This is a list of valuable blogger resources that I recommend. I have used all of these unless otherwise noted (some have been used by friends who have told me extensively about them). It contains some affiliate links, which means if you click and then decide to buy/subscribe, I get a small commission.
Affiliate Programs I Use
- Amazon Affiliates: depending on your business model, you can earn a lot from the Amazon affiliate program, despite the modest commissions and 24-hour cookie. This is because people buy from Amazon more readily than from some lesser-known sites.
- Linkshare: this company runs the affiliate programs for a ton of companies, including Macy’s, Nordstrom’s and BestBuy. If you want to sell products for companies like that, get a LinkShare account and get started.
- Share-A-Sale: this is another company that runs affiliate programs for other companies. Their merchants tend to be smaller and hungrier than Linkshare’s, which can be very good for you. Example: TailWind, StudioPress, MailMunch.
Services I Use
- Clicky Analytics: more in-depth than Google Analytics, and very affordable.
- TigerTech hosting and domain registration: I never thought I’d trust all my hosting and domain registrations to one company, but these guys are the best. Can’t remember the last time I had even 5 minutes of downtime, the servers always run fast, and if you get a traffic spike, that’s okay. If it gets way out of hand, they contact you with options instead of just suspending your account. And their emails read like a dear friend who really wants to help.
- Genesis Themes. I bought the Pro-Plus All Theme Package that gives you access to all current and future themes. If you just want to invest in one theme, I use the Magazine Pro theme on most of my sites and recommend it.
- ActiveCampaign was my choice for email newsletters until I stopped running newsletters. You can manage multiple lists for multiple sites. They have a Lite version that lacks some of their more advanced features, and if it’ll do for you, it’s very affordable. If you need more advanced features, you can’t beat their more advanced versions, which are comparable in cost to other similar companies. I’ve had very good deliverability and open rates with these guys.
- MailMunch is what I use to create my top bar, pop up and embedded forms asking you to sign up for my newsletter. When I installed the free version, my signups doubled. When I installed the paid version, they doubled again. I love the stats they provide, too!
Social Media Tools I Use
- BoardBooster: this Pinterest scheduler recycles your pins in a “set it and forget it” way so you don’t have to schedule the same pins over and over yourself. It’s controversial because it’s not an official Pinterest tool, but it’s been used successfully by me, Ruth Soukup, Rosemarie Groener and many others. They have awesome stats, Tribes and group boards to join. It’s also very easy to make sure you’re following group board rules with BB.
- TailWind: this IS an official Pinterest tool, which I recommend if you’re uncomfortable with using BoardBooster. The only downside is you always need to schedule more pins and there’s no easy way to make sure you don’t pin too frequently to group boards that have rules about that.
- Smarter Queue: this scheduler is like MeetEdgar, but better, especially in terms of support. Like BoardBooster, it loops: once it posts everything you’ve got, it goes back and refills its own queue automatically. It has several flexible pricing plans, including custom ones. If you only manage 4 social media accounts, you could pay as little as $16.99/month.
- iUnfollow: if you need to unfollow some people on Twitter, this tool makes it quick and easy to see who isn’t following you back.
- UnfollowStats: this Twitter unfollow tool is a little more in-depth, but can also take a little more time to use than iFollow. It lets you find inactive users (people who haven’t touched their account in the length of time you specify) and others you might want to unfollow, as well as non-followers and recent unfollowers.
SEO Tools I Use
- SpyFu: this tool lets you see what your competitors are doing to beat you. It’s amazing how it can reorganize your whole business strategy. Take a look at phrases where you’re almost on Page 1, or have just fallen off of Page 1. See what phrases your competitors rank for to figure out how to beat them.
- SE Ranking: this tool not only helps you zero in on the best keyphrase to use, but also scans individual pages on your site and gives you specific SEO advice to improve them.
- ThirstyAffiliates. Like PrettyLinks, ThirstyAffiliates cloaks your affiliate links and gives you amazing statistics on them. But unlike the others, it has an option to uncloak Amazon links on the front end, so you can use it with them to get the statistics without violating Amazon’s rules. It has auto-linking and lots of geo-targeting options. And despite all that, it doesn’t slow your sites down. And pricing isn’t by subscription. You can renew every year if you want continued support, but you only have to buy the license once. Support is awesome, and during the time I’ve been using it, they’ve made major improvements to the plugin.
