I have been blogging now for more than 10 years and I have gone through the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to what works and doesn’t work.
I wanted to share with you what works for me, what I have used in the past and what works for my website now. If you have any item you would like to see on this list, please be sure to let me know. I will keep this list updated over time.
I have used two different blog platforms over the years and it really depends on what kind of website you want. I use Blogger if someone is wanting a really basic website with little cost. But, Blogger is very limited to what you can put on it. I do visit very large bloggers who still use Blogger though. My main concern is, you can’t backup Blogger and you are at the mercy of Google since they own Blogger.
I highly suggest using WordPress as a blog platform for anyone who is wanting to do so much more with design and to be able to use plugins, have a shopping cart, ease of design, etc.
Right now I am using A2 Hosting for my WordPress host and couldn’t be happier. They are very reliable and support is great. I use the Swift shared web hosting package.
Another good host is SiteGround. Many of my blogging friends use this host with no complaints.
You will need to pick a domain that will be easy to search for with Google and make sure it’s not already taken. I believe this was the hardest thing for me to do was to choose my domain name. Try to make your domain name less than 16 characters so you can use that name on all your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram.
I host my domain name at GoDaddy and also my websites email address. You don’t want to have the same host’s hosting your website and your website email address just in case one host goes down.
If you are looking for a domain name, use NameCheap to help you out with that chore.
There are so many different themes out there for WordPress and it’s really a personal preference when it comes to design. I would highly advise when you do pick a theme, make sure it’s regularly updated to keep up with WordPress changes.
Along with WordPress, I use Genesis as an Industry Standard Design Framework that makes WordPress easier, without sacrificing power or flexibility. I wouldn’t have a WordPress site without having Genesis as the Framework.
The theme I have on my website now is called the Divine Theme by Restored 316 Designs. I have used a couple of her designs and have been so pleased with them. Easy setup, affordable and great support.
One premium theme provider is StudioPress. I have used their themes on a few WordPress sites I have made for others. They have great support when needed.
StudioPress also offers a full package of hosting and themes which give you:
- Industry Standard Design Framework
- WordPress-Optimized Performance
- Advanced SEO Functionality
- One-Click Install of Included Plugins
- SSL Certificate through Let’s Encrypt
- Automatic WordPress and Genesis Updates
- Zero “Hosting” Hassles
- Rock-Solid Security
- World-Class Support
One other item I have found important for any blog to have is a Media File. Especially if you plan to work with brands and sponsorships. I got my media file HERE at Bold Stationary. A.J. has a very nice collection of media kits which you customize with your colors, logo and information.
Need a logo made, email signature or any other graphics? I have used Fiverr several times for these smaller jobs and always at a great price.
Writing Your Post
I write my posts within WordPress visual text area of each post. It does automatically back up your post, just in case your electricity goes out, etc. But, it’s also good practice to write your posts in Google docs or somewhere else you can save your work.
Open Live Writer is like Word for your blog. It allows you to create blog posts, add photos and videos then publish to your website. You can also compose blogs posts offline and then publish on your return.
I set up my upcoming posts using the Editorial Calendar plugin. Its perfect to plan out weeks or months in advance.
While I am writing, I use Grammarly to show my spelling and grammar errors. Grammarly really works well when you go back and update old posts. Before you publish your post, check out your headline at Coschedule Headline Analyzer.
All the hard work you put in your posts, you want to keep. Not let someone else copy your words and your pictures. Use DMCA to help protect your work from plagiarism and content thieves. You will receive monthly email reports, a photo watermark maker, protection badges, etc.
I use BlogVault and couldn’t be happier. Their backup system is made to use with WordPress. My daily backups have saved me a couple times when I needed to go back and restore a previous version of my blog’s files. Their support is great!
