The goal of this comprehensive blogging tools guide is to help show you what blogging tools you need to be aware of as a beginner in order to help you make a purchase decision. From WordPress to website builders, to keyword research and writing.
I’ve got you covered on everything myself and my team have used over the years and what we found helpful. This blogging tools guide will cover the following:
WordPress Web Hosting
I recommend WordPress for anyone looking to start a content focused website where you make money from blogging through selling products, affiliate marketing and display advertising.
With a shared hosting account you can install WordPress which is a free and open source content management system, as well as themes and plugins. Thus allowing you to have full control over the look, feel, design and layout of your website.
For hosting, it really comes down to if you’re looking to start a blog primarily or if you want to also have some sort of ecommerce functionality enabled through WooCommerce (a free ecommerce plugin).
Bluehost – Best web host for blogs.
Bluehost is the #1 recommended web host by WordPress. They are good, safe, no frills choice that provide good hosting at a fair price. They offer a great introductory rate and are specifically designed to make creating a website or blog with WordPress easy for any beginner.
If you don’t have a hosting account or a website yet, go with Bluehost. They have the support, speed and service you need to get started building an effective, high traffic website.
SiteGround – Best host for ecommerce
SiteGround is my top choice for anyone who wants to start both a blog and an ecommerce store powered by WordPress and WooCommerce. They have excellent, dedicated hosting plans specifically designed for online stores.
This is important because WooCommerce adds ecommerce functionality onto your website and requires a bit more powerful resources than a simple blog. SiteGround from my usage has proven to be the best host for WooCommerce and WordPress.
You can get a “free” domain name at a lot of website builders and web hosts but the truth is that free is not free. It’s free for the first year but then after that you’re paying an inflated renewal rate.
Why inflated? Because the web host or website builder needs to tack on a fee in order to make profit. What they are functionally doing is registering a domain name on your behalf. Instead, do it yourself with one of our two recommended domain name registrars.
Namecheap – The best consumer domain registrar
Namecheap has a long track record of success and offers some of the lowest domain name registration and renewal prices around. With 24/7 customer support and an easy to use interface to buy, sell and renew your current domain names; Namecheap is one of the best registrars around.
With your Namecheap account you don’t get hassled with up-sells like GoDaddy and you get WHOIS protection for free.
Dynadot – The best registrar for professional domainers
Dynadot is the strongest competitor to Namecheap with regards to domain name registration and price. They are the professional domainers, domain name registrar of choice.
The only downside of Dynadot is that they lack 24/7 customer support which is essential when setting up your domain name for any website builder or if you just have how-to questions. Dynadot overall provides an excellent service if you’re looking to register domain names.
For more see my Dynadot vs Namecheap comparison.
Website builders are all in one platforms that combine hosting, the domain name as well as a content management system into one price point. They are ideal for anyone looking for convenience and easy of use.
If you decide to go with WordPress and a shared web host then of course you don’t need a website builder. However, if you’re not too keen on WordPress here is what I suggest looking at as an alternative.
Squarespace – Best general purpose option
I love the Squarespace platform. It comes with an intuitive, structured page editor, great on page SEO, beautiful templates to customize, email marketing and the best scheduling system around (ideal for coaching calls and free consultations).
With Squarespace you can build a blog, online store or some combination of the two. There are also numerous integrations with popular drop shipping and print on demand platforms and lastly you get unlimited traffic.
Shopify – The ecommerce leader
Shopify is my favorite platform for building out an online store. As this is a blogging tools overview, you can blog with Shopify, get that organic traffic and convert it to an email list to sell more products.
Shopify comes with numerous templates and an entire app store to add on additional functionality. If you’re looking to start primarily a store with a blog on the side then go with Shopify.
Ghost – The subscription option
Ghost is a ridiculously fun, powerful and useful content management system. While you can install Ghost on a droplet with Digital Ocean, it’s much better for a beginner to signup and use Ghost.org.
The unique selling point of Ghost is that it has a strong focus on email marketing and subscription revenue through blogging. With Ghost, you can make part of your blog post private to paying members only or keep entire blog posts private.
If you consider yourself a writer first and foremost then you’ll love Ghost as the focus is on getting paid by your audience to blog.
