Recommendations

Coach's Recommendations

Recommended by Store CoachWe've run almost 100 profitable online stores over the last 10 years and have tried pretty much every shopping cart platform, live chat service, web hosting service, toll-free phone service, credit card processing service, affiliate program software, and [whatever else you can think of] on the market. We know the PROs and CONs of each and have experienced their customer service and support first-hand. Here on this page, we'll give you our #1 recommendation (and in some cases #2 and #3) for each type of service you may need for your store. These are the services that we use ourselves because they're the best you can get for a reasonable price.

  Recommendations for Your Store

Shopping Cart Platform

bigcommerce-logo-300x87

BigCommerce is our recommendation for larger ecommerce stores, those with 1,000+ products and sales volume of $50k+ per month. There are few shopping carts out there that are as easy to work with as BigCommerce. Not only does it include everything that you'll ever want or need in the average eCommerce store, but they have great tutorials for just about anything. And as an added bonus, we've written a bunch of additional BigCommerce tutorials for our clients. Here's more to love about BigCommerce:

  • 100% customizable URLs
  • Built-in blogging system
  • Full control of HTML
  • Over 60 pre-integrated merchant account providers
  • Abandoned cart saver (on higher plans)
  • 100+ pre-integrated templates

The most popular cart in the world today is Shopify. They have become the top choice for eCommerce entrepreneurs for good reason. Their storefronts are beautiful and easy to build and maintain. Just like 3dCart andBigCommerce, they have many built-in templates for free and a lot more for a premium price. Plans start at just $29 per month plus a small fee per transaction (if you use a payment processor other than the one provided by Shopify themselves). Here are a few more features offered by Shopify:

  • All stores are mobile ready
  • Multiple languages
  • Search engine optimized
  • Sell on Facebook
  • Sell digital products
  • Unlimited products & bandwidth

Click the button below to start your 14-day free trial (or login and refresh this page to for an extended free trial period exclusively for Store Coach members).

3dcart-logo

Another great cart for startups is 3dCart (we have several stores on this awesome platform!). The 60+ themes that are included with every store subscription make it very easy to get your store up and running quickly. The price to get started is just $29/month and if you use our link they will automatically double your free trial and make it 30 full days. Here are a few more features that are worth mentioning:

  • All plans are full-featured
  • Built-in blog
  • Mobile-friendly templates
  • Admin panel mobile app
  • Facebook store
  • HTML knowledge not needed
  • Many 3rd party integrators

Their standard free trial is 15 days, but we've teamed up with them to offer you a trial that's twice as long!

Web Hosting

We've tried HostGator, BlueHost and all the other big-name hosting providers, but none of them have even come close to what we've experienced with BigScoots. 99.99% uptime (just like all the others) and very competitive prices, but what really sets them apart is the INSANELY HIGH level of customer service. You'll be live chatting with them in a matter of seconds, and you'll receive responses to support tickets within about 5 minutes. And they're happy to do stuff for you that other hosting providers simply will not do. Oh yeah... they're servers are extremely fast too, which is great for page load times. We can't recommend BigScoots highly enough.

Domain Name Registration

A domain name is a domain name, and it honestly doesn't matter much which registrar you use. All of the big domain registrars will occasionally run a special to help you save a buck or two, but you're pretty much going to pay $8-12 per year with any registrar. We've come to prefer NameCheap for a couple of reasons: 1) private registration is included free, if you want it (it's usually extra with other registrars); and 2) NameCheap is hands-down the best place to get an SSL Certificate and it's convenient to have your domain name and SSL with the same registrar.

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Logo Design

Let's be honest... Creating a logo can be done pretty easily on your own. But if you want to give your visitors (or soon-to-be customers) a good "vibe" right from the outset, you're just not going to be able to achieve that on your own. That's where CrowdSpring comes in. At CrowdSpring, you can create a project for one low cost and have dozens (or possibly even hundreds) of designers working on your design. You give feedback, they make revisions, and you choose the single design that you like best. And it gets better... Use this link and you'll get a $25 discount automatically applied to your first purchase, along with a marketing package ($99 value) that will feature your project on the site as well as social media outlets. Don't delay... give CrowdSpring a try today!

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Credit Card Processing - Merchant Account

Accepting credit cards ON-SITE is an absolute must! We recommend that you also accept PayPal Standard and/or Amazon Checkout, but it's critical for a good conversion rate that you provide a way for customers to pay with a credit card right on your website. In order to do that, you need two things: 1) a merchant account (which includes a payment gateway), and 2) an SSL certificate (see the section immediately below).

