The Ultimate List of Blogging Resources

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I launched my blog 7 months ago, and it took off really quickly. It wasn’t easy, however. Blogging is time-consuming and there is a pretty big learning curve. But once you start to “get” it, it is fun and rewarding.

If you are interested in starting a blog, check out the resources I’ve listed below. I have taken a lot of classes, and I’ve read a ton of articles, so I would love to share my knowledge with you!

** Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  I only link to products that I really, really like and that I use on my blog. You can see my full policy here.**

INITIAL SET UP

The first items you need when you start a blog are a domain name, a theme and a host. If you want to eventually make an income from blogging, you will also need to set up an account with WordPress.org (NOT WordPress.com!) WordPress.org will give you the most flexibility.

DOMAIN NAME

This is the name of your site. I purchased mine through Hover. It’s easy to use and the prices are very competitive. Make sure to read this article before you choose your domain name. I changed names 3 times and it is a big pain to have to go back and change everything.

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HOSTING

I started off with HostGator, but I like to use a lot of images on my blog, and I found that HostGator simply wasn’t fast enough. Your site needs to load quickly if you want to retain users.

So, on the advice of a fellow blogger, I switched to BigScoots recently and love them. My site speed increased exponentially after the switch, and they handled the entire migration of my site from HostGator. They also have friendly and knowledgeable customer service.

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Themes: WordPress offers free themes, but you should look into a paid theme if you want more customization options. Some people buy themes through Etsy or Themeforest, but I purchased my theme through Mojo Marketplace and am very happy with the way it looks.

If you can afford it, pay the extra money to have Mojo set your theme up for you (if you want it to look like the demo). If you are new to blogging, setting up the theme is daunting and will delay your launch date.

COACHING

If you want to jumpstart your blogging experience, the first thing to do would be to sign up for Coaching with Tracie to get personalized advice from Tracie Fobes. Tracie is the very successful blogger behind Penny Pinchin’ Mom and she also offers excellent blogging courses.

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If you sign up for Coaching with Tracie, you will also be invited to join Tracie’s private Facebook group. Having access to an experienced, successful blogger is invaluable, and it has also increased my blogging network. Getting to know other bloggers is a great way to learn more about blogging and share experiences!

GROWING YOUR TRAFFIC

PINTEREST

When you are a new blogger, you won’t get a lot of organic traffic at first, so it’s important to get the word out via Pinterest. Pinterest can be a little confusing, but if you do it correctly, you can drive many views to your blog.

Once I took Carly Cbell’s Pinteresting Strategies course, my blog views went through the roof! I’m getting almost 130,000 pageviews a month now, and the majority of them (80%) come through Pinterest. Another bonus to taking Carly’s course is that you get access to her private Facebook group. I have learned more about blogging in that group than I have anywhere else!

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Carly suggests manual pinning, but due to my schedule, I can’t fit a lot of manual pinning into my daily routine. Instead, I use Carly’s strategies but do a combination of manual pinning and scheduling my pins through Tailwind.

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Tailwind is a lifesaver! I batch schedule my pins on the weekend, when I have time, and Tailwind takes care of the rest.

Tailwind has a relatively new feature called Smart Loop that is supposed to increase traffic to your site by looping your most popular content throughout the year.

I could not wrap my head around the concept, so I purchased Kate Ahl’s Smart Loop Simplified Course. She and her team explain SmartLoop in an easy-to-understand way. I’m already seeing results!

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You should also make sure to subscribe to the Simple Pin podcast – lots of great tips to be found here!

Pinterest changes quickly, so it’s important to stay abreast of all the new developments. If you get on the wrong side of Pinterest (by accidentally spamming), you can tank your traffic.

Before I forget: If you are a gray hair blogger like me, please make sure to join my Tailwind Silver Sisters tribe to increase your audience. And please join my Silver Sisters Group Board on Pinterest. Tribes and group boards are great ways to get more eyes on your blog!

SEO

Pinterest is only one way to drive traffic to your blog. The other way, which is more complicated but ultimately more rewarding, is SEO.

To make a long story short, SEO is how you get organic traffic to your website from search engines like Google. SEO traffic is more valuable because people who find your blog organically tend to stay on your site longer, which helps you with ad revenue, etc.

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SEO is very complex, so I highly recommend you purchase Mike Pearson’s Stupid Simple SEO.

This course is only available to the public at certain times throughout the year, so make sure you get on the waiting list!

I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the course and have already learned MUCH more than I ever imagined was possible! I’m already seeing organic searches increase due to the few ideas I’ve implemented from this course so far.

As a companion piece to Stupid Simple SEO, and at a much more affordable price is Debbie Gartner’s Ebook, Easy on Page SEO. She offers other ways to increase your organic reach, and has a lot of great insights. You may want to start here, especially if you are a new blogger on a budget!

