Blogging is HARD. Seriously. But these are the best blog resources and tools for you to use, many of which are free!
Blogging is one job or hobby that requires you to be a master of all trades: writing, photography, social media, web and graphic design, information technology, SEO, marketing, partnership manager, customer service, accounting, CEO, and MORE!
Below is an updated list of the best blog resources and tools I use to blog efficiently and effectively as a full-time blogger.
I’m all about saving time, but I am also about doing things the “right” way (which, in my opinion, ends up being more time-saving in the long run), so you will see a lot of that kind of stuff on my list.
How to Blog For Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup
Since this is primarily a book blog, I am pleased to share my recommendation for the best book about blogging — How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup. Most blogging books out there are older, and newer books are more geared toward social media.
How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul is older, but it has been updated, and it’s great for people who are more serious about implementing the best blogging tips. Ruth Soukup is a businesswoman who works hard, and she keeps it real about what it takes to successfully blog, and how to stop wasting your time on unsuccessful strategies.
This book is for people who are willing to “put their time in” and continually pivot. Blogging is simply not a get-rich-quick scheme. But, the way I look at it, it takes a lot of time to blog, so why not set yourself up the right way. As far as I’m concerned, this book is one of the best blog resources and tools.
Blogging courses have been the best financial investment I have made in myself and my blog. Bloggers say this a lot, and it’s because it’s absolutely true. Good courses usually come at a price, but that price often ends up saving you more time and money in the long run.
Now, there are A LOT of blogging courses out there. And they aren’t all good. I have taken over 100 at this point. I’d say about a dozen have been exceptional or excellent, several others gave me a few pointers here or there, and the rest were kind of useless to me. So, that means that buying the right courses is really important.
So, how do you decide what courses to buy? I like to hone in on a specific topic to learn about, then try to find the leaders on that topic. If you do enough research, it tends to become clear what courses “everyone” seems to be saying are really good on that topic. Then, oftentimes, I also test out the teacher’s free content first and/or wait for a sale.
I personally recommend the following blogging courses:
- Perfecting Blogging
- Perfecting Pinterest
- Email Marketing Jumpstart
- SEO Jumpstart
- Profitable Productivity
Branding & Design
Namecheckr is a free website that allows you to check whether a name is available for use as a URL as well as all social media platforms in one search. You can use it to brainstorm the best name for your brand and see whether it’s available for use. I love this nifty little tool.
Canva is an incredible resource that allows you to VERY quickly and easily create, among so many other things, high-quality blog and social media graphics (like these Instagram story templates). And their technology just keeps getting better and better.
I create several templates for each social media platform, and then I go into Canva, where my templates are stored, and quickly edit them to re-share.
I also use Canva to create photo collages. There are both free and paid versions. I’m on the paid plan now but there’s a lot you can do on the free version. I simply couldn’t blog without it — it is unquestionably one of the best blog resources and tools.
Creative Market is a website where you can buy all kinds of digital design products. For example, I purchased presets for the free Adobe Lightroom App, where I edit my photos in one click!
Presets help give your Instagram feed and blog the same “vibe” throughout. I encourage you to choose presets, fonts, and color palettes with intention, so they tell a cohesive story.
Etsy is another great place to purchase, among other handmade items, digital goods. I purchased some cheap photo presets here as well, and I always check here when I need something like this for my blog or social media.
If you run out of time or inspiration to take beautiful photographs, Unsplash has got you covered. It’s a website with TONS of free, professional photographs that you can use on the web without violating any copyrights. I check it out when I really want a certain type of photo I can’t create myself (i.e., a sunny picture on a rainy day).
The TouchRetouch app is really helpful for easily eliminating unwanted objects from photos, like electrical wires in the sky, by filling in the area you highlight with the colors surrounding it. Some objects are easier to remove than others, but it’s still a great tool. I use it at least a few times a week.
Now that video is becoming so prevalent in social media, I usually use InShot to edit video clips and string them together. It has great functionality to fully edit each and every photo or video clip you are adding to your finished product, from how it looks to how long it plays.
