Resources and Special Offers

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This is a list of the blogging-related resources I value and recommend. It includes both free and paid products and services, and special offers I add from time-to-time. Check back often.

 

Marketing Research Tool

Never dive into any kind of publishing, book or blog, unless you do market research to see if people want what you offer. In my view, there is no better tool to do that than PublisherRocket. It gives you immediate access to sales data at Amazon, the world’s largest bookstore. Armed with this data, you can make confident decisions about the potential profitability of your blog or book topic. Plus, it gives you one-click access to bestselling books on the topic you choose, and the review section is pert for getting blog post ideas. This is a secret weapon for bloggers.

 

Trustworthy Sources of Domain Names

Buy your domain name from aa trustworthy source that will not try to load you up with costly services you don’t need. Here are my two recommendations:

NameCheap. Well-respected domain registration company that you can trust, in my experience. You receive privacy protection at no extra charge from NameCheap, so that’s a worthwhile bonus.

Domain.com. Another well-known domain registration company. Beware of up-sells. For example, don’t an SSL Certificate from this company.  You can get one for free if you use one of the hosting companies I recommend below.

I suggest you buy a minimum of two years (or more) for the low introductory price you see offered. Always make sure your domain registrar has your current email address so you can pay at the end of the term. If you don’t get the renewal notice and pay when due, you’ll lose your domain name.

Should you buy your domain name at the same place here you by your hosting? See my reason for that advice. No! You may lose control of your site in the future if you do that. You can always point your domain to a new hosting service if you should ever need to do that.

 

WordPress Hosting Companies

Right now, SiteGround is the best hosting company on the planet as far as I’m concerned. Prices are competitive and they don’t overload their servers with sites so they remain fast and secure. Plus, they offer many free services like SSL (HTTPS encryption). SiteGround makes me weep with joy when it comes to support.  I can honestly say I never get better support from any hosting company (or maybe any other kind of company as well) as I receive from SiteGround.  I give them an A+.

My second choice for hosting would be BlueHost. Many people like BlueHost and recommend them, but they are owned by a corporate conglomerate called EIG.  You can read about my experience with another EIG hosting brand. Many colleagues I respect recommend their BlueHost division.

As you know, I install blogging websites for clients, so I have the opportunity to see how scores of different hosting companies operate. That’s why I unreservedly recommend SiteGround more reluctantly recommend BlueHost.  I do not recommend GoDaddy at all. You’ll have to trust your luck when you select another website hosting company.

 

WordPress Themes

The official WordPress Theme Directory is the place to get free themes, not other sites that may have themes loaded with malware.

I’m not a fan of free themes for the reasons I mention here. That’s why I offer our special customized premium theme to those who have me create their WordPress blogging platform. The premium theme is included in the price, so that’s a money-saver.

Elegant Themes is a premium theme company that offers variety and ease of use. Tutorials and support are excellent.

 

WordPress Plug-ins

There are 50,000 different WordPress plug-ins available. Almost all of them have a free version that will meet your needs. That’s why I recommend that you search for the free version inside your WordPress back-end, install it, activate it, and use it.  If you think you need one of the “pro” features, you simply pay to upgrade it. See my full recommendations about plug-ins.

Here’s the official WordPress plug-in directory.

A word of warning. NEVER download plug-ins from anywhere other than the official directory. Plug-ins from other sources are often riddled with malware.

 

WordPress Blogging Platform Installation Service

Complete WordPress installation and continuing support for Bloggers. If you don’t want to deal with setting up your WordPress site, and want it up and running in 72 hours (M-F), then this is a good option for you. I listen to your needs and create a blog site you’ll be proud to call your own. Lots of value for your money.

 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is essential to you for getting and growing a blog audience, and for increasing your income.

This is an area where many bloggers decide to go the cheapest route. I feel that’s a bad decision. A top quality autoresponder company will make you money in time. As all online marketing people know, “The money is in the list.”

