After blogging for the last 4 years I wouldn’t call myself a pro but I don’t feel like a rookie anymore either. There has been a lot of trial and error and the use of different products and services on my site: https://www.1905farmhouse.com/. I wanted to share my favorite blogging tools for beginners for anyone wanting to start a blog as a hobby or a business.
Before starting my blog I tried to do as much research as I could on how to start a blog, I ended up on Pinterest to find resources and kept a notebook of all the information I found. The most important thing for me was that I wanted to own my content on my own website. So you might ask what does that mean? I am only familiar with WordPress but if you host your site on wordpress.com you don’t own your site if you host on wordpress.org you do.
Basic Blogging Tools for Beginners
I started hosting my site through Bluehost and I would highly recommend them for anyone just starting. I had no issues the entire time I was with them which was up until just recently (August 2019). I am now hosted through SiteGround, I made the switch because my 3 years was up with Bluehost and I wanted to try something new. There is a lot of talk out on the Internet about Bluehost and problems with hosting through them. And as I said before I had no issues with them and would highly recommend them to anyone just starting out as they are very affordable (usually under $5 a month for hosting).
Now I will say that trying to move your site from one host to another is NOT easy if you are trying to do it yourself. I chose Siteground’s GrowBig plan which is still very reasonably priced but I did have some hiccups trying to get it all transferred and up and running. I forgot to transfer my SSL certificate (this is your security certificate, the https instead of http) so my site was un-secure for about a day where my website traffic tanked because of it.
Once you have your hosting set up you will need to set up your domain name, which is the name of your website. You will need to pay to own your domain and keep it active as someone else can take it if you let it expire. The nice thing is that whoever you choose to do hosting can also be the one you sign up your domain with. For example, Siteground and BlueHost can be hosting and domain. Another option for the domain is GoDaddy or HostGator.
The next step will be to get your site set up with WordPress or any of the other website building platforms out there (Wix, etc.) I have only ever used WordPress so I will only be talking about my experience with them. With WordPress, you will need a “theme” when you first start. Think of the theme as the way your site looks (for the women think of this like makeup or an outfit). There are several free and generic options already built on WordPress when you set it up and you could definitely use one of these to start out. When I first started I found a very affordable theme off of Etsy and used this for about 6 months before switching to one from Angie Makes, which has great and affordable feminine themes. I even had to contact their customer service and they were very helpful and I would highly recommend Angie Makes for anyone just starting out.
However just recently, I switched to a theme from Bluchic, I was searching for something with a specific look and Angie Makes did not have the functionality I desired.
Blogging entails sooo many different aspects. And there is no right or wrong way, in my opinion, to start a blog or begin blogging. Through my experience, I believe anyone can start a blog as a hobby or as a business. It just depends on the time and money that you want to put into working on your website. I am definitely not an expert as I said before but here are some other resources that have helped me and that I continue to use:
Helpful Business Blogging Tools for Beginners
Email Service Providers
Mailerlite-Email service provider, I was with MailChimp for about 2 months when I first started and it was just not very user-friendly for me so I switched to Mailerlite
ConvertKit– Email service provider, I recently switched to ConverKit after wanting to have some better functions than Mailerlite was able to offer in the form of landing pages
As mentioned above I started with BlueHost and now use SiteGround
Plugins are add-on’s that can help manage different aspects of your website without you having to know a lot of computer code. Some plugins are free and others are paid. These below are ones that I find helpful.
Tasty Pins-This is a plugin that is managed by WPTasty, it helps to add Pinterest descriptions, Pin-It buttons and a hidden pin image on each blog post. A little backstory: you use to be able to use the ALT TEXT field in a picture on WordPress to put your Pinterest description and Pinterest would pull this information when your picture was saved but that ALT TEXT field is really designed for a detailed description of the image for Google to help describe images to sight impaired individuals.
They also make a plugin for food bloggers to help with recipes and testimonials from those who have tried the recipes. All their plugins have a cost but they are very affordable for the functions they provide.
Another helpful plugin that will cost is Askimet, I believe this is 100% worth it, this plugin is designed specifically for WordPress and will block spam comments on blog posts. You would not believe the amount of spam and bots out there trying to post inappropriate comments, links and ads. This plugin costs less that $15 for one site and again I highly recommend it.
There are hundreds of thousands of plugins that are available out there and each are designed to do specific things on a website. But it is important to note that plugins can slow down a website load time, so your user experience may not be as great if you have a lot of plugins.
