Blogging is a fun journey of self-discovery and connecting with readers. It is also full of learning and growth. I wanted to share my favorite resources with you so that they can help you in your journey.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, check out my “So You Want to Start a Blog” free email course 🙂
Affiliate links will be used where appropriate, earning me a small commission at no charge to you.
What you need to start a blog
Platform, Web Hosting and Domain Name
I completely recommend WordPress as your platform and going self-hosted rather than using the free service. This means you will need to purchase web hosting. There are many options out there and everyone has a favorite. You can choose whatever company you feel has the best reviews or recommendations, or even deals, depending on your plans and situation. My sites are both currently on Hostgator and that has been sufficient for my needs. My domain names are all purchased through Namecheap.
You also want to make sure your blog is safe. I use Sucuri Malware Removal to monitor my blog, based on a recommendation from an advertiser who alerted me to an issue. They cleaned it up and now are continuing to keep me safe. They also have a free plugin you can use, as described in their article: How to Clean a Hacked Website.
I also use the Jetpack plugin to manage much of my WordPress needs – like automatic social sharing when new posts are published, related posts, and so much more. Jetpack has free and paid options, so depending on what you need you can find it all in one place.
The next thing you need is a nice-looking theme, and there are tons of free and paid options to choose from. Both my sites use paid themes from NoseGraze because I love her style. Her Tweak Me themes are so customizable that I can really do what I want and make my blog look how I want it to. But there are great free themes to start with as well, and you can go with a preset theme or design a header and logo to go with it.
I do most of my image design in Canva, which is free (you need to log in though) or you can upgrade. I use the free version for now, and what I love about Canva is I can upload my own images and save my designs so I can make a copy and change the text and image but keep the same style for my graphics. I also use PicMonkey to design some of my images, especially photo collages and Bingo cards for my book blog. PicMonkey also has free and upgraded options. Other image design options I have used (also have free and paid options) are Fotor and Snappa. They each have their own quirks and cool features, so I would recommend trying them out and finding what you like the best.
Remember, it is important to have great images in your posts, especially ones that are Pinterest-worthy.
What you need to maintain a successful blog
Social Media Tools
There are too many social media platforms and tools out there. It is just not practical to be active on all of them because you’ll be spread too thin. Pick your favorites, automate the rest, and don’t feel like you have to use them all.
I use Board Booster to help automate my Pinterest sharing. It loops pins on some boards and repins to group boards for me. I have more details on my Pinterest post on how I use Board Booster looping and campaigns. I do the $10/month plan for 1000 pins. There are various plans available.
I use RecurPost and Elokenz to share to Twitter or Facebook from my library of set posts. It just loops through them and shares one a day or however I have the schedule set. You can read my tutorial on using RecurPost for more details. I love it because it is free (for a huge library – 100 items).
I also use the free versions of Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule specific social media shares. I like Buffer because it grabs images from the link, but it only goes up to 10 free at a time. Hootsuite is free for manual shares but you need to upgrade if you want to upload a spreadsheet of posts to share. I like to use it to schedule specific posting times and specifically to schedule my Instagram shares. It is also great for Twitter to view specific hashtags, searches, etc.
A great plugin to grow your social media following is MiloTree. You may have noticed it hanging out in the corner of my blog suggesting you check out my Pinterest account or my Instagram account or what not. It isn’t invasive and it helps readers on the page follow you on social.
If you’re using hashtags on Twitter (and you should be) you can search for popular and related hashtags using Hashtagify.
Writing and Editing
The biggest thing we bloggers do is write – blog posts or other “copy”, social media post, emails, etc. We want to make sure there are no errors. I love Grammarly because it has a free browser extension and it catches my silly typos or comma misuse. I actually upgraded to the paid version because it is so powerful at fixing my tenses and suggesting better word choices.
Your post title is important, and you need it to be grabby enough to get someone to click through to the post. Use the CoSchedule headline analyzer tool (it’s free) to help select the best title/headline.
Having an email list is vital because it is the only thing you really own. I mean, we don’t own social media platforms, and our followers there could go away at any moment. Our websites could also go down, but we still have our email list and can reach out to our readers. There are many options for email – I started out with using MailChimp for free. It is free for up to 2000 subscribers, but if you want more features (like sending an email series) you do have to upgrade. I recently made the switch to ConvertKit, which is a paid email service that is specifically designed for bloggers. It is so powerful! I love systems that have everything you need at your fingertips.
The best way to add people to your list is to offer them something. You can have one “lead magnet” on your page that people can opt-in to get after they subscribe, or you can have content upgrades to specific posts. I used the Content Upgrades plugin to deliver these files to specific readers when I was using MailChimp. It is a one-time plugin purchase and seamlessly feeds emails into your list. Then it sends your subscribers an email with the specific file upgrade they requested from a particular post. It has been awesome. Of course, if you have ConvertKit like I do now, you won’t need the Content Upgrades plugin since ConvertKit contains powerful features that allow you to send content upgrades, series of emails, etc to your list.
