Starting a Website
Domain Registration: Google Domains has affordable domain names with free privacy and is incredibly easy to use.
Business Email: G-Suite* is my favorite way to set up a business email address (like firstname.lastname@example.org). It's professional, affordable, and super easy to use if you're already familiar with the Gmail environment. Plus then you can use all the other awesome Google tools like Drive, Calendar, Sheets, etc.
Hosting for NEW bloggers: SiteGround* has affordable managed WordPress hosting and good tech support. A great choice for beginning bloggers or those with less than 100,000 monthly visitors. I recommend the GrowBig or GoGeek plans. Just note that once your traffic exceeds this, you will probably need to change to a new host. (I don't recommend their cloud hosting at this time.)
Hosting that will grow with you: Big Scoots* is an amazing host for people who want to start and stay with a host that will grow with them. Their “starter” managed WordPress hosting plans can handle up to 250,000 monthly visitors and come with amazing support. *Note: their servers are in the US, so they are not the best choice for people with traffic outside of North America.
StudioPress Themes: Once your website is up and running, it's time to design it. If you're running a content-heavy blog (like a food blog), a static theme is probably the best choice for you. StudioPress* offers a variety of themes that run on the highly-regarded Genesis framework. They are fast and kept up to date with best practices for blogging and SEO.
Astra Theme + Elementor: If you're on a budget, Astra is a free lightweight theme (with options to pay for upgrades) that can be easily customized using the drag & drop builder, Elementor. However, all drag and drop builders slow down your site, so I would only use it to customized pages (like your homepage, about page, etc.) and use Gutenberg for your blog posts.
Course or Membership Website Design: If you're creating a website that needs a lot of design & won't be getting a lot of search traffic (like an online course or membership site) the Divi Theme from Elegant Themes* is a popular choice. In fact, it's what I used to build The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp. This theme features a really unique drag & drop website building tool. There is definitely still a learning curve, but it gives you total control over how your course website or membership site looks. However, I do NOT recommend using Divi on your main blog or website since it slows down your site & is hard to switch away from.
Running a Website
Monitoring Traffic: It's essential to know how many people are visiting your site each day, how they get there, and which pages they are viewing. Use Google Analytics to keep track of it all! It's free, and they have an app for monitoring on the go.
Recipe Plugin: If you post recipes on your website, you absolutely need to be using a recipe plugin. Without one, you have almost no chance of getting your recipes ranked on Google. My favorite is WP Recipe Maker*, but you can also check out Tasty Recipes or Create by Mediavine.
Website Speed: A slow website can impact user experience & hurt your SEO rankings (site speed IS a direct ranking factor for Google). The WP Rocket* plugin helps reduce load times on your website, increasing the chance people will stay on your page, and improving your search rankings. It's 100000% worth the small fee! (Note: If you're on SiteGround, you don't need this since they have their own free website optimizer plugin.)
Image Compression: If you run a website with lots of images, like a food blog, image compression is a MUST. Bulky images slow down your website, big time. Luckily, the plugin Imagify can quickly and seamlessly compress the images, making them smaller without losing quality. Win-win.
Website Backup: Sh*t happens with websites, and you don't want to be caught without a backup! Installing a plugin like UpDraft Plus* gives you peace of mind. If your site crashes, you'll always have a fresh backup copy available for quick installation. The free plan is adequate for most people, but if you collect personal information, use the paid plan for encryption.
Website Security: Protect your website from hackers and spam injections. Wordfence is a FREE top of the line security plugin that will protect you from the most common threats. This is a MUST HAVE!! If you take payments on your site, splurge for the paid plan. Sucuri is another highly reputable security plugin as well 🙂
Tech Help: If you have a self-hosted WordPress website and tech stuff makes you want to tear your hair out, definitely consider hiring Grayson at iMark Interactive*! He can help you with one-off projects like setting up redirects, changing themes or hosts, or setting up your analytics tools, or you can sign up for a monthly support plan.
Monetizing Your Website
Ad Revenue: If you're a new blogger, Google Adsense is the easiest ad network to get started with. You won't make the big bucks, but it's an easy way to cover your hosting costs with a few unobtrusive ads. When you reach at least 25,000 sessions per month, you can apply for Mediavine and when you reach 100,000 pageviews per month, you can apply for AdThrive.
Amazon Associates: Whenever you link to a product you love (books, food, videos, etc.) that is sold on Amazon, you can use an Amazon affiliate link. If someone purchases the product (or anything else on Amazon within 24 hours), you will receive a (very) small % of the sale price. Easy peasy!
Other Affiliate Sales: If you promote other products or events, you can sign up as an affiliate through Commission Junction or ShareASale*. That way, if you promote a product within a blog post and encourage people to purchase it, you can earn a percentage of the sale.
Selling Digital Products: If you're selling e-books or other digital products on your site, you'll need a way to accept credit card payments and deliver the goods. Gumroad is an easy low-cost solution! They take care of both payment & delivery for a low monthly rate & processing fee. Other options include E-Junkie and SendOwl*.
Selling Courses on Your Site: If you're ready to sell courses on your own website, LearnDash* is a wonderful (paid) plugin that will create an online learning environment on your website. It's what I use to create my Business Bootcamp courses and free tutorials.
Selling Courses Elsewhere: If setting up courses on your own website sounds totally overwhelming, a platform like Teachable* could be a great fit. They allow you to easily create and sell courses on their platform without having to handle the tech. Not the right fit for you? Thinkific* is another frequently used platform, with good reviews as well!
Creating a Membership Site: If you'd like to create a membership site on your website, MemberPress* is my favorite plugin. It protects content and takes payment (you can connect it to both PayPal and/or Stripe) and even integrates with LearnDash!
Email Marketing: Let's face it, segmented and automated email marketing is here, and if you're not taking advantage of it yet, you should be! My favorite tool for keeping in touch with my readers is ConvertKit*. You can “tag” your readers based on their interests, and make sure you only send them emails that resonate.
Graphic Design: Need graphics for your website, marketing materials, or social media accounts? Canva is your best bet. It's free for basic use, or $12.95 for a business account. I use it all the time. Highly recommend!
Templates: Creative Market* is my absolute favorite place to find templates for presentations, social media posts, handouts, and more. They also have some really cool fonts and graphic design elements. Just beware, it's easy to spend hours here!
Stock Photography: Unsplash is a FREE resource for stock photos. You can download them directly to your computer, and use them for any purpose, including commercial use, without attribution. Winning!
Sales Funnels: Evergreen sales funnels can be magic in your business. And one of the best ways to create urgency in an evergreen system is with an expiring offer. Deadline Funnel* is my absolute favorite tool for creating personalized offers with unique deadlines in my evergreen email marketing campaigns.
Video Hosting: If you need a space to host private videos (that you might embed within an online course, for example), Vimeo* is the best place to store them! Unline YouTube, you really can make videos private so no one except your paying students can access them.
SEO Tools: You probably already know how passionate I am about SEO (if not, check out this podcast episode). My all-time favorite tool for doing keyword research, tracking my rankings, and conducting technical SEO audits is SEMrush. Use my affiliate link to get a 1-week free trial. If SEMrush is out of your budget, you can also check out KeySearch* as a more affordable alternative.
Recurring Social Scheduling: Scheduling tools like SmarterQueue* and Co-Schedule are life-saver for bloggers. They allow you to schedule social media posts in advance and then set them to re-post automatically on recurring intervals.
Pinterest Scheduling: Tailwind* is my go-to tool for Pinterest management. Tailwind* allows you to bulk-schedule pins to be published at pre-set time throughout the week, ensuring that your pins are seen by the maximum number of people. Plus, you can knock out a whole week's worth of pins in an hour! Obsessed.
Instagram Scheduling: Later* is an Instagram scheduling tool that allows you to visually plan, draft, and schedule Instagram posts and stories in advance. Depending on which plan you sign up for, they can also give you hashtag suggestions and let you schedule the 1st comment on your post!
Filing Legal Documents: If you're ready to incorporate your business, but prefer a low-cost DIY approach, Legal Zoom is for you. It allows you to file your own paperwork online to form an LLC or Corporation in just a few simple steps.
Filing for a Trademark: Ready to trademark your business name? Want to make sure the name for your business or product idea isn't already taken? The United States Patent and Trademark Office allows you to search all registered trademarks, current and expired, to help guide your decisions.
Registering for a Tax EIN: All business owners should register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for their business. With an EIN, you can put your EIN number on all payment and legal forms, reducing the risk of getting your social security number stolen.
GDPR/CCPA Compliance: This is an awesome plugin to help your website comply with current privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA. (This is how you get those “accept cookies” pop-ups on your site.) It's really well done and regularly updated to keep up with legislation changes.