The Tools You Need To Build a Successful Blog-Based Online Business
Below is a list of all the tools and resources I have tested and used over the years to build and run my online business. I still use many of the resources listed here and recommend them to all the awesome clients I work with.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I get a small referral commission should you choose to purchase. The commission is at no extra cost to yourself. I only recommend resources that I know and trust, regardless of any affiliate commission.
The only domain registrar I recommend. Cheaper than most other popular registrars. Lots of top level domain extensions to choose from. They are serious about account security which is crucial when deciding who to register your domain name with, and customer support is good.
Bluehost is my recommended hosting provider if you're on a budget. For around $80 you can get hosting for a whole year and as an added bonus, when you create a new hosting account with Bluehost they automatically install WordPress on your server for you. And support is only ever a phone call away should you need it.
SiteGround is the hosting company I currently use for The Blog Mechanic. Their servers are optimised for super fast load times, even on shared hosting accounts. Since switching to SiteGround I've seen a consistent 100% server uptime, and whenever I've needed help, support is super responsive.
I recommend using Genesis Themes at StudioPress. The themes are cleanly coded for optimal security, speed and seo. They are highly customizable and if you ever get stuck, the support team at StudioPress are fast to respond, friendly and helpful.
Beaver Builder is by far my favourite tool to use for landing pages. I use it to create custom home pages and internal website pages (about, contact, services, etc). You can even use it to create and format blog posts. There is a Lite version available for free in the WordPress.org repository but features are limited, so I recommend upgrading to the Standard Plan for best results.
Thrive Architect is my preferred tool for creating high-converting lead generation and sales pages. The plugin comes with 252 pre-designed templates you can just click and edit, or you can create pages from scratch using the plugins drag and drop editor. Although Beaver Builder is my preferred tool to create home pages and internal pages, you can also use Thrive Architect to do the same and you can use it to create blog posts too.
I started out with Aweber and I can highly recommend them to anyone just getting started. Autoresponder features are easy to use. Support is excellent and you can get started for free for the first 30 days.
Nowadays I use ActiveCampaign for email marketing management. They make creating marketing automation workflows so easy with their user-friendly drag and drop builder. ActiveCampaign is the next best thing to premium solutions such as Ontraport and InfusionSoft, just without the hefty price tag.
Email Opt-In Forms
Thrive Leads is a plugin that makes it easy to add professional looking opt-in forms to your blog without having to know code. You can add lots of different types of opt-in forms, from ribbon forms that run across the header and footer of your site to exit intent pop-ups or even full screen gateways. Thrive leads is a must to build an email list.
I use Camtasia to record my screen when making step by step videos for online courses and tutorials for clients, and for blog posts too.
I use YouTube to host free video content that goes on the blog and doesn't need protecting for paid customers only.
Online Courses and Membership Sites
I use OptimizePress to setup online courses and membership sites for clients. My free training course Complete Blog Setup Blueprint is built with OptimizePress too. The plugin comes with pre-made templates to create launch sequences, sales pages, landing pages, and membership pages. And it integrates with most popular autoresponders and payment gateways. You can give members access to all your content immediately after purchase or you can choose to drip feed the content daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
Digital Products and Services
Easy Digital Downloads*
Easy Digital Downloads is a free plugin you can use to sell and deliver digital products directly on your WordPress blog. There's also extensions available for purchase to improve functionality. Using the right extensions you can also use this plugin to sell services on your blog.
Although this free plugin was originally created to sell physical products, there are WooCommerce extensions available for purchase that makes it possible to sell digital downloads and services directly on your blog. You can even use WooCommerce as a membership site.
I use PayPal to collect payment for my services. Sometimes it's best to just keep things simple. PayPal has all the tools you need to make and track sales, automate your sales funnel process, and it integrates with most popular blogging tools including Easy Digital Downloads, WooCommerce and OptimizePress.
I spent months looking at many different affiliate programs for my services, but failed to find one that fit my needs or didn't make me jump through hoops to get approved. Eventually, I found an in-house solution called Affiliate WP. This is the one I am now using at The Blog Mechanic and I can highly recommend it to you.