Online Business Tools of the Trade
In the online business world, finding the best tools for the job can be an overwhelming chore. The following list of resources is provided to make it easier for you to discover some of the most valuable offerings out there.
Because of the ever-changing nature of technology, the world of online business products change rapidly relative to many industries, with new products entering the marketplace and old products fading away. With that in mind, this page will be updated frequently to reflect what I believe to be some of the best products available to the online entrepreneur.
Currently, these are the main products and services that I recommend for starting and building your online business. Besides personal experience with these tools, they were chosen based on:
- Quality and Value
Are you getting an excellent return on the cost investment for the product?
Is it relatively easy to learn how to use the product and get it to do what you need it to do?
- Customer Support
This is very important and should never be taken lightly. Is there someone available to promptly answer questions, help fix problems, and keep the product updated?
Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, and if you were to make a purchase through them, I would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. That being said, these recommendations are based solely on their value in helping you find success for starting and running your own online business.
It’s highly recommended that you do a bit of keyword research before starting your online business. These tools will help you see what your audience is looking for and whether or not your online business idea has good commercial potential. A good keyword tool will also help you accurately gauge the competition level in the marketplace.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
This is the free tool from Google. It requires a free account with Google AdWords.
Market Samurai can help you find those gold nugget keywords that exist in your marketplace, and help you avoid dead-end projects before you begin.
Keyword Researcher can help you find thousands of long tail keywords by scraping Google’s massive Autocomplete database.
Long Tail Pro
This keyword research tool offers Pro and Platinum versions.
Ubersuggest is a free online keyword suggestion tool that makes good use of different suggest services.
To get started, you’ll want to have your own domain name. These are two of the best domain registrars around:
1&1 is one of the biggest domain registrars with more than 19 million domains worldwide. They are also a global leader for web hosting.
Namecheap can get you domain names at some of the best prices in the industry. They also provide web hosting.
Where you host your online business is not a decision to be taken lightly. You’ll want to look for 24/7 support that is knowledgeable and friendly, as well as a solid host provider that can offer more extensive solutions for when your business grows.
If you’re using WordPress—and I highly recommend it—Bluehost deserves a good look. They offer a managed platform for WordPress users that helps make your WordPress site secure, easy to use, and fast. Their excellent support also includes a staff of full-time WordPress Core developers.
HostGator has been a mainstay of many online businesses and bloggers for a long time. I’ve set up many clients with them and currently have a reseller account through them, and I’ve always found their support to be first-rate.
WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting platform that offers easy WordPress installation, daily backups, top-level security, increased speed, developer-friendly tools, and excellent customer service.
There are many choices for building your online platform, but I believe no option has more to offer than WordPress. WordPress is a free content management system that’s relatively easy-to-use, well supported, and has a very large user base. It’s also highly customizable with a huge number of free and premium themes and plugins to help you accomplish almost anything you’d like to do with your site.
There are, what seems like, unlimited themes to use with WordPress. When picking a theme for your online platform, it’s best to go with something that’s efficiently coded, and well-maintained and supported.
The Genesis framework and child themes from StudioPress are beautiful, first-rate themes that give you the opportunity to customize your online brand while ensuring your site is built on a solid foundation of code for such things as load time, mobile responsiveness, and search engine friendliness.
Thrive Themes offer fast, beautiful, conversion focused themes for your business. I've personally used and researched dozens of themes, and have found these to be among the very best because of their clean design and easy interface for creating your content, including impressive solutions for marketing elements such as opt-in forms, sales pages, landing pages and more.
When building and running your online business, you’ll want to be able to easily move files between your computer and the sever your site sits on. FileZilla is a fast, free, and reliable FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface. It’s available for both Windows and Mac OS X.
If you’re going to build mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with your audience, you'll need an email marketing service you can trust. These are two of the best email marketing services around.
AWeber has been a top choice for online business marketers for years, and offer excellent autoresponder features and customer support.
MailChimp offers powerful features with an attractive user interface and beautifully designed email marketing templates.
Envato is a great resource for web templates, themes, plugins, scripts, code, images, video, audio and more for customizing and growing your online platform.
Social Media Management
With all of the social networks that bide for our time these days, social media can be a time-consuming chore. To make the job easier, you’ll want to consider these two excellent tools. They offer free, basic options as well as paid versions for those who need more features.
Buffer offers social sharing, scheduling and analytics with an intuitive, easy to use interface.
Hootsuite was founded in 2008 and now has over 9 million users. They allow you to schedule and manage your social activity for all of your accounts from one dashboard.
Most online businesses need to integrate with many other online services. A good password manager can help you keep your sanity and secure your various accounts. Here’s a couple of first-rate password managers I highly recommend:
This is a free password tool that also offers a premium version. It’s available for both Mac and Windows.
This is another quality password manager that supports multiple platforms.
It’s best to eventually have your own products and services you can offer to your market. While ecommerce is a huge topic with many options and considerations, these tools are definitely worth a look:
PayPal has been around for a long time and is considered trustworthy and essential for many online business owners. You’ll want to set up a free Business account with them to get up and running.
I absolutely love Ecwid. They offer one of the simplest ways ever to sell simultaneously on your website, mobile devices, social sites and more. And they offer a free plan as well!
Gumroad is a nice looking, efficient option for selling your digital products. They’ll handle the security issues, payment, and downloads for you.
WooCommerce is free, and probably the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin available. It has a large user community and a ton of add-on plugins and themes to help you customize your online shop.
Although the user interface at E-junkie looks a bit dated, it still offers some of the best features you can find in a simple package.
Stripe offers a beautiful cross-device, single click payment form. It accepts over 100 currencies from around the world, and automatically handles conversions so that customers can be charged in their local currencies.
Below are some excellent products to help with the marketing needs of your online business, from sales and landing pages to affiliate marketing.
Plugmatter Feature Box
If you want an easy way to add an opt-in feature box with your own custom background in the head of your WordPress site, look no further than these guys. Their plugin makes it simple.
If you use affiliate links with your online business—and I highly recommend you do as long as you honestly strive to provide value to your visitors—then ThirstyAffiliates is a great chocie. This WordPress affiliate link management plugin for WordPress will help you set up and organize your affiliate links.
Thrive Content Builder
This great plugin is from the same folks who make the Thrive Themes for WordPress. It allows you to easily create clean, nice-looking marketing pages (and more) with an intuitive drag and drop interface. Highly recommended.
Analytics and Testing
Google Analytics is a free tool that gives you data about your visitors across ads, videos, websites, social tools, tablets and smartphones.
While Google no longer offers Google Website Optimizer, they’ve integrated content testing into Google Analytics with Google Analytics Content Experiments. This puts measuring, testing, and optimizing all in one place, letting you show different page designs and content to different users so that you can determine what’s most effective.
Sitting at your computer for long stretches of time is not healthy for you—I know from first-hand experience. Please get up and take breaks whenever you can—at least twice every hour. Beyond that, (and having a healthy lifestyle plan in general), here are a couple of highly recommended tools for the online business warrior.
Back in 1998, my arms and hands crashed and burned when I failed to follow a healthy regimen of computer use. After countless trips to the doctors with little improvement, this amazing device helped get me back in working order and gave me fast pain relief when most everything else failed.
Dragon Speech Recognition Software
If your online business plan requires extensive writing (e.g., blog posts, content marketing, ebooks), I highly recommend taking advantage of speech recognition software whenever possible. After a short learning curve (for both yourself and the software), it can be an efficient way to work while giving your hands the rest they need.
Here’s some of the marketing and business books that stand out as extremely valuable, practical, and inspiring.
Do the Work (Steven Pressfield)
Will help you take action and fight the resistance that is keeping you from doing great work. Even better than the book is the audio version read by Pressfield that you can download from iTunes.
How to Not Write Bad (Ben Yagoda)
A fun, concise, and practical guide to help all of us become better writers.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert B. Cialdini)
This classic book takes a look at universal principles of human behavior and can help you understand what guides our decisions.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Chip Heath, Dan Heath)
Covers the six traits that will help you get your messages noticed.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Al Ries, Jack Trout)
Another classic, this book helps you position yourself in an overcrowded marketplace, amidst a skeptical and media-saturated public.
Rework (Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson) Provides valuable ideas—beyond traditional business recommendations—for getting your project or business headed toward success.
Start with Why (Simon Sinek)
Will help you understand the foundational meaning of your business or organization, why others should care, and how it will support everything you do.
The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (Seth Godin)
Understand why it’s more important than ever to express your creativity and resist conformity.
The Millionaire Fastlane (MJ DeMarco)
This book will inspire you to go beyond the traditional, conservative approach to education, work, and retirement—the “Slowlane”—and take more risks, ownership, and control of your dreams through the “Fastlane”.
The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
Another recommended book from Steven Pressfield, this one will help you realize your creative potential and conquer the inner roadblocks that keep you from success in business and life.
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