Sarah L. Travels is a full-time commitment. Needless to say, blogging well and maintaining longevity takes an arsenal of tools, paid and free. After trying out hundreds of them, these are the ones I chose and currently use to make Sarah L. Travels what it is now!
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Use this domain search and brokerage service to purchase a custom domain for your blog. (Pro tip: Search for social media handles of your intended blog name first!)
Content Management System (cms)
WordPress.org (different from WordPress.com!) is my CMS of choice. This is where you’ll spend the majority of your time as a blogger, since it’s where you write and publish posts, make changes to your theme, and upload plugins.
Finding the best web host is so, so important. You want a web host that can load your website quickly, keep it secure against any malicious threats, provide a professional email address, and offer a free SSL certificate. All of these aspects are vital for your blog’s longevity, credibility, and search engine rankings.
You can get started with Siteground, a top-rated web host that I use for this blog, for just $3.95/month!
search engine optimization (seo)
Even if you’re an amazing writer with so much to share, no one will read your blog if they can’t find it! That’s why SEO is such an important aspect of blogging. In fact, ignoring SEO at the beginning of Sarah L. Travels’ journey is my main regret. Don’t be like me; pay attention to SEO from the beginning!
Keysearch helps me choose which keywords to target with each post that are related to my post’s topic, are widely searched on Google, and are realistic for me to rank for. It makes my life so much easier so I get to do what I truly enjoy–writing!
A second aspect of SEO that matters for your website is domain authority. Your domain authority is a score from 0 to 100, a measure of how much Google and other search engines should trust and rank your website in their results. Moz offers a free domain authority tool that helps you see what the DA of your URL is. Once you know your domain authority, you can improve it by guest posting on other websites that offer relevant do-follow links back to your blog.
Don’t stress about domain authority too much, because it will naturally raise over time as you continue to post high-quality work and others link to your site as they find it!
Site speed is one of the key components to a profitable, successful blog or website. You want readers to visit your site, so you bring them through social media marketing and SEO. But, if they don’t stay and read your posts, what is the marketing worth? That’s where page speed comes in.
Google PageSpeed Insights helps you see your site’s score from 0 to 100 on both mobile and desktop. This is key to improving your website!
Your keyword research, SEO writing, domain authority, and page speed will all be futile if you never track your SEO efforts. Google Search Console is a very helpful free tool that will enable you to know which keywords your blog ranks for and how many visitors your site is receiving from Google Search.
Social Media Marketing
Any time people ask me about how to market their blog, I tell them three things:
1. You should spend at least as much time promoting each post as you did writing it.
2. Pinterest is a much better driver of blog traffic than Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
3. You need a scheduler. You’ll go crazy without one.
Enter: Tailwind. I tried to keep up with manually pinning, but there’s only one of me. Tailwind helps me market my posts on Pinterest and stay sane.
As a novice photographer, I still have so much to learn when it comes to taking high-quality travel photos. I got this camera about 8 months into running this blog, and I’m loving it so far! It’s user-friendly for newbies, while still offering greater flexibility to change lenses.
Even though original photography is ideal, not everyone is a photographer or has interest in learning. That’s where free stock photos come in! Unsplash and Canva both offer great selections you can use for your blog. Crediting the photographer is recommended, but not required.
Lightroom is a photo editing software that can really bring a photo to life. I have it as part of my Creative Cloud membership and I’m never going back! Because Lightroom is such a powerful tool, it can be overwhelming to learn at first. I highly recommend this Skillshare course to help you navigate the application and know more about its capabilities!
Ah, web development. The great foe of many a blogger. Although web development is the least favorite aspect of blogging to many, I personally enjoy it. If you’re also interested in learning about how to code your own website and fix any bugs that arise, then check out this Skillshare classroom. If you plan to edit your own WordPress and theme files, then you’ll need a text editor. Atom is my editor of choice!
If you’re planning to make any changes to your website, it’s not ideal to do so when your visitors can see the changes before you’re ready. That’s where Localhost comes in. You can make important changes, build a new website altogether, or just tinker with your theme without anyone being able to see them. Then, you can deploy your changes or new website to your domain.
When I completely re-designed the look of Sarah L. Travels, MAMP was a lifesaver for me. I didn’t want my readers to see a halfway-finished website, but I needed to see the changes as I made them. Running a Localhost on MAMP was key to my success with the new design you see now!
