What tools do you use to amplify growth?
These days, being in charge of marketing in a startup means choosing the tools, evaluating each one, making sure the spend is commensurate to the return, and that each tool is used to its full potential.
I bet your email inbox is flooded by newsletters from an army of marketing software companies, all wanting to get you to sign up or even just give their software a try.
And for most marketers, spending hours on marketing forums like Inbound.org or GrowthHackers is a great way to get started. Ideas, reviews, testimonials. You click a link, go to a landing page, sign-up for a trial. Although sometimes, it becomes a never ending cycle of signing up and cancelling subscriptions.
But here’s the thing: the pricing for marketing tools is so varied that it makes you think–can I do all this work with free software?
In this post, I put together a list of the best free marketing tools that I use daily. Check them out and see if some of them can fit your stack!
Keyword research is fundamental to any online marketing campaign, it’s the process of discovering and unearthing what words users type in when they use search engines to find solutions to their problems and concerns.
Bloggers, businesses, entertainers, government–practically anyone with an online presence should be concerned about these keywords so they could be found on the web. Users and search engines depend on these keywords to match the intent of the users with the websites who can supply visitors with what they need.
Google Keyword Planner
No matter what niche you’re in, marketers will be spending a lot of time using the Google Keyword Planner. Without the numbers that Google has, your keyword strategies will be a shot in the dark.
This free tool boasts of many features that help marketers identify a keyword’s popularity, see how much people search particular keywords and create tens and tens of keyword combinations in seconds.
This free tool gives you access to thousands of long-tail keywords related to your industry or any particular topic you input into their search tool. The way KeywordTool.io does it is through Google Autocomplete. Autocomplete suggests keywords and queries (actual word combinations users input into search) based on many factors, one of which is popularity.
Answer the Public
Answer The Public is one of the newest players in the free marketing stack game. It’s a keyword research tool that presents you with a huge visual results list that includes questions, prepositions and lists related to whatever you searched on the site.
Now that you have your keywords on deck, the next step is coming up with the actual topics that will set the direction of the content you’re going to create.
If something works, why not do it too, right? BuzzSumo is a tool that tells you the performance of existing content on the internet based on how much they’re shared across social media. It’s been an invaluable tool for many marketers. Granted, this tool’s paid version is super robust and can help any marketing effort, but the free version allows you a set number of searches a day. Still worth it!
Reddit & Quora
Okay, both of these are not “tools” in the software sense but they are equally invaluable when you want to know what your audience is concerned about. Of course, there are many platforms where people discuss and talk about their industry-related problems, but these two are the most popular and populated sites. Just key in your industry and dig away. Most of the threads are in question format so it’s not very tough to just choose a question and create content that addresses that.
Planning, Collaboration & Calendar Creation
The concrete translation of a content and marketing strategy is in the calendar you put together. Here are free tools that not only help you to see the bigger picture, but also makes collaboration and delegation easier.
Trello is a free online project management tool that makes use of boards and cards as a visual way to present tasks and organize them. Creating a Trello board for your marketing calendar is an amazing, visual way to assign, organize and store content.
You just need to move content from card to card to note its status: published, pending, or any note you might want to use.
Google Apps (Calendar and Docs)
Create your own calendar with limitless configurations using a simple Google Sheets document. There are countless of templates out there like this one from HubSpot or even this one from paid editorial content calendar app CoSchedule. I know some marketers who create a separate calendar on Google Calendar called “Marketing” so they can monitor, invite collaborators and mark published content.
Blog posts, newsletters, whitepapers, infographics–there are so many ways to present and organize our thoughts into content pieces and these tools could help you make the process easier.
Many marketers use offline word processors like Microsoft Word and Pages. I personally like to work on Google Docs for a couple of reasons.
1. Easily shareable
2. Auto-saves with no snags
3. I love working in the cloud
Granted there may be some design and formatting inconsistencies when you format posts on Google Docs before inputting them into your CMS. To get that right, of course, it takes a bit of patience and some coding skills. But, still, I’m writing this post on Google Docs and have written most of the work I have on the internet on the platform and never had a problem of missing files. It also takes note of the changes so you’ll be sure to keep track of who makes changes or can revert to older versions if need be.
Visuals are an integral part of any marketing effort and thankfully, you don’t have to be a Photoshop expert these days to produce graphics that are nice to look at and are able to do their job. Canva and Pablo are both free tools that use drag-and-drop technology. It’s easy graphic design for non-designers.
I discovered this tool some time ago when I was tasked to create something other than a blogpost to present a very elaborate set of numbers. Of course, it’s easy to ask our design department to do that, only that we didn’t have a design department let alone a budget that would be enough for a decent designer. So I put on my googling hat and searched for a solution Piktochart.
Piktochart is an infographic creator using the same technology as Pablo and Canva, and it is unbelievable easy to use. I’ve spotted infographics made on Piktochart on wildly popular marketing websites (who obviously can afford designers) like HubSpot.
Distribution & Amplification
Like Mridu Relph said,
“You’re competing not only with people who offer similar content, but over several different platforms. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, you’re competing not just with other solopreneurs and other one-person businesses, but organizations with huge human and capital resources.”
How do you standout? Most marketing experts say, spend 20% of your time creating the content and the rest should be spent on amplifying it!
This is the single best free social media content amplification tool out there. It’s robust, free and works with most apps and social networks. It’s also the home of free graphic design tool Pablo. Plan, schedule and push out content according to plan.
Yes! Bust out your email account (we consider this free ‘cause you have it anyway) and send out your content to people who you think will be interested in it, people in your existing mailing lists, and people you’ve mentioned in your article. You’ll be surprised how little outreach goes a long way.
Data-driven marketers dominate the web these days. Why? Because they know what to improve when. They know what works, and they have the numbers to back their claims up. Well, don’t be left in the dust. It’s nice to say that you feel marketing is working because you’re getting more users or getting more interest–but you have free access to data that will help you understand your process and your audience more. Why not use it?
Ah, of course. This is the tool that screams, “I’m an expert.” I bet most marketers can remember the first time they took a GA course or the first CSV they’ve exported from Google Analytics. This free tool helps you find out which of your site’s pages are attracting the most traffic and where those visitors found you from.
From the data, you can identify which of your tactics are working for you and what the results are really like. This is also a great starting point for deeper digging when it comes to identifying what content works with your audience and if you’re attracting the right audience in the first place.
HotJar gives you insight on how visitors use your site. According to the creator, here’s what HotJar is:
Hotjar is a conversion rate optimization solution, helping you to understand how visitors engage with, and interact with, your website. It includes heatmaps, and full site recordings. In addition, Hotjar allows you to ask your visitors questions about their experience to better understand why they may be leaving, or why they aren’t following the path you’ve designed.
Using your tool, you can really see what visitors are doing and which parts of your site engage them and resonate with them the most.
What’s in your toolbox?
C’mon, don’t be shy. I’ve been to enough marketing conferences to know that marketers love to gush over the tools they use. Care to spill the free ones you swear by?
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