WordPress is by far my top recommendation for anyone wanting to start a blog. There are so many reasons why WordPress is superior, but the main reason is because of it’s plasticity. You can do pretty much anything with WordPress given the right tools and know-how. More importantly, as your blog grows, you’ll never outgrow WordPress.
When I was first starting, I used Blogger and TypePad. I started with Blogger because that was pretty much the only blogging platform in existence. I moved to TypePad when the Blogger SPAM bots marked my blog as SPAM in 2008, and I was locked out of my Blogger blog for 10 days. (10 days, people!)
Near the end of 2009, my blog outgrew TypePad and I was forced to switch to WordPress. Making the leap from TypePad to WordPress was daunting and tedious. We had to move thousands of posts and hundreds of thousands of comments. There were all sorts of glitches and it was a big learning curve.
If I could do it over again, I’d start with WordPress from the get-go.
Important note: You must have your own hosting and install WordPress from WordPress.org onto that hosting. While you can set up a free site on WordPress.com, you are not allowed to add advertising or affiliate links if you’re hosting it there — thus disabling your ability to making money blogging! I do NOT recommend WordPress.com for anyone looking to earn money from their blog.
I recommend using Bluehost if you are new to blogging and/or just need a robust site with great customer service. I used Bluehost for a few years when I was first blogging. I no longer use it now that my site has grown very large and we need more personalized and customized service. But Bluehost is a great fit for small to medium-sized sites.
If your blog outgrows the Bluehost shared hosting plan and you need a good next-step option, you can sign up for WpEngine Hosting. I have not personally used this, but I’ve heard great things about this company.
The main perk is that this hosting company specializes in WordPress, so the customer service team can help with all issues — even the ones that are directly related to Wordpress.
Yoast SEO — Yoast SEO is by far the most popular plugin for SEO (search engine optimization). I use this on all of my sites. SEO is important, especially for new blogs, because it helps you get found in the sea of content out there. In a nutshell, this is how you set the parameters for how people find you when they search using keywords on search engines like Google. Yoast SEO free version works fine, but you can also purchase the Premium plugin for more advanced features.
Social Warfare — This is a great little plugin that let’s you program what images are pulled when someone shares your post or page on social media. They offer easy customization so the buttons will match your theme, along with the option to pre-program the description of the post for your reader. This is plugin prevents the social media sites from pulling random photos from your post or page that have nothing to do with your content.
Akismet Anti-Spam — Get this. Akismet snipes spam from your comments so you and your readers don’t have to worry about spammy comments. Their free version works very well!
AmbitionAlly Plugins — AmbitionAlly makes fantastic plugins, and I highly recommend you give them a try. Their support is fantastic. Here are their plugins that I recommend:
- AccessAlly — A powerful plugin for any blogger looking to create a membership site. We are currently using this plugin to develop some of our upcoming courses, and I’ve been thorougly impressed with them so far. (Get your first month for only $7 here!)
- ProgressAlly — An add-on plugin to AccessAlly. This pumps up the user experience with quizzes, progress markers, check lists, and resources addtitions for course videos and files.
- PopupAlly — AmbitionAlly has mastered the polite popup and list building with their plugin PopupAlly Pro. But don’t worry if you don’t like popups. They also allow you to customize opt-ins to be placed wherever you want on your blog. They offer lots of integrations with the most popular email list management systems and CRMS.
Easy Affiliate Links — This is a great little plugin to help you keep all of your affiliate links handy right in your WordPress Dashboard. You can easily add them into your posts using the quick-access affiliate link icon at the top. This makes keeping your affiliate links accessible and organized MUCH easier.
EMAIL LIST SET-UP
Infusionsoft — This is a CRM — a customer relationship management platform. It differs from a most other email list providers because it is an all-in-one program, meaning it manages your email list, affiliates, marketing, and e-commerce in one place. This is what we currently use. It is a complicated system, but it can do pretty much anything you want it to, making it perfect for large blogs looking to branch out in their marketing strategies!
ConvertKit— This is a great email list management platform for bloggers looking for a simple way to accomplish big things with their email list. If we could start over, I might’ve gone with ConvertKit to begin with because of it’s simplicity and how user-friendly it is.
Feedblitz — We use Feedblitz to manage our RSS feeds and our blog-to-email marketing for MoneySavingMom.com. It is currently the best out there for the job (having quickly replaced Feedburner), albeit it’s not the easiest to use. Feedblitz can be programmed to seamlessly pull your blog content straight from your blog and email it to your subscribers. This is a great way to get your content to your subscribers.
Tripod — Unless you’re planning to be traveling with your tripod, you should be able to use a cheap tripod like this one.
Ring Light — If you are planning to do videos at night or want to have really great lighting, you can invest in a Ring Light. I always think naturally lighting is best, though, if you can do your live videos during the day time near at least one to two big windows. (Make sure that the windows are in front of you, not behind you when you shoot the videos.)
TOOLS WE USE
Google Calendar — I use Google Calendar to keep my life in order and we also use it to track various business-related things as a team. You can read more why I love Google calendar here. And sign up here for my FREE course that details how I use Google Calendar to keep my life organized.
PicMonkey — I use PicMonkey to create all of my YouTube video covers. I love that it’s free (though I do pay the small fee for the upgraded version) and that it’s so easy-to-use for a non-techie person like me.
Canva — This is another great tool you can use to create your social media and blog images. They do have a free version, but you can also upgrade to gain more features. It’s a drag-and-drop program, which makes it easy to use.
Board Booster — A great tool to grow your Pinterest following by automating your pinning!
ViralTag — I’ve been a long-time user of ViralTag and it has been a great tool to boost our Pinterest following. It requires more hands-on pinning than Board Booster, but it also gives you greater control over when and where to make your pins.
Tailwind — We’ve recently moved to Tailwind and we’re seeing great results! This tool is the only Pinterest-approved pinning scheduler out there.
Hootsuite — If you’re looking for an all-in-one social media schedule, this is a great option. I don’t recommend using this for your Facebook page as Facebook tends to penalize those who use anything but their native scheduler; however, it is fantastic for private Facebook groups. You can also use it for Pinterest as it integrates with Tailwind, another Pinterest scheduler.
Teamwork — We’ve used a few different project management platforms, and Teamwork seems to do everything the others do and more. This is an excellent tool to use if you’re looking to organize your projects and streamline project management. This is especially helpful if you’re starting to build a team or need help planning your upcoming posts and products.
Bonus: Teamwork offers new startup businesses a FREE account for the first year! To qualify for Teamwork Startups, you simply need to have been in business less than two years, have under 10 employees, and have never made over $100K. For more information or to sign up, go here.
COURSES WE RECOMMEND
- Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook by Abby Lawson
- List Building Academy by Laura at IHeartPlanners.com
- Your Blogging University courses by Crystal Paine
OUR FAVORITE AFFILIATE COMPANIES
Some of the Current Top-Earning Affiliates I Use:
- Panthera Network
- Escalate Media
- ShopHer Media
- Commission Junction
- CenterPoint Media
- Glitter Network
- Coupon-printing (Coupons.com, RedPlum, and SmartSource)
- Pepperjam Network
- Impact Radius
Amy has a great list of many different affiliate programs here, if you’re interested.
I highly, highly recommend reading my post on 5 Strategies for Maximizing Your Earnings With Affiliate Marketing.