Finding the right tools as a blogger and business owner can make an incredible difference in your productivity, efficiency, and enjoyment. When I started The Nectar Collective, I was living in a tiny, studio apartment in Japan. My desk? A bar cart.
Over time, I began to see the ridiculous importance in honoring your workspace and investing in your blog if you want it to grow. Now, I have some favorite go-to plugins, programs, and products that help me work smarter, make work fun, and save time. Ya feel me?
Today I’m sharing my absolute favorites, from social media marketing tools to the only two web hosts I use. Woohoo!
1. Essential Grid
I really like this plugin because it makes it very simple to add an interactive gallery to your site — no code needed! I use Essential Grid for the free library of eBooks and worksheets that I offer to my email subscribers. This is just a screenshot of a few of the images in the library, but you can add as many items as you’d like. This plugin makes it easy to link each image to a file, so I can display my various eBooks and worksheets and then when a subscriber hovers over it (like in the top right image above), they can download it. It’s very functional and purdy. 🙂
2. Social Warfare
I’m really impressed with the functionality of Social Warfare. It offers a couple neat things. First, it allows you to create social sharing buttons for your site, which can remain “sticky,” meaning they follow you down the page. You can also customize the look of them to match your branding.
The other thing that’s cool about Social Warfare is that you can upload “hidden” images for Pinterest and Facebook, so that when someone shares your post, it has a customized, perfectly-sized image that you’ve created, rather than a random one selected from the post. This also means that if you don’t want vertical images in your blog post, but still want to use them because they do so well on Pinterest, then you can “hide” them with Social Warfare. Very cool.
Lastly, you have the option to write your own tweets and Pinterest descriptions, which are attached to your post anytime someone shares them using the plugin. Ugh. They’ve thought of everything.
3. Yoast SEO
DUDE! SEO is so important for your blog or website. Having good SEO on my site has brought me SO MANY clients. It’s kind of ridiculous how valuable it’s been to me. Not only that, but search engines account for a large portion of my website traffic. I use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, which makes SEO very easy and effective. It’s also free, so why not?
BoardBooster is an amazing program for Pinterest. It offers a TON of features, from scheduling and looping pins to the “Pin Doctor,” which will help you clean up any pins that are lowering your Pinterest rank. I actually talk in-depth about BoardBooster in my e-course, Pinfinite Growth, which shares my best strategies for finding and attracting your ideal followers and subscribers. My students also get a free membership to BoardBooster, so they can test it out fo’ freezy.
Edgar is a pretty sophisticated social media scheduler, which I use for Facebook and Twitter. The beauty of Edgar is that it will loop your social media promotions, meaning that you’re constantly building a library of posts that Edgar will pull from, rather than creating posts that are immediately trashed after they’re shared. Genius. It was a little bit of an investment after using cheaper tools like Buffer, but for the amount of time it saves me, I feel it’s worth it.
Another cool thing about it? It allows you to upload an image for your posts, which is then attached to your tweets. Tweets with images tend to get more favorites, clicks, and retweets, so this is a powerful feature.
Bit.ly allows you to do a couple things. First, you can create shorter links, which are awesome if you are trying to tell someone (say, in a Periscope) what the link to something is, but you don’t want to struggle through a long URL. Second, it tracks the clicks of your links, so you can see how many times someone clicked it. This is neat because you can see which content people are diggin’ the most. You can set up Bit.ly with most social media schedulers to easily track how many clicks your posts receive.
1. Google Apps
I wanted to use a professional email address with “@melyssagriffin.com” at the end, but hated the interface of the hosting email providers out there. As a hardcore Gmail-er, I signed up for Google Apps, which makes it super easy to use a professional email address and Gmail at the same time. I actually wrote a tutorial about setting it up right here. There’s a coupon code in that tutorial, too!
Google Apps is also great for teams — I created an “@melyssagriffin” email address for a developer who I often hire for design projects and there are more sophisticated options to share things together via Google Drive.
