Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

30 of the Best Blogging Tools and Software in 2020 (for Creating Highly Profitable Websites)


Here's my list of the best blogging tools and software I use to grow and run million dollar websites in 2020. Some cost money while others are free.

Blogging Tools and Software Photo

UPDATED May 28, 2020.

While WordPress is dang good for building websites and it includes plenty of bells and whistles, it doesn’t quite do it all.

And while I’ve been publishing sites for a number of years, I still can’t code.

The bottom line is I have to spend a few bucks on tools and software to keep my online publishing biz humming along.

Chances are, you need a few tools too.

We all have preferences, but just in case you care to know what I use, I open the lid to my toolbox below.

In case you missed the affiliate disclaimer above, this post is littered with affiliate links for the various tools and software I use that offers an affiliate program.  However, I also include everything I use that doesn’t have an affiliate program.

In some cases I may not use something currently, but have in the past and mention it because it’s worth mentioning.

Ad networks

Currently: I now use AdThrive for most sites.  Ezoic is great once you hit the 10K monthly page views but because I have infinite scroll on my sites, I need an ad network that accommodates infinite scroll and that network is AdThrive (read my Ezoic review here and check out my income reports here).

Content sources

My Pick
WriterAccess

These days I order the lion's share of my content from WriterAccess. They have a HUGE pool of very good writers. Rates are decent but most importantly, the quality is quite good.

My content sources are about as important as ad networks.  Content is the foundation of what I do.  As much as I like writing (and I do still write quite a bit such as this brilliant sentence), I can’t type 3,000 words per minute so I hire writers to help.

Current content sources: WriterAccess and Textbroker

99% of my content these days is from WriterAccess.  I’m upping my content quality across the board and am paying more per word on WA.  The results are good and worth the cost (at least I hope it is).  I’m still very demanding and do require revisions but I’ve assembled a team of great writers.

As for the recently used content sources below, WordAgents is the best quality by far but you’ll pay for it.   The other three sources are lower-quality but can be good for content that isn’t complex or needs all that much research.

Used in the past: Content Development ProsHuman Proof Designs, WordAgents  and Textun

A final word about content sources – while I’ve tried many article writing services and sources, I have not tried every content service out there.  There are dozens – probably hundreds of them.  And then you can hire in-house as well.  Getting your content flowing smoothly is akin to setting up a widget factory.  It’s tough and slow-going in the beginning, but once you hit upon a good system, life is good.

Hosting

What kind of publishing toolbox would this be without a hosting suggestion?  I’d be negligent failing to tell you which hosting service I use – to you and myself given the spectacular affiliate commissions hosting services pay.  Yeah, it’s no accident the internet is polluted with website hosting suggestions, recommendations and reviews.

Just in case you want to know what I use, here it is:

Current: Kinsta:

My Top "Premium" Hosting Pick
Kinsta

Kinsta is my current hosting service. It's a premium WordPress hosting service. While not the cheapest, it's BY FAR the BEST I've ever used. I've been with them well over 2 years.

I’ve been with Kinsta for years and love this hosting platform.  Every site I own is with Kinsta. Ever since migrating I’ve had no need to consider anything else.  BUT, Kinsta is only necessary when you have decent traffic (250K visits+ per month).  Until then, go with the something like Bluehost (see below).

Less expensive hosting I started with

Bluehost – I used Bluehost exclusively for years until I started pulling in serious traffic.  I liked Bluehost then and like them now for smaller sites.  It’s easy to use, has decent support and does the job.

WordPress themes

Unless you can code a theme from scratch, you need to buy a theme for your site’s design or use a free one. I prefer paying for themes because I like the support that it comes with.  Fortunately, themes are pretty cheap.  Here’s what I use:

Currently using:

Bimber Theme – I’m using Bimber on niche sites. It’s a little more bloated than GeneratePress, but for some niches, it’s awesome.

GeneratePress – Recently I’ve deployed GeneratePress on Fat Stacks.  I’m very, very impressed with it.  Don’t judge this theme by the simple Fat Stacks design – there are no limits to what you can design with this theme (I just can’t be bothered, besides I like the simple design for Fat Stacks).  Moreover, they’re based in Vancouver, BC where I live and work which is a bonus.

