Resources

Hosting

Bluehost – I only have good things to say about Bluehost.  They offer you one free domain when you purchase their very affordable shared hosting plan. You can have multiple websites hosted on the same plan without any additional cost.  Whenever I have had a question or a problem, you can pick up the phone and actually talk to a real live human being who is friendly, knowledgeable and reasonable.  They also have a terrific technical department with a staff that can answer any questions with the C-Panel or file problems or any other issues that come up. As an user and affiliate for many different online service companies, Bluehost has always been there when I needed them.

Hostgator – If you are planning to start set-up your own self-hosted WordPress site for your business or switch hosting providers, head to those companies that focus primarily on this type of service. Hostgator is a terrific solution (as opposed to other companies who may offer hosting services, but focus primarily on selling domains). They are dependable and have great customer service. To me great service means they pick up the phone, and will work with you to get your problem solved instead of making you submit your request into a stream of email support tickets. And they are a nice group of people who always try and go the extra mile when you need it.

WPEngine – The very best premium hosting provider for when you grow out of your shared hosting service.  Depending on how your site is set-up, with increased traffic a dreaded slowdown in uploading can occur.  Google talks about how the speed of your site will only become increasingly important in their eyes.  They want to provide the speediest uploads as possible for their Googlers as you do your readers- something to consider when pricing out hosting providers. WP Engine is also very much focused on security- another item high on the priority list depending on the needs of your site.  Also, if there are any kinds of larger problems with your site you will more than likely be able to get it handled through WP Engine than having to outsource the job as you might with a more mainstream hosting provider.  WPEngine stays on the cutting edge of technology- the very edge. If you have a WordPress site, and you want the very, very best and are O.K. paying a bit more then WPEngine is your provider.

Domain Names

Go Daddy – What’s in a name? Quite frankly, a lot when it comes to top level domain names. If you want to research, bid or buy a domain name, my pick is www.GoDaddy.com . I wouldn’t have recommended them a few years back only because if you needed to get in touch with them, you could expect a long wait for a response. That’s all changed now. Go Daddy is top notch for customer service when it comes to domain names. Would I recommend them for hosting or building your your site? Absolutely not. You wouldn’t be able to migrate your site if you ever needed (you are planning for your business to grow gangbusters, right?) to or get the functionality you need. And Go Daddy’s website hosting service seems to go down a little more than other hosting companies (they all can from time to time, so make sure you have a back-up. I use Backup Buddy. But, for domain registration, they are the best.

P.S. Always add on private registration, always! You can’t with “.us” extenders and a few others so don’t go with those types of domain names if you can help it. Stick to “.com” whenever you can, or “.org” if you are an educational site or non-profit. If you need guidance on selecting your domain name or naming your domain for branding purposes, email me and we can set-up a 30 minute consult. It will probably be worth your investment if you are serious about launching your business.

Cool Tools

Jaaxy – Best, and easiest key word research tool and more- hands down!  So I have tried a lot of key word research tools in the past. Some very familiar ninja, guru and warrior type of forum key word tools.  And most of them do the job.  But they are SLOW.  And they aren’t always as easy to navigate.  And they give me more information than I need.  Yes, you don’t need to know every single bit of data.  All you need to know, and QUICKLY, is available EASILY through Jaaxy.  And it’s relatively cheap.  Now you can always use the Google Adwords free tool, and I still do use it.  But Jaaxy’s software is the easier and friendliest key word research tool out there.  It also helps you look up domaines.  Carson and Kyle, the owners, just came out with a more expensive Jaaxy Enterprise version that will even show you where you rank on the page. I am really tempted to purchase it, and I might try it out and let you know, but right now I can tell you the basic Jaaxy version is an inexpensive, easy and relatively fast key word research tool- my favorite by far!

IStockphoto is one of my favorite sites online for not just for stock and editorial photography, but illustrated vector art, video and audio.  They work on a credit system so you can purchase credit packages to save on photos.  The quality of all of their imagery and other products are always topnotch. My favorite part of iStockphoto is the FREE downloads.  Yes, I said FREE, and just about every week there is a free photo, vector image, audio, and video. With imagery becoming increasingly important to stand out on social platforms, too, it makes sense to try and use the best quality you can find at the best price.

