The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs

There is a myth making the rounds on the wide world of the internet that email marketing has outlived its usefulness, but that is simply untrue. The data is in, and email marketing campaigns can have a wide variety of positive effects on your business:

Having said that, some of the software providers in the email marketing world charge a crippling price for smaller businesses. Before you hang your heads in defeat, though, take heart. There are a number of free email marketing software apps that might suit your needs without ever costing you a cent. With a free email marketing tool, you’re not going to have access to unlimited emails and templates, and you’ll be restricted to a certain number of email addresses. Marketing automation tools may also be limited or non-existent with a free plan. But if you need to send out a simple email newsletter to your contacts and want basic access to click-through rates and other simple analytics, free email marketing services can be a godsend.

Compiled here for your reading pleasure is Merchant Maverick’s favorites in the free email marketing software world. A quick word about criteria: Each of these apps were evaluated based on their feature set, ease of use, and pros vs cons. With that out of the way, let’s get started!


Serving upwards of 73,000 users around the globe, Benchmark (read our review) has not moved on from its original mission of serving small businesses. With a reputation for great customer service and ease-of-use, this is one of the most widely recommended email marketing apps out there. And, as you might expect since it is on this list, there is a free version!

It should come as no surprise that the free version of Benchmark is less powerful than the versions you actually pay for. With a subscriber cap of 2,000 members and a limitation of 14,000 emails per month, the free version of Benchmark will be best suited to the email campaigns of very small businesses and nonprofits. It is the other features, or, rather, lack of them, that might make the final decision for you. Non-paying users of Benchmark will find that they have access to an email builder and little more. You’ll get the “insanely simple drag-and-drop editor,” a wide library of templates, and an automated signup form, as well as Google analytics, several campaign styles (drip and RSS), and a few other handy items. What you don’t get, however, are unlimited emails, basic features like A/B testing and more advanced tools like cart abandonment automation and other automated behavioral tracking features.

As I mentioned above, Benchmark is generally considered to be extremely easy to use. Most comments in user reviews agree that navigating the app, building emails, and implementing new campaigns are all done with a minimal learning curve. Based on these user reviews, as well as my own test of the product, I have to agree with Benchmark’s marketing claim: “No design experience required.”

Generally speaking, Benchmark has far more pros than cons. Beyond the ease of use I mentioned above, this company also maintain some of the best customer service in the industry, with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. As for cons, the major downside for free users will be the limitations placed on free accounts regarding Benchmark’s more advanced features. Some users have also complained that their experience with the app was plagued by bugs, though I should note that those affected seem few and far between.


SendinBlue (read our review) is best known for the accessibility of its software. With a focus on simplicity in both features and pricing, this is an app that aims to get new users in particular up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, SendinBlue is a good choice for anyone looking to get great bang for their buck, especially if you are willing to work with a simplified interface. Indeed, as an ESP (email service provider), SendinBlue is clearly not intended for experienced marketers, but rather for single proprietors and small LLC owners. Appropriately, then, the free version of SendinBlue offers an interesting alternative to the other apps we will discuss here.

Unlike Benchmark, SendinBlue does not limit how many subscribers or contacts their free users can have. Likewise, there is no limit in place for monthly emails. Rather, there is a daily limit of 300 emails. From one perspective, this limitation may seem an opportunity to reach significantly more subscribers than would be possible with Benchmark’s plan. From another perspective, it means someone at your (presumably) small company will be spending at least some time every day working on emails; isn’t that why you wanted an email marketing app anyway? Fortunately, SendinBlue does make it easy to design attractive emails with a nice email editor and template library. Free users also get real-time reporting, phone and email support, and customizable sign-up forms. As with Benchmark, you lose access to many features by choosing to use SendinBlue for free, though since SendinBlue is a simpler app in the first place, the limitations seem less important.

The biggest pro for using SendinBlue is the all-around simplicity of this app, as well as the template library, which is varied and diverse. Like Benchmark, SendinBlue tends to impress customers with their support options as well. In terms of cons, there are only a few integrations available, and some users complain of an outdated interface as well. On the whole, SendinBlue is widely liked by those who use it, though it does not inspire the same superlative-laden user reviews of some of its competitors.


best ecommerce apps

MailChimp (read our review) is pretty much synonymous with email marketing. Maybe it is the quirky name, maybe it is the goofy grin on the face of their mascot, but this app just sticks in the mind, making it one of the first examples I think of when discussing email marketing. Fortunately, if your budget does not have space for an ESP among so many other important expenses, you are in luck. There is a free version of MailChimp, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.

To start things off, if you want to use MailChimp for free, you are looking at a subscriber cap of 2,000 users and an email limit of 12,000 per month. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Benchmark allows more emails per month, but where this email marketing platform sets itself apart is in the features free users gain access to. The standard email editor and template library are in place, as expected, but MailChimp also provides an automated email campaigns features that most of their competitors keep locked behind paywalls. These automations allow you to pre-write messages and determine triggers that will prompt the app to automatically send follow-up emails based on the behavior of individual subscribers. Whether it is a welcome message for new contacts, a notification of an abandoned shopping cart, or even a gentle reminder that your business still exists to customers that have been away awhile, if you are trying to build an ecommerce business, these tools can be invaluable to you.

The pros of using MailChimp should be readily apparent. With powerful features, a user-friendly interface, and a minimal learning curve — for the low monthly cost of $0, it may seem that there is no reason to not set up a MailChimp account this very second. However, unlike the other two apps discussed above, MailChimp does not have a spotless customer service record, with some users finding communication slow and unresponsive. Fortunately, there are more satisfied customers than disgruntled ones, but it remains a concern.

Final Thoughts

Basically, what we have here are three email marketing apps that would leave nearly any subscriber satisfied. Having said that, I think there is a definite winner here: MailChimp. Especially if you are working in e-commerce, the automation tools included in this free email marketing software may prove indispensable to growing your business.

Having said that, I can think of a few reasons for using the other software programs I described above. If your needs exceed the 12,000 emails offered by MailChimp, Benchmark might be the better choice for you. If you need an extra-simplified feature set, SendinBlue’s free plan may be more attractive. On top of that, both these alternatives have higher reputations for customer service, certainly more so than Mailchimp.

In the end, the best way to figure out which free email marketing software app is best for you is to give one or all of them a try. Considering they are free, there is really not much to lose. Your email newsletter is just begging to be sent, and this month is as good a time as any! Start generating contacts, write that opt-in email, create some sign-up forms, and get out there!

If you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, you might consider doing a free trial of another email marketing platform like AWeber, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign, or simply using the paid version of any one of the programs above. With a premium service, you’re going to get more templates, unlimited emails and contacts, advanced marketing automations, social media integration, and better all-around email marketing tools. Read our full selection of email marketing software reviews for more information, or check out our ESP comparison chart.

The post The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


8 Facts You Should Know Before Crowdfunding A Video Game On Fig

fig crowdfunding

For as long as I can remember, people have bemoaned the ever-accelerating consolidation of the video game industry. For much of the past two decades, small-to-mid-size game developers have been going bust as industry behemoths like EA grow ever more dominant. For those who have followed the industry, it’s an ever-present trend and one that is not likely to abate anytime soon.

However, the second decade of the twenty-first century has given rise to a phenomenon that could be seen as a countervailing force to this trend; a social media-powered boat, gamely pushing upstream against The Market’s unloved current. Crowdfunding pools the resources of those who want a piece of the next big thing, delivering grassroots funding to projects that would otherwise struggle to get funding.

Anyone with a cursory familiarity with crowdfunding could tell you what Kickstarter (see our review) and GoFundMe (see our review) are, but lesser-known specialty crowdfunders continue to pop up, catering to the particulars of individual industries.

Enter Fig. Launched in 2015 in San Francisco, Fig is a platform on which independent game developers and mid-size game studios can get video games crowdfunded. However, Fig is more than just a “Kickstarter for Video Games.”

It’s a unique crowdfunding system and one that presents unique challenges to those looking to use crowdfunding to finance their gaming dreams. Let’s go through what you need to know before using Fig’s crowdfunding platform for game developers.

1) Fig Provides Both Rewards Crowdfunding & Equity Crowdfunding For Video Games

With Fig, you can set up a crowdfunding campaign for your incipient game project that gives the would-be backer two options: back a traditional rewards crowdfunding campaign in exchange for a copy of the game, branded swag, expansion packs, etc., or back an equity crowdfunding campaign in which the backer becomes an investor who buys Fig Game Shares and thereby stands to profit from future sales of the game.

Actually, I lied. The backer also has a third option: back both!

You probably have a decent handle on what rewards crowdfunding is, but with Fig’s equity crowdfunding, investors fund your game’s development by buying Fig Game Shares (more on how Fig Game Shares work later). At the end of the process, the profits from sales of your game are divided between your company, Fig, and the equity investors who bought Fig Game Shares in your game

2) You Can Run Both A Rewards And An Equity Campaign Or Just A Rewards Campaign

I said in the introduction that Fig wasn’t just “Kickstarter for video games.” However, if you’re not trying to raise six or seven digits’ worth or capital, you can, in fact, treat Fig as if it were Kickstarter and just run a rewards crowdfunding campaign. Describe/show off your cool game, offer various rewards for different tiers of support, and hope to raise your goal within your funding period.

However, most Fig campaigners opt to run both a rewards campaign and an equity campaign concurrently. This way, you can attract support from the more casual backer who may want to see your game produced and ultimately receive a copy, as well as the investor who sees profit potential in your game idea and wants to support it in exchange for a cut of future sales.

Check out the campaign page for Pig Eat Ball if you want to see what Fig’s unique brand of rewards/equity hybrid crowdfunding looks like in action.

3) Fig Is Selective

Some crowdfunding platforms allow anybody who signs up and creates a profile to launch a crowdfunding campaign on their platform. Not Fig. According to the company, when a developer applies to use the platform:

We evaluate the game and the developer to determine whether, in our opinion, they have the potential to generate significant income based on criteria such as experience and talent of the developer, the developer’s record for delivering games on time and within budget, our estimates of potential sales of the game and the extent of the game’s existing social community and fanbase.

