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.

How to prevent spammers hijacking your servers

There's nothing worse than finding out your business website has been hacked and is being used to send out bulk emails, spam visitors, or spread malicious software.

If it hasn't happened to you, don't fall into the trap of thinking that this scenario is something that happens to other people. Spam hacks are absolutely rampant.

Fortunately, the business model of spammers requires them, more often than not, to automate their hacks to seek out vulnerable Web servers and sites, because they have to do things on a huge scale to turn a profit.

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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

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The humble home office desk and chair have come along way.

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.

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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?

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.

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.

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