Blogging is *totally* not just “If you write a post, they will come…”
Actually, that’s not true. One time I wrote an ironic post called How Not to Get a Urine Sample from an 18-Month-Old and it still gets traffic… so there’s that.
In addition to just having a blog up, there are certain tools used to get out your message, gain subscribers, sell your products, and earn an income so you can stay at home.
This won’t be everything, but dadgum… it’s a lot.
What You’ll Find In This Resource Guide:
- Hosting and Blog Set-Up
- Choosing a Design (or Theme)
- Email Management and Marketing Tools
- WordPress Plugins
- Photos and Photo Editing Software
Hosting and Blog Set-Up
There are many tutorials on getting set up, and check back again because I may make my own from scratch!).
WordPress is by far the most popular blogging software around. It’s what almost all my blogger friends use and what has the most options to customize, personalize, and earn your family some money.
BlueHost has one-click WordPress installation so by choosing them as your host (my recommendation above) you won’t even have to do it yourself. Just click the button shown in your account, and that’s it—WordPress is up and ready to roll.
Choosing a Design (or Theme)
A few quick thoughts regarding design if you’re just beginning:
- Don’t get too overwhelmed if you’re not a graphic genius. It can be tricky at first, but by choosing a pretty theme (there are tons out there) you can have a beautiful blog without much design skills.
- You can always hire designers to do logos, images, or certain branding elements you aren’t able to do yourself. You can normally find these relatively cheap on sites I’ll list below, so don’t fear your site will look patched up.
- Less is more. If you add too much clutter then the eye gets confused.
The Restored 316 themes are beautiful. Perfect for blogs with “feminine” topics, if you know what I mean. Moms, bakers, artists, and home bloggers will find tons of options here.
Some of the most popular themes for mom and parenting bloggers are on Feast Themes. She also has the option to install and customize it all for you so with a little investment up front, it’ll look beautiful with no headache on your part. I highly recommend her themes.
Pretty Darn Cute
The Pretty Darn Cute themes are lovely feminine and dainty themes that are easy to customize because they’re already beautiful. She, too, has a setup package and will do it all for you in no time so you can just choose what you like and let her take it away!
Email Management (Your List) and Marketing Tools
In my opinion, this is arguably the most important part of the foundation of your blog. You have to get emails or you are going to just be chasing your next “viral post.” It’s unsustainable and ineffective. These tools will help you systematize, organize, and automate your blog processes so you “earn money while you sleep.”
ConvertKit is my absolute favorite email management system. It’s the one I use and highly recommend for quite a few reasons. First, you can label your subscribers based on their interests. So, for example, if you write about natural living and homesteading, your readers can subscribe based on their interests. With ConvertKit you can tag, segment, and create multiple forms and email sequences to provide high value to your readers.
If you plan on creating some products (and you should!) this is the perfect way to tag your customers, those who are highly engaged with your newsletters, and to send people super relevant information. My email open rates are 50% or higher with many of my sequences, and I highly recommend ConvertKit for this reason.
ThriveLeads is an awesome plugin that allows you to give specific freebies to subscribers in different places on your site. So take my homepage at A Mother Far from Home, for example. Here’s a shot of the homepage where I offer free email series for moms based on their interests.
If you click on one of these rectangles and choose your email series, ThriveLeads allows you to create a pop-up so the reader doesn’t have to leave the page to sign up. It only shows up if they’ve already clicked on the email series they’re interested in, as shown below.
PopupAlly Pro is one of my favorite plugins of all time. It helped me go from basically NO email subscribers to 120+ daily. With PopupAlly Pro you can create as many pop-ups as you want and do the following with them:
- Create a different opt in for each category
- Create various pop-ups based on the page a person is visiting
- Make a pop-up that gives the subscriber two choices, so they can answer a question
- Create pop-ups that are not invasive and can be clicked away without having to click an ‘x’
- And on and on
If you’re just starting out I highly recommend it from the beginning. The customization options are endless. I get asked all the time which plugin I use, and PopupAlly Pro is it!
InstaPages is what I use to create beautiful, easy to design sales and squeeze pages. When you start creating your own products (which you will!) you’ll want beautiful sales pages that help showcase your products to your reader. It’s not easy to make a pretty page on your own blog without help… or at least it isn’t for me.
I use InstaPages regulary and for a one time yearly fee, think it’s worth it. That said, I wouldn’t recommend you buy this until you’re ready to start creating your own products.
Plugins are essentially little upgrades to your site. If you write a cooking site and want a pretty way to display recipes… a plugin is your best bet. If you want a slideshow on your homepage… a plugin. These are my Must Haves.
Google Analytics is what helps you keep track of how many visitors come to your page, where they come from, what posts are your most popular, and much much more. If you begin to work with brands you’ll need to know basic information such as how many visitors you have per month, and the free Google Analytics plugin will help you do just that.
WordPress Editorial Calendar
I live and breathe the WordPress Editorial Calendar. Essentially, this is where you can organize all the posts you plan to write in the future using a drag and drop calendar. When you go through my Dreamer to Blogger One Week Challenge you’ll see quickly that I am a huge fan of planning out your content so it works for you and earns you money.
The fact is if it doesn’t fit in with your content plan or your earning strategy (all things you can get in my one week challenge) then you’re just wasting time you could be spending with your family. The WordPress Editorial Calendar is free so literally nothing to lose.
SEO is a fancy way of saying this… organizing your site so that Google will show you in their search results. Yoast SEO is the most popular SEO plugin. There’s both a free and paid premium version. With this plugin you can cross all your i’s and dot all your t’s to be sure you’re optimizing each post so Google keeps sending you traffic long after you’ve written the post.
The Askimet plugin is free and helps prevent 3,567,532 spam comments per day. It isn’t perfect, I still get a few comments per day telling my readers how they can cast a spell on their jilted lover (no, I’m not joking) but the Askimet plugin will prevent you from spending hours deleting bot comments.
Photos and Photo Editing Software
Photos are one of the most important tools you’ll use to get eyes on your content. If the photo is ugly, then people don’t click through. We like to pretend it’s our words that matter (and, of course, it is) but if your photo doesn’t pop they won’t even click over to read your words. Luckily, there are a lot of available photos and software to help. Even for newbies.
Free Stock Photo Sites
PicMonkey is my go to photo editing software online. It’s fairly easy to figure out and the web is full of tutorials to help you go from Super Novice to Pretty Good in no time flat. You can edit photos, create collages, make pinnable images, and anything in between.
I use the Royale version of PicMonkey which is only $30 a year and it’s so worth it. You get far more fonts, overlays, and customization options with the Royale version. You won’t regret it for a minute if it’s the photo editing software you plan on using.
Canva is another free photo editor online. When you go to create an image you can choose from optimized sizes below. There are templates galore and you can create highly professional looking flyers, blog graphics, social media images, and printables with Canva.