Tools That Will Help You Succeed
Whether you’re a complete newbie, or a veteran blogger wanting to take your blogging experience to the next level by adding features, functionalities, and improving performance quality, I have something for you!
Below you’ll find a list of services/products I personally recommend and guarantee will help you grow your blog.
[Some of the links in this page are affiliate links, as in, if you choose to make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission. This is at no cost to you, but paid for by the companies as a “thank-you” for the referral. Please understand that I have experience with these products or I have done thorough research and have come to the conclusion that these are all high-quality tools that will be of benefit to you. Please purchase these products only if you feel that you need them.]
Build Your Blog / Website
As a fellow blogger as well as a web designer and developer, I come with a blogging approach based on performance, security and above all, GROWTH. And with that in mind, my recommended blogging (and small business website) platform of choice is the one and only — WordPress; the self-hosted kind. Below you’ll find my recommended services for starting and maintaining a WordPress blog and/or small business website that will grow with you.
To all the beginner bloggers out there, my recommended hosting company is SiteGround, starting at only $3.95 per month (if paid annually) for first-time users. Among all the shared hosting solutions out there with comparable pricing, SiteGround by far and large exceeds my expectations. Some of the perks include: free SSL, free daily backup, unlimited emails, built in caching program to speed up site, CDN with Cloudflare, 24/7 phone and chat support (and what phenomenal support they have!)
WordPress Theme Builder / Templates
Elementor is a theme and page builder plugin. If you’re tired of the same look and feel on all the other blogs out there, and want to create something more unique without having to custom code everything, I highly recommend this plugin. I like the Astra Theme for WordPress, and pair it with Elementor Pro for the best of both worlds (in fact, The Side Blogger is running on this exact combo!).
Alternative Approach: If you want a traditional WordPress theme approach, then the Genesis framework is my preferred solution. Genesis is a WordPress theme framework and needs to be used with a child theme. My preferred child themes are available on StudioPress, and, if you’re looking for feminine themes, I highly recommend Restored316 child themes for Genesis.
WordPress Performance/Speed Optimization
Website speed is important when it comes to retaining users and readers, and keeping them on your website longer. Nobody likes to deal with a slow website! Also, did you know that Google takes page-speed into account when ranking? That’s where WP Rocket comes in. This plugin has all the features you need to optimize your site for speed and performance. Paired with a great hosting company such as SiteGround, this plugin is by far the best website optimization and caching plugin out there.
Other Resources for Your WordPress Website/Blog
NameCheap (for domains): When you sign up with SiteGround, you can register a domain with them, OR, you can purchase a domain from a different company, and then point it to SiteGround. Now, why would you want to do that? Well, what if you have more than one domain? Or, better yet, what if you’re a security nerd like I am? Personally, I think it’s useful to have domain and hosting from two separate platforms. So, while I host all my sites on SiteGround, I purchase all my domains from NameCheap. On top of having everything neatly organized, it also adds an extra layer of security. Oh, and bonus point? NameCheap domains are slightly cheaper than buying them from SiteGround! AND NameCheap domains come with FREE domain privacy!
WordPress Essential Plugins
I’m of the mind that the less number of plugins you have, the better. That said, some plugins are essential for various reasons (performance, security, etc.) Below are some of my favorite plugins that I always install on my own sites as well as on my clients’ sites.
Anti-Spam – Detects spam and malicious comments and quarantines them. Free to use, and beats a paying plugin like Akismet by far and large.
Yoast SEO – A great plugin to insert metadata for pages and posts easily. It also polices SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, practices. While you should take its recommendations with a pinch of salt, it doesn’t hurt to take note of the suggestions.
Image Optimization by Optimole – Images are one of the biggest culprits for slowing down your site load time. I’ve tried a few image optimization plugins, and by far this is my favorite.
Edit Author Slug – When you click on a user, the link adds the user’s username as the slug. Which can be a huge security issue for most WordPress sites. Edit Author Slug helps you mask the username with a custom slug.
Wordfence – Website security is of utmost importance! As much as I love WordPress, because it’s open source (which is a good thing), it can also be vulnerable. Please do take site security very seriously. There are plugins that can help you, and Wordfence is one of the best among the bunch. Please note that some hosting companies also offer you additional security and regular site scanning for an added fee.
WP Rocket – A good hosting company such as SiteGround paired with WP Rocket for performance and Optimole for image optimization can significantly improve your website speed and performance.
Related: How to Improve WordPress Speed and Performance with SiteGround and WP Rocket
UpDraft Plus – Most hosting companies offer daily backups for either free or an additional cost (it’s a free feature on my preferred hosting company — SiteGround). However, I still prefer to have a backup plugin in place just because! Also, UpDraft Plus saves a backups file locally, so, if something unexpectedly goes wrong (during a plugin update for example), as long as you can access the WordPress dashboard, you can restore to a previous backup with just a click.
