Successful bloggers and internet entrepreneurs will always tell you to invest in your business.
Spend money to make money.
I agree with them.
Where possible, you should invest in the right courses and spend money on the best tools. You’ll benefit in the long run.
But what if you’re broke?
What if you’re just starting out and any money you have is eaten up by more important things like rent, bills and food?
For those times, there are these free tools.
59 in total, covering ideas, writing, productivity, social media, search engine optimisation (SEO) and images. All of which I use or have used myself with good results.
It’s a full content marketing stack that’ll help you create and promote content.
Whether you’re at the beginning of your freelance writing / blogging career, or just enjoy free stuff (hey, who doesn’t?), there’s value to be found in this list.
All of the titles are linked to the corresponding tool, so if you want to explore more just go ahead and click the title to be taken to where you need to be.
Coming up with fresh ideas is the hardest part of writing for me. I think it is for a lot of writers.
Some days my brain will come up with five to ten possible content ideas, of which two or three might be useful. Other days, it’ll serve no purpose other than to remind me to eat when I’m hungry. And even that’s at a stretch.
For the times you’re brimming with ideas and times you’ve got nothing, make the most of these tools, apps and resources.
1. Google Keep
A lot of people use Evernote for note taking, but I’ve always been happy with Google Keep. It lets you easily take notes, make lists and record audio — really all I need from such an app. It syncs across devices and integrates with Google Docs too. Champion!
Answer the Public is one of the simplest ways to find out what your audience is searching for. Type your keyword(s) into the search field and let the tool do the rest. Results are collated from Google and Bing, with answers covering the who, what, when, why and how of your chosen topic.
Here’s a visualisation for the keyword ‘blogging’ to give you an idea just how much value you can get out of this tool.
3. LSI Graph
Before I talk about the tool, here’s a quick overview of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically related your keyword.
Does that make sense?
So, say you were looking to create content around the keyword ‘cars’. LSI keywords might include:
- Average car prices in the UK
- Characters from Disney’s Cars
- The best new electric motors of 2017
- How to fit a new engine in a Ford Fiesta
Notice how the LSI search terms don’t necessarily include the word ‘cars’, but words that are related to it, like ‘motors’ and ‘engine’. It might even include words like ‘Ford’ or ‘Toyota’ or ‘hatchback’.
Why does this matter to you?
Because this is how people use search engines. They ask questions.
Sites that target these longer keywords give Google a better idea of what a page is all about, and are rewarded with higher rankings. The fact that LSI keywords are longer makes them less competitive and easier for you to rank when you target them.
Anyway, the tool.
LSI Graph generates LSI keywords around your primary keyword. Whatever subject I’m writing about I always enter my main keyword into LSI Graph to see if there are any longer search terms worth using in my content. There usually is.
Quora is all about questions and answers. You can use it in two ways: to find out what questions your audience is asking; and to provide them with answers.
I typically use Quora for ideas, but it’s really good for generating traffic. Here’s how to do it:
Take a question and answer it as part of a longer blog post on the subject. Use a section of your post to answer the question and include a link back to your website.
Remember: the whole idea behind Quora is being helpful to others. While browsing for content ideas, see if there are any questions you can answer. You can build up a decent following and authority that way.
Use Reddit in the same way you would Quora.
There’s a subreddit for every niche you can think of here. Enter your keywords in the search bar and see what comes up.
I often find Reddit to be as useful for research as it is for ideas.
Feel free to be active as time allows, commenting on threads and posting links.
Be careful, though — the Reddit community can be brutal in their feedback.
The site uses an upvote / downvote system with karma added or taken away for every contribution. And it doesn’t take much to get downvotes!
When I first began using Reddit, I worked for an agency. The idea was to use it purely to drive traffic. So naive me would hop on a subreddit and post a link — or worse answer a question — with a not entirely relevant link to a post on the agency website.
The community seen me coming a mile away and downvoted the hell out of everything. A harsh lesson learned.