Evernote is one of my favorite tools for life and blogging, so it’s definitely one of the best blog resources and tools. It allows you to create notes in various notebooks you create, which you can edit and access on the web or the app.
I first purchased it to create a web-based compilation of recipes. I organized notebooks by category, then created notes with text recipes, URLs of recipes, and pictures of recipes from books I loaned from the library. The app can “read” photos, so if I search something like “cupcakes” it will read not just the word cupcake in writing, but also photos of recipes that contain the word “cupcake.” It allows me to easily access ALL my recipes in one spot.
Now that I have a blog, I have multiple notebooks for blogging with notes containing everything from to-do lists to checklists to strategies and tips I have learned.
And, now that I am a full-time blogger, I have very specific needs for planning. I am a VERY particular planner of content and tracker of data. So, after many years of being unable to find the ultimate blog planner that focused on what I have learned truly matters to your blogging success, I created this Blog Planner, which I personally use on a daily basis on my full-time blog. It’s neither too much, nor too little. It’s just right. And it’s very customizable.
Get your exclusive printable PDF blog post planner when you subscribe to The Literary Lifestyle’s free email newsletter community.
Tech & Web Design
WordPress with high-quality hosting
If you want to create a website, you need to do so on a “platform.” There are a few different platforms out there, like Blogger (free but owned by Google, not you, and limited in what you can do), SquareSpace (paid but easy to use to create beautiful websites; limited in technical capabilities); and WordPress (which definitely has a learning curve, but provides unlimited technical capabilities and allows you to maintain ownership of your content).
When I started my blog, I researched everything I could to avoid creating it on WordPress. I had created websites in the past, and I know it takes time and effort to get up and running on WordPress. At the end of my research aimed directly at avoiding WordPress, I came to the conclusion that I must bite the bullet and use it.
Without getting too deep, the ease of other platforms simply does not outweigh the benefits of WordPress. The biggest benefit to me was that WordPress is the best platform on which you can optimize your blog posts to actually appear in Google searches, which I knew was going to be one of my top blog traffic strategies. (And in fact, the overwhelming majority of my traffic to date has come from Google).
And while WordPress is where you will design your blog and write your blog posts, with WordPress, you need a separate “host” which is how your blog or website actually makes it onto the web.
Most bloggers start out with a very cheap host, then move to a moderately priced host when they grow a bit, then move to an even more expensive host when their traffic reaches six figures each month.
I personally followed this exact trajectory, but I don’t recommend it to you. Why? Because you get exactly what you pay for when you buy the cheapest hosts on the market, including smaller resources dedicated to making your site function well and lesser customer service.
By the time my blog hit 10,000 views per month, it was barely functioning anymore and no one ever responded to my inquiries. I switched to a medium-sized host, which definitely worked better, but it took time away from blogging to make the switch, and it was risky from a technological standpoint to make the move.
Now I am on what’s considered to be an even bigger and better host, BigScoots, which has been an excellent experience for me. They handled my site migration, and they respond to my questions in a minute or two each and every time I reach out. They also offer security features that protect your site, which is extremely important, as attacks on it can and will happen all the time. When I need something done, they often handle it completely for me. And my site functions fast and well for the user so they stay on the page, which in return, earns me money.
Yes, it costs more, but it’s still a pretty cheap business expense compared to the non-digital world and, in my opinion, it makes you more money in the long run. No one wants to spend time reading a poorly functioning blog.
Plug-Ins are things you can install for a specific purpose on your WordPress blog that your theme does not already do. They can do things the reader can’t see (like make your website run faster) or things they do see (like change the way links appear).
Since plug-ins can really slow down your site (and Google is less likely to recommend a slow site), I try to limit mine to ones that improve site performance and not ones that just offer some extra flash to my site.
I don’t want to recommend specific plug-ins because they can interact differently with different themes, etc., but I will say that most of mine on the back end relate to site speed (like image compression) and site security.
On the front end, I use plugins to create a table of contents for each post and recipe cards with star ratings, printouts, etc. (This is actually a must for ranking a recipe post on Google, contrary to other times where I don’t recommend the “prettiest” option.)