Should you go with MailChimp or GetResponse just because they are popular brand names that are heavily advertised? Or should you go with MailerLite because people say it is simple to use? No, and I give my reasons here and in my Automated Email Guide.

Based on my experience, there are only two choices for serious bloggers. One is ConvertKit. That is not a familiar name to most people, but it is the favorite of professional bloggers. There is a free trial and payments that allow you to start small and pay for more subscriber services as your profits increase. ConvertKit is my personal choice and I use it on this site.

What is the second professional option?  It is another company you may never have heard of called AWeber. They are autoresponder pioneers and their rates are competitive with newer companies. The learning curve is higher with AWeber, but they offer a free 30-day trial, so they want you to win.

 

Image Resources (Free Photos and Videos)

You want to add images to your blog posts. Put your keywords in the “alt” tags. You don’t need to pay for images because there are many sites that offer free images. Keep in mind you are NOT looking for “royalty-free” images. They cost money and have licensing strings attached. You are NOT looking for Creative Commons licensed images. You are looking for Public Domain images, also questionably known as CC0 images.

Images in the Public Domain mean that you can use them for any purpose, including commercial purposes, without asking permission, providing attribution, needing a license of any kind, or paying any fee. There are many sites that offer Public Domain images, but these are three of the best in my view. They are completely free.

  • Pixabay.com. Over 1 million Public Domain images are available on Pixabay, so it is an excellent resource. Most are fresh and up-to-date, so this is a good choice. Also, they have a nice selection of short video clips in case you want to integrate them into your blog. Use these images for free without any licensing or attribution requirements.
  • Pexels.com.  A nice selection of tens of thousands of images. Pexels only offers 77 videos at this writing. They do not say the images are in the Public Domain but offer them under a special Pexels License. They say, “This means you can use them for free for personal and commercial purposes.” They also say attribution is not required, so this seems to amount to Public Domain access, so you can use them freely without concern.  
  • Unsplash.com. You will find different and interesting images at Unsplash. The more I use it, the more I like it.  Their use policy is perfect for bloggers: “Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash.” 
  • StockSnap.io. A site that is easily missed on the internet because they use the “IO” extension rather than “dot COM.”  Nevertheless, this small site has some quality images that you might not find elsewhere. The usual Public Domain rules apply, so you are free to use them without payment, without permission, and without attribution.

All of these free resources are supported by advertising from major royal-free companies. The ads usually only show at the top and bottom of searches. If one of those images catches your eye, and you click on it, you’ll be taken to the site where you must pay. Don’t do that. There are plenty of excellent Public Domain images available to illustrate your blog posts.

 

Creative Tools I Use

Audio

Microphone. If you intend to add audio/video to your blog, or have a blog-related Podcast, you’ll need a microphone. I strongly recommend the Blue Yeti. The truth is, I can afford to spend more on a microphone if I wished,  People are always suggesting a Shure SM7B or another far more expensive mic, but why pay that kind of extra money when the sound quality difference is not noticeable online? Should you pay less than the cost of the Blue Yeti? No. The Blue Microphone Company also offers a model called the Blue Snowball. I bought one of them years ago because it was cheap, and now it sits on a closet shelf. The Snowball may be okay for use with Skype, Messages, and FaceTime, but it failed me for creative work quality  The Blue Yeti hits the sweet spot between price and professional-level quality.

Audio Editing Software. You can spend a fortune on Adobe or other big name audio software. Don’t do it. Use Audacity instead. It’s a free and open-source digital audio editor and recording software. It’s available for Windows, macOS/OS X, and Unix. Audacity is fantastic and if you add audio to your site, do a podcast, or need to edit the audio in the videos you create, then Audacity is perfect. It does have a learning curve, but there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube.

Video camera

If you intend to add your own videos to your blog, you need to determine how you’re going to go about it. If you going to do “talking head” type videos, you use one kind of camera. If you are going to be out and about and videoing the things you do and see, you need to use another kind of camera.

