Blogging is a wonderful activity however, you shouldn’t have to spend all your energy testing products and services that might or might not work.
Are you ready to start your own blog? If so, here’s my blogging toolkit filled with tools and resources I use in my businesses. Each of these tools play a major role in my success as a blogger. Most of these are free (yippee) and others have a minimal cost attached to them.
(This page contains affiliate links, so I may be compensated in a small way if you make a purchase on a link you clicked. Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the price you will pay or my opinion on the product or service either. I always give my honest opinion and I’ll only recommend products and services I actually like and have used. You can read more about my affiliate policy here).
Domain and Hosting – Bluehost
You’ll need a domain and hosting if you want to start a blog. I recommend Bluehost. When you sign up with Bluehost, you’ll get a free domain with your purchase. In addition, if you use my affiliate link, you’ll get hosting for as little as $3.95 a month (if you sign up for 36 months). I like Bluehost because they are reliable and easy to set up. It is also great for bloggers just starting out.
Blog Platform – WordPress
I will always recommend WordPress(.org) for your blogging needs. WordPress was designed as a blogging platform and it is easy to set up and install. If you sign up with Bluehost, you’ll have a one-click install from within your account.
WordPress is the content management system I use throughout all of my blogs. I’ve read how other bloggers state that WordPress is difficult, but in my opinion, that isn’t true. I have tried to use other platforms such as Joomla and Drupal and it is by far the easiest when it comes to setting up your blog and website without any programming knowledge or experience.
Email Marketing – Get Response
If you want to make money blogging or just to keep in touch with your followers, you’re going to need to have some type of email marketing program set up. I have used MailChimp and Aweber but have now settled on GetResponse.
I like GetResponse because they have many of the features I was unable to get from the other email marketers. MailChimp is great if you’re starting out, and if you have a very small list you can get away with their free package. Unfortunately, their free package does not include an autoresponder, which you need when setting up campaigns.
Aweber was great, but it seemed outdated to me and not worth the price. I spend less with GetResponse and I have available to me more features such as an autoresponder, webforms, integration with various programs, great looking newsletters and landing pages. GetResponse also has webinars, but I’m not using them since I’m not conducting any currently. Maybe later I will upgrade to include them in my marketing efforts.
You can sign up with GetResponse here to sign up for your free 30-day trial.
As a blogger, you understand the design of your blog represents you. It is how people determine if they’re going to stay on your blog and browse a bit or decide to move on to the next. You literally have less than 5 seconds to make a great first impression, which you do with the theme you install on your blog. Themes are the design, look and feel of your blog.
WordPress offers free themes, which is great, however, the functionality and features they offer are quite limited. If you want to appear professional and provide a streamlined experience for your reader, then you’re going to have to invest in a premium theme.
I choose themes built on the Genesis Framework from Studio Press. Their child themes are mobile responsive, which means that they’ll look great on tablets and mobile devices. This is important, considering a significant amount of your visitors will be viewing your blog from their phones.
In order for the child themes to work, however, you will need to first purchase and install the Genesis Framework. The Genesis Framework is what they call the parent theme, which is the foundation your blog will be built on. Great thing is that this is a one-time purchase and will work with any other child theme you would like. I first purchased Genesis three years ago and only pay $30-$50 for a child theme.
Pin Scheduling Tool – BoardBooster
I am going to be honest with you, I never looked to Pinterest as being an essential part of my social media strategy. I used Pinterest to save lesson plans when I was a teacher along with recipes and DIY projects I wanted to try. It was not until I sat through a webinar on Pinterest did I view it as one of the best social media platforms out there for bloggers.
After posting sporadically on Twitter and Facebook and having lackluster results, I decided to get serious about pinning. Pinterest has become my number one social media platform that I use for my blog and my business. I pin every day and at specific times a day. Since I’m not great with being consistent and I forget a lot, I knew I needed help. I researched different pinning scheduling tools and heard rave reviews of BoardBooster. I decided to give them a try and have fallen in love with them.
BoardBooster charges based on the number of pins each month, so the price varies. I currently use a plan that cost about $5 a month, because I still like to do some of my pins manually. I am able to set up boards and BoardBooster automatically pins them to Pinterest for me. They pinning tools such as looping (which refreshes old pins) and maintenance tools such as Pin Doctor which gets rid of duplicate pins.
To try BoardBooster free for 30 days click here.
Another tool to consider: Tailwind
Landing Pages – Lead Pages
I have a love/hate relationship with LeadPages. I didn’t understand why I had to pay $37 a month for this service. Of course, there had to be a cheaper alternative.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a comparable service for cheaper. I also couldn’t find one that offered the Leadboxes feature that I so absolutely love.
If you need to create beautiful and professional looking landing pages, you’re going to want to get Lead Pages. There’s no way around it. I’ve tried to create my own and they looked underwhelming, to say the least. In addition, it took too long for me to set up a landing page and thank-you page for each opt-in offer I tried to set up.
I’m not an affiliate for LeadPages, but I highly recommend them because they do have high conversion rates. I know they offer a $1 trial, but at the end, you’ll be charged for a year worth of service.
Ebooks for Bloggers
If you’re looking to turn your blog into a business and make money from it, these ebooks might be helpful to you. Each of these ebooks has helped me to change my mindset around blogging for business as well as provided me with practical tools I could apply almost immediately.
How to Blog For Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup
Blogging on the Side Where Passion and Profit Meets by Becky Mansfield and Paula Rollo
Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook by Abby Lawson
Affiliate Programs I Use
I believe affiliate marketing is the easiest to set up and make money from while blogging. Of course, there are a lot of programs out there and a strategy that must be in place for you to actually make money, affiliate marketing (if done correctly) can be quite lucrative. Here are a few that I use on a consistent basis on my blogs. Check them out to see if they will fit your brand and blog.
Viglink (provides in-text links)