When you run a small digital business of any kind, you need a reliable toolkit to help you create and provide profitable products and services and run the admin side of things.
Luckily for us, there’s no shortage of people creating the tools and resources we need. Some of them are free. Many of them aren’t.
On this page, I’ve compiled a list of the tools and services we use to run our business, which consists of several websites and providing WordPress (and web-related) support to small businesses in and around Manchester.
I’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
At the heart of most digital businesses you’ll find a website.
We use WordPress and can’t see that changing any time soon.
- WordPress.org – 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 install it is through your web hosting company.
- WordPress.com – This is the place to go if you want to try Working with 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 – My 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), 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 – Excellent starting point. You buy a framework called Genesis, then lay a child theme over the top. StudioPress release at least one new child theme every month or so. Because they’re based on the same framework, you can easily change the style of your site by switching to an alternative child theme.
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 me. The cheapest plan is priced at $19 per month and they offer a free trial.
Affiliate programs and ad networks
There are loads of opportunities to make money from your blog. Take a look at some of these networks.
If you want free stock photos you can use on your blog, check out the sites listed below. If you’re looking for paid images, check out Shutterstock.
- Pixabay – The first site I visit if I’m looking for a free stock photo.
- Death to Stock – They release a new themed photo pack 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’s 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 multiples 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 flavours – free and paid (premium).
- Akismet Anti-Spam – Stops comment spam.
- Category Sticky Post – Places a post at the top of a specific category.
- Contact Form 7 – Creates contact forms.
- Crayon Syntax Highlighter – For displaying code.
- Genesis Columns Advanced – Use shortcodes to create different column layouts.
- Genesis eNews Extended – Neatly place signup forms in widgets.
- 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 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.
- Really Simple SSL – Adds a security layer to your site.
- Redirection – For handling redirects.
- Renegernate Thumbnails – For resizing thumbnails when switching theme or adding a new image size.
- 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.