When I started blogging over 12 years ago, it was just for my own personal gratification. To me, blogging was just a fancier, tech-ier, adult-ier version of "Dear Diary...". In the beginning, it thrilled me that only my mom and maybe three other people saw my random posts. But after a while I started to realize that complete strangers were commenting on my articles. People I had never met, didn't even know existed, were following my ramblings.
Even more surprising, they thought that those ramblings were interesting enough to check back in week after week. Around that same time, I started noticing that other bloggers, doing exactly what I was doing, were doing it so much more professionally. Not only that, they were making money by doing it (wait, what?!). I knew that if I wanted to take my blog from a personal online diary to a profitable and professional website, I would have to make some pretty important blog investments.
For most people, the thought of making an investment can be a scary thought. The definition of an investment is sinking money into a particular undertaking with only the expectation of achieving a worthwhile result (like a profit). For someone who is as adverse to risk, especially with money, as I am, the idea of investing without a promise of profit makes me feel twitchy.
But, I also recognize the need to "spend money to make money" as the old saying goes. To that end, here are seven essential blog investments that every new blogger should make.
7 Essential Blog Investments
Web Hosting & Domain Name
Like many newbie bloggers, I started out using a free service to host my blog. And while that was perfectly fine for me as a hobbyist, I realized just how limiting a free service is when trying to become a professional blogger. So I switched to a self-hosted service run by SiteGround. While the transition was a giant headache, the reward was worth all the effort.
Save yourself time and a headache by starting your blog on a self-hosted site such as SiteGround. It will give you the ability to customize your site as well as add a great deal more functionality and control. Self-hosting will cost you approximately $200 per year, but it is one of the best investments you can make for your blog.
Another essential blog investment is purchasing a custom domain. Having your own domain looks incredibly professional and increases your street cred 10-fold. Having your own domain also allows you to set up an email address that matches your brand. So instead of having readers or brands contact you at email@example.com, they'll reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. This tiny little inexpensive investment will boost your branding and your professionalism by leaps and bounds. You can purchase your custom domain through your self-hosting service for approximately $15 per year.
Blog DesignThe design of your blog is like the interior decor of your house: it reflects who you are as a brand. The way your blog presents to readers is going to tell them a lot about you. So you want it to reflect your style, voice, and purpose. Although it sounds completely overwhelming to design a blog, these days it can be as simple as buying a pre-made (or custom) blog theme.
Affordable pre-made themes can be found on Etsy, Creative Market, and (Thrive's Favorite!) BluChic. They are typically very easy to install and customize. And often the creators are willing to answer any specific questions you may have. Pre-made blog themes can range anywhere from $30 to $100.
Learn About (and Utilize) SEOAh, SEO. There are two camps when it comes to SEO. There are those who hate it (and have no clue what it is or how it works). Then there are those who love it (and get super geeky when talking about it). I started out in the first camp, to be honest. But here is a hard and fast truth for anyone wanting to make a living doing anything online: SEO can make or break you, so you better learn it (or hire someone to handle it for you).
Here's a brief explanation of SEO. It is an abbreviation for "search engine optimization." It is the process of optimizing your website to get organic traffic from search engine results pages like Google. In essence, SEO includes making certain, targeted changes to your website or blog posts that make your site more attractive to search engines. Thus, the search engine will begin displaying your content in its results because it is relevant for that specific search. By improving your SEO, you will expand your visibility on the search engines. This will, in turn, will drive more traffic to your website.
Okay, so now that you know why it's important, you now need to invest in educating yourself on how to do it and do it effectively. You will also need to invest in some SEO tools that will help you effectively create SEO rich content. Some good ones include Google Keyword Planner, Keywordtool.io, and SEMRush, among others. There are a plethora of SEO tools which can range from free to hundreds of dollars a month.
One very helpful tool that I highly recommend is Yoast Premium, which is a plugin you can install on any WordPress blog. There is a free version, which is fine, but the Premium version is worth every penny of $89 per year.
Subscribe to an E-Mail Service ProviderThe importance of having an email list is almost always underrated by new bloggers. But here's the thing: it's really the only thing you have that is yours. Your website can crash and be lost forever. Instagram or Facebook can be shut down and you'd never have a say. Twitter can go down the tubes, along with all of your followers. But when you have an email list, you have a way of staying connected to your readers even if the worst should happen.
So investing in a quality email service provider is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make as a blogger. There are several options available, ranging from free, like MailerLite (Thrive's Favorite!) to $30+ per month, like ConvertKit.
Invest in a Social Media SchedulerSocial media schedulers will become one of the most useful blog investments you make as your blog grows. A good scheduler will help you post consistently without you having to physically post on several social channels every day. This will help to drive traffic to your blog on a daily basis. And it will give you more time to focus on creating more relevant content. Most of the best social media schedulers offer a free or trial version. This is great for trying them out to find which one suits your specific needs. But you will soon need to upgrade to a paid service to really utilize the array of benefits a quality scheduler can offer.
Some of the best schedulers include Buffer, Hootsuite, Iconosquare, Tailwind, and MeetEdgar.
Continue Your EducationI hate to break it to you, but you're going to have to treat this blog biz as a core college course or a career-making apprenticeship if you really want your blog to be successful. That means you'll need to invest in courses, classes, e-books, conferences, and workshops. These will help you continue to learn the best and most effective ways to grow your following and drive traffic to your site. These courses can range from free to a couple of thousand (yikes!) dollars. However, an average worthwhile course will typically be around $200-$300. Here is a really great list of some of the best courses for beginning bloggers.
Also, *Thrive Plug!* consider group coaching and learning. Thrive has a program called the "Thrive Tribe" that teaches on a topic every month (4+ video trainings), unlimited chats with their coaches, and a way to connect with other bloggers taht are as committed as you -- for just $20/mo. You can learn more about the Thrive Tribe here.
Invest Your TimeThis investment really goes without saying, but you'd be surprised at how many newbie bloggers underestimate the amount of time it takes to launch and grow a successful blog. It is not easy, nor is it cheap. You will have to put a significant amount of time learning, creating, marketing, branding, researching, and curating to make your blog a success. However, if you look at this as a real job and schedule the time just as you would an important meeting or conference call, you can grow a very successful blog that you can be proud of.
Creating a profitable and professional blog from scratch is not going to be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is, am I right? If you make these several blog investments from the very beginning (or as close to it as possible) of your blogging journey, you will be so glad that you gave yourself the tools you need to succeed. And it will make the journey just a little bit easier.