Portent’s Content Idea Generator rarely provides me a title that I go with, but I love it.
It kick-starts the brain, and that’s sometimes all you need. Just type in a keyword and let the generator come up with a quirky suggestion.
The little annotations that it adds to each word vary from barmy to hilarious.
Bloggers far more successful than I’ll ever be recommend Buzzsumo as a go to tool. The only reason I know about it is because a far more successful blogger (can’t remember which one) mentioned it.
Buzzsumo doesn’t just give you ideas, it gives you tried-and-tested ideas. Enter a keyword into the search field and you’ll be shown the most socially popular related content. From the sidebar you can then filter the search based on content type, language, word count, country, domains and date. You’ll probably only ever need to filter by content type, though.
Take the most popular results and use them as inspiration for a bigger, better post of your own.
You only get a five searches a day for free, but that should suffice.
This is another ‘find what your audience is looking for’ tool and a good companion to LSI Graph.
You can search for keyword suggestions and related questions, and export the results in a spreadsheet. You can also filter out negative keywords — words you wouldn’t want to rank for in relation to your topic.
To use KeywordTool.io’s example: if you’re looking for keywords related to ‘apples’ of the fruit variety, anything related to iPhones, iPads and Macbooks would be negative keywords.
If really struggling for an idea, just throw a keyword into the Keyword Tool, select ‘Questions’ and create a ‘Your Most Common [insert keyword] Questions, Answered’ post.
Trending content typically has a short lifespan, but if you’re a current affairs, sports or entertainment blogger, Google Trends is the best place to find out what people are talking about.
You can also use Trends to see what sort of interest your keyword generates, and where it is most popular.
The image below shows interest in the keyword ‘blogging’ over the last five years. In 2012 it was at the peak of it’s popularity (100). Fast forward to 2017 and interest has about halved. You see that Nigeria and Kenya are still digging the term, though, meaning these could be markets worth targeting.
10. FAQ Fox
As much as I like trawling through Reddit, sometimes I just don’t have the time. That’s where this tool comes in handy.
FAQ Fox crawls sites to find questions and topics related to your keyword. Just enter your keyword(s) (becoming a common theme this, isn’t it?) and a few sites you’d like the tool to crawl, and take a look through the returned links to see if anything catches your eye.
If you don’t know which sites you’d like to search, ol’ foxy has some starter categories to help you out. Subreddits feature in all of them.
I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Often I’ll come across a good article that I’ll want to go back and read for its idea-giving potential. Rather than read it there and then which would be the normal thing to do, I’ll save it to Pocket and read it at a more suitable time.
I suppose this also makes it a great productivity tool.
Another thing I love about Pocket is that it gets rid of all the crap. So there’ll be no pop-ups or distracting ads drawing you away from the content.
I use the Pocket app and Chrome extension. You should get both. It’s free to sign up with your Google account or email address.
Writing, like actually writing, only requires two functioning hands and a working computer. The text churned out in a draft and what eventually gets published, however, are two different things. The latter is a result of help from a handful of useful tools.
When you know a lot about the topic you’re working on there’s always a risk of getting too complex with it; including insider language or ‘big words’. Unless you’re writing for a very targeted niche that’s going to understand industry jargon, you should avoid over complicating things.
Simple, clear writing is the aim of the game.
Hemmingway is ideal for keeping your content grounded. Paste in your text and the app will analyse where things could be simplified. You don’t need to take every suggestion on-board, but it’s a good reality check and helps eliminate some of the fluff.
Not as essential to me as it once was thanks to Chrome’s native spell checker, but the After The Deadline extension is something I like to keep around.
Once installed, it adds a little ABC icon in the bottom right corner of any Web text field. Just tap on that icon when you’ve finished typing and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with error-free content.
The average American adult reads at 7th to 9th grade level (Year 8 to Year 10 for Brits).
I probably read at the level too, so my writing naturally reflects that. But that never stops me putting my content through the Readibility Test during editing.
