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jacqui@collectivewhim.com

Blogging For Beginners: The Tools You Need To Build A WordPress Blog

Last updated on September 19th, 2017
Blogging For Beginners: The Tools You Need To Build A WordPress Blog

Blogging For Beginners: Build A WordPress Blog

Starting a WordPress Blog can be intimidating for many people, especially if you aren’t familiar with the “tech” side of things.

Which hosting plan do you get? Where do you find a good theme? WordPress blog or drag and drop Site builder? What extras do I need? What programs are other people using? I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, can I still blog?

If you have no previous web development experience, it’s enough to make you scream. (PS if you want to pick up a little coding then check out Codeacademy it’s free and GREAT! Start with HTML & CSS)

If you’ve been putting off starting your WordPress blog out of fear of picking the wrong programs, don’t. You are going to make mistakes starting out with a new blog. EVERYONE does, and that is okay! If you have a passion for your niche then the biggest mistake you’re making right now is NOT diving in. You can do it!

Take the first step, get your hosting and buy your domain and the rest will fall into place. If you end up feeling lost, that’s okay! Take one step at a time and you can always use the Submit A Question page for help.

To make this process as easy as possible for you I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of every single program, plugin and platform that I use personally to run my WordPress blog(s).

Note: This list is for a self-hosted WordPress Blog. The plugins will not work with a free WordPress Blog.

Do you have a plugin you can’t live without? Share it in the comments with a sentence or two on why you love it! Don’t forget to leave a link to your blog.

Please note, this post may contain affiliate links. (Bonus! There’s NO added cost for you, thanks for the support!)

Blogging Foundation

Web Hosting

I recommend iPage for your self-hosted WordPress blog.  They are affordable and offer a 30-day money back guarantee as well as 24/7 phone and chat support.  I have used their chat support several times and they’ve always been very helpful.

Go with cPanel hosting (this type of hosting enables you to build a WordPress blog), install WordPress and you’re ready to go.

Domain

iPage offers a free domain for 1 year. After that, it is $15 a year which is a typical registration fee for a domain.

Side note: Make sure you think long and hard about your domain name, it is the core of your blog, brand and YOU.

It SUCKS to build a whole website, produce content, gain followers and then you decide you do not like your website name. I know this from personal experience, and it’s a big bitch to migrate, redirect, repin, rebrand everything. Sleep on your domain for a week at least.

In an effort to save you time and money, make sure it’s a name you will LOVE for years to come.

Theme

The theme that I am using on Collective Whim is called Total – Responsive Multi-Purpose WordPress Theme. It does pretty much everything you can imagine and it’s under $60!! It has a built-in drag and drop page editor, you can design every single page and post however you want.

Take this page for example; I have a call to action and text separators with icons. It took me 5 minutes to create it and it really enhances the page (At least I think so).

The customer support is AMAZING!  The creator of theme went out of their way to build a custom snippet just for me after I emailed about a feature.

Branding & Design

Typography(Fonts)

I use Google Fonts for my blogs. There are currently 818 font choices, they even help you pair fonts together. Ideally, you want to have two fonts for your blog, one for your headers/titles and another for your text body.

Brand Colors

I use Design Seeds and Pinterest for color inspiration. You can also search Google for brand color inspiration.

Canva

I use Canva to make all of my graphics. They have templates, graphics, icons, and pre-made/pre-set dimensions for all of the major social networks. It is free to use, though I recommend upgrading to their Canva for Work option. It makes life so much easier.

Gimp

In Gimp you’ll find a program that is comparable to Photoshop, the main differenc it’s FREE. It is fantastic for editing photos, removing backgrounds, adjusting colors etc.  Skill wise it is an advanced program, but don’t let that deter you. There are a ton of YouTube tutorials out there and with a little practice you’ll have it down.

Stock Pics

Pixabay

I get 97% of my stock photos from Pixabay. All pictures are FREE, all photos are licensed under CCO, which means they are copyright free and you can use them in any commercial project with no attribution. At the moment, they have over 920,000 pictures to choose from and they add pictures daily.

Unsplash

Unspalsh is a small, but useful image library and has stunning landscape pictures. You do not have to pay for the photos and all images are copyright free.

Death to Stock

I really like Death to Stock, it’s a free monthly “subscription” of sorts. You get photo packets once a month and they are beautiful. You can sign up for their premium membership, I just do the monthly package.

Email Marketing

MailerLite

I use MailerLite for all of my websites. They are FREE up to 1000 subscribers, after that they are very reasonably priced. You get FULL features on the free plan. automation, groups, campaigns, segments, landing pages etc. Use my referral link and get a $20 credit to use when you hit your 1001 subscriber!

Social Media Management

Tailwind

I use Tailwind’s yearly plan to manage Pinterest. I LOVE it! (If you’re already using Tailwind join the Collective Whim tribe!) You can sign up for a free trial here, no credit card required and you can also join the CW tribe even on a free account. It took my Pinterest to a whole new level, and it saves me so much time. I set mine up twice a month and literally do nothing while it takes care of all my pins.

Note: Pinterest is a MUST-USE  if you want to grow your blog and increase traffic. You can “do it by hand” but the amount of time it takes to pin 20-30 times a day makes Tailwind well worth it.

Boardbooster

Boardbooster is another trusted option for automating your Pinterest marketing. I actually use both Tailwind and Boardbooster and have them set to repin different things. You can also sign up for a free trial and take it for a spin. They have monthly plans starting at just $5 bucks.

Post Planner

For Twitter & Facebook automation I use Post Planner. I do the Love plan, which lets you have up to 10 individual profiles and 100 posts per day. I use 3 of the 10 slots at the moment and do not even come close to 100 posts per day. You can recycle your content which is my favorite feature.

Video Software

Filmora

For video editing, I use Filmora. It has an easy to use user interface and lets you create video intros, add music, text and tons of other options without a huge learning curve.

iSpring Free Cam

Any time I do a screen recording I use iSpring. There are no watermarks, time limits or pesky ads. It has a few editing features and video highlights (mouse sounds, etc). It will also let you select the screen size to record. For a free tool it’s pretty nice!

Windows Movie Maker

I am using Movie Maker for my webcam recordings at the moment. Windows stopped supporting it in Jan 2017, so unfortunately you can no longer download it. I have been browsing around to find an all in one program, but have yet to find something I like. When I do I will update this post.

WordPress Plugins

A quick note about Plugins. WordPress currently has 50,844 active plugins, coded by professionals and armatures. Always, always back-up your website before you install a new plugin. Anyone can publish and create a plugin, and some plugins can and will eff up your stuff. Choose wisely. 

Bare Minimum Must Have Plugins

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore

Speaking of backing up your website, the very first plugin I download is UpdraftPlus. It’s very easy to use and you can do manual backups directly to cloud storage (I use dropbox). It will copy your entire website, exactly as is at the moment. If anything were to happen you have a hard copy of your website that will enable you to restore it.

Yoast SEO

The second plugin I download is Yoast SEO. It is an absolute must have for a clean, well put together website. It has pre-built metadata functions for social media, xml maps and more. They have a Definitive Guide to walk you through setting it up. It is super easy to follow, and they are always updating it. You can read it here.

Jetpack by WordPress.com

Jetpack has a ton of free and paid features some of them include: Site stats and analytics, Related posts,
search engine optimization tools for Google, Bing, Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress.com and advertising program that includes the best of AdSense, Facebook Ads, AOL, Amazon, Google AdX, and Yahoo.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization(WP Smush)

WP Smush will “Resize, optimize and compress all of your images”. This means faster load times on your pages, and helps you rank better with Google.

Revision Control

Revision Control is a plugin that lets you determine how many “copies” you want to keep of post changes. If you edit your posts (even while still in draft form) WordPress will keep a copy. That copy is stored in your website’s files, which can slow down your page load time. I keep a max of 3 prior revisions per post/page.

Title and Nofollow For Links

If you are planning on using affiliate links or doing sponsored posts you need Title and Nofollow For Links. It will add an easy to use check box containing the rel=”nofollow” tag right under the “open window in new tab” option. This saves a ton of time. (Note: the plugin has not been updated in 2 years, for this one that is okay as it’s a simple feature and does not require maintenance)

Social Plugins

MiloTree

I use MiloTree for my newsletter pop-up. It connects directly to MailerLite and I love that. They also offer pop-ups that connect to your Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts to help you build followers.

SumoMe

My floating share buttons and my smart bar (notice at the top of the website) are both powered by SumoMe. They have a ton of features and different options for making your website more “social” including a welcome mat.

Formidable Forms

I use Formidable for all of my contact pages on my websites. The form builder is easy to use, drag, drop and go. Not only can you do contact forms, but it also offers polls and surveys, or lead generation forms all in one plugin.

Misc. Tools

Giveaways

Gleam, is my favorite platform for hosing giveaways. I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing than other options and it’s easy to use. They have free and paid options and a ton of entry categories to choose from. Once you set your giveaway you all you need to do is copy and paste into your post and you’re ready to go.

Store

I use Woocommerce for my store, it’s actually a plugin and integrates right into your WordPress dashboard. They have a TON of addons, it can get a little overwhelming, but it is worth it. If you want to sell things on your website I highly recommend it. (Don’t forget to get an SSL certificate!)

That’s everything I use. While it might seem like a lot, don’t’ let it discourage you from starting your own WordPress blog. Over 3/4 of the plugins are set it and forget it. Once you get your blog up and running you won’t be tweaking your theme much either.

Don’t forget to pin for a rainy day!

 

Starting a blog doesn't have to be hard! Everything you need to build a blog. Add-ons and tools that you need to run a self-hosted WordPress blog. WordPress plugins, email marketing program, free stock pictures, website design, social media marketing and more!

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