If you've just started with your own self-hosted blog it's time to start growing it. You can't do everything yourself, you need help.
If you're a one-person band, you need a handy list of the best blogging tools you can access whenever you need them.
And NOT just any tool. Tools that will help take your WordPress blog to the next level. I've compiled a list of essential tools for bloggers that will help accelerate your blogging success.
These blogging tools will help you grow & manage your self-hosted WordPress blog, so you can focus on providing great content to help you stand out as the expert in your niche.
While you may think it's possible to do this on your own without any tools. Ask yourself, "how much is it worth to find a great tool that allows me more freedom, makes my life easier and.... You fill in the blank for what you want from the tool.
As I come across more blogging tools that help me grow my own blog, I will add them here.
Just Getting Started
If you're just starting your own self-hosted blog then you can start with the bare minimum until you start earning money. I've shared the tools that I believe every beginner should start with.
I know that you might be tempted to start with a free blogging platform. Don't make that mistake and be sure you start with a self-hosted blog.
This is where I purchase all my domains. NameCheap domains are reasonably priced and the renewal fees are reasonable. Don't overpay for your domains
Many registrars will offer a huge discount for your first year. Then you're sticker shocked when the renewal comes up.
If you start using NameCheap from the start, you won't have to worry about transferring your domain to a new registrar.
My personal blog is hosted on the GrowBig plan on Siteground. I migrated from HostGator and can say I am very happy with my decision.
I understand money can be tight when you're first starting out. However, SiteGround enables you to get a blog up and running quickly without overspending.
If you do sign up with them, I would start with either the Start Up or Grow Big plan. This will allow you to get your blog up and running and start growing it.
Once your blog starts getting more traffic, you can then decide if you want to move it to a different hosting account such as WP Engine.
I believe every blogger should start their blog on a self-hosted WordPress blog. Download WordPress here.
WordPress makes it easy to create your brand and grow your following. Ask any successful blogger and they will tell you that the best thing you can do is start your own blog on a self-hosted blog.
Free platforms are for people who don't truly want to build a brand or business with their site. Plus I teach people the techie side of blogging on a self-hosted WordPress site.
So get started with a self-hosted site and then view my tutorials to get started with your blog. Learn more about how to install WordPress in this step-by-step tutorial
I started this blog on a self-hosted blog from the get go. Learn precisely step-by-step how to start a self-hosted blog.
If you're new to WordPress, you can use my step-by-step tutorials to help you learn WordPress and grow your new self-hosted blog.
The easiest way to learn WordPress so you can manage and grow your blog, follow my WordPress Tutorials.
Themes To Consider
Start your WordPress blog on a solid foundation. This blog uses the Genesis Framework and I love it.
Don't make the mistake of starting on a free theme. Start build your blog and brand on a solid foundation from the start. This will save you time, money and headaches in the long run.
With tons of different themes to choose from, I know it can be a challenging decision. I use this theme for my own blog.
No matter which theme you choose from make sure that it has:
- A solid foundation you can build your blog on
- SEO optimized to make your job easier
- Is easy to customize
- Is optimized for speed & gives you fast loading times
- Is well-coded with customer support
As long as the theme you're using matches those criteria, then you are building your WordPress blog on a solid foundation.
This page builder makes it extremely easy to design a site without having to know any code.
My clients love it because they can make changes to their own sites without having to constantly pay a developer. If you don't want to mess with code but want something that looks great out the gate, don't overlook this page builder.
Another great page builder that I don't mind recommending is the Divi Builder. I've used this builder on clients websites.
The great thing is that you purchase the Elegant themes package and you get access to over 87 themes and plugins you can use to grow your WordPress blog.
So if you're looking for a page builder, you can't go wrong with this one.
WordPress Plugins For Beginners
Social Warfare: This plugin makes it easy for people to share my content with the click of a button. One of the biggest mistakes I made with my first blog is ignoring social media. For some reason, I neglected jumping onboard. This is the social sharing plugin I am using on SusanVelez.com
This time around, I am actually learning how to make the most of social media. I love it when people share my content. I also love sharing other people's content.
If you want people to share your content, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
I use this plugin for my personal blog and I absolutely love it. Read this tutorial on why I use Social Warfare and how to set it up.
Thrive Leads: This plugin makes it easy for me to add different types of opt-in boxes to my blog. I can add Lightboxes, Popups, In-content Links and so much more. You can test stuff out and see which types of opt-ins are converting best for you.
Email list building is one of the best things you can do for your new blog. If you're trying to turn your blog into a sustainable business. You need to use popups, slide ins, and in content links to start building your business.
As a blogger it is important to know what's working and what your readers want from you. While you won't see much traffic at the beginning, I highly recommend you learn how to install Google Analytics from the start.
I recommend starting out with the free analytics from Google. Once your traffic starts increasing you may want to invest in a paid analytics software that provides heat maps and other data to help you understand what your clients are doing on your blog.
