Blogging Resources

This page may contain affiliate links from which I may make a commission at no cost to you. See How SideGains Makes Money for more information.

Welcome to my blogging resources page!

The list below represents tools that I use myself. I list a couple of WordPress plugins that I don’t use on SideGains, but I am using them on other sites I manage.

Some of the resources listed contain my affiliate links. If you click these and make a purchase, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you… I need to make some money somehow!

The products below are not here solely to generate sales for me though and I have not been solicited by any company to promote their products on my blogging resources page. 

As I say, these are the tools I use almost every single day and so I have a very clear conscience about promoting them to you.

Many of these resources are free, however some require a paid subscription or a one off charge.

SideGains Blogging Resources List 

Graphic & Image Resources
Domains
Hosting
Blogging Platforms
WordPress Themes
WordPress Plugins
Keyword Research
Productivity Tools

Graphic & Image Resources

Which graphics program should you use? Should you use something comprehensive or something that just does the jobs you need?

Additionally, where can you find high-quality, copyright free images to use across your online estate?

Adobe Photoshop – THE Graphics Editor!

Photoshop CC Blogging Resource

Adobe Photoshop is THE graphics editor. It is the tool of choice for almost every graphics professional and is literally a behemoth!

For the average Joe it offers way more functions than you’ll ever use (especially if you’re a newbie) but it truly is the Rolls Royce of digital graphics editors.

Years ago you could purchase Photoshop as standalone software but Adobe moved into subscription-based pricing some time back. Consequently, the starter package (Photographer) will cost you:

  • UK: from around £10 per month upwards (depending upon the options you choose)
  • US: from around $10 per month upwards (depending upon the options you choose)

The Photographer package gives you 20GB of storage for the images you create, which is enough space for around 4,000 JPEGs.

Photoshop is a truly amazing blogging resource but it may be like using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut for the newbie blogger.


Snappa – Recommended for Beginners

Snappa

Snappa is an online graphic design tool that’s perfect for generating and optimizing images for blog posts, social media and… well, pretty much anything to do with running a website really!

It includes quite literally thousands of free templates, from Facebook headers to infographics that help you create strikingly effective artwork…. even if (like me) you’re NOT a seasoned graphic designer!

There are different subscription levels, each giving you full access to 5,000+ templates and 1,000,000+ HD stock photos & graphics. However there are some differences between each subscription package:

  • Starter (FREE) – The Starter package gives you a license for 1 user but it limits you to downloading only 3 images you create with it per month.
  • Pro ($10 per month) – The Pro package also gives 1 user access but it allows you unlimited downloads for any image you create and you can upload fonts to keep your branding consistent / give you more options when creating graphics.
  • Team ($20 per month) – The Team package gives you everything from the Pro package but also permits multiple people to use the account.

My recommendation for beginners would be to use Snappa as your graphic editor. I say this because of the two graphics packages I’ve listed, the  learning curve for Snappa is far less steep than it is for Photoshop.

I would also opt for the Pro package. If you’re serious about blogging, the Starter package download limit will hold you back.

Sign up for a free Snappa account and get to know it. When you’re comfortable with how it works, you can always upgrade to the Pro package if you like it.


Unsplash – Huge FREE Image Resource

Unsplash

Unsplash is an incredible blogging resource for high-quality, high-resolution images for you to use as you please to copy, modify and distribute absolutely FREE for commercial or non-commercial use!

You do not have to obtain permission from either Unsplash or the image creator. You also do not have to provide reference links to either.

Unsplash has a collection of over 1,000,000 images for you to choose from… by the way, did I mention that creating an account is FREE?

It’s an amazing resource for images, which I use across the SideGains blog and social media accounts.

Domains

There are many companies providing domain registration. The ones listed below are tried and tested by me and my experiences of using them goes back a long way.

Namecheap – My Choice for .com Domains

Namecheap

Namecheap is my personal recommendation for registering .com domains. I’ve always found domain prices to be extremely competitive and so I’ve been using Namecheap for almost 15 years.

I’ve never had any issues with Namecheap and support has been excellent on the few occasions I’ve needed some help.

The service is easy to use and well-documented to help get you through some of the more demanding domain configurations you might need to put in place.


123 Reg – My Choice for .co.uk Domains

123 Reg

As with Namecheap, I am a long-time customer of 123 Reg, pretty much for the same reasons as above. I made some of my first ever domain purchases through them in the early 2000s.

