This post may contain affiliate links but all opinions are my own.
When I started blogging, I had no idea what was involved! I thought I could just sit at my computer, type a few paragraphs and call it a day. I sure have learned a lot since then! Not only do you have to be on social media, you have to schedule tweets, posts, pins and then if you still have time, go do some stumbling! You have to take great pictures (goodbye point & click, hello DSLR) and then have the tools to improve upon them after the fact.
I still don’t know all the answers, not even close, but I’m learning a lot as I go and have made some awesome discoveries along the way. These are some of the tools I’ve been using that I truly feel have helped me to become a better blogger…not sure how I ever lived without them!Check Out These 10 Essentials That Will Make You A Better Blogger! Click To Tweet
I didn’t have to take actual pictures of anything for a long time. I was able to use pictures that I found free online (more on that below) to tie in with the theme of whatever post I was writing. However, over the last few months I’ve been creating a lot of recipes and of course you can’t post a recipe without pictures to go along with it! I finally had to break down and buy a DSLR and I am so glad I did! It was a little intimidating at first (there sure are a lot of settings!) but once I figured out the basics, it got a lot easier! I can clearly see the difference in the photographs from my point & click and the DSLR…it’s not even close. Before I made my purchase, I did a lot of research and went with the Canon EOS Rebel T5 (I’m a Canon girl). Not only does it have great reviews but it was also recommended by many of my blogging friends. While it wasn’t cheap, it’s been a great investment and worth every penny!
Ideally, all photos should be shot in natural light. While I try to do that, it’s not always practical. I found that there were days when I was stressing myself out trying to get everything done so that I could take photos before the sun disappeared. I asked other bloggers what they did and the majority swore by the Lowel Ego. Turns out they totally knew what they were talking about! I’ve took these Party Mix photos with my Lowel Ego at midnight and you’d never know! All you need is the light and a couple of cheap, white reflector boards from the dollar store and you could take your pictures at 3am if you wanted to! Again, it’s not cheap but if you are serious about blogging as a business, you can consider it an investment.
I used free stock photos for a long time (and sometimes still do) and Pixabay has been my go-to site to find them. I’ve checked out many other free sites but Pixabay always seems to have the best selection. You can search by subject and they often have hundreds, even thousands, to fit the category you’re looking for. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay for your images, I highly recommend this site.
Big Stock Photo
If you can work it into your budget to pay for photos, this is a great site! Their regular rates are really high but I took advantage of a promo awhile back and got a great deal. Though I love Pixabay, Big Stock Photo is clearly a step up (as it should be, you’re paying for it!). The images are top notch and the other advantage is that you’re a lot less likely to see an image you’ve used pop up on a ton of similar sites. You can use my affiliate link to sign up here for a free 14 day trial, just to see if you like it!!
I LOVE PicMonkey and use it for every aspect of my photo editing! Need to add a text overlay, brighten a picture or create a collage? PicMonkey can do that and so much more! I used the free version for a long time and always loved it. I finally upgraded to the paid version (not a bad deal at $4.99 a month or $33 for a year) because I wanted the additional fonts, overlays, etc. However, that’s just me and the free version is pretty awesome on it’s own!
If you are planning to create a weekly newsletter, MailChimp is the way to go. It’s so easy…the fact that I can do it is proof of that! You can use their plug-ins for your online sign-ups and create templates for your newsletters if you don’t want to create your own. It even tells you how many people open your newsletter and then how many actually click on the links within it. The best part is that MailChimp is completely free until you hit your first 2,000 subscribers.
Easy Recipe & Easy Recipe Plus Plugins
When I first started food blogging, I tried a lot of different recipe card plug-ins. After doing a little experimenting, I found that I liked Easy Recipe the most. It’s simple and straightforward to use and I just liked the overall look of it. You just click the button in your toolbar and the recipe card pops up within your post. All you do then is type in the ingredients and instructions. I’ve since upgraded to Easy Recipe Plus because I wanted to be able to customize it more by adding photos, colors, etc. However, like PicMonkey, the free version is pretty awesome and you really can’t go wrong with either one.
Once I really discovered the power of Twitter, I started using it all the time. However, I’ve found that you definitely don’t want to send out your tweets at once and call it a day. It’s so important to schedule them so that they’re seen in intervals throughout the day. Hootsuite is my go-to site for this! You can add all your tweets to Hootsuite and have them scheduled for you at peak times of the day or you can just schedule them yourself. This way, you can have 12 tweets going out over a 12 hour period (every hour on the hour) rather then sending them out all at once, which would surely reacher a much smaller number of people. You can also bulk upload up to 350 tweets at once, so you can upload your tweets and then forget about it for a few days! You do have to pay $14.99 for this service but it’s been totally worth it for me. It’s very user friendly and has made my life, at least my Twitter life, much simpler.
This is like Hootsuite but for Pinterest. Tailwind helps you keep on top of scheduling your pins so that it’s one less thing you have to think about on a daily basis. If it weren’t for Tailwind, my pins would probably be very sparce! I go on once or twice a week, schedule my pins and Tailwind does the rest! It’s so easy. You can also use their analytics to see just how your Pinterest site is doing and what areas you may need to focus on. I love that it tells me how many new followers I’ve gained, how many repins I’ve had and even how many of those repins were from my own posts. It does cost $9.99 a month (another service that I feel is totally worth it) but you can test it out with a free trial first to see if you like it. If you use my Tailwind affiliate link to sign up for your free trial, you’ll get a $15 credit if you ultimately decide to upgrade to the paid service.
I could spend all day snooping around on Google Analytics! It pretty much tells you anything you’d ever want to know about your blog…how many people are checking it out, what posts they like most, how they found you, how long they’re staying…I could go on and on! In fact, I could hop on to GA and find out how many people are looking at my site this very moment and what they’re looking at. One of my favorite things to do is to see how many visits I’m getting from other countries! I’m still always amazed when I see that people in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are reading my blog…so cool! Anyway, while that’s more of a fun fact, the other aspects of GA can really help me improve my blog by showing me where my traffic comes from, what my readers are interested in and more. If you’re a blogger and you don’t have Google Analytics installed, you should go do that right now! I promise, it will be the best thing you can do for your blog.
So there you have it…my 10 favorite blogging tools! There are a million other great ones though, probably many that I don’t even know about yet. What blogging tools do you love that you just can’t live without?
Want to learn more? Find out How I Finally Started To Make Money From Blogging