I can clearly remember when I discovered WordPress for the first time. It was an overwhelming experience.
It took me months to find my way around. So many options, and the various themes and plugins available just added to the nightmare.
Kind of reminds me of the London Underground. If anything confused the heck out of me, it’s the network of lines that make up this underground maze.
Discovering WordPress for the first time and getting familiar with all the back end stuff was no different.
Fast forward to today and to simply put it, I couldn’t live without WordPress.
I’ve built every single online venture with WordPress since I discovered it for myself.
As far as I’m concerned, it is the best platform out there for building any type of website.
Seriously, I mean I don’t mean to sound biassed or anything like that, but what else is there that’s so powerful and flexible, yet simple to use?
Over the last 6 years I’ve come across hundreds of plugins, themes, apps and various other online tools that make WordPress what it is today.
Out of the hundreds that I’ve tried myself over the years, a small handful of these tools truly stand out, for me at least.
So in all it’s glory, here I’m sharing with you my list of must-have tools that have helped me run and grow my WordPress blog like a true pro! (I don’t consider myself a pro, I just like to pretend to be on).
Hopefully if you’re yet to discover a few of these tools for yourself, you’ll find one or two of them to be very useful.
So let’s get to it!
Must Use Tools For WordPress – Themes
Themes are what makes your WordPress website or blog really unique to you, or your online brand.
Out of all the ones I’ve tried, and yes I’ve tried a good few in my time, you name it I’ve tried:
Thesis, Headway (I like Headway too), Templatic, Woo, Elegant, Theme-Junkie etc…
But out of all of these, two premium theme creators really stand out for me right now, here they are.
I started using Genesis way back in October 2010, the same month as I launched my first blog.
Since then I’ve been hooked on the software. I’ve powered all of my sites with Genesis, and StudioPress do make some very tantalising child themes to work with Genesis.
There’s quite a few themes to choose from too from the StudioPress marketplace. And even more themes from independent developers and custom theme designers.
When it comes to customisation however, using Genesis and the child themes can throw up a few challenges at first, especially if you don’t have much basic knowledge of HTML or CSS.
However, there is a very useful plugin called Genesis Design Palette Pro.
This plugin enables anyone using Genesis and a selected child theme, to easily customise things like typography, margins and paddings, background colour etc, without touching a single line of code.
If you’re wondering what theme I’m using for this blog, it’s the Digital Pro child theme for Genesis. I’ve added my own modifications using custom functions, CSS and graphics.
02. Thrive Themes
Thrive Themes is the other premium theme that I’m crazy about.
They are relatively new still in the marketplace, but getting increasingly popular everyday, and not just because of their awesome themes, but also for the range of plugins and various conversion tools that Shane Melaugh and co have brought us.
I work on a lot of client web design projects using Thrive themes.
When it comes to customisation, just like with Genesis, you can play around and add your own custom CSS into the built in “Custom CSS” box.
More over, you don’t need to install or use any additional plugins to achieve simple things like;
- Adding social share buttons,
- Adding related posts widget
- Uploading a custom Favicon.
As most of these features an options are built into each theme. Currently there are 9 themes to choose from with Thrive Themes.
Must Use WordPress Tools – Plugins
This list was very difficult to put together and could have quite easily been much longer.
Below I’ve listed the plugins that I truly believe are professional, so here we go!
When I first discovered this plugin in 2015, it was like rediscovering WordPress all over again.
I was absolutely blown away by it and what you could do with it.
The Thrive Content Builder plugin, also known as Thrive Visual Editor, is still the most powerful front end page builder, visual editor plugin for WordPress.
Since it’s launch, there have been other similar ones cropping up, but none of them coming close to TCB.
I’ve used this plugin to build my:
- Custom landing pages.
- Sales pages.
- Podcast page.
- Video page and more.
It can also be used to create stunning websites from complete scratch, with a custom homepage.
If you love WordPress and want to create eye-catching pages and blog posts easily with drag-and-drop editing tools, and without having to write a single line of code, check out this professional plugin for sure, you won’t be disappointed.
Creating landing pages in WordPress can be a serious challenge, it’s almost impossible to do without knowing some HTML and CSS, but with some amazing templates ready for you to drop in, customise and start using immediately, the headache goes away instantly! Phew… Once again Thrive comes to the rescue for this!
The Landing Page feature is now built into Thrive Content Builder with many pre-design templates available for you to use. You can download even more from the Thrive Template Cloud.
There’s also a third party website called The Landing Factory where you can buy templates to use with TCB.
05. Thrive Leads
And the trend continues with Thrive, but I won’t talk too much about Thrive Leads as I only recently reviewed it here.
