We've all been there. Your favorite blogger makes a list of the 20 best blogging tools and you rush to read it. But as you start making your way down the list of tools for SEO, email marketing and keyword research, you notice a trend: most of them are out of your budget.
When you're a blogger just starting out and not making any money from your site yet, the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on tools is extremely intimidating. And quite frankly, I would never recommend spending a bunch of money on tools you can't afford. As cliche as it sounds, your best tool is your ability to create great content.
All that being said, having the right blogging tools by your side can help you be more efficient, make smarter decisions based on data, and even get better results.
I use plenty of tools to help grow my sites like KWFinder, Ninja Outreach, Thrive Leads, MailChimp and KeyCDN. However, I didn't start out with all of these right out the gate. I added them to my toolkit over time as I was able to afford them. And better yet, I was able to save money on almost every blogging tool I use.
So how do you get access to the tools you want at a price you can afford, LEGALLY?
I put together a list of seven ways to save money on blogging tools. These are all tactics I've personally used over the years that have helped me save thousands of dollars on some of my favorite blogging tools.
Check them out.
1. Product Reviews
When the companies that make all these different tools are just starting out or trying to get more eyes on their products, they reach out to bloggers and influencers to help promote them. So they'll sometimes offer an extended free trial or a completely free account in exchange for a review or in hopes that you'll promote them to your audience.
There are two basic ways this can go:
- The company reaches out to you because you're well known in your industry or niche.
- You contact companies directly and offer to review their products.
In order to get companies to reach out to you, you need to have an established presence. That doesn't mean you have to be the top influencer in your niche, but just well known enough to be on the company's radar. I recommend focusing on growing your social presence for this. That way companies can see you have an active following of people that care about your opinion.
Here's an example of one company that offered me an upgraded and extended trial so I could do a full review of their software. Monitor Backlinks is an awesome tool by the way.
I was also able to get lifetime access to another very popular tool by consistently sharing their content. Can't tell you which company, since this was done through a DM. And I'm sure they don't want a bunch of people hitting them up asking for free accounts.
I'm just posting this to show you that this tactic does actually work.
If you're interested in reaching out to companies and offering to review their tools in exchange for a free account, it's as simple as sending an email.
In your email, talk about why they should give you a free account. Have data like your social media engagement numbers and blog traffic to help convince them. But don't seem desperate. In other words, don't go begging for free software.
While this tactic is effective, there are some things to consider. For one, companies usually look for people with a solid reputation or a following of some kind. If nobody knows who you are, there's no upside for the company since you don't have an audience to promote too.
The other drawback of this is you might feel obligated to be more generous with your review than you would otherwise be since they're giving you the tool for free. In cases like this, I always recommend being completely honest with your review. Before you even agree to review them, let the company know upfront that you're willing to do the review but you are going to give your honest opinion. That takes the pressure off you.
This approach is cool, but it's not going to work every time, and it won't work for everybody. The rest of the tips are a little more universal.
- You can get software completely free.
- Product reviews drive a lot of traffic.
- You'll open the door for potential partnerships with companies.
- You need to build a following first.
- Not every company will want to work with you.
2. Become an Affiliate
Here's a tactic anyone can use to save money on blogging tools. In case you're unfamiliar, an affiliate is someone who promotes a product and gets a commission on any sales they drive to the business. Here's a guide that goes more in depth into what affiliate marketing is from Leanne Regalla on SmartBlogger.com.
Affiliate marketing is how I first got into the world of online marketing. If you have a social media following or a popular blog, you should try to become an affiliate of any companies you promote. Since you're sending them new customers, you might as well get paid for it.
Most blogging tools have an affiliate program. Whether it's Long Tail Pro, KWFinder, MailChimp or almost any other tool you can think of. They all have affiliates to help promote their products.
By becoming an affiliate for the tools you want to use, the money you make can completely offset your costs and even leave you with a nice little profit.
Finding out if the tools you want to use have an affiliate program is pretty easy. Most companies will have a link on their site (usually in the footer) where you can sign up. Here's an example from SEO Powersuite.
Other tools will give you access once you actually sign up for an account. For instance, MailChimp has a rewards program, but it's only available to their customers.
Lastly, there are some companies that have an affiliate program, but don't actively promote it. That's when it's helpful to turn to good old Google. If there's a tool you want to use and promote, but can't find information about an affiliate program anywhere on their site, Google "product affiliate program." For example, if you wanted to find the affiliate page for Long Tail Pro, you could search "long tail pro affiliate."
Once you sign up, you'll get an affiliate link you can use to promote the product on your blog, social media, email list or anywhere else online. Just try to avoid being too spammy. Here are some good ways to promote your affiliate products from Blog Tyrant.
With affiliate marketing, the product basically pays for itself.
- You can earn money.
- It's easy to get started.
- You'll need to have a strategy to get leads.
3. Pay Annually
Have you ever gone to sign up for a blogging tool and saw this?
If you're like most people (including myself in the early days) you immediately opt to pay monthly because you either don't want to commit to a year of the product, or you want the immediate win of paying less at the moment. However, paying for a year upfront is a good way to save money on blogging tools long term.
While this tactic can save you money, here are my recommendations before you do it:
- Only pay annually for tools you KNOW you'll use long term.
- Always get a trial of the tool before paying for an entire year.
- Don't do it if you can't afford it at the moment.
That third stipulation is really important. You might be tempted to pay for a year up front even though you can't really afford it, in hopes that your blog will be doing well enough in a couple of months to make up for the cost. That's not a good idea. Here's a great life lesson:
Don't buy things today based on money you'll have tomorrow.
One last tip is to only pay annually if the savings are really good. I wouldn't pay for a year just save 10%. But if you can save 50% like the screenshot I posted up top (which was from Iconosquare) it's a lot more tempting.
- You can save a ton of money sometimes.
- You have to make a larger payment upfront.
4. Ask for a Discount
You'd be surprised what you can get just by asking.
Most software companies (especially the smart ones) look at the long-term value of customers versus the quick wins. If they can get you to become a customer by paying $30 instead of $50, some are willing to do it. The problem is most people don't ask.
I used to think that software prices were set in stone. If I didn't want to pay $100 a month or however much it costs, I just wouldn't buy it. But while working at a marketing agency, I found out that a lot of software companies are actually flexible with their pricing. You just have to negotiate.
Here are a few tips for negotiating the cost of blogging tools:
- Tell them the exact price you want to pay. The worst they can say is no. You'd be surprised how much of a discount some companies are willing to offer.
- Explain that price is the only thing keeping you from choosing them over a competitor. The only thing software companies hate more than losing a customer is losing a customer to a competitor over a few bucks.
- Be flexible. If you see they're trying to work with you on the price, don't be a douche by insisting on low-balling them just to see how low they'll go. Remember, they can always get another customer.
- Be ready to pay. Once you agree on a price, don't give them the whole "Ok, I'll sign up next month when I have the money" routine. It's pretty rude and a bad way to do business.
To negotiate pricing, get in touch with their support or sales team and let them know you're ready to sign up, but the price is too high. They'll either bite or not. Either way, it's worth the 30 seconds it takes to ask.
- You can get software for a lot less than you think.
- It takes some negotiation skills.
- Some companies won't budge on pricing.
5. Look for Coupons
It's rare that I buy anything online without looking for a coupon first. Even if it's something cheap, there's nothing better than snatching up a great deal. The same goes for saving money on blogging tools.
Before signing up for any software, do a Google search for "product coupon." Sometimes you'll see a blogger offering a discount or a coupon site with a good deal.
For instance, I always use a coupon code to buy domain names. If you Google "Namecheap coupons" you'll find discounts for domain names, hosting and other services Namecheap offers.
Why pay full price if you don't have to?
- It's a quick way to save some extra money.
- Some coupons can be hard to come by.
6. Use an Alternative
I used this tactic a lot in 2016. I used to strive for the most well-known blogging tools, and was willing to pay whatever they cost. A lot of you have probably fallen into the same boat. You see certain tools mentioned over and over again by your favorite bloggers, so you just assume it's the best or only option.
Luckily I smartened up and realized there are a ton of options out there for pretty much any type of blogging tool you need. So I started exploring.
Tools like Raven Tools, SEMrush and SumoMe are all great, but they're not priced for bloggers just starting out that aren't making money yet. But there are alternatives for all of these that might not have the exact same features but are just as great.
For instance, in 2016 I started using SEOProfiler as my SEO tool of choice. It lets me do an SEO audit of my sites, see keyword rankings, check backlinks and a lot of the same features high priced tools offer. But I don't have to pay hundreds of dollars a month for it.
To find alternatives to expensive blogging tools, head to Google. For instance, if you want a cheaper backlink checker than Ahrefs, you could Google "Backlink checker." Then go through the results until you find something you like that fits your budget. Simple.
- A lot of alternatives will be much cheaper than more well-known tools.
- You can get a lot of bang for your buck.
- You can get started with new software in the early stages before their pricing goes up.
- You might not get all the features you would with some higher priced tools.
Last but definitely not least, AppSumo. AppSumo is a deals site for marketers. They go out and setup crazy good deals with different companies and share them on their site and email list. I've gotten so many steals from AppSumo it's insane. I've gotten lifetime accounts to some very popular tools for a one-time fee that's less than what most people are paying monthly.
It doesn't cost anything to use AppSumo. And even if you never buy any deals, they have so many free offers it'd be dumb not to sign up.
Plus, they have pretty epic copywriting. Here's an example from one of their New Year's emails that came with the subject line "New Year, Who Dis?"
What can I say, I'm a sucker for anything that references Seinfeld. But all jokes aside, AppSumo is a cool way to save money on blogging tools with little to no effort outside of checking your email or their site.
- You can get mind-blowing deals.
- It's free to sign up.
- You get to read their awesome copywriting!
- You're limited to the tools and products they find.
There you go. Seven real-life ways to save money on blogging tools. You don't have to pay an arm and a leg for software.
The one takeaway I want you all to get from this is that you should never stretch your wallet to pay for blogging tools. For one, there are plenty of ways to save money on them as you can see.
But more importantly, all the tools in the world won't help you if your blog sucks. There are plenty of bloggers out there seeing success without using a single tool. So don't feel like you need them.
But if you do want to get your hands on an SEO dashboard, email marketing software or any other blogging tools, use these seven tips to save some money.