The Top Tools I Used to Run My Blog in 2017 - This Mama Learns

It’s been a year since I first published my list of tools for 2016… Time for an update, right?

Am I still using all the same tools? Have I added any new ones?

Answer:

Mostly. And yes!

If you’ve been blogging for a little while and you’re starting to invest in premium tools (and looking around to see which are essentials vs. nice to have), you’ll soon realize how easy it is to get nickled and dimed to death.

So many tools cost $10-15 a month!

It seems cheap… but 2, 3, 4 or more of these tools add up. Not to mention the larger expenses like hosting or paying yearly for things like Tailwind or ConvertKit!

What’s a blogger to do?

What I Look for In A Tool

As I mentioned, invest in too many tools and you can easily find yourself in trouble. But, you still want to be able to do all the things, right?

How do I prioritize what I invest in? Here’s how:

  • My preference, in order, is: free! > one-time fees > yearly payment option (that’s a better deal than paying monthly)> monthly fee
  • Does it save me time?
  • Is the $$$ something I’m willing to invest?

Now that you know where I’m coming from, here’s my short list of tools that I use almost every day!

The Basics

Here are the basic tools I use, that everyone needs!

Hosting – A2

I’m about to switch to A2 Hosting. There’s an excellent Black Friday sale coming up and I’m going to jump on it.

Why A2 when most bloggers promote SiteGround? For one, it’s faster! I did some testing as a freelance writer for one of my clients and A2 was hands down the fastest host. There’s a reason why developers love A2… 😉

For second, well, people often talk about how amazing SiteGround support is but… I found that if you ask something slightly out of the ordinary they don’t really know what to do with you. That’s hasn’t been a problem with A2.

Divi WordPress Theme (or the Extra theme)

I’ve considered switching away from Divi this year. It’s a big theme which can make it slow to load. I barely use any of the features… but I just can’t switch. I love it too much! Check it out here!

Here’s why:

  • I can build almost anything BY MYSELF in Divi
  • I have loads of opt-ins set up as global items in my Library so adding an opt-in for a content upgrade or lead magnet is as easy as two clicks

Email Service Provider – ConvertKit

I was relatively ok with using Mailchimp… until I realized that my subscribers were getting sent multiple welcome emails from me.

Then I switched to ConvertKit.

ConvertKit to MailChimp is night and day. It’s so easy to use.

You’ll pretty much be able to pick it up straight away and run with it.

Here’s why I switched to ConvertKit:

  • I was getting duplicate welcome emails sent in MailChimp when I had people signing up for multiple freebies
  • I wanted the ability to tag people easily and move them into sequences
  • ConvertKit has a visual sequence builder, so you can build complicated email sequences and actually see them laid out visually
  • ConvertKit will also let you use THEIR ADDRESS on your emails, thus satisfying the CAN-SPAM requirement. I don’t know about you but I was appalled to find out I was expected to email hundreds-thousands of people with my real-life, actual home address.

Read more: How to Use ConvertKit to Grow Your Email List

Trello

I go back and forth between on paper planning and electronic organizing ALL. THE. TIME.

One day, I’ll settle.

Anyway, when I’m gung ho about electronic, Trello is my fave!

Here’s what I love about Trello:

  • It’s free! Really free!
  • I love using a whole new board as almost like a mind map of ideas.
  • Butler for Trello is awesome if you’re using Trello to organize your whole life/biz.
  • Being able to move cards and lists around just feels so organic and intuitive.

Check out Trello here! (And I’ll get a free month of GOLD which lets me change the background images on my boards!)

Interact

I talked about Interact a little while ago – it’s THE best tool for creating quizzes which you can use to generate traffic and get subscribers!

Interact is very easy to use, you’ll be able to pick it up in minutes.

This tool is also awesome because:

  • You can use premade quizzes as is, or as a jumping off point.
  • Results correlation is oh so simple.
  • There are multiple different types of quizzes you can create – personality quizzes, scored quizzes, and IQ type quizzes.

Read more: How to Grow Your Email List with a Viral Quiz

Tailwind

You knew Tailwind would be on this list right? Well, it is.

Tailwind is my favorite tool hands down for Pinterest. It’s responsible for massive growth in blog traffic – like my client who’s site traffic went from 1-2K per day to up to 10K per day. Crazy cool right?

Here’s some more reasons that Tailwind is the bomb:

  • It generates a pinning schedule for me based on my past results.
  • I can schedule 100’s of pins at a time so I don’t have to be on Pinterest all day every day.
  • It has detailed analytics so I can see what’s going on with my account.
  • Tribes are like group boards, only better. Much better.

Read more: 16 Tailwind Tribes to Skyrocket Your Reach and Explode Your Blog Traffic

Evernote

Do you know how to take good screenshots? I didn’t. I used to screenshot into Gimp and then use Gimp tools to add notes etc. Arrows were impossible!

Now, I use Evernote. It’s so easy!

All I do is click on the Evernote Chrome Extension, select screenshot, and I can edit in arrows, text, all kinds of things! Then it gets saved into my Evernote.

It saves me a ton of time! If you’re a freelance writer, or a blogger who does a lot of screenshots, Evernote is a great tool to have up your sleeve.

