It’s crazy how many different pieces come together to make a successful blog business run. I thought it would be helpful and convenient to put many of these resources here in one place. I’ll refer to this often and update it as needed.
Disclaimer: These are services/products that we use, have tested (barring a few that I have evaluated but do not use, as indicated in the descriptions), and find useful. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you go on to purchase them (at no cost to you).
When you start your own blog, you have to host it somewhere. I recommend MediaTemple for most people since it will grow with you and handle traffic spikes, you know, in case you end up on the Yahoo home page or something (true story). Read my How to Start a Blog (+ Blogging Tips from a Pro) article for more info.
Lynda.com offers excellent training for all sorts of things, including WordPress Essentials. I’ve not gone through the course personally (we just figured stuff out on our own with the help of Google searches and questions to our web developer), however I reviewed the course outline and have heard great things about Lynda.com from others. Certainly worth considering if you need some help with WordPress basics.
How to Start and Grow Your Food Blog (training)
Check out my friends Bjork and Lindsay’s high quality video training program, Food Blogger Pro, to learn the ins and outs of both creating food blog content as well as running the business behind it. I have reviewed the course and can personally vouch for this amazing blogging couple! Check out their income reports if you have any doubts.
We have been using MailChimp for over a year now and are quite happy with it. You can start a free account that gives you up to 2k subscribers and 12k emails per month by clicking here, and then upgrade to a paid plan as you grow. We have over 157k email subscribers for my wife’s blog and are growing at a rate of 6k per month. I appreciate the features, analytics, clean user interface, and customer service we get with MailChimp. Plus our emails get through.
Convert Visitors Into Email Subscribers
Building the email list is where it’s at…you control your list, not <insert social media platform here>. You work so hard to get people to your site, so you might as well keep them coming back for more. I’ve tried other fancy email sign up form generators, but got frustrated with difficult installation, having to watch a bunch of training videos and still feeling lost, and then realizing I didn’t have all the features I wanted in the end. Enter OptinMonster.
I noticed OptinMonster being used on a LOT of other sites, including Entrepreneur on Fire, and really liked it’s exit intent technology. Basically at the precise moment a user is about to leave your site (possibly forever), the plugin shows an attention grabbing sign up form. Offering a free incentive, such as a free eBook, really helps with sign ups. To avoid annoying repeat visitors, you can adjust the cookie so they won’t see the form for however many days you wish (default is one week).
My experience? I purchased, installed the plugin, and had my first sign up form live in about 10 minutes. And the results? On day one my sign ups increase 600% and are showing no signs of stopping!
Computer Back Ups
Our business is entirely online, so it is UBER important that both of our MacBook Pro’s are always backed up off site. I looked into lots of options, including Carbonite, and ultimately decided on Crashplan.
After trying it out for a month I was so happy with the service that I bought a 4 year family plan. It is so easy to use and just works. Plus the seed time (first time backup) is very fast. This would have taken more like 3 weeks with another service! We were good to go in about 4 days, and we had a LOT of data.
Another thing I like is the the plan has unlimited storage. My wife Lisa takes a TON of photos. Seriously, she might take 20 to get the right one even for a Facebook post (and she posts many times per day). And she doesn’t delete them, which means I have to back them up. They go on a local external mirrored hard drive for fast access which gets backed up to Crashplan offsite. Now that we are making some videos (which result in large file sizes) as well, I am really appreciating the unlimited aspect of our family plan.
How You Can Crush It with the Amazon Associates Program
This is one of the easiest ways to start earning money online. I’m working on a little something to help you out…see this page for details. And for a great overview of the Amazon Associates ecosystem, check out this article and infographic.
Site Analytics and Heat Maps
Clicky web analytics is cost effective and provides amazing insights into user behavior. Check out my post How to See Where People Are Clicking on Your Blog with Heatmaps for details. We use this in addition to Google Analytics, which is free.
Run from Quickbooks (words cannot describe how much I loath Quickbooks) straight into the arms of Xero.com. LOVE LOVE this accounting software. It’s about $30 a month and pulls all transactions in daily from our business checking, Paypal, and credit card accounts. Our sales manager has restricted access so she can generate invoices and monitor payment. Reconciliation and reports are easy. Each week I am pleasantly surprised out how little time I spend on accounting. Really.
Digital Product Distribution
If you create an eBook and want to sell it easily, e-junkie is your answer. It works with your Paypal account, is super cheap ($5 a month), and can even manage an affiliate program for you (so you can have other bloggers selling your ebook).
My only gripe is their purchase form doesn’t require the user to enter their email address twice (to weed out typos). If you have high sales volume (hundreds or thousands of sales in a short period of time), the resulting customer service is something to consider. But if you are just starting out or seeing moderate sales, this is an easy one stop shop.
There are times when you need an attorney, and there are times when using one would be a huge waste of money. The Unconventional Guide to Law and Order covers the basics so you can make wise decisions and reduce risk. Be safe, be professional, but don’t be stupid.
In addition to monitoring, think of their service as an insurance policy. If your site gets hacked, they fix it at no extra charge.
- Stop Denial of Service
- + Prevent Malware and Blacklists
- + Protect Software Vulnerabilities
- + Stop Website Hackers
Google Authenticator – Free two-step authentication. This massively reduces the chances of your WordPress and Gmail accounts from getting hacked.
Duo Security – Like Google Authenticator, but easier to use. Free for up to 10 admins.
WordPress Plugins (more details to come)
Easy Recipes Plus
Good Writer Checkify
Jetpack by WordPress.com
JQuery Pin It Button for Images
nrelate Most Popular
nrelate Related Content
Really simple Facebook Twitter share buttons
w3 Total Cache