Thinking of starting a blog? Looking for affordable resources for a better blog? Maybe you took a look around my blog and liked what you saw. Regardless of why you're here, I'm glad you visited my page of resources for a better blog. The goal of this page is to bring you my most comprehensive list of blogging resources to help you build the blog of your dreams!
It wasn't long ago that I started my blog. I remember having a vision of how I wanted my blog to look but had NO idea how to achieve my blogging goals. I set out on an epic blogging journey in search of free and useful programs, podcasts and blogging tools. After much research, trial and error and epic fails, I found what works for me. And I believe these resources will work for you, if you are ready to do the work.
If you're anything like me, you're on the prowl for FREE and low-cost resources. My pennies are tight, even more so now that we are thinking about buying a house. To find low cheap blogging resources I turned to Google searches and Pinterest Boards for inspiration and education. Believe me, I've done (and still do) my fair share of seeking. Along the way I've kept track of the things that helped me create the blog you see today.
I've cataloging the most helpful tools and blogging resources for you here, all in a quick-and-easy resources page. I still use all these resources for creating and designing my blog and for building a social media presence. I've only endorsed products and programs that I use and find helpful. You decide if you want to give them a try, but I highly encourage you to give them all a shot! But enough small talk. Let's get down to business!
Disclaimer: Be aware that I have shared some affiliate links. If you (which you totally should) use these links then you'll be supporting me at no extra cost to you. That's right, friends! It's FREE for you and helpful for me! The small commission I make helps me pay my student loans.
Resources for a Better Blog
1. Hosting and Such
First, let’s talk about hosting. A web host is a must if you wish to have complete creative control over your blog. It’s also required if you want to build partnerships with affiliate programs or display ads. I did A LOT of research before signing up for any program. I had used Go Daddy in the past but wasn’t pleased with the tech support I received. I knew I wanted a one-stop-shop for hosting and domain. I got that and more with Bluehost.
Bluehost has been great to work with and super easy to use. I will say that it is important that you read all the fine print. Be aware that you pay up-front for your purchase, but the support and quality hosting you get is totally worth it!
Each time I have needed help and guidance they've been right there for me. They offer FREE support via online chat or phone. I love the customer service I've received, especially because I'm so new to this. Before each and EVERY chat ends I'm asked whether my problem has been resolved. Another BONUS, you can request a transcript of your chat be sent to you via email the transcript for a reference later! These little things are so important to new bloggers.
Next, let's chat about your platform. Now, I'm not a website developer, but I have used both Blogger and WordPress. I can say, hands-down, that I LOVE the freedom I have with WordPress. The solutions, support and overall ease of use has been refreshing.
2. Design, Design, Design
Now, let's chat for a minute about design. I am not, nor will I ever be, a designer. I know what I like and I knew what I wanted my site to look like. I tried multiple FREE themes and even paid for one, but I never could get the theme to match my vision.
Frustrated, I researched, read reviews and poured over options. Other bloggers had commented about the user-friendly Genesis framework, claiming it could be shaped to suit the blogger's vision. I also to the blogs I love and realized that most were built on the Genesis framework.
Based on the reviews and my research, I chose to go with Genesis. I loved the idea that I am creating a foundation that will work with different themes (called child themes). I am SO VERY HAPPY with the results. I can't believe how easy the system is to use and manipulate. I would sign up for Genesis again and again.
The foundation is manipulated using plugins that are easy to install and super user-friendly. Here's a few of the AWESOME plugins I am using now to build my own Genesis site:
Even with all the awesome features Genesis offers I still found myself wanting more customization options, especially for some of my pages. I tried using text links, writing code and multiple plugins to achieve my blogging goals. But, sadly, none of it looked as clean or as professional as I wanted. That's when I found Beaver Builder...and everything changed!
I can't say enough about Beaver Builder, guys! It truly changed my blog and saved me TONS of money. I was considering paying a web developer to create the custom pages and posts that I was easily able to create with Beaver Builder in minutes.
