Oh, blogging. What do I say about something that has completely obsessed me for an entire decade, allowed me to discover my love for writing, introduced me to amazing friends, and given me a source of income so I am forever ruined from having a 9-5er.
How freaking amazing is it that introverts and creative people can go ahead and make things to post online that other people want to read, and you can make a living from that or just connect to people who have the same values and ideas and thoughts as you? That is amazing.
I could ramble on forever, and probably will in a future post, but in the meantime if you want to know which blogging tools and resources I use, I will tell you. Warning: there are a lot, because blogging is a lot. I’m going to work on a blogging quick-start guide, because I want everyone to start a blog, and I want to make it easy.
For now, read on my friend:
When I start a new site (which happens more than I care to admit), I’ll use Bluehost because they’re cheap and easy, which is also how I like my men hot diggety BOOM!
If I deem a blog worth growing, I switch to TechSurgeons to handle all the extra traffic and whatnots that a bigger blog needs.
I use WordPress and only WordPress for my blogs. I have been tempted in the past to maybe poke around Squarespace, because it’s so prettttty over there. But then I remember that WordPress is so much more easy to tinker with under the hood and control all sorts of little details. And I’m a blog control freak, so I stick with WordPress.
As far as themes go, if you’ve been around the blogging block at all, you will know that Genesis themes are where it’s at in terms of speed, clean coding, and SEO friendliness. That’s why there are so many people who design child themes for Genesis.
Although I know very little about coding, I can imagine that designing a child theme for the Genesis platform is like being a fashion designer for someone with a perfectly-proportioned body. I am so pleased with myself for coming up with that analogy.
Plugins are what make WordPress so darn tootin’ fun. If you want to tweak something on your site, and don’t want to hire a developer to do it, there’s a plugin for it!
The brilliant, amazing, wonderful thing is that most of these plugins have great instructions, or you can just google the plugin and there will usually be someone with a Youtube video showing you exactly how to use them.
My current favorites:
Akismet – thank you for squashing so much spam for me, Akismet.
Easy Social Shares – this is a crazy freaking social sharing icon plugin and I love it. It’s $20 and well worth it.
Tasty Pins – Pinterest is always the main social media platform to send me traffic, and Tasty Pins lets you specify your pin description for each image, including hashtags. It also lets you add in secret images that will show up when someone goes to pin from your post!
WP Recipe Maker – I like this recipe plugin, and so do a lot of bloggers I know. It’s easy to use, looks good, customizable
Yoast SEO – if you have a blog, you probably already have this plugin. If you don’t, then get it! It makes optimizing your posts for SEO a breeze.
Genesis Simple Hooks – This is a must-have for adding extra items onto your website in places your child theme might not have spaces for. Does that make sense? Example: if I wanted to add a little ad for my book at the end of each post, I could put that in the genesis_entry_footer section. Here is a visual guide to where the hooks will show when you add them to this plugin.
This is me blogging on my green retro typewriter. Oh, wait. No it’s not- it’s a free stock photo I found on Unsplash.
Unsplash – is my favorite place for free royalty-free stock photos, but make sure you realize that everyone likes free, so you’ll likely see lots of other people using the same photos you choose.
Creative Market has lovely photos, most between the $5-10 range, which I love because I don’t want to pay an ongoing subscription fee like a lot of stock photo places offer. Blech.
Mailchimp – I’ve tried Mad Mimi and MailerLite, and they’re fine, but I always end up going back to MailChimp. They’re so good. Easy to understand, you can set up templates and use them every time or even have them just auto-send out your new posts. Plus, they’re free for your first 2,000 subscribers. YASSSSSSS
Ecwid – This is a seriously easy shop to set up on your site, and it’s FREE if you have 10 or fewer products to sell. Right now, I have about 5 digital downloads for sale on my Craftwhack shop, and I don’t have to do a thing to maintain it. The download link is sent right to the customer as soon as they pay.
Shopify – is freaking awesome. Plans start at $29 a month, so make sure you’re going to start off with more than 1 or 2 items to sell. They have a bunch of beautiful store designs to choose from, they’re easy to set up, have awesome customer support, you can sell digital and physical products, oh, I need to just write a separate post about them.
Social Media Scheduling
Smarter Queue – I LOVE SMARTERQUEUE. I have tried so many social media schedulers, and they’ve all been non-intuitive, too costly, or offered a thousand extra bells and whistles I did not need.
Smarterqueue gives you the ability to have your evergreen posts continue to circulate, you can post one-time posts, and you can save sources you know you share from a lot. Plus. More.
Tailwind – Smarterqueue is working on their Pinterest game, but until then I will use Tailwind. It’s what all my blogging BFFs use, and you can schedule a millionty bazillionty pins on there, plus join pinning tribes so you can all share each other’s pins.
Be careful, you’ll want everything you see. Like these fontsooooooooooooh! FONTS
Amy Lynn Andrews Useletter – so good, so good. Her Saturday newsletter is a must-subscribe for all sorts of blogging-related info.
Conferences – conferences are fun, but super pricey. Make sure you actually want to learn some stuff or network your butt off. Networking = connecting with other bloggers and brands.
There are a ton of blogging conferences available, so I would ask questions in message boards and read up on them to see what you think the best fit is.
Online Workshops – Smarty farty smart people like Kelly Holmes and other bloggers have courses that always get raves. There are also blogging and online business classes offered through places like CreativeLive that you can take from amazingly successful experts in their fields. I adore CreativeLive.
Podcasts – I adore Darren Rowse of Problogger. He’s been around since the beginning of blogging, and he’s still a great source of inspiration. Smart Passive Income, Online Marketing Made Easy are good podcats. Again, don’t go too overboard consuming information without putting it to good use!
FB groups – there are sooooo many Facebook blogging groups. I’m in Bloggy Buddies, but have cut a lot of other ones because of how easy it is to spend all my time in groups and not working on my blog. Use them as a resource, make blogging friends, add in your own value, and they are great resources.
Organizing it all
I keep lists of everything in Trello: post ideas, links to courses I’ve purchased, design info. about my sites, random ideas, etc. I can link easily from Trello to Google Drive where I keep my blog post drafts and anything I want in spreadsheet form. It’s all free! Free and organized!
Compiling all of this information makes me realize how obsessively I’ve researched and played around with billions upon trillions of tools and providers. It all boils down to what you’re comfortable with, and what you’ll actually use.
I’ve paid for so many tools that I thought were going to make my blogging life simple as pie, but ended up costing a lot and offering me FAR more options than I needed as a single blogger. Luckily, many have free trial periods where you can test them out and see if they feel right to you.
Ya might be out of blogging ideas after reading all of this. Sometimes it doesn’t take much… here is my list of 30 unique topics to blog about! Yay!