The support forum is phenomenal.  It’s public so you can find all the help you need just by searching in Google.  GeneratePress Pro is ridiculously cheap for what you all get.  I think it’s like $50 for an unlimited site license.  Grab it while it’s this cheap.

E-commerce

In late 2019, I launched an e-commerce enterprise as part of my biggest niche site.  Currently, I (along with a partner) sell 4 low-priced products on Amazon and on our site devoted to selling those products.

While much of our sales are on Amazon, building our own e-commerce site will contribute to sales and increase the brands value in the long run.

For our e-commerce site, we use Shopify.  As an e-commerce platform, I love Shopify and strongly recommend it.

Affiliate Tools

These days I’m loving 3 affiliate tools I use across my sites.  They are as follows:

ConvertBox

My Pick
ConvertBox

Not only do I use ConvertBox for email sign-up forms but I also use it to promote affiliate products across my niche sites with affiliate pop-ups and quizzes. It's very, very effective.

Lasso

Top Pick #1
Lasso

This box is made with Lasso. Looks great, doesn't it?

I love, love, love Lasso. I deploy it on several niche sites as well as Fat Stacks. While it's awesome for Amazon, you can use it for any affiliate link, internal link - wherever you want to send traffic.

AMZImage

I love AMZImage because it makes it easy and fast for inserting large Amazon product images into content.  I use this daily across all my niche sites.  If you want to use Amazon product images, check this out.

Infinite Scroll

I’m having some fun with infinite scroll on one site.

I’ve mucked around with many plugins as well as a theme with built-in infinite scroll (Bimber).

Bimber theme is great but it’s bloated (I’m told it’s more bloated than GeneratePress).  So, I switched to GeneratePress and deployed Ajax Load More (Paid version which you need for individual posts to infinitely scroll).

Review Schema Plugin

WP Review by MyThemeShop:  for product/software reviews I use the WP Review plugin by MyThemeShop.  It’s easy to use and works well.  TIP: you need to test the rich results once you publish a review to ensure you fill in all the necessary fields.

Productivity tools

  • Link Whisper:  Suggests and creates internal links quickly.  I find this plugin is only really suitable on smaller sites (for now).
  • Grammarly:  Helps me, my VAs and writing team with proper spelling and grammar.
  • Loom: For training videos, I use Loom. They render almost instantly making it extremely efficient.  You can create folders for your team giving them access.  It’s an amazing tool that I use weekly.
  • Jing:  I use Jing for screenshots.  I used to use it for training videos, but they take too long to render. I switched to Loom. I may ditch Jing.
  • Apple Notes:  Apple Notes is almost worth the price of a Macbook Pro.  It’s the best platform or app I’ve ever used for to do lists and jotting down notes in generally.  It syncs across all my Apple devices.  If loads almost instantly.  It auto-saves.  It’s searchable.  Let’s just say I have about 400 notes that pretty much runs my business.
  • Google Docs:  Microsoft Office what?  I’m so done with MS Office.  If I never have to wait for Word to load again it’ll be too soon.  Google Docs are the bomb.  I use Sheets mostly but also Docs.  I love how it auto-saves everything and I can access it almost immediately from any device anywhere with an internet connection.  The price is right too – it’s free.

Social Media

Social Share Buttons on your site

NovaShare.io – There’s a new social sharing sheriff in town and that is NovaShare.  I recently hired a website speed consultant who said NovaShare is about as lightweight of a sharing button plugin you can get.  Unfortunately, it costs money but for IMO it’s worth paying for speed.  This does not have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does the job.  Yes, I use it on Fat Stacks.

Posting to Social Media

Is there nothing worse than posting manually to social media accounts?  I think not.  Especially now that most social media doesn’t really do all that much for most sites.  They do just enough to warrant barfing up posts from new content.

In an effort to help me keep my sanity, I use two social media software platforms.  Here they are:

  • Tailwind: If you pin regularly this is a must-have tool.  Load ’em up by the hundreds and take the rest of the month off.  I also use it to crank out Instagram posts.  Pinterest now has a scheduling option so I would NOT pay for Tailwind unless you have people pinning for you.  With Tailwind you can invite users but you can’t do that inside your Pinterest account.  I would NOT give access to anyone to your Pinterest account.
  • MeetEdgar:  I auto-post to Facebook and Twitter with this easy-to-use platform.

