As promised, we’re starting our deep dive into the resources that Magnoliahouse runs on with an obvious target: website and email. As the core of any modern business, these workhorses are essential to maintain for your business to stay up and running.
All domain registration is pretty much created equal, so it’s basically price shopping on this one. We love to use GoDaddy for domain registrations because they almost always have a 99-cent domain sale going, so you can usually register a year of service for your latest piece of shower brilliance for a cool $1.17, once you add in taxes and fees. Plus, their interface is easy to work with, so you can point your domain to any hosting and email providers you choose.
Website hosting, on the other hand, is most certainly not created equal. There’s a huge difference in features, level of service and website performance between the budget providers (think shared hosting from GoDaddy and Bluehost) and a quality managed hosting account. While we don’t have a problem with entrepreneurs in their first year of business using a budget host provider to keep startup costs manageable, we strongly recommend that most business upgrade their hosting once they’re receiving reliable online traffic.
Our favorite in the field is WPEngine. At $29/month, it’s considerably more expensive than shared hosting, but it’s more than worth the price. Sites load significantly faster, experience little to no downtime, and are powered with a CDN that’s included at no extra cost. Their support is phenomenal, and they go way beyond the basic troubleshooting and technical problems. In addition to daily backups, they provide one click backups and restores so you can update and edit with peace of mind. My personal favorite feature is the staging area - with the click of a button, you can copy your existing site, test out edits and upgrades in a secret area, and deploy them to your live site with no migration hassle. It’s divine.
Bonus: get 50% off annual hosting plans (40% off, plus two months free) with the coupon code SSL40OFF through July 1, 2014.
Of course, if you’ve been reading the blog recently you know that we’ve been cheating on Wordpress with its simply elegant competitor, Squarespace. If you’re looking to build your own website from start-to-finish with an all-in-one provider, we highly recommend Squarespace. Read more about our love affair with the platform here.
While a budget website hosting provider can be a fine choice at the start, we never recommend that our clients use the free email hosting that’s frequently bundled into those accounts. Unreliable email can cost your business big money - and better solutions are free or very inexpensive. And unfortunately, email problems are almost guaranteed when working with the budget hosting providers.
We have two favorites for independent email hosting. Our favorite, Google Apps for Work, gives you all of the gmail, drive, docs and calendar functionality you’re used to using in your personal accounts with an email address featuring your custom domain. Each email address is $5/month or $50 paid annually.
However, if you plan to primarily use a desktop mail client like Outlook or Apple Mail, you may not need or want to pay for the extra gmail functionality. In that case, we recommend Zoho Mail, which provides free IMAP-supported email hosting for up to ten accounts. There are storage limits, so you’ll need to have a plan for saving and archiving old messages, but otherwise the service is phenomenal.
And finally, we have to share our favorite email providers of the other kind: email marketing management. For this, we again recommend two apps, though this time they work in tandem, rather than one or the other. First of all, you’ll need an email management software to collect and store email addresses, as well as send marketing messages to your list. We love to use Mailchimp for this - their free plan works beautifully for up to 2,000 subscribers, and we find the interface to be intuitive and easy to use. Plus, they have a design focused builder, so your emails don’t have to look template-y or cheesy. If you’d like to add features, especially automation, paid plans start at only $10/month.
Now, you can most certainly use Mailchimp’s collection of basic sign up forms and integration apps to start building your list. But, if you’re interested in taking your email list building to a totally different level, we recommend investing in a subscription to LeadPages. While they have a multitude of powerful features, the only one we use with any regularity is their LeadBoxes feature - but that alone is well worth the $37/month subscription fee. LeadBoxes allows you to insert a pop-up opt-in form anywhere you can insert a hyperlink. Not only does two-step opt-in process dramatically increase conversions (read more about that here), but it also allows you to insert a subtle link into any page or blog post, giving you so many more email collection opportunities. And because LeadPages allows you to deliver a different lead magnet for each LeadBox you create, so you can deliver a custom download to go with each blog post. See how we did that when we shared our Monthly Action Worksheet at the beginning of the year.
To view all of our picks for managing our business and our lives, head over to The Register.
Friends, what are your favorite resources for managing your website and email? Do you use any of the ones we’ve listed here?