A WordPress theme controls what your website looks like. Some themes are “what you see is what you get” while other themes are advanced editors that allow you to design your website as you like. Here are my top choices:
Themify Ultra – Coupon Code ULTRAPRO
I love Themify Ultra, it has all the little details you would want in a theme. Control over the design of individual pages as well as different headers and footer to change out with the click of a button.
You also get the intuitive drag and drop block editor on the back which gives you a lot of control over your design. If you want a theme to design any type of website, the Ultra theme is excellent. You also get access to a very helpful support forum to answer any technical or how-to questions.
Themify Simple – A Great free theme for a blog
I’ve built websites to over 50,000 visitors per month using this free theme. It works well with WooCommerce but as a blog theme it’s pretty dang good. As you can tell, I prefer a single column design, big titles and headers and a good readable font.
All of which you get with the simple theme. It is techy to setup however and can be quite frustration so I do suggest checkout out my free tutorial on how to make a great looking website with this theme.
DIVI Theme – Best Page Builder Theme
DIVI is one of the best drag and drop page builders available today and one of the most popular WordPress themes in the world. DIVI is the choice of countless design professionals as well as beginners due to the speed at which you can create websites.
You can create any sort of website with the DIVI theme. What I don’t like about this theme however is that their pre-built designs are overly complicated. I don’t care about a big, complicated but beautiful designs. I care about user experience and making money.
But if you’re looking for the best front end visual website builder, look no further than DIVI.
AVADA Theme – Best Selling Theme on Theme Forest for 5+ Years
The Avada Theme is the best selling WordPress theme on Theme Forest for the past 5 years. This theme is part theme, part page builder and it’s simply one of the best themes you can use to build a WordPress website.
What I like about this theme is that with your purchase, you get updates for life. However, you can not use it on multiple websites. As with all premium themes, there is a learning curve but if you’re looking for a user friendly theme where you get updates for life for one low cost then get the Avada Theme.
Astra – The most downloaded theme for WordPress
Astra is free theme that offers a paid upsell and is feature rich. Like all themes in that it does have a learning curve, once you understand how this particular theme works you can quickly and easily build a blog fast and easy.
On top of that, Astra is designed to work well with page builders like Elementor, the default WordPress editor or Beaver Builder. You can also use “Astra sites” and download a pre-made website Astra is the best free theme currently available and allows you to create a custom website and blog.
The big “secret” to creating blog posts and YouTube videos is to create content that people are actually looking for. Too many just “wing it” and write about whatever they want. This strategy usually ends up with having a blog with a lot of content but no search traffic.
Instead, do keyword research and then take those keywords to see the potential search volume. Here are some tools to get you started:
Uber Suggest – Content Marketing Tool
Bought out by Neil Patel for a $100,000 dollars. This is a helpful keyword tool is designed to allow you to find the search volume and difficulty of a specific keyword as well as related keywords.
It’s all a guess, but it gives you a broad idea as to the competitive nature of a keyword as well as valuable related searches. This is my go to tool for keyword research because it provides me all the information I need on the potential search volume of a keyword.
Keywords Everywhere – Keyword suggestion tool
Keywords Everywhere changed to a paid model so they don’t provide any search volume information anymore unless you pay. However, they still give out related keyword searches which can show you alternative phrases that people are actually looking for.
You can then take these related phrases and the input them into a keyword tool like Ubersuggest to get an idea as to the volume of searches for a related set of keywords.
Google Search Console – Website analysis tool
Search console is provided by Google and allows you to see what pages are ranking for what, what position they are at and the amount of impressions they get.
It gives you insight into your overall rankings and also gives you clear and specific phrases you’re ranking for. Sometimes you’ll notice a keyword your blog is not even optimized for so it’s quite helpful for finding keywords that are actually driving traffic.
Learn how to use Google Search Console with my quick and easy to follow Skillshare course.
SEM Rush – Competition Research
SEM is a full scale internet marketing tool that allows you to do keyword research, competitive research, and a backlink profile analysis. Overall I find that SEM rush really stands out with their competition research.
With this tool it allows you to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Very valuable because if you know your competitor is ranking and getting traffic for a specific phrase, it only makes sense for you to go after that keyword as well.
You can do the same thing with Ubersuggest, but I find SEM rush to be a bit more detailed and accurate. However they are quite costly with a monthly fee.