Talking Head. Many people try to use their built-in laptop camera and the mic that comes with it. If you go that route, you’re likely to drive your blog visitors away because the quality will be so bad. You want to use a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. It’s 1080p and you’ll get excellent results. Use it in conjunction with the Blue Yeti mic I mentioned, both of which you simply plug into your computer USB ports.

Vlog. If you’re going out to make videos in other locations, you need a different kind of camera. You want one that produces high-quality video, can capture sound and is easy to use. The Canon EOS M50 fits those requirements and is fairly priced for a top-quality Mirrorless Digital Camera camera in this range. You can buy it with various extras that are handy for adding videos to your blogs, and this one comes with lenses, a mic, and other handy accessories.

 

Video editing

There are probably hundreds of different video editing software programs out there. Many are complicated and costly. Personally, I use Camtasia by TechSmith which is ideal for bloggers who want to make and add videos to their sites. You can do screen captures, plug-in your video camera, add audio, drop-in special effects, render your video in web-friendly formats, and a huge number of other things that will make you look like a professional from the start.

People, always want to find something free. In my view, you’ll waste more time and money messing around the free options than if you just plunked down your money and got a professional video tool like Camtasia.  It’s amazing and there are many video tutorials to learn how to use it. Camtasia was created by TechSmith, and their user support is excellent.

I have been using Camtasia since 2003.  It is one of the most important software programs I ever owned. They have a 30-day free trial, so it’s hard to go wrong with Camtasia.

People ask me if they should buy the assets for Camtasia. No. The software comes with all the assets you’re likely to need for a long time. You can always subscribe to the asset plan later if you wish.

People also ask about Snagit, another TechSmith product. It is full-featured screen capture software, but it doesn’t have the audio/video editing function, or the many behaviors transitions, or special effects that are built into Camtasia. TechSmith often (not always) has a Camtasia/Snapit bundle where you get Snagit for half-price. That’s a good deal if you do a lot of screen captures. See how Snagit works before you buy it or the bundle.

 

Voice recognition software

There are several free online voice recognition software options, and I explain all about them in my online course on voice writing (Use discount code bspvoicewriting50off). You can make one of these free options work for you.

However, the big dog has been, and I think forever will be Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is one of the top three productivity programs I have ever owned (and I’m talking back into the late 1990s), along with Microsoft Word and Camtasia, which I mentioned above.

 

Ideal Blogging Laptop

You need your own dedicated blogging computer. I give all the reasons why in this post.

If you intend to blog, and perhaps include audio and video, this is the laptop I recommend. It has the horsepower to do almost anything associated with content creation.

If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend this Chromebook. It does not have the capacity to do extra media work, but it is fine for researching and writing blog posts and managing your WordPress blog. It has a larger than average screen for a Chromebook and enough storage to meet most blogging needs.

 

Skill-Building Online Courses

I offer two online courses that offer big benefits to bloggers. Use the code by each course to get a $50 discount off that course when you use it at registration. Each course has a full description of each lesson and a free sample lesson.

Voice Writing Online Course. This is aimed at book authors, but 100% of it also applies to bloggers. You can learn how to write a 1,250-word blog, after research, in as little as 10 minutes. Learn this new skill and you’ll give up typing forever. (Discount Code: bspvoicewriting50off).

Motivation Secrets for Writers. Learn how the dynamics of motivation can change your life. This is an entertaining online course that is jam-packed with information that helps all writers get and stay motivated. (Discount Code: bspmotivation50off).

 

My Blogging Books

Blog Post Planner: 52 Weeks of Creative Planning for Bloggers.
This 8 x 10 workbook includes planning forms, instructions, and other helpful resources.

Paperback only

Content Writing Profits: Steps for Writing Online Content and Replacing Your Day Job with the Income
Aimed at people who want to make money as a freelancer by writing content for clients, or by blogging.

Paperback
Kindle ebook