The Best Free Tools For Digital Marketers And Start-Ups Looking For Success

Posted by Adam Hyland

Wed, May 17, 2017

Getting to grips with your digital marketing strategy can be a tough task. Making sure you consistently create the right content to attract online visitors, effectively channel them down the conversion path, and that you can analyse the results to see where you can improve, means having to juggle a lot of balls and spending a lot of time you should be using to turn your business into a success. And that’s before you even begin to mention keeping your staff in the loop and making sure you are all working towards the same goals with the same approach.

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Luckily, there is a vast array of tools, software and systems out there that can help you turn your digital marketing agency or start-up into a business destined for great things, and here, we take a look at some of the best ones.

We don’t want to overwhelm you, so here we list the free ones. Take a look, and see what tools could work for you, and keep an eye out for the paid-for options coming later this week.

Project Management

When it comes to running a business and delivering effective marketing campaigns, comprehensive project management is important. Your right hand needs to know what your left hand is doing, and you need to know how internal and external projects are developing so you can stay on track. Here’s a couple of very helpful tools:

Trello – A great tool for the organisation of projects, with handy to share boards and cards that act like a post-it board for all team members to see and act upon.

Evernote – This note taking app means you can put down in black and white (or whatever colours you feel will make your team notice and follow them) all details of a project or campaign, as well as developments, status, etc, so you will know what needs to be done and when.

Communication

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Communication is important when it comes to delivering the right results, and keeping everybody in the loop means having the right tools in place to do this:

Google+ Hangouts – Pretty much everybody has a Google account nowadays, and if your team does, you can use this app to connect with them internally or with clients externally via text, video and audio chat.

HipChat – This also allows you to have group chats and share files. You can opt for an unlimited version that gives you more chat history and only costs $2 per person per month, but the free version is perfectly adequate.

Calendars

We’ve all been there: The deadline for that content your client is expecting creeps up like a thief in the night and before you know it, you’ve missed the due date. Or, you arrange a meeting to pitch to a potential client, only to find your team is unavailable due to prior commitments. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Meeting deadlines and making sure you don’t double book your time is made easier when you have a calendar system in place.

Calendly – This tool synchs with your existing calendars (such as the one on your Gmail), so you can schedule meetings, calls or project milestones with whoever you want, or whoever requests them from you, and notify all relevant people. There are fancier versions, but the basic one works just fine.

SEO

It's not enough to simply have a live website and the occasional blog. In order to rank in search and be found by potential clients and customers, your online content needs to be great, and must be optimised. Here’s some handy tools that can help make that happen:

Google Keyword Planner and Google Analytics – Google is king of the internet, so it makes sense to use the tools they supply to dance to their tune when it comes to being found in search. These free tools help you see what sort of volume keywords have, so you can tailor your content towards the ones worth fighting to rank for, and discover how successful your content is so you can focus on what works, and improve on what doesn’t.

Moz Open Site Explorer – This allows you to find opportunities to build links by giving you information on backlinks, ranking pages and social media activity.

UberSuggest – Listing search terms relevant to your industry or business, this helps you find the best opportunities to rank for keywords that will help your business or agency stand out.

Content

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Content is king, as they say, but it is not always easy to come up with a constant flow of effective blogs and offers that will attract website traffic and convert them into leads. Just coming up with the ideas for content can be hard enough, and that’s before you get down to writing it.

Inbound.org – This site is a community of inbound digital marketers where content, insights, tips, advice and industry news are shared, and can be a handy source of inspiration.

Reddit – This online forum gives you the opportunity to ask questions, read what peers have to say about certain topics or issues, and find some juicy ideas for new content.

Once you have the ideas, it’s time to get down to planning your content strategy, delegating writing tasks and putting pen to paper, or in today’s world, fingers to keyboard.

Edit Flow – This free WordPress plug-in gives you a calendar so you can organise who is writing what, when it is due, and what the status of the content is.  

