This post contains affiliate links
Many people ask me about what tools I use on my blog – both in what I used to start Good For You Gluten and what I use now to grow my site. I must admit, I’ve used a lot of blogging tools over the years. In this article, I will detail the top blogging tools I needed and/or used the most.
I started Good for You Gluten Free in September 2014 as a novice blogger. I knew a lot about PR and marketing, but not much about what it would take to start, manage and grow a blog site. The learning curve has been steep. With a small start-up budget, I had to spend my money wisely and only use tools that were most cost effective to me.
To save money, I decided to venture into the blogging world by teaching myself how to build a WordPress site on my own. Of course I ran into snafus along the way, but I wanted to share what I did for those of you who are aspiring food bloggers or bloggers looking to see what another blogger is doing to get ahead.
Top Blogging Tools
Here are the top blogging tools I used to start, manage and grow Good For You Gluten Free:
Tools to Set Up Your Blog
Domain and Hosting: You are going to want to purchase a URL (domain) name and set up with a host for your site. You can do both of these things on Big Scoots. I used to use BlueHost for my hosting – but after a year and a very very slow site, I decided to make the switch to Big Scoots. (Many bloggers will push you into BlueHost because they offer large kick-backs, but I find BigScoots much faster – and site speed is everything!) The support team at Big Scoots is incredible too – they are very responsive and helped me switch from BlueHost quickly and efficiently. Sign up for BigScoots here.
Tesla Themes: You can quickly get a great WordPress theme in place by using a template. A theme template is a predesigned WordPress site that is customizable to your preferences (as long as you work within the theme’s general framework). Look for themes that are mobile responsive. I use the Genesis theme for this site. Find other Responsive WordPress Themes here.
Codeable: If you run into WordPress trouble and need WordPress support, try Codeable. Sign up, post your “project” and receive bids almost immediately. I found someone who would spend a few hours troubleshooting my site and fixing all the quirks I inevitably came across. Remember, the WordPress learning curve is steep, but Codeable can provide that tech support you need from time to time without breaking the bank.
Recipe Plugin: I bought the Cooked – A Super-Powered Recipe Plugin to help organize and categorize my recipe collection. This is a must-have in my opinion and best to have from the very start so you’re not going through old recipes trying to organize them once you get serious about food blogging.
The Logo Boutique: The Logo Boutique is where I purchased my logo. They professionally designed it for me and it only cost me $75. I think they did a good job and I still use the logo they designed for me to this day! The logo enabled me to have a clean, professional feel from day one.
Social Media Tools
CoSchedule: This is a fantastic tool to use to help you schedule your blog posts to appear on social media. Most bloggers share their content once, but CoSchedule enables you to share it many times so it gets maximum exposure. This is a must for anyone who wants to simplify their social media efforts and grow the pageviews of their blog. Learn more about CoSchedule here.
BoardBooster: BoardBooster is a must-have tool if you’re serious about Pinterest. Food bloggers definitely should be pinning a lot on Boardbooster. Sign up for a subscription (at $5 per month, it can’t be beat!) and learn how to automate your pinning strategy, grow your pinboards, board followers and more! Here’s where you can sign up and learn more about Boardbooster. I use it every day (actually, I set it up and it’s working everyday with little effort on my part!)
MiloTree: MiloTree is that little pop-up that you see on the right side of my page that encourages people to follow you on the social media platforms you’re looking to grow most. I love it because it’s one of the few tools that will encourage people to follow you on Instagram and Pinterest. Check out MiloTree here.
KingSumo Giveaways: I use the KingSumo Giveaway app to host my giveaways. I like that it’s a one-time fee and I get to use it forever (vs. Rafflecopter where you have to pay each month to use it). KimSumo Giveaways also encourages entrants to share the giveaway (and they earn extra entries when they do) and encourages entrants to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to earn extra entries too.
Melyssa Griffin Classes: You must have a strategy when it comes to Pinterest and growing your email list. These are essential ways to grow your blog. You can learn these lessons from the best teacher around – Melyssa Griffin. Melyssa’s List Surge class helped me go from about 65 subscribers to 1,000+ subscribers in less than three months – seriously! You can also learn so much from her Pinfinite growth Pinterest course. Because of many of the lessons I learned from Melyssa, Pinterest is my #2 source of traffic, second only to SEO. Check out Melyssa’s classes here.
Join a Local Blogger Club: I desperately wanted to meet other bloggers to help me on my journey. When I couldn’t find a blogger club in Denver, I started one. Today, The Denver Blogger’s Club has 180+ members and meets monthly for awesome learning events. Click this link to learn more about the Denver Bloggers Club. If you would like to start a blogger’s club near you, contact me. I’d love to help you get started!
Go to Blogger Conferences: Find a few blogger conferences that speak to you and start attending them. You’ll learn so much and meet some great people. For me, as a wellness and nutrition blogger, I like to go to the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference every year. I also went to Type A last year, and next year I’ll be going to ShiftCon, a conference for wellness and eco-minded bloggers – can’t wait!
Design & Photography Tools
Photography: You’ll want to learn how to take stunning blog photos. Click here to visit Pinch of Yum – Tasty Food Photography eBook. This awesome ebook shows you how to take incredible photos and make your blog shine – and it’s just a small investment for learning the ropes from the experienced and successful bloggers at Pinch of Yum.
PicMonkey: PicMonkey is a simple tool that allows you to edit and resize your photos. You simply upload a photo, resize it, sharpen the colors, add filters, etc. You can also use PicMonkey to create photo collages and pin-worthy creations… it’s really easy to use even with zero design experience. I highly recommend this tool if you’re a newbie photographer as you can fix images that are a bit dark or shadowy. Visit PicMonkey to learn more and sign up.
Stencil: I’m able to create beautiful social media graphics (and pins for Pinterest) using Stencil. When you sign up, you have access to a ton of free stock images too. It’s really easy to use and very helpful in creating beautiful images for social media. You can sign up for Stencil here. Also note that a Stencil membership gives you access to thousands of free stock images too!
Camera: You can use your iPhone or a basic point and shoot camera for your photos. When you’re first starting out, don’t try to overcomplicate things. Done is better than perfect and you can hone your skills over time. I’ve learned that it’s not the camera that makes great photos, it’s the person behind the camera that does the good work. That said, this is my dream camera if anyone wants to buy it for me.
Growing a Newsletter
ConvertKit: I used to use Mailchimp but decided to move my emails to ConvertKit because it is so much better for bloggers. I wish I had just stated with ConvertKit from the start. It’s truly intuitive and perfect for bloggers who want to build a platform. Click here to get started. (Don’t forget to learn about how to build your list in the List Surge course.)
Content Locker: A great way to collect emails is to create a content locker. This is where some of the information on your site is locked and only for subscribers. Someone can unlock the content by putting in their email address. I use Optin Panda to create content lockers. I use content lockers sparingly, but I do use one in this article about what’s gluten-free at Chili’s. Get Optin Panda for less than $25 here.
Leadpages: Leadpages is a little pricey for a start up site, but So. Worth. It. Using Leadpages, I grew my email list from about 65 people to over 3,000 people in one year. Leadpages enables you to create opt-in pages at the click of a button (well, it does take awhile to learn how to use.) Click here to sign up for Leadpages and get started and start growing that ever important email list of your own.
A great way to make passive income from blogging is through affiliate marketing. When someone clicks on an affiliate link and then purchases the product or service, you get a percentage of the sale. The reader pays the same price regardless if they went through your link or not. It’s the vendor that pays you for the referral.
Two GREAT affiliate programs are Share-a-Sale and Awin. I encourage you to sign up for both and start searching for vendors. I often discover a lot of great vendors to write about on my blog from these affiliate companies (you can see many of these vendors listed in my Ultimate Gluten-Free Gift List). I also include a lot of affiliate links on my FAQ page, for example. Also sign up to be an affiliate through Amazon. Amazon sells just about everything, so link to them often and start earning money!
Influencer Marketing Programs
A great way to start getting sponsored opportunities on your blog is by joining influencer marketing programs. There are programs that connect bloggers with paying sponsors. There are opportunities to create blog posts, write recipes or give a brand social media amplification and get paid to do so. Some of the many programs available include (leave a comment if you want me to add other influencer marketing programs to this list):
- Tap Influence
- Massive Sway
- Acorn Influence
- Social Fabric
- Mambo Sprouts
Remember, you’ll need to grow your influence and following to be considered for a lot of these opportunities… so grow grow grow!
Once you reach a certain level of influence in your blog, you can apply to join ad networks. I am a member of MediaVine ad network. They are responsible for selling and placing ads on my site. It’s been a great source of income for me. Again, grow your influence to qualify for an ad network. You must have at least 30,000 page sessions to qualify for MediaVine.
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