In online business, there are many tools and resources that you’ll need to effectively run your websites, from getting started with the right domain name provider to planning and implementing content on your website to promoting it.
I’ve been doing affiliate marketing for over 12 years and I’ve used a lot of resources some of which I still use and some I no longer use or recommend.
On this page, I’m going to be listing the resources that I currently use everyday to run my online business. I’ll also list alternatives that I’ve either used or thoroughly researched. Sometimes you will have a number of choices but can only use one. When necessary also, I’m mention resources that you should probably avoid, with reason.
If you’re looking for recommendations, I hope that you find something here that works for you and if you have a better one then by all means, don’t hesitate to let me know about it.
I’ve used quite a few web hosts since putting up my first website back in 2007. Not all web hosts are built the same and to be honest, all of them are going to have some sort of complaints by someone. But there are some very good web hosts out there.
Since 2007, I’ve used Bluehost, Hostgator and Wealthy Affiliate web hosting. I have done some in depth research into a number of other web hosts as well. Currently I use Wealthy Affiliate managed WordPress hosting for all my websites.
Wealthy Affiliate Hosting
As a premium member of Wealthy Affiliate, I get access to some pretty awesome web hosting which is a feature built into the membership so that you won’t have to manage your business outside of Wealthy Affiliate. The learning platform aims to be a self-contained way for people to learn and manage their online business without all the outside noise.
I used to not always like Wealthy Affiliate hosting because it wasn’t always great. In fact, in the beginning when they had just launched it, the hosting was terrible (sites would go down regularly and be offline and it wasn’t very fast). However, they’ve completely revamped things and it is comparable to some of the expensive managed WordPress hosting sites out there.
They are constantly adding features that make your hosting better, more reliable and faster. I actually moved all my websites to Wealthy Affiliate from Bluehost after hosting just one website for testing. Also I had an incident at Bluehost which prompted me to make the move. I’ve been happy with this hosting since.
One con of Wealthy Affiliate hosting though is that it’s only available to members of Wealthy Affiliate so you’d have to be a member to use it. If you have no intention of being a member of an affiliate marketing learning community then this web host isn’t for you. You may want to check out an alternative.
SiteGround is my alternative pick for web hosting and if I wasn’t hosting all my websites at Wealthy Affiliate, I’d most likely go with this host. I’ve thoroughly researched them and even had a test site set up to experience the web hosting service they provide.
SiteGround does a lot of things right for a web hosting company and they’re known for their fast loading times and their helpful, fast and friendly customer service. They’re one of the services that get a lot of great reviews because they simply deliver some of the best all-round hosting online.
The only complaint I hear about SiteGround is about the renewal price which after the initial discount on the service seems to be a significant increase. Normally, hosting starts at $3.95 per month on their cheapest plan (Start Up) billed at terms of 1, 2 or 3 years. The normal pricing is about $11.95/m and this is the price it is renewed at. It may not be the cheapest web hosting but it certainly has a lot of value which is worth paying for.
I Would Not Use…
As I’ve said before I’ve used Bluehost and *I would only recommend them if you’re looking for cheap web hosting and you’re just starting out. This is probably the only time a Bluehost account is the most valuable for many. As you build your business and start to grow, you’ll want to migrate away from them.
There are lots of complaints about Bluehost but they’re also one of the most recommended online. I’ve had a bad experience with them and this is why I migrated my sites and don’t really recommend them anymore.
But this isn’t the only reason. The fact that they fall under the Endurance International Group is enough for me to not recommend them along with other sister companies like Hostgator, iPage, Hostmonster, Fat Cow, Arvixe, A Small Orange and close to 60 others.
I also would not use GoDaddy for web hosting. They’re the absolute worst at web hosting and I’ve seen enough nightmare stories to not even want to try them out. Definitely, do not host a WordPress website with Godaddy.
Domain names are a must-have if you’re serious about doing business online. They come with all types of endings like .net, .biz, .org, .us, .name, and a million more but the best ones are .coms. It’s tough to get a short, generic but perfect name like website.com or business.com because those have been long snapped up in the earliest days of the internet so your best bet is to combine words and hopefully have it work out as a brand name for your website or business.
I combined a color and a noun to get “orange sunsets” but it’s perfect for what I blog about because my audience dreams about that day when they could relax by the beach and watch the sunsets not having to worry about money.
There are a lot of places online where you could find and register domain names and those places include dedicated domain name registrars who deal primarily with domain names. Web hosting companies also offer domain name registrations and so do website builder services. There are just a lot of places where you could register a domain name.
I don’t like registering my domains where I host, just in case I have to switch hosting – I’d like to be done completely with that company and don’t want my domain name tied up there. I’d rather deal with a registrar that deals primarily with domain names.
Here’s what I use for registering domain names and what I don’t recommend that you use.
This is my favorite go-to website for registering domain names. I used to purchase domains from Godaddy for $12, $15, $9, er… I just didn’t know sometimes what the actual price of a domain was at Godaddy but they were getting rather expensive after a while.
So I moved all of them to Namesilo as soon as I found out about this wonderful domain name registrar.
See Namesilo deals primarily (almost exclusively) with domain names and they don’t sidetrack the customers with confusing upsells at every second of the buying process. They’re also very transparent about domain name prices and renewal prices and you’ll always know the price of your domain at both stages.
They’re also one of the cheapest domain name registrars at the moment and you can always get a domain name (.com) at $8.99. As a member of their discount program (you have to opt into this through your dashboard), you can get domains for even less (about $8.49 last time I checked).
Right now, if you want to get a domain from Namesilo, as a reader of my website, you can also use the coupon code ORANGESUN1 to get $1 off on new registrations.
SiteDomains from Wealthy Affiliate
As a member of Wealthy Affiliate, I have access to quite a bit of resources that I can use to build my business without leaving the site. These resources were made by affiliates with affiliates in mind.
One of those services I can use is a domain registration service called SiteDomains. Since Wealthy Affiliate also provides web hosting, it only makes sense that you would be able to register domain names there as well.
Even though NameSilo is my top choice for registering domain names, there is also a great reason why I also use SiteDomains and that is because I can more or less get a domain there for free. Well, I’d still have to pay for it but I use credits which is a sort of currency used within the community that you can get from using the affiliate program, referring people to the site, using WA exclusive services like SiteComments and SiteFeedback and also from your referrals buying domain names.
So after you accumulate enough credits, you can spend them on things like domain names, membership fees and so on. You can also gift other members.
I’ve bought a few domains this way from SiteDomains. A .com costs about $15 so I’d have to get about 30 credits to buy a domain name and also renew it when the time comes.
I Would Not Use…
There are a lot of reasons why I wouldn’t use Godaddy but simply put, their domain names are too expensive although you can get the occasional discount by searching for a coupon. However, they will hit you hard on the renewal fee.
Godaddy also does a lot of upsells that you don’t even need. Nothing wrong with upselling but I’m sure there’s a better way of doing it than interrupting you at every turn of the sales process. I have a better experience with NameSilo – I want a domain name, I just pay for it and get started.
I also had a bad experience with 1&1 before I found Godaddy back when I was just getting started. They treated me like I’m some kinda digital criminal for wanting to buy a domain name so I said eff ’em. Hope they didn’t expect me to use their services after that or tell people good things about them.
Network Solutions doesn’t seem to show any kind of pricing for their domain names. I looked all over the site but couldn’t find much info. I included them here because I have heard that domain names (.coms) cost a lot more than they should here.
Even if you did register a domain name at Network Solutions for under $10, it would cost you about 4 times that to renew your domain name. It’s the most expensive domain name registrar I’ve encountered.
I have a handful of websites and once I start on a new website, I pick a WordPress theme and then I rarely change it. I don’t need a lot of themes but I need quality ones to begin with.
There are a few premium theme providers that I like and that’s because they produce quality WordPress themes that have lots of customization options and settings you can easily change to make your website look unique and suitable to your own needs.
If you’re going to choose a WordPress theme, just make sure that it is mobile-friendly and is updated and works with the latest version of WordPress. Those are the bare minimum requirements.