In exchange for a link or uploaded file, the tool uses Flesch Kincaid and other indicators to assess how readable your writing is.
Definitely one worth bookmarking.
15. Google Docs
I wrote this post using Google Docs.
For years I was a Microsoft Word man, but somehow I’ve found myself using Docs for almost everything. I think the fact I can access my posts and spreadsheets anywhere and everywhere on my laptop, phone or tablet has a lot to do with it.
As a writing tool, Word is probably better than Docs, but there’s not much difference. Plus, one is free and the other isn’t.
Also, Docs allows you to collaborate on posts with team members and clients, and gives access to an online dictionary and thesaurus at a right click of the mouse.
I’ve tried open source office apps like Libre Office and Open Office, but neither lived up to Word or Docs for me.
Side note: I’ve been contemplating WPS Office lately. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. If you’re a WPS user, I’d like to know what you think.
Writers love Grammarly. Seriously, I’ve never seen an app or resource more highly recommended than this. Despite that, it’s taken me ages to get on-board with it.
I don’t use the desktop version of Grammarly so I can’t comment on that, but the Chrome extension is very useful. It’s not perfect — no grammar checker is — but it’s as good as you’ll get from artificial intelligence.
The extension tracks writing across the Web, pointing out grammatical errors wherever you type. I find it particularly useful in email and on social media.
While I use both because… I have no idea, there’s little need to have After the Deadline and Grammarly. Test each and choose one.
8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out 10 will read beyond it.
That’s the stat that keeps me coming back to this tool.
In exchange for an email address, CoShedule’s Headline Analyzer will dissect your headline based on word balance, length, emotion and keywords.
My initial headline for this article returned a score of 69 — not bad, but not great either. A little tweaking, though, and I was up in the 70s — better. Anything of 75 and over you can be happy with.
American Marketing Institute’s emotional headline analyzer is a similar tool worth checking out. It’s not quite as good as CoSchedule’s for me, but it does no harm testing your headlines on both tools.
There’s a ton of cool words that I don’t know. Thesaurus tells me them in exchange for words that I do know. Awesome!
Always worth keeping open in a tab.
Medium is a great blogging platform with a growing readerbase. A lot of entrepreneurs use it very successfully — a lot more successfully than I ever have!
If you’re yet to get setup with a website, I recommended getting your writing up at Medium. The text editor is a joy to use and sharing your content is really simple.
Actually, even if you do have a website, it’s well worth republishing your stuff on Medium with a link back to your page.
There’s potential with Medium to get a lot of eyes on your posts, but it’s not easy — there’s a lot of competition. Having said that, it’s better to get your content out there in the big wide world than have it stuck in your head.
When you’ve created a new post, tag it. That’ll make it easier for your users to find it.
Medium recently added a newsletter function too, which is handy for growing your audience.
Give me any opportunity to procrastinate and I’ll grab it with both hands. That’s the problem with working on the internet, there’s too much temptation. And little willpower from my end to avoid it.
If you’re like me and don’t need telling twice to avoid doing something, there are tools you can use to keep days organised and work flowing.
I use Trello to keep track of everything I need to do. You can create boards for individual projects or, like me, a board for your business and individual lists within it.
I have lists for Content To Do, Social Media To Do, Proofreading, Completed and Sent Content, and General Tasks To Do. Each list can have individual cards for specific tasks and each card contains all the info and useful links you need to crack on.
I no longer work in a team, but when I did, Trello was the go-to tool. Teammates can tag each other in cards so that everyone is kept in the loop and work keeps flowing smoothly.
A much better way of keeping things organised than spreadsheets for me. Excel makes my head hurt.
I shouldn’t need a time tracker to keep focussed on work, but I do. Just this morning I spent 10 minutes watching a YouTube video that I found during a 15 minute scroll through Facebook. The video was great, so it didn’t feel like time wasted, but I really should have been working on this post.
