(Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated regularly for relevance and accuracy.)
In the past few years, blogging has evolved to a great extent, and several platforms and tools have now emerged to make our blogging journey a bit easier. A few of these tools are truly amazing and a few just end up wasting your time.
Spending precious hours learning to make the smallest tweaks on your blog can be really frustrating. Hence I decided to create a ‘resources’ page to list down some of my favorite blogging tools and resources that have made my blogging journey easier and fun.
This post details all the digital marketing tools, software, and apps that have been tried and tested not just for 99signals, but also for my wellness blog, Soulful Arogya, and my digital marketing agency, Startup Cafe Digital.
Please note: Some of these links are affiliate referrals and I’m recommending them to you because I use them almost every day and know how AWESOME they are.
- 1 Web Hosting
- 2 CMS/Blog Platform of Choice
- 3 WordPress Themes
- 4 Social Media Marketing
- 5 SEO: Keyword Research
- 6 SEO: Backlink Checker Tools
- 7 SEO: On-page SEO
- 8 SEO: Link Building Tools
- 9 SEO: Technical SEO
- 10 Business Development
- 11 Productivity
- 12 Design: Social Media Design/Blog Graphics
- 13 Design: Logo Design
- 14 Design: Stock Images
- 15 Content: Writing Tools
- 16 Content: Content Outreach Tools
- 17 Content: Video Tools
- 18 Content: Content Creation Tools
- 19 Email Marketing
- 20 WordPress Plugins
- 21 BONUS
BlueHost makes it super easy to setup a new website. If you’re planning to use WordPress as your CMS, then look no further than BlueHost as your web hosting provider. They provide stellar customer service and will help you every step of the way in getting your website up and running.
iPage is one of the cheapest and most reliable web hosting services out there. Comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
CMS/Blog Platform of Choice
With over 25% of websites across the world running on WordPress, you don’t have to second guess whether or not this is the right CMS for you.
Weebly is one of the fastest growing brands in the website building space. It includes all the important basic web building features, and it’s very search engine friendly.
Check out our detailed review of Weebly here.
If you are looking for an all-in one business solution for your eCommerce business, Shopify is a great choice. From secured and speedy hosting to dependable customer service, Shopify truly has all the essential features your e-commerce business needs to succeed.
Most of the professional bloggers use Genesis Framework to power their WordPress blogs. It’s the gold standard for WordPress themes. Buying a child theme for the Genesis Framework means that you’ll have a website with super fast load times, optimizing your blog posts in search engine result pages.
All the Genesis Framework themes are powered by StudioPress. The StudioPress themes are easy on the eye, responsive, and SEO-friendly.
This is the theme that we currently use at 99signals. I use this theme for my wellness blog, Soulful Arogya, as well and recommend it highly to all my clients. The Newspaper theme is excellent for a news, magazine, publishing or review site. It also offers a seamless integration with WooCommerce. And it’s super fast.
Social Media Marketing
One of my favorite social media tools. Not only can you schedule posts across different social media channels using Buffer, but you also get to see which of your posts have performed well so you can re-Buffer them again in the future. Not to mention they have one of the coolest, most efficient customer happiness teams.
A popular and highly useful social media scheduling, monitoring and analytics tool. The free version of Hootsuite allows you to sync up 3 social media accounts.
Struggling to come up with engaging ideas for social media? Use Post Planner to find, plan, and post better content to boost your reach & social media engagement.
A free tool which allows you to find trending hashtags on different topics to amplify your reach on Twitter and Instagram.
WooBox is a social media engagement tool which allows you to create competitions and giveaways (such as photo contests, quizzes, etc.) on your social media accounts.
IFTTT stands for “It Not This, Then That” and is quickly gaining popularity among professional bloggers and marketers alike. The best part of IFTTT is that you can access all its features for free. The reason why it’s still not used by many professional bloggers despite being free is because it has a steep learning curve.
You’ll need some time to fully acclimatize yourself with its different functionalities. But once you’ve mastered its features, then you’ve a powerful automation tool which can truly skyrocket your social media engagement.
A popular URL shortener service with reporting capabilities. It’s great for Twitter as it helps you get rid of those long, ugly URLs.
