I’ve been blogging for over three years, and in that time, I have learned where to invest my time and money to see the most significant ROI (return on investment). I have only been reinvesting money that I make from the blog. Until recently, I wasn’t making any money to reinvest in my blog.
All of that changed after I joined RankIQ.
After joining RankIQ, my Google organic traffic skyrocketed 🚀, and I have finally been earning a consistent income to purchase some much-needed upgrades for my blog!
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The best thing about organically growing Mommy Maker Teacher is knowing which tools are now worth investing in.
I’ve had to manually do everything myself, from SEO, keyword research, writing, website design, outreach and media, WordPress, site optimization, social media… You name it!
I have learned what I am good at, what I enjoy doing, what I don’t, and what takes a lot of time.
Below is my curated, ultra-particular list of blogging tools I use to optimize, automate, and simplify my blogging life.
Jump Ahead To:
1. RankIQ (Keyword Research)
RankIQ is an SEO toolset that had done-for-me keyword research in my mommy, parenting, and pregnancy niches.
It eliminated the time spent doing keyword research (which I was failing at miserably as a new blogger). The keywords are manually researched and hand-selected (not machine-generated).
I can confidently focus on writing for my blog, knowing that the experts have already done the keyword research on my behalf.Jacqui DiNardo
RankIQ also tells me what to include in my article, helps me write an outline, develops a SERPs-worthy title, and shows me my competition.
I could go on and on about RankIQ. At $49 a month, it now pays for itself more than ten times each month. I couldn’t live without RankIQ.
2. Big Scoots (Hosting)
I was with Bluehost for three years and never felt supported regarding backend technology.
A RankIQ Facebook Group member recommended Big Scoots as an affordable website host. I made the switch that day!
I joined their Fully Managed Hosting (Starter Level).
Managed Hosting starts at $31/month, and Shared Hosting starts at $7/month.
They explained that Big Scoots Managed Hosting is the hand-holding version, and Shared Hosting is the DIY version.
It was a splurge, but I opted for the Managed Hosting and could not be happier. I didn’t have to do anything about switching from Bluehost. Big Scoots handled the entire process–including my emails.
They have already increased my Core Web Vitals (including the most problematic LCP- Largest Contentful Paint) to “good” for all pages. A huge improvement from the previous “poor”.
I have also opened over ten support tickets (they must know me by name now 🤣) to fix “looming” problems that I have been trying to fix unsuccessfully by myself for years. Their support is fast. They work 24/7 and get back to you within minutes.
Overall, it’s been an unbeatable experience.
3. iPostal1 (Virtual Mailbox)
iPostal1 provides a virtual mailbox and address to register your business.
I decided to register my business after I started making enough money on my blog to pay taxes. It was necessary to separate my business from my personal finances, but I didn’t want to have to provide my home address.
iPostal1 lets me see my mail and choose whether to pick it up in person (free), forward it to my home address (small fee), discard it (free), or shred it (free).
I love that I get a picture of the piece of mail so I can decide whether it’s something I need urgently (mail it), I’ll pick it up at some point (in-person pick up), or discard it (spam/advertisements).
4. GeneratePress Premium (Website Theme)
The first theme I used for mommymakerteacher.com was Hestia. It was beautiful 😍. It was also painfully slow 😡.
I asked the RankIQ Mastermind group which theme I should run on my blog to be able to pass Core Web Vitals.
Brandon Gaille personally recommended GeneratePress. It is super light and runs lightning-fast. I used the free GeneratePress theme for about 18 months and loved it. No issues whatsoever.
As my site started to grow, I wanted to be able to customize some features (like removing the above-the-fold featured image). I decided to reinvest in my blog and subscribe for a reasonable $59 yearly (up to 500 sites 😱!).
They also have a one-time price of $249, which gets you a lifelong subscription for up to 500 sites.
5. LinkWhisper (Internal Link Building)
This is a newer plugin that I’m using on my site to automate internal link building (the bane of my existence 😤).
So far, LinkWhisper has been easy to use and does generate link suggestions despite not having a ton of content on my site.
LinkWhisper also has a sophisticated link report to tell if your pages are orphaned or short on links.
I love that LinkWhisper gets me “into” articles without having to find them and manually open them. I can customize the sentence and even the anchor text for the suggestions it pulls up.