United States & Canada

TOP RECOMMENDATION

Durango Merchant Services

Reasons we love Durango:

  • Low 2.35% processing fees
  • No application fee
  • No long-term contract or termination fee
  • Can use 1 account for multiple sites
  • Includes payment gateway
  • Low $25 monthly fee
  • Customizable fraud protection settings
  • Can call your account rep directly
Start Accepting Credit Cards >
#2 RECOMMENDATION

PayPal Payments ProDon't let the PayPal name fool you... PayPal Payments Pro is a merchant account. It just happens to be offered by PayPal. But it's completely separate from PayPal Standard (where customers leave your site to make payment at PayPal.com). With PayPal Payments Pro, customers pay with credit card on your site and have no way of knowing that PayPal is the "bank" processing the transaction.

Key Information:

  • No set-up fee, contract or termination fee
  • $30 monthly fee
  • 2.2% - 2.9% processing fees (depending on volume)
  • Can use 1 account for multiple sites
  • Includes payment gateway
  • No batching - funds are available immediately
  • Payments go into same account as PayPal Standard payments
Get PayPal Payments Pro >

Other Countries

RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

PayPal Payments ProYour best option will be PayPal Payments Pro. This is different from having a personal/business PayPal account. PayPal Payments Pro is a true merchant account and allows customers to pay with credit card right on your website. The merchant account just happens to be provided by PayPal (instead of some other bank).

PayPal Payments Pro costs £20 per month and includes the secure payment gateway (so you don't need to get a separate gateway account). There is no long-term contract, no monthly minimum and no cancellation fee. The per-transaction discount rate is normally quite low.

Get PayPal Payments Pro >
OTHER COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE

2CheckOut2CheckOut (2CO) offers a unique (and awesome!) solution for online store owners throughout the world. It's not technically a merchant account, but it functions exactly like one. 2CO iframes a secure checkout form into your website (much like an embedded YouTube video is iframed into a page). So the customer is technically entering their payment information into a 2CO form, but the customer stays on your website for the entire checkout process.

2CO can set up an account for virtually anyone in the world (there are only 5 prohibited countries, per US law). There is no setup fee, and there are NO monthly fees, statement fees, gateway fees, or hidden fees of any kind. The only ongoing fee is the per-transaction fee, which varies by country.

Sign Up for 2CheckOut >
Note: All store owners should also accept PayPal Standard in addition to having a merchant account and accepting credit card payments on-site. A decent percentage of shoppers prefer checking out with PayPal.

Fraud Prevention & Chargeback Protection

Online fraud is a huge concern for almost every eCommerce store owner. A single fraudulent order can wipe out your profit from 5 or 10 legitimate orders! Many store owners try to combat the risk of fraud by a) spending 10-20 minutes to manually review every order, b) setting overly rigid rules (such as requiring billing & shipping addresses to match exactly), or c) doing both! This results in A LOT of wasted time and lost orders. And because fraudsters are so sophisticated, most stores still lose hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars every year to fraudulent orders!

NoFraud completely eliminates the risk of fraud. For a low per-transaction fee (starting at just 0.45%), NoFraud analyzes every payment using their ultra-advanced algorithm that employs virtually every fraud detection technology and technique available. It then provides a simple PASS or FAIL response (which you can see right inside your store's admin panel), eliminating the need for you to make any "judgment calls" or analyze any of the data yourself. And best of all, NoFraud gives you full-blown chargeback protection for every order that PASSes. This means NoFraud will reimburse you if you get a fraud chargeback on any order that PASSed their analysis.

  • Completely eliminate fraud - If you ever do get a chargeback, NoFraud reimburses you.
  • Nix "false positives" - Stop refunding orders that look "questionable."
  • No manual reviews - NoFraud provides a simple PASS or FAIL.
  • Lowest cost in the industry - Rates starting at 0.45% for full-blown fraud protection.
  • No strings attached - No monthly minimums, monthly fees or long-term contract.

SSL Certificate

NameCheap SSL Certificates

Note: After clicking this link, scroll down and click the 'Compare Products' button in the Domain Validation box. Then select the 1st option: Comodo PositiveSSL.

Comodo PositiveSSLIn order to take credit card payments on-site, you MUST have an SSL Certificate. Why? Because it's the thing that encrypts the customer's personal and financial information they enter during the checkout process. It makes the transaction private and secure. Without an SSL Certificate, customers won't see the green padlock icon in the address bar and, worse, they'll likely see security pop-ups warning them that the site is not secure. Obviously, this will scare off 99% of shoppers! Having an SSL certificate will also allow you to insert a security seal (like the one in the top-right corner of this paragraph) that makes customers feel "warm and fuzzy" about shopping on your site.

