When you get away from website builders and start managing your own website, you’ll discover that there are a lot of blogging tools available to help you grow and manage your blog. From domain name registrars, different web hosts, content marketing tools etc. It’s a bit overwhelming.
The goal of this comprehensive guide is to help show you what blogging tools you need to be aware of as a beginner in order to help you make a purchase decision. This blogging tools guide will covert the following:
- Web hosting
- Domain Names
- WordPress Themes
- SEO Tools
- Email Marketing
- Advertising Networks
- Stock images and video
- Selling Digital Products
- Writing, Grammar, Headlines
- YouTube and Video Creation
Web Hosting For Blogs and Websites
Most new bloggers and websites need a shared hosting account. With your shared hosting account you can install WordPress which is a free and open source content management system, as well as themes and plugins. Thus allowing you to have full control over the look, feel, design and layout of your website.
For hosting, we in general recommend two web hosts depending on your needs.
Bluehost – Best starter web host (1000 visitors a day).
Bluehost is the #1 recommended web host by WordPress. They are good, safe, no frills choice that provide good hosting at a fair price. They offer a great introductory rate and are specifically designed to make creating a website or blog with WordPress easy for any beginner.
If you don’t have a hosting account or a website yet, go with Bluehost. They have the support, speed and service you need to get started building an effective, high traffic website.
The #1 recommended host by WordPress for a reason. Perfect for new websites.
WPX Hosting – Best Host For Large Websites
WPX Hosting is our current web host. They provide excellent hosting for WordPress websites only. Their price and performance has been outstanding and they are your best option when you out grow Bluehost.
In general, we suggest starting with Bluehost as they provide the infrastructure and support to build a new website and blog. Once your website starts getting over 1000 visitors daily and is doing around 50,000 pageviews a month or so, it’s time to consider moving to WPX.
WPX provides free migration so when it’s time to move it’s an easy process. WPX Hosting does cost more than Bluehost, but your site should be making money to justify the cost of this better, more premium web host.
One of the best web hosts for medium to large websites. Fast hosting, excellent support.
You can get a “free” domain name at a lot of website builders and web hosts but the truth is that free is not free. It’s free for the first year but then after that you’re paying an inflated renewal rate.
Why inflated? Because the web host or website builder needs to tack on a fee in order to make profit. What they are functionally doing is registering a domain name on your behalf. Instead, do it yourself with one of our two recommended domain name registrars.
Namecheap – The Best Domain Registrar
Namecheap has a long track record of success and offers some of the lowest domain name registration and renewal prices around. With 24/7 customer support and an easy to use interface to buy, sell and renew your current domain names; Namecheap is one of the best registrars around.
With your Namecheap account you don’t get hassled with up-sells like GoDaddy and you get WHOIS protection for free.
Get your domain names at Namecheap. Free WHOIS protection.
Dynadot – The lowest renewal rates around
Dynadot is the strongest competitor to Namecheap with regards to domain name registration and price. They are the professional domainers, domain name registrar of choice.
The only downside of Dynadot is that they lack 24/7 customer support which is essential when setting up your domain name for any website builder or if you just have how-to questions. Dynadot overall provides an excellent service if you’re looking to register domain names.
Low registration and renewal fees. Free WHOIS protection.
For more see our Dynadot vs Namecheap comparison.
A WordPress theme controls what your website looks like. Some themes are “what you see is what you get” while other themes are advanced editors that allow you to design your website as you like. Here are our top choices:
Themify Ultra – Coupon Code ULTRAPRO
Website Creative Pro uses the Themify Ultra theme. It has all the little details you would want in a theme. Control over the design of individual pages as well as different headers and footer to change out with the click of a button.
You also get the intuitive drag and drop block editor on the back which gives you a lot of control over your design. If you want a theme to design any type of website, the Ultra theme is excellent. You also get access to a very helpful support forum to answer any technical or how-to questions.
Full design control. Fast, beautiful and modern. Use coupon code ULTRAPRO for a discount.
DIVI Theme – Best Page Builder Theme
DIVI is one of the best drag and drop page builders available today and one of the most popular WordPress themes in the world. DIVI is the choice of countless design professionals as well as beginners due to the speed at which you can create websites.
You can create any sort of website with the DIVI theme. What I don’t like about this theme however is that their pre-built designs are overly complicated. I don’t care about a big, complicated but beautiful designs. I care about user experience and making money.
But if you’re looking for the best front end visual website builder, look no further than DIVI.
The best drag and drop editing theme for WordPress.
