If one word could sum up digital marketing, it's overwhelming. Data, apps, social media channels, keywords and content, all coming at you, all the time, and you need to make sense of it. The good news is, you're not alone; there are tools out there to help time-poor, data-dazed digital marketers. Here are 7 of the best free digital marketing tools out there.
How did it get so late so soon?
Social media dashboards save time, plain and simple. And one of the best dashboards out there is Hootsuite. This social media management tool acts like a single pane of glass that lets you see and interact with all the different platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. The free version allows you to link three 'accounts' and these will be your various channels.
Within these, you can get a complete overview of all relevant activity by creating ‘streams’ that could include @mentions on Twitter, new followers on Facebook or group comments on LinkedIn. You can also use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts, find and engage with influencers by assessing individuals' Klout scores, and effectively monitor follower engagement - all from one centralised app.
The first page of Google is the Holy Grail for any business; it gets 71% of all the traffic. What does this mean for digital marketers? You need to focus on a solid SEO and keyword strategy. Google Keyword Planner used to be, hands down, the best free keyword research tool out there. But Google made some changes that stripped it of most of its usefulness, particularly for users with smaller AdWords budgets.
Enter stage left, SEOBook Keyword Suggestion Tool. This free tool is a great alternative to Google Keyword Planner. It has a training module that helps you brainstorm relevant keywords, perform competitor analysis, get tips on how to narrow down your keyword list, and more. It also has a powerful keyword research tool with a massive database of keywords with daily search volumes. Everything you need to create an effective organic or PPC SEO campaign.
All hail the heavy lifters
Thankfully, Google has not made any adverse changes to Google Analytics, which is every digital marketer's online BFF (and if it isn't, it should be). Knowing how your website is performing and where your traffic is coming from is bread and butter for every digital marketer. Without this data, you're operating in the dark.
Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool from Google that gives you powerful insights into your website performance: where the traffic is coming from, how many visitors are coming to your site, what are they doing on your site, how long are they staying, where are they dropping off etc. At a glance, you can see which pages are performing well and identify campaign reach and conversion rates. And because Google Analytics plays well with other Google apps, like AdWords, you can easily use all of this priceless data to make better-informed decisions and build effective campaigns.
We've been hearing the bell tolling for email marketing for years. However, reports of its death are, as they say, greatly exaggerated. There are currently 2.76 billion email users worldwide (expected to grow to 2.94 billion by 2019) sending/receiving 293.6 billion emails each day. Email marketing is still considered an effective marketing channel and MailChimp is a workhorse in this field.
Free if you're sending to under 2,000 recipients, it enables you to design your emails (using MailChimp's pre-built templates or creating your own), send your email to your list and review its performance with in-depth analytics. Other functionalities enable you to segment your list, perform A/B testing with subject lines and view mobile-friendly versions of your email. Handy MailChimp plugins for WordPress enable you to build your list via forms on your website or landing pages, and easy integration with Google Analytics means you can track MailChimp email campaigns within your Google Analytics hub.
Let's get visual
Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without images while Facebook posts with images get 2.3X more engagement than those without. And it’s articles too: articles with an image once every 75-100 words received double the social media shares as articles with fewer images.
Canva is a web-based programme that helps you create top quality visuals. It has a massive repository of templates for different sized images - from Facebook posts to ebook covers. The beauty of using Canva’s templates is you know the image will be the correct size. Once you’ve chosen the type of image you want to create, you are presented with pre-made layouts, backgrounds, symbols, icons, frames, illustrations and photos you can use; most of these are free, with some premium photos or layouts costing just $1. The finished visuals are great quality and can be downloaded as PNGs or JPEGs.
Available for iOS and Android, Snapseed is Google’s own photo editing app. It has all the tools you see in well-known photo editing programmes like Photoshop - white balance, cropping, perspective, adjusting colour and exposure, as well as filters and frames. Like most things Google does (with some notable exceptions – we're looking at you Google+), Snapseed is well designed, with a great attention to detail. User reviews are exceptionally positive, with some suggesting the app offers Photoshop-level functionality. And the beauty is it's available on your smartphone, so all of your editing can be done on the go.
There's no doubt video is having its moment in the sun. According to Hubspot, 33% of all online activity consists of watching video, 75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week, and 90% of people say that video product reviews are helpful in the decision-making process. The message? You need to be creating video content.
A few years ago, video production was only taken on by experts with expensive kits, complicated software and a degree in patience. But times have changed, and tools like PowerDirector mean anybody can create a professional-looking video. This Android app simplifies the entire process of creating a video: use your smartphone to record the footage, edit the footage on your phone and share the final video directly to YouTube or Facebook. Editing is drag-and-drop easy, with a library full of different styles of transitions, text overlays, voiceovers and music.
And one more for the road
You might be forgiven for thinking that GIFs had disappeared into the Ether like MySpace or Yahoo! But you’re wrong. GIFs are back, and they're back with a bang. Thanks to websites like Giphy, GIFs are more mainstream now than they were 20 years ago. Giphy is a GIF search engine, serving up hundreds of thousands of GIFs for every mood, emotion or reaction you can think of. They've become a perfect tool for businesses to show their personality. Be aware though, Giphy can suck you into an endless loop of flashing, glittery, hilarious repeating images that directly counteracts all the time management work you've done so far.
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