Bustling online businesses often begin with an initial spark. It can be an inspiration, an idea, a dream. From there, through extensive research and experimenting, they can soon become something real and tangible. But it takes the right tools, strategy, and solid execution to turn an idea into something that is both lucrative and profitable.
This detailed article will go over 29 essential tools that you need to turn your initial creative spark into a money-making machine in as little time as possible! These are the very same tools we’ve used for ourselves AND for our customers to great success. We only share battle-tested tools with you that have proven INVALUABLE to us. By using these tools you’ll be able to start your online business or significantly automate and grow an already existing business.
Let’s get to it!
Acquiring Your Domain
The first thing you need to do when setting up your online business is to get a website. Getting your domain is the first step of that. And making sure the domain name is right is critical to the success of your business. Ideally, a good domain name uses keywords that customers typically search for and/or contains your business name.
For example, the domain www.directresponsecopywriting.com is an excellent domain name based around the keyword “direct response copywriting”. It will help your website rank higher in search results for this keyword, and it’s great in terms of SEO.
Or alternatively, you could choose a website domain name that is built around your name and a keyword. In our case, our own website is an example of this. www.tandacopywriting.com contains one of our keywords, “copywriting” and our name “TANDA“.
To get cheap domains and great deals, we recommend using Namecheap. It’s the domain provider that we also use, and we’ve never had any issues. Affordable, reliable, secure, and easy to use – everything you could ask for!
Choose The Perfect Web Hosting
For your website to be visible on your domain, you must have a server to host your site’s files. You have a wide range of options for hosting, but some of them are better than others. Typically, you’re looking for affordable pricing, high uptime (server is seldom down), blazing fast loading speed, and excellent support.
Below are the options we have tried for ourselves and for our clients and a short summary of our experience:
Hostgator’s award-winning web hosting solutions are one of our most common recommendations for those running WordPress websites. With a blazing-fast cloud hosting solution, HostGator is the hosting of choice for those who want something different, and in many ways better. With one of the best customer support services (available 24/7/365), a 45-day money back guarantee and 99.9% server uptime (one of the best in the industry), you really can’t go wrong with this choice…
JustHost has one of the most generous offers on the market. With a free domain name, unlimited email addresses, a 1-click WordPress install and a host of security tools all included in the $3.53/month hosting package cost, it’s hard to beat. And we didn’t even mention the 30-day money back guarantee! Overall, for those on a budget looking for a secure, reliable hosting service, it’s hard to find a better choice.
Bluehost’s basic package starts at a super affordable $3.53/month – matched only by JustHost from our list. In our experience, it’s by far the most reliable hosting solution out there, with the best uptime in the industry. Its reliability is only exceeded by its versatility. You start off with a free domain name, free SSL certificate, website builder, and a 1-click installation for WordPress and several other platforms. When you also consider the 30-day money back guarantee and the 24/7 customer support, you know that Bluehost is a fantastic choice – especially if you’re not sure what you’re going to use your website for.
When a hosting service is officially recommended by WordPress.org, you know that you can’t ignore it. And if speed on your WordPress website is a priority, then definitely choose SiteGround. For us, speed matters – that’s why we host this very website on SiteGround. It includes outstanding support tools for your WordPress website, including speed optimization & security tools. And what we love most: SiteGround automatically keeps your WordPress installation up to date and secure. You never have to log in and check for updates again! SiteGround also has a knowledgeable support team that responds immediately to queries and is available 24/7. If you run a WordPress website, then you can’t go wrong with this choice.
It is expensive. $35/month. But for a reason. WP Engine is the best choice if you’re looking for a top-end premium managed WordPress hosting service. Unlike the other options presented which offer shared hosting, WP Engine offers managed hosting. For you, this means that they take care of everything from security, speed, updates, backups to scalability. The idea is to allow you to focus on taking care of your business and forget about the need to manage the website. Customer support is unparalleled and can help take care of technical issues as well. Another massive benefit of getting WPEngine is that you get FREE access to one of the best WordPress themes when it comes to speed, security, and SEO – StudioPress and the supporting Genesis Framework. So if you’re looking for a premium quality solution for a WordPress website that will give you no headaches, then look no further!
SEO & Competition Research Tools
These are tools that, besides being great for SEO research to help you find the right keywords to rank for, also give you the scoop on your competitors.
