Digital marketing can be challenging, especially for small business owners who work long hours and often manage the entire process themselves. In fact, the idea of maintaining a strong online presence is so tricky, most small business owners don’t even try. When it comes to digital marketing, you’re far more likely to succeed when you’re armed with technology you can use with confidence. Unfortunately, finding the best digital marketing tools at a price you can afford is easier said than done.
In this article, we highlight some of the best digital marketing resources available to small businesses. We use many of these tools on a daily basis and recommend all of them to our clients. Oh, and did we mention the majority of them are FREE?!
Graphic Design Tools
Canva – Canva is a drag-and-drop design tool that makes it easy for people with minimal graphic design experience to create professional images for the web and print. Design templates include: social media posts, blog graphics, rack cards, slide presentations, invitations, and more. They also recently released a free iPhone app with most of the same functionality as the website.
Piktochart – Piktochart is another drag-and-drop tool that requires very little effort to design beautiful infographics, presentations, posters, and reports on the web or using their iPad app. The free version has an image upload limit and only lets you export low resolution images with a watermark. They offer paid versions at $15/mo and $29/mo that get around the limitations if you’re really serious about infographics.
Ripl – Ripl is a mobile app that brings your posts to life with eye-catching animations for text and images. It’s drag-and-drop functionality and user interface are both very similar to Canva. Unfortunately, the free version is fairly limiting, so we recommend upgrading to the pro plan for $9.99/mo if you plan on using it a lot. For now the app is only available on iPhone, but it appears there is an Android app in the works too.
Stock Photo Websites
Pixabay – With nearly a million free photos, vector images, art illustrations, and videos, you’ll almost certainly find the stock photos you’re looking for at Pixabay. All images are free for commercial use with no attribution required. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at here, we recommend using a paid service like iStockPhoto.
Unsplash – Whoever said “nothing in life is free” underestimated the generosity of contributors to this website. Unsplash is a collection of completely free, do whatever you want, high resolution images available for download. Users can submit photos for inclusion, but Unsplash curates the process so that only the best get through. You may not find exactly what you’re looking for, but you’ll definitely find some cool photos to download.
Coolors – Coolers is a website that allows you to explore thousands of user generated color palettes (a.k.a. “color schemes”), as well as create your own. One of our favorite features is the color picker, which allows you to generate a color palatte by clicking on your favorite colors in an uploaded image. Coolors even lets you save, export, and share palettes you’ve created. They also have a $1.99 iPhone app that allows you to access and create colors on the go.
Adobe Color Wheel – Another awesome website that allows you to create color schemes for free. This one features a really neat interactive color wheel. And just like Coolors, there’s an option to explore other user’s combos and save your own.
Marketing Productivity Tools
Hootsuite – Are you overwhelmed by the idea of managing your social media? Meet Hootsuite, a social media dashboard that lets you keep track of multiple accounts across all the major social networks. This amazing tool saves you tons of time by allowing you to organize the most important information into “streams.” You can also use it to schedule posts in advance and view analytics to measure campaign performance.
If This Then That – IFTTT automates repetitive and time consuming tasks using conditional logic “recipes.” For example, if Google Calendar and Facebook are both connected, you can create a recipe that automatically schedules a Facebook post simply by adding an event to your calendar. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Spend enough time creating recipes and you may never work another day in your life!
BuzzSumo – Type a keyword, question, or topic into BuzzSumo and it will return a list of the Internet’s most popular articles written on that subject. This is extremely helpful if you’re looking for inspiration for your next awesome blog post. It’s also good for identifying people publishing content related to your brand/product. This can be useful if, for example, you’re trying to collaborate on a marketing campaign.
Answer the Public – Similar to BuzzSumo, Answer The Public is a topical research tool that’s extremely useful when brainstorming topics of interest for your target customer. Simply type in a keyword and ATP outputs the most popular search engine queries related to the topic. Choose to see your results displayed in tables or in one of these sweet circular visualizations.
Website Performance Tools
Google Analytics – Google Analytics is one of the most important digital marketing tools at your disposal. And it’s 100% free! Assuming the tracking code is setup correctly, you’ll find hundreds of tables and charts giving you insights into who has visited your site, where they came from, and how they interacted with it. More advanced users can setup goal tracking, which allows you to track specific visitor’s behavior from their first contact all the way to conversion. This is extremely helpful in determining the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns. If you’re interested in learning more about your website’s performance, give us a shout. We’re Google Analytics certified and we love data!
Google PageSpeed Insights – Enter any URL to determine how fast (or slow) that page loads. Not only does Google give you a score for both mobile devices and desktops, it gives you suggestions on how you might improve those scores. Page load speed factors directly into search engine rankings, so it’s definitely a good idea to check your scores if you haven’t already.
Google Mobile Friendly Test – Enter your domain to determine whether Google considers your website mobile friendly. Similar to the PageSpeed Insights tool above, if you don’t pass the test, Google will offer suggestions on how to fix the issues.
Compress.Photos – Image compression is an essential step if you want your webpages to load quickly. Use this free tool to quickly strip all of the unnecessary data from PNG/JPG/JPEG files and then upload them to your site. The reduction in quality is barely noticeable but the improvement in page load speed can be quite significant.
Keyword.io – Keywords.io is our favorite free tool for quick and dirty keyword research. Simply enter a keyword and you’ll receive a list of highly-relevant keyword suggestions based on the most common phrases people use to search for your products/services.
Google Search Console – Built by webmasters for webmasters, Search Console, formerly called Webmaster Tools, is easily one of the most powerful digital marketing tools out there. And it’s completely free! Use it to understand what keywords are driving people to your site, how Google is indexing your content, and identify any errors preventing your site from ranking in the search results.
SERP Checker – This is a fantastic free tool for tracking and monitoring your search engine keyword rankings. Just create a free account, enter your domain name, add your top keywords/keyphrases, and you’re set! SERP checker will instantly show you where you rank for those keywords, as well as track your rankings over time. Pro Tip: create one “project” for every page on your website, and track your focus keyword plus a few derivatives for each.
Moz: Check My Listing – Check My Listing, is one of dozens of Moz products designed for small business SEO. It makes sure online business directories (e.g., Google, Bing, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Citysearch) have complete and accurate info like name, address, and phone number. Missing and inconsistent business info is one of the biggest and most costly mistakes a local business can make in terms of SEO.
Marketing technology has exploded in recent years, allowing small businesses access to tools they previously couldn’t afford. Whether you use these for marketing or just for fun, they’re definitely worth checking out. Have fun experimenting and feel free to add your personal favorites in the comments below!
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