If you haven't installed Google Analytics on your blog, check out my step-by-step tutorial that will show you how to get it installed.
You want to ensure your blog loads fast for your visitors. I use the WPSuperCache plugin for some of my clients and it works very well. You're also going to love the fact that it is free.
A slow loading site will annoy your visitors and you will lose them before you have a chance to win them over with your amazing content.
While I am NOT a huge advocate of relying on Google for my traffic. Every blogger needs to ensure they implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the best rankings.
SEO Yoast helps ensure that your blog posts are optimized. Don't overthink this part. Write great content for your readers and focus on promoting it.
If you're using StudioPress, they have SEO built into the theme which makes it easier for you.
Updraft Plus: I used to use the Backup Buddy plugin for this plugin. However, I changed to the Updraft Plus plugin because I'd heard so many good things about it. I picked up the premium version while they were having a Black Friday sale, so I got it for a good discount.
The great thing is that they have a free version you can use. The free version works great and while there are some differences in the premium version, I would still recommend the free version for beginners.
Blogging is hard work, the last thing you want to do is neglect having some type of backup plan. I use the Backup Buddy plugin for my clients.
Regardless of which backup plugin or service you use, it's extremely important to back up your blog on a regular basis. Read this if you need to know how to use the Backup Buddy plugin.
Revive Old Posts
Revive Old Posts Makes it easy to share your old posts without you having to lift a finger. If you're like me, it takes you several hours to write your blog posts.
Just because your old post is sitting in your archives, it doesn't mean that it shouldn't be seen. You have enough to do and can't spend time promoting old content that was written months ago.
This plugin makes it easy to drive traffic and social shares to your old posts.
Social Media Tools
We all know the importance of using social media to grow and network with other bloggers. These tools will help you follow other bloggers in your niche and automate your social media tasks.
You might not want to automate your social media tasks. However, if you're a DIY blogger, that means you wear different hats in your business. You're the writer, designer, networker basically you do everything for your WordPress blog.
These tools will help you grow your WordPress blog so you won't feel like pulling your hair out.
Feedly will help you keep track of posts from the blogs you follow. You can organize the blogs by setting up folders or categories.
Set it up anyway you choose, just follow your competitor's to see what's working for them. You can also use Feedly to help you get ideas for your next blog post. The best part is that it's free to use.
Smarter Queue: I recently switched from Buffer to Smarter Queue. I have only been using it for a few days, but overall, I believe that it is definitely going to be my favorite social media content scheduler.
The main reason that I switched is because the Awesome plan on Buffer only allowed me to pre-schedule 100 posts. I stay busy creating content upgrades, videos for my YouTube channel, blog promotion, plus writing content for my blog.
I don't have time to keep filling up my social media calendar every week. With Smarter Queue, I can add 500 or more posts from other awesome bloggers that I can set up to share automatically. I can then to post at the times that I want.
It took me 2 days to set everything up, but I won't have to worry about touching it again for weeks or months. Not to mention that it will loop my personal content over and over without me having to lift a finger.
If you're just starting out with social media and need something that is easy to use and doesn't cost a lot, I highly recommend Smarter Queue. If you're on a tighter budget then you should consider starting with Buffer.
Either way, it's critical to get some time of automation set up for your social media accounts. You can't grow your blog if you're trying to do everything manually.
So pick one and start using it. The great thing is that you can always try something else if you find something better.
Tailwind: Has definitely cut my learning curve in half of how to use Pinterest to promote my blog posts. I am still new to Pinterest, I started my account in November. However, it is quickly becoming one of my biggest traffic sources as I continue using it.
I use TailWind to help me automate my pinning. It's reasonably priced and helps you grow the traffic to your WordPress blog, without you having to spend hours on the site.
Tip: I fill up my TailWind schedule with 2-3 weeks of pins, this allows me to focus on writing content for my blog without having to worry about not having something to post.
Tools to Help DIY Bloggers
Every blogger needs some organizational tools that help them stay organized. These are the tools that help me stay on track and keep up with what videos I need to create, what blog posts to write and etc...
It's important to have a system that works for you for keeping track of what you should be working on. This is especially important if you want to grow turn your blog into a sustainable full-time income.
I am a huge fan of Google Drive for organizing my workflow. I can't imagine how I would run my business if it wasn't for Google Drive.
I have my content calendar for my blog set up in Google Drive. I always know what I will be writing about on my blog next.
Google Docs: Allows me to stay organized and keep my content strategy in order. I use it to keep track of what needs to be done on my blog.
If you're constantly pumping out new blog posts, it's important to have some type of system in place that will help you stay organized. Google Docs does just that.
Regardless of how you stay organized while you're building your blog. Find a system that works for you, but don't overlook the ease of Google Docs.
Evernote allows you to take notes that can be shared. You can use it on your mobile phone, desktop or web browser.
