Blogging involves many simultaneously moving parts. You wear a lot of hats. You are not only the content creator, but the site designer, social media expert, graphics designer, researcher, and your own tech expert. It requires you to be very organized and have systems in place to help you keep everything running smoothly. I have put together a blogging resource guide of all the different tools and resources I use to run my blog each and every day. I have also listed other reputable tools and providers that are popular with other entrepreneurs or great choices for someone just starting out who may be on a budget. Getting a great deal is awesome but free is even better, amirite?!
WordPress.com – this is the free version of WordPress. You only write your content while WordPress takes care of the rest. Things like hosting, keeping your site secure, and blog backups . You have a set number of blog themes you can choose from. One drawback is you don’t own your site. The free blog platform can take down your site at their whim without notice and everything you built will be gone forever. That would be devastating.
WordPress.org – this is the self-hosted version of WordPress. The platform itself is free. The cost comes in when you purchase hosting, which is when your host essentially puts your blog on the internet by way of hosting it on their servers. You can choose any theme you want from limitless places on the web, install them and customize them as you wish. Just make sure you read reviews and do some research. Not all themes are created equally and a poorly designed theme will clash with plugins and user experience. This version is also ideal if you want to monetize your blog using ads, affiliate links, and sponsored posts.
If you choose to go with WordPress.org, you will need to get hosting. These two hosting companies are the top notch best in the business and officially recommended by WordPress.
Siteground – This is the hosting I use and I have had absolutely zero problems with them. I have never had any down time on my blog due to hosting issues. I did a bunch of research when I was deciding who to go with for my hosting and I decided to go with Siteground because I found so many positive rave reviews. Another benefit to their hosting is that you get a free SSL certificate (secure sockets layer) which creates a secure connection between a client and the server over which to send information. If you collect any sort of information from your readers such as name, email or credit card information, you need to have this certification. Click through using my Siteground link to get your hosting started for as little as $3.95/month plus a FREE SSL Certificate.
BlueHost – Although this is not who I host through, it is the most popular host that many bloggers choose. I have read a few reviews where bloggers mentioned down time but mostly I only hear rave reviews about how much everyone loves them. I figure they are the most popular for a reason, plus you get a free domain name when you sign up right now. You can get BlueHost hosting starting at $3.95/month plus a FREE domain name.
Yoast SEO – This is the holy grail of blog plug-ins. It is the first one you want to install. It is an all in one comprehensive search engine optimization tool. Essentially, it guides you through what you need to do to show up in search results and gain traffic.
Wordfence Security – This is a firewall and malware scanner specifically built for WordPress. Its the best at keeping your blog safe from security threats.
Akismet Anti-Spam – This plug-in protects your blog from all of the spam comments. Trust me, there are actually a lot.
Updraft Plus – This plug-in backs up your blog. If something were to go wrong, this allows you to return your blog to the previous state before whatever goof you made happened.
Contact Form 7 – The best contact form to use on your blog.
EMAIL Marketing & Lead Acquisition
Building your email list is super important even if you are just starting out. Choosing the right email provider when you are low on funds can be tricky. Your natural instinct will be to go with a free email service provider, at least for now. You can go with a free service but the general blogger consensus is that the free price tag comes at a hefty cost down the road in headaches. I started with a free service but soon switched to a paid service that was easier to navigate because the one I chose was a bit more technical than I wanted to deal with.
AWeber – This tool features a drag and drop editor and html templates to customize your email sequences and newsletters. You’ll get all the bells and whistles like automated email sequence capabilities, subscriber segmentation, online tool & 3rd-party application integrations, in-depth analytics, landing pages, and mobile responsive sign-up forms. You get a 30 day free trial. Pricing after that starts at $19/month for up to 500 subscribers. Pricing plans go up from there based on your number of subscribers. All plans include unlimited emails.
MailChimp – I think pretty much everybody has seen a MailChimp logo at the bottom of various emails in their inbox. If you use the free version of this service, your emails and sign-up forms will have their logo too. You’ll get the drag & drop editor, analytics with A/B testing, email designer and templates, landing pages, custom sign-up forms, and segmentation of your subscribers. You can sign up for free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month (that’s 6 emails/month to each subscriber if you send your emails to your entire list). Pricing after that starts at $10/month for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited emails and goes up by $5 for each 500 subscriber increment.
