Welcome to my 6-part series “Blogging Secrets Revealed,” where I’ll be sharing insider knowledge to help those of you wanting to start your own travel (or non-travel) blogs and turn them into income-generating businesses.
So far, we’ve gone in-depth on how to brand your blog, how to engage your audience and how to drive traffic to your blog. Understanding these concepts is essential for building your blogging business. Speaking of business, creating a successful blog is a lot of work. Luckily, there are a number of tools that have helped me grow my brand. Today, I’ll share those with you.
Tip: Read the previous posts in this series, and subscribe for FREE access to my full suite of professional blogging funsheets, checklists and email templates. If you’ve ever thought of starting a travel blog — or have one already — these worksheets will get you organized and give you blog clarity.
Now before we get into things, let’s get you caught up on the series:
- 11 Essential Questions For Better Blog Clarity
- 7 Ways To Find Out Who Your Readers Are
- 10 Simple Tactics For Gaining Blog Traffic
- 22 Awesome Ways To Engage Your Blog Readers
- 19 Essential Tools To Grow Your Blog Business (this post)
- Your Ultimate Guide To Blog Monetization
Next Thursday we’ll finish by talking about making money with your travel blog.
Now, without further adieu, here are 19 of my favorite blogging tools for growing my blog and making my life easier.
1. Bluehost / MDD Hosting
Save yourself a lot of headaches and get a good hosting provider from the start. Bluehost is an excellent budget-friendly option starting at $8.99+ per year. MDD Hosting is also an excellent hosting provider, albeit with a higher price point of around $28.80+ per year. I personally switched to MDD Hosting after it was recommended to me by my developer, and have been very happy with it (especially the quick customer service). That being said, Bluehost is highly regarded and is known for offering impressive speed on a budget.
The other hosting service I’ve used that I don’t recommend is GoDaddy. There were constant server issues, and I always felt like their support team was trying to sell me something.
Can you believe the WP-Prosperity Theme is what’s used on both Jessie on a Journey and my online magazine Epicure & Culture? It’s a very versatile theme that adapts to any device and configures easily with WooCommerce, has a featured posts slider, uses clean code, comes optimized for Google search and more!
If you don’t have the money to hire a developer yet, X Theme is an awesome drag-and-drop page builder that can help you create a beautiful blog without needing any design or developing experience.
I’ve tried a few different website protection services and this has by far been the best. They watch the site 24/7 and tell you immediately of any potentially suspicious activity. When you put in a case with them they get on fixing it right away. They also backup my site which, recently, saved my life when a WordPress update screwed up my theme.
If you’re at all serious about blogging, you need to connect Google Analytics — which is free to use — to your website. It gives you all kinds of stats about your readers like demographics, income and geography, and lets you know how individual posts are performing, among many other things. Check out this guide to some of the essential features of Google Analytics.Are you using these tools for #blog #growth? #4 is essential! Click To Tweet
Gaining Followers & Subscribers
I really love this free plugin for creating a subscribe popup box. A lot of the free plugins I researched offered only ugly, super plain designs with limited customizations. PopupAlly let me add a logo, change colors and fonts, and configure to only popup a certain amount of times to a particular visitor, and only when they’re clicking away from the page.
There are a few platforms you can subscribe to create beautiful landing pages, though I love Instapage because it’s very simple to use. You have the ability to drag-and-drop features like text, images and videos into your page. These are great for creating pages on your blog reserved for marketing, a product page (like this one) or email subscription thank you page. Best of all, the page designs are created specifically to lead to conversions for your products, services and subscriptions!
This free plugin with paid features has allowed me to do a multitude of things:
- Increase my Instagram subscriber base using their SmartBar, which allows you to put a clickable call to action on a thin bar at the top of your website
- Add beautiful social media sharing buttons to my blog posts and images
- Allow readers to highlight their favorite pieces of text to quickly share
- Create heat maps on select blog pages to see where people are clicking most and optimize
It’s important to share the work of your peers and not make it all about yourself all the time. Snip.ly offers a great way to share posts from other bloggers in your niche while also directing those who click back to your site. For example, if I’ve just written a post about food in India, I might search for a post on ethical India tours. From there, I can create a snip.ly link for the ethical India tours post that, when clicked, shows the reader a box at the bottom promoting my post about food in India. Here’s a video I made showing how to use Snip.ly.
Pinterest is one of my favorite social media channels for gaining traffic. There are a few best practices you should abide by, like treating Pinterest like a search engine more than a social media platform (ie adding keywords to pins and Pinterest boards so they’re easier to find) and using vertical (vs landscape) pins. Additionally, it’s important to be active. But let’s be real; we don’t all have three hours per day to spend on Pinterest. Luckily, BoardBooster automates your pinning, even looping old pins back to the top to be seen by new eyes. Bonus: This tool is super inexpensive at 1 cents per pin!
HootSuite is a great tool for pre-scheduling your social media. I love being able to sit down at one time and think about what I want to share for the week. Moreover, you can install their Chrome plugin to quickly and easily schedule content by others while surfing the web.
Photos / Video
I’m all about time savers! I’ve branded myself as a writer and photographer, and even lead photo tours in NYC. While I know how to create a decent video, I just don’t have the time to take notes, photos and shoot video then compile and edit all of it when home. Luckily, I can take raw footage on the road and hand it over to ProEditors to turn into a professional video. They even made my About Page video!
Want to try? Use code “jessieonajourney” for 25% off your first video!
Lightroom gives me the essential tools I need to edit photos from trips and my NYC photo tours. It’s only $9.99 per month, and saves me endless hours as I no longer need to individually edit photos. In fact, I’ve created a custom preset in Lightroom that I use almost exclusively, tweaking as needed.
If you’re as not-design savvy as me, you’ll love this free-to-use graphic design platform. Just let Canva know the dimensions you want your graphic to be, or choose from their pre-sized social media graphics and business documents. From there, you can work with a blank or pre-populated templates, swapping in your own photos and text. The outcome? A shiny design that looks like you paid someone to make it. I use the tool for many purposes, mainly making the Pinterest pins that go on the bottom of every blog post (a simply tactic that has easily increased my engagement).
Running contests is a great way to engage with your audience. There are a few free tools out there for hosting contests, though most are ugly. Not Gleam. It’s got an eye-catching design and offers a slew of options for non-paying subscribers. Along with being able to assign point amounts to those entering for doing certain tasks like sharing a Tweet or liking a Facebook post, you can add a contest Facebook widget to your Facebook fan page for extra views. Moreover, Gleam randomly picks the winner for you at the end.
Product Creation / Promotion
I haven’t gotten into live webinars yet, though this is a goal of mine in the future. Many of the digital entrepreneurs I look up to have exploded thanks to live webinars, often utilizing a platform called WebinarJam. A few features of the tool include hosting live or pre-recorded webinars, offering playbacks, screen sharing, file sharing, analytics and even have a live chat for people to ask questions during the webinar. Offering a free webinar gives you the chance to educate your audience on a topic while proving just how knowledgeable you are in your field. From there, they’ll trust you more and (hopefully) subscribe or purchase your product/service.
Thinkific is an awesome tool for creating beautiful online classes that help you show off your expertise and make money. The service gives you the ability to add just about anything, like video, voiceover slide presentations, up-sell bundles, coupons, subscription services, affiliate programs, free trials, landing pages optimized for conversion and more.
Finding Brand Partners
17. Media Networks
I personally join as many media networks as possible, as they make it easy for brands to find you for paid campaigns. A few of my favorites include TapInfluence, Clever Girls Collective and Webfluential. There are new ones popping up all the time. It helps to be on as many as possible, as you never know when your next perfect partner might find you. You can opt in here to get my full list of recommended media and content networks.These media networks are just one way to #grow your #blog. There's 18 more, too! Click To Tweet
Backlinking (Advanced Tactic)
I love this tool for finding backlinks. For those unfamiliar with the importance of backlinks, having high-ranking publications linking to your content helps increase your visibility in Google search. BuzzSumo allows me to enter in a relevant keyword — for example, “solo travel” — and see who is linking to relevant posts. From there, I can email the authors linking to posts about solo travel to see if they may want to link to me, as well.
BuzzBundle is a tool that allows you to monitor forums, blogs, comments and social media for certain keywords you select. For example, I write a lot about NYC as that’s where I live. I might create a campaign with keywords like “things to do in NYC,” “NYC tours,” “tours in New York City” and “New York sightseeing” to see where people are asking are these topics on the web, and reply with my expertise.