What free online marketing tools can you use to get your online work done?
Can you do all the same work of a digital marketer, and do it for free?
The list of tools you use — often referred to as a marketing stack — probably covers a variety of different uses and needs, everything from social media marketing to content to email and lots more.
Is it possible to have all these great tools without paying a cent?
It was a fun challenge to come up with a way to build a $0 marketing stack, to find free alternatives to popular paid tools and services. We’re grateful for all the amazing companies out there that offer such value for so little. Here’s the list we came up with for free alternatives to paid tools. We’d love to know what you think!
What’s on the stack?
FREE Marketing Stack: Free Alternatives to Paid Tools
For a quick overview, here are the tools we found that seemed to be great, free options for some popular paid services.
- Google Analytics
- Simply Measured
- Open Site Explorer
- Google Scholar
- Google Trends
- Blog Topic Generator
- Content Idea Generator
- Onpage Optimization Tool
- After the Deadline
- Readability Test Tool
1. Social Media Scheduling: Buffer
Paid options if you can bear it: MeetEdgar, Sprout Social
Perhaps our best time-saving tip for social media marketing is scheduling posts ahead of time for your social profiles. You can batch the social media marketing process: Do all your curating and composing all in one go, then spread those updates out across the next day or week.
How we use Buffer: The forever free plan at Buffer lets you connect a profile from each network (one from Twitter, one from Facebook, etc.) and to schedule ahead ten posts for each network. If you share three posts per day, that means you can stay three days ahead all the time.
We’ve found a lot of value in the hand-picked content suggestions, which are easy to read then add.
Also free: Hootsuite (free for your first three social profiles, but can manage and connect with more than 35 popular social networks in paid version)
2. Design: Canva
Paid options if you can manage it: Photoshop, InDesign
Over 2 million people trust Canva to help with creating images for blog posts, social media, and practically any other use you can imagine.
How we use Canva: The optimized sizes and built-in templates make it fast and easy to create rectangular ones for Twitter, big pictures for Pinterest, square for Instagram or Facebook, and any size in between. We find Pablo (another free alternative) to be perfect for Twitter-sized images of 1,024 pixels by 512 pixels, and Canva to work really well for all else.
3. Real-time Analytics: Google Analytics
Paid option if you can incur it: Chartbeat
Google Analytics does pretty much everything in terms of tracking the traffic to your website. It’s a huge, monstrous amount of info, generously given away for free.
How we use Google Analytics: As a social media marketing team, we appreciate the ease of which we can see traffic from the different networks (Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals). We can check the engaged reading time by looking at Time on Page. And for the real-time stats of who’s on our site right now, we can just click on Real-Time > Overview.
4. Website optimization: Hotjar
Let’s say you’re curious how your visitors are actually using your website — where they click, how far they scroll, etc. Tools like Hotjar can show you exactly what your visitors are doing, click maps, via heat maps, visitor recordings, and scroll maps. Hotjar also has options to analyze your funnel and to insert messages and surveys to your visitors.
How we use Hotjar: User research can be incredibly powerful stuff. We find great value in seeing how someone interacts with blog posts. How much of the post do they read? What do they click? Where do they pause? Seeing all this information helps me design our posts in a clearer way.
5. Reports: Simply Measured
Paid option if you can sustain it: SumAll Reports
Simply Measured offers enterprise-level analytics and management for big brands and their social efforts. It has a broad range of free tools for the rest of us, too.
Among Simply Measured’s reports are these:
- Twitter Customer Service Analysis
- Twitter Follower Report
- Facebook Content Analysis
- Facebook Fan Page Report
- Facebook Insights Report
- Facebook Competitive Analysis
- Google+ Page Report
- Traffic Source Report
- Social Traffic Report
- Instagram User Report
- Vine Analysis
Gracious sakes! That’s a lot of reports!
How to use Simply Measured: Each of these reports costs no money, although Simply Measured will ask for a Twitter follow or a FaceBook mention in exchange for the free report. You can save loads of time in pulling reports from this one location as you seek to gain insight into where your social media efforts have been going lately. They’ve got all six major social networks covered: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
6. SEO: Open Site Explorer
Paid option if you can bear it: Moz Pro
Open Site Explorer is a great free tool for checking your domain and page authority and also for checking how many links you are getting and from which source. You can also check your competition. But the free version only gives you three reports per day. Signing up offers unlimited reporting on all your links, keywords and competitors.
