These are my must-have blogging tools that I’ve used for the past year on my blog. Make sure to set your blog up for success using these resources!
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.
Getting 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.
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.
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!
Bella Creative Studio: If you are looking to spend a bit more on a theme, I highly recommend Bella Creative Studio. This is where my current theme is from and I have no intentions on ever changing it. Their customer service is amazing! I’ve contacted them a couple of times to make small tweaks to my theme and they were always helpful and responded promptly.
The best free WordPress plugins for your new blog
WordPress plugins are extra pieces of code that can be added to your blog to add additional features.
Pinterest Pin It: Allows you to add a “Save” option over images so that readers can save them to their Pinterest 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.
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 Pro: I use Canva Pro for literally every single graphic I create for my blog. Twitter header, blog header, Pinterest graphics… EVERYTHING. Canva Pro costs $12.95/mo, or you could opt for their annual billing option that’s $119.40. They do offer a 30-day free trial if you’re hesitant about taking the plunge. Canva has a free program as well, which I recommend if you’re first starting out.
Adobe Spark: I also hear bloggers talk about using Adobe Spark to create their graphics. I personally have no experience with this, but I wanted to provide an option other than Canva. Adobe Spark does also offer a free plan with limited features, but beyond that it will cost you $100 a year.
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 impressions 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.
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.
Mailerlite: Most new bloggers who aren’t on Mailchimp are using Mailerlite. With Mailerlite, it is free for up to 1,000 subscribers.
A key difference between Mailchimp and Mailerlite is the latter offers 24/7 customer service support, while Mailchimp’s customer service isn’t the best if you’re using the free platform. Also, with Mailerlite you do need to know how to create an email address with your blog’s domain.
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 Pro, 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!
Styled Stock Society: If you are ready to take the plunge and sign up for a stock photography membership, my favorite is Styled Stock Society. There are options for quarterly and annual billing; quarterly billing starts at $75 per quarter.
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
Lightroom: I use this free app to edit my instagram pictures. A lot of bloggers will pay for Lightroom presets and edit all their pictures with them before posting them to help create a cohesive feed. This video tutorial will show you how to import presets into your app and then edit your photos with them.
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
Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates): If you shop online, you should use Rakuten to earn cash back! All you have to do is install a browser extension and Rakuten 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 these blogging resources gave you some ideas on how to take your blog to the next level! Don’t forget to save this post to Pinterest so you can refer back to it at any time!
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