I’m not one to keep secrets from you – especially not when it’s something that can help you (given you are a blogger or thinking of becoming one). And today you’re getting the complete list of tools and resources I use to build and run this blog. It turned out to be such a long list, that I’ve divided the list into 3 parts:
- Blog hosting, design, email & plugins (that’s this post!)
- Blogging & social media tools (coming up!)
- Photography and graphics design tools (coming up!)
As a newbie blogger, this was definitely the kind of thing I wish I had known – that there’re so many tools out there that can speed up your workflow and make your life easier!
Please note that I will be using referral or affiliate links when relevant. This means that if you decide to purchase something through a link I may receive a discount on my own subscription or a small commission – at no extra cost to you. I only recommend tools I’ve personally used and love 🙂
There’re so many blogging tools out there that can speed up your workflow and make your life easier!
Hosting & Design
What: There’s a lot of different web hosting platforms, and at the moment I have both my domain and hosting with GoDaddy.
Why: Actually, after my recent problems and consequent bad experience with their support staff, I want to move to a new host – if I can get a refund. I’ve previously used BlueHostBlueHost without problems (on an old blog that’s not worth remembering), but SiteGround frequently gets high praise in blogger groups, so it’s one of those two I’ll be going for.
How much? The price depends on what kind of services you need, and they frequently run offers – just make sure to check the renewal price before you jump on anything.
Why: Compared to other platforms, WP gives you the freedom to do anything with your blog – the only limit is your imagination (and your coding skills). Because it’s such a popular platform, there’s plenty of developers making plugins that can help add a lot of functionality to your site without touching any kind of code. I’ll talk more about my favourite plugins in the next section.
How much? It’s free, but you can’t set up a WordPress.org blog without your own domain and hosting (if you’ve ever wondered what it means to be self-hosted, this is it).
Why: Before purchasing my theme I spend a long time looking for magazine themes with room for lots of customization. If you look through the most popular themes on Themeforest there’s a lot to choose from – I also had my eye on this theme called Esquise and The Voux.
How much? By now SimpleMag costs $59, but it was $47 back when I purchased it. You can find less expensive themes, but this is a common price interval. If you think that’s a lot, WordPress does have some free themes you can use, but in the long term, you usually get what you pay for with these themes.
Why: When I’m working on my website I sometimes forget the precise way to write or spell something in relation to coding – this website has everything you’d want to know about it. There’s plenty of examples, and I’ve learned a lot from playing around with the live previews to see what effect a change has.
How much? It’s free!
Related post: Basic HTML for Bloggers
What: Jetpack simply bridges the gap with WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It adds a lot of extra features, and you can decide to turn off the ones you don’t want.
Why: Here’re some of the functions from the Jetpack plugin I love
- Photon: Makes your images load super fast thanks to the WordPress.com content delivery network
- Extra sidebar widgets: See that ‘Popular posts’-widget over there in my sidebar? That’s from Jetpack. They also have Facebook, Twitter, social media icons and more widgets, depending on what you want.
- Notifications: Whenever there’s a new comment, I get a notification in the app and in the top bar on my computer.
- Comments: I like the way it merges with your site’s look, and that users can sign in with their social media credentials.
- Protect: This protects you against brute-force attacks, as it tracks failed login attempts across all Jetpack-connected sites, and blocks any IP that has too many failed attempts in a short amount of time. So far it’s blocked 3,735 malicious login attempts on my site?!
- Shortcode embeds: Makes it easy to embed content from other sites (like youtube), and create and archive like I have here.
- Contact forms: Every contact page needs a contact form, right?
- Publicize: Automatically share new posts with a custom message as they go live
- Their support team is super nice and quick to help!
It also connects with WordPress.com and lets you write from their post editor (which I’m currently doing). It has a more clean look and there are fewer distractions from writing.
Other features include site stats, custom CSS, beautiful math formulas, downtime monitor, control widget visibility, sharing buttons and a related post widgets (and that’s not even all of them).
How much? It’s free!
What: A plugin that lets you make a multilingual site – like mine is both English and Danish
Why: I only recently started using this plugin, so it’s a precatious recommendation. It’s very easy to set up and start using, I like how it lets you manage translations within a single post – it’s easy to translate anything. The main problem is that your site is going to look like a mess if you ever stop using the plugin.
How much? Free – but the developers strongly encourage you to donate if you’re a regular user of the plugin.
What: This plugin lets you create custom shortcodes with snippets of code with custom parameters.
Why: Shortcodes are something you need to know about when using WordPress. The word comes from shortcut + code, as it’s an easy way to insert either complex pieces of code or ones that you frequently use.
One way I use this is for my signature at the end of each post.
|What I type||What it looks like to you|
Besides being a little faster than copy-pasting the same code into the end of each post, it makes it possible to change your signature site-wide in just a second. E.g. if I changed my Instagram username, I’d either have to go through every single post to update the link or let the link be broken. By using a shortcode, it’s easy to make changes to all posts at once.
I also use it for my pin for later prompt at the end of each post. That shortcode includes custom parameters, like this:
<img src="%%pinimage%%" alt="%%pintext%%" />
This means I can define a different image url and text for each post and the plugin takes care of the rest.
The plugin’s documentation gives you more examples on how to take advantages of it.
How much? Free!
What: Social warfare is my favourite sharing plugin (and I tried +10 different ones when I was setting up my site).
Why: When people love your content so much they want to share it, you’ll want to make it as easy for them as possible. This is my plugin of choice because
- You can set a custom Pinterest image + text, instead of just using the featured image as most plugins do.
- It comes with “Pin it” button that shows when you hover over an image
- It’s able to count Twitter share counts – something most applications doesn’t do either since Twitter updated their API.
- As positive social proof makes people more likely to share, displaying your share counts can be a good thing. You can set a minimum threshold of shares before the count shows up, and you can decide whether it shows the total number of shares or individual network share counts.
- There’re buttons for all the popular social networks (and some of the less popular too)
- You can customise how the buttons look and where they’re placed on your site
- It shows the total number of shares, even if you change your url. This was the selling point for me, as I changed my permalink structure when I went self-hosted. Otherwise, all the repins on my old pins wouldn’t be counted, and it’s impossible to go and edit all my old pins
I’ve noticed an increase in Pinterest shares, and now that the shared images are optimised for Pinterest, they perform much better.
How much? $29
What: Yoast SEO helps you optimise your site for search engines even further.
Why: If I have to be honest, I don’t spend enough time doing SEO-stuff. It’s just too boring! I like writing for people, not bots. This plugin helps me do a little better, and their knowledge base is very helpful.
How much? It’s free, but there’s a premium version too.
What: Zoho provides email hosting.
Why: You got a brand-spanking new domain, so why not make a professional email address that goes with? Like firstname.lastname@example.org could be my email. You can then connected it with my usual Gmail account, so you don’t have multiple inboxes to check.
How much? Free when it comes to this feature (for up to 5 email addresses).
What: Email marketing platforms for sending out newsletters.
Why: I’m not an expert in email marketing, but I’ve used both MailerLite and MailChimp. Right now I use the first because they offer automation tools (so you can send out a sequence of emails to people when they first sign up). As I offer free printables as my incentive for people to sign up, I like that I’m able to make custom sign-up-forms and welcome emails.
How much? Free up to 1,000 subscribers. MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers, and many advanced features require a paid plan.
Phew, we made it through! I hope you found a new tool or two that can help you.
What is one blogging tool you can’t go without? Let me know in the comments!