Also note that Fig only hosts one or two new funding campaigns per month. When considering whether to send your pitch to Fig, determine whether you can afford to, in effect, wait in line for your chance to be featured on the site.

4) Funding Is All-Or-Nothing For Both Rewards And Equity Campaigns

Just about every crowdfunding platform requires you to set some kind of funding goal before launching your campaign. Some crowdfunders let you keep whatever money you end up raising regardless of whether or not you’ve reached your funding goal before your funding period ends.

Not so with Fig. Launch a Fig crowdfunding campaign, and you’ll have to meet or exceed your funding goal before you can collect. Fail to reach your funding goal, and you’ll get nothing at all. This goes for both rewards and equity campaigns. You’ll want to have done your due diligence before launching your campaign with Fig, as an 80% funded project will see you get 0% of the cash.

5) Investors Aren’t Actually Buying Shares Of Your Company

Launch an equity crowdfunding campaign with Fig and you won’t have to worry about investors owning a portion of your intellectual property. That’s because with Fig’s unique equity crowdfunding system, the investor invests in stock created by Fig to pay dividends based on the sales receipts from the game post-release. Fig describes the system like so:

Developers maintain 100% creative control and IP ownership over their game. The community invests in Fig Game Shares, which pay out based on Fig’s own revenue share gained through a licensing agreement with the developer, and Fig takes on the accounting and legal risk associated with the investments as it’s our stock. Developers are not involved in selling investments, nor are investors investing in studios or IP.

Here’s where you can learn more about Fig Game Shares. Essentially, they allow you to retain full ownership of your company and its products while offering investors the chance to profit from your future game sales commensurate with the proportion of Fig Game Shares they purchased.

6) Fig’s Rewards Crowdfunding Campaigns Carry No Platform Fees

If you’re using Fig as if it were Kickstarter and just want to run a rewards campaign, there’s one way in which Fig is actually superior to Kickstarter. Let me explain.

Kickstarter, like most non-charitable crowdfunding sites, charges a 5% platform fee from what you raise. Factor in payment processing fees, which can come to about 3-5% of what you raise, and you could be paying 8-10% of what you raise in fees.

Fig, however, does things differently. Launch a rewards campaign with Fig and you won’t pay any platform fees. You will only have to pay credit card processing fees. These will come out to about 2.5% of what you raise. If you’re an independent game publisher looking to use rewards crowdfunding to get your project started, this factor alone gives Fig a leg up on the competition.

For Fig’s equity crowdfunding campaigns, the company states the following:

If and only if the campaign succeeds, a portion of Fig’s out-of-pocket legal and accounting transaction costs will be deducted from the investment proceeds (up to 5%).

7) Fig Can Publish Your Game As Well

Fig states the following regarding its publishing services:

Fig stands as a non-exclusive co-publisher of your game, so you can maintain control over the publishing of your game while receiving Fig’s support in distribution and marketing. Fig is open to exclusively publishing your game if that is your desire. Some developers have requested we exclusively publish their games.

Fig’s publishing services can be opted into — you are not required to use them to publish your game.

8) You Can Run A Private Funding Campaign Before You Go Public

Is your video game idea still in its embryonic stage? Is it unworthy of being seen by the general public at this point? You might want to consider running a private funding campaign before you run a public one.

Fig’s Backstage Pass Program lets you do exactly this. Through this program, Fig’s most hyper-attuned backers can evaluate your campaign away from the prying eyes of the public and give you valuable feedback, all while you start the fundraising process, getting a head-start on your public crowdfunding campaign.


Here’s a disclaimer I’ve started attaching to everything I write related to equity crowdfunding:

Bear in mind that equity crowdfunding is a still-evolving field, with the full impact of the JOBS Act still being assessed. Equity crowdfunding is a more complex proposition than, say, rewards-based crowdfunding, as investing is much more substantially regulated. Consult an attorney if you have any legal questions regarding the process, SEC regulations, taxes, etc.

Final Thoughts

No form of popular entertainment inspires as much passionate devotion (among other things) as does the video game. For those looking to get in on the ground floor of the industry, crowdfunding is a way you can fund your passion projects while a) retaining control of your work, and b) not going into debt.

Fig’s particular brand of video game crowdfunding gives independent developers and game studios alike the ability to fund their work by monetizing the all-consuming devotion of video game fans. Just make sure you know the essentials before you embark on your crowdfunding journey.

The post 8 Facts You Should Know Before Crowdfunding A Video Game On Fig appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Best Shipping Software For 2018

It’s 4:30 on a Friday and you’re knee-deep in packing peanuts and cardboard boxes. You’ve got twenty orders to pick, pack, and ship before the post office closes, and you keep misplacing your packing slips.

There must be a better way.

If your storage space is covered in packing materials and you record all your shipping information in spreadsheets and Post-It notes, it might be time to try something else.

In the era in which an app solves everything, it makes sense to turn to software solutions to soothe your shipping woes.

Shipping software solutions integrate with most popular eCommerce software programs and can help simplify your day-to-day operations. They let you calculate accurate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips in bulk. They can even grant you discounted shipping rates.

These programs are typically available as SaaS solutions that range in price from $25/month to $99/month — a small price to pay for the shipping issues they resolve.

It’s clear you should subscribe to a shipping software, but with so many options available, how do you choose?

We’ve tested out a handful of shipping solutions, examining price, ease of use, and customer service. Keep reading to learn more about the best shipping software for 2018.

1. ShippingEasy

With a near-perfect score of 4.5 stars, ShippingEasy (see our review) is our top-rated shipping solution for eCommerce businesses. This software is true to its name: it’s easy to learn and use and customer support representatives are ready to help with any potential hiccups.

Best For…

Businesses of all sizes. It works especially well for eCommerce merchants who run their own online stores.


Pricing for ShippingEasy is simple and affordable; plans range from $29/month for 500 shipments to $99/month for 6,000 shipments. Each step up in pricing includes more monthly shipments and higher level customer support.

ShippingEasy has a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 shipments/month. For high volume sellers, ShippingEasy also offers enterprise options. Read more about ShippingEasy’s pricing in our full review.


As I mentioned above, we found ShippingEasy to be highly user-friendly. You can easily import orders, create shipments, set shipping parameters, and buy and print postage, shipping labels, and packing slips.

We also like how many features come included with ShippingEasy. And we especially love the fact that ShippingEasy’s partnership with USPS lets you benefit from lower shipping rates. You can save up to 46% on shipping rates when you sign on for one of ShippingEasy’s paid plans.

Other features include:

  • A Free Endicia Account
  • Shipping Status Updates & Real-Time Tracking
  • Individual Or Batch Shipping

If you’re worried that ShippingEasy might not integrate into your eCommerce software, fear no more! ShippingEasy integrates easily with the biggest names in eCommerce, including 3dcart, Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. View all of ShippingEasy’s integrations.

ShippingEasy also has a good record when it comes to customer service. Their support representatives are knowledgeable and helpful.


With so many positives to ShippingEasy, it’s hard to find any downsides. You should note, however, that ShippingEasy still has room to grow when it comes to simplifying their daily operations. In particular, users would like to see improvement in expediting the data entry process.

Otherwise, ShippingEasy is an excellent option. Take a look at our shipping software reviews to learn more about the software or sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Read our full ShippingEasy review

Visit the ShippingEasy website

2. OrderCup

OrderCup (see our review) is one of our favorite shipping software solutions. OrderCup offers an easy to use interface, multi-carrier shipping options, and discounted shipping rates. And best of all, OrderCup provides users with reliable and responsive customer support, so you can get answers to your pressing questions quickly.

Best For…

Merchants who ship between 500 and 12,000 shipments a month and who only need up to 12 users on the platform. With five tiered pricing plans, OrderCup is accessible to many merchants.


As I mentioned before, OrderCup separates pricing into five tiers. To add a little fun to the pricing, OrderCup has named each tier after a Starbucks drink size. Plans range from Short to Trenta, and each step up in pricing includes more sales channels, more monthly shipments, and more users.

The Short plan begins at $20/month for 500 monthly shipments, and Trenta costs $180/month for 12,000 monthly shipments.

For more information, view OrderCup’s pricing page.


OrderCup’s dashboard is well-organized and quick to learn. During setup, you’ll be able to integrate your hosted shopping cart. Your online store’s orders will be automatically transferred to your OrderCup dashboard.

Then, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite carriers and start processing orders.

OrderCup’s feature list includes everything you’d expect from a multi-carrier shipping software. They have made arrangements with several carriers, including the USPS, DHL, UK Mail, and DX to offer their customers discounted shipping rates. You’ll also be able to integrate with worldwide shipping carriers across Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Here are a few more features you can expect from OrderCup:

  • Automate Your Shipping Process
  • Print Return Labels To Include With Shipments
  • Bulk Import Orders Using CSV Files
  • Schedule Shipment Pickups
  • Integrate With Third-Party Fulfillment

OrderCup integrates with many eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and Volusion. Integrated marketplaces include Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Check the full list for more information.

Out of all these features, OrderCup users seem to be most enthusiastic about OrderCup’s support team. Support representatives are responsive and patient, often spending up to an hour on the phone with users to make sure everything is working properly. Users also praise OrderCup’s Canadian shipping options; it is easy to ship to and from Canada.

There are few negative comments about OrderCup online, though we have seen customers complain about having to pay extra in order to access phone support and get priority attention for their technical issues.


OrderCup is one of our favorite shipping software programs, scoring an excellent 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you think this software might be the right fit for your business, we recommend you try it out. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial in minutes.

But if you’d like a bit more information before you proceed, take a look at our complete review. We include in-depth information about pricing, customer service levels, and more.

Read our full OrderCup review

Visit the OrderCup website

3. Ordoro

Ordoro (see our review) is a shipping and inventory application designed for SMBs. Known for its drop-shipping features, Ordoro is particularly popular among Shopify users.

Best For…

Small to medium-sized businesses. Merchants who are planning to dropship can benefit especially from the software.


With Ordoro, you have two options. You can use Ordoro to handle just your shipping, or you can have Ordoro handle shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro sets up their pricing structure differently, depending on which features you choose.

In my opinion, it’s best to use Ordoro for shipping only. Paid plans for shipping begin at $25/month and go to $129/month. Each step up in pricing includes additional features and monthly shipments. There’s also a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 orders/month.

