These are the tools that I use to run my various businesses, as well as the books that have been the most impactful to me as an entrepreneur.
Recommended SEO Tools
There are a lot of SEO tools on the market, but a few stand out above the rest. One of these is SEMrush, which is the first tool I paid a premium for and still pay for on a monthly basis. Whether you are doing SEO competitor research, display advertising research, or want to see where your competitors are getting their links then SEMrush has a tool for you.
Check it out. It’s well worth the price.
Best for: professional SEOs and paid acquisition marketers.
Price: starts at $99/mo and goes up from there. I have been a paying member for years.
Free 7 day SEMrush trial
People told me for a long time that I should check out AHREFs, but I resisted. I had a tool that worked well for me (doing primarily SEO/content) in SEMrush. I eventually gave AHREFs a go and it has become my go-to tool for my SEO work. While they don’t do the paid data side very well, their traffic data and insights are matched by no one. I love this tool and happily pay for it monthly.
Best for: professional SEOs and content marketers/link builders.
Price: starts at $99/mo and goes up from there. I have been a paying member since 2016.
Check out AHREFs
As an SEO, you constantly need to crawl a website (whether your own or a competitor’s) to get insight into the changes that can be made to improve your rankings. My tool of choice, and that of most SEOs, is Screaming Frog. While it can bog down on very large sites (though they are working on this), it is amazing for sites up to around 15,000 unique URLs.
Best for: professional SEOs working on small to medium size websites, hobbyist SEOs and website/business owners.
Price: $149 for the year. This is a steal. I use this tool weekly if not daily. I have paid for this tool since 2012.
Check out Screaming Frog
If Screaming Frog is not powerful enough for your size of site (usually a site with 100,000+ pages), then you need a more powerful crawling tool to give you the full insights you need.
There are many such tools on the market, but the one I have used extensively is DeepCrawl. DeepCrawl runs in the cloud, which means that you can set it to run and let it go without worrying about pausing it by unplugging your computer or losing your internet connection.
Best for: enterprise websites, teams, and marketing agencies with large clients.
Price: custom based on your needs
Get 10% off at DeepCrawl with code GETCREDO
Lead Generation Software
These are the tools I have put together over the years to help me drive more leads through Credo as well as various other websites I own.
Sumo (formerly SumoMe) is a suite of lead generation and audience development tools that help you gather more email addresses and spread your content around the internet.
I’ve used Sumo since before it was even named Sumo. Over the years they have added more and more features. I use everything from slider email capture boxes to sticky email captures to heat maps to know where people are clicking.
Email marketing providers have come a long way in the last few years, and one of the major new players has been Drip. Acquired by LeadPages in 2016, Drip allows you to dynamically tag your subscribers which then powers automations and workflows that are not possible in other ESPs.
Drip has been used to grow six figure (and bigger) courses and ecommerce companies alike, and we love Drip for our email marketing automation at Credo.
There are many email marketing tools out there on the market. MailChimp has been our email marketing tool of choice for years now, and while we’ve switched over to Drip as Credo grew, MailChimp was a huge part of our marketing mix and continues to be my personal email list owner.
In recent years, MailChimp has also been making a push to offer more full-fledged marketing tools than just email marketing. They now offer landing pages, easy targeting of your email list via Facebook Ads, and even triggered drip campaigns (which many people don’t think they have).
MailChimp has been around forever and continues to develop and deliver.
WPengine is my hosting tool of choice. I’ve used various others over time, but moved to WPengine a few years ago because I needed a host I could trust to keep my sites up and running.
WPengine gives you 24/7 support, staging environments, cache control, easy SSL setup, and so much more. Their plans changed in early 2018, but they are still a great deal if you are looking for a combination of number of installs and traffic. Plus, they specialize in WordPress so if you care about a host that is optimized for WordPress then WPengine is your best option.
I have used Gravity Forms for years to capture leads on my various websites, including Credo. I love Gravity Forms because it allows me to do everything I want to do – custom CSS, passing variables in URLs to help with conversion, multi-page forms, and even integrates with tools like MailChimp, Stripe, and more that I require to build my business effectively.
Couple Gravity Forms with GravityView and you have a killer setup upon which you can grow your business.
Get Gravity Forms
If you are using GravityForms and need to display form entry data on your site, it used to be a Herculean task. A few years ago I discovered GravityView, built by my now-friend Zack Katz. Basically it’s a premium WordPress plugin that lets you display form entries in a completely customizable format.
I love this plugin and wish more people knew about it, especially membership sites!
We use HubSpot at Credo to help us manage our sales funnel and convert more people from a form submission to scheduling a phone call.
For a long time we used the free CRM, but in 2018 signed up to the Sales Starter to help us better automate our sales followup and communication processes so that we can spend more time selling and focusing on the right customers as opposed to spending more time on those less committed.