If you want to make sure you’re getting a good theme then you just can’t go wrong with any of the providers that I mention below. These are what I’m using with at least one of my websites.
The theme that I’m currently using on this website is called Blocksy. It’s an incredible free theme created by Creative Themes.
You can read my full review of Blocksy here.
I previously used Astra on this website before changing it to Blocksy. Astra is a very popular free WordPress theme which you can find in the WordPress theme repository and it works pretty good as is.
The theme has a lot of customization options and you can get even more (a lot more) if you upgrade your theme to the paid version, Astra Pro. Astra is so good that it has over 500,000 active installations and a near-perfect 5 star ratings from nearly 3000 users. That is a rare and amazing feat.
It was based on those numbers that I decided to try Astra and I was very happy with the theme.
If you use a page builder plugin like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Divi or any of the many available right now, you’ll be happy with Astra because it was built for compatibility and works with just about everything. Astra even has Starter Sites so that you can change the design to something else and then customize from there.
Despite using Blocksy, Astra is still one of my favorite themes at the moment. I also like offerings from these other guys.
The first premium WordPress theme I ever bought was from StudioPress. I had to buy the Genesis theme first because that’s the framework and then I had to buy the child theme that I wanted to use which was the now discontinued Prose theme.
Over the years I’ve bought maybe 4 or 5 other themes including one I used to build a real estate website for a local business.
There are a number of things I love about StudioPress themes but my favorite is the built in SEO – you do not need to have an installed plugin to SEO your website. There are fields for general SEO built into the theme’s settings and fields for each page’s SEO right below the page/post editor. I haven’t seen any other theme provider do this without having to use a plugin.
I also like the designs, which are very clean and has lots of white space. You can also build landing pages by choosing the page type inside the editor which is great.
You can buy StudioPress theme individually but you need to purchase the Genesis Framework theme once. Or you can purchase the All-themes package and get every theme available plus future themes for a one time price. Customers who host with WP Engine also get access to all StudioPress themes since the company is owned by that web host.
MyThemeShop is another great WordPress themes provider that I love to use.
Almost every time they release a new theme, I want to use it. The themes are beautiful, clean and have lots of options and features. And a lot of the features are built in and would otherwise need a plugin in other themes.
For example, the themes feature a related posts section and you can choose in the settings how you want to display your related posts. I haven’t seen any other themes with built in related posts – you would need a plugin to handle that job.
Another built-in feature is social sharing. Most themes you would have to use a social sharing plugin for this but you can just choose where and how you want to display your buttons on each post and your MyThemeShop theme now has social sharing options without a plugin.
There are lots of other reasons why I love using MyThemeShop themes and I use a couple on some sites that I have.
Keyword research tools give you numbers – numbers that indicate which keywords are worth targeting when producing content. However, they can be a lot more useful as some do have a lot more built in features that can help you with your marketing.
There are quite a bit of these around, some free and some paid. I’m not a big fan of keyword tools as I try to get my content ideas from doing niche research and knowing my audience. The ones I use below are useful for other things other than seeing the numbers.
Members of Wealthy Affiliate can access this built in keyword research tool from the members dashboard where you get limited data for free and unlimited access for a premium fee. The free version though can work for most people especially if you’re like me and you’re not so reliant on these tool.
Jaaxy has powerful features, some of which I’ve never seen in other keyword tools before and these features alone can be worth getting access to Jaaxy for your research.
Besides getting search data and knowing how likely you are to rank for a certain keyword (by knowing the QSR of a keyword), here are a rundown of some of the other features in Jaaxy.
If you want to test drive Jaaxy, you can try searching in the widget below.
Answer The Public
Answer the Public is a visual keyword research tool, displaying it’s data as graphical presentations. This tool is great for getting content ideas and you can see what questions are being asked about a topic and what terms people are searching for by using a number of things like questions, comparisons, prepositions and alphabeticals (similar to Alphabet Soup in the above-mentioned Jaaxy tool.