Pricing for shipping and inventory management is structured much differently. The lowest plan costs $199/month for 700 orders. This plan includes drop shipping features. Plans can go as high as $499/month for 4,000 orders. For more information, view Ordoro’s pricing page.


Ordoro comes with a minimalistic user interface. You can easily link your shopping cart to your new Ordoro account during setup. Then you’ll be able to sync your inventory and push new orders automatically to Ordoro. You can create shipping labels and packing slips one-by-one or in bulk.

Ordoro’s best feature is without a doubt their dropshipping functionality (available with shipping + inventory plans). You can set select items to ship directly from your supplier, and you can automatically split orders to dropship from multiple suppliers.

Here are a few more features that come with Orodoro:

  • Process Orders From Multiple Sales Channels
  • Integrate With USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, & Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime
  • Best-In-Industry Shipping Rates (Up To 67% With USPS)
  • Tracking Number Automatically Sent To Customers Upon Shipment
  • Inventory Management (If You Choose To Purchase It)

Ordoro integrates with a wide variety of eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, FBA, 3dcart, Magento, WooCommerce, and more. See if your preferred vendor is on the full list.

Ordoro users have a lot of good things to say about the platform. In particular, they praise Ordoro’s technical support options. Customers report that a real person will be available to answer your support concerns. On the off chance you can’t reach anyone, Ordoro’s knowledge base is detailed and well organized. You might find the information you need there.

I’ve seen a few negative reports of Ordoro. Some customers cite trouble syncing their Ordoro account with other software programs (namely Shopify and FedEx). Other customers complain that while Ordoro’s interface is easy to navigate, that simplicity is due to a lack of features.


In our opinion, Ordoro is best suited to small businesses, especially those that engage in a lot of dropshipping. To learn more about Ordoro, read our full review, or try out the platform yourself by signing up for a free 15-day trial.

Read our full Ordoro review

Visit the Ordoro website

4. ShipStation


ShipStation (see our review) is arguably the best-known shipping solution, partly due to the company’s excellent marketing campaigns and partly due to the numerous integrations they offer with major eCommerce vendors.

Best For…

Small to mid-sized businesses, particularly those which sell online.


Pricing for ShipStation is on par with industry standards. You can choose from six pricing tiers, ranging from $9/month for 50 orders to $145/month for unlimited shipments. ShipStation does not offer a free plan, but they do offer a free 30-day trial of their software.


When it comes to ease of use, ShipStation prioritizes functionality over aesthetics, which is perfectly fine by me!

If you have any trouble learning your way around, ShipStation provides video tutorials to help you figure out the admin. In general, we think that ShipStation is highly usable, though it may take some time to get the hang of the advanced tools.

ShipStation offers the basic collection of features, including the following:

  • Integrations For USPS, UPS, FedEx, & DHL Accounts
  • Discounts On USPS Priority & Express Mail
  • Account Included
  • Batch-Print Hundreds Of Shipping Labels & Packing Slips
  • Print A Return Label To Include In Your Shipments

ShipStation really shines when it comes to integrations. Check out this full list to see which eCommerce platforms, shipping carriers, and payment solutions integrate easily with ShipStation. Happily, it integrates with the most popular eCommerce solutions, including BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Volusion, Miva Merchant, and PrestaShop.

ShipStation’s customer service is available by email. They also provide live webinars, a knowledge base, and a community forum.

We see only one potential issue with ShipStation: it’s lacking customer management features. You cannot add identifying characteristics to a customer’s account, and ShipStation does not always recognize a customer when they make a second purchase on a different sales channel. However, for most users, this difficulty is not a deal breaker.


If you’re looking for an efficient, reliable shipping solution, ShipStation may be the way to go. Once you invest some time into learning the system, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a feature-rich shipping solution.

Learn more about ShipStation in our full review or take it for a spin with a 30-day free trial.

Read our full ShipStation review

Visit the ShipStation website


5. ShipRush

ShipRush (see our review) is an affordable software solution that is designed to make shipping selection efficient. ShipRush displays rates from multiple different carriers on the same page in your admin, allowing you to quickly and easily choose the most cost-effective shipping rates. What’s more, ShipRush offers support for many different types of shipping, including individual package shipping, freight shipping, and LTL shipping. Keep reading to learn more about the merits of ShipRush.

Best For…

Merchants who need to ship freight. I would recommend ShipRush primarily to smaller businesses, as the pricing model is designed for three users (though more can be added on at an additional expense).


ShipRush’s pricing model is simple. It is divided into two options: Web and Desktop.

ShipRush’s web option is based on a monthly payment model and costs $29.95/month for up to three users (additional users can be added on three at a time for an additional $29.95/month).

On the other hand, the ShipRush Desktop version can be purchased annually for $795/year per workstation.


You can test out ShipRush for 60 days by signing up for a free trial. Once you sign up, you’ll be presented with this dashboard.

The dashboard is a bit austere, but we don’t mind much as ShipRush has proved itself to be very functional.

Once I got over the initial learning curve, I was able to calculate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips easily.

Here are a few other features that ShipRush users benefit from:

  • Discounted Shipping Rates (Save Up To 60% On USPS Rates & 21% On FedEx Rates)
  • View Rates From Multiple Carriers On One Screen
  • Send Notifications To Customers When Orders Ship
  • Dropshipping Support
  • Print Scan-Based Return Labels

For the full list, head over to ShipRush’s website.

ShipRush integrates with over 75 eCommerce platforms, payment processors, shipping carriers, and accounting and CRM software apps. These integrations include 3dcart, Ecwid, LemonStand, Big Cartel, Shopify, FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

ShipRush has a lot of positives. Customers especially like the quality customer service and the relative ease of use. One downfall potential users should note is that merchants who maintain a large inventory (thousands of products) may have a hard time with the software. Creating shipping rules for all these different types of products could be more effort than it’s worth.


ShipRush is a great software for many businesses. It’s affordable, functional, and reliable, and you can test it out for yourself using their free 60-day trial.

For more information on ShipRush, take a look at our complete review of the platform. Otherwise, keep reading for more shipping options.

Read our full ShipRush review

Visit the ShipRush website

6. ShipHawk

ShipHawk (see our review) is a bit different than the alternative shipping software we cover above. While those software programs provide easy to use interfaces and hundreds of features, ShipHawk focuses its energy on one thing: an algorithm. ShipHawk is a complex shipping calculator, designed for large businesses and businesses that ship oversized or unique items.

Best For…

Larger businesses. ShipHawk’s cheapest plan is targeted at merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. ShipHawk is also good for merchants who ship uniquely shaped or oversized items.


ShipHawk offers three pricing tiers. With each step up in pricing, you’ll be able to ship more parcels and freight and have access to more advanced features and technical support.

The Starter plan starts at $250/month and is for merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. Then there’s the Pro plan, which begins at $2K/month and is intended for annual shipping expenses up to $2M; finally, there’s the Enterprise plan, for an annual spend of up to $25M. Enterprise begins at $4,500/month.

As you can see, ShipHawk is not a cheap platform. It is designed for high volume shippers who need a high volume platform.


In order to test out ShipHawk, you can sign up for a free demo of the starter plan. I didn’t find ShipHawk to be as intuitive as other shipping software apps I’ve tested. However, given time, I was able to figure out a few features. And as a whole, the dashboard seems well designed.

As I’ve mentioned before, ShipHawk works a bit differently than most shipping software when it comes to features. While ShipHawk does offer some of your typical features, they primarily advertise the calculator behind the software. ShipHawk will help estimate expenses for hard-to-ship items.

Here are a few of the more notable features:

  • Get Quotes From Multiple Carriers
  • Real-Time Tracking Updates
  • API: Integrate With Shipping Carriers & Shopping Cart Software
  • Set Up Automatic Shipping Rules
  • Provide Shipping Options To Customers

ShipHawk advertises that you can integrate with most software solutions through their API. You can expect to find pre-built integrations with a few shipping carriers and shopping carts, including DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS, Magento, Shopify, and more.

Customer feedback regarding ShpHawk is very limited. However, after some time searching the web, I was able to find a few comments. Customers primarily love ShipHawk’s customer service and robust calculation abilities. I myself was a bit disappointed with ShipHawk’s support material. There did not seem to be enough tutorial information to help me set up the program.


ShipHawk is not the right fit for many of our readers. However, if you ship thousands of products each month and you need access to freight and individual shipments, ShipHawk may be right for you. Test it out with a free demo and read our review for more information.

Read our full ShipHawk review

Visit the ShipHawk website

Get Started!

If you’re tired of losing yourself in packing peanuts and misplaced notes-to-self, try out one of these software options. You’ll find that shipping is much less of a chore when order processing and fulfillment is automated, organized, and synchronized. With many solutions beginning at $25/month, shipping software is a small investment that could do a lot for your business. Click one of the buttons above to get started with a free trial, or search our site for more quality shipping software reviews.

Good luck, and happy shipping!

The post Best Shipping Software For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The 7 Best Equity Crowdfunding Sites For Businesses And Entrepreneurs

So, what is equity crowdfunding, anyway?

Let’s start with the term “crowdfunding.” If you’re only loosely familiar with the concept, you might think of GoFundMe’s brand of medical and charitable crowdfunding. You may also think of rewards-based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon in which entrepreneurs and artists solicit funds from backers in exchange for a physical product or exclusive creative content.

What if I told you that there existed an entirely different form of crowdfunding — one in which entrepreneurs and startups receive funding from backers in exchange, not for gifts or products, but for an equity stake in the company? A crowdfunding campaign in which the backers are investors?

Equity-based crowdfunding got its start later than rewards crowdfunding because crowdfunding involving investments was, until relatively recently, illegal in the US. Enter the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, better known as the JOBS Act. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2012, the JOBS Act amended federal securities regulations to legalize equity crowdfunding. The reasoning was that allowing startups to publicly solicit investment via crowdfunding would help spur the economy in general and startup formation in particular.

