Each year I am approached by companies wanting me to try their products & services and ultimately share them with all of you. Some have been great additions to my business others have left me disappointed and flummoxed. I thought I would share with you the best & the worst from the past year!
To begin with, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories.
- Blogging tools
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Running your business
As you know (if you have a blog) there is always so much that needs to be done in a short amount of time so anything that I can find that will:
- Save Time
- Save Money
- Improve My Skills
is a Godsend to me. Now, I want to share them with you!
I have my own hosting that I provide through Flywheel (owned by WPEngine) which runs $20 a month. We provide fast, secure hosting, free SSL’s, and amazing support. I only have three spots available.
For someone just starting out or on a tight budget I use **Bluehost. I have to say that I have set up hundreds of sites on Bluehost and not once have I ever had a problem. Once upon a time, Bluehost was considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of hosting, but a few years ago they turned it around and I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with how hard they have worked to improve every aspect of their service.
I have always been a Genesis girl and **Studio Press is the place to get the best themes. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with **Divi by Elegant themes and I have to say that I absolutely love it! It’s so versatile and easy to use and saves me tons of time. There are so many things included that you hardly need any plugins at all!
Listen I know that those sneaky plugins get you where it hurts. I’m sure you have seen the notices in your dashboard ‘get this pro version’, ‘buy this’, ‘do that’. Nine times out of 10 you don’t need it. There are free plugins for just about anything. My go-to plugins are:
- Updraft Plus for backing up.
- Wordfence for security.
- Jetpack lots of things.
- Akismet for spam.
If you’re using Genesis then I add:
- Genesis Enews (optins)
- Simple Social Icons
- Simple Social Share
If you’re using Divi
All of those are free & if there’s something you want just search the plugin repository.
Hubspot created a blog post with 60 free online courses that you can take to improve your skills. If you don’t follow Hubspot’s blog you really should. There is always so much valuable information.
Would you like to learn more about Facebook ads? Here’s a great post by Insane Growth that explains it all.
Social media is the bane of my existence, but it’s also a necessary evil. I build websites and create content with business tips for bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses. I get asked to try a lot of different social media scheduling tool and here is my honest opinion.
**#1 For me is Sendible.com. I run three different websites and manage several clients’ social media accounts. Scheduling blog posts and monitoring keywords that I set up, even monitoring my competitor’s social media accounts. If you run multiple blogs or social media accounts
Sendible is the best.
Most places make you pay per account so for three sites I would have to have three different accounts. I would only be able to pick up one RSS feed unless I had three different accounts.
I could not run my business without Sendible!
Sendible is different. I have a set number of services I can set up and it doesn’t matter how many RSS feeds you pick up and auto-posts new pieces. You can schedule them to repeat however many times it’s all completely up to you. I post to five different FB pages for various people and with Sendible I can do it automatically saving myself lots of time.
Then there is **Tailwind
I love using it for Pinterest.
I know I’m not taking full advantage of the features but what I am using I love. BUT I don’t like them for Instagram. I tried it I really did, but it was just too confusing and I wasting to much time trying to figure it out.
A few years ago I bought a lifetime membership for Grum.co for only $39 and I love it for scheduling Instagram posts. That’s all it does Instagram, but it’s so easy to use. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking on new customers. If I didn’t have this I would make the time for Tailwind, but this one is just to easy and it’s a lifetime purchase.
I love Co-schedule I really do, but because of the limitations of only having one site on one account, I just can’t justify that expense when I have other options. It offers a boatload of features and it’s easy to use.
There is really no “free” service for scheduling your content. You can use “Publicize” inside your WordPress site and it will automatically post to FB, Twitter, & LinkedIn.
I know that Buffer offers a free version but I’m not sure of its limitations. I’ve always found it too confusing to use.
If you’re going to spend money this is one of the places where I say if you can pay for it then get it. A good social media scheduler can save you loads of time while helping you build your tribe.
