WANT TO START YOUR OWN BLOG?
Whether you’re 17 with a passion for food or 97 with a passion for life, starting a blog is really easy to do.
It’s also incredibly exciting – it’s your platform to talk to the world about something you love.
But whilst starting a blog is really easy, creating the foundations for a successful blog involves a few more steps more than just getting setup a WordPress, writing a post and hitting Publish.
So I created this page to save you time, by putting together a list of recommended blogging resources that will help you build the foundations of a well designed and efficient blog from start to finish.
Ready to get started?
To start a blog, you’ll need a blogging platform. I recommend using WordPress.org.
Not only is it the standard choice of most bloggers today, it offers the greatest flexibility in terms of how you can scale and grow your blog going forward. WordPress.org also offer the widest choice of plugins (add ons that allow you to do cool things on your blog).
To use WordPress.org you need to be self hosted. So your next step is to choose a hosting platform.
If you’re just starting out, I thoroughly recommend Bluehost as a hosting platform. Not only can you install WordPress.org at the click of a button as part of their signup process, Bluehost also offer 24/7 support and extremely affordable rates (as low as $2.95 a month).
I’ve started all my blogs with Bluehost and they’re pretty much the number 1 budget choice for bloggers.
At the start Bluehost works just great, but as you gain more traffic from your site, you may want to move to a host that offers plans for larger sites. Recommended ones to check out are:
Siteground – I’ve heard really great things about Siteground & many bloggers praise their support & uptime.
WP Engine – WP Engine are WordPress experts and offer hosting specifically designed for WordPress websites. As a result they are more expensive.
Your WordPress theme is essentially the design behind your blog and what makes it look good.
There are literally thousands of themes out there, but whether you choose a free or a premium theme, always opt for a theme that is regularly updated. The last thing you want is a badly designed template that lays your blog open to hacking. You also want a theme that is optimised for mobile devices (most are these days).
Personally, I use, love and thoroughly recommend Studiopress as a premium theme option.
It’s the go to choice for most WordPress bloggers and I can’t say enough good things about them. I played around with other themes before using Studiopress and really wish I hadn’t.
I’ve found Genesis a breeze to use; their themes are extremely well written, built with speed and SEO in mind (exactly what you want) and their support is excellent.
I run this blog on the Genesis framework by Studiopress in tandem with the Foodie Pro theme.
If you’re new to blogging and want to keep things super easy, you might want to check out the new StudioPress Sites. It’s an all-in-one WordPress website builder, that comes with a choice of themes, hosting, advanced SEO functionality and 1 click installation of recommended WordPress plugins.
RECOMMENDED WORDPRESS PLUGINS
Plugin add extra functionality or whizzy features to your blog. Too many plugins can slow down your blog though, so choose them wisely. Some can also be a bit glitchy, so I find it pays to read reviews before installing a new plugin. Plugins I recommend, so you have the basics covered when starting out, include:
WP-Spamshield: Filters out spam (you’ll get lots without this plugin).
Yoast SEO: An essential plugin for helping you get the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) right (even if you don’t have a clue about SEO!)
Social Warfare: The best social sharing plugin I’ve come across.
Easyazon Pro: If you plan to be an Amazon affiliate, you need this plugin. It will make you more commission & save you time. I nearly went bonkers copying & pasting Amazon links into my blog – this plugin does it for you.
WP Smush: Great plugin for automatically compressing your images, so they don’t slow down your blog load time.
EMAIL MARKETING SERVICES
One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make (including me) is not starting an email list early enough. Unlike social media and Google’s complicated ranking systems, you have complete control over your email list. It’s yours and yours alone. It’s also the easiest and most immediate way to engage with your audience (even more than your actual blog).
Here are recommended email marketing platforms to check out:
Convertkit: Fast becoming the go to email marketing software for professional bloggers, I can’t say enough glowing things about Convertkit. They offer fantastic, friendly support and excellent training resources. Best of all, they make creating an email opt in form an absolute breeze. What took me hours with other platforms, took me 5 minutes with Convertkit.