The various portions of the Act, however, did not immediately come into force. For instance, the provision that allowed the offering of equity investment to non-accredited investors (more on what this means later) wasn’t actually enacted until 2016. Suffice to say, equity crowdfunding is new. In fact, the reality of equity crowdfunding hasn’t yet lived up to the loftier predictions of those who pushed its creation. Nonetheless, the fact remains that billions of dollars have been raised by startups and companies via equity crowdfunding. For the right kind of business, equity crowdfunding represents a prime opportunity.

If your company is still just getting off the ground, however, you might find that rewards crowdfunding is a better fit for your enterprise, considering that investors tend to be less starry-eyed than the typical crowdfunding project backer. In this case, you might want to read our reviews of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon. Bear in mind that in many cases, a successful rewards crowdfunding campaign can set you up for an equity crowdfunding campaign by showing proof of demand to potential investors.

Let’s take a look at the leading equity crowdfunding sites and what they have to offer growing businesses.

But First, A Warning

Let’s pump the brakes for a moment and go over the disclaimer I’ve started putting on my equity crowdfunding reviews:

Bear in mind that equity crowdfunding is a still-evolving field, with the full impact of the JOBS Act still being assessed. Equity crowdfunding is a more complex proposition than, say, rewards-based crowdfunding, as investing is much more substantially regulated. Consult an attorney if you have any legal questions regarding the process, SEC regulations, etc.

In short: Equity crowdfunding is legally complex. Be careful and don’t get into trouble!



Crowdfunder (see our review) was launched in Los Angeles in 2012 with a mission to, in the company’s own words, “empower thousands of entrepreneurs to grow high-impact ventures.” The company provides the following figures regarding equity funding services:

  • $160,000,000 in investment commitments on the platform
  • 12,000 individual & institutional investors
  • 36,000 companies
  • Funded 100+ deals with an average deal size of $1.8M

Let’s take a closer look at the equity crowdfunding platform with the hopelessly generic name. (The company shares its name with an unrelated British rewards crowdfunding site.)

Best For…

Crowdfunder is very explicit regarding its target audience:

Crowdfunder is designed for early-stage startups and more mature businesses raising seed stage, Series-A & Series-B funding. Our offering does not cater to inception stage companies at this time.

The platform accepts businesses that fall into a variety of categories including Tech Startups, Social Enterprises, Small Businesses, and Film & Entertainment.

A look through the companies currently campaigning on Crowdfunder reveals more tech companies than anything else, with financial/investment companies a close second.

Products Offered

Crowdfunder allows companies to raise money via Title II equity crowdfunding. For those who aren’t familiar with what I mean, here’s a brief explainer.

Title II equity crowdfunding essentially means your crowdfunding campaign can solicit investment from accredited investors only. An “accredited investor” is defined someone who either has a net worth of $1,000,000 minus the value of their principal residence OR who made more than $200,000 a year for the past three years. The term simply refers to someone with a certain level of wealth/income — it does not denote any particular investment skill.

Title III equity crowdfunding, or Regulation Crowdfunding, means you can solicit investment from anybody — both from accredited investors and those who are not. Title III crowdfunding was legalized more recently than Title II crowdfunding and is currently less widely used. On its website, Crowdfunder explains why it does not currently allow Title III crowdfunding.

With Crowdfunder, all funds are transferred offline, so Crowdfunder doesn’t take a percentage cut of what you raise. And while it won’t cost you anything to create a (non-public) profile on the platform, you’ll need a monthly subscription in order to launch your equity campaign.

  • Crowdfunder’s Starter package, for $299/month, lets you take your profile public and start raising money.
  • The Premium plan, at $499/month, gives you the above while letting you browse and contact the accredited investors on Crowdfunder’s platform. You also get advanced data/metrics and up to one hour per month of phone support.

I’ll note that in addition to equity-based crowdfunding, Crowdfunder lets you raise money via debt, convertible note, or revenue share offerings. Furthermore, Crowdfunder’s funding campaigns are keep-what-you-raise — you don’t have to hit a specific funding goal to collect funds.


Anyone can set up a profile on Crowdfunder’s website, but in order to launch your campaign, you’ll have to prepare and submit three documents: the Term Sheet, the Executive Summary, and the Investor Pitch Deck. These documents are complex, particularly the Term Sheet. Crowdfunder recommends that you work with an attorney when creating your financial offering.

Of course, you’ll also need to buy a monthly subscription before raising funds.

How To Apply

Anyone can set up a profile on Crowdfunder and submit the documents required for taking your campaign public. However, upon reviewing your documents, it’s up to Crowdfunder’s sole discretion to determine whether your business is “high-impact” enough for their platform.


Startups with boundless growth potential, particularly tech and investment startups, stand to potentially raise significant sums through Crowdfunder’s equity crowdfunding platform. While the monthly fees are high, they’ll be worth it if your campaign is successful, as Crowdfunder doesn’t charge a platform fee.

Read our full Crowdfunder review

Visit the Crowdfunder website


Like Crowdfunder, EquityNet (see our review) is an equity crowdfunding site that doesn’t process transactions itself, but rather facilitates offline transactions between campaigners and investors. Founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the pre-crowdfunding days of 2005 as a private investment company, EquityNet started offering equity crowdfunding after the enactment of Title II of the JOBS Act.

Best For…

EquityNet markets itself to a broader range of entrepreneurs and businesses than does Crowdfunder. EquityNet states in its FAQ that they are not just a platform for high-tech and high-growth businesses:

EquityNet is designed with flexibility to accommodate all ranges of private businesses, whether it’s an $100M/yr in revenue international biotech company, a pre-revenue one person software start-up, or a modest one-location coffee shop.

Products Offered

EquityNet offers entrepreneurs and businesses the ability to use its equity crowdfunding platform. EquityNet’s equity campaigns operate under Title II rules, so you’ll be raising funds from accredited investors only. You’ll also get to keep everything you raise regardless of whether you hit your funding goal.

Since all funds are transferred offline, EquityNet doesn’t take a cut of what you raise. Instead, EquityNet operates on a subscription basis. You can actually sign up with EquityNet and publish your business profile for free, but if you want to, say, share your business plan with investors (investors typically like to see a business plan before investing in something!), you’ll need one of EquityNet’s three subscription plans.

  • The Full Access package goes for a one-time fee of $900 and gives you full access to the accredited investors on the site. You’ll also get full access to fundraising documents and EquityNet’s patented business planning tools.
  • The Premium Consulting package goes for $2,500 and gives you all of the above, plus access to one-on-one consultations with an EquityNet team member regarding every aspect of your business plan, funding strategy, pitch, marketing, and more.
  • The EquityNet + plan costs a whopping $25,000 and gives you the ultimate hands-on equity crowdfunding package in which the company tailors everything to your exact needs.

Also note that since all transactions between entrepreneurs and investors occur offline, you can theoretically enter into a debt funding arrangement with an investor or even seek a grant. It’s up to you.


Anyone can freely set up a business profile page on EquityNet. However, EquityNet reserves the right to remove profiles for any reason.

Of course, you’ll need a paid subscription if you want to run an equity funding campaign with any likelihood of success.

How To Apply

Just sign up with EquityNet and set up your profile. EquityNet does not pre-screen businesses before allowing them onto the site.


The folks at EquityNet make a point to try to attract a broad range of businesses to their platform. It’s not just for Silicon Valley tech startups and investment funds. And while the premium services cost a pretty penny, they come with one-time charges, not monthly charges. EquityNet is one of the less elitist equity crowdfunding sites out there, and to that, I’ll tip my cap.

Read our full EquityNet review

Visit the EquityNet website



Founded in 2012 and based in Ohio, Fundable (see our review) is an unusual crowdfunding site in it hosts host both rewards and equity crowdfunding campaigns (though not both simultaneously). Think of it as both a Kickstarter-type platform and an equity crowdfunder. Given the subject of this article, however, I’ll be focusing on the equity side.

Best For…

You can raise funds for just about any type of business endeavor on Fundable. When it comes to choosing a rewards campaign or an equity funding campaign, Fundable states that rewards campaigns “are effective for smaller dollar raises (typically below $50,000)” and goes on to describe the target audience for its equity campaigns:

Equity raises are best for companies looking for larger sums of operating capital to move their business forward. Also, some businesses do not have a developed product or service that they can market through a Rewards raise, so offering equity is their best bet for raising funding.

Products Offered

Fundable is another crowdfunding platform that doesn’t take a percentage of what you raise, but rather charges a flat monthly fee to launch a campaign. Fundable offers two subscription packages:

  • The Standard package costs $179/month and gives you data analytics, email support, a guide for marketing your crowdfunding campaign, and marketing outreach templates.
  • The Premium package is available for a one-time payment of $2499. With this package, Fundable puts you in contact with the accredited investors the company believes will be the most receptive to your pitch. Fundable will also provide a list of relevant media contacts so you can better conduct media outreach for your campaign.

As with the previous two companies discussed, all funds transferred in a Fundable equity campaign are transferred offline. You are therefore free to seek a debt-based funding arrangement (or any other type of funding arrangement).


Once you set up your Company Profile in which you detail your company, your proposed campaign, and your funding goals, you’ll have to wait for Fundable to approve your project before you can continue. If you’re approved, you then choose which type of crowdfunding campaign you’d like to run and a subscription package.

How To Apply

Go to Fundable’s website and get started!


Fundable is a flexible crowdfunding platform in terms of what sort of campaign you can launch through the site, and they provide invaluable assistance with media outreach, marketing, and investor contacts at the highest subscription level. Fundable does pre-screen businesses before allowing them to begin fundraising, however, so make sure you have everything in order before you begin the process.

Read our full Fundable review

Visit the Fundable website


Founded in 2010 in San Francisco, AngelList is one of the leading equity crowdfunding platforms. It’s the only crowdfunding site that doubles as a job board for job-seekers trying to find a position with a startup. AngelList distinguishes itself by being the rare crowdfunding platform that lets entrepreneurs/startups raise money free of charge. All fees are paid by investors. Pretty cool, huh?

Best For…

Anybody can sign up with AngelList and attempt to raise money from the accredited investors on the site. However, AngelList doesn’t quite provide the guidance for those looking to crowdfund that many other crowdfunding platforms give you. Their website is much more spartan than the competition, with relatively little information for startups as to how you launch your campaign. Be prepared to do some research.

