I highly recommend all the applications and platforms on this page. I use many of them now, and the rest I’ve used at some point. So I’m personally familiar with all of them. All of them can help your blogging and content marketing.
Recommending software is part of my business. The images and many of the links on this page are affiliate links, so I earn a small commission (at no extra charge to you) when you buy through them. Affiliate links in body text are italicized on this page and identified elsewhere that they appear on the site. You can always identify my affiliate links by hovering your cursor over them; they begin with randylyman.biz/recommends/.
Writing & SEO
A content calendar is the heart of a mature blogging or content marketing system, and CoSchedule is one of the best. I use it to schedule, manage, and create all the posts and social media for this and my personal blog, and with the Marketing Calendar plan I can schedule and manage email blasts, newsletters, courses, webinars, and more. A plugin makes it all handily available right in WordPress.
Scrivener is a general writing app that’s now my writing environment of choice. Its versatility suits all my needs: blogging, essays, and fiction. I don’t need plugins, browser extensions, or additional apps to collect my notes, research, links, or anything else. Designed for professional writers, but versatile enough for anyone.
Mind-mapping tools are all the rage, and there’s lots of great ones out there. Problem is, they’re all way too complex for my simpler needs. What good are hundreds of outstanding templates if I don’t actually need any of them? Enter Scapple, a really simple (and affordable) alternative from the same folks who make Scrivener.
Search engine optimization tools tend to come in two varieties: 1) free tools (e.g. Google Trends) that are pretty useful but still rather limited, and 2) really powerful, sophisticated tools that are also really expensive. Rank Math is the perfect happy medium: a sophisticated tool that’s very affordable (there’s free and paid versions). I use it on this site for setting structured data, tracking keyword rankings, and a whole lot more.
The complex Google Analytics dashboard is great for deep dives but MonsterInsights displays the daily data I need right in my WordPress dashboard for easy access. That way I can reserve my trips to the more complex Google Analytics for when I really need to.
Social Media Optimization
I use the Social Warfare plugin to create the social sharing icons on my blog posts. I like the available designs and power functionality that lets me customize how my posts are shared. Learn more about Social Warfare and other sharing plugins in my post “Supercharge Your Social Sharing.”
A social media dashboard lets you schedule all your social media in one place, so you can do more with less time and effort. Buffer integrates with CoSchedule so I can promote my blog posts automatically and continuously long after the post is published.
Hootsuite does more than scheduling. You can monitor other social media accounts, hashtags, and more; and extend it with plugins that add a wide range of functionality. As a bonus, Hootsuite is a B Corp committed to socially responsible business practices.
If you promote your business heavily on Instagram, consider Planoly. Buffer and Hootsuite can publish to Instagram too, but Planoly lets you plan your grid visually, respond to comments, and engage with the Instagram community. I use it for my Instagram Awareness Calendar.
Create opt-in forms of all shapes and types with this one-stop lead gen platform. Targeting features let you control how they’re displayed, and analytics show how well they’re working for you. OptinMonster is created by the same folks as MonsterInsights. Connect OptinMonster with the email platforms below and you can do anything.
I use ConvertKit to send blog updates and newsletters to my own email list. I like its uncluttered, no-nonsense approach. I also like that ConvertKit is a conscious company dedicated to enabling creative people to make a living through their art. I’ll always support that. It’s just the right size for solopreneurs.
Online courses are “it” these days, and Thinkific is an all-in-one platform for creating and marketing your own courses. Email automations help you keep the lessons coming and your students engaged.
I switched to DreamHost because its user-friendly interface makes everything about my website easy to manage. The basic shared hosting is super cheap, but the pricier DreamPress hosting plan (which I use) provides greater security, faster site loading, and more, including a staging site for testing and making changes before going live with them.
An annual Thrive Themes membership gives you everything you need to create an attractive, conversion-oriented website. This site is built with it. Included plugins provide a wide range of functions — lead generation, testimonials, a countdown timer, a headline optimizer, and more — so you don’t need to buy those plugins from another vendor and risk potential conflicts.
If you’re raising money for a cause, this plugin provides a wide range of capabilities for collecting donations directly on your website. The free Give plugin is enough to get started, but paid add-ons provide many options for recurring donations and more.
This developer creates a wide array of useful plugins that extend the functionality of your website, including analytics, e-commerce, contact forms, Google Maps (good for local businesses), and widgets to display your social media feeds on your website.
Airtable is a project management app married to a spreadsheet, like a cross between Trello and Excel, except more fun. Scores of templates cover a wide range of personal, business, and creative applications, from CRM to video production planning. And it’s free. I use it for planning and monitoring my content calendar; it comes with lots of templates.
This conversion-oriented booking platform offers plans to sell products and services as well as book appointments. I use Book Like a Boss in part because of its attractive design options, much nicer than similar calendars.
If you sell digital products, then SendOwl may be the shopping cart you need. It’s what I use. It’s easy to set up, made for services and digital products, and doesn’t require a lot of costly extensions in order to do what you need.
FreshBooks offers a start-to-finish invoicing workflow that’s awesome if invoices are the only way you bill clients. You can turn estimates into invoices, incorporate subcontracted work, and track your expenses.