Blogging can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. I feel like I have a pretty lean setup, but wanted to share some of the tools I use in my business.
These are broken down by category, so feel free to jump around.
Domain Name and Hosting
There are really only a few ingredients you need to get started online, but first among them are a domain name and hosting.
If you’re just starting out, you can get online for as little as $2.95 a month through my special partner deal with Bluehost — and they’ll even cover your first year of domain registration.
When you sign up through my referral link, forward your order confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a free hard copy of my Progress Journal so you can document and track your progress.
For more, here’s my free video series on how to get started.
If you already have some traffic and are ready for an upgrade, I’ve been super happy with WPX Hosting for the last several years. They’re fast, reliable, and have a really responsive customer support team via chat and email (often responding in under a minute).
Page Building and Site Design
WordPress has some amazing free and low cost themes.
Side Hustle Nation runs on GeneratePress. It’s fast, lean, well-supported, and customizable.
To customize certain pages and pieces of content, I use Beaver Builder. This is a popular drag-and-drop page building tool I primarily use to create:
- custom pages like the Side Hustle Nation homepage
- in-line opt-in forms like the one you may have filled out to access this page
Content and Keyword Research
I’ve been using Ahrefs for several years to help identify what keywords to target and what articles to write. A lower cost (or even free) alternative to consider is Neil Patel’s Uber Suggest and accompanying Chrome extension.
This will show you the estimated search volume and competitiveness directly in Google for the keywords you type in.
Once you’ve created your article, run it through the free Hemingway app for suggestions on how to improve your writing.
I’ll also take a look at the Yoast SEO plugin optimization and readability suggestions. Don’t stress if you can’t make the traffic signal turn green, but this is generally a guide in the right direction.
My #1 tool for affiliate marketing is the Pretty Links plugin. This allows you to create easy-to-remember redirects for the often-ugly-looking affiliate tracking URLs.
You can see several examples of “pretty links” on this page, like sidehustlenation.com/wpx and sidehustlenation.com/beaverbuilder.
This is super powerful software for segmentation, sales funnels, and other marketing automations.
Canva has become my go-to tool for creating social media graphics, YouTube thumbnails, and even full workbooks.
I’ve been known to grab royalty-free images from Pexels.
There are a couple free WordPress plugins I use to improve the load times on Side Hustle Nation.
The first is the popular caching plugin W3 Total Cache. It’s not exactly the most user-friendly plugin — in fact it’s filled with technical-sounding language and confusing settings.
If you go to Performance > General Settings, here are the boxes I have checked:
- Page Cache
- Minify; mode = Auto; Cache Method = Disk; HTML minifier = Minify; JS minifier = JSMin; CSS minifier = Minify
And since large image files are a common culprit of slowing down your site, I use Smush to reduce image file sizes and “lazy load” them on the page — basically make it so the images lower down on the page don’t need to load until someone starts scrolling.
If you really want to obsess about site speed, I learned everything I know from Matt Giovanisci in his PageSpeed for Bloggers course.
The course is normally $199 but now it’s included in his Money Lab Pro membership for $49 a month (along with a bunch of other great courses and community).
While I primarily monetize with affiliate partnerships, I do have some digital products for sale as well. I’m currently using Teachable for my online courses (including The Traffic Course), Gumroad for some one-off digital product sales, and Stripe for credit card processing.
Last but not least, I consider Zen WP to be my website insurance policy. If something breaks (usually my fault!), they can help me fix it. And they’ve been super helpful in other small customization or troubleshooting requests.
Probably not something I’d subscribe to until revenue justifies it, but nice to have an on-demand IT department once it does.
If you’ve been blogging for a while but aren’t seeing the traffic you’d hoped for, my Traffic Course can help.
This quick-study guide covers:
1. How to Make Google Love You—Or At Least Stop Ignoring Your Texts
You’ll get a snapshot of how Google currently sees your site, and learn how to build a rock-solid foundation.
2. The Hidden Traffic Opportunities Right Under Your Nose
“More content” isn’t always the answer. I’ll show you how to uncover potentially thousands of visitors just out of reach — and quickly optimize your existing content to capture them.
3. The “Unsung” Search Engines You Might Be Overlooking
Google isn’t the only game in town. Here we’ll dive into the powerful discovery channels of YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, and Pinterest.
4. How to Create New Content That’s a Hit–Without Wasting Time
My proven step-by-step process for finding keywords you can rank for, and creating 1st-page-worthy content.
I hope you found this little behind-the-scenes list helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please reply to my email and let me know!