So if you’re looking to find those high volume, low competition keywords, these are the tools you want to look at. Besides, some of these tools will allow you to see what your competitors are doing – what ads they are running, what keywords they’re targeting, and what social media channels they are using.
This vital information allows you to spot gaps in the market and position yourself AHEAD of the competition. Most of these tools are expensive, but they certainly make up for it in terms of the money they’ll bring in to your coffers. If you can afford it, definitely don’t hesitate.
Here are the tools we swear by:
Are you looking to find long-tail keywords that you can easily rank for? How about knowing those exact keywords that your competitors are targetting, how well they rank and finding out the search volume (including historical data) for each keyword? If you think this information would be GOLD to your business, then give KWFinder a try. It’s one of the most powerful keyword research tools in the industry. It even allows you to check for local keyword data – if you run a local business, this is absolutely indispensable for you. This tool is 100% free to try for the first 10 days – BUT if you sign up within 1-hour of registration, you’ll enjoy a 10% lifetime discount. Use our link below to get your free account, and give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain:
Wouldn’t it be GREAT if you could take a sneak peek at your competitors’ organic search, social media, content, paid traffic, and PR strategies? If you’re looking to turn your business idea into a veritable online empire, there’s no way around studying your competition and beating them. And there’s no better tool for that than SEMRush! It will help you see the traffic sources of your competitors, how they engage visitors, what ads they use, how they employ social media, and more. You’ll understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and you’ll be able to spot gaps in the market that you can capitalize on to see SPECTACULAR growth. Trust us – we’ve used this tool with many of our customers, and the results we managed to achieve have been nothing short of spectacular. Just to give you a leg up on the competition, we have secured a 7-day free trial for you!
The Website Security Plugins You Want
As your website traffic grows, it will attract the attention of unscrupulous hackers. Getting malware on your website or allowing unauthorized access can be deadly for your business.
Not only can hackers access and sell the personal data of your customers, but they may also be able to steal credit card information, install malware, use your servers for their own purposes (slowing down your website in the process) and even delete your site’s files! You don’t want to wake up one day with all your work GONE…
Fortunately, there are security plugins you can install that will protect you from hacks, DDoS attacks, malware, and more. This will ensure that your website is adequately protected. So here are our top recommendations:
iThemes Security Pro
iThemes Security Pro is one of the most complete security solutions out there for a WordPress website. It protects against brute force login attacks, uses a powerful malware scanner, detects changes on your site’s files, identifies bots that check for your site’s vulnerabilities, implements a two-factor login authentication process and changes the default WordPress login URL. Its easy to use security dashboard and simple reports make your website’s security a breeze to manage – even for those who aren’t technically minded.
While iThemes Security focuses on protecting your website locally, Sucuri works as a DNS level firewall, blocking an attack before they even reach you. This takes your security to another level, and what’s more, you can use this along with software like iThemes Security if you want maximum protection. All the traffic that goes through your site will go through Sucuri’s own CloudProxy servers. This protects you against DDoS attacks. Not to mention that Sucuri’s CloudProxy acts as a CDN (Content Delivery Network), which significantly improves your website’s speed and reduces your server load by up to 80%. So if you’re looking for a combined firewall and CDN solution to protect & speed up your website, you can’t go wrong with Sucuri. To help you out, we even secured a 30-day free trial for you – you’ve got nothing to lose in trying it!
The Best WordPress Themes
For most websites, we always recommend a WordPress installation. This makes developing and managing your site a whole lot easier, especially if you’re not technically minded. Some of the hosting providers above allow a 1-Click WordPress installation, which makes the entire process super simple.
To help you get a head start with setting up your website it’s best to use pre-made themes. These themes offer you basic layouts and graphics that you can use straight away to create the website you want in a super short time. Remember a website that looks professional will give your prospects an excellent first impression and is key to getting sales.
In terms of the easiest and most powerful WordPress themes, here are our recommendations:
If you are looking for themes that deliver SEO-ready, fast, and conversion-focused pages, then the products on MyThemeShop are precisely what you need. Every theme that you buy, you can use on as many domains as you wish with just 1-click. And with a collection of over 114 themes, you’ll have no problem finding the PERFECT theme for your website. If for example, you have an eCommerce store powered by WooCommerce, you can download the theme WooShop. It is a responsive and highly professional theme tailored explicitly for WooCommerce users. If you have a service-based business, you can use the themes like Lawyer, Writer, and Builder. And if you want something simple but still beautifully designed and optimized, you can get OnePage Lite for FREE!
