I started my blog as a private creative outlet and had no idea when I started whether it was something I would keep up with or abandon within a few months. Shortly after I went public in January of 2017 I was introduced to Abby Lawson’s Building a Framework course by a very successful local blogger (Jeanette at Snazzy Little Things and Snazzy Design Service). She told me this was a great guide and boy, did she undersell! The course is so well laid out and comes with tons of valuable tech tutorials, resource links, etc.
Some of the topics Framework addresses are: how to set up technical elements, how to start/grow social media channels, how to work with brands and grow an email list, and so much more! With purchase you also get access to the members-only Facebook page where you’ll meet tons of other bloggers happy to answer questions and find opportunities for mutual promotions, link parties, etc. This is the guide that I personally am using to implement improvements and grow my blog each day. An invaluable resource!
If you have ever toyed with the idea of starting a blog I would emphatically recommend starting off with the Building a Framework course so that you can learn best practices for all major areas of blogging. Take the chance – you won’t regret it and as a fail-safe, they offer a 30-day money back guarantee. NO EXCUSES!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure policy, click here.
Hosting & Platform
Once you register your domain name (check the hosts below or GoDaddy for available domains), you need to find a host!
SiteGround. My personal host for NattyGal.com. Fast, safe, easy to use and responsive!
Bluehost. Another popular hosting platform for new bloggers.
WordPress. Natty Gal uses WordPress for management of all content. I started out with Blogger, moved briefly on to WordPress.com and then landed on WordPress.org as having the most versatility and flexibility. It’s the platform used by an extremely high percentage of successful blogs.
My current theme is WordPress.org’s Twenty Sixteen theme but I am hoping to upgrade this summer to Building a Framework’s suggested Genesis framework and child theme combination. This allows you to work from a solid code base while allowing for customization through the child. Building a Framework suggested child theme providers include:
- Restored 316
- Feast Design Co
- Pretty Darn Cute Designs
Backup and Storage
I foolishly only started backing up my site recently. Prior to that I relied on SiteGround’s basic backup included with hosting.
UpDraftPlus is the service I am now using to back up my blog contents. Currently the world’s #1 most popular and mostly highly rated scheduled backup plugin.
Dropbox. My current storage space for backups. Their free plan is ample for Natty Gal’s needs.
Google Drive. Another good/free choice for storage of backups.
Plugin’s can increase the effectiveness and versatility of your site. When you install a plug-in, make sure it is compatible with your WordPress theme, that it was fairly recently updated and that it has a large number of active installs with good reviews. A few plug-ins that I rely on include:
Ad Inserter. Allow you to run ads by inserting ad code from affiliate programs in specific spots (before, after, mid) post, etc.
Akismet. Protects your blog from spam. Have used this since I’ve been with WordPress.org with no issues. Works well.
Rel Nofollow Checkbox. Very important if you participate in affiliate programs. Affiliate links are required to be “Rel No Follow” links and this plug-in attaches a simple check box for this wherever there is a link.
Yoast SEO. Allows you to edit post meta data and screens for both SEO optimization and readability. Easy to use.
MailChimp. With a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers, this is a great place to start with email marketing. I recently switched Natty Gal from Jetpack’s Email Subscribers service to MailChimp.
Photography & Photo Editing
OK, photography is an area that I am really trying to work on this summer!
Sony DSC-RX100. This is the point and shoot I normally take photos with (when not using my cell phone). It’s renowned among point and shoots for it’s manual mode that allows for a very high degree of customization, not completely mimicking a DSLR, but coming close.
The Canon Rebel seems to be recommended among bloggers as an affordable, starter DSLR.
Pexels. Need stock photos? This site has lots of high quality freebies for commercial use.
PhotoPin. An alternative to Pexels. Search Google using the advanced image settings or Flickr for CCL photos (those free to use commercially) – or – this free photo search tool does the same across multiple creative commons databases. Be sure you check the copyright and attribution rules for each individual photo.
PicMonkey. Recommended by many for photo editing. I personally use the software that comes built in with either Flickr or my camera software but don’t do a ton of editing.
Canva. Am just starting to experiment with this site that is for designing your own graphics.
Afterlight. Recommended to me by Jeanette at Snazzy Little Things. Great for brightening up photos from your cell phone.
Touch/Retouch. Fantastic app for taking unwanted items out of your images.
Social Media Tools
Buffer App. Allows you to schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagrm. Please note that Instagram posting still requires you to launch the post but the Buffer software will prompt with a reminder when there is something in your queue to be posted.
Crowdfire. Similar to Buffer. I don’t use these scheduling services a lot yet but as you get deeper into blogging, can see where they’d be so helpful in scheduling.
BoardBooster. Amazing for it’s “set it and forget it” Pinterest pin scheduling.
UnFollowers for Instagram (iOS and Android). Tired of getting a bunch of new followers only to have them leave you a week later? This app will identify them so you can unfollow as well. No one benefits from false interest/support!
OneNote. A digital filing cabinet that allows to you type notes, scan paper and capture web images and organize them in one easy-to-access place. Searchable by keyword. Also available as a phone app.
LastPass. Great password manager that can generate unique passwords. The mobile version allows for fingerprint logins.
Conferences and Connecting with Other Bloggers
BlogHer. Annual conference and online resource for female bloggers.
Online Blog Con. A virtual conference held late summer/early fall.
Simply Stylist. Annual conferences in LA, NYC and Chicago and online resources for those in the fashion niche.
Style Collective. Annual conference, blogging community and online resources for style and lifestyle bloggers.
Google AdSense. Great place to start! Just apply, fill out your ad preferences and insert the code into your sidebar or header or footer and you’ll be off and running some Google Ads.
Amazon Associates. Also easy to get into. Pick out Amazon products that your readers will love and either run ads, link to them in a post or create and Amazon “shop” to display on your site.
ShopStyle Collective. Easy acceptance that pays for clicks on their links. Build project widgets that you can promote on your site as “Shop the Post” sliders or create clickable looks to share on social media. Like Amazon Associates, you can also create a virtual “shop” to add to your blog.
Rakuten Affiliate Network (formerly LinkShare). Easy acceptance into the main network but you then need to apply for each retailer you would like to represent. Some retailers are easy to affiliate with, other require more traffic. Again, you can link directly to affiliate retailer products or can run general ads for each retailer on your page.
Ultimate Bundles. Easy acceptance. Great deals on grouped bundles of products that you can offer your subscribers via email promotion. Niches include: business, family, health and lifestyle.
Skimlinks. Moderate acceptance rate. Once you install SkimLinks on your site, SkimLinks will automatically turn deep links of participating retailers in to referral links. They have a very extensive network of retail participants and pay higher commission rates than through RAN/LinkShare.
RewardStyle. Moderate to difficult acceptance. You need significant traffic for this program. Much like ShopStyle collective, you can use their links/widgets within your site AND as a way of monetizing your social media accounts.
Individual Affiliate Programs. Often times site you use in your blogging endeavors will have affiliate programs available. Think your web host, WordPress theme designer, etc. Also look to other services you use. For instance, I became an affiliate for Abby Lawson after taking her Building a Framework course and am an affiliate for a fellow blogger that I follow that produces capsule wardrobe e-books.
Below is a simple spreadsheet I use to organize my blogger relationships (days that I comment on other blogger’s sites) and social media posts. It makes it easy to see which people, link parties and posts fall on any given day of the week.