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Online Business Toolbox

Below is a list of various resources and tools that are valuable for successful blogging and internet business. I will be adding to it as I test new solutions, and I’ll likely reference this page fairly often.

Full Disclosure: Some of the out-going links are affiliate links, and if you decide to buy one then I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. That said, nothing makes it to this page unless I have personally used it and endorse it. I do not recommend you buy any product unless you feel you need it to achieve your own goals.

Hosting

  • hosted_by_wp_engineWPEngine. I host the Blog Marketing Academy with WPEngine. These guys know WordPress in and out – and their entire hosting setup is precisely engineered for WordPress. It is entirely managed, too, which means installs are easy, upgrades are automatic, backups are automatic. They even provide you with a private staging area for making changes to your site without messing up the public version. If you’re going to use WordPress and don’t want to mess with having an IT guy around, WPEngine is awesome.

Themes

  • StudioPress. I did a fair amount of research into StudioPress versus Thesis, and I decided to go with StudioPress for my sites. Awesome theme framework, solid SEO, and solid foundation. Many child themes available in order to give your site a professional look – and responsive design (great for mobile readers).
  • Elegant Themes. These guys make great premium themes, and their price is about the lowest thing I’ve seen around. Can’t beat it. Used their themes a few times. Good stuff. (For More: Video Review)
  • OptimizePress. In terms of marketing themes for WordPress, OptimizePress is the best. As of version 2.0, they have some truly awesome themes to give your business a very professional look. [Read my Optimizepress Review]

Landing Page Creators

  • Ten Minute Pages. Ten Minute Pages is a tool which is vital to any serious entrepreneur online. It creates landing pages which turn your viewers into subscribers, and subscribers into buyers. Extremely intuitive and also the most flexible in its category, Ten Minute Pages is HIGHLY recommended. [For more: Video Preview | Ten Minute Pages vs. OptimizePress]
  • LeadPages. Also an easy-to-use landing page creator, LeadPages allows you to create high-quality landing pages. The primary difference between LeadPages and Ten Minute Pages is that LeadPages is much more “fill in the blank” and you cannot alter the templates at all, whereas Ten Minute Pages allows you to drag things around and make it your own. However, LeadPages has some awesome features and it is a powerful marketing tool, which is why I use it.

Membership Sites

  • Wishlist Member. If you’re not technical, Wishlist is great. Installs as a WordPress plug-in. Quite powerful. Has a few limitations, but overall, a very good system. [View video presentation for quick membership sites.]
  • WP Drip. Works in conjunction with Wishlist Member to enable drip-feed of members content in a fashion similar to an autoresponder. So, using the dates of your posts, you can control when your members have access to certain segments of your protected content. Many people (including me) prefer the way this works instead of the way Wishlist does it built-in.

Plug-ins

  • Action Comments. People enter their name and email address every time they post a comment to your blog. Why not provide them a one-click option to subscribe to your mailing list while posting their comment? That’s what Action Comments does. It makes SO much sense and I can’t believe I didn’t do it earlier. Integrates beautifully with Aweber, too, but will work with most any email system. [Read my Review]
  • Gravity Forms. This is the most powerful forms plug-in for WordPress. Take everything you think is so awesome about the free contact form plug-ins and forget about it. You’ll find more uses for Gravity Forms than you even realize, it does so much. [Gravity Forms Review]

Email Subscribers & Marketing

  • Aweber. Aweber is, far and away, my recommendation for email marketing for most of my audience. Really great company, and they understand the needs of marketers.
  • Office AutoPilot. This is who I am using these days for the Academy. This is a full-fledged CRM with powerful email marketing capabilities that make Aweber and Mailchimp look like amateur-hour. That said, your business has to be to a certain point before a solution like this one will make any sense for you.
  • OptinSkin. Really great WordPress plug-in which will help you design and place opt-in forms on your blog. Use one of the many built-in designs, or make your own. Comes with full tracking, split-testing capabilities, and a number of pretty “ninja” features. I use it myself, and I recommend it.

Making Sales & Shopping Carts

  • Paypal. If you’re going to run an internet business, you need a Paypal account. Period.
  • Clickbank. Convenient way to sell digital goods if you want to have affiliates. Their transaction fees are higher than average, but the tradeoff is that you’re able to use their amazing affiliate program to get your product marketed.
  • E-Junkie. Another great way to sell digital goods. Very popular, integrates with many payment systems, and has an integrated affiliate program. Hard to go wrong with these guys.
  • Nanacast. My new favorite shopping cart, and what I now use for all of my products. Their interface isn’t pretty at all, but DAMN, this thing is powerful. It does pretty much everything you’d want, from a marketing perspective. If you sell things online – including membership sites – you should definitely check out Nanacast. I’ve checked out much of the competition, including 1ShoppingCart and Infusionsoft. 1SC is just “OK” – that’s it. And Infusion is way too complicated and most of the people I’ve found who like it have employees to run it for them. After exhaustive searching, I settled on Nanacast and am VERY happy with it.
  • PowerPay. One of the best merchant account providers around, and I personally use these guys for my merchant account needs. Awesome service, and they understand the way online marketing works (which is good). [Review of PowerPay]

Analytics

  • Google Analytics. Popular, free, and extremely capable. Even if you use another stat service, I’d recommend using GA as well.
  • Clicky. I use Clicky and really like these guys. I use them in addition to Google because (a) it is real-time, (b) it gives me an intuitive interface to get to the data I need quickly.

Video

  • Easy Video Player. An AWESOME video player system which works with your S3 account. Features view stats, in-player calls to action, video split testing. If you’re going to do videos, this is simply the best player I have found so far. Simple awesome. [Easy Video Player Review]
  • LeadPlayer. Provides a customizable player for Youtube videos. But, more than that, it allows you to place opt-in forms and calls to action over top your videos. Being that it uses Youtube, you have no additional hosting costs. Plus, you can use it for your videos… or somebody else’s. Want to embed somebody else’s video and still use it for lead generation for yourself? Now you can. Really useful tool. Highly recommended.

Productivity

  • Evernote Essentials. Evernote is one of the most useful applications I use. I’m literally in it every day. But, Evernote is one of those tools that a lot of people don’t quite “get” right away. Evernote Essentials is an ebook that will have you using Evernote effectively right from the start. Highly recommend.
  • WorkFlowy. A free, web-based list application. On the surface, it looks extremely simplistic. However, with infinite nested lists, tagging and more, WorkFlowy is now my go-to app for managing all of my projects and breaking them down into individual tasks. Highly useful.

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