I find 123 Reg offers good support and a user-friendly interface.

Domains are also competitively priced

I generally use 123 Reg for purchasing .co.uk domains.

Hosting

When you have registered your domain name, you’ll need somewhere to put your website.

You can use free hosting but for my money it’s better to pay for a host that provides you with a quality hosting service.

SiteGround – Excellent Support and Fast Servers

SiteGround... The Best Blogging Resource for Hosting

I began using SiteGround in June 2016, when I migrated SideGains from HostGator. It’s not that I was unhappy with Hostgator, but I felt that SiteGround would offer me more robustness for what I plan SideGains to become.

I haven’t been disappointed! SiteGround has given the SideGains blog an incredible boost in terms of load speed, which you can read about here: SideGains Page Load Speed Test.

There are three packages available:

  • StartUp
  • GrowBig
  • and GoGeek.

I opted for the GrowBig package because it offers unlimited website hosting and 20 GB of web space storage. It also allows for up to 25,000 monthly visits.

Current pricing for the GrowBig package is:

  • GrowBig UK Year 1: £4.95/month and £14.95/month after the first year (prices exclude VAT).
  • GrowBig US Year 1: $5.95/month and $19.95/month after the first year.

I found the SiteGround support team incredibly responsive and knowledgeable when I initially spoke with them about configuration changes I needed to make quickly after migrating to them.

One of the most highly recommended tools on my blogging resources page!

Blogging Platforms

There are many, many blogging platforms to choose from.

I list below the platform I use for pretty much 99% of the sites I look after.

WordPress – The World’s Most Popular Platform

WordPress - My Favorite CMS Blogging Resource

I use (and have used) many blogging platforms over the past 20 years but WordPress is the one I’ve used the most consistently during that time! It’s also one of the most feature-rich and surprisingly it’s FREE!

WordPress is a highly flexible and customisable blogging platform but it can be used for almost any type of online property from online stores to forums.

It’s the most popular platform on earth, used by over 60 million websites (according to Wikipedia).

WordPress can be run with FREE hosting on WordPress.com but for increased control over customization it’s better to install it onto your own host.

The beauty of WordPress is that you can add FREE themes to improve the look, feel and functionality of your site… and there are tens of thousands from which to choose! If you don’t like a particular theme you can uninstall it and install another simply and quickly with the click of a few buttons.

You can also install FREE (and paid) plugins to add specific functionality over and above your core WordPress installation and theme. These too can be installed and uninstalled very simply within a couple of clicks.

WordPress is highly recommended!

WordPress Themes

Should you choose a free them for your WordPress site? Or perhaps a pro theme that you pay for?

MH Newsdesk – Super Clean News Style Theme

MH Themes

SideGains uses the MH Newsdesk theme by MH Themes. I find this type of newspaper layout to fit perfectly for what I want SideGains to be right now, as well as providing enough “out of the box” to take it to where I want it to be.

It is a responsive theme meaning it renders very nicely for mobile and tablet devices. Additionally it provides numerous layout options and feature areas for you to highlight content you want people to see.

The code is very clean and this contributes to SideGains loading quickly across all devices.

For those of you starting out with WordPress, there is a FREE “lite” version. I used this to test on SideGains before upgrading to the Pro version… the Pro version gives all the functionality available to the theme.

At the moment the MH Newsdesk Pro theme is a one off cost of $49.

WordPress Plugins

There a literally thousands of WordPress plugins for you to choose.

Here are the ones I recommend.

Yoast SEO for WordPress – Don’t Live Without It!

Yoast - The Best Blogging Resource for SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the most widely respected SEO plugins for WordPress. It’s very comprehensive and will certainly take most of the strain out of your search engine optimization efforts.

The plugin is free though there is a pro version which gives enhanced functionality.

Personally, I am running the free version on SideGains and have no plans to upgrade at the moment.

If I was only ever allowed to have one plugin it would be Yoast SEO!

Another highly recommended item on my blogging resources list!


WP Rocket – Super Fast Caching Plugin

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a premium WordPress plugin (i.e. you have to buy it) that helps optimize WordPress sites so they run super-fast. It is widely considered one of the most powerful caching plugins and is simple to install and configure.

Although I don’t use this plugin on SideGains (I use an optimization plugin that comes FREE with SiteGround), I have installed and configured it for some of my clients. Optimization improvements have been substantial!

