Overwhelmed by the endlessly growing list of wedding business software and apps popping up every day?
Yeah, me too.
While it's crazy cool that the era of technology has made it so easy to be digital, the vast number of tools at our fingertips can leave any busy business owner feeling a bit intimidated.
So in an effort to help you sift through the options more quickly, I've finally taken the time (years after having the idea) to put together an ever-evolving list of tools, software and resources that may help you manage your day-to-day.
Some of these tools I've used in the past, some I use currently (and can't live without) and others I've never actually tried but they seem like awesome resources worth checking out.
FREE SEO Tools I Can't Live Without
Being that wedding SEO is my full-time career, I use a lot of SEO tools.
and software I'm not going to mention here because, frankly, it's not appropriate for the average wedding business, neither in cost nor functionality; many are so technical or advanced it would only overwhelm my readers. That said, there are still several, simpler SEO tools I use regularly...mostly free...that every event company interested in SEO should know about.
Google Keyword Planner
Even with the extensive effort Google has been making to degrade its tools for keyword research and insight over the past few years, it's Keyword Planner is still a great, free resource. You can use it to discover new keywords to use in your website, find out how many people search for a given keyword each month and more. This tool is part of the Adwords suite, so you have to sign up for Google Adwords to get access to it. Recently, Google started requiring users to set up an initial campaign with payment information in order to establish an Adwords account. To avoid charges, pause your campaign right away before it runs.
Character Count Tool
By nature, search engine listings can only show so many characters to describe your business because there is only so much space on a computer screen or mobile device. For this reason, Google and other search engines usually cap off the number of characters they'll display when listing your website due to a pixel limit, like this:
While it's not typically harmful to go over this character limit a little, it's not ideal because your text will get truncated. So, to stay within the character limits, I like to keep one browser tab open with the free online Character Count Tool and paste my text there to check the characters. It also shows word count so it can be used for other writing projects too.
Yoast SEO Plugin for Wordpress
For the non-techie wedding pro who wants to implement SEO without being driven mad in the process, the Yoast SEO plugin is a must. The developer behind this plugin, Joost de Valk, is a total technical SEO wizard. His exhaustive mechanical approach to SEO is probably overkill for most event businesses (even I don't go to those extremes to rank pages on Page 1), but he's thought of everything so his plugin gets my thumbs up. It will allow you to fill in meta data and even verify your Google Search Console account without typing up code...a major plus for creative types. (There's also the All-In-One SEO Pack, but I use that for clients far less often.)
Redirection Plugin for Wordpress
I've introduced more SEO clients to this plugin than I care to remember. It's a simple extension that helps you easily manage your 404 redirects, which is when you forward one webpage to another webpage. Why would you need it? Well, anytime you delete or disable a webpage, that former page becomes a broken link - which can result in both lost traffic and lost search engine rankings. To avoid this, you can simply forward that older page to a newer page using a redirect plugin, like Redirection.
Duh, what SEO tool list would be complete without the free Google Analytics. No matter how intimidating you might feel the word "Analytics" is, this app can be seriously simple yet powerful...when you know how to use it. You can quickly discover where your leads are coming from, which ads and marketing give you the highest yield, which content is most popular, how visitors find you and much more!
Google Search Console
This tool is a bit more helpful when you have an intermediate understanding of SEO, but with a small learning curve, you can use it to make intelligent changes on your website that may directly impact your rankings and traffic. Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is totally free and, for this reason, one of my favorite technical SEO tools.
Bookkeeping & Payment Software
While there are a ton of neat new bookkeeping apps that seem to pop up everyday, I've been loving the simplicity and affordability of QuickBooks Online. Their software has been around forever so they've definitely perfected a few things along the way, which makes my life easier. I especially appreciate that I can give my Accountant access to it, making tax time practically effortless. The invoicing system is so simple to use and even lets clients pay online with bank transfer or credit card, including Apple Pay. For event businesses, some plans include helpful tools like recurring invoicing so you can set up payment plans that automatically send clients an invoice when the next installment is due, which means getting paid on time without having to remember to ask!