AVADA Theme – Best Selling Theme on Theme Forest for 5+ Years
The Avada Theme is the best selling WordPress theme on Theme Forest for the past 5 years. This theme is part theme, part page builder and it’s simply one of the best themes you can use to build a WordPress website.
What I like about this theme is that with your purchase, you get updates for life. However, you can not use it on multiple websites. As with all premium themes, there is a learning curve but if you’re looking for a user friendly theme where you get updates for life for one low cost then get the Avada Theme.
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Astra – The lightweight theme
Astra is surprisingly feature rich. While like all themes in that it does have a learning curve, once you understand how this particular theme works you can quickly and easily build a blog fast and easy.
On top of that, Astra is designed to work well with page builders like Elementor, the default WordPress editor or Beaver Builder. You can also use “Astra sites” and download a pre-made website!
The big “secret” to creating blog posts and YouTube videos is to create content that people are actually looking for. Too many just “wing it” and write about whatever they want. This strategy usually ends up with having a blog with a lot of content but no search traffic.
Here are some tools to get you started:
Uber Suggest – Content Marketing Tool
Bought out by Neil Patel for a $100,000 dollars. This is a helpful keyword tool is designed to allow you to find the search volume and difficulty of a specific keyword as well as related keywords.
It’s all a guess, but it gives you a broad idea as to the competitive nature of a keyword as well as valuable related searches.
Keywords Everywhere – Keyword suggestion tool
Keywords Everywhere changed to a paid model so they don’t provide any search volume information anymore unless you pay.
However, they still give out related keyword searches which can shows you alternative phrases that people are actually looking for. There is no way to know the potential search volume, but it’s helpful for getting content ideas.
Google Search Console – Website Analysis Tool
Search console is provided by Google and allows you to see what pages are ranking for what, what position they are at and the amount of impressions they get.
It gives you insight into your overall rankings and also gives you clear and specific phrases you’re ranking for. Sometimes you’ll notice a keyword your blog is not even optimized for so it’s quite helpful for finding keywords that are actually driving traffic.
Learn how to use Google Search Console with my quick and easy to follow Skillshare course.
SEM Rush – Competition Research
It allows you to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Very valuable because if you know your competitor is ranking and getting traffic for a specific phrase, it only makes sense for you to go after that keyword as well.
This is how I start any new website. I do a deep dive into the rankings of potential competitors and create content on proven keywords.
AHrefs – SEO Research
Allows you to do competitive research on your competitors and it also has an internal site auditor and allows you to do a much deeper analysis into how your competitors are ranking.
Answer the Public – Long tail keyword research tool
This website allows you to find phrases people are actually using. Sort of like keywords everywhere. It’s great because you can find targeted keywords which can form the backbone of your blogging efforts.
Google Trends – Verify your keywords
I love using Google Trends to verify the traffic of a keyword. Sometimes you’ll find an interesting keyword via Answer the Public or Keywords everywhere. Google Trends allows you to get an understanding of the potential search volume.
Keyworddit – Reddit Keywords
This tool scrapes questions from Reddit and gives you actual questions and phrases people are looking for.
Pinterest – Keyword research for women
Pinterest is dominated by female users. When you go to promote a pin, it gives access to the keyword research data so you can see actual search volume.
Email marketing is how you turn a blog into a business. You have a few different options and strategies. You can follow a typical internet marketing strategy and build email funnels with various follow-up all promoting products you own or an affiliate for.
The second option is to create a weekly newsletter you send out where you update your subscribers on deals, offers, new content or videos.
Convert Kit – Best for Products
Convert Kit was started by Nathan Berry who previously sold digital products via his website and email list. As such, Convert kit has a clear focus on building out funnels, email follow-ups and tagging in order to drive sales of digital products.
What is great about Convert Kit is that you can create multiple on-boarding funnels with ease. For example, you could create a 10 series funnel about saving money and another funnel about passive income. All ending with contacts being added to one primary list.
This is very useful if you have specific YouTube videos or blog posts that rank well for specific key phrases where the user intent is slightly different. People watching a video on how to save money probably are not interested in starting a blog for example.
If you have products to sell or you’re an affiliate, Convert Kit is a feature rich choice.
Mailer Lite – Best for weekly newsletters
Mailer Lite is exactly what it sounds like. A lite option for content creators who just want keep things simple with a way to capture emails, send broadcast emails and setup simple funnels.
If you’re looking for the lowest cost provider around and you just want to send out helpful emails to your list (like when you publish a new video or blog post) without all that marketing thrown in, Mailer Lite is for you.
