Essential Resources for a Better Blog
Are you thinking of starting a blog? Or maybe you're looking for affordable resources for a better blog? Either way, chances are that you're frustrated with all the bloggers out there trying to sell you a course without giving you any value.
Trust me! I know what's it's like to flounder all over the place looking for helpful blogging resources only to find people trying to take advantage of me.
Regardless of why you're here, I'm glad you visited my page of better blogging resources page. This page is dedicated to helping new bloggers improve their blogging experience. I've compiled the most comprehensive list of blogging resources to help you build the blog of your dreams!
Disclaimer: Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. By purchasing products using these links, you can support a Cajun in Cali at NO cost to you. Getting the goods you want while showing support is the best of both worlds!
My Blogging Story
My blog was born in August 2015. I remember having a vision of how I wanted my blog to look but had NO idea how to achieve my blogging goals. So, I set out on an epic blogging journey in search of free and useful programs, podcasts and blogging tools.
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 recently bought a house. To find 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 research, and along the way, I've kept track of the things that helped me create the blog you see today.
After much research, trial and error and epic fails, I found what works for me. And I truly believe some of these resources can work for you, too. But beware! You have to be ready to do some work. Blogging is not for the faint of heart, at least not successful blogging.
What You Can Expect Here
This page is full of all the blogging tools I use to run a successful blog. While I'm not an expert, I can tell you that I've learned a lot over the past few years. And now I'm sharing that information with the masses in hopes it helps you be a better blogger!
I've cataloged the most helpful tools and blogging resources for you here, all in a quick-and-easy resources page. The resources you see here are still part of my blogging strategy for creating and designing content 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!
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; ultimately I fell victim to Blue Host's flashy ads and low prices.
But after a series of epic fails, Blue Host lost my trust. That's why I made the switch to Site Ground and never looked back! Their dedicated support team and lightning fast site speeds are just a few of the reasons I trust Site Ground completely.
Don't fall victim to flashy graphics and cheap prices
Let's chat about your platforms. Now, I'm not a website developer, but I have used both Blogger and WordPress.org. I can say, hands-down, that I LOVE the freedom I have with WordPress.org.
There are several other web site development tools out there, like Wix and Squarespace, which are easier to use. But I've heard from other bloggers that they've had problems with SEO and monetization on those platforms.
Before committing to a platform, be sure to think about what you want your blog to be? Do you plan to monetize in the future? If so, you may want to choose WordPress.org over the other options.
Design, Design, Design
Now, let's chat for a minute about design. I am not, nor will I ever be, a website designer. I know what I like, and I knew what I wanted my site to look like. I tried multiple FREE themes, but I never found a theme that matched my vision.
Frustrated, I researched, read reviews, and poured over options. Other bloggers commented about the user-friendly Genesis framework; they claimed it was completely customizable, something that caught my attention.
Based on the reviews and my research, I purchased a Genesis theme. At first I really loved my Genesis site. But, over time, I noticed that it had become slow and cumbersome. Likely, the site speed was slow because of the numerous plugins and uploads it took to operate the Genesis platform. So, I started searching again.
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. I loved the page builder so much that I updated to the Beaver Builder theme. And I'm so glad I did!
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 entire site was built using Beaver Builder. So, if you like what you see, give this program a shot!
Part of what drew me to blogging was the desire to be creative. I love creating images and graphics to help my blog stand out. Every button, header, and graphic you see I've designed myself using Canva.
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. It’s super user-friendly and can be totally free! You can use Canva to create beautiful graphics for posts, tweets, and pins. I recently upgraded to the premium version for the branding and organization benefits, and I continue to be amazed by the program.
find out how to use Canva to create custom creative
Beautiful images are part of what attracts readers to your blog. So, it's safe to say that you can't overlook the benefits of photo editing. There's a few photo editing software systems that I recommend, depending on your budget.
Pic Monkey is photo editing and graphic design software that many new bloggers and photographers are using. The photo editing tools are user-friendly and comprehensive enough to achieve the effects you desire without too much effort. Although there is a FREE version, the premium version is affordable (only $33/year) and worth it for anyone who doesn't have dedicated photo editing software.