Coding and Tech Help

Coding help

I’m many things but a coder I am not. I know enough CSS and PHP to ruin things.  I’ve white-screened my sites too many times to count.  I decided it was time to bring in the pros when I needed some coding.  My go-to coding service is Codeable. They have vetted pros who know what they’re doing. Often they can do in minutes what would take me days and even then I tend to botch it.

If you need any tech help with your WordPress site, save yourself hours and hours of frustration and blowing up your site by hiring a pro coder at Codeable.

Site clean up

When I onboarded with AdThrive they provided me a free SEO site audit.  I took them up on because I knew they’d find some things to clean up.  Big sites over time get messy (broken links, bad redirects, etc.).

Sure enough, the audit service provided me spreadsheets of little problems like this.  The worst issues were broken links.

However, the last thing I want to do is fix dozens or hundreds of such issues.  Fortunately, the audit service referred me to the BlogFixer.com who does all this site clean up stuff for very reasonable fees. I hired them to do it.  Huge time saver with big improvements.

Landing pages

I don’t create custom landers much, but sometimes it’s necessary.  They’re a pain to create, but can look fabulous if you use the right software.  Here’s what I’m using these days.

  • GenerateBlocks and Gutenberg: Okay, I’m currently biting the bullet on advice of a speed consultant to switch Elementor landers to Gutenberg with GenerateBlocks.  It’s a learning curve.  It will take me time, but Elementor apparently is a bloated pig of a plugin that ultimately needs to go.
  • Elementor Pro: I switched from Leadpages to ElementorPro because I wasn’t ranking Leadpages landers in search.  Besides, Elementor Pro is cheaper.  However, if you don’t care about SEO to your landers, Leadpages is better (easier to use and IMO nicer designs).
  • Leadpages: If you need landers for any purpose, Leadpages is awesome.  I love the designs, simplicity and support.  These suckers load fast and is pretty easy to use.

Poll and Quiz Surveys

My Pick
ConvertBox

Right now you can get lifetime access to ConvertBox. Pay once. Use forever. Don't hesitate. It's a no-brainer given what this software can do.

  • ConvertBox:  This is the greatest poll and multi-step quiz maker I’ve ever used.  It’s easy-to-use and very powerful.

Title Testing in the SERPs

  • A/B Rankings: If you want software that tells you which titles get the most clicks in Google search, this is the best software.  I used it for a few months to figure out better title formations.  It worked like a charm.  I discovered some great ways to write better titles.  I don’t use this all the time because once I figured out the best formats for titles, I was all set.

Images

Stock photo sources

  • Shutterstock and iStockphoto:  Few publishers should pay for stock photos given Pexels and other free stock photo sites, but if you rely on a lot of images for your blog, Shutterstock and iStock are best-of-the-best.  If forced to choose one, I’d go with Shutterstocki.

Image customization

  • Canva: If you need to make an image all prettied up with text and overlays, Canva is a great option. You can do tons of stuff with the free version.  It should be part of your arsenal since it costs nothing and can make a big difference with your images.

Amazon image embedding via API

  • AMZ Image Plugin: If you use Amazon images in your site, you need to use the Amazon API.  What that all entails is way beyond my paygrade.  What I do know is that AMZ Image Plugin makes it super easy to emebed Amazon images into my posts so that I comply with Amazon TOS.  It’s fast, easy and best of all, all my VAs can use it so I don’t have to.

Image optimization

ShortPixel is a great on-site image optimizer, especially if you want your images in WebP format.  It’s easy to use and not terribly expensive.

  • ShortPixel: Best image optimization plugin/service I’ve ever used. Just started in July 2019.  Deployed on all sites.  Includes option to convert images to WebP format.

Online course platform

My Pick
Teachable

I create and host all of the Fat Stacks courses on Teachable. It's an easy-to-use platform that offers an attractive interface for customers plus it handles payments, affiliates (and affiliate payments), taxes if applicable, sales pages... everything. I have no regrets setting up all my courses on Teachable.