I love using Answer the Public when I want to get additional ideas on a topic or to see what content I might be missing when writing about a particular topic.
Occasionally, well actually, every time you publish a post on your website, you’ll need photos to break up the text and make your content eye-catching. There are a lot of options available to you including using your smartphone to shoot your own pictures.
Shooting your own picture gives your photos and content that personal edge and is probably the best option as long as your picture is related to your content.
Aside from this, you can also use stock photo sites that allow you to reuse photos under the Creative Commons license. Your photos will be used by everyone but it’s still a great way to spruce up your content.
While there are tons of good stock photo sites online where you can get free photos to use on your website, I use Unsplash because they have very good quality photos, you don’t need an account and you can find a photo on just about any topic.
Generally, you don’t need to credit the photographer but it’s encouraged and Unsplash makes provisions to do so. I use the photos to make blog graphics or just to add to a post as the featured image.
Another way to get relevant photos for your content is to use screenshots. Screenshots are particularly relevant for my content because I talk about other websites online that you can use to make money or to help build your business. Screenshots are also easy to take and edit and you don’t have to credit them to anyone.
In the next section, I’ll tell you what I use for screenshot software.
A screenshot is a great, easy way to get pictures into your content. You can use them to add photos of a website you’re reviewing, of a digital product you bought or to show the steps of a process when doing a tutorial. You’ll rarely get into trouble for them but just make sure that you’re not breaking any rules or violating any terms that you make be bound by.
For screenshots, there are several ways you can do them. Here’s what I use.
Greenshot can capture an area on the screen, or the entire screen and then it opens your capture in an editor where you can manipulate your capture.
Most of the times, I only edit by resizing the capture to a more manageable size and then adding a drop-shadow effect before saving. You can also crop, rotate, obfuscate, add a border, highlight, add a counter (for tutorials), add speech bubbles, text boxes, draw shapes, arrows and lines and open your image into external software like MS Paint and Microsoft Office software.
It’s interface is simple and you can do screenshots, save and edit them in seconds.
Sometimes I notice that I’m better able to capture certain screenshots by just printing the screen but hitting the keyboard button PrtSc.
When you do this the capture is copied to your system’s clipboard and then you can then open it in an editor like MS Paint and edit it or save it in a folder. With Greenshot installed, when you hit PrtSc, you can get the option to select the area on the screen you want to capture and then open the capture in Greenshot. So this is one way to launch Greenshot – by hitting that button.
If you don’t have Greenshot installed though, it’s still pretty easy to just print the screen, copy it to your clipboard, open it in something like Paint and then edit it there or save it then edit it somewhere else.
To make your websites, the content and your social media properties look more attractive to visitors, you will need to have graphics such as post feature photos, banners, headers, cover photos and so on.
If you’re not a designer, don’t worry because they’re actually much easier to do than you think. Here’s what I use.
To do the blog graphic that’s featured at the top of this post and most of my images, I use a site called Canva that anyone can sign up for free to design their own stuff.
Canva is really easy to use and allows you to create the exact size graphic you need for any social network. From Facebook covers, to Twitter headers and Instagram posts and YouTube headers, there are templates for just about every type of graphic you need at the right size.
I also use Canva to create flyers for events outside of affiliate marketing and this could be a great side hustle for anyone who is interested. Canva has tutorials that will show you how to get started quickly.
In a nutshell, the process is simple. Choose from the many templates on the website and then customize them with your photos or stocks from Canva, add your text and other design elements. Then just download in the format you need and that’s it. There’s also an option to upgrade which allows you to use unlimited design elements, magically resize your graphics and a lot more but the free option can be just good enough.
Video marketing, especially with YouTube is important in today’s current marketing climate. More people consume video now more than ever so integrating video marketing into your strategy is a must.
I recently started doing video marketing and there are some tools and resources that I go to whenever I need to make a video.
This is a great video editing software from Wondershare. This video editor is free to try but you can’t export the finished video without paying.
While there are lots of free and open source video editors available, I found a lot of them which I tested either very complicated to use or I didn’t like the transitions or essential features.
Filmora X costs $39 a year or less if you find a coupon but it was by far the easiest to learn and use for a beginner like me and it has royalty free music and loads of exciting transitions so I didn’t mind getting the full version.
This text-to-speech converter was made for video marketers and features some of the best human sounding speech an artificially intelligent machine could spit out. No robotic sounds and it’s easy to use.
You can read my full Speechelo review here to see how it works and more on what I think about it.
WordPress plugins extend the functionality on your website and help you get more done than you could with an out-of-the-box install. I try to keep installed plugins at a minimum, only installing plugins that I absolutely can’t do without.
Here are some essential plugins that I normally install and use on my sites.
All In One SEO
WordPress will still do fine without an SEO plugin but if you want to fine-tune your SEO then you will need an SEO plugin like All In One SEO. With AIOSEO, you can set up your website’s site-wide SEO and get each page and post with the proper title and description you want to display in the search engines.
I found that without filling in the post specific settings especially the description, then the search engines will end up displaying the FTC disclosure notice I have on each post which doesn’t help much if I want to rank well. So having an SEO plugin helps to get the exact description you want displayed.
It also helps that you can use the plugin to generate a sitemap, add your Google Analytics ID to track your performance and also to verify Google Search Console and other webmaster tools.
If I’m using themes from StudioPress though, I usually omit this plugin because SEO is built right into those themes. I’ll probably just need to add a sitemap plugin to generate a sitemap.
Pretty Link allows you to shorten affiliate links and make them look like they’re coming from your website. So you can turn and ugly affiliate link like https://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=1320451&u=627404&m=41388&urllink=&afftrack=example into https://orangesunsets.com/studiopress.
Pretty Link not only shortens and makes your affiliate links more memorable but you can also track their performance right in your WordPress dashboard so that is another reason why you’d want to use this plugin.
And if for some reason your affiliate stops working, you don’t need to hunt down all the places on your website where you put that link. All you would need to do is change the destination url so that when someone clicks on your pretty link, the link would still work with the alternative destination.
I need a contact page on all of my websites and the best way to set those up is to have the WP Forms plugin installed. WP Forms makes it easy to build a simple contact form for your page and simple to deploy and manage it.
You can also use the plugin to do more complex forms but I usually just need it for the contact page. The Lite version works fine for me. For more complex forms, you can upgrade and be able to get more out of the plugin.
I love WordPress’ Gutenberg editor because I can make my pages pretty and add elements into posts that I couldn’t with the old editor. But some of the blocks aren’t so great or have limited design.
Stackable is a plugin that lets you add even more blocks and also has better alternative blocks to the ones already in Gutenberg.
The ones I like and use the most are the:
There are other alternatives to Stackable that I’ve tried such as the Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg plugin which has some blocks that I like but somehow don’t like the way they’re displayed.
Keeping a list of content ideas and organizing them so that you can keep your website up to date with fresh content is important. A notebook or content calendar works for most people but there are also a number of different options. Here’s what I use.
I use a good ol’ fashion notebook (pen and paper) to record my daily schedule and sometimes to jot down ideas but to really organize all those ideas and get them done, I put everything in a desktop app called Trello.
The Trello app also has an android companion which keeps everything in sync and you can also access your boards in your browser. Trello makes things easier because you can make lists and give them a name to keep everything organized and move things around depending on whether they’re urgent, or in the process of being done or if they’re done. The app was really meant for team collaboration but you can use the app however you want to.
For example, I have a board for each of my websites and also an app for stuff like my hobbies. These boards have helped me get better at what I do and helped me get things done.
The best thing about Trello is that you can integrate third party apps such as Gmail. I have a Trello button in Gmail where if I get an email that inspires me to do some content about, I can just hit the button and make some notes and then it creates a card inside the relevant Trello board.
It’s a nice app for managing content and organizing your ideas.
These are just some of the resources that I use in my effort to build my online business. They’re useful to me and hopefully, they can be useful to you if you’re searching for something to get the job done. There are also many other options that may or may not be better that you can use. It’s all about what works for you and these work for me at the moment.