After a decade in the business, here's my list of the best blogging tools for beginners and pros.
If you're new here, hi! My name is Abi and I run Inside the Travel Lab, described as one of the best blogs in the world by National Geographic Traveller and Lonely Planet.
But I started with nothing, as many of the top bloggers did.
The Best Blogging Tools for Beginners and Beyond
While I'd always advise starting out with free tools, if you want to make money from blogging or develop a professional platform then you will need to invest in some software to keep track of things.
Here are some of the best blogging tools out there, including discounts where possible. If you buy through some of the links then we may earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, there's plenty that we won't do, either or, erm, haven't got around to sorting out!
These tools are only here because they're helpful.
The Best Blog Platform and Other Basics
WordPress.org remains the most robust blogging platform out there. Each of the tools I use integrates with WordPress. There is a free version, WordPress.com but you won't be able to do everything you need to do with that. If you are brand new, play around with that first. Then, move to WordPress.org as soon as possible. It's a versatile content management system with plenty of free blogging tools alongside the paid versions.
In terms of what your site looks like, you'll need a WordPress Theme. There are hundreds to choose from. I use Thrive Themes because they offer such flexibility and have always been fast to respond to queries. They are designed with business in mind and you won't need separate landing page software if you use their product.
If you're worried about creativity, don't be. Despite the rather functional look of their website, you can create all the hipster cool and arty designs you want using their easy drag and drop software.
Google Analytics offers the most in detail reports about who is looking at your blog, which pages, from which country and more. These are the stats that advertisers and partners will want to see when you come to make money from your blog. It's a free blogging tool and one you should always have in place.
You will need your own domain name if you plan to blog for business. Setting this up can be complicated but it's a one time task. Check out the blogging courses listed here if you need some help with this.
Email Newsletter Tools
Possibly the biggest mistake I ever made involved putting off delving into email software. It's now one of my most important blogging tools. And while it doesn't come cheap (around $50 USD per month) my email marketing tool is so very powerful. Don't stumble around in the dark! Learn from my mistakes and start building your email list now!
Many bloggers start with the free options, such as MailChimp for email. But soon enough, you need your email to be able to do more.
I've written a full review about ConvertKit vs MailChimp vs Ontraport over here, as I found it needlessly complicated to work out which suited me best.
For me, ConvertKit was the easiest to use and suited blogging perfectly. The others suited small businesses with shops and appointments - I didn't need that and nor will most bloggers.
You can try for free here before upgrading to use its full features.
Have a special offer that's running out soon? Use Sendtric to create a timer that ticks down to provide a visual reminder. Insert into Convertkit and the whole thing is done in about five minutes, for free. Love it.
Why it's important to look good
Simply put, you need to have excellent photos and video these days. In the early days of blogging, readers were forgiving and enjoyed the rough and ready, raw and, well, whatever other polite word we can think of to describe "bad" photos.
Not any more.
You either need to invest in the tech, the kit and the skills to produce great images and video yourself. Or you need to legally use someone else's.
I've written an in depth guide to what I consider essential vlogging gear over here, for beginners to intermediate bloggers.
If you don't want to get into all the detail, I've also gathered together the kit over on a handy list on Amazon for you.
Photo Editing Tools for Bloggers
You need to be able to edit your photos and videos. Not just to make them look pretty but also to be able to resize them so that they don't slow down your blog.
Adobe: The Gold Standard
The best blogging toolkit for this is Adobe. Unfortunately, like almost everyone else, they have moved to a subscription model.
However, you will find different packages, so you don't need to pay for everything. There is a photo only subscription, as well as a more in depth one that includes their video editing software Adobe Premiere and Adobe Rush. Premiere gives you the level of control that Hollywood uses. Adobe Rush is great for putting together social video on the run.
Lightroom is a fantastic piece of kit for editing and resizing photos. I'm on it every single day and it syncs nicely with images on your phone so you can edit on the go.
For super in depth editing and polishing, Adobe Photoshop remains the industry gold standard.
Canva.com offers incredibly intuitive templates and editing tools for graphics. I'm not sure what I'd do without it. Incredibly, it's also free for the most part. The paid version allows you to quickly resize designs and allows teams to contribute. But the free version works so well for designing images for Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and the rest, it will cover you for all beginner and intermediate needs.
Not sure you want to buy so many blogging tools? Hold back on this one for now. Learn how to use it for free first.
