Every blogger has a list of tools that help them make what they do possible. Over the past few years of blogging, both there on Two Kids And A Budget and a private family blog I run I have found a few things that work best for me, and many that don’t. If you’re new to blogging some of these suggestions may help you out as well. Want to know how to start a blog without spending an arm and a leg? Then check out my post How To Start A Blog On A Budget.
Graphics And Tools
PixaBay – Is full of stunning high-resolution images, vectors, and drawings. These images are free to download and use anyway you want without attribution in either digital or printed form. The site is easy to use and organized nicely which makes things super easy to find. All of the images on my blog, excluding the photos I have personally taken, come right from PixaBay.
PicMonkey – A simple photo editor program for the non-techie person like yours truly. It has an easy to use interface with all the features you’ll need to do some basic editing. There are several free features to get you started, PickMonkey also offers some pretty amazing and affordable features as well. The Royal Features cost just $33.00 a year or $5.00 per month. Purchasing the Royal Features was one of the first investments I made in my blog and am so glad that I did.
Canva – This photo editor is very similar to PicMonkey. The main difference between the two programs is the ability to high quality stock photos for a $1.00 each. There are even a few photos you can use when utilizing this program. With Canva you also have the ability to upload your logo and have it at the ready to place on a graphic whenever you need it.
GIMP – GIMP is a free alternative to Adobe or Photoshop and has a lot more features than either PicMonkey or Canva. There is however a steep learning curve for this program, thankfully there are lots of tutorials on YouTube that can help guide you through the various aspects of the program and what you can do with it.
Every blogger has their own list of must have WordPress plugins they can’t live without, and you will get a huge variety of answers as to which you should or shouldn’t use based on who you talk to. The plugins I’m mentioning below are the ones I find most helpful, but you will have to experiment with them and decide what works best for you and your blog.
Akismet – This is a must have plugin, and most bloggers would agree. Without this plugin you will quickly be bombarded with all kinds of spam, so much so that you will spend all of your time trying to get rid of it. As of today this plugin has blocked over 12,400 spam comments and 121,332 malicious log in attempts. My site has never been hacked, and I have never been over run by spam thanks to this plugin.
Comment Luv – This simple plugin allows bloggers who leave a comment on your site to leave a link to their last post under that comment.
Easy Recipe – This plugin is easy to use and allows you to write your recipe with their program. It will then format it nicely into your post with a photo and it lets readers print the recipe in a way that will fit nicely on their printout.
Editorial Calendar – I use this plugin as a way to help keep me organized at a glance. This plugin lets you start a blog post in WordPress and schedule them for a specific date no matter how far in advance. The calendar view lets you see each post and when during the month you have it scheduled to go live. The nice thing about this plugin is that if you don’t have your posts completed to schedule them and if they are not ready to go live you can move them easily. Or just use the calendar as a place holder for ideas, this is something I have done on several occasions.
Pin it Button for Pinterest – This is the plugin that allows you to put a “hover” button for Pinterest over your images. Whenever someone moves the mouse pointer over the image a pin it button will pop up allowing your viewer to easily pin your image to their board of choice.
WP Smush – Once installed this plugin automatically reduces the image file sizes, which in turn helps to improve your blogs performance and boost your SEO. Best of all it’s FREE!
Yoast Word Press SEO – I consider this to be another must have plugin. It easily allows you to create posts that are SEO friendly and takes the work out of the confusing SEO tactics every blogger needs to know.
MailChimp – is a simple email marketing system that is great for the novice and those just starting to build their list. It is completely free until you’ve accumulated over 2000 email subscribers. After that you can upgrade as your list grows. I have also found several great tutorials to help me learn the in’s and out’s of MailChimp and have found it easy to use.
Building A Framework: Everything I Learned My First Year Of Blogging – Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog wrote a great e-book on how she build her blog and turned it into a profitable business that contributes to her families bottom line. Abby breaks down the steps she took to build her successful blog and shows you how to implement them yourself. Both beginning and more experienced bloggers can find useful information within these 170+ pages.
How To Blog For Profit Without Selling Your Soul. This gem of a book was written by Ruth Soukup from the blog Living Well Spending Less. She has a great story on how and why she began blogging back in 2010. In her book she teaches you how she turned her blog into a business and shares exactly how she did it. I have read this book more than once and seem to always pick up a new tip or idea that I missed the first time around
Real Mom’s Making Real Money Blogging At Home In Their Pajamas. Stephanie O’Dea got her blogging career started as a way to keep herself accountable to a New Year’s resolution she made. Her book is described as being part memoir and part how to. She talks about what she did to grow her popular blog on a free platform. This is a great starter book for someone wanting the basics of what blogging is in a simplified manner. It is a short book that you can breeze right through in a couple of hours.
If you want to learn more about starting a blog of your own, check out my post How To Start A Blog On A Budget.
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