UPDATE!! 14 essential blogging tools for a successful blog

JANUARY 2018: I’ve just added 2 more tools!

I have been blogging now for six years. 6 YEARS!! I only realised that the other day when I went through the pink notebook I had when I started blogging. And in the beginning, I did everything myself. That is important because it teaches you about the running of your blog and your business. As much as I wanted to outsource everything, I just couldn’t afford it (because it took me two years to start making decent money – way too long! Which why I am writing a book for South Africans wanting to make money from their blogs. Click here to sign up for the waiting list!)

Anyway, so only once I started to run a profitable blog, was I able to begin outsourcing stuff. Now, I have an excellent virtual assistant who REALLY simplifies my life and a cache of freelance writers from around the world. I will tell you more about the behind the scenes guys in a future post.

But outsourcing work is only half of it. There are so many plugins for your site and stand-alone apps that can really simplify things, and this list contains my personal can’t-blog-without ones!

A quick note on plugins: you are only able to customise if you have a WordPress.org site, not if you’re running on WordPress.com – if you’re not sure of the difference between the 2, read this article here

1.Zoho I don’t know how I survived before I discovered online business management suite, Zoho. At first, I only used Zoho Invoice, a free cloud-based invoicing system. And later when things got too busy, I switched to Zoho Books, a paid version, but it integrates with bank accounts, Paypal and also works in multiple currencies – perfect if you’re running a (little) global business! If you want to sign up for Zoho, click here!

This Zoho link above is referral link by the way – if you want to know more about those, click here!

2. WordPress Editorial Calendar & Google Calendar Both free, I combine these two apps to help me keep track of what to do when. I use my editorial calendar plugin to schedule my publication dates for Homeology posts for the month. In my case, being a maker and blogging for various other publications as well, it then gets a little more complicated than that.

My editorial calendar doesn’t yet integrate with Google (holding thumbs that it will do that any day now!!), so I manually transfer those publication dates over to my Google Calendar. And then I have to figure out when to commission work, what the deadlines are for getting that work back, when to edit, when to make the actual projects for both my clients and myself, when to write, and when to do admin and meetings and everything else. All of that while navigating between the school run, cricket practice, art class, doctor’s appointments and karate. Thank goodness for an amazing husband that helps out! And thank goodness that my kids are in bed by 8pm so that I can get some more work done 😉

3. HootSuite another amazingly versatile tool that lets you schedule social posts in advance through an easy drag-and-drop system. I have been using Hootsuite for a year now, and it made things a whole lot easier. Before that, I manually posted to Facebook, with an auto-post from there to Twitter. Whenever I did research, I posted to Pinterest as well. And Instagram was totally lost on me. Now, I outsource the bulk of my social media to my virtual assistant, and everything runs off Hootsuite. Facebook and Twitter are both managed directly in Hootsuite; Pinterest runs through the Tailwindapp on Hootsuite (see below) and Instagram is lined up with manual publishing functionality installed on my phone (Instagram doesn’t technically allow scheduling since it takes away from the instant nature of the app). If you’d like to know more about HootSuite and what it can do, click on the link above!

4. Tailwindapp this is a brilliant app on its own, or when used in conjunction with HootSuite. Tailwind is exclusively for Pinterest and Instagram. Once you have the app installed, you have a little “schedule” button on images, much like the “pin it” button. When you click on that, it will take you to a pop-up where you schedule the pin. Easy as that. The interface is super user-friendly and really makes Pinterest scheduling a breeze. It does have an Instagram functionality as well, but as mentioned I use the one on Hootsuite. UPDATE 18 Jan 17: I have since this post gone IG-crazy and now schedule posts for my own accounts and my clients’ using the Tailwindapp. LOVE IT!

5. Skype the easiest way for me to work with freelancers and to chat with clients. Free, simple.

6. Paypal I have tried out many different ways of getting paid, and in the end, this really is the easiest. I transact in dollar quite a bit, both by getting paid and paying freelancers, so a dollar account makes sense for me. My Paypal account is connected to my FNB business account, so it’s easy getting money out as well. And as mentioned earlier, Zoho Books also connects to my Paypal account, so when I look at my overall finances, everything is in the same place based on today’s exchange rates. Which makes it REALLY convenient.

