Who says there’s no free lunch? They’re actually right; there isn’t. But if you’re getting started in marketing automation or if you’re already a user of marketing platforms like HubSpot or Marketo, there are some free tools that you can use to improve your effectiveness and make marketing magic.
But you already knew that, right? The reality is that a lot of the free tools out there are just junk. Buggy, bloated, or of questionable value. So the question isn’t whether or not there are free tools online. The million dollar question is which free tools will make you more productive and efficient and which tools will make you more of a digital marketing rock star with every minute of your precious time that you invest?
Here’s my current top-ten list for daily digital efficacious marketing magic.
My Top 10 Free Apps for Making Marketing Magic
- Google Analytics. You manage what you measure. The first — and perhaps still the best — tool for online marketing performance measurement. Google Analytics is a no-brainer, must-have app for every digital marketer. It lets you track website visitors, analyze your conversion funnel, measure content engagement, and more. You can even create custom dashboards and segments so Google Analytics becomes more valuable the more you use it.
- Google Drive. Google Drive is more than just a place to put your stuff. Sure, having my stuff in the cloud so I can get to it from anywhere has saved my butt more than once. But that’s not really what makes Google Drive a must-have app for the modern digital marketer. It’s all about collaboration. With Google Drive, your marketing team instantly has a dependable way to collaborate — from anywhere. You can create sharable folders, spreadsheets, content, slide decks, and even integrate your Google Drive with a number of your favorite desktop and mobile apps. It’s the free (up to 15gb as of this writing) storage and collaboration companion to Google Analytics that no digital marketer should be without.
- Ghostery: Ever stumbled onto a site that you really like and wonder what tools they’re using? It’s easier than you think to get the scoop with Ghostery. Enable the Google Chrome extension for Ghostery and every time you visit a website you can know what marketing automation, pay-per-click, and tracking tools it’s using. Here’s a shot of what we’re using at Innovative Marketing Resources:
- Hemingway Editor: Thankfully, being the next Hemingway isn’t a requirement for success in content marketing. That said, all writers who want to be read need an editor. Enter the Hemingway app, your own personal editor and pathway to more consumable writing. Simply paste your text into the app, and it will identify hard-to-read sentences, adverbs, and passive voice. One of my favorite features tells how long it will take to read my content. When time is the most precious resource, this can make the difference between a blog post that is read and one that is put on the shelf.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: Even if you have great content, no one’s going to read what you write if they aren’t attracted by your headline. That’s search engine optimization (SEO) 101. The free CoSchedule Headline Analyzer scores your headlines based on SEO value. The analyzer provides an A – F headline grade, as well as information about the percentage of words you’ve chosen that are common, uncommon, powerful and emotional.
- Canva: Content is great, but what about graphics. The web is a multimedia environment and without a supportive look, even great content isn’t going to get you anywhere. Not a graphic designer? No problemo. Canva’s got you covered, even if you’re not a budding Photoshop or CSS professional. Canva includes free templates for blog graphics, social media posts, and eBooks. It’s got starter templates for infographics, event graphics, pay-per-click ads and just about any other marketing materials you can think of to make you look good to all your prospects.
- Hootsuite: One of my most difficult marketing activities is social media. It’s the noise. I often feel like the Grinch in that scene where he’s complaining about all the noise the Whos make on Christmas day. Stealing social media to cut out the noise is about as feasible as stealing Christmas but you can block out the noise by filtering your listening with Hootsuite for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As an added benefit, the Hootsuite publishing tool includes a link shortener and allows you to schedule social shares weeks in advance. The analytics in the free version leave me wanting more but if you find you need the information, there’s always the paid version.
- BuzzSumo: Speaking of analytics, there is an important analysis that Google Analytics isn’t going to do for you: content and influencer analysis. Social media success is about who you know and what you say. Buzzsumo finds the most-shared content by topic or domain, breaking down shares by social network. I use it to stay current on trending topics by industry (think… stimulate ideas for relevant blog posts as well as social posts), and to assess what topics are engaging my audience and which aren’t. How important is this to you? You can find out for free, but the free version limits results. So if you’re at a point in your daily marketing march to greatness that social engagement is going to amplify the value of your content, it’s worth getting a paid subscription of this tool.
- Evernote: I forget things more often than I’d like to admit. And I find that just when success is starting to ramp up, and things get busy, that’s when the old memory lets me down. If you don’t have a photographic memory, you need help to stay organized. That’s why there’s Evernote. This free filing system is easy-to-use and there are plenty of formatting options to suite your preferred style. Create lists, record a conversation, make charts, highlight copy, upload files, and post directly to social media or send via email. If you run out of room or are just a pack rat and need more storage… there’s always the paid subscription.
- Slack: In our digital marketing agency, Slack has become the overarching app for all things agency marketing. There are other apps that accomplish similar things so perhaps the choice of which depends on the rest of your toolset. Using the other tools on my list, Slack can be integrated to allow you to drag and drop files and share information with other tools (like Twitter, Dropbox, and others) so you can view information and notifications in one place. As a workgroup enabler, you can invite coworkers to collaborate and message privately or in a group setting. All conversations can be tagged e.g. #content strategy and saved for later reference. If you’re more than a one-person operation, the need for this functionality is undeniable.
With this list of 10 free tools, you can create, edit, publish, organize, monitor, measure, collaborate, message, and a whole lot more. Make more digital marketing magic every day. Always be on the lookout for the next great piece of efficacious marketing software magic... do you have one that I missed? Tell us about it. Enjoy!