There are tons of sites out there telling you exactly what to use to succeed as a blogger. I will not tell you that the services and tools I use are exactly what you are looking for – every blog and every niche is different! So take a look and I hope some of them help you succeed as a blogger!
The end of this page lists all the plugins I use (most of them free). I also created a page outlining how I set my blog up to accept guest bloggers here.
I have nothing but good things to say about BlueHost, who hosts my WordPress website. They are one of the top web hosting companies in 2018, and I signed up with them for just $3.95 a month with a free domain name. See How to Start a Blog or check out BlueHost here.
My only negative about Bluehost is their email front end (where you access and use any email addresses you create linked to your URL). It’s terrible. But, I just linked it to my Gmail so I can receive and send my email there.
If you haven’t heard about Tailwind, it’s a scheduling program for social media. They are a direct partner with Pinterest, and I do all my scheduled pinning through them (in addition to manual pinning). They can also link with Instagram. Not only do you get to schedule all your pins, but you can also join “Tribes” which are groups for repinning from fellow Tailwind users. You can find tribes that match your blog niche (like parenting). There is some pretty good reporting through Tailwind, even providing more detailed info than you can get from a Pinterest business account!
Buffer is a post scheduler for social media. I use the free version (includes 3 social accounts but does limit the number of posts in your queue to 10 per social outlet). So, I use Tailwind for Pinterest and Buffer to schedule Twitter, Instagram and Google+. I do not use a scheduler for Facebook since you can schedule your posts from Facebook directly.
I use the PicMonkey app on my phone to add filters on my photos, then transfer them to Canva to create marketing images (for sites like Pinterest and Facebook). However, I do not pay for their service so it is not available online for me (currently starts at $5.99 a month).
Canva is a great resource you can use to create blog images or marketing images or materials. While they do have a plan for additional features (currently $12.95 a month), you can likely make almost all the images you need with the free version. Please note that with the free or paid versions, some designs do have a cost but there are TONS for free (tip: if a template says you need to pay for it, try removing the stock photo and it may actually be free!).
I use the Thrive Leads plugin (the company is Thrive Themes) for all my opt in forms (email newsletter sign ups). I absolutely love this plugin. Yes, you do pay for the plugin, but it has been well worth the money to me! Not only can you create sidebar widgets, in-line forms, use shortcode to insert your forms anywhere and create pop-up forms, these don’t have to be to sign up for your newsletter! They can also be used to create promos for specific pages or posts. Plus, each and every form you create has analytics on views and engagements.
For my email opt in servicer, I use Mailchimp since it is free until 1,000 subscribers. I don’t recommend or not recommend them. I’m not a huge fan of the email templates they have available, but they are currently the only servicer I have tried.
One of my favorite features is the ability to create unique links to anywhere on your site to insert into your email blast that will hide all your sign up forms from your subscribers (though only if they click a link and only for a length of time you select). But I think this offers a great user experience for subscribers! Check it out here.
Fomo (Publisher) – Ads
I spent 8 months using Google Ads and made $1.76. No joke. And I hate how jarring and intrusive ads can be so I didn’t have many on my site. But, I was told about Fomo (Publisher) that does simple pop ups at the location of your choosing. They don’t cover a lot of content and automatically disappear if not clicked. In my first 2 days of using Fomo, I earned $.58! It doesn’t sound like much, but I have a higher payout with a better user experience for my readers! Check it out here.
Create pop ups to encourage follows or likes on social media (Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, etc) or for your email opt in. It is a paid service (currently $9 a month). Check them out here.
If you don’t have access to an artist (like a Graphic Designer), many bloggers use Fiverr to commission artists (at whatever rate they can afford) for logos and other creative work. It looks like they can also connect you with tech support as well!
Box is a cloud service you can use to save and share all your files. Plans start at just $5 a month!
I use Trello to track all of my tasks for blogging. You can create different boards for the types of tasks you have (for example, I have one for research, content, marketing and affiliates/sponsors). You can have up to 4 boards with the free version (which I use). With the free version, you are allowed one Power-Up for free (add-ons you can use to create additional functionality). I use the calendar option and link it to Google Calendars to view all the calendar items in one place for all the boards. It’s not perfect, but it’s helpful.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (course)
Looking to increase your blogging income? Check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing!
When I was first starting out, I was completely clueless about how to make money blogging (and I’m still learning!). I took this course through Michelle Schroeder-Gardner (whose writing and advice has been featured on sites such as Huffington Post, Forbes, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Zillow, US News, Nasdaq, MSN, and more) that really cleared up a lot of my questions and gave me tons of resources for my blog. Not only is it about affiliate marketing but also sponsored posts, networking for traffic, and what NOT to do to put off your readers (especially if your site isn’t about selling products).
In this course, there are 6 modules, over 30 lessons, over 20 worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful exclusive Facebook group, and more, and she goes through everything when it comes to affiliate marketing!
There are a few plugins I use all the time. These are all free unless noted:
- Akismet Anti-Spam: This blocks spam comments
- Autoptimize: Allows you to easily clean up your site to keep it running smoothly (and fast)
- Broken Link Checker: This continually searches your site for broken links and emails you if any are detected.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP): Connects your Google Analytics and shows you stats on your backend Dashboard.
- Head, Footer and Post Injections: There always seems to be something you are asked to code into your header text. As a non-developer, this makes it easy!
- Pending Submission Notification: As a sight that accepts guest posts, this plugin sends an email when a post is ready for review.
- Pretty Links: Create shortened links quickly.
- Redirection: Although I can now use Yoast for this, this plugin allows you to create redirection URLs if you move or delete a link.
- Shortcoder: Add HTML code in one place to insert wherever you want in your site. For example, I create one affiliate link with html code (a banner ad, etc) and just click the “” in the editing mode of a post and select code to insert (will look like “[shortcode name]”). This has been an amazing tool to use!
- Simple Author Box: As I mentioned, I accept guest posts so this inserts an author box at the end of each post that includes an author name, author image, bio, social links, and blog URL.
- Smush: Automatically compresses images to reduce file size (meaning lowering your page load time).
- Social Warfare Pro: Inserts social share buttons above and below your content. I upgraded to Pro (annual fee) to include more social sharing options (namely a pin with a pin description without using html (data-pin-description) on every image).
- UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore: Does automatic backups of your site.
- WP Recipe Maker: A recipe plugin.
- WP Subscribe: While I use Thrive Leads for opt in forms (a one-time-fee plugin), I do use this in my sidebar as a simple opt in form since you can only have one Thrive Lead opt in per page.
- Yoast SEO Premium: You can get this plugin free (Yoast SEO), but I made the plunge and paid for the plugin for more features. This tracks the readability and SEO of your post or pages, as well as allowing you to update your metadata and social share info for individual posts/pages.
I haven’t listed some of the plugins associated with the services I already listed above this section.
Let me know if you use other resources that would be useful to other mamas!