In today’s 24/7, 100mph world if you’re not marketing through email then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. You should absolutely be sending a welcome email sequence & sending out an RSS to your subscribers.
A few months ago, I was singing the praises of **Engagebay and I learned a very valuable lesson. Sometimes quick decisions can be the wrong decisions. It can send beautiful emails, there are tools for marketing, sales or service. I feel as if it is an excellent platform, but it just didn’t fit my needs. The main problem was the RSS emails. There just wasn’t enough flexibility and I actually sent out a few crazy emails before I gave up.
If you’re running a small business then I cannot recommend Engagebay enough. It’s beautiful, easy to use and handles so many tasks. It’s also affordable. Here is a link to their Youtube channel which has a lot of info about its features. It’s a great platform I just tend to have a problem with change I guess.
So, I’m back at MailChimp and that’s where I’m staying! I know my way around, it’s easy to use (most of the time) and it’s cheap. They have changed things and unless you have a paid account you are limited in what you can do. Such as only having one audience(list), limitations on automation, etc. I pay for The Blogging 911 account and use the free version for Wanding Web Designer & The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver my other two sites. The paid version runs me $9.63 a month.
Have you seen my the MAILCHIMP EXPLAINED ebook in the 911 Resource Library? It’s just one of the many free resources inside.
I’ve worked with ConvertKit before and it is easy to use. I didn’t like the design limitations and figure if I’m going to spend $30 a month it needs to have a lot more.
Running your Business
There are several tools that I use every single day to run my business. Some are free (well most are free) but they are still necessary. Tools such as:
- 17Hats – is an all-around scheduling tool, lead capture forms, templates such as contracts or estimates. It runs $39 a month for all of its features and there are many. I personally only use the free version because I use the templates & lead capture forms (those project inquiry forms you see around here).
- Acuity Scheduling – If you need an easy way for people to schedule appointments I highly recommend Acuity. Their free version has always been more than enough for me.
- Asana – This is my project management tool and it keeps me on track when I’m building out a new site, managing other projects or even just things I need to do. There is both a free and paid version and I’ve always found the free version more than enough for my needs.
- Canva – There is a free version of Canva that works very well. I use Canva almost every single day and I love it for it’s easy to use dashboard, to the free and paid elements like stock photos, icons, frames, colors, and fonts. For this, I splurge and get the paid version so that I can store my own logos, my fonts (up to 25) and my brand colors for $12.95.
- Google Drive – Also free. I use it to store all of my clients’ assets. I like how easy it is and it works great with Gmail which is another great free tool. I do use the paid version of this and it runs $6 a month and I have tons of storage and it’s easy to use.
- One Drive – This is part of my Microsoft subscription which is about $7 a month. This is where I keep all of my assets. (Such as stock images, templates, or other graphics).
- Dropbox – This is where I store all of the backups for my clients & my own personal websites. This costs around $10 but they’ve added a bunch of new features.
- Screencast-o-matic – This another thing I purchased from Sumo. It was a lifetime subscription for only $39 and I use it whenever I need to make tutorials or other videos where I share my screen. It’s something I purchased on APPSUMO.
- APPSUMO – is a great place to find great deals on products or services to run your business! They always have freebies or lifetime deals that will save you tons of time and money.
Know some great tools that I might not know about? Let me know in the comments below.
** Means that it is an affiliate link if you purchase a service, with the (**) beside it, means that I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your cost.
Online sales are on the rise and e-commerce is expected to grow at a much faster rate than offline retail. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that more and more businesses are working hard to build a strong online presence that often includes opening an e-shop.
Important as online stores are, there’s still a lot of misconception about what factors improve the odds for online success.
Take website speed for instance. Though many online marketers believe it is somewhat important for their businesses, they are unaware of the extent it impacts websites.
The gurus of web hosting reviews at the Hosting Tribunal created the fact-packed infographic below to show the latest stats about how page loading time affects online stores.
