Note: I originally published this post in 2014. Since then a lot has changed, so I’ve rewritten this post from scratch to help you in 2017 and beyond.
Do you ever wish that certain parts of the blogging process could be easier?
Maybe it’s writing, crafting headlines, managing social media, lead generation or something else.
The good news is that all of this can be easier – with the right tools.
And in this post, I’ll show you the blogging tools that every marketer should know about. We’ll cover everything from content creation to marketing automation and in-depth competitive research.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
To make navigation easier here’s a list of the area’s I’ll be covering:
- Content creation
- Social media management
- Outreach and content promotion
- Capturing leads
- Competitor research and audience insight
- Email marketing and marketing automation
- Utilities and management
Content – blog posts, infographics, presentations, etc. – is the heart and soul of what you do as a blogger.
The quality of your content will often decide the success of your blog. Great content can make up for poor marketing, but great marketing can’t make up for poor content.
Try these tools to help you with content creation:
As a content marketer, you need powerful visuals to help spread your content.
Canva helps you design beautiful original graphics for your blog posts and social media platforms in no time. You can either use the templates or create your own.
Canva regularly updates its library with fresh designs, so you always have something new to share.
Price: Free; premium pricing depends on design selections.
Grammarly makes sure whatever you write is easy to read and mistake free. It goes far beyond the spell check in Word. It helps spot awkward phrasing, poor word choices and grammatical mistakes.
You should never rely on any proofreading tool 100%, but it can help you spot mistakes that you might have missed.
Price: Free to use; paid plans start from $29.95/month.
3. Hemingway App
The Hemingway App promises to make your writing bold and clear.
It does this by showing you:
- The average reading level of your writing
- The complexity of your sentences
- Which words have simpler alternatives
Try using it as your default text editor, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in your writing quality.
Price: Free; desktop app retails for $19.99.
CoSchedule helps you create and manage content better with its easy-to-use drag and drop content marketing calendar that plugs directly into WordPress.
Use it to collaborate with editors, writers and designers. Once you’re done, you can also use CoSchedule to share updates across social media automatically.
It saves you time and helps you grow your audience through smart marketing plans and efficient collaboration.
You can choose to schedule your social messages through CoSchedule directly, or send them to your Buffer account (we’ll talk more about Buffer later on).
Price: Starting from $15/month for solo bloggers.
5. Headline Analyzer
You already know that the headline is arguably the single most important element of any blog.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer scores your headlines on overall structure, grammar, and readability of your headline.
Use it to gauge the impact of your headline before your content goes live.
And if you use CoSchedule’s content marketing calendar, you’ll find headline scores within the app.
You need your visual elements to stand out to get attention from your audience. Slide.ly helps you create video and photo collections with simple sharing capabilities.
Use it to create collages for social sharing, marketing videos, slideshows and photo galleries.
Chances are that you have already seen your social feeds dominated by quizzes like these:
Quizzes are frequently among the most popular content formats on social media. Even with a small audience, you can get some great results – although it does depend on your niche.
Qzzr helps you create such quizzes and embed them on your blog. You can get started for free, though for more features, you’ll have to shell out $25/month.
Price: Free with Qzzr branding; paid plans at $25/month.
Getting good graphics for your blogs can be challenging without design experience.
Snappa is a tool for marketing practitioners to produce unique graphic designs for a variety of purposes without hiring freelancers or full-time designers.
Price: Free to use; paid plans at $10/month.
Creating content isn’t a one day job. You often need to go back to your notes.
Evernote helps you organize your ideas, brainstorm blog topics, manage your editorial calendar and anything that comes in between.
I especially like how easy it is to keep notes synchronized between devices.
Price: Free to use.
Jing allows you to take screenshots and record videos. It’s a worthy (and free) alternative to the now discontinued Skitch from Evernote.
Plus, it works seamlessly with other TechSmith tools such as SnagIt and Camtasia.
