If you’re new to blogging, or if you’ve done any research, you’ve probably seen a lot of articles that talk about blogging tools. From hosting plans to Pinterest schedulers, it’s super confusing when you’re getting started and you see a lot of bloggers recommending a lot of different things!
Today I’m sharing the blogging tools that I actually use, what I’ve tried and didn’t like, and what I skipped altogether.
Full disclosure: For some of these services, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you sign up. For some of them I don’t get anything — I simply recommend them because I use them and love them.
6 Blogging Tools You Need
For each category I’ve listed my picks, what to skip, freebies, and more!
My pick: Bluehost
I’ve been with Bluehost since I switched from a free blogging site to self-hosted a few months into my blogging journey. I’ve been with them ever since! (Read more about why I don’t recommend starting a blog on a free blogging platform).
I started with the Basic Plan, which is only a few bucks a month and upgraded to the WordPress Plan when my traffic hit 150K a month.
Reasons I love Bluehost:
- One of the best values price-wise in web hosting
- Recommended by WordPress.org
- 24/7 service (I’ve called at 2am and gotten a live person immediately!)
- Experience and resources (they host over 1 million websites!)
If you sign up through my link, you’ll get a special offer just for fans of the Soccer Mom Blog, which gives you a lower price than what’s listed on their regular website!
Newsletter / Email Services
Unlike social media networks, which change their algorithms often (affecting your reach), you have complete control over your email list. That’s why it’s so important to start collecting emails right off the bat!
- Feedburner — A free service from Google which allows you to manage your RSS feed and send out an email update to subscribers when you publish a new post. It’s basic, but it’s absolutely better than nothing and is useful for getting clicks on brand new posts.
- MailChimp — Free until you hit 2000 subscribers, and then you bump up into paid plans. I used MailChimp in the early days of my newsletter for an obvious reason…it’s free! (For a while). I later switched over to ConvertKit for more features and detailed analytics.
- ConvertKit — When I decided to get serious about my newsletter, I switched to ConvertKit, and my open rate doubled almost immediately! With ConvertKit, I find it easier to segment my list so I can target subscriber’s interests. This likely contributes to a higher open rate and higher click-through rate.
Social Media Scheduling Tools
Facebook — I recommend sticking with Facebook’s own native scheduler (scheduling posts through Facebook itself) because their algorithm prefers it. You’ll likely see lower post reach if you use an outside scheduling tool, paid or not.
Twitter — Some of my blogging friends use Buffer and swear by it, however, I simply use Twitter’s free scheduling tool: TweetDeck. Twitter gives a lower return on investment than all of my other social media networks, so it’s not where I choose to dedicate my resources.
My pick: I use Tailwind and love it because it allows me to pin content at prime times, even if I’m not able to get to my phone or computer. In my first three months using Tailwind, my Pinterest following tripled — jumping from 7000 to 21,000 followers! Tailwind offers awesome analytics to show which of your boards perform best, and the new “tribes” feature helps you find and share content with bloggers you know.
PASS: I experimented with BoardBooster for a couple months because some bloggers rave about it. While I found BoardBooster easy to set up, my results were terrible: slower growth and lower traffic. A Pinterest “insider” speaking at a blogging conference last year explained that BoardBooster is not a Pinterest-approved partner. It’s possible that some bloggers truly do have a good experience with BoardBooster, but I didn’t.
IZEA (formerly Sponsored Tweets) — This is the first influencer network I joined and one of the first ways I started making money blogging. I absolutely love the team at IZEA because they are approachable and easy to work with. Through the IZEA dashboard (and phone app), you can bid on offers that interest you AND brands can contact you directly with offers. I started by making a few dollars to send out sponsored tweets over a year and a half ago, and now I regularly partner on sponsored blog posts and even longer-term ambassadorships.
TapInfluence — This is another one of my favorite influencer networks for two main reasons. First, the platform is super simple to use because brands/agencies reach out to you with campaigns. Second, the TapInfluence platform provides a recommended rate based on your reach/stats, which is helpful in setting your rate across the board (even with other networks or PR agencies!) This is one of the premium networks, so I recommend applying after you’re getting five-digit page views.
I’m listing a few different ad networks (all of which I highly recommend), because your blog traffic will play a big factor in this. I separated my picks by the amount of monthly page views your blog receives:
Under 30,000 monthly page views
Google Adsense — This is the first ad network I used, and it is for many bloggers. While Adsense generally accepts newish bloggers, I recommend waiting until you’re getting at least 5000 page views a month to increase your chances. (Plus you won’t make noticeable income before that anyway).
Media.net — My mom (also professional blogger at My Think Big Life) is with Media.net and is very happy with them. If you’re having trouble getting approved for Google Adsense, or are looking to try something different (and potentially get higher rates), this might be the best option for you!
30,000 t0 100,000 monthly page views
Mediavine — While I am not personally with Mediavine, I met their team and founders at a recent blog conference and they’re great! My partner at In The Kids Kitchen (our joint family food blog) is with Mediavine for her own website and she absolutely loves them. Their rates are substantially better for most mid-range bloggers than the starter networks.
Over 100,000 monthly page views
AdThrive — I can’t say enough about how wonderful it is to be with AdThrive. Not only are their rates some of the best in the biz, their support is top-notch. They reply right away anytime I have a question, and they’ve even helped me with a few tech issues that weren’t even ad related. Love them!!
Facebook Blogger Groups
Banking on Blogging — I’m a little biased because this is MY group! I founded this group in late 2016 with my mom (also a blogger) as a place for bloggers of all experience levels to support and learn from each other. Join us here!
Local groups — I also suggest doing a search on Facebook for blogging groups in your city or state. This is how I found some of my first blogging friends and also how I found out about the first blog conference I ever attended (and loved!)
Coming soon: my favorite courses
Another thing you’ll see LOTS of recommendations for are blogging courses. Some of them are expensive! If you’re going to make a serious investment in a blog or social media course, you’ve got to know if it’s worth it first!
I’m in the process of evaluating courses and learning resources and will add them soon! Be sure check back in the next few weeks for the update!
More Blogging Tips:
- How to Set Up a WordPress Blog
- Blogging Etiquette: What ALL Bloggers Need to Know
- What to do When Someone Plagiarizes Your Blog
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