Resources

Looking for cool blogging resources we use on BelleSavvy? When I was building our site I looked everywhere for the best plugins and fonts and ideas. Any time I noticed a blog doing something well, I wanted to know how. I emailed people (who were incredibly gracious in responding), searched on Pinterest for the best reviews and comparisons, and installed plugin after plugin to see what I liked.

Let’s save you some of that work! Granted, you might not like what I like which is why I included WHY quite often in our list of resources.

Hosting

Every website needs a good host. Here are a few at varying prices.

  • BlueHost. This is our current host. They’re affordable and great when you’re getting started.
  • KVC. Ultra inexpensive. Mediocre support but good uptimes. It can take two or three rounds with their support team, but eventually they take care of their clients and resolve problems.

    If you’re looking to build a website on a budget, KVC is a good place to start.

WordPress Themes

Tweak Me v2.
Yes, that’s the end of the list. There probably are other great themes out there. But I’ve been spoiled by Tweak Me.

  • It’s ULTRA easy to use.
  • HIGHLY customizable. Like, so easy to customize pretty much anything. Every other theme I try I want to adjust this and tweak that and it’s either really complicated or I just can’t and I end up switching to TweakMe.
  • Ashley is SUPER friendly and responsive to support requests and easy to work with.

Maybe someday I’ll keep another theme around beyond simply trying it out, but for now I can use Tweak Me over and over and change it up every time and you’d never know. Except by the fact that I won’t stop talking about it.

Plugins

I use different plugins based on the needs of different sites. But this is a list of the basic plugins I use for EVERY site, and then a few more.

  • Akismet – pretty much every site uses this for spam control on comments.
  • iThemes Security – secure your site against hackers and troublemakers whether accidental or bots cusing trouble and slowing things down. They also provide an option to receive periodic back ups of your site. If you don’t relay on this back up, be sure to install an additional back up plugin.
  • Google Analyticator – vital to reviewing how many people visit your site and what pages they visit. This information will help you build a better blog as you focus on the content people are most interested in.
  • Site caching in incredibly important to improve your site’s and from what I’ve read W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are fairly interchangeable. W3 has more extensive (complex) set up but both reportedly increase the speed of your site comparably.
  • Cloudflare adds another layer to the whole caching equation the improves your site performance. You do have to create a Cloudflare account (which is free). Then update your nameservers at Google Domains. Don’t set up CloudFlare through BlueHost, because it’s a partial setup (I had so much trouble with this for months on BelleSavvy). It’s a bit technical but in the long run it’s better to go directly through CloudFlare and Google Domains.
  • WP Optimize – cleans up your database to deleted older items that are no longer relevant. And a clean, optimized database is a fast database. Plus, I like efficiency.
  • The SEO Framework – a great way to keep your SEO top notch with easy red, yellow and green indicators for posts and pages. SEO Framework is a simple plugin for those already familiar of the basics that improve your SEO.
  • Yoast SEO – Yoast is a more extensive plugin for those just getting started. It highlights areas where you can improve the readability of your post and specifically directs how to improve a post or page’s SEO. It’s a great way to learn basic SEO techniques.
  • Simple Comment Notification – emails a reply to visitors when you reply to their comment. That way it’s more of a conversation and gives you an additional way to engage with your audience.
  • Naked Social Share – simple share buttons for posts and pages. I like Ashley’s plugin because it’s completely sparse, allowing you to easily customize the icons to match your branding.
  • Email Address Encoder – let’s you actually type out an email address instead of yourname [at] email.com or whatever. One more small way to up your professionalism.
  • P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) – all of the plugins on this list have a pretty low impact on your site’s performance and speed. But pile together enough pennies and you end up with dollars… that’s a really lame metaphor. What I mean is, even small impact plugins will slow down your site if you have enough of them. P3 will show you how plugins affect your speed and the combined impact to your site.
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar – gives you a calendar view of your posts. This makes it incredibly easy to schedule posts, see what you have coming up and where you have gaps, and drag and drop posts around to the day you want to publish them.

  • The following plugins may not be necessary depending on the purpose of your site. They have their uses, especially if you’re looking to monetize your content or like more extensive (kinda technical) customizations.

  • NG Author – if your theme doesn’t display an author box below your blog posts, Ashley’s got that covered. It’s a great way to personalize your posts and start to form a connection with your audience.
  • Revive Old Post – tweets old posts periodically to keep the content fresh. Not something you need right away, before your posts are old, but good once you’ve been blogging a while it might be helpful.
  • Amazon Associates Link Builder – if you’re monetizing your site with Amazon links, this makes it incredibly easy to create image links to products.
  • BestAzon – for text links to Amazon, I use BestAzon because it globalizes links and it’s incredibly easy to just copy the url from Amazon and have BestAzon take care of everything else.
  • NG Colour Code Post Status – similar to the editorial calendar, this color codes posts on the list by status so you can easily distinguish drafts from published and scheduled posts. It’s not vital but it’s nicely helpful.
  • jQuery Pin It Button For Images – simple way to customize the pin it button to match your branding.
  • Simple URLs – creates simple urls for affiliate links or other long, complicated links you use often. There are a few different plugins that do this, but I prefer Simple URLs clean and easy admin interface the most.
  • My Custom Functions – basically I use this to create shortcodes. Ashley has a helpful tutorial on creating your own shortcodes and now I use it for tables or other stretches of html code I reuse throughout a site, just to save myself some time.
  • Simple Custom CSS – if I weren’t going to use TweakMe (which has a section for custom css) then I’d use this plugin for some css to reinforce branding.
  • NG Blog Series – if you have any series you create on your blog, this plugin makes it easy to create, basically, a reverse archive page. That way readers can start with the first entry in the series and progress through them (or skip through) in the appropriate order. Plus it gives you a nice, easy url to link to the whole series (rather than using tags to link them).
  • WP Hide Title – page titles especially I sometimes want to hide if it’s kind of obvious what the page is, especially when someone clicks on “Contact” or something on the menu. And this does that.

This is no small list and there are additional plugins I use on Annie Jackson Books and BelleSavvy and on this site. If you’re curious about what I use for anything, please contact me and I’m happy to share!

Newsletter

  • MailChimp is a great option when you’re first getting started. It’s free (up to a certain number of subscribers), gives you the option to design beautiful emails and manage multiple lists.
  • ConvertKit is an upgrade from MailChimp, and not free. But it gives you the ability to easily segment your audience (so people interested in productivity can receive different content than those interested in organization).

    Also they handle lists better, recognizing duplicate emails on different lists and not double charging you for them.

    And you can create an email sequence to send a series of emails to build trust and connect with new subscribers.

  • ActiveCampaign is a step up from ConvertKit with extensive automation options and even deeper segmentation of your audience, their interests, how they engage with your content, how active they are and other factors.

Graphics and Images

  • PicMonkey – great photo editing for basics like resizing and cropping. Their clone tool is also good to correct small things (requires their Royale plan but a lot less expensive than buying photo editing software). They do have good filters for images and if you’re a photographer you can do some seriously cool things.

    For social media images and graphics, however, I prefer Canva.

  • Canva is one of my FAVORITES! You can make spectacular graphics for different social media outlets. You can copy images to sort of create your own templates. You can upload your own images or use pre-made layouts. Best of all, if you can afford the paid version then Magic Resize will CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE.

    You create a graphic for, say Pinterest, get it looking exactly the way you want. Then abracadabra with one click you have the same image formatted for Facebook and Twitter and Social Media and almost whatever you need. It saves HOURS of adjusting and formatting if you want to have cool graphics for all your social media audiences.

  • DesignFeed makes it easy to create images formatted for Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other options. You’ve got a lot of choices and a lot of control, though not quite as much as Canva. If you’re looking for a less manual option and aren’t concerned with precise control, it’s a great free option.
  • Creative Market – basically a graphic design market with fonts, templates, even logos and icons. Basically, they’re a great resource when creating or refining your brand. Or you’re like me and you just can’t get enough fonts.
  • WordSwag is great for adding text to images, either your own or a library of stock photos. It’s not free, but for $5.99, if you want to create graphics quote graphics.

Social Media

  • Tailwind is a must have tool for Pinterest. It allows you to schedule pins for optimal times each day. That way your account can be active throughout the week without needing to sit at a computer all day. It also has the best reporting and metrics. Tailwind has a LOT of great features.
  • BoardBooster is another Pinterest scheduling tool. It doesn’t create a specific schedule as Tailwind does. BoardBooster Campaigns can lop your pins on different group boards or on your own, giving older pins a new vitality and a second (or third) chance to go viral. Most successful pinners attribute BoardBooster campaigns with a significant portion of their success. (I don’t have a comparison because I began using Boardbooster as soon as I created BelleSavvy.)
  • ViralTag is sort of a hybrid between BoardBooster and Tailwind. You have a queue you can fill with pins. You can set certain pins as “Evergreen” and they fill empty slots in your queue. And they have a very clean and easy interface.

Those are the basic resources we use in our blogging journey. I hope you’ll find some helpful tools and if you have any questions, please let me know!