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On this page, we have a list of tools you need to grow your business online. We use most of them ourselves on this site and others we run, but we’ve also included a few tools that we don’t use but do have a good reputation that might serve you better.
Website and blog building software
We use WordPress to build websites and blogs and can’t see that changing any time soon. The two available formats are listed below.
- WordPress.org – This is where you download the standalone version of WordPress. It’s the world’s most popular choice for building self-hosted websites and blogs and currently powers 31% of the sites you see online. You can download and install it manually, but the easiest way to set it up is through your web hosting company.
- WordPress.com – This is the place to go if you want to try WordPress for free. You can set up a basic account with nothing more than an email address.
Domain names and web hosting
Before you launch a website, you’ll need a domain name and hosting. If you’re just getting started, you might want to read my beginner’s guide to domain names. A guide to hosting is coming soon.
- Namecheap – Our main domain name registrar these days. They also offer a shared hosting service which starts at a few dollars per month, as well as a dedicated WordPress hosting service.
- Guru – This is our current host for this site. They’re based in the UK and I’m really happy with the service and site speed. It’s worth noting that email is sold as an addon for £5 + VAT per month if you choose the shared hosting package. It’s included in the dedicated and reseller packages. (We use G Suite for email.)
- WPX Hosting – These guys are creating an awesome reputation for themselves by providing outstanding tech support and fast servers. The price of the basic package, which holds up to five sites (including a staging option, which counts as one of your sites), is $24.99 per month.
- Bluehost – Cheaper shared hosting and a good place for beginners to gain some experience.
WordPress themes come in two flavours – free or paid. The free ones are generally okay, but the paid (aka ‘premium themes‘) are much better.
- Genesis Framework by StudioPress – All our sites bar one are powered by Genesis. You buy the framework for $59.95, then lay a child theme (prices vary) over the top. StudioPress release at least one new child theme every month or so.
If you want to capture email addresses so you can send people a newsletter, you’ll need to use a mailing list provider.
- AWeber – There are a lot of options for mailing list software/systems, but this one still works for us. The cheapest plan is priced at $19 per month and you get the first thirty days free.
Affiliate programs and ad networks
There are loads of opportunities to make money from your blog. Take a look at some of these networks or explore affiliate marketing opportunities.
- Mediavine (requires your website to have at least 50,000 sessions per month)
- AdThrive (requires your website to have at least 100,000 sessions per month – mainly US traffic)
- Affiliate Window
- Amazon Associates – (US), (UK)
- Pixabay – The first place we visit when we need an image.
- Death to Stock – New themed pack available each month.
- Unsplash – Very similar to Pixabay.
- Flickr – Not a service I use very often these days but when I do, I only use photos with a Creative Commons license that can be used commercially.
Social media automation
To reach people who are online when you’re not, you’ll need to automate your social media updates. Here are a few of the more popular products and services.
- Buffer – Buffer’s a great solution for automating tweets.
- Tailwind – Perfect for Pinterest.
- Hootsuite – Handy for viewing and managing multiple Twitter accounts.
Business tools and software
Take a look at some of the tools and software listed below to help you run the business and admin side of your blog.
- G Suite – Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive and email.
- FileZilla – FTP program for accessing web servers
- Asana – Project management software that’s simple to use, packed with features and easy on the eye.
- Trello – Board-based project management software.
- Office 365 – Mircosoft’s Office suite of products.
- LastPass – Password management app.
- Google Analytics
- Evernote – Note and information management app.
- Norton – Anti-virus software.
To make a basic WordPress blog more powerful and useful, you’ll need plugins. Once again, they come in two formats – free and paid (premium). Some people believe that too many plugins can slow down your website or cause other problems. This is kinda true, but really it depends on how well the plugins are coded and how they get on with each other.
You could have hundreds of well-coded plugins without any issues, and you could have far fewer badly-coded or conflicting plugins that cause all sorts of problems.
We run our websites with as few plugins as possible. Usually around 15-20 per site. Here’s a list of the ones we use across our sites.
- Akismet Anti-Spam – Stops comment spam.
- Category Sticky Post – Places a post at the top of a specific category.
- Genesis Simple Edits – Lets you edit the post-info, post-meta and footer areas without editing the core files.
- Genesis Simple Sidebars – Lets you create and use sidebars for specific posts and pages.
- Genesis Title Toggle – Lets you hide the page title on a per-page basis.
- Jetpack – Lots of useful tools (I use it mainly for stats).
- ManageWP – For managing and creating backups of WordPress websites.
- No Category Base – Removes the ‘category’ part of a URL.
- No Self Pings – Stops WordPress from sending pings when you link to your own pages.
- Post Type Switcher – Convert a post to a page or a page to a post.
- Pretty Links Lite – To shorten long affiliate links.
- Redirection – For handling redirects.
- Social Warfare Pro – Social sharing plugin.
- The SEO Framework – For handling all SEO settings.
- WP Broken Link Status Checker – For checking the status of internal and external links.
- WPForms Lite – Creates nice contact forms.