A constant question I get is “what tools should I use?” We hate making bad decisions. We want to pick a winner the first time. Tools often require an investment of money and time and we freakin’ hate it when we put in the time & money only to disover the tool we thought would be awesome turned out to be a huge pain in the ass.
That’s why we look to the recommendations of others we trust. So with that in mind, I’d like to offer you my recommendations. Keep in mind that recommendations are subjective and what works for me may not be the best thing for you. However, since most of you are running businesses online similar to mine, I think the tools I use and recommend will be a good match for you. Feel free to suggest your own recommendations in the comments.
You’re not a “problogger.” You’re a business owner and you need the ultimate sovereign platform for business in the great reset economy we’re in right now. WordPress has the right balance of capability & usability. Simple free tools like Blogger just don’t cut it for “serious business” in my opinion.
But neither is WordPress overcomplicated. WordPress does an amazing amount of stuff without being as complex as some of the “bigger” content management systems out there. And because it’s open source software under the GPL license, it’s free for anyone to use. This is definitely one case where “free” does not mean “cheap.”
Getting a self-hosted WordPress set up for your business website is cake nowadays. I’ve used several myself over the years and dealt with the various hosting companies of my blog consulting clients. If you have yet to set up a site for your business, or you’re thinking about new hosting because you’re not happy with your current host, I recommend Bluehost (affiliate link). I love bluehost because their servers are fast, their control panel is easy to use, and they have great customer service. A 3-for-3 winning combo.
Headway is the best tool for designing your blog and arranging blocks of content on its pages. One thing about small online business owners is they tend to be jacks-of-all-trades, embracing the DIY (do it yourself) mentality. That usually means their blogs look like shit, because, well… they’re not designers (unless, of course, they are, in which case their blogs look awesome).
Headway makes it super easy to design your blog like a pro and best of all you don’t need to write a single line of code. I use it myself and like it so much I work with them behind the scenes (and not-so-behind the scenes, creating tutorial videos and so forth).
The golden triangle of online marketing has 3 sides: blogging, social media, and email marketing. You can’t do email marketing without an email list management tool. This tool allows people to subscribe, helps you create sign up forms and gives you the copy-and-paste code for your site. It lets you write your newsletter and put trackable links in it. It has tons of reporting features so you know how effective your email marketing is.
The big fish in this pond is Aweber (affiliate link). These guys not only have all the tools, they also teach you how to use them and have good live customer service.
You can’t have an online business without the ability to receive payment over the web. PayPal is an online payment processor anyone can use and you don’t have to have a merchant account. People can pay by credit card or from their own PayPal account balance. If it wasn’t for PayPal, many of us might still be working shitty day jobs and wondering how the hell we would ever improve our lives.
Here is a list of just some of what PayPal can do for you besides just process one-time payments from your customers:
- Money transfer from PayPal to your bank account (and vice versa)
- Receive subscription payments
- Mass pay a list of affiliates
- Issue a PayPal debit card which draws from your PayPal balance
If you want to sell digital downloads like ebooks, audio & video files, software, and so forth, you need a way to only allow people who paid you to access and download your product. E-junkie (affiliate link) is perfect for this. If you like, you can also create an affiliate program for your digital products so that others can sell them for you for a cut (and you all make more money).
Yes, there are more complex solutions out there, but if all you need is a way to sell a few digital products via download, then E-junkie is perfect. If you’re going beyond “simple digital downloads” then the next supertool for 2011 will be more interesting for you.
One of the cool things about online business is that the medium itself (web pages) offers unique product & content delivery options. You can offer your customers access to all the information, content, and training they’ll ever need via a membership site. But you don’t have to create a whole new site for this and learn a new platform. You can use WordPress (which you’re already using, right?) and create a members-only area using WishList Member (affiliate link).
If you want to charge for access to your member area, WishList Member integrates with PayPal. If you want to send emails to your existing list related to member content or get new sign-ups to your list via the membership process, WishList Member connects with Aweber. Headway also works wonderfully with WishList Member so you can create a quality membership site design.
In addition to the normal marketing channels of blog/social media/email, you need make sure your online business is easily findable through search. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the strategies, tactics and tools we use to accomplish a strong search engine presence.
The problem with SEO is that it seems complicated and daunting. The truth is that anyone can understand basic SEO and improve their search rankings and site traffic. You don’t need to understand SEO on the same level as an SEO professional to increase traffic to your site.
In addition to the built-in SEO tools of Headway, I highly recommend Scribe SEO (affiliate link). Scribe SEO is a combination web service and WordPress plugin that lets you tap into a powerful keyword database. Simply put, Scribe SEO helps you create content search engines love. And it does it so easily it’s almost like playing a game: how high can you get the SEO score for the post you’re writing?
We made sure Headway would be compatible with Scribe SEO, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not it will break something on your site or cause problems. Scribe SEO is a breeze to use, and best of all it really works. It will help you improve your search engine rankings.
These tools form the operational foundation for the online business that uses blogs, social media, and other content as its main marketing approach. All the above tools are compatible with each other, so you don’t have to fear any unexpected unpleasant surprises.
With these tools you can build a highly successful online information-based business that diversifies outside of the typical narrow channels of coach, consultant or freelancer in 2011 and beyond. Did I miss anything you’d consider a “supertool?” Want to offer an alternative to any of these? Let us know in the comments!