Divi by Elegant Themes
You will be hard pressed to find another theme provider with such powerful and user-friendly theme options and possibility of customization. Elegant Themes is the home of Divi, one of, if not the MOST POWERFUL theme and page builder for WordPress sites. With Divi, you get a drag-and-drop visual builder that lets you customize just about every single element on every page of your website. You can change the font, colors, and layouts (even on Divi’s 20 pre-made templates). Divi comes packed with modules that you can add to your pages such as videos, buttons, countdown timers, CTAs, and just about everything you would ever need on any kind of website. Not knowing how to code is not a shortcoming with this theme. It’s so powerful that when we first started out, it was our own choice too! Based on our experience, it’s the fastest and easiest way to build a website out there.
What makes StudioPress themes special is the underlying Genesis Framework on which they are built. Genesis is probably the best WordPress theme out there when it comes to the combination of SEO, security, responsive design, and loading speed. Getting your website found on Google and making sure it’s fully optimized for mobile are top priorities for any website owner today. StudioPress helps you do that without any headaches. The Genesis framework is a little bit more challenging to customize than a theme like Divi, but it’s well worth the extra investment in coding and development (an added bonus: it offers 24/7 support!). And you can still make many of the changes by dragging and dropping widgets from the WordPress backend. Not to mention that you get access to a wide range of free plugins that vastly improve your site’s functionality with things like newsletter sign up forms, social media icons, slider plugins, and more! The performance of Genesis is unmatched by anything else that we’ve tried – so if you’re looking for an ultra-powerful theme, then look no further!
Choosing a Landing Page Builder
Landing pages are great if you just need a page to persuade your users to take a single, specific action. A landing page builder will make setting this up super easy for you. Landing page builders are especially helpful in connecting and managing pages in sales funnels.
Most of these builders are super easy to use and have pre-made elements that you can move around right on the page. This makes creating your pages very easy. Besides, the pre-made components that these builders have along with the templates they offer are already tested in terms of maximizing your conversions.
Because these are optimized specifically to drive people through funnels, it takes all the guesswork out for you. So without further ado, here are the landing page builders we swear by:
OptimizePress, built specifically for WordPress, is focused on quickly setting up high-conversion landing pages, sales pages, membership portals, launch funnels, and premium blogs. With advanced A/B Split Testing options, 100+ conversion optimization drag-and-drop page elements, a comprehensive statistics dashboard, a full 30-day money back guarantee, powerful integration partners and 24/7 premium support, you really can’t go wrong with them. And what we love most – OptimizePress comes with 300+ templates that are fully mobile responsive and blazing fast, meaning that it’s never difficult to find and tailor one that works for you. If you’re running a WordPress website, we definitely encourage you to consider OptimizePress – it’s one of the best marketing-focused page builders out there, and one of the very few WITHOUT a monthly subscription; just a simple one-time payment.
Do you want the fastest & simplest way to set up a high-conversion landing page? Then look no further! Unbounce is a simple, easy-to-use drag-and-drop landing page builder that has stood the test of time. It stands out through its convincing pop-ups and sticky bars that help you drastically increase conversions. It also has a super useful unique feature in its ability to replace keywords on your landing page with keywords that your visitors search for. By helping you provide a tailored experience for your users it will skyrocket your conversions! Not to mention that it integrates easily with WordPress, email marketing service providers, and analytics tools. And what’s best, if you use the link below, we have secured a 30-day free trial for you AND a 20% off discount for the first 3 months JUST FOR YOU!
Leadpages is the most affordable landing page builder with most of the features required to build elegant, mobile-friendly landing pages quickly, without needing to know how to code. This tool is focused on helping you generate conversions, and has a powerful analytics dashboard which allows you to track essential metrics, A/B test elements on your landing pages, and even create Facebook ads via its Facebook Ad Builder. Customer service is very responsive, and the powerful page builder can be integrated with your favorite email marketing automation tools with just a few clicks. And what’s more, Leadpages has a plugin that allows you to easily integrate it with your WordPress website with only a few clicks! Basically, if you’re on a budget, but you want to set up sales and landing pages from scratch quickly, then Leadpages is the best choice for you!
