These are my must-have blogging tools that I use daily on my blog. I hope these help you out and give you some ideas on how to improve your blog!
Disclosure: Some links below are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase via my link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps support my blog, and I’m so appreciative! More details here.
The basics that you need to get started with blogging
There are a lot of platforms out there to start a blog, and I know it can be overwhelming to choose. Most bloggers I know are on WordPress, which is also what I’ve used since the start and it’s what I would wholeheartedly recommend!
If you want your blog’s name to be yourname.com instead of yourname.wordpress.com, do not sign up on WordPress.com! You will need to be “self-hosted” in order to do that. Self-hosting basically means that you buy your own domain name, and you buy a server space for a website to live in by a certain company that “hosts” you.
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on EXACTLY how to get started with a self-hosted blog, check out the detailed post I wrote about it.
It isn’t a requirement to self-host your blog from the start, especially if you aren’t sure you’re going to stick with blogging long-term and you just want to try it out for fun. Just be aware that it may be more expensive down the line if you don’t self-host immediately, and it will be harder for you to make money blogging, if that’s what you’re looking for.
I wanted complete and total ownership from day one, so I knew self-hosting was the right choice for me personally. After a lot of debate and research, I decided to go with Siteground’s web hosting services. What really solidified them for me was their fast, consistent server uptimes and their 24/7 live chat support! When I locked myself out of my site at 1am trying to do stuff that was too technical for me, Siteground helped me fix the issue.
If you’re already on WordPress but you aren’t self-hosted, Siteground will transfer your existing site for you at no extra cost when you purchase their Grow Big plan! You can purchase your blog’s domain name through Siteground as well when you sign up for hosting. All of their plans are billed annually, so bear that in mind when you sign up.
Looking for monthly billing instead?
If you want to save some money at first, you can get your domain through Namecheap. Most of the domain names I’ve seen on there are cheaper than Siteground’s for the year– they’re usually between $6-10. Some of the domain names are more expensive, though, but the vast majority I’ve seen are that price.
Namecheap also offers web hosting for $2.88 per month… which is ACTUALLY billed monthly. If you’re on a budget, Namecheap is definitely something worth looking into. I’ve never used Namecheap’s hosting, so I honestly can’t say how well their servers perform, but I wanted to provide an option that’s truly billed monthly because that may be more accessible when you’re first starting out. Reviews I’ve read do say they tend to be a little slower and have more downtime in comparison to other sites; however, that’s not going to matter as much if you’re just starting out. If monthly billing is more important to you (which it may be in the beginning) you should check out Namecheap!
Where to buy cute WordPress themes
Etsy: A lot of people have no idea that Etsy sells affordable WordPress themes and media kit templates! I’ve seen cute themes as cute as $7 on Etsy before!
Creative Market: Your one-stop shop for all your blogging needs! Not only does Creative Market have a huge variety of beautiful themes, they also offer fonts, photos, graphics, overlays media kit templates, and more! They also have free stuff every week that you can download when you sign up for an account!
The best free WordPress plugins for your new blog
Pinterest Pin It: Allows you to add a “Save” option over images so that readers can pin them to their boards!
MailChimp for WordPress: Connects to your MailChimp account and lets you create a sign-up sheet form that you can put around your blog.
Contact Form 7: Provides users with an easy way to contact you– all they have to do is fill out the form and it goes straight to your email address.
WP Smush: “Smushes” images so they don’t take as long to load, which helps your site load faster!
Yoast: Provides tips for search engine optimization!
SG Optimizer: Integrates with SiteGround. If you do nothing else with this plugin, I recommend going into it and changing your site over to https. That will encrypt all information between your site and a visitor’s browser. This is A MUST if you plan on selling any products directly on your blog.
Wordfence Security: A security plugin that helps keep hackers from attacking your blog.
GDPR Cookie Consent: You need to give visitors to your site the option to opt-out of cookies. This plugin creates a banner that appears when viewers first access your site, that allows them to accept or reject cookies.
Jetpack: Integrates with your site to provide statistics like daily views, where your views came from, what outbound links people click, etc. Jetpack will provide these analytics for free, but they also offer paid plans with extra features. I recommend their $3.50/mo plan (truly billed monthly, NOT annually, you just have to click the monthly option!) because it provides daily site backups and helps monitor your comments for spam.
Google Analytics Dashboard: To use this plugin, you need to set up Google Analytics, which is free. It provides detailed statistics about your blog’s visitors!
Where to create social media images & edit photos
Canva for Work: I use Canva for Work for all of my social media headers, my Pinterest pins, and my Instagram story highlight covers. Canva for Work costs $12.95/mo. They do offer a 30-day free trial if you’re hesitant about taking the plunge.
Picmonkey: I’ve used Picmonkey in the past for other projects and it’s super easy to learn. Their cheapest plan is cheaper than Canva for Work, starting out at $7.99/mo. They have a 7-day free trial so you can try it out first!