Had the Toggl timer been ticking, the Facebook tab might have never been open.
Once you’ve signed up, click the button to start the timer and set about your business. Toggl tracks the time it takes to complete tasks and detects idle time. You then get summaries and weekly reports that show how productive or lazy you’ve been.
There are reasonably priced premium plans that offer a load more features, but the free version has everything you need.
22. E.gg Timer
If all you want to do is work against the clock, E.gg Timer is the tool you need. Just choose a time to set and start the clock. It’ll beep you when it’s done.
There are special cycles you can select for things like brushing teeth or working out, as well as the ‘Pomodoro technique’: 25 minutes work and five minutes break.
I find 45–60 minutes about right for me, but have a play around to find what works for you.
StayFocusd is a genius extension for serious time wasters, like me.
With a few simple selections you can limit the time you spend on time-wasting sites, or nuke ’em all together for a set period of time.
What’s even better is that you can block specific subdomains and in-page content. So you can access what you need for research but are forbidden from wandering.
I didn’t really know where to put this tool, I just know that you need it. I guess it’s function does help with productivity, though, so it’s all good.
Chrome hogs resources like an American cop hogs doughnuts. Without The Great Suspender I’d waste hours every day waiting for Chrome to ask me whether I want to kill a page or wait another ten minutes for it to load.
Not only does it have a great name, The Great Suspender suspends idle tabs to free up resources. If you’re running Chrome on anything other than a triple-octa-quad-core i250, this app is a must have.
25. Inbox by Gmail
If you find it hard keeping up with the countless emails a day that land in your inbox, Inbox by Gmail will make life a hell of a lot easier.
With Inbox, everything is grouped together. Images are where you can see them without having to click into an email. Cards put key info like bookings and reminders right in front of you. And things like finances, purchases and promotions are all banded together for easy access.
It might take a bit of time to fully pull yourself away from the classic Gmail interface, but once you do, you’ll not look back.
Finding the right person to pitch to in a company can be a nightmare. And if you don’t find the right person, you might as well print out your pitch, crumple it up and eat it. Because it’ll never get anywhere.
From now on, when you find a site you want to pitch for a guest post oppourtunity or client work, put the URL into Hunter.io.
The app instantly crawls a site and pulls through relevant email addresses. You can then copy and paste the email address into Google and find out more info about the person in question.
You’ll need to sign up for a free account with Hunter, but that’ll give you 100 free searches a month, as well as the ability to filter results.
It’s also worth adding the Chrome extension (I do love me a Chrome extension) to find addresses from a Web page at the click of a button.
Add Rapportive to your Gmail account and find out essential information about your contacts. By essential, I don’t mean what their favourite foods are or what they get up to on a Friday night, but stuff like job title, social media handles, recent tweets and Web addresses.
You’ll also get a profile pic that reveals a person to look nothing like you thought they did.
Rapportive is great for networking, particularly for making connections on LinkedIn, as it does a lot of the leg work for you.
Social media is important for marketing, but it’s also time-consuming. The following tools are designed to help you stay on top of your social game — from building an audience to ensuring a constant stream of posts.
Followerwonk is a tool by Moz that lets you find Twitter followers, analyse competitor accounts and find out the best times to tweet based on your audience. The free account is limited in comparison to the paid options (as you’d expect), but there’s still plenty you can do with it.
Sign up for a free account with your main Twitter profile (the free option only allows one profile) and use it search bios to find more followers, compare users to see mutual connections, and analyse accounts (only users with under 25K followers on the free account, though).
The latter is useful for seeing when competitors tweet, and what about. You also get data on where their followers are from. There might be an audience out there in a country you’ve never thought of. This tool will help you find it.
Moz’s Social Authority rankings are worth noting too. Every Twitter profile is ranked from 1 to 100. The higher the rank, the greater the authority. Make connections with high-authority accounts as a way to boost your own ranking.
Tweepi is similar to Followerwonk, but without the analytics.
