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Blogging Tools & Resources

Here’s a collection of the most valuable resources we use and warmly recommend

 

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Before we dive into the blogging tools and resources we recommend, it’s important you know a few things.  These recommendations are personal recommendations from us here at Moonlight Jo.  There is no tool or resource on this page that we do not use.  To cut out the fluff, we decided to only include the tools we find essential.  We do not want to overwhelm you with hundreds of tools you might not ever use.  We hope you enjoy our recommendations, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about any of the tools listed below.

In this post we’re going to run through the best blogging tools and resources we use and warmly recommend to help you grow a passive income blog.

The tools outlined below are, in our opinion, the best tools on the market.  We’ve tested a number of blogging resources and stand by our recommendations.

There are a plethora of options available to bloggers when it comes to CMS, email marketing, graphic design,  freelancing platforms, and other tools.  Our recommendations are based purely on OUR experiences.

While some of the tools are strongly recommended by our team, it’s important you take a deep dive yourself and understand the pros and cons of each.

Please keep in mind not all of these tools are free.  If you’re serious about creating a blogging business it’s important to invest a little into building the best blog possible, which may require paid resources.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase a paid product through our links we receive a commission at no cost to you.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the ultimate guide of the best blogging tools and resources in 2021.

Blogging Platform

1. WordPress (Content Management System)

We recommend WordPress as the content management system software you should use.  Web builders like Wix and Squarespace are appealing options.  However, the customization and functionality offered to you through WordPress are unmatched.  There’s a reason why WordPress is the most popular CMS (content management system) on the market,  and it’s free!

Hosting

A web host, or web hosting provider is a business that allows you to store your web files on their servers so they can be readily accessible for anyone entering your site.  Since your site could end up having lots of content, subscribers, images, videos, etc.  You’ll want a place to externally store all this information so your website isn’t slower than molasses.  This is where web hosting comes in.  Hosting is necessary in order to build a website online. 

2. Siteground

While there are many great options when it comes to hosting, we recommend Siteground.

Many bloggers recommend Bluehost to get started.  While Bluehost is a great option we’re recommending Siteground due to the uptime and speed.  

Yes, there are cheaper hosting options than Siteground.  However, in our experience, the support, performance, and reliability are unmatched.

Siteground has plans starting at $14.99 per month a small investment for one of the most important investments you can make for your blogging business.

Siteground Hosting

Blogging Theme

3. Divi

The Divi Theme by Elegant Themes is our favorite to use because of its easy-to-use drag and drop builder and unparalleled support.  There is a slight learning curve to get used to but thanks to unlimited support you’re never be left stranded.

Divi, in our experience, has been the most user-friendly theme to work with.  It’s highly customizable and simple, therefore takes the cake as the best theme for beginner bloggers.

Divi Blogging Theme

Divi is a paid theme.  However, once purchasing the theme you’ll have access to the whole Elegant Theme library which has many other themes as well as useful plugins you can use for your blog.   As a beginner blogger, we HIGHLY recommend a paid theme.  As you get through the growing pains of WordPress having a support team to answer your questions is priceless.

Lastly, there are TONS of free tutorials online regarding Divi.  Free themes typically do not have this luxury, which means anytime you have a question you might struggle to find an answer.  The time savings alone make a premium theme worth it.

Click here to get started with the Divi theme.  

Graphic Design

4. Canva (Beginner)

As you build your blog you’ll find the need for easy-to-use graphic design options.  Whether it be creating a logo or adding overlays on your images, Canva can help.  Canva is a free, web-based graphic design tool that is one of the simplest to use.   Canva does have a paid feature that offers more graphics to choose from as well as downloading your designs in different file formats.

If you’ve ever been used Adobe Photoshop or Gimp you know how complicated and time-consuming those programs are to use.  Literally, no skills are required to use Canva effectively.

Furthermore, Canva has lots of free tutorials online to help you become proficient asap.

Canva Graphic Design Tool

5. Adobe Illustrator (Advanced)

Adobe Illustrator is for more advanced bloggers and a major step-up from Canva.  It takes time to learn and understand the software but it’s worth mentioning because Adobe Illustrator is the industry-leading vector graphics software.

Adobe Illustrator allows you to create anything from web and mobile graphics, to book illustrations, logos, icons, product packaging, e-book covers, and much more.

Plans start around $20 per month, or you can buy the whole Adobe Creative Suite which includes Premiere Pro, Photoshop, In Design, and many more for around $50 per month.

Stock Images

Stock images are essential to building a beautiful blog.  Sure you could Google search an image you want to use for your blog but that could potentially get you in hot water as you may not have the usage rights for it.  Trust us, a copyright lawsuit is not something you want to deal with.

Enter free stock Image websites.  Many of the premium stock photos do cost money, however, there are a plethora of free high-quality images to choose from on most of these sites.

Some to name a few are:

These sites have a massive gallery of free stock photos to choose from.  Take a look at the example below.

Stock Photo Example

Of course, you always have the option of taking your own photos.  If you’re building a recipe blog or a lifestyle blog then that might be your best bet.  But in most instances having a gallery of free stock images to choose from saves time and hassle.