Did you know Evernote also does other stuff too? Like, organization stuff. I tried to use it that way, but I prefer Trello.

WordPress Plugins

I used to be obsessed with plugins.

‘What cool new features can I add to my site today?’ I’d think to myself.

That was back when I didn’t know that having too many plugins is bad for site speed and can also open your site up to hacking attempts (more plugins = more potential vulnerabilities).

Now, I’ve cooled it on the plugin scene and I mostly stick to my tried and true favorites.

Enjoy!

ConvertPlus

Can you believe I fell out of love with Bloom? I waxed eloquent about them in last year’s post… but they’ve been pipped by ConvertPlus!

Here’s why I switched:

  • ConvertPlus has exit intent popups (which I’ve yet to deploy but will!)
  • ConvertPlus includes notification bars (like a Hello bar without the branding)
  • The design of ConvertPlus forms is way more customizable.
  • It’s easier to get ConvertPlus forms to pop-up-when-I-click-a-button than with Bloom.

ConvertPlus is only $21… and so awesome!

Alternatives: if you want a Hello Bar without the branding, try WP Notification Bars.

Social Warfare

I mentioned them last year. But they’re worth mentioning again. Social Warfare is great!

Basically, you get:

  • Social share buttons you can customize to suit your site.
  • The ability to designate which image should be shared when people click the share bar.

That’s pretty cool for making sure the right image goes on Pinterest!

Yoast SEO

I finally switched out from All In One SEO to Yoast. I still have a special place in my heart for All In One SEO, but when EVERYONE, including clients, are using Yoast… well, I kinda felt weird without it.

Best things about Yoast:

  • You can use the red light/green light system to tell how well you’ve optimized your post for your chosen keywords
  • You can change the meta description that appears in a Google Search
  • It has space for you to enter in various confirmation codes (like Pinterest) and applies OG markup to your information so you can get Rich Pins. (This is a good thing)

Pretty Links Lite

This is one essential plugin I recommend to everyone. It’s just so versatile.

Most commonly, you’d use this to change your long and ugly affiliate link into something short and easy to remember. For example, I’ve got an affiliate link for A2 hosting set up as https://thismamalearns.com/a2 it’s so much easier to remember and type than the original link!

I’ve also found it useful to redirect pages or posts I want to delete. But that’s a bit secret squirrel and sneaky… (If you want a tutorial on how to do it, comment below and let me know!)

Graphics, Design and Multimedia

Big change this year – I upgraded to Photoshop! Now I just need to learn how to use it…

Canva

Canva is still my go-to graphics design tool, most of the time. I upgraded to the paid version in 2016, Canva for Work. And it was invaluable to be able to upload my own fonts, set my brand colors and have folders for my things. Even better was being able to access loads of photos (both free and paid) in the Canva library. (You don’t have as many options on a free plan).

Photoshop

I wish I was a graphic designer. But I can’t draw.

Anyway.

Graphic designers have been telling me to ‘just get Photoshop already’, forever. And I’ve been refusing because… it is soo. Difficult. To. Use.

I allowed myself to be convinced… but yep.

It is so difficult to use.

But. Photoshop is good for those things that Canva doesn’t let you do – like gradients, drop shadow text, and removing image backgrounds.

Screen-Cast-O-Matic

If you’re after a super simple screen casting software to capture videos, try Screen-Cast-O-Matic. On the free version, your videos will have the Screen-Cast-O-Matic watermark on them, but if you upgrade (it’s only $18/year!) you can remove that.

Screen-Cast-O-Matic works great for:

  • Recording your screen for tutorials
  • Recording screen + webcam at the same time
  • Recording video though your webcam

Try it here!  If you choose to upgrade to a pro account, I’ll get 20% off my next renewal.

Flipagram

You know I recently became a LipSense distributor, right? I’ve been making fun little videos on my phone – LipSense application demos, smudge tests… that kind of thing. This little app is AMAZING for creating really cool videos.

Here’s an example:

You can take short snippets of videos and easily stitch them together using this app. Even cooler, you can speed up or slow down each clip and add music or text!

Love it!

I need something comparable for desktop! But for now, all my videos are getting recorded on my iPhone 7 (that’s kinda the whole reason I bought it.)

What Disappeared From My List?

You might’ve noticed I didn’t mention a couple of tools from last time.

Still Using Stopped Using
WordPress

Google Analytics

Upprev

BuzzSumo

YARPP >> replaced with WordPress Related Posts by Sovrn, zemanta

Google Docs/Sheets/Slides (I prefer the functionality of Microsoft Office, plus my internet sucks so things load slowly)

HootSuite – I’ve said ‘so long’ to Twitter

Buffer – as above, plus Facebook prefers you to use their own scheduler

IFTTT – I got tired of insincere methods of sharing… plus had a couple of accidents! Whoops!

That’s the List!

Phew! So there you have it. My massive list of tools that I’ve been using in 2017. I’ve changed things up a little since last year.

Now I want to know: which of these tools are you using? What tools do you recommend?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Hi, I'm Cath

Hi, I'm Cath

Blogger. Freelance Writer & Pinterest Manager. Mom of one. Keeps me busy! I’m also a corporate escapee, determined to help moms create options so they can stay home with the little ones and contribute to the family finances.

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