The custom drag-and-drop tools helped me create columns, easily integrate ads and HTML codes and achieve simple tasks in MINUTES! In fact, this page was built using Beaver Builder. So, if you like what you see, give this program a shot!
3. Get Creative, Y'all!
Part of what drew me to blogging in the first place is my desire to be creative. I love creating images and graphics to help my blog stand out. Every button, header and graphic you see on my blog I've done myself using online graphic design programs. If you aren't already using the following programs then I have only one question: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?
Canva is quite possibly the greatest invention ever! I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this tool and use it ALL the time. (I used it for the image used in this post.) It’s super user-friendly and can be completely FREE! I use it to create lovely graphics for posts, tweets, and pins.
Pic Monkey is another great FREE graphic design resource. I find it just as user-friendly as Canva, but I like the available templates at Canva better. I do like that Pic Monkey provides a FREE photo editing tool, but I use Adobe software for editing.
4. Get your learn on!
I've learned SO much about blogging over the past year, and I want you, too, to get schooled on what it means to have a great blog. These are resources that I've found most helpful. Check out these resources if you need help with blogging 101, SEO and social media.
Miss Malaprop’s 30 Day SEO Boot Camp is an awesome FREE resource for learning about SEO. I liked that I could work the program at my own pace and that materials were in small, easy to digest nuggets. Do yourself a favor and SIGN UP today!
Want something a little more tangible? Check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This comprehensive guide is FREE and can be printed, which is great for note-makers like me.
If you're looking to up your Instagram game then look no further than InstaRevealed. This program decodes Insta, making it easier to crack the Insta code and gets you well on your way to becoming an Influencer. The guides are totally worth it, y'all!
Another great FREE resource is Hootsuite Podium's Fundamentals of SM Marketing. It's great that you get to work the course at your own pace. Another bonus is that you learn to use the Hootsuite program along the way.
Looking for a little Social Media Savvy? Head over to Iterate for their Boss Babe’s Guide to Social Media. It is FULL of great tips and suggestions for building a brand and a following.
Pinterest for Businesses offers FREE resources for business pinners like you and me. Be sure review these tools to help you build better boards, develop richer pins and drive traffic to your blog or product.
5. Listen and you shall hear...
I can't even begin to tell you how helpful podcasts have been for me. I listen almost daily on my commute to/from work. I get ideas for content, affiliate relationships, types of posts, etc. Here are some of my favorite streams:
My absolute favorite is Darren Rowse's ProBlogger Podcast. What started off as a companion piece to Rowse's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook, the podcast has grown into a regular resource that is full of gems. I've listened to ALL of the podcasts and even bought his ebook! Both are filled with great tips and tricks to elevate your writing and boost your blog to the next level. I highly recommend it!
My newest favorite podcast is The Blog Millionaire. Brandon Gaille brings amazing content on the regular. I cannot tell you have valuable this podcast has been, and I've only listened to 6 episodes so far! Seriously, y'all, tune into this podcast.
6. Social Media, Man
When I last blogged (2008) there was no such thing as social media. Now you can't blog without having a social media presence. I was left feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated when I started blogging. I decided to focus on 2-3 primary social media networks and let the rest develop themselves. Less than 1 year later I have nearly 10,000 followers across multiple social media channels. These are the resources I used to get there.
Crowdfire is a FREE tool for monitoring and finding subscribers for both Instagram and Twitter. I love their interface which helps me easily track changes in my followers. The app is completely streamlined with both Instagram and Twitter and works beautifully. You can follow, unfollow or like/retweet posts directly in the application. I also love the auto-responder for Twitter, which sends new followers a direct message of my choosing. Take Off is Crowdfire’s publisher tool is essential for scheduling Twitter updates.
