Blogging Resource Library – Everything You Need to Build, Grow, and Monetize Your Blog
Starting a blog from scratch can be both exciting and intimidating at the same time. I’ve learned so much since starting my blog. A lot of what I have learned has been trial and error. I have also learned through other’s mistakes (thank goodness we are all in this together and don’t mind sharing). I decided I would put together a list of blog resources that I use or highly recommend in hopes it will help you when building your blog. So without further delay, here is everything you need to build, grow, and profit from your blog!
- Bluehost: You will need to purchase your domain name (website URL) first and then purchase a hosting package. All of this can be done through Bluehost. They have plans starting as low as $3.95 per month. Bluehost is my #1 recommendation when it comes to a hosting provider for your domain. Not only is it the #1 hosting service for bloggers but they also have great customer service and very little downtime. I have always found answers to my questions through their forums or just googling an issue. Since it is so widely used, you can usually find an answer to your question fairly quickly. The best part about Bluehost (especially for bloggers) is the WordPress installation feature. It is FREE and extremely simple. To learn more about signing up for Bluehost and installing WordPress, head over to Step by Step Guide: How to Start a Blog.
- Siteground: If you are completely against Bluehost, this would be my alternative suggestion. Although I do not have any experience with Siteground, I have heard raving reviews from a ton of people. They have gained traction over the last year and seem to be Bluehost’s biggest competition now. I cannot personally recommend them since I have not used their services but I trust the people that have told me it’s great. If I ever have any trouble with Bluehost, Siteground will be who I turn to. They have plans starting at $3.95 as well.
- Google Analytics: If your plan is to grow your blog traffic in order to satisfy your need (money, readership, etc.) you will want Google Analytics. This is a great resource to see where your blog traffic is coming from, who your audience is, what your audience likes, how long they are staying on your posts, etc. It is FREE and easy to link your blog.
Monetize Your Blog
You will hear different opinions on this, but I feel you should monetize your blog from day 1. Even if the purpose in you starting your blog has nothing to do with money, why not make a little money for your efforts! Affiliate marketing is the simplest way to earn money from your blog and is one of the fastest ways. It is also considered a passive income avenue because once you place your affiliate link, it can bring in continuous income for you even when your are not touching your blog. Here are a few affiliate programs I work with and highly recommend. The programs listed below are for any niche and I recommend every blogger being apart of each one:
- Awin – is one of my favorite networks because they work with so many great brands like Etsy, Fiverr and Swagbucks. You have to pay $5 when initially joining but receive the $5 back in full with your first payment.
- Share-a-Sale – is another top favorite of mine simply because of the brands offered – Tailwind, StudioPress, and PicMonkey.
- CJ – is one of your bigger affiliate networks and seems to brands from every niche possible!
- FlexOffers – is another big one. I use them for a ton of brands including Netflix and Hulu.
- MaxBounty – is not as large as the networks listed above but it has some really great brands and I love my account manager. She is so helpful and can answer any questions I have.
- Google AdSense: is a great way to include advertisements on your blog. There are several placements you can include advertisements on: sidebar, content, header, and footer. Some bloggers do not like the way ads look on their blog but the best part about AdSense is you can place the ads wherever you like. Be careful not to add too many or your site may look like spam to your readers.
I have also create a list of 315 Affiliate Programs for Bloggers in every niche if you would like to join more awesome affiliate programs. If you are serious about making money with your blog, I highly recommend you take Michelle’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. It is $197 and I want you to look at it as the biggest investment in your blog at this point. It can pay for itself within a few weeks if you let it! She currently makes $50,000+ per month just in affiliate marketing alone. This course covers everything you need to know about affiliate marketing. Here is a sneak peak of a few things she covers:
- What affiliate marketing is
- How to find affiliate programs and apply for them
- Amount of traffic needed
- Rules and guidelines to follow including disclosures
- No follow link (what they are and what you need to do)
- Nexus States
- How to get conversions
- Ways to Promote affiliate links (this is huge)
- Plus 4 Bonuses that are an absolute must!
You do not have to purchase a blog theme if you know how to customize your blog the way you want it. However, I highly recommend purchasing a theme if you are new to blogging or if you have an idea of what you want your blog to look like but have not been able to set it up in WordPress the way you want. I worked on my blog for two months before deciding to purchase a theme and it was the best decision! The amount of money I spent on my theme was well worth it. I felt as if I had wasted two months with nothing to show for it. When I finally purchased my theme, I had my blog up and running within a week! Check out my favorite WordPress Themes for Bloggers.
When you purchase a theme and depending on who you choose to purchase your theme from, you will need to download all the theme documents and upload the necessary files to your WordPress site. If you purchase from a reputable company, you will receive the instructions to do all this. It was very easy for me and I am not tech savvy by any means. Below are my recommendations on reputable companies for your blog theme.
- Genesis Framework is required when you use any genesis child theme (it is not an actual theme). There are a lot of genesis child themes out there and I learned that most themes I liked were genesis child themes. However, I did not realize when you buy themes, some of them come with the Genesis Framework included. Be sure to do your homework first and be careful not to spend the $59.95 for the framework if it is included when you purchase your theme.
