In my time as a blogger and web designer, I’ve learned a lot about the various tools that can make life easier. Tons of people (who are way smarter than me) have created plugins, applications, and websites that are a blogger’s best friend.
Below is a list of various products that are AMAZING and worth the investment. I’ll be posting in-depth reviews of each, which will be linked from this page, to give you an idea of why I love them and how I use them for my blogs.
Please note: Most of these are affiliate links, meaning I will get a small referral fee if you choose to use the product. However, I only recommend things that I actually use and enjoy. I’m not going to send you to some crappy product that doesn’t work.
Hosting and Domains
Nuts and Bolts Web Hosting – Can’t talk about hosting without pimping my own stuff a little! I offer super affordable rates and personalized service. My hosting clients receive free migrations, cPanel-based hosting, weekly backups, and a ton of other perks for a low monthly or annual rate.
HostGator – Before I started my own web hosting company, all my websites were hosted through HostGator. I was attracted to them because of their competitive pricing, and I stayed because of the amazing customer service. Any time I had a question, I got a prompt response, usually with a link to a video tutorial that showed me exactly what to do. My sites had little to no downtime, which means my readers didn’t get errors or weirdness when they visited.
Name.com – I use Name.com to buy all my domains. They have the best search interface I’ve ever seen – if the domain I want is already taken, they provide suggestions for related terms or phrases that are available. Name.com makes it easy to manage all the domains I own without spending hours trying to figure out where to click.
Elegant Themes – I use Elegant Themes ALL the time – the original version of this website was created using one of their themes, as are many of my clients’ sites. For $39 a year, you get access to nearly 80 premium themes, as well as support forums where you can get advice on customizations. I can’t recommend Elegant Themes highly enough.
The Genesis Framework – I also use Genesis for many of my design clients as well as my personal blog. The Genesis framework is fast, has built-in SEO, and is very stable and well-supported. Once you own the framework, you can use it on any site you’d like, and child themes are only $25 each.
WP Touch Pro – WP Touch is a plugin for WordPress that creates a separate version of your site for people visiting on smartphones or tablets. There is a free version, which I have used and liked, but the Pro version allows you to customize every aspect of the mobile site for your readers. I’ve been very pleased with the results and the ease of setting things up – no coding required!
Gravity Forms – Gravity Forms is, hands down, the best forms plugin I’ve ever used. With tons of add-ons for things like Paypal integration, mailing lists (Aweber, MailChimp, and many more), and even file uploads, Gravity Forms allows you to make any kind of form you want quickly and easily. While the developer version is a little pricy, you can get Gravity Forms for one site for just $39.
Formidable Forms Pro – Formidable has a drag and drop interface, easy shortcodes to place your forms anywhere, and forms that don’t look like a toddler made them. The pro version gives you tons more options, including add-ons that make your forms perform exactly the way you want them to. There’s also a free version if you’d like to try it out.
MBP Bring My Blog Visitors Back – This plugin allows you to add custom headers, footers, related posts, social sharing buttons, and more to your RSS feed. (See my full review of this plugin here.) Basically, if you want to make your RSS feed stand out and include things like copyright notices or logos, this plugin will help you get started. It’s super easy to use and set up!
MaxCDN – If you want a lightning fast website that loads almost instantly, MaxCDN is the way to get it. I use MaxCDN for all my sites – it’s a service that stores copies of your site’s static files (images, scripts, stylesheets, etc.) all across the globe to enable visitors from anywhere to get your content as quickly as possible. You won’t believe the difference a CDN makes! Use promo code NUTSANDBOLTS for 25% off your order.
iStock Photo – This is, hands down, the best place to get stock photos for your blog or website. They aren’t free, but you can find really cheap photos (especially if you just need a small size, like the images I use in my posts). I use iStock because they have an enormous selection and I can always find the picture I need.
Morguefile – Morguefile is my go-to site for free stock photos that don’t require attribution. If you just do a Google search for an image, you risk violating copyright and getting in tons of trouble. With Morguefile, you know that every image is there for your (non-commercial) use and you will never be sued for putting a picture on your blog.
Dropbox – If you aren’t using Dropbox to manage your files, you’re really missing out! Just for creating an account, you get 2 GB of cloud storage space. What does that mean? Let’s say you’re working on a document or looking at a picture on your home computer, and you’ll need it later when you visit a friend. Instead of putting it on a flash drive or emailing it to yourself, you can put it in your Dropbox folder. Then you can access it from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. I LOVE Dropbox, and the fact that it’s free makes it even better!