Instapage is the landing page builder of choice for those who’re looking for a complete marketing platform. Its drag-and-drop page builder makes it a breeze to set up your landing pages quickly, and its detailed analytics dashboard brings comprehensive A/B testing to your fingertips. It allows you to use heatmaps to see precisely what your customers are doing on your pages, which is huge when it comes to improving your conversions. Instapage is capable of setting up 40+ integrations with different services from email marketing providers to CMS systems like WordPress and advertising platforms like Facebook. And our favorite unique feature: Instapage’s secure sharing features makes it super easy to collaborate with a remote team when building your landing pages and share feedback across the board. The cost is higher ($99/month), but it’s definitely worth the investment if you can afford it!
WordPress Contact Forms
To get the name & email of prospects on your website, you must have contact forms. These are useful when asking prospects to sign up for your lead magnet, a newsletter, or just to send you a message.
Pre-made contact forms already have the security aspect of form submission set up, and you can get them implemented as you wish with just a few clicks.
In fact, these solutions also allow you to build complex forms that integrate with email providers, payment gateways, PayPal, and more with just a few clicks. In case you need to set up surveys, questionnaires, or use conditional logic within your forms, this is also readily available.
We use these plugins for ourselves and for most of our clients, and we recommend them for ANY website.
Gravity Forms is one of the most advanced form builder plugins in WordPress. It’s super easy to use even for those who aren’t technically minded and allows you to set up complex forms within minutes. Its many add-ons will enable you to tailor it to create special forms (such as setting up a quiz) in minutes. It comes with 30+ form field types that you can pick and choose from, making sure you can get your form to behave precisely as you want it to.
Its conditional logic tools allow you to change form fields based on user input and even display different pages based on user interaction. The advanced form validation ensures your form is secure, all the while allowing for complex tasks such as file uploads, calculated fields, and even WordPress post submissions. And we didn’t even mention that Gravity Forms integrates seamlessly with email marketing providers such as MailChimp, allowing you to import contacts automatically, saving you both time and money. Receiving payments the safe way with PayPal, Stripe or other payment gateways takes just a few clicks to set up. To summarize, with Gravity Forms you can achieve EXACTLY what you want to, and for a one-time fee of $59, it’s definitely not to be missed!
Ninja Forms is another excellent choice for a WordPress form builder. The significant advantage here is that Ninja Forms is entirely free to try, and even the paid add-ons come with a 14-day money back guarantee. One great thing here is that you don’t necessarily have to buy the $99/year bundled package, but instead you can buy just those add-ons that you need. This is great for a new business, as you can slowly upgrade to newer add-ons as you grow. Other than that, Ninja Forms also has functionality that allows for easy integration with email marketing providers & payment gateways, making it easy to fulfill your business’s needs. Multi-part forms and conditional logic are also part of the functionality. So, overall, Ninja Forms is an excellent choice for a powerful form builder for those who are starting out and can gradually scale up with the add-ons that they need.
Unlike the previous two form builders, OptinMonster specializes in dynamic forms aimed at maximizing the number of leads you capture. Research shows that around 70% of the traffic that gets to your website leaves without ever returning. OptinMonster helps you capture a share of that traffic before it leaves – securing you more clients and maximizing your ROI.
Dynamic forms are created using OptiMonster’s drag-and-drop, easy-to-use builder and include attention-grabbing pop-ups, slide-in scroll boxes, floating bars, full-screen welcome gates, and more. But what really makes OptinMonster stand out is its behavioral automation tools which allow you to create pop-ups that appear when users try to close your website, after they spend a specific time on your pages, based on their geolocation or more. Combine this with their comprehensive A/B testing tools & conversion analytics, and you can make data-driven decisions that get you results. And we didn’t even mention that OptinMonster easily integrates with almost any website builder out there, including WordPress. In the end, it’s really a simple decision to make – do you want better conversions when it comes to building your email list? If you said yes, then don’t hesitate to find out more about this fantastic tool!
When a prospect is looking through a sales page, a chatbot will be able to answer any questions they may have and store their email address. This is a great way to handle objections and increase your conversions, while at the same time making sure you capture the emails of your prospects.
