Advice & Tips for New Bloggers
When you’re starting your first blog it can be difficult to find the best tools amongst the overwhelming information online. There’s so much advice, so many distracting shiny objects, it’s a wonder anyone manages to launch their first blog.
Even as an online veteran, I’ve jumped around trying out new things (in the pretence of research) while setting up this blog Simply Hatch. The site has had four makeovers in 6 months! I can safely say I’ve thoroughly tested the products I recommend. (And definitely tried to test the patience of the excellent support at WP Engine and SiteGround).
These are the products I use. You can follow my advice or spend time finding your own. It depends on what sort of person you are. I originally trained as an Engineer so I always have to dig into why and how something works. I get it if you need to do the same.
If you do follow my advice please note there are affiliate links on this page. That means I get a small commission if you sign up for a product via my link (at no extra cost to you). This helps to fund my product testing and the free content provided on my site. I don’t have affiliate links for all the products on this page. Some of these resources are listed just because I use them all the time.
There are several different types of hosting. Not all blog hosting is equal. You can read my guide to WordPress Hosting to find out more:
Hosting needs to be fast, secure and reliable, plus good support is essential. Choosing your host based on price is a big mistake. Take my 15+ years of experience and don’t do it.
Why do I recommend both WP Engine and SiteGround?
WP Engine is more expensive than most of the host providers recommended for startups. You get a lot more for the money and if you cost in all the extras the price works out about the same. However, not everyone will want to pay for a premium service which is why I also recommend SiteGround.
I’ve been testing SiteGround for several months and I’m really pleased with their support and performance. The sign-up cost per month is about the same as one or two Cappuccinos if you pay for 12 months hosting in one go.
(And let’s face it, you need to commit to blogging for 12 months if you’re really going to make this work. It takes most bloggers 3-6 months to build a money-making machine).
What other business is that cheap to start? I have the slightly more expensive Grow Big plan but it means I can test out several sites at once.
Here’s the low down on both hosting providers:
UPDATE: SiteGround has a special discount for Simply Hatch readers! Save Up To 65% on hosting! Includes FREE SSL, FREE Email,
They are one of the top low-cost hosting providers when you take into account speed, security and reliability. The pricing is this good because their startup package is on shared hosting. (With all shared hosting you need to upgrade when your site starts receiving high levels of traffic. This applies to all hosting companies, don’t believe otherwise. Think of it as an office – you can’t triple your staff and operate out of the same tiny startup room. High levels of traffic = making money so this isn’t a problem).
The reason SiteGround is a better choice than similar hosting providers is their support. There are one or two other hosting companies I could recommend based equivalent website speed and reliability. The problem is these companies will only help you out if you have a problem with your hosting. If it’s a WordPress problem, you’re expected to go digging around on WordPress forums or hire an expensive developer.
SiteGround provides Managed WordPress Hosting, taking care of updates, backups and everything that makes the day-to-day running of your blog easier. The support staff are highly knowledgeable and can help out with any WordPress problem. Which is what you need if you have a technical issue at 2 am just before your first product launch. Someone who can help.
Why WP Engine?
If price wasn’t a factor in people’s decisions, I would recommend WP Engine to everyone. Their managed website hosting is at an Enterprise level of performance. It’s the go-to solution for businesses with big plans.
WP Engine is a Managed Cloud Hosting solution dedicated solely to WordPress sites. I use WP Engine for Simply Hatch for all the extras they provide, not just for their blazingly fast speed. I can use their staging, take backup points on demand and analyse page performance. These features all help when I’m testing out products.
The pricing does put them outside the level of most beginner bloggers BUT you now have access to the exceptional StudioPress themes as part of the package. If you’re thinking about buying a StudioPress theme or you have an existing business, WP Engine should be on your radar. Their support is amazing.
There are a crazy amount of FREE themes to choose from. Go to Appearance > Themes > Add New on your dashboard and search to your heart’s content. Hestia is one of the most popular themes. It’s free but you will be encouraged to upgrade to the Pro version. Look for themes that are frequently updated, mobile-friendly and Gutenberg ready. Gutenberg, launched in 2018, is the new WordPress Editor. Not all themes are compatible with the new Gutenberg features.
StudioPress themes are not only Gutenberg ready, but some have been specifically optimised to make the most of the Gutenberg new features. The Breakthrough Pro theme, used on this Simply Hatch blog is one of them. StudioPress uses the renowned Genesis framework. It’s fast, clean, excellent for search engines, secure and fully responsive.
The StudioPress themes are not just technically excellent, they’re beautifully designed with a theme to suit every purpose. Choose a theme that matches how you want your site to look, set the theme up easily with the StudioPress in-depth setup instructions, and make use of their excellent support if you need extra help.
ConvertKit is an email marketing service designed by professional bloggers for professional bloggers. These guys know exactly what you need! ConvertKit understand your requirements for Affiliate marketing and launching products.
Their comprehensive knowledgebase will walk you through capturing subscribers and setting up sequences to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time. I’ve used Mailchimp in the past and by comparison ConvertKit is on a whole different level.
Having looked into the most popular page builders available, the clear winner for a new blogger is Elementor. A big plus is it’s free version.
The free version has 30 widgets you can use to edit your page and a number of free to use templates. You can easily change your fonts, add backgrounds, images and full width sections. There’s no real need to upgrade to the paid version of Elementor Pro although at $49 for a single site the price is reasonable.
My view is that Elementor is one of the cleanest page builders around and will have the least effect on load speed. It’s also less reliant on shortcodes than some of the other popular page builders. This means that if you decide to switch back to Gutenberg at a future date, your text will still be intact and you won’t have to retype your page from scratch.
Social Warfare is the best social media plugin I’ve come across. You need to upgrade to the Pro version if you want Pinterest Save It Pins on your site (something I strongly recommend for extra traffic).
I use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest pins. It’s an official Pinterest partner and widely used by all top pinners. With Tailwind I can set up my pinning schedule for the week in about 20 minutes flat and I use it to track the performance of all my pins. For me it’s an essential tool that’s helped me quickly grow my Pinterest following.
Canva & PicMonkey
I use Canva to create all my Pinterest Pins and other social media graphics. There’s a free version that’s sufficient for most new bloggers.
I use PicMonkey for resizing images and for easily removing the background to images. If you have an existing photo editor save your pennies and use it.
Unsplash is an excellent source of beautiful free images.
The best way to find affiliate products is to search for a brand you know and love and add the word affiliate. However, there are big affiliate networks where you can research products. I use ShareASale just because it’s the network used for some of my favourite brands. It was an easy
I use the Logitech, C920 HD Pro Webcam for filming my videos and a Blue Yeti USB Microphone for recording sound. Both have been easy to set up. (You need to point the mic straight upwards). I use a stand for my mic and this Smatree Adjustable Clamp to attach the webcam to the top of my computer. It means I can angle the webcam easily.
I have a brilliant pull up Neewer Green Screen. I use a green screen because I can’t imagine EVER being tidy enough to have one of those perfect stylised backdrops. Instead, I can just pull up the green screen and start recording.
I got carried away with lighting. It will depend on the type of setup you have. My lights are similar to the ones in this set. I didn’t realise when I bought them that you need to place your lights behind your monitor, so I ended up taking the lightbox off the legs and stacking it on my printer. It works.