assets. I love how easy it is to see and plan your grid. The paid plans also handle video posts and hashtag recommendations too! Sign up for a Later.com account using my referral link and you’ll get 10 extra posts per month when you put up your first Instagram post with the app!
Email Marketing Apps
This one is simple, there are only two that I can reasonably recommend! Having a solid email strategy is key to the success of any blog based business. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
Mailchimp - is where a lot of people, including myself, start. It didn’t take me long to want to do more robust things with my emails, so I quickly outgrew this as a platform.
Convertkit - I have been with Convertkit for nearly three years and I don’t plan to leave any time soon. This email platform does basically everything you’d need and more. It’s definitely a step up in the price department, compared to Mailchimp, but it’s worth it IMHO.
Easy Video Editing Software
There are two pieces of video software I use and love. Adding videos to posts is a surefire way to increase search results, boost user experience and create a better overall blog experience.
Animoto - I LOVE this app. All of my tutorial and quick how-to videos are made on this platform. It will size the videos square or 16x9 (and you can easily resize them too!) and there is ZERO editing involved. You can create videos out of still images and add text and music. Sign up with my referral link to get a Free Month of Animoto!
Camtasia - I use Camtasia for all my personal and desktop videos. It’s also the software I use to create Video Pins for Pinterest. It is a one time license fee and it has versions that work on both PC and Mac.
Image Editing and Stock Photos
I use a combination of iPhone photos and DSLR photos for my blog and Instagram. And I also use a combination of photos I’ve taken and Stock Photos I purchase or get for free on the Internet.
Sources for great FREE Stock Images include:
To Edit Photos, I use a combination of:
Adobe Creative Cloud Lightroom (I really like Shoot Fly Shoot as a course for learning how to use Lightroom)
Canva - I use this for all my Pinterest and blog graphics - not so much to edit photos. The mobile version is fantastic and lets you create Instagram, Instagram Stories and Facebook graphics on the fly.
Picmonkey (A fabulous alternative to Canva)
Mobile Apps to Edit Phone Photos
I love Snapseed - it’s basically the only mobile photo editor I use
Layout (made my Instagram)