Blogstomp is a much cheaper alternative to Adobe and much easier to learn how to use. You can use it to create collages or resize images with various presets, or as a batch. To be honest, I sometimes still use it when I'm in a rush and creating small pics as it's so fast.
After a while, you'll find two problems emerging: where to store your best images and how to share them with sponsors or clients in a professional, restricted manner. Enter Photoshelter, a purpose-built tool for photographers. You can easily create different albums with different permissions. How is this different to Dropbox? It's set up for people to be able to browse through your images and choose which they need. Dropbox is more of a job lot transfer.
Also, Photoshelter looks much more professional and comes packed with creative articles and tips to help you as well.
SEO Blogging Tools
SEO means Search Engine Optimization and it's a mix of strategy, tech and rewriting your work so that the search engines like Google can find and rank it more easily.
There are many pieces of software out there that churn through people's searches and websites, looking for the secret sauce.
Knowing how to use keywords can really increase your blogging success, but it's certainly not an intuitive process for creatives.
To help you get started, I'd definitely recommend:
Make Traffic Happen eBooks
Written by successful bloggers, the Make Traffic Happen series cover SEO, reviving old content and now how to increase your page speed.
After that, the entry level keyword research tool for blogging SEO is Keysearch. This allows you to search and save for keywords as well as analyse the "strength" of your competitors. I am still getting to grips with this but that's due to a lack of time. It's easy to use and other bloggers absolutely swear by it.
Note: Google Keyword Planner used to be a great free blogging tool but it's more geared towards advertisers now.
SEMRush is a bigger beast with even more keyword search facilities, a social scheduler and a content audit of your blog. If you've been blogging for a while then a number of broken links, dead links, out of date content and weird technical glitches will have crept in to your work.
It's near impossible to crawl through all this yourself: SEMRush does it for you. It's not perfect and it's not cheap but it will turbo charge your blogging efforts.
There are many blogging courses out there. Most really aren't worth it. I've tried almost them all and here are the ones I'd recommend:
The Genius Blogger's Toolkit
This is one of the best blogging tools for beginners and beyond because it is a huge amalgamation or bundle of blogging books, PDFs, courses and audio recordings. It only goes on sale twice a year but I can give you the heads up when it's ready if you subscribe to our newsletter.
THE BLOGGER COURSE
- Monica from the Travel Hack runs a fantastic introductory course to blogging. She is just back from maternity leave and has opened up The Blogger Course again.
BEST BLOGGING TOOL FOR WRITING: WRITE BETTER, RIGHT NOW
Write Better, Right Now. Erm, that's right. My course. It doesn't focus on the tech side of blogging but the core features of writing well. From headlines to SEO, art to craft, it teaches you the secrets that published writers know.
It is entirely possible not to spend a single penny on training and learn everything you need to know about blogging and social media through free resources on the web.
But, and it's a big but. It takes a lot of time. A lot of internet street savvy. And a lot of dead ends.
I'm a big believer in education and truly value the clarity and time that a good instructor or book can bring.
The Best WordPress Plugins
Everyone has their favourite list of WordPress plugins. But the fewer you use, the better as a general rule for the health of your site. Here's my collection.
- Yoast SEO - This is the gold standard WordPress plugin to help you with SEO. There is a free and paid option and both are great.
- Akismet Anti-Spam - time trusted anti spam plugin.
- Broken Link Checker - over time, broken links will appear on your blog. This blogging tool helps to identify them so that you can weed them out.
- Dynamic To Top - I love this plugin! Inserts a small button at the end of your articles that allows readers to zoom right back up to the top.
- Geo Mashup - perhaps only useful for travel blogs, this plugin allows you to add a location to each page or post.
- Grow by Mediavine - the latest version of the Social Pug sharing plugin. Helps share your articles to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and so on.
- Redirection - as your blog grows, you may need to change the URLs of some posts. This plugin will help you create a redirect to compensate for this.
- Search exclude - can prevent certain posts or pages appearing in the search results on your site. Useful for product sales.
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer - helps to reduce the speed of your wordpress site by optimizing image files.
- The Blog Fixer - helps to keep your affiliate links clean and content up to date.
- The Webalyst EU Cookie Law Plugin - satisfies the legal requirement from EU countries.
The Best Blogging Tools for Beginners and Pros: Summary
So what did you think of this guide to the best blogging tools for beginners and pros? Please share, bookmark and leave a comment and all the best for your own blogging career! After that, it's time to work out how to promote your blog.
Best of luck!