Meanwhile let’s bust some misconceptions related to speed and e-shops.
For starters, did you know that slow page load time negatively affects your total page views and bounce rate?
Research shows that for every second delay in page loading, you will have 11% fewer page views. Additionally, the bounce rate probability rises sharply with every small increase in page load time.
For instance, sites with load times of 5 seconds have the bounce rate probability of 90%. For sites with load times of 10 seconds, this figure is 123%. So, a 5-second delay in page loading causes bounce rate to increase by a whopping 33%.
But that’s not all. Majority of viewers who choose to stay for longer periods of time on slow online stores are likely to be unhappy with their site experience and as a result never shop there again.
52% of online shoppers rank site speed as an important loyalty factor and 64% of them will take their business elsewhere if their on-site experience is below-par.
A slow web page also means a high cart abandonment rate, which measures the number of people who add an item to their shopping carts but leave without completing the transaction.
All in all, slow page loading affects your online store in many ways. So what are you waiting for? Take a look at the graphic below and apply corrective measures immediately if your site is slow and sluggish.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if you were to become incapacitated in some way? Maybe you’ve gotten sick or been in an accident whatever the reason, what would happen to your online business, Facebook groups, or your website?
Would all of your hard work go down the drain within weeks, leaving your readers wondering what in the world happened to you? Sponsored posts have gone unwritten, affiliate earnings abandoned, subscriptions canceled for non-payment and the list goes on.
The effects could be felt for months, even years to come. As a caregiver, I have to worry about these kinds of things all of the time. Not my website, but my life in general. Who can take over in case I can no longer do it. What happens if I get sick or hurt?
There has to be a safety net in place long before that emergency happens or everything you’ve worked for could just disappear. Believe me, I know this first hand. If you haven’t read my story check out my About Page In my personal & business life I use a book called Cellphones Don’t Work In Heaven written by Mark C. Pope & Beverly R. Thompson. It’s a wonderful book and talk about a story! Whew, watch this video! The book covers every aspect of your life, but as a blogger or online business owner, we have another layer of need that just isn’t covered.
So the first step is to make a plan & I’m here to help!
- What Is Considered Critical Website Information?
- How To Gather Your Information
- Picking The Right Person
- Free Downloadable Critical Website Information Guide
- What Is Considered Critical Website Information?
I define this as anything needed to keep your website/business up and running. Everything from your website login credentials to the course you bought. Everything on the list may not be critical, but it’s nice to keep track of everything in one (two, or ten different places). I keep one online and one in my file cabinet.
- Website Url and login credentials
- Email (Gmail, Outlook, etc.)
- Email service provider (Mailchimp, ConvertKit, etc.)
- Your social media platforms
- Premium plugins or extras that will need to be renewed
- How To Gather Your Information
Make a list, make several in fact, but start off with sections such as:
Your website, Social Media, Advertising & Analytics, Scheduling, and Other. You can use any system that works, but remember to include EVERYTHING so it may take you several days/weeks to get it all together. For instance, media storage would include things like Dropbox or Google Drive, but also Evernote, Onedrive, etc. A little bit here, and here, and there. It adds up.
Are you like me and get hit with shiny object syndrome sometimes? I’ll admit this, but only to you. I
sometimes all the time sign up for great services or cheap offers *shush don’t tell my husband!* with all of the greatest intentions in the world and then after chasing two-year-olds, following mom around shutting doors and turning off appliances, working on my clients work, working on my own business goals, plus cooking, laundry, bills most of the time I’ve forgotten by bedtime. Wait, bedtime what’s that? I have courses I’ve bought and never had time to open them up. Tomorrow never comes and pretty soon your inbox rivals your local library in quantity.
I also have two pretty cool tips that can help you keep control of the number of companies allowed into the prime real estate that is your email. The first one is a website called deseat.me. Enter your email address and you will see a list populate with every company that you’ve given your email address to and some that you may not have. Then it gives you a link to go in and delete the account if you choose.
