This post contains affiliate links, which means I have or can make a small commission for any purchase made using one of my links. Thanks for your support, as always!
When I was first starting out as a new blogger in 2013, I basically went in blind. Blogging back in 2013 wasn’t the same as it is now. There were far fewer blogging tools and resources available to bloggers back then. I started out on WordPress.com, which as we all know now, isn’t the best option. WordPress self-hosted is the way to go for long term success.
When I eventually switched over to self-hosted, I had no idea what I was doing, and nearly gave up trying to install WordPress. (by the way, I eventually figured out that I didn’t have to install it myself- I use Namecheap + EasyWP which has made my blogging life so much easier)
If you’re just starting out as a new blogger and you feel overwhelmed by all the ‘how to start a blog so you can quit your job and become super rich!’ articles, you’re not alone. Blogging takes time, and a lot of hard work and patience to be successful.
Sure there are some bloggers who find success in 6 months or 1 year. But that’s definitely not the case for everyone. Blogging is hard, I won’t sugarcoat it. It is a lot more work than most people think.
It’s so much more than writing blog posts and hitting publish. It’s almost 2020, and if you don’t have all the right tools and resources to get your amazing content in front of people, your blog will drown in a sea of other blogs just like it.
I don’t say that to be harsh, it’s just the truth. Everything is digital, and the people who find success with online business or blogs know that marketing is everything.
Of course, you need good, sustainable content that people want. But after that, you have to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. People are so freaking busy anymore. We scroll past anything that doesn’t catch our eye immediately, and we don’t even give it a second thought.
There are some key ingredients when it comes to building a successful blog.
Website + Marketing Strategy + Email List
Those are the key elements of a successful, money making blog. You need a website, and you need it to be self-hosted. You need a solid marketing strategy, and you definitely need to start building an email list.
Luckily for you, you’ve chosen to start blogging in a time when there are a ton of resources and tools to help bloggers succeed. There is a lot of information out there on how to start a blog, I know.
There are also a lot of bloggers who have compiled lists of resources, and some of them are very long and very in depth. Those are amazing- and I’ve gotten some really great recommendations from other bloggers’ resources pages.
For this list, I wanted to keep things simple. What are the basic must have tools and resources for new bloggers?
This isn’t an all encompassing list of every tool I use for my blog, but these are the ones that I would say are must haves for new bloggers in 2020.
The most important thing is that I’m not going to recommend expensive courses or blogging tools here. This is a list of resources for new bloggers.
I know personally, when I first started blogging I didn’t have a lot of extra money to throw at my blog. I couldn’t afford to invest a lot of money upfront, and that’s totally okay. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started blogging.
If you plan to turn your blog into a full time job, you’re going to have expenses- and you’re going to want to spend money investing in tools to help you grow. But for right now, you don’t need to.
My best advice for new bloggers is this:
Try to relax, and take your time. Success is never overnight- even if it seems like it for some people.
When you see someone who seems like they found success overnight, you’re only seeing one side of it: the successful side. You’re not seeing the late nights spent working and missing time with their families. You don’t see the mom who wakes up at 5am just so she can get some work done on her blog before her kids wake up. You’re not seeing all the holidays and events sacrificed to work. You’re not the failures, because hardly anyone shares their failures and if they do, we don’t take notice until they’re successful.
Try to remember not to compare your middle with someone else’s end. Everyone is on a different path, and we’re all at different stages on our paths.
I hope this post will help you with getting started on your blogging journey, and also encourage you. Blogging is hard work, but it’s worth it if this is what you’re truly passionate about.
My top blogging tools for new bloggers:
Starting a Blog
I’ve written an entire post about domain names, and I talk a lot about why I love Namecheap and their EasyWP app. If you want to start a blog, you want to do it the right way the first time around. Which means owning your domain name and using WordPress self-hosted. Both of these things can be easily accomplished with Namecheap and EasyWP. You can buy your domain name for as low as $3.95, and then use EasyWP to set up your website for just $1. (EasyWP is $3.88/month for the basic subscription after your first month)
Social Media Marketing
Pinterest + Tailwind
You’ve probably been using Pinterest forever, so I don’t need to explain to you what that is. Pinterest is an incredible resource for bloggers- in fact, it’s where I get 90% of my blog traffic from.
Tailwind is the only scheduling app that is endorsed by Pinterest, and to be honest it’s the only one that I think is worth using. That’s not to diss on other scheduling apps, I’ve just tried a few and Tailwind is the one I like the best.
