Because of the nature of my work, I deal with a LOT of bloggers. Some are new bloggers who are struggling to get started, but some are experienced bloggers who theoretically SHOULD know that they’re doing. In both cases, I see them making a lot of the same mistakes and skimping in the same areas. There are some items that should just be considered essential upgrades to your blog, and they are ridiculously important to the performance of your site.
Some of these essential upgrades are directly related to the function and performance of your website, while some of them are designed to help you promote your site on social media. Both are critical to being a successful blogger assuming you wanted to know how to start blogging to make money – which is the BEST reason to start one!
Essential Upgrade #1 – Get a Decent Email/Newsletter Service
I’m very proud of the fact that I am really regular about sending out my newsletters. I’ve sent them out to my subscribers every week for about 4 or 5 years. But I haven’t stuck with just one provider. I’ve used Active Campaign, MailChimp, and MailerLite. I also needed to use Aweber for a client – ugh. Hated that one.
The winner? MailerLite – hands down! It’s not only one of the most affordable, (free up to 1,000 subscribers and just $10 up to 2,000) but it’s also the most feature rich and easiest to use. If you sign up using my link, I’ll be happy to set up a free Zoom call to show you around MailerLite and show you some of the things you can do with it.
I think this is definitely one of the blog tasks that new bloggers struggle with the most. If you decide you need help getting your newsletter or popups set up, just leave me a comment and I’m happy to help.
Essential Upgrade #2 – Get a Great Host who will HELP YOU
Again, I’ve learned the hard way about a good host vs. a bad host. My first web designer set me up with some random web host that was TERRIBLE. They weren’t helpful, they were very expensive, and they didn’t offer good backups or free SSL. But like a dummy, I stuck with them for 3 years before I switched to Siteground and I’ve been with them for 3 years on multiple sites. My sites never go down that I’ve noticed and they send me a weekly report of my virus scans – all clean so far.
I’m hard to impress, but I’ve been super impressed with their services, their pricing, and their customer service. I can usually reach a live person who is friendly and extremely helpful in 2-5 minutes. That is worth it to me because sometimes I BREAK stuff on my site and they usually can get it fixed in like 15 minutes. My other host – maybe a day. Or two…. Siteground for the WIN and if you’ll use my link, I’ll set up a Zoom call to show you how to use your WordPress site.
Essential Upgrade #3 – Add a Proper WordPress Theme
Here is a big pet peeve for me. There are thousands of free themes out there and people just think they can throw any old theme on their WordPress site and it will be fine. I disagree – strongly! If you want to learn how to create a great blog, do your homework and make sure you have the right theme in place.
The theme is a complex package of thousands of lines of code that runs your entire website. It’s essentially the engine of your website and it’s an important way to keep out hackers. Would you trust someone who offered you a free engine for your car? You’d be crazy if you did. A premium theme is created by a legit designer who has a reason to want to serve his or her paying customers. So they will issue updates periodically when the hackers find new vulnerabilities in the code.
My favorite premium theme – the Isabelle theme by Bluchic. I’ve used it to build about 10 different sites and it works beautifully. It’s totally customizable and they issue updates at least twice a year. They have several other premium themes and also social media templates and landing page templates. I’ve used ALL of them in my business, so I’m a big fan. Here’s a link to their main webstore.
Another favorite theme is the Blossom series. They have both free and premium themes that are geared to various types of sites such as beauty products, recipes, coaching, etc. Obviously, I recommend the premium versions, but it looks like they do periodic updates for both sets of themes.
Essential Upgrade #4 – Invest in Canva Pro
Making graphics is such an essential part of blogging. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t have to make pins, Facebook images, graphics for newsletters, and Instagram. I also make pin images for clients sometimes, so I’m not exaggerating that I’ve got more than 600 images in my Canva Pro account. There are several different programs you can use, but I think Canva is the most versatile and easiest to use. And Canva Pro offers you thousands of free images and premium templates, graphics, etc. I don’t remember if it’s $12.95 a month or $14.95, but it is one expense I don’t even think twice about! Canva Pro for the win!
Essential Upgrade #5 – Get a Decent Pinterest Strategy
I make my living from Pinterest so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Pinterest. I know Instagram is the “sexy” option, but Pinterest is the workhorse option when it comes to driving traffic to your site. Even if this season when Pinterest is driving everybody up.the.wall with their algorithm changes and various shenanigans, it still is the best way to boost your traffic.
I’ve got 3 different options to help you with your Pinterest strategy. If you need a little bit of help, you’ll want to look into my Pinterest Strategy Planner. If you are really struggling with your Pinterest account, you’ll want to look into getting a Pinterest Review. It’s essentially private coaching for your Pinterest account because I set up a Zoom call to give you a bunch of different suggestions on ways to improve your Pinterest strategy.
I’m also a Pinterest VA (virtual assistant) so I do monthly pinning for a variety of clients, mostly bloggers. I’m not the budget option, nor the most expensive, but I’ve got more than 8 years of experience. Check out my Hire Me page for more info.
Essential Upgrade #6 – Security is Critical
As I’ve said, I work with lots of bloggers on their sites. Every single one of them has been making some major mistakes with their security. They use their kid’s names or their pets names for passwords, or they have a really obvious user name (like their name or their Email), or they don’t have a security plugin on their site at all. I had one client who had over 80,000 spam comments on her site – Google notices things like that and marks your site for spam because of it. It took me days to clear them all out.
Security is no joke. I see hacker attempts on my site just about every day. I had one guy who was trying to crack my site 3-4 times a day for MONTHS. These people have nothing better to do than site around all day trying to take over people’s sites for their own purposes.
Check out my helpful post about WordPress security.
A combination of the free plugins Akismet, Updraft, and WordFence is the minimum I recommend, but there’s a lot more you can do. It’s worth spending a bit of time and money to protect your site. Check out my post above for more info.
Essential Upgrade #7 – Legal Pages – No one likes getting sued
Owning a website can set you up as a target for legal action. I know several people who’ve been sued over using images they pulled off Google, or from some free photo website. They’ve also been sued for copyright infringement and other things. It’s just not worth it. You are required by law to have certain privacy policies and terms on your site.
This is another critical issue that many beginning bloggers overlook, but it is SO important. You do NOT want to get sued by someone just because you didn’t spend a little time getting your proper disclosures set up.
Yes, there are free ones out there, but you get what you pay for. Are you going to trust some freebie policy when you are facing a lawsuit? Not worth it in my opinion. The pages I recommend are airtight, easy to use, and they are written by a lawyer who specializes in the tricky area of Internet law. Legal pages by Amira Law. If you purchase them using my link, I’ll be happy to set them up on your site for you.
Surprise! The bonus upgrade is ME. Honestly, sometimes the best thing you can do is to reach out for some help, especially if you are someone who struggles with the technical side of things. I’ve been blogging for a long, long time, and I’ve picked up a lot of different skills here and there. And I’m a bit of an adventurer, so I tend to want to explore new things and learn the most I can about a topic. I’ve always been like that. In my working days, I was always the one to find out all the hidden features of Excel and other programs and then showed them to all my co-workers – AND my bosses!
So I’ve got lots of different things I can help you with. Pinterest is always at the top of my list, but I can also build simple websites, do WordPress fixes, set up your WordPress security (I’m a maniac for security!), set up your newsletter service and automations, and I also do coaching for people starting a blog or getting their feet wet in social media. Check out my HIRE ME page for more info or just leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.