- Creative Market is a marketplace for designers to showcase all of their designs. They have anything from blog themes to fonts, to photos!
- Evangeline Theme: Of course I have to give a shout out to my theme. I knew the exact layout I wanted my blog to be but could only find parts of what I wanted in themes, but other parts were missing. I was adamant about having a feature slider at the top and a section where I could welcome my guest. Also, I wanted to be able to upload my own header, customize my footer, and my blog to look good on any device (desktop, tablet, or mobile). When I found this theme, I knew the search was over, and I was so happy :-). It is $50 and does NOT include the Genesis Framework so make sure you grab that before downloading the theme. As far as installation goes, it was a no brainer. The tutorials and instructions walked me through how to do everything in order for my site to look just like it displays. This theme is setup for Mailchimp, so if you are using ConvertKit or Drip, you will need to skip the step for the Genesis eNews Extended plugin.
- Etsy: There are so many talented designers on Etsy that offers themes for sale.
- Pretty Darn Cute Designs themes are feminine WordPress themes and most are eCommerce ready. They range from $50 – $75. You can demo each theme and most have several different layout options to choose from. Pretty Darn Cute Designs themes are genesis child themes and will therefore require the Genesis Framework. The framework is NOT included with their themes and will need to be purchased separately. Click here to purchase, download, and install Genesis Framework.
- Restored 316 are also feminine WordPress themes that are great for any entrepreneur or blogger. They range from $50 – $75 and you can view a live demo for each theme. Restored 316’s themes require the Genesis Framework because they are all genesis child themes. The framework is NOT included with these themes and will need to be purchased separately. Click here to purchase, download, and install Genesis Framework.
- StudioPress is a great resource for themes. They have a variety of themes to browse through and range from very simple to very complex. Depending on what look you are going for, you can filter the style of the blog (business, eCommerce, magazine, etc.) and choose between one, two, and three columns. The price range is between $100 – $200 per theme and most includes the Genesis Framework (if you are going with a genesis child theme). The best part, you can demo each theme and gain an inside view of what your blog could look like.
Email Marketing Platform
- ConvertKit is the best! I absolutely love it! I initially used MailChimp because it was free and highly recommended by a lot of people. However, once I really got into blogging and learning more about what I needed in order to actually make money blogging, ConvertKit won me over. Also, I realized that most professional bloggers use and recommend ConvertKit or Drip over any other email marketing platform. Again, I am not a tech savvy person and ConvertKit was much easier to me than Mailchimp. They have plans starting at $29 per month and the cost was totally worth it to me. My email opt-ins look so much more professional and takes me less time, with less headache. They also have this really cool plugin that allows you to put email opt-in forms anywhere on your site with just a few clicks. To top it off you can change the opt-in form for each post so it doesn’t look weird when you have a How to Price your Products Calculator opt-in on a How to Start a Blog and Quit Your 9 to 5 post. Seriously, take a look at the two different opt-ins on these pages to see what I’m talking about! I cannot say enough great things about ConvertKit…so if you are serious about blogging for a living, don’t’ waste time using a free email provider now and having to convert to ConvertKit later. Get it from the beginning so it will save you time, frustrations, and from losing your subscribers in a transfer.
Free Images that YOU CAN USE!
- Ahhhh! I remember being so scared to use any image that was not mine when first starting out! However, through tons and tons of research I learned there are images out there (that look way better than my own) that I can use, for FREE :-). There are some rules and guidelines, so make sure to read and follow those as closely as possible. The last thing you want is to use someone’s image and have to pay them at a later date for not having permission. I have listed the websites below that I like to use for images. You can search through the images on these sites and filter out what you are looking for. These images are free to use. Double check the license on each image to make sure you do not need permission to use them. Also, I take a screenshot of each image I download and save it so I can have proof of where and when I downloaded and the permissions at that time.
Graphic Design and Customization
So what do you do after you find a picture that is perfect for your post? You add words to it so you can use the image for social media. How else are you going to get traffic to your site? You need to make sure you have shareable images on each post so others will share your hard work and drive traffic to your site. I’m not talking about images that can be shared, I’m talking about images that people will want to share because it resonates with them.
- PicMonkey is the main software I use when creating images. It is easy to use and the best part, it’s Free! They do have an option to upgrade to premium plans ranging from $4 – $10 per month. The premium plans include additional features and tools. For now, the free plan works well but I will be purchasing a premium plan soon so I can use the additional tools.
- Canva: It is a bit more robust but just as easy to use as PicMonkey. Canva is also free, but if you want to use a particular font, effect, or feature that is not included in the free package, you can purchase it for $1.
- Fiverr: If you have never heard of Fiverr before, it is a remarkable tool to have under your belt as a blogger. Projects begin at $5 and you can have just about anything customized to your liking. Can’t figure out how to add widgets to your blog, need a logo designed, business cards designed, someone to post on your social media sites, proofread your content before going live…you can get it all and so much more with Fiverr. The best part, it will not break the bank!