As your blog grows you may find it imperative to go with a paid plan so you can access a larger selection of images.

Some of the best-paid stock images options, in our opinion, are Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.

Email Marketing

As a blogger, your email list will end up being the single most valuable asset you have for your business.  Email subscribers are traffic that you “own” and therefore communicate with as you please.

Through email, you’re able to communicate on a personal level and provide tips, guides, and recommendations for products or services that could serve your readers.  Without an email list your chances of building a profitable blog decrease significantly.

The more value you provide, the more trust you build.  The more trust you build the more likely your readers will buy from you!

6. Convertkit

There are lots of email marketing providers to choose from.  Perhaps you’ve heard of Mailchimp or Aweber or Constant Contact?  While all of these will do the trick, our recommendation is Convertkit, for a variety of reasons.

Simple to Use – If you’ve ever played around with email marketing tools you know how complex they can be for no reason! Convertkit takes this hassle away with simple, easy-to-use form builders and email automation.

Live Support Chat – You might notice the support feature is common throughout all the tools recommended in this post.  That’s because you can never underestimate the importance of support at your fingertips.  No, you don’t have to submit any tickets.  A chatbot is always live in the bottom corner of the browser and ready to help in an instant.

Lots of Tutorials –  Convertkit is primarily used by bloggers.  Therefore if you have a basic question about how to use Convertkit for your blog chances are there are tutorials out there to help you.  There are lots of user-generated tutorials on YouTube but also guides created by the Convertkit team to help answer common questions.

Attractive Signup Forms and Landing Pages – Never underestimate the importance of an opt-in form that’s aesthetically pleasing to look at.  It could be the difference between no subscribers and thousands of subscribers.  The customization options to build the perfect form is an attractive Convertkit feature.

Visual Automation – In my opinion, this is the most important reason why we choose Convertkit.  Visual automation of your email sequences allows you to see every email in your automation.  You can browse and edit all your emails in one place.  It seems like every email marketing tool should offer this but most do not!

Click here to get started with Convertkit today! 

Convertkit Email Marketing Tool

Keyword Research

As a blogger keyword research will be crucial to understand what types of content pieces you should be writing about.  Why write about a topic that nobody is searching for?  This is where keyword research comes in.

Writing great content simply isn’t enough these days.  You need to find keywords that have high search volume and low competition.  This will help with your SEO and start generating traffic from the search engines much quicker.

There are many tools on the market that can help with this process.   Keep in mind none of them are perfect and none of them are 100% accurate.  However, they do provide lots of valuable data around terms commonly searched on the web along with in-depth competitor insights.  Below is a list of keyword research tools we highly recommend.

Ubersuggest Keyword Research Tool

7. Ubersuggest (Keyword Research)

Ubersuggest is great if you’re just starting out. The interface is simple and easy to use, it has a clean design and it’s one of the less expensive options on the market.  As a beginner blogger, Ubersuggest will be a tool you use quite often.

Unfortunately, Ubersuggest is a paid tool (although it has some free features).  It can be difficult to spend money on tools when your blog isn’t profitable. Some tools really aren’t even a necessity, but rather a luxury.   Keyword research tools would somewhat fall in this category.  If forking out an extra $30 per month is a stretch on the budget go ahead and skip right past this section along with Ahrefs and go right to the “Google Search” section.

It is possible to quality keyword research directly in the Google search engine without using any tools.

8. Ahrefs (Advanced Keyword Research)

Ahrefs is an advanced keyword research tool and is used by many advanced bloggers.  Beginners typically do not understand the tool strong enough to get their money’s worth out of it.

One of the biggest benefits of Ahrefs is the ability to spy on your competitors.  Ahrefs allows you to see all the domains that link to your competitor’s website.  Additionally, its keyword research tool is more robust and in my opinion more accurate than the Ubersuggest keyword tool.

9. Google Search

Believe it or not but Google itself is one of the most powerful ways to perform keyword research.  A basic understanding of Google search operators and the autofill feature can be wildly helpful when looking for keyword ideas.

Google search operators provide you an arsenal of capabilities when it comes down to searching any given keyword.  One of our favorite ways to use search operators is when we look for guest post opportunities.  The “+” operator will automatically segment the words before and after and only look for posts relevant for each of the keywords.

For example:

“Guest Post + Start an Online Business”

This search query populates the SERPS with guest posting opportunities from blogs related to “start an online business.”

Alphabet Soup is another popular, effective way to use the Google search features.  Say you want to write a post about dog training.  The term dog training isn’t niche enough, so what about dog training could you write about?  Enter alphabet soup.  Simply type “dog training” into the search bar and see what auto-populates when you type “a” directly after, then “b”, then “c”, you get the point.  This is an easy way to find lots of ideas provided to you by Google.

Google's Alphabet Soup

Writing Tools

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “content is king”?  Well, that’s never been more true than today.  With so much information flooding the internet every day, it’s important your content is quality, engaging, and serves a purpose.

