Tools I use to manage websites
What follows is a list of the tools & services I use on a daily basis in my website management business. I maintain this list primarily as a personal resource and as a point of reference in meetings. I hope you find it useful.
Full disclosure: A few of the links below are affiliate links. That said, every item listed I personally use and highly recommend. While most of these tools are free several require monthly fees. Where possible, I have included links to free trials so you can see if they are right for you. Listed in no particular order.
Analytics, Research & Reporting
SEMrush – starts at $99.95/mo (7-day free trial)
Keyword research, competitor research, position tracking, backlink audits, broken link audits, brand monitoring, custom automated reports, SEO ideas, social media tracking and much more. I can’t say enough about this tool. Well worth the cost of admission. I use it daily.
Hotjar – free (under 2,000 pageviews/day)
Another tool I can say enough about. Heatmaps, user recordings, conversion funnels, feedback polls, surveys, form analysis — provides excellent insight into how users interact with your website and where you should be placing your focus to improve it.
Google Analytics – free
Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. It tells you how much traffic your site receives, where it comes from, the technology used to view it and much, much more.
Google Search Console – free
Formerly Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console lets you track your performance with Google, quickly resolve indexing issues, submit sitemaps and more.
Google Trends – free
Trends shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages. It’s a quick way to visually compare different search terms.
Soovle – free
A quick search suggestion tool that helps with keyword research. Pulls data from several search databases including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, Youtube, eBay, and many others.
Built With – free
builtwidth.com provides web technology usage statistics and list of websites using web technologies. Good for researching what technologies are in use and if they are trending up or down.
isup.me – free
There are many reasons a website cannot be reached. This simple tool helps to quickly determine if the issue is only occurring from the users location or is affecting a wider area.
Private Internet Access – starts at $3.33/mo
I use PIA not only to protect my identity online but also to troubleshoot how wide of an area network outages affect by jumping across their many worldwide proxy servers. It’s also handy if my location is ever flagged as a false positive and blocked by our firewalls.
whatsmydns.net – free
whatsmydns.net lets you instantly perform a DNS lookup to check a domain name’s current IP address and DNS record information against multiple name servers located in different parts of the world. Invaluable when checking the current state of DNS propagation after having made changes to your domain’s records and verifying that existing records are correct.
speedtest.net – free
Tests how fast your upload/download speed is between you and servers across the globe. Paired with PIA’s proxy servers this tool gets very interesting.
MxToolbox – free
Free, fast and accurate network diagnostic and lookup tools that help diagnose and resolve a wide range of infrastructure issues.
ICANN Whois Lookup – free
ICANN’s WHOIS Lookup gives you the ability to lookup any domain to find out the registered domain owner, expiration date, name servers, etc.
Monitoring, Updates & Backups
Watchful – plans start at $4.99/mo (free trial)
Allows you to manage multiple Joomla (or WordPress) websites from a single dashboard. Monitors website changes, uptime and software releases. Streamlines software updates and backups and also provides basic technical audits and reporting.
ManageWP – free (paid premium features available)
Manage multiple WordPress websites from one dashboard. Schedule backups, automate updates, monitor uptime, audit performance and check security. Excellent custom reporting feature. I love this tool.
Hosting, Domains & Security
OpenSRS – $95 signup fee that converts into product credits
OpenSRS is a Tucows company that offers Domain Names, Hosted Email, SSL Certificates and Security and Privacy Products to bulk resellers.
Virtacore / PowerVPS
I’ve been leasing servers from Virtacore (formerly Defender Hosting) for about 15 years. They are reliable with flexible and knowledgeable support. That said, they will not touch the site at the CMS level.
SiteGround – cloud solutions start at $80/mo
Siteground is a big player in the hosting arena. Which means their support is good, but not quite as flexible. However, they do provide basic support at the CMS level (Joomla, WordPress, etc.) which can be very beneficial. I’ve recently started using their dedicated servers and love the ability to quickly set up staging copies and integrate with git.
Sucuri – plans start at $9.99/mo
Sucuri is a platform-agnostic Website Security Platform built on a suite of security tools designed to help website owners monitor security issues, fix hacked websites, and protect against emerging threats.
ConfigServer Security & Firewall (csf) – free
A Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall, Login/Intrusion Detection and Security application for Linux servers. Utilizes a simple to use configuration interface directly in cPanel.
