Some days I feel like a superhero with a secret identity. By day I’m a digital marketer/web developer working for a reasonably sized local business. By night, I’m a freelancer/ blogger teaching other small business owners the tricks of the trade!
It’s probably not particularly smart of me to let you in on so many industry secrets (given my profession)… but I also remember just how jarring it can be to start a new business fron scratch! It’s hard to know where to start! After all, you don’t have a manager there to delegate tasks or help manage your workload. It’s all up on you!
If your business fails – you have nobody to blame but yourself. If it succeeds, it’s on the back of your own hard work and dedication.
To me, a sound marketing plan is the foundation of a successful business. It’s just as important as (if not even more important than), the products and services you sell!
When you tell a story with your branding and marketing, your business will seem more authentic and relatable. And who better to tell your story than yourself?
Of course, not everyone has the drive or want to market their own products. For some, the time and effort it would take to learn these skills is just too great- and that’s perfectly okay. In those instances, it’s absolutely okay to hire external help. In fact, we absolutely recommend it. I am a freelance digital marketer myself after all *wink wink*
For those of you that want to take a crack at it yourselves however, I’ve compiled a list of 8 FREE digital marketing tools I use on a daily basis in my job as a digital marketer. Hopefully it will save you both money, and time researching which tools you need to get started!
Think of GIMP as a free equivalent to Adobe Photoshop!
At its core, it’s a photo editing software- but, it’s also so much more than that. I know plenty of digital artists who use GIMP for their digital paintings and artworks.
Fun fact: I actually first learned of this software on DeviantArt!
While it’s interface isn’t quite as user friendly or advanced as photoshop’s, it has nearly all of the same capabilities. So, it’s a great way to dip your toe into the photo editing pool without having to fork out the money for an Adobe subscription!
I’d say the only real downside to using GIMP for photo editing (as opposed to photoshop) is the lack of tutorials/information available. There are simply less resources out there due to photoshop being the industry leader in the field. To a degree, this means you’re going to need to teach yourself how to use it. Which can definitely be a turn off for some people.
So, while it’s not a deal breaker by any means, it’s certainly worth noting!
How I Use It
- Editing product images (I prefer their background removal tool to Canva and Photoshop’s);
- Removing blemishes from photos;
- Color correcting images;
- Converting files to JPEG, GIF, PNG & TIFF’s;
- Compressing images.
Hotjar is a website plugin that tracks how users interreact with your site through recordings and heatmaps. It’s a fantastic tool for diagnosing problems, and learning how users really interact with your site without having to conduct surveys.
While the free version is somewhat limited in capacity (at least when compared to the paid subscription) it’s good enough for your average blogger/small business! Unless you’re running a web or media company (like I am!) it’s probably not worth paying for the subscription.
You might also be surprised to learn just how few people actually use your navbar or sidebar!
How I Use It
- Diagnosing issues on websites using site recordings;
- Hotspot Maps (see how users are interacting with the site);
Google analytics is hands down the single most important Digital Marketing tool on the market! It tracks all kinds of different web statistics, from page views through to audience demographics. One could argue that google probably knows more about your online business than you do!
Which statistics are most important to you will vary depending on how you monetize your website. For instance, bloggers will likely be most interested in the “pageview” numbers, while online sellers/retailers will be more interested in users and bounce rates!
There are some statistics I recommend checking out regardless of your sites purpose though, such as: user demographics, country of origin, landing page and user acquisition/traffic channels. Why? Because this is going to tell you who your target market is, and how they’re finding your site. This information is like GOLD to digital marketers- and it should be to you too!
Overall, Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for figuring out how and where you should be promoting your services, what the return on your ad spend is like, and where you need to be putting more time and effort.
How I Use It
- Establishing target audience;
- Allocating ad spend;
- Monitoring ad performance (particularly google ads);
- Planning future content (based off content that is already performing well);
- Tracking conversions;
- Studying user behavior (using behavior flows);
- Running A/B testing.
Answer The Public
Answer the public is a fantastic tool for content creators who have hit a (metaphorical) creative wall! It’s a keyword research tool that can help spawn new content ideas by suggesting long tail keywords & search queries.
