Blogging Toolbox

There are a lot of things that I use that keep this blog running smoothly.  This includes hosting, emails and other resources or tools in my Toolbox.  I’ve categorized them below.  I’ll continue to update this page as I learn more.

**This page contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount of money if you make a purchase using this link.**

In the Blog Beginning

First you’ll need to pick out a name and decide your niche, BUT don’t get too caught up in it either.  I’ve seen plenty of bloggers start out with one idea and then transition to a new one once they figured out what they preferred to write about, or once they saw what was resonating with their readers.  There are plenty of name generator sites out there, but I’m not listing them as a resource because all they do is take your three or four words to describe your blog and then spit back out blog names using only those words.  You can do that on a piece of paper.  (Haha, had to throw that one in there!  Moleskine journals are my favorite playground for my words.)

Next, you’ll need to pick a host.  There are plenty of hosts out there and I’ve found that many of them are all owned by the same company, EIG.  I did a little research and based on my blog size, I moved to Just Host.  If you use the link below, while it says $5.95, there are usually sales going on like an off for $3.95.

You will be able to find your domain name (aka your blog or website name) sign up for it and then sign up for web hosting. Once you have your hosting nailed down, you can load WordPress onto your site.  Wordpress is a free platform that you can use to build your blog. The great thing about WordPress is that while it seems overwhelming, there are a lot of great videos out there, plus WordPress has its own tutorials on how to use all that it offers.  If you ever question what comes next, just research it, you will find the the answer.

How Do I Look Dear or What’s My Theme?

Picking a theme is also important, it’s the format or layout of your blog.  For those just starting out, you can grab any of the free themes that are available.  I highly recommend any WordPress theme (such as 2010, 2012, etc.) as you know they will be kept up to date.  Staying up to date is important, you’ll not only get the latest and greatest plugins (kind of like apps for your blog) but the latest and greatest security.

But if you’re ready to take it to the next step with a theme, I highly recommend the Divi theme from Elegant Themes.  They have great tutorials on their website

No matter what theme you decide upon, be sure it’s a Responsive theme.  Responsive means that your theme adapts to the different browser sizes out there.  You want to make sure that your blog looks good across the spectrum from desktops and lapttops, to tablets and mobile phones.  If not, some people won’t even look at your blog if they can’t easily read it on their mobile phone.

Make Me Pretty Please

The fonts you use and the color choices you make will play a part in how your blog is received.  Images that you use will also be important.  I recommend two resources that work for me.

Blog Beautiful – 50 Tips & Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow by Marianne Manthey.  It’s loaded with tips on how to make all of your pages look great.  It starts with setting goals, what you want the overall look to be and then covers headers, footers, sidebars and your posts and images.

For my images, I use  There are plenty of options out there, but I find this is clear and easy to work with, especially if you don’t have a background in using Photoshop.  All of the images that I create on my site are through Canva. I upload a lot of my own pictures, but Canva also offers free images as well as ones that you pay for.  Each image is only $1.00, which I find very reasonable.

Find Me My People – Community Building

Finding readers takes time.  There are plenty of ways to do it.  One is to read and comment on blogs that are similar to yours and also to read and comment on blogs that are not similar.  I know that sounds contradictory, but you have numerous interests, why wouldn’t your readers?  You want to find people who are coming to you for a variety of reasons—might also help you to develop a better sense of which direction to go into.  When I started my blog, I was only posting about trying new things, but then I created some posts about creativity and I found that my readership of those posts was higher than the others.  This added a new dimension to my blog.

Another way to find your community is to look for Facebook groups.  There are plenty out there, you just have to search for them.  I highly recommend the following communities:

Blog-Share-Learn is a group that was created by Elena Peters as a place for bloggers to meet, support each other and learn from each other.  I’ve learned more in this group in six months than I learned in the first two years of blogging.

