This Blogger Resource Guide is designed to walk you through the best tools and services to jumpstart your brand new blog, or take your existing blog to the next level. Grab a strong cup of coffee and let’s do this.
The Blog-Building Blogger Resource Guide
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Starting a Blog
If you’re interested in making money from blogging, getting a self-hosted WordPress.org blog is a must. (You can read about the differences between WordPress.org (self-hosted) and WordPress.com (not self-hosted) here.) These web hosts come highly recommended from a number of bloggers—including me!
I’ve used Bluehost from the beginning—and they are absolutely fantastic! If you’re not a big tech person, their 24/7 customer service is a real lifesaver. Bonus? Their plans are super affordable at under $4 a month, plus you get a free domain name.
Another popular web hosting choice, Siteground also offers low monthly prices and a great tech support team to answer any questions you may have. However, their plans do not include a free domain name like Bluehost.
3. WP Engine
If you want to “go big or go home” when it comes to your web host, WP Engine is for you. They offer plans with more features starting at $29/month. This is a wonderful hosting option for a professional, all-in blogger, with features such as increased site speed and enhanced security. They also offer you the opportunity to try their services risk-free for 60 days—woohoo!
Need help picking out the perfect domain name for your blog? This post is for you!
If your web host doesn’t include a free domain name, you can purchase a .com domain from Namecheap for under $10/year. (But honestly, you will save a little bit of cash if you go with a web host like Bluehost that includes a free domain name. That’s one of the main reasons I started my blog with them. Because #broke.)
Building Your Blog
There are so many cute WordPress blog themes on Etsy. I purchased my current theme from a great little Etsy shop— City House Designs. You can browse through more WordPress Themes on Etsy here. Always check out the customer reviews before purchasing.
Elegant Themes is home to the Divi Theme—which is currently the most popular premium WordPress Theme in the world. It’s pricer than the other options, but if you’re a professional blogger, the Visual Page Building and Drag-and-Drop theme features are life. Once you’re able to financially invest in an amazing theme for your blog, Divi is it.
4. Free WordPress.org Themes
When you’re just starting out with blogging, it’s 100% okay to use one of WordPress’ free themes. (Get frugal, y’all.) They have tons to choose from. Just make sure you go with something with a white background and that looks clean, such as Kale, Anissa, or Juliet.
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast is freakin’ amazing for Search Engine Optimization (aka upping the likelihood that your posts will show up on Google). Get it. Start using it on every post. (I use the free version and it’s absolutely perfect for beginners.)
2. Google Analytics
In the early stages of blogging, getting page views and visitors to your blog is a top priority. Google Analytics will help you see how you’re doing. These numbers will also come in hand if you start applying for sponsored blog posts down the road, as brands are usually interested in how many unique visitors visit your site each month.
3. Sassy Social Share
Once you get your 7 essential social media accounts for new bloggers set up, you’ll want to start sharing them with your readers! Sassy Social Share is a super cute and easy way to get your share buttons on your blog.
4. Contact Form 7
A super simple way to get a basic form on your blog. I use it for my Contact page so folks have an easy way to reach out. All messages are sent directly to my email for me to review and respond to—easy!
5. WP Super Simple Speed
A plugin that just helps your site load a little bit faster. Install. Activate. Keep it updated. (That’s pretty much it. It does the rest of the work for you.)
If you plan to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing, PrettyLinks is an ABSOLUTE must, y’all. Learning about Pretty Links (and how to use it properly) was one of the best things that I picked up from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s amazing course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I’ve seen my affiliate income increase steadily since taking the course—truly worth every single penny if you’re completely clueless on affiliate marketing (like I was). If that sounds like you, you can enroll in for Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing here.
I have all of the heart eyes for Canva, y’all. For brand new bloggers, this tool is an absolute dream. The free version comes with all kinds of great templates so you can easily create a logo, formatted images for your blog posts, and social-media-specific images—most importantly, some really beautiful Pinterest-worthy images.
Another graphic design option that many bloggers swear by, PicMonkey is a great design tool that is easy to use. Monthly plans start at about $6/month, but you can give PicMonkey a go with a free trial before you decide if it’s the tool for you.
