Tips on how to use technology to improve your business

Top small business trends (live)

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Having access to a great tool like Google Trends means that it is easy to keep an eye on how important brands and services are faring.

Since Google search is so prevalent (weighing in at about 67% in the U.S. and 90% in Europe), monitoring how popular services are trending can give some great insight into which ones are gaining market share and which are losing the race.

If you are trying to decide which product or service is the right one for your company then we have some great head-to-head comparisons of the biggest and best tools and services for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Website builders

Here's a look at our to favorite website builders, Wix & Weebly:

Looks like these two are pretty much neck and neck, which is a good indication that they are both doing great work innovating and staying competitive. Especially because this industry moves very, very quickly.

You can check out a more in-depth feature comparison of these two platform at Comparing Wix vs. Weebly.

eCommerce website builders

We've got three great competitors in the online shopping cart space - Shopify, Bigcommerce & Volusion:

When we did a proper review of each of these solutions, we found that they tended to focus on slightly different segments of the market, using slightly different approaches.

Bigcommerce looks to build a strong community of contributors and developers around its core offering, while Volusion offers strong integration with Amazon (going after a specific segment).

Despite this, Shopify seems to be running away with things through a slick, easy-to-use interface, great features, and quality support... and a superior marketing campaign.

There's a complete comparison table with all their main features, pricing, customers reviews, etc at Shopify vs. Volusion vs. Bigcommerce.

Cloud accounting

Here's a great comparison between Freshbooks and Quickbooks online:

I think in some senses this comparison is a bit misleading. On the surface of things it looks like Quickbooks is killing Freshbooks, but that's not the case. Freshbooks goes after a slightly different market in that they offer a lightweight, simple solution for small business - and they have attracted over 5 million customers.

Quickbooks, on the other hand, is well established and particularly popular in the massive US market. We answered the question is Quickbooks online the best accounting software? over in our forums a little while back, if you want a bit more clarity.

Email marketing

This is one I just don't understand - GetResponse vs. Constant Contact vs. AWeber:

I personally went through the setup procedure for both of these platforms and found GetResponse to be significantly better than Constant Contact.

There's a complete account of how good each service is from the perspective of a new client at GetResponse vs. Constant Contact.

One thing I did note is that Constant Contact completely dominates the US market, which becomes clear when you look at this regional breakdown of their brand popularity:

Seems like, for email marketing services, there is significant lock-in which means that it can be difficult to displace a company once it is established. Still, I strongly recommend you check out our review before making a decision.

Web hosting

Wow, not much competition for GoDaddy - but HostGator tries:

Size doesn't always mean you get the best quality service, but it does help when it comes to economies of scale. We did a price and quality review of 3 top Web hosting services at 3 best Web hosting companies for corporate sites.

Social media

Ok, this is a big comparison with FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ all looking to carve out an important stake in this rapidly growing market:

Well, it seems that Facebook has got things wrapped up on the social media front... although, if I were them, I would be a little concerned about the strong decline in recent years (even though there is no real competition).

Is this decline a sign of growing disinterest, or is it simply a reflection of the fact that everyone is already on Facebook?

What other interesting trends would you like us to cover? Share your requests in the comments.

Vote on the factor that you think most influences business success

What it takes for entrepreneurs and small business owners to be successful can vary from person to person, and industry to industry.

The best software for online business. Pic by Guy Sie.

We've put together a dream team list of the best software and services designed to help start and grow a small (online & home) business

Great free software for people working from home

Having a home business or work from home job means that your PC will need to be packed with functionality to help facilitate day-to-day tasks.

Inspirational entrepreneur quotes

Life as an entrepreneur can be extremely tough, which is why it is important to sometimes pause and listen to inspiring quotes that keep you going.

creating opportunities in life and business

Isn't it frustrating that some people just seem to have that entrepreneurial knack - business opportunities just seem to go their way again and again?

A look at the latest trends in business technology

Starting and running a successful small, home or online business these days means that you are going to have to rely on technology to handle most things - if not everything.

There isn't a single aspect of the modern business that doesn't have software, online software, cloud solutions, or innovative hardware and gadgets to save time, streamline processes, maximize efficiency, and save on costs.

The problem, especially for first time business owners, is knowing which technology is the right one for your company, and how to use it effectively to ensure that it provides value and/or good returns.

Universities wanting to offer a course on Internet entrepreneurship can start here

Being an entrepreneur is something that should be encouraged and nurtured in everyone from an early age - especially in a country like the U.S. where the economy relies on small business.

Every school and university should offer a range of courses designed to empower young people to take an idea and turn it into a profitable enterprise, with confidence and competence.

Sadly, most educational institutes seem intent on sticking to dry, academic curricula that might teach young minds how to think, but don't prepare them for the harsh realities of the real world.

Working from home to make money online

Selling online is getting easier and easier every day, from a technical point of view, because the technology to handle online transactions (like online

Fiverr Gigs that help online businesses

Fiverr is an online marketplace offering a huge range of services (from the sublime to the ridiculous) that startups can utilize, for only five dollars.

If you're wondering what service could possibly offer any value for only $5, then you are in exactly the same boat I was.

Most of the services (called gigs) that are available on fiverr are probably not even worth the five bucks they charge. But, if you are willing to dig a bit deeper, there are a few gems that can save you a lot of time and money.

Think of the Internet economy as a farmer’s field full of little green plants. Each plant represents a business, and the stuff that makes them grow is traffic (just like rain makes real plants grow).

Now, imagine that in between the rain clouds and our fledgling plants, there is a huge funnel that collects the rain and pours it over the field. Let’s call this funnel Google.

Google’s job is to make sure that all the sprouts get a fair share of water (provided they are of good quality), and that any weeds that are harmful to the ecosystem aren’t watered. All day long Google funnels rain onto various different plants in order to help them grow.

Tools and tips on how to source products online

Small retail businesses and eCommerce sites need to consistently choose the best products to sell in order to maximize their profits.

But trying to find this information is not always easy, and there are plenty of "silver bullet" sites (and con men) that will try to make a profit by advising you to stock products that give them commission.

It's far better to be able to do your own research into which products offer the best value for money for your own customers and clients. After all, you know your business best.

customer relationship management how-to

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is about reaching out to the right people, convincing them to do business with you, and then maintaining and nurturing