This week I want to share specifics about what we use to run our online business.
It has taken a full five years to sort these service providers and tools to where we are right now.
And I'm confident that they will continue to change as our business grows, and as there are new/better options come available.
6 Tools to Run Our Sites
Here are the tools and applications we use to run our web sites.
- WordPress: This is the foundation of all of our sites. I wouldn't dream running a site on anything else. Read more about blogging platforms (and using WordPress).
- HostGator: HostGator is one of the web hosts that we use. It is the best entry level host that I've used and I expect I will always host with them. Save 20% with this link. Less than $75/year.
- LiquidWeb: Last year I had to move our two largest sites off of HostGator. HostGator served us well for four years but our traffic eventually outgrew the basic hosting package. We currently have a semi-dedicated hosting package with LiquidWeb that costs $40/month. This is the fastest and most stable host that I've ever used.
- GoDaddy: We have all our domain names at GoDaddy. They are cheap and reliable. I like having our domains separate from our hosting – it makes moving either faster and easier. Read more about saving with GoDaddy.
- Thesis: Our framework / theme of choice. We use this on all of our sites. We are using custom Thesis skins by Puneet that we have customized even more. If you want control of your site design you should consider Thesis Framework. Read more about WordPress themes.
- BlogVault: This simple plugin keeps our sites safe from hacks, crashes and human error. If our site crashes we just auto restore using this tool and we are back up and running. Works on a monthly subscription (starting at $9). We use the Pro plan at $39/month for up to seven sites. Read more about using BlogVault.
4 Tools to Market Our Online Business
Aside from the standard social channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) we use the following tools to market our business and generate targeted site traffic.
- AWeber: Our email list is without doubt our most important marketing tool and AWeber helps us manage our thousands of subscribers. They offer great subscribe boxes, powerful auto-responders and analytics. I can't imagine email marketing without AWeber.
- 123RF: While we try to use our photography whenever possible, sometimes we just don't have the right image (or the time to shoot it). This is where 123RF comes in. They have close to 30 million stock photographs and they cost between $1-2 each. You get a better deal if you buy a set of credits. We usually buy 50-100 and draw on them over the year.
- BufferApp: This application helps us promote our content and keep a consistent flow of interaction across our numerous social networks. We subscribe to the aptly named “Awesome Plan” at $102/yr. There is a free plan but it is very limited.
- EasyRedirect Script: I don't know how we could manage affiliate marketing without ERS. It works like a WordPress plugin but it operates outside of WordPress. By creating simple redirects, I can manage each link – shorten, track and change it as required. It professionalizes affiliate marketing.
3 Training & Backup Tools
- SugarSync: To keep our data backed up we rely on SugarSync. Not only does our data get backed-up offsite – it also syncs our data between computers. This way we can all work off the same set of photos and videos. It saves so much duplication! Plans start at $75/year (60GB). We use a $400/yr plan for 500GB of backup.
- Audible: Our family loves Audible. While we have all studied Spanish with it (Drew has begun studying Mandarin Chinese), I primarily use it for business audio books. Right now I'm listening to Epic Content Marketing and Street Smarts: An All Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs. Getting English books isn't the easiest thing in Ecuador. Audible is a lifesaver! Use this link for a free audiobook.
- Amazon: We were never big Amazon.ca customers back in Canada. Just the occasional order. Here in Ecuador we go to Amazon.com first. We buy clothes, books and electronics online. We use a local service (Club Correos) to bring the goods from the US to Ecuador.
4 Earning & Banking Tools
- Affiliate Networks: One of the principal ways we earn online is through affiliate marketing. We use these networks to manage the vendors and our commissions: Shareasale, Commission Junction and ClickBank.
- PayPal: It would be pretty hard to run our business without PayPal. We make and receive payments – often on a daily basis. Some vendors are only setup to pay via PayPal.
- GumRoad: We have just completed our first product and are working on product number two. Although we haven't launched yet, we will be selling through GumRoad.
- Affiliate Program Management: We are considering either iDevAffiliate or WP Affiliate plugin which integrates with GumRoad.
Bonus: 10 Hard Goods
These aren't included in our set – because they are actual physical products. But they do play a fundamental role in our online business, so here they are:
- Cameras: We use a set of point and shoot, SLR and GoPro cameras to create content for our sites. We use Xshot extender pole for both underwater and perspective photos.
- Video Creation: We have ordered the following set of gear to improve our video creation. Canon VIXIA HF R500 Digital Camcorder with a pair of Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphones We have lots of great video planned – can't wait to get started! We also ordered 2 Wasabi Batteries and Charger so we can film without worrying about running out of power.
- Samson Go Mic: I use this mic for both phone calls and video voice-overs.
- Headphones: A combination of both a home office, and the fact that that office is in Ecuador helped me decide to buy these headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M40x) to help me concentrate on specific projects. I'm actually wearing them right now…
- Backpack: I use the High Sierra Backpack when we travel for work to hold all of our gear. I've had it for 7 years+ and it still looks great. I can't say enough good about the High Sierra brand.
Now it's your turn
What tools and services do you use to run your business?