Here are several other ones I recommend that are Free options, before I install a plugin I always like to read the reviews and check to see when it was last updated as this will tell you if it is maintained by the owners to be compatible with your version of WordPress:
- Pretty Links-this allows you to turn any link into the specific words you want to use, for example I have an affiliate link with several sites and instead of listing out the entire website I can create a pretty link that is my website name/affiliate (www.1905farmhouse.com/amakersstudio). If you use this for affiliate links though you will want to read the terms of service (TOS) for that affiliate program as some do not allow you to “cloak” a link which is what pretty links is doing essentially.
- Google Analytics-This is FREE and highly recommended to set up a Google Analytics account and it will have you install a plugin on your website, this tracks your pageviews, what pages people look at, and other statistics about your readers
- Yoast SEO-Yoast has a paid and FREE version, this plugin is designed to help with your search engine optimization (SEO) for your site, so this will determine how well your blog post is written and how it will do with the keyword you have chosen
Tailwind-This is a scheduling tool that I use to schedule my pins to Pinterest. I don’t have the time to spend on Pinterest everyday to get my content (blog posts) out into the world and it is nice to be able to use Tailwind to schedule these. I do pay for this program but it is well worth the cost. And if you use my link above to sign up they will give you a $15 credit. It can also be used for Instagram scheduling.
As you may have noticed in these days the majority of websites have ads on the sidebar, pop-ups or other in content ads that are displayed as you scroll. This page will have them as well as I have ads on my site
This is a personal preference and not required at all but it is another revenue stream for a blog if you choose to have ads. Now the majority of people will start out with Google Adsense as they are the easiest ad network to join as you don’t have to have a minimum pageview amount. I started out with them and more recently moved to Monumetric as they have a better payout option than Google. But I was only able to join Monumetric because I had over 10,000 pageviews a month.
There are many other ad networks out there, some of the most popular are Ad Thrive and Mediavine, both of which require a large amount of minimum page views before you can join.
Last but not least I am going to talk about educational resources for blogs. There are many online courses out there, free and paid teaching #allthethings about blogging. I have taken several online courses over the years, some I have started but never finished and some I have finished and gone back to learn new updates when they are added.
Online education is going to be a personal preference for you but I highly recommend taking some courses if you intend for your blog to be a business. If your blog is your business, think about it as if you were a doctor, or nurse or other professional who takes classes and education early to keep up with current recommendations. I am a firm believer that one never stops learning. And there are some courses that I have paid hundreds of dollars for because my time is worth something. A lot of the information that is taught in online courses can be found on the internet via YouTube, Google search, etc but I believe the time it would take you to do all this research is better spent implementing and getting your blog out into the world. And therefore I am happy to pay for a course that will give me all the information I need in one spot.
Here are a list of the courses I have bought or taken:
- Elite Blog Academy-this was the first course I ever bought and at the time it was around $900, it was a big expense at the time but I was eager to get started on this blog. Now I will be completely honest that I have not finished the course all the way through, there are updates that come out yearly that I will look at and review. With working a part-time job and other life obligations I just didn’t make the time to finish it but I won’t say it wasn’t worth it. I was able to meet a lot of other people at the first EBA Live conference event and met other mentors and teachers through Ruth that I may not have otherwise found. I would also add that this course is designed for beginners and if you are further along you might find some of the information repetitive. But I will say that the bonuses added each year are well worth the price (the bonuses are usually other courses or resources that you are getting for free)
- Pin Practical Promotions-This is a course all about Pinterest ads and how to use them to increase your revenue, I would say that this is for an intermediate or advanced blogger. (For someone just starting out with blogging and Pinterest I would recommend the website Simple Pin Media, this is a free resource and great podcast).
- Pitch Perfect Pro (and anything Jenny Melrose has!)-I bought Jenny’s course about how to pitch to brands for the blog and after this I joined her paid membership program (Mastering Your Influence). I HIGHLY recommend Jenny and all her amazing content. She has a podcast, blog, was a former food blogger and is just all around a great person. I am currently a part of her gold membership program where she does weekly trainings with a theme each month, individual coaching lessons, a private Facebook group and so much more. I have learned so many nuggets of information from her and her community. I will continue to be a part of her paid community for the future. (And I highly recommend finding a mentor who you “connect” with, someone who’s teaching style and mannerisms you like and who won’t sugarcoat things for you)
- The Product Boss-This is NOT a course for bloggers! This is a course for anyone who sells physical products. I bought this course because I have an Etsy shop and wanted to learn more about all the marketing and options for physical products sellers. So if that is you I would definitely check out Jaqueline and Minna, they have a podcast too that is a wealth of information.
Books and more….
- If you head on over to my Amazon Storefront I have an entire section dedicated to female entrepreneurs, it includes office items and books that I have read and highly recommend