My blog contains links to products and services I promote, and if you buy, I receive a commission. It’s not enough for an iPad, but I can get a large Caffè Americano every day if I want. These links don’t cost you anything, but they mean the world to me because they allow me to continue running this blog and provide free content to my readers. See the Affiliate Disclosure.
After building hundreds of blogs over the years, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I’ve tried everything under the sun and dumped what just wasn’t working for me.
These products are what was left.
Hosting Your Blog
Of all the hosting companies I’ve used over the years, two have proven they are the best at what they do. Depending on if you want blazing speed, great support, or a low price, pick one of the following:
I have used SiteGround for years because of their superior support, focus on security, and blazing-fast servers, and have suggested to many of the businesses I have built blogs for that they sign up. WordPress.org loves them, and so do I. I even wrote “A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up A Blog with SiteGround Hosting.” You will never go wrong with Siteground.
I don’t usually suggest shared hosting, but I needed cheap hosting quickly for this blog, and NameCheap was there for me. I have been so impressed by them that I have continued to use them. Support is delightful, and for shared servers, they are speedy. I got a 99% on the speed test from Google with NameCheap, and if it’s good enough for them, I will continue to be a customer. If you want inexpensive hosting that checks off all the boxes, go with NameCheap.
NameCheap is also the best place to register your domain names.
The Best WordPress Themes
If you want a fast-loading blog that looks great, you need to buy a professional-class WordPress theme, and there are only two places I go to get one.
I’ve been using StudioPress themes for quite some time now, and whenever I want a professionally-coded and fast theme, I get one from StudioPress.
Many of the themes I buy some from Envato. They have so many professional themes; you are bound to find one that is exactly what you are looking for. I’ve always been happy with the WordPress themes I’ve bought from Envato, and I will keep going there in the future.
First and foremost, I have to suggest a plugin that has changed the way I look at SEO and blogging. I am not an affiliate for them, but this plugin is just so fantastic that I can’t help but insist that you add it to your blog. Not only does Yoast Seo check to see if you are following SEO best practices and help you set your meta settings to get the best rankings you can get, but they help you set everything up with Search Console in the beginning. I can’t say enough about this plugin.
The need for extra security measures on your WordPress blog is proven, and I have tried many different plugins, but the one I always go back to is iThemes Security Pro. There are so many different variables you need to be aware of when it comes to security, and iThemes makes sure you know about them and configure them correctly. You can even set up Brute Force Protection in one step!
Don’t wait until you miss out on traffic opportunities to set up Google Analytics. To get all your stats right in the WordPress admin, you have to use Monster Insights.
There is always a need for a form on your blog, and the easiest way I found was to use WP Forms. This plugin is especially great for beginners because they walk you through, step-by-step creating a form, and placing on a page. I use it because it’s just so darn easy, and it does what I want it to do.
The two plugins, Revive Old Post and Revive Network help you share old posts that don’t get much love anymore and help you build up your circle and network by sharing posts in your niche or area of interest. Revive Social is a must if you want to get more traffic from your older work.
A mailing list is one of the most important things you can’t overlook when building a blog.
When you think of email marketing, you always hear about that other guy, but you should take a look at the features of AWeber’s email marketing system. You will be surprised and delighted by what they have to offer.
Social media will be an essential part of your marketing, and it helps to have a few tools to help you along.
Pinterest may be the most crucial part of your social media arsenal. Using Tailwind to schedule your pins is so much easier and much more effective than manual pinning. Since I started using Tailwind on my blog, my traffic from Pinterest has tripled! Do yourself a favor and use it.
I’ll mention the two plugins, Revive Old Post and Revive Network again because they help you share old posts that don’t get much love anymore and help you build up your circle and network by sharing posts in your niche or area of interest. Revive Social is a must if you want to get more traffic from your older work.
You need unique stock photos and illustrations for your blog, and sure, you could use a free service like Unsplash, or Pexels, but you have to know that everyone else will be using the same photos for their blog. You need to set yourself apart!
If you need royalty-free stock photos, vectors, or videos, there are 149 million files available on Deposit Photos. You are sure to find unique and compelling artwork and images to make your blog pop!
Scopio is a stock photo service that bills itself as more diverse, affordable, and authentic than other sites, and by the look of their images, they are not wrong. You can get a lifetime of Scopio images for only $29.
Creating Blog Graphics and Pins
You will need to create graphics for social media and your blog, and if you don’t have Photoshop skills or Photoshop money, you need alternatives.
Canva is an excellent tool for creating all kinds of graphics, from logos and blog banners to YouTube thumbnails and Pinterest pins. Canva will take care of it all.
Maybe you don’t want to create your own graphics, or you have no idea what makes a great logo. Get one of the Fiverr Pro professional graphic designers to do it for you. All services start at just $5!
Here are a few things that help me build and manage blogs that I know will help you as well.
I’ve had an Office 365 yearly subscription for a few years now, and I couldn’t live without it. Word is like my right hand, and the 1TB OneDrive cloud storage is the best. I use it for everything, and it alone is worth the price.
I also have Dropbox because I like to have backups of my backups. Dropbox is great, and you can get up to 3TB of cloud storage.
I just started using FreshBooks after using the other big-name accounting software for a long time. Freshbooks is so much easier to use, and it is super powerful!
What Else is There?
What would you add to this list?