7. Ultimate Landing Page Premium This is a paid-for app, but it is totally worth it. This is the app that I’ve used to create this landing page and this landing page. It takes about 2 minutes to do one, and when you get stuck, the support is fast and efficient. I have used this app for clients as well – works like a charm!

8. MailChimp I used Mailpoet for the longest time. It’s free up to a certain number of subscribers, and especially when you want to do newsletters featuring your blog’s content, it is the easiest way. But last year I changed to MailChimp, for a few reasons. The most important one is that Mailchimp allows you to set up drip campaigns, and it integrates with SO MANY apps it’s ridiculous. If you’re starting out, use Mailpoet. Once you’ve started to make money and want a bit more, then I would recommend MailChimp.

9. Upwork I have written about Upwork a few times, but this website really is my go-to place for anything. I regularly get the following services from people who I’ve found on Upwork: virtual assistance; accounting; web development; freelance writing; graphic design – and I find a lot of work on Upwork as well. Read more about my various income streams here.

10. Google Analytics – sometimes I hate it, and sometimes I love it, but that is more to do with my traffic than the quality of the app! Google analytics is a must for any blogger, to help you see what works and what doesn’t. It also has lots of useful stats that you can dig into to better understand your readers – and to put on your rate card.

11. Coschedule Headline Analyzer – this super useful tool lets you test your headlines for email, blog posts and marketing campaigns to “get more engagement, shares, and traffic back to your blog posts with SEO driven, emotional headlines” – in their words. I don’t publish anything without testing it on the headline analyser first, whether I write for a client or myself – it’s almost become a game for me to see what is the best score I can achieve. Thus far, I’m at 77 – but I shall prevail!

UPDATE 13 March 17: I have just reached a score of 80! The winning title: 10 of the most beautiful kitchen backsplashes

12: Make A Website Hub Blog Idea Generator – the truth of the matter is this: sometimes, in spite of your best intentions and dedication to write and create new content, you just don’t know what to write about. This handy tool will churn out ideas with the keywords you give it. Sometimes it will come up with some really stupid suggestions (8 Things about Homes Your Boss Wants To Know – a personal favourite!), but some are really worth exploring, like Designs? Use These Ideas At Your Own Risk. I will then tweak it a bit to something like “Bedroom Designs: Use These Ideas At Your Own Risk.” I don’t even know what I’m going to write, but I would want to read that!

UPDATE 18 January 18: A useful new tool!

13. SiteBeginner – Sometimes you have big dreams for your new blog but aren’t sure where to start from a technical perspective. SiteBeginner is a great guide to help you get your new website off the ground quickly so you can begin blogging. Be sure to check out their Learn section for even more guides and tutorials.

14. Grammarly – since writing this post, I have seriously upped my writing game. And because of that, I have been able to charge substantially more for my work as well. Here’s a bit of a secret: English is NOT my first language. I grew up in an Afrikaans home, my husband is Afrikaans, and we are raising our kids Afrikaans. My name should be a dead giveaway! While I speak English like it is my mother tongue, a little tech assistance never hurts. Grammarly is a great way to check your writing for mistakes and to ensure that your work is faultless. There are both free and paid-for versions, depending on how serious you are about your craft.

These are the things that I am not able to do without at the moment. These change as my business grows and my requirements change, but for now, I can highly recommend all of them.

If there’s anything that you find indispensable as a blogger, let me know – I’d love to add to this list!

Happy blogging!

Rose petal and black coffee feature image from Shutterstock.

Comments · 2

  1. Great tips Germarie. I’m a soon-to-be blogger so this content is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing.

    in terms of web hosting, would you recommend a local or international one?

    1. Thanks Kupha,
      re hosting, I don’t really have much experience with anyone else that Hostgator which is what I’ve been using since I started. As long as they can give you a stable service with great customer support and a deal that fits your budget, I am sure local can be just as good as international.

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