I have been working in digital marketing (in various roles) for over ten years and blogging for seven years.
I used to run a travel blog called Way Out Far (which is what inspired my business name) and then ran a fairly well-read parenting blog called thisbrightonmum.com until 2018.
I’ve spent quite a few years perfecting my blog set-up to the point where I have been able to help friends and clients launch dozens of blogs over the years.
With all of this experience, I thought it would be good to share with you my top 13 tools for running a blog. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting one for your business, or you want to start talking about your side hustle or passion project.
If so, this list might be for you…
1. Domain and Hosting
I have been using tsohost.com (affiliate link!) for the past few years and can’t recommend these guys enough.
Simple hosting costs as little as £17.99 for the year and if you get your web address (or domain) with them then when you set the site up, they will do all of the re-pointing for you.
This means no faffing with IP redirects and A records. Which if you haven’t ever done that before, then why start and put yourself off before you’ve even begun to write?
Once you have set your site up you can then install WordPress to the server via the control panel and you never have to see any code, EVER.
As you can tell from above, I’m all about the self-hosted WordPress site.
There are countless reasons why self-hosted is better than using an online blogging service but if you have no cash then doing it via the web on WordPress.com is OK too because it’s free and you don’t have to pay for hosting.
Self-hosted means you can have your own domain (not a wordpress.yoursite.com one) and there are more options to add extra functionality and themes.
The benefit of using WordPress is how long-lasting it is. It has grown and adapted to the changes in how we use the internet over the years.
There are thousands of themes and plugins available to help customise your site to how you need.
It’s secure with a massive developer community that wants to make it better every day.
It’s also free to install and use.
Once you have a self-installed WordPress site, you can go with their default theme or use one of the free ones.
Divi is the WordPress theme I use for all of the sites that I build client, when I do get asked to help them with that.
It is so customizable that I have been able to create several sites from it that all look very different because it comes with pre-built templates that you can load and them customise to what you need.
I can’t recommend it enough if you’re confident enough to tinker about with configuring it.
Askimet is the first plugin that you should go and download once you have your WordPress site set-up.
It’s a free tool (although they do ask for a donation) that will filter out spam comments on your site.
It’s invaluable as you won’t spend your evenings deleting Nigerian Prince scam comments from your post comments.
5. SEO Yoast
SEO Yoast is my other go-to Plugin once I’ve set up a new site.
This one installs a small box below each post that checks your title, page content and general SEO-ness based on an inputted keyword.
If you are new to SEO then it’s a must-have because it does the thinking about how to optimise your content to be seen by search engines (and by search engines I mean Google as that’s all we pretty much use in the west).
6. Google Analytics
In the old days, you needed to go and set up an account, get some code and then install it in the code of your website.
These days there are hundreds of plugins that you can install into WordPress and have it do all that work for you and Google Analytics is the king.
Once you are tracking your site you can see exactly where your traffic is coming from and what users are viewing when they get there. This is invaluable stuff as it tells you what is and isn’t working so that you can improve every day.
I am amazed at how much stuff I can learn about tracking even after all these years and you will too.
7. Google Webmaster
This is a vital tool if you want to understand how your site is being indexed by Google and want to improve your general search engine visibility. Google Webmaster (now called Search Console, but I am old school you see), checks the indexing status and allows you to optimize visibility of your website.
If you want to understand how people are searching for your site, then you really need to have this enabled. Once you get a bit more savvy about search engine optimisation, then this is for you.
8. Google AdSense
Google AdSense is the ad serving network of Google and allows you to run ads on your site if you have the spaces set up for them.
My theme, Divi, has a space on individual blog post pages and running down the right-hand side of the page, that allows you to add code for ads to show.
Why bother you may think?
Well, these ads serve contextually, so if you are a travel blogger and have identified the site as such then Google will serve related videos and so the click rate should be good.
The same related to parenting blogs and ads that are shown should relate to the content.
It means a (mostly) better experience for the visitors to your site if the ad looks Ok and is relevant and you can earn some vital cash on the side.
I don’t profess to make much money off of this but some bloggers make a living off of the revenue!
Buffer is the kind of scheduling tool that I was always looking for before it came along.
You log in using your Twitter credentials and can add several accounts using the free version.
Once set-up you can then schedule up to a month’s worth of posts to publish to your various social channels (even more with the paid subscription) without having to be there to press the ‘publish’ button every single time.
It means you can get on with the important job of writing content.
I have been using Photoshop since the early Noughts and so can’t really live without it.
It’s the best photo editing software in the market and if you are into your photography, it ‘s a real must.
There are loads of great tutorials on YouTube you can watch and learn from and a monthly subscription will cost around £10 a month these days meaning you don’t have to fork out hundreds up front.
if you don’t have the cash and just want a simple tool that can help you create simple posts for your blogs and social feeds, then you should get Canva.
You can choose from hundreds of pre-built templates, whether it’s a Facebook post or YouTube thumbnail, and then update using your own pics and words.
It’s also FREE!
The paid version lets you set up your brand guidelines and add team members.
This one really is a game changer, because if you’re blogging for the writing and not much of a designer, you can now get beautiful graphics to accompany each post.
Fiverr is a skills marketplace and is named as such because you can head there and buy services such as logo creation or copywriting for just $5.
Some suppliers will charge more for extra services too but it’s their way of building up a portfolio and making lots of cash, especially if the service can be automated.
I usually use it to transcribe my videos so that I can rewrite them into blog posts.
IFTTT (If This Then That) essentially is a “recipe” app that allows you to tell apps and websites how to interact with each other, and it automates that process.
So for example you can post a Twitter update automatically to Facebook (don’t do that – it’s a bit naff) or if you post a pic to Facebook, it automatically gets added to Dropbox.
It can get quite sophisticated especially when you add in fitness trackers and wearables devices.
For now, I would recommend using it to enable you to post your blog posts to your social feeds.
I hope that you found this list useful and have been inspired to look into setting your own WordPress blop up.
Be sure to sign up to my mailing list as I’ll be talking more about how to make WordPress your go-to platform for your website.