There are thousands of tools out there promising to do amazing things for your channel growth, your blog traffic and your productivity – but not all of them are created equal.
Let me save you a heap of guesswork and share with you some of my all-time favorite secret weapons that can help you fast-track your success (you’ll almost feel like you’re cheating).
PS: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I may get a commission for recommending the product to you. There may also be special deals you can get exclusively from me to you – so keep an eye out!
Tools for Growing your YouTube Channel
If you're trying to grow your YouTube channel and get your videos seen, then it makes sense that the first thing you need to focus on is getting things sorted on YouTube.
YOUTUBE CHANNEL MANAGEMENT
Especially when you're first getting started on YouTube, it can take a long time to do your keyword research and get your new videos uploaded and tagged properly.
TubeBuddy is a free YouTube certified browser extension and mobile app that integrates directly into YouTube to help you grow your channel.
Pssst: If your channel has less than 1,000 subscribers and you can afford to pay for a year up-front then their coupons stack, meaning that instead of paying $9/month for their Pro plan upgrade, you'll only pay $3.60/month!!
VIDEO THUMBNAIL IMAGES
I use Canva to make most of my thumbnail images. Their free version does everything you'll need.
Tools for Pinterest
Pinterest is a fantastic way to get your YouTube videos seen by more people, and the lifetime of a pin is dramatically longer than other forms of social media – so its a worthwhile investment of energy.
There's only one real choice for scheduling to Pinterest, and that is Tailwind.
There are two tools that I use to create all of my pin images.
I use Canva to create all of my pins that I want to design from scratch, or pins where I want to “copy” a template that I have seen others successfully use within my niche.
I use RelayThat for just about everything else. It's a fantastic bit of software for quickly and easily creating consistently branded images at different sizes. I use it to create all of my blog images, as well as to create most of my social media images and pins.
Tools for Blogging
I have found that using a combined Blogging and Pinterest strategy has supercharged the growth of my YouTube channel.
Getting your blog set up
The first step to a self-hosted blog is to register a domain, it's the URL or main address of your site and it will look something like this:
I register all of my domains with Dynadot because they’re cost effective and they add domain privacy for free (which means you won’t get hundreds of unsolicited marketing calls as soon as you register your domain).
Pssst! It’s a good idea to keep your domains registered with a different company to your website hosting. That way, if you end up in a dispute with your webhost, you can move your sites to another hosting company quickly and easily.
Web hosting companies specialize in the storing and serving of websites. It’s the place where all your files live and are made available to your visitors. Your choice of web host will affect the speed and availability of your website, as well as its susceptibility to malware attack.
I had some huge issues a few years ago (I might write about that some day) and ended up moving all of my sites over to SiteGround, who were highly recommended by some friends of mine. It's been 5 years without any hassles and SiteGround is now the only hosting company I use and recommend.
Pssst: their introductory hosting price applies for the whole initial period you pay for up-front, so when you first sign up, pay for as long as you can afford!
Your WordPress theme controls the way your blog or website looks to your visitors. There are plenty of free themes available and my favorite is GeneratePress because it’s built to load super-fast, which is absolutely essential to your website’s success.
NinjaTricks is built using GeneratePress.
Pssst! I chose to upgrade to their Premium version for one reason – the theme library. With a few clicks you can have a custom blog or website that looks A-MA-ZING. If you want a site that stands out and you don’t feel like spending weeks getting it set up, then make sure you check out their premium upgrade.
WordPress plugins are like little programs that customize the way your blog does stuff. There are thousands to choose from, but the more plugins you add, the longer your blog will take to load – so it’s important that you only add plugins that you really need.
Most of the time, the free version of a plugin will do everything you need – but I use the upgraded ‘Pro' version of these:
The most important thing you can do is to keep a backup of your blog. That way, if your files ever become corrupted or you need to transfer your blog to another web host you can do it easily.
I use a plugin called Updraft Plus to back up all of my sites. Once it's set up, it backs everything up automatically and you can specify how many backups you want to keep before it starts over-writing the files (so you don't get left with hundreds of files).
It's surprisingly easy to break your site, even if you're someone who has been doing this for a while. Just this morning I deleted some plugins that I didn't think I was using and all of a sudden some of the images wouldn't load properly on my site. One click on the ‘restore' button and my site was back and looking the way it should.
Pssst! For me, the upgrade was worth it because it lets me create my regular backups in two different places, one of which is my Google Drive. The upgrade also allows you to choose a custom name and storage folder for your backups, which is pretty important if you’re backing up more than one site!