If you're an ambitious wedding professional who also sells products or digital training online, Stripe makes it easy. With integrations to most major teaching apps, it's an easy way to get paid for your knowledge.
For international transactions, good ol' PayPal is a godsend. When you've got clients paying you from countries all over the world, like I do and like my destination wedding clients do, PayPal is a no hassle way to process it all.
Project Management Software
Handling SEO projects for numerous clients gets tricky and there's no way I could do it without the proper mix of project management tools. I know your event business has just as many moving parts, so here are some apps to consider in making it all come together.
There are numerous popular project management apps out there and I've tried at least a dozen myself. While they all have their own nifty set of bells and whistles, I've always gone back to Basecamp. (Save $50 on Basecamp it by using my referral link.) The simplicity of use allows my team to work together without a huge learning curve. Every time my business goes through a growth spurt, Basecamp makes it easy for me to bring a new person on board. I love how clean the interface is and how all our communications are neatly organized by task so we always know where to look for the latest answer or discussion for a particular to-do item. It's seriously kept my insanity over the years.
Google Drive & Docs, Sheets...
It feels like I've tried every which way to file share...Dropbox, Box, YouSendIt, Basecamp...but Google Drive has been my favorite way to collaborate and share files thus far. It's probably a matter of taste, but I really like how the interface makes it easy to distinguish between our company files and files shared to us by others. I also like how I can see at a glance which of my team members create a file and when it was updated last. I'm especially fond of the folder organization and having the ability to control sharing at the document or folder level. And my absolute favorite feature is the "Comment" tool in Google Docs. With all the SEO-driven copywriting my team does for clients, this tool is essential for my clients giving us document-specific feedback quickly and in an organized fashion. Oh...and did I mention how awesome it is to be able to tweak docs on the go from my iPhone? L.U.V.
While I'm not a Honeybook user myself, several of my clients are, and I've helped them create SOPs (standard operating procedures) for their Honeybook account so I'm quite familiar with its capabilities. For venues, planners and photographers in particular, this app is worth checking out because it was specifically designed for creatives and event pros. In particularly, I really like how its built around your client workflow and allows you to invoice within that stream as well.
When Eddie Babbage interviewed me on the topic of SEO for his podcast (that we've yet to re-record due to bad audio), I was introduced to his Timeline Genius software, which looks like an incredible time-saving resource for any event professional that doesn't want to recreate the wheel for every new client. Seriously smart.
Email & Communications
I have a hate-hate relationship with email, so here's how I cope:
Holy heaven, this app is the bomb dot com. HelpScout basically a single inbox for the whole team, but treating each message like a task not just an email. It's way more actionable and built for small or large teams...even just 2 people (like your assistant). With user assignments, my team can handle everything that comes in (so I can spend more of my time helping clients on an expert level) and I never have to see a single email that doesn't absolutely require my attention. However, we can all access each other's messages if needed, so nothing falls through the cracks when one of us is away.
This is my email replacement! I have tried over and over to achieve inbox zero, but it is so doggone hard to do! Slack makes it so much more accessible. Moving my team discussions from email to Slack (when Basecamp isn't the solution), has drastically reduced email bloat and also made it way easier for us to be productive on the go.
With a single click I'm live, on video chat, face-to-face with clients on the other side of the country. This apps helps my team and I break down the impersonal barriers that have become far too common in today's virtual business life. I like that clients get to see I'm an actual human being with genuine compassion with a real team of people to support them. It makes the whole partnership so much more personal, which is more my speed.
Skype is a lot like Hangouts for me, except I only use it for my one-on-one calls with my International clients.