Slideshare is a platform to share your presentations.
With 70M visitors, it is one of the most popular websites online.
It also has a massive SEO footprint, which means that your presentation has a good chance of getting strong rankings.
Use Slideshare to share your presentations and direct traffic to your blog. You can also use it to generate leads or establish yourself as a thought leader.
If you’ve ever tried your hand at creating infographics, you know how technically challenging it can be.
One way to make the process easier is to use an infographic creation tool like Piktochart.
Piktochart has a broad range of customization tools for modifying color schemes, fonts, and pre-made templates to create infographics from scratch.
You won’t win any design awards with it, but it will help you create visual content much, much faster.
Price: Free to use; paid plans at $9/month.
Social media management
As a blogger, a large chunk of your traffic will come from social media.
In fact, according to a Shareaholic report, social media drove 31.24% of all website traffic in Q4 2014 – a number likely to be even higher today.
However, managing social media – creating content, queuing updates, responding to comments – can be extremely time-consuming.
Which is why you need these social media management tools to help market your blog better on social media:
AgoraPulse is a social media management platform that includes a wide range of features, including:
- Social media moderation
- And much more
Think of it as an all-in-one social media toolbox that can control every aspect of your social media marketing.
There’s one feature in particular that can be a huge time saver. It might seem minor, but it’s more important than you may think.
Inside the social inbox, you can see all of your mentions and reply to them. That’s standard, but you can choose to hide all of the mentions/updates you have already seen.
So, when you come back to the tool, you don’t have to spend 10-15 minutes figuring out who you last replied to.
Price: Paid plans starting at $49/month.
Use Buffer to schedule your content across Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Buffer will automatically figure out the best time for posting for your account.
This cheap and simple tool will help streamline your entire social sharing process, saving you hours every week.
Buffer also have a tool called Pablo, which lets you create simple images to share across your social profiles. Ideal for quote style images.
Price: Free to use; paid plans starting at $10/month.
Quuu.co is a content curation platform that helps you automate hand-curated content from relevant categories of interest.
Once you’ve filled up your “quuu” (i.e. ‘queue’), you can distribute this content through Buffer to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram accounts.
The main limitation is that you have to go into your Buffer account directly if you want to stop any content from being shared.
That said, the quality of content is great, and I haven’t had to stop any updates from being published.
Price: Free to use; paid plans from $10/month.
Buying followers just to inflate your follower count doesn’t really work anymore. At best, it’s a vanity metric to boost your ego.
You need to nurture an audience of real people that want to hear what you have to say.
One way to do this is through Narrow.io.
Narrow.io helps you find real followers by finding people that are talking about subjects related to your blog and engaging with them in real time.
Price: Paid plans start at $19/month.
There are a lot of articles and infographics on the web that tell you the best time to tweet.
But, the truth is that they were created using someone else’s data. Not yours.
Want to know the actual best times to tweet? Use a tool like Tweriod that will analyze your account to understand when your tweets get the most engagement.
It’s a simple tool that can have a big impact on your tweet visibility.
Price: Free to use.
Paper.li puts online newspapers and newsletters from millions of sources across the web at your fingertips.
You can use it to curate content to share across your social media accounts.
Mentioning other publishers/bloggers in your Paper.li “newspaper” is also an excellent way to get on their radar before you start an influencer outreach campaign.
Price: Free to use.
Outreach and content promotion
Creating great content is only 20% of blogging success; you also need to back it up with a stellar content promotion strategy.
Influencer outreach is one of the most powerful tactics for marketing your content.
Except there’s just one problem: reaching out to influencers, bloggers and journalists takes a serious amount of time.
Mailshake offers an easy way to send personalized outreach emails to targeted influencers.
Use it in your outreach campaigns to shave hours from your marketing schedule each week.
Price: Plans starting at $9/month.
You know that influencer outreach works, but researching influencers, finding emails and managing templates can be wildly time-consuming.