Mailchimp was a no-brainer for me. I loved the design of all the MailChimp newsletters that were landing in my email inbox. Creating email correspondence with this easy-to-use program is a breeze. You can design your own custom newsletter using logos, posts, icons, buttons and hyperlinks. Integrate your Facebook page and create sign-up widgets for the blog that funnel subscribers to your growing list. Mailchimp also helps ensure you are following the blogosphere rules about opt-in mailing. Best of all, they offer a FREE service which is a great way to get started.
SumoMe is another terrific FREE tool for building your email list. Use the FREE Welcome Mat feature to add pop-ups on designated pages. The system works seamlessly with MailChimp so that you don’t have to manually add new subscribers to your growing list. Of course, the Pro version offers several other popup options, but a girl has to watch her budget.
Tailwind is by far one of the handiest tools out there for growing your Pinterest presence. The program helps you easily schedule pins and save pins for future use. You can also use the service to create your own pins, essential for post promotion. The handy Firefox add-on makes it easy to send webpages or images to your que for posting later. And the analytics are a helpful addition to the stats provided by Pinterest. You can start with a FREE trail which gives you access to their PRO version for 100 pins. Once your PRO trail is over, I think you, like me, will find the PRO service is totally worth the small fee! I’ve seen increasing traffic from Pinterest because of my growing presence in the social sharing system.
One of the best tools I've found yet for increasing social media shares is Social Warfare. I really love how responsive the plugin has been. It's super easy to install using your WordPress dashboard. The interface is user-friendly, allowing bloggers to quickly customize each blog post. Create custom tweets, smart Facebook images and embedded Pins with a few simple steps and, best of all, one streamlined plugin.
For those of you with a few bucks to spend, I've got one word for you: MassPlanner. This social media app is essential for anyone who (like me) works full-time and needs a program running in the background. I've got all my major social media networks connected and working behind the scenes while I'm off working or writing content. Do it, y'all!
7. Be Facebook Friendly
Everyone uses Facebook now, even my 94 y/o grandmother. Facebook is a great way to promote your blog to your friends and family. It’s best to create a Page for your blog, which you can customize and integrate with other social media. Facebook also has helpful tools for creating promoted posts and for scheduling future posts.
The best thing for bloggers is the potential of the many Facebook blogging groups. Your participation in FB groups is essential for building relationships with other bloggers. Most groups have weekly or daily challenges which foster connection and community. The group’s feed is also a great place to get tips and ask questions. Here are a few of my favorites:
Most groups allow you to promote your own posts, but each one has rules you must observe. You can’t join a FB group as a Page, so be prepared to use your personal profile. I chose to create a second FB profile in order to keep part of my life private. It can be a real pain to check 2 profiles, but I like to know that some things are private.
One FB tip: Make sure your FB profile clearly links to your page and your website. One way to do this is to add your FB page as your workplace. This will help to clearly display your page on your profile for easy access. I can't tell you how many times I’ve gone to a fellow blogger’s profile and had to search to find their page or website.
8. Monetize and Make Some Money
On the other hand, Amazon Associates was super easy to set up and to use. I love that I can create custom ads to add to support an idea or travel suggestion highlighted in my content. For examples of this, see this post.
I have also joined Commission Junction, which gives users access to 1000s of advertisers all under one roof. The application process was simple, and their platform is user-friendly. Once approved you shop for advertisers and apply individually for their programs. The entire process in self-contained within the CJ system, from start to finish. Get your links, banners, and ads all on the same dashboard.
Share-a-Sale is another great affiliate market with tons of great advertisers. Their application process was easy, too. I like their dashboard and search capabilities, and the ads are easy integrate. Much like CJ, once you approved you approach advertisers. The process is smooth and simple.
I have created affiliate relationships with a few smaller companies. It never hurts to ask or apply. Be sure to read the fine print before applying, as I have found a few which stipulate my blog must have X number of visitors or must be at least X months/years old.
So, there you have it! These are all my tips, tricks and blogging resources.
As I said before, I am still learning and improving. I hope to add more blogging resources to this page regularly.
If you have anything to add to this list, please leave a comment below!
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest to stay up-to-date on my blogging pins.
Happy blogging, my friends!
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