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Debbie Gartner’s other great Ebook is Easy Backlinks for SEO. It is also very valuable. She goes through all the ways you can build backlinks to your blog, which is a great way to improve your Domain Authority. Having a higher domain authority helps you rise in the ranks on Google.

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AFFILIATE MARKETING

Affiliate marketing is how you earn money through blogging. Let’s face it, blogging is very hard work and you might as well get some monetary return for all the effort you’re putting in!

I do most of my monetization through Amazon, which has a great affiliate program. Amazon is used by most households in America (my largest audience), so it has great reach! And their interface is easy to use – creating images and text links is super-easy.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner makes over $50,000 a month from affiliate marketing through her blog, Making Sense of Cents and shares her knowledge in this thorough course.

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It’s especially great for newbies as it teaches you all of the different affiliate marketing methods and how to best use them. It’s not cheap, but she does offer payment plans and I do think it was money well spent.

Cracking the Code on the Amazon Associates Program: Ashli at MillionDollarMama created this Ebook. She teaches you techniques for writing blog posts that convert into sales, how to create Amazon links, and how to NOT break Amazon’s Terms of Service rules, among other things.

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The Ebook is only $20; a bargain! I saw an increase in sales one day after I started implementing her techniques, so it paid for itself.

EMAIL MARKETING

MailChimp: I use MailChimp to send out my weekly newsletters, and so far, so good! I have heard negative things about them from other bloggers, but I haven’t had any complaints so far.

It’s a little tricky to figure out how to set up your campaigns, but there are a lot of YouTube videos that teach you how to set things up properly. I’ve heard a lot of good things about ConvertKit, so that’s another option to consider.

WORDPRESS PLUGINS

WordPress offers a lot of customization through plugins, but be careful which ones you choose. Some of them can really slow down your site! After experimenting a lot with various plugins, I’ve narrowed them down to about 20. The following ones are the ones I cannot live without:

All in One WP Security: Great, reliable plugin that keeps your site safe.

Envira Gallery: As a photographer, it’s important to me that photos are presented well. Envira allows me to create beautiful WordPress galleries. The galleries are easy to customize and they offer lazy loading, which helps with page speed.

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Insert Headers and Footers: This is a great plug-in if you are not very technical. It allows you to add code to the headers & footers of your site without knowing how to code.

ShortPixel: Another great plugin for sites that use a lot of images.  It is an easy to use, lightweight image optimization plugin that can compress all of your past images with a single click.

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New images are automatically resized and optimized in the background. It will help your site run faster, and if you care about image quality like I do, you can choose Glossy compression so you don’t lose as much detail as Lossy (the standard).

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore: Easy to use plugin that backups your files and database into the cloud, and allows one-click restoration. This plugin is a must-have!

WP Forms: I did not like Contact Form 7, which came with my WordPress theme, so I installed WP Forms on the advice of other bloggers. It allowed me to create great contact forms that integrate with MailChimp, so I never lose an e-mail address.

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Their customer service is great, which really matters to me as I often need help figuring things out until I’m used to them. WP Forms also allows you to use reCaptcha, which cuts down on spam.

WP Rocket: It’s really important to Google (and other search engines) that your blog loads quickly. This is why I switched to Big Scoots for hosting, and then installed WP Rocket. WP Rocket is a speed optimization plugin for WordPress that offers a variety of speed-boosting features to your WordPress Site.

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As you’ve probably noticed, customer service is important to me and WP Rocket offers great customer service. If a newbie like me can figure out how to use their services, you know their team has to be great!

PHOTO GEAR

Aside from being a blogger, I’m a photographer. Some of the photos on this site are taken with my iPhone 7, but I also use my Canon 5D Mark III. I love it! It is pricey, but SO worth it!

Canon 50 mm 1.8 lens – This lens is so cheap yet SO good! Provides a pleasing “bokeh” and does fantastic in low-light situations. I use it for a lot of my blogging photography.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Adobe Creative Cloud: I subscribe to Photoshop & Adobe Lightroom through the Adobe Creative Cloud program. I can’t live without either of those programs. I use Photoshop to optimize my images before uploading them to WordPress, and to make minor image adjustments. Lightroom is invaluable for keeping track of all my images. Highly recommend!

Adobe Stock: As a photographer, I can’t bear cheesy looking, low quality stock photos. Adobe Stock is not cheap (it’s about $29/month), but it is worth it due to the high quality and the security of knowing that these photos are legitimately OK to use. A lot of free stock photo sites have been plagued by scam artists who post photos that do not belong to them. Don’t risk getting sued!

Canva: Canva is free and relatively easy to use, especially compared to Photoshop. It has awesome drag & drop features and social media templates that make designing Pinterest pins a breeze!

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All of the blogging resources above are ones that I’m currently using! I will update this post frequently, as I find more resources to recommend. If you enjoyed this list, please share it – thank you!

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