This week I had the pleasure of speaking at a new conference called On The Edge Bristol 2012. I was really impressed by the organisers and their attitudes, they focused on giving the delegates really high quality content and even offer a money back guarantee if the attendees aren't happy. This is a really smart move as marketing conferences are starting to become a much more competitive space.
I spent some time thinking about how I could deliver the most valuable content and takeaways, so I decided to put together a round up of all of my favourite free digital marketing tools and resources, it has come from years of personal research and testing. I even gave away free licences for Analytics SEO and Pinalytics, if your looking for those please just get in touch...
I was blown away when moving predominantly to Linux several years ago how many amazing free tools there are available when I had to find alternatives to Windows based tools I used to use. Initially I fell in love with all the digital marketing related browser extensions, these were the quickest wins, as they are guaranteed to work on all operating systems.
Since then there has been an explosion in SaaS and web applications, especially as business owners understand the power of free tools as a marketing channel. Dharmesh Shah, a leading expert in startups and entrepreneurship, even considers web applications as part of his content strategy. He has spoken at conferences and believes the best ROI's he has seen at HubSpot have been from using free web applications, versus the high costs of maintaining one of the most popular blogs in digital.
My presentation featured over 65 free digital marketing tools and resources, I also focused on all of the tools that I feel don't get talked about enough, so I've missed out tools like the Google Keyword Tool that everyone already knows about. This is a celebration of all my favourite digital marketing tools, many of which have saved me hundreds of hours of time! You can access my full slide deck here, this post will focus on my favourites of the whole collection. Enjoy!
1. SEO Pack for Magento is a module that has been delivered by the team here at GPMD. I was really surprised to hear that the module will continue to be available for free. Its one of the first modules we install on many of our client sites and it makes optimising Magento much easier and more cost effective, especially from the savings in development work required to make Magento more SEO friendly. You can download the module here or read about how it can be used here.
2. SEO Tools For Excel is a really powerful and free extension for Excel. A common theme across many SEO conferences is how much SEO's rely on Excel for analysis and to get stuff done (and this one was no different!). Many in fact would be completely lost without it. Currently I am working on solutions to use the Windows version of Excel in Unix environments, probably the best bet is VirtualBox with Windows 7. Often to leverage the powerful Excel extensions a native Windows version of Excel is required, however if you are using Apple Mac OS X or Linux it is well worth the effort to install and configure.
SEO Tools For Excel enables you to pull in SEO metrics straight into your spreadsheets meaning you can work much more efficiently and even build your own SEO tools. Martin MacDonald even wrote and awesome post over here on ways he likes to use it for link building.
3. ImportXML Guide For Google Docs I can never make up my mind about whether I like the term ninja or not for SEO and digital marketing, but I do know if you wanted to become one you should be all over this training course from Distilled!
Some of the most inspiring innovation I have seen in our space relates to the creative thinking behind building your own agile tools in Google Docs. The original ideas I believe first came from Richard Baxter over at SEOGadget, but the guys from Distilled grabbed them and really went to town. The original post came from Tom Critchlow here and since then there have been many other epic posts.
Best of all is probably this guide put together by David Sottimano, where by reading this and the original post non-coders can learn how to build their own SEO tools for free including scrapers, keyword ranking tools and I also really like Tom Anthony's Link Profile Tool and Competitor Analysis Tool.
You can also combine these resources with the SEER Interactive ImportXML Cookbook by Chris Le to extend your tools into working with many popular social networks. As content marketing becomes such a hot buzz word, Daniel Butler also built this tool for content analysis and finding influencers. If you have always wanted to build your own SEO tools, I strongly recommend you block out some time and learn how to hack around with ImportXML. I have also secretly always thought it was kinda awesome to scrape Google using their own tools ;-)
5. Grab Y'All Links is one of my all time favourite Chrome extensions. It enables you to quickly export all of the tabs in your browser into files when doing research. You can also mass open lots of URL's to different tabs making it easily to analyse websites or to test and review webpages that have been recently modified.
6. Quick Markup is a screengrabbing extension from Chrome that I love. It enables you to screengrab and annotate the images on the fly, making your life much easier (as sometimes I have needed to do this a lot!). The only negative thing is at the time of writing they added some nasty advertising, but you can go into options and disable it (highly recommended!).