Active Campaign – Best for multiple websites and time sensitive content
Active Campaign is excellent because you can have multiple lists for different websites in one account. So if you’re paying for a list size of 10,000 emails subscribers that can be divided among multiple websites. With other providers it’s one website per account. In general this will save you money and it makes managing your email lists much easier.
The next (and quite under rated feature) is that you can create a time sensitive email funnel that users can loop through. You can create a year long email sequence where users get specific emails at specific times of the year.
For most users, creating a funnel is what is needed. But some topics are seasonal so having a subscriber get relevant content at the right time of the year is more critical. If that’s you, Active Campaign is your email service provider.
Aweber – The classic, reliable choice
Aweber is a tried and tested email service provider. They have excellent deliverability, meaning your emails will hit the inbox and not the spam folder or promotions tab. They also provide the ability to create funnels based on subscriber intent as well as set up an autoresponder series of emails.
If you’re looking for a safe, reliable email service provider for affiliate marketing, promoting your own products or simple email updates then take a look at Aweber.
Advertising is still an excellent way to make money from a website and blog. It’s also one of the most passive and hands off once everything is set up. It’s not a good fit for all websites obviously.
Some websites you would be better off selling your own products and other topics the ad rates are too low make it worth your time. A dating or travel blog will make pennies while a blog on personal finance will make a decent income. So what are the best advertising networks?
Google AdSense – The Best Option Overall
AdSense now has an “auto ads” feature that uses machine learning to help you make the most out of your traffic. The auto ads is great because it’s one script and it puts ads on your entire website with ease. You can also select pages to turn auto ads off as well (can be annoying if you have 20+ pages where you don’t want ads to run).
You can also place ads manually where you choose and can optimize your own website which is what an ad network like Ezoic or AdThrive does for you.
If you have a website that is at 10k pageviews, test out AdSense to see how it performs. It’s a nice baseline to then test other networks.
Amazon Associates – The best product network
Amazon Associates and Google AdSense go together like peanut butter and jelly. Amazon Associates is one of the most flexible advertising programs around. You can create dedicated blog posts and videos about specific products or you can opt to use Amazon Associates display ads on your website or blog.
While the commission rates are low, the volume is there and Amazon can become a significant income with the right traffic.
Monumetric – Medium to Large Publishers (30k – 100k Pageviews)
Monumetric is a premium ad network that can generate serious cash from your traffic. If you have a WordPress website and are getting at least 10,000 pageviews a month if not more, take a look at Monumetric.
They have various partnership plans for website that get 10,000 pageviews a month all the way to millions of pageviews a month. Some things to note. If your website is getting between 10,000 to 80,000 pageviews you’ll have to pay a 99$ setup fee.
You also have to agree to display up to 6 ads on each of your pages as part of the Monumetric program on both desktop and mobile. Not all at the same time obviously, just in various spots within the page. This may be a deal breaker for some publishers.
Monumetric is great for mid range websites looking to get involved with a premium ad network but are not quite at the size to apply to Ad Thrive or Media Vine.
Media Vine – The best Premium Network for Medium Sized Publishers
Media Vine unlike Ad Thrive does not require that your website be over 100,000 pageviews a month. Instead, they care about the audience and the specific niche you’re website is in. Of course they do have minimum traffic requirements, you’ll have to have 30,000 monthly visitors at a minimum.
If you’re looking for a premium network but don’t have a large website then consider Media Vine. T
Ad Thrive – For Large Publishers (100,000 Pageviews)
Ad Thrive is the industry leader in the advertising space. They typically provide the highest RPM’s (revenue per thousand impressions) in the industry (though Media Vine is a strong competitor). If your website is getting 2,000 visitors a day you should be able to get around 100,000 pageviews as each visitor should view more than a single page.
Ad Thrive is the go-to network for high traffic niche websites that are looking to monetize through ads.
For more view our best advertising networks guide.
Stock Images and Video
Need images and short video clips for your website and associate videos? Here are my favorite places to find stock photography and stock videos.
Pixabay – Free Images and Videos
Pixabay has a huge collection of free images you can use with out attribution. Their images cover a wide range of potential topics. From practical niches like weight loss to random topics like numerology, Pixabay has both free images and video clips you can use for your website.
Unsplash – Free Images
Unsplash is the place to go for gorgeous photography that is totally free to use. You will need to resize the photos as by default they’re huge images.
Pexels – Free Stock Videos
Stock videos made easy. If you’re looking to weave in short 5-10 second clips into your own videos, Pexels is a great place to find stock videos.
Canva – Free Images + A Useful Editor
Canva It’s a website that allows you to make trendy looking images and graphics using images you already have, or images provided by Canva using fun, creative looking templates.
Canva makes creating all sorts of graphics like YouTube thumbnails or Pinterest pins easy.
IM Free (Free with attribution)
IMCreator.com is a website builder service that also offers a small directory of images, graphics and templates you can use for free. The images are categorized into such topics as business, ambient lighting, arts and music, lifestyles and so forth. The images are under a creative common licenses which typically means you can use the image for free as long as you give attribution (but check!).
500 PX (Free and Paid)
500PX.com is a service that provides high quality free and paid images across all different types of subject matters. Their free images are released under a creative commons license
Gratisography.com is a website that provides free high quality, high res pictures that you can use for your personal use. No copyright, and new pictures are added weekly. Lastly, It’s run by Ryan McGuire so make sure to say thanks to him.
Stencil (Paid) – Create Your Own Engaging Graphics For Social Media
Image creation service for social media. If you’re needing to create high quality graphics for blog posts and various social media platforms, Stencil is a game changer.
Pixelmator Pro – The Bets Alternative to Photo Shop
Not free, but not as costly as Photo Shop. Pixelmator Pro is an excellent choice if you’re in need of a premium, full featured photo editor.
GIMP – Free Photo Editor
GIMP is a popular, high quality, feature rich photo editor. If you want a free option that does not suck, you’ll love GIMP. With tons of free tutorials, GIMP is perfect for most peoples needs.
Pixlr – Free Photo Editor
Pixlr is a free, cloud based picture editor that comes with the features you need to edit pictures, feature images or thumbnails.
Photopea – Free photo editor
Photopea has the most similar user experience to Photoshop. If you’re looking for a solid photoshop alternative Photopea is an excellent choice.
Create and Sell Digital Products
Creating your own products is one of the best ways to make money from your website, blog and YouTube channel. Product creation should only be done once you have a validated and growing website and YouTube channel and know how to best serve your audience.
Once you’re ready, here are the tools and services we suggest using for creating online courses and ebooks. Creating online courses is a very profitable way to monetize your website. You have two main options. To use a marketplace or to self host.
A marketplace is great if you’re looking to create courses that are off brand for what it is you do or you don’t have much of an established audience. Self hosted platforms are better once you have an audience and a marketing funnel.
Teachable – Best For Hosting Your Own Courses
Teachable is an excellent online platform to host your courses because for one price they allow you to design your course, landing pages, sales pages and provide hosting for the actual course material. Purchases are secure and you can even create your own affiliate program.
Create and sell online courses made easy.
Skillshare – Short courses marketplace
Skillshare pays per premium minutes watched. When you upload a course you can choose to make it free or premium. If you choose premium, you’ll be paid per premium minutes watched.
Skillshare pays out 30% of the royalties earned from membership payments to a specific creator fund. That creator fund is then divided among Skillshare teachers based on premium minutes watched. So your monthly payment will vary depending on how many paying members Skillshare has as well as how many minute of watch time you accrued.
Last, you can also promote Skillshare and receive a referral commission based if a new user signs up using your link. If they do, you get compensated a $10 commission on top of your royalties for your courses.
Skillshare is a marketplace and your courses will get watched even if you don’t have an audience yet. Please be aware that Skillshare does vet your courses so please upload quality material only. They operate on a 3 strikes policy if you violate their terms of service.
While long term you can make more with your own email list, website, YouTube channel and Teachable courses – Skillshare (and Udemy) are a nice passive income alternative.
Udemy – The Online Course Marketplace
Udemy is another good spot to put your online courses. You get free hosting and Udemy helps promote your courses. Also, as Udemy is a marketplace, if you’re able to get your courses to rank for their respective search terms, you can make a decent passive income or perhaps a full time income.
Dale McManus’s iPhone photography course generates $5,000 a month in passive income from Udemy simply because he created an outstanding course that ranks #1 for the search term “iPhone photography.”
All Udemy courses sell for $10 roughly (even though you can price them to be $200) and you as the instructor will get between $1 to $6 per sale. Udemy is a bit saturated and it’s hard to get exposure for new courses. But the potential long term is still there.
Gumroad – Sell digital downloads
Gumroad is great for any sort of one off digital download like a PDF ebook, video tutorial or audio clip. Gumroad has a free plan where you pay per transaction to help get you started. The checkout process is clean and modern. You can host your products for free and only pay when you make a sale.
Sendowl – Better Analytics than Gumroad
Sendowl is similar to Gumroad. The main differences is are that they don’t have a free plan. You have to pay a monthly fee, however they don’t charge any type of transaction fee so if you make a lot of sales Sendowl will probably be cheaper long term. Sendowl also has better metrics on the back end.
e-junkie – The low priced ebook option
This class option was the go-to spot for anyone looking to host their ebook. E-Junkie starts at $5 a month. With that you can host up to 10 products, 200 mb of storage and can have affiliates for your products.
E-Junkie like other platforms, allow you to store any type of digital download but they are most geared towards ebooks.
Clickbank – The affiliate marketplace
Clickbank allows you to sell membership sites, ebooks, audio or software. They act as the payment gateway and the host for the actual product. You however need to create, design and manage everything else like the sales page, website, course material, how the content is locked (if you’re running a membership website).
The advantage of Clickbank is that it’s a marketplace full of affiliates and if your product sells well for affiliates, it will attract more affiliates who do they marketing for you.
Patreon – Create a membership offer
I love Patreon. I was able to properly setup my Patreon page in a few hours. Patreon makes running your own membership website easy. It’s free to use and all you do is pay a transaction fee.
Memberpress – The WordPress membership option
Want to host your own exclusive membership website, where you have full control over the pricing and branding? You can setup your own private community with Memebrpress.
The advantage of Memberpress is that you have full control over your community. The downside is that you’re responsible for designing and maintaining the website. You’ll need to to pay for Memberpress, a hosting account, domain name and a video host like Vimeo.
Writing, Grammar and Headlines
There a few content writing tools and services you should be aware of. Here are some of the most useful around when you’re in need of hiring writers and improving on page content.
Grammarly (Proofreading and Grammar)
Grammarly – This is a proof reading plugin for chrome. It helps you avoid spelling mistakes and to create better content.
It’s not perfect obviously. If you spell correctly, but have not yet mastered the difference between your and you’re or you put words in the wrong order because you’re an idiot Grammarly won’t save you. But it’s a simple and quick first line of defense against looking stupid
Buzz Sumo – Find Popular Content
Buzz Sumo allows you to find popular content that’s being shared on a website.
It gives you the amount of social shares and the title of the piece of content. This is useful for coming up with content ideas and headlines for yourself.
With a free account you can look at the past year’s worth of data. For beyond that you will need to upgrade your account.
Co Schedule – Write Better Headlines
Co Schedule is a helpful tool to help you craft better, more appealing headlines for copywriting purposes. Headlines are some of the most important aspects of a blog post or YouTube video. Co Schedule helps you craft headlines that win.
Word Agents – They Know SEO
Word Agents is my go-to source for all things niche site related. These guys understand SEO and are able to produce decent content based on keywords you give them. You can literally just send them over a file that lists out 10 keywords you want made into articles and they’ll take care of it for you.
Iwriter – Quality Writing For a Fair Price
Iwriter is an excellent content mil. Fair upfront pricing. Good writing, quick turn around and they check the article to make sure the writer did not plagiarize another piece of content.
With Iwriter, they’re best for specific topics but not too specific. As long as the writer can research the topic within reason, you’ll get a good article back for you to edit and upload to your website.
Upwork – Decent spot to hire writers
Upwork is a hit or miss spot for finding quality writers. What’s good about Upwork is the project management function on the website to manage workflow and writers.
YouTube and Video Creation
YouTube and video creation may seem out of place on a blogging tools list, but creating videos is one of the best ways to monetize your blog posts. As your videos can be monetized on YouTube, and videos make your published content more engaging, creating videos is becoming an ever more essential skill.
Canon M50 – Best starter camera for video creation. A small, affordable mirrorless camera that can shoot in 4k.
Canon 11-22 mm -The wide angle lens for the M50. A great vlogging and talking head lens.
Zoom H2N – The best microphone for laptop screen recording. Pairs well with any screen recording software. Can double as an external microphone for your camera.
Rhode Video Micro – An excellent and affordable external microphone for cameras. Low price, great sound and it does not require batteries.
Powtoon – The best option for non designers to create beautiful, engaging, animated videos.
Video editors – If you have a Macbook, Final Cut Pro is for you. If you’re a PC user I suggest Davinchi Resolve.
Blogging Tools Conclusion
So that’s it for Website Creative Pro’s best blogging tools guide. If you enjoyed this comprehensive guide make sure to share or bookmark this page. It’s constantly updated and revised every few months to stay up to date and relevant.