Here’s one solution: BuzzStream.
BuzzStream is an outreach tool that helps you research, organize and plan your outreach strategically. Use it to find influencers, manage your outreach and use proven templates to maximize your results.
Whatever type of outreach you want to do, BuzzStream can help with every step of the process.
Price: Plans starting at $24/month.
There are two things you need for capturing leads:
- Opt-in forms for capturing leads from within your content or anywhere else on your blog
- Landing pages for capturing leads from eBook/digital product downloads
The features you should look for include; customization options, easy to use templates, split testing, and integration with most popular email marketing tools.
On that note, here are some tools you can use to capture leads:
Instapage is a platform that lets you build landing pages for your marketing campaigns. Besides a large library of proven landing page templates, you also get features such as A/B Testing, multiple campaign management, easy page building, and a lot more.
It also lets you integrate landing pages with most popular email providers.
They have over 140 templates included and seem to add new ones every so often. What if they aren’t to your liking? No problem – you can start from a blank page or completely change one of the templates with the drag & drop editor.
Price: Starting at $29/month.
22. Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads is designed to help you add engaging opt-in forms to key locations on your website, making it easy for you to split test different opt-in forms and monitor your progress.
Aside from the features you’d expect to find in a list building plugin; you get some unique features that most other tools like this don’t have.
I’m talking about features like digital asset delivery, content upgrade templates, 2-step opt-in forms and a lot more.
Thrive Leads works seamlessly with Thrive’s other products such as Thrive Themes, and Thrive Architect. And the price point is excellent considering the features you get.
Price: Single site license for $67 for lifetime updates and 12 months support.
OptinMonster used to be a WordPress plugin, but now it’s so much more.
It’s a web app that allows you to create, deploy and test a variety of different opt-in forms.
If you manage multiple websites, this is especially useful because you can manage everything from your OptinMonster dashboard.
You also get advanced targeting options, dynamic text replacement, yes/no style forms, success templates and more.
What about integrations with email service providers? OptinMonster supports all the popular email service providers such as MailChimp, Aweber, Drip, ConstantContact, Campaign Monitor, Mad Mimi, etc.
Price: Plans start from $19/month (more opt-in form types are available on higher plans).
24. Sumo (previously SumoMe)
Sumo is an app that offers a wide range of tools to help you grow your email list. The app integrates with any HTML based website, and there’s a plugin for WordPress users.
- A welcome mat at the top of your blog
- A ‘Smart Bar’ to capture leads
- A ‘List Builder’ pop-up/scroll-box for building lists
Outside of list building, you get other tools to help you grow your traffic. Such as analytics and heat mapping tools.
Price: Free to use; paid plans from $29/month.
Competitor research and audience insight
What keywords are your competitors targeting? What sites are linking to them? What platforms are they using to promote their content? What are readers in your niche actually looking for?
These are important questions to answer for any serious content marketer. Knowing what your competition is doing can give you a leg-up in search and social.
On that note, let’s look at some essential tools for research keywords, audiences and your competitors.
Ahrefs is arguably the most comprehensive SEO tool for backlink tracking and keyword/competitor research.
Use it to figure out who is linking to your competitors, which keywords your competitors are ranking for or track your blog’s performance.
Besides this, Ahrefs has a keyword research tool and a content explorer to discover trending content – great for brainstorming content ideas.
Price: Plans starting from $99.
Keywords might not be as important as they used to be, but you still need a strong keyword strategy if you hope to win at SEO.
And while SEMrush is best known for keyword research and competitive data – it does a lot more.
Not only will SEMRush help you discover low-competition, high-potential keywords, it will also help you figure out what keywords your competitors are targeting.
You’ll also get access to a rank tracker, site auditor, brand monitoring and more.
Price: Starting at $69.95/month.
27. Advanced Web Ranking
Advanced Web Ranking is a rank tracking tool. It can be purchased as desktop software or an online app.