- Etsy: Etsy is a great resource for logo design and business cards!
- Grammarly is an automated proofreader that will scan your writing (or should I say typing) for any errors. It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations. The lasts thing you want is to spend days on a post to have someone click off of it because there are too many errors. Some people find it hard to look past the errors to get the true purpose of what you are saying. Others find it hard to trust what you are saying if there are too many errors in the text. So make sure to not run people away from your post or blog because of this little mistake. They offer plans from $12 – $30 a month. However, they also have a free browser extension and this is what I use :-).
Keyword Research Tool
- Long Tail Pro: If you know anything at all about SEO and blogging, you know long tail keywords are a necessity. Long Tail Pro is a software where you can find the best ranking keywords with Google searches and the competitiveness for each of the keywords. For example: you want to find what keywords to use for your new post Make Extra Money with Paid Surveys. You plug this into Long Tail Pro and it will score the keyword searched from 0-100. The lower the number, the less competition you will have, therefore giving your post a higher ranking in Google. They have three different plans ranging from $25 – $100 per month. I do not recommend purchasing this if you are just getting started to help keep cost low. However, once you see an income, I suggest you invest in a keyword research tool.
- Jaxxy: I have heard so many great things about Jaxxy, I decided to give them a try and really liked what they offer. They have plans ranging from $19 to $49 per month. They also have a free-trial where you can get your first 30 searches for FREE. This is what I tried. The best part, they have an affiliate program once you’ve signed up (even for the free trail) where you can receive 10 free searches for every person you refer.
Social Media Growth
- Pinteresting Strategies eBook: Pinterest can become overwhelming when you begin to learn what it takes to drive traffic to your site. I really did not use Pinterest much before I started blogging but I understood the concept. However, utilizing Pinterest when blogging or trying to make money, is a completely different world. Thankfully, I found a great eBook called Pinteresting Strategies that really helped me understand what I needed to do to get the kind of traffic I wanted. It does take time and is not for everybody because it is manual pinning. Yes, that’s right, you do it yourself. Don’t worry, I listed another option below if you are not up for it or do not have the time. But if you are anything like me, you want to try and save as much money as you can. This eBook is different than most everything you hear so it is definitely a curve ball in the Pinterest strategy world. I devoured this eBook and continue to re-read it as I implement my Pinterest program. I highly recommend it if you are trying to save money AND have the time to devote to manual pinning. It is a one-time fee of $32 but in my opinion, totally worth it!
- Tailwind is the #1 recommended Pinterest and Instagram scheduling app out there. If you are new to blogging, you will hear this word thrown around A LOT! It is a great tool to have and will make life a little less stressful when trying to figure out marketing strategies. I highly recommend Tailwind if you either do not have the time or do not want to take the time to devote to manual pinning and posting. It is fairly inexpensive. If you sign up for the monthly plan it is $15 per month. If you sign up for the yearly plan (I recommend monthly until you decide you are sticking with it) it is $9.99 per month. Tailwind offers a free trial that you can do in the beginning to give you a better idea if it is something you want to continue.
- Facebook Groups are very important if you want to grow your reach. These groups are such a huge benefit because not only can you post your blog posts to their daily threads (make sure you follow each threads rules) but they answer so many questions. To find Facebook groups to join you can search Facebook or purchase McKinzie Bean’s Traffic Trajectory as she has put together a massive list for you!
- Pinterest Group Boards: These are just as important as Facebook groups. You can really grow your reach with this and get your pins in front of thousands. Make sure you follow each boards rules on how many pins you can pin each day and how many of other’s pins you should re-pin. For example: 1:1 means to re-pin 1 other’s pin to every 1 pin you put on the board as your own. I suggest trying to get approved to join at least 50 group boards that are relative to your niche. You can do more but 50 is a really good start. Make sure you watch each board to see if it is benefitting you. If you are pinning other’s pins but they are not reciprocating and you really are not gaining anything from that particular board, then you should not waste your time. You can spend more time on another board and will be better off. There are several ways to find Pinterest group boards. You can search for anything in your niche and choose the boards option (make sure it is a group board before asking to join). You can request to join Facebook groups that list group boards like: Pinterest Group Boards. There are also others who have put together lists of group boards like the Traffic Trajectory. McKinzie has put together a list of 150+ Pinterest group boards, Facebook groups (with their daily promo days), 200+ sites accepting guest posts and 150+ high-quality blogs to comment on to help grow your brand! You can also join my Pinterest group boards if you would like:
I personally use both Pinteresting Strategies manual pinning and Tailwind so that I have a larger reach. I usually schedule about 30 pins a day through Tailwind and manually pin 20 pins everyday. Also, Tailwind has this neat thing called Tailwind Tribes. This is a great way to share your pins for others to re-pin. Even if you sign up for the free Tailwind trial, you can continue to use the Tribes for free, so there is no reason to not at least sign up for the trial! To find Tailwind Tribes visit: The Pinterest Tailwind Tribes Group and Tailwind Tribes for Pinterest.
Recommended Courses and Resources
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy.