Blogging Resources: All the Tools I Use to Run My College Website
In today’s post, I thought I’d share all of the blogging resources and tools I use to run my college blog.
I know this isn’t what I normally write about – so forgive me for this not being totally relevant to the college lifestyle.
For those who are wanting to start (or are already running) their own blog, I thought this would be useful. ‘Cause it’s hard to get a website up and going all on your own!
I remember when I first started my blog, I knew SO little. I’ve come a long ways since then and just wanted to share what I’ve found WORKS.
So without further ado:
Here are the all resources & tools I use to handle marketing, social media and more for my online business.
Want the short version? Grab the PDF version of this post by clicking the button below.
The Frame Work
I’ll start by sharing what blogging resources I use for the general frame work for my blog.
What platform is my blog on?
I use WordPress(.org) for my content management system. It’s easy to use and provides me with LOTS of options for customizing my website with plugins.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between a WordPress .org blog, VS a WordPress .com blog, this is a great info graphic that explains it all.
It’s free to use, but hosting is not included. Which leads us to…
Who do I use for web hosting?
I use Siteground for my web hosting and I’ve had a great experience with them.
When I first started blogging, I used Bluehost. After many issues with my website being down, I switched.
I’m SO glad I did, too! It’s been smooth sailing with Siteground and they’re affordable for my needs. Win – win!
The extra features they offer have been super useful to me, as well.
I love that they have an option to automatically back up my website, ’cause that has saved my butt quite a few times. I have a bad habit of trying to tweak things in my websites theme.
And I have minimal coding knowledge – not a good mix! Thankfully, I’ve been able to restore my website after completely breaking it.
So now, when I want something changed I leave it to my web designer.
What theme does my blog use?
Speaking of my web designer, that’s who designed my website’s theme. Her name is Laura and her website is Pixel Me Designs.
The theme is custom made and I’m very happy with it! Everything is just how I want it, and as a bit of a control freak…
…it’s so nice to be able to customize it all! I highly recommend her if you want to go the custom route.
I didn’t jump right into buying a custom web theme, though.
My first theme I bought was from Pretty Darn Cute Designs (the Pretty Creative theme specifically). Pre-made designs are a lot cheaper than a custom theme.
They offer WordPress tutorials which are TOTALLY helpful for newbie bloggers. I found the design I used to pretty EASY to set up and like I said, I’m not exactly proficient with tech-y stuff.
Their designs allow for some customization which is nice, too. Pretty Darn Cute Designs is a great place to start with when choosing your first theme.
Next, I’ll share plugins I use as blogging resources on my website. These are extra tools that can be used with WordPress sites.
Some are free and some I pay for.
I use the Essential Grid plugin to create a nice grid for the resource library on my website (for email subscribers). It makes a picture grid with which to present the free printables in that library.
I also use it in a few other places around my website, like my “Start Here” page. It has A LOT of handy features and is totally customize-able.
I’d say it’s an essential (bad pun not intended) tool for setting up a free opt-in library. If that’s how you choose to attract email subscribers.
And offering free printables has been KEY to my success with growing my email list. They helped me gain over 10,000 new subscribers in just 10 months!
This is a plugin I paid a one time price for, get it for your own website here.
Notice those social share buttons at the top and bottom of this post? And the ones that show up you scroll down?
Those are run by the Social Warfare plugin. Don’t they just look great?
In my books, this plugin totally rocks! It makes my social share buttons stand out and that helps encourage readers share them.
SO helpful! The button color, shape and location are up to you to choose.
Not only does this plugin let me have control over all that, but I also use it auto populate the descriptions in social shares.
This is so, so useful to me for Pinterest. It allows me to write what I want to go into the description ahead of time.
When someone goes to pin it, it’s already loaded with keywords giving it a better chance of success!
You ever see those cool “click to tweet” buttons? You can do that with this plugin, too.
One of my goals this year is to start using them, it’s easy way to encourage people to tweet your post.
Lots of great features for this plugin, one of my favorites for sure. I pay a completely reasonable yearly fee for this one, check out more details here.
I currently use the KingSumo Giveaways plugin to host giveaways on my website. I’ve used it to run more than a few giveaways and I really like the simplicity of it.
I’ve had GREAT success with it. The first four week giveaway I ran with it, I gained close to 1,000 new subscribers from the giveaway alone.
It’s easy to use, easy to set up and easy for those entering to share the giveaway. All perks I love.
But, what I like most about it:
It cost me a one time price. No monthly or yearly fees.
