Alright, listen up. It’s been a while since I’ve come to you with a list of great tools, and it’s time to kick things off with a new list. This isn’t just any list, mind you. I’m making it a great list. And, okay, so I tell you these are the most effective tools you can get. I’m excluding some of the best tools, because they’re tools you shouldn’t even need to be told to use.
WordPress? Not on the list.
Google Analytics? If you’re not using that, this article is too advanced for you.
We’re talking the good stuff here.
AgoraPulse is an all-in-one social media management platform specifically designed for bloggers, small businesses and other entities sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As a blogger with a small or moderate following, you’ll want the Micro, Small or maybe Medium tiers, depending on your growth. They’re limited by the number of fans on the account. Prices start at $29 per month, but there’s a free trial, so you can make sure it does everything you want before you commit.
This tool isn’t for the basic blogger; it’s for bloggers really getting into the multimedia aspects of their craft. Most bloggers just write posts and put them up on their site. Some bloggers record videos of themselves discussing the topics. One middle of the road option is the podcast, which looks terrible when uploaded to YouTube with no video. Rather than do that, use LibSyn for your podcast hosting and syndication. It’s cheap, it can host files, and it can syndicate with iTunes and other services.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free, open-source alternative to PhotoShop. I recommend this primarily because PhotoShop is notoriously expensive. Though, in the last few years, they have run deals to get their subscription version fairly cheap, so you might look into that as well.
You don’t need PS or Gimp if you hire a freelance graphic designer, but if you’re doing a lot of your graphic work yourself or don’t have the budget for a freelancer, these are the tools to go for.
Pippity is one of the most robust exit intent pop-up overlays available. It has a huge variety of options and configurations, allowing you to split-test different creatives, timings or offers. You can set it to pop on exit intent, or on timing, or based on visitation frequency, and everything in between. It’s not free, like a lot of the other options, but it’s incredibly robust for what it does. Invaluable if you’re building a mailing list or selling a product in addition to your blog.
BbuzzSumo is a tool designed for content discovery, reputation, content curation, competitive research, and influencer outreach. While these sound like a lot of different features, they’re all very similar in nature; identify a topic, find out who is talking about it, and figure out what their role is. You can scour a niche to identify available topics, topics where your competition is weak, and topics where there’s an influencer you can network with. It’s pretty great for all of these things.
Content scheduling, plain and simple. Never again will you have to figure out how to schedule your day around the times when you need access to a computer so you can post your updates at just the right time. You can schedule your content far off into the future, with precision down to the minute. Plus, it works as browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.
If you’re the kind of blogger who follows trends and tends to post timely content rather than evergreen content, you know the value of speed and agility in creating and publishing content. Social Mention gives you an immediate, real-time search stream filled with the content posted online, showing you what’s being written about a given topic at any given time. Use it to make sure you’re never playing second fiddle.
Not so much a tool as a service, Visual.ly is a company that turns your creative vision into a tangible product. If you don’t have time to produce graphical content yourself, hire it out! Videos, infographics, Slideshare presentations and a host of other multimedia options are available, for relatively reasonable prices. I say relatively, because you aren’t paying basic freelancer rates, you’re paying for legitimately expert service. It’s well worth it, for the rare occasion when you really need to wow the world.
Edgar is another social sharing and scheduling app, very similar to Buffer. It has one primary feature I really like, though, and that’s reposts. You can schedule one post to cycle through several times, to hit at different times for different audiences. When a given Facebook post only reaches 6% of your audience, it’s a great idea to post it a couple times to try to hit different groups of people. Set up a dozen or so pieces of content in extended rotation and you’ve got a full content stream.
This free tool is a little middle of the road. On one hand, some of the titles it spits out are completely ridiculous and would only be suitable on a site like Buzzfeed or Clickhole. On the other hand, sometimes it has some absolute gems of titles. Use it to brainstorm some ideas, or pick a ridiculous one and run with it just to see how it goes.
Evernote is a multi-platform, cross-compatible app that works on just about everything. It’s one part notepad, one part compositional tool, one part bulletin board and a whole lot more. It’s an all-in-one workspace to jot ideas on the fly, compile notes and references, store images for later and generally simulate a nicely cluttered workspace full of inspiration.
Toggl is a one-click time tracking tool that’s perfect for anyone who needs to keep track of how long it takes to do a particular task. Think of it like an extremely customizable stopwatch. You fill in a task and hit start, work on the task, finish the task, and hit done. Keep track of every second of billable time spent on any task.
Microsoft Word has a pretty good spelling and grammar check. So does Firefox, if you configure it. Grammarly is a bit beyond even those. It’s incredibly accurate, so much so that it claims to be the most accurate in the world. It also includes plagiarism checks – if you’re scanning guest posts – and checks for issues with perspective and style.
Canva is a simple web-based tool for creating graphics, with its own robust library of stock images. You create something and it tallies up the cost of the element you used, and charges you for the license on those elements. It’s super simple and pretty darn cheap.
All mailing lists must be managed, and MailChimp is one of the best ways to manage a mailing list, or several. You can also opt for AWeber, if you want; it’s an equally valid option for bloggers and small businesses. I prefer the chimp because it has more room for growth and scales better for larger companies.