Favorite Web-Based Tools for Small Business
Over the years, I’ve used countless web-based tools for hosting, accounting, marketing, SEO and more. While there is always some new cool startup offering a unique feature set, I’ve found the following tools to be a staple for me and my business. I’d like to share those go-to resources with you, in the hopes of making your life a little bit easier, and your business a little bit more efficient and effective.
Some of these tools are paid, while others are free. As an informational disclaimer I do have affiliate partner relationships with some of these companies, and will receive a small commission if you purchase some of the tools below via my referral link. However, I have personally used each and every one of these tools over the years, and this is my recommended list – as if to a friend or business partner – with no affiliate relationship bearing on my recommendation. Over half of the tools mentioned here are listed without any financial incentive, just because I use them weekly, if not daily within my business.
Is there a favorite web tool of yours that is missing from my list? Reach out and let me know what the tool is, and how it has improved your digital workflow. I’ll try it for myself and if I enjoy the tool and it becomes a part of my workflow – I’ll add it to the list!
Best Small Business Web Host: Bluehost
My most popular hosting recommendation is Bluehost. They have consistently won fastest web hosting provider and offer the best performance, features, and support for their very affordable price. I recommend Bluehost more than any other web hosting company reviewed on this website, and for good reason! If you’re looking to launch your website, or are un-happy with your current web hosting provider, I encourage you to look into Bluehost.
Best WordPress Themes & Plugins: Envato Market (ThemeForest)
I’ve been a happy member of Envato Market for years now, using both their ThemeForest and GraphicRiver platforms quite often for internet marketing and web design. I’ve been a paid member of many WordPress theme websites and groups, but have never found anything better than the WordPress templates at ThemeForest. I’ve since cancelled all my WP theme membership subscriptions and almost exclusively purchase my themes directly from ThemeForest. Visit the site, then click “WordPress” at the top menu, then “Popular Items” to see the best selling WordPress themes.
Best Remote Desktop Software: TeamViewer
TeamViewer is awesome! It’s completely free for personal use, and offers competitive business license offerings, depending on your size and needs. The tool’s security is fairly robust and offers an amazing app to manage multiple computers; great if you’re running remote IT support or managing a cryptocurrency mining farm. They also have mobile apps, which allow for cross-platform access on the go. Many small business and entrepreneurial users also use TeamViewer as a simple VPN alternative, without the need for IT and network infrastructure to setup and maintain a company VPN behind your firewall.
Best Website Monitoring Platform: Pingdom
While there are some great application performance monitoring platforms out there with enterprise level feature sets, such as New Relic, App Dynamics and Dynatrace, the best small business website monitoring platform based on adoption, features, and pricing is Pingdom. The tool is very powerful, yet easy to use, and offers very affordable package options. Visitor insights through their real user monitoring (RUM) system correlate traffic trends to load times, giving you the performance “why”, not just the “what” (insights in addition to performance data).
From uptime monitoring to real user monitoring, synthetic transaction testing, and page speed performance monitoring, Pingdom has everything you’ll need to monitor your website to keep things online, error free, and to build the best user experience possible.
Best Small Business Accounting Software: FreshBooks
FreshBooks is the perfect tool for small business accounting. Their web app is fast and secure, and offers easy invoicing, expense and time tracking, project collaboration, a great collections tool, insightful reporting, and of course a super convenient mobile app so you can stay on top of your business finances from anywhere.
Best SEO Tool for Keyword Research: SEMRush
I’ve been a happy SEMrush customer for years. They’re my favorite digital marketing tool, as they provide search trend insights, keyword research, PPC stats, and help keep tabs on your competitors. I’ve found their data to be highly accurate, as their analytics and traffic estimates based on your keyword positioning is spot on! I live in this tool, and am in multiple times per week, if not daily sometimes. If you’re doing any sort of digital marketing, paid traffic ad spend, content marketing, or SEO, SEMrush is a must.
In fact, give the tool a quick test drive here:
If you aren’t familiar with SEMrush, I’d highly recommend signup up for a free trial to explore all its robust features. I’m confident that the marketing insights provided by this tool will give you ROI. I know they have for me, time and time again.
Best Email Marketing Tool: MailChimp
Over the years, for my own projects as well as many clients, I’ve used countless email marketing tools. The list includes Constant Contact, iContact, SendGrid, Litmus, Vertical Response, AWeber, Mailchimp, and a few more I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, Hubspot and Salesforce’s Pardot have all been used as well. However, out of all these tools I’ve found no better platform to easily create, design, and send emails than Mailchimp. They’ve also recently introduced marketing automation functionality, as they’re slowly shifting their massive market share to take on the aforementioned big guys. Another incredibly convenient feature of Mailchimp is their integrations to e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop.