You can either download their suggestions as an excel spreadsheet, or view it on the site as a funky infographic:
As a free user you’re limited in how many searches you can make in a day. But, given just how many new content ideas a single search can spawn, it’s going to bemore than sufficient for the average user!
This is especially true if you’re running an extremely niche site where you’re only competing for one or two keywords/topics!
Honestly, Answer The Public has completely changed how I go about creating content for myself and my clients! I’ve found that I am able to create about 1 months worth of content from a single keyword search. This includes, but is not limited to: blog articles, Facebook ads, Instagram stories and even Pinterest pins.
How I Use It
- Keyword research;
- Content planning.
Canva is a FREE online graphic design tool, with paid subscription upgrade options.
It can be used to create a MULTITUDE of different graphics and visual content, such as: social media images, logos, presentations and even websites! Honestly, just about anything you can dream up, you can make with Canva!
Of all the digital marketing tools on this list, Canva is the one I recommend most highly. Whether you’re running a bakery, or a small fashion business, I guarantee you’ll have a use for Canva – even if it’s just printing menu’s or designing your logo!
Related Reading: How to Design A Logo For Your Small Business Using Canva.
What makes Canva different to other Graphic design tools (such as Illustrator or Photoshop) is it’s easy to use drag-and-drop interface! It’s something almost anyone can make sense of, and create beautiful graphics with.
How I Use It
- Creating social media images;
- Branding & logo design;
- Scheduling content to Pinterest (pro version only);
- Designing website images;
- Creating ad content;
- Mocking up websites, apps etc.
- Creating presentations, pdf’s and other downloadable content;
Did you know that the speed of your website has a massive bearing on how well it organically ranks?
If you don’t believe me, here’s what google has to say on the matter:
Good user experience is not captured by a single point in time. It’s composed of a series of key milestones in your users’ journey. Understand the different metrics and track the ones that are important to your users’ experience.
Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and data shows that people really care about how quickly their pages load. The Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010 and as of this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.– Google
All of this to say… you should be checking the speed of your website regularly! Pingdom has always been my platform of choice for this, but google has also recently released their own free tool.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter which tool you use- just make sure that you are using one. Otherwise, you could be unknowingly hindering your own traffic!
How I Use It
- Checking site speeds;
- Checking site health.
Before you jump down my throat and tell me “Google Ads isn’t free” – just hear me out!
Firstly: You don’t need to be running ads on your site to use Google Ads. Nor do you need to pay to use the tool.
Google ad’s capable of more than just building online ads- it’s actually also a fantastic keyword research tool.
While you’ll need to sign up for an account to gain access it doesn’t actually cost a cent to use. You don’t even need to provide payment details.
Simply search for the “Keyword Planner” in the search bar/side bar, and get going!
While I don’t believe the keyword planner is 100% accurate, it’s a great resource for content planning. Like Answer the Public, you can use it to generate new and exciting ideas for your blog and social media. It will also give you a decent idea of what kind of search volume you can expect from keywords, and how fierce the competition is.
What I Use It For
- Planning content;
- Checking search volume;
- Coming up with new content ideas;
Last but not least, we have something extra special for wordpress users!
Yoast SEO is a search engine plugin that will help you create content that ranks well on google. The free version has lots of cool functions such as allowing you to write meta content for your blog posts, and create a site maps. You’re even to choose which URL’s you want submitted to search engines, and which ones you want to keep hidden!
Yoast has a built in readability plugin that will help you produce better written content. It even does things such as test your content’s Flesch reading ease score, monitor your sentence length, and ensure you don’t include repeat words or phrases!
While it’s doesn’t replace the need for a proof reader entirely, it does give some good content and grammar suggestions!
I personally install Yoast on every WordPress website I manage (and sometimes even copy + paste the content from websites hosted elsewhere to check the SEO score). It’s not a magic cure-all, and doesn’t guarantee you’ll tank on the first page of google, but it’s a good start!
What I Use It For
- Proofing content;
- Setting meta title’s and descriptions;
- Creating site maps;
- Tracking inbound/outbound links;
- Setting social images for facebook & twitter;