AWR makes it easy to track your rankings and compare those rankings to competitors. It lets you generate different kinds of reports on particular aspects of your ranking progress. You can also use it to run an SEO audit and measure your content’s social performance.
A bonus feature is the integration with Google Analytics and Google Search Console – you can access this data without AWR, but it’s useful to have it all in one place.
Price: Starting from $49/month.
Buzzsumo pretty much does what its tagline says, “Analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor.”
All you need to do is enter a topic or domain in the search box, and BuzzSumo will show you the most shared content on any topic, including a breakdown by social platform. You can also view the backlinks generated by each post.
You can use this fantastic tool for yourself or see what your competitors are up to or find influencers sharing/linking to different content.
Buzzsumo also has a web monitoring tool, that lets you set up alerts for new links, keywords and more. You can get updates via email, and all mentions are visible within the monitoring dashboard.
Price: Starting from $99/month.
Long tail keywords bring more targeted traffic to your website. And in turn, they have higher conversion rates than short-tail keywords.
Ubersuggest helps you find hundreds of long tail keywords by browsing Google’s autocomplete results.
Need data on your target audience? A way to figure out your competitors’ demographics?
Quantcast gives you insights on your audience preferences, demographics, general and political interests.
Just plug in your competitor’s website to discover who their visitors are, where they come from and what do they do on the site.
Note: the data you can get from this tool is excellent, but it relies on you adding a snippet of code to your site.
Price: Free to use; pro plan pricing available upon request.
Quora is a popular social network for question and answer discussions.
There are two ways you can use Quora:
- Identify trends from consistently asked questions and base your content around it.
- Promote your blog by answering specific questions on your topic
Pro tip: traffic from Quora usually won’t show up in your analytics. To fix that, create a tracking link using Google’s URL builder. This will make sure you can track any traffic coming to your site from Quora.
32. Google Analytics
Google Analytics remains the gold standard among free analytics tools. Packed with features and supported liberally by Google, GA helps you discover who is reading your content, where they are coming from and how long they stick around on any page.
Besides basic analytics information, you can also use it to capture real-time analytics data, analyze audience demographics, track marketing performance and run ‘experiments’ (i.e. A/B tests).
Note: learning how to find your way around GA might take a while, but it’s worth it.
Price: Free to use.
Want to find influential bloggers in your niche but don’t know where to start?
Alltop comes to the rescue.
AllTop is a “digital magazine” that curates the most popular stories on different topics. From technology to business to breaking news, you will find it all here.
This gives you an idea of what is trending on the internet. Based on this information you can create your content or reach out to influencers in your niche.
Pro tip: you can submit your blog for inclusion (it’s free) but be sure to find the most relevant category first.
Email marketing and marketing automation
Social media platforms might come and go but email marketing is going to be here for a long, long time.
It’s no wonder why marketers frequently rank email as the best digital channel for ROI.
When paired with a competent marketing automation tool, email marketing can transform your business.
Let’s take a look at some email marketing and marketing automation tools:
MailChimp is an email marketing platform that lets you market your content to your audience via email.
You can sign-up for free and send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers without paying a penny (features are somewhat limited, however).
If you’re new to email marketing, MailChimp is the perfect tool to get your feet wet before you graduate to more full-featured marketing automation tools, or if you just want to keep things simple.
Price: Free for first 2,000 subscribers; after that, plans start at $10/month.
35. Click Funnels
Click Funnels is a powerful tool that helps you design complete funnels. This includes sales pages, squeeze pages, landing pages and emails.
Besides creating funnels, you can also use it to receive payments, deliver digital products and setup an affiliate program to promote your products. It’ll also replace your email marketing provider too.
It may seem expensive, but considering you can manage every part of your marketing funnel – it’s a solid option. You just need to be able to justify the costs.
Price: Starting at $97/month.