Use it as a fast way to increase followers. Sign up using your Twitter account, choose a few relevant hashtags to follow (based on your most recent tweets) and enter a few accounts similar to your own to view their followers.
When you enter a Twitter handle, Tweepi will bring up all of their followers, along with follow ratio and how likely they are to follow back. You can then follow each of these users yourself right from the dashboard.
And this is how I use Tweepi; to follow more people, and gain more followers in bulk.
Another nice feature is the ‘recommended tasks to do today’ section, which suggests users to reply to, tweets to like and retweet, and users to follow. Twitter works best when you’re active and interacting with other users. Spending a few minutes on these tasks each day will ensure your account doesn’t become stale.
My favourite social media tool of all.
Some prefer Hootsuite’s ability to let you view and manage multiple social accounts from one place, or Meet Edgar’s intuitive automated, never ending scheduling. I’ve never felt the need to move away from the simplicity of Buffer.
Buffer’s biggest benefit for me is it’s ease of use. That’s not to say other social media scheduling tools aren’t simple to operate, it’s just that Buffer can be mastered in a matter of seconds.
Seriously, there is no real learning curve.
The free, individual plan lets you connect one profile per social account (one Facebook profile, one Twitter profile, etc) and schedule up to 10 posts per account. You can schedule posts to go out at specific times and view basic analytics for each post that you publish.
To make it easier to curate content for your feed, Buffer offers a browser extension that allows you to share or schedule any page or image. So, if during your daily jaunt around the internet you find something your audience might like, hit the Buffer button and share it.
Social networks each have their own analytics tools that give you all the data you need to determine the best times to publish (there’s a few tools on this list to help with that too). Look at the stats, see what times your audience is most active online and create a Buffer schedule to suit.
Buffer’s individual plan does have it’s drawbacks: the ability to only schedule upto 10 posts per account and the lack of Pinterest connectivity (that’s a paid feature only) being the biggest two. But for daily scheduling and preparing posts for a weekend when you’re likely to be away from social media (at least work wise), the free offering does the job.
I prefer Buffer to Hootsuite, but many don’t and I totally understand that. If you want feel in the thick of what’s going on across your social media accounts, Hootsuite is where it’s at.
Unless you’re a brand or social media marketer in charge of multiple accounts, Hootsuite’s free plan should suffice. Freelancer writers and bloggers will certainly be happy enough with what’s on offer.
So what is on offer?
- Three social profiles
- Content scheduling
- Basic analytics
- Lead capture campaigns
- 2 RSS feed integrations
- App integration
The latter three features in that list are things not available on Buffer.
Lead capture campaigns allow you to set-up and run sweepstakes, which are great for building up your audience. Everybody loves a sweepstake!
RSS feeds are an easy way to find content to post across your social channels. Just pair your account with a couple of trusted media sites and pick out the best stories to share with your audience.
Finally, app integrations. Hootsuite has this whole app directory that allows you to add hundreds of applications to your dashboard. It’s ideal for making more of the tools you already use.
For example, you can connect a YouTube account and view, share and edit videos directly from your dashboard. Or add Mailchimp to create email campaigns without having to actually visit your Mailchimp account.
App integrations are designed to improve productivity, allowing you to take care of daily tasks from within the Hootsuite dashboard. It’s a feature worth experimenting with.
Also worth a mention is the Hootsuite Academy. Your free account gives you access to a selection of free social media courses to improve your Hootsuite expertise and enhance your social media knowledge. Give them a look.
Like Buffer, Hootsuite has a browser extension for curating content at the click of a button.
Ever posted an absolute fire tweet only for it to get no response whatsoever? A tweet where refreshing your screen every 30 seconds makes not one bit of difference?
It could be that your Twitter timing is out.
Get yourself on Tweriod.
Sign up with your Twitter account and Tweriod will analyse up to 1000 of your followers to find out the best times to tweet for maximum exposure. Once you have the data you can sync it up with your Buffer account and start posting when people are around to see it.
Tweetdeck is Twitter’s own account management tool. It’s very similar to Hootsuite in terms of layout, but built for Twitter only. If you have multiple Twitter accounts, use Tweetdeck to keep track of notifications and post content right from the dashboard.
I’ve found Tweetdeck useful in the past when I’ve been tasked with managing several client Twitter accounts, but it can get confusing quickly when columns start adding up.
I prefer Buffer and Hootsuite for their usability, but this tool is completely free for multiple accounts and keeps you well in the Twitter loop.
Social media users love GIFs. We all love GIFs. Giphy is the home of GIFs.
A couple of stats for you:
Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweets without images.[Source]
Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images. [Source]
A GIF is an image brought to live. It makes sense to cram them into your content wherever and whenever you see fit.
Giphy is now integrated with Facebook and Twitter, but I still find that the website is the easiest place to find a GIF.
The site is also the best place I’ve found to create your own GIFs.
Giphy’s GIF maker allows you to easily make GIFs from YouTube files or local videos, create slideshows from images, and caption and edit existing GIFs.
While we’re on the subject of GIFs, I must give an honourable mention to the little known GoogleGIFs. Add it to your (now enormous) list of Chrome extensions to autoplay GIFs in Google image searches. You’ll be glad you did.
This is a really clever little Chrome extension that lets you hover over social links to see what’s behind them.
Hovercards let’s watch YouTube videos, view social profiles and, in the case of Imgur, see what Reddit users are saying about an image. All from within a card!
It’s a great click saver, especially if you want to avoid succumbing to clickbait.
My whole reason for signing up with MailChimp for email marketing campaigns was that’s it’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month.
A lot of small businesses that I receive emails from use it too, probably for the same reason.
For email marketing newbies, MailChimp makes it easy to create lists and set up campaigns.
The campaign builder is slightly limited, but it’s incredibly simple, as is importing and exporting lists. I was also able to hook it up to Facebook without trouble. Other integrations include WordPress, Squarespace, HubSpot, LeadPages and Unbounce.
One small bugbear I do have with MailChimp is the double opt-in. Users must confirm their email address before they can be added to a list. Not a massive deal, but it can impact on subscriber numbers.
Use bit.ly to shorten links for social content, particularly on YouTube where links aren’t automatically shortened.
The site offers a number of tools to measure and optimise content, but I’ve yet to test those out. If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Target the right hashtags and you’ve every chance of your tweets being seen by influencers in your niche.
Hashtagify lets you find trending hashtags, search for popular hashtags and discover related hashtags to use to your advantage.
For example, a search for #fashion returned a number of different results like ‘style’, ‘eBay’ and ‘deals’. Some hashtags like ‘vintage’ or ‘love’, I might never have thought to target.
Alongside your search you’ll see ‘top recent media’. Use this to curate content and find new people to follow.
You can’t ignore SEO.
I’m not an SEO specialist. I don’t concern myself with the really technical aspects of optimisation, but I always make sure my content is on point. And that’s really what SEO is all about anyway, content. All Google wants from you is good content. If you can do that and it’s optimised, you won’t go far wrong.
The tools in this section are all tailored towards helping your content meet the demands of search engines, giving you a better chance of being found.
39. Google Analytics
The go-to analytics tool. If you’re not already using Google Analytics, go and sign up now. It’s free with your Google account.
Even if you never master the complexities of the tool (and there are plenty of those), the raw data you can get from Google Analytics is essential in helping you improve your website and business.
Google offers a free certification course which is great for mastering GA, but you can learn a lot by just playing around.
When you sign up you’ll receive a tracking code to add to the HTML of your site. Once installed you’ll be able to see data on site traffic, audience, user behaviour, conversions and more.
You can see what pages people visit, where they come from and how long they stay there. You can see what percentage of your visitors are finding you for the first time and who’s coming back for more.
You can see what works on your site and what can be improved.
Nothing comes close to info Google Analytics provides.
