The 27 tools I use to grow my online business

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People often ask me what tools I use to build and grow French Together so I thought I would put together a list of my favorites.

These are not necessarily the best and trendiest tools, some may even be considered old-fasshioned. But they are the tools that help me build and grow my business.

Here they are!

Basic tools you need to grow your online business

Tech stack

The French Together and Grow With Less blogs run on WordPress. Not fashionable but works great and loads fast enough for my needs.

The French Together app is build on Ruby on Rails with a bit of JavaScript, Turbo and Stimulus here and there. I used Jumpstart Pro to get started quickly.

App and blog hosting

Your hosting provider can make or break your online business.

A good hosting provider will help you keep your website and app online so you can focus on building your product and creating content.

I recommend avoiding hosting providers recommended by affiliate marketers (BlueHost, HostGator..) because they are slow and unreliable and go with the following companies instead:

Rocket.net is the managed WordPress hosting provider I use for Grow With Less and French Together. It delivers pages directly from Cloudflare Enterprise’s 200+ data centers, offers near instant support and useful features such as staging sites and backups. It’s so reliable I regularly forget it’s there which is exactly what I want from a host.

Render is a popular Heroku alternative and the provider I use to host the French Together app. It’s reliable, doesn’t cost the earth and is easy to use even for someone new to programming like me. They also listen to feature requests and feedback which is rare nowadays.

Bunny.net is the CDN I use for the French Together app. It’s fast and affordable, everything I want from a CDN. The French Together and Grow With Less blogs use Cloudflare Enterprise (offered as part of my Rocket.net hosting plan.)

Backup

ManageWP backup tool

A few months ago, I read the story of a blogger whose hosting provider had been hacked.

One day she woke and all her hard work was gone.

The hosting provider was partially to blame, of course, but this also serves as a cautionary tale. No matter how much you like your hosting provider, you should have other backups in case they fail.

Even the best hosting providers get hacked or make mistakes.

In addition to the backups provided by Rocket and Render, I use ManageWP to back up my blogs and SimpleBackups to back up the French Together app’s database and sync my S3 buckets.

I also download a full backup of my blog, app database and email list every month. My computer is then automatically backed up to Backblaze and to my trusty external hard drive.

Domain registrar

A domain registrar is a company that handles the registration of your domain names for you. This could be your hosting provider or a separate company.

I always recommend using a separate company because it allows you to quickly move away from your hosting provider in case of problem.

It also means you are the legal owner of your domain name and don’t risk losing it if your hosting provider goes bust.

I personally use Porkbun and Gandi but there are lots of good options.

Design components and themes

You are probably not a designer, and even if you are, designing everything from scratch takes a lot of time, time you could spend building your business.

The design components below work great and save me a ton of time:

  • GeneratePress. The fast and easy to use WordPress theme I use for the Grow With Less and French Together blogs.
  • Tailwind UI. A collection of Tailwind CSS components. It looks great and allows me to quickly add features to the French Together app.

Email marketing tools

A good email marketing service will help you communicate with your subscribers and make sure your emails don’t land in the spam folder.

After trying GetResponse, Drip, Mailchimp and Convertkit, I now use Bento because it offers the perfect mix of power and simplicity and allows me to easily set up evergreen email sequences and send emails to thousands of subscribers without worrying about deliverability. Bento’s founder Jesse also provides amazing support and has gone above and beyond which is something I truly appreciate.

If you are just getting started and don’t want to spend a dime, MailerLite offers a free plan for bloggers who have less than 1,000 subscribers.

ConvertBox is the tool I use to get more email subscribers on French Together and Grow With Less. I love that it allows me to easily show different optins and CTAs based on whether the visitor is new to the website, an email subscriber or a paid subscriber.

If you are looking for something simpler to get started, Bento and most email marketing services include simple email optin forms you can use.

If you have lots of traffic, consider setting up DMARC records and using a tool like DMARC Digests to monitor emails sent from your domain and avoid spoofing attacks.

SEO tools and tools to grow your online business

Yoast SEO is the most well-known WordPress SEO plugin and it will take care of most of the on-site SEO for you. This is the WordPress SEO plugin I recommend if you want something that’s easy to use and configure. Read my guide to SEO basics for more information.

After using Yoast SEO for years, I recently switched to The SEO Framework because I wanted to optimize my articles based on themes instead of keywords. The SEO Framework also happens to be much lighter than Yoast and completely ad-free which makes it my number one SEO plugin recommendation for more advanced bloggers.

Ahrefs helps me choose the best keywords for my articles, track my rankings, monitor my backlinks and find link building opportunities. It’s an awesome tool I use every day. If you are looking for something cheaper, I have heard good things about Long Tail Pro as well.

Paddle is the platform I use to sell my products. They are a merchant of record which means they take care of VAT payments, and compliance for you so you can focus on blogging.

Affilimate is an amazing tool you can use to optimize your affiliate earnings, find out which content converts best, and run A/B tests to see which version of a page works best.

A few other tools I recommend

If you use website speed test tools like Pingdom, you will notice that images are often what makes a page slow.

ShortPixel reduces the size of your images without any visible change. This, in turn, reduces your hosting costs and makes your website and app load faster. This is the number one optimization you should do before even think about caching.

Plausible is a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Analytics. I use it to track long term trends and see how the number of visitors to individual pages evolves. It’s an excellent choice for bloggers who care about privacy and don’t need the complexity of Google Analytics.

Antispam Bee is a great privacy-friendly WordPress antispam plugin.

Iubenda helps me generate cookie and privacy policies for my blogs. All I need to do is tell Iubenda which blogging tools I use and it automatically generates the appropriate cookie and privacy policies.

Productivity tools

Momentum Planner

I tried lots of productivity tools over the years but never stuck with one because something was always missing. Momentum isn’t perfect but it’s the only productivity that works the way my brain works.

I use it to keep track of my yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals and see how they relate to each others so I remain focused on what matters.

Obsidian

Obsidian is the note-making app I use to keep track of ideas I find interesting such as:

  • Key concepts from online courses and books (super helpful when I want to refresh my memory and revisit a book I read.)
  • Random ideas I have.
  • Anything I don’t want to forget.

Trello

Trello article ideas board

Trello helps me organize all my projects on beautiful boards.

Here are a few of the Trello boards I have created:

  • A content calendar board so I can see all my blog post ideas in one place, know what to do next (write, edit, add images…)
  • A SEO board where I write down all my link building ideas and use checklist to follow the progress of each campaign.

And you? What are your favorite tools?

Benjamin Houy

Bonjour ! I'm Benjamin Houy, the founder of French Together, a language-learning blog that attracts 308,000 monthly visitors. After 6 years in the language-learning niche, I created Grow With Less to share my passion for blogging and show online business owners how to grow without the overwhelm.

8 thoughts on “The 27 tools I use to grow my online business”

  1. I make my own pictures so for me Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Sketch have been invaluable. I also like some food blogging specific tools like WPRM. Otherwise, I agree with a lot of your suggestions. I use Cloudways as my host, and I really like them.

    Thanks for the recommendations. Never knew that about Disqus. They always seemed like a good idea but I got rid of them because they were clunky. Good to know they have some unethical practices.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your favorite blogging tools Anna :).

      I wish I knew how to make pictures with Lightroom and Photoshop :).

      I heard lots lots of good things about Cloudways but I was under the impression it requires more technical knowledge.

      Reply
  2. Hey Benjamin,

    Thanks for sharing these tools. I’ve stopped using Disqus few years ago already and replaced comments with the default one provided by WordPress. Being a WordPress Speed Optimisation Expert, I’ve noticed that Disqus also affects your site’s page load time (negatively).

    +1 to SiteGround, ShortPixel, Google Analytics, Yoast SEO, Buffer, Pomodoro technique, and of course Trello as I am using these all tools for years now.

    Reply
    • Hey Dipak,

      Yeah it’s crazy how many scripts Disqus adds. I wish WordPress’ native comment system was a bit more user-friendly though. It looks quite dated.

      Reply
  3. Hi Benjamin, thanks for sharing the effects of disqus no wonder some are alread disqusted with it hehe just kidding. Great list of blogging tools though.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this wonderful article. I learnt something new. I struggle to build backlinks especially guest post. What do you recommend I do to get backlinks apart from Email outreach and writing quality content.

    Reply

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