Updated July 19, 2018
I use tools for online marketing, paid advertising, graphics design and communication. My tools help make my blogging more efficient and my social media more effective.
One thing I don’t actually do is use tools for fun. I enjoy making my overall content marketing better, but I don’t really enjoy taking the time to learn a new tool.
Can you relate to that?
Generally, I don’t get excited about trying something new unless someone I know and trust has specifically told me, “Mike, why on Earth aren’t you using this tool yet?” And even then, I’m reluctant. Too often, new tools have been time-consuming and disappointing. And of course after a while, those paid subscription tools can really add up!
So I’m careful about which tools I use, and which ones I take the time to evaluate and incorporate into my business processes.
But still, I do use a lot of tools. That’s why broadcast hosts like Mia Voss have brought me on their shows just to talk shop. And it’s why a great deal of the social media questions and comments I get from readers like yourself have to do with tools. What tools do I use? What are the best ones for x? Is x better than x? How are they different?
And so on.
I’ve published many different articles in the past on specific tools, and I’ll provide links to those where appropriate. Today’s article is, as you already know, an effort to document all of the different and preferred tools I use, broken down by Category. For each, I’ll mention how and why I use that tool and give you a link so that you can grab it for yourself, as well as links to any additional resources I may have already created. So this is more than just a list of links.
Of course, some of these links will be affiliate links, and I’ll indicate those where appropriate. Sometimes it’s a small fee for the referral, while other times your action will result in both of us receiving something. Your participation is appreciated. 🙂
There’s also one tool I highly recommend which I’ve created for you myself: The Ultimate Blogging Planner. Packed with professionally designed worksheets, this planner will help you knock your goals for the coming year out of the park.
With that, let’s get on with the list!
Of course, every blogger’s toolbox should be filled with social media tools. From management and distribution, to the core apps that help keep you engaged and aware. This is the tool I use…
Agorapulse is my go-to tool for social media management. I am able to post and schedule posts to my accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, as well as queue posts for resharing. But what Agorapulse does best is allow me to streamline how I see and respond to my ‘social media inbox’ – mentions and direct messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks to the Agorapulse mobile app, I have reduced the amount of time I spend responding to and thanking followers, while actually doing more. The app is able to filter out most of the spam DMs, while at the same time surface tweets that didn’t directly mention me.
Note that I have apps for all the major social platforms, as well as other networks, namely Snapchat, WhatsApp, SlideShare and so on. Since I’m not active on those networks, I rarely use the apps. I do, however, use Netflix quite a bit. Does that count?
These are the tools that support my blogging, both from a content sourcing and creation point of view, as well as optimizing and promoting.
Evernote is my most important tool for blogging and content marketing. All of my blog post ideas, strategies and actual articles are born here. I use Evernote on my laptop, iPhone and iPad, as it automatically and immediately syncs all of my devices.
Where would we be without Google Analytics? The ubiquitous tool gives me great insight into not just overall site traffic, but how individual posts are performing, and which articles are getting more traction in Google Search.
Another critical component for any successful blogger is Email Marketing, and Wishpond [affiliate link] is my tool of choice. I’ve completely customized and styled the emails that I send so that they clearly reflect my blog and brand, and I use those emails to share new content and new ideas.
Wishpond is also a complete lead generation tool, allowing me to create pop-up campaigns, landing pages, contests and email sequences.
For more details on how I promote my blog posts, be sure to check out:
Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion
It’s important to me that I am focusing my business, and my content, on topics that are truly of interest to my target audience. A lot of that comes from intuition and experience, but it’s also good to have data. That’s where Keyword Research comes in.
One of the first places I go to understand search behavior and current results is Google Search itself. I can see what the current results are, get some ideas there, and also use the autocomplete of Google Search to get additional ideas. On mobile, it’s the Google Now app.
Google Keyword Planner
Next, to review search volumes and/or cost of advertising, I use Google Keyword Planner. I can plug in specific keywords and get current data back on them, but to find other keywords I didn’t think of, I use…
For me, the best SEO is when I’m creating great content around the topics my target audience is interested in (see Keyword Research above), so when it comes to SEO tools specifically, my needs are mostly for monitoring and optimizing.
SEMRush is my one and only SEO tool today. SEMrush [affiliate link] allows me to conduct audits as needed on specific domains, bringing back details reports on errors, issues and warnings which might adversely impact search ranking. I can also track my site’s ranking for specific keywords. SEOquake is available for mobile and browser extensions.
Good blog and content imagery requires time, and a deep commitment to providing a consistent brand and enhanced reader experience. These tools help me accomplish that.
First and foremost, Canva is the tool I’ve adopted for all of my blog and social media graphics. I’ve developed a style and format for my regular blog images that I’m able to quickly replicate over and over.
The stock images within Canva are $1 to use, but when I want something a little different, Pixabay is an outstanding resource. The images tend to feel less like stock photos, and they’re free to use.
This has become my primary tool for taking screenshots and marking them up. Skitch offers great options for selection or timed screenshots, and the markup functionality is perfect for those example images embedded within blog posts.
And no business or blog would be complete without a business-oriented tool, for things like accounting, billing, and so on…
HubSpot CRM is everything you need to organize, track, and nurture your leads and customers. And the best part is that it’s 100% free, forever.
This CRM tracks all of your interactions with your website visitors, whether it be emails, pages visited, form submissions, or chat conversations. All the data associated with a contact is automatically stored in a tidy timeline. This will help you and your team better tailor your approach when reaching out to prospects. You can also track your emails with desktop notifications every time someone opens your email, clicks a link inside, or downloads an attachment.
You can also download the HubSpot app for when you’re on the go.
When it comes to invoicing clients, I’ve found FreshBooks to be one of the best possible tools. I can set up automatic recurring invoices, preset tasks and products, and accept payment online. It automatically sends out reminder notices, and is nicely brandable so that my clients always know they can trust what they’re seeing as legitimate.
OVER TO YOU
Like any of my posts, this is one that I’ll routinely update as new tools are evaluated and integrated, and older tools are abandoned or replaced. I think it’s useful for me to keep a lofty eye on all the tools I’m using, and I hope that it’s useful for you to see what’s out there and perhaps discover a tool or two that you didn’t know exist.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want to try one of these tools and I’ve provided an affiliate link, please use it. Every little bit helps me to be able to continue to experiment and share my findings with you.
And now, I’d love to hear from you! What stood out in this list to you? What’s missing? In your experience, are there any other tools out there which are even better than what I’ve described? Please leave a comment below.
Want more help, right now? Take a look at The Blog Planner to help you succeed in your content marketing. Start planning today for a successful tomorrow!