Regardless of what stage you are at as a blogger, you are likely always in need of a little direction or a cool new tool that will help you overcome a current obstacle. In your search for assistance, you have probably come across a few lists of 1,001 links. Sounds good. Doesn’t it? Instead, you probably just walked away from that list with 37 newsletter services to choose from even more overwhelmed.
Today, I thought I would share some of my personal favorite blogging resources and links where you can find help. These are all the essentials I personally use and I’ll let you know why.
Self-hosted WordPress is the only way to go if you want to make money blogging.
If you are just dipping your toe into the blogging pool, the cost of some web hosting companies can be prohibitive. I suggest starting out with an affordable host on which you can learn the ropes, get good support and feel confident in your pursuit.
Bluehost offers that. Get started for as little as $2.95 per month. That includes a domain name, SSL certificate, 24/7 support and 1-click WordPress install. Check out my why blog? post for some screenshots and installation tips.
Somewhere down the road, hopefully, you will need to move to a more robust hosting company. As my traffic has increased, I have changed hosts twice over the past 10 years. I’ve now been with Flywheel going on four years.
Flywheel isn’t cheap! But, they offer great managed service for high traffic sites.
WordPress Framework & Themes
If you are going to have a great blog, you need a great theme.
I have been using the Genesis framework since it first came on the scene. This framework integrates SEO, security and performance to make your WordPress site the best it can be.
On top of the framework, you need a good child theme to get the look you are going for. Depending on the site, I’m currently using the StudioPress themes Authority Pro (this and one other blog) and Agency Pro (my freelance site).
I have also used Restored 316 child themes from time to time. My direct sales blog currently uses its retired Style Theme. If you are looking for a pretty, feminine theme, this is the place to go.
Writing is a big part of being a blogger. Here are a few things I use to make life easier.
Newsflash: I hate proofreading. Grammarly helps me spot spelling and grammar errors before hitting publish. It won’t catch everything, but every little bit helps.
Blogging takes a lot of work. There is so much to be done. I love outsourcing little short-term projects on Upwork. I have hired freelancers on the site to help me with everything from writing social media status updates promoting my older content to writing descriptions. Be willing to pay a good rate and make sure you check the freelancer’s feedback and work history.
For ongoing assistance, I found a great assistant on Time Etc. It took some time to find the right person, but it was much easier for me to try out different assistants through this platform than when I was attempting to hire/fire freelancers on my own. If it isn’t working out, I just tell them to find me someone else. I don’t have to deal with it.
Anytime anyone is writing anything for you, it’s essential you make sure it isn’t plagiarized. This goes for guest posters as well. Sometimes this isn’t intentional, but it happens. Copyscape has been my go-to for years.
Email Newsletter Service
This is your most important marketing avenue. Get a great setup from the start.
AWeber was my first newsletter service way back in the day, and I still use it for my direct sales blog that doesn’t require a lot of robust tagging and segmenting. It’s user-friendly, affordable and affiliate-friendly.
If you do need a robust setup, I’ve been using ConvertKit for over three years. This service allows you to tag and segment subscribers easily. It’s also a lot easier to have a large number of lists and forms here than AWeber. And, ConvertKit doesn’t charge you for duplicate subscribers which can become an issue with multiple opt-ins and lists.
Once you have your service, you need an easy way to get those forms installed on your site. I haven’t found the forms available at my newsletter services offer much when it comes to flexibility and design, so I have been using OptinMonster for over three years.
Check out this list building pep talk from ConvertKit: 3 Steps to Your First 1,000 Subscribers.
We live in an image-driven society. Great images can make or break your blog’s traffic potential. They can also break your bank if you are using images without permission or without the right kind of permission. Therefore, it’s important to source from the right places.
I use a ton of feminine images in my blog posts and on social media. I have memberships at several great sites:
You can also get some great tips for taking your own blog photos in the Ultimate Photography Bundle.
When it comes to creating images, Canva is my go-to. I use only the free account, but their templates can’t be beat.
Occasionally, I need to take and edit screenshots. I use PicMonkey for that.
You can’t have a successful blog without traffic!
Pinterest is a major traffic driver for most blogs today. Tailwind can handle not only Pin scheduling but also Instagram. And Tailwind Tribe can greatly increase your reach on Pinterest if you hook up with some great bloggers in the same or a similar niche.
Your best place to get your blog stats is right from the source. These are the stats sponsors and advertisers will want anyway. Everything you need to know is right in here. It’s good to learn your way around. Google offers a free learning center as well.
Custom dashboards can make your analytics life a whole lot easier. And using these dashboards is a snap. There are a lot of free ones out there that focus on different aspects of your stats. This free one from Kristie Hill can give you a lot of great information on your Pinterest traffic.
Search Engine Optimization certainly falls under traffic, but I use so many things for SEO – it’s that important – that I wanted to give it its own category.
This is an affordable keyword research tool that can help you clearly identify the best keywords for your next post. With one search, you can see who ranks in the top spots for that term and how difficult it would be for you to take over one of those spots. It will also serve you up alternatives to consider.
SEMRush is a must for advanced bloggers. This site will help you keep tabs on the overall SEO health of your site and see at a glance how your site is moving among the search ranks for the keywords that bring you search traffic. This tool isn’t cheap, but it is one I use daily. Try it free for 7 days.
This is a free WordPress plugin that will help you optimize your latest blog post for the keyword you are targeting. It won’t do the work for you, but it does provide a checklist of sorts to make sure you are optimizing the correct spots – post slug, title, images, etc. A premium version is also available.
If you are struggling to get your site setup on WordPress, there are some great free blogging resources at your fingertips.
This free guide from Elite Blog Academy will walk you through the steps of setting up your first blog. This is just the beginner stuff.
iMark Interactive has a great free course that will help you learn the WP ropes. (If you need one-on-one help, iMark Interactive is who I use when I need things fixed.)
When it comes to beginner tutorials, you really can’t beat the free videos from WPBeginner. Get tons of video walkthroughs at no charge.
YouTube was a big part of my blogging strategy in 2018. And it really paid off!
This is a really inexpensive webcam, but it gets the job done. If you are just getting started, you can do so on a budget.
I do recommend investing in a good microphone. I was getting so many nasty comments about the audio on my first videos. This is a great microphone that’s really popular among YouTubers.
Who doesn’t want a Diva Ring? Am I right? Unfortunately, it’s not in everyone’s budget. And for those of us shooting videos in a tiny space, not everyone has the room. This cute this light ring is meant for selfies, but it will give any close space a nice glow. And, you can get it for around $15.
I 100% attribute my YouTube success to search optimization. It’s a Google product. People go there searching for stuff they want to learn about. If you aren’t using keywords when uploading your videos, you are missing out. And TubeBuddy makes it so easy! I love this service.
Editing videos was my biggest struggle. I couldn’t get my head around the technical stuff of most software. I found Filmora pretty easy to get the hang of.
Getting your videos transcribed is another simple but really helpful step. Rev.com offers a really quick turnaround and super-affordable rates. I always use this service. Get $10 off your first order with this link.
There are so many blogging courses out there. Here are a few of my favorites.
This was my first big course investment. I was terrified to spend that kind of money. But, it paid off in spades. This is the course that helped me go from struggling to survive to full-time blogger. I can’t recommend it enough.
Unfortunately, EBA only opens for enrollment once per year. If you can’t wait, I really like the courses offered by Create & Go as well. They have something for every blogger.
I hope these recommendations help you along your blogging way. If you need any other referrals, feel free to send an email. I’m happy to help when I can.