Media Cleaner – Great plugin that can detect media files that are not being linked anywhere on your site, and gets rid of them with the click of a button. Useful plugin when you’ve had a blog for a while, assets have been switched around, and you’ve lost track of what’s linking where, and a bunch of unnecessary files are just sitting there on your media library. Use this plugin to do a bit of house-cleaning every month to keep your blog’s back-end clutter free.
As your blog/website grows in content, traffic, and scope, the frequency of attacks to hack into your site and inject malware grows alongside. A security plugin like iTheme Security or WordFence is great, but for heavy-duty attacks, you need heavy-duty protection. Sucuri is one of the best website security solutions out there, and it’s definitely worth the yearly investment. You can sleep better knowing that even if someone tried to do something malicious to your site, Sucuri has your back!
An email list is your best friend. Period. If you’re a blogger or a small business (or any size business) owner, freelancer, entrepreneur, whatever have you, you need to start an email list as soon as possible. In fact, I’d say that you need to start an email list even before you set up your website/blog!
There are a lot of email marketing platforms out there. Some are free to start, others paid from day-1. I personally prefer ConvertKit, a paid platform (it does have a month-long free trial period), especially for bloggers, because this platform makes creating multiple forms, multiple sequences or automation for different opt-in freebies, super easy! As a blogger, you’ll likely want to offer more than one opt-in incentive scattered across different blog posts. The ConvertKit platform is super intuitive and makes offering these different incentives simple and stress-free.
Alternative Approach: An alternative to ConvertKit is Constant Contact. It’s a super powerful platform, and if you feel that ConvertKit isn’t enough for all your marketing automation, Constant Contact is your next level upgrade.
Graphics and Printables
Canva Pro: As a blogger, you’ll constantly find yourself needing high-quality images and creating graphics, printables, promotional materials, etc. for social media platforms, Pinterest, your blog itself. Canva can be a one-stop platform for all your graphics needs. Stock photo companies such as Pexels and Pixabay are integrated seamlessly within Canva, so you do not even have to switch your browser tab while you pick you stock photo for graphics. Pretty neat, right? And with the “Pro” version, you have access to an even larger collection of photos and illustrations, and special features that only comes with the paid version.
Related: Check out the Blog Shop for Canva templates for social media graphics, eBooks, media kits, and more!
Creative Market: This marketplace is full of high-quality graphic design elements, as well as templates and custom fonts. If you want to add some jazz in your designs, Creative Market is the place to go looking for unique design resources.
Pinterest & Social Media Scheduling
Tailwind: Pinterest is by far the most effective way to drive a lot of traffic for bloggers, especially newer bloggers. Tailwind can help you batch schedule Pins in advance.
Related: How to Triple Your Monthly Pinterest Engagement in 30 Days
Buffer: For the newbie blogger who doesn’t schedule a lot of content, I suggest using Buffer. It’s free to start off for up to 3 accounts and 10 posts in queue.
CoSchedule: This is a high end social media scheduling platform that’s best for those who schedule a lot of content. It has a pretty nifty content calendar that I find useful as it visually lays out what the month will look like.
Later: If you’re into batching everything, you may consider scheduling your Instagram feed as well. I’ve tried Later on multiple occasions and it’s really easy to use. Also, has a free plan which is sweet! (I’m all for all things FREE!)
Writing and Editing
ShareThrough Headline Analyzer: I like the simplicity of this tool from a user’s point of view, however, there’s a whole lot more going on in the background. This tool determines the strength of your headline by analyzing how engaging the headline is. They do this by looking for context words — words that are scientifically proven to capture a reader’s attention and interest.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: This tool analyzes your headline based off of the type of headline (how-to and list post types score higher), and also the type of words used, such as power words, emotional words, common words and uncommon words. Using more power and emotional words will make your score go higher.
Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer: While this tool isn’t the prettiest at first glance, I actually like it a lot. It looks for words to invoke intellect, spirituality or empathy in a specific niche (you’re asked to choose a category for your headline), and then gives an EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) score. It also tells you where you stand compared to other, gifted copywriters.
Grammarly: Nothing I write would be the same if I didn’t have the assistance of Grammarly. I have Grammarly extension for my browser to make sure everything I write makes sense and free of stupid spelling and grammar and punctuation errors. It has a free and a paid plan. The paid plan is definitely worth it, but even if you don’t invest in the paid plan, do make sure you’re making use of the free plan at least. You’ll save time and face, trust me!
Hemingway Editor: Another amazing tool to help you edit your articles. This one polices use of passive voice, adverbs, difficult sentences, etc.
[Please note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, as in, if you choose to make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission. This is at no cost to you, but paid for by the companies as a “thank-you” for the referral. Please understand that I have experience with these products or I have done thorough research and have come to the conclusion that these are all high-quality tools that will be of benefit to you. Please purchase these products only if you feel that you need them.]