Battle-Tested Website Services, Hosts, Plugins, Themes, and More

Since 2008, I've tried a LARGE number of various technologies for putting together sites. Here's my ultimate shortlist of services I use today...

The website technology space is never-ending. A new service or tool pops up daily. I’ve tested so many of these over the years (since 2008 to be exact). To make it easier for everyone, below is a list of tools, services, plugins, themes, etc. that I use consistently through all of my websites without any headaches.

List up to date as of 10/21/2020

Top Recommended Website Hosting Providers

A proper host will make or break your site. Time and time again it’s been shown that to improve page speed, you need to utilize a fast server (VPS, not shared hosting).

These are the two host provider setups I use on a daily basis:

  • Managed Hosting: Cloudways ($10) is the best. You can choose your underlying server provider (e.g., Digital Ocean, Linode, AWS). They then install WP and handle the rest for you. Headache-free!

  • DIY: I have 10 sites on my Digital Ocean ($5) server with ServerPilot ($10) for management. This combination is amazing. It does take some knowledge but if you want control over things, this is for you.

I’ve used the DIY setup since 2015. Stay away from shared hosting providers like SiteGround, BlueHost, Godaddy, Hostgator; they kill site speed.

Must-Have Tools for WordPress Sites

  • Theme: I use GeneratePress Premium for ALL my sites. Extremely lightweight. Easy to use. Easy to customize. I do sometimes add in Elementor as a page builder if I need to create unique designs for pages, popups, etc.

  • Site optimization: Apart from a good host, you need to utilize CloudFlare ($0) for CDN. I also optimize all images using ShortPixel (highly recommend this)!

  • Caching: I love WP Rocket. Easy to set up and use. Connects via an API to Cloudflare to configure optimal settings. It does both Desktop and Mobile caching for CSS, HTML, and javascript.

  • Comparison Tables: I am a fan of custom building my tables with HTML + CSS (will share my tables in a future email for you to use), but I also use Ninja Tables on many of my sites. I use the plugin until the site has enough traffic to warrant a custom table.

  • Security: I use the free Wordfence plugin to lockdown my site. Recommended!

  • Amazon Affiliate: I use AAWP for any and all Amazon links. Their use of shortcodes is really easy, also you can create customized tables in HTML+CSS with their shortcodes as well. I’ve been a user for years now.

  • Extra functionality: I use Easy Table Of Contents to get a ToC on the page so Google can show my subheaders under the SERP; works great! Yoast SEO (free version) for on-page SEO. Yet Another Related Post Plugin (YARPP) for related posts at the bottom of articles. WP AutoTerms for Privacy policies, TOS, etc.

  • WP Management: I use ManageWP (for 5 years now) to manage all my WP sites from one dashboard. I use it to keep track of all my sites, login from one universal place, and most importantly, off-site backups on a regular basis. Love it!

  • Internal Linking: internal linking provides large benefits in terms of traffic. I use Link Whisper to make this easy.

Expired Domains to Build Sites

Nowadays, I only use expired domains. I cover the ins and out of why that is in this article.

My favorite provider of expired domains is They scour the auctions to buy up the best domains, vet them, get them indexed, and ensure the domains are clear of spam. They have a marketplace where they list out these domains. It’s not an open marketplace and thus requires an invite.

They are giving away $100 towards your first domain purchase. Also, if you deposit funds via TransferWise, you also get 10% cash back towards a future purchase.

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