7. Pencil Project is by far the best free solution I have found for prototyping and wireframing. It can be used as a Firefox extension and I prefer it to many paid tools I have used previously.
8. Ubersuggest is a really simple, yet powerful keyword research tool that helps to generate long tail keyword suggestions. It rotates all of the letters of the alphabet after your selected keyword and scrapes Google Suggest to help you expand your keyword lists. Long tail keywords are great as they tend to convert better and are easier to rank for because they are less competitive. Recent members of the community have also discussed strategies where they go after a selection of new long tail keywords every month as a long term strategy, this can be really effective for small businesses or campaigns with small budgets.
9. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is probably the best available crawling tool for SEO. Its really versatile and with the help of some Googling you can find posts that cover many different ways you can use it, from technical auditing to competitor research. I also personally like using it as a content marketing research tool. You simply run it across websites that you know are well optimised and have decent blogs, you can then use the tool to scrape content ideas out of them and get insights into what keywords your competitors are targeting. They are a UK based team who are really nice guys. The tool is available for free to use on up to 500 URL's, which I actually found is really generous from experience.
10. Analytics SEO is probably the most underrated tool on the market. I am slightly biased as I used to work there, but I believe their free offering for one website makes it one of the best free SEO software options available. It is a full platform that is good for technical auditing, keyword research, competitor analysis and link building. I also found it great as a training tool and prefer using it to Google Analytics (it connects via their API). There really are no excuses now for not using it now its free! You can grab free licences here.
11. Microsoft SEO Toolkit is an amazing tool, its highly configurable, you can design your own reporting and it can be heavily automated with C. Unfortunately, it requires setting up an IIS server, but the good news is that this can be done with most copies of Windows 7 and some patience. Every time I have installed this its either been really easy or a real pain, but those who take the plunge to learn how to get this up and running will be rewarded greatly ;-)
12. Bing Link Explorer is part of a new suite of tools released by Microsoft, it could offer the best replacement for the sorely missed Yahoo Site Explorer. One of the things I love about Bing is one member of their senior management team Duane Forrester used to be an SEO himself and has promised to release a series of tools for the community, in an obvious attempt to rival the tools provided by Google. Bing Webmaster Tools has also seen some noticeable upgrades and I would recommend keeping a close eye on their roadmap.
13. Duck Duck Go may be a surprise to some, but I absolutely love this search engine! So much in fact, that I tried really hard to switch to it permanently. The only thing that stopped me was the fact I am so used to using long tail searches in Google, and Duck Duck Go has a smaller index. I did however find that for head and mid tail searches Duck Duck Go was fantastic and can be controlled via the keyboard, making it a real pleasure for geeks like me to use!
However of the back of some research at Analytics SEO I tested Google, Bing, Yahoo, Blekko and Duck Duck Go for link prospect generation and found Duck Duck Go to be far the best. I would recommend checking out the syntax here and playing around building operators, such as using the advanced operator for titles when looking for blogs. The most impressive thing about the search engine is because it contains far less spam than the other engines in most searches it helps you to generate high quality link prospects, even in the really competitive (and often really spammy) verticals.
15. AuthorCrawler by Tom Anthony is a really impressive tool that allows you to easily analyse who links to you. I was really excited at how quickly Tom managed to release this tool (it was the first I have seen to market) and its really useful to help you get your head around who is linking to you a.k.a authorship, as this will become increasingly more important for both content marketing and due to the increasing weighting this has in Google's algorithm.
16. BuzzStream Blogroll Scraper is an underrated tool that can help you to scrape thousands of relevant link prospects in minutes. Anyone who knows Paul Rogers knows he absolutely loves both BuzzStream and this tool. I would recommend taking the time to only put very high quality domains into it, as if you put rubbish domains in you can expect rubbish domains out. The beauty of it is they will give you a well qualified and relevant list of link prospects to work with really quickly and easily.
17. Social Crawlytics is a relatively new tool that enables you to analyse domains and find out which of the pages are performing the best in terms of social activity. This has two really nice applications; firstly you can run the tool across really successful publishers for general ideas on how to improve your content and secondly you can run the tool across your competitors to analyse their content to emulate their most successful elements.
18. Pinalytics is a new tool from the guys at Forward 3D. This tool scrapes data from Pinterest by keyword phrase and enables you to find bloggers in many different niches. One of the things I love about the tool is the fact that Pinterest is a relatively new platform so can offer really fresh data. Forward 3D have been using the tool and claim to have increased their link building efficiency by over 500%. It is also recommended for testing in boring verticals where they have also experienced success with Pinterest.
19. RSS Owl is a secret weapon I have been using for a few years. Its a really powerful RSS reader that works on Windows, Mac and Linux. Its open source, free and more powerful than 99% of paid alternatives. For best results you can set up folders for industry news, search engine reputation management (SERM), competitors and market defining keywords (MDKW's).
You can organise everything into folders and view either individual feeds or combined views, you can filter all of the feeds with additional keywords and alerts. To set up this up you can simply connect into Social Mention, Topsy, Google Alerts, Twitter and anything else you fancy. There are also some well publicised hacks for dynamic Twitter searches, I used to have a lot of fun mining competitor mentions (this might be one for a future blog post!), you can even find out who their socially active customers are ;-)
20. News.me is a service I found out about pretty recently, I was a massive fan of Summify and have been devastated since the service stopped. News.me is not a bad alternative at all, you connect it to your Twitter account and it will analyse your feed, then email you the most popular blog posts that are being shared each day. This means you can catch up on all the hottest stories in your vertical without having to spend hours on Twitter every day.
21. Rapportive is a really cool Gmail extension that we love at GPMD. It enables you to easily connect your contacts social accounts and can be really effective for helping to build relationships when you are reaching out to bloggers for your campaigns. You can also use the tool to find out peoples email addresses.
22. BufferApp is a really smart tool to help manage the timing and queuing of your social media updates. Experienced social media practitioners will tell you that timing is really important for social updates. BufferApp analyses your social media accounts, then you send it updates and it will automagically pick the best time to publish for you on the fly. It can save you loads of time and take all the hassle out of social media scheduling.
23. IFTTT is a service I was a really early adopter of when it first launched, that I have always loved. It pitches its USP as being “glue” for the web and you can connect lots of different social media services and API's together in one place to automate things, IFTTT like to refer to these little pieces of automation as “recipes”.
One example is you can setup your mobile phone to save photos to your Dropbox folder that can then be setup to automatically share and update your Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also integrate with Evernote to save things, email to send messages and pretty much covers every service you would ever want to use. This only scratches the surface of what IFTTT can do, you can also check out “recipes” people are sharing here.
24. MentionMapp is a really interesting tool. I have been spending a lot of time learning about social media network analysis and have found amazing tools including Gephi, NodeXL and even coding my own Python scripts. Unfortunately, all of these have barriers to entry and take time to learn and play with. MentionMapp is the only tool I know that you can connect to your Twitter account and get up and running really quickly. It enables you to analyse your network and quickly generate complex visualisations of your peers.
25. The Email Game for me is the ultimate example of gamification. This incredible application integrates into Gmail to turn your email into a computer game. It has timers, funny messages, animations, high scores it encourages you to beat and its even based around the iconic Inbox Zero to help you be more productive. It does a great job of actually making email fun and helping you to churn through your emails quickly. Also if you don't use Gmail, don't worry any email account that supports POP3 can be integrated and you can use Gmail as a mail client. Google explain how to set this up here.
I have found throughout my career that nine times out of ten its worth taking the time to learn about new tricks, techniques and tools. Its really important working in digital to make sure you are working smart as well as working hard. In todays world the internet is exploding with free tools and apps to the point that if you dedicate the time, you can automate almost anything.
You can view my full slide deck below where it includes over 65 digital marketing tools and resources. I would recommend downloading the slides, use them as a reference to dip into and play around with them to hopefully make your digital life a little bit easier!
If you like this post don't forget to follow me on Twitter where I try to share and tweet about as many new tools as I can!
You can read Steve's slides from the OnTheEdgeLive Bristol event here: http://www.slideshare.net/stevejlock/ultimate-free-digital-marketing-toolkit-edgebristol-2012