You can read all about my Pinterest + Tailwind marketing strategy here once you’re all set up on both.
This is a plugin that you can download in WordPress. Wpforms is how I create all the forms for my website, like my contact form for example. It’s super easy and user friendly, you can create basically any form you need for your website in just a few clicks.
This will help you build your email list! I am planning on doing a full review of WPForms in a future post.
Subscribe to my email list for notifications of all future posts! *I made this form with WPForms!
This is non-negotiable. You need legal pages on your blog.
You can download a free plugin, like Legal Pages to generate these for you.
Or, you can pay to have them created for you by a lawyer. Once your blog grows and becomes more successful, you definitely want to invest some money into these.
Hopefully it never comes down to it, but in the event that you’re ever taken to court over something on your blog, you want your ducks in a row.
When you’re ready to purchase legal pages for your blog, I highly recommend this legal bundle from A Self Guru.
If you’re planning to use affiliate links to make money with your blog, you absolutely must have this disclosure somewhere on your blog.
You have to disclose to your readers that you’re using affiliate links, and they need to be able to easily access the full disclosure page. This plugin can help you with that!
Pinterest Pin It Buttons
Like I said before, Pinterest is an incredible tool for bloggers to attract readers and build an audience.
But, if you use Pinterest, you will know that sometimes you’ll click on a pin that interests you to go read the article. Then you start looking around on that website for a few minutes, and you see more articles you like. There are images on this website, and you wish you could pin them to save for future reference.
When people visit your website, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to save your blog posts to Pinterest. This app makes it so that when someone hovers over any image on your site, they will see a little Pinterest icon that makes it super easy for them to share to Pinterest.
WP Editorial Calendar
This calendar lets you schedule out your blog posts using a calendar that is integrated right into your WordPress dashboard.
It’s super convenient, and easy to use. Once you download the plugin, you can start scheduling out posts right away. Just click posts>calendar on your WP dashboard to start scheduling.
In my book, Social Share icons are a must.
Have you ever visited a blog and seen small buttons on either the side or bottom of your screen that allow you to share the post to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.? These are social share buttons.
Like I mentioned above under Pin it Buttons, you want to make it very easy for your readers to share your posts to social media.
Social Share plugin installs share buttons for basically any social media platform you choose, and lets your readers share your posts with just one click.
Google Analytics + MonsterInsights Plugin
Google Analytics is how I track my blogs performance. I can see things like how many people have been looking at my website, where they are located, what time of day my audience is online, and whether they are mostly male or female.
You need to know the statistics for your blog so that you can track how well you’re doing. Later on, you’ll need these numbers to show to sponsors or ad networks.
MonsterInsights is the plugin for WordPress that allows you to integrate Google Analytics so you can see all your stats right on your WordPress dashboard.
Google Search Console + Site Kit Plugin
Google Search Console shows you detailed information on how your website is performing on Google search. What keywords are people searching for that are bringing up your content on Google? Which of your posts is performing best on search?
This is important information to know, because it helps you understand your audience so that you can focus your efforts on targeting the right keywords + audiences.
Site Kit is the WordPress plugin that lets you view and manage all your Google tools right from your WP dashboard. You can view your Analytics, AdSense and Search Console stats right from your dashboard.
Ryte is a free online tool that analyzes your website and sends you a report on it’s performance.
You can subscribe to get a more in depth report, which I highly recommend you do once you are more established. But for right now, getting a free performance report on your website will help you figure out what you’re doing right and what you might be doing wrong.
They also give you suggestions to how you can better your website.
If you’re pretty much lost when it comes to SEO, I’ve created a simple free e-book to help you get a better idea of what SEO is and how it can help you with your blog. It’s totally free, and you can download it and start reading right away.
This e-book will help you understand what SEO is, what keywords are and how to find them, where you should be using these keywords, and so much more!
Click below to get your free download now!
Yoast is a plugin for WordPress that helps you optimize your blog for SEO.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization, and is how people will find your blog using keywords in search engines. With Yoast, you don’t have to be a marketing whiz to figure out SEO.
It helps you make sure that your blog posts are easily readable by your audience, and by Google.
Like I said before, it’s all about marketing. Yoast is immensely helpful if you aren’t great with marketing tactics. Plus, it helps you make sure your posts are easily readable by analyzing them for things like sentence length, subheading distribution and passive voice.
Ubersuggest is a tool created by SEO genius Neil Patel. By the way, if you’re not keeping up with everything he’s doing- you need to be.
Ubersuggest allows you to enter a keyword and then shows you exactly how well that keyword is performing in real time.
It’s a truly amazing tool, and I think every blogger should be using it.
From neilpatel.com: Ubersuggest allows you to get insight into the strategies that are working for others in your market so you can adopt them, improve them, and gain an edge.
Canva is a free online graphic design tool that lets you create beautiful images for your blog. You can make everything from your logo, to Pinterest pins, to blog graphics.
It’s really easy to use once you get the hang of it. You don’t technically need to create your own images, but you’re going to want to.
Creating your own graphics, especially for Pinterest, will help you stand out in a sea of millions of other bloggers.
To help you even more, I designed 10 Pinterest templates for Canva that are totally customizable and even better, they are FREE! Grab yours now:
Here are a few examples of the designs & the form to download them
Easil is very similar to Canva, but there are a few differences, which is why I included both here.
Both allow you to do basically the same thing, but with different elements, graphics and fonts.
Check out both Easil and Canva and see which one you prefer!
Over is a really great app that lets you create graphics right on your phone.
I find this extremely useful if I don’t have my laptop on me, but need to create a quick graphic for whatever reason. Or maybe you just prefer to use your phone, in which case, this is perfect for you.
Another benefit of using Over to design your graphics is that you will already know what they look like in mobile form.
PRO TIP: I always view my graphics on my own phone after I’m done creating them on my laptop. This way I can see them in both desktop and mobile versions. I want to be su&^Y
Tools to Help you Write Better Posts
Grammarly is a tool that will help you make sure that your posts are grammatically correct and easy to read. I use Google Chrome, so I installed the Grammarly Chrome extension.
It analyzes your writing and then gives you suggestions on things like grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. It’s really useful, even for someone like me who thinks they’re a grammar expert. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s always a good idea to double proofread every post you write.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
This is a free tool that will analyze your blog post titles to make sure that they’re going to perform for you.
When you’re a blogger, headlines are so important. We all know from personal experience scrolling social media- if a headline grabs our attention in just the right way, we’re going to click on it.
Same thing goes for your audience. You need to make sure that your blog post titles are going to grab the attention of your reader and make them want to click through to your post.
Blog Post Planner
If you’re the kind of person who needs things to be super organized and planned out, you’ll want to grab yourself a blog post planner. There are tons of blog planners out there, free and for sale. You can either download an entire blog planner, that will help you with everything from how to set up your blog to writing your first post.
But if you already have a blog set up and you just need some help planning out your blog posts, you can download just a blog post planner.
I recommend planning out blog posts because doing so will help you when you sit down to write. You will know exactly who your target audience is, what problem you’re helping them solve, and what keywords to use in the post.
Tools for Better Organization + Planning
CoSchedule is a really great tool that lets you schedule out your blog posts and social media content all at the same time.
It integrates with WordPress, so you can schedule everything right from your dashboard in WP. Which is incredibly convenient and saves you a ton of time.
Say you write a post and have an Instagram photo, Pinterest pins and a Facebook post that you want to use to promote that blog post. CoSchedule lets you schedule all of these posts so that they publish in sync with one another, and at the best time for your audience demographic (when people are actually online).
I don’t know about you, but I like to feel like I have my shit together sometimes. This means I love a good planner, calendar and all the pretty office accessories.
But beyond just trying to feel like I have my life together, I like to have a paper trail when it comes to blogging.
Not only does it help me organize all the wild ideas and plans I have in my head, but it’s fun to look back on where I was in my blogging journey every year.
I don’t recommend a specific planner, I just recommend that you get one. Find one that you love- a simple planner, a bullet journal, a blogging planner. It doesn’t matter, just find one that works for you and use it.
Starting a blog can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve been consulting Pinterest to gather ideas on how to start a blog.
But I want to encourage you to just go for it. My philosophy for everything is that you’ll never know until you try. With blogging, you have to be patient. Work hard in silence, and let success be your noise. (so cliché, I know. But it’s true!)
If blogging is your passion, like it’s mine, then you have to stick it out. Give yourself at the very least one year, and then evaluate where you’re at.
If you’re not happy with your blog after a year, then change it! Don’t give up. It’s so worth it in the end.
As always, thank you for reading and happy blogging!