When I first started blogging, I didn’t invest in my blog much at all. It took me a couple years before I even bought my own domain name!
If you’re a hobby blogger, then you don’t have to worry about spending ANY money on your blog. But if you want to become a professional blogger and start monetizing your blog, then it’s a smart idea to invest in it.
Here are my top 7 best investments that you can make for your blog (plus 5 free resources):
1.Website hosting + domain name
If you want to be taken seriously with your blog, having your own domain name is one of the quickest ways to go about it! Self-hosting your website means that you have your own domain name—for example, having YourName.com compared to YourName.wordpress.com (the latter of which would be free; the former costs money).
Are there professional bloggers who aren’t self-hosted? Sure. But when you’re just starting out and you want to be taken seriously as a professional, having your own domain name will give you more legitimacy in your first impression.
Cost: approximately $15/month
I’ve used many email platforms over the years for myself and for clients, including MailChimp, Emma, Constant Contact, and MadMimi. But honestly? ConvertKit* is far and away my absolute favorite.
ConvertKit was made by a blogger, for bloggers, and perhaps one of its best features is that it allows for multiple opt-in forms and places all subscribers on a single list, which are then grouped via their opt-in forms and tags you can add. The automations are excellent and the customer service is amazing. ConvertKit* is one of those magical tools that every blogger who wants to go pro and build their email list will love!
Cost: $29/month for 1,000 subscribers (cost increases as you get more subscribers)
I like LeadPages for three main reasons: first, because you can create awesome “LeadBoxes” (when you click on a button and a form pops up for you to grab my freebies, that’s a LeadBox), second, it’s great for webinar registration pages and for hosting webinars, and third, you can make beautiful thank-you pages for after people subscribe.
LeadPages has nice landing pages as well, although ConvertKit landing pages are also pretty great, so if you JUST want a landing page for a freebie, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend shelling out for LeadPages. But if you want gorgeous thank-you pages, cool opt-in forms, and awesome webinar options, LeadPages is totally where it’s at.
Cost: $25/month for the basic version
This is my Pinterest life-saver! It takes some time filling up your Pinterest boards with Pins, but then BoardBooster* will recycle your Pins (as long as you change the settings), and you can schedule Pins to go to different boards at various times per day. There’s a lot of customization options.
The real benefit to this kind of social media automation is that you can get your own posts automated to be Pinned, and then spend more time Pinning from other websites in real time.
Cost: $10/month for 1,000 Pins/month (it’s 1 penny/Pin; you can choose anywhere from 500 Pins/month to 5,000 Pins/month)
I just recently started using Edgar and I LOVE it! It’s another automation tool, and I’ve been using it specifically for Twitter. I like that you can create your own categories and add posts directly to those categories. I already have a couple hundred Tweets lined up, and Edgar randomly chooses them and posts during times I select.
Again, the major benefit to this automation platform is that now I can engage in conversations on Twitter in real time. I used to spend so much more time trying to choose which of my blog posts to Tweet when, but with Edgar, it does it all for me—and again, it recycles Tweets so I can just set it and leave it. It’s a lot of work setting it up, but once it’s set up it’s a huge time-saver.
Cost: $49/month. This one costs a fair amount compared to other automation platforms, BUT when you consider how much it costs to hire a social media manager for your business (think $300+/month for each social media platform), it’s pretty reasonable. And that’s basically what MeetEdgar is: a social media management tool.
6. Elite Blog Academy
I blogged for YEARS as a hobby blogger before enrolling in Elite Blog Academy and realizing that I could actually potentially make a living blogging. EBA was a major turnaround for me! The forum is a great place to connect with other bloggers, and the lesson on Pinterest was a game changer.
For me it was a lot more about figuring out how to improve my blog design and marketing than changing the type of content I posted. When you have the right marketing techniques, that can totally revolutionize your business (side note: I find it fascinating how DIFFERENT it is to market a blog vs. market a product vs. market a service. Marketing services is something that I’ve been able to do effectively with great results for a long time now; marketing a blog and a product are both things I still have more learning to do!).