How to use Open Site Explorer: Plug your blog’s URL into Open Site Explorer to see the high-level stats like page authority and incoming links. You can also click over to the Just-Discovered tab to see recent links and Top Pages to see which pages on your site get the most links.
7. CRM: Charlie
Paid option if you can spare it: SalesForce
A lot of the best CRM tools (Customer Relationship Management) help you stay abreast of your current and future customers. Think of a futuristic address book. The best ones are loaded with features and information. Charlie is a bit of a quick-and-easy hack to get to know a person really well.
How to use Charlie: Intended as a tool to help you prep for meeting new people, Charlie gives you a full run-down of a person — social media profiles, biography, interests, big news, etc. — by looking at your upcoming calendar or running an email address. If you want info on a single person ad-hoc, just enter their email address into Charlie, and they’ll tell you everything.
8. Email inbox insights: HubSpot Sales (aka Sidekick)
Paid option, if you can stand it: Cirrus Insight
HubSpot Sales (aka Sidekick) can track your outgoing email to tell you when the recipient has read your email. It’s a very, very advanced read-receipt. Plus a lot more.
How to use HubSpot Sales (aka Sidekick): You can gain a lot from the HubSpot Sales notifications about your email, and there’s also a lot of value that HubSpot Sales adds to your inbox itself, with a sidebar of information on everyone who sends you a message. The sidebar includes links to all the person’s social profiles, plus a stream of recent tweets.
9. Landing Pages: WordPress
For those who are running their website or blog via WordPress, perhaps the fastest and easiest way to set up a landing page is simply to create a new page. If you blog with WordPress, the blog content you create falls into Posts. The static content for landing pages — “Sign up for our webinar,” “Download our ebook,” etc. — can be made quite easily via Pages.
How to use WordPress: Build a new landing page in WordPress, and use this as the focal point of your social media ad campaign or your social media updates. Certain plugins even let you hide the content in your sidebar for particular pages, which could be a great option for minimizing the look of your page.
Unbounce free plan (includes Unbounce branding)
10. Twitter management: Crowdfire
Paid option if you can bear it: Crowdfire premium
Twitter has been so generous to open up its app to developers to make some really great tools. Sure, you can manage your Twitter profile directly via Twitter (an always free option), or you can try out tools like Just Unfollow, which allows for bulk sorting and filtering of your followers, along with insights into the demographics of the people in your audience.
How to use Just Unfollow: One way that many experts recommend to keep your Twitter following count in line with your Twitter follower count is to routinely check to see which accounts are following you back and to remove the ones that aren’t. With Just Unfollow, you can do this quickly and easily all from one page — and even whitelist the unfollowers whom you’d like to keep following.
11. Blogging: Medium
Paid option if you can manage it: Ghost
It feels a bit funny to list Medium as a tool (it’s really more of a network or social media site), but when it comes to starting a new blog as cheaply and quickly as possible, Medium can’t be beaten.
How to use Medium: Many young startups kick off their blog at Medium, where they enjoy a built-in audience from the start and have networking tools to help their content spread. Plus, one of Medium’s newest features is an email newsletter where you can automatically get in touch with people who follow you by sharing your latest articles.
12. Video: Wistia
Paid option if you can sustain it: Vimeo Pro, Wistia
Once you’ve created an amazing video to share on social media or your website, where will you put it? The default seems to be YouTube, which is quick and easy but comes with less control and potentially some unrelated ads or suggestions. Wistia is made for marketers’ videos because the player keeps people on your page — or sends them precisely where you want them to go next.
How to use Wistia: After you’ve uploaded your video, you can hop into the settings and add things like call-to-action buttons or email capture formsat the end of the video. Wistia also makes it easy to view heat-maps and seeing trends of your videos, like how far most people get through your video, when they pause or click, etc.
13. Share buttons: SumoMe Share
Paid option, if you can bear it: Easy Social Share Buttons
The ubiquitous share buttons you see along the side of blog posts, many of them come from SumoMe. The any-website buttons (you don’t have to run a WordPress blog to use them) are part of the SumoMe suite of website products. If you’re okay with some SumoMe branding, you can add the buttons for free to any page and customize the networks that appear by default.
