As an independent Internet marketer who works from home (without an army of helpers), I rely on a lot of essential tools, software and services to get what I need to do done. Over the years, I’ve tried and tested hundreds of web services, software and tools.
There were many that were just a waste of money or over-hyped. Some were good and over time just became redundant or have been replaced by better tools. To save you some time, I decided to make a list of what I still love and use for my online business.
I will be keeping this list updated and refreshed every time there’s material changes. So make sure you subscribe or check back regularly to get the latest updates.
Now allow me to present to you, my top work-from-home online business tools for 2012.
1. Domain Name Registration
[Go to: Namecheap Domain Registration]
As far as domain registration goes, I like to keep them all in once place. Over time, you will end up with hundreds of domains and having them consolidated makes them easier to manage.
I like Namecheap because their domain registration prices are quite cheap to start with. If you do a search for “Nameheap Coupons March 2012″ (replace the date with current month) – you will find coupons codes that will further reduce the price of new domains by another 2o%. Also, all their domains comes with a 1-year free “Whois” Guard service that will hide your admin email and address and protect you from a ton of spam.
2. Premium Domain Registration
Sadly, its getting harder and harder to find good domain names due to competition. Over the last 2 years, I found myself having to pay for premium domains that are already owned by someone else. If you search on Google for “premium domains” you’ll find a lot of sites that re-sell used domains.
The ones that I’ve used are as follows:
[Go to: GoDaddy Auctions]
GoDaddy Auctions is free to browse but when you find a domain you wish to bid on, there’s a nominal fee. I use GoDaddy Auctions because there’s quite a large marketplace for the domains there. Also, the process of transferring from the buyer to you is secured via an escrow service so you’re not worried about getting ripped off.
[Go to: Flippa.com]
Flippa.com is a site for buying and selling domains or websites. This service is great because aside from domains, you may even find existing businesses. I also like using Flippa for market research to see if there are any websites in a market niche that I am exploring that is profitable. What I like about Flippa is that you get quite detailed information for each domain including verified traffic and/or income figures from the sellers.
3. Web Hosting
[Go to: Hostgator Webhosting]
Almost all my sites are hosted exclusively by Hostgator.com. Their plans are very reasonable and their customer service is perfect in my opinion. I’ve always gotten a 24 hour response or less whenever I have any issues with my account. My only gripe with them is that their payment system is still a little in the stone ages. The invoices are hard to trace back to the proper account (if you have many) but I’ve not had any major problems with it.
[Go to: Bluehost Webhosting]
Another highly rated hosting service is BlueHost. The prices are just a few cents higher than Hostgator a month and their account management system is a little better than Hostgator.com. Again, I keep it simple to host all my sites on Hostgator.com but if you were starting from scratch, either of these two services would be acceptable.
4. Email List Management
[Go to: Aweber Email Software]
Aweber is the longest web service that I’ve been using since 2006. Its really the market leader for building an email list as well as sending email messages to the list.
What I like about Aweber? The number 1 reason is deliverability. Every email has over 98% deliverability rate.
They also have a great “blog broadcast” service that allows me to automatically send very nice newsletters to my subscribers once a week with a summary of all my latest blog posts. You will also find that many websites and software have built in compatibility to work well with the Aweber system.
5. Keyword Research
[Go to: Market Samurai Free Trial]
Almost any Internet marketing strategy I can think of should begin with keyword and market research. This is a mistake that a lot of marketers make. If the foundation of your online business is flawed, you will always be in an uphill battle to create a successful site.
I’ve tried a host of different keyword research software and some expensive hosted services in the past. In the end, the one that I still use over and over again is Market Samurai. I use it mostly to plan the structure of my niche blogs and to kind keywords for creating SEO targeted blog posts. I also use it to track my SEO ranking for keywords that I am targeting.
What do I like about it? First, its a one-time only payment. And the team at Market Samurai has updated the software constantly over the years. This is very important as Google is constantly updating their API and ranking data.
The software also has many modules that allow you to do much more than just keyword research. Aside from my main use above, I also use it to find affiliate products to monetize my pages. Its also handy for finding article ideas and research to find what type of content web users are interested in.
The other modules include finding domain names, publishing and syndicating content and getting backlinks to your site. Honestly, I don’t use a lot of these modules but its nice to know they are there when if I ever need to use it.
6. Analytics and Tracking
[Go to: Google Analytics]
Without measurement, you can’t improve. The best website analytics tool out there is the free Google Analytics service. Why is it the best? Well its easy to install, the reports are great and its fully integrated with other essential Google services like Adwords and the Google Webmaster tools.