AHrefs – SEO Research
This tool is just like SEM Rush in that it allows you to do competitive research on other websites, it gives you a broad keyword research analysis and it also has an internal site auditor and allows you to do a much deeper analysis into how your competitors are ranking.
Where AHrefs stands out from my experience is their ability to break down a websites backlink profile. This is essential as you’ll need to build links to your website if you’re in a competitive topic. You build links by finding websites that are linking to your competitors and to then try and get the same links.
If you noticed that one of your competitors has a guest blog post on a high traffic website, then you have a target back link to acquire for yourself.
Answer the Public – Long tail keyword research tool
This website allows you to find phrases people are actually using. Sort of like keywords everywhere. It’s great because you can find targeted keywords which can form the backbone of your blogging efforts.
Google Trends – Verify your keywords
I love using Google Trends to verify the traffic of a keyword. Sometimes you’ll find an interesting keyword via Answer the Public or Keywords everywhere. Google Trends allows you to get an understanding of the potential search volume.
Keyworddit – Reddit Keywords
This tool scrapes questions from Reddit and gives you actual questions and phrases people are looking for.
Pinterest – Keyword research for women
Pinterest is dominated by female users. When you go to promote a pin, it gives access to the keyword research data so you can see actual search volume for specific phrases. This is very helpful because it’s just another place to gather data points for content people are actually searching for.
It’s even more helpful if your website happens to be in a female dominated niche as Pinterest is an extremely popular tools with certain demographics.
Email marketing is how you turn a blog into a business. You have a few different options and strategies. You can follow a typical internet marketing strategy and build email funnels with various follow-up all promoting products you own or an affiliate for.
The second option is to create a weekly newsletter you send out where you update your subscribers on deals, offers, new content or videos. Here are my top recommended providers. If you want a full list on the best email marketing software I got you covered.
Convert Kit – Best for Products
Convert Kit was started by Nathan Berry who previously sold digital products via his website and email list. As such, Convert kit has a clear focus on building out funnels, email follow-ups and tagging in order to drive sales of digital products.
What is great about Convert Kit is that you can create multiple on-boarding funnels with ease. For example, you could create a 10 series funnel about saving money and another funnel about passive income. All ending with contacts being added to one primary list.
This is very useful if you have specific YouTube videos or blog posts that rank well for specific key phrases where the user intent is slightly different. People watching a video on how to save money probably are not interested in starting a blog for example.
If you have products to sell or you’re an affiliate, Convert Kit is a feature rich choice.
Mailer Lite – Best for weekly newsletters
Mailer Lite is exactly what it sounds like. A lite option for content creators who just want keep things simple with a way to capture emails, send broadcast emails and setup simple funnels.
If you’re looking for the lowest cost provider around and you just want to send out helpful emails to your list (like when you publish a new video or blog post) without all that marketing thrown in, Mailer Lite is for you.
Active Campaign – Best for multiple websites and time sensitive content
Active Campaign is excellent because you can have multiple lists for different websites in one account. So if you’re paying for a list size of 10,000 emails subscribers that can be divided among multiple websites. With other providers it’s one website per account. In general this will save you money and it makes managing your email lists much easier.
The next (and quite under rated feature) is that you can create a time sensitive email funnel that users can loop through. You can create a year long email sequence where users get specific emails at specific times of the year.
For most users, creating a funnel is what is needed. But some topics are seasonal so having a subscriber get relevant content at the right time of the year is more critical. If that’s you, Active Campaign is your email service provider.
Aweber – The classic, reliable choice
Aweber is a tried and tested email service provider. They have excellent deliverability, meaning your emails will hit the inbox and not the spam folder or promotions tab. They also provide the ability to create funnels based on subscriber intent as well as set up an autoresponder series of emails.
If you’re looking for a safe, reliable email service provider for affiliate marketing, promoting your own products or simple email updates then take a look at Aweber.
Advertising is still an excellent way to make money from a website and blog. It’s also one of the most passive and hands off once everything is set up. It’s not a good fit for all websites obviously.
Some websites you would be better off selling your own products and other topics the ad rates are too low make it worth your time. A dating or travel blog will make pennies while a blog on personal finance will make a decent income. So what are the best advertising networks?
