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5 Tools I Am Willing to Pay for [And Recommend] to Improve My Blogs

One of the great things about blogging is that it is very accessible to anyone with internet access. There are some fantastic tools around that are completely free that mean you can have a blog up and running within minutes of deciding to start a blog.

Free tools range from hosted blog platforms like and Blogger through to a myriad of plugins and themes around the web that can make blogging a breeze.

Of course while there are many many free options out there, sometimes to take your blog to the next level there can come a time when you need to spend a few dollars. I bit the bullet early in my blogging and did this first by paying for my own hosting and moving from Blogger to Movable Type (and later to I also paid fairly early on for a custom design.

These days I continue to have a variety of expenses including hosting, design, paying a small team of writers (on dPS), paying for some admin support and some development costs.

There are also a number of paid tools that have become indispensable for me which I’d like to feature today. While there are free alternatives to some of them, I’ve found them to be of a standard that I’m more than happy to pay for.


1. Aweber

Perhaps the single most important decision that I’ve made in the last few years of blogging was to add newsletters to my blogs (particularly my photography blog).

I’ve outlined how I use newsletters to drive significant traffic and make money and have written previously Why I use Aweber so won’t rehash it all again – but this is a tool I’m more than happy to have invested in as it easily pays for itself and has been a key part of growing my blogs over the last 4 years many times over.


2. Ustream Producer Pro

This is the latest tool that I’ve invested in. It wasn’t particularly cheap at $199 but enables me to take my video streaming sessions up a notch and do things like have more than one camera angle, do live screen capturing, add a logo to my ustream sessions, import movies and audio into them, have extra transitions, do picture in picture etc.

Some of this is in the free version and you might find you don’t need to upgrade unless you want a few more bells and whistles.


3. MindNode Pro

I’m a big fan of mind mapping. I used to do it without having a name for it on whiteboards and note pads but when I saw online tools that could help me with it I was in heaven. I’ve tried a lot of the Mac based tools (both free and paid) and the one that suits my workflow best is MindNode.

Their free version is brilliant and you might not even need to upgrade but I’m willing to pay for the Pro version simply because it adds the ability to fold down sections of your mind map and do things like add images to it.

market samurai.png

4. Market Samurai

I’ve not ever really paid money for SEO before until I came across the Market Samurai tool but it’s excellent. I may not use it quite to its fullest potential (yet) but have touched on how I find it useful for choosing a niche to blog about as well as optimizing a single post on your blog for search engines.

The cool thing is that they have a free trial of the tool which will give you access to its great features to try before you buy – you might find that that’s all you need to do some research and get your blog optimised pretty well.


5. Screenflow

This is a mac only tool which allows users to do great screencasting. I’ve used it more for private resources that I’ve developed for a couple of companies in consulting but it is a very cool way to show what’s on your screen in video as well as insert a view from a camera. A few videos I’ve made with it include –  

Note: I am an affiliate for Market Samurai and Aweber but am both a user and a fan of both.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • amy

    Darren! Can u (or someone reading this…) please tell me the difference between aweber and feedburner. i have feedburner and i am afraid to make the switch because, obviously, i don’t want to lose followers. i made an email switch very early on…and even though it would only be a small number of people making the switch twice, i have reservations. any thoughts?

    thanks in advance.


  • Darren,

    Thanks for this post. Besides Aweber and the mind mapping tool, I wasn’t aware of the other tools. I have a subscription to Scribe, is it similar to Market Samurai?
    Avil Beckford

  • MindNode is a very good service but I find it much easier and quicker, and also get more out of my head by just doing it simply using a pen and big piece of paper.


  • I keep hearing that buying Aweber is one of the best things that a blogger can do for their blog but I think it’s a tad bit expensive. I’m sure it’s worth it but an entire year of Aweber costs me the same as buying hosting for over 3 years so unfortunately, it’s way out of my budget.

  • Joi

    Aweber is, indeed, a necessity. I hadn’t even heard of a few of these – thanks so much for the info.

    In addition to premium themes, I highly recommend the Scribe SEO plugin. The link goes to my review of this plugin because it’s easier to point that reiterate everything!

    Thanks for another informative post. It caused me to realize that if Problogger were something I had to pay for, I’d gladly do so.