Social Warfare. I no longer recommend Social Warfare because I no longer trust that the developers know what they’re doing. The latest gaffe was an update that took many sites offline with a 500 error. They released several patches over a week or so, but even when the plugin worked, it was slowing my sites down horribly. Replacing it fixed all the problems. I recommend replacing it with lighting fast (and free!) Scriptless Social Sharing, Jquery Pin It for your hovering Pinterest button on images, and go back to putting your Pinterest descriptions in the alt text field. Pinterest isn’t reliably pulling from the “pin desc” field some people are adding in manually or with other plugins, and Google doesn’t pay so much attention to alt tags that you can’t write a good Pinterest description that won’t also keep Google happy. Yes, I know about the accessibility issue with screen readers, and I’m sorry. People should be alerting Pinterest about that, since they’re the ones who apparently don’t know basic HTML.
- Affinity Photo. I never thought Photoshop was worth what they charge. For years I used GIMP, which is good enough if you just want to make photos look their best and add some text. But Affinity Photo does most of what PS does for a fraction of the cost, and does it so easily and quickly that it speeds up my workflow. It’s $50, a one-time fee that covers all upgrades until they get to 2.0 which should be a couple of years out.
- ImageOptim. Once I edit an image in Affinity, I run it through ImageOptim to compress it to the smallest size it can be without looking different to human eyeballs. This helps with website load times. You can download ImageOptim or use it online. I’ve found it to be totally reliable at the default settings – just run an image through it, and it’s ready to upload to your site in its new svelte size.
- DepositPhotos. This is one of the more affordable paid image sites, and it’s got some great quality photos. I rely on it for most of my stock photos.
- StockUnlimited. This paid image site is even more affordable than Deposit Photos, but it has fewer photos, less variety and sometimes less quality. A lot of images look very “stock.” Still, they definitely have some good stuff.
Courses I Recommend
- EliteBlogAcademy. Taking this course enabled me to boost my income by about 50%. If enrollment isn’t open, or you can’t afford it, definitely grab the free ebooks and other resources. And get added to the waitlist, just in case.
- SimplePin Tailwind Master Course. If you use Tailwind or are even thinking about it, this is a very detailed course with a lot to digest. I had to go over some of it twice. It will help you take your Pinterest/Tailwind strategy to the next level.
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. Michelle gives you the tips that took her to making over $100,000 per month from affiliate marketing. It may not take most of us to that level, but it makes a big difference.
Ad Networks I Use
- AdThrive: once you can bring AdThrive on board (requires 100,000 monthly pageviews), you’ll never have to think about your ads again. They. Handle. Everything. in exchange for keeping the revenue from one ad slot. The ads load fast, they’re very good at keeping out icky or intrusive ads (and you can specify how intrusive you’re willing to let your ads be), and even with their commission, I doubled my ad revenue as soon as I started with them.
- ConversantMedia (formerly ValueClick): these guys have been around forever, always pay on time, and do an overall good job on things.
- Adsense: a solid way to monetize a new blog that isn’t qualified for AdThrive yet.
- Sovrn: Sovrn is a solid ad provider that will work with lower traffic blogs. It pays well, and they do well at screening out intrusive and icky ads.
Forums I Visit
Once upon a time, before everyone would hang out on Facebook all day, we hung around in forums, chatting with people who shared our struggles and achievements.
- The Admin Zone – very active, with practical discussions like people’s experiences with certain ad networks
- Webmaster World – this forum used to focus mainly on SEO, but they’re branching out more. You can learn some good stuff here. Most of the posters have been doing this 10+ years.
- WebDeveloper – get into the nitty gritty of programming languages and all aspects of running websites.
- Geek Village
- SitePoint Forum
Hacking is a big business and it’s only going to get bigger. I recently switched from PC to Mac, and on both platforms, there are security apps I wouldn’t be without. Read my story about getting hit with ransomware because I made the mistake of buying one of those Lenovos that had Superfish.
- Emsisoft Anti-Virus doesn’t just try to catch viruses it knows about; it stops suspicious behavior of zero-day viruses (brand new ones) that nobody knows about yet. That’s the kind of protection you need against today’s ransomware.
- Crypto-Prevent is a small app that changes group policy settings to make it tougher for ransomware and other takeover malware to do its thing.
- Malwarebytes Premium. A lot of antiviruses shouldn’t be run side-by-side with another AV, but Malwarebytes and Emsisoft are both exceptions to this rule. Malwarebytes is relatively cheap, and it does a great job. I think it’s worth it to have both unless your computer just absolutely can’t handle the load.
Yes, Macs are pretty secure and aren’t targeted as often by malware creators. But there is malware for Macs. Why not run an AV just to be safe?
- Bitdefender. I’m using Bitdefender, which gets very high ratings. I haven’t noticed it slowing down my computer at all. I chose this one because it also blocks Windows malware, which cuts down your chance of accidentally passing an infected file to a Windows user.