As you can probably guess my email can sometimes get overwhelming. Trying to keep up with several different threads at once confuses my poor damaged brain. (I think that’s why I struggle so much with Facebook! My brain can’t keep up with it.) My friend Nesha from NeshaWoolery.com asked a question in her Facebook Group the Shelancers if we had a plan if something happened to us. It got me thinking about it A LOT I mean face it “we aren’t spring chickens anymore”. She also gave me another hot tip when she shared the tool unroll.me
It will change your life! You sign up for a free account and it will gather every single thing that you are subscribed to. Seriously, every newsletter, every subscription, and roll it up into one big newspaper or magazine. You have the opportunity to unsubscribe from multiple accounts, keep the ones that you want, and have the rest rolled up into one email delivered once a day or even once a week at whatever time you choose! How awesome is that!
My inbox is now full of the people who should be there…my clients. I can still get the newsletters I want. It just keeps them from coming one after another and creating that overwhelmed feeling I mentioned earlier.
- Picking The Right Person
Picking the right person is a trickier matter. You need someone who is both trustworthy & tech-savvy. Maybe you already have a webmaster or V.A. and that would be the perfect option. They already have all of the information right at their fingertips. They should still have a contingency plan in place or you will be playing catch up from the very beginning.
If you don’t have access to an admin or web tech then you are going to have to train someone to literally be you in case of an emergency. I chose my daughter not only because of the top two reasons above but she’s the only one close enough to me that even knows how to turn a computer on and log in! I kid you not! My husband can operate two computers; an ATM and the self-checkout at Walmart.
Keep in mind that they are going to probably be flying blind so hitting them with everything that has to be done in your everyday online business life will most likely have them throwing up their hands in sheer brain overload.
Think of it this way. When an ambulance gets to a wreck they triage the situation. Who is in the most danger or hurt worse. So figure out the bare minimum that can be done to maintain your space and all of your hard work. Teach them starting with the most important and work your way down. At first, I would keep it to your top 5 most important things. Do it for a week at a time and have an alternative. You can always add more in small doses if you have someone willing to go above and beyond. You will owe them big time when all is back to normal for sure!
Just remember THE BARE MINIMUM, they will go back to the real world eventually. Teach them to maintain it, keep it safe, and keep it from having that abandoned feeling some sites whose creator has just ghosted…
Not only should you leave a detailed list of exactly what needs to be done, but you should also schedule some time to show them step by step how to maintain the basics of your website and your business. Use visuals such as calendars or even maps. Blog post→ → Facebook → → Instagram. Whatever works!
Keep your content scheduled AT LEAST a week in advance. I’m not always successful at this, but I do try. I’ve started using “batch days”. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard these words in the last few months. If not, it means to set aside a certain day every month or week to create. One day for content, one day for graphics, or one day for scheduling social media. That way you can stay ahead of the game and if you use the same day every month or week you will never run out!
My problem is trying to think of things that will bring you true value. I know how valuable your time and inbox are and I want you to feel that it was worth it every single time you click that button!
Speaking of value, (see how I did that?)
I’ve done the hard part for you! I’ve created the 13-page download
to create your very own
Critical Information Guide
A place to keep all of that new found knowledge in one simple place.
Print it out, but it in a binder, and keep it in a safe place.
It not only gives you peace of mind, but it feels like a fresh start. Clearing out the old and making room for the new. I want to add that I keep a paper copy of the Critical Information Guide, but I also keep an online version as well. I use LastPass, if you haven’t tried it check it out. Sometimes you just need to see the password, but it’s locked deep in our computer’s memory banks and all we get are ***************. It’s easy with LastPass, also free! It’s a Chrome extension so it’s simple to set up! If you struggle coming up with strong passwords try this free tool by TheBestVPN.com. You can generate strong, unique passwords by simply clicking a button and it’s also free!
That’s it for now!
*This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission of the Cell Phones Don’t Work In Heaven.