Advertising Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links (Bluehost, Thrive Themes, ConvertKit, Tailwind), which means that if you choose to make a purchase by clicking on them, I will earn a commission. However, please know that I would only ever recommend products that I have personally tried and loved because I truly want you to succeed! Please see the Disclaimer for more info.
Here is a curated list of blogging resources and tools (many of them are free) that I use and recommend:
Domain & Hosting: Bluehost
Bluehost is one of the largest and most well-known web hosting companies – they host over 2 million domains!
When you sign up for Bluehost, you get a free domain and 1-click Word Press.org install.
By the way, I highly recommend using WordPress.org rather than the free WordPress.com - a self-hosted platform like WordPress.org allows you to maintain control over your blog. You can choose your theme, add plug-ins and sell ads on your website (which you can’t do with a free WordPress.com website).
Another great thing about Bluehost is that they give you a free SSL certificate – so you can have the little green lock that appears next to your website name to let users know it is legitimate and secure. This is especially important now that Google is flagging non-https sites as “non-secure”.
Depending on what type of SSL cert you get, companies typically charge anywhere from $50-$400 a year! But, with Bluehost you get it for free.
They also provide free site builders and 24/7 customer support – which is priceless, believe me! I’ve called many times and their super friendly representatives always help me get things done that I would’ve never been able to do on my own.
Right now, they are offering everything – a domain name, hosting, 1-click Word Press install, SSL certificate, site builders and 24/7 support for as low as $3.95 a month.
If you haven't decided on a domain name yet, you can still sign up and get the deal. Bluehost gives you a domain name credit for when you are ready.
Plug-Ins (Website Functionality & Performance):
Plug-ins are pieces of software you can add to your website that enable it to perform additional functions. If you don’t know how to code (I sure don’t), plug-ins are absolute life-savers.
If you have a self-hosted WordPress.org site, you can choose from many free or paid plug-ins. Here are the ones I recommend:
Google Analytics (free): Allows you to analyze activity on your blog such as how many visitors you are getting, what pages your visitors are looking at and your visitors’ referral sources.
Askimet (free): Comment spam filtering service that will save you loads of time. Up to 85% of comments are spam!
Yoast SEO (free): Assists with search engine optimization so your site can rank higher in search engines like Google.
W3 Total Cache (free): Caching solution that improves your site performance and SEO ranking while reducing page load time.
WooCommerce (free): eCommerce platform that allows you to sell physical products, digital downloads, subscriptions and more.
Thrive Architect/Content Builder (free for members or sold separately for $67): Visual WordPress editor and page builder. Also comes with access to a library of customizable landing page templates. (I even found a perfect template that I used to create my homepage which saved so much time.) See more below.
Thrive Quiz Builder: ($67) See more below.
Theme (Website Design): Thrive Themes
I recommend Thrive Themes for bloggers because their themes are conversion-focused, lightweight, speed-optimized and fully mobile responsive.
Also, certain functions are built into the themes so they eliminate the need for many outside plug-ins like Click to Tweet, Social Warfare, Perfect Pullquotes, SumoMe, Yet Another Related Post-YARRP and WP Smush.
With a Thrive Membership ($19/mo), you get access to all their themes and plug-ins. There are several Thrive plug-ins, including:
-Thrive Architect: Page-builder (for non-coders like me!)
-Thrive Leads: Create all types of opt-in forms to increase conversions
-Thrive Ovation: Display testimonials
-Thrive Ultimatum: Display evergreen countdown timers for your product launches
-Thrive Headline Optimizer: A/B test headlines
-Thrive Clever Widgets: Improve user experience and increase conversion rates
-Thrive Quiz Builder: Make quizzes for your audience to take & increase engagement
-Thrive Comments: Increase engagement and conversions
-Thrive Optimize: A/B test landing pages
All Thrive plug-ins are fully compatible with Word Press and will work even if you don’t have a Thrive Themes theme.
You can buy each one a la carte but if you need at least two of them, you may want to consider becoming a Thrive Member. For $19/month, you get access to all their existing themes and plugins and all the ones they will come out with in the future.
Membership also comes with constant updates, unlimited support and access to Thrive University, where you can access marketing tutorials and webinars to help you grow your blog.
As someone who has no idea how to code and absolutely no IT knowledge/experience, Thrive Architect has been a total life-saver.
*True story: I was once trying to tweak the CSS on my site and wound up literally breaking my theme. I reached out to the support team and they not only restored my theme and created a child theme for me, but they also gave me the code I needed to make the changes I was trying to make in the first place. They are my heroes!!!