Midlife Bloggers Association is a group created by Kimberly Montgomery and it’s just what it sounds like.  A group for midlife bloggers that is dedicated to supporting these bloggers grow.

Blogging Anarchy created by Katie Paul.  It’s the group with no rules except anarchy.

Connecticut Bloggers Group is the state group that I belong to.  If you’re a Connecticut Blogger then please join.  If you’re from a different state do some searching on Facebook or Google and I’m sure you’ll find a group that’s perfect for you.

How Big You’re Getting – Growing Your Blog

I highly recommend the ebook Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook by Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog. This ebook goes step by step through creating a blog to content, relationships, email marketing and monitization.

As for email, there are many programs out there.  I use Mad Mimi for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m a sucker for the name but second, because it’s free to use up to 100 contacts.  So if you’re building your blog slowly, you don’t want to pay out monthly fees for emails that you’re only sending to 25 or 50 people and then there are step levels from there (500, 1000 etc.)

Let’s Get Social Together

This can get complicated.  There is so much to go over.  The big thing to take away from here is to find the 2 to 3 platforms that you’re going to rock.  If you’re into Twitter and StumbleUpon and Facebook, then use them like crazy.  If you like Pinterest the best, then rock it out.  Unless blogging is all you ever do, it’s not possible to be truly active in all forms of social media.  Especially considering how quickly new types come along each day.  Pick what interests you and then rock it like crazy.  The below order is of importance to me.  If you click the links below, you’ll be taken to my pages on these platforms. Please feel free to follow.

Pinterest – Pinterest is the scrapbook of the internet and I mean that it a good way.  Want to curate images for your decorating project or recipes?  Go to Pinterest.  Want to create a travel bucket list, find great blog posts or pick your next outfit?  Same place.   And if you’re wondering how to go about getting the best use out of Pinterest, then look no further than Pintastic the free (for a limited time) course from Elena Peters.  And, if you’re feeling unsure about creating the best images for your pins, then look to Katie Paul and her Pinterest Content Creation services.

Twitter – Reach out to people in 140 words or less.  You can tweet teasers about your blog, links to your blog or anything else that you feel like tweeting about.

Facebook – The old tried and true.  My biggest recommendation for Facebook is you have to do more than just post links to your blog.  Interact with people.  Post other people’s things.  Ask questions.  Have fun.

Instagram – If your blog will have a lot of pictures, this is the place to be.

Monetizing & Side Hustles or How to Make Some Dollar Bills

First, check out the Blog Income Challenge at Blog Genesis.  Over the course of 14 days, you’ll receive 7 emails with step by step instructions on how to monetize your blog.

Aside from creating your own content for sale, there are additional ways that you can earn some money.  These don’t pay out big time, but all add up to some money and several of these side hustles are for things that you already do.

Google Adsense.  It’s free to sign up and you use your Google login for it.

Amazon Affiliates.  This is another way to earn money.  There are many ways to use your affiliation with Amazon.  You can create ads within your content.  You can link out to something for sale on Amazon, etc.  An example would be doing a book review on your blog and then having an Amazon Affiliate link to the book.  If a reader clicks on it and buys the book, you earn a small commission.

I like to get discounts and earn cash back while shopping.  And there are two easy ways to do it.
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back    This is one of my favorites.  If you sign up for EBates, you can shop almost anywhere and get discounts and cash back.  At Christmas, I spent $450.00 buying presents, got a 5% discount and also got over $40.00 in cash back.  Yes, cash back, sent right to my PayPal account.  Who doesn’t want to get paid while shopping??

Swagbucks is another place that you can shop and earn points to get cash back.  The fun thing about Swagbucks is that you can also watch videos, take quizzes and participate in surveys in order to earn these points.  You cannot use both Swagbucks and Ebates at the same store, but if one isn’t available, the other usually is.

That is the list as it is so far.  I will continue updating as I have more and learn more.  If there is something that you feel is missing from the list and you want to know more, then please let me know.  I’ll look into it.

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