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.
This is the theme family I’m using for all my WordPress sites now.
StudioPress is in the process of converting all their themes to HTML5. What that means is they will be mobile responsive (your design re-sizes nicely when viewed on mobile devices) and the themes will support schema markup.
Schema lets you mark up your content so you can display “snippets” of information related to your site in the search results. StudioPress is ahead of the game in this area.
Here’s an example.
Joost of Yoast.com is using schema markup to show where he’s going to be speaking next. Notice how the next event shows up in the search results…
Most of the StudioPress themes (the ones that are tagged with the HTML5 logo on this page) support schema markup so you can do the same. They are currently working on converting all of their themes over to HTML5.
Right now I’m using their Daily Dish theme.
The perfect complement to any Genesis theme, and it’s free! Add your own custom code 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 PHP code.
Want to add a banner below your header? No problemo. Just paste your code in 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. Unfortunately you must have a Genesis theme to use it.
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 on your computer 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 “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 learning how to master email marketing earlier.
Everyone always says “The money’s in the list”, but that’s only true for people who learn how to make their lists convert… and that takes a lot of trial and error.
Be sure to read the following post with a simple email marketing strategy…
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.
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.
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!
This is the program I use for editing (intros, outros, etc.) and final production.
It’s the lite version of Final Cut Pro, the premium software that is often used by major movie studios.
You can do very precise edits, green screen, animation, etc. but it’s not for beginners. Fortunately there’s a wonderful free tutorial that I used to learn the program.
If you’re on a budget iMovie (Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (Windows) may work just fine. Both programs come free with their respective platforms.
If you’re looking for a mid-range priced product, Adobe Premiere Elements is a very popular program used by many YouTubers.
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.