Recommended reading for newbies: Moz’s Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.
Image: Brickset, Flickr
Moz is the best resource on the Web for all things SEO. Everything I know about SEO can be attributed in some way to an article or video I found on Moz.
Their Open Site Explorer is beneficial in several ways.
The first thing you should do with OSE is find out who’s linking to you. Paste in a link to a piece of popular content from your website and find out where it’s being shared or mentioned. Note the top linking sites (you can download the data as a CSV file).
Now, when you create a new piece of content, you can contact those sites and authors directly to let them know you’ve published a new piece that they may be interested in reading / linking to.
This tactic will work with competitor sites too. Find out who’s linking to your competitors and reach out with content of your own.
Maybe I should a create standalone post with more detail on how to do this? Let me know if that’s something you’d like to read.
While examining links, look for any low quality or spammy domains that could be damaging to your site. If you spot any, use Google’s Disavow tool to get rid of them.
Away from links, there are three metrics you should pay attention to when using OSE: Page Authority (PA), Domain Authority (DA) and Spam Score.
Moz applies an authority ranking out of 100 to every domain and page on the Web. The higher the score, the more reputable the site and / or page is deemed to be. The score for both is based on a combination of link metrics — number of links, quality of links, etc.
A spam score is given based on factors that might be penalised by Google — high ratio of anchor text, low link diversity, no contact info, external links in navigation, etc.
You can’t decide who links to your website, but always look to link to sites with a high DA / PA and a low spam score. Likewise, look to get similar sites to link to you.
The best way to do this? Produce great content.
MozBar is Open Site Explorer lite, giving you key info on the go. Install the extension and get Page Authority, Domain Authority, Spam Score, and link info for every site that you visit. The same info also appears in search results.
Use this tool to find and target high-authority sites in your niche.
Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is a downloadable website crawler that can be used to audit your website. As your site grows, use this tool every now and again to make sure everything SEO-related is in check.
Amongst other things, the free version tracks broken links, errors, redirects and duplicate pages, analyses page titles and meta data, and allows the creation of XML sitemaps.
It’s a good way to make sure your site is SEO-friendly and working as intended.
Here’s a video of the spider in action:
How popular are the websites of your competitors? Where does their traffic come from? Which keywords are they ranking for?
SimilarWeb has the answers.
SimilarWeb offers data on rankings, traffic sources, referrals, search, social and advertising. All good info for improving your own website, but even better for finding out where you can one-up the competition.
Enter your URL and email address to find out how your website performs on metrics including site speed, mobile, SEO and security.
HubSpot’s Website Grader is the easiest way that I’ve found to check on areas of my website that can be improved. Whenever you make changes to your site, give it the Website Grader once over before letting the world see it.
Well, would you look at those results. 97 out of 100. I’ll take that!
Plagiarism is a big problem on the internet. Sure, you know that you haven’t lifted content from elsewhere, but how sure are you that no one is stealing from you?
Duplicate content could see someone else ranking higher with something that YOU wrote. And if you can’t prove you published it first, you might be the one penalised by Google for plagiarising.
Use Copyscape once in while, just to check that your content isn’t being used without proper credit.
Any blog post or article that you create should include images. Images are user-friendly. Readers, on the Web at least, are put off by large blocks of text. Images make your content more appealing and complement text with visual information.
A feature image is the bare minimum a reader would expect. They won’t look unfavourably at an image in every section.
Don’t worry about paying for photos or graphics. I’ve been creating content for years and haven’t spent a single penny. I’ve never felt a need to. Not with these resources at my dispense.
Of all the tools on this list, Canva is my favourite. I make all my blog graphics using Canva. Heck, all of the images my website were created in Canva.
Want to know how good Canva is? I’m not a designer, but Canva landed me a graphic design job.
Seriously. A client like the graphics I created for a blog post so much he made me his team graphic designer.
You can be signed up and mastering Canva in a matter of minutes. A brief tutorial arms you with the required skills and then you’re free to create.