If you’re looking for a serious marketing automation tool, Drip is a great option.
This tool involves a significant learning curve if you haven’t had experience with marketing automation tools. But the features it puts at your fingertips are impressive.
You get a visual automation builder, opt-in forms, powerful tracking functionality and more.
One of the features that I particularly like is that after you add a snippet of tracking code to your website, you’ll be able to see exactly how people behave on your site.
Note: I used Drip for a few months and thought it was great. But the only thing that let it down for me was how double confirmation opt-in seemed to be an afterthought. If you do use double opt-in, I’d recommend setting up a tag for when anyone confirms their email address.
Price: Free to use; paid plans from $49/month.
ConvertKit is an email marketing platform that was designed with bloggers in mind.
While this tool may seem fairly basic on the surface, it has some powerful features under the hood.
You get email broadcasts, an auto responder, email automation, basic analytics and a form building tool that allows for opt-in form and landing page creation.
Now, third-party tools offer a lot more functionality when it comes to opt-in form and landing page creation, but it’s nice to have it in one tool.
What I love about ConvertKit is how it handles lead magnets. Most email providers (e.g. MailChimp) make you use a single thank you page – you can only change it if you set up another list.
The problem with this approach is that you can’t actually send emails to multiple lists, and you pay for subscribers multiple times.
With ConvertKit, you can set up a new form for each lead magnet and each form will have it’s own thank you email. Just add the download link for your lead magnet, and when people get that email, their subscription is confirmed when they click the download button.
Note: while the concept of this platform is incredible, it isn’t perfect. Analytics are basic, and certain aspects of styling opt-in forms require CSS code. However, extensive documentation is available.
Price: Plans from $29/month.
Utilities and management
You never realize the importance of backups until the day you lose your data.
This is why utilities, though often overlooked, are critical for running a successful blogging operation.
Below, I’ll show you some importnt utilities and management tools to help make your blog run smoothly.
UpdraftPlus is a WordPress plugin that helps you backup your data.
Use it to schedule automated backups that can be stored directly on the cloud – Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
You might be wondering why you need to backup your website if your host already does that.
And for the most part, you’ll be fine. But it’s not worth taking the risk because mistakes happen. And if they do, there’ll be a clause in your host’s terms of service page that ensures they hold no responsibility.
I’ve included UpdraftPlus because it’s a great option and you can get started for free.
But, if you have a large site I recommend using a service like VaultPress – it’s from the company behind WordPress and works incredibly well.
Price: Free to use; premium version from $70.
Yoast is arguably the most popular search engine optimization plugin for WordPress.
This plugin gives you everything that you need from this type of plugin. From meta and social data and XML sitemaps to the option to deindex particular taxonomies.
Note: In a recent version they added a setup wizard, so it’s far easier to setup the plugin than ever before. However, for advanced users, it did strip out a few important features. If you find this an issue, a good alternative is All in One SEO Pack.
Price: Free to use; premium version from $69 for a single site license.
Trello is a powerful project management tool. Its powerful board-focused interface can help you manage your to-dos, track content progress and collaborate with others.
One example of how to use Trello for content marketing is to set up a list for each step in your editorial process.
For example, I have:
- Post ideas
- With writer
- With editor
- Ready to publish
You can then activate the ‘calendar’ power up, which will allow you to flick between the regular view and the calendar with a click of a button. Any cards with dates assigned will show up in the calendar.
Price: Free to use; paid plans from $9.99/month.
Over to you
There are countless other blogging tools on the market, but for most people, this list should be enough. Use it to find tools to improve content development, outreach, social media marketing, generate leads and experiment with marketing automation.
But remember to start slow – pick a tool, try it and see how it improves your blogging process. Then come back to this post to try another.
Related reading: 8 Great Page Builder Plugins For WordPress: Design Made Easy.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might receive a commission if you make a purchase. My opinions are my own and I only recommend tools that I believe you’ll find valuable.