Chrome even has an extension that allows you to save clips from the web directly to your account.
Now you've realized there is always something to do. You realize that all you have to do is work on your blog a little everyday and you will reach your goals. These productivity tools will help ensure you stay on track to get things done.
I don't know about you, but I use very strong passwords for everything online. The last thing I want to do is spend several minutes everyday trying to find a password so I can access a website.
Roboform makes it easy for me to keep my passwords organized and secure. The best part is that I don't even have to remember my passwords. It takes care of all that for me.
I use this for more than just a password management tool. I use this to create secure admins and passwords for my blog. Read this if you want to know how I use Roboform to create secure WordPress dababases.
Toggl helps you keep track of where you are spending your time. It helps me keep track of how much time I am spending on certain tasks whether I am working on my own blog or my clients websites.
All you have to do is type in what you're working on and then hit start. When you're done you can stop the timer and it will tell you how much time you spent on your task.
This is great if you have clients you can bill them for the exact time you are spending on their projects. It also helps you monitor how long it takes you to write blog posts, create videos or anything else you are doing to grow your business.
Design Tools for Bloggers
Software I Use For Images
Canva allows me to quickly put together an image for my blog posts, social media or YouTube Channel. It's very easy to use and it is my go-to if I want to create something quickly.
I personally use it for all my YouTube custom thumbnails. I've already got a template set up and I just use that same template over and over, I just change out the description quickly. Some bloggers prefer to use both Canva and PicMoney to help them design their social media images.
Since I create a YouTube video every Wednesday, this makes it easy to create custom YouTube thumbnails quickly. If you want to watch over-the-shoulder tutorials that will help you start, grow & manage your WordPress blog, check out my YouTube channel.
Photoshop is my go-to for all my Pinterest and social media images. I know that I could use Canva, but for some reason I prefer using Photoshop.
I've set up PSD file templates for all my social media images with all the same fonts and my website logo. All I have to do is change out the image I want added to my social media account.
It takes some time to learn how to use Photoshop, but I can't imagine running my blog without it. The downside is that you now have to purchase the cloud subscription. I currently use Photoshop CS6.
Snagit makes it easy for me to capture and add gif images to my blog posts like I did with this post.
This helps my tutorials stand out a little more and makes them easier to understand. It also allows me to quickly capture a screen image and add graphics, text, highlights or blur to an image.
Using CSS to Style Your Theme
I know that everyone does NOT know CSS and they don't want to take the time to use it. There are plenty of plugins and tools that will help you style your WordPress theme without having to learn CSS.
Microthemer: This plugin will help you style your WordPress theme without you having to know CSS. Use this front end CSS editor to help you style your theme, give it a try to free.
Tip: Don't leave this plugin on your blog. Use it to find the element you want to style then put use that element in your own child theme style sheet. I NEVER leave this plugin on my blogs. I just use it to find hard to find elements that I want to style.
Grow Your Email List
It's never too early to start building your email list. In fact, if you visit my blog, you know that's my main focus. I don't care about people clicking on my affiliate links.
I would rather have them opt-into my email list. There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't start building your email list from day one. Don't wait until you start generating traffic to put an opt-in box on your blog.
Thrive Architect has allowed me to build landing pages quickly without having to pay huge monthly subscriptions.
Don't put it off any longer if you haven't start building your email list. This should be your primary focus.
You want to start building your email list from Day one. Don't rely on RSS or think that it's too early to start getting subscribers.
If you're just starting out I recommend starting with the free version of MailChimp. (Just remember they don't like affiliate marketers, so take that into effect).
It's easy-to-use and will allow you to build your email list without you having to worry about monthly subscriptions. The downside is that they don't allow automation with the free version.
You'll need to upgrade to the paid MailChimp account or choose a different service.
Grow Your Blog
Once you've styled your theme and written your some blog posts, it's time to start thinking about the best marketing strategies that will help you grow your blog. Don't spend too much time on styling your blog, you can always tweak things as you work on growing your blog.
You want to get your WordPress blog setup and then you want to keep learning the basics of WordPress so you can manage your blog. The only way your blog is going to grow is if you promote it.
Courses to Help You Learn
Here are a list of courses that I am a member of and have used them to grow my blog. I highly recommend enrolling and start getting serious about growing your blog.
Pinning Perfect Pinterest Course: I took this course because I was extremely new to Pinterest and didn't want to spend months trying to figure things out on my own.
This course will help you develop a strategy to make the most of Pinterest. I am using the strategy I've learned in the course to drive traffic to my blog.
Sometimes you have to be willing to spend money on products or services that will help your blog grow. I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend months trying to browse YouTube videos for free information. I prefer to shell out a few bucks and get everything delivered to me in a nice little package.
This doesn't mean you want to buy every shiny object that comes out on the market. Spend money to help you grow. But don't spend it foolishly!
Last updated on June 6th, 2020 at 05:58 am