Let's face it - running a business is expensive. From compliance to tax to payroll to equipment, it's a constant battle to try and make your income larger than your expenses.
Marketing is no exception. The most common bit of feedback I get from clients (and prospective clients) is that the cost of marketing is too high.
Even digital marketing, which is often viewed as being more affordable than "traditional" marketing methods, has an affordability crisis for most small & medium businesses.
Part of this affordability problem is due to the cost of getting qualified help (whether that is a freelancer, agency, or even good in-house talent) - on a side note, I'm about to go live on something that is going to change the way small and medium businesses buy digital marketing services. You won't want to miss it.
But even if you "do it yourself", the cost of tools and ad spend can add up quickly.
With that in mind, I've put together a quick list of 10 free digital marketing tools that you can use to help grow your business.
You don't need to be a digital marketing professional to use these (although for a couple I have stated that some knowledge is helpful). I have curated this list specifically for business owners - provided you have basic computer skills you'll be able to get value out of them.
NB: Some of these tools are "freemium" - they have a basic free version, and then you can pay to upgrade to a better/fully-featured version. However, in all instances the free version is probably going to be enough for any small or medium business. Where there is a premium/paid version, I have made note of this.
- What is it? A web-based tool for fast, attractive graphic design. It is drag-and-drop, based primarily off templates and simple layouts, meaning you don't need to be a graphic design expert to use the platform.
- Why would you want to use it? To make graphics and visual resources for your business, e.g. Facebook ad images, banner ads, business cards etc.
- Where can you get access? Canva.com
- How free is it? There is also a Canva For Work upgrade that costs about $20 NZD per month per user, but this is aimed squarely at larger businesses. While there are many great free templates and images, there are also paid options as well.
- My tips: Using Canva is a great way to elevate the professionalism of your business. Now I'm not going to claim that Canva can replace a good graphic designer (it isn't as flexible as Photoshop or InDesign and has limited features) but you can certainly make some good looking stuff with it.
- What is it? An SEO/digital marketing software suite designed to help you improve the SEO health and performance of your website.
- Why would you want to use it? To track your search engine rankings, monitor the "SEO health" of your website and do research on your competitors. All of this is done through a simple, accessible interface that makes it easy to get started.
- Where can you get access? Download Traffic Travis Free version here.
- How free is it? There is a professional version available for $97 USD per year that allows you to track more projects, access more data etc but you will probably do fine with the free version.
- My tips: Traffic Travis is a little bit "old-fashioned" in some regards but still offers plenty of value, especially for smaller businesses with smaller websites. As a basic platform for tracking and improving your SEO, it is useful and usable. If you are relatively new to SEO and digital marketing and want a basic platform that will help you improve your results, then this is a good option.
- Note: Traffic Travis is a downloadable software and does NOT work on Mac OSX. So if you're a Mac user you're out of luck (unless you have a Windows machine you can also use).
- Second note: You can read my full review of Traffic Travis Free & Professional versions here.
- Third note: You need to provide an email address when you sign up for the free version of Traffic Travis. You will wind up getting a lot of promotional emails for other products that are recommended by the creators by Traffic Travis. This doesn't detract from the utility of the program but it is worth noting (if this concerns you just use a throwaway email address that you can access for the purpose of getting the registration code).
- What is it? An email marketing platform, which allows you to send bulk emails to your subscribed contacts. You might gather those contacts through a "newsletter" form on your website, for example.
- Why would you want to use it? It's an easy, accessible platform for building an email marketing list, which is one of the most valuable assets your business can build. You can send great looking emails to communicate specials, new products, news & more. Email marketing is a powerful marketing channel, and Mailchimp makes it easy and accessible for small businesses to do email marketing.
- Where can you get access? Sign up for Mailchimp here.
- How free is it? Mailchimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers on your email marketing list. For many smaller businesses, this is likely to be all you'll need. Pricing scales based on list size from there.
- My tips. If you aren't email marketing, then you need to be. "The money is in the list". Start building a list of potential customers (as well as actual customers) and communicating with them. Just make sure you are compliant with all legislation and best practices around privacy, spam etc.
Answer The Public
- What is it? A simple tool for identifying what questions & phrases people are searching, relating to an initial keyword. Answer The Public scrapes Google Suggest and other databases and presents the content in a visual manner.
- Why would you want to use it? To identify keyword opportunities, develop content ideas, and understand the "burning problems" that drive your potential customers.
- Where can you get access? At Answerthepublic.com
- How free is it? The free tier is very usable but lacks a couple of features (namely changing Google search region, which might potentially be problematic for some NZ-based searches but probably not a massive deal). There is a paid plan available as well.
