Readers often ask for my recommendations and advice on blogging, so I decided to put all of my favorite resources in one place. Some of them are affiliate links, some are not, but they all come with my personal seal of approval. 🙂
In fact, right now you can get an incredible bundle of over 80+ top blogging ebooks and courses for just $97. Go check out what is included in the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit and you’ll see what I mean. You’re sure to recognize some big names and courses that are on your wish list!
I started my self-hosted blog with hosting by Bluehost. Bluehost is the #1 recommended host by WordPress.org. They have 24/7 support which we have taken advantage of. They also have aSetting up a site with Bluehost is fast and painless with this step-by-step tutorial.
We registered this domain (and others that we have) through Namecheap. Not only are they about about the least expensive to register with, they offer great support and nice extras like one free year of Whois Privacy Protection. If you are ready to set your blog up now, you will get your domain name free when you go with Bluehost.
I started out my blog with a free WordPress theme, but I was never able to tweak it the way I wanted. The Genesis Framework makes customization simple. It also has excellent security, mobile responsiveness and is set up great for search engine optimization. Check out the Genesis Framework and see what I mean.
Restored 316 Designs
Restored 316 Designs offers beautiful, versatile WordPress themes that are built on the Genesis Framework (you have to purchase Genesis separately). I purchased the Tasteful theme and adapted it to my needs. Check out the beautiful layouts at Restored 316 Designs.
While I do get some of my stock photos from free sites, I am using more and more purchased stock photos. With the popularity of Pinterest, the image that accompanies your blog post becomes so important. Bigstock Photo has a much better selection of high quality images than the free sites do. Plus you don’t have to worry about a dozen other bloggers using your same image. You can get a 14-day no-strings-attached trial of Bigstock Photo where you can download 5 images a day. That means 70 free images!
In the beginning, I used the family desktop computer exclusively, but as time went on, being able to take my work with me became really helpful. After reading lots of reviews and weighing the pros and cons of various laptops, I decided (with lots of input from my tech savvy husband) on this Acer Aspire. I have been thrilled with it! One of the features that I am loving (that I never realized would be such a big deal) is that the keyboard is backlit! I also love that it doesn’t get super hot like other laptops I’ve had. It has good battery life and it charges fast. For under $600, you can’t beat it!
How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul
When I was just starting out my blog, I read Ruth Soukup’s book How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul. It was full of great insights and examples that would be helpful for bloggers of all experience levels. Ruth’s book was definitely worth my time and money.
Elite Blog Academy
After reading Ruth’s blogging book, I knew I had a lot more to learn from her. I was eager to be a part of her first class of Elite Blog Academy. Ruth holds nothing back in this comprehensive course. She offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If your blog doesn’t have serious growth in traffic and income after completing the coursework of Elite Blog Academy, she will give you all of your money back. You can’t lose!
Registration is currently closed, but you can sign up for the waiting list to be notified when the next class opens. You’ll also be able to download a free ebook “7 Surefire Ways to Boost Your Blog Income Overnight.”
Building a Framework
After a successful first year of blogging, Abby Lawson shares everything she learned. Abby is very down-to-earth and easy to relate to. I was in the middle of my first year of blogging when I read her book. Building a Framework is easy to understand and has all the nuts and bolts to get you started with blogging.
A year later, Abby updated her book and added some package options that include awesome video tutorials and expert interviews. It’s like getting a complete blogging course for a fraction of the price.
Growing and Monetizing
I have used several of the free traffic building tools through SumoMe. One of my favorites is Heat Maps that shows you where your visitors are clicking (or not). There are also several tools that will help you build your email list. There are 12+ free tools available. The best part is they are FREE. Of course there are paid upgrades, buy you can do so much with the free ones (I’ve never had to pay).
I started sending out my email newsletters through Mad Mimi. Their free package lets you store 100 contacts and send unlimited emails to those contacts! Their paid plans offer some awesome features and start at just $10/month for up to 500 contacts with unlimited emails . Click on “customize a plan” on the right hand side of the pricing page to see how much it would cost for your current number of followers. You can easily transfer your subscriber list from WordPress or another service.
As my blog grew, I switched my list to ConvertKit. While it’s more expensive than MadMimi, it offers features that aren’t available at the bargain-priced email providers. It has beautiful opt-in forms and landing pages that make giving away a subscriber freebie a cinch. Your list is segmented with tags so that you can easily send emails to targeted lists. It also integrates with services like Gumroad, which I plan to use in the future. So far my open rates are double what they were with MadMimi and the click-through rates have tripled.
After spending lots of time hand-pinning with an intricate spreadsheet, I decided to start scheduling pins with BoardBooster and I love it! I use the random campaigns to pin my own content onto group boards. I use the pin scheduler to pin to my normal boards so that they are nicely spaced out. The looping feature grabs pins that you curated a long time ago and brings them to the front of the board. BoardBooster plans start at just $5 a month for 500 pins, which really is excellent!
CJ Affiliate (previously Commission Junction) was the first affiliate company I joined. I was excited about all of the big brands available that would be easy to promote. Unfortunately, many of the big companies only want to deal with really big blogs and websites, so campaigns are harder to join.
Becoming an affiliate is easy with ShareASale. Although they don’t have as many big name companies as CJ Affiliate, their programs are much easier to get accepted into. Their user interface is very straightforward and useful (not all affiliate network websites are).
No matter what you blog about, you will somehow mention and recommend products available on Amazon. You’ll definitely want to join Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates. The best part is that you make commissions on not just the products you mention, but anything a reader buys after they click on your link within a 24 hour period (or until they click through someone else’s link).
Izea is a “sponsorship marketplace” where content creators like bloggers, get paid to tweet, blog or otherwise interact on social media. After filling out your profile, you will start to see offers that you can bid on. They tell you the minimum and maximum bid for each opportunity. You can make a bid and write a pitch explaining why you would be a good fit for the opportunity, though a pitch isn’t required.
My Blog Income and Other Details
Some of you have been curious about how I make money with my blog and how that income breaks down by monetization type (ads, affiliates, sponsors, etc). I’ve decided to share my blogging details (income breakdown, tips, answers to your burning blogging questions, etc) via email. If you are interested, then please sign up for my Behind-the-Scenes Blogging emails!
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