PicMonkey – For creating graphics, you’ll want to play with PicMonkey. And I use the word “play” because the interface is so simple and intuitive even non-techies will love it. There are some really great effects, fonts, textures and overlays to work with in the free plan. If you want to get extra fancy, they have their “Royale” membership that is really reasonable. Try it out- it’s lots of fun, too!

Freshbooks – I’m loving Freshbooks online invoicing, expense management and time tracking service! Did you know that it uses a one-ledger, and not a two-ledger accounting system? Simple is good! Check it out.

Contactually – I had been searching for a customer relationship management tool, but I already had an email service provider and wasn’t interested in spending hundreds of dollars a month on a hybrid of both. Contactually was the answer. It fits my budget, and integrates seamlessly with my client mail. The interface is user friendly, and their customer service is amazing! Contactually helps me follow-up with prospects, leads and previous clients. Love it!

ShortStack – Many businesses don’t realize they can jeopardize their Facebook Fan page existence by posting contests right on the page. We’ve all seen them, and they are against Facebook’s guidelines. Avoid risking all the hard work, time, effort and money you may invested in building up your brand awareness on Facebook and use Shortstack for contests to safeguard your fan page. Shortstack also has lots of additional apps to choose from to promote your business. They offer surveys, promotions and all kinds of different apps. For reference, apps are short for applications- these are the tabs below your timeline photo. You can enable these apps as different landing pages to drive leads and traffic as part of your marketing strategy. Shortstack also offers training webinars and has some of the best white papers (those longer informational guides). Plus, they get bonus points for some of the best branding around.

Post Planner – Need a time saver to help you manage your Facebook fan/biz page? Looking for ideas to engage your prospects and current customers? Want to keep your brand up front and center without being spammy? Need some good content to share in between your promotions? Want help developing relationships and brand ambassadors? Need your brand to really stand out? I could go on and on. It’s Post Planner to the rescue. Post Planner is a super helpful scheduling and content provider tool I recommend to all of my clients. It’s every successful social community manager’s secret on Facebook. And it’s one of the best resources out there to help your Facebook fan/biz page connect… really connect with your ideal clients. They now offer a FREE version so what do you have to lose? Plus, Josh Parkinson, the founder, is one of the best guys out there on the web. Truly. And Scott Ayres, Post Planner’s community guru is one of the best out there… hands down. Post Planner constantly provides great content and really, really good video tutorials for using their product. Are you feeling Facebook fan page shame? Is your Facebook business page feeling like a ghost town? If so, do yourself a favor and head over here to sign up, pronto. As John Haydon, author of Facebook Marketing For Dummies and “The” Non-Profit Facebook King says, “Post Planner is like ASPIRIN for your Facebook marketing pain.”

Blogelina – Many of my clients need an easy and affordable way to move their WordPress.com, Blogger or Typepad site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site for the additional functionality and assurance their site is their own, and the SEO link juice is going to them and not their free hosting platform. Blogelina is an affordable option, that seems to have great reviews. I haven’t tried this service, personally, myself, but it seems to be a good solution for many that would prefer to have a professional take care of the migration.

BackupBuddy – I use BackupBuddy to back up all of my WordPress websites. If you are reading this right now and you haven’t backed up your website, I suggest you immediately get your site backed up beyond what most hosting serviced provide. Because I trust Backup Buddy, I suggest you go through the link above and purchase the plan you need and get your site backed up pronto. If you need help setting it up, email me at laura@webnavigatorgal.com. I am not a hard sale person, but I can’t tell you how many times I know of people who though their site was backed up with enough functionality to easily restore it with the back-up solution their hosting service provided. In most cases, you want the functionality and ease a product like Backup Buddy provides. It will save you time, money, and headaches investing in a trusted back-up solution. Your site is your real estate, and Backup Buddy is your insurance. Make sure you are covered.

AWeber – If you need a dependable email service provider, I recommend AWeber for many of my clients. I use it for this site, and it has the functionality I need for different marketing tactics I use consistently. They pick up the phone- even on weekends! AWeber doesn’t offer a free subscription, but if you are a service provider I highly recommend it.

Easy Video Creation Tools

Sparkol – For simple whiteboard animation, sometimes known as “fast drawing,” I really like Sparkol’s videoscribe product. It’s so easy even my 9 year old enjoys making videos using its interface. They have some really fun tutorials, and there’s even a free 7 day trial at https://webnavigatorgal.com/sparkol.

