Welcome to VintageGlamStudio's Resources section, a curated list of the tools and websites I strongly recommend for building and optimizing your online business. Here's the behind the scenes nuts & bolts of tools and resources I have used to build this blog.
Some tools were added later as my blog has grown and I developed new streams of income and began to take courses, joined Facebook groups or researched successful blogs for information on how to boost my earnings.
I have tested and used all the resources mentioned here, but before mentioning these resources, here's an important disclosure.
Some of the links listed below are affiliate links meaning I will be earning a small commission. The commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all these companies, and I recommend them because of their usefulness and not because of the commissions I earn if you should decide to buy.
These are the resources I depended on as essential especially when I began self-hosting my blog. I used WordPress.com when I initially began this blog, since I was such a newbie and was only blogging as a hobby. The factors that drove me to switch to self-hosting was the huge difference WordPress plug ins can provide in providing web security, SEO, mail list building, blog functionality, social media growth and overall website speed. Of course, one of the biggest reasons was the ability to begin making money from my self-hosted blog even it was a few dollars of ad revenue. Looking back, I should have switched sooner.
So, if you are serious about monetizing your blog in any way, growing your traffic or perhaps your blog functions as your online business card, these are what I consider foundational tools .
Bluehost – This is the web hosting platform I have used since I started self-hosting this blog a few years ago. I started with the beginner package and upgraded my hosting as my traffic increased through the Choice Plan. They have great customer service, tech help that can be contacted via phone, email and chat, and low start up pricing. As of 2/14/19 they have created a new Customer Service division called Blue Crew, that will assist new hosting customers with their start up questions.
Another competitor being mentioned by many bloggers, for beginner or newbie bloggers (but I have no experience with) is Siteground.
I have since migrated my WordPress Hosting to a Managed WordPress Hosting service at Big Scoots. A huge reason I switched is that my growing blog was hacked and that immediately motivated me to turn over the management of my security and back end maintenance to professionals. The monthly hosting is a little higher but the peace of mind is well worth it.
If you already have a website that is attracting more than 25,000+ visits per month you might be considering Managed WordPress Hosting. May I suggest WP Engine, as a potential hosting tool?
Market Samurai – Research Tool
While using Google's keyword tool is extremely helpful, as your blog grows you are going to need a tool that is much more robust. I purchased this product when I was actively writing for other clients to do keyword research, SEO competition and Google ranking. I have also heard Keysearch is a reasonably priced tool for beginning bloggers and intermediate bloggers.
Yoast SEO – awesome free Seo plug-in for WordPress. Gets you started optimizing your blog posts for SEO from the get go by grading your SEO efforts before you publish that blog post. It assures that your content will be found by Google and suggests improvements as you write. Of course, this is just to get you started.
Eventually you will have to become savvy on how to get your content seen by Google and rank higher on Google search engines. One recommendation for learning the basics and advanced strategies of SEO to scale your blog to earn income is Mike at Stupid Simple SEO, he provides sound practical advice on how to improve traffic and winning the game with Google.
MonsterInsights – Great tool or plug in for evaluating your google analytics within your WordPress interface with one click. I usually use the free version, and test products out to their full functionality before I upgrade.
Genesis by StudioPress I started using this website theme framework since I began self hosting. This product basically allows you to update your blog without knowing the coding language that would be required to make changes on your header, sidebar and other portions of your blog. It's a
newbie blogger's best tool. Note: In October of 2019, some of this platforms tools was incorporated into the WordPress platform and themes with the Gutenberg editor.
If you are not familiar with the terms WordPress interface, Content Management System, HTML5 or CSS, than the beginner blog page buider I would recommend is Elementor. The developers at Elementor have created a variety of drag-and-drop customizeable tools for building themes that can work on the WordPress platform. You can buy templates or build your own website. This plugin allows you to make changes to your website that would otherwise require someone who is familiar with CSS code to do it for you. This will allow you to spend less of your blogging time on the back end of your blog than promoting and interacting with your blog readers.
It's a lesson I learned the hard way. I should have started with this type of theme or similar type of page builder software tool first, but I was advised by a geeky friend who recommended another tool which is absolutely great if you can code or know your way around all the terms mentioned above. It's also great if you have a developer as a friend, relative or on staff to help you with all the edits you will eventually need or want to make to your website.