2. Email Service Providers
If you want to grow an audience and earn an income online, having an email list is imperative.
Currently, I use Infusionsoft to keep in touch with my subscribers. Infusionsoft is great if you want to get more advanced, but for most people, I’d recommend checking out ConvertKit. They have an easy-to-use interface, juuuust the right amount of features, and reasonable prices. ConvertKit is great (and I used to use them!).
If you’re stuck on what to send your email list, you might want to start here.
LeadPages integrates with your email marketing provider in order to create more sophisticated sign-up forms and SO much more. You’re able to create opt-in forms for tons of different things, from webinar registration to a newsletter list. They’re also awesome if you plan to offer content upgrades because you can easily send your content upgrades to new subscribers through LeadPages.
I use two providers for web hosting — one for my biggest site (this one) and the other for my smaller sites.
1. WP Engine
I use WP Engine for MelyssaGriffin.com because it’s an excellent web host and I wanted something reliable. WP Engine markets itself as having fast page load speeds and I definitely saw a difference when I switched to WP Engine from the previous web host I used for this site. I also LOVE that they automatically back up my site every night. It’s awesome to know that if anything happens to my site, there’s a backup available from just a few hours ago. Score.
In order to add multiple sites to my WP Engine account, the price increases pretty dramatically. Instead, I use Bluehost for all of my other websites. I love Bluehost because it’s inexpensive and you can add unlimited domains to your account. I can literally create a new WordPress website in about two minutes (which I do more often than I’d like to admit). Their interface is really easy to use and their support is awesome. If you’re starting out, Bluehost is an excellent option.
Design + Electronics
Screenflow is an easy-to-use video editing software that has the ability to record your screen and voice. This makes it SUPER easy to share video tutorials or create online courses. I’m kind of obsessed with it at the moment and it’s been a great tool in helping me create the video modules and tutorials for Pinfinite Growth.
I also used it as a web designer — I’d record videos of myself showing my clients how to use their new website. Then, I’d share the videos with my clients so that they had a private video walk-through that they could always refer back to if they needed help editing their site. So useful!
Photoshop is something I use on a daily basis to create everything from blog post images to website design mockups. It’s awesome. They also now offer a $10/month subscription, so you no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket in order to use it. Woo!
Interested in Photoshop? Here are a couple of my favorite tutorials:
3. Creative Market
Creative Market is exactly what it sounds like — a creative marketplace with all different kinds of things you can download, such as clipart, patterns, fonts, and stock photos. They’re an awesome resource for designers and bloggers.
I did a roundup of some of my favorite hand-lettered, calligraphy fonts, most of which can actually be found on Creative Market. You can check that out right here.
4. Audio Technica ATR-2100 Microphone
I initially purchased this microphone when I had plans to create a podcast. While the podcast project has been put on the backburner for now (one day!), I have found a lot of other uses for the microphone. Namely, it’s a great tool to use when recording videos for eCourses or video tutorials. I’d imagine it would also be awesome to use during webinars.
Though it’s only about $60, the sound quality is excellent. I bought it because Pat Flynn (podcaster extraordinaire) recommended it, and it definitely does not disappoint.
5. iPhone Tripod (for Periscopes)
I was looking for an iPhone tripod that could hold my phone in the portrait view (rather than landscape) and this was lit-rally the only one I could find! Luckily, it actually works pretty well. I wanted to purchase a tripod for my Periscopes because it’s easier to chat when I don’t have to worry about holding my phone. Plus, it can be nice when I’m trying to share my computer screen and need to use both hands. I also used it as a regular camera tripod the other day and was impressed by how well it worked, especially given the fact that it’s only about $10!
6. Wacom Tablet
I use my Wacom tablet primarily when I want to incorporate hand-lettered effects into my designs (like blog post images!). This tablet works well for that purpose and is super fun to use. You could also use it as a more precise computer mouse. Definitely a staple for anyone who’s interested in design, and surprisingly budget-friendly.
What are your favorite tools, plugins, or programs for blogging? Leave a comment — let’s chat!