Memes are great for increasing engagement on social media. Meme Generator allows you to create your own memes to engage and entertain your social media audience.
Social Mention is a free platform that allows you to do real-time social media search and analysis. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, or any topic across social media landscape.
SEO: Keyword Research
SEMrush is the go-to SEO tool for many SEO experts. It’s packed with features that can truly boost your site’s traffic. With SEMrush, you can research on organic keywords, paid keywords, keywords your competitors are using, do a site audit to fix issues with your website, and much more. It’s a must have tool if you are serious about SEO.
Sign up for a FREE SEMrush trial for 14 days (Worth $49.97)
- SEMrush Review
- SEMrush vs Moz: A Detailed Comparison
- How to do Competitor Analysis with SEMrush [A Detailed Guide]
- 5 Awesome SEMrush Features for Bloggers
- The Ultimate SEO Tools Showdown: SEMrush vs Ahrefs vs Moz Pro vs SpyFu
- How to Use SEMrush to Amplify Your Content Marketing
- The Ultimate SEMrush Playbook
Serpstat is one of the most underrated SEO tools on the market. With SERPstat, you can do organic keyword tracking, spy on your competitor’s keywords, perform an on-page audit, PPC analysis, and a lot more. Their basic plan starts at $15.2/month. You can even sign up for free to get limited access to Serpstat where you can perform 30 searches a day.
KWFinder is an easy-to-use keyword research tool which helps you find keywords that you can easily rank for. With KWFinder, you can discover hundreds of long tail keywords with low SEO difficulty that your competitors are missing.
Launched in 2014, KWFinder has quickly become the preferred keyword analysis tool for SEOs and marketers around the world. It is now a part of the Mangools product suite which also includes 3 other SEO tools – SERPChecker (Competitor analysis tool), SERPWatcher (Rank tracking tool), and LinkMiner (Backlink analysis tool).
Click here to start using KWFinder for free (the free account includes 5 lookups/day and 50 keyword suggestions per search)
To learn more about this SEO tool and its key features, check out our in-depth review of KWFinder
SE Ranking is an all-inclusive cloud-based SEO software which includes a powerful keyword suggestion/research tool that you can use to obtain a fantastic set of short tail and long tail keywords. The keyword suggestion tool is completely free to use during the trial (link below) and is a part of all the pricing plans.
Long Tail Pro is a powerful research and blogging tool which is very popular among internet marketers and bloggers alike.
Long Tail Pro allows you to find high-traffic keywords with low competition. Using this tool, you can find profitable keywords in competitive niches, do keyword research, and analyze the top ten results for any keyword in your niche.
Click here to start your 7-day free trial of Long Tail Pro (Use code “99SIGNALS” to get 30% off on your total bill amount)
When it comes to backlink research and audit, there is no better tool than Ahrefs. Ahrefs contains a wealth of link data – the number of backlinks a site has, the number of referring domains for a site, the link authority of a site, and a site’s backlink growth over time. It’s not cheap though. The basic plan starts at $99/month.
Yet another backlink checker tool which has a good reputation among SEO professionals. MajesticSEO charges you half of what Ahrefs charges for their basic plan. But don’t expect the same quality. The interface is quite clumsy and the data reported is sometimes inaccurate.
SEO: On-page SEO
WordPress has a plethora of SEO plugins, but YoastSEO is one of the most popular and favorite among the users. This is because it’s super-easy to use, highly-effective, and most of its essential features are totally free.
SEO: Link Building Tools
Every other influencer outreach tool pales in comparison to Ninja Outreach. You can use Ninja Outreach to find influencers in your niche and then promote your content to them to earn precious, high-authority backlinks.
HARO makes it easy to get authority backlinks from sites such as FastCompany, Inc, Mashable, and Huffington Post. Sign up for HARO here, and you’ll receive 3 emails/day from reporters looking for sources. If you respond with content that is relevant to their requirements, you’ll fetch a backlink from authority sites.
SEO: Technical SEO
Looking for an SEO tool that can gauge your site’s speed and provide useful tips to speed up your website? Then GTMetrix is the tool you should try. The GTMetrix report gives you a complete picture on how your site loads and helps you detect where the bottlenecks are. The best part? It’s totally free.
