There has never been a better time to experiment with online websites, blogs, and projects – there are so many services and free platforms that allow you to test the water and launch your first blog or website with minimal cost that your initial problem will be knowing where to start.
This is a list of tools and resources that I use pretty much everyday in my efforts to create websites, and additional income streams for myself.
The page is broken into sections, and each section features a list of services and products that I use to create my websites and blogs, and features a brief description about each service.
A few of them contain my affiliate links, so I will make a small commission if you decide to use them, but this in no way affects their inclusion on the list below. All the products and service are ones that I recommend, and more importantly use in my various online projects, and many of them are free anyway.
Before you can do anything with a website, you need to find reliable web-hosting. You may not want to put all your website on one host, so here are two that I use and recommend.
- Hostgator: These guys were the first hosting service that I used, and they remain my go to choice for web hosting. Currently 95% of my websites are hosting with them. They are responsive, cheap, reliable and have a good support process and live chat systems for when you need a bit of help. Find out more
- Bluehost: Reliable web host, with simple tools and dashboards, including a stupidly simple 1 click WordPress installation on your domain. Find out more
BLOGGING & PLATFORMS
- WordPress – There is really only 1 platform that I am currently using for creating websites, and that is WordPress. Easy to install, easy to modify, a multitude of themes to choose from – it’s the best option in my opinion for spinning up functional websites and blogs quickly. You can create a WordPress hosted site if you want, but you will be better off installing it on your own web host (see Hostgator above)
I am currently mostly using flexible themes that can be easily customized and allow me to easily manipulate and create my own templates. The themes below are good starting points that provide flexible themes for most purposes.
- Graphene: This is one of the most customizable, free wordpress themes in the market at the moment. Beginners can pick things up quickly enough as most of the customization features are accessible via a WYSIWYG interface.
- GeneratePress: I am currently using this theme on a number of websites. Its a lightweight HTML5 lightweight HTML5 and CSS3 framework that is easy to manipulate and customise, and is mobile responsive. A few extra features require small payments, however, you probably don’t need them and you can do pretty much most things with the free version.
- StudioPress Themes for WordPress: If you don’t want to spend time creating a custom template, and would rather pay a small price for a professional looking theme, then you should check out StudioPress – there is a huge amount of themes on offer here and they have ready-made WordPress themes for most needs. 134,000 users can’t be wrong.
This is the current core set of plugins that I add to pretty much all my WordPress sites. I will add others according to needs, but this is my basic base set of plugins that I make sure gets installed on each site I launch.
- All in one SEO: Reliable, free, and probably the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. Makes it simple to manage keywords across your site, and automatically optimises your website or blog for search engines.
- Quick Adsense: Makes is easy to run adsense across your site, and allows you to control Adsense placements via a simple dashboard. Great plugin for beginners (note: you will need an Adsense account in order to fully use this plugin).
- Google XML Sitemaps: Quick and easy (e.g. automated!) way to create XML site maps for all the main search engines for your website or blog.
- Simple Share Buttons: Easily add a set of social buttons so visitors can share your content – supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit and much more.
- WordPress Popular Posts: Really useful plugin that allows to you create widgets and embed links to your most popular posts. You can control how many are shown, and the timeframe that is used (i.e. you can pick most popular in 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or all time) – a great plugin for surfacing your content and boosting SEO.
- WP Super Cache: It’s no use having a great site if it runs slow. WP Super Cache is not without its flaws and it doesn’t have great support these days, but for now it remains a viable options for beginners and it remains one of the most popular cache plugins for WordPress.
ANALYTICS & METRICS
- Google Analytics: Free to use, easy to install, and provides pretty much everything that you will need to analyze your web and mobile traffic.
EMAILS & CRM
- Aweber: Excellent opt-in email marketing tools. For a small monthly free Aweber allows you to create email lists, set up auto-responders, create emails with templates, and it comes with extra features like libraries of stock photography so you can really make your emails stand out. It is easy to create email newslatters, and easy to create webforms to paste into your blog or website to capture emails addresses. This is the only email marketing tool that I am currently using (for over 3 years now!).
- Adsense: Once you sign up, adsense is a simple platform that allows you to generate a small piece of code that you can paste into your site that delivers relevant and contextual ads to your traffic. Very easy to use and get started with, and it is still probably the easiest starting point to get some ads up and running on your sites and making some money from your sites.
- WebGains: Global affiliate network with lots of big brands as well as niche sellers. I have been using them for 5 years and have always been paid on time and have received fast responses to any questions. Good set of basic tools making link building easy. Find out more
- Affiliate by Conversant: Formerly known as Commission Junction, this is a long-standing affiliate network with offers for a wide array of US and UK advertisers and merchants.
- Affiliate Window: Large, and well established global affiliate network. Great offers and merchants and solid and reliable service.
- Rakutan Marketing: Formally known as ‘Linkshare’ this is another huge affiliate platform that has offers in all categories from all over the world.
- TradeDoubler: Another solid network that has been around for a years. Some of the tools and user interaces are abit clunky and less than user friendly, but worth checking out – especially good for UK affiliate offers.
CONTENT GENERATION & FREELANCERS:
- elance: Probably the leading platform for recruiting freelancers – simply post a job, specify your budget, and then wait for proposal to come in. I recruit content writers and get articles created this way – it isn’t without its pain points, but the platform has enough liquidity of freelancers that you never have to wait long in order to get enough proposals for you to choose form.
IMAGES & IMAGE MANIPULATION
- PhotoShop (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk: The daddy of image editing software. You can get more affordable versions if you look for PhotoShop Elements, so you don;t need to break the bank – but if you do invest in Photoshop then it is basically a solid tool for life, a good investment, and there is enough free guides and videos on the web and YouTube that you will be competent in using it very quickly.
- Photoscape: Photoscape is free image editing software that you download and run from your desktop. It pretty much handles all your basic image needs from resizing images, creating images, adjusting images, creating logos etc…If you don’t want to buy image editing software, then is is a perfectly good alternative that you you should consider as it probably does 99% of your imaging needs for free.
- Skitch: Is a free download and is part of the Evernote suite of products. We use it a lot as it allows us to do quick screengrabs and image captures that we can turn into images for blog posts. you can also use Skitch to add text and markup on your images, which makes it a perfect tool for creating screenshots for ‘how to’ guides.
- Flickr Creative Commons: A great source for finding images that you can use under the Creative Commons license for your website or blog posts.