Using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog
Tailwind: Tailwind is a Pinterest pin-scheduler that allows you to schedule pins at optimal times to increase engagement! Tailwind helped me take my monthly Pinterest views to over 100,000 in my first five weeks blogging! Want to see it in action for yourself? Snag your first month for free today!
Pinterest with Ell: Are you interested in using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog but you’re confused about where to start? Are you unsure how to make quality pins that convert to clicks? Do you hear others talk about how much they love Pinterest but you’re sitting there baffled? Then you need to take this course! It is one of the most beneficial investments I’ve made in my blogging journey so far, because it helped me unlock the secrets of Pinterest early on. Most of my blog’s traffic comes from Pinterest! And this course is literally THE most affordable Pinterest course I have ever seen, priced at JUST $32!
The course creator, Ell Duclos, was able to turn her blog into a full-time job in six months. She truly knows her stuff, and her Pinterest course has helped me and others bloggers so much.
Building an email list for your blog
I recommend starting an email list as soon as you can, so that you can share content directly with your readers who want to stay connected with you!
Mailchimp: I currently use Mailchimp for my email newsletter. It is free for up to 2,000 subscribers. Once you hit 2,000 subscribers, the price changes to $30/mo and then increases by $5/mo for every 100 subscribers after 2,000.
ConvertKit: A paid email marketing service that a lot of big bloggers use and are happy with! Personally, that expense isn’t in my budget at the moment but it’s something I plan to purchase once Mailchimp is no longer free for me. You can try ConvertKit for free, but after the trial period is over it’s $29/mo for up to 1,000 subscribers.
Where to find high-quality stock photos for your blog
Unsplash: This is probably my favorite site for free stock photosand it’s where a lot of my featured images come from. It has a search feature so you can just search for whatever keywords you want!
Pixabay: Another place with free stock photos, and also gives you the option to search by photo orientation, making this a prime place to find photos for Pinterest.
Ivory Mix: The creator of Ivory Mix has a stock photo membership, but you can also sign up for her email list and get access to her free photo library. It’s updated each month with anywhere from 2-10 new photos.
Canva: If you use Canva for Work, you also get access to their stock photo library at no additional cost! A lot of the images I use on Pinterest come from Canva because it’s convenient.
Creative Market: You can purchase high quality stock photos starting at $2 on Creative Market!
Is your blog breaking any laws?
This isn’t a fun part of blogging, but a lot of people don’t like to talk about it and it’s so important! There is a lot of misinformation out there about what your blog needs to be legal! I know it’s scary and overwhelming, but the reality is that there are certain legal requirements you need to be putting on your blog to protect yourself and your readers.
Legally speaking, there are 5 major things most bloggers need to have on their blog to avoid breaking the law:
- Disclosure statement – a section that explains that you use affiliate links / accept sponsorships
- Terms & Conditions – a section outlying the terms visitors agree with when they access your site (technically not legally required in the US, but a good idea!)
- Do Not Track statement – a statement that says whether or not you respond to Do Not Track requests from browsers (if you aren’t sure, the answer is NO)
- Option to opt-out of cookies – can be easily achieved with a plugin, but consent must be clearly given and you CANNOT use pre-checked boxes
I’ve seen so many bloggers recommend that you should just fill out policy generators and be done with it… I did that for a time. But the reality is there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be protected in case something happens. In fact, the only way to be 100% certain your blog is legally protected is to consult with a lawyer! That can get expensive FAST.
My favorite Facebook groups for new bloggers
One of my favorite ways to network and connect with other bloggers is via Facebook groups! A lot of them will have threads for you to share your blog posts and social media handles. Here’s some of my favorite ones!
Smartphone apps for bloggers
VSCO: I use this free app to edit my instagram pictures! You can buy filters if you want, but I just edit my pictures the same way each time so I don’t have to spend the money on filters.
Done: I use this app to track my habits! The free version of the app lets you track 3 different habits. I wanted to track more than that because I wanted to use it for non-blogging habits too, and I loved the app interface so much that I paid $5.99 to upgrade to unlimited habits.
Planoly: This app lets you preview your instagram feed before you post a picture, and it also can schedule posts for you.
Canva: Canva has an app so you can edit pictures when you’re not on your computer. I don’t use this one often because I prefer to do this on my computer, but you might prefer your phone!
Other ways to make $$ online
Ebates: If you shop online, you should use Ebates to earn cash back! All you have to do is install a browser extension and Ebates will tell you how much cash back you can earn from shopping on a specific site!
Inbox Dollars: This is a site that pays you for taking surveys, watching videos, and playing games. I’ve tried quite a few survey sites before and this is by far the best one. If you don’t qualify for a survey, you get to spin a prize wheel, so you’re still compensated for your time! Sign up today to get your first $5!
I hope you enjoyed! Please share if it helped you!