Here are the top tools for your online business we recommend 2023. Every time you do something new (like starting a freelance social media marketing business) you’re going to have to overcome a learning curve. The ability to do this will set you apart from everyone else who wants to make six figures in their pyjamas.
Here’s a list of what we believe to be the top tools for your online business. Tried and true, they will help you be as effective and efficient as possible.
The best tool for finding a domain name is…
I know this is not a “tool” or app, but I just have to mention this. I recommended that you purchase the .com domain for your personal name along with the domain of your business name if it’s different. Always go for the .com if it’s available.
A popular place for low(er)-cost domains (save a couple of bucks) and more variety of domain name extensions is NameCheap. And a new place I recently spotted for searching an even wider variety of domain extensions is InternetBS. Whatever you do, I recommend you stay away from GoDaddy – more trouble than it’s worth.
Now if you are looking to purchase a top-level domain (these are domains that have been registered by a person or company and on the market for resale at a premium) my go-to search is Huge Domains. We have made purchases from Huge Domains for ourselves and our clients. If you choose to buy a premium domain from an individual make sure you use an escrow service like Escrow. This will protect you by having a third party involved to send your funds for the domain. They will ensure you get the domain before releasing the funds to the seller.
Your best bet is to do some research before choosing your domain name provider. Keep in mind, it’s not really about the money (non-premium domains cost about $10 – $20 per year). Instead, I recommend you look for a company with great customer support, a user-friendly admin panel, and perhaps free SSL for your domains.
Sales Funnel Builder
The best sales funnel tool is…
Build sales funnels! Capture leads for you and your clients! ClickFunnels is the best in the industry and costs $99 per month. You may have heard of competitors such as Unbounce or LeadPages however, the usability and mobile optimizations of other sales funnel tools just isn’t there yet. Plus ClickFunnels has an incredible community on Facebook.
ClickFunnels has full functionality to create a variety of funnels and is completely mobile-friendly. Check out this comprehensive ClickFunnels training video on our YouTube Channel to learn everything that you need to set up a sales funnel with ClickFunnels.
Or see our recommendation for a cheaper ClickFunnels alternative.
Email Marketing Automation
The best email automation tool is…
In my opinion ActiveCampaign it’s the best system out there. It far outranks competitor software services like MailChimp or ConstantContact with an abundance of additional features. Their support is somewhat lacking for existing customers but they do offer a lot of support to help you get started and transition from other mailing services. If you are looking to build email automation sequences you will need the “Plus Package” which starts at $95/mo when paid monthly. This can be a bit pricey when you’re first starting, but this is considered competitively priced in the marketplace of email automation tools.
ConfusionSoft (now known as Keap) is another option, but in my experience, it’s complicated to work with and even more complicated to cancel. We gave it a try here at Web Friendly and decided to cancel after the first month. Then, they continued to bill us for 6 more months! We ended up needing to dispute the additional charges with Visa to get a refund. Such a dynamic headache. Not recommended.
Social Media Automation
The best social media tool is…
There are several tools for an online business that will help you automate your social media but right now there’s nothing better than SocialBee! We’ve used them all… Hootsuite (sucks, sorry), Buffer (good, but pricey), CoSchedule (good but way too many features), and SmarterQueue (meh.)
Seriously, I’ve quite possibly logged into every major social media management tool out there. SocialBee is hands down best for automating your social media. If you are looking for a social media monitoring tool something like Agora Pulse might be better for you.
SocialBee has an easy-to-set-up content calendar and all the integrations you need to run a well-branded automated social media campaign including multiple short URL services (see below). The usability is simple. And it doesn’t try to be a million different things. It will help you automate your social media postings, that’s it. They also have an optional concierge service to help you with new content production and growth.
Custom URL Shortener
The best link shortener is…
Custom URL shorteners are great for branding and are known to get higher clickthrough rates. At Web Friendly, we use “webfriend.ly” and at Internet Masterminds, we use “mastrmnd. co”.
Learn more about custom URL shorteners by Matt Astifan:
A Beginners Guide to Retargeting With Custom URL Shorteners
Our short URLs are connected to a service called JotURL which integrates with SocialBee so that every time a link is created the URL is shortened with our branded links. JotURL allows you to add multiple pixels from Facebook Ads, Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc, and create retargeting campaigns based on people clicking on your links.
SocialBee connects to several Short URL services including Rebrandly, PixelMe, Replug, and RocketLink. You can also connect to the original short URL Bitly, but for some reason Bitly still hasn’t created the ability to create link retarget campaigns? …wtf Bitly get with the times!
Another honorable mention is RetargetLinks. What’s unique about RetargetLinks is they manage all the retargeted advertising for you and charge $8 per CPM (per 1000 impressions). The average CPM on Facebook is around $8 (varies drastically based on audience size and country), so you are paying double but you have someone managing your retargeting campaigns for you. They design your banner ads (and are really good at it), write your copy and help with your overall retargeting strategy. They also developed their own exclusive ad network giving you greater reach to remanent ad space (which could be available at a lower cost). We used to use them and recommend them however, RetargetLinks doesn’t integrate with SocialBee.
