It’s been just over a month since I started blogging! Here are all the most useful blogging tools and resources that have helped me along the way.
I started imogengoes on the 28th December 2016 with the vague idea of starting a travel blog for the New Year that would replace my physical journal. I had never started a WordPress blog before, let alone a self-hosted one. Besides what I was going to name it, I had no idea what direction the blog was going to go in.
Well, this past month and a bit has been an incredibly steep learning curve and I don’t dare think about how many hours I’ve spent reading and researching to get imogengoes off the ground. I still have so far to go but there is no blogging problem that cannot be solved by a quick Google! Today I’m going to write about the most useful tools, blogs, plugins, courses and websites that have helped me start imogengoes.
Within a few days of creating the website, I realised I wanted to do this blogging thing right. The sheer number of travel blogs out there is overwhelming and although I know that I’ll probably not be the Next Big Thing, I’m not letting that deter me. If I’m going to spend time and money on a hobby, I’m going to put some effort in!
The Technical Stuff
After reading dozens of step-by-step ‘How To Start A Travel Blog’ articles (seriously, just Google that phrase and you’ll see every travel blogger and their Mum has written that post) I opted to host with Bluehost. I bought a year’s hosting, the domain name and privacy protection for 83USD.
I’ve had no issues at all with Bluehost. My website speed is good and the price is great for a year of hosting! I got the domain name for free with the plan I chose too. There are other hosts that get great reviews, such as Siteground, but Bluehost is by far the most popular.
I fumbled along with the WordPress platform to start with, occasionally referring to their help site if I got stuck. What helped massively was working out which plugins to install. Again, thousands of bloggers have written long lists of the best plugins to install, so I’m going to keep it short. Here are the top three I’ve found most useful:
Every single list of recommended plugins has Yoast on it somewhere. I had never heard of SEO (search engine optimisation) before, but Yoast walks you through exactly what you need to tweak in each blog post to make it findable with Google.
Insert Headers and Footers
I’m still terrified of breaking my blog. Whenever I was required to insert code into the header of the blog, I just quickly closed the browser and ignored it. Nope, I ain’t spending money on this thing if I’m just going to ruin it (a real fear with my technological stupidity.) This plugin makes things a lot less scary.
W3 Total Cache
Another plugin that’s commonly recommended to do a whole load of behind the scenes magic to speed up your website (which is better for SEO- who knew!) There are so many settings to it that I was nervous about it to begin with, but there are some super simple walkthroughs out there to help.
Super Helpful Bloggers
Though I read dozens of travel blogs, the most helpful blogs have been those dedicated to blogging as a business. This list could be a blog post in itself, but for today I’ll list the best three blogs that I constantly refer to:
Sarah’s free course Dare To Blog (and the Facebook community) has been a great support. Her blog is full of useful posts and I have her paid courses bookmarked for the future- the Pinterest course for sure!
Melyssa’s free Pinterest webinar really clarified the whole Pinterest thing for me and now I actually feel like I understand it! I’ve seen some Pinterest growth in the past month and Melissa is 100% the reason why.
I’ve just come to the end of Raelyn’s free 12-day blog traffic email course and it’s been so incredibly useful, especially with social media (I actually know what to do with Twitter now!)
These three awesome bloggers have nothing to do with travel blogging but without them, I’d still be floundering- possibly considering giving up- and definitely wouldn’t have the confidence to be writing this post.
I’m not averse to spending a little bit of money on this blog. I guarantee that if I’d stuck to the free trials of the following tools, I’d have become frustrated and lost motivation to keep up any kind of social media presence, but most people get along just fine without spending any dollar on them. I’m just not the sort of person to constantly update Facebook and Twitter- I barely think about it throughout the day unless I have nothing else to do! Here are my favourite tools to streamline and schedule this whole social media thang:
For Twitter, Buffer is hands down my favourite scheduler- it makes everything so quick and simple! I have the paid version (you can only schedule 10 posts at a time with the free version) and with Buffer’s optimising tool, I set it to post a certain number of times a day and it works out the best times for me! I use the browser extension to pull in my favourite articles from an RSS feed (I use feedly) into the queue between promoting my own blog posts.
I don’t really do much with Facebook! I have a page and when I publish a post I promote it on there and my personal account (God bless supportive friends and family!) I’m just going to focus on other social media for now because I think Twitter and Pinterest have a lot more potential to bring traffic to the blog.
Pinterest confused me. Up until recently, my interaction with Pinterest was limited to looking and pretty clothes, jewellery and weddings. As I’ve mentioned above, Melyssa Griffin’s blog is a treasure trove of helpful strategies for Pinterest. I use Tailwind to schedule Pinterest because using a browser extension, I can pin to multiple boards at once and use the handy ‘interval’ feature to spread the pins out. Like Buffer, Tailwind can optimise posting times. It also allows me to join ‘Tailwind Tribes’ of other bloggers who can pin and support each other! I’ve seen a decent amount of traffic from Pinterest even though I don’t have that many Pins out there thanks to Tailwind.
If you fancy a free month of Tailwind to see how you like it, follow that link! Trust me, it’s great.
Update: I recently changed from using Tailwind to using Boardbooster. I much prefer it for a whole host of reasons that I’ll detail in a future blog post. Sign up for a free trial of Boardbooster here.
Other Great Stuff
I don’t take many photos and when writing about something that isn’t travel (like this post!) I didn’t have a clue where to find good pictures that I could use legally on the blog. Then I found Unsplash. I always find myself scrolling through the beautiful photos and I forget I’m actually trying to find something for the blog!
The 2017 Complete SEO Course
I purchased this course for 19USD through Udemy when they were having a sale because I didn’t have a clue about SEO. This extensive video course walks you through all the important things that will improve a blog’s SEO. Through the course, I found out how to configure the W3 Total Cache and ensure everything is set up so Google can actually find the website! Definitely one of the most useful things I’ve spent money on for the blog.
Evernote is where I keep everything. Honestly, everything. Clippings of useful articles from the web, drafted blog posts, checklists of blog related things, an editorial calendar (even if it is pretty blank right now…) a spreadsheet of blog post promotional tweets… The list goes on and on! This post helped me get started with how to properly utilise Evernote for the blog.
I’m sure if I write a follow-up to this post in a few months time, these lists will be much, much longer! Obviously, I’m an incredibly new blogger and not an authority on the subject but you can believe me when I say everything I’ve written about has worked and made this whole blogging adventure less intimidating. There are lots of things I want to focus on and improve in the near future, such as finding more of a ‘niche’, Facebook and affiliate advertising. Baby steps!
In terms of how the blog has grown so far, since I started it on 28th December 2016, and these are the stats as of today on the 1st February 2017:
Those numbers seem crazy to me (even though in the grand scheme of things they’re nothing) especially since I only expected my friends and family to be reading by this point! You guys rule.