  • Teachable: If you’re selling courses, Teachable is a good option.  I only sell courses via Fatstacks and do so on Teachable. It’s easy, fast and offers most of the features you’ll need.  It’s not perfect but for me it’s good enough.  What’s not perfect?  One beef is I have to use Zapier to add customers to AWeber.  I loathe Zapier.

Ad Management plugin

  • Ad Inserter: I daresay that AdInserter plugin is pretty much perfect.  I use the pro version but many publishers can get with the free version.  My two beefs with it is it doesn’t work on custom posts and it tops out at 96 placeholders.  I wish I could create unlimited placeholders.  Why?  I use Ezoic for display ads and I load up my pages with ads so Ezoic can split test them.  Yes, I actually use all 96 placeholders available in AdInserter.  And yes, it was really boring setting all that up.  On a positive note, I’m raking in the ad revenue so it was time well spent.

Email

Autoresponder services

My Pick for Email Software & Form Builder
ConvertKit

ConvertKit is my current email autoresponder software and it's awesome. It includes form creation (and landing pages). The forms are decent but the email capabilities are amazing. I prefer ConvertBox for forms, but I don't think you'd go wrong with ConvertKit's email sign up forms.

  • I recently switched from AWeber to Convertkit.  I wanted to be like all the other cool bloggers and use Convertkit.  Haha, I jest. Actually, I wanted an email autoresponder that natively integrated with Teachable (instead of using Zapier).  So far I like Convertkit.

Email optin forms

  • ConvertBox:  I recently switched to ConvertBox for my sign up forms on my niche sites (the two that I use such forms) plus Fat Stacks.  It’s easy to use and inexpensive.

Email formatting software:

  • Elink.io: If you’re sick and tired of manually creating email newsletters with links to multiple articles, you will be so happy I told you about Elink.io here.  It costs a few bucks every month, but the time I save using this nifty little cloud-software service is worth far more than it costs.

VA network for hiring VA’s

  • Onlinejobs.ph: A time comes in every online publisher’s life (at least you hope it does) where you have a few extra bucks and need to hire some help.  There is a lot of boring, tedious, repetitive and recurring tasks involved with blogging that can easily be handled by other people.  Moreover, you don’t need to hire some high-priced American coder or designer to do much of this work.  Instead, look to the Philippines which has a huge VA industry with many very capable and hardworking folks who can make your life so much easier.  The trick is finding them; that’s where Onlinejobs comes in.  They get employers and Filipino VAs connected.  I’ve hired dozens of great folks there over the years and expect to continue doing so for many years ahead.
  • I’ve also hired folks on Craigslist and Upwork.

Keyword research

Bookkeeping

I’m a real original and use Quickbooks on the advice of my accountants.  After all, it’s my accountants who have to deal with it.

3 years ago my books were a disaster. I changed accounting firms who told me to get Quickbooks.  They assigned a terrific bookkeeper to set it up and now I know at any given point every financial facet of my business.  While I paid some hefty accounting and bookkeeping fees to get it set up, I’m now saving money because Quickbooks streamlines the entire process with many automation features including syncing with all my bank accounts and business credit cards such as American Express.

While this type of fancy set up isn’t necessary when starting out, when the bucks start rolling in, get a handle on your finances because it’ll make your life and lot better in the long run.

Random Important Plugins

  • Yoast SEO: I use Yoast SEO plugin for on-site SEO.  It does the job for a clueless technical SEO like yours truly.  I have the Premium version on a couple of sites which I like for auto-redirects and other features.  However, for most people, the free version is more than adequate.
  • Table of Contents Plus Plugin / Easy Table of Contents Plugin:  I use these free plugins on my sites.

Recommended Courses

I recommend my courses of course.  I offer several concentrated courses covering all aspects of blogging based on my actually earning a very good full time living as a blogger.  I teach what I do. I keep the courses updated.  Each course includes access to the private Fat Stacks forum.