NameCheap's PositiveSSL product simply can't be beat. It'll set you back a whopping $9.00 per year, so we're literally talking 75 cents a month! (Please don't get duped into paying $50-200/year by your shopping cart or hosting provider.)

Toll-Free Phone Number

There's seriously no competition here... Phone.com is hands-down the best toll-free phone service provider. Here's why:

  • Only $9.99/month (which includes 100 minutes - additional minutes are dirt cheap if you need them)
  • True 800 number at no extra cost (other providers charge $50+ to get an 800 numbers instead of an 877/866/855 number)
  • Includes all the fancies: call handling rules, scheduling, automated call forwarding, hold options, multiple extensions, custom greetings, e-fax, conferencing and so on
  • Super easy set-up

Phone.com Toll-Free Number

(also get 10% OFF using this link)

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Live Chat

Like a toll-free number, live chat is a must-have for looking like a professional website and boosting customer trust (and therefore increasing your conversion rate). The live chat option will be attractive to many of your customers... you'll probably have a fairly even split of extroverts who prefer talking to someone on the phone and introverts who prefer typing via live chat. There are numerous live chat options available, but our clear favorite is Zopim. It's affordable (you can probably even get away with the free version), powerful and integrates seamlessly with Skype (which is super-slick).

Customer Reviews

Let's be clear about why you would pay for a third-party customer review service when virtually every shopping cart platform on the planet includes a built-in customer review/rating system. There are two huge reasons:

Reason #1: Internal, unverified reviews obtained or created through your shopping cart are NOT trusted by or syndicated to Google and therefore do NOT show up by your AdWords ads or Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

Reason #2: Many online shoppers have gotten to the point where they simply don't trust internal, unverified reviews shown on websites since it's so easy for website owners to write the reviews themselves.

So that's why it's a smart investment to pay for ShopperApproved merchant and product reviews. ShopperApproved is by far the most affordable review service that is approved by Google so that reviews are syndicated to Google and show up next to your search results, Google AdWords ads and PLAs. This is HUGE! And customers on your site are much more likely to trust the reviews - after all, Google does!

ShopperApproved

  • Easy to set up
  • Customizable surveys
  • High success rate collecting reviews
  • Huge distribution network
  • Opportunity to resolve negative reviews
  • Collects photo & video testimonials
  • Risk-free 30-day trial period

Custom WordPress Themes

If you've opted to go with WordPress/WooCommerce for your shopping cart platform, it's well worth the $40-100 one-time cost to get a professional, custom theme for your store. We've had the best luck finding well-built, well-coded, professional themes at ThemeForest. When you're choosing a theme, make sure to check the reviews/feedback and also make absolutely sure it's a responsive theme (so it's tablet- and mobile-friendly). Some friendly advice: Limit your customizations to the options available in the Settings > Theme Options page in the WordPress admin panel. Don't modify the PHP code of the template files or even the CSS.

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  Recommendations for Marketing & SEO

Rank Booster Plus Service

Rank Booster Plus

  • Get Page 1 rankings fast!
  • Lock in our introductory $299/month pricing for life!
  • Guaranteed results in 90 days or your money back!
  • For qualifying sites only - click here to apply (no obligation)
Over the last decade, we've acquired literally hundreds of high-authority websites within 17 genre categories. By pairing high-quality content on topically related sites with completely natural, on-topic linking techniques, we can get most sites within those 17 categories stellar rankings in a very short period of time.

We're so confident we can significantly boost your organic Google rankings that we're offering a 90-day money back guarantee (see FAQs on this page for details). You have nothing to lose here... we'll either get you to the top of the Google rankings OR we'll refund every penny!

Blog Writing Service

It's quite challenging to get new traffic or backlinks for stagnant websites that remain unchanged for weeks and months on end. If you want fresh visitors and additional backlinks for improved search engine rankings, you need to constantly be adding high-quality unique content to your site (preferably at least 1-2 new pages per week). The best and most logical place to do this is your on-site blog. Not only does each new blog post add another textually rich, high-quality page to your site, but it also becomes another page other websites in your industry can link to (resulting in backlinks). Your on-site blog serves as your "social hub" and is the best place (really the only place!) to build a social following. But here's the problem...