- Daily Automatic Backup
- On-Demand Backup
- One Click Auto Restore
- One Click Migrate
- One-Click Staging Set Up
- Automatic BackUp Validation
- Manage Plugin, Themes, and Users
- 90 Days Back Up
- Personalized Support
- Encrypted Cloud Backups
Updraft Plus Free is also an option plugin but you will have to store your backups somewhere else like A3 through Amazon. Read here about comparing the Updraft Plus free and Premium versions of plugins.
Carbonite – I use this for backing up my computer. I do have an external hard drive for some items, but I have so many pictures and other items I don’t want to lose. If there was a fire, my external hard drive would not be backed up.
Favorite WordPress Plugins
When using plugins with WordPress it’s a good idea to always check to make sure the plugin has been updated and that the support is being offered. A bad plugin will cause your site to go down if it hasn’t been updated to be used with the latest version of WordPress.
Listed below are the plugins I’ve had on my site for quite some time now and trust.
- Yoast SEO – helps with site SEO, XML Sitemap, and more
- Login Lockdown – stops brute force attacks
- GM Block Bots – stops backlinks which are spammy
- TinyMCE Advanced – text editor with lots of options
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – track analytics through Google
- WP Rollback – roll plugins back to the previous version (a lifesaver saver)
- Duplicate Page – when I have a post with a lot of SEO settings and pictures that I use over and over Ex: Linky Parties
- PopupAlly – allows you to build your email list as people are about to exit your website
- Social Warfare – maximize social shares and drive more traffic to your site. I love this plugin! Doesn’t slow down your site at all. Very customizable with Pinterest images, custom tweets, sharable quotes, etc. I like that I can add my Pinterest and Facebook images = with a description of them. I can add a Tweet to my blog post. You can see how many people have shared your post on your social buttons on the post. I have noticed much more social interaction of my posts since I installed Social Warfare.
****Always backup your site before adding or updating any plugins****
CDN & Security
I would not have a WordPress website without these two services. Attacks against web servers are growing all the time.
I use CloudFlare for my CDN (content delivery network) provider. It speeds up my site and its reliable and is a free service.
I also use CloudFlare for my WAF (web application firewall) provider. It protects your website from common vulnerabilities attacks. There is a monthly fee to use this service.
When it comes to site audits, I only recommend MaAnna at BlogAid. She is an expert I trust with my website. When I first contacted her, I was struggling with my website in many ways. She will work with you in a manner you will understand. She also did my https conversion.
Photography + Video
When it comes to photos for your website, there are so many choices out there. We live in a very visual world and there are several ways to present your photos. Sponsors love clear and beautiful pictures for their products.
My camera equipment consists of my Canon T6s, Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4, and EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens. This camera will also take videos, so no need to buy another piece of equipment. You would need a larger SD card will make sure you have enough space for all those video clips.
I use the 50 mm lens for most of my food and craft shots on my blog. It’s a great lens to start out with that won’t break the bank.
Other items I use:
You can read a more detailed post on how I use all my photo equipment.
Photo & Video Editing
- Canva – I do the majority of my blog’s graphics for social media here. EX: Hero, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Their templates are great. There is so much to use for free at Canva and they do offer $1.00 photos and graphics.
- Photoshop & Lightroom – I do pay a $9.99 a month subscription through Adobe Creative Cloud. Lightroom is such a great program for editing RAW pictures and also from your cell phone.
- Filmora – A really user-friendly video software at a great price. I use this often to make videos for my blog posts and Facebook.
- Creative Market – Where I find graphics, mockups, and fonts. Sign up for the newsletters and you will receive free items to download every week. They also have so many bundled items at a huge discount.
- Craftsy – A great place to find classes to learn how to use your camera and software. I took Basics of DSLR and Essentials for Lightroom which I can always go back to review. Craftsy often has sales where you can get these classes for less than $15.00.
Here is a list of websites I use for free stock photos. Canva also has some free stock and some for only $1.00.
Social Media Tools
When it comes to getting your blogs posts out there, sharing sponsor posts or affiliate links, it just makes sense to use a social media scheduling service. Helps save time for you too. Most will share to different social media.
