On a weekly basis, I am asked about various web marketing tools I use, so I created a list....
Believe me, two years ago, I couldn't tell you what ANY of these things were. I recently found an old piece of paper with my notes regarding various blogging platforms, a pro and con list - it was so cute. It was as if I had just found my fifth grade journal. I've come a long way in a short period of time, but that has also made me the ask-monkey. When you ask me about anything that has to do with Wordpress themes, web hosting, email marketing, and any other weird web related thing... I will send you this blog post.
Let's start with y favorite thing in the whole world!MOO Business Cards, MiniCards and Postcards - Create unique cards using your own photos or designs to help your business stand out! I use Moo Cards for my blog business cards because they are fun, quirky and cute! They aren't web-related but for some reason, everyone on the web uses Moo Cards!
My second favorite thing in the world HOOTSUITETo manage my various Twitter accounts, I use Hootsuite. Hootsuite is free (like other services) but they off a pro version that is ad-free and allows you more functionality.
Wordpress TemplatesOnce you've purchased your domain name (from below) you can go ahead and install Wordpress - but then, it will just be super bland and lame until you add a template. Some templates are easier to use than others, some are more customizable. The more customization, the more code and technical stuff you will need to know.
You can just keep it easy and call me. I will do it for you for a low, low price. Otherwise, here is what I recommend:
- The Thesis Theme for WordPress - Thesis is highly customizable. My other blog is a Thesis theme, you can check out The Artun Travel Blog for an example, otherwise, just click on the link I provided, The Thesis Theme site has plenty of examples.
- Another popular Wordpress theme is Headway Themes I have not used it, but had considered it as an option, also very user-friendly and customizable.
There is another company called WooThemes - they offer various Premium WordPress Templates. The pricing is fair and they also have themes for Joomla and Drupal sites too. Here are some of my fave WooThemes - WordPress Templates (they're pretty self explanatory):
Last but not least, THEMEFOREST.NET this is where I purchased the Lotus Marketing Services Wordpress theme. Here, you are going to find the most themes and the cheapest themes. HOWEVER, keep in mind, you will probably see your same theme on 100 different sites. These themes do not offer the same customization options as some of the others, and for that reason, they are easier for the newbie.
Domain Registration and HostingI literally get asked this on a weekly basis, if not more. I cannot tell you how shocked I am that SO MANY people use www.GoDaddy.com They are NOT for me. They sell to newbies, start them off with a super affordable, basic package, and then you get stuck with the add-ons. From what I know, they have good customer service and if you feel you must, go for it! Here is a link: www.GoDaddy.com
Two web hosting companies I've used myself and I can vouch for:
- I initially started out with FatCow - Small business web hosting. But we had a few issues with their customer service and moved. I am not saying this will happen to you, just explaining what happened to me.
- I currently host about 10 to 15 domains on here and have had no issues in two years -- Bluehost: Best Web Hosting Plan! 300 GB Space, 3,000 GB Bandwidth – only $6.95/mo!
Here are some other domain registration services and hosting services:
Web 2.0 Marketing ToolsWeb Press Releases
Your site is live! Your are ready to sell, blog and promote whatever it is you are here for! Good for you, now what? You need to get the word out, right? How does one drive traffic to their site, that is the age old question. There are ways, many ways, and Web Press releases are just one of the options.
Several web release tools are at your fingertips, like PR Web and PR Newswire. I've used PR Web's basic plan which I found almost worthless. When I used their Advanced Plan ($200) or their Premium Plan ($360), I was picked up by a journalist. If you go with PR Web, use the Advanced Plan or the Premium Plan. Unless you have about $1300+ to spend on a release, you're more than likely not going to use PR Newswire.
To keep it basic, web releases put your information into online news streams like Google News and Yahoo News, so your information (company name, web links) will show up in a search. If you pay more, the reputable sites will host your release on their site for journalists and bloggers to peruse and potentially pick up. If you pay even more, they will release them to a few premier news outlets.
You're going to hear sales people tell you things like "It is better for SEO" and "Our releases are Social Media friendly...a lot of hog wash and a lot of smoke and mirrors. They add a "Share" button to your release, charge you $130 extra, and call it "Social Media friendly". Generally, what happens is, your press release content gets scraped by spam blogs that are loaded up with ads. This does help you generate links back to your site. Does this help your search results? A tiny bit. Do I still use a web release? Yes, I do from time to time - but I still pick up the phone and call journalists when something is really happening.
- Here is the cheaper option 24-7Pressrelease – "Effective press release distribution with results"
- And this company is a partner of PR Newswire eReleases.com - "The Most Effective Press Release Service You Can Use" . I haven't used them but if they're partners with PR Newswire, my guess is they are comparable to PR Web - I'd give them a go.
I used Constant Contact for years, it was one of the first, affordable email services for the masses. I never loved the look/feel of Constant Contact emails. When my list grew beyond a certain number, Constant Contacts pricing almost doubled. They also do not have the capabilities for multiple sign-up lists, which is what I needed most. I manage four sites where people can opt-in for emails and I have to be able to use Mad Mimi email service without mixing up the lists.
I looked into many email marketing services and ended up with Mad Mimi. Mad Mimi offers the best pricing for lists under 5000 ($24 a month but FREE if you have under 100 emails). Their interface and user experience is simple and fun to use. They offer clean designs and templates where you can easily change colors, drop in photos and add links. Literally, a first grader can run an email campaign with Mad Mimi. Their reporting is good, you can see who clicked on what links, who forwarded your emails and how many times they opened each email. A lot like other services. The added benefit its, whenever I need something from Mad Mimi, I tweet them and they reply almost immediately (within regular business hours).
If your email lists have grown beyond a certain number (more than 20,000) and you are sending multiple emails from multiple accounts to various market segments, perhaps it is time to look for a bigger email marketing company. For that, I would recommend iContact.com. iContact provides a robust array of tools to create, send and track your email marketing campaigns. Try it FREE today!
Two other email marketing companies I found, but did not spend too much time researching, but you can check them out: 1) Infusionsoft and see how they stack up to the competition. 2) An email marketing company that claims to be very intuitive and easy to use. It's the only email marketing applications that offers every customer a private IP address - they are called StreamSend
Other Odds and Ends You May Ask Me AboutFonts, Graphics and Other Stuff:
I don't use fonts and graphics all too often but when I do need to find a cool font or when I am working on a project where I need a graphic or clip art. Here are some sources I use:
- Scary Fonts
- Calligraphic Scripts
- Formal Scripts
- Various graphics for sale at cheap prices - GraphicRiver.net
- For stock photography, clip art and animation check out Jupiterimages.com
Let's Finish With - Geeky Stuff and Weird Web Stuff:
- ThinkGeek :: Stuff for Smart Masses
- Create anonymous, disposable email addresses to protect your personal accounts against spam. Anonymizer Nyms
- Hide your IP address with Anonymizer Universal™. Sign up today and secure your online identity!
Dear Lord, this post took me FOREVER to write! And, yes, almost all of these links are affiliate links. Believe me, I guarantee I will make like $.30 for writing this post. I really wrote it because I am tired of having to recite all the information each time someone decides they want to start a blog or a website and want to suck my brain for free information.
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