I am often asked about what tools I use for my online business, so I thought I’d create a page that lists many of the tools and products I use for website design, promotion and video.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but the ones I feel have the most impact and use the most.
Some of the links are affiliate links. That means when you click and buy, I earn a commission. I make no secret this blog earns me money, but you can rest assured I only recommend products I generally like and use.
Web Design Tools
This is the theme family I’m using for all my WordPress sites.
It’s nice because any time I want to change my design or build a new site, I have tons of premium themes to choose from.
StudioPress is very popular with bloggers because they have amazing support, and their themes are incredibly easy to customize. You can watch my video on customizing their themes here.
I can tell you that customizing/editing themes is the number one roadblock people face with their websites.
This is the perfect complement to any Genesis theme, and it’s free! Add your own custom edits to any section of your blog (before/after header, before/after sidebar, before/after footer, etc.) without having to fumble with the theme files and ugly code.
Want to add text below your header? No problemo. Just add it to the box marked “After Header” and you’re good to go. Plugins like this really take away the intimidation that often comes with theme customizations.
More themes should create plugins like this to make editing WordPress themes much easier. You must have a Genesis theme to use this.
This is the only plugin I’ve ever used that has a yearly fee. I rarely buy plugins.
What I love about Social Warfare is the social sharing buttons are stylish, modern and load quickly. BUT my favorite feature is you can set it so it won’t show your number of shares on a page/post until you reach X amount of shares.
This is great if you have a new or untrafficked blog and you don’t want to show your share count on social networks. But you might have a few posts that have done well and you want to highlight those. So the plugin will only display the share count once the page/post meets that minimum you set.
It’s also great for pages like this that are never promoted or announced to my feed. These types of pages tend to get shared less.
I was so happy when a subscriber introduced me to this free software. You can install WordPress on your Windows computer and design your site locally before publishing. Nothing like having a local testing platform!
Watch my video on InstantWP below…
If you own a website, no doubt you’ve had to tinker with hex colors at least once.
They are the 3 or 6 digit codes that control the colors of various parts of your site (links, background colors, etc.) My tools will help you choose a hex color and even a color scheme if you wish.
You can also use browser plugins/add-ons like Chrome’s Eye Dropper extension.
With all the free image creation tools out there, people often wonder why anyone would use Photoshop today.
Well the reason I love it is there are no limitations to what you can do. A lot of the free tools are wonderful, but their fonts and templates are limited. I’ve started to see these same templates show up on sites all over the web.
Plus, you can’t use the free tools to create images if you want to earn money with SpreadShirt and other P.O.D. affiliate programs. I have gotten my money back and then some.
Update April 2015: I just discovered you can get an older version of Photoshop absolutely free and it’s 100% legal! Details are in the free “Preview” video of my course.
I have a course on Photoshop here if you want to learn the basics of the program. I created it because people often believe Photoshop is only for advanced web designers or photographers.
But it’s also for bloggers and site owners like you and me who want the freedom to create our own site graphics like the feature images you see on my blog posts. The biggest issue I’ve found is that no one teaches it from that angle.
I also believe the course takes the intimidation out of learning the program. It’s really an easy program to learn with the right guide. Photoshop is definitely my favorite image editor.
I’m not a huge fan of focusing on Google traffic much anymore, but I do think it’s important to narrow down your niche before you begin your site.
Most people don’t do this. They have a general idea for a site and try to rank for very broad, competitive keywords like “fitness tips” or “skin care.”
Bad idea; especially today.
You should choose long tail keywords (less competitive phrases) when selecting a topic/niche and writing articles.
Even though it’s harder to rank for more competitive keywords (Google favors brands now more than ever), you can still generate some good traffic from long tail keywords (4-6 word phrases) or phrases that have less competition.
I’ve used many, many keyword tools over the years (Site Build It’s Brainstorm It!, Market Samurai, WordTracker, etc.) and the best one I’ve used thus far has been Spencer Hawes’ Long Tail Pro.
Many keyword tools are clunky and present you with so much data it’s overwhelming. I’ve found Long Tail Pro to be quite streamlined and Spencer offers very detailed videos to help you understand the software.
You can type in any phrase and it will give you the PageRank, domain age, # of authority links and more for the top 10 ranked websites on Google. This will help you determine if it’s worth trying to compete for that phrase or not.
Here’s a screenshot for the competitive analysis for the keyword phrase “grow a tomato plant.”
Spencer’s videos will show you how to interpret each column of data as you research your niche.
This is the plugin I use to help grow my email list. At the bottom of every page and post on this site, you’ll see a sign up form.
Hybrid Connect lets you create and customize the form to your liking. You can add images, change the colors and styles of every part of the form. You can also do A/B split testing to see which form is converting the best.
Unlike many bloggers today, I’m not very reliant on automation, but when I do use it, HootSuite is my application of choice. It’s great for scheduling posts and finding other sites in your niche. I use the free version.
This is one of the most popular email management systems online. Send one-off email broadcasts, blog broadcasts (automated mailouts of your new blog posts) or setup an autoresponder series.
The biggest regret I have about my business is not starting a list sooner.
With free search engine traffic getting harder to come by and social media platforms limiting your exposure to force ad spend (Facebook & Pinterest), it’s becoming even more important to build a list.
Google can lower your rank and take your traffic overnight, but no one can take your email list away from you.
Don’t hesitate with this step. Creating your list should be the first thing you do when you launch your site.
This is a WordPress plugin that creates a notification bar on top of your theme. It’s a great way to announce promotions and special events.
Foobar is extremely flexible and even allows you to rotate multiple notifications and target them to different pages.
Video Tools & Software
If you want to liven up your content and make it more interesting and fun to read, Powtoon may be the answer for you.
Short, animated videos are known to be highly effective for converting sales and making tutorial-based content easier to absorb.
Below, you can see the intro video I created for my site WebsitePalace.com.
I signed up for the yearly subscription plan, and it was money well spent. I chose the Agency plan so I can have full access to all their animations, artwork, features, produce in HD quality, etc.
I also use their software to create some of the videos for my courses.
Powtoon also has free options. So if you aren’t ready to open your wallet, you can still use their service for free with limited features.
This is the video camera I use for videos where you see me talking on YouTube.
It’s an HD camera and also has an input for an external mic. I also love that no media is required. All footage is stored on the camera’s hard drive so I simply plug the camera into my laptop with its attached USB cord to download footage.
This is my 3rd Sony HD camera. I am loyal to this brand simply because I am familiar with the settings and features.
Obviously you get more features with a paid tool, but you may discover the freebies are enough!
In some videos I draw on the screen for illustration purposes. I use a Bamboo Tablet by Wacom. It works with Photoshop, Corel and other programs, but it also comes with software in case you don’t already have a compatible graphics program.
You can see me using this tool in the video below…
And here’s the video where I show you how it works…
They have a few different ones at various price points. This is the one I use.
I use this feature a lot in my courses to make the videos more interesting to watch.