My son is a developer and helped me with the initial setup of my blog but the rest was Mom's job to learn and complete on my own. I initially used SiteOrigin page builder with the theme I was using, which is one of the more difficult page builders to use according to WPBeginner.com Now, I use and highly recommed CSSHero which can be used as a complement tool to any of these pagebuilders.
As for my son, his time and skills are in demand by his employers and Mom doesn't have access to him unless it's an emergency. So, yes, I have done the back-end blog work.
There are a host of other initial plugins that will provide great functionality to your website that I couldn't address at length here.
Social Media Tools
A top source of my web traffic comes from Pinterest and other social media platforms. While I have used the manual pinning method for a few years, I recently purchased a Tailwind subscription to expand my access to Tailwind Tribes. Pinterest is basically a visual search engine and it is vital to help you market your business.
Tailwind is a scheduling tool that helps me set up those timely pins to Pinterest. What Tailwind allows you to do is to schedule pins to your Pinterest account and individual boards (as well as group boards), schedule them on a queue, and allows you to join Tailwind tribes (which are similar to group boards) that will enable you to grow your outreach.
Even the free sign-up to Tailwind (with some restricted functions) is a great tool if you are a Pinterest marketer.
Tailwind also provides an in-depth amount of backend info that the Pinterest analytics section of your Pinterest business account does not provide. Many of the top Mommy blogs (and niche bloggers) use this tool to get huge Pinterest followings on Pinterest. Get your first month of Tailwind for free.
Top Affiliate Network Resources:
These sites are like large management firms (the middle men) that represent hundreds of brands that might be the right fit for your blog's niche. Sign up is usually free, payout thresholds are low and are usually the right fit, especially if you are just getting started with your blog.
Many brands do not have affiliate programs in house and very often turn to these companies to manage them. The goal is to find a sponsor for your blog niche or website and get paid for your great content or to find a program that pays you to promote their product to your readers that will match what your blog readers want or need.
Amazon – a giant in the affiliate industry, they are large enough to have their own internal affiliate management team. They have an easy to understand interface, lots of tools to easily create ads and links. They also provide chat support for their Associates.
Awin – This network represents thousands of US based companies and international companies. They are now the parent company of Shareasale. I signed up with them because they manage Etsy's affiliate program. They do charge a refundable $5.00 for sign-up.
Linkshare – This is a huge network representing several international brands. Depending on your traffic and social media following, you can often receive “private offers” by brands that would like you to partner with them at higher commission rates in order to promote their product. However, you will need to provide solid information on your traffic and how you intend to promote the affiliate's product.
Magiclinks – I use this network for all my ready to shop product links. They represent several well known brands, especially fashion brands, and probably have one of the easiest to understand dashboards (interface). They also have managers ready to assist you via Chat. Not all networks have this kind of customer service for their affiliate partners.
Shareasale This affiliate network is based in the US and manages over 4,500 companies with very popular brands. They represent several well known brands, their dashboard interface is easy to understand and they rate the brands they represent. But don't let brand recognition deceive you into thinking they pay the highest, sometimes it's smaller less well known companies or small businesses that have the highest commission rates.
This is just a summary of a few of the well known affiliate companies, there are literally hundreds of companies available that you will match your blog content and income earning needs.
When you need high resolution and quality graphic resources, these sites have great products at reasonable prices with often reasonably generous commercial use policies or design products for small businesses. If you are designing products for your personal use, access to these resources might not be necessary, but if you are thinking of creating an Etsy shop or selling any product either online or in person than you will need to know about these design resources.
Many graphic designers are now making design products available to “crafters” or small businesses, with appropriate commercial use licenses, products that would normally be available solely to other designers or large businesses with in house graphic designers. This is a boon for anyone considering opening up an Etsy shop or other online crafting site.
PicMonkey – just a great and easy online photo editing tool. It used to have a great free online resources but has recently changed into a paid subscription model for more advanced online photo editing tools. However, if you are not savvy in using Photoshop or Corel Draw, you will need access to some type of online photo editing tool especially to create your Pinterest and social media marketing images.
Canva – When you don't want to fire up heavy duty software programs, like Photoshop, this online photo editing tool is my go to place. It has business ready templates that you can adjust for your brand. I use this product for my social media photo edits. This is a go to tool for creating good Pinterest pins and blog graphics. It has a free program and a paid monthly subscription.
Etsy – many graphic designers are now setting up shops or products with appropriate licensing made for the small business owner or blogger, they vary from mockup photos to social media templates for Canva.
