Any blogger is only as good as the tools they use
There are a lot of free platforms that make it possible for anyone to easily start a blog – even for free. But for those aspiring to monetize a blog or website, or even for those with large networks and the potential for high traffic out of the gate, there are a few essentials that will ensure the best experience for your readers.
Below is a running list of blogging essentials. Some of these are free and I have used all of them personally in the past. If you have ANY questions or need any assistance, don’t be shy! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your blogging platform should be chosen based on your goals as a blogger. Some people use blogs as online journals, for family communication, or otherwise more exclusive readership. Other people wish for their blogs to be distributed to larger readership channels.
WordPress is my go-to for EVERY blog and website I’ve built. The beginner blogger can take advantage of WordPress’s free platform. The free platform includes a custom domain name with “.wordpress.com” at the end. It boasts a number of custom themes that are incredibly user friendly but if you want to monetize your blog or add certain features, you will need to have the professional version which can be purchased directly from WordPress, or some website hosting companies will provide managed WordPress. This is the option I use for my sites because it includes platform upgrades and support.
Blogger is a free platform provided by Google. Like free WordPress, Blogger attaches a suffix (.blogger.com) to your custom blog name but unlike WordPress, there is no professional option, meaning that ownership always belongs to Google. Much like free WordPress, Blogger is limited in feature availability, making it a better tool for the casual blogger. There is no ability to add monetization services like Adsense and migrating to a different blog service means the writer loses their SEO and subscribers, meaning that the owner would essentially be starting over.
For WordPress users wanting to host their own domain, a hosting company needs to be used. The following companies are recommended by WordPress and WordPress bloggers all around the world. These companies are especially user-friendly if you are new to launching websites.
WordPress has been recommending Bluehost for over 10 years. This site is currently hosted on Bluehost because of the ease of 1-click WordPress installation and VERY reasonable pricing (sometimes as low as $5.95/month)! Bluehost makes it possible to literally have a new site live in a matter of hours and their support is great. They also offer free domains with their hosting and unlimited email accounts. Upgrades are very reasonable and easy to do, so as your readership grows, your space can grow too without interrupting your site.
Another great hosting platform is Dreamhost. Dreamhost offers a 97 day money-back guarantee and provides excellent site security and is commonly used by WordPress bloggers worldwide. Shared hosting packages including 1-click WordPress installation starts at $7.95 per month and, like Bluehost, Dreamhost regularly provides promos for lower prices!
Your theme is really the essence of who you are as a blogger and what kind of message you want to send to your readers. Luckily, these days, there are no shortage of themes that are INCREDIBLY easy to use, making it possible for anyone to host a beautifully laid out blog site. WordPress has a ton of free themes, but for a more professional look, the companies below offer complete themes for purchase, taking away a TON of programming time and giving you more time to focus what matters – your content!
I have to say, I favor this theme company over others because of the diversity of themes offered for the price you pay. Once you are an elegant themes member, you have immediate access to all of their themes for the year or indefinitely if you sign up for permanent membership.
Elegant themes is the home of the Divi Theme and Divi Builder, which from my experience has been the easiest builder to work with and other site owners recommended to me.
StudioPress offers a ton of beautifully elegant design themes for WordPress. Their themes are also responsive, meaning that they present themselves for the device used for access. There’s no extra programming involved for mobile.
Themeforest is a good resource for customized themes or designers with experience. I used a themeforest theme for my tech site because I was using custom programming for some of my forms. The themes look great and provide all of the files you need for a complete site and a lot of customization options and documentation.
Photo Editing Programs
For the next level blogger, looking to market and gain readership through social networks and communities, a good pic editing software or service is crucial!
Canva is an amazing software service for social media graphics. Their interface comes with pre-designed layouts depending on the channel you want to use (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram). They really take the work out of overlaying photos.
PicMonkey is similar to Canva and offers pretty much the same features. With PicMonkey you can create beautiful graphics and/or touch up your photos.
A great way to communicate with your readers and followers is through email. Email marketing programs vary in complexities and abilities and choosing a platform should be based on where you are in the blogging process and how many subscribers you have.
Mailchimp is a great starter platform because the service is free up to a certain amount of subscribers. They also have a lot of great tutorials on email marketing in general as well as how to use the service for the best results.
Optin Monster is available as a WordPress plugin so it makes integration into your blog simple. You can even use the plugin to help sign up new subscribers directly into your email list.
ConvertKit is the platform many bloggers are moving too right now. They offer a 30 day free trial and have many features designed for list segmentation and growth. This is easily the best platform for the serious blogger.
Social Media Management
Social media is by far the best way to get the word out about your blog but in can be a very time consuming task to post regularly and at the optimum times. Thankfully, there are some great tools you can use to manage what you post, when you post it, and show you great content to share as you build thought leadership in your area of expertise.
Hootsuite is a widely used social media management platform with the ability to post to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. There is a free version and a paid version that includes more accounts and functionality. You can use Hootsuite to schedule your posts for whenever you want, or you can select an autoschedule option which publishes your posts when they will get more attention!
Sprout Social is a business-grade social media management platform that does charge a monthly fee. It’s a great upgrade for the professional blogger!