Below are some of the services I personally use as well as use for my clients. I also highly recommend them to new clients and anybody serious about building an online business. That's why you're here, right?
Domain Name Registrar
I've used a fair number of domain registrars over the past 20 years. I use only one nowadays — Namecheap. Their prices are good, their dashboard is easy to navigate, and they just work. No muss, no fuss.
Like domain registrars, I've used dozens over the years. My two recommended web hosts are:
A2 Hosting is great for starting out and will grow with your business as it expands. They were kind enough to sponsor my Meetup and they offer all my Meetup members, clients, web visitors (that's YOU!), and Internet Marketing Mastermind members a great discount. Plus, from time to time, they give us t-shirts 🙂
Seriously, though, A2 is the webhost I would start with. And if you ever need more server horsepower, they have it. Support is top-notch and their plans range from VERY affordable all the way up to traffic monster.
LiquidWeb has shown me simply the best support I've ever had with a web host (the bar is really low because webhosts are generally sucky — I'm looking at you, HostGator — but these guys shine almost every.single.time). Their online chat support is awesome and their phone support is even better. And they won't shut you down because their shared server got infected with malware because they don't know how to secure their own servers. Looking at you, Blue Host.
Basically, avoid any web host owned by EIG. They are quickly devolving into the web host equivalent of Comcast (cable) and AT&T (phone).
Genesis is my favorite theme framework. It was built from the ground up by the folks at StudioPress for fast page loads, clean code, and SEO. It's awesome. When you buy the full package, you not only get the Genesis framework (parent theme) but a whole host of child themes that are outstanding (over 50 last time I looked).
Seriously, if you want to build a web site quickly that gets results, you cannot go wrong with StudioPress. All you need to do is add content.
As my business has evolved, I've changed my main theme use from StudioPress to Thrive Themes.
They make a great set of themes that are focused on sales & conversions (as opposed to blogging). But I subscribe to the Thrive Suite for its included Thrive Architect and Thrive Leads. More below on those two plugins. If you want the page builder or leads, the only way you can get them is to purchase Thrive Suite.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Thrive Leads is simply the best (and only) form builder you will ever need. You can build popups, exit pops, lightboxes, 2-step forms, form widgets, ribbons, sliders, whatever you want.
Best of all – it's easy.
I may love Thrive Architect even more than Leads. With it, you can build any kind of landing pages you want, regardless of your WordPress theme. You don't even have to use a Thrive Theme.
Just build what you want. There are a ton of templates to use (all very good, and specific — like sales pages, email thank you pages, long-form product pages, etc.).
I implore you to get Thrive Suite. It's the best thing I've ever done for my WordPress sites!
Updraft Plus is a must-have WordPress plugin if you're serious about your site. Not only does it make backups and restores of your site, it also allows you to easily migrate your site from one webhost to another. PLUS, it allows you to put your backups in Dropbox, Google Drive, and other “cloud” services (like Amazon S3).
They just added incremental backups to their mix. Good stuff!
Other WordPress Plugins
SEO – Yoast SEO. THE premier SEO plugin. Really helps you focus on what a blog post or page is about.
I've switched some of my sites over to RankMath. It's a great SEO plugin for WordPress. In fact, I think it's better than Yoast.
Security – Wordfence. I don't build a single website withou it. Nuff said.
Email Service Provider
Aweber is my go-to choice for email service providers. Odds are, if you have ever received an email from me, it was sent through Aweber. They offer a lot of benefits to marketers, chief among them the best deliverability rates in the business, a bunch of pre-made optin forms (if you don't use Thrive Leads), and great customer support.
I've recently begun using SendFox for specific email objectives. I find it easier to “roll up” blog content and podcast episodes into one easily curatable email. YMMV, of course, but I like it a lot.
Keyword Research / SEO
At some point, hopefully early on, you will be doing some keyword research. Market Samurai is the tool you will most likely choose. It's simply the best there is. It seems MS has been deprecated and is no longer being updated.
Neil Patel has a pretty good tool called UberSuggest that I've been trying.
Traffic Travis is a great tool for tracking your SEO efforts. It's got some good training included, too.
I'll ALWAYS stand behind SiteSell's “Solo Build It for WordPress” as one of the best WordPress plugins for keyword research and content marketing efforts. It's a big winner. I've been using their proprietary tech since before the turn of the century!
(Yes, it's that good and that consistent.)
When I first started out, I used PayPal. Having to manually create order buttons and place them on my site was a royal PITA. So I looked for a more convenient way…which led me to JVZoo. However, 3 things caused me grave concern with it.
- I had a rash of weird transactions, with chargebacks, and it was painful.
- I don't like
onetwo of their three founders. We've had personal interactions that led me to move away from them in all facets of business and life.
- They had a real trust issue emerge that caused all of their sellers and affiliates a lot of grief. In fact, you still cannot post a jvzoo link on Facebook without being asked a security question.
I don't need that hassle. So I looked for something comparable in function, but easier on the nerves. I found Zaxaa. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Microsoft Office is hands-down the best office suite there is. It comes at a pretty hefty price, but it's worth it to me. There are alternatives like Libre Office that are okay.
I'm back on Dropbox. I still use Google Drive. I switched because I couldn't live with Drive's very S-L-O-W file syncing. Dropbox kicks ass.
It's a scary online world, with everybody tracking you, from the NSA to Facebook to your local online grocer. Hide My Ass will — well — hide your ass when you need to hide it. It's especially good for guarding your privacy while you're on a wi-fi connection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Logo Nerds – I got my caricature (cartoon) logo from them years ago and keep going back to them when I need quality graphics delivered at a fair price. Simply awesome to work with.
Of course, you need good security for your PC. ZoneAlarm is a suite of programs integrated into one package that is anti-virus, anti-malware, and a firewall, all rolled into one. I've used them for over 15 years now, with nary an issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
CCleaner – when you do leave tracks, this tool can help you remove them. Interesting fact: It used to be called “Crap Cleaner.”
I now use Bleach Bit. It's just as good as CCleaner and it's free and open source.
LastPass – the best password manager there is. Works across all platforms. Love it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. LastPass couldn't get their shit right when something went awry. So I had to bolt after a week of them stepping all over themselves. I am now back to Roboform. I used them at the very beginning of my online career. Now I'm back.
NOTE: Many of the links above are what are known as “affiliate links.” What that means is that if you click on an affiliate link above and BUY the product, I will get a commission. Now, this commission in no way affects the price you pay for the product. It's just a vendor's way of thanking me for helping them to sell more of their product.
NOTE ALSO: I use all of the products and services I recommend above. I thought I'd share with you what I use and we will benefit mutually: You get a recommendation from somebody “in the trenches” and I get a commission for making mention of it.