What I will say is that this plugin is very impressive and a must-have for any one serious about list building and email marketing for their business.
- Customisable email opt-in forms including side bar opt-ins.
- HelloBar style opt-ins.
- Post-footer opt-ins.
- Slide in opt-ins.
- Pop-ups with the ability to create 2-step opt-ins
- Scroll-mat forms.
- Full-page forms.
- Full control over how your forms behave.
- Built in analytics and metrics plus much more.
Easily one of the best investments I’ve personally made for my business this year (2015).
Please check out my list building case study whilst I wasn’t using this plugin for this at the time, it’s now playing an important roll in my list building efforts.
Also check out my walkthrough video of Thrive Leads here.
This made it on my list because it has helped me get rid of so many potential brute force logins over the years, really it has.
I must have around 100 blocked IP’s to my site through my web host provider SiteGround.
I realise a lot of these login attempts are nothing more than spam bots, but there were a few consistent and regular ones that I’ve managed to keep at bay, all thanks to this little plugin.
The ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress… period, lots of on-page options including social optimisation tools. The biggest plus point of using this plugin is that it’s completely FREE!
Before discovering this plugin I was using the Easy Social Share Buttons plugin, which don’t get me wrong, was and still is a great plugin, with more options and features than anyone can physically handle.
I use love Social Warfare because it’s sleek, easily customisable and blazing fast loading.
Check out my review and tutorial of the plugin here.
A simple but very practical plugin to help you organise your blog posting schedule. If you run a guest blogging blog, this would be perfect for you.
This had to make it on my list, because just a few weeks ago this plugin helped me to identify a few existing plugins that were really affecting my page load time.
Using this plugin helped me to identify and bring down my installed plugins from 31 to 16! A must-have tool in your plugins tool box peeps.
I’ve been using Disqus since the birth of this blog in 2014, and yes, I am well aware that it’s NOT everyone’s cup of tea.
I love this plugin just because it has so many useful features built in. Features that I would otherwise have to install an endless list of various other plugins to achieve.
Check out my post where I compare the benefits of using Disqus, over using the native WordPress commenting system here.
12. Better Links Pro
Want to know what I use to mask my affiliate links on Magnet4Blogging?
Better Links Pro by Chris Gutherie.
The BLP plugin has many useful features built in, including tracking metrics that can be integrated with Google Analytics, you can create redirects based on visitor country and much more. Head over to my Better Links Pro review post here for more information if you’re interested.
Online Services And Tools For Bloggers!
Right! Now for some of my favourite online tools, services and apps that simply make using WordPress a pleasure…
13. Google Analytics
Without Google Analytics, we’d all be blogging in total darkness right?
I am aware though that some bloggers and marketers don’t even look at their site visitor and behaviour metrics.
Personally I love Google Analytics, it provides me with all the insights and critical data that I need to steer my business in the right direction, onwards and upwards 🙂
Simply the best email marketing service provider… On the planet… period! (Sorry that’s just me being biassed again).
No seriously, I love the seamless integration with MailChimp with WordPress, and the fact that it’s completely free for a very long time! until you reach something like 2,000 subscribers.
And if you use Thrive Leads list building plugin, integrating MailChimp couldn’t be easier.
I think almost everyone has a webmaster tools account, at least I’d hope so anyway.
Google webmaster tools was one of the very first thing I signed up to when I launched my first online business venture waaaaay back in 2006.
The webmaster toolbox has some awesome tools and features that will help you better understand what’s going on with your site, health and performance wise that is.
A very powerful and useful tool for helping you do some good old fashioned keyword research.
I use the Long Tail Pro only when I actually want to create content that I want to have ranked reasonably well in search, such as product reviews, tutorial articles etc.
This tool is useful or should I say “critical”, for checking your web page performance such as page loading and user experience.
These factors are important if you’re interested in increasing your visitor engagement, retention and conversions.
So folks that’s it!
That’s my list of some of the pro WordPress tools and other various online tools and services that I’m using to build my blog and business.
Some of these you’ll be familiar with, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m sure there’s a few treats up there that you’re yet to discover and explore.
Many of the tools I’ve mentioned above are free to use. Some of them are premium, here’s my disclaimer should you need to read it.
Affiliate disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I will be paid a small commission, at no additional cost to you. If you do choose to use my affiliate links, I want to thank you for your continued support! I truly appreciate you. I also want you to know that I NEVER recommend tools, themes, plugins or services that I haven’t used, tried or tested myself.
Hope these will keep you busy for now, have fun exploring.
Happy blogging – Fabrizio.
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