Along with keyword research, competition analysis, and backlink research, SEMrush can also help you fix technical issues with your site.
Google Webmaster Tools allows you optimize your site from Google’s perspective. Apart from helping you create an XML sitemap and robots.txt file, It gives you a complete overview of your site from an SEO standpoint. Connect it to your Google Analytics account to get an even more in-depth SEO analysis.
A free web analytics tool by Google which helps you track the key content and performance metrics on your site.
FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting system which allows you to create and send professional-looking invoices in a flash. Perfect for small businesses.
Cloud-based team collaboration tool which allows you to organize your team conversations in open channels. You can make a channel for a project, a topic, a team, etc.
A fast, easy way to receive online payments for your work.
TARS lets you create engaging conversational bots that can be used on your website or Facebook messenger. The bots you create on TARS can be used for any of the following tasks:
- Ordering and booking process
- Feedback collection
- Customer support automation
- User onboarding
You can chat with our very own 99signals chatbot here.
Bidsketch lets you create, electronically sign, and track professional looking client proposals in 50% less time. We use it at Startup Cafe all the time.
Get rid of that boring old email signature and let WiseStamp customize the perfect email signature for you. You can add your picture, your logo, links to your social media accounts, and even promote your latest product, tweet, or blog post with WiseStamp’s dynamic signature.
A marketplace for entrepreneurs which offers exclusive discounts and lifetime subscriptions to marketing tools. Thanks to AppSumo, I’ve got lifetime access to stellar tools like WiseStamp, Mailshake, Book Like a Boss, and Ninja Outreach.
Book Like A Boss is an all-in-one scheduling platform for you to take appointments, sell your products/services, and manage your business. Really useful for entrepreneurs to manage their calendar and get payments online. It’s integrated with PayPal and Stripe. The calendar is integrated with Google, Outlook, Office 365 or iCloud calendar, and you can also embed your calendar on your WordPress site.
Once again, thanks to AppSumo, I got lifetime access to this awesome tool for just $39.
A free project management app which helps you keep track of your work.
Organize notes, articles, documents, ideas, etc. using Evernote desktop or mobile app.
An easy-to-use calendar app from Google to organize your daily/weekly/monthly schedule.
Coffitivity is an app that recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe. This is based on research showing that such background sounds makes your brain more creative. In a nutshell, this means being a tiny bit distracted helps you be more creative.
Feedly is an RSS aggregator that makes it easy to stay up to date with your favorite blogs and websites.
A simple countdown timer to help you complete your tasks.
F.lux is a lifesaver if you suffer from insomnia or sleep problems. F.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day, allowing you to sleep better.
When it comes to collaboration, there is no better tool than Google Drive.
A free screen recording tool. Great for creating “How to” and tutorial videos.
Use TinyPNG to compress your large png and jpeg files without compromising on image quality.
Design: Social Media Design/Blog Graphics
Canva is a web-based design tool which allows you to create impressive graphics in all kinds of different formats (social media, infographics, email headers, etc). It’s delightfully simple and you don’t need a design background to create graphics on Canva. Although there is a paid version of Canva, the free version has all the essential features to help you create professional graphics for your blog, website, or social media campaigns.
Pablo is a free design tool developed by Buffer and it’s insanely simple to use.
If you don’t have the resources to hire a professional designer to create an infographic, then you can try creating one yourself using Piktochart. This tool gives you the opportunity to easily and efficiently create high quality infographics.
PicMonkey is a free photo-editing app which allows you to add text, filter, and touch up your photos. It’s also useful for creating collages.
Venngage is an online infographic maker which lets you easily create infographics from hundreds of predesigned templates. It’s a highly popular design tool, used by marketing veterans like Sujan Patel, Brian Dean, Neil Patel, among others.
Design: Logo Design
Logogenie is an online design tool that allows you to design a logo in a simple and professional way. You can choose from a wide range of designs and customize your logo in just a few clicks.