I also recommend you have several forms of backups for your site via plug-in or otherwise (such as through your host). Can you imagine losing EVERYTHING?!
For the legal pages on my site (and any other legal documents I need in blogging, like various contracts), I use documents from the legal store of Amira (A Self Guru), a lawyer in this field.
If law and blogging confuses you, she has a free legal guide to help you get started.
SEO is “search engine optimization.” It’s the process by which you do things on your site AND off your site in order to get your website to appear in Google searches. It can be very expensive and time-consuming — which I know from personal experience, from when my husband owned an eCommerce business.
But, there are still things the everyday blogger can do to improve their SEO, including having a site that functions well (which we already discussed) and performing keyword research to implement in your blog posts.
I used to use the free tool Ubersuggest to search “keywords” I want to write about — like “Best Books for Spring.” I do not, and you should not, write posts like “What I Read in April and May” because no one is searching that term!
You can see how many searches are made for that keyword a month, how hard it is to get on the first page of Google for that keyword and get other ideas for keywords.
I could write a whole article about how I decide on a keyword and how I optimize my posts for that keyword, and I’m not even a pro, so I will leave it at that for now. Just know that Ubersuggest is a great way to get started on free keyword research and see where one of the best blog resources and tools takes you!
If you’re willing and ready to pay for SEO keyword research, I now use and recommend a paid tool called KeySearch, which is a lot cheaper than other paid SEO tools out there, but still gives you a lot of helpful data.
If you use KeySearch, I recommend you take time to play around with all the different features. There’s a lot of data to see, track, and analyze beyond keyword volume and competitiveness.
When writing blog posts, I like to use Google as well to see all kinds of things, like what related terms people are searching for, what kind of results are appearing (i.e., more video than blog posts).
Pinterest is a search engine, and so it’s another great place to get keyword ideas. If I search a keyword, it gives me additional suggestions for keywords that people are searching to really hone in on a keyword. For example, “Best Books for Spring” may become “Best Books for Spring for Adults.”
Affiliate programs allow bloggers to earn money by creating links whereby, if a reader clicks on them and makes a purchase, the blogger gets a small commission from the retailer (at no extra cost to the reader).
In years past, creating links like this was a very cumbersome process. First, you had to apply to each and every retailer. It can take days to even find out if you are accepted. Then, you had to search deep into the affiliate program to find a link for a product. It could take a half-hour to create one link.
The programs I share below are the best blog tools and resources that make it easy for you to create links. Also, many of them don’t even require you to have your own blog — which is great for Instagrammers!
Skimlinks is a major affiliate conglomerate. By signing up with them you instantly have access to thousands of retailers’ affiliate programs. Further, you can easily create links in one click all around the web, with a Google Chrome button.
While Skimlinks keeps part of your commission in exchange for making this process so easy, it’s worth it to me. I would gladly exchange a few cents for a half-hour of my time (up to a few days, if I have to apply to a retailer’s program on my own and wait to see if I am accepted), to immediately be able to create a link in one click.
Further, sometimes Skimlinks is able to negotiate higher commission rates than if you applied to a retailer’s program on your own. Because it’s so easy and accessible, it’s great for new bloggers as well.
Amazon Associates is a great affiliate program because so many people shop on Amazon so frequently and because it provides access to so many types of products. The commission is lower than other retailers, but the conversion rate (how many people actually purchase after clicking a link), is usually much higher.
They also have banners you can put on your website like ads, as well as a tool called Site Stripe that allows you to easily create text and image links of products in just a few clicks on any Amazon page.
ShopStyle Collective & RewardStyle
Their programs allow you to use their search bar to pull up all matching products across the web that qualify for commissions. Then, you can easily create lists and collages to share on your website, among other things.
If you don’t have a website, they allow you to host one for your “looks” on the Shopstyle site or LIKEtoKNOW.it app.
Planet Howl is a newer conglomerate affiliate program that will BLOW YOUR MIND. No, seriously, it takes everything that’s complicated about affiliate marketing and brand partnerships and makes it easier while also earning you more.
