When you first start building a website, the amount of information available can be very intimidating. You may be persuaded by excellent marketers that you need to purchase all kinds of tools and resources that are not really necessary.
When I first began blogging, I was amazed to find out just how many resources and tools were free to use. Some of them offered free signup for a limited period and you could upgrade to the paid version later. I am still using many of these resources, although I have upgraded to paid versions of some of them now. I like being able to sign up for free and upgrade later because I can test and see how useful a resource is before I upgrade.
I will update this list as I continue to discover more helpful tools and resources. (Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I receive a small commission that helps me keep this blog running. You do not pay any more if you buy this way).
I bought my domain through Namecheap. I find their website easy to use, they offer good support and their prices are affordable.
I use a South African company called Hetzner for my hosting (my son works for them and I get a special deal!) but there are many good companies that offer website hosting. I see many bloggers recommending Blue Host.
Free WordPress themes
WordPress offers many free themes suitable for all kinds of websites. I began by using the free version of NatureSpace which is a multipurpose theme. Here again, you can always upgrade to a paid version later.
This works like a filing cabinet for me. Whenever I find articles of interest, tips, ideas I store them in Evernote. I can keep them organised so it is easy to find exactly what I want. There is even an iPhone app that gives you mobile access to all your documents. Free signup.
I use Dropbox to store all my files and to share large files. It’s very simple and I use the free plan. I also back up my website to dropbox once a week, using the WordPress export tool. Recently, I was really thrilled that I had backed everything up to Dropbox as my laptop was stolen. When I had my first laptop stolen, I lost all the research I had been doing for two years for a book. Free signup.
Writing and research
http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer is a tool that helps me to write better headlines. All you do is enter your chosen title and you will be given a score based on how many uncommon/common, emotional or power words it contains. The idea is to get above 70%. It also gives you character and word count, what type of headline you have written and you can see what your title will look like in the Google search results.
Buzzsumo. I use the limited free version to research blog post ideas. I just type in a subject or a phrase and I am able to see what is doing well on social media channels.
MOZ Content. Another great tool for coming up with content ideas.
Google Alerts I have created alerts for different keywords so I can monitor trends in my niche.
Reading a post full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes is enough to make you click away as fast as possible. Grammarly is far more than just a spell checker. As an ex-English teacher my grammar is fairly good. However, Grammarly has provided an insight into some common errors I still tend to make. I tend to leave out commas in some crucial places! Every week I receive a report card showing me how many words I have written, how many mistakes I have made and much more. Not only does Grammarly pick up your errors but it teaches you at the same time, helping you to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Wordstream has a free keyword tool. You get 10 free keyword searches up-front, then one free keyword search per day going forward. You can email the full free keywords list of suggestions to yourself for free.
This is an easy to use image creation program that has made creative design easy for me. Canva has a free signup but you pay a dollar if you use their images. They do provide a limited number of free images. However, you do not have to use their images and can easily upload your own. You can create images quickly and it helps that they have optimized templates for most social media platforms.
This is another tool that allows you to make creative posters, banners, social media covers and quotes in seconds. I like the fact that you can easily change text size, font and all the other elements after choosing to ‘repix’ an image from the many that are available for use.
If you want to create a logo and you don’t want to spend a fortune, go to Cooltext and sign up for easy logo creation.
Free Image Sources
If you can take your own quality photographs, you are ahead of the game. However, just because you aren’t a photographer does not mean you can’t have beautiful photos on your blog. Here are my top 6 sources of free images, released under a Creative Commons CCO licence. This means you can download, modify and use them freely without any attribution.
- MORGUEFILE 2. UNSPLASH 3. PIXABAY 4. PEXELS 5. GRATISOGRAPHY 6. HIRESSTOCK
(Click on the images below to take you to these sites).
The following plugins are all free WordPress plugins.
I use All in One SEO Pack to automatically optimize my site for Search Engines. It saves you much of the hard work. Some people prefer to use Yoast but I find that All in One SEO is simpler to use and just as effective.
This enables me toblog without having to be concerned about receiving spam.
This plugin automatically optimizes your images as you upload them to your blog. It can also optimize ones you have already uploaded and convert them automatically to the format that will produce the smallest image size. Smaller images mean faster page loads and happier visitors.
SumoMe is my social media promotion plug-in. It also has a number of features that allow you to collect subscribers to your websites. As they opt-in to being part of your network, you are able to keep them up-to-date on new content, reviews, product releases, and more.
I use Mad Mimi to create, send, share and track email newsletters online. When it comes to putting together e-newsletters it is very straightforward and it is one of the cheaper options.
Shareasale has a wide range of merchants for you to join up with and the approval process is straightforward. Some merchants will auto-approve you and others will want some information first about how you are going to market their products. You can market anything from clothing and accessories to computers and games. Don’t be discouraged if you are not approved by some companies – I have had a number of rejections but have always found those who were willing to take a shot with a beginner.
The Amazon Associate Program is the official affiliate program for Amazon. This platform allows bloggers, and affiliate marketers to earn money. You can promote any of the products by sending your readers to Amazon through your affiliate link. When the reader makes a purchase, you earn commission on the sale.
Viglink has relationships with over 30,000 brands and retailers. This means you don’t have to sign up to all of these companies separately. If you sign up to Viglink, they keep track. All you do is insert a line of code to your site source and VigLink will take care of the rest. VigLink works differently in that it converts normal outgoing links into affiliate links and if users make a purchase, you earn a referral commission from it. Viglink keeps 25% and you get 75% when you make a sale through your link and you receive your money monthly via Paypal. If others join up to Viglink through your recommendation, you earn 35% commission.
I hope this post has given you some helpful suggestions if you are new to blogging and affiliate marketing. Setting up your website so you can begin earning money online does not require huge startup capital as many of the tools and resources are free. If you find a particular tool or resource really helpful, it is easy enough to upgrade to a paid version later.