The standard logo pack at Logogenie is priced at $4.90 which includes high definition file formats (JPG, PNG, PDF) of the logo, perfect for using on your business cards, website, apparel, signs, and more. You can even design a company logo for free using Logogenie’s free logo design system. Click here to design your logo for free.
I’ve designed several logos using Tailor Brands, not just for my blog, but also for my agency’s clients.
48HoursLogo has helped over 30,000 brands get their logos through online logo contests. With 48HoursLogo, you can start your own online logo contest, inviting professional designers across the world to contribute their ideas and vision to create the perfect logo for you.
Design: Stock Images
This is my favorite free stock image website with truly breathtaking high-quality stock images. Unsplash is the brainchild of the design firm, Crew, and as such the image quality is simply unmatched.
Launched by Dmitry Sergeev in 2009, Depositphotos is now one of the most popular stock image sites with a library of over 60 million photos and 18 million vectors. They are well known for their discount offers, which they promote extensively on their own website and on AppSumo, and their excellent customer support.
Pixabay is one of the top free stock photo sites around with a wide collection of high-quality stock photos. It has a database of over 720,000 free stock photos and videos.
iStockPhoto is a premier site with a huge collection of high-quality stock photos. It’s expensive, but if you want a top quality stock photo in any category, then subscribing to iStockPhoto is definitely going to be worth it.
The image quality on StockUnlimited isn’t as good as iStockPhoto, but it’s more cost effective and they provide unlimited downloads. In addition, they have some really cool vector designs which can come in very handy for creating infographics.
Content: Writing Tools
Grammarly is one of the best online tools for checking spelling and grammar. Apart from being highly accurate, it’s also the only service of its kind that offers plagiarism detecting.
Hemingway App is free web-based tool which tests the readability of your content and suggests changes where your writing is too dense. To use it, simply paste your text, and the tool will indicate your mistakes by highlighting them in different colors (yellow and red). With Hemingway App, you can tighten up your prose, clear the highlights, and then share your work with your audience.
Content: Content Outreach Tools
Not as good as Ninja Outreach, but still pretty useful. Mailshake allows you to find influencers in your niche and then send them an email to promote your startup or your latest blog post.
Content: Video Tools
PowToon allows you to make animated explainer videos and powerpoint presentations to dazzle your audience.
Here are some of the videos we created using PowToon.
Don’t have time to create a video? Just outsource it to professionals on Fiverr.
Magisto allows you to convert your photos into professional videos. Choose from a variety of themes, select your music, customize it, and share the final product on your site or social media channels.
Content: Content Creation Tools
Coming up with interesting ideas for creating content can be a gruelling task. This is where a tool like Buzzsumo can help you. With Buzzsumo, you can discover which content is performing the best in your niche. Enter any topic into the Buzzsumo search box and within seconds, you will be presented with the most shared content on any topic, including a breakdown by social platform. You can also filter by content type (article, infographic, video, etc.)
Did you know? 7 of the 20 most shared articles on Buzzfeed are quizzes! And with a tool like Outgrow, you too can create viral quizzes and reach a wider audience.
Outgrow is a content marketing tool which lets you create interactive calculators and quizzes to engage customers and boost lead generation for your business. You can also integrate your quiz/calculator with over 500 sales and marketing tools, and choose from a variety of templates to make your content as engaging as possible.
Want to see how the tool works? Take our SEO quiz to find out!
Your blog post headline is the reason why people will click to read your article. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer shows you exactly strong your headlines are, removing any guesswork on your part. This free tool will evaluate your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value. It helps you maintain the right balance of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words in your headlines. Aim for a minimum score of 70 for all your headlines to ensure that it gets enough traction on social media and search engines.
A free content marketing tool created by HubSpot to help you with ideas for your next blog post.
This is like Reddit for inbound marketers. It’s a great place to discover new ideas for blog posts and also to promote your own posts.
Similar to Inbound.org, Growth Hackers is a vibrant community where you can network with marketing professionals from all around the world, find trending articles, and promote your content.
Convert your blog posts into visually appealing powerpoint presentations and upload them on SlideShare to reach an all new audience.