Compared to Gleam or Rafflecopter, it’s much less expensive and frankly I like it better than those two. I’ve used both of those giveaway hosting options before, and have gotten better results in my experience with KingSumo.
The most important part of hosting a giveaway (to me) is getting new email subscribers & it’s a feature that’s the focus of this plugin. No extra costs associated with it, either.
See how the KingSumo plugin works here.
Top 10 (Popular Posts)
I use the Top 10 plugin on my website to see what my most popular posts are. It shows me the posts with the most visits daily and with the most visits of all time.
It’s a helpful tool for tracking web traffic and I consider it a MUST HAVE plugin for any website.
The best part is:
It’s completely free to use! Download the plugin here or simply search for it in your plugin area in WordPress.
The Yoast SEO plugin is mandatory plugin to have if you want to rank for keywords. It makes the work of adding in search engine optimization to blog posts so much easier!
It’s a solid blogging tool to help you reach for the coveted first page Google rankings.
Simply plug your keyword into it and then it tells you what you need to do to the post to make the SEO good.
It’s FREE to use – score! There is a paid premium version of this plugin as well, which has lots of SEO upgrades.
I’m toying with purchasing it in the future, but for now the unpaid version works for me. Grab the free plugin here.
The WordPress Smush plugin is a blogging resource I use to make my website run faster.
It resizes, optimizes and compress images uploaded to my website. It’s SUPER simple to use and keeps large images from bogging down my site.
Having a fast website is half the battle when it comes to blogging. If your pages take too long to load, most people will just leave.
That’s what we don’t want!
So to keep my blog running quickly, I use this little blogging tool. It’s even free – get the plugin for yourself here!
There’s a paid pro version, but for now the free plugin meets my needs.
The secondary menu (shown on desktop) on my website I made using the UberMenu plugin.
It allows me to customize the menu, instead of having all the menu options going straight down. I’m using it for pretty basic functions, but it capable of doing sooooo much.
I think it’s a really great tool and it gives my website a little step up in professionalism.
I paid a low one time price for it, see everything UberMenu can do here.
Revive Old Post
Okay, this plugin is really cool & for sure a favorite out of all these blogging resources! I use the Revive Old Post plugin to automatically share older blog posts to Twitter.
Keeping up with four social media channels is hard work, this just helps me have one less thing to do.
If I can’t mess with Twitter one day, it’s no biggie. ‘Cause my account is still active thanks to this plugin posting for me.
My Twitter account would be a lot more dead without it, I seriously struggle with that platform. The name says “…Old Post”, but you can set it to share posts that are any age.
It’s another plugin that is free to use – available here! This one has a paid version which offers more features, but I have just been using the unpaid version.
Blogging Tools for Creating Images
There are quite a few blogging resources I use to create images on my college blog. I’ll talk a little bit about each of them below.
I use PicMonkey to create most of the images you’ll see around my blog. I’ve been using it since before I even started my own blog, around 5 years.
I like it because the interface is very user friendly and there are many tool options I use on it DAILY. It’s perfect for creating simple images quickly.
I’ve always paid for the premium version of PicMonkey, it’s an essential for making quality images for my website. They use to have a free version, but they no longer do.
PicMonkey DOES offer a free 7 day trial if you’re interested in it.
I use Canva as one of my blogging resources to create Pinterest images and all my printable content. Well, I actually use PicMonkey with Canva to create Pinterest images.
There are unique features I like to use in each. If they were combined into one program that’d be great!
But since they aren’t, I do what I can and use the other for finishing touches if needed. If you’d be interested in seeing how I make my Pinterest images, drop me a comment below.
I’m considering making a tutorial for it with my tips and tricks.
For more complicated pictures, Canva is what I LOVE to use. They have tons of pre-made templates which are super handy and a library of images/icons ready for you to use.
It’s free to use! I used the free version up until recently, when I decided to take the plunge and go for the premium version.
All the extras offer really nice perks, but if you’re on the a limited budget stick with unpaid version. It was VERY sufficient for me.
Okay, this next blogging tool I love, love, LOVE! It makes my life so much easier, it’s a real life saver.
This is one of those blogging resources you knew you needed, but could never find: Clipping Magic.
Say you found an image you liked with a person in it, but the background just wasn’t right. Thanks to Clipping Magic, you can EASILY clip out the image of that person without the background.
Then you can lay that image on top of any background you want. SO cool and SO useful!
The best part is how SIMPLE it is to do it, here are some examples of how it’s done.
Clipping Magic also has lots of tutorials, so you don’t have to wonder how it all works.
I pay for the “light plan” and it meets my needs. And if you couldn’t tell, I HIGHLY recommend this tool.
Free Stock Photos
These are my go-to places for free and high quality stock photos:
I haven’t needed to pay for stock photos, yet. It’s SO nice to be able to get some blogging resources at no cost to me.
Other Blogging Resources I Use
Now I’ll share other blogging resources I use that didn’t fit into any of the above categories.
Mailer Lite is what I use to manage my email list. I send emails and collect subscribers with it.
As a non-techy person, I really like how easy the interface is to use. Landing pages are even included at no additional cost.
This is a HUGE perk for me, the more things I can have rolled into one – the better. Landing pages are the number one way I get new email subscribers.
When I first started my blog the email client I used was Sendgrid…
…and I found it to be pretty difficult to use. It caused me lots of frustration, I personally don’t recommend them.
MailerLite is just SO much better to me. In terms of ease of use and all the features (like automation) offered.
Their support team has always been very helpful and timely, which is important, too!
It’s completely free to use up to your first 1,000 subscribers! You can try it for yourself here.
Tailwind is what I use to schedule pins and monitor analytics for Pinterest. It’s a great time saver for scheduling Pinterest posts and spacing them out during the day.
I’m actually experimenting with taking a break from scheduling pins, and switching to manual pinning at the moment. This is due to me reading this Pinteresting Strategies ebook (I’ll talk more about it in a bit, too).
I’ve used Tailwind for a long time and gotten really good results, though. I was getting as high as 4.6 million monthly viewers on Pinterest at my peak using just Tailwind, so it’s safe to say that it works.
I’m just seeing if I can get better results with manual pinning.
I am definitely STILL using Tailwind for the Tribes feature. One of my FAVORITE perks of using it.
Tailwind Tribes are sort of like group boards. You are in a group of bloggers that has a certain topic for pins.
It gives my pins on Pinterest an extra boost which is massively helpful when putting out new content.
Even if I do end up sticking with manual pinning, I’ll keep Tailwind for just the Tribes and analytics features. It’s completely worth it to me.
I pay a yearly fee to use Tailwind, but monthly billing is an option as well. They offer a free trial that allows you to schedule 100 pins – no credit card info required!
I use this blogging tool for organization.
I use Trello to organize blog post ideas, keywords I’ve researched, pictures and more. They even have an app so I can add things to it on the go, as I think of them.
The uses for Trello are endless. It’s my new favorite thing!
It’s FREE to use, too. All around awesome.
Also Read: Best Cheap Planners for College Students
Courses/Books That Have Helped Me
Finally, I wanted to end my list of blogging resources with some courses and and books I’ve found to be very helpful.
Melyssa Griffin Courses
I’ve taken a few different Melyssa Griffin online courses and I found them to be packed FULL of useful information.
Her Pinfinite Growth course I consider to be absolutely integral to my success with Pinterest. I knew close to nada about the power of marketing on Pinterest or how to go about it before I took it.
It’s a great course for beginners to understand it all.
Since this post is getting long in the tooth, I’ll just sum it up as saying they were awesome courses and I learned A LOT from all of them.
Pinterest Improvement Master Plan (P.I.M.P.) Course
Okay THIS course really helped me step up my Pinterest game.
PotPieGirl’s Pinterest Improvement Master Plan (P.I.M.P.) course is meant for experienced Pinterest users who are looking for more in depth strategies.
This course has a lot of information I’d never seen before. I was REALLY impressed with this course.
I’ve been completely underwhelmed by some courses before, but this was just something else.
This is another one of those blogging resources that I HIGHLY recommend. This is the right course for you if you’re looking to go way beyond just the basics.
Pinteresting Strategies eBook
This is the book I mentioned earlier, Pinteresting Strategies.
It’s a book that details how Carly Campbell gets over 200k page views per month to her blog using just manual pinning. No schedulers, like Tailwind, are involved.
Her book offers a fresh view point on Pinterest that I had never even considered. There’s lots of good info in this ebook.
And like I said, I am currently trying this method out. It’s too soon for me to tell if it works better than a scheduler (since Pinterest marketing is a long game), but I did learn MANY things from it.
If you’re not sure you want to go the automated pinning route, I’d give Pinteresting Strategies a read.
Alright, so that sums up all my most important blogging resources and tools I use.
Phew! That was a long one wasn’t it?
If you want to save all this information for later, I’ve turned this post into a condensed PDF version. Click the button below to get instant access to it.
If you have any questions about any of these blogging resources or tools, feel free to leave me a comment below!