The Hungry Jpeg – This site is a great resource for graphics, fonts and mockups at affordable prices and with generous commercial use licenses. They offer a weekly freebie as well as great prices on graphics or font bundles at prices reduced over 80 percent if they were bought individually. This is a great way to get introduced to a variety of designers and collect design assets that you can use in your projects or products. You can purchase a la carte graphics and many designers offer their products at special one dollar USD discounts.
Creative Fabrica – Another great design resource for graphics, fonts, mockups and other design items with generous commercial use licenses. I initially signed up on their mailing list to see their great font deals. They have a $1.00 sale every Monday where you can access a variety of fonts and graphics. While I am very leary of long term subscriptions, I took advantage of a wonderful promotion at a phenomal price and now have a monthly subscription with this site. I love it! I track all my graphics expenses and the subscription reduced my monthly expense by half!
Creative Market -This site has premium designs, fonts and other design assets created/designed by professional graphic designers usually for professional graphic design use. Since the design assets are premium quality, you will need software and hardware to download and unpack their product offerings. The premium design assets offered also means prices (especialy for licensing) are more expensive than other comparable sites. They offer six freebies every week; most, however, (in my opinion) are products geared to other professional graphic designers for professional corporate work. But that is not to say, that there are reasonable and affordable products available for the diy crafter and online Etsy shop owner.
FontBundles.net – I love the premium fonts available on this website. I have purchased a variety of unique and custom fonts on this website. They offer generous commercial use licenses and allow you to purchase via a “credits buying” system very similar to image/photo sites. They also have a sister site Designbundles.net which is great for affordable craft files for diy crafting.
Mighty Deals – this is another absolutely awesome site for premium design assets. However, very much like Creative Market the products available on this site are geared to professional graphic designers for use in professional software and with professional tools.
My favorite products are the phenomenal prices offered for font design bundles with generous commercial use licenses. It is a great idea to get on their mailing list and be ready to swipe their awesome deals as they become available.
Screencast-O-Matic – I love this video tool for creating videos of desktop screencasts as well as other types of videos with good audio. The company has recently provided an app that enables you to upload videos from your phone and tablets and across other devices. It also provides a video editor within the app with royalty free music.
Invest in your Yourself/Blogging Education
I don't see this posted often, but if you want to start a blog (especially as a side hustle that earns you money) be prepared to invest some time and money to improve your skills and knowledge. What skills do you need, to grow your blog?
This is a short list… blog photography, basic photo editing, writing for SEO, writing for marketing or copywriting, getting familiar with the back end of your CMS ( Content Management System, for example, WordPress) etc., and Social Media marketing… these are general skills but they will vary depending on the type of blog niche you want to get into and what skills you already possess.
The good thing is that you don't have to spend that much money all at once. You can invest in yourself and your blog as your blog begins to grow.
My first introduction to earning affiliate income was from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. When I first started this blog, I wasn't familiar with the back end of the WordPress platform, so I took several online courses on Lynda .com, now owned by Linked In. That was a great investment of my time and money, but that was only the beginning of my skills training.
I will also add that my offline work related skills training was a big booster as well. I have since logged in several hours in a lot of online training. But using the combined skills of my offline work didn't help me with the other end of blog ownership…online marketing.
My goals were two fold, I wanted to learn how to make money on my blog and how to improve my design skills, skills I am still working on. Although I have viewed a lot of Youtube videos, and still do, I would recommend sites like Skillshare or Craftsy or Udemy.
Skillshare is a site that has several online programs that will help you get started with the skill set you want or need to improve whether you are looking to improve your skills as a personal hobby or actually setting up an online blog. If you are on a very tight budget, don't hesitate to search youtube for video tutorials on skills you want to learn.
There are also several short blogger courses online for reasonable prices on how to begin “mommy blogs” to earn money. Don't let the name fool you, many of these blogs end up earning their owners up to several thousand dollars per month in affiliate income and other related services.
However, I believe most took a variety of courses before they launched their blog. To fast track your blogging education, I would suggest the Genius Blogger Toolkit sold by Ultimate Bundles as a fast way to get information on how bloggers make money online and the skill set you need to gain success.
This blogger bundle provided several thousand dollars worth of content for under $100 USD. The problem is that it only becomes available for sale once or twice a year.
But as to be expected, very rarely, do they give away their secrets of blogging success for free; however, many do provide valuable information in their blog posts or opt-in freebies with solid introductory information.
Well, that's a round up of my essential tools. I hope you found the information helpful.
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