In the early days of the internet, it was easy to rank subpar content and watch the flood gates of traffic come pouring in.  These days quality content is one of the biggest factors in determining whether you’ll be shown at the top of the search engines or not.

10. Grammarly (Grammar Software)

Grammarly is a free writing app that has options to purchase premium features such as formality, fluency, advanced suggestions, and plagiarism detection.  At its core, Grammarly is useful in identifying common writing errors to ensure your content is as polished as possible.

It’s not perfect but for identifying basic writing errors Grammarly can be very effective.  Many experienced bloggers who become proficient in writing may not find Grammarly as useful.  However, if you’re writing skills are in need of fine-tuning, we highly recommend this tool.  The free version offers an extension you can add to your browser so no matter where you’re writing (email, blog post, etc) you’ll have Grammarly pointing out any errors.

Grammarly

SEO

Every beginner blogger likes to think they should spend a lot of time on SEO in order to grow their blog, this simply isn’t true.  You should really only care about the basics of SEO if you’re just starting out.

The real work comes once the website has established some rankings and there’s actually an opportunity to drive more traffic through more advanced SEO practice.  Until then, content is king and you should focus your attention on writing high-quality articles.

11. Yoast SEO (SEO Plugin)

We like YoastSEO for the simple fact that it’s easy to use.  You’ll discover quickly that SEO can get very technical.  YoastSEO is a WordPress plugin that easily allows you to improve the SEO friendliness of your website.  The plugin offers capabilities to create unique titles, meta descriptions and even makes suggestions on how to improve your content.

Yoast does have a premium version but in our opinion, the benefits do not outweigh the price.  The free version has tons of great features and is an easy way to improve the SEO on your website without needing to become an expert.

13. Google Search Console (Manage Search Visibility)

Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that allows you, the webmaster, the ability to monitor, track, and troubleshoot issues related to your presence in their search engine.

With Google Search Console you can ensure that your site is being crawled by the Google bots (and how often).  You can also see what keywords are driving most of the clicks and impressions your blog is receiving.

Google Search Console Tool

Try not to get caught up in the numbers! Paralysis by analysis is a real thing and obsessing over how many clicks you get each week is not a good habit.  Use Search Console every once in a while to look at any macro trends your traffic is experiencing and coverage issues that may need to be dealt with.

Checking every SEO box can be quite overwhelming.  We did our best to streamline the SEO process for bloggers, please check out our 30-Step SEO for Blogging Checklist to ensure you’re setting your website up for success from the very start.

Organization

As with any business, the organization is key to ensuring things move along efficiently and you stay productive.   You may already have methods of organizing your files on your computer, but if not here are some recommendations.

14. Google Drive (Cloud Storage)

Dropbox and Evernote were a close second and third here.  Really it comes down to preference.  We like Google drive because it’s easy to use, offers plenty of storage, and all data is saved to the Google servers so you don’t have to worry about losing everything if your computer malfunctions.

15. Last Pass (Password Management)

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number of tools and online profiles you’ll create while getting a blog set up.  Last Pass allows you to easily manage all your usernames and passwords in one place.

This is a blessing! You can imagine the headaches you have to deal with trying to remember each password for each website.  You probably have a website in mind right now that you need to reset the password for every time you try to log in.

Last Pass Password Management

Social Automation

Social media is a valuable traffic source for most blogs.  Automating your social media post from one place can save a tremendous amount of time and energy.  There are a number of tools on the market that can help with this – here is a couple our team enjoys using:

16. Tailwind

Tailwind is a social media schedule tool for Pinterest and Instagram.  Since most bloggers reap the majority of their social traffic from Pinterest and Instagram, we highly recommend this tool.

Tailwind streamlines the process for scheduling and creating posts/pins.  Social automation tools can be somewhat difficult to use and a lot of them are a bit buggy and may not post properly.  You never have to worry about this with Tailwind.  The platform is extremely effective, reliable, and support is readily available should you need it.

Tailwind is an industry-leading web app and offers some unique features that really set it apart such as:

Scheduler – Schedule hundreds of posts/pins ahead of time in minutes.

Analytics – Insight into how well your pins are performing so you can adjust and fine-tune through your next round of posts.

Collaboration – Easy way to expand your reach on Pinterest or Instagram.  An important feature for beginner bloggers.

Tailwind Blogging Resource

17. Buffer

We understand not all blogs use Pinterest and Instagram as main traffic sources.  If you find your blog does well on other social platforms such as Facebook, Tik Tok, or Linkedin, Buffer is for you.

Buffer is a well-known web app that is trusted by bloggers, e-commerce owners, and even enterprise businesses.  Similar to Tailwind, Buffer provides scheduling abilities, analytics, and engagement features.

Price is comparable to Tailwind but there might be a slight learning curve to get familiar with the Buffer tool.  Our team recommends Tailwind but Buffer is 2nd in line for social automation tools.

Summary

There you have it, the complete guide for the best blogging tools and resources warmly recommended by the MoonlightJo team.

Did you find this helpful, any new tools you’re excited about trying?

Please, share your thoughts below! 

Until next time, cheers.

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