Add all your favorite blogs to this RSS aggregator and Feedly will be a powerful tool in your content marketing toolkit. Check the content other sites in your niche are posting and aim at creating content that is superior to theirs in every way.
AWeber is a veteran in email marketing with almost 20 years of experience and expertise. It is competitively priced and packed with features which are extremely practical for new and seasoned marketers alike.
Drip is now acquired by LeadPages and after trying their product for 21 days, I’m convinced that this nifty little email marketing tool will gain a lot of new followers soon. Definitely worth giving a shot.
You simply can’t hate Mailchimp. The free plan offered by them is perfect for people who are just starting their blogging journey.
Make it easier for people to share your content with Sumo’s uniquely designed Social Share Bar.
This list-building tool allows you to create custom designed pop-ups and other email capture forms. OptinMonster also integrates directly with popular email services such as AWeber, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp.
GetSiteControl is an easy-to-use set of smart widgets for website optimization. It lets a you quickly add elements that engage website visitors and helps increase conversions.
The widgets include surveys, lead forms, contact forms, live chats, popups, and social media buttons.
Most blogs are inundated with spammy comments which can get a little frustrating to deal with. Akismet protects your website from spammy comments and makes your life a little easier.
An incredibly useful plugin created by Team Yoast which allows you to engage with people who comment on your blog by redirecting to a page of your choice. Very handy if you’d like to build your email list.
“Tweet about this” link generator to promote, share, and track your content on Twitter.
Convert your blog posts into eBooks or resource guides with the Beacon plugin.
Instapage is a landing page software which allows you to create fully customizable, conversion-friendly landing pages. A lot of bloggers prefer LeadPages as their primary landing page platform, but I just feel Instapage has more professionally designed landing pages and their support team is exception. Sign up for a 14-day free trial Instapage.
Check out our review of Instapage to learn more about the landing page builder.
Positioning itself as a “landing page builder for non-programmers”, Landingi provides you with 100+ templates, dropdown menus, and tools to customize your own landing pages. It’s also way more economical than other landing page builders in the market as the pricing for its basic plan starts from $29/month (when paid annually). And yes, they also provide a free trial.
You can register for Landingi’s free trial by clicking here.
Sometimes, WordPress just doesn’t have the font you’re looking for. And this is when you need to install the WP Google Fonts plugin to get access to hundreds of unique fonts. The WP Google Fonts plugin allows you to easily add fonts from the Google Font Directory to your WordPress theme.
Generate an XML sitemap for your blog from Google’s very own Sitemap Generator.
Recommended reading: Check out this awesome guide of Top 40 Growth Hacking Resources by Appcues
Marketing Blogs You Need to Follow
- Backlinko – Forget the Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin. Brian Dean is the true king of SEO. Backlinko is Brian Dean’s SEO blog and it’s packed with invaluable SEO advice. If you want to scale up your SEO game, then Backlinko is a blog you simply cannot ignore.
- HubSpot Marketing Blog – HubSpot has a big collection of inbound marketing articles that are just pure gold for aspiring as well as seasoned marketers.
- Buffer Blog – Get social media tips and insights from Buffer’s blog.
- Sumo Blog – Contains a pool of information on content marketing with a touch of humor.
Books Every Entrepreneur/Blogger Must Read
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – If you’re skeptical about starting your own business or just plain scared of the uncertainty associated with it, then you’ve got to read Rework. Rework is authored by the founders of 37signals (now called Basecamp) and it contains unconventional startup advice that you probably won’t find in any other business book.
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – Perhaps the most popular “startup” book because it introduces the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and how to create one for your business. Eric Ries describes his own struggles and learnings at IMVU before he and his team finally found success. An entertaining read which also teaches you key concepts to succeed in the highly volatile startup environment.
- The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris – Acclaimed entrepreneur/hustler, Tim Ferris, shares his secrets in his highly popular book, The Four Hour Work Week.
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – Won’t leave a lasting impression like the other books in this list, but still worth a read. Guillebeau provides some really good examples of people who built their own business from scratch and succeeded. A fun, inspirational read.
- The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams – You won’t find any business tips here, but Scott Adams sums up the misery of the corporate world perfectly in this humorously entertaining book.