Starting a blog can be exciting and totally overwhelming at the same time. There is a LOT of information out there on how to do it. It’s easy to get stuck in information gathering mode; signing up for courses, joining Facebook groups, listening to podcasts and reading so much information your face turns blue.
I felt this way when I started Indoorsy Camper. To be perfectly honest I still fall into the information trap from time to time. Even though this blog is new, I’ve learned a couple things along the way and wanted to share a list of my favorite blogging tools for beginners.
Rather than bombard you with all the tools, this post going to hone in on plug-ins. There’s a lot of plug-ins out there and it can be tough to decide which ones are worth using. I use all of these on my own blog. I wouldn’t have found many of them without the help of other bloggers, podcasters and content creators who kindly shared their not so secret “secrets”. Which is why I am committed to transparency when it comes to Indoorsy Camper. I really believe that there’s an audience out there for everyone and that a scarcity mindset will only hinder my and others success. So here’s my current top 9 plug-ins. I hope they help other outdoor bloggers…or any beginner blogger for that matter.
Free Blogging Tools: Plug-ins
- Custom Sidebars: This simple plug-in lets you create custom sidebar configurations to place in the widget area of your pages or posts. For example, look at the sidebar on this page, now click over to my Gift Guide page and see the difference between the two. On the gift guide page I’ve left off my bio and changed the top posts widget to only show my other gift guides.
- Forget about Short Code Buttons: I’m no expert at HTML or any other coding languages, but I really wanted to add buttons to a post I wrote about lodging options at the Grand Canyon. One Google search and several reviews led me to the Forget about Short Code Buttons plug-in. I’ve been very happy with how easy it is to create customized buttons and add them to my posts.
- MonsterInsights: If you have any interest in knowing how readers are interacting with your blog you’re gonna need to set up Google Analytics. There’s plenty of ways to do this, but I found MonsterInsights to be a quick and easy way to connect my Google Analytics account to my blog. No technical knowledge needed, just follow the setup prompts and you’re done!
- Yoast SEO: While we’re talking about analytics, you may as well download Yoast SEO. It comes in a free or paid version (I haven’t bothered to spring for the paid version). It helps you optimize keywords, reviews your content for readability and is always updated for Google’s algorithm.
- Instagram Feed: If you didn’t know I’m a BIG fan of Instagram! It’s where I feel I can be the most open (aside from my newsletter of course) and really engage with my people. The Instagram Feed plug-in is easy to install and lets your blog readers easily find you on the gram.
- Social Warfare: This plug-in makes it easy for mobile users to pin and share your posts to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and several other social sharing networks. I love this plug-in, it’s easy, the buttons load quickly and they look clean on my site.
Paid Plug-ins for Beginner Outdoor Bloggers
*This links to these plug-ins are affiliate links. Which means I make a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
- EWWW Image Optimizer: We all want big beautiful images in on our blog pages and inside our blog posts. BUT those come with a price. They can slow down your website and lead to readers clicking away because they don’t want to wait. This can damage your conversion rates and lower your search engine rankings. EWWW Image Optimizer automatically optimizes new images. Plus it allows you to go back and convert your old images to the best file format with no visual loss.
- MiloTree: You may not like pop-ups, but the truth is they work. You can get MiloTree up and running in two minutes flat. It can be integrated with Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest or your email subscriber. You choose the accounts you want to feature, how often you want the pop-up to appear, how you want it to look and boom, you’re done.
- Tasty Pins: Tasty Pins was created for food bloggers, but that doesn’t mean other types of blogs can’t benefit. It might seem surprising, but Pinterest is the number one driver of traffic to my blog. That means I need my images to be beautiful and include my keyword rich Pinterest description. Tasty Pins lets you add your image descriptions and alt text right inside your blog. It also allows you to have multiple hidden images that are force pinned. It’s probably my favorite plug-in on the entire list! It’s a game changer.
There you have it, my nine favorite plug-ins, for the moment anyway. Do you have any other plug-ins you love? Comment below and tell me about them.