- My tips. This is one of my favourite tools. If you are ever stuck for blog post/content ideas (or for keywords to include in your content) then a trip to Answer The Public will probably help. When inputting your seed keyword, it general pays to start relatively broad to give Answer The Public more scope to find results.
- What is it? A free browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that helps you identify search volume (how many people are searching) for keywords, as well as estimated cost per click if you're interested in advertising on that keyword in Adwords.
- Why would you want to use it? To identify keywords that are popular, and then try to rank for them or advertise for them through Adwords.
- How free is it? Totally free .
- Where can you get access? Go here and then install for your browser or choice
- My tips. Keywords Everywhere is an invaluable tool for understanding what keywords your audience are using to find products and services like yours (as well as what their biggest questions are).
- What is it? A free website statistics and analysis platform. The "gold standard" within the industry.
- Why would you want to use it? Understand who is coming to your website, how they are getting there, and what they are doing once they arrive. Use this information to make commercial decisions, such as what marketing channels you will prioritize.
- Where can you get access? Go here to sign up (you will need a Google account, which is free to create). You will also need to install a piece of code on your website. You may need to speak to your web developer or look up instructions for your CMS tool like Weebly.
- How free is it? Completely free.
- My tips. You NEED Google Analytics on your site. If you don't have it (or don't know how to set it up) then get in touch and I'll help you out.
Google Search Console
- What is it? Google's free platform for monitoring the SEO health of your website, focusing on technical matters.
- Why would you want to use it? Correct use of GSC can help optimise the visibility of your website, leading to more traffic, leads and sales.
- Where can you get access? Sign up here. You'll have to add a verification code to your site to finish the process (there are other verification methods as well).
- How free is it? Completely free.
- My tips. Follow the basic instructions provided by Google (such as submitting a sitemap). Be wary of experimenting with advanced features without guidance from an SEO specialist, however.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- What is it? An SEO tool that helps you analyze the pages and content on your website.
- Why would you want to use it? To understand better understand the SEO optimisation of your website and identify technical issues that might be holding you back from search engine success.
- Where can you get access? Download the free version here.
- How free is it? There is a premium licence available but chances are you won't need it UNLESS you have a large site (i.e. ecommerce, large blog etc). You are limited to 500 entries - which includes images and other theme files. If your site is under 50 pages total, then the free version of Screaming Frog is likely to be more than adequate.
- My tips. This is probably the most technical of all the tools I've recommended. In many respects, Screaming Frog is for SEO/digital marketing pros. However, for the "home user" it is useful for getting an export of all pages, images and files on your website. It is also useful for identifying which pages are missing SEO-optimised titles, metadata etc (as well as images missing alt text).
Google My Business
- What is it? A platform through which you can create or claim a local business listing that shows up in Google Maps and local searches on Google. If you've ever searched something like "hairdresser in Christchurch" and seen that map with the business listings that shows up, this is what Google My Business enables.
- Why would you want to use it? You like having people find your business and become customers, right?
- Where can you get access? Go here to sign up for Google My Business.
- How free is it? Completely free.
- My tips: A good Google My Business profile can be an invaluable resource for your business. If you have a "bricks and mortar" business (i.e. retail store, walk-in service-based business like a hairdresser or similar) then you must have a Google My Business profile. Think about your own search activity - how often do you Google something (such as "
- What is it? A browser extension that allows you to automatically view other LinkedIn user's profiles, based off search criteria.
- Why would you want to use it? If you are in the B2B space, then chances are you probably use LinkedIn (if you don't use LinkedIn then you REALLY need to be on there). As you're probably aware, when you view someone's profile on LinkedIn they will get a notification (if they are on LinkedIn Premium they can see basically all views, but free users can still see some too). Chances are if you view someone's profile and they are reasonably active on LinkedIn, they will probably view yours back. This gives you an opportunity to get more exposure and also gives you an "excuse" to reach out to someone for a connection.
- Where can you get access? Here.
- How free is it? The free version limits you to 100 profile views per day. You can do up to 1000 with the pro version.
- My tips: Used correctly (just like any LinkedIn automation tool) this can be an incredibly effective way to get in front of your target audience on LinkedIn. However, there is always a risk in using this kind of tool that your account gets flagged for unnatural activity. It is also a little "blackhat" - you may or may not be comfortable with this as a LinkedIn marketing strategy. Also, to get value from Protop you really need to have a LinkedIn Premium membership.
I hope you find this list of digital marketing tools helpful. If you did, please consider sharing this article with other business owners you know.
If you need help building a "technology stack" that is suited to your specific business, then get in touch with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll help you out.