Aweber: Loads of bloggers love and are very loyal to Aweber and they are a little cheaper than Convertkit. I started with Aweber, but personally just found Convertkit easier and quicker to use.
Mailchimp – a popular option as your first 1000 subscribers are free – after that though, costs can go up quite steeply. However, if you’re on a tight budget, Mailchimp can be a good place to start.
ESSENTIAL BLOGGING TOOLS
When you start out blogging, it’s tempting to get sucked into a tonne of whizzy blogging tools. I almost guarantee though; this will get overwhelming and distract you from what’s important – your blog content.
So I recommend you keep things simple and start with the following:
Google Analytics: Essential free tool for tracking your web traffic and statistics. You can’t realistically grow a blog if you don’t know how much traffic you have and where it’s coming from, so get yourself set up with GA. There’s a good tutorial on how to easily setup Analytics on WordPress here.
Google Webmaster Tools: Google’s free search console is another great resource for helping you optimise the visibility of your blog.
Research suggests you have around 8 seconds to grab someone’s attention. Eek! That’s not long. Great content is ultimately what counts, but using compelling images on your blog can really help you get noticed.
If you don’t plan to take your own images, you’ll need to find photos that you have permission to use. This generally means using a free stock photo site such as Unsplash. The shots on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (this basically means you can use them for free) and the quality is excellent.
Recommended Reading: 9 Incredible Free Stock Photo Sites Like Unpslash.
If you want more choice and consistently high quality photographs, you’ll need a paid stock photo site. Here are a couple of good options:
ingimage – features over 4 million quality images, with value that is hard to beat, especially if you are a high volume user.
Dreamstime – one of the top stock photo sites around, Dreamtime is more expensive, but it boasts 61 million high quality stock images. (Also offers a free photo area, if you want to check this out first, although the shots aren’t as good as the paid ones).
Having a ‘go to’ image editor is an essential part of blogging. It allows you to size your images consistently, easily compress file sizes and carry out tasks such as adding text or effects.
These are my go to image tools:
Photoshop CC: The number 1 image editing software offers everything you need to get the most out of your digital photos. Used to be super expensive, but the Creative Cloud subscription plans have at last made Photoshop affordable to all (yea!).
Pixlr: It won’t do what Photoshop can, but if you want a reliable free photo editor, Pixlr does the job really well.
SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS
Social media can be time consuming, so if you’re new to blogging, I don’t recommend trying to grow all your platforms all at once. So where do you start?
Pinterest is generally the best place to set your sights initially, as it can be a huge source of traffic, especially if you have a blog that relates to women (over 80% of users on Pinterest are female).
These tools will help you get the most out of Pinterest:
PicMonkey: Photo editing, collage making and graphic design software. Hugely popular for easily creating stand out Pinterest graphics. There’s a free version, but you get a lot more with the affordable paid option.
Canva: Similar to Picmonkey, with less photo editing opportunities, but more pre-made templates for Pinterest and social media in general. Free and paid versions.
Boardbooster: In my opinion, you should always aim to manually pin some stuff on Pinterest, but using a scheduler such as Boardbooster will make your life a lot easier & save you a tonne of time. A scheduler essentially automates the pinning process. With Boardbooster your first 100 pins are free. Plans start at just $5 a month after that, so it’s incredibly cheap for what it does.
Tailwind: A popular alternative to Boardbooster.
Further Recommended Blogging Tools
I also use and highly recommend the following tools for making blogging just that little bit easier:
Evernote – a great tool for brainstorming blogging ideas, taking notes and writing your blog posts.
Coschedule Headline Analyzer – my first blog posts had *ahem* terrible titles. Use this cool headline analyser to generate post titles people with pzazz.
Grammarly – free browser extension for Chrome & Safari that checks your grammar. Useful tool if you’re not too hot on ‘spellling’!
Monetising Your Blog
Learning how to monetise your blog is a huge area, but if you’re starting out, the following can be a good place to start:
Google Adsense – allows you to easily place adverts on your blog. You’ll get a small commission each time someone clicks on one. Personally, I recommend using the ads sparingly, so they don’t detract from your actual blog content.
Amazon Associates – make money by recommending Amazon products on your blog.