Some of the green links below are affiliate links which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on these links, I may receive a small commission. This will not change the price you pay, but I will appreciate your support very much.
Whilst there are many Content Management Systems (CMS) out there, including Wix and Squarespace, I only use and recommend WordPress. If you are planning on using WordPress, it’s important to understand that there are two versions, each operating slightly differently to one another. Your choice will dictate what you can and can’t do on your site.
WordPress.com is a free, basic version that has some significant limitations in terms of what you can build on your site and what it can be used for. Put simply, WordPress.com is best for hobby bloggers and certainly not for anyone who wants to monetise their site, and to be able to customise it.
WordPress.org is the platform I use and recommend. To use WordPress.org you must buy a domain, self-host (sign up with a hosting company) and find a theme (either free or paid). WordPress is a simple platform to use once you get used to it. If you want to monetise you site in any way, including using advertising, you must use WordPress.org.
However, if you don’t have the time or technical skills to create your website, check out my website creation service.
website domain names
The hardest part of this process is deciding on your website name and then seeing if it is available for purchase. Once you’ve done that, the rest is easy. There are many companies who sell domain names. Often your web host will also sell them, which makes the accounting and administrative side of it much easier.
Here are some of the domain name companies I use and recommend.
NameSilo – Cheap domain names (in USD) with a good reminder service to ensure you don’t miss your annual payment, or you can set up a recurring payment. I use NameSilo for some of my .com website domain names. Find out if your domain name is available here.
If you are looking for Australian domain names in particular, NetRegistry is a reputable service, and also one that I use. The down side is that NetRegistry like to increase their rates on renewal.
WPX Hosting – WPX Hosting is who I use to host many of my websites and I also have domain names registered with them as well. They are easy to purchase, have a good recurring payment and reminder service, and great support if needed. Check out their domains here.
Web hosting can make or break your website, and sometimes you as well. Poor website hosting impacts speed, can increase downtime, and increase your frustration levels. Sometimes, their levels of service are quite poor and if you are someone who needs solid technical assistance, you could be left wanting.
Buying cheap hosting should not be your driving force if you want a successful website. Looking for the best deal is important, but should include such factors as where the servers are based (and where your audience is based), server speed, customer service and technical assistance, quality of backups, and of course, price. When it comes to price, there are several web hosting companies who will attract website owners with ridiculously low initial offers, and mulitply their rate upon renewal, sometimes up to 400%.
I have used and recommend the following web hosting companies.
WPX Hosting – I have been using this company for many years, for several websites and have not once had an issue with them. WPX has customer care (I call it care as in my opinion it is much better than customer support) that operates 24/7, via email or via their web portal. WPX also provide free SSL certificates.
With servers in the US and Europe, I can move my websites around depending on my audience. They will do free migrations of your site from another host. In the four plus years I have been with them, they have never increased their annual rate, and offer a discount for paying annually. Whilst definitely not the cheapest plans around, they also aren’t the most expensive and offer excellent value for money.
Learn more about WPX and their hosting plans here.
VentraIP – a Melbourne, Australia based company with excellent customer service and excellent package prices. Also providing a discount for annual payments, they offer incredible monthly rates for web hosting, and often have discounts throughout the year. Customer service is available via live chat on their portal and email. VentraIP only have Australian servers and are an excellent choice for website owners with an Australian audience. VentraIP also provide free SSL certificates.
Learn more about VentraIP and their hosting plans here.
WPEngine are a global hosting provider and have also expanded rapidly into Australia and New Zealand. WPEngine also now own the StudioPress brand, a significant and well respected brand in the WordPress industry.
Learn more about WPEngine web hosting here.
Performance Foundry – When I first started blogging all those years ago, I signed up with one of the cheap and nasty web hosts. After I had spent way too many hours either waiting online for a tech person to talk to me, or, having them blow up my site one too many times, I realised I had made one of the first and crucial new blogger mistakes. I found Performance Foundry, who showed me what a professional web host looked like, and for almost four years, I never found the need to go anywhere else.
Performance Foundry are at the top end of web hosting when it comes to the money you will outlay. Whilst not for the faint of heart, Performance Foundry offer more than just hosting, with a team of highly experienced technical people to assist you and your website. The team is laregely based in the northern hemisphere, so if you are southern hemi based, there will be a delay on the support side.
Learn more about Performance Foundry and their hosting plans here.