Design & Photo Editing Apps
Full disclosure, I'm a retired graphic designer. I don't practice daily anymore, which means I become a little less adept at using Adobe Creative Suite/Cloud every year. My dedication to SEO and sales techniques has left less and less time for other skills that, over the years, I've started handing off to more capable hands. This is one of those areas. So, rather than torture myself in Photoshop or Illustrator, I use other awesome design apps that make graphics quicker to pull together.
Sidenote: Photographers might not be interested in ANY of these because you'll probably stick with Creative Suite and that's cool too.
For wedding pros without a design team on hand or the desire to navigate professional design software, check these out:
Canva is the non-designer's Creative Cloud. It's got pretty much everything you need to design your own graphics out of the box with a simple drag-and-drop interface. With design templates ready to go and access to countless shapes, patterns, icons and typefaces, the total novice can create pretty sleek-looking images in no time.
While the paid version is pretty cool, I use the free version of PicMonkey to quickly crop and edit photos. It's more suited for this than Canva.
Whenever possible I try to use my own images and, as an event professional, I strongly recommend you do too. However, there are always occasions when you simply don't have that exact illustration you're looking for. That's when I run a quick search on Pixabay. It's a royalty free photo stock site that can be used for commercial use. Professional, stock photos can get pricey so its nice to have a few free options up your sleeve.
Editing and watermarking photos in bulk used to be easy in Photoshop. Now that I don't have it, I've had to find new resources to do this that don't jack up the quality of the photo. Enter Water Marquee. I can upload a dozens of photos at a time and quickly watermark them all, while still downloading at a high quality. It takes minutes to do and keeps me from pulling my hair out (and I like my hair, so that's good.)
Up until recently, I have been an avid Adobe Creative Suite user - for YEARS...like since before it was "Creative Suite". I have dropped more money than I care to admit on the newest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe Acrobat and others. So when I made the difficult decision not to renew my Creative Cloud membership and live without the latest CS apps for the first time ever, I had to get really resourceful. Luckily, I found this little gem. If you are a recovering Photoshop user, but want something FREE that lets you utilize a lot of the most popular functionalities of PSD, check it out.
This section could be a post within itself. For brevity, I'm only going to list a few resources that I think will be the most helpful for you, as a solo or small team wedding business.
I've never claimed to be a social media expert, SEO is more my thing, but social is simply a part of doing business today. I'm not always as consistent as I'd like to be, which is why I love Buffer. It allows me to easily share tips and resources on my profiles in batches of time and slowly rolls them out on a more gradual schedule. I can also view stats that give me the insight I need to determine what's most helpful to my audience. I also really appreciate that Buffer covers so many different social apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. As an alternative, I've also heard great things about Meet Edgar, which allows you to republish past content.
I have an embarrassing confession. I am a recovering Infusionsoft user. After investing more than $20k using that system, dragging my feet the whole way, I finally stopped trying to 'get it perfect' and settle for simple! ConvertKit is seriously the simplest email marketing program I've ever used, but packs a pretty powerful punch with advanced automation features. No, it's not as advanced as Infusionsoft, doesn't have as many bells & whistles as Active Campaign, but if you like SIMPLE, it's worth a peek. Infusionsoft took me months to set up (probably a year, if I'm being honest with myself); ConvertKit took me a couple hours.
A feature within Leadpages, this simple tool helps you collect email addresses anywhere on your website or blog. It's kind of awesome.
Mailchimp is an email marketing program I used when I was first getting started as a bridal business. At the time, I was totally new to software designed for small business because my career had been as a marketing consultant working with much larger companies where we used big-time apps like Salesforce and Marketo, which aren't practical for entrepreneurs. Mailchimp was simple enough for me to learn and use, with amazing stats and reporting that gave me the insights I needed to adjust my email marketing. For businesses just getting started, its a great solution. Other popular email marketing programs are Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign, Vertical Response, ConvertKit, Emma, AWeber and Get Response.
What Tools Can't You Live Without?
I'd love to hear from you! What are your top wedding and event apps that make running a business so much more manageable? Add it to our growing list in the comments below: