When I started my first blog in 2007, I had no idea how much it would impact my life. I didn’t know that it would turn into a full-time business that would last for at least the next decade, and that it would change the financial situation of my family.
Blogging is a dream job for a lot of us, but it’s still hard work. Fortunately, there are resources that make it easier and more profitable.
Over the years there have been a number of tools and resources that have made my life easier and helped me to grow my blogs faster. On this page I want to highlight 15 different blogging resources that can help you to grow your own blog, and make money from it.
Bluehost Web Hosting
When you’re starting a blog, choosing the right web host is an important step. There are thousands of hosts out there, but if you choose the wrong one you can wind up dealing with frustrations like frequent downtime, poor customer service, and limited customer service hours or options.
I’ve been running blogs and websites for more than a decade and I’ve tried countless different hosts over the years. For more than 5 years I’ve been a customer of Bluehost (I host several websites with Bluehost, but Vital Dollar uses another host). I highly recommend them to new bloggers and website owners for several reasons, including:
- Their prices are very competitive and keeping costs to a minimum is important for most new bloggers.
- Their customer service is excellent, and you can reach them 24/7.
- If you go with their WordPress hosting, they will automatically install WordPress for you.
WordPress is an extremely popular content management system, and it’s free to use. Pretty much every web host makes it very easy to install WordPress on your site in just a few clicks.
In fact, I have a tutorial that shows the step-by-step process of signing up for hosting with Bluehost and installing WordPress. The entire process takes less than 10 minutes, and you can read it here: How to Start a Blog.
If you’re starting a blog I highly recommend using WordPress. There are thousands of themes (templates) that you can choose from, and thousands of plugins that allow you to do just about anything you can imagine. The huge community of WordPress users is a great asset because you can find plenty of help in the form of blog posts, Facebook groups, or developers who specialize in WordPress.
Elegant Themes creates some of the best WordPress themes you’ll find, and they’re priced very reasonably. A few years ago I purchased a lifetime membership to Elegant Themes, and since then I’ve used their themes on most of my websites and blogs. Extra is my favorite theme for blogs (it’s the theme I’m using here at VitalDollar.com), and Divi is great for other types of websites. These two these are extremely versatile and you can create customized designs without the need to touch the coding, and with no knowledge of HTML.
If you’re looking for a great theme for your blog I highly recommend Extra from Elegant Themes. My suggestion is to get the one year membership first to see if you like it, and then you may want to upgrade to the lifetime membership after the first year. And you can use their themes on an unlimited number of websites with either type of membership. You can read my review of Elegant Themes here.
Aside from Elegant Themes, the only other WordPress themes I use these days are from Thrive Themes. You can either buy a theme individually, or you can get a membership that gives you access to all of their themes and plugins. The plugins from Thrive Themes are awesome! Thrive Architect allows you to design pages and blog posts with a drag and drop builder, no need to touch the code. Thrive Leads is great for creating optin forms to quickly grow your email list. Thrive Quiz Builder is another cool plugin that I want to start using more often.
I have a membership to Thrive Themes and I definitely recommend their themes and plugins.
I mentioned Thrive Leads as being a great plugin for building an email list. OptinMonster is another similar plugin, and I’ve been using OptinMonster since it was launched several years ago. Over the years they’ve added a lot of new functionality and features. I find OptinMonster to be very easy to use in terms of creating your optin forms and setting up how and when they should be displayed on your site.
If you have a Thrive Themes membership I would recommend just using Thrive Leads. But if you’re not a Thrive Themes member, I think OptinMonster is well worth the price.
I use ConvertKit to manage the email list here at Vital Dollar. ConvertKit was created with bloggers in mind, and there are a lot of useful tools for targeting and segmenting that you can use to really get the most out of your email marketing. Not only is ConvertKit powerful, but it’s also easy to use once you understand the different options that you have at your disposal.
One of the nice things about ConvertKit is that you can create good-looking optin forms and popups, and even landing pages, to use on your site. This means you can avoid paying for something else like OptinMonster if you’re on a tight budget.
Although I use ConvertKit now, I also used AWeber for my email lists for several years. Their starting price is a little cheaper than ConvertKit (although the prices between the two even out as your list grows), so they can be a good option if you’re looking to get started with as little expense as possible. I was a happy AWeber customer for a few years, and I still like them… I just like ConvertKit a little better.