Products Offered

AngelList doesn’t offer any subscription packages with special features. You just sign up with AngelList on the website, and once you’ve completed your profile, you can launch your Title II crowdfunding campaign and get in touch with accredited investors.

Companies using AngelList raise money through investment syndicates. It’s an investment arrangement that differs from that of the other crowdfunding sites I’ve detailed today. Essentially, accredited investors give money to “angel” investors who then invest the pooled money into companies on the platform.

Keep in mind that though you won’t have to pay a monthly charge or a cut of what you raise to AngelList, that doesn’t mean there are no costs associated with running an equity campaign. The process of arranging an equity deal with investor syndicates on AngelList will cost you money due to paperwork, legalities, etc.


There are no particular requirements for a company looking to establish a profile on AngelList. Of course, in order to actually raise any money, your plan of action must be formidable enough for AngelList’s syndicates to take an interest in you, so this platform isn’t for just anybody.

How To Apply

Create a startup profile on AngelList’s website and start kissing angel investor butt! (Or use any other technique you find effective)


AngelList is a more freewheeling platform than some of the others discussed here, and the complexities involved in working out deals with investor syndicates may seem daunting to the first-time entrepreneur. However, AngelList has an excellent public reputation and is highly rated by those who have used the platform to conduct equity raises, many of whom have used multiple equity crowdfunding sites.

Visit the AngelList website



WeFunder (see our review) differs fundamentally from the other services I’ve mentioned. Every site I’ve mentioned thus far deals in Title II crowdfunding (accredited investors only) and not Title III (anyone can invest). Wefunder, founded in 2012 and based in Cambridge, MA, is the most successful crowdfunding platform to use Title III equity crowdfunding, or Regulation Crowdfunding. In fact, with over $50 million raised thus far, Wefunder comprises 50% of the market share in the Regulation Crowdfunding industry.

Best For…

Of the 174 companies that have been successfully funded through Wefunder, the company states that “Most are alumni of Y Combinator.” That should tell you something about the sort of company to whom Wefunder is best suited. The rare startup with exponential growth potential stands a decent chance of finding funding through the platform. Other businesses may have a tougher time of it. I’ll note that tech and food companies seem to comprise the majority of funded startups on Wefunder.

Only US corporations and LLCs can use Wefunder for crowdfunding.

Products Offered

Wefunder offers the use of its equity crowdfunding platform through which you can raise anywhere from $20,000 to $1,070,000. You’ll have to pay a $195 fee before you can start crowdfunding, and if you’re successful in reaching your funding goal (Wefunder is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding site), Wefunder will take 7% of what you raised as a platform fee. Take that into account when setting your funding goal.


There are no particular requirements for joining Wefunder. The company prescreens applicants for fraud and to make sure your startup complies with the rules, but that’s about it.

How To Apply

Go to Wefunder’s website, sign up and fill out your business profile, and wait to hear back from the company.


Wefunder is the industry leader in Regulation Crowdfunding and can take the right kind of high-growth startup to funding success. Regulation Crowdfunding hasn’t yet been the boon some hoped it would be, but Wefunder is one of the few companies thus far to truly make it work.

Read our full Wefunder review

Visit the Wefunder website



SeedInvest (see our review) was founded in 2012 just as the JOBS Act was being signed into law. In fact, founders Ryan Feit and James Han were part of the movement to get the Act passed in the first place. Like Wefunder, they offer Regulation Crowdfunding, opening up investing to the masses.

Best For…

By their own estimation, SeedInvest has approved only 1% of the companies who have applied to use their platform. SeedInvest is an exclusive platform and they don’t care who knows it. Tech companies seem to dominate the list of offerings on SeedInvest’s site.

I’ll note that while many crowdfunding sites refuse to have anything to do with cannabis-related companies, SeedInvest appears not to be one of them. “Green” startups, take note!

Products Offered

Wefunder offers up the use of its equity crowdfunding platform to the lucky few who survive the vetting process. Per the FAQ, this is what SeedInvest offers to those who get through:

  • Simplify and speed up your fundraising process
  • Access a network of accredited investors from around the world
  • Host virtual fundraising sessions from your desk
  • Streamline investor pitches, execution of legal documents, and processing of investments

Unfortunately, SeedInvest’s fees are complex and depend on your specific offering type:

  • 7.5% placement fee; charged on the total amount raised on SeedInvest in the round, paid only upon the successful completion of your offering.
  • 5% warrant coverage or equity; based on the total amount raised on SeedInvest in the round.
  • Up to $0 – $10,000 in due diligence, escrow, marketing and legal expense reimbursements.

Though the fees are considerable, one advantage of SeedInvest is that you can raise up to $30 million on the platform.


SeedInvest doesn’t lay out specific criteria for making it onto its site, but remember that only 1% of applicants survive SeedInvest’s extreme vetting process. You’d better have done your homework!

How To Apply

Go to SeedInvest’s website, sign up for an account, fill out your project information, and wait to see if you’ll be accepted into the 1%.


To state the obvious, SeedInvest isn’t for everybody. Only the startups with the highest growth potential need apply. If this is you, SeedInvest may be worth investigating.

Read our full SeedInvest review

Visit the SeedInvest website


microventures review

Founded in 2009 and based in Austin, MicroVentures (see our review) is another example of a Regulation Crowdfunding platform. You should know what that is by now if you’ve been paying attention!

MicroVentures states that “(t)he sweet spot for our platform is companies or startups that need $150,000 to $1,000,000 in capital.” Thus far in their lifetime, MicroVentures has facilitated the raising of over $100 million for high-growth startups. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Best For…

According to MicroVentures, the following industries are its main areas of investment:

  • Internet technology
  • Media and entertainment
  • Software
  • Green technology
  • Mobile
  • Social
  • Gaming

MicroVentures goes on to describe the sort of company that best fits the platform:

MicroVentures looks for businesses that have a unique idea or a new spin on an old technology. We review the team, traction, market size and other factors to determine if the company will be a good fit for our platform. Additionally, we believe in accountability to the business (or concept), which is one reason we seek to identify firms whose founders already have invested their own capital in their business.

Products Offered

MicroVentures offers equity crowdfunding with the following fees:

  • $99 application fee
  • $250 due-diligence fee
  • 5% of what you raise

MicroVentures is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding site. If you raise some money but fail to meet your funding goal by the time your campaign ends, you’ll get nothing and like it.


MicroVentures doesn’t spell out any specific requirements to meet in order to be approved to start crowdfunding, but they do state the following:

We review every company that is submitted but we are only able to respond to the ones that we think will be successful on our platform. This is less than 5% of the companies that submit so please include as much detail as possible for us to evaluate.

So, 5% of applying businesses get through. That’s better than SeedInvest’s 1%, but it’s still a high bar to clear!

How To Apply

Sign up for a MicroVentures account, fill out the application for an offering, and submit it.


MicroVentures has a solid reputation in the industry. They offered investments in Facebook and Twitter before each went public. For the 5% of startups that, in MicroVentures’s estimation, have that kind of growth potential, this equity funding site holds great promise indeed.

Read our full MicroVentures review

Visit the MicroVentures website

Final Thoughts

Equity crowdfunding has only been around for a few years. Suffice to say, it is a work in progress. If you play your cards right, however, it might be just the thing to take your startup to the next level. If you’ve done your due diligence in preparing your offering and you possess the ability to excite investors, professional and amateur, then it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.

The post The 7 Best Equity Crowdfunding Sites For Businesses And Entrepreneurs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.


Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.


Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.


Team Bio Series — Linda Leewaye (The SEO Queen)

On this week’s episode of “Meet The Merchant Maverick Team,” we’ll be exploring the life and times of Linda Leewaye, our newest Maverick. Linda is an SEO expert and an Idaho potato who currently hangs out in sunny California. But what makes Linda Leewaye really tick? Let’s read on to find out!

Name: Linda Leewaye

Title: Digital Marketing Manager

Hometown: Boise, ID

Current city: Temecula, CA

Education and background: Bachelors in Communication, Emphasis in Public Relations, from Boise State University

Merchant Maverick department/specialty: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Proudest professional moment: Organizing an Aveda Earth Month Trashion Show charity event with my PRSSA group and donating the money to a clean water initiative for those who don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Favorite Merchant Maverick post/moment/opportunity: The opportunity to work with the friendliest people on the planet and work from anywhere is a dream come true.

What do you do when you’re not working?: Obsess over the latest superhero movie and play games with my friends.

What movie character do you identify most with and why?: Batman. In all honesty, I am not as cool as he is, I just wish I was! I appreciate his crazy ninja moves and detective skills to go with it…along with the billions of dollars from the Wayne family fortune.

Favorite song: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

Favorite ‘80s movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What is your ideal midnight snack?: Digging into a bag of Kettle Brand’s jalapeno chips

What skill have you always wanted to learn?: Playing the guitar

If you could travel to any time period to live forever, where/when would it be?: The Egyptian Era, so I could cure my innate curiosity of how the pyramids were built.

Mac or Windows?: Windows

You’re given an unlimited budget to travel. Where do you go? For how long?: I’d travel closer to the North Pole so I catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights! And after that, I’d go to every tropical island on the face of the earth to thaw out. Then, I’d backpack around Italy, Spain, and France, seeing as many cathedrals and monuments as I can. I’d love to travel as much as possible and for as long as possible — well, until I become unbearably homesick and miss the States!

We’re so pleased to have Linda on the team now — not only because her SEO skills are lifting us to new heights, but because it’s nice to have another superhero-loving geek in our posse. We look forward to many future hang-outs together, getting the Led out and watching a little pre-ruined Indiana Jones. Linda, you bring the Kettle chips.

Interested in reading about other members of the Merchant Maverick staff? Check out our team interview series.

The post Team Bio Series — Linda Leewaye (The SEO Queen) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce

selling internationally

Online sellers are always looking to expand–expand their product catalogs, expand the reach of their marketing, and expand across sales channels. And when it comes to expansion, there’s no bigger project to undertake than international growth.

Successfully going global is only possible if you have the appropriate resources in the form of products, market, and software. And while finding a market and products is up to you, we here at Merchant Maverick can help when it comes to choosing the correct software.

