We’ve used a number of web-based tools to develop Life In The Dog Lane to date, and continue to discover new resources on a regular basis.
We are amazed at the number of terrific new products and services coming online, as well as the constant updates and upgrades to existing tools.
Readers and colleagues have been asking how we’ve built our site in the five months we’ve been at lifeinthedoglane.com, so we thought we’d put together a summary of the web tools we’ve tried out and been happy with so far.
Blogger, then WordPress
Although we started blogging on Blogger’s Blogspot.com platform, we decided to switch to WordPress after having a difficult time generating traffic. Once we began exploring the WordPress world, we quickly noticed two things…a tight blogging community resulting in more traffic and interaction, and the option of blogging on either the WordPress.com or the WordPress.org platforms.
We started on the WordPress.com platform (since that was a free option). Some further research taught us that if we wanted to use our own unique domain name and/or post ads or affiliate links in conjunction with WordPress, we’d have to switch to the WordPress.org platform.
We’ve also kept our WordPress.com site alive, and post periodic updates there as well to take advantage of the blog post distribution aspects within that community.
Both WordPress platforms offer a variety of behind-the-scenes tools – a user dashboard, site statistics, plugins, web tools, and a large support community with access to discussion forums. For more info on the difference between the two WordPress platforms, check out this site.
Users also have access to numerous free themes, and/or themes that can be purchased or upgraded.
Market Samurai helps you to narrow down topics for your site and posts by analyzing the searchability potential of your site’s keywords, the potential for your site and content to generate decent web traffic, and the kind of potential competition that exists in your chosen niche.
The site can also check for available domain names you can purchase for your site, and offers several other analytics-oriented research tools like tracking your rankings on search engines, and offering options for monetizing your site.
Market Samurai offers a terrific suite of tutorial videos on their site, along with many user-generated tutorial videos that are available on YouTube.
Although we don’t have substantial experience with other competing products, we’d recommend Market Samurai as a fairly easy-to-use research tool for bloggers who are starting out with web-research and analytics for the first time. You can get more info here.
Google Trends is a free service provided by Google that allows users to explore trending search topics. It’s kind of neat to find out what people are looking for on the internet and helps tremendously when setting up a new website or coming up with new content for posts.
We purchased our domain name lifeinthedoglane.com through Go Daddy. As one of the more well-known domain name providers out there, Go Daddy’s service is quick and easy to use. There are several contract lengths and levels to choose from, and your domain is up and running within a few minutes. They also offer top-notch support via phone, email, web contact form, and online chat from their website.
When we were web newbies, we didn’t realize we could host our site with the same company that we bought our domain name from. (Experienced web developers, you may insert laughter here). We chose iPage simply based on good ratings in online web and user reviews for web host companies. iPage offers significant promotional discounts on a regular basis, which was what they were doing at the time we signed up. We’ve been pleased with their customer service from day one.
Bluehost is another highly recommended hosting service. It consistently ranks among the preferred web host company listings with well-known and prolific bloggers and businesses. Although we haven’t hosted with them, we plan to try them in the future and did sign up for the Affiliate program.
This site brings together service providers and consumers for the base price of $5. Need a business card designed? $5. How about a logo for your website? $5. Need someone to hold an advertising sign up at an intersection during rush hour? $5.
The business ideas are unique and creative on this site, and you can interact with providers all over the world which can add a lot of efficiency to your work; you can request a project from someone on the other side of the world, head off to bed, and when you wake up, the completed project is waiting in your inbox.
Currency conversion rates apply, and prices do go up depending on the number of revisions you request, or the scope of the project you’d like completed.
So far, we’ve used this service several times for our logo design and business card design. Each project is called a “gig”. Once you’ve requested a gig, you hand $5 to Fiverr (via Paypal or credit card), who holds onto it until the gig is completed to your satisfaction (or until the timeline of the gig runs up), at which point the provider is paid $5 from Fiverr.
We have found Fiverr very easy to deal with, and have come up with a bunch of new ideas for our business just by browsing through the various offers and jobs posted on the site.
Simply put, Fiverr offers solid value for money. It’s a great resource for those online entrepreneurs with a limited budget, or for the die-hard bargain hunters out there.
This service is a network of affiliate programs. You can apply to a number of companies if you are interested in promoting their products on your website.
Shareasale has a central dashboard where you can view the number of clicks and sales that have originated from your site.
An easy-to-use service for finding products and companies related the topic or niche of your site.
One of the more popular email distribution and marketing services available. It’s easy to set up, lots of tutorials are available on their site, and they offer great support. And the first month is only $1.
Need to set up a scheduled email campaign or manage multiple lists of email addresses? How about send a newsletter to a list of subscribers to your website? The Aweber service can get you started with it all.
We use Gmail to manage a number of email address associated with our web presence. Mail is easily searchable, with solid spam filters, and message clustering to keep track of emails related to a given topic. You can easily funnel email from different email addresses into one inbox. Very convenient to minimize the number of times you need to login.
Another free tool Google offers that generates reports on website traffic volume and traffic sources, how long readers spend on your site, how and what they click on, etc.
It’s quite fascinating.
We use Google Docs spreadsheets for keeping track of our business budget. There are easy to use templates built-in and great auto-save features that make tracking expenses fast and easy. It isn’t stored on our computer (although downloading your data is an option), so we’re never at risk of losing precious financial records and we can access the files or update our numbers from anywhere.
Multiple collaborators can work together in real time, and there are lots of public/private sharing settings.
We use this service when we want to store multiple copies of images used on our website (different sizes, orientations, etc.). Storing photos on Photobucket helps keep our upload limit with our hosting account in check. Photobucket is also one of the more popular online photo storage sites, so it integrates seamlessly with most blogging platforms, email marketing programs and social media outlets.
This free service allows you to upload your photos to edit, create collages, add banners and graphic or text overlays, and save them for use on your site. They don’t store your photos, you do. Once you hit save, they’re yours again.
Want to know what your readers would like to have you write about? Would you like get some demographic info about your audience?
SurveyMonkey makes creating a simple online survey a breeze. Sign up, generate a list of questions and a format (drop-down, checkboxes, etc.), and then paste the output code onto your website.
You can log in later to look at click rates, user stats, and most importantly the answers to your curious questions.
Wanna see a sample? Here’s the one we use to get in tune with our readers.
More Tools To Come
We are always researching new tools and updates to current ones. We’ll post these as we discover them – in a Business section of our website.
So check back, leave some comments, and let us know what you recommend.
We also encourage you to do your own research on the tools that are available out there. We’ve outlined what’s worked for us.
If you decide to check out the products and services we’ve discussed by clicking through the links provided, note that we may receive a commission. We’re proud to have become affiliates with a number of the companies because we’ve been so pleased with their products and services. We’d love for you to discover them too. If you do choose to sign up for these products and services via our links, thank you.
Leave some comments about the tools you use when you’re online. What resources do you recommend to others? We’re all ears (and so is our dog).