A lot goes into creating and maintaining a professional blogging website.
Just to name a few, as a blogger you need…
- A place to store and host your blog
- Write interesting content your audience cares about
- Creative and engaging posts with unique images and graphics
- Visitors and subscribers to your blog
- To analyze how people use your website and how they find your blog
- A way to keep yourself organized in the chaos of maintaining a blog
I know. That’s a lot.
Luckily, there are many tools that make blogging tasks easier and manageable.
If you’re a beginning blogger, I recommend you start small and add complexity over time.
And, the good news is, when you start your blog, you really only need two things.
Basic Blogging Tools – What You Absolutely Need to Get Started
Web Hosting & Domain Name
There are only two requirements for having a professional, public-facing website. Web hosting and a domain name.
This is how you can give people a link to your website with yourblogname.com
There are many options to choose from when it comes to choosing web hosting and domain names, but I recommend that new bloggers wanting a professional website choose Bluehost.
- It’s cost-effective and simple to set up.
- You also get a free domain name.
- Bluehost includes an SSL (this make your website more secure and is a must-have for modern websites)
- And, it comes with one-click WordPress Install (the blogging platform I recommend).
Estimated Cost for Web Hosting: $50-$100
You can start and run a successful blog with minimal cost, but there is one thing you’ll have to spend money on – web hosting and a domain name are must-haves.
Web hosting is going to be your biggest upfront cost because while they’re marketed as a monthly cost, the reputable brands actually only charge on an annual basis, so you do need to pay ahead for at least one year.
A custom domain name with a “.com / .net / .co” shows that your website is professional, is easier to remember and is better for getting found on Google. (And remember, with Bluehost you get the domain name for free your first year – they’re around $12/yr after that.)
CMS (Blogging Platform)
There are numerous blogging platforms out there, ranging from free to expensive, and complicated to super-simple.
WordPress is the best (and free) option for bloggers. But, it does have a learning curve. You don’t have to be technical or have any programming skills when it comes to WordPress, but you do need to have the patience to learn a new tool.
Luckily, if you are just beginning it’s easier than ever to install WordPress if you choose Bluehost as your hosting provider. They have a one-click install. And with page builders (I talk about this in the next section), website building on WordPress is easier than ever.
If you’re ready to hop into creating your blog from scratch, check out my free guide for Starting a Blog in 8 Simple Steps that outlines the complete process.
WordPress ‘Page Builders’
Page builders transformed WordPress into a drag-and-drop website editor. I
These tools are amazing for non-technical bloggers who want a beautiful and customizable blog. I’ve set up several websites for others to use who have no technical experience, and they’re able to edit right away!
Page builders are usually installed as a plugin (but sometimes themes as in the case of Divi).
The three most popular page builders are:
- Elementor (FREE and $50 for premium)
- Divi ($89 – no Free Version)
- Beaver Builder (FREE and $99 for premium )
I would recommend Elementor to beginners, especially beginners on a budget. I’ve been using the free version to stand up a brand new website for a company I work with, and it’s met almost all of my needs!
Eventually, the pro version will be required if you want to display your blog posts with featured images and have access to other premium options.
I recommend Elementor Pro with the Hello Elementor theme.
I have an entire article devoted to the plugins you need to install on WordPress. My #1 recommended (and free) plugin for beginners is the page builder Elementor which I mention above.
No matter what website I’m working on, I always find myself install the following to make my life easier:
- Yoast SEO – helps ensure pages and posts are optimized for search engines – I recommend sticking with the free version
- Redirection – makes it easy to manage affiliate links and prevents broken links from renamed blog posts and pages
- Enable Media Replace – I often find that I need to replace an image due to a typo in the text or for resizing. This plugin makes it so simple. Otherwise, you need to find the image wherever it is on your website and manually replace it everywhere!
- Duplicate Page – Surprisingly, duplicating a post or page is not native to WordPress. I used this plugin to copy the layout of an existing page or to test out tweaks to a new design.
Content Idea Tools
Once you have a blog created on WordPress you’re all ready to get started! You probably have a lot of great content ideas.
However, one thing to keep in mind is to be strategic with your time. Make sure you’re spending your time writing content that people are looking for.
The following tools give insights into the search volume and social media popularity for specific keywords and topics:
My favorites: Google Docs + Grammarly Add-On
I do most of my writing in Google Docs with the free Grammarly Add-On extension (which is a must-have for all web-users in my opinion).
I don’t like writing directly into WordPress in case the Internet would happen to die before I saved a draft, so I keep things in Google Docs until I’m ready to publish.
Grammarly works like spell and grammar check for all of the writing you do from Chrome.
To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes on writing, “I’d of made it shorter, but I didn’t have time.”
The Hemmingway app works to eliminate unnecessary words from writing. Shorter sentences are easier for your audience to comprehend.
Graphic Design Tools
To be perfectly honest, most of the graphics I make come from either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. These are the tools I’ve been using in my work for the last 15 years so they’re super-easy for me to use.
But, I know they’re not as beginner-friendly and are more costly for many other bloggers.
Luckily, there are a ton of great graphic design options out there that are either very cheap or free!
Here are a few of my favorite:
- Photoshop/Lightroom – If you’re more technical or want to learn a new skill, Photoshop, and Lightroom bundles are comparable to a Canva premium subscription.
- Canva – I sometimes use this free browser-based software for social media posts, and it’s great. You can use it for social media, or as a way to create some cool word art for within your blog posts!
- PowerPoint – This is the most underrated tool out there. PowerPoint can be used to make amazing diagrams, and you can use the program to record your own videos!
- Your Own Camera or Phone – I hate stock photography. It’s instantly recognizable, and even the most beautiful stock images can make a blogger’s website look unauthentic. I recommend all bloggers challenge themselves to create their own photos. You’ll connect with your audience much easier and set yourself apart from the competition.
Once you launch your blog, you want to be able to capture how people are finding your website, and how they’re using it once they’re there.
I have an entire post devoted to how to set up these tools for WordPress website. Learn how to setup professional analytics on your website.
Email Tools: ConvertKit($29/mo) or MailChimp (free)
Once you’ve invested money in the essentials (purchasing web hosting and a domain name), email software is the next most important investment you can make.
I personally use ConvertKit because of its high deliverability rate.
I’ve found the free email tools like MailChimp and MailerLite, while great to use, often end up in the spam folder. ConvertKit consistently has a higher open rate than these tools simply because it’s more likely to get in my reader’s inbox.
Pinterest Management: Tailwind ($10/mo)
I have not yet used Tailwind, but I do know it’s the only Pinterest management tool approved by Pinterest. If you’re going to get one, I recommend Tailwind for this reason alone.
Social Media Management: Buffer (free)
I absolutely love Buffer for scheduling my Instagram posts ahead of time. As you know, I work a 9-5 job, so I have limited time to get a daily beautiful photo for ‘the gram.’ I prefer to take a few photos all in one day, schedule ahead, and focus my daily time interacting on the platform.
SEO Research: SEMRush ($99/mo)
I personally have used SEMRush on several occasions for some SEO consulting work I’ve done. I love the tool, but it is expensive and technical. Luckily, there is a free trial that can help you decide if the tool is right for you.
Landing Page Builders
If you have WordPress and Elementor, a landing page builder is completely unnecessary. Anyone trying to convince you to buy one is probably focused on affiliate dollars, or just isn’t WordPress savvy.
If money is tight, do yourself a favor and learn how to use Elementor to build your landing pages instead of purchasing a monthly service.
I keep track of all my posts and random ideas in Asana, which is a free organization app. There is a paid plan, but this isn’t needed for 99% of bloggers.
- Asana (free)