Not sure where to start with the right tools to power your online business?
We’ve spent more than a decade using all sorts of tools aimed at making your website presence better. Some tools have been great and others have not been so great. Our list below includes some of the best tools we’ve used and recommend frequently.
Establishing Your Needs
It is easy to keep adding tools to your arsenal thinking it will help your business. Most of the time though, a few good tools will accomplish most of what you need. Think of the Pareto Principle. You’ll most likely get 80% of your results from 20% of your tools.
- A domain name
- A hosting account to host your files that loads fast
- A content management system (to handle the “easy” posting)
- A bit of tech magic to make your site load fast
Recommended Domain Name Registrars
You can register a domain name easily by searching on GoDaddy. They will let you know if the domain is available and will allow you to register it with just a few clicks. You can also register extras like SSL certificates for added website security. You can also register website hosting through GoDaddy, but we have found the services mentioned further below to be better solutions.
Starts from $12.99/year for a .com domain. Often times, you can get them cheaper by searching for a coupon code.
Recommended Hosting Companies
You should buy your hosting solution based on where you are at in your business. If you are brand spanking new, you can probably get away with a cheap, shared hosting account. You’ll pay very little money and have a website up in no time. The only draw back is that you will suffer in speed and load times. If you are more serious, you can get some pretty affordable and fast website hosting by paying just a little more. These packages also tend to be better optimized for the content management systems we’ll discuss shortly.
HostGator hosting costs very little and gives you plenty of storage space to get your feet wet on the web. Major drawback is that your website speed and load times will suffer. This is not good if you’re trying to give the best user experience and cater to Google’s fondness of fast loading websites.
Starts from $3.96/month for their all inclusive packages.
WP-Engine is an extremely fast and secure web hosting platform created specifically for WordPress based websites. It is a great platform to work on with a live environment and testing environment so you can test changes to your website before pushing them live. Another huge benefit they provide is automated daily backups so you can always rest assured your website is safe.
Starts from $29/month for up to 25,000 visits/month.
ASmallOrange is a great hosting as well for WordPress or any PHP website, but usually a fall back for us if WPEngine is not a good fit for whatever given situation. The servers here are reasonably priced and run fast!
If you are using Magento for your e-commerce website, we highly recommend Nexcess. The web hosting service runs Magento super fast and is pre-optimized for the complex e-commerce platform. Nexcess saves you a ton of time over a VPS or dedicated server since everything comes pre-configured to optimize Magento’s performance.
MediaTemple is a long time player in the hosting space. They are well known for hosting big name websites and blogs. Most recently they’ve added in specialty packages like WordPress optimized hosting. They are definitely worth a look if you need the utmost in performance.
2. Be able to create sophisticated web pages quickly and easily
In today’s world, there is no reason why you should be building each page of your website by hand in Dreamweaver, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft FrontPage, etc. You are just creating way more work for yourself if you do. Now days, the hand coding is left to the designers and developers who make your website template. This code then sits behind the scenes, while you use a content management system to publish your content as if you were using an online version of Microsoft Word. Keeping the programming separated from the publishing process means your life just got a lot easier.
Here are some popular and well-developed content management systems we like working with.
WordPress is a dominating force in the world of content management systems. According to W3Techs survey, 60.3% of all websites that use a content management system used WordPress. It is believed that about 21.9% of all websites on the entire Internet are powered by WordPress. We like working with WordPress because we can built amazing themes for it and bend it to our will to do all sorts of fancy things. WordPress can even be extended into a powerful e-commerce system for more basic online shopping experiences.
Magento is a work horse when it comes to e-commerce websites. We like Magento for e-commerce websites that need special functionality and tracking that more basic shopping cart systems lack. It is the leader in the e-commerce CMS space, commanding about 26.2% market share. It was also recently acquired by eBay, Inc.
3. A way to quickly manage all your social media marketing channels
HootSuite allows you to manage all of your social media accounts from one central location. Instead of having to log in to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn separately, you can now publish a message from within HootSuite and have it go out to all of your social media channels at the same time. HootSuite also provides in-depth reporting so you can see exactly what is going on with each of your channels, how they’re growing, and more.
4. A way to collect email subscribers and easily email them all at the same time.
Aweber is solid email management tool that has been around for years. It helps you collect email address, email your contacts, and stay in contact with them automatically.