The basic WP Rocket starter license for a single site is $49, which includes 1 year of support and updates.


W3 Super Cache – Super Fast Caching Plugin

WP Super Cache

W3 Super Cache is another WordPress plugin designed to improve user experience by improving page load speeds across your website.

It’s a highly popular FREE optimization plugin that currently has in excess of 2 million active installations on WordPress sites… so it’s a biggie!

Again this isn’t a plugin I use on SideGains, but it is one I use on my consultancy portfolio site, OK 200, which has dramatically improved page load speed across the board.

Keyword Research Resources

Any blogging resources list would not be complete without acknowledging tools to assist you in exploring and analyzing keywords.

So here are the FREE keyword research tools I use.

Google Ads Keyword Planner – Suggestions from Google!

Google Ads

The Google Ads Keyword Planner is a tool that can be found in the Google Ads pay per click advertising platform. Google Ads is FREE to set up (you need to set up a Google Account to gain access) although using it for advertising online will cost you money.

Once you have a Google Ads account, you can use the Keyword Planner tool within to generate keyword ideas. You can also see estimated monthly search volumes for them and how competitively people are bidding upon them in Google Ads. If they are competitive in Google Ads, they’ll likely be competitive in Google’s organic results.


Bing Ads Keyword Planner – Suggestions from Bing!

Bing Ads

Bing Ads is Mocrosoft’s pay per click advertising platform and like Google Ads offer its own Keyword Planner.

You can set up a FREE account with Bing Ads and gain access to the Keyword Planner. However, creating advertising campaigns in Bing Ads and activating them will cost you money.

The Bing Ads Keyword Planner tool can help you generate keyword list ideas and give you insight into estimated search volumes and competitiveness for keywords that people are bidding upon in Bing. This can perhaps indicate how competitive they might be in Bing’s organic results.


Ubersuggest – Great FREE Research Tool

Ubersuggest - Best Free Blogging Resource for Keyword Research

Ubersuggest is online marketing guru Neil Patel’s FREE keyword research tool… and much, much more.

It’s a sophisticated tool and one that I use frequently.

Ubersuggest provides reports not just on keyword search volumes but also which pages rank highly for them.

Further detail shows you SEO details about each ranking page such as:

  • Estimated number of visits the page receives
  • The number of inbound links to the ranking page (and the pages that links to them)
  • A domain score for the ranking page
  • The number of times people have shared the ranking page in social media 

This is very useful because it gives you greater insight into what it takes to rank a page for a given keyword in Google’s search results.

For a FREE tool, Ubersuggest brings a whole new level of sophistication to keyword research, offering not just phrase matching but also related keywords that may be of interest to you.

There are other subscription-based keyword tools available that provide even more detailed analysis, but if you’re starting out Ubersuggest is highly recommended.

Productivity Tools

Although the following are not specifically blogging resources, they do help me to carry out my day-to-day activities more easily.

HideMyAss – Conceal Your Browsing

Hide My Ass

HideMyAss is subscription-based software that helps you remain anonymous online by encrypting your browsing. 

It is effectively a virtual private network (VPN) provider. As such it enables you to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if you’re directly connected to the private network.

You can use HideMyAss to:

  • Access websites that are blocked in your country
  • Anonymize data that hackers might otherwise use
  • Set up your browser so you can see search engine results as if you were making searches from a specific country.

I use it primarily to make for the countries I am researching to see what the search results look like, but the military-grade encryption also makes your browsing difficult to hack.

There are multiple price plans, that each offer the same functionality, but each is priced differently according to the length of subscription you chose.

I use the HideMyAss 12-month plan which costs:

  • UK: £4.99 per month
  • US: $6.99 per month.

Highly recommended.


RoboForm Password Manager – Never Forget Another Password!

RoboForm

RoboForm is a highly useful password manager and form filling app that runs on desktop, mobile and tablet devices.

Since we all have dozens of passwords to remember nowadays RoboForm takes the burden off you enabling you to access all your passwords across all your devices using a single master password.

I’ve been using RoboForm since around 2007 and rely on it still… it’s that good.

There is a free version, but to unlock it’s full functionality and use it across multiple devices for personal use costs $39.95.

Highly recommended.


That’s it for now. Check back though as I update this page as and when I find and use new blogging resources.