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.

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Recently I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting between my startup and one of the largest logistics companies in the country - so that we could pitch our new service.

The size of this client would almost be sufficient to reach sustainability and profitability in one go. Obviously landing a whale in your first pitch as a new startup is the ultimate dream come true, but it can be hard to turn it into reality.

The meeting went ok, but there were some hard lessons learned about how to pitch big corporate clients that my partners and I took away from the experience.

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Bookkeeping, taxes, accounting, and a host of other financial and administrative tasks are vital to keep your small business running smoothly and profitably

Genuine bloggers and businesses use high quality articles to build high page rankings in Google and generate plenty of valuable organic search traffic.

The problem is that the better the content, the more likely it is that others will duplicate, copy, or spin those articles and publish them on their own sites (without permission or attribution).

Most of the time this is not an issue because low quality, article spinning sites generally tend not to rank well in Google search results.

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.

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.

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