By: Garin Kilpatrick
Having the right tools ready to go can help you seriously accelerate your success.
The list below started off about three times in length and then I distilled it down into the most essential tools that I believe can help you create the most value for your audience.
If you start your online business with the goal of providing value then you will begin to build a trusting audience at a rapid rate.
With the powerful and mostly free tools below you can amp up your online business building activities and before long you will begin to notice that your website traffic will climb and your income potential will climb right along with it! 🙂
The self-hosted WordPress blogs I use are the biggest reasons I have been able to create a successful business online.
WordPress makes it possible for someone with even a very limited knowledge of tech to publish content for the masses.
With WordPress not only can you easily publish your content in a widespread way you can also apply stellar designs to your site with awesome looking WordPress themes. There are also many free WordPress themes, and many of them even look cool, but if you have $20-$50 to spend on a premium theme I highly suggest you do so.
WordPress also makes it easy to extend your blog and install plugins that add a wide variety of functionality. Since WordPress is an open source and free platform so are many of the plugins.
Social sharing plugins, like the Digg Digg and Sexy Bookmarks plugins installed in this blog, are a great way to pick up free traffic and back links from the most popular social media sites.
Jetpack is a plugin package I recommend developed by WordPress that offers several cool plugins like dashboard stats, wp.me shortlinks, a twitter widget, and more. For more cool plugin ideas check out this post I wrote called 21 wicked WordPress plugins.
2. Email Marketing (Aweber)
If you want a successful online business you will need to integrate email marketing. Perhaps the most common saying among internet marketers is that “The Money is in the List.” With a powerful email marketing system you can efficiently direct traffic, make sales, and build trust with your subscribers by sharing quality content.
If you are building an email list from scratch use Aweber is great because they have one of the highest deliver-ability rates in the business. Another
The Aweber form tool made the form in the sidebar of this site. Aweber forms can be rendered in a variety of ways such as “in-line,” like the form on this site, but also as a pop over or a lightbox, which will get you more opt-ins but will also cause a higher bounce rate and cause more people to leave your site and never return.
Hootsuite is the most powerful social media tool in my arsenal. Hootsuite is free for up to five social accounts, and I use it every day. Hootsuite is a web app so you can access it on any computer with internet access.
Not only does Hootsuite bring several social media platforms together, it also enables you to view several streams at once, and gives you the power to schedule your posts for maximum effectiveness.
Hootsuite offers the majority of its core features for free.
Skype is awesome instant messaging, voice calling and video calling all rolled into one.
Skype to Skype calling and messaging is always free and if you call a landline there is a small charge, usually only a penny or two a minute.
5. Dropbox (File syncing & storage)
Dropbox is the best file syncing & storage solution I know of. With dropbox you can always have your files with you, wherever you are.
Harnessing the power of the cloud, dropbox syncs any files you drop into it accessible on any computers you install dropbox into.
You can also access your dropbox files online via the dropbox website and even from your iPhone.
As soon as you drop a file into your dropbox it sets to work with syncing and before you know it your file is in the cloud.
6. Dreamweaver (Code editing)
You can save big costs if you learn how to code. Code may seem daunting at first but programs like dreamweaver make it easier than ever, and if you ever get stumped you can always ask Google and will find the solution to your problem 99% of the time.
Dreamweaver is the most powerful code editin program on the market. Made by adobe, you can get a free 30 day trial of Dreamweaver, and all of the training and support materials that come with it.
According to Adobe…
Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 is the industry-leading web authoring and editing software that provides both visual and code-level capabilities for creating standards-based websites and designs for the desktop, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
After your trial of dreamweaver is up if you don’t feel like shelling out four hundred bucks for the full version you can go with a free alternative. My favorite is notepad++.
7. Filezilla (FTP client)
Filezilla is a free software program that enables you to quickly and easily transfer files between your computer and your web host.
Any good web host you use will have a web browser based file transfer program but by using Filezilla you can get your files up and on to your server in the blink of an eye.
