It's been more than five years since I have been running an online business.
It may come as a surprise if I say that I spend an equal amount of time on tools to manage my blog as I would on blog strategy. As an entrepreneur, it comes with the territory.
I thought some of you may find a ready list of these tools helpful for your business or blog (I refer to mine as an online business).
Without further ado, let's get started.
Note that we run our website on WordPress, and some of the tools mentioned in this article are specific to it.
- 1 Domain Name – Godaddy
- 2 Hosting – SiteGround
- 3 Content Management System – WordPress
- 4 WordPress Theme – GeneratePress
- 5 Email Management System – Convertkit
- 6 Lead Capture – Thrive Leads
- 7 ChatBot – Collect.Chat
- 8 Website Backup – VaultPress
- 9 Graphics Designing – Canva
- 10 Social Media Posting – SocialBee
- 11 SEO Plugin -YOAST
- 12 Pretty Links – Affiliate Links Management
- 13 Display Ad Management – Ad Inserter
Domain Name – Godaddy
The first thing you need to start a blog/website is a domain name. While there is not much difference from where you buy the domain name, I prefer Godaddy.
It's one of the biggest domain marketplaces, and I have bought all my domain names from there.
Remember to take the privacy protection so that your details are hidden from the WHOIS directory.
Hosting – SiteGround
Over the past five years, I have tried a few hosting services (such as Godaddy, Host Gator, and Namecheap).
And finally, I have found the best one of the lot – SiteGround.
I shifted all my sites to SiteGround at the end of 2017, and I have been happily hosted by them ever since.
The reason I recommend SiteGroud is due to its excellent customer service. I have reached out to their support at least 50+ times now, and every time, I get someone with me in less than 15 seconds (I am talking about the chat support).
Their chat support guys are extremely knowledgeable and super helpful. They sometimes go over and above the call of duty and help their customers.
While I was paying for SSL and Backup with other hosting providers, with SiteGround, I get these for free (in all of their plans).
If you don't have a lot of traffic on your site, you can start with their low-rung shared hosting plans. The Go-geek plan on shared hosting can handle up to 200,000 page views a month (when used with a CDN).
I currently use their Go-Geek plan (for this website) as well the cloud hosting plan (for my other website).
Content Management System – WordPress
I recommend using WordPress – it's FREE.
29% of the world's internet is powered by WordPress.
While there are other options available such as Wix. Joomla, Strikingly, Drupal, etc., WordPress is the most popular one and hence has the best quality of plugins, themes, and support available to it.
It does have a learning curve, but it's your best bet when it comes to hosting a website (especially if you plan to have a blog section on it).
WordPress Theme – GeneratePress
When I started using WordPress 5 years ago, I started with a free theme. The lack of control and customization often frustrated me.
Since then, I have experimented with a lot of different themes, and the best WordPress theme that I have come across is GeneratePress.
I absolutely love the flexibility that this theme provides.
One of the best features of this theme is that it easily change the width of the sidebar (this is something I have often struggled with many other themes).
The GeneratePress theme is clean, fast, and highly reliable.
The support is also amazing, and you can ask queries in their forum quick resolution on anything.
Email Management System – Convertkit
Email management tools is another area where I have experimented a lot. I started with Aweber, then moved to Mailchimp and finally settled for our current email automation tool – Convertkit.
ConvertKit is built for bloggers and small online businesses. It does everything email automation tools should do (plus a lot more).
Using ConvertKit, you can easily capture and segment your subscribers. Then it allows you to send specific emails to specific segments. Apart from the broadcast email, you can also create an email autoresponder series.
Autoresponder series allow you pre-schedule relevant emails to relevant segments. For example, when someone subscribes to our list and are tagged as ‘interested in online business', we send them a couple of pre-scheduled emails for a few weeks. This allows us to provide value as well as build a relationship with our readers.
If you have an online business, you can use this to nurture your leads and offer relevant products.
Convertkit has a powerful automation engine that allows you to set rules based on your subscribers behavior. For example, if your customer is tagged as interested in your service, and buys something from you (or enrolls into your course), you can automatically tag them as customers, and no emails with sales pitch are sent to those in future.
Pricing: $29 for up to 1000 subscribers ($24 f you take the annual plan).
Lead Capture – Thrive Leads
While having an email automation tool in the backend is great, you need something on your website to show up and ask for the readers' email.
Again, I have tried a number of tools for capturing leads and finally decided to go with Thrive Leads.
It's the best lead capture tools available in the market today.
It's a WordPress plugin that allows you to quickly create great looking optin boxes, pop-ups, scroll mats, ribbons, and sliders. It's extremely easy to use and the drag and drop interface is highly intuitive.
You can easily connect a Thrive Lead box to an email automation tool (such as MailChimp, or ConvertKit, or Drip).
It also allows you to quickly create content upgrades that can really make a difference in email collection. The plugin comes with a lot of pre-designed templates, and you can easily select of these pre-made templates and edit it according to your need.
Pricing: If you only want to get the Thrive Leads plugin, it will cost you $67 for 1 site and $97 for 5 sites and $147 for 15 sites. Another way to get it is to enroll for their yearly membership ($228). With their yearly membership, you get access to all their awesome plugins and themes, as well as access to any new plugin/themes launched in the future.