Most of the images you’ll typically need to make — blog images, social media posts, social account headers, infographics, etc. — are available as predefined templates with a decent selection of free options to choose from. Backgrounds, shapes and various other elements are also widely available for free, as are fonts.
You’ll notice a number of elements cost $1 to use. A reasonable price to pay for a quality image and the convenience of instant access, but often not required. Most of the images and elements you’ll need are freely available on the Web.
Canva lets you upload your own images without limitation. Take advantage of this by performing a Google image search for free images. From the nav, select Tools > Usage rights > Labeled for reuse and find the image you need (make sure to check if any attribution is required before using it!).
Give Canva a go, your blog posts will be much better for it.
Inkscape is open source vector graphic software that can be used to create professional images for your content.
It’s a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator and offers more flexibility than Canva.
The functionality here is enormous, but comes with a steep learning curve. Fortunately, YouTube is your friend and has plenty of tutorials to help you out.
Most things you do will be achievable in Canva, but if you want to get a little more serious with your designs, Inkscape is the best freely available software around.
48. Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a free image hub. Using the site is as simple as entering your image keyword(s) and choosing a site to search. Returned results will all be available under a CC license.
One of the best, and quirkiest, free image sites around. Gratisography has a growing selection of copyright-free, high-res images in categories such as Animals, Nature, Objects, People, Urban and Whimsical. A shout out the photographer of the images, Ryan McGuire, for putting together a selection far better than the standard stock images you typically see.
Ah, Pixabay. I love it.
From photos to illustrations to vectors, Pixabay usually has an image to fit the bill.
The site is simple to use, with a Google-like interface and copyright-free images available in a selection of sizes. If you plan on using Pixabay a lot, it’s worth signing up. It’s free to do so and you’ll avoid having to enter a captcha for every download.
Unsplash is the most beautiful of do-what-you-want free HD image sites. Photos can be browsed through by collection, but I always find it easier to use the search function to find what I’m after.
The Unsplash library grows every day so it’s worth checking back often. Recently added images can be found under the ‘New’ tab.
335 million photos across 18 categories including Abstract, Animals, Business, Fashion, People, Sport and Tech. All premium quality and all completely free.
Foter images can be downloaded or embedded in small, medium and large and used as you wish in exchange for a small credit at the bottom of your blog posts.
If you’re a WordPress user, take advantage of the Foter plugin to access the image library from your dashboard.
53. Pablo by Buffer
Pablo is a nice little tool by Buffer that allows you to quickly make images for social media.
The app is ideal for creating things like quotes (there are some ready-made quotes to choose from) or post titles and couldn’t be easier to use.
Select an image; add your text; change the font and size of the text to suit; choose image size; add a filter and logo (if you wish to) and share or download.
This image took me 1:38 to complete. I timed it.
Like Buffer, Pablo has it’s own browser extension that allows you to use images from the Web for your designs. Remember to check the copyright before editing, though.
For Windows users, the Snipping Tool is the go-to tool for screengrabs. But in the absence of that, Lightshot is the perfect alternative.
Add the extension and select the feather icon on any webpage you wish to screenshot. Lightshot will open the page in a new tab for you to draw a box around the area you need. Where Lightshot betters the Windows native Snipping Tool is in its ability to let you edit, draw and add text to the screengrab before saving or sharing — useful if you want to highlight a specific area of an image as part of a tutorial.
Every screenshot in this post was done with Lightshot.
Lightshot also has a downloadable version for screenshots outside of the browser. I’ve yet to test this out, but it appears to be the same as it’s Chrome counterpart.
55. Page Ruler
Page Ruler lets you draw a ruler around anything on a webpage, displaying the width, height and position.
How is this useful?
I use it mostly to measure image sizes. I’ll see an image, something like a blog header or newsletter signup form and think ‘yeah, I like the size of that. I want my image to be that size.’ Then I get the Page Ruler on it