Click the link below to get Thrive Architect (formerly called Content Builder):
I also used Thrive Quiz Builder to make all my quizzes for the blog. It was a cinch and the quizzes came out great! With this tool, you can:
Click the link below to get Thrive Quiz Builder:
Email Marketing: ConvertKit
Email marketing is even more effective than social media marketing in terms of driving traffic and conversions. It generates higher click rates, conversion rates and ROI.
With Google and Facebook constantly changing their algorithms, it is more important than ever to have your own email list and not rely solely on social media for marketing. LittleThings, a company that built a huge following on Facebook, was famously forced to shut down because of an algorithm change that cost them 75% of their organic traffic.
If you have an email list, you don’t have to worry about losing all your profits because of an algorithm change. You can reach your audience without relying on someone else’s platform.
Something I have heard successful bloggers say over and over again is that they wish they started their email list sooner and that their email subscribers are pivotal to their success.
I recommend using a professional email marketing service like ConvertKit from the start. With ConvertKit you can:
- prepare your emails in advance and have them sent out to your email list on the dates and times you select
- segment your email list based on their interests and send each sub-list separate emails accordingly (allowing for more targeted offers)
- run A/B tests on different content/offers to see which of them performs/converts better
- get access to subscriber analytics and reporting tools
- avoid spam filters so your emails actually make it to your subscribers’ inboxes
ConvertKit also has excellent customer service and they provide awesome live trainings and workshops. It’s only $29 a month for your first 1,000 subscribers.
Social Media Marketing: Pinterest & Tailwind
Social media marketing helps increase engagement and brand recognition. I love Pinterest as a social marketing platform because it drives free traffic to your blog (unlike Facebook and Google which can get really pricey).
Even when you are just starting out, your pins can go viral or get shared by someone with a lot of followers.
The thing about Pinterest is that to really get some traction, you probably need to be sharing at least 30 pins a day - that's a lot!
That's why I love Tailwind - a pin scheduling tool that lets you schedule pins in advance.
Not only can you schedule hundreds of pins for weeks or even months in advance (saving you from having to do it every single day) but Tailwind also recommends the best time slots for you and your audience based on your account activity!
When you join, you also get to pin 30 pins a month in up to 5 Tailwind Tribes. Tailwind Tribes are groups of similarly niched bloggers that share each other's content. Sharing your pins in them helps to circulate your pins among other people’s (larger) audiences.
I definitely would not have been able to reach over 1 million monthly views on Pinterest without Tailwind Tribes!
*You can also use Tailwind for scheduling on Instagram!*
Google Analytics (free): This plug-in lets you analyze the activity on your blog so you can see things like how many visitors you are getting, what pages your visitors are looking at and your visitors’ referral sources.
Google Trends (free): Enter search terms or topics related to your niche so you can see what’s trending (over a set period of time, usually 12 months) and how it compares to other search terms or topics.
Answer the Public (free): Enter keywords related to your niche and get a wheel of related questions based on auto suggest results on Google & Bing. This gives you valuable insight into what people (and your audience) are searching for.
Pixabay (free): This website contains over 1.4 million royalty free stock photos and videos that can be used for commercial purposes without the need for attribution.
*I get most of the images for my pins from here. I plan on creating a little section for attribution to the talented and generous artists whose pics/vector graphics/illustrations I've used.
Update 12/5/19: This artist is amazing and I have used so many of their vector graphics to create my pins. - https://pixabay.com/users/openclipart-vectors-30363/. They are copyright-free images, but you can donate to the creator by clicking on the "Coffee" button.
Here is another artist on Pixabay whose graphics I love and have used:
Unsplash (free): Search through high quality photos submitted by photographers and curate your own collections.
Shutterstock (free): Over 210 million royalty-free photos, vectors, illustrations, icons, stock video clips and music tracks.
Canva is a free resource that allows you to create things like downloadable content upgrades, eBooks and pins for Pinterest.
There are a ton of templates and graphics to choose from and they have a super easy drag and drop editor.
You can resize, add filters and adjust the brightness on photos and even create your own logo. I love Canva and use it to create all my pins for Pinterest.
-Upload pics and get HEX codes
What I Used to Create & Sell My
I recently launched my first e-book + workbook, Conquer Overwhelm & Prevent Burnout.
Here are some of the tools I used to create & sell it on my WordPress/Bluehost website:
That’s it for now! I will keep updating this list as I find more awesome blogging resources and tools.
Last updated: 4/7/2020
Sign up for exclusive access to the Freebie Library (a regularly updated collection of free downloadable content) and updates from the blog.