At Productivity Spot, we have enrolled in the yearly membership, and we highly recommend it.
ChatBot – Collect.Chat
This is something we have have been using since last year, and it's amazing (you can see it in action in the bottom right part of this page).
Collect.chat is a smart tool that allows you to leverage the power of chat to capture leads, get feedback, book appointments, get feedback, or get a survey response.
It allows you to create a sequence of questions/statements that you can display to your visitors.
Based on your visitors' responses, you can use conditional logic to ask them relevant questions or provide relevant information.
For example, we use Collect.chat to capture emails. We ask our visitors if they are interested in the Ebook (lead magnet) we have to offer, and if they click on Yes, we ask for their email and name. This permission-based interaction is less intrusive and converts really well for us.
It combines with Zapier, which we use to send email leads to our email service provider – we use Convertkit.
You can collect data on leads, gather survey feedback with scripted chats. The collected data can be emailed to you or send it to your CRM tool with the help of Zapier. Not only this, you can create the chatbots in multiple languages.
These chatbots will be available 24×7, and if you're also using a Live Chat tool (such as Tawk.To, LiveChat, or Zopim), you can set the Collect.chat bot setting to hidden when these live chats are active. In case you're unavailable, it will automatically enable the Collect.Chat bot.
Collect.Chat is extremely easy to install. They give you a short-code that you need to place on your website, and instantly the chat becomes available. In your admin area, you can easily customize the look and feel of the chat and script the questions/statements that are displayed to your visitors as soon as they click on it.
One of the very exciting features of Collect.Chat is that it can embed a chat option right with the web page. As soon as you click on the chat option, it will start the chat right away.
Pricing – You can start with the FREE plan that allows you 30 conversation in a month. To get more responses, you need to pay a monthly fee ($19 for 500 responses, $39 for 1500, and $69 for 5000 responses).
In case you opt for annual payments, you get a flat 30% OFF.
At Productivity Spot, we have taken their Standard plan ($39 per month), and it's proving to be a great investment.
Website Backup – VaultPress
While we do get free backup service from SiteGround hosting, we have taken this additional backup service just in case Murphy strikes and things go bad.
If you're tight on budget and hosted on Siteground, you can probably skip having a second backup-service.
VaultPress is a paid backup solution which has been created by Automatic (the same guys who created WordPress). This works specifically for sites hosted on WordPress.
You need to install the Vaulpress plugin on your website and also give it access to your site (using FTP, SFTP, or SSH). Once you have connected it to your site, it will take daily backups (or real-time in case you have the business plan).
The best part about VaultPress is that it gives you a one-click restores service. So, in case you lose data, or your site gets hacked, you can easily use their service to restore with your latest back-up.
Pricing: You can get started with a $39/year plan. In case you want malware protection, they also have a $99/year plan.
We have been using Vaulpress for more than 3 years now and highly recommend it. When it comes to backup, it's better to rely on more than one way to backup your site.
Graphics Designing – Canva
We are not experts in graphic designing, and we don't intend to go that way.
However, we also didn't want to pay for simple graphics that we need in our blog posts or for social media.
So we use Canva to quickly design our graphics.
Canva is a free tool that you can start using right away. It's quite easy to use and comes with a lot of preset templates and designs.
In case you need a specific icon or image that is not available for free, you can pay to get access to it.
Social Media Posting – SocialBee
Social media can be a huge traffic source for some websites.
While we post our new content on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google Plus) manually, for our old posts, we use SocialBee for automatic postings.
SocialBee allows us to create a library of all our social media posts at one place. We can also create categories for these posts.
Now we can create a calendar schedule to automatically post from this library. This allows us to be visible on social media on autopilot.
Once the library of posts is exhausted, Socialbee starts from the beginning again. This ensures that there are no gaps in our social media postings.
As of now, SocialBee spports Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, and Instagram.
Pricing: $29/month (there is a 14-day free trial).
SEO Plugin -YOAST
While we don't kill ourselves over SEO, we realize how important it is to rank better in search engines.
To make sure all out articles meet the basic minimum SEO quality, we use the Yoast SEO plugin.
It keeps track of simple things such as word count or image ALT tags or keyword density and informs us if anything is missing.
Now having this plugin alone wouldn't do wonders for your SEO, but it does help in getting the basic stuff in place.
Apart from the SEO signals, it also allows us to create sitemaps which we have then submitted to Google Search Console.
Pretty Links – Affiliate Links Management
As you might notice, we recommend some of the tools and services that we use ourselves.
Pretty Links plugin allows us to turn the long ugly looking affiliate links into pretty and memorable links.
For example, our affiliate link for convertkit is:
With Pretty Links, we have been able to make it:
This makes our links easy to remember and share.
If you're into affiliate marketing, I recommend you consider getting an affiliate link management plugin.
Pricing: $57 for 1 website and $97 for 10 websites.
Display Ad Management – Ad Inserter
If you use banner ads (be it for display ads for affiliates), using the Ad Inserter plugin can help you better manage these.
Ad Inserter plugin allows you to display ads on specific pages or categories. If you want to display ads in between the article, it allows you to decide when the ad should appear.
For example, you can specify that the ad should appear after 50% of the post length.
Or you can specify that the ad should appear after 50% of the post only if it is at least 2000 words long.