You get exclusive (crazy high) commissions, special bonuses, gifted products, collaborations, and so much more on everything from big box retailers to your favorite niche brands.
Learn more about Planet Howl.
Referral Codes / Links
Lastly, you can use referral codes and links from smaller retailers to make money. Simply poke around your favorite smaller sites for referral links. A few I promote are:
- One month free at Libro.fm (audio books)
- Get your first Book of the Month book for $5
- Get 60 days of Everand (ebooks and audio books) for free
- Get $10 cash when you join and make a purchase using Rakuten (formerly Ebates, a cash rebate site — an amazing service I have made over $3k on, and an amazing affiliate program!)
Once you hit 10,000 page views per month, you can sign up for ads hosted by Monumetric. There’s an onboarding fee of $99 (unless you have 80,000 or more page views), but they install everything for you and really work on making the ads optimal and non-invasive on your site for you. And the money you earn in your first month will likely cover the onboarding fee.
I don’t totally recall what I earned with Monumetric, but my research shows that $5 to $15 per every 1,000 page views (approximately $50 to $150 for every 10,000 page views per month) was fairly standard.
Now, Mediavine provides ads on my site. They are considered to be a high-level ad network with high-quality advertisers, good technology, and better payouts. You can apply once you hit 50,000 sessions a month.
The payouts can range dramatically, and this depends on a variety of factors, including your niche, the time of year, and the settings you have on your ads.
What they are known for is keeping your site running faster and more smoothly than other ad networks and providing additional tools, like helping you collect email subscribers. They also provide really quick and thorough customer service.
If you want to profit from your blog, I highly suggest you consider getting into Mediavine as a goal. I really saw the trajectory of my blog change when this happened for me.
When it comes to marketing my blog, I’m all about quick and easy. Below are some of my best blog resources and tools to “set it and forget it” ways to market your blog and/or Instagram.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
If This Then That is a free website that allows you to set up all kinds of “rules” whereby, if you do one thing, then it automatically does another thing for you.
I have “rules” a/k/a applets set to automatically tweet my Instagram posts with the Instagram picture (which Instagram does not do if you tell Instagram to share your post to Twitter upon posting it) and to pin all my new Instagram posts to Pinterest automatically. I also have “recurring tweets” sent out once a month at a given time for things like new blog posts, but you can tweet anything on a recurring basis.
That’s really just the beginning though. There is a lot you can do, and it’s all free.
Substack was the free platform I used for email marketing newsletters in the beginning of my blog. It’s not as fancy and customizable as some other email platforms, but I was more interested in something that was easy to use and less time-consuming, and Substack is an absolute breeze. They are also growing and doing a lot of cool things to help you grow and monetize your email lists as well.
Another cool thing about Substack is all your email newsletters are housed in an Archive on their website like blog posts with web links that you or others can find through their search bar, refer back to, read and share.
Now, I use ConvertKit, which is a paid email service provider designed FOR bloggers specifically. It can be pricy depending on the size of your list, but if you have a larger list, chances are you will make enough from your email list to justify the cost.
And while it’s definitely harder to learn how to use it, it also does a lot of REALLY cool and powerful things to grow your blog. Setting all these features up, like sending welcome sequences of emails to new subscribers and tagging their likes so I can send them personalized emails, is also something that completely changed the trajectory of my blog.
Now, ConvertKit is also offering more ways to EARN from your newsletter as well, through ads, paid recommendations, subscriptions, and more. So, while it can be pricy, it’s now totally worth it to me.
I recently started selling digital products, which is fairly common amongst bloggers and, after months and months of research, I chose to do so via Teachable. There are a lot of platforms out there with a lot of different pros and cons, but personally, what I liked best about Teachable was their handling of taxes on digital products.
No matter what platform you choose for your digital products, I strongly suggest you research taxes as much as you can, talk to experts in your location, etc.
Those are the best blog resources and tools that I have used and do use to maximize my efficiency and effectiveness on my blog. I will continue to update it over time to provide you with only the best.
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