There are a number of keyword research tools out there that will help you to find the best keywords and phrases to target with your blog posts. I’ve tried a lot of them over the years and within the past year KWFinder has become a favorite. I love it because it’s easy to use, but still very powerful.
Just enter a word or phrase and it will show you the estimated monthly search volume and give you a keyword difficulty score, which indicates how easy or hard it might be to rank on the first page for that keyword. You’ll also get a big list of similar keywords along with their own estimated search volume and difficulty score.
You can also quickly research the top 10 results that are currently showing on Google’s first page to see things like their domain authority. With the help of KWFinder you can find the best words and phrases to target with your blog posts.
You can do two searches per day for free, and if you sign up for a free account you can do five searches per day. Paid plans give you many more searches and more keyword suggestions.
One of the best ways to monetize a blog is to sell your own digital product. It could be an ebook, online course, printable, or any number of other things. While having your own product to sell is a great thing, getting it all set up and working can be a real hassle. But it’s quick and easy if you’re using SendOwl.
I used SendOwl for several years (not currently using it because I sold the sites where I was using it) and I loved it. Setting up your shop and your first product takes just a matter of minutes, and you can add a buy button to your site by simply copying and pasting some code. You don’t need to mess with any WordPress plugins, and the checkout is actually hosted by SendOwl, which means they handle all of the important security details. SendOwl is equally simple to use and powerful. And it’s a relatively small company that provides excellent customer service and support for their customers.
Google Docs / Google Drive
Google Docs and Google Drive make it easy to manage documents and files on multiple computers. At home I work on a desktop, but when I travel I take a laptop with me. I want to be able to access all of my important documents and files on either computer, and Google Drive makes that simple. With Google Docs you can also easily share files with other people. Dropbox is another alternative, but I like the combination of Google Docs and Drive.
You can get a free plan of Google Drive with limited storage space (15GB). I pay $1.99 per month for 100 GB of storage.
Free Stock Photo Sites
Bloggers need access to good photos to use in their posts, and for social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook. You have a few options: you can 1) take your own photos, 2) buy stock photos, or 3) find photos that you can use for free. Fortunately, in the past few years there has been a big growth from several sites that offer free photos. My favorites are Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels.
Almost all of the photos on these sites are released under a Creative Commons CC0 license, which allows you to use the photo without the need to credit the photographer or link to them. Always be sure to check the license details before using a photo.
In some situations you may need to buy a stock photo. Sometimes you just can’t find a free photo that you like, and the selection at microstock sites is usually larger and better quality. I’ve bought photos from a number of sites over the years, but my favorite is Depositphotos. They have an excellent selection, their search functionality makes it pretty easy to find what you want, and their pricing is pretty good. If you have an account with them you’ll also get emails sometimes with discount offers.
Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that helps you to optimize your blog for search engines, particularly Google. The plugin has several different functions that are really useful. You can set your page title which is used by search engines to be different from your blog post title, if you want. You might do this in a situation where your post title is optimized to get clicks on social media sites through curiosity, but it’s not optimized very well for search engines.
You can also set meta keywords and descriptions. Yoast will also give you suggestions to make your page/post easier to read, and will tell you if it is well optimized for your targeted keyword. There is a premium version with some additional features, but I’ve only used the free version.
Tailwind is a great app for managing your Pinterest and Instagram accounts. A limited free version is available, or you can sign up for a paid plan. Pinterest is one of the best sources of traffic for many blogs, so it’s probably something that you’ll want to prioritize. Tailwind allows you to save a lot of time by scheduling and automating your pins.
One popular feature is Tailwind Tribes, which is kind of similar to a group board on Pinterest. You can join tribes that are relevant to your blog topics. For example, I’m in a few money management tribes. And then you can share your pins with the tribe and re-pin the pins from other tribe members. It’s a great way to increase your exposure and reach a larger audience. You can use Tribes even on a free account.
The paid plans include some really useful analytics that help you to see what boards and which pins are generating the best results for you. This information can be priceless for helping you to use Pinterest effectively and make the most of your time and effort on the platform.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is a great free tool that will help you to write better headlines or blog post titles. I struggle with writing headlines, so I’ll take any help that I can get.
All you need to do is enter your headline and it will give you a score of 1-100. It also gives you some suggestions about how to improve the title, such as adding an emotional word. I’ve only been using this tool recently, but I see myself using it a lot going forward. I try to get a score of 70 or more.
Be sure to check out these 15 resources and see which ones can help you with your own blog.
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