The Tools We Use to Run Websites

You need a lot of great services to run a website effectively. You need a domain, somewhere to host your content, methods to send out emails, and you need to see how effective you are being.

It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds, there are many choices, and what you do with one service can affect how you use another. Many people often go for the cheapest solution, or they use the company which spends the most money on advertising (see GoDaddy). Unfortunately those usually aren’t the right solutions.

This is a list of the services that we use to create a website, it’s been honed and refined over two decades into the services we find most reliable.

Domain Registration

There are a ton of domain registrars out there and the default for most people is GoDaddy.  However I find GoDaddy’s tools confusing, they are constantly trying to upsell you, and year two and beyond registrations are often more expensive than your first year.

We use Hover, they’re a Canadian company, the tools for managing domains are clear and easy to use, and best of all they charge the same amount year, after year. The only downfall is that they bill in US Dollars.

Website Hosting

Again, many people use GoDaddy for website hosting but I am not a fan. I find they over-sell their shared hosting which results in slow websites.

For managed WordPress hosting, we use and recommend DreamPress from DreamHost, it’s faster than the other solutions out there, and at $20/month it is among the cheapest prices out there.  We host All New Comics on DreamPress.

For regular shared hosting we prefer SiteGround, their packages are affordable although their control panel isn’t as intuitive as some competitors. We have had great experience with SiteGround to date, and their site speeds are very good. The NorthIQ site is hosted on SiteGround.

Application Hosting

There are cheaper solutions out there, but for ease and simplicity, we find that Digital Ocean is the best solution. With an amazing interface, intuitive controls, and full control over the servers you are building.  This is advanced level stuff, but Digital Ocean gives you full control over everything. The best part is that there is a TON of tutorials out there on Digital Ocean. We have built and maintain Manage Comics on Digital Ocean, and from time to time we will spin up another server to do WordPress testing using Digital Ocean.

Email Marketing

There are a few choices when it comes to email marketing. Convertkit, Constant Contact, and Cyber Impact are all great choices. There are higher end solutions like Marketo and Hubspot for lead marketing automation.

We have found that MailChimp is easy to administer, has a great free tier, and has full automation. MailChimp is so easy to use that creating beautiful, great looking emails is ridiculously simple.

Email Delivery

If you’re managing your own website, you need to make sure that emails from that site are getting out effectively. If people stop getting emails (especially if you’re running an ecommerce site), then you need to look into an email delivery service.

There are a ton of great services out there including Mandrill and Sendgrid, but we’ve had great success with MailGun, which is free for up to 10,000 emails a month.  This is perfect for most WordPress sites. We’re using this on the TimberBlock website to make sure their digital plan books arrive at their destination.

Landing Pages

Again, there’s a lot of choices here, but the easiest one for us, with the most features, at the lowest price point is UnBounce. We find building landing pages like our NorthIQ Smarter Business Mailing List page is simple and effective. It integrates with WordPress and Mail Chimp, which we really appreciate.

Analytics and Search Engine Marketing

We use three different tools here, two free and one paid. For pure web analytics, Google Analytics is a must have and every website should have this. It’s free from Google, and it’s ridiculously powerful. You should also set up Google Search Console which will help you understand how your website is being seen by web crawlers.

Finally, for competitive analysis we recommend SEM Rush, which allows you to view your competition and see how you are ranking on organic and paid search terms. More importantly you can see what campaigns they are paying for, and get an idea of how effective they are with those campaigns. This service is not cheap, but we find it effective.

The Takeaway

Building a website requires a lot of moving parts, and while there are plenty of different solutions, these are the ones that work best for us.

We’d love to hear from you about what solutions you are using and how they’re working out for you.

 

Author: Brian

Brian Garside has been building websites for two decades and has worked on some of the largest websites in Canadian media. He focuses on creating good user experiences and building websites that make their owners money. Brian is certified in blogging and content marketing from Shaw Academy.