Google AdSense – The base option
AdSense now has an “auto ads” feature that uses machine learning to help you make the most out of your traffic. The auto ads is great because it’s one script and it puts ads on your entire website with ease. You can also select pages to turn auto ads off as well (can be annoying if you have 20+ pages where you don’t want ads to run).
You can also place ads manually where you choose and can optimize your own website which is what an ad network like Ezoic or AdThrive does for you. If you have a website that is at 10k pageviews, test out AdSense to see how it performs. It’s a nice baseline to then test other networks.
Amazon Associates – The best product network
Amazon Associates and Google AdSense go together like peanut butter and jelly. Amazon Associates is one of the most flexible advertising programs around. You can create dedicated blog posts and videos about specific products or you can opt to use Amazon Associates display ads on your website or blog.
While the commission rates are low, the volume is there and Amazon can become a significant income with the right traffic.
Ezoic – Machine learning network
Ezoic is my top Adsense alternative. You should run Google Adsense on your website to see how it performs as a base line for at least one or two months. Then switch over to Ezoic to see if it performs better.
What I like about Ezoic is that your website only needs to have 10,000 pageviews a month to be accepted into the network. To be honest, if your website is under this amount you’re not going to make that much from display ads to begin with, but it is helpful you can get started and grow with Ezoic.
They are a bit technical to setup but support will walk you through the process step by step. Payouts are made monthly via a Paypal account or wire transfer.
Monumetric – Medium to Large Publishers (30k – 100k Pageviews)
Monumetric is a premium ad network that can generate serious cash from your traffic. If you have a WordPress website and are getting at least 10,000 pageviews a month if not more, take a look at Monumetric.
They have various partnership plans for website that get 10,000 pageviews a month all the way to millions of pageviews a month. Some things to note. If your website is getting between 10,000 to 80,000 pageviews you’ll have to pay a 99$ setup fee.
You also have to agree to display up to 6 ads on each of your pages as part of the Monumetric program on both desktop and mobile. Not all at the same time obviously, just in various spots within the page. This may be a deal breaker for some publishers.
Monumetric is great for mid range websites looking to get involved with a premium ad network but are not quite at the size to apply to Ad Thrive or Media Vine.
Media Vine – The best Premium Network for Medium Sized Publishers
Media Vine unlike Ad Thrive does not require that your website be over 100,000 pageviews a month. Instead, they care about the audience and the specific niche you’re website is in. Of course they do have minimum traffic requirements, you’ll have to have 30,000 monthly visitors at a minimum.
If you’re looking for a premium network but don’t have a large website then consider Media Vine. T
Ad Thrive – For Large Publishers (100,000 Pageviews)
Ad Thrive is the industry leader in the advertising space. They typically provide the highest RPM’s (revenue per thousand impressions) in the industry (though Media Vine is a strong competitor). If your website is getting 2,000 visitors a day you should be able to get around 100,000 pageviews as each visitor should view more than a single page.
Ad Thrive is the go-to network for high traffic niche websites that are looking to monetize through ads.
For more view our best advertising networks guide.
Stock Images and Video
Need images and short video clips for your website and associate videos? Here are my favorite places to find stock photography and stock videos.
Pixabay – Free Images and Videos
Pixabay has a huge collection of free images you can use with out attribution. Their images cover a wide range of potential topics. From practical niches like weight loss to random topics like numerology, Pixabay has both free images and video clips you can use for your website.
Unsplash – Free Images
Unsplash is the place to go for gorgeous photography that is totally free to use. You will need to resize the photos as by default they’re huge images.
Pexels – Free Stock Videos
Stock videos made easy. If you’re looking to weave in short 5-10 second clips into your own videos, Pexels is a great place to find stock videos.
Canva – Free Images + A Useful Editor
Canva It’s a website that allows you to make trendy looking images and graphics using images you already have, or images provided by Canva using fun, creative looking templates.
Canva makes creating all sorts of graphics like YouTube thumbnails or Pinterest pins easy.
IM Free (Free with attribution)
IMCreator.com is a website builder service that also offers a small directory of images, graphics and templates you can use for free. The images are categorized into such topics as business, ambient lighting, arts and music, lifestyles and so forth. The images are under a creative common licenses which typically means you can use the image for free as long as you give attribution (but check!).