  • I think i will consider to use Aweber now since so many bloggers recommend this tool. I can see the great features of Aweber. I’m using Feedburner now.

  • I’d love to try Market Samurai…

  • Darren,

    Thanks for these suggestions. As a semi-new blogger, the amount of information is astounding. I am so thankful people take the time to write it and then others to comment on it.

    I have heard that the importance of an email list and how you run it cannot be underestimated. That’s why I chose aweber right from the get-go. I wanted something that would grow with me.

    Mind-mapping has shown up in three different places for me today so I’m getting a feeling (like I do!) that this is something that will be beneficial for my work. Thanks for your suggestions on that.

  • I find that free programs and plugins do the job just as well for me. :)

  • Great post. While I haven’t used any of the other products, I will agree that Market Samurai is a great investment. I use it all the time.

  • Thanks for the helpful list. I’m also a big Market Samurai fan…I’ve used many other keyword tools, but none of them give me a repository like MS, where I can keep the list of keywords for a particular client, do the analysis, and keep working on it, expanding & refining it over time. It’s awesome!

    Now I’ll check out your other suggestions.

  • Great post! Thanks for the list!

    I have a question though. For someone who just started blogging not too long ago, which tool would you recommend first?


  • I would like to point out Seavus DropMind™. It is an excellent web and desktop mind mapping software with flexible installation across different operating systems – Windows, Mac or Linux.

  • market samurai is a tool i should buy,the trial version is great but limited .it will help it building niche sites for profits…

  • Im not sure if i would be willing to pat for stuff for mine, as i am trying to do it all for free :/

  • I would love to try them out. Hey don’t you know that there’s a new autoresponder program? It’s called “Listwire”. It’s still new & fresh but it’s definitely worth a try. The advantage of this new program is that it’s FREE!

  • Aweber is one of the best things that a blogger can do for their weblog but I think it’s a tad bit pricey. I’m positive it’s worth it but a whole year of Aweber costs me the same as purchasing hosting for over 3 years so regrettably, it’s way out of my budget.

  • As a new website, of course I’ m looking for different ways to spread the word about my blog. One of the obvious (and free) ways to do this is through a traffic exchange program. I’ ve signed up for several, but do they really work?

  • Market Samurai looks like a killer product. Let me go find more details about it :D

  • Aaron

    Market samurai is one of the best pieces of software I’ve ever had.i love it

  • Is market samurai the tool to go for or are there other tools that are worth looking into before buying?

  • Market Samurai is certainly one of the best tools I have ever paid for. I would encourage everyone to try out the free trial and you are sure to purchase the full version as it has so much to offer, and takes a lot of the hard work out of the SEO side of things.

  • Using Market Samurai & Screenflow too… both have so many features… but only use 1/3 of it. Aweber is a must have :)

  • I’m using Market Samurai and it’s a very AH-MA-ZING tool I’ve ever try!

  • Market Samurai is the best tool today for keyword research and I’m using it as well. I’m surprised you did not include SEnuke and Bookmarking Demon? Very helpful as well to get some good ranks in search engines.

  • I continue to improve my blog and my web presence. All the 5 Tools I Am Willing to Pay for [And Recommend] to Improve My Blogs are absolutely right….the most important tool is market samurai for keyword research …very nice information for the new bloggers…thanks for sharing….

  • Hello can I use some of the material here in this entry if I link back to you?

  • Thanks for the tools. We are hoping Aweber can help us drive more traffic thru specific marketing of our newsletter.

  • Erin

    I’m pretty new to the blogging community, and there is such an insane amount of information out there for all of us trying to jump on the band wagon.

    Until I read your article, I had no idea these services existed. I haven’t done too much with my blog yet, still very much in the figuring out how everything works phase.

    Thank you for the review and explanation of these services, I just learned what SEO stood for today and I was able to follow your article.

    I found another blog that offers blog creation services that I wanted to share. I know some people, like myself, might benefit from having a little help getting all the details taken care of for them.

    Thanks again for spreading the knowledge.

  • I also have Market Samurai as my blogging arsenal and I’m planning to use Aweber in the near future as auto-responder is a must for internet marketing.

    Thanks for sharing the other tools also.

  • goods were too expensive for me, I still prefer the free software
    but i also like market samurai

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