Along the way as I was developing my blogs, I needed certain features and services, so in today’s post I’m sharing some helpful resources that I recommend for your blog. And, I’m going to touch on Blogger and WordPress because I use both. Some of these on my list will enhance the design and some are for adding additional functions. For example, I wanted an easier way for people to sign up to receive my posts in their email so I created a Mailchimp account and embedded a short form on the blog.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the list!
Mailchimp. Since I’ve already mentioned it, I’m listing them first. Mailchimp is an inexpensive and wonderful addition to any blog. With it, you can: (a) create a newsletter to send to your customers any time you specify; (b) create a campaign that your readers will get your new blog posts in their emails; (c) create sign up forms to place on your blog; (d) create other eBlasts like announcements, events, sales, etc. And it’s free for under 2,000 subscribers! That’s HUGE!
Shareasale. If you have heard about affiliate marketing, then this is a good source to sign up for. It’s free and it allows you to search for merchants who offer their products and services for us (affiliates) to advertise for them. The ads we post when clicked on and a purchase made earns us a commission. You set a threshold amount to earn before you get paid. In my case, I set mine to $50. I suggest when you sign up and begin looking at merchants, find the ones who sell products that you purchase and use. For me, I signed up with companies like Lion Brand, Knit Picks, Craftsy, Leisure Arts because they specialize in crafts, yarns, fiber arts which is my niche. I use their products so I am able to answer any questions. You’re more likely to make money when your customers know you only promote products that you yourself use.
Commission Junction. This is very much like ShareaSale. I don’t use CJ anymore but I wanted to list them here and you can sign up with them at cj.com.
Amazon. I’ve been long time affiliate of Amazon, when you sign up to be an Associate, you get a unique link that you share to promote products on your site. On my blog, I use their native ads where I choose the particular products I want to showcase and I chose my favorite Lion Brand yarns. When any one clicks on my ad and purchases anything, I get a commission. You can also promote banner and text ads too.
Adsense. I admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve used it but it’s still a viable way to earn money promoting ads on your blog. From my understanding, you don’t have access to pick specific ads but they are based (targeted) by the content you share. UPDATE: I tried it out briefly this week and while it did target ads based on my content, it uses “auto ads” and placed them everywhere even in areas I didn’t want them to be like the sidebar. I removed the code and manually inserted ads through my account with Shareasale instead.
And, let me say this about my running affiliate ads on my site: This is just one way that I can earn income which helps me run my blog and online shop. I’ve had to pretty much run both on a $0 budget for awhile last year but that’s kinda changing now as I’m working to monetize my site full time and in order to do that, I have some expenses. So, your purchases are helping a local artist so she can eventually quit her full time job!
Canva.com. I love using this service for editing photos and creating images specifically for the blog but also can be used on social like Pinterest and Instagram. It’s a great alternative if you don’t have Photoshop. However, Photoshop comes with Lightroom for $9.99 a month, not a bad price!
If you’re using WordPress, there’s tons of plug-ins out there to enhance your blog. I would suggest not going crazy installing a bunch because they can slow down your blog speed. My recommendation is about no more than 10 but ensure you really need them and that they’re compatible. Here’s my shortlist and you can find them all in the WordPress dashboard repository:
- Wordfence. The best in security. The developers stay on top of this plugin and I highly recommend it.
- BackupWordpress. You should ALWAYS back up your blog, even on Blogger. This plugin for WordPress will automatically back up your content and database on whatever schedule you set. Then you can download the .zip file.
- Login Security Solution. I like this plugin for keeping unwanted bots and hackers from trying to gain access. Also, you can set a timeout for inactivity in case you use a shared computer.
- Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights. This plugin came recommended from WP Beginner and I love it for the website I maintain on my day job. I really like the stat reports and it gives me all the website traffic information I need to know right from the dashboard.
- WP Meta SEO. I recently switched to this plugin from Yoast SEO and I like it. You can set keywords for every post and page created and it will grade that page to let me know if the keywords I’ve set are weak and need to be tweaked.
- TinyMCE. I like this plugin for allowing me to have a real Word processor in the edit mode. I can change the size of my fonts and add other customizations that are needed.
- YouTube (by EmbedPlus Team). This plugin allows you to embed a video by just adding the URL.
- WP Super Cache. This plugin helps keep your site from getting bogged down.
- Child Themify. This plugin will create a child theme to allow you to make changes to your theme without touching the parent theme. So, when the parent theme gets periodic updates from the developer, WordPress will see your child theme custom changes and install them so you won’t lose all the work you put in to tailor the theme’s look to your taste.
Two more things about WordPress: (1) I would recommend finding a theme that comes with features already so you don’t have to install more plugins. For example, if you know you want a slideshow of your recent posts that animates, then look for a theme that comes with that. If you’re using a theme that didn’t come with a slideshow feature, I recommend Post Slider by WD – Responsive Post Slider (in WordPress plugin repository).
I also look for themes that are responsive, comes with social icons, allows you to customize colors and fonts, have a sticky menu, and allows unique header images per page; and (2) if a plugin hasn’t been updated in 2+ years OR hasn’t been tested in several WordPress upgrades, I highly recommend not installing it because it can cause incompatibility issues with your blog + it can leave your blog vulnerable for hacking.
Be sure to check out this post I wrote last year for a list of great resources, (including where to find top notched photography) a lot of which I’ve mentioned today, but there’s other great tips there too that you might find helpful.