Whether you’re a beginner just starting to blog or an old pro looking to grow your site, the huge number of blogging tools and resources out there can be overwhelming.
That’s why we keep things simple.
Our list is short. It’s filled with only a handful of categories. And we only mention the best blogging tools — those we use ourselves or recommend to our students.
In this guide:
- Web Hosting
- Email Marketing Tools
- Domain Registration
- WordPress Themes
- Keyword Research Tool
- Other Favorite Blogging Tools
Without a dependable web host, your blog will be slow, your readers will be frustrated, and Google will push your content to the bottom of search results.
Our Pick for Most Bloggers:
SiteGround (affiliate link) is like one of those hole-in-the-wall restaurants that’s both affordable and really freaking good, and it’s the WordPress host we recommend to our students.
Managed WordPress hosting plans start at $3.95 per month.
Email Marketing Tools
Ask fifty bloggers for their biggest regret, and most will tell you they wish they’d started building their email list sooner.
The lesson? If you’re not already capturing the email addresses of your readers, you need to start immediately. Here’s what you’ll need:
- An email marketing service, and
- A lead generation tool.
Here are our recommendations:
Best (Free) Email Marketing Service:
We used to recommend MailChimp to our students, but unfortunately their free plan no longer supports automated onboarding. Now we recommend MailerLite (affiliate link).
MailerLite is free if you have fewer than 1,001 subscribers. You’re able to send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. And when your site grows, you can either upgrade to one of MailerLite’s paid plans or switch over to our next recommendation.
Email Marketing Service for Serious Bloggers:
Founded by a blogger, ConvertKit (affiliate link) is the email marketing solution of choice for serious bloggers big and small.
The starter plan is $25 per month when you pay annually, and it comes with a risk-free, 14-day trial.
Favorite Lead Generation Plugin:
To turn blog traffic into leads, you need a way to capture the email addresses of your readers. With an email list plugin like Convert Pro (affiliate link) or Sumo, you can strategically place opt-in forms and pop-ups throughout your website.
Convert Pro isn’t free, but its drag-and-drop editor is the most user-friendly we’ve tested for creating attractive pop-ups.
Once you’ve found a great domain name, you’ll need to register it before it’s snatched up by someone else. To do that, you need a domain registrar.
Our Pick for All Bloggers:
Namecheap (affiliate link) is our favorite domain registrar.
Domain registration is one of those things where it doesn’t make sense to pay extra. So long as you’re going through a reputable company, like Namecheap, you’re good to go.
Prices start at $8.88 per year for a .com domain name extension.
Content is indeed king. But if the design of your blog is unsightly and amateurish, most readers will never give your blog content a chance.
If You Want a FREE WordPress Theme:
If you want a free, lightweight theme that excels at customization and performance, Astra is a great choice.
If You Want a Premium WordPress Theme:
Astra Pro (affiliate link) takes everything our experts love about Astra’s free version and turns them up to 11.
It costs $59 annually, or for a one-time payment of $249 you can get lifetime updates. And you get a lot for the money: WooCommerce integration, more site layout options, better header and footer designs, 1-on-1 customer support, and more.
If You Want an Advanced Page Builder:
Elementor Pro (affiliate link) lets you create landing pages, design high-quality pop-ups, and customize every aspect of your WordPress site with a slick drag-and-drop editor. Among its numerous features, you get a dedicated set of 80 design tools that’ll let you fine-tune to your heart’s content.
Personal plans start at $49 per year. There’s also a free plan with limited features.
Keyword Research Tool
You can get pretty far as a blogger with know-how, grit, and determination. But to compete with those big blogs and websites you’re chasing in Google’s search engine results, you need a tool that can help you think like Google.
Our Pick for All-in-One Search Engine Optimization Toolset:
SEMrush and Moz are other good options (and the Google Keyword Planner can offer some nice insights for those on a budget), but Ahrefs (affiliate link) is the SEO toolset we use here at Smart Blogger.
It provides everything you need to grow your Google search traffic, perform in-depth keyword research, and monitor your competitors. Their SEO Toolbar (a Google Chrome extension) is one of our favorite blogging tools — in any category.
Ahrefs plans start at $99 per month, and they offer a 7-day trial for $7 if you’d like to take them for a spin.
Other Favorite Blogging Tools Worth Mentioning
Before wrapping things up, here’s a quick rundown of great blogging tools we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention.
Need a helping hand while you hone your craft? These writing tools can assist you while you’re learning the ropes.
- If you’re prone to spelling or grammar mistakes, Grammarly (affiliate link) is an AI-powered writing assistant. It’s as good as you’ve heard.
- The Hemingway App can help you improve the readability of your posts. If your content is too complex (or even passive), Hemingway will tell you.
- Want a tool that’ll help you write better headlines? The Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule will rate your headline and tell you how well it will do.
