Would you like to take a peek at the tools we use to run this website and a few others?
Okay. Here’s the list.
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- ASUS X550C SonicMaster laptop running Windows 10 (two years old)
- 32″ Samsung monitor (older!)
- Long, white Ikea desk
- HP laserjet 1022 printer
- 1 terabyte Toshiba external hard drive
We currently use three hosting companies to host our own blogs and client websites. The company we use are:
BlueHost is a popular alternative to the three we use. You might have heard of them (I say, tongue-in-cheek).
WordPress is an excellent content management system (CMS) for building websites. It’s powerful, robust and runs 27% of the internet.
When I started building websites in 2000, I used Front Page before moving onto Dreamweaver. I also tried Magento and Joomla in the distant past.
None of them came close to WordPress.
I won’t deny it, there is a learning curve to WordPress but there are plenty of places to learn, including our own WordPress tutorials section.
You can download WordPress here and install it manually. It’s a complicated process for a beginner. The best way to install WordPress is through the control panel provided by your hosting company.
The on-screen instructions make it super simple. Here’s a screenshot from Vidahost. Other companies may look different but the process is straightforward.
To turn the basic WordPress setup into something like a decent workable platform, you’ll need some plugins. Here are a list of the basics every type of site needs.
Contact Forms – It’s recommended you have at least one contact form on your blog so people can fire you a message. I don’t think there are any legal requirements to have a contact form on a blog, and I have considered getting rid of mine because of the amount of spam they generate, but if you want one, you’ll need a plugin like Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms.
Comment Spam – You definitely need a plugin to capture comment spam. Machines look for blog with open comments and spam the heck out of them. A new client came to me after his site was hacked. I fixed the hack and cleaned up the rest of his site. At the time, he had 15,000 unfiltered spam comments. A plugin would have stopped most of them getting through. Look for Akismet or WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam.
Social sharing – You want people to share your posts, right? You’ll need to give them a way of doing so. A plugin is the best option. There are tons of free ones around, and they’re pretty good (although some are quite cumbersome and can slow down page-loading times), but my favorite is a premium plugin called Social Warfare. The real plus-point for this one is the ability to retain share counts even if you switch domains at a later date.
Follow me buttons – These ones are different to the social sharing plugins as they link to your profiles across the various networks we all use these days – YouTube, Instagram, Google Plus etc etc etc. Find one that matches your theme – one might even come pre-installed if you’re using a premium theme.
Backup – Fail to backup your blog at your peril. Honestly, always have a backup because things can and do go wrong. Especially if you don’t keep your WordPress and plugins bang up to date. If your hosting company doesn’t provide a backup, consider VaultPress.
Start collecting email addresses as soon as you start your blog. You might not get any subscribers in the early days, but at least the mechanism is in place for when people start signing up.
We use AWeber for our mailing lists. It’s a good service, but I have nothing to compare it to as I haven’t tried any others.
Social Media Tools
To get yourself known and to streamline your social media marketing, you need tools and a degree of automation. You don’t need a vast arsenal of expensive softwares, but one or two will certainly help you.
Buffer is my tool of choice for automating tweets. We have
Hootsuite Pro (not any more – we stopped used Hootsuite) for monitoring various social media accounts but I don’t use it as much as I should.
Software and Apps
- Long Tail Pro – keyword research
- ManageWP – managing (updating) multiple WordPress websites from one place
- Uptime Robot – website uptime monitor
- FastStone Capture – screenshots
- Spotify – entertainment
- FileZilla – FTP program
- Screaming Frog – SEO
- Free Mind – Mind-mapping software
- Norton 360 – Anti-virus
- Asana – Project and task management app (I started using this in November 2016 and I love it!)
- Google Drive
- LastPass – password manager
- AdBlock – Chrome extension to block ads
- Resize window – Chrome extension to capture screenshots at different resolutions
I have notes all over the place. Evernote is by far the best tool as long as you make use of the tagging system.
I use Trello to make to-do lists and note down ideas.
When I need to create longer documents for in-house use or sharing, I use Google Docs, Word or Excel. I have no preference and tend to switch between them.
Canva is an amazing tool for creating graphics for blog posts, social sharing and everything else. It’s simple to use and comes loaded with backgrounds, fonts and elements you can drag into any image, some of which cost $1 each.
I’ve had Photoshop Elements since version 6. I’m currently running 10. I haven’t upgraded for a while and don’t know if I ever will because Canva does such a great job.
Besides income from client work, my blogs and websites make money from AdSense, Amazon and other affiliate programs. Here are a few of the programs I’ve signed up for.
- Affiliate Window
I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with emails and currently use a mix of Outlook and Gmail for handling them all.
- Microsoft Office 365
That’s about it. I hope you find the list useful.
Last updated: 14th March 2017.