Have you ever seen a good movie or make a new recipe that you were excited to tell others about? In blogging, I have come across several resources that I am beyond satisfied with. I have had many people ask me more about how I got into blogging and what tools I recommend. Below is that list. If you’d like to read more about my blogging journey, you can do so here.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read the full disclosure here. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
As you will see, I am a fool for educational courses. As a coach myself, I know the value of training. While there is an investment, there are savings. Learning from an expert means gaining years of experience in hours.
If you take my advice on one item from this list, this is the one! Elite Blog Academy teaches you all things blogging in a proven and systematic way. No longer do you have to feel overwhelmed by the massive amount of conflicting information out there. You just follow the lessons and find YOUR success! Enrollment only opens once per year. Sign-up for the waiting list here.
As I coach, I love being coached. The beauty of having a coach is that you can work with a seasoned professional who can guide you and you- you can put your blinders on and just do the work! Kim Anderson has been such a blessing in my life. She offers one-time coaching calls, coaching packages, and one-time classes. She also has an incredible podcast, Just Keep Blogging.
How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards is a goldmine of information for all things written by bloggers. From blog posts titles, email strategy, to bullet points ,you will not regret buying this book. I have purchased programs for much more and there are not as thorough as this book. Ray does not go into detail but offers a ton of actionable tips that you can start using right away.
Now we are going to venture into the behind the scenes tools. I recommend using WordPress as your blogging platform. I do know several successful bloggers use Squarespace but WordPress is what I know and I love it.
WordPress can be confusing as there you will see both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The dot com is a blogging option that is hosted ON the WordPress domain. Meaning, your blog name would be www.BlogName.Wordpress.com. Not great for monetizing and branding.
If you are serious about blogging you will want to have a self-hosted WordPress blog. This means that you will choose a website host (more on that below) and run the WordPress blog platform on your website- www.BlogName.com.
SiteGround is a hosting company. You may purchase your domain name through them or simply have them host your website. I switched to SiteGround from another host and I could not be any happier. The customer service at SiteGround is amazing! They handle all of my rookie questions and requests in a kind and timely manner.
If you are new to blogging and you are not quite sure what to do, SiteGround is for you! Hosting starts at $3.95 a month but I do recommend the “Grow Big” plan for $5.95 if you are investing a lot of time and energy into your blog. This package includes several tools that will improve the speed and performance of your website.
WordPress offers a range of free themes but they are quite limited in their flexibility. To create a more customized website that fits your style and brand, you will want to choose a WordPress theme. After a ton of research, I decided to go with the Restored 316 Theme, Divine. When shopping themes, be sure to look at the overall structure and not the details. For example, do you like the overall layout rather than precisely how each part and piece is assembled?
Restored 316 offers video tutorials and excellent customer service.
Many WordPress themes, including the Restored 316 themes shared above, are called “child” themes. Child themes are built with the Genesis framework in mind. To help clarify, think of the Genesis framework as the foundation of a home. The concrete slab, the walls, and the roof. The child theme is like the interior walls, the paint, and the landscaping.
Thrive offers a range of products, including a large selection of customizable WordPress themes. While I do not use Thrive Themes, I really love their lead acquisition products. Right now I am using Thrive Landing Pages and Thrive Leads. While I feel like there is a learning curve in the beginning, once you get the hang of using Thrive, the pages and forms are pretty easy to customize. You can see an example of a landing page here.
What makes these products extra special is that you can purchase them for a one-time fee of $67. That’s very reasonable!
Plugins are add-ons that you can add to your WordPress website. From design to programming, there are thousands of plugins to choose from. Here are a few that I have found very helpful.
Social media is the heartbeat of a blog, so it is important to make your posts easy to share. While there are numerous plugins that will add share buttons to your blog posts, what makes Social Warfare unique is that you can set which images and captions are loaded to various social media platforms so that your hard work is shown in its best light.
There are also a few behind the scene settings that are really cool. Social proof is an important piece of blogging. When readers see that others are liking and sharing your content, they are more likely to do so themselves.
With Social Warfare, you can indicate if you would like your share buttons to display how many times a post has been shared. The best part is, you can choose a minimum threshold. That way a low share count won’t work against you.
Yoast is an incredible plugin that I could not blog without. This free (the free version is great) program is the gold standard for managing your post readability and SEO (search engine optimization, a.k.a. helping Google find you). It is simple to use as it gives you red, yellow, and green lights and the “friendliness” of your hard work.
BACKUP AND ONLINE STORAGE
Free for basic use, Dropbox is an online storage platform that allows you to easily share files with others. It is sleek and professional looking and can store all file documents. If you are working with a team, Dropbox is a fantastic way to stay interconnected. After you outgrow your free 2 gigs, pricing is not cheap.
Similar to Dropbox, Google Drive is an online file storage solution. With 15 GB of free storage, you won’t outgrow its capabilities too soon. Sharing is not as clean as Dropbox, so you may want to use Drive for storing documents for your use and Dropbox for files you will be sharing with readers.
While online storage is great, having a backup of your precious data in your possession is really important. For that, I use the 2 TB Seagate External Hardrive. Easy to use and super-reliable, computer crashes no longer have to be a fear of yours!
Email is an essential part of blogging. Google and Facebook are constantly changing their algorithms and there is no guarantee that the reach you have today, will be the same tomorrow. This is why nurturing your email list is priority number one.
While I have not used Mailer Lite, several of my blogging friends highly recommend it. Mailer Lite is a fantastic email service, to begin with as pricing ranges from free to inexpensive. With recent improvements, you will have more functionality than ever.
I started out using Mail Chimp (go with Mailer Lite instead) and quickly upgraded to ConvertKit, an email management system created specifically for bloggers. I loved ConvertKit and it’s user-friendly platform and top notch customer service. However, it lacked a few features that I knew would be important in the future, such as subscribers tags and list segmentation.
Shortly after I switched to Drip (see below), ConvertKit announced that they too would be offering these advanced options. If I had known, I would not have switched because ConvertKit is more reasonably priced. While there is no free trial, you do have 30 days to receive a refund if you are unhappy for any reasons.
Drip is a top-of-the-line email management system that does not require an immense amount of training. Drip utilizes visual “workflows” that allow you to customers your subscriber’s experience. With advanced features such as subscriber tags and segmentation, you can rest assured that you will give your readers exactly what they want and need. No more, no less.
With Drip you can email up to 100 subscribers for FREE!
GRAPHICS AND PHOTO EDITING
I have searched high and low for great photos and have found Deposit Photos to best meet my needs of a quality image and a reasonable price. While there are several free photo sites (see below), I use Deposit Photos for my social media graphics and featured images. Knowing that I have proper licensing gives me peace of mind. If you are interested, be sure to sign-up for their email list as they often have killer deals. Earlier this year I purchased 100 photos for $30!
FREE PHOTO SITES
Here is a list of several places that you can get free photos for your graphics and blog posts. Please note, there is some risk to using these photos as there is no 100% guarantee that they are truly free public images. Whenever I use one, I take a screen shot of the photo on the free site just to prove that I had the rights to use that image.
Canva is an awesome, free website that allows you to make your own graphics for your blog and social media posts. I find it very easy to use and highly customizable. I currently have the Pro packages as it allows you to upload brand-specific fonts and create a set of custom colors.
Pic Monkey is similar to Canva but it is slightly easier to navigate and slightly less customizable. Pic Monkey is a great option if you want professional graphics without any fuss but you aren’t concerned about having each detail completely tweaked to your preferences.
Pinterest is a powerhouse for driving blog traffic. While most social media platforms are user-to-user, Pinterest is business-to-user. Pinners arrive looking for solutions to their problems and for products to buy.
I have taken several Pinterest courses and (embarrassingly) requested a refund on one of the most popular (and expensive) courses out there. After all of that education, I decided to take Pinning Perfect, as I had heard so many great things about it. And, the hype was spot-on! I walked away from this class with so much helpful information; I feel like I have a new understanding and effective strategy for Pinterest.
Interesting fact, one of the course writers works for Burt Bees and, as a Pinterest customer who is in their offices frequently, she gets the inside scoop often. The author update the educational materials with this information often and are right in their private Facebook Group to answer your questions.
If navigating Facebook overwhelms you, Strategies Worth Sharing is an incredible resource to get you started in a straightforward and an effective way. What I love most about this course is that it teaches you how to work WITH Facebook, rather than trying to “trick” the system. And, by working with the platform you are using, you are creating a profile that will have reach and longevity.
While someday I hope to take the Moolah Marketing Massive Facebook Growth Course, Strategies Worth Sharing is an affordable way to get started!
I owe a lot to Pinterest, as Pinterest sends about 85% of the traffic to my website. To find success with Pinterest, it is important to be a consistent pinner and valuable member of the platform. But, who has time to sit around and pin, pin, pin all day? That is where BoardBooster comes in! BoardBooster is an easy-to-use scheduling tool with pricing plans starting at as little as $5.00 a month.
I’ll admit, the design is not very sleek and the system can be a little clunky but, for the price, it’s an incredible deal. The coolest feature is the ability to loop pins, meaning, you create a board and recycle that content. It is truly- set it and forget it!
Tailwind is also a Pinterest Scheduling program. With a sleek user interface and detailed analytics, Tailwind is not only a great way to optimize your Pinterest account, Tailwind is endorsed by Pinterest. That’s great news!
Tailwind also utilizes “Tribes”, groups of like-minded bloggers who pin each other’s content. While I am still using BoardBooster, I go back and forth about switching to Tailwind.
PAYMENT PROCESSING & PRODUCT DELIVERY
If you are going to create and sell a product, SendOwl makes it EASY! Sure, you can set-up PayPal and send the product on your own but that makes for a lousy buyer experience. SendOwl does it all for you, for a very reasonable price.
If you’d like to see how it work, check out the sales page for The Ultimate 12-Week Healthy Habit Goal Setting Planner.
My food photography has come a l-o-n-g way and I owe it all to the Pinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography e-book. With simple explanations and instructions, the quality of my photos changed almost overnight. See for yourself!
Grammarly is a free Google Chrome Extension that will change your writing experience. No longer do you have to be paranoid about missing spelling and grammar mistakes. Grammarly has your back!
I hope that this list helps you make some important decisions for your blogging journey! If there are tools you love, I’d love to hear about them. Email Brandice@GraceFilledPlate.com.
The biggest time-suck in blogging is technical issues. Wasting an entire day with a website issue is super-frustrating and there are much better ways to spend your time. When allocating your funds in your blogging journey, having website support is one of the best bets! Thankfully, there is a very reasonable option. iMark Interactive offers one-time support or monthly support plans.
I do a $47/month WordPress Support plan that includes 5 small jobs. Having a technical issue and not having to waste a moment on it is priceless!