Marketing

Moo Cards – Choose from their many design options or create your own, moo cards are my favorite business card option around. I especially love the NEW MOO MiniCards – 100 unique mini-calling cards with new some great new features! They definitely stand out and are always a conversation starter. If need help designing your own, email me at laura@webnavigatorgal.com.

Website Design

99designs – Need a logo or have a design project, but are on a budget and don’t want to risk spending a lot of money upfront and then end up with something you aren’t happy with? Try 99designs, a People’s Voice Webby Winner. You can connect with thousands of talented designers from around the world who are just waiting to bid on your project. Have you heard of “crowd sourcing” which basically means reaching out to many to get feedback or solutions? Well 99designs is a marketplace for crowd sourced graphic design. But don’t let that scare you if you haven’t tried it. Many, many small businesses have been super happy with 99designs creations that have included logos, banner ads, book covers, apps, t-shirts- you name it. Plus, you get to run a contest and pick the winner. How fun is that? So try it out at www.99designs.com, and let me know what you think.

WordPress Themes and Plugins I Love

Studiopress/Genesis Framework – I love these StudioPress Themes as they are aligned with the Copyblogger.com folks who are the some of the most solid and dependable internet marketers around. They have a wealth of designs with the clea code and always keep their themes updated. You can’t go wrong with with these out-of-the box templates. If you want to customize them or make a fix, you will never have problem finding someone to help you.

Premise – Need a sales landing page? Look no further. You can add this plug-in to almost every WordPress.org theme without a hitch. Check out Premise for WordPress.

ScribeSEO – Want to make sure your post, page and site is optimized for SEO? I love the ScribeSEO plug-in as you can analyze your copy with a few clicks. It also it great for suggesting ideas for future and relevant content for your site.

BluChic – A favorite of female service professionals, these themes respond to any device your customer may be viewing your site on, and are some of the prettiest designs around. Click here to visit BluChic.

eCommerce Solutions

Big Commerce – The benefits Big Commerce as an Ecommerce website solution seem to keep adding up year after year. They have especially good SEO functionality so you don’t end up with a lot of duplicate content (as in 20 versions of a “little black dress” that Google doesn’t know what to do with, and will ding you for your lack of differentiation- they will read it as duplicate content which won’t be helping anybody). They also have terrific commerce shopping feed integration (so your store can easily integrate with NextTag and Google Shopping, for example), mobile options, no transaction fees and really, really good customer service (thanks, Evan!). What’s not to like?

Volusion – The biggest shopping cart platform, Volusion is known for their seamless 1-Page checkout so you will hopefully see less of your customers drop out of the sales funnel during their checkout process- something to seriously keep in mind when setting up an commerce site. They also have zero transaction fees, and offer one of the lowest merchant fees options around (which can stack up quickly). Volusion has a lot of template options to work with and are starting to come up with some new, hipper and more modern designs which are welcome. Plus, they also have really terrific customer service (thanks, Luke!).

Shopify – I like Shopify a lot — especially for one option that many other commerce solutions aren’t offering at this time-namely blogging opportunities. Shopify offers a blog option integrated into their site infrastructure. What this means for you when it comes to marketing your commerce solution depends on whether or not you want to take advantage of content marketing for your business. You don’t necessarily need to have a blog for an commerce site, especially when most eccommerce solutions all have good opportunities to optimize your site for SEO within your product names, descriptions, categories and pages. But, if you want to include SEO optimized posts that can be refreshed and marketed to bring back traffic and links to your website, you might want to consider Shopify. They also have a nice selection of Ecommerce templates that can be modified a bit if you need to. And some of my favorite ecommerce designs are by Pixel Union which can only be used on the Shopify platform. Shopify has a sliding scale for transaction fees depending on how many products you list, and you do have to jump to their Shopify app platform for checkout, but they have a really easy ux (user experience) and super helpful customer experience.

On this page you will find products and services that I use, have used, and recommend.  Some of them are affiliate products (meaning I may make a small commission), and some of them aren’t.  Most importantly, I will only recommend those products and services that I have either used myself, have worked with in the past or hope to work with sometime soon.