8. Camtasia (Screen Recording Software)
This program allows you to record your screen and voice, then edit your video and audio, insert graphics overtop of your video, and then export your video into a variety of formats.Camtasia is great screen capturing software for both Windows and Apple computers that comes with a 30 day free trial.
I use Camtasia to produce all of my screen capture videos, if you are looking for a more affordable option check out Jing. Jing is also developed by the producer of Camtasia, and works well but has several fewer features and a time limit on videos as well.
9. Audacity (Audio Recording)
Podcasting is one of the most powerful ways to build a brand for yourself on the web. Audacity is free software and yet is very powerful and simplifies the recording process.
With audacity you can easily edit out imperfections in your audio and export your recording in .mp3 format (provided you install a free plugin).
10. Google Apps & Analytics
Google has so many different useful tools I could easily write a post entirely about them, but instead I’ll mention the tools that are the most useful to me and why.
Google Analytics is awesome for analysing the traffic that comes to your websites. I use the plugin Google Analyticator to automatically integrate Google Analytics with this and my other WordPress blogs.
Google Website Optimizer is an often overlooked but very powerful tool. This tool enables you to maximize conversions by splitting the traffic you send to a page between two variations of the same page. This is especially helpful for maximizing subscribers from a squeeze page.
Google Reader is the best RSS reader that I have come across.
Picasa is awesome for managing and doing basic edits of your pictures.
The free version of Google apps is robust enough to provide collaboration in real-time within a team, and even give you custom branded email addresses that integrate with gmail.
11. Adobe Photoshop
I credit solid design as a key factor in the rapid growth of my online brands and business. I use Photoshop for the majority of my online design.
You can get a free trial of Photoshop from Adobe.com.
12. Traffic Travis
Traffic Travis is amazingly powerful SEO software considering the fact that it is free.
Due to the power in its features Traffic Travis has achieved #1 rankings in Google for “SEO Software,” “Free SEO Software” and several other competitive terms.
You can use traffic travis to analyze the rank of your site for certain keywords, find link opportunities, examine your competition, and more.
Suggestions From Friends
I asked my newsletter subscribers and friends on Twitter what some tools that they can’t live without are and they suggested the following tools.
Evernote is powerful digitization software that enables you to capture anything and access it anywhere.
With Evernote you can “remember everything” and go paperless by easily digitizing all documents that are essential to you.
If you want to make your office paperless and digitize everything Evernote is the way to go.
14. Box (File Storage & Sharing)
Box offers 5GB of free file storage to anyone who wants it.
With this service you can share links to your files, and share entire folders of files as well.
You can access your box files from your iPhone and iPad as well.
15. Bit.ly (Link Shortening & Analytics)
The tool bit.ly makes it easy to shorten links and track how many people click them.
If you create an account with bit.ly you can keep track of the links you create, and create custom links as well.
Bit.ly now offers custom domain link shortening as a part of their free service. Other services charge as much as $50 a month for this feature.
You can access the real-time analytics for any bit.ly link by adding a + to the end of the link.
16. Sendspace (Send large files)
Sendspace enables you to send files up to 500 mb in size for free. This service is super simple to use so if I have a file that is under 500 mb in size it is the solution I will use.
17. Snagit (Screen picture capturing software)
“Snipping Tool” is a free tool that comes with windows and makes it simple to capture specific sections of your screen.
There are some situations when the page you are trying to capture is dynamic and more robust solution is required.
In these cases consider the software Snagit by TechSmith, which comes with a free trial.
Mac OS X comes with screen capturing features,and short keys to accompany them.
In addition to the Grab application, you can also use keyboard shortcuts to take pictures of the screen in Mac OS X.
To take a picture of the whole screen, press Command-Shift-3.
To take a picture of part of the screen, press Command-Shift-4 and drag to select the area you want.
Boxcar is a notification service that sends push notifications to your iPhone whenever one of the 30+ services they support is updated.
What is your favorite tool?
What digital tool do you find the most useful. Choose a tool from the list above, or pick a different tool, and let us know in the comments below!