Popups & Email Capture
The best lead capture tool is…
We use ConvertBox for creating popups and email capture forms on our website (and client sites). With their lifetime deal, it’s a no-brainer. No monthly fees, I’m in! You can set up email captures on an unlimited amount of sites and with unlimited integrations. It is super simple to use and set up.
The best shopping cart tool is…
If you are collecting payments online for your products you need a shopping cart solution.
Our go-to is ThriveCart for several reasons!
First, it’s a one-time payment (no monthly subscription) which means you pay once for lifetime access to the tool. ThriveCart allows you to embed your cart anywhere, seamlessly integrate with tools you already use, and reduce churn from your customer's recurring payments with built-in dunning emails (these are emails that remind your customers to update their payment details if their credit card is close to expiring).
You can also do order bumps, one-click up-sells, cart abandonment emails, and pretty much anything else you can think of to optimize your sales funnel and checkout process. ThriveCart will connect to your PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net and give you an extra layer of reporting inside the ThriveCart reports dashboard.
The primary reason we switched to ThriveCart was because of their automatic affiliate payouts (and built-in sales tax calculation) I don’t even know of another checkout software that does this. If you are looking for an affiliate system for your products ThriveCart is the king.
If you have an e-commerce business with dozens or even 100’s of products, then ThriveCart is probably not the best option for you. You’ll want to stick with WooCommerce or Shopify for e-commerce sites with a lot of products.
The best social media reporting tool is…
Using Cyfe, you can create an online dashboard to showcase your growth. Great for displaying on monitors or TVs in the office. There is a forever free plan but at $29 per month you get a whole lot more, it’s the best dashboard for the price.
The best call schedule tool is…
Call schedulers save you tons of time in scheduling calls and help present yourself or your company professionally. Our go-to call schedule option is Calendly. This app integrates with Google Calendar and allows whomever you send the link to schedule a time for a call. To be honest, the setup with any call scheduling tool is pretty annoying but Calendly’s support is pretty cool with helping you figure it out.
You can customize your availability, add multiple call types, and even a “round-robin” to distribute calls between multiple team members. There’s a free plan but if you want to remove their branding and enable some cool features it’s $8/mo. If you want to do things like integrating with your CRM, take payments for calls or create URL redirect (custom thank you page) then the $12/mo plan gives you everything you’ll need.
The best free cloud storage tool is… (3-way split)
No list of top tools for your online business is complete without some good cloud-based platforms.
Indispensable and, best of all, free! You get 15 GB of storage for free. You can create, organize and share your text documents, spreadsheet, photos, videos, or whatever, and you can access it all at any time from any computer. Plus, you get the Google Drive mobile app with all of the same editings and sharing capabilities, as well as a desktop app to sync your local folders to the Cloud!
It’s just awesome, what else can we say?
The usability of Dropbox is still top-notch. The way files sync on your computer to the cloud is unmatched. This is the reason Steve Jobs apparently tried to buy Dropbox for a billion. I love that I can throw a file into a folder on my computer, then right-click, copy the Dropbox link and share it. You get 2 GB free.
We recently started using Imgur to upload public image URLs.
Here’s why: If you are using social media scheduling tools (like SocialBee) and uploading content using spreadsheets (which we do) you need a public URL for your images (can’t do this with Drive or Dropbox). That’s where Imgur comes in. We will update this with a more detailed explanation of how we publish content through SocialBee soon.
The best online meeting tool is…
I like GoToMeeting for its simplicity and professionalism. It also connects directly with Calendly by creating a unique “meeting room” for your online meetings if you choose to set up online meetings. You can have your own branded URL, you can record the meeting, and you look super professional. You may get away with using Skype but you will sacrifice that polished appearance.
The best toll-free phone number tool is…
Want your own 1-800 number? Line2
Starting at around $10 per month, this awesome tool for online business allows you to make calls through WiFi or your cellular data from anywhere in the world. It also gives you a toll-free number for people to reach you that isn’t your direct number. You can even create a schedule to control when people are able to reach you, and when they go to voicemail.
Finding Deals on Tools
Look for lifetime deals on tools at AppSumo!
Recurring billing for all these tools can add up! If you can get a lifetime deal for a similar tool go for it! AppSumo is a great place because the community is very active in reviewing the products. The team at AppSumo does full walk-throughs of all the deals they promote on the AppSumo YouTube Channel (also check out his FB Group for discussions on various LTD deals).
Learn to love the process of learning new tech stuff. New tools for an online business are constantly coming out, and you should always be staying somewhere close to the pinnacle of innovation. The lists of top tools for your online business are destined to update and change constantly.
Do you currently use any of these tools for your online business or other awesome ones? What’s your take on this?
For more information, check out the following guides:
A digital marketing enthusiast who is passionate about publishing, startups and the creator economy. Matt is the CEO of Web Friendly and helps write, recruit and improve content across the website.
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