I’ve used Calendly for years to send to people a link through which they can schedule a call. It’s a well-trusted tool, and you can even embed it on your site so that you are sending people to your website to schedule a call as opposed to Calendly’s site.
We’re slowly moving away from Calendly to HubSpot, but I still highly recommend Calendly for those who aren’t paying for HubSpot.
Sometimes you need an SEO tool to accomplish a specific goal, but sometimes you need a full-fledged SEO platform to track everything from technical issues and rankings to competitors. These are the SEO platforms we have used and recommend at Credo.
If you’ve been learning SEO or been in the SEO world for a while, then you’re likely familiar with Moz. Moz offers Moz Pro, which tracks your technical issues and rankings and makes recommendations for how to improve your rankings. You can check individual page optimization scores, do backlink analysis with Open Site Explorer, conduct keyword research with Keyword Explorer, and much more.
Best for: small to medium size businesses without a fulltime SEO.
Pricing: starts at $99/mo and goes up from there.
Check out Moz
Conductor, out of New York City, is the SEO platform of choice for many enterprise websites and agencies working with enterprise clients. You can do everything from competitor research to keyword tracking and technical issue tracking and recommendations.
Conductor is powerful because of their reporting suite as well, which gives you insight into how well you are ranking and provides executive-level easy to understand graphs and reports.
Best for: enterprise brands and agencies working with enterprise brands.
Pricing: depends on your needs.
Check out Conductor
Raven Tools is an unsung hero of the SEO world. Raven’s main powers come from the fact that they don’t try to recreate data that is elsewhere, but instead allow you to connect to over 20 different services to bring your data within their platform and glean insights. This includes Moz and Majestic data as well, all contained within your Raven subscription.
Raven also offers technical insights around onpage SEO as well as site speed and mobile user experience, which other tools do not offer. And if you’re a consultant to clients, Raven can be used to offer reporting to them on a whitelabel basis.
Best for: medium size businesses with dedicated SEO teams, consultants.
Pricing: starts at $109/mo ($99/mo if paid up front) and up from there.
Check out Raven Tools
SanityCheck.io is a newcomer to the SEO tools space. I was a bit dubious about it at first, but it has become a tool that I appreciate because it gives me a high-level look at my Search Console data daily and weekly, including changes in clicks and visibility.
Best for: small to medium size businesses without a fulltime SEO.
Pricing: starts at $10/mo and goes up from there.
Check out SanityCheck.io
If you’re looking to build an ecommerce store as a side project or into a full time business, you have to make some decisions about the platform you use. The right platform for you is the one that aligns with your skills, goals, and expertise. These are the two we recommend right now.
Shopify is a publicly traded Canadian company that is dominating the ecommerce space, and for good reason. They are a fully hosted ecommerce platform with a wide range of add-ons and extensions built around their product, which means that it’s both easy to get started with and able to scale. I’ve used Shopify for a few side project stores myself, and while it has certain limitations on the SEO side and requires a learning curve of development (or hiring a Shopify developer), it is a fantastic platform.
Best for: small to medium size stores (though can scale beyond that) without a ton of development and WordPress knowledge.
Pricing: starts at $29/mo and goes up from there.
Get a free 14 days trial
WooCommerce is a full-fledged ecommerce platform that sits on top of WordPress. If you already have a WordPress site, then WooCommerce is an easy way to add a store onto your site and either sell your own products or affiliate products through your site. I use WooCommerce on one of my own side project affiliate websites. It takes a bit of learning to configure your categories/subcategories and linking for SEO, but it’s easy to get started and there are many other plugins that allow you to automate things like product feeds, which saves so much manual entry.
Best for: small to medium size stores on WordPress.
Pricing: plugin is free, though there are paid add-ons.
Check out WooCommerce
Conversion Optimization Software
If you’re looking to test different parts of your website to improve conversions, there are a few tools on the market that can help you do that.
Optimizely has stood the test of time against other competitors and built an amazing business. They make it very easy, with their WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor for making changes. I have mostly used Optimizely for testing headlines, calls to action, and elements like that. There is a bit of a learning curve, but you once you learn it this tool is powerful for small businesses.
LeadPages is one of the leading landing page creation tools on the market. LeadPages also owns email provider Drip, and when you combine the two (or combine LeadPages with MailChimp) you get a potent combination.
LeadPages is great for quickly building landing pages for specific campaigns. They make it easy to style pages into your style guide and then publish pages live to your site.
Best for: businesses and agencies looking to build landing pages.
Pricing: starts at $25/mo paid annually
Tools to run your business
When I first began consulting as a self-employed person, I knew that I needed a way to keep invoices straight. I signed onto FreshBooks and have not looked back. FreshBooks offers a free 30 day trial then it starts at $10/mo. I happily pay them $50 a month because they track my invoices, I can set up recurring invoices for clients, and they provide me the option of getting paid through Stripe (which every consultant should be using).
FreshBooks also has the concept of “estimates’ which you can use to send an estimate of services costs to your clients. This works well for freelancers providing hourly services, but does not scale well to consultants and agencies. I do not use this feature, but many freelancers do and find it useful.
Check out FreshBooks
If you don’t need a full-fledged invoicing software tool like FreshBooks but still want to send proposals to your clients that you can track and have signed within one system, then you should check out Proposify. Run out of Canada, Proposify is a market leader that continues to add new features and integrations that make operating your business seamless.
Proposify also integrates with FreshBooks, Xero, and other invoicing and business finance tools so that you never forget to invoice or get paid for the work you provide.
Check out Proposify
When I started employing people and wanted to get myself onto payroll as well to even out monthly expenses within my business, I signed up with Gusto. They’re mainly based in Denver where I live, and they’ve been incredibly helpful dealing with payroll taxes and more across state lines. They’re easy to use and make this part of my operations seamless!
Check out Gusto
After I set up FreshBooks for invoicing, the next thing I did was get a bookkeeper. I decided to use Bench, because their service integrates with all of my billing (Stripe and credit cards) and my bank accounts. They reconcile my books for me at the end of each month and prepare my tax documents each year, which sets me up for financial success.
Get a free month of Bench
Part of being successful is knowing when you need to outsource certain tasks, such as research. I have a personal assistant in Denver but also use FancyHands to conduct research for both personal and business means. I use them for things like research a physical therapist with herniated disc experience who takes my insurance, all the way to finding a graphic designer for the Credo site. At $29/mo for 5 requests of up to 20 minutes each, it’s a steal.
Check out FancyHands
I firmly believe in learning from those who are smarter than you. These books have impacted my business and personal life in major ways.
The Four Hour Work Week
I first read The Four Hour Work Week in December 2008 and it changed my life. This book single handedly made me realize that I could live life under my own terms and experience a life of adventure and travel. We are meant to stay in one place and work a soul sucking job!
These days I re-read this book every 4-6 months and learn different and new things every time. Whether it’s hiring or using a virtual assistant or tricks to travel and work well, this book has literally changed my life.
Buy on Amazon
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
Running a company is hard and it is easy to feel like you’re doing it alone and no one else has ever gone through it before. That is not true, and this book shows it.
Written by Ben Horowitz, who is now a venture capitalist, about his experience building a publicly traded company that almost went under but went on to sell for over $1 billion, I read this book right after I started working for myself. I recommend that every entrepreneur or wants-to-be-an-entrepreneur read it.
Buy on Amazon
The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door is a must-read book about finances. It is aimed at personal finances, but the concepts hold true across business as well.
If you want to save and operate a good business (or life), you need to have your finances in order. You need to make more than you spend and you need to spend less than you make. If you do that, you’ll win.
This book explains why in very real terms.
Buy on Amazon
22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
If you’re a digital marketer, you might think that the rules are all new and always changing. The truth is that there are indeed rules and patterns that have held true across the different times of marketing, from print to digital and even what comes after digital.
This book was given to me by a VP at Zillow Group, and I can tell why. This book is a must-read for marketers.
Buy on Amazon
School of Greatness
Lewis Howes is a former professional athlete who has become an online personality teaching people how to build a bigger and deeper personal life that leaves a legacy.
I actually received this book for free a number of years ago and I don’t know who from. I recently went and read it through for the first time and it has changed the way I think about building my own life.
Buy on Amazon
Let My People Go Surfing
Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia and formerly founded Black Diamond Equipment (at the time, Chouinard Equipment) out of the back of his van in Yosemite Valley.
Chouinard is one of my heroes. He builds companies the way he wants to, driven by very strong values. This book has driven me to build a better company that stands for something real.
Buy on Amazon
The E-Myth Revisited
One of the hardest parts of building a business is going through the transition from solo founder to hiring a team and learning how to delegate. Before you reach that point, you’re going to want to give up.
The E-Myth Revisited is the best book I have read about building a business that is bigger than yourself. It’s a very actionable guide to doing so, and if you’re starting a business you need to read this as early on as possible.
Buy on Amazon
The Lean Startup
Eric Ries is known as Silicon Valley’s guru to quickly testing ideas so that you can find what works and what doesn’t quicker.
Published in 2011, The Lean Startup has changed the way we think about building businesses. From the “Minimum Viable Product” to rapid testing, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to build a company or change their company from one thing to another in a profitable way.
Buy on Amazon
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