That's why we highly recommend the My Blog Squad service. For a very reasonable monthly fee, My Blog Squad 1) researches and chooses interesting topics, 2) writes the posts, 3) logs into your blog & posts them, and 4) posts "updates" on your social profiles about each new blog post. My Blog Squad basically puts your blog on auto-pilot, giving you all the benefits of having an active on-site blog without having to do any of the work yourself!

Please note that MyBlogSquad team has also just launched a new "long copy" Power Page service, where they research, write and publish extremely high quality pieces with 3,000+ words. This is journalist quality content that can be used for the purpose of link building through content marketing (outreach) or as high-converting sales pages. Like the other MBS plans, the Power Page service is available through a monthly subscription and there's no long term contract.

My Blog Squad

  • Your choice of three low-cost plans:
    • Lite - 1 post/week
    • Standard - 2 post/week
    • Extreme - 3 posts/week
  • No sign-up fee
  • Month-to-month (no long-term contract)
  • Talented US writers who write/speak English natively
  • 400+ word blog posts, including images
  • Direct interaction with your blog manager/writer

eCommerce Link Building Service

Link Building for eCommerce Sites

  • Everything you need: on-page SEO help, quality link building, backlink profile monitoring, detailed monthly reports
  • We use strictly Google-safe and Coach-approved methods
  • We assembled, trained and actively manage the team ourselves
  • Located in Meridian, ID and nothing is outsourced
Without a doubt, marketing and SEO is the biggest challenge - and the biggest roadblock to success - for most store owners. For a lot of people (especially those of you running a store "on the side" in your spare time), there just aren't enough hours in the day to manage your SEO and marketing efforts on your own. Plus, even though we've tried to make our SEO/marketing training as simple as possible, the fact of the matter is that marketing an online store is an extremely complex, overwhelming undertaking.

Since the day we launched Store Coach, our members have practically demanded that we offer a full-blown, all-inclusive SEO service. That's exactly what our link building service is! It includes on-page SEO help, quality link building, backlink profile monitoring, detailed monthly reporting, everything! And since we (the Store Coach Team) manage this team, we know that the techniques and strategies used are 100% Google-safe and perfectly in line with what we teach here at Store Coach. In fact, this link building team is who we use to gain high search engine rankings for StoreCoach.com and our own ecommerce stores! The team is located right here in Meridian, Idaho (where the Store Coach team is) and does all the work in-house (nothing is outsourced overseas). And the most impressive thing of all is that each client gets 8+ hours of dedicated work on their website each and every month! Click here to learn more about the best ecommerce link building service on the planet!

SEO Tools

SEMrush is seriously unbelievable! It's really the one and only SEO tool you need (besides Rank Master Pro, which is included FREE with Store Coach Pro Membership) to streamline and manage your SEO efforts. It's insanely powerful in helping you analyze your competitors, find new keyword and PPC opportunities, track your site's backlinks and domain authority, boost your site's quality score and a whole lot more. It's literally like ten tools in one! If you like useful charts and reports, you'll be giddy about what SEMrush offers!

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Social Marketing Tools

HootSuite does a whole lot more than this, but here are the highlights:

  • Schedule Posts - Save time by scheduling out dozens/hundreds of social posts across multiple social media platforms all at once.
  • All-in-One Dashboard - Monitor and manage ALL of your social profiles for ALL of your websites from a single easy-to-use dashboard.
  • Track Results - Easily measure the effectiveness of your social media campaigns and track your performance with custom social analytics reports.

Affiliate Program Software

iDevAffiliate

iDevAffiliate is definitely the way to go if you've chosen to use WooCommerce or another self-hosted shopping cart platform, since you can just pay the one-time payment of $199 - $399 (the $199 version will work for 95% of store owners) and never pay another penny. iDevAffiliate is also a little bit cheaper than OmniStar (our other top recommendation) if you're paying month-to-month, but it's not quite as easy to configure or as easy to use on an ongoing basis. iDevAffiliate is pre-integrated with both BigCommerce and 3dCart (our highest recommended hosted shopping carts).

OmniStar

OmniStar is #1 in terms of ease to set up and user-friendliness. For the few extra bucks a month it costs (over iDevAffiliate), we think it's well worth getting OmniStar if you're using a hosted cart like BigCommerce or 3dCart (like iDevAffiliate, OmniStar is pre-integrated with both). You'll absolutely love OmniStar's easy set-up process and the user-friendly interface. Another major plus of OmniStar is that it includes a 15-day free trial so you can try it out risk-free for a couple weeks.