500 PX (Free and Paid)
500PX.com is a service that provides high quality free and paid images across all different types of subject matters. Their free images are released under a creative commons license
Gratisography.com is a website that provides free high quality, high res pictures that you can use for your personal use. No copyright, and new pictures are added weekly. Lastly, It’s run by Ryan McGuire so make sure to say thanks to him.
Stencil (Paid) – Create Your Own Engaging Graphics For Social Media
Image creation service for social media. If you’re needing to create high quality graphics for blog posts and various social media platforms, Stencil is a game changer.
Pixelmator Pro – The Bets Alternative to Photo Shop
Not free, but not as costly as Photo Shop. Pixelmator Pro is an excellent choice if you’re in need of a premium, full featured photo editor.
GIMP – Free Photo Editor
GIMP is a popular, high quality, feature rich photo editor. If you want a free option that does not suck, you’ll love GIMP. With tons of free tutorials, GIMP is perfect for most peoples needs.
Pixlr – Free Photo Editor
Pixlr is a free, cloud based picture editor that comes with the features you need to edit pictures, feature images or thumbnails.
Photopea – Free photo editor
Photopea has the most similar user experience to Photoshop. If you’re looking for a solid photoshop alternative Photopea is an excellent choice.
Create and Sell Digital Products
Creating your own products is one of the best ways to make money from your website, blog and YouTube channel. Product creation should only be done once you have a validated and growing website and YouTube channel and know how to best serve your audience.
Once you’re ready, here are the tools and services we suggest using for creating online courses and ebooks. Creating online courses is a very profitable way to monetize your website. You have two main options. To use a marketplace or to self host.
A marketplace is great if you’re looking to create courses that are off brand for what it is you do or you don’t have much of an established audience. Self hosted platforms are better once you have an audience and a marketing funnel.
Teachable – Best For Hosting Your Own Courses
Teachable is an excellent online platform to host your courses because for one price they allow you to design your course, landing pages, sales pages and provide hosting for the actual course material. Purchases are secure and you can even create your own affiliate program.
Teachable in short is a website builder for creating an online course website. From a great checkout page, clean and easy to edit sales pages as well as the ability to have both product cross sells and coupon codes. Teachable is what I personally use to host my online courses.
Skillshare – Short courses marketplace
Skillshare is an online course marketplace where users pay a subscription to get access to the courses as well as direct help from teachers in the comments. This website pays per premium minutes watched. When you upload a course you can choose to make it free or premium. If you choose premium, you’ll be paid per premium minutes watched.
Skillshare pays out 30% of the royalties earned from membership payments to a specific creator fund. That creator fund is then divided among Skillshare teachers based on premium minutes watched. So your monthly payment will vary depending on how many paying members Skillshare has as well as how many minute of watch time you accrued.
Last, you can also promote Skillshare and receive a referral commission based if a new user signs up using your link. If they do, you get compensated a $10 commission on top of your royalties for your courses even if they don’t convert into a paid member. However this will change soon to paying out a percentage of the membership your user ends up purchasing.
Skillshare is a marketplace and your courses will get watched even if you don’t have an audience yet. Please be aware that Skillshare does vet your courses so please upload quality material only. They operate on a 3 strikes policy if you violate their terms of service.
While long term you can make more with your own email list, website, YouTube channel and Teachable courses – Skillshare (and Udemy) are a nice passive income alternative.
Udemy – The online course marketplace
Udemy is another good spot to put your online courses. You get free hosting and Udemy helps promote your courses. Also, as Udemy is a marketplace, if you’re able to get your courses to rank for their respective search terms, you can make a decent passive income or perhaps a full time income.
Dale McManus’s iPhone photography course generates $5,000 a month in passive income from Udemy simply because he created an outstanding course that ranks #1 for the search term “iPhone photography.”
All Udemy courses sell for $10 roughly (even though you can price them to be $200) and you as the instructor will get between $1 to $6 per sale. Udemy is a bit saturated and it’s hard to get exposure for new courses. But the potential long term is still there.
Gumroad – Sell digital downloads
Gumroad is great for any sort of one off digital download like a PDF ebook, video tutorial or audio clip. Gumroad has a free plan where you pay per transaction to help get you started. The checkout process is clean and modern. You can host your products for free and only pay when you make a sale.
Sendowl – Better Analytics than Gumroad
Sendowl is similar to Gumroad. The main differences is are that they don’t have a free plan. You have to pay a monthly fee, however they don’t charge any type of transaction fee so if you make a lot of sales Sendowl will probably be cheaper long term. Sendowl also has better metrics on the back end.
e-junkie – The low priced ebook option
This class option was the go-to spot for anyone looking to host their ebook. E-Junkie starts at $5 a month. With that you can host up to 10 products, 200 mb of storage and can have affiliates for your products.
E-Junkie like other platforms, allow you to store any type of digital download but they are most geared towards ebooks.
Clickbank – The affiliate marketplace
Clickbank allows you to sell membership sites, ebooks, audio or software. They act as the payment gateway and the host for the actual product. You however need to create, design and manage everything else like the sales page, website, course material, how the content is locked (if you’re running a membership website).
The advantage of Clickbank is that it’s a marketplace full of affiliates and if your product sells well for affiliates, it will attract more affiliates who do they marketing for you.
Patreon – Create a membership offer
I love Patreon. I was able to properly setup my Patreon page in a few hours. Patreon makes running your own membership website easy. It’s free to use and all you do is pay a transaction fee.
WIth Patreon you can content lock blog posts, images and videos to be available to your audience. While some think of Patreon as a charity website, it’s actually a done for you membership website where all you have to do it create content and get paid by your subscribers.
Memberpress – The WordPress membership option
Want to host your own exclusive membership website, where you have full control over the pricing and branding? You can setup your own private community with Memebrpress.
The advantage of Memberpress is that you have full control over your community. The downside is that you’re responsible for designing and maintaining the website. You’ll need to to pay for Memberpress, a hosting account, domain name and a video host like Vimeo.
Writing, Grammar and Headlines
There a few content writing tools and services you should be aware of. Here are some of the most useful around when you’re in need of hiring writers and improving on page content.
Jasper – An AI writing tool
Conversion AI is writing tool that allows you to create content faster. It does not write the article for you, but it does help write sections of your article.
With Jarvis and Conversion AI it’s now possible to comfortably write 1500-2000 word articles daily for your blog. An excellent tool in combination with hiring writers.
Grammarly (Proofreading and Grammar)
Grammarly – This is a proof reading plugin for chrome. It helps you avoid spelling mistakes and to create better content.
It’s not perfect obviously. If you spell correctly, but have not yet mastered the difference between your and you’re or you put words in the wrong order because you’re an idiot Grammarly won’t save you. But it’s a simple and quick first line of defense against looking stupid
Co Schedule – Write Better Headlines
Co Schedule is a helpful tool to help you craft better, more appealing headlines for copywriting purposes. Headlines are some of the most important aspects of a blog post or YouTube video. Co Schedule helps you craft headlines that win.
Writer Access – Hire vetted writers for your blog
Writer Access is a platform that vets all writers for quality. They charge a small monthly membership fee in addition to the cost of hiring a writer. Because of that they have a much better group of writers capable of all sorts of content and a much better, more serious group of publishers.
Lazy, cheap publishers looking for 800 word articles for $5 need not apply. This platform is for serious content creators only.
Content Refined – A good content producer
Started by Jon Haver who used UpWork to build his own websites, Content Refined is a professional content producer that takes care of all the aspects of bulk hiring for writers. They are a good choice for anyone needing quality articles or who are looking to turn their YouTube videos into blog posts.
Upwork – Decent spot to hire writers
Upwork is a hit or miss spot for finding quality writers. What’s good about Upwork is the project management function on the website to manage the workflow and writers.
The downside of Upwork is that it’s hard to find good, reliable writers long term as a lot of freelancers test out Upwork and then quit.
Pro Blogger Jobs – Hire long term writers
An excellent platform to find quality writers for the long term. The only catch is that this is a jobs board. That means unlike Writer Access that has a process built in for revisions, payment etc you’ll need to develop your own process.
It’s also expensive to vet new writers. Expect to spend about $1k on vetting, firing and hiring writers. Once setup with the right handful of writer your blog production will be on autopilot.
Blogging Tools Conclusion
So that’s it for my comprehensive guide on the current best blogging tools. If you found this page helpful then consider bookmarking it or sharing it with others as it is constantly updated and revised every few months to stay relevant and accurate.