MailerLite – This application offers a drag and drop editor, mobile responsive sign-up forms, and the ability to set up auto-responders and email sequence automation. It starts out free up to 1,000 subscribers. Paid plans start at $10/month for up to 2,500 subscribers. All plans, including the free plan, come with unlimited emails.
GRAPHICS & EDITING
I prefer the graphic editors below to create my blog images, social media images, and to create my Pinterest pins. You could also use Photoshop if you have it and are a bit more tech savvy. If you are looking for some great places to find both free and affordable stock photos, check out my post 32 Places To Find Awesome Free Stock Photos to get you started.
Canva – This website is free. It specializes more in creating graphics rather than tweaking ones you already have. You choose the size of the image you want to create, dimensions for a social media graphic for example, and then choose elements to add to make it into what you want. My favorite feature is how the application automatically centers and lines elements up with other elements on the image so everything looks professional and even. It also stores your creations automatically on your account so you can go back to them.
PicMonkey – This service used to be free but now requires a monthly fee of $5.99-$9.99 depending on your plan choice. I have been a fan of Picmonkey for years. It really gives you the freedom to create whatever you want. It’s like a light version of Photoshop. You can tweak your image size, color, sharpness, etc. but you can also create collages or make pins and graphics in any size you want.
SOCIAL MEDIA Automation
This list consists of social media schedulers for your basic popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest. Social media schedulers allow you to input content you would like to share with your social media followers and schedule it out when and where you want it shared. Choosing a scheduler is a no-brainer for every busy entrepreneur because it saves you hours of precious time each week.
RecurPost – It works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ with Pinterest coming soon. You can start out for free which will let you manage 3 social accounts with 10 posts/day per account. Their medium account costs $25/month and lets you manage 10 social accounts with 20 posts/day per account. Their large account costs $50/month and lets you manage 20 social accounts with 40 posts/day per account.
SmarterQueue – This scheduler offers social media scheduling, evergreen content recycling, content curation, analytics, a visual calendar, and so much more. It works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, with Pinterest and Google+ coming soon. You get a free trial period of 14 days to try it out. Plans start at $19.99/month. They also offer an option where you can customize your monthly plan to get more or less of what you need, like posts per day, categories, or social profiles.
Pinterest is going to be your bread and butter for traffic as a blogger and so because of this, pinning to Pinterest throughout the day will be important to your blog strategy.
BoardBooster – This tool allows you to schedule pins in a variety of interesting ways. For example, you can set up secret boards and fill them with pins that then will get saved to boards you have specified either once or on a loop depending on your settings. Another example, and probably my favorite, is the tribes feature. I like Boardbooster tribes because every member of the tribe gets equal shares. It isn’t a pick and choose situation. It’s all automated. You have to choose a board(s) to automatically share a tribe specified number of pins to per day and the tribe will automatically share the same number of your pins.
If you are interested in seeing what Boardbooster is all about, you will get 100 pins for free to start out and then if you decide to sign up, they have plans starting at just $5 a month. Each plan goes up by just $5 more which gets you 500 more pins per month. Super affordable when you are just starting out.
UPDATE: BoardBooster is no longer available and has shut down. It couldn’t get approval from Pinterest to be a brand partner and as a result, was going to start penalizing businesses that used this tool. BoardBooster’s owner decided to shut down the website and issue refunds to prevent this. BoardBooster was my favorite blogging tool and will be sadly missed.
Tailwind – This app can be used for Instagram as well but I only use it for Pinterest. It allows you to schedule pins, gives you great analytics about your Pinterest account, and keeps you up to date on the best times to pin for your audience. Tailwind also pioneered the Tailwind Tribe which is kinda like a group board on the app where members of the tribe share each others pins in exchange for having their own pins shared. It’s a fantastic way to get your content out there.
Membership to Tailwind costs $14.99/mo. and allows you to schedule up to 400 pins per month. However, you get a free trial period that lasts until your 100 free pins are used up. I used mine to try out the Tailwind Tribes feature. I couldn’t pass up the tribes and analytics once my trial was up though, so I definitely signed up for the paid Tailwind Plus Plan.
My Favorite Pinterest Group Boards
Blog Darlings – This is the group board that I host. We pin about blogging tips, how to monetize your blog, email, SEO, and social media tips. Feel free to request to contribute or just follow the board for the latest blogging tips.
I would love to know if this blogging resource guide has helped you on your blogging journey. If you found it helpful, please share it with your like-minded friends on your favorite social media platforms. That would be so nice. <3