Whether you’re a complete newbie, or a veteran blogger wanting to take your blogging experience to the next level by adding features, functionalities, and improving performance quality, I have something for you!
Below you’ll find a list of services/products I personally recommend and guarantee will help you grow your blog.
[Affiliate Disclosure: This page has affiliate links. If you so choose to follow one of these links and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission paid to me by the company, and at no expense to you. The commission I make from affiliate sales help me run this blog and provide regular, quality value to you. So, thank you for your support!]
As a fellow blogger as well as a web designer and developer, I come with a blogging approach based on performance, security and above all, GROWTH. And with that in mind, my recommended blogging (and small business website) platform of choice is the one and only — WordPress; the self-hosted kind. Below you’ll find my recommended services for starting and maintaining a WordPress blog and/or small business website that will grow with you.
To all the beginner bloggers out there, my recommended hosting company is SiteGround, starting at only $3.95 per month (if paid annually) for first-time users. Among all the shared hosting solutions out there with comparable pricing, SiteGround by far and large exceeds my expectations. Some of the perks include: free SSL, free daily backup, unlimited emails, a built-in caching program to speed up the site, CDN with Cloudflare, 24/7 phone and chat support (and what phenomenal support they have!)
WordPress Theme Builder/Templates
Elementor is a theme and page builder plugin. If you’re tired of the same look and feel on all the other blogs out there, and want to create something more unique without having to custom code everything, I highly recommend this plugin. I like the Astra Theme for WordPress, and pair it with Elementor Pro for the best of both worlds.
Alternative Approach: If you want a traditional WordPress theme approach, then the Genesis framework is my preferred solution. Genesis is a WordPress theme framework and needs to be used with a child theme. My preferred child themes are available on StudioPress, and, if you’re looking for feminine themes, I highly recommend Restored316 child themes for Genesis.
WordPress Performance/Speed Optimization
Website speed is important when it comes to retaining users and readers, and keeping them on your website longer. Nobody likes to deal with a slow website! Also, did you know that Google takes page speed into account when ranking? That’s where WP Rocket comes in. This plugin has all the features you need to optimize your site for speed and performance. Paired with a great hosting company such as SiteGround, this plugin is by far the best website optimization and caching plugin out there.
Other Resources for Your WordPress Website/Blog
NameCheap (for domains): When you sign up with SiteGround, you can register a domain with them, OR, you can purchase a domain from a different company, and then point it to SiteGround.
Now, why would you want to do that? Well, what if you have more than one domain? Or, better yet, what if you’re a security nerd like I am? Personally, I think it’s useful to have a domain and hosting from two separate platforms. So, while I host all my sites on SiteGround, I purchase all my domains from NameCheap. On top of having everything neatly organized, it also adds an extra layer of security.
WordPress Essential Plugins
I’m of the mind that the less number of plugins you have, the better. That said, some plugins are essential for various reasons (performance, security, etc.) Below are some of my favorite plugins that I always install on my own sites as well as on my clients’ sites.
Anti-Spam – Detects spam and malicious comments and quarantines them. Free to use, and beats a paying plugin like Akismet by far and large.
Yoast SEO – A great plugin to insert metadata for pages and posts easily. It also polices SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, practices. While you should take its recommendations with a pinch of salt, it doesn’t hurt to take note of the suggestions.
Image Optimization by Optimole – Images are one of the biggest culprits for slowing down your site load time. I’ve tried a few image optimization plugins, and by far this is my favorite.
Edit Author Slug – When you click on a user, the link adds the user’s username as the slug. Which can be a huge security issue for most WordPress sites. Edit Author Slug helps you mask the username with a custom slug.
Wordfence – This is a free WordPress security plugin. I recommend securing your WordPress site with SiteLock, which is a paid security software. WordFence is a free alternative if you’re in a budget.
WP Rocket – A good hosting company such as SiteGround paired with WP Rocket for performance and Optimole for image optimization can significantly improve your website speed and performance.
UpDraft Plus – Most hosting companies offer daily backups for either free or an additional cost (it’s a free feature on my preferred hosting company — SiteGround). However, I still prefer to have a backup plugin in place just because! Also, UpDraft Plus saves a backups file locally, so, if something unexpectedly goes wrong (during a plugin update for example), as long as you can access the WordPress dashboard, you can restore to a previous backup with just a click.
Media Cleaner – Great plugin that can detect media files that are not being linked anywhere on your site, and gets rid of them with the click of a button. Useful plugin when you’ve had a blog for a while, assets have been switched around, and you’ve lost track of what’s linking where, and a bunch of unnecessary files are just sitting there on your media library. Use this plugin to do a bit of house-cleaning every month to keep your blog’s back-end clutter free.
An email list is your best friend. Period. If you’re a blogger or a small business (or any size business) owner, freelancer, entrepreneur, whatever have you, you need to start an email list as soon as possible. In fact, I’d say that you need to start an email list even before you set up your website/blog!
There are a lot of email marketing platforms out there. My favorite, however, is ConvertKit, especially for bloggers, because this platform makes creating multiple forms, multiple sequences or automation for different opt-in freebies, super easy! As a blogger, you’ll likely want to offer more than one opt-in incentive scattered across different blog posts. The ConvertKit platform is super intuitive and makes offering these different incentives simple and stress-free.
And now, through my special affiliate link only, you get to enjoy 30 days of ConvertKit, totally FREE! (Typically they offer 14-day free trial, but with my special link, you now get to enjoy this free trial for a whole month!)
A blogger always needs images and graphics created for blog posts, such as blog featured images, social media graphics, etc., and other collaterals such as opt-in freebies and lead magnets, eBooks, mini-guides and much more.
Having the right tool to create graphics and digital collaterals can make you a much more efficient blogger. Canva can be a one-stop platform for all your graphics needs. Stock photo companies such as Pexels and Pixabay are integrated seamlessly within Canva, so you do not even have to switch your browser tab while you pick your stock photos. And with Canva Pro, you have access to millions of premium images and graphic elements from Canva’s own image library or assets. Pretty neat, right?
Creative Market: This marketplace is full of high-quality graphic design elements, as well as templates and custom fonts. If you want to add some jazz in your designs, Creative Market is the place to go looking for unique design resources.
Canva Photos (Unlimited): Canva Pro gives you access to a LOT of premium, stock images, for free (over two million!) With a subscription to Canva Photos, you have access to ALL of their premium images, included with the subscription.