International sellers demand more from their shopping cart setups than do domestically-based merchants. You’ll need your shopping cart to be able to display your site in multiple languages and currencies. What’s more, you’ll need to be able to handle complicated taxes and shipping functions. Your eCommerce software should either come with these features already built in or be able to integrate with extensions to fill the gaps.

In this blog, we’ll be discussing four carts that offer merchants the features (and integrations) they need to sell internationally. These software companies maintain a global focus, giving you multiple options for global success and staffing a diverse team of developers from all across the world. If you need the power to create a multilingual site — and a multilingual support team on hand at the moment’s notice — look no further than this list.

Keep reading to learn which eCommerce software programs we recommend for global expansion.


prestashop logo

With PrestaShop, international is the name of the game. PrestaShop is behind 270,000 stores worldwide. They have headquarters in Miami and Paris and employ over 100 employees who are proud to speak a variety of languages.

PrestaShop is open-source software that is free to download, highly customizable, and offers loads of add-ons. With a strong international user community supporting the development of the software, you can expect new releases and extensions regularly.

PrestaShop’s biggest downfall is that you’ll need developer skills in order to best use the software. What’s more, PrestaShop’s customer support costs a bit more than you may be willing to spend.

PrestaShop comes with a robust feature set built in. Here are a few of the ways PrestaShop is especially good for international sellers:

  • Set Currencies & Automate Exchange Rates: Set your shop to accept a wide number of currencies.
  • Multi-language Product Sheet: Quickly import product information in multiple languages.
  • International Forum: Find support from other users in a variety of languages.
  • PrestaShop Translation Product: Users can assist in translating new versions of PrestaShop.
  • International Add-Ons: Purchase and download extensions from international developers to further broaden your store’s functionality.

For more information on PrestaShop, check out our full review or try one of PrestaShop’s easy-to-access demos.


woocommerce logo

WooCommerce is one of the most widely used eCommerce solutions around. While the stats are uncertain (WooCommerce claims a part in 28% of all online stores, while BuiltWith says Woo is behind 42%), what is certain is that Woo is enormously popular in the eCommerce world.

WooCommerce is free, open-source software that plugs directly into It is highly customizable and scalable. WooCommerce’s Achille’s heel, as with many open source solutions, is the unfortunate combination of limited customer support and a moderate learning curve. WooCommerce also follows a Core+Extensions model, which means that built-in features tend to be rather basic.

Despite these obstacles, WooCommerce is an excellent choice for international sellers. With employees located in 19 different countries, you’re sure to find support in a range of languages. And given the many international developers contributing to the project, international features are well within reach.

Here are a few of the international selling features that WooCommerce offers:

  • Calculated Taxes: Set tax rates for the countries and regions in which you sell your products. Show taxes based on your customer’s shipping address and billing address and your store’s base address.
  • Supports International Transactions: Accept multiple currencies with the right payment gateways.
  • WooCommerce Translation Project: Users help make WooCommerce available in multiple languages.

For more information, take a look at WooCommerce’s tips for selling internationally. Or, head over to our review and download the software for free.


magento logo

If you’re looking into open-source solutions, but our first two suggestions don’t quite meet the mark, you should take a look at Magento.

Magento is used by developers worldwide and supports a user base of 250,000 merchants. With such a wide base, the Magento marketplace is always growing. You can expect a steady release of new extensions and payment gateways from Magento’s global developers.

As an open-source software solution, Magento comes with similar advantages to PrestaShop and WooCommerce. The software is free to download, highly customizable, and scalable. Magento includes a robust feature set and boasts an international user community.

As you might expect, the trouble with Magento lies in its usability. In order to best utilize the platform, you’ll need to have confidence in your developer skills. The software comes with a steep learning curve, and there is no phone number to dial for technical support.

Regardless, Magento is a great shopping cart for merchants who are looking to expand internationally. Here are a few of the reasons you should consider Magento:

  • International Forum: Get help from a community of 150,000 developers. These developers can also help you create extensions that work for your target countries.
  • Extensions: Take your pick of a vast marketplace of extensions. You’ll find extensions for international payment gateways, currencies, and shipping carriers.

For more information on using Magento to sell globally, take a look at the company’s advice on making your site global ready. To learn more about Magento in general, head on over to our full review or get started now by downloading the platform for free.


shopify logo

If you’re in the eCommerce industry, you’ve heard of Shopify. This Canadian SaaS solution is famous for its usability and clean design. And over the past few years, Shopify has skyrocketed in popularity. The platform now hosts over 500,000 stores worldwide.

Shopify is the only hosted solution we’ll be including in this list. In general, if you’re looking to build a website that reaches customers around the world, open-source is your best approach. With so much opportunity for customization and growth, you’ll likely find that an open-source solution better fits your international store’s needs.

However, like we’ve discussed, open-source comes with its own challenges, including limited usability and technical support. And so, if you want to take a global approach but aren’t sure you can handle the technical challenges of open-source, Shopify may be the way to go.

Here are a few of the international selling features you can benefit from as a Shopify user:

  • Multi-lingual Checkout: You can set your checkout to operate in over 50 languages. You’ll need to translate the rest of your theme on your own.
  • Non-US Taxes: Set up tax rates for other countries. You can also set your store to charge taxes on shipping rates.
  • Numerous Payment Gateways: Take your pick from over 100 payment processors in order to accept payments worldwide.

For more information on Shopify, take a look at our full review or get hands-on experience by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one or more of these shopping cart options has piqued your interest. As always, I encourage you to take your research further. Read our full reviews, look up comments from current customers, and take advantage of every trial and demo you can get your hands on.

You might also read our article, The Most Important Questions To Ask Before Shipping Internationally, and download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store. In this fifty page guide, we unpack everything you need to consider as you approach online selling.

But for those of you who are already planning your global expansion, I wish you the best of luck and bon voyage!

The post Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


How to Improve Your Website Content

How To Improve Website Content

So your website is a mess — where do you even begin to “fix” it? What does “fixing” it really mean, anyways?

If you’re looking to improve your website, you know how daunting this overhaul can be. There are tips and tricks for almost every facet of the process, from improving your copy to reworking your design.

What you need is a process — not a grab bag of tips that leave you more confused than when you started.

Here’s the 7-step framework you can follow to improve your website content, even if you have no idea where to start.

1. Lay the Foundation

It may sound basic, but before you change anything on your website, you need to understand what your website does. You can have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don’t know what you want it to achieve, you’ll never really improve.

The first step is pretty straightforward — you need to define the goal for every single page on your website.

Each site page has a unique objective. For example, your homepage should encourage visitors to explore deeper into your site, a blog post may be key to generating new traffic, and a product page necessary for sales.

By understanding each page’s goal, you can begin to understand where things may be breaking down.

Start by putting your website into a map. List all of the pages you currently have, then define the goal for each page.

Once you have your page objectives down, it’s time to look at how your website fits together.

Think of your site like a puzzle. Each individual page is a piece of a larger picture. The pages all work together to create one big image (which is your user experience).

Your website’s organization should be intuitive for someone who is trying to navigate it. You don’t want a visitor to arrive at your homepage and be stranded, nor do you want them getting lost. Imagine how frustrating it is when you’re on a website and can’t get to the information you’re searching for.

Use your map to organize your website’s flow. Which pages are subpages of a larger section? Which pages need links to others? Note those in the spreadsheet, or use indentations to show how they connect.

Title Tag Keyword Map

2. Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is marketing 101, but it’s crucial for creating a website that achieves your goals. If you have the most amazing website, but it’s not tailored to the type of visitors you want and need, what good is it?

Before you rework your website, you need to understand who your audience is. Are they CEOs of small businesses? Are they local companies?

Who are they, and what problems do they have? How are you helping them solve these problems?

Create a persona for your website users.

A “persona” is marketing jargon for a profile of who you are really trying to do business with.

Write out one that describes your ideal customer. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use Moz’s guide to user personas to guide you through the process.

3. Understand Your Data

One of the best parts about the internet today is nearly everything is recorded. This means you have access to an incredible amount of data that can paint the picture of why your website isn’t working.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to dive deeper into how they’re experiencing your website right now.

Google has one of the most intuitive platforms for work like this. Take some time to use Google Analytics to figure out where your audience is getting hung up on your navigation. Look especially at the Behavior Flow section to see where users are dropping off.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow

But remember that you have access to TONS more data. I’ve written guides to –

  • Ahrefs
  • Search Console
  • Website Data
  • Bounce Rate
  • Improving Ad Campaigns

Create a column in your spreadsheet dedicated solely to “optimizations”. Use your data to evaluate each existing page and note any breakdowns or opportunities. For example, are you noticing a high drop off on a page that’s bringing in significant traffic? Write it down next to that page.

4. Do Keyword & Topical Research

Keyword and topical research are crucial to understanding your audience’s interests and how they search online. By implementing the same sort of language your audience uses while searching the web, your site will not only perform better organically, but will resonate with your target audience and remain relevant.

For your existing content, you can use Google Search Console to see where you can optimize pages that already have some visibility for specific search terms. Use it to determine where you can adjust a page to capture more organic traffic, expand on a certain topic, or update outdated content. It will also flag HTML issues such as duplicate content and titles and meta descriptions that need improvement. You can get the full guide to using Google Search Console here.

But what about the pages that aren’t already getting traction? For those, you’ll want to do additional keyword and topical research. I’ve put together a step-by-step process to using keywords on your site, which you can use to walk through the process of finding and implementing user language on your site.

As you go through the research process, create a keyword map for your entire website to add words and topics for each page. You can add it to your existing spreadsheet so all of your information is in one place.

5. Find Content Gaps

You can’t improve what doesn’t exist, Once you have a handle on what’s going on with your existing content, it’s time to dive into what’s missing from your website.

From a user’s perspective, what’s missing?

Start by doing internal research. If you have a sales or customer service team, ask them what questions they’re getting. More importantly, look at your own internal site searches! This tells you exactly what people are searching for on your site (because they can’t find it).

Google Analytics Site Search

Also comb through your email and see what people ask when they contact you about your business. Chances are, those questions are missing information on your website, and you can add them either as a new page or as an FAQ page.

