Most of my blog talks about a variety of personal finance situations. But when I was considering becoming a blogger, and then actually taking steps to start, I found resource pages like these incredibly helpful! So here are my top recommendations for new bloggers.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you decide to purchase something through that link. This has no cost to you, and in some cases may give you a discount off the regular price. If you do make a purchase, thank you for supporting my blog! I only recommend products and services that I truly believe in, and all opinions expressed are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimers for more information.
The first thing any blog needs is a web hosting company. Bluehost is highly recommended all over the blogging world. It’s the web hosting company I chose for my own blog. They’ve been around since 2003, so they’re not a new startup trying to make a buck. It’s totally easy to register your blog, and it includes WordPress.org for FREE! Bluehost has 24/7 customer support, but that said I’ve never had any problems with my blog, so I haven’t used their support.
When you register for 1 year or longer, it includes a FREE domain name. That’s a savings of over $20! In addition, Bluehost offers a money-back guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong choosing them as your hosting company.
GREAT NEWS! By signing up through my affiliate link, you can SAVE OVER 60% OFF the regular price! That’s only $3.95 Canadian or $2.95 US per month.
If you’re already hosted somewhere else and are not satisfied, Bluehost will help you switch seamlessly.
If you get your blog hosting through Bluehost, above, then it comes with WordPress.org. This is what you want. WordPress.org allows you to be self-hosted, which means you own the content. I would recommend that you skip right past Blogger, Squarespace, and WordPress.com. (Note the difference between WordPress.ORG and .COM!)
I had used Joomla for my employer’s website, and found it terribly confusing. WordPress, therefore, was a little daunting to me. But I came across this fabulous FREE e-book from iThemes called Getting Started with WordPress. A total lifesaver. This e-book will walk you through how to get started, plugins and themes, widgets, and posts and pages. In no time WordPress.org will be simple and straightforward. This e-book is gold.
WordPress.org is great for bloggers. But it’s also powerful enough for online retailers, large and small organisations, news outlets, and more. It’s open source software, so it’s free and constantly upgraded and improved. There are literally thousands of plugins and themes for you to design a website that is uniquely you. And according to their website, over 60 million people use WordPress!
In fact, I mentioned that my employer’s website is Joomla. They are having it redesigned this year and the new website will be on WordPress. I can’t wait!
That’s really all you need to get started! But it’s not really enough to create content. You have to get the word out, so that you have people read your content!
No one will want to read a blog that is 100% text, without any pictures to make it appealing. That’s how websites looked in the 90s! There are many free and paid websites to find great content.
I frequently use Pixabay as a source of free pictures for my website. But after a few months of blogging, I started to see the same free images on everyone’s blog.
Paid Images and Videos
If you want to stand out from the crowd of bloggers all using the same free images, you need to invest in paid content. The good news is that it’s not expensive! One of my favourite sources for paid images is Shutterstock. By the way, if you have an eye for photography you can easily set yourself up as a seller on Shutterstock and start earning some passive income.
I’m an economist, a bookkeeper for a small organisation, a volunteer treasurer for four public schools (not all at the same time) and treasurer for an amazing youth musical theatre program. I’m generally good with money. And numbers in general.
But I am NOT a graphic designer.
So I decided to outsource my logo design on Freelancer.com, which was the best choice I ever made! On Freelancer, you set up a contest with all your specifications. You choose how much you will pay, and the completion date. Anyone around the globe can submit proposals! I received 42 different logo design proposals for my $50 contest. During the process I made suggestions so the proposals got closer and closer to what I liked and needed. I chose a winner, then I received my logo in a variety of formats. I also asked for the colour codes and font styles from my designer so I can be consistent elsewhere in my look. The whole thing took less than a week. I highly recommend Freelancer! It was such a fun experience to see new ideas every day.
BONUS! By using my Freelancer affiliate link, you GET $25 OFF your first project at Freelancer! Design a website, write an article, data entry, t-shirts, packaging or business card design, and so much more!
Making Pinterest Possible
I admit it, I had not really used Pinterest much before starting my blog.
Thankfully Ana, from The She Approach, has written a handy e-book called Making Pinterest Possible! At over 170 pages, this is packed full of instructions and advice on how to make Pinterest work for you. She even separates the advice into tips for those who are new, and tips for those who have been using Pinterest for a while but want to improve their results.
She walks the talk. Ana shares how in 2018 she got over 80,000 sessions on her blog directly from Pinterest! And that’s while she was a full-time student.
This e-book has been so helpful to me. I’m definitely seeing results. I get more followers every day and I’ve been accepted to a number of group boards. Implementing the strategies she teaches has brought awareness to my brand, increased my followers, and most importantly, sent traffic to my blog. Follow me on Pinterest!
Along with the e-book, you get immediate access to Ana’s Ultimate Resource Library. This includes insider-only content, tons of freebies for bloggers, over 100 blogging tools and resource recommendations, and so much more!
Whether you’re new to Pinterest or have been using it a while, there are concrete examples in Making Pinterest Possible that will skyrocket your following. I would strongly recommend if you’re starting a blog, or not seeing the results you hoped for, to buy Ana’s book. It’s only $35 and you’ll make that back in no time with increased traffic! However, if you’re not quite ready for that level of commitment, you can start with Ana’s FREE online course, Start a Money Making Blog.
DISCOUNT: Use the code “TSA5OFF” to GET $5 OFF the essential e-book Making Pinterest Possible or any of Ana’s other products at The She Approach Shop!
Canva is a FREE online tool to create images. It’s perfect for creating those Pinterest pins I just talked about. You can also use it for designing social media posts and stories, blog images, and so much more. It can even design stationery, business cards and letterhead, invitations, resumes, and other paper products. They have dozens of free templates already optimized for the correct proportions.
Canva includes thousands of FREE images. You can also buy additional images individually, or get a free 30-day trial for their full services. After that it’s US$12.95/month, or US$9.95/month for a 1-year subscription which is a 23% savings.
You can also upload your own logo or other images to include in your designs. You can save your theme colours, too, to reinforce your brand. Canva is highly recommended!
Canva is so easy and fun to use, my 9-year-old daughter has been designing me new images for my blog! Here’s a sample of what she created:
Once you start pinning your images to Pinterest, you quickly lose track of which pins you have put in which boards. You can track this manually, but Tailwind will easily do this for you. In addition, it will schedule your pins to be published exactly when you have the most viewers.
To be truthful, I didn’t like Tailwind when I first started using it. It seemed that it was publishing multiple copies of the same pin each day. Or it was sending many pins to the same group boards.
But now I’ve figured it out! When you are scheduling your pin, click “use interval” and set the time for more than a day. Only then do you click “add to queue”. That will ensure you only publish each pin once a day or with whatever gap you wish. In addition, mix up the order of the boards when you type them into the scheduler. It will initially place them in the order you type. If you forget, you can shuffle them later. But you can’t use “interval” and “shuffle” together because interval locks them into a specific time slot.
You can click my link to get a free trial of Tailwind for your first 100 pins! It’s worth the investment in your blog to upgrade to the Tailwind Plus Program when your free trial is done. They’ve done a comparison of actual subscribers and found that in 6 months, Plus Program users typically get:
- almost 7 times more saves (repins)
- more than 3.5 time more followers
- more than 4 times more pins published
And the results are even better for accounts starting with the fewest followers! That means that Tailwind is perfect for new bloggers. You don’t need to wait until you grow before it works for you.
Instagram with Intention
It seems like everyone is on Instagram. Instagram is a popular and growing way to connect with your audience. Follow me on Instagram!
Hilary Rushford is a lifestyle blogger who offers a FREE Instagram class! I’ve taken her webinar on how to Double Your Instagram Following. She is a passionate and dynamic teacher, who packs a wealth of information into a short amount of time. Hilary has over 225,000 Instagram followers, so this classy lady knows what she’s talking about! She’s also a savvy businesswoman, who can teach you not only how to have a beautiful Instagram, but how to convert likes into clicks to your blog, and then into sales.
If you take the free class and want more, she has a 4-week self-paced course Instagram with Intention. It dives deep into marketing your brand, building your following, and converting likes into sales. Her classes are only offered periodically, so if you don’t see it right away then come back in a few weeks.
Instagram from your Computer
Typically, most people take pictures with their phones and upload to Instagram. But if you’re designing an Instagram post or story, say in Canva, then what? You can email it to yourself, save it on your phone, and then upload to Instagram from there.
But there’s a much simpler way!
You have to use Chrome as your browser, the others don’t work. First, open Instagram and log in. Then switch from desktop to mobile mode. Start by pressing ctrl-shift-I on PC or cmd-alt-I on a Mac. You’ll see a bunch of stuff on the right side of your screen. It looks a bit scary. Just ignore it. This is developer mode. Next press ctrl-shift-M on PC or cmd-alt-M on Mac. Now you’re in mobile mode. If you don’t see the + symbol at the bottom to add an image, then refresh/reload your current page. Click on the + to add an image from your computer, then click “next”. Add whatever text and hashtags you’d like. Click “done”. That’s it!
You don’t have access to all the editing tools that you do on your phone. But if you’ve created the image in Canva then you’ve done all the editing you need. And if you opt for the Canva membership, there’s one-click to modify your Pinterest Pin into a perfectly formatted Instagram image! Or any resizing you’d like.
There are so many things to do when you first start blogging. To be honest, you can’t be on all social media platforms all at once. Focus on your favourite one or two, and then add on over time.
This is what I have done. Even though I signed up on several socials to get my name there, it was only after several months that I really started using Twitter. Follow me on Twitter! This is the social media platform where I feel my niche has a community. Almost friendship.
I am on Facebook, but use it only lightly. All my latest posts go on there, so it’s a great way to keep up with what’s new. Follow me on Facebook!
And that brings me to how to make money. If you’re putting in 20, 30, or 40 hours of work each week into blogging, then you probably hope to earn some income from this.
Most bloggers join several affiliate programs. Then they write about why they like the product or service that the company sells, based on their own experience. If you like that product, click on their link, and make a purchase, then the blogger makes a small commission on that sale. This has no cost to your readers! Many times bloggers can also offer a bonus to their readers.
For example, many of the links I have discussed on this page are affiliate links. I found Making Pinterest Possible to be really helpful, so I feel comfortable recommending it to others. If you would like to buy this ebook, and click on the link above, Ana will give me a small percentage of the sale. And in addition, I can offer you $5 off by purchasing through my link and using the code “TSA5OFF”. It’s a win-win!
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
It’s not enough, however, to just slap Amazon links on your page and hope for the best. You only get paid when someone clicks through your link and makes a purchase.
There is so much to learn about affiliate programs. Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, the well-known blogger from Making Sense of Cents, has written a comprehensive self-paced course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. She earns over $100,000 PER MONTH from her blog, and over half is through affiliate marketing. So she speaks from experience!
Her fabulous 6-module course walks you through all the steps. From finding affiliate programs that fit your niche, to how to promote them to your readers. It includes over 20 worksheets, helpful bonuses, and access to her exclusive Facebook group.
It is easy to follow and gives actionable steps, so this is another highly recommended purchase.
Ads on your Blog
In addition to affiliates, you can also place ads on your website. Not too many, or it starts to look trashy.
You can’t sign up for Google AdSense until your blog is live. Don’t think this is something you can check off your to-do list beforehand. In fact, you should have a fair bit of content and regular visitors before applying.
The ads are chosen and administered by Google to be targeted to your website and your audience. You choose where to locate the ads within the post or page.
The payouts from ads are based on pageviews and clicks, so you’re not really missing out on much income by delaying this for a couple of months when your traffic is low. Based on my experience, I’d recommend waiting a bit. A good estimate is single-digit income per 1,000 pageviews.
Once you get 25,000 sessions a month, you can switch to Mediavine. The ads pay better. I don’t have personal experience yet, but when I get there I’ll update this section.
Sending Emails to your Subscribers with MailerLite
Social media is a great way to promote your blog or website. But social media platforms and Google can change their algorithms without any notice. On the other hand, your subscriber email list is yours to keep!
MailerLite is a totally easy program to use, where you can design beautiful, professional-looking emails for your readers. You can automate your campaigns. Which basically means for me, when someone subscribes using one of my sign-up boxes, they get the welcome email automatically.
MailerLite not only makes beautiful emails, but it is also very powerful. It can be used to create surveys in your emails, create landing pages, automate your email campaigns and more. And best of all, MailerLite is FREE for up to 1,000 subscribers!
Questions or Comments?
I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The 6 Steps in my Money Blog’s Birth Story
- Goals and Income Report: May 2019
- Blog Update: Focus on Blog Traffic