We’ve tried a host of chatbots, but there is one that stands out above the rest, and that we recommend to virtually ALL our customers.
How about having a chatbot that pops up by itself and takes customers through an engaging script that handles their objections and ends up collecting details such as their email? If you said “YES”, then Collect.chat is for you! It’s by far the most powerful chatbot we have found on the market and allows you do almost anything: schedule calls, handle objections, interact 24/7 with your visitors, and increase conversions by up to 3x times. And what’s best – it takes no coding to set up at all. It has an intuitive drag-and-drop script builder with tons of options from logic jumps to adding GIFs that help you set up a high conversion script within minutes. It also seamlessly integrates with WordPress and almost any other platform. So if you’re looking for a chatbot for your website, we really do recommend that you look no further!
Email Marketing Automation Software
If you don’t set up automated email marketing to stay in touch with leads who give you their emails, then your literarily losing THOUSANDS in profits. Keeping and re-selling to existing customers and/or warm leads is always MUCH cheaper than acquiring new customers. You must not miss this opportunity.
This is where email marketing automation comes in. Sending an email costs virtually nothing, so once you automate the process, you will be staying in touch with your customers and selling them your services without further effort on your part. With the right email marketing provider, you’ll be able to build a list and use it to significantly grow your profits. And don’t forget – an email list is one of your most significant assets as an online business.
Here are the service providers we’ve worked with and loved:
Constant Contact is the email marketing provider of choice for those who love simplicity and desire a super straightforward product. It’s been on the market since 1996 and has a track record of excellent, award-winning customer service and high deliverability. Currently providing users with a drag-and-drop, elegant mobile-friendly email builder, full marketing automation, list segmentation, e-commerce marketing tools, and comprehensive analytics, this product has all the essential features expected from an email marketing provider. Where Constant Contact really stands out is through its many customizable email templates, pop-up forms, and 370+ pre-made app integrations with commonly used tools (Facebook, Shopify, and more!). With prices between $20-45/month, Constant Contact is a highly affordable tool for those who prefer simplicity and love getting straight to the point.
MailChimp has grown to be one of the most popular email marketing providers thanks in large part to its very generous free plan. With up to 2,000 subscribers and 10,000 email sends a month, at no charge, MailChimp is hard to beat. It comes with a powerful CRM and list management tools, which include segmentation, tagging, and autoresponders and easily integrates with other standard tools such as WordPress. Sounds like the perfect tool so far… Nevertheless, MailChimp makes it challenging to set up more complex email campaigns and lacks a visual workflow builder. That means that setting up more complex automations that involve adding and removing tags, re-segmenting your lists, and so on is much more difficult. Automations that include more than 1 email are also not possible with MailChimp’s free version. And, based on our experience, MailChimp also has a strict policy on affiliate marketing – if your business relies on it, then MailChimp may not be a great choice. Overall, we recommend MailChimp to those who are looking for a free initial plan but suggest upgrading to another provider when the budget permits it.
With 18+ years in the email marketing game, AWeber has proven to be one of the most reliable email marketing providers, consistently achieving top deliverability. IT has 700+ email templates and 6000+ stock images that you can use along with their simple drag-and-drop email builder, making it a piece of cake for you to craft irresistible emails. Nevertheless, AWeber’s real strength lies in its campaign & workflow builder, automations, and list segmentation features. It allows you to set up sophisticated campaigns and send targeted content to subscribers who most want it – leading to much higher conversions. All this is backed up by great analytics, and when you consider that the price starts at $19/month for 500 subscribers, then it becomes clear that AWeber is both an excellent choice AND a highly affordable one.
Coming out in 2012, SendinBlue is among the newer email marketing service providers. Its initial focus has been on transactional emails (receipts, orders, invoices, etc.) for e-commerce sellers, an area where SendinBlue still outperforms most of the other email marketing providers. The service has since expanded to include list building, marketing & segmentation automations, a workflow builder, a drag-and-drop email builder, and even a CRM. It also provides SMS marketing tools, which are unique to SendInBlue. Another unique feature is the ability to send emails through SMTP from your own servers. And when you consider its super generous free plan starting at 300 emails per day and unlimited subscribers, SendinBlue becomes a desirable offer for newer businesses, especially in the eCommerce sector.