Social Media Scheduling Tools:
Want a tool that will let you schedule tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest pins, and LinkedIn posts in advance? If social media is a big part of your promotion arsenal, using one of the scheduling tools listed below could save you lots of time.
- Buffer’s Publish tool has several pricing tiers, but its free plan offers 3 social accounts, 10 scheduled posts, and 1 user.
- Like Buffer, Hootsuite’s free plan also includes 3 social media accounts and 1 user, but allows 30 scheduled posts.
- MeetEdgar isn’t free, but it’s packed with features. You get 25 social media accounts and continuous posting. Load your posts and MeetEdgar will continue to publish and reshare them — even once you reach the end of your queue.
Social Sharing Icons:
Want to turn your existing audience into advocates? Social sharing buttons let readers tell their friends and family about your posts with two quick clicks or taps.
- Social Warfare (affiliate link) is a WordPress plugin that lets you add lightweight, professional-looking social share icons to your blog content. This free tool makes it easy for your existing readers to share your posts, which can bring more traffic back to your site.
- Social Warfare Pro (affiliate link) is the free version on steroids. If you want more sharing options, custom design, and even more features, the pro version is a worthwhile upgrade. And at only $29 per year for a single site, it’s an affordable upgrade too.
Most bloggers, especially when they’re starting out, are one-person teams. They’re in charge of everything — content, design, promotion, troubleshooting bugs, you name it. If you have the budget for it, outsourcing some of these tasks will let you focus on the areas of blogging you enjoy (and that bring in money).
- Our pick for a 24/7 WordPress support team is Plugmatter (affiliate link). With plans starting at $99 per month, Plugmatter will troubleshoot quick fixes, give you plugin consulting, handle WordPress and plugin updates, regularly back up your WordPress blog, and more.
If you want your content to rank well in Google’s search engine results, you need to be SEO minded. These tools will help.
- The Yoast SEO plugin is the gold standard of WordPress SEO plugins. No matter your level of expertise, it’ll help you with your search engine optimization. Yoast SEO has both free and premium versions, but its free version will suffice for most users.
- One of the Yoast SEO plugin’s features is letting you know whether your headline and meta description are too long. But if you want more detail, if you want to see precisely how your blog post will look in Google’s search engine results, the free tool SERPsim is one you’ll want to bookmark.
- Google offers a variety of free SEO tools. In addition to the aforementioned Google Keyword Planner, Google Search Console lets you discover and fix errors on your site (which can hurt you in SERPs). And to see how your SEO efforts are paying off, Google Analytics lets you track your website traffic.
Why create content you hope will connect with an audience when you can discover what types of content are already making connections?
- BuzzSumo is a content marketing research tool that lets you see how popular a keyword, blog topic, or specific URL is on social media. It also lets you find popular influencers on social media, which is very handy when you’re doing email outreach.
- Another free tool from Google, Google Trends lets you check what keywords people are searching for all over the world. If you’re looking for new blog post ideas, it’s a nice resource.
Images can complement your words and turn run-of-the-mill blog posts into eye candy. These tools will help you make the most of yours.
- We use Canva to create our social media graphics. It’s powerful and easy to use. Their free plan has all the bells and whistles most bloggers will need, but if you need more functionality, the Pro plan is well worth its $9.95 per month price tag.
- Large images slow down your blog, which makes Google push you down in search engine results. The free Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin by WPMU DEV will optimize your images as you import them into WordPress. You can also “bulk smush” up to 50 images at a time. If you use lots of screenshots and stock photos in your content, you’ll appreciate this plugin.
Productivity tools aren’t sexy, but they’re necessities. Here are our favorites:
- We use G Suite (affiliate link) here at Smart Blogger. We use it for emails, business calendars, and every blog post begins life as a Google Doc (where version history lets us review every change and every comment). It’s possibly the blogging tool we use most often, and we highly recommend it.
- The Smart Blogger team lives inside Slack. When the day comes where your blogging team of one becomes a blogging team of two or more, you’ll need a collaboration tool. Slack is as good as it gets.
So Which Blogging Tools are Right for You?
Wherever you are on your blogging journey, you now know the tools needed to take you to the next level.
We’ve done the research and explored all the dead ends (so you don’t have to). Now it’s up to you grab the tools you need and get to work.
If you have a question regarding a particular tool, post it in the comments below. We’ll do our best to help you.
About the Authors
When he’s not busy telling waitresses, baristas, and anyone else who crosses his path that Jon Morrow once said he was in the top 1% of bloggers, Kevin J. Duncan is the Editor-in-Chief for Smart Blogger.
Marsha Stopa is senior instructor and coach for all Smart Blogger courses. She’s living her dream in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, where she bought a fixer-upper among the bears on a quiet mountain with a stunning view.
Editor’s Note: This post has received a significant update since it was first published in 2013. As a result, some of the blog comments reference points that have been modified or removed.