Below is a list of recommended blogging resources that I’ve either personally used (in most cases) or which are highly recommended.
Even though I have had positive experiences with all of these companies and their products, please do not spend any money on them until you have researched them thoroughly and feel that they will help you achieve your goals.
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Tools to Create Your Blog/Website:
WordPress is a free blogging platform. Before you sign up for a new site, you first need to understand that there are two very different WordPress options – one is WordPress.com (where you use the WordPress blogging platform but your site witll be hosted by WordPress) and the other is WordPress.org (where you also use the WordPress blogging platform but you choose the hosting service such as BlueHost, Siteground, WP Engine etc).
The major difference between signing up with WordPress.com and WordPress.org is where your site is hosted (with .org you have more control over your website). Also, with WordPress.com you cannot put ads on your site. Click here to understand the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
I use Namecheap to buy domain names. I bought gingerandscotch.com from Namecheap nearly 10 years ago. You can also buy a hosting package from them as well but I recommend you shop around to see what hosting package best suits your blogging needs.
You can buy domain names with your hosting package but I find that the best options is to buy domain names from NameCheap and then a hosting package separately from a better-suited company. For example, we bought our of our domain names and hosting from Bluehost. But each year, when we renew our Bluehost package, the renewal costs Bluehost to renew our domain name costs twice as much as if we had used NameCheap.
Once you have signed up for WordPress, you can search for free themes or buy themes. Free themes come with no or limited tech support. Paid themes means that if you have any problems or customization questions, you can contact the theme developer for help.
Many premium WordPress themes use the Genesis framework which means that in order for certain themes to be installed on your site, you first need to purchase Genesis for a one time fee of $59.
Think of it as this: WordPress is the engine that runs your blog, but it’s a very ugly engine, so to beautify it you get Genesis to make a frame around the engine and then purchase a “child” theme to wrap around the frame and make your blog look pretty.
There are sites that don’t need the Genesis framework and can be purchased on it’s own. The advantage of having both Genesis and a custom child theme is that you can further customize both the performance and the look and feel of your blog. Click here to download The Genesis Guide for Absolute Beginners (PDF – 1.4 MB).
Restored 316 – WordPress Themes
I fell in love with the beautiful WordPress themes from Restored 316 which runs on the Genesis Framework.
Bluehost is an inexpensive and reliable web hosting service. We’ve used Bluehost to run one of our business sites and have not had any issues so far.
They have different priced plans with $3.49/month for the cheapest shared hosting plan for your website. It’s a good plan to start with and as your website grows, you can upgrade to their other plans.
Tools to Grow Your Email List:
I use MailChimp to manage my email list. It is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. After that it’s $30 per month and up. I’m not doing anything super complicated with my mailing list so I’ve been happy with MailChimp.
One caveat to the 2,000 subscriber number is that if you want to create a sub-list using your exisiting subscribers, MailChimp will use the number of email addresses in that sub-list as part of your total count. So if you have 200 subscribers and you decide to place 50 of those into a sub-list called, “Special List,” then MailChimp will consider your total number of subscribers as 250.
Once I outgrow Mailchimp, two email service providers I am considering are ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. They have different pricing and offer slightly different services in regards to email marketing automation but at the moment I am leaning towards ConvertKit because I keep hearing that they have an excellent user interface.
I use Thrive Leads for the pop-up boxes and email sign-up boxes that you see on my site. It is a one-time fee of $67 which includes unlimited free updates but only one year of tech support (or you can opt for the $19/month for unlimited tech support.) Check out their website for other options.
If you are looking for a free option for pop-up subscriber boxes, check out Sumo (previously Sumo Me). I used them previously but it slowed down my website considerably so I switched to Thrive Leads.
Tools to Jazz up Your Blog:
This is a great tool for online photo editing. You can edit images (resize, sharpen, brighten, etc), create collages, add text, textures, and borders to photos and much more.
There is a free version that gives you basic editing options and also paid plans.
This is my favorite online tool for creating images like logos, Pinterest pins. There is a free plan as well as paid. You can save your work on the free plan. The paid option gives you more free design elements, the option to save transparent PNG files, upload your brand colors, and much more.
Tools to Maximize Your Productivity:
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that can help you schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more. There is a free plan with limited options as well as paid plans starting at $10 per month. I was using the free plan for a while but you are limited to only 10 posts per social media account. I upgraded to the paid plan so that I could schedule my social media content 3 months in advance.
You can use Buffer to schedule content to your social media channels over a period of time so as not to flood your readers with a bunch of links at one time as well as to schedule out all your marketing content at one go for the next couple of days/weeks/months.
Meet Edgar is another social media scheduling tool. It does not offer a free option and the cheapest plan is $49 per month (but you can get one month free if you pay for one year upfront). There is a free 2-week trial period.
What’s makes MeetEdgar a powerful tool is that you it can reshare your content over and over again based on a schedule that you control. With Buffer, you have to manually re-buffer any shared content. I have not used this tool but cannot wait for the day that I can finally afford the monthly cost.
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