P.s. MAMP is for Mac users. For all you Windows folks, WAMP is your friend.
I’ve been a Canva lover for years now, starting with a nonprofit summer internship when I was in college. It was only natural that I would continue to use Canva as a blogger and design stunning graphics to make my blog posts, Pinterest pins, and web design more visually appealing.
My favorite thing about Canva is its arsenal of resources for non-paying users, but I personally find it necessary to upgrade for serious bloggers. You’ll find their millions of gorgeous stock photos, graphics, and fonts worth the annual fee for Canva Pro. Highly recommend!
My greatest mistake as a blogger was cheaping out on a theme. Sure, there are millions of free WordPress themes out there for bloggers to enjoy. Many of them are pretty, functional, and will make an okay website. But, for serious bloggers who want to monetize and keep their readership improving, you need a premium theme. Period.
When it came time for me to upgrade, I heard a hundred times over just how great Divi was, so I decided to check it out. The website you’re reading right now was designed with Divi as its backbone. I’m so glad I chose Divi to work with, and found it to be a highly valuable learning experience to make this blog better.
Customization is key. You’ll get that with Divi!
Yoast SEO is the one plugin that I use every single day as a blogger. It helps me stay on track with my SEO strategy as I write each post. Once you determine your keyword using a tool like Keysearch, you input your keyword into Yoast SEO and it helps you write with that keyword in mind.
After over 100 blog posts and years of blogging, some of my old diary-style posts need a refresher. I can’t know for certain if a travel company doesn’t exist anymore or if their URL has changed, so Broken Link Checker helps me know which links I should change or remove.
Site speed is vital to your blog’s success. No one wants to stay on a website that takes forever to load! Hummingbird is a plugin that assesses your site’s speed and diagnoses areas that can be improved.
Instagram has how many billions of users now? Obviously, this is a tool bloggers can use to reach a larger audience with their tips and guides. Smash Balloon offers a plugin for you to display your Instagram feed on your blog. I love the customization options and how my Instagram feeds look on my website!
This is the third time I’ve brought up site speed on this resource page, because a slow site speed absolutely decimated my blog views for months. I don’t want the same for you! PNG images, although beautiful, can slow down your website since they’re larger files. Stick to JPG and use the Smush plugin to make your file sizes smaller. It’ll help your website speed right up!
As a travel blogger, being able to share where I’ve been and organize my posts by country helps my readers navigate this website more easily. I also love the look of the maps from the Interactive Geo Maps plugin. I’m even able to customize the colors to the Sarah L. Travels brand kit!
Some of my posts are long, so I like to include a clickable table of contents at the top for readers short on time. It also helps for readers to quickly access the part of a post they came to read, or is most relevant to them.
Similar to WP Table, I like to use Reading Time WP to provide a reading time at the beginning of each post. I got this idea from Medium, and I think it makes a blog more enjoyable to read!
Business experts and consultants stress the importance of an email list for a reason. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube could cease to exist. Google’s search algorithm could prove to be unkind. You live or die by your email list! Even if everything else is gone tomorrow, your email list of engaged readers is your lifeline to keep reaching people.
ConvertKit is the email service that I use to send From the Aisle Seat and other emails to readers. It’s made by creators, for creators, meaning their platform was designed with bloggers in mind. I love that I was able to create a custom HTML template for From the Aisle Seat and upload it to ConvertKit!
While it’s not the end of the world if your email suffix isn’t your blog’s URL, I prefer to have my email be email@example.com and host it on Gmail. The $6 per month is worth it to me since I check my blog’s email every day.
You can’t improve your blog and reach more readers if you don’t know what’s working—and what isn’t. That’s where Google Analytics comes in! You can use this free tool to see how many visitors your blog gets, where they’re finding your site, and then use that information to improve your reach.
If blogging has taught me anything, it’s that I have so much to learn. Skillshare is an online course platform with both premium and free courses for creatives and entrepreneurs. A Skillshare course about Divi helped me design the website you’re on now, and I’ve taken numerous courses on Adobe Creative Cloud software.
From web development to photo editing to business plan writing, you’ll find a helpful course on Skillshare!
Hi, I’m Sarah
Welcome to my oasis! I am a writer and budding entrepreneur with a love for caffeine, capital gains, and seeing the world. If I’m not writing, you can find me reading a good book, trying out a new vegan recipe, or adding to my coffee mug collection. My goal in life? To see every country in the world. Come along for the ride!
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