There are a lot of people out there who blog to “make money” or try to do it as a full time job. More power to them, but that’s not my goal. I write the blog because I love to do it, and part of making it grow is investing money back into it.
You don’t have to make or spend money to have a blog. There are tons of free resources out there, and honestly I recommend using the free options for the first 6 months of your blog before spending a ton of money on it right away. That way you know whether or not it’s something you will want to keep doing actually spend money on, and what areas might be more useful to spend on.
But if you’re ready to take the next step and want to know the best tools to pay for, I’m sharing my favorites here.
This post contains affiliate links – that means it costs nothing extra to you when you purchase by clicking the link but I make a couple of extra cents to support the blog!
Hosting companies are the ones that provide space on their servers for your site. If you start with a free blog, you’re going to get a relatively small amount of space. If your blog is growing, you want to improve the speed of your site, or you want more control over things like customization and ads – you’ll want to invest in hosting. This is probably the first thing I would recommend paying for.
For awhile I started out on bluehost, but I had a number of negative experiences with them. Two years ago I switched to Siteground and have been way more happy with them. I have fewer errors on my blog and when there is a problem, their chat feature is very responsive and helpful.
I also get my domain name through Siteground, which is the one thing I would definitely recommend you invest in. Domains are pretty cheap (usually under $20/year) and that way you have a website that looks like www.disneyinyourday.com rather than something like www.disneyinyourday.wordpress.com. It makes you look more professional and it’s easier for people to remember!
When it comes to sharing my content and getting pageviews to my site, Pinterest has been my #1 traffic source – and Tailwind is an amazing tool for sharing and organizing your Pinterest content. You can read more about how I have 1.5 million Pinterest views a month now – but a big part of that is Tailwind.
There is a free trial, so I’d highly encourage people to try that out and see if they like it. I started that way and soon discovered how valuable it was for my blog.
Here are some of the things you can do with Tailwind:
- Schedule your pins. This is so useful. I can have tailwind automatically add my pins to Pinterest all throughout the day so I don’t have to worry about going on many times throughout the day, or just pinning a bunch of things at once. It even optimizes the timing of your pins for what times work best.
- Tribes (soon to be renamed). This is a fantastic way to find other creators sharing similar content. I belong to some “Disney Blogger” tribes, and everyone shares their pins to the tribes. In return for sharing you repin other content. This gets your pins shared to a variety of Disney pin boards!
- Smart Loop. Add your “evergreen” content here (these are posts that are relevant for long periods of time, not just news stories). Tailwind will now automatically repin this content on a looping basis.
- Insights. Get all sorts of great analytics and insights about how your boards and pins are doing.
This is another tool that you can start out with for free, but as you grow you’ll need to start paying for it. Building an email list is really important because it’s a good way to reach fans of your blog. Especially if you rely heavily on social media – sites like instagram and facebook can change their algorithms so people won’t see your content as much, or even though it feels unlikely it could disappear one day… and then how would you stay connected to your followers?
I use MailChimp and it’s done what I needed without any issues. I try to send out one email a week. It has lots of formatting options, the ability to create different lists, send out automated emails, etc. I started with the free version, but once you hit 2,000 subscribers you need to start paying if you want to add more. Monthly subscriptions start at $15/mo. and go up depending on the number of subscribers. I’m currently at about 3500 subscribers and pay $65/mo. This feels like a lot, but it’s still the most affordable option I could find that does what I need it to do, and I really think having an email list is very important.
I’ve always loved learning, so it’s no surprise that I find online courses a great way to improve my blog. There are a ton of courses out there on pretty much any topic you might need – various social media platforms, starting a blog, more advanced blogging, content planning, organization, SEO, marketing, etc. It definitely gets a little overwhelming so I wanted to highlight a few of the best courses I’ve paid for and completed.
Sticky SEO – SEO has been an intimidating world for me, but I thought this course was great. It started with the basics and then really dug into some of the nitty gritty stuff. And since I did the course I’ve actually seen a difference. A year ago 80% of my traffic was coming from social media, and only 13% from search engines. Now I’ve seen an increase in traffic overall, with 65% from social media and 23% from organic searches. That’s a big difference! Sign up for Sticky SEO here.
Pindepth from IvoryMix – This course focuses on Pinterest and had videos and worksheets to assist me. There are lots of courses but the one I did was called Pindepth. I enjoyed it because it went above and beyond the basics, which I already knew a lot about. I felt like this was a “next level” Pinterest course, and I’m interested in trying some of her other courses in the future.
Key to Pictures – I cannot stress enough how important photography is to blogging, and it’s an area that can feel like information overload sometimes. I found this course and thought it was really fantastic for the basics and beyond if you want to make the best use of your DSLR camera. If you are a Disney blogger she also has a great course on “Disney Castle Pics Made Easy”!
Canva has been a total lifesaver when it comes to creating images for my blog. I used to just use photos I took and add some text using Paint, believe it or not. I’ve come a long way since then! Canva can create any size image you want that would work best for your blog, Pinterest, facebook, etc. I used the free version for about 2 years and I got such great results from it I decided it was worth it try out Canva Pro.
The Pro version is amazing for organization, allowing you to create folders, save fonts, and create your own brand kit. You also have access to tons of their free images and fonts you can use. There are a few other great tools with pro – one of my favorites is the resize button, which allows you to create an image and then easily resize it for Pinterest, facebook, instagram, or wherever you want to share it.
Social Media ads
Finally, the last thing I’ve found it worth it to spend money on occasionally is social media ads. I tend to stick to Pinterest and Facebook, since this is where I see my highest engagement. I don’t usually spend a ton – maybe $20-40 a month depending on what I want to promote. For facebook it’s often to try and develop my community and get more people to like my page in general, in the hopes that they’ll see my posts in the future. For Pinterest I try to promote somewhat unique content – almost every Disney blogger has a post about whether or not to get the dining plan, for instance, so I don’t promote that because chances are people will have seen something similar already. But early on in quarantine I wrote a post about 100 Disney activities to do at home and promoted that one to great success. A few months later it’s one of my daily top posts now.
One of the things that is great about so many of these tools is that they have free options you can try out first to see how you like it, and then pay to upgrade, get more features, or use it longer. Most of these paid versions are ones I’ve been using 2+ years, so I can definitely attest to them being extremely useful for me.
Are you a blogger? What have you found are your best blogging tools worth paying for?