Another way to add readers to your email list is to serve up a fun quiz, and send the results by email. One way to do that is with Interact Quizzes. They offer a platform to create fun quizzes to use as lead generation. Of course, these work best when the quiz content relates to your product or service since it is a paid service and you want to generate the right subscribers from it who may purchase from you in the future.
What you need to monetize your blog
Monetization with Ads
Once you start seeing some pageviews it is good to start bringing in a little side income. This can grow as your blog grows and you can branch out in other monetization methods, but no reason not to start somewhere, right? The most common ad network is Google Adsense and you can sign up with them pretty quickly. Then you may consider signing up with more companies. I have signed up with Sovrn, and they set up my ad code to use their advertisers first, and if an ad space was not purchased, to use Google Adsense. That way I’m always running some ad, but with only one code, and earning ad income through both services.
Monetization with Sponsored Posts
I have worked both with individual brands or marketing contacts as well as through companies that connect brands with influencers. Below are some of the companies I am signed up with as an influencer. This isn’t a complete list and I will be adding to it over time.
- Influence Central
- Massive Sway/SITS Girls
- Acorn Influence
- The Women Bloggers
- BlogHer/She Knows
- Blog Meets Brand
- Bravo Mark
- Find Your Influence
Monetization with Affiliates
Affiliates are other people’s products that you help promote and get a commission if you help them make a sale. A lot of the links I use in blog posts are affiliate links (referral links), and if I refer someone to the product and they purchase it, I get credit and a small percentage at no cost to the user. Amazon Associates is the most popular affiliate program because it is everywhere. There are other companies as well where you can apply to specific merchants to promote their products.
If you monetize, remember to track your blog income and expenses. I have a handy workbook to help you out.
Grab your Blog Income and Expenses Workbook Now!
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What you need to learn more about running a successful blog
There are so many free e-courses out there, and one day I may round them all up for you. For now, here are some to get you started.
Affiliate Blueprint is a great free course that gets you started on Affiliate Marketing topics. A free groundwork is great to have before you decide whether to spring for any of the awesome paid courses out there.
Influencers 101 free course has some great information on helping you grow your Twitter account. I definitely recommend checking it out.
The Sticky Blogging Formula is an amazing free course (that is only open several times a year, because the course author wants to interact with and lead the discussion in real time). I have purchased several of the full courses because of how helpful the free course is. She also has the SEO for Busy Bloggers free course.
Uncork your Dork has an insane amount of freebies “out the bum” as she calls them. Seriously. I’ve signed up for many of her free challenges. She also has a paid course collection – if you use my referral link you can get the first month free to check them all out!
You can also start a side hustle add-on to your blog by learning more about SEO Auditing with this FREE SEO Email Course.
eBooks or eCourses
If you’re just starting out and need to launch your blog (and have taken my so you want to start a blog free email course) you may be interested in this little course to help you finalize your launch!
The course that helped me grow my Pinterest and exponentially increase my pageviews is called Pinaffiliate Masterclass. It focuses heavily on referrals from Pinterest but also has some great tips on Affiliate Marketing.
The Sticky Blogging System and the Sticky Blogger SEO courses have been a game changer for me in the way I think about writing blog posts. I have taken all the free and paid courses she has offered because of how amazing they are.
I recently took an amazing course that really steps you through affiliate marketing as a beginner from start to finish and teaches some great actionable methods and tips.
The course is called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
The author of the course earns over $50,000 a month from affiliates! While I’d love to be her when I grow up, I’m hoping to use what I learned to at least begin to make a part-time income from my blog.
I mentioned Uncork Your Dork earlier. She has an amazing membership challenge library with all the courses she has created.
Blog by Number is an ebook made JUST for bloggers who are moms. It walks you through setting up your blog if you’re starting from beginner and wanting to launch your own mom blog.
Here’s a great ebook to teach you more about Pinterest, called Pinning for Page Views! Use my code FWML15 for 15% off the ebook: Pinning for Page Views: Pinterest for the Beginning Blogger
Focusing on growing Social Media organically to grow your blogging business? Check out The Social Setup.
More ebooks to help grow your blog:
- The Knowtbook by Amy Lynn Andrews (author of the weekly email Useletter).
- 31 Small Steps to Grow Your Blog helps you grow your blog in one month!
- Real Moms Making Real Money Blogging at Home In Their Pajamas
If you want to learn more about nurturing and growing your email list, check out this resource called Own Your List. There is so much great information in this course! I couldn’t do all the things with my free MailChimp account, so I switched to ConvertKit to implement all the great teachings.
If you’re ready to work with brands, you need a media kit. This Media Kit Smash course goes into a lot of details on how to create a great media kit.
If you want to grow and sell your Instagram, I’m hearing amazing things about Infamous to Infuential.
Sometimes you just get overwhelmed with all the tech required to blog. There are people ready to help! Check out my friends at Build the Best Blog, a husband and wife team ready to help with plugins, SEO, and overall blog management.
I will continue adding to this page to keep it full of wonderful resources for you! Let me know if you have something to add.