Recommended Tools and Services

These are all sites and services I have used personally and therefore recommend to clients and friends. (Full disclosure… some of these are affiliate links. But know that I become an affiliate only after using a product and deciding it’s worth recommending.)

Social Media Dashboard

Social media management for exceptional companiesIdeal for small to mid-sized companies, SproutSocial allows you to manage all of your social media channels through one single dashboard. You get an incredibly rich feature-set for the price (which starts at $9/month) and includes social media monitoring, management and scheduling, analytics and reporting. Customer service is excellent and they are always adding new features.

Web Hosting Service

For those looking to build their website or start a blog, or those who are unhappy with their current web host, I recommend Hostgator for web hosting services. You can also purchase a domain through their partnership with Registry Rocket. Hostgator has great customer service and if you’re already using another host, they will move your site for free. They can also move your blog from Blogger or WordPress.com to a self-hosted site using the WordPress.org software platform. If you’re curious, you can read about my own experience with switching web hosts from GoDaddy to Hostgator due to slow site speed issues.

Email Marketing

Mad Mimi Email MarketingI adore the simple and stylish MadMimi for email marketing. Businesses can set up lead collection forms on their sites and send out beautifully designed email newsletters to selected lists. Bloggers can enable the RSS to email feature to manage email subscriptions. The interface is extremely user-friendly (perfect for beginners and anyone who doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles) and their customer service is absolutely top-notch. I once emailed them a question at 10pm on a Sunday night and got a response within a few minutes.

Professional Logo Design

99Designs.comIf you’re looking for a professional logo or other design elements for your blog, such as a header, a budget-friendly option is 99designs. For $299, you hold a “design contest” where dozens of designers from around the world compete to create a winning logo. 99designs has an extremely detailed form to help you identify exactly what you are looking for (something serious? humorous? favorite colors? styles you like?). And while the contest is running you rate the designs as they come in so the designers can make tweaks and changes. I used 99designs for my company logo and had a fantastic experience.

Photos

People are often surprised to learn that they cannot use Google Images to grab photos to use on their website or blog. As I’ve written in the past, Google Images merely searches ALL images on the web and returns them regardless of copyright. For paid stock photo images, my top choice is iStockphoto. And my new favorite for free images is Photo Pin, which is an application for searching the Flickr Creative Commons database. This database of millions of photos that can be used with attribution, and Photo Pin provides both better search results than the native Flickr site and a handy copy/paste area for placing the attribution link.

WordPress Tutorials

Looking to learn more about WordPress? I’m a fan of the whole series of videos from WP101. They’ve got a large collection of free material on their site, and for those who want a deeper dive, you can sign up for a paid subscription to the entire tutorial video series. There’s also a premium WordPress Plugin that will allow you to watch the videos right in your WP dashboard. Cool.

Premium WordPress Themes

This website/blog uses WooThemes and I’ve been very happy with them. I also recommend Thesis, Genesis and Elegant Themes, and for the more adventurous, Headway Themes.

WordPress Plugins

If your website or blog runs on the WordPress.org platform, you can make magic with WordPress plugins. Plugins are like neatly wrapped up bits of code that make your WordPress site do new and wonderful things. I have been playing around with plugins for several years now and you can see a list of my favorite WordPress plugins by category on this slide deck.

WordPress Site Design, Site Migration and Troubleshooting

Blogging Help | Start a WordPress Blog | The Blog MavenIf you’re a blogger looking to take your blog to the next level or a brand looking to build a WordPress site from scratch (the right way), Jeni at The Blog Maven may be just the one to help. She can do larger projects like site design and site migration from Blogger to WordPress. She also handles smaller fixes and repairs through her troubleshooting service. I get questions about and requests for this kind of work frequently and I am SO excited to have found Jeni to whom I can send referrals.

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