What I like about it? I love the fact that you can create goals for your website and their funnel visualization report gives you a great view of how your site is performing to drive visitors to the intended outcome on your site.
It also has a ton of other features like tracking search behavior on your site and also ecommerce tracking to match revenue and cost data for your website traffic. To me, any website that expects to be successful needs to have Google Analytics installed and have at least 1 goal being tracked.
7. Social Media Marketing
[Go to: TweetAdder Automation Software]
Getting traffic from social media websites is an awesome way to accelerate the syndication of your content and website. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is also a great way to build a subscriber base.
However, one of the challenges with social media marketing is that its time consuming and repetitive. That’s why I love the TweetAdder software. It allows me to find relevant users to follow and hopefully add to my follower list. It can generate multiple auto-reply messages and allows you to reply in a way that does not seem automated. It allows you to schedule your tweets and posts and drive traffic to your site.
I wrote a case study on how I use this software to automate my Twitter marketing and how it makes me a very nice passive income on my niche blogs. You can read about it here: How to Automate Your Twitter Account and Earn Passive Income
I am an accountant by training so when it comes to graphic design and coding, I leave it to the experts. I’ve outsourced quite a few projects to coders from “RentaCoder.com which has since changed its name to vworker.com. I’ve also outsourced some content writing jobs to freelancers at eLance.com. The rates here are a little more expensive than vWorker but the site is more user friendly an easier to work with.
Why I like these services? Well, its great to post a job and have a list of people bid for it. Through the selection process, you can fine tune your requirements and get the best deal out of all the proposals. The other important thing is that these services act as a clearing house to make sure you do not get cheated. I’ve had a few cases where the service provider does not deliver and the arbitration process is quite efficient especially when every email is documented via their system.
[Go to: Elance Outsourcing]
[Go to: Vworker Outsourcing]
I just wanted to add one other place where you can get quick and cheap outsource help. Its called “Fiverr.com” and its a directly of people willing to do work for as little as $5. Some people here can write content, submit your site to directories or even create simple graphics or fix CSS problems on your site.
[Go to: Fiverr.com]
9. Working With Video
Video for the web is an essential requirement for online success. Whether its for your sales letter or your content pages, video helps to drive the message through better than just words alone.
One of the best tools to create great web video is Screenflow. This software is for Mac only and for Windows users, I would recommend using “Camtasia”.
What do I like about Screenflow? The software is dead easy to use. It allows you to capture your computer screen together with audio of your voice. Thus is great for tutorials and demos. But my favorite part about Screenflow is the editing tools. You can add titles, texts and effects to your videos very easily.
[Go to: Screenflow Product Page]
[Go to: Camtasia Product Page]
The other important thing about video is how to embed them to your website or blog. For the most part, I upload my videos to YouTube and use the embed code generated by YouTube to add the video to my pages. Another great free service is Vimeo who can host longer HD videos instead of the 15min limit on YouTube.
[Go to: YouTube]
[Go to: Vimeo]
10. Image Editing
If you can afford it, the Adobe Photoshop software will be the tool to handle all your graphic design work. However, the learning curve to use Photoshop effectively can be quite steep. For simple image editing (especially for blogs), I prefer to use a very light tool called Image Well 4. This tools allows me to resize, crop, add captions and text as well as upload directly to my webhost after I’m done editing.
I use this tool to create the images in a lot of my blog posts.
[Go to: ImageWell 4 Product Page]
10. Teleseminar/ Webinar
In my experience, one of methods to get the highest conversions to sales, is the telesminar. Whether its live or recorded. In the past, I used to use the webinar service by GotoMeeting.com. Don’t get me wrong – this tool is great but its also quite pricey. Also, users will need to download a special software before they can join your webinar.
I found a simple service called Instant Telesiminar which also gets the job done. Although you are not able to show your desktop live to your users using Instant Teleseminar, it has all the other features you need. You can answer questions, show slides and allow your visitors to call in to ask questions.
Why I like it? Well, I love the fact that you do not require your users to download any additional software. So all they have to do is turn up at a webpage you send them and they can listen in, see your slides and ask questions. Its also a lot more affordable compared to GotoMeeting and its very easy to embed the whole event into any of your websites so that you maintain branding as well as call to action buttons or links you may have on your webpage.
[Go to: InstantTeleseminar Trial]
Ok, I know I am missing quite a few other items on this list. It would be too long if I added them all here so I only listed the key items. If you wanted to know how I do certain things, just ask in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list.
Also, if you have recommendations of some awesome tools to checkout – please also add it in the comments below. Thanks!