Free Stock Photography
There are lots of great spots to buy beautiful stock photography, but these are my favorite sites that offer free stock photos—perfect to use until your blog is really generating some steady income!
MailerLite is the perfect email tool for brand new bloggers, or those who are just starting to grow your email list. It’s completely free up to 1,000 subscribers!
When you’re past the “just starting out phase” and are ready to get serious about growing and nurturing that email list—ConvertKit is the way to go. It’s a financial investment with plans starting at $29/month, so I would recommend waiting until you’ve earned some blogging income before purchasing a plan.
If you’re just getting started but are feeling a bit lost, learn about the 7 Social Media Accounts to Set Up Immediately After Starting a Blog. A great starting point! Then come back and dig into these resources.
The ultimate Pinterest schedule, in my opinion. Tailwind keeps my Pinterest account actively working away, even when I’m busy on other projects or caught up in mom life. You can sign up for a free Tailwind trial here.
Another great Pinterest scheduler with budget-friendly plans starting at $5/month. You can sign up for a free trial with Board Booster here.
Twitter is one of the best social media platforms to automate. Hootsuite let’s you schedule tweets in advance, which frees up your time to work on other projects. You can sign up for a free Hootsuite trial here.
Recommended Social Media Readings:
Monetizing (a.k.a. Making Money With Your Blog)
Affiliate marketing is when you use special links to sell a product or service, and if a reader makes a purchase, you receive a small commission (at no additional cost to your reader).
While you can absolutely learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing on your own through a Google/Pinterest search session, if you’re looking to cut right to the chase and get a start-to-finish breakdown of affiliate marketing and a doable strategy, I cannot say enough good things about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, a course by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner (who makes over a million dollars a year from blogging. I know. Hashtag goals.)
There are tons of affiliate programs and networks to join, but some of my favorites are:
One of my very favorite affiliate networks (especially for mom bloggers), joining ShareASale allows you to become an affiliate for amazing brands such as Wayfair, ErgoBaby, Gymboree, Spanx, Earth Mama Organics, and more.
Applying to join ShareASale is completely free and can be done here.
Awin was one of the first affiliate networks I joined, and it’s the one that I’ve made a good amount of money from thanks to being able to recommend products from Etsy. Other notable programs include Hyatt and Fiiver.
As a head’s up, you have to pay $5 when you sign up to join Awin, but you get that $5 back in its entirety as soon as you make your first affiliate sale. You can sign up for Awin here.
4. Max Bounty
Max Bounty is another affiliate network that is completely free to join.
You will be required to have a short phone chat with an account manager before your application is approved (I know. It gave me a mini anxiety attack, too.), but it’s pretty quick and painless.
Once you’re in, you can connect with great brands like Everyday Family and Bark Box, as well as a lot of survey companies. You can apply to join Max Bounty for free here.
Amazon Associates is sort of a no-brainer for bloggers because…well…it’s Amazon! They have pretty much every type of product that you could want to recommend.
Signing up for Amazon Associates is free and can be done here.
Booking sponsored blog posts is a fun way to make some money blogging, and is many times accompanied by free products or services as an added bonus.
You can learn how to successfully book sponsored blog posts here, and then join some of the wonderful sponsorship networks listed below!
3. Massive Sway
Other Ways to Monetize
If you’re a fan of Pinterest, you’re going to love Maven. You pin products that you find online to boards and share the boards on your blog and social media platforms. Then, when someone makes a purchase, you receive a commission. You can set up a free Maven account here.
When you’re just starting out as a brand new blogger, one of the best resources you have is other bloggers. Once you get the framework of your blog set up with the resource above, and you’ve written a few posts—it’s time to connect!
One of the best ways to meet other bloggers is through Facebook Groups. They are a wonderful way to connect with like-minded folks, a safe place to ask questions, and a free way to share your content.
Different Facebook Groups serve different purposes. Some are “advice” groups, where you pose questions. Some are “promotion” groups, where you and other members help promote one another’s work. Some fall somewhere in between. Always make sure to read all group descriptions thoroughly and follow all rules completely before jumping in.