 


35 thoughts on “30 of the Best Blogging Tools and Software in 2020 (for Creating Highly Profitable Websites)”

  1. Jon,
    I went ahead and got the plugin, but noticed it doesn’t post multiple reviews per post/page. Have you figured a work around that for multi-item comparisons? I know there’s another plugin (WP Review Pro) that does comparison review tables in addition to post/page reviews, have you checked that one out?
    Right now the only work around I can figure for multiple reviews is making a post no index no follow etc. that covers that particular review you want, and recall it in the post with this shortcode;

    [wp-review id="XX"]

    The XX being the previous review post you used this in. I heard for some it doesn’t transfer the same color etc.
    Appreciate the awesome resources page!

    Reply
  2. Hi,

    My site has a lot of external links (non-affiliate) to several merchant. Now I’m planning use Skimlinks or Viglink to monetize them.

    Can I use Elf Links with Skimlinks or Viglink?

    My concern is, if Google don’t recognize the Elf Links, how will Skimlinks or Viglink find them?

    Kind Regards,

    Mark

    Reply
  3. Hey Jon– AudienceBloom seems like a cool service. How much does it cost? Didn’t want to go through the whole lead gen process, and they don’t advertise their pricing. Also, in terms of outreach to get links and guest post spots, are there any tools or processes you use to streamline that whole workflow?

    Reply
  4. Hi Jon,

    Is there any reason why you haven’t mentioned about Google Adsense in your list for the Monetization?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Hello:
    Is niche sniper suitable for a newbie? Will you teach everything step-by-step in an understandable way for a newbie?
    I already have a blog on health (natural remedies for diseases) will I be able to use it or do you recommend to start a new one?

    Reply
    • Yes, Niche Sniper if newbie friendly. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s worked great for me for years. Niche Sniper is based on the first blog I every launched and still own.

      Reply
  6. Hi Jon,

    Was trying to find a good review of Authority site system and was led here… very cool site and lots of good info 🙂

    Quick question – Do you still recommend those same courses? I’m a total newbie and looking to get into AM.. I just want to make sure i invest in the right course/person…

    Would you still recommend those same 3 courses ? Any other courses you would recommend for beginners?

    Reply
    • Hey Nish,

      Yes, I recommend all 3 still. They’re solid. All different, but all focus on how to build a successful authority site.

      Reply
  7. I loved this post! Have been keeping up with your blog for a while
    now and yohr always puttting out some great articles.
    I shared this on my instagram and my followers loved it!
    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Reply
  8. You had switched all your sites to Publisher theme by Better Studio. But, now you seem to have again changed Fat Stacks over to Schema.
    What went wrong with Publisher?
    Please share your experience and you may want to update your recommendations.
    Best wishes

    Reply
    • Hey Pradeep,

      thanks. I will update this. I did switch away from Publisher because the AMP thing wasn’t working so for now I’ve bailed on AMP. I hope one day Google offers a really simple solution for publishers to get on AMP. Until then, I’m off AMP. I also had some issues with images on Publisher. I never totally figured out what went wrong, but when I switched back to MyThemeShop all problems went away.

      Reply
  9. Hi Jon,

    Great site and articles! One fast and maybe a dumb question, but can the Schema theme fit 728×90 wide ads out-of-the-box or only the WordX. Thank you for the reply in advance. Which one would you advise more for someone just getting into building a niche content site?

    Best,
    Gabor

    Reply
    • Hey Gabor,

      No, Schema needs to be adjusted. There’s a thread in support forum that provides the snippet of CSS code or just submit request. Their forum support is outstanding. WordX does fit 728 x 90 out of the box so if you prefer less hassle, go with WordX. Both are great.

      The reason I went with Schema is I wanted to test the gray background with white content area. Turned out ad revenue dropped with that configuration so I made it white background and white content area with Schema instead of switching themes.

      Reply
  10. Hi Jon,

    I have placed a trial order with Content Development Pros due to your recommendation. Till now they are doing a terrible job. I go with a monthly subscription of 1 article (2,000 words)/mo and they have charged me US$520/mo for that, and this situation has happened twice.

    The first time I got the partial refund soon, but this time there’s no refund coming in as they said I will get the refund within an hour…

    As to the response speed, at first it is okay, but then there’s no following reply. I send them an email for revision of my article and half a month passed, I still got no response…

    Reply
    • That’s disappointing Eric. Don’t let up with refund request if you’re not pleased. You should be delighted with the work; that’s the standard I hold them to since most articles I order are 5 star.

      Reply

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