There are lots of alternatives for each of these blogging, monetizing and tracking tools. Here you’ll find a review of what I use on this blog and what I’m most satisfied with, or what I intend to use in the future. I’m not saying they are the only ones, I’m just sharing my personal experience with them, so you can take advantage of it. Some of the links are affiliate, which means that I’ll make money if you use them to sign up for those programs. Some others are simple links pointing to resources which helped me bring my blog at this level.
Many people start with free Blogger accounts, only to realize very soon that it would have been better to buy their own domain name. If you can’t afford to spend approximately $8/year for the .com domain name, plus $3-$7/month for hosting, then you can set up your free account at blogger and start blogging in about five minutes (if you are not interesting in making money with your site, you can sign up for a free WordPress.com account – be aware they don’t accept advertising on blogs). Blogger blogs are perfectly fine, the only drawback being that you won’t be able to sell them, as they aren’t your property.
If you want to buy a domain name, I would recommend NameCheap.com. They are good and cheap and they offer free privacy for your domain names.
Most of my websites are hosted on Bluehost. I am very pleased with their services, the sites load fast and I have 24/7 customer support. Setting up a new site and installing WordPress takes as little as 10 minutes, thanks to Bluehost’s cPanel and Simple Scripts. As you can read below, I’ve got some issues with other hosting companies, either the sites were slow, or they had long periods when servers were down, or they didn’t provide tools like cPanel to make software installation easy.
This blog is hosted on Dreamhost. The quality is good, I can host as many domains as I want on the same account, I have 140GB storage space, 1.4TB bandwidth, one click installs (including WordPress, with lots of themes), MYSQL, PHP, CGI, and up to 3075 e-mail accounts, all these for $7.95/month. This is not a big amount of money, taking into consideration what you get for it. If you decide to host your blogs there, I give you my special promo code: ATT2007GIFT. Use it to sign up for one of the yearly plans and you’ll get $97 discount. This is the maximum discount possible. I don’t make any money by having you sign up with this code. It is my gift to you, made possible by Dreamhost. And it comes with a .com domain name free for the first year.
Latest update: I’ve moved this blog from Dreamhost. Despite the fact that I had paid for a full year in advance, Dreamhost kicked me out unexpectedly claiming that I’ve crashed their server twice and that I do black hat stuff (which I wish I knew how to do, by the way). There was no prior notice, so I was not able to backup my blogs from WordPress dashboard – I had to use mysql, and I encountered problems when importing the databases on the new server. My special promo code is not working anymore. And if you want to know, the blog was loading much slower on Dreamhost’s server than it is now, on Hostgator’s.
This site uses WordPress. I chose it because of a few considerations:
- It is easy to install (even if you don’t have one click installs in your hosting package, installing WordPress is very easy and it does not require special programming knowledge)
- There are a lot of free themes (layout templates) available, plus a lot of free plugins (programs which offer additional functionality features to a blog, such as displaying a list of related articles at the end of each post, or allowing readers to edit their comments, or showing a list of your top commenters, or automatically create a sitemap, or even display contextual advertising)
- It has a user friendly administration panel
Money making sources
- Shareasale.com: this is my favorite affiliate network by far. I use them on many of my websites and it’s the network I’ve been most successful with over the past four years. They always pay on time and they have a broad range of merchants in various niches.
- Commission Junction: this is another very good affiliate network. Through them you can work with huge companies and get paid nice commissions for the buyers you send them.
ReviewMe: You can write paid reviews for advertisers who order them via ReviewMe. If you get accepted, you have the possibility to set your own price for the reviews, and you may reject whatever advertisers you feel like being inappropriate for your blog. The reviews you write will be clearly labeled as “paid reviews” and you don’t have to always be positive (advertisers state their requirements when placing an order, so you will be able to reject those which are not in accordance with your policy). Review Me has an affiliate program which will bring you $25 for each advertiser who subscribes via your link and orders a review. In two years, I’ve got only two reviews from them. I wonder how other people claim to be making a lot of money. August 2009 update: this is an outdated resource, stay away from it if you don’t want to lose your good standing with Google.
- FusionCash (Need cash? Get paid to take surveys): complete online surveys and get paid (all members get $5 bonus at sign up). Available only for USA residents, but they have an affiliate program run viaNeverblue Ads, which brings you $1.50 for each new member you refer.
- CashCrate: complete online surveys and get paid. Members from the United States and other English speaking countries will have the most offers available to them, but members from other countries are welcome as well (I’ve actually tried this one, and offers for outside US are rather scarce, but you can earn from their affiliate program 20% of first tier referrals earnings and 10% of the second tier referrals earnings).
SurveyTeam (Receive cash for participating in surveys and also gain access to a whole lot of freebies and sweepstakes.): complete online surveys and get paid (all members get $3 bonus at sign up, plus they can own the products they review. It is available only for USA residents.
I’ll add other money making programs to this list as soon as I’ll be happy with their performance. I deleted those which I consider being outdated.
Monitoring & statistics & research
Statcounter.com: free, real time statistics program, helping you see the number of visits, unique & returning visitors, plus detailed statistics for the last 100 visits (referring sites, referring keywords, visit length, visitors by country and many more).
GetClicky.com: free, real time, nice details. The free version only gives you 30 days of back data, but you can upgrade to a paid version if you need more.
Keyword Elite: one time fee software which helps you with keyword research by putting together in the same screen all the parameters you need to evaluate in order to decide the search volume, the competition and the AdWords click cost of your keywords. August 2009 update: there is a newer version of this software going to be released pretty soon.
Google Keyword Tool External: free keyword research tool. Since none of the keyword research tools are accurate, why not use this one which doesn’t cost you money?