WEB HOSTING – Siteground is who I personally use and I looked FOR MONTHS before choosing them. I looked at dozens of hosts, scoured the internet for “genuine” reviews (harder to find than you might think), cross-referenced those with Yelp reviews (which most hosts with US offices have; you just have to know their home city to find the right Yelp page) and cross-referenced that with social media comments. There are a boatload of providers out there and while there may be many that provide a great service and value, there appear to many that do not.
There is one huge conglomerate called Endurance International Group (EIG) and they own many smaller companies (see the complete list HERE). I have not used any of their providers personally but based on what I’ve read online, I would probably not use any of them in the future.
The general impression appears to be that they are huge and impersonal, low on service and big on just getting folks locked in with advertised low monthly prices (even though most don’t actually bill monthly) and then nickel and dime up after that. You see their sites recommended a lot (such as Bluehost) because they pay big affiliate commissions to those that do the recommending.
Full acknowledgment, once I picked my host, I did sign up for their affiliate program too, but since they are the only web host I use personally (we use GoDaddy at my 9 to 5 and I don’t have any major issues with them), I will only recommend who I use and if my satisfaction changes, that recommendation will cease.
My affiliate links still get you the best deal out there but I do get a small commission for sending you there way; a true win-win!
FREE WORDPRESS THEMES FOR YOUR WEBSITE – As with hosts, I looked at hundreds and actually tried dozens of website WordPress themes before settling on the one I use now (called Astrid, which is also my oldest daughter’s name!).
Here’s the company that makes the theme I use – aThemes. I love my theme and have confidence in this company. Many others I tried aren’t responsive (meaning they don’t change when a user opens it on a mobile device), some weren’t customizable enough and some were basically just baiting you to upgrade to a paid theme. Being a Middle Class Dad just getting his site off the ground, I didn’t have a lot of extra cash to pay for a “premium” theme (plus as many bad ones as I saw, I also wasn’t convinced that even if I paid it would be perfect for me).
These folks have great free (and paid) themes and I’ve been very happy. My only caveat here is that when WordPress automatically updated to version 4.6, my theme did not handle the transition well; meaning it no longer looked good and I had to revert back to the previous version of WordPress. I imagine compatibility issues like that happen, and hopefully something they fix soon.
SOCIAL SCHEDULER FOR FACEBOOK, TWITTER & LINKEDIN – If you have a blog then posting to all the main social networks is a must! But Facebook’s optimum times are 1-4pm, Twitter noon to 3 and LinkedIn is early evening! Unless you sit a computer 24/7 you MUST use a scheduling program to schedule those posts in advance!
Hootsuite is who I use for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Unfortunately they don’t work with Pintrest and Instagram is problematic for scheduling. But for those 3, Hootsuite is great and you can start at the free level and still schedule dozens of posts weeks in advance.
I highly recommend Hootsuite for your main social scheduling!
SOCIAL SCHEDULER FOR PINTREST – Pintrest is its own beast in terms of social media. Unlike FB, Twitter and others where if you blink you miss it, Pintrest is more like a place where folks bookmark (ie: pin) stuff they want to come back to later.
They organize those pins on what they call boards (basically category folders). Thus unlike those other sites, Pintrest traffic can grow and grow weeks or even months later!
Scheduling for Pintrest is best late afternoon early evening so for scheduling my pins, I only use BoardBooster. I’ve tried Tailwind, Buffer and Viralwoot, but so far, I’ve not found anything that works as well, with a large free trial period with a VERY low entry price when you sign up. Once your trial is done, it’s only $5 bucks/month for 500 pins. You can’t beat that (and I’ve tried!)
I highly recommend BoardBooster for your Pintrest scheduling!
EMAIL LIST PROVIDER – If you’re starting a web site, starting to collect email addresses and building your list is a must; right from the get go. Now there are some great ones out there I’m sure you’ve heard of; Aweber & Convert Kit being the 2 biggies. I haven’t used either and currently both are out of my price range, but eventually I plan to check them out.
In my 9 to 5 job I use Constant Contact and I like them – great for segmenting lists, easy access to open and click through rates and easy to design and schedule campaigns and also post to social sites, but starting out here with basically no budget I wanted something free until I grow big enough to warrant paying for a higher end service. Thus, I started with Mail Chimp but recently switched to MailerLite.
MailerLite is awesome and I find it a lot easier to use than MailChimp and it does a lot of things MailChimp doesn’t do at the free level. I can have multiple opt in pages, boxes and links which all feed different lists and then I can have a series of custom auto-responders (automatic emails) which go out over any period of time I wish; very awesome! MailerLite ceases being free once I cross over 1000 subscribers, but even then it’s only $10/month and hopefully I’ll be monetizing my site by then to more than cover than minor cost.
If you dream of the “biggies” but can’t afford them, I strongly suggest taking a look at MailerLite (and this is an affiliate link, but it’s still free to you!)
As a footnote if you are looking to start a website and don’t know where to begin and even the above recommendations seem daunting, I do have 2 posts that cover the basics in great detail.