Looking for a website theme is like opening Pandora’s box. There are squillions of them, both free and paid. I always recommend a paid theme as this provides you with ongoing technical support and updates. The hardest thing you will find when choosing a them, is to (for a moment) put aside the purely aesthetic side of them and determine whether the theme comes with a lot of heavy, bloated, built-in code that will slow your site down.
For this reason, I do not recommend Divi themes. Divi served a purpose many years ago, before WordPress enabled pagebuilding. With WordPress Gutenberg, building beautiful websites is now possible without using heavy themes such as Divi. Many of my clients have asked me to build new websites for them when they finally had enough of Divi. It’s also less user friendly on the front end than many of the current page builders, should you wish to use one.
Themeforest themes can also be heavy on code.
More Dirt Less Bitumen Australian outdoor website was built on Daily Dish, a Studiopress theme built on the Genesis framework.
The Astra theme is one of my favourites for it’s simplicity and minimalistic page layouts. This website was built using the Astra Pro theme. They have a variety of starter templates and is simple to use on the front end.
If you are looking for a page builder, other than Gutenberg, Elementor is very easy to learn and use.
We all love plugins, but we should be careful not to overdo them, as too many can slow down your website. These are some of my favourites and ones I can’t do without.
Antispam Bee – limits the amount of spam you get into your comments area. Note, many people use Akismet but this should only be used in the free version if you are not a commercial website.
BackWPup and Updraft Plus – these are backup plugins and are very good even in the free version, but you can upgrade to get more features. The main difference between the two is the ability to back up to Google Drive.
Redirection – for easy redirecting of broken URLs.
W3 Total cache – for the ongoing clearing of caches and other backend performance requirements.
WPS Hide login – to protect my login into the WordPress dashboard by generating an unusual login URL.
Yoast SEO – to assist with creating content that is SEO optimised.
Robin Image optimiser – to assist with further compression of my images uploaded into the media library to keep image file sizes as small as possible.
EasyAzon – an affiliate plugin created especially for Amazon links. I use this on my main travel website and an affiliate marketing website for Amazon links.
Thirsty Affiliates – helps me keep all of my affiliate links organised.
Grow Social Pro by Mediavine – a simple to use, easy interface social media sharing plugin.
social media tools
There are tools available to help with the non-stop pressure of having to be on social media as a website owner or blogger. These are some of the tools I have used or continue to use.
Tailwind – a scheduling tool for Pinterest. Available in a free, but limited version and a paid version. Tailwind assists with interacting with your Pinterest account to provide an optimal pinning time.
Smarterqueue – a more well rounded social media scheudling tool that allows for many different social media platforms to be added to your account.
Publer – this is my social media scheduling tool of choice. allowing me to add multiple Facebook accounts, pages and groups, along with other social media platforms. It’s simple to use and effective.
Canva – a wonderful easy to use online software that is excellent for the creation of social media items (notably Pinterest) and a range of other marketing collaterial, posters, infographics, banners and visual items. Its free version is excellent, however the paid version opens up more features, especially if you are after stock images, more fancy templates and the ability to resize your creations.
Creative Market – a plethora of fonts, templates and designs.
Myfonts – if you are looking for a special font, you can almost guarantee you’ll find it here. Low prices. give you a licence to use the font on your site.
seo and analytical tools
Keysearch – apart from paying for my domain name and hosting every year, this is hands down the only piece of software that I wouldn’t give up. It makes my life so much easier, and helps me to produce results with my content that I couldn’t do by myself. It’s an integral tool for all of my websites.
Google Analytics – free and a necessary part of anyone’s website business.
Frase – this is an artificial intelligence piece of software that supports my content writing and helps me to rank better.
Grammarly – for years I only used the free version, but having upgraded to the paid version, its additional features makes the small annual price worthwhile.
OTHER PLUGINS FOR CREATING AMAZING WEBSITES
Convert Pro – email opt-in and lead generation plugin.
WP Portfolio – showcase your websites, portfolios, images and videos in stunning layouts, simply.
Schema Pro – a quick and easy way to markup schema
Genesis Pro – a strong site building tool to help create amazing websites and includes access to the Genesis and Studiopress themes and full support.
The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit is an annual product comprised of a range of different courses, eBooks, templates and digital downloads, covering a range of different areas and industries. The new 2021 bundle isn’t out yet, but you can still take advantage of a great price on the 2020 Genius Blogger’s Toolkit. Check it out here.