Social Incentives App

Our favorite "social incentives" app is AddShoppers. It's easy to integrate with almost any shopping cart platform and is extremely powerful and flexible. With AddShoppers, you can offer your customers a custom coupon code if they share your website on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or another social networking site. You can also offer customers some kind of incentive if they share your site after completing a purchase, signing up for your newsletter or taking some other action you've specified. And we've only scratched the surface of what AddShoppers can do!

Newsletter Service

Every store should utilize a newsletter and/or auto-responder service, especially since it's completely free for most stores! Without question, our top recommendation is MailChimp. MailChimp is the epitome of user-friendly, and it integrates seamlessly with virtually every shopping cart platform and content management system. And despite being a piece of cake to use, it's very powerful in terms of creating custom lists, setting up auto-responder series and tracking open/click rates. Best of all, it's FREE until you've exceeded 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month.

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  More Recommendations

Private Coaching

Store CoachOur training course is pretty amazing (if we do say so ourselves), but how insanely awesome would it be to have a PERSONAL COACH you can talk to every day to answer all your questions privately, help you set goals and make a customized ACTION PLAN, and then be there beside you to help you reach those milestones? That's what our 3 private coaching plans are all about!

Whether you're just getting into eCommerce and would like an expert's advice and input on your niche ideas, supplier outreach efforts and store build-out process OR you already have a store and want a personal mentor to help you put together a custom marketing plan and help you with SEO, paid advertising and conversion rate optimization, our private coaching plans give you the 1-on-1 guidance and mentoring you need! All 3 plans include private 1-hour phone calls with your personal Coach (frequency depends on which plan you choose) along with a daily 2-hour block of time where you can live chat 1-on-1 with your Coach via Skype. Click here to learn more about private coaching and claim your spot now (seats are limited). There's no long-term commitment, so why not try it for a month and see what you can accomplish with a private mentor by your side?!

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 1-on-1 private phone calls with your own personal Coach
  • Daily 2-hour block of time to live chat with your Coach
  • That's over 40 hours per month of private, 1-on-1 help from your Coach!
  • Discounted admission to Store Coach Live! events
  • No long-term commitment

Expert Site Review

Store CoachYes, we're recommending ourselves. 🙂   Seriously, though, we're pretty well-qualified to review your site! We have a 10-year track record of proven success in eCommerce. We’ve been featured on Fox Business News and in The New York Times for our success. We’ve run close to 100 successful online stores over the past decade (many of which have sold for 6 figures), and we’ve coached and mentored literally thousands of online store owners over the past 5 years. We don’t mean to brag, but we honestly think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone anywhere who is more qualified to give you advice on operating a profitable website.

Many of our clients have reported 2-4x increases in their conversion rate after implementing the suggestions we have given in our custom site review reports. Others have immediately shot up in Google's rankings by following our guidance on improving their site health, on-page content optimization and/or backlink profile. Your site review will likely pay for itself within just a few weeks of increased traffic and sales!

Accounting Software

Wave Accounting

For most store owners, Wave Accounting will do the job just fine. And it's FREE! Wave is basically a free, simplified, online version of QuickBooks. It lacks a handful of the bells and whistles QuickBooks offers, but hey, you can't beat free!

QuickBooks

QuickBooks beats Wave in almost every respect, except for the fact that you have to pay for it (although it's not terribly expensive, really). QuickBooks gives the capability to track income and expenses by "class" (i.e. by website), and its reporting functions are much more robust.

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US Mailing Address - For Non-US Residents

If you live outside the United States but want to build a store that targets the US's HUGE online shopping marketplace, you'll definitely want a US mailing address. Failing to display a US mailing address on your site will scare off a lot of American shoppers. We recommend Earth Class Mail, which is much more than just a US mailing address. They'll also scan and give you digital access to all your mail, and they'll forward you the pieces of mail you want. We've gotten nothing but positive feedback about Earth Class Mail from our non-US members who have used their services.

Selling Your Store - Website Brokering

Store CoachWe can help you get WAY MORE for your store than you'd be able to get trying to sell it on your own! And using our brokering service will take away a lot of the guesswork and actual work involved with selling a website. We've bought and sold dozens and dozens of websites over the last decade and know how to prepare the listing, drive interested parties to it, get maximum exposure, conduct the bidding/due diligence process and ensure a smooth transaction. Click here to learn more and get a no-obligation quote for our brokering services.

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Store Coach is an affiliate for many (but not all) of these recommended tools and services and, as such, we earn an affiliate commission for referring customers. That being said, we don't recommend any service we don't truly believe in. These are all services that we've used ourselves.