I have answered these questions more than once over many blog posts, but not every reader has time to scour through my past posts looking for an answer to a question I may or may not have addressed before. On average, between 70 to 80 percent of my daily traffic consists of brand new visitors. So it makes sense that I get these questions.
However, it can also take up time to answer individual inquiries over comments or emails. As a side-blogger, I’m already strapped for time as it is. So, I figured I should write a blog post and then whenever I get asked such questions, I can just send them this link!
There is, of course, my resources page where you can see a list of all things blogging related that I’ve had a chance to test out myself, and recommend.
But, I do not necessarily use all the products myself all the time, so, hopefully, this list right here should be of help to you if you’re particularly interested in the services and products that I do use!
Let’s get cracking!
In this post:
The Side Blogger Website
Here’s a list of all things that keep the site running as smoothly as possible.
Do you even need to ask?
I use self-hosted WordPress (otherwise known as the .org version).
And unless something way smarter and better crops up (Squarespace or Wix or other such platforms do not count… there is no comparison at all! Period.), I shall continue to use (and promote) WordPress to anyone and everyone who’ll listen.
I love to design my own websites, and with WordPress, everything is customizable exactly how you want them to look like. I can customize every single aspect of the site, including core PHP files.
Not that I’m saying you should make a habit of just chilling with your PHP files, but as a developer myself, it gives me great pleasure that I can tweak any or all code I want if the circumstances ever called for it.
Also, plugin! Whether you create plugins yourself or use third-party plugins, the ease that comes with such little pieces of software is something I don’t want to have to give up.
So, yes, WordPress it is. All the effing way!
But here’s the thing; even if you’re not a developer and codes give you migraines, you’re still in good hands with WordPress. it is, after all, one of the most used website platforms around the world! All you really need to do is set up your blog or website once, and then just keep maintaining it with small tasks such as updating the plugins and themes regularly, etc.
Some of you may be so over it already with me trying to promote SiteGround at every freakin’ chance I get. But allow me to do it anyway!
The Side Blogger runs on self-hosted WordPress and is hosted by the awesome hosting company–SiteGround [affiliate].
To be specific, I use SiteGround’s GoGeek shared hosting plan. It is shared, but the GoGeek plan offers only a few users per machine, so it’s much faster (it cut down my website load time, specifically the TTFB, by half since I upgraded to GoGeek from GrowBig) and much more secure too!
If you’re just starting your blog, or are willing to make the switch, do check out SiteGround [affiliate], I highly recommend it. Also, try and sign up for at least the GrowBig plan, but preferably the GoGeek plan. And, better yet, if you have enough traffic and money coming in from your blog, I would suggest you consider switching to the cloud hosting solution by SiteGround. It’s super fast and super secure, without even needing the assistance of a third party vendor.
SiteGround also offers a basic and free CloudFlare CDN integration which is sweet! Check out this blog post for all the reasons why I absolutely love SiteGround.
That’s the questions I get asked the most: “I LOOOVE your site, may I know which theme you’re using?”
The answer is: I have used Elementor Pro [affiliate] to create a custom design for The Side Blogger.
Yes, I’ve designed it myself! So, unfortunately, I can’t direct you to a ready-made theme that looks exactly like The Side Blogger.
However, I have done the next best thing I could do for you.
I have created a couple of page templates using Elementor Pro that should be great for bloggers of all levels. And I have made these templates available to you for free! All you have to do is subscribe to the newsletter by clicking here, and I’ll send you the templates.
These templates are meant for you to play around with and make changes so that you can get some practice. You can also, if you want, use them as is for your own blog. The decision is yours. But they are yours if you want them!
You will need to have Elementor Pro [affiliate], which is a paid plugin for WordPress, to be able to use these templates. Upon signing up, you will also receive a link to a how-to page where I have used written instructions as well as some videos to walk you through using these templates.
If you want some design tips for blogs, you can also read my blog post: How to Design Your Blog the Smart Way
Sometimes I use plugins to do temporary things and then delete them right after the need is met. Some others, however, stay put.
Here is a list of plugins I use ALL THE TIME and I think as fellow bloggers, you’ll benefit from using them as well.
- Elementor and Elementor Pro [affiliate] – As mentioned above, I’ve designed TSB with this duo, and yes, you need both the free and the premium plugins. So, they’re basically two separate plugins that work together.
- Wordfence – This is a basic security plugin that all websites should have. There are some alternatives to this, but I have found Wordfence to be the easiest to work with so far.
- Yoast – While I’m not big on SEO, I do care about some basics, like, making sure I have the meta descriptions set properly, the URLs, and the meta titles, etc. Yoast is a great plugin that every blogger should use pretty much religiously! The free version is sufficient.
- WooCommerce – I have a shop where I sell digital products–Canva templates to be specific. I do that using WooCommerce. If you’re on WordPress, then WooCommerce is by far the best e-commerce platform for you. It integrates with WordPress seamlessly and effortlessly.
- Sassy Social Share – I use this free plugin to add social sharing buttons to my posts and some pages. I love that it’s free, and also it allows you to customize the look. Some other social sharing plugins have big limitations and customization capabilities are offered only with premium versions. Not this!
- Thirsty Affiliates – One of my biggest earning sources here on TSB is via affiliate marketing. Basically, affiliates provide me with unique URLs that they can track on their end by use of cooking, and if a sale is made through my unique referral URL, then I make some money! Thirsty Affiliates makes life easy and offers a way to customize these links and manage them, as well as makes it easy to insert them in blog posts and pages.
- WP Rocket [affiliate] – This is by far THE BEST WordPress caching and performance-enhancing plugins out there. It is a premium plugin, but is worth every single penny! I have written a post about how I cut down my website load-time by half using the combo — SiteGround GoGeek plan and WP Rocket plugin. Another plugin that has helped the way image files are optimized on TSB has also contributed to enhanced site performance for TSB. (See below).
- Optimole Image Optimization – I have used several image optimization plugins, but this is by far the most superior of them in my personal experience. It is a premium plugin, but again, worth every penny!
Email List Building and Marketing
One word: ConvertKit [affiliate]. Need I say more?
You can read about how I’ve grown my email list to over 1K within the first 10 months of this blog using ConvertKit. You can also read a ConvertKit tutorial here.
Here are some other resources I use on the regular for TSB:
- Canva Pro [affiliate] – Offers easy graphics creation capabilities as well as tons of premium photos for free (free to use for personal projects and must have Canva Pro, the premium version of this app). I use this tool to create all my blog and Pin graphics, as well as a lot of my freebies like checklists and workbooks. I also use this to create templates for fellow bloggers that I sell on the Blog Shop.
- Google Sheets – Handy when it comes to scheduling tasks for this blog as well as keep track of earnings and expenses.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer – great for analyzing your titles.
Well, these are the most used tools and resources for TSB. What do you think? Do you have something you love to use for your blog? Share with me in the comments!