Some of these links are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
I am regularly asked about what tools I find essential as a blogger, niche site creator and just generally to run my business.
The right tools are essential. They can be a huge time saver and ensure you are better able to optimise everything you do. Both things I always aim for!
These are all products I personally recommend and can’t live without!
It would be hard to beat WordPress – all my sites use WordPress.org. It’s just so easy to create flexible, beautiful sites without any technical knowledge.
It can be scary to start with as you need to also sort out hosting, but it really should not be. This is very easy to do – we have a video and step by step instructions to ensure you can’t go wrong. The cost is also minimal when starting out.
If you are at all serious about your site and if there is any chance at all that you will monetise, use this platform rather than one of the free ones listed next.
WordPress.com and Blogger
I have used both of these platforms and they both have pros and cons.
WordPress.com is a version of WordPress which is hosted by WordPress so you don’t need to sort out hosting. There are many limitations. One of the biggest is that some forms of monetisation are not allowed, like AdSense.
Blogger.com is actually where this site was hosted in the beginning! I quickly became frustrated by not having full control over my design and implementation so it did not last long before it moved to WordPress.org.
Hosting and Domain Names
Buying Domain Names
I have used many different companies to purchase domain names, especially as I have so many sites thanks to my Private Blog Network (PBN) and I need some variety.
My favourite is NameSilo. This is because it starts off cheap (currently US$9 which includes privacy protection) and it stays cheap – this is also the renewal price! You can also save an extra US$1 by using the coupon code DNWSAVE1.
Namecheap is also a good option. However, the renewal prices can add up. I used to be a huge fan of their hosting but the service has unfortunately gone downhill this year with many outages so I have moved the sites I had there to SiteGround.
I’d recommend being wary of GoDaddy. I used them to start with as their prices for buying a new domain can be awesome. However, the renewal prices are terrible.
If you need to host a lot of sites, I can’t recommend using a reseller package at Hostgator enough. About half of my PBN is hosted through here in a reseller package and it is great! I never have a problem, unlike with all the cheap one off hosts that I have used. The best news is that Hostgator is such a popular host that it is a safe option for hosting multiple PBN sites.
A2 Hosting is a great alternative to SiteGround with free SSL certificates.
Once you have your site set up, you will need to find a theme. There are many free ones available on WordPress.org. However, I find that these just don’t provide the flexibility I need and generally don’t look good compared to paid ones. It’s also less likely that the theme will be maintained and continue to work with new WordPress updates.
Given paid ones generally only cost around $50, I recommend looking into one – it’s not something to be cheap about. I use themes from:
- Divi – this is a super flexible theme which makes it easy to make your blog look however you want. I set up my new site here in Divi and it only took about an hour to build this home page.
- OptimizePress – especially recommended if you are building courses (mine uses this!) or looking for a theme optimised for landing and sales pages. They have many templates which are great and it makes life so much easier.
- Thrive Themes – my absolute favourite. The theme you are seeing on this site is from Thrive. I also use one of their other themes on one of my niche sites. These themes have been built to be optimised for speed, are responsive, great for creating sales funnels, adding advertising – I am a huge fan. The theme on this site is “squared”. The theme on my other site is “performag”.
- My Theme Shop – this site also has some great themes and are especially worth looking at if you are creating a review focused website. My Amazon focused niche sites use themes from here.
The plugins I can’t live without:
- Akismet – Great free plugin to help keep spam out of your comments.
- EasyAzon – My favourite way to create Amazon links. It’s so quick and easy and they also can localise so they show the local Amazon from wherever the reader comes from. Read more about it here.
- Amalinks Pro – Another way to create Amazon links. It not only makes it easy to insert links, images, buttons and comparison charts but will localise without requiring API access.
- Easy Table – Easy, free plugin for adding tables to blog posts.
- Kraken – Great tool for optimising images as you upload them to your sites. It’s much better than the free WP Smush.
- W3 Total Cache – Free plugin to help speed up your site via caching.
- OptinMonster – I can’t recommend this tool enough as an easy way to optimise how many subscribers you are collecting on your site. It’s easy to use and very effective. Read more about it here.
- Thrive Leads – A cheaper version of Optinmonster for collecting subscribers.
- Thirsty Affiliates – Great, free plugin for storing all your affiliate links.
- Yoast SEO – I use this to help me optimise my site. However, I do not use the keywords functionality and suggest you don’t either. Read more about that here.
Email marketing should be a very important part of any site.
I recommend ActiveCampaign for your email marketing service with GetResponse as a second choice if you don’t require complex sales funnels – it’s what I used after trying out 5 different services! You can read my full comparison of MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, Aweber, GetResponse and MadMimi here.
Looking to make money from advertising on your blog? Join Ezoic. You only need 10,000 sessions per month to get started and it’s much better returns than AdSense.
Social Media Tools
One of my biggest time savers is definitely using social media scheduling – I hated how much time I was wasting on social media for my travel blog before I started using these tools! I use ones for Pinterest, Twitter and I have used one for Instagram in the past (I am not currently active on there while I am not travelling so I have stopped).
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find one service that does everything I want, so I use a mixture.
- Tailwind – This is a great scheduling tool for Pinterest which I use all the time. It is also handy for finding out optimal times to pin and which boards are great and which are a waste of time.
- SmarterQueue – This is an amazing scheduling tool for many social media channels where everything is kept inside your account and can be automatically re-scheduled. I mainly use it for my Facebook groups and it saves so much time.
You can use the coupon code: KSDISC for 20% off KeySearch.
Other useful tools:
You will need to sign up for free accounts for both of the above.
NB: I no longer recommend Long Tail Pro after some recent changes which removed the Moz data, put a limit on the number of searches and upped the price.
The main resources I use to monetise my sites are:
- e-junkie – this is a super easy and cheap platform to use to sell digital products. I use it to sell my video presentation on this site
- Amazon – I love being an Amazon associate! You can sign up and start earning straight away. Read this article about my best tips for making money from this program
- Ezoic – The easiest way to add advertisements to your sites and make $$$. My full review is here.
- Commission Junction – There are so many affiliate programs here that you are sure to find something! I mainly use it for hotel sites.
Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This will not cost you anything extra. Thank you for supporting us!