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So you just started your first blog. You’ve got the pretty theme and content written, but now you need to figure out how to make those beautiful graphics and start an email list, and what the heck is SEO anyway?
Don’t worry, lady. I got you.
Without any experience, it’s hard to know which blogging tools are the most important, especially when it comes to paid tools. When I started this blog, I combed through hundreds of articles, courses, and books to determine which blogging tools were critical for beginner bloggers. What I came up with was nine blogging tools that I think are the most valuable ones to use from the start. I plan to expand this list to include additional resources I recommend in the future, but these are the tools that every new blogger needs.
As an added note, most of these tools are free or have free options. There are some blogging tools that I think it’s best to pay for from the start. I will note which blogging tools I recommend paying for from the beginning. While blogging is a pretty cheap business to start, it’s not free. And I believe it’s essential to invest in your business if you want to succeed. With that said, I’m only recommending paid tools that I think are essential to having a secure and professional blog.
9 Blogging Tools Every Beginner Needs
Until last week, I didn’t even know what an SSL certificate was let alone why I needed one for my website. An SSL certificate encrypts sensitive information on your website. Even if you don’t have customers putting credit card information on your site, you still need to have an SSL certificate. Ensuring the safety of your readers’ information is vital. Any time you are collecting names and email addresses (and you should be for your email list!), then you are collecting private information. It’s crucial to keep that information safe. Also, Google is going to be forcing websites to use an SSL certificate by flagging your site as unsafe if you don’t have one.
An SSL certificate is not a free tool. You can purchase one through your hosting provider. However, unless you are tech savvy, you should consider paying the extra fee to have your hosting provider manage it for you. I didn’t know the difference between managing it myself and having my hosting provider manage it, so initially, I just bought the certificate. I then found out there was a lot of technical stuff I would need to do to ensure my site properly redirected.
Thankfully, my hosting provider was helpful and tried to explain it to me. I already know I’m not tech savvy, so I just asked if there was an option for them to do it for me. (I’ve erased my site once trying to do something myself and it cost me a lot to fix it. I just don’t bother trying to figure out website stuff that big anymore.) Fortunately, there’s an option for those of us who lack tech expertise. Your hosting provider will sell you what is called a managed SSL certificate, which means they will install it and ensure that your site redirects appropriately. Unfortunately, it costs a couple hundred for a two-year certificate that’s managed. But having your readers feel safe and willing to give you their information is well worth the cost.
Canva is a fantastic tool for people with limited or no experience in graphic design. Canva has predesigned templates that make it easy to create Pinterest pins, blog graphics, and opt-ins. Even better, it’s free to use. The free version has limited features, but it’s 100% usable for creating the graphics you need. I use the paid version (Canva for Work), which is only $12.95 a month. The paid version gives you more designs to use and allows you to save your brand information, such as colors and fonts. I’m willing to pay the small monthly fee because it makes it easier for me to stay on brand. However, you can write down your colors and fonts and use the free version.
Bloggers have mixed opinions about stock photos from what I’ve read. A lot of bloggers say that you can bootstrap your blog by using the free stock photos out there. On the other hand, I’ve read numerous bloggers who have said that Pinterest becomes confused by everyone using the same stock photos for different niches, and Pinterest isn’t offering these photos as much in their Smart Feed. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but I do think paying for stock photos is one of the places where it’s smart to invest in your business.
Quality stock photos that are on brand for your business are going to make a difference in your traffic. If your photos have a similar look and feel, then it will be easier for your audience to recognize you. It will also create familiarity for people seeing your graphics. As humans, we tend to gravitate toward what’s familiar.
By using quality stock photos for your brand, you’ll be able to increase your familiarity with readers. I found finding quality free stock photos that worked for my brand to be a huge pain, especially since I wanted something that everyone else wasn’t using.
That’s why I recommend paying for high-quality stock photos. I’ve used both Depositphotos (affiliate link) and Atelier21. I’ve found great photos on Depositphotos and still use them, but I’m in love with Atelier21’s photos. They have photos that would work in a variety of niches. And the woman who runs the site is helpful and sweet, which is another reason I recommend Atelier21. I currently pay for a membership there to have access to the whole library; however, you can also purchase curated bundles and get freebies (through email subscription) without paying for a membership.
