Let's get straight to the point. Here's my list of the best blogging tools that I use in my own creative career and business.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals 2019
Hey hey! Tis the season to save money, tra la la la! And so on. This year, more companies than ever before have started their discounts early. Black Friday is November 29th and there are brilliant deals to be had on some of the best blogging tools around.
I've added them in to this blog post but do keep checking back. As I find more, I shall add them here, of course!
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.
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 Blogging Tools
The Blog Itself
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.
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/month) it is so very powerful. Don't stumble around in the dark! Learn from my mistakes!
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.
Photo & Video Kit
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.
Here on the lab, I produce almost all of our images myself. Here's a quick guides to the best blogging tools for imagery.
Tools for Vlogging
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 and Video Editing
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.
- They currently have a great Black Friday offer going. Save 39% on all Creative Cloud Apps if you sign up before the end of play, November 29th.
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.
- 40% Black Friday deal on Blogstomp as well!
SEO Blogging Tools
Oh, how part of me wishes we didn't need to talk about this! But, we do.
SEO means Search Engine Optimisation 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.
- Use the code blackfriday19 at checkout for a 40% discount. Check your watch for this one: it's for 29th November only.
After that, the entry level 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.
- You can trial Keysearch for free or look out for their great big Black Friday deal on, well, Friday.
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.
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.
There are many blogging courses out there. Most really aren't worth it. I've tried almost them all (what did I tell ya?!) and here are the ones I'd recommend.
- The Genius Blogger's Toolkit - only on sale twice a year and sadly not on Black Friday. However, sign up by email to be the first to hear when it goes on sale.
- Helen in Between runs a number of courses on instagram. If you hate the idea of flat lays and fairy lights but want to crack the instagram code, then this is the course for you. She currently has an astonishing discount available on her instagram content system course - 70% off and no coupon needed.
- Monica from the Travel Hack runs a fantastic introductory course to blogging. She's currently on maternity leave but again, this is one to watch out for in the future.
- 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. And there's a 40% Black Friday and Cyber Monday discount available here. No coupon required.