Starting up a small business online is never easy. Being a small business owner means sticking your neck, and wallet, on the line. Thankfully, there are loads of small business tools out there to help you start a business online.
Here we have compiled a list of the best small business tools and resources to start a website or online shop. Many of these tools and resources we use ourselves. Others we wish we had known of before we started. Without further ado here is a list of the best online tools to start or run a small business online.
Website and WordPress
The free and versatile open-source content management system (CMS) is the go-to choice of small businesses with little or no experience in website content management. Our website is built on WordPress.
As of January 2015, it was used by over 23 per cent of the top ten million websites. Use this website blogging platform to get started with a visually-pleasing, organised and functional site.
» Genesis WordPress Framework by StudioPress
Genesis is a very popular wordpress theme framework. It’s the design, security and SEO foundation of our website. StudioPress themes are search engine friendly, featuring state-of-the-art code and smart design architecture so that search engines see the content. Genesis is mobile responsive and built using the latest HTML5 designs and to follow all WordPress security best practices.
If you are after premium WordPress themes with a ton of features that boast top quality and unparalleled support then you should give StudioPress a go.
» Altitude Pro Theme
This is the child theme from StudioPress that we use. Altitude Pro is not just another WordPress theme, Genesis is a powerful underlying framework that extends your site’s functionality and aesthetics while also providing SEO and security benefits.
Customise your site with a number of theme options and optimise it for mobile screens with Altitude Pro. You can have a brand new site up and running with just a few clicks of the mouse.
This is an automated WordPress backup service that we use. VaultPress is a reliable contingency measure in the event of malicious attacks, outages and natural disasters. It automatically backs up your site in real-time, and allows you to view backups by hour, day, month or year.
It also has a stats page that shows you when your posts are published and when comments are posted by visitors. You have a choice of three pricing plans, and there are no long-term contracts.
» WP Rocket
WP Rocket is a caching and performance optimization plugin for WordPress we use that helps speed up our WordPress website to load faster. This nifty plugin comes packed with the latest features in terms of site performance. WP Rocket is very simple to configure even for complete beginners, with minimal configuration you will see immediate results.
Web Hosting & Domain Names
We use DigitalOcean to host our website and DO is one of the world’s largest cloud hosting companies, hosting more than 160,000 web-facing computers. Besides the assurance of 99.9% uptime, it provides an extremely friendly yet feature-rich UI. SSDs come standard with every VPS, so everything moves super-fast.
You can get real-time statistics from your VPSs and create snapshots with just a few clicks. All in all, a value purchase and a server host we’re really happy to use.
We use ServerPilot as our WordPress host. ServerPilot is a cloud-based hosting control panel (similar to cPanel) that is “sitting on top” of a cloud server from for example DigitalOcean or Vultr. ServerPilot offers a centralised, easy-to-use control panel for managing and performing basic tasks on your server.
The software does not install anything resource intensive on the server. Automated updates are enabled by default, and free plans offer a good mix of features to operate and maintain a server.
» InMotion Hosting
If you’re on the lookout for a cheap web hosting provider that offers great customer support and fast speeds, then give InMotion some serious consideration. InMotion gives you free data backups, a free domain name, SSD comes with every plan, 24×7 support and they help you transfer your existing website to them for free.
We have used InMotion in the past and they’re a great web host for any small biz that is getting started online with their website.
We have our domain name registered with Namecheap. They’re a well-known and affordable domain name registrar offering reliable DNS email and 100% free email forwarding. If you’re building a website for the long-term, it is best to get a domain name from Namecheap.
The company bundles WHOISGuard privacy feature into its overall package and gives free custom nameservers. It provides timely service and a user-friendly interface, so you never have to feel inconvenienced in any way.
Web Design & Web Development
99Designs is a freelance jobs platform for web developers and an online marketplace for businesses seeking professional web and logo design. You can run a contest for anything from a blog logo design to a custom WordPress theme or ebook cover design.
What’s also cool is that they have ready-made logos for just about every industry.
Fiverr is a website where people can sell or buy services starting at just $5. You can choose from a range of service categories, from videos and graphics to unique gifts and even some bizarre stuff.
You can track seller’s’ work, exchange files, and interact with them while your order is in progress.
Let’s be honest. Most stock photography out there is pretty terrible. There are exceptions. With Pexels you can search from nearly 3,000 hand-picked royalty-free stock photo images from websites across the internet. Plus 10 new images are added daily.
If you’re blogging or putting out regular content on your site, you can never have too many choices when it comes to stock photos.
Canva let’s you create awesome designs and images from hundreds of free elements, fonts, photos, and graphics, or upload your own into the drag and drop tool. You don’t need to complex Photoshop skills to make a beautiful, custom designs and graphics with Canva.
Canva includes ready-made templates and professional designs so you can get a customized image or graphic done in just a few minutes. No design training necessary. You can also access more than 1 million premium images for as little as $1.
Website Performance Tools
» Comodo SSL certificates
Comodo is a leading provider of SSL digital certificates for home offices, businesses, ecommerce stores and enterprises. Trusted by all browsers, the company provides 256-bit encryption, unlimited server licenses, phone support and a $250,000 warranty.
We use Comodo’s EssentialSSL certificate. Different packages are available at specific price points. With a Comodo SSL certificate, you can encourage visitors to browse your site and make purchases with peace of mind.
KeyCDN is a global content delivery network (CDN) with a robust infrastructure and POPs in the United States, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. We use KeyCDN to deliver our content through their global network.
The company offers a pay-as-you-go model with a flat-rate of $0.04/GB for traffic, which is extremely competitive for small businesses. KeyCDN’s mission is to offer an fast, reliable, scalable and affordable content delivery solution that is accessible to as many people as possible.
» Google Search Console
You will want to conduct website analytics from time to time to understand what’s going right and what needs to change. Here’s where Google Search Console can be of assistance. It is a free SEO diagnostics and monitoring tool that provides information about your website and site visitors.
You can use it to determine how many people are visiting your site, what are the most popular pages on your site, and whether more people are visiting your desktop or mobile site. You can also identify and fix website errors, create robots.txt file and submit a sitemap.
» Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a very popular free web analytics service consisting of tools, custom reports, remarketing options, multi-channel funnels, and more. The free service also offers statistics for search engine optimization and marketing purposes.
Use the tool to find out how visitors locate your site, conduct visitor segmentation, and fine-tune your site to improve user experience.
» Host Tracker
Downtime is bad for any website and the worst thing is sometimes you can be totally unaware that your site is offline. Using a website monitoring service gives us peace of mind that we get alerted if any outages happen.
We use a service called Host-Tracker, they’re a versatile website monitoring service that offers wide range of monitoring options; from website uptime checking, to domain name expiration, SSL certificate expiration and DNS blacklist checking. You can choose to be notified via email, sms, skype or via phone call.
Online Marketing Tools
Keeping track of how your website is performing on search engines can be time-consuming. Rankinity a cloud based keyword rank tracking service does this for you, informing you about your search rankings as well as competitor rankings.
We use Rankinity’s affordable and advanced tracking features to capture and deliver information in real-time, helping us gauge our website performance and improve our rankings.
Ahrefs is a backlink and competitor SEO research tool that uses its own bot and index. The index uses information from a trillion website connections and is updated every 30 minutes to provide fresh data to users.
Ahrefs also maintains a ranking database of approximately 45 million keywords spanning nine countries. As a member, you can make the most of their SERPs analysis and site explorer tools.
If email is an important component of your lead and customer engagement strategy, MailChimp is a useful email marketing software platform to consider. More than 10 million businesses use MailChimp to market and distribute content.
You can use the service to send attention-grabbing emails to customers, and streamline the email engagement process in an easy manner.
Buffer is a popular social media automation tool that helps busy small businesses curate content and share posts on a a variety of social networks. It supports multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook business pages, LinkedIn company pages and LinkedIn groups, Google+ pages and App.net, besides providing easy-to-use analytics tools.
We use Buffer, from scheduling and sharing social media posts and creating images for free, to integrating blog feeds and finding the best times to post, Buffer acts as our virtual social media assistant.
» Social Warfare
Social Warfare is one of the best (we think!) social sharing WordPress plugins on the market right now. We use it throughout our website and it’s a lightweight, super fast loading social sharing WordPress plugin that comes packed with great features including a tweet counter and it features modern looking and appealing social buttons.
SumoMe is a suite of free tools that can be used to grow your website’s traffic. They have a free WordPress plugin comprising a number of tools to help increase traffic to your website.
It includes free apps such as heat maps, which help you see where your website visitors are clicking; list builder, which aims to increase your daily email sign-ups by 20%; and share, which makes it super-easy for your website visitors to share your content with their contacts.
Small Business Tools
» Google Apps for Work
Over 2 million businesses use Google Apps to facilitate communication, collaboration and productivity across teams. Google Apps syncs across your email, Calendar, Hangouts and most of your online business tools, which means you can use one streamlined product instead of separately using multiple tools.
We use Google Apps. As it is a cloud-based “office” suite, all the members of our team can work simultaneously on a single document, without the need to send each other multiple versions or corrections.
Cloud-based accounting software FreshBooks is designed for business owners who want to place, create and manage mail invoices in one place.
It is ideal for newbie small business owners, businesses with a few clients, businesses that send out invoices every few weeks, and those who want to track the time they spend on a project.
FreshBooks offers a number of useful features, which include faster billing, automated collections and recurring billing. The good news is that it is compatible with 70 different software tools.
Is the trusted leader in online payments, enables buyers and businesses to send and receive money online. It’s easy to accept PayPal through your shopping cart software as most integrates with PayPal so all you need to do is upload your inventory and you’re ready to go.
Free voice & video calls service Skype is owned by Microsoft. It’s the leader in VOIP calling. It’s a tool we use to communicate with team members, freelancers, and other entrepreneurs. Premium features include calling landlines and cell phones, along with screen sharing.