ConvertKit is a genuinely outstanding email marketing solution, which excels in terms of its intuitive visual workflow builder, extensive segmentation options, and easy to use email builder. It lets you easily track purchases, tag buyers, send out surveys, and much more. It is an ideal solution for content creators and service-based businesses, especially for those who are looking to set up more sophisticated campaigns, track users, and maximize conversions. Its tagging system is one of the best in the industry and allows you to set tags to users at key points in the workflow, thus allowing for a very high degree of personalization. With 70+ integrations (including WordPress) and direct custom integrations via its simple API, ConvertKit is an ideal solution for those who are looking for flexibility and business specific solutions. Considering its sky-high email deliverability (no more headaches about your emails ending up in Spam) and highly affordable pricing ($29/month for up to 1,000 subscribers and UNLIMITED emails), this ends up being the service we recommend most often!
GetResponse is an outstanding solution if you’re looking for a complete marketing platform with extensive options and scalability. It starts with a very generous plan of $15/month which includes a full email marketing suite with 220 email templates, a fantastic email builder, and some fixed workflow automation features with advanced segmentation and tagging included. It also throws in a visual landing page builder if you need it. And for those who are looking for more advanced features? GetResponse has it. If you upgrade to the more expensive plans, then you can do everything from running webinars, funnels, and setting up special email campaigns for eCommerce sellers. Overall this is a highly scalable option, and we always recommend it for customers who are interested at some point to upgrade to the higher level features, and prefer an all-in-one solution!
Other WordPress Optimization Plugins
Here are a couple of other plugins that will make your WordPress website that much more efficient. These are plugins that don’t fall in the other categories, but that we have found invaluable when it comes to helping you run your WordPress website smoothly.
WP Rocket – Speed Up Your Website
WP Rocket is our secret key when it comes to ensuring a website loads at light speed. And site speed is critical. Most search engines factor in site loading speed as a crucial requirement when it comes to how high up in the search results they display your website. Moreover, websites with slow loading speeds tend to have higher bounce rates. This means that 80%+ of your website traffic leaves BEFORE you get a chance to convert it. This translates in wasted efforts at driving traffic and can cripple your business. With WP Rocket, this doesn’t have to be the case. With some of the most advanced caching, compression, and preloading technology, WP Rocket makes your website load at blazing fast speed. Not a technical person? Fret not, WP Rocket takes a few clicks to set up but gives you immediate results. We recommend all our clients install this awesome plugin on their websites – and even use it ourselves, that’s how good it is!
MonsterInsights – Track Your Website Analytics
Most people know how critical it is to identify how people find your website and how they use it. It’s imperative to make data-driven decisions if you wish to succeed. Identifying such information can help you know if your site has issues when viewed on mobile browsers, or which links are most clicked. At the same time, most people are intimidated by the complexity of setting up Google Analytics and interpreting its complex reports. If this is you, DO NOT WORRY. MonsterInsights is here precisely for this reason. With a simple WordPress Plugin, it allows you to install Google Analytics with just a few clicks, effortlessly, without knowing how to code. And all those complicated Google Analytics reports? It breaks them up in super simple, intuitive, easy to understand reports separated by categories – user behavior, audience, content, and eCommerce. Making data-driven decisions has never been easier, and that’s why we recommend MonsterInsights to ALL our customers (we even use it ourselves)!
You Know About The Tools, Now It’s Time To Use Them
You now have access to some of the best tools to build your online business. With these tools, you can start with a simple idea and use it as the spark to create a massive enterprise.
It won’t be long before you can build beautiful landing pages, lure prospects into an email list that will turn them into loyal lifetime customers, and blow the competition out of the water. You will have sites and funnels that will be fast, secure, and fully optimized for conversions and sales. After all, this is the very same technology that we, as one of the world’s leading direct response marketing agencies, have been using for our own customers with fantastic success.
Our success can now be yours too. With all these tools at your disposal, along with your own efforts, you now have everything you need to reign triumphant.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below or contact us in writing at [email protected] – we respond in 24 hours or less. We can help provide additional advice and guidance with any of these tools.
And if you would like us to help you grow your business and implement some of those tools on your behalf, check out if you are eligible for a call with us below: