Every blogger will tell you different tools that they consider “essential” for their blogging. And a lot of it depends on what you blog about, your style, and your preferences. The following is a list of all the products and services that I feel are crucial to my blogging experience.
I have used many different web hosting services over the last 10 years, and none of them have compared to the level of reliability and customer service that we get with Siteground. I’ve had times when I completely crashed my own site (oops!) and they were able to help me through their online chat and I was back up and running in minutes. Between my husband and me, we have 5 different websites, so we did a hosting plan that combines them all, and it’s easily affordable.
Once you have your website domain and hosting secured, you will want to download and install WordPress. It’s not the only blogging platform, but it’s really easy to use and has so many options. If you go with SiteGround for your domain/hosting, they have a one-click setup and you are ready to start editing your blog. You can get many free themes and plugins that help make your blog or website exactly what you want.
Computers and technology can be so finicky, and it’s so easy to push one wrong button and lose all of your work. It’s 2017, there’s no excuse for not having your files backed up anymore. You can get a free account with dropbox for up to 2GB of space, or there are paid versions. Again, with everything that Justin and I do, we have the first paid tier, which gives us 1TB of space for about $10 per month. It’s totally worth it. All my files are backed up on dropbox, and I can view them from the app on my phone, or open them on another computer. Justin and I work on files together often, so we can just pull the files from dropbox as we need them. If you sign up through my affiliate link (https://db.tt/PLgwVfFv) you get an extra 500MB of space!
It’s no secret that I absolutely love CoSchedule! A friend recommended it at the beginning of this year and I am so thankful that she did. Most of my social media presence is thanks to CoSchedule, especially twitter because I really don’t like twitter, but feel like it is a good platform to be on. I could go on and on, but I already wrote a blog post dedicated just to CoSchedule.
It’s important to know where your traffic is coming from, and how they are interacting with your page. Google Analytics tracks all this data and so much more. You can see where people access your website from, what device they are using, which browser, their screen resolution, etc. It’s a powerful tool to make sure that you are catering to the majority of your crowd. It’s pretty easy to set up, then it just runs in the background when anyone accesses your website.
Photoshop with Templates
All of the images I use for my social media accounts, as well as the featured image for all of my posts, are created in Photoshop. My wonderful husband is a graphics designer and created some beautiful templates for me to use, making it quick and easy to have custom social media images. If you are interested in having some custom templates made for your social media, check out his package at http://avlier.com/services/social-template-package/
I personally don’t use Canva since I have the Adobe suite, but I know a lot of bloggers who do. You can make some basic social media images for free, or pay for upgrades to your account. I have used it for a few small projects, but it doesn’t have the level of customization that I want like Photoshop does.
There are many websites to get royalty-free images, meaning they are images you can use without violating any copyright infringements. Of course, if you have a camera and can take your own photos, you know they are yours to use. Personally, my favorite free image sites are unsplash.com, pixabay.com, and pexels.com. Unsplash has the nicest images, in my opinion, but their library is more limited. The other sites have more options, but they aren’t always as great of photos.
I can get in trouble browsing through Creative Market! There are so many options for bloggers and designers of any type. The theme that I currently am using for this blog was purchased through Creative Market. We have purchased some icon packs through the market, and you can also buy social media templates (although they aren’t customized for your exact brand). You can purchase fonts, photos, graphics, templates for almost any print or web material, brushes, palettes, plugins…. the list goes on.
There are so many helpful plugins for your wordpress site, and there is a plugin for almost anything! WordPress has a huge library of free plugins, or you can purchase plugins as well. I use almost all free plugins, except CoSchedule and the plugin I use for my download forms (WP eStore). I have a plugin for google analytics, one to compress my images, one for optimizing the website to load faster, one for creating post templates, one for SEO, and so many others. You can view my list of plugins here.
Ok, you don’t have to have a mac, but anyone who knows me knows I love my mac computer and will probably never go back to a windows computer again. Macs are so much more durable than windows computers, and the interface is much more intuitive. No matter what you choose, you need some kind of computer to be able to run your blog from. I’m sure there is a way to do it on mobile, but that would not be very easy.
While I love technology, some things just need to be done the old-fashioned way. For Christmas, Justin and I both got a planner for the upcoming year. I know, really exciting gift, huh? At first, I wasn’t sure how much I would use it, but you should see how much I have written in this notebook. There are so many options for a planner, and you need to find what works well for you. The one I have includes a monthly view at the front, then has a weekly breakdown with space for writing in hourly appointments for every day of the week. I don’t use the time slots so much as just planning what will happen on that day. I write everything in there from personal appointments for our family to what blog post will go out that day to all of the hashtag days (#nationalbestfriendday, #siblingday, etc.) so I can keep it all straight.
Also not a complete necessity, but I have had dual monitors for a long time and it makes things so much easier for me. Having the ability to have multiple screens open and seeing it all at once means I am not constantly toggling between multiple windows. And since I use the two monitors with my laptop, I can also open the laptop and have three screens, but that’s more than I need. If you are going to get multiple monitors, it’s best to get two of the same so they have the same color output, same resolution, etc. You can see a photo of my desk setup in my post about keeping a clean desk.
I hate having too many things plugged in to my laptop, because I do take it with me in the other room most evenings, and don’t want to have to plug and unplug so many things. I’ve had a wireless mouse and keyboard for a long time, but recently got an Apple Magic Mouse and a Logitech keyboard that both run off bluetooth, so I don’t have to have anything, even the wireless adapter, plugged into the computer. Ever since I got my Mac a few years ago I’ve always loved the way the trackpad works, and the Magic Mouse works very similar. My logitech keyboard is small, but it’s perfect for what I need. I’ve been using a backlit keyboard for years, and this is the first one I could find that had everything I wanted: a blacklit, bluetooth-connected Mac keyboard.
When running a blog, there aren’t always a lot of things I need to print, but there is paperwork that goes along with it, especially if you make it an LLC or other type of business. Wireless printers are great because they are always on and always connected. I don’t have to have anything plugged in to the computer, but I can still print whatever I need. Mine is a photo printer as well, although it’s not a high-end one, so I don’t usually print many photos on it. It does have the capability to scan and copy, which I actually use more than anything.
If you have a wordpress blog, you can get the wordpress app to check on your statistics, you can see what posts are coming up, you can create drafts, etc. I also have the app for CoSchedule so I can see what social messages are going out and when. Instagram is a mobile-only tool, and a good one for blogging, so you have to have that on a mobile device. But most important, my iPhone is the camera that I use most often. All of my recipe photos are done on the iPhone, because it takes a good enough quality photo that you can’t tell the difference between that and my “real camera” because of the size of the images on the blog. If you are looking for a “real camera” though, I always suggest the Sony Alpha series of cameras. I’ve only ever had a Sony and I won’t ever have anything else!
Airport with Time Capsule
Internet is an essential part of blogging, since it’s all done online. A couple years ago we made the switch to the Airport with Time Capsule router, and it’s been a life saver! Our computers have no problem with it since it is also an Apple product, and I have gone through my backups in the Time Capsule many times. If you are using a Mac computer, once you set everything up, your computer will automatically backup to the hard drive on the Time Capsule. Between that and Dropbox, I’ve recovered files more times than I’d like to admit!