6. Convertkit (Email Marketing)
There are so many email marketing tools out there. I started with Convertkit because they let you use their address as your mandatory return address.
When I started, I didn’t have my business address through iPostal1, and I didn’t want to display my home address on all of my email campaigns.
They also have a generous 1000 subscriber limit on their free plan.
There are limits to the free plan (email sequences and automation are minimal), but it is a great way to get started.
I find their in-line signup forms and pop-ups easy to create, customize, and display. They convert well for my readers.
7. Tailwind (Pinterest Scheduling)
You may love and hate them, but Tailwind has the market cornered for efficiently scheduling pins to post to Pinterest.
Over my three years of blogging, I have gone back and forth between their paid and free versions.
Recently, they introduced AI ghostwriters to write your pin and board titles and descriptions. They are OK.
I wonder if Pinterest can tell if you use Tailwind to generate the descriptions (they seem pretty repetitive and formulaic). But if you’ve got writer’s block, it’s a great place to start and edit your descriptions.
Their prices are steep. It’s really steep for what I use it for. But the time that Tailwind saves me makes the ROI worth it.
Pro Tip: Wait for their Black Friday sale in November and get great deals. They have previously offered their Premium Annual plans at 50% off!
8. Grammarly (Editing and Proofreading)
I thought I was a great writer… Until I invested in Grammarly Pro 🤣.
Grammarly is an essential Chrome extension for bloggers. It’s like having an editor review your work while you write.
For my first few years, I only used the free Grammarly. It was OK. It’s better than the Chrome spell check. It caught some grammatical issues and sentence fragments.
I would always see suggestions for improving my writing that were “locked” and only for premium users. I decided to give Grammarly Pro a shot to see whether it could improve my writing.
Grammarly Pro is way better than anticipated. My favorite feature is the “improve clarity” feature. It suggests a different way to write your sentence to make it clearer or easier to read.
In my opinion, easy-to-read, skimmable content is one of the most important factors for user experience. Grammarly helps me achieve this for a very affordable price.
9. Yoast SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I use the free Yoast SEO plugin for my site. Because I use RankIQ for keyword research and on-page SEO, I don’t need to upgrade to Yoast Premium.
When I first started, I used RankMath but found that my posts weren’t getting indexed. Once I switched to Yoast, I could submit new site maps and started seeing my page index almost immediately.
10. FiverrWorkspace (Invoicing, Bookkeeping, and Contracts)
FiverrWorkspace (AND.CO) is a free platform for small business owners and freelancers to manage clients and projects, develop proposals and contracts, time tracking, and bookkeeping (like expenses, transactions, payments, etc.).
You can manually enter everything or directly link your bank account(s). So far, it has helped me manage my income and expenses for my blog to file my taxes.
11. Google Voice (Free Business Phone Number)
Google Voice is free and allows you to connect a second phone number to your cell phone. This allowed me to register a business phone number without providing my cell.
12. Canva Pro (Graphic Design)
If you’re a blogger and use stock photos, Canva Pro is a must. You have a massive library of free stock images to choose from. There is a WAY more extensive selection of stock images in the parenting space than any of the other stock photo sites I tried (Pixabay and Pexels).
Yes, Canva Pro does have a cost, but at $15/month, it is way less than buying individual stock photos.
The Canva Pro price is worth it for access to the library of photos alone.
You can also access their pro features like background erasers, AI photo editors, custom brand colors and fonts, and more.
My favorite Pro feature? Magic Resize. Instantly resize any of your graphics for all your platforms without starting from scratch.
13. Grow by Mediavine (Blog Pin Images)
Grow by Mediavine–formally known as Social Pug. This is another new plugin that I’ve recently added.
I feel comfortable using my HTML to code Pinterest titles and descriptions in my images, but Grow allows me to add “hidden pins” to my posts. This speeds up my page and will enable me to try different graphics for my posts and see what works.
I also like that Grow lets me add custom titles and descriptions without manually coding them! Less manual work = more time saved!
Start With Free Tools and Gradually Add On
Remember, if you’re starting (and not earning any income from your blog yet!), investing in any of these programs is unnecessary. You can do it the same way I did–it’s a longer process, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get your blog up and running.
My only word of advice? As soon as you can invest in any tools, invest in RankIQ first. It catapulted my blog to the next level, where I could easily afford all these other tools to make my life easier!