Adobe Lightroom is my trusted source for photo editing and has been since 2011. I love Lightroom and credit the software with helping me to better understand aspects of photography that significantly improved my photography skills. While you can buy the standalone software for under $150, you can also subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud to get access to Lightroom, Photoshop, and more.
There's no doubt that I've learned SO much about blogging over the past two years. So much so that I created my own blog coaching site and filled it with tons of FREE content for new bloggers! 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.
Need to better understand SEO? Then 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.
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.
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.
For those of you looking to dramatically increase your traffic, you might want to consider joining Melyssa Griffin's Pinfinite Growth Course. My traffic skyrocketed after taking this course, and I'm sure yours will, too.
There are lots of effective (and affordable) education resources available if you know where to look
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. Podcasts give me 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.
The Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast is another favorite of mine. I love Amy Porterfield's sense of humor and her work ethic. She's all about making online marketing work for you and gives tons of value in her podcasts all for FREE!
One of my favorites right now is the Blog Fuel Podcast with Kirsten Thompson. Her and her co-host, Erin Shebish, have so much fun that it's hard not to enjoy listening to them. Plus you'll learn tons about blogging!
these are just a few of the great podcasts for bloggers
When I last blogged (2008), there was no such thing as social media. Now you can't blog without having a social media presence. In the beginning, I was left feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated.
After months of trying to keep up, I decided to focus on 2-3 primary social media networks. My decision paid off tremendously. Less than two years after launching my blog, I now have nearly 40,000 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 Twitter. The easy-to-use interface helps me easily track changes in my followers. The app is completely streamlined with 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. Publish is Crowdfire’s publisher tool. It's essential for scheduling Twitter updates and can reschedule previous posts, something I love!
Tailwind is by far one of the handiest tools out there for growing your Pinterest presence. The program helps you quickly schedule pins and save pins for future use. The convenient browser add-ons make it easy to send web pages or images to your cue for posting later. And the analytics are a valuable addition to the stats provided by Pinterest.
Another essential tool for Pinterest is BoardBooster. I can't say enough about this program and how it's changed my Pinterest game forever. The looping features are a game-changer.
One of the best tools I've found yet for increasing social media shares is Social Warfare. The plugin is super responsive and keeps share counts, essential for social proof. The interface is user-friendly, allowing bloggers to customize each blog post quickly. Create custom tweets, smart Facebook images, and embedded Pins with a few simple steps and, best of all, one streamlined plugin.
There is only one program that new bloggers should consider when getting started with email marketing: ConvertKit. Yes, it's costly, but the cost is so very worth it when you see your subscriber list grow! Switching from MailChimp to ConvertKit was one of the smartest things I've ever done. My list has grown 3.5 times larger in just 5 months!
Convertkit grew my email list by nearly 600% in one year!
Many bloggers dream of earning a living from their blog, but successful monetization requires time, hard work, and a lot of patience. Here are some of the tools I've been using to monetize this site.
Google Adsense is probably the most popular monetization strategy for bloggers, but its popularity had dwindled lately due to the poor payout. Still, it's an excellent way to generate passive income; just don't expect to make big bucks. Be sure to install the Google Adsense Plugin to manage your ads better. Play around with the placement of your ads to see what works best.
On the other hand, Amazon Associates is a great way to generate cash if you have motivated buyers. Not only can you use image and text links for specific products, but you can also create custom ads, which can further support an idea highlighted in your content. Just remember, the cookie lasts only for 24 hours, so you need to create killer content to motivate readers to buy if you plan to see any profit.
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 easily integrated. Much like CJ, once you approved you approach advertisers. The process is smooth and straightforward.
Let's Stay in Touch
So, there you have it! These are all my best tips, tricks, and blogging resources in one convenient post. If you're ready to dive deeper into any of these subjects, then stay tuned to the blog for more blogging content.
You can also sign up for my email newsletter and stay up-to-date on all my latest adventures. Sign up today and get a FREE copy of my Top 12 Best Blogging Tools!
Happy blogging, my friends!