Wistia – free for 3 videos, pro plans start at $99/mo
Wistia provides professional video hosting with viewer analytics, HD video delivery, and marketing tools to help understand your visitors. A great way to stream videos behind a paywall/login and for when you just don’t want them on Youtube.
Youtube – free
Browserstack – plans start at $12.50/mo
With all the devices out there it is exceedingly cost prohibitive and time-consuming to keep up with all the environments needed for testing. Browserstack makes this quick easy and affordable by allowing you to load virtual Android, iOS, Windows & Mac devices running every major browser in just a few seconds.
Testmysite – free
This tool from Google tests how well your site works across mobile and desktop devices and scores it accordingly. The information is presented in an easy to read web format and optional emailed report.
PageSpeed Insights – free
This tool used to be part of the Chrome browser developer tools but is now an online tool. It provides a technical overview of your website speed and steps to improve it. Utilized in testmysite.
Mobile-Friendly Test – free
Another one from Google. This one tests how easily a visitor can use your site on a mobile device. This tool is part of the Search Console. It is useful for quick testing of single pages.
Structured Data Markup Helper – free
And, another one from Google. Helps you to quickly add structured data or schema to your HTML.
SSL Checker – free
SSL certificates can be a real pain. They are one of the areas of a website that is largely transparent to users when working but can bring the whole site down when not installed properly. This tool allows you to quickly verify an SSL is correctly installed, valid, trusted and doesn’t give any errors to any of your users.
Check GZIP Compression – free
A simple tool that allows you to see if a website is using gzip compression and how much is or could be saved by using it.
Google Rich Results Test – free
Google has released a new rich snippet testing tool that shows you whether a page is eligible for rich results.
Project Management & Collaboration
join.me – feature limited free plan; pro plans start at $18/mo
An online meeting & screen sharing solution from LogMeIn with plenty of features. It loads directly in the browser which removes technical hurdles that can sometimes stall meetings.
Teamwork Desk – plans start at $0.10/ticket
Help Desk software designed to “eliminate the pain points in customer support both for your team and your customer”. Teamwork also offers chat and project management solutions.
appear.in – free
A little known but wonderful video conferencing solution. Create the room, share the link and that it. Nothing to install. Simple and free.
asana – starts free
A web and mobile application designed to help teams track their work. It was founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and ex-engineer Justin Rosenstein, who both worked on improving the productivity of employees at Facebook. Powerful and free.
Podio – free collaborative options, plans start at $9/mo
Calling this a project management solution is an understatement. Extremely flexible. My new favorite tool.
Google Docs – free
Google Docs (along with Google Sheets & Slides) are an excellent and free way to collaborate on data and content.
Dropbox – basic accounts are free
My preferred cloud storage solution. Makes sharing large files easy.
Evernote – basic accounts are free
Great for taking meeting notes and sharing after. A good portion of my brain is outsourced to this app.
1Password – a single license is $64.99
Managing websites requires keeping track of a lot of passwords. 1Password is a secure way to organize and share this information with team members.
Grammarly – free for basic features
Online proofreading tool that checks text for grammar, punctuation, and style, and features a contextual spelling checker and plagiarism detector. Helps improve communication and makes you a stronger writer.
Photoshop – CC plans start at $9.99/mo
The de facto standard in rastor graphics editing.
Illustrator – CC plans start at $19.99/mo
The industry standard in vector graphics.
Pablo – free
A super quick and easy way to design professional looking images for your social media posts.
Am I Responsive – free
Another quick and easy tool. This one loads your website on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile in a nicely displayed graphic. Nice for demonstrating the meaning of ‘responsive’ or for quick portfolio screenshots. Not recommended for testing (for that use browserstack).
Pen + Paper
No device or app can replace a classic sharpie and plain white paper.
Coda – $99
I’ve tried other editors like Sublime and Brackets but keep coming back to Coda. It has the built-in features I need (like FTP & SSH), doesn’t require a lot of tweaking, and better fits my workflow.
Terminal – included with OSX
Nothing beats the good old-fashioned command-line interface.
Content Management Systems
WordPress – open source & free
25-30% of the Internet is powered by WordPress. Used by names such as CNN, Time & NASA, it is a versatile platform well suited for beginners and powerful enough for many enterprise level applications. About 1/2 of the sites I work with run on WordPress.
Joomla – open source & free
Joomla is the second most popular CMS in the world and powers the majority of the other websites I work with. It has a bit more content and structure flexibility than WordPress and a larger learning curve. Good for more complex projects.
Last updated Feb 24, 2018