After you’ve taken a look at your own internal sources, it’s time to take a look at outside data. Use tools like Ahrefs to help you find what industry publications and competitors are getting right (use the full guide to Ahrefs to help you get the most out of the tool). Look especially for content with significant backlinks and organic traffic to see what type of content is in tune with your target audience. Then, add the missing pages and their corresponding keywords/topics to your website spreadsheet/map.

6. Address User Experience

Improving your website isn’t just about improving the content — it’s also about improving the experience visitors have on your site (also known as user experience).

You can have all of the right information, but if the website is slow, looks funky on their mobile device, or has a horrible design… you can bet users aren’t going to stick around.

There’s so much that can create a poor user experience — a bad design, broken links, a slow page load speed — it’s your job to find these negative elements and remedy them.

Start by evaluating your website design. Do you have a cohesive color palette? Are your images high quality? Does your website scale for tablet and mobile devices (also known as responsive in web jargon)? The visual appeal is going to be key in keeping users enticed and engaging with your content.

Next, dive into the mechanics. Start by testing page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re seeing low or below average speeds, use this beginner’s guide to increase page speed to help fix it.

Make sure you use correct HTML formatting. Make sure your design values function over form (don’t use trendy bullsh*t like Parallax unless you value design awards over sales).

You’ll also want to check for broken links. To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

7. Evaluate Your Copywriting

Now that you’ve addressed the mechanics and make-up of your site, it’s time to focus on the flair — otherwise known as the actual copy on your website.

As with all the of the elements in this guide, good copywriting (when combined with other website best practices) can lead to more traffic, better leads, and more sales.

Take a look at each page and determine where your content can be spruced up. Where can you use images instead of text? Where can you add more of your brand personality? Where can you break up paragraphs so the page is easier to skim?

Use this guide on how to improve website copy to help you evaluate your site copy. Choose three areas where you can improve, then go implement it!

Next Steps

Improving your website content can be a daunting task with no clear starting point. Using a grab bag of tips and tricks doesn’t get you any further — in fact, it can leave you feeling lost.

Instead of hopping around and fixing things at random, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process in a methodical manner. Use the steps above to help guide you, and make sure you focus one one step at a time.

By following a plan and sticking to the process, you’ll be well on your way to overhauling your website to create one that helps grow your business (without feeling completely overwhelmed!).

The post How to Improve Your Website Content appeared first on ShivarWeb.


Top 3 Project Management Apps For Construction Firms


Project managers are often stereotyped as office stiffs with permanent stacks of Stick It notes in their back pockets, quietly and heroically keeping the wheels on the bus going round and round. However, real humans do not fit easily into stereotypes — and this one is simply too narrow to stand up to even mild scrutiny. After all, all kinds of fields have projects to manage, and many projects take form far from an office building.

For example, project managers based in the construction industry need a powerful suite of tools at their disposal: communication with contractors and clients, document storage, scheduling apps, and more. Beyond that, individual construction workers need features for time tracking, task management, schedule reminders, and communication. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the three best project management apps for construction workers.

But first, some criteria. To work well for construction projects, task management apps need scheduling and document sharing features, a simple and flexible UI that works well on the go, and, of course, an affordable monthly cost. Read on for a comprehensive look at the following three apps — the best of the best when it comes to construction project management.

Unlike the other two apps we will be covering, (formerly dapulse) is not a bespoke project management app. It does, however, meet all of our criteria handily. Let’s start with the price. is not the cheapest project management app I have ever covered. It is, however, entirely competitive and reasonably priced when compared with other, similar applications. There are a number of pricing plans ranging from “basic” to “enterprise.” The lower-priced plans (especially the “standard” plan, which grants 50 GB of storage) all provide the most valuable features of this product and come down to less than $10/user/month if you have 50 or more employees. If you don’t want to worry about managing your storage space, you might want to spring for the “Pro” plan, which comes with unlimited file storage. You do, of course, pay extra for the storage, with the price coming down to around $12/user/month on that plan.

In terms of features, ticks all of our boxes for construction. You get file storage (how much depends, of course, on your subscription level), scheduling, and communication with both team members and clients. The Gantt chart (or timeline) is particularly good; adding items to the chart and assigning them to team members is easy and making modifications to the schedule is as simple as clicking and dragging. If I had one complaint or reservation about’s feature set, it would be that the timeline has no dependencies; the addition of this feature would make this app incredibly well-suited to construction work. boasts an extremely well-designed, highly unique, UI. That said, I test a lot of project management programs, so I was thrown off for a moment by the one-term-for-everything philosophy of this app. Basically, everything you do in comes down to ‘Pulses.’ You can assign team members or clients to a pulse, add deadlines, send messages, and even create hashtags for pulses. This methodology required an adjustment period for me, accustomed as I am to the more common “task-list” format of’s competitors. Fortunately, I think that users that are new to project management applications will not find pulses as flummoxing, especially with the help of some good onboarding training.

Overall, If you are looking for a flexible, simple, and robustly-featured solution to your construction project management needs, I would encourage you to check out and give the free trial a shot.


CoConstruct, unlike, is a custom-built app for construction firms. Everything about this brand is construction-focused, from the name of the application itself to the marketing and support materials on the company’s website. And this seems to be a winning formula. In fact, CoConstruct is most highly reviewed construction project management app on Capterra.

Unfortunately, CoConstruct does not make their pricing options transparent. The closest thing they have to a standard price “list” is a short reference to the fact that prices “start at only $99/month.” There are references to other plans, but you must contact CoConstruct directly to get concrete details. Fortunately, with prices starting out relatively low (assuming you have 30+ employees), it seems likely that you will be able to get higher-level plans without breaking the bank.

CoConstruct is a very full-featured program. The company breaks down its feature set into three categories: COmmunicate, COordinate, and COntrol. It is a pretty snazzy way to describe what this application can do.

The COmmunicate field deals with internal communications between employees and clients. This section of the application can handle estimating, bidding, proposals, and expense tracking. Crew members can even upload pictures from job sites to confirm completed work or detail potential issues.

The COordinate section of the app handles scheduling, task lists, time tracking, and more. I want to particularly highlight the time-tracking features, which function similarly to those of Tsheets (read our review) and Timely (read our review). It is cool to see features from other apps folded into this one; that represents saved money and time for you, the customer.

The final section of CoConstruct, COntrol, is all about financials. This covers, of course, the proposals, bidding, and estimates I mentioned earlier, but also long-term budgeting and an excellent Quickbooks (read our review) integration.

Most importantly, CoConstruct is easy to use. I have to admit, when I first looked through some of the screenshots from this app, I was worried. A few parts of the UI are pretty outdated, which in my experience can translate to a steep learning curve. Fortunately, in CoConstruct’ case, I was wrong. Yes, certain elements of CoConstruct’s UI are not exactly breathtaking, but most of the app is well-designed and solid. I especially like the mobile apps, which allow crew members and foremen to easily keep track of their tasks, communicate with clients and subcontractors, and more.

While it is a little annoying that CoConstruct keeps some things hidden until you reach out to them directly (like their pricing), in the end, their high customer satisfaction rate is entirely justified. If you are looking for a comprehensive project management solution for your construction business, this may be the one for you.


Considering the fact that it has users in over 40 countries, awards from reviewers, and over one million projects completed from within the app, it’s easy to see why Buildertrend refers to itself as an industry standard for construction project management. With features that cover commercial construction, remodeling, and homebuilding, this app is designed to be your one-stop-shop for managing tasks, projects, and more.

Buildertrend’s pricing system, funnily enough, reminds me of CoConstruct’s. Like that program, Buildertrend starts at $99/month. We get a few more details with Buildertrend, however, including confirmation that this price includes unlimited users. That is fantastic, and it means that larger companies will find greater value using this app. On a less positive note, the baseline price only includes one project; if your firm handles multiple sites at one time, you will need to shell out the extra cash for more projects. Having said that, Buildertrend takes pains to assure users that adding another project does not double the price; it seems that the more projects you buy, the less you pay per project. Just like it should be! Note that there is no free trial; if you choose to buy Buildertrend, you will have to do so without directly testing it first. Fortunately, there are plenty of in-depth videos to help give you an idea of exactly you will be paying for.

Buildertrend’s extensive feature set is divided into four categories: “Pre-Sale Process” features, “Project Management” features, “Financial Tools” features, and “Customer Management” features. There are 21 individual items within these categories, so rather than trying to explain everything here in this limited space, I want to point out some of my favorites.

First things first: One of those pre-sale features includes email marketing. I love it when apps combine features from other kinds of software into one place because it means that you, the user, are getting a more streamlined experience for a lower price. While the email builder is definitely less snazzy than some of the dedicated email marketing apps out there, it does the job well.

In terms of project management features, one of my favorites is the document markup tool. Need to make a change to a blueprint? Mark it in the document. Want to make sure a particular detail gets noticed? Highlight it in the document.

The last thing I want to highlight in terms of features comes from the customer management section. When decisions about color, style, and more need to be made, you can send your customers their options so they can quickly and easily get back to you.

Buildertrend is surprisingly simple to use, considering the number of features available. The best part of this is the full-featured mobile app. And I do mean full-featured– all 21 features are directly accessible from within the app and can be used on the go. Very few project management platforms make everything usable on the go, and it says a lot about the priorities of the team behind Buildertrend that they have gone that route. In an industry that is all about being out in the field, it seems like a wise choice indeed.

If you are looking for a full-featured, flexible, and easy-to-use project management app for your construction firm, I highly recommend heading over to Buildertrends website and checking them out.

Final Thoughts

If I had to pick one of these three apps, I think it would have to be Buildertrend. I like that they focus on serious, thorough, construction-focused project management without losing accessibility. CoConstruct is very similar, but I think Buildertrend is just a bit more usable. Having said that, it may just come down to personal preference regarding which one of these three you choose.

If you are working with a small team, might be your best bet. If you represent a larger company, CoConstruct or Buildertrend might be better fits for you. Regardless, one of these apps will certainly provide you the tools you need to get out there and get building.

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The Best Specialty Crowdfunding Sites

specialty crowdfunding

By now, if you keep up with developments in the business world (or if you’ve had to raise funds for a loved one in need), you’re likely familiar with crowdfunding giants like Kickstarter (see our review), Indiegogo (see our review), Patreon (see our review), and GoFundMe (see our review). The biggest crowdfunding platforms also tend to have the most marketing resources at their disposal, so it’s little wonder if you’ve heard of them and not their smaller competitors.

Big crowdfunders have their places, but it’s high time some of smaller, more specialized crowdfunding sites out there got a little attention. Many such platforms are aimed at a particular slice of the crowdfunding market and may be better suited to your particular cause than some of the more general-purpose crowdfunders.

Let’s explore some of the specialty crowdfunding sites that can help you raise money for your distinct needs.

Small Business & Startup Crowdfunding



Fundable (see our review) is a business crowdfunding platform with a particular appeal to small businesses and startups that have exponential growth potential. With Fundable, a company can launch a rewards crowdfunding campaign or an equity crowdfunding campaign…or even both!

Fundable won’t let you run a rewards campaign and an equity campaign simultaneously, but if you play your cards right, you can use a successful rewards campaign to demonstrate the strength of your startup to investors and begin a successful equity campaign. (Read my article on the differences between equity crowdfunding and “traditional” crowdfunding for more information.)

Fundable is more exclusive than many other crowdfunding platforms and must approve your Company Profile after you’ve finished filling out your company information on their site.

Fundable doesn’t charge a percentage of what you raise as a fee, departing from the practice of such crowdfunding platforms as Kickstarter and Patreon, which charge 5% each. Instead, Fundable charges a flat rate of $179/month. For the underresourced startup, this monthly fee is a substantial barrier to entry — particularly as the fee must be paid regardless of whether your campaign is successful. For the small business that expects success, however, this fee policy can be a boon. Consider the startup that successfully raises $50K in a 60-day campaign. $358 is a lot less than $2,500 (5% of $50K)!

You will, however, have to contend with payment processing fees. For its rewards campaigns, Fundable takes 3.5% + $0.30 of each transaction to cover payment processing. There are no such fees associated with Fundable’s equity campaigns because those campaigns do not involve online payment transfers — all payments are made offline.

Like Kickstarter, Fundable has an all-or-nothing funding policy. If you don’t reach your funding goal by the time your campaign ends, you don’t get anything. Something to keep in mind!



Wefunder (see our review) is another crowdfunding platform that specializes in business funding. Unlike Fundable, it is exclusively an equity crowdfunding site. And while Fundable’s equity campaigns only allow you to fundraise from accredited investors (a term that essentially refers to rich people), Wefunder’s equity campaigns take advantage of Title III of the Jobs Act of 2012 to offer equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors (often referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding). What this means is that Wefunder lets you raise equity from anybody and everybody, just as you can raise money from anyone with rewards crowdfunding.

Wefunder is the largest Regulation Crowdfunding platform in existence, currently comprising 50% of the market share.

Wefunder takes a more relaxed approach to letting companies use their platform than does Fundable. Wefunder doesn’t do any prescreening, so there’s no initial bar to clear. Once you’ve started, Wefunder charges an initial non-recurring fee of $195 to launch your funding campaign. They then charge, in their words, “up to a 7% fee” of what your raise in a successful campaign. Conducting a Regulation Crowdfunding raise with Wefunder means accepting this relatively onerous fee policy. Payment processing fees are paid by the investors.

Like Fundable, Wefunder’s crowdfunding campaigns employ the all-or-nothing funding model, so if you take your business fundraising idea to Wefunder, you’d better have a detailed plan of action and the means to follow through on it. If your campaign doesn’t live up to its billing and you don’t reach your goal, no funding for you.

Medical Crowdfunding

When it comes to crowdfunding to pay for medical expenses, GoFundMe receives the lion’s share of attention. A recent NerdWallet study found that $930 million of the $2 billion raised on GoFundMe during the time period studied went towards medical campaigns. However, as I documented in my GoFundMe review, quite a few campaigners have had serious issues with the company and its practices. Let’s take a look at some GoFundMe alternatives for those Americans (curiously enough, it’s just about always Americans) seeking to crowdfund their medical expenses or those of a loved one.


Of all the crowdfunding platforms focused on human need, YouCaring is probably the most well-known of the non-GoFundMe crowdfunders. How does YouCaring stack up?

GoFundMe recently garnered some good press by eliminating its 5% platform fee for campaigns based in the US and Canada. YouCaring does them one better: Its campaigns have no platform fees no matter where the campaigner is based. Both platforms do, however, take 2.9% + $0.30 out of each donation to cover the cost of payment processing while asking donors to voluntarily contribute money to the platform to help keep it going.

One thing that comes across when perusing user reviews of YouCaring is that its customer service is second to none — the level of responsiveness described is unusual for a crowdfunding site. YouCaring offers real-time chat support and personalized coaching that helps guide users through the crowdfunding process.

YouCaring has facilitated the raising of $900 million since its founding in 2011, so it has an established track record of success. The site is definitely worth exploring if you or someone close to you needs help with medical expenses.


GoGetFunding is another crowdfunding platform focused on personal crises like medical episodes (though they let you crowdfund for any and all causes). You can raise funds in 23 currencies with GoGetFunding.

In one respect, however, GoGetFunding has fallen a bit behind the times. In its FAQ, GoGetFunding proclaims that its platform fee of 4% is “lower than all of our major competitors.” Now, this may have been true when written, but it is no longer true. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’ll recall that I mentioned that YouCaring and GoFundMe have no platform fees. (With all due respect to GoGetFunding, 4% is not lower than 0%.)

Beyond the 4% platform fee, 2.9% + $0.25-$0.30 per transaction is taken by the payment processor — roughly the same payment processing fees as GoFundMe and YouCaring.

Anyone choosing GoGetFunding over its immediate competitors is accepting the 4% fee, so let’s see what you get for that money. GoGetFunding lets you add team members to your crowdfunding campaign if you want to make your campaign a team effort. You also get PayPal support, a personal fundraising coach, and PR to help promote your campaign to the media.

Crowdfunding For Filmmakers


Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform devoted to funding the production of movies and shows. Not only that, but the rate of funding success for Seed&Spark projects is 75%, which (Seed&Spark claims) beats all other competitors in this particular field — a claim that seems to have been corroborated by a blogger.

Seed&Spark’s fee policy is unique in the industry. Seed&Spark takes 5% of donations — the same rate as Kickstarter — but offers backers the chance to cover that fee at checkout. According to Seed&Spark, a majority of backers do so. In addition, the platform charges 2.9% + $0.30 for payment processing (same as most competitors). Combine this with the fact that, according to Seed&Spark, filmmakers take home an average of 95% of what they raise, and it appears the average platform fee paid by Seed&Spark creators is 2% — not bad at all for a non-personal crowdfunder!

Seed&Spark’s funding model is a hybrid of the all-or-nothing approach favored by Kickstarter and the keep-what-you-raise approach adopted by other crowdfunders. With Seed&Spark, you get to keep what you raise only after reaching 80% of your funding goal.

Once you’ve had a successful campaign and you actually complete your movie or show, you can even choose to have it distributed by Seed&Spark. If you do, the revenue will be split 60/40, with the creator getting 60%. Subscribers to Seed&Spark will then be able to stream your movie or show at as well as on Apple TV and Roku through Seed&Spark’s app.


Slated is an equity crowdfunding platform devoted to movie production. Launch a Slated project and you’ll be marketing your film concept to a select crowd of accredited investors, many of whom work in the film industry (producers, writers, directors, actors, etc.). In fact, according to Slated, 68% of the films appearing at Sundance in 2016 and 54% of 2016’s Oscar-nominated films were made by Slated members. Using Slated is a way to get exposure for your project among the very people in the industry who matter.

With Slated, all funds are transferred offline — not great for convenience, but it means you won’t be paying any fees on what you earn.

The platform is free to use, but if you want any real likelihood of meeting your goal, you’ll want to use Slated Analytics’ Script Analysis service. Use this service and three Slated members — industry insiders with experience doing exactly this — will pore over your script and assess its screen-worthiness. Only one of the three pros who read your script has to give it a passing grade for it to earn an official recommendation. Your score will prove vital to your ability to attract investors and secure funding. The script analysis costs $395 per draft, while the combined script and financial analysis package will set you back $995.

Crowdfunding For Musicians


PledgeMusic is a crowdfunding platform for musicians. It gives bands and other performers the ability to get their music funded, connect with their fans, and offer exclusive content. According to PledgeMusic’s FAQ:

“You can run a project around your new album or EP, a book, a DVD, a concert tour…anything you’re doing, as long as it’s centered around music!”

In addition to being a crowdfunding platform, PledgeMusic also hosts your music. This may explain why PledgeMusic takes a sizable 15% cut of what you raise in a successful campaign (thankfully, you won’t have to cover the payment processing costs). Furthermore, PledgeMusic is an all-or-nothing crowdfunder. You’ve got to hit your funding goal before you receive anything.

PledgeMusic will work with you in designing your campaign and in tweaking the look of your store page. The platform is designed to allow you to offer both digital downloads (tracks, albums, etc.) and physical products like instruments, backstage passes, and swag.


ArtistShare is a crowdfunding platform so old that it predates the term “crowdfunding.” Founded in 2001 and launched in 2003, ArtistShare was the first “fan-funding” site for creative artists.

ArtistShare is much more of an exclusive club than the other crowdfunding sites I’ve covered in this article. The company must pre-approve you before you can raise funds on the site, and judging by the artists on the platform, ArtistShare favors polished jazz and classical musicians.

ArtistShare takes 5% of what you raise in fees. They take an additional 3-5% for payment processing fees.

ArtistShare’s funding model isn’t quite all-or-nothing and it isn’t quite keep-what-you-raise either. With ArtistShare, if you don’t hit your funding goal, you will only receive funds from backers who clicked the “Unconditional Support” option when making their contribution. Thus, if your project doesn’t reach its goal, you’ll still get some funding, but you won’t get everything that was pledged.

Final Thoughts

If crowdfunding makes sense for your particular situation, there’s no reason you have to follow the herd and go with the big boys. There are plenty of specialty crowdfunding sites out there, only a few of which I’ve covered here. You may find that a niche crowdfunding site can offer you particular benefits — benefits you might not get with a more general-purpose crowdfunder.

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