How to use SumoMe Share: SumoMe gives you a lot of control over the appearance of the share buttons, both in which buttons are displayed and where on the page they’ll sit. One of the great features also is that they look good on mobile devices, so you maintain an excellent way to encourage sharing no matter where your audience is reading.
14. Analytics: Segment
Paid option if you can spare it: Usability Tools
We’ve heard Segment described as the one and only interface you’ll ever need for all your third-party apps. And we sure do see it recommended a lot. From what we can gather, Segment makes it easy for anyone — engineer or not — to connect new software to your website; once the Segment snippet is added, you can connect other apps like Google Analytics, MailChimp, etc. just by clicking around in your Segment dashboard. Segment handles all the visitor data for you.
How to use Segment: Rob Sobers put together a really handy guide to how he’s set up Segment for his SaaS business.
15. Testing: Peek
When it comes to understanding how people are using your website — A/B testing, user testing, that sort of thing — there are some really fantastic paid options that can give you lots of insights. There’s also Peek, a free tool from User Testing that lets you see and hear a five-minute video of a real person using your website.
How to use Peek: For first-time insights, you may wish to have a person go through your website or blog from the home page. Later on, you might ask for someone to test out a particular flow through your website by starting someone on a landing page. The tests take about 2–3 days to complete, and you can run three Peek tests every month.
Even More Free Marketing Tools!
We went digging for even more top free marketing tools in a variety of marketing categories. These tools — all quick hits you can get started with easily — focus on everything from research and writing to benchmarking and analyzing. Here’s hoping you find the perfect shortcut for your work!
Free Marketing Research Tools
We’ll start at the beginning: sites, researching topics, and ideas.
16. Google Scholar
We don’t know why more people don’t talk about Google Scholar, but we love this tool for researching science-heavy articles and digging into emerging studies. It limits your search to theses, articles, abstracts, books and court opinions, from academic publishers, online repositories, professional societies, universities and other web sites. Pair it with a Google Alert to get amazing research on your topics of interest delivered right to your inbox.
17. Google Trends
See what the world is searching for and how interest in concepts has changed over time with Google Trends. For example, we feel like we suddenly hear about “growth hacker” and “growth hacking.” Are you, too? We input those terms into Google Trends, and it looks like there is a sudden new interest in the concept.
Stumped for ideas? Give Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator a few nouns that describe your content areas and it’ll spit out a week’s worth of post ideas.
Enter a keyword for a bit of fun, an irreverent suggestion from Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
Free Reading and Writing Tools
These tools offer help with readability, keyword density and grammar and spelling.
Drag the Readability bookmarklet to your toolbar to convert any content on the web into a simple, easy-to-read format with an estimate of how long it’ll take you. Also check out the other bookmarklet options here, including one that sends longer content to your Kindle to read later.
Simple, clear writing — we all strive for it. Get a little help with Hemingway. Paste a passage into the app and you’ll get an analysis that highlights overly dense passages, unnecessary adverbs and more.
This free onpage optimization tool from Internet Marketing Ninjas is a one-stop look at what’s going on a particular page of your site. Toss in a URL and see stats on keyword density, internal and external links and more.
A Chrome extension, After the Deadline checks spelling, style, and grammar wherever you go on the web.
Enter a web address or a block of text into the Readability Test Tool for an easy-to-understand analysis of your content. This tools measures a ton of different readability scores and does an excellent job of explaining each one.
Over to you.
Which of your favorite tools would you add to this list?
Did you notice any new ones that might be worth trying?
We’d love to hear from you about the free tools you’ve found most helpful and how you’ve put them to good use. Feel free to add any thoughts at all in your responses!
Thanks for reading! If you found this post useful, we would love it if you would recommend it to help others see this post too 🙂
Next post we will show you 17 Free Twitter and Facebook Marketing Tools. Free Website Analysis and Relationship Tools.
These tools help you maximize your Twitter presence, from timing to sharing to analysis. Help you to analyze one or more Facebook pages to deliver an analysis or report on your activities — particularly important as Facebook is always changing. Give you an overall look at many different facets of your site or marketing strategy. Relationship tools focus on connecting with new people and strengthening relationships with existing connections.