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21 Tools I Use To Build (Successful) Websites

This is a curated list of tools that I strongly recommend for building successful websites. Each tool listed here is one that I've used for significant amounts of time. Some of the links below are affiliate links, so I may earn a commission if you buy through my links.

Dec 24 2018 · Steve.jpg?1543944960?ixlib=rails 2.1 By Steve Benjamins


I've had to continually learn (and relearn) SEO because Site Builder Report gets 80% of it's traffic from search engines— so SEO is critical to success.

I've tried countless tools over the years, but here are the SEO tools that I've used and recommend:

The ultimate tool for keyword research. SEO is all about keywords and SEMrush is my recommended tool for researching keywords.

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SEMrush provides valuable data such as keyword volume— how many times a keyword is searched per month.

I use SEMrush to discover untapped keywords, track the keywords my competitors are ranking for and to see how often a keyword is searched.

SEMRush also includes a complete SEO toolkit: you can use it for competitor research, rank tracking, on-page SEO checks and SEO health monitoring.

Note: SEMRush's interface seems intimidating but you can figure it out quickly if you just take an hour to watch Youtube tutorials like this.

A low-price tool to track keyword rankings. SEMrush is quite expensive— and Authority Labs is a cheaper alternative for tracking keyword rankings. I've used it for years (though recently fazed it out, as SEMrush tracks keyword rankings now).

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Authority Labs is a simple tool for tracking your keyword rankings.

The best way to learn SEO. I have learned so much from Backlinko, the Youtube channel of Brian Dean— a popular SEO teacher. His videos are entertaining, accessible and super educational. It's what I always recommend when people ask me for SEO tips.

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Brian's Youtube channel is what I recommend to anyone who wants to learn SEO.

A one-day consulting SEO package. SEO Jumpstart offered by Dan Shure (host of the popular SEO podcast Experts On The Wire). Basically he'll spend a day auditing your website and then give you a 1-hour phone consultation with personalized recommendations. I've done it before and found it super helpful.

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I've used Dan's Jumpstart service before and found it helpful.

A weekly roundup of important SEO news. Search News To Use is a weekly newsletter overflowing with the best tips, tricks and news in the SEO world. Since only part of my job is SEO, I find this newsletter a critical curation source to stay on top of best practices without spending hours each week.

There is a free and paid version of the newsletter— the paid version if more for advanced SEO experts.

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I read this weekly newsletter to stay on top of SEO best practices.

Photos & Graphics

Where designers like me go to find free photos, graphics and icons.

A search engine for for free stock photos. There are too many free stock photo websites out there to count. Stock Up (made by me) lets you search 30+ free stock photo websites in one place.

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Stock Up let's you search multiple free stock photo websites in one place.

A search engine for good, free icons. Ever wonder where designers get those little icons they use in websites? The answer is almost always Iconmonstr.

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Searching for 'play' icons in Iconmonstr.

A marketplace for buy cheap illustrations and graphics. It's hard to find good, free illustrations. So instead, just pay $3 or $4 for a professional illustration from Creative Market (if you can't justify $3 for an illustration, you probably don't need the illustration that badly).

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Searching for Christmas illustrations.

Website Builders

A course on building effective Squarespace websites. A course on building effective Squarespace websites— including step-by-step instructions, weekly Q&A calls with her and tech support. I haven't actually gone through this course— but I met Louise recently in Toronto and she knows her stuff.

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Solopreneur Sidekick

The best website builder. I use Squarespace— even though I can code my own website. For example, I used Squarespace to build a website for my Mom's business and my band. Squarespace is just more convenient than coding— especially for smaller, conventional websites.

Scrolling through design options in Squarespace's style editor.

The best ecommerce software. I used Shopify recently to build a small ecommerce store and was blown away.

Shopify makes it so easy and painless. Right out of the box, they take care of shipping, calculating taxes, payment processing and more. I didn't have to touch a thing. They also provide a huge app store— which I used for some unusual features (like viewing all my orders on a map).

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I always recommend Shopify for ecommerce websites.

Build an online marketplace. I have not actually tried Sharetribe— but I have so many people emailing me asking for a tool that can build an online marketplace, that I'm including it here!

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What I recommend for email marketing. Email marketing is the most valuable channel for small businesses— I Mailchimp to build lists for my music and for Builder Report's blog.

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Creating a newsletter in Mailchimp.

A powerful form builder for contact forms, ecommerce, surveys and more. Form builders are like the swiss army knife of website software: I use it for running surveys, for my contact forms and occasionally even for ecommerce.

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Formstack's form builder is remarkably powerful and can be used for all sorts of things.

A search engine for your website. I use Swiftype for Site Builder Report's search (see it in action by clicking the search icon in the top of the navigation). Search is an important function for any website with lots of content— plus you get to know your visitors by seeing what they are searching for.

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Swiftype powers Site Builder Report's search engine.

AB Test your web pages. AB Testing is serving two versions of a page to see which one performs better with users. It's a pillar of online marketing and I use VWO constantly to try to improve my pages.

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Video Production

Teleprompter that uses your iPhone/Android phone. Nothing will increase the quality of your Youtube videos more than a teleprompter. It's the most critical part of my video production. This clever teleprompter uses your phone to project a scrolling script that projects over your camera lens. So handy.

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This genius teleprompter made my videos 10x better.

Lav microphone. I've tried a bunch of different microphone options— and this is what I've landed on. It's long and picks up good audio even in echoey rooms.

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Rode Lav Mic

High-end video camera. This is too much camera for someone starting out— but I've been producing video reviews for Youtube over the last couple years and upgraded to the Canon C200 recently. It's blown me away but is overkill for most Youtubers.

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I use the Canon C200 for my Youtube videos— but it's probably overkill for most.

Strong DSLR video option. This DSLR camera was what I started out with for my Youtube videos. It's a great video option— though I do want to emphasize, I had a bit of a budget starting out. If you don't have a budget, know that your iPhone is perfectly fine too.

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Canon MK III

Email & Domains

Gmail for your custom domain email addresses. G Suite basically lets you use Gmail for your custom domain email address. G Suite is by far the best email provider— I highly recommend you set it up.

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G Suite gives you Gmail for your custom domain email address.

Domain name provider. I buy my domain names through a 3rd party domain registrar like Namecheap because it ensures I'm always in control and it's often cheaper than website builders.

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The Namecheap homepage.