What Tools Will I Need To Build An Online Business?
One of the first questions anyone has when first starting out as an Internet entrepreneur, is “what tools do I need?”
In this post, I share the tools I recommend and why…
1. Building Your Website
While there are some strategies that can be used which don’t require a website, the most fundamental requirement of most online businesses is a domain name and a website, so I will begin by looking at what you will need to get before you build your first website.
Domain Name Registration
No matter what online business model you pursue, you will most likely need to register a Domain Name, and if you plan to get into different niches, you will ultimately need several.
There are a number of reasons why I recommend not registering your domain name through your hosting company, and I recommend you use Namecheap to register your domain. They are the best domain registrant I have dealt with, and have a very good reputation among online marketers.
I use a hosting company called FastComet. Being a relatively new company has allowed FastComet to invest in the latest hardware and software technology, utilizing SSD-only storage for files and databases, and providing Global CDN access for all of their plans, resulting in exceptionally fast load times for site content.
I know of no other hosts that offer these features on anything other than their (much more expensive) high-end plans.
A high level of support is critically important for any service your business depends on, and in my experience FastComet support is excellent across all their plans with instant live chat, and a ten minute (or less!) response time for support tickets and email.
WordPress is the most popular blogging system in use on the planet and used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites as of January 2015 (according to Wikipedia).
While it started mainly as a blogging system, WordPress has evolved into a very powerful blogging and content management system through the thousands of plugins, widgets and themes, (both free, and paid) that are available for it.
Themes allow users to change the look and functionality of a WordPress website without altering the information content or structure of the site, whereas plugins offer custom functions and features allowing users to customize their sites to their own specific needs.
These customizations range from SEO to site loading speed optimisation, to list-building, as well as content displaying features, such as widgets and navigation bars.
There is a huge WordPress community which means you can always get support and you can guarantee there is a solution available for any WP issue you might conceivably come up against.
WordPress has become the default platform for most online entrepreneurs, due to the sheer range and quality of plugins that are available, and it is a supremely powerful engine to power your websites.
FastComet and all good hosting companies make WordPress a breeze to install.
For detailed information on what WordPress themes and plugins I recommend for online entrepreneurs, please download my free book “The Online Entrepreneur’s Toolbox”.
2. Email Auto-Responder
If you want to build an email list (and you definitely should), you will need an autoresponder to collect emails, manage your subscribers and lists, and automate your followup emails.
Ask half a dozen different online marketers what their favorite autoresponder is, and you’ll likely get 6 different opinions. I have used Aweber, and I currently use GetResponse, but they both offer a broadly similar feature set, and you can’t go too far wrong with either.
Another option to consider is Sendlane, which was co-founded in 2013 by respected online marketers Jimmy Kim, and Zakaria Meftah, and joined in 2014 by Anik Singal as CMO.
3. More Advanced Tools
You’ve built your blog, set up an optin form in your sidebar, and started collecting subscribers in your autoresponder. What next?
Tools For Building Landing Pages and Sales Funnels
The next step is to start building a marketing funnel (or funnels), in order to collect leads, build a relationship with your subscribers and customers, and maximize your customer lifetime value (CLV).
The most basic sales funnel (and that which you should concentrate on to begin with), is lead collection via an optin form linked to your autoresponder service. This is where you offer a ‘lead magnet’ (ethical bribe), in return for the visitor’s email address, which is automatically added to your subscriber list.
(You can see an example on the right-hand side of this page – signup to download my resource guide “The Online Entrepreneur’s Toolbox” and receive valuable tips and bonuses via my free newsletter).
In this simple funnel, the funnel ‘backend’ is the email followup sequence, but by using a more advanced funnel including one-time-offers, up-sells, and down-sells, marketers are able to increase their CLV, and crucially… spend more on advertising to acquire new subscribers.
I cover the options in much more depth in “The Online Entrepreneur’s Toolbox”, but these are what I use and recommend:
In my opinion, Thrive Leads is the best full featured list-building plugin for WordPress, designed to quickly and easily create squeeze pages and any other type of optin form and place them wherever you want on your site.
The main focus of Thrive Leads is on conversion optimization. It allows you to use A/B testing to test different designs against each other, test different opt-in types against each other, test different triggers against each other (e.g. timing or scroll trigger) or test entirely different offers and follow-up sequences against each other.
InstaBuilder is another WordPress plugin which allows marketers to create professional looking marketing pages and sales funnels in WP easily and quickly using a drag-and-drop interface.
It includes the functionality of several different plugins, including countdown timers, delayed content, split testing, autoresponder integration, viral locking, and a number of innovative new features.
InstaBuilder has one of the slickest WordPress based visual editors available.
OptimizePress comes in two versions, both a plugin as well as a theme, giving you the option of using the plugin with another theme …say for example if you wish to keep the blog design you are already using.
It was designed to quickly and easily create opt-in pages (or squeeze pages), launch funnel pages, sales pages, and membership area pages inside WordPress.
ClickFunnels is a comprehensive marketing automation suite for online entrepreneurs which allows them to build high-converting landing pages, complete marketing and launch funnels, webinar funnels, auto-webinars, membership sites, and a lot more besides.
It has, in my humble opinion, the best WYSIWYG page editor in the industry, it includes mass email and split-testing capabilities, and is hosted in the cloud, so no third party hosting is required.
At $97 a month, or $297 for the ‘enterprise’ level plan, ClickFunnels is aimed at more advanced marketers, but when you take into account all of the features and functionality it includes, it is very good value.
ClickFunnels is my platform of choice, and merits the consideration of any serious start-up online entrepreneur.
I am offering some valuable bonuses for my readers who sign up for a free 14 day trial of ClickFunnels through my link. Check out my bonus page HERE. http://oetrecommends.com/ClickFunnels-Bonus
Link Tracking / Link Cloaking
As an online entrepreneur, tracking your ad campaigns is vital to the success of your business, but it is something that many new marketers put off, thinking it is complicated and expensive.
Link tracking is used to track clicks on links associated with your banner ads, solo ads or anywhere you are inserting hyperlinks that people can click on. It is essential to ensure you are getting the best results from your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising!
Many of the more powerful tools available in the past have almost required a degree in computer science to understand, but like everything in the online universe, as Dylan put it: The Times They Are a-Changin’!
Ad trackers are either SaaS (software as a service) web based services such as ClickMagick, FunnelTrax, Linktrackr, Improvely, and Clickmeter, or software which you host on your own site, such as AdTrackz.
There are pros and cons to each. With a tracking script hosted on your own site, you generally pay a one-off cost for the software and you are not dependent on a third party, say if their site is down, or the company goes under, but your own sites system resources and server space will be used.
I use and recommend ClickMagick, a very fully featured web based click tracker, rotator and link manager, which has a number of features which no other service offers, and while most tracking tools are complicated to use, ClickMagick is very intuitive and makes it extremely easy to track your data.
As well as all the features you would normally expect from a link tracking service, ClickMagick also adds real-time tracking, advanced retargeting on ANY link, click-fraud monitoring, automatic traffic quality analysis, affiliate link cloaking, A/B split testing, advanced geotargeting and mobile targeting, add custom pop-ups to any page (including sites you don’t control, eg. an affiliate sales page), and countdown timers …and new features are being added almost on a weekly basis.
Enter your name and email below to download my comprehensive resource guide “The Online Entrepreneur’s Toolbox” which is over 75 pages of free and paid tools and other resources for online entrepreneurs.