When my friends want to start a blog, I’m the person they come to with their questions. I thought after nearly 10 years of blogging I should document my favorite tools. This list of resources are of companies I use and trust (affiliate links may be contained in this post):
1and1.com – this is a great starter hosting company. I’ve had great response time when there’s been a problem and they are easy to reach by phone. I recommend BlueHost once your traffic increases because it’s highly recommended hosting company that many of the top bloggers use. It’s well known in the industry for having superior up time and excellent customer service. And, you can get an account for as little as $5.95/month.
WordPress! This is one I get asked about A LOT. What platform should I use? I only recommend WordPress. I’ve used others, and WordPress is the BEST. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can start with a free version, but I recommend going with a self-hosted WordPress version if you intent to make money with your blog. If you use the free version of WordPress you won’t get any of the ad revenue.
The main thing I love about WordPress is the community surrounding it. You can search your hometown and you’ll probably find a WordPress MeetUp group where people who use WordPress get together and help each other. Meetings are free and you can learn a lot. There are also AMAZING WordPress conferences all over the country, called WordCamps. These are 2-3 day conferences that are dirt cheap to attend where you can learn everything you need and more!
Since I’ve started using The Genesis Framework my site has never run better! Genesis is the framework used by some of the web’s most popular bloggers, like PinchofYum, and Darren Rowse of problogger.net. You need to purchase “the Framework” which is just $59.95 and then get a child theme. When I started to get serious about blogging I used the popular Thesis theme on WordPress, but my site fell apart from lack of upgrades on Thesis’s end, and I ended up paying developers a lot of money to constantly fix it. That’s when I heard about Genesis and haven’t had a problem with it since. Here’s a great article about Genesis vs. Thesis.
My child them is the Divine theme is from Restored316 themes. These themes are called child themes and only work on the Genesis framework. Her work is BEAUTIFUL and affordable. Just make sure when you buy a theme that it’s a Genesis framework theme (if you choose to use Genesis.)
PicMonkey. was the first online graphics tool I used for social media and blog graphics. It changed my blogging life! It has an easy-to-use interface and lots of bells and whistles. Many of the options are free. That’s right FREE, but PicMonkey offers some amazing and affordable enhancements with its Royale Features turned on.
Canva. I love, love, love Canva. It’s similar to PicMonkey but the interface is different. And, the main difference is the ability to purchase excellent stock photos for just a buck a piece! I use it from this blog and for all my social media promotions (both personally and professionally). It is so easy to use and you can get some free photos. You can upload your logo to the sidebar so it’s always ready to be placed in a graphic . I use the free version, but am considering the paid business version to save time with repetitive tasks.
PhotoShop. This is a hard core, and tough to learn tool, but it’s a critical piece of software for graphics. That said, it’s NOT necessary to have PhotoShop to blog. Far from it. There are lots and lots of free software programs you can use. But I use PhotoShop and Lightroom for all my photography editing. This used to be a very expensive graphics program (think $500) but today it’s cloud based with a monthly subscription fee which has made it affordable for more people.
My best advice is to set up a lead magnet (free download) and start collecting email addresses. I’m using MadMimi for my email newsletter (sign up here!). MadMimi is great for the novice and has a amazing tutorials. They also have awesome customer service just a click away with their chat bar. I’ve never had to wait long and always get my questions answered. When deciding between MadMimi and some of the other email services I did side-by-side comparisons and MadMimi can do everything I need and is the most cost effective option as my list grows.
Social Media Scheduling
HootSuite – This is a free tool, which you can upgrade. The best part about HootSuite is the ability to save content and reschedule it later. For example: at Christmastime I like to promote a really easy to make, and delicious chocolate bundt cake. It’s a simple recipe that looks decadent and is perfect for holidays. So, I created multiple versions of the Tweet and saved them to run at different times.
Board Booster – I LOVE Board Booster and highly recommend it!! Since I’ve been using Board Booster my Pinterest traffic has significantly increased! It’s simply the BEST social media scheduling tool I’ve use for Pinterest. And I’m spending less time pinning. You can schedule pins, and “loop” pins on boards so they stay fresh. Jill Levenhagen says the “Board Monitor” is the secret sauce.
Facebook Stategies Ebook – I recently found a powerful ebook that I’m starting to implement the strategies for Facebook. Brittany Ann, a successful blogger, wrote the book after she increased her Facebook fans from 2,000 to more than 100,000 fans in just 5 months! This is an amazing feat. The book is over 70 pages full of her experience growing her site organically. If she can do it, you can too. Since I go the book and started implementing her strategies I’ve seen a 40% increase in my Facebook fans!! Increase Your Facebook page now.
Easy Recipe – This is the WordPress Plugin I use to enter in my recipes. The name says it all, it’s an easy plugin to showcase your recipes!
Akismet – You NEED this PlugIn. Trust me. Without it you’ll get so much spam that you’ll stop blogging!
Editorial Calendar – this is a great and simple plugin that lets you start blog posts in WordPress and schedule them on certain days. There is a calendar view so you can see each post and when you’ve determined it to go live. The beauty of this tool is that you don’t have to have your posts completed to have them “scheduled” to run on a certain day. Just use it as a placeholder. If you never write the post, nothing will go live.
Every blog needs a lead magnet so you can start to capture an email list for future promotions. While there are many popup plugin, I love the company that makes this particular popup. Started by Natalie Lussier (who is a genius email marketer), she partnered with her engineer husband and created this plugin. There is a free version that is amazing, and a Pro version, PopUp Ally Pro for when you need a few more features. I’ve found this Pop Up plugin to be the easiest one I’ve ever used. Natalie also has an incredible 30-day email list building challenge program, that’s free!
I use a Google spreadsheet to track all of my Page Views and Income. It automatically calculates year over year growth to show you that you’re moving in the right direction. I also include sections for income so you can easily see the direct correlation between page views and money earned. This has been a game changer for me in terms of motivation to keep moving forward and growing my business. I’ve created a version of the spreadsheet that you can use. You can get it for free here. Once you have the link you can save a version into your Google docs and use it as is and just plug your numbers in, or you can modify it.
How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukop
I can’t say enough good things about this book – especially for beginning bloggers. Ruth is a seasoned blogger who makes a living from the profits of her blog. She turned it into a business and in this book, she tells YOU EXACTLY how you can make money from blogging.
Ruth’s book has been instrumental in helping me turn my hobby into a business. She walks you through how she created her website and turned it into a money making machine. This is the go-to recommend I have for a book about blogging. If you only read one, read Ruth’s How to Blog for Profit.
Everything But The Posts by Becca Ludum
I met Becca at a blog conference where she was speaking about how to break up your tasks and get your blogging done in only a few hours a week. It was a brilliant plan and made me realize she had more to say than just how to organize your tasks. In her book, Everything But the Posts she outlines simple strategies on how to set up your blog. This is a great starter book for someone looking to learn more about blogging and how to set up your site. It’s a short book that you can breeze through, and gives solid advice. What I like about this book is that Becca shares resources and templates for numerous things, like her media kit, and even sample templates on how to get a sponsor. If you aren’t sure you want to blog for profit read Becca’s Everything But the Posts and you’ll soon know if you want to and be able to develop a plan for success.