While some of the other tools have more robust automation and drip functionality, my biggest complaint is that their email design tools suck! Most other platforms have limited templates, inconsistently wonky delivery across various devices and inboxes, and take way too much time and troubleshooting to build a campaign. With Mailchimp, they focus on email design first, then add on the feature sets from there. I’d highly recommend Mailchimp to anyone looking to get into email marketing to enhance their digital marketing game.
Best Website A/B Testing Tool: Unbounce
There are several great players in this space, including: Unbounce, Optimizely, VWO, Google Analytics Experiments, Maxymiser, and KISSmetrics, just to name a few. My favorite tool, however, is Unbounce. Their 100+ landing page templates are super sexy, powered AI analysis of over 74-million visitors to their customer’s landing pages of the years. (yes, you heard right, I said AI powered landing pages are sexy!) You hit the ground running with Unbounce, as you can implement the best converting layouts for your industry with just a few simple clicks. Launch a campaign and multiple your landing pages to run A/B testing in a flash. Unbounce is a very user-friendly way to implement high-level digital marketing testing into your website. Their website popups and sticky bar capabilities are superb as well!
Best Heatmapping Software: HotJar
Optimizely, Hotjar, Mouseflow and CrazyEgg are the main contenders here. Personally, it’s a toss-up between CrazyEgg and Hotjar, as I often use both, but I tend to implement Hotjar on more projects than any of the other heatmapping tools. Hotjar’s heatmaps are very easy to understand, and the information is presented in a way that gives you actionable insights within a few quick glances and your reports. Their user session video recording functionality is awesome as well, as you can gain insight into individual user paths, in addition to the aggregate user data.
Hotjar has a free trial to test all of their business features. Better yet, if you’re a student or web marketing enthusiast tinkering on your own projects, they have a personal basic plan which is free forever, for up to 2,000 pageviews per day. Check out Hotjar and start making your website better, today!
Best Screen Capture Software: Snagit
Snagit by TechSmith is an outstanding tool to capture, edit, and share your desktop screen. With the click of a mouse you can capture your desktop, professionally mark it up, and send to your colleagues. I have been using Snagit for years, and it has become an essential part of our day-to-day workflow, especially when collaborating virtually with vendors, partners, designers and developers.
- Capture screenshots or video
- Edit and annotate screen captures
- Easily share your screenshots and video recordings
- Robust video recording and editing experience
- Built-in animated GIF maker (extremely helpful for
Snagit is a paid tool, but offers a free 15-day trial to test the software as part of your workflow. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a professional screen capture tool. However, don’t have a budget and looking for a free alternative? Then checkout Jing, a free alternative to Snagit – also produced by TechSmith. Jing has less features, but retains the essentials you’re looking for.
Best Video Hosting Platform: Wistia
Is there anything better than YouTube or Vimeo to host your video content? Well, depending on your use case and analytical needs, I’d recommend you check out Wistia. Their video hosting tool is built from the ground up with analytics in mind. With Wistia marketers can go way beyond view count statistics with viewer-based tracking, integration into CRM systems for lead-scoring, video heatmaps showing individual and aggregate playback stats, engagement graphs and comprehensive rollup reports. If your business depends on video content, you’ll find the analytics and data from Wistia invaluable as you realize you’ve been flying blind with YouTube and Vimeo.
Best Web-based Graphic Design Tool: Canva
If you haven’t heard of Canva, you need to check it out! Canva uses drag-and-drop in-browser editing to empower non-designers to produce professional-level graphics. With millions of stock images, photo filters, icons and fonts, you’ll be editing their templates and creating beautiful works of digital art in no time. Canva is free to use but includes asset purchase options within the platform. Sign up now, it’s free, and instantly up your design game!
Best Helpdesk Support Software: ZenDesk
Zoho, Freshdesk, Zendesk and Help Scout are all popular options in the all-in-one support space. My personal favorite is Zendesk, as I consider them the best customer service platform out there. While there are niche tools that do a particular feature better than Zendesk, the Zendesk product suite rolls up everything you need for a wholistic customer support approach into one convenient tool. The Zendesk suite includes Support, Guide, Chat and Talk products, or you can purchase one particular product individually if that meets your company’s needs. Zendesk integrates into most popular platforms and is completely customizable to your brand. Their support system is built like a CRM, tracking and prioritizing trouble tickets to help you solve customer issues more quickly and efficiently. They too offer a free trial, so you can check out the system and it’s features to see if it is the right fit for your customer support needs.