I've never been an engineer. I built my career managing techies rather than being one, so I'm having fun getting my hands dirty with some of the tools of Web production. Along the way, I've been amazed at the freeware available across the Web. To that end, I want to give a quick shout out to the folks who have given me cool toys to use on my sites. You can use them too, if you want.
Google AdSense (www.google.com/adsense): Yeah, it's a no-brainer. Google AdSense is kind of mind blowing. It doesn't cost you anything to put it on your site, and the bottom line is that it can make you money. I don't know how many people have gotten rich using Google Ads alone (though I suspect come have), and I know there are more lucrative forms of advertising out there, but for a lot of organizations from the sole proprietor like myself, to the biggest media outlets around, Google AdSense makes sense.
Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics): If you don't have Google Analytics (or Urchin) on your site, you're just flat out missing good information. This free service gives you a really granular look at the traffic coming to your site. For the most part it's easy to use -- though there are some sophisticated tools within the service that are still all Greek to an advertising non-professional like me. But you can look past all that to answer questions like what is the average size of your users' monitors? What operating system do most of your users have? What browser? How many of your users come from other Web sites, and how many are just typing in your URL? It's an amazing resource, and any person who wants to make their site or their business better has no excuse for not using it.
Add This (http://www.addthis.com): With this simple tool, your Web pages go from static to viral. By adding a single piece of code to your pages, you give your users a variety of ways to share your content with other users. The search engines like it, too.
EmailMeForm.com (http://www.emailmeform.com) or MyContactForm.com (http://www.mycontactform.com): One quick way to guarantee that your inbox will be filled with spam tomorrow is to post an email address anywhere on the Web. Bots and crawlers are out there searching, and they can smell an @ sign a mile away. The way to escape this is to replace that email address with an email form. EmailMeForm.com allows you to make your form just that much more secure by using a CAPTCHA like challenge-response technology. But MyContactForm.com is a bit more customizable and I like that they put a little red asterisk by required fields automatically.
Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com): This isn't freeware (far from it), but is a reasonably-priced, easy to use tool for anyone who wants to send out legitimate email. I used this service to publish my daily email, Single Shot, and I found it easy to use. They have gone to lengths to stay on the ISPs white lists, as well, which means your emails are more likely to make it through the spam filter.
OK, so it's a short list, but an important one. These are the essentials for anyone looking to build a Web presence. There are certainly others, from quiz makers, to community tools like Kick Apps. And I'd love to hear from you about what tools you've put to use on your own site.