Grammarly – While digital marketers are getting better and better at their job, it’s unfortunate that the proper use of the language is not, and the internet is riddled with poor grammar. You don’t want visitors to your site to see such mistakes because it can put doubts in their minds as regards your professionalism and competence. This app checks your grammar for you, as well as picking up on bad punctuation and spelling. A helpful tool for people what don’t talk so pretty.

Hemingway App – A lovely little tool that picks up on the quality of your content and highlights in various colours where you can improve, and why, to get the best possible content. Convoluted sentences, bad spelling, etc, are shown and explained, with a readability grade given so you can know what’s good enough to publish, and what needs more work.

Images

A picture paints a thousand words, or when it comes to online content, blogs with images receive 94% more views than blogs without them. They not only break up text to give more readability and a better user experience, but they also play an important part in SEO if you use metatags properly. However, finding the right eye-catching images can be tough.

Death to Stock Photos – You may have read a blog and wondered why the generic businessman or woman pictured looks so familiar. It’s probably because you have seen them before on another blog. After all, there are only so many ways to depict ‘happy businessman’ or ‘marketing goals’, and stock images can get a little ‘samey’ after a while. Thankfully, there are other options, and this site lets you sign up and receive free photos every month. They can be a bit abstract, but the quality is always good.

Unsplash – This site has a range of quality stock photos with an arty feel, and you can search through their catalogue to find what you need.

Pexels – Similar to Unsplash, this site has countless top-quality images. While it hosts some of the same images you will find on Unsplash, it has (in my opinion) a more preferable scroll down function for all images under a certain topic, rather than folder categories.

EMail

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If content is king, email content is the emperor of digital marketing content because it effectively nurtures and converts leads to increase conversion rate. The ROI on effective email marketing campaigns is around the 4,300% mark, according to the Direct Marketing Association, so it’s clear to see why getting it right can really boost your business or agency.

MailChimp Subject Line Researcher and Forever Free – You can get paid-for versions of MailChimp, but the free service can do wonders. The Subject Line Researcher gives great insights into what will really catch the reader’s eye and avoid the trash bin, and Forever Free allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month, providing you have a contact database of fewer than 2,000.

Benchmark Email’s Free for Life – This plan allows you to send up to 10,000 emails per month, which is far more than what some of the other free plans offer. You get access to all of Benchmark Email’s extensive array of features, enabling you to create online surveys, use email templates, and track email statistics. The only problem with Benchmark Email’s plan is that you are only allowed to build your contacts list with users who subscribe through your signup form. If you already have a ready-made list of contacts, it can be a big hassle to get them all to subscribe to your Benchmark Email account.

Analytics

If you don’t measure it, how can you improve on it, as one of our team is fond of saying. Analytics are very important in assessing how effective your digital marketing strategy is and what results you can expect.

Google Analytics – Yes, him again, but this does give you great insights into how many website visitors you have had, what they do there, how long they stay, and where they came to your content from. All of this is obviously very handy in knowing who your market is and what content appeals to them. It is also a very handy tool for measuring conversion, which leads us to...

Conversion

Clickheat - A free heatmap tool that shows you where visitors to your web pages spend their time so you can optimise layout and design for better user experience and conversion.

There’s a lot of different tools mentioned here, and managing them all at once can be tricky. That’s where a comprehensive and integrated digital marketing platform can be a tremendous help. While we use many of these tools in our daily activities, we also for the most part use the HubSpot platform to manage our integrated digital marketing strategy.

Featuring almost all of the above functions, and capable of integrating many more, it not only provides us with the means and tools to create great optimised content, email campaigns, workflows and web pages, it also gives un unrivalled analytics, so we can produce and report on effective campaigns not just for ourselves, but for our clients too.

It’s worth looking into, and if you need any help or advice on the right platform for your integrated marketing solution, book some time with us and we will help set you on the right path.

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Topics: Free digital marketing tools, Tools for digital marketing agencies, Free tools for SMEs, Content creation tools, Free marketing tools, Marketing communication tools


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