Post Planner – I use Post Planner to share all my evergreen posts. I always have my best posts sharing on Twitter at all times. I have the $9.00 a month plan for 100 posts per day.
Postcron – I use PostCron for all my affiliate tweets and for other tweets I only want to show a few times. They have a bulk loader which is really easy to use. I have the $12.00 a month plan for up to 200 pending posts.
Statusbrew – waiting on affiliate confirmation – I use Statusbrew to tweet my seasonal posts. The Free version only allows me to schedule 10 posts. They offer bulk publishing, unfollow/follow actions, multiple content recyclers and great stats. They charge $25 a month if you decide to use their paying plans.
BoardBooster – I love the simplicity of using BoardBooster and the price is half of Tailwind for my Pinterest shares. It helps manage Pinterest accounts by automatically spreading new pins over ideal pinning hours.
Later – I use Later for scheduling Instagram posts. Download your picture, add your comments and schedule. You will need to upload the Later app to your phone. When its time for your scheduled Instagram post, you will receive a notice. You will then send it to your Instagram app and your comments are on the clipboard to copy and paste with your picture. I use the Free version, which gives me 30 posts per month. They do have a Pro version if you need more posts. You can also use Later to schedule other posts, but I just love it for Instagram.
Tailwind – I used Tailwind before I changed to BoardBooster for all my Pinterest shares. There are several extras and it’s really easy to pin a lot of scheduled pins.
Hootsuite – Another good social sharing device that I have used where you can mange all your social media. There is a free version for 1 user with 3 accounts.
MailChimp – The email service I am using now for all my automated newsletters. I did use Fiverr to have my RSS template set up for $10. Just do a search for RSS newsfeed campaigns for MailChimp. I have a campaign which is automatically sent out every weekend with my past week’s posts. I will send out random emails, but I love the automatically sent emails. I am on the Free version of MailChimp since I am still building my email list. I also use Gmail for all my miscellaneous emails for my blog.
ConvertKit – When you are ready to advance your needs in emails, ConvertKit is your next choice. They offer more perks for your emails. Landing pages, great autoresponders, different email lists for different campaigns, etc.
Mail Munch – I love this plugin. I use it at the top of my website to grab new email subscribers. Easy to set up and format to look like your website. You will also receive an email with the number of new subscribers.
After having a blog for awhile, I really needed help keeping organized. Here are the items I use the most when it comes to planning ahead.
- Evernote – I love this little app. I can grab so much from the internet to save for blog post ideas and other items I may want to view months from now. I love how I can put different items in folders and use on more than one device.
- Google Drive – A great place to save your pictures, PDF’s, and any other item you can save online to use where ever you are.
- Google Calendar – My best friend for every appointment I have for my desktop and phone.
- Streak – Great way to manage an event you have going on with your blog in your Gmail account. I use this for giveaways to help keep up with the emails I need to send out, the forms and other items. I use the free version.
- Google Keep – Great app to remind me of items I need to do that I don’t put on my calendar. It does syncs with Google Calendar and will notify me on my phone app.
- Google Docs – If you don’t have Microsoft Office, check out Google Docs to do all those items for you.
- Google Forms – Where I make all my surveys and forms for giveaways.
- Google Analytics – The best free tool available for your blog. This tool gives me a deep look at my blog traffic. So much information you can learn about your blog there.
Sell Your Products
Selling products on your website or using another source is a great way to earn extra money. I have learned over the years, that you need multiple ways to earn money while blogging.
WooCommerce – When I had a shop connected to my blog, I used WooCommerce plugins for that. It worked perfectly for your storefront.
Society 6 – I now use Society 6 to host my graphics products so I don’t have to store inventory. Easy to use and your earning is a percentage of the actual price of the product.
Redbubble – sharesale
SendOwl – SendOwl allows you to sell digital goods online. Many bloggers use this program to sell their ebooks and online courses. You can also set up affiliates for those who advertise your products.