7. SumoMe Welcome Mat Pro
SumoMe is a great tool for showcasing your freebies right away when readers visit your blog. I strongly dislike popups, but I really like welcome mats because they seem so much more friendly and, well, welcoming! They aren’t so much in-your-face as a pop-up; they’re more a nice way to direct a reader’s attention to something that will be super valuable for them, and they can then just scroll down or click a button to get to the blog post they initially came by to read.
It is TOTALLY worth it to get the pro version for the SumoMe welcome mat, because then you can customize it with images and style etc. I also hear great things about SquareSpace cover pages, which I believe you can add to a WordPress site, although I haven’t tried that myself yet.
Edited to note: I no longer use the SumoMe welcome mat as per the 2017 changes on Google for penalties on things like this—I recommend looking into it before making the investment.
This is a PERFECT tool for beginners! PicMonkey enables you to create images for your blog posts. Basically all of my blog post images are created via PicMonkey. It’s very user-friendly and you can easily adjust the dimensions of each image. The drawback is you can’t go back and edit an image once you’ve closed down the program.
Cost: free for the basic version
You have to spend $$ to make $$ — but it’s important to make the RIGHT investments in your #blog
Canva is like the step between PicMonkey and InDesign: it’s a little bit more of a learning curve than PicMonkey, but it has much prettier results and a more professional feel to it. You can also go back and edit a design as much as you want, which I love.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to the free version of Canva is that you can’t change the size and dimensions of your creation. You can do that in the paid version of Canva but not the free one. So that can be a little frustrating to deal with.
Cost: free for the basic version
Looking for stock photos for your blog? Pixabay is where it’s at! They have some awesome free photos; nearly all of the images on my blog (that I haven’t photographed myself) are from Pixabay.
Cost: free (you can also purchase some of the nicer stock photos, but they have such a great selection that you can easily get by with the free ones)
11. SumoMe Smart Bar + Share Buttons
The SumoMe Smart Bar is that bar at the top of a blog which highlights a freebie and enables you to grab it. I like it because just in case a reader accidentally scrolls down and misses out on the welcome mat freebie, they still have an option to get it in the SmartBar. Plus, it’s not very obtrusive and it can be customized to fit the design of the page nicely. (Edited to note: I no longer use this feature, but it can still be handy!)
Likewise, the SumoMe Share Buttons along the side of my blog can be customized to your brand colors, and they’re a helpful, unobtrusive reminder for readers that they can share your article. The easier it is for readers to share your work, the better!
Cost: free (you can also spend about $16/month each for the pro versions)
I used this for a long time before recently getting Edgar, but I still like using Hootsuite for my social media clients on Twitter. I also like using it for one-off Tweets on my own Twitter account—primarily for scheduling other people’s articles and ReTweeting other people on Twitter, for example. I don’t want to save anyone else’s articles to be recycled in Edgar because you never know when a blogger will close down their site or change the permalinks etc.—I prefer promoting other people’s things as I see them, in more real time.
One of the big drawbacks is that you can’t recycle Tweets in Hootsuite. Also, although the interface is much nicer than other Twitter scheduling platforms (I’m looking at you, TweetDeck), it’s still not easy to see very far ahead—it’s a little more cumbersome to see what you’ve scheduled in the coming days.
Cost: free (you can also get a paid version, but I’ve never felt the need to)
There you have it! My top 12 favorite blog tools. In all, you’re looking at spending about $150 or $200/month if you get all of these. But you have to spend money to make money! It’s important to make the RIGHT investments in your business. And if you got just one sponsored blog post/month or just a few hours of freelance writing work/month, your blog investments would be easily paid off.
What are your favorite blogging tools? What have been some of the best investments you’ve made in your blog? Share in the comments section below!
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