Yoast SEO Plug-In
Yoast SEO is a plug-in for your WordPress site. This is an essential plug-in, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing with SEO. The basic plug-in is free although they do have a paid version with some additional features. I only use the free version, and it’s one of the most valuable tools I use. Yoast allows you to create a keyword, edit the meta-description for your post, and gives you an SEO analysis, which enables you to optimize your post even if you have little experience with SEO. In addition, Yoast helps ensure the readability of your post. Yoast is a handy tool to have, and it’s even better because it’s free.
Social Media Share Buttons
You want your readers to share your posts. Many readers like to skim, and they may not make it all the way to the bottom of your post. If you only have share buttons at the end of your post, you could lose out on valuable shares. Social media plug-ins, such as Social Warfare, allow your readers to share or pin your post without having to scroll all the way to the bottom for the buttons.
One of the things you want to start on your blog right away is gaining email subscribers. You’ll need an email provider for your list. There are several options, such as Convertkit (affiliate link), MailChimp, and Mailerlite. The only one I’m familiar with is Convertkit. I understand that Mailchimp and Mailerlite are free up to a certain amount of subscribers, so if you’re just getting started, this might be the best way to go.
Convertkit does cost $29 per month up to 1,000 subscribers. It’s a bit steep in price, but it has a lot of features, such as sequences and landing pages. Convertkit is also user-friendly. It was designed specifically for creatives, and they have a lot of helpful articles on their site. I haven’t used the other two, so I don’t know how well they work, but I do know I’ve seen lots of emails from bloggers who use the other options.
Google Analytics is a free blogging tool that lets you see the stats of your site. There’s a dashboard that shows you pageviews, sessions, bounce rate, and where your traffic is coming from. There’s even a graph that shows you a comparison of the last two weeks. Google Analytics can give you some information about your traffic, which can help you to make decisions about where to spend your time. For example, over the past two weeks, most of my traffic came from organic searches and Instagram.
However, my bounce rate increased last week. If you have no idea what a bounce rate is (I didn’t!), in simple terms, it’s the visitors who come and land on one page but leave afterward. Here’s an article from Yoast that gives a more in-depth explanation of bounce rates if you’re interested. These metrics can be difficult to interpret, but having them gives you some insight about where your readers are coming from, whether your audience is engaged with your site, and where you need to spend more time, such as creating more valuable content.
This is a plugin that’s designed by the company behind WordPress, which makes it a reliable plugin that’s always compatible with your site. There are, however, differing opinions about this plugin. Because the plugin is so large and includes more functions than any site needs, some people recommend against using it since the plugin can slow loading times on your site.
I’m a fan of Jetpack, though, and I recommend it at least in the beginning. It’s a plugin that has a lot of features that are helpful for people who have little experience with the tech side of blogging. Jetpack gives you the additional features found on WordPress.com for your WordPress.org (self-hosted) site. These features include allowing WordPress.com users to like and follow you, automatically posting to social media, and keeping you updated when your site is down. Jetpack also gives you the ability to use the WordPress app on your mobile device to check stats, comments, and even to post. It’s a convenient plug-in with a lot of features, and when you’re just starting out, it’s a good plug-in to help connect everything for you.
Jetpack is a free tool; they do have paid versions, but the free version has everything you need as a new blogger.
Headlines are the bane of my writing existence. I am terrible at coming up with catchy headlines that make people want to read. That’s why I was thrilled when I learned there were headline analyzers out there. I use the AIM headline analyzer. It’s free to use, and it gives you the emotional marketing value of your headline. Headlines are crucial because they are the deciding factor of whether or not someone will bother reading your post. Don’t just wing it.
There are many other available tools out there that are great to have. I have used or do use many more blogging tools than the ones mentioned above. Some of them I love, and some of them were a waste of my time or my money (or both). These nine blogging tools are the ones I recommend for all new bloggers. Get your checklist of these nine tools plus five bonus tools that will get your blog flowing smoothly when you sign up below.
Do you have any other blogging tools that you love and recommend? Let me know in the comments!