TEMPORARY COVER PAGES
One of the most daunting parts about setting up a WordPress blog is that your site is ‘live’ and able to be seen by other people while you’re still getting everything set up. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it can feel quite unnerving. That’s why I use a Coming Soon plugin for all my new sites.
This plugin allows you to display a temporary ‘coming soon’ page while you build up your site to the point where you’re comfortable with other people seeing it. Then, when your site is ready for the world to see, you switch off the coming soon page with one click and everything is live and good to go.
Pssst! The upgrade gives you access to a pile of amazing looking ready-made templates that include countdown timers, email sign up forms and social media links.
There are two things you need to know about images on your blog – the first is that high resolution images slow down your page load speeds A LOT, and the second is that they take up space on your server, which can be an issue depending on what hosting package you have signed up for.
To get around both issues, I use an image compression plugin called ShortPixel to reduce the size of my images.
It’s amazing, because although it shrinks my file sizes, the image quality is still amazing. Seriously, you can’t pick the difference. You can sign up for a free account which will compress 100 images per month and if you need more images done, you can pay for either a one-off batch or a monthly plan.
Pssst! For me, buying the one-off bulk packs makes more sense than paying a monthly subscription, firstly because my posts tend to have A LOT of images and secondly because of the way I batch my content. The bulk pack image credits don't expire, and I can be sure that nothing gets wasted at the end of the month.
I use a link management plugin for a few reasons. The first is that it makes my affiliate links much easier for me to remember and suggest to other people. Most affiliate links include a string of code that is required in order for you to get paid – and if you’re an affiliate for more than a few different products they are tricky to remember properly. It’s much easier for me to tell you that you find out more about the PrettyLinks plugin by going to ninjatricks.net/prettylinks than it is for me to give you my full affiliate code.
The other way I use the plugin is as a link shortener for my own posts on social media instead of using bit.ly for my social media posts and videos.
Again, it’s much easier for me to say “go to ninjatricks.net/keyword for the show notes” than “go to ninjatricks.net/the-full-name-of-the-something-according-to-its-wordpress-file-name for the show notes.”
The other bonus is that if someone doesn’t get the link right, at least they will end up on my website. You can also use the plugin it to make custom short links to your YouTube videos!
Psst! This is one of the few plugins that I used on my very early websites (in about 2009) and am still using today.
Images can bring a huge boost to your SEO, but only if you do things properly. As someone who uses both Google and Pinterest to drive traffic to my blog, the TastyPins plugin saves me A LOT of time.
Yes, there are ways to hide pin images in your posts and specify ready made pin descriptions that don’t conflict with your image alt tags by customizing code, but for most people (me included) – the plugin is amazing value.
Pssst! There isn't a free version of this plugin. I hate paying for something when the coding isn't difficult, so I tried to do things from scratch (ie set up hidden images, specify pin descriptions, disable pinning of particular images etc) on one of my posts. That one post was all it took. I bought the plugin and never looked back. What took me a few hours to get set up manually using code (imagine a post with 15 images) now takes me mere minutes – and when you consider how many posts I write – that's a HUGE deal.
Email Marketing Automation
I'm not a huge fan of email marketing, but I do recognize the importance of building an engaged email subscriber list. There are lots of email auto-responder programs out there, and I've used many of them. They all have advantages and disadvantages and none of them are perfect.
For the NinjaTricks email list I'm currently using the Lifetime Plan with SendFox. I love that there is a low lifetime cost and no monthly bills. For keeping in touch with a smallish (but growing) list, it does everything I need it to.
The easiest way to get started in affiliate marketing is to join an affiliate network and promote some of their products that are relevant to your niche. These networks are usually free to join as an affiliate promoter, although you typically need an operational blog or an existing subscriber base for your initial application to be accepted.
Some of the larger affiliate networks include:
Tools for Managing your Time
When you've got a load of different projects at different stages, it can be easy to miss something, which is why I use ClickUp as a project management tool when I'm preparing content for my YouTube channel, my blog and my social media channels.
I use a batching process to handle most of my tasks, including uploading videos, and ClickUp makes it easy for me to see which content is at which stage. I find it far more intuitive than Asana and it has far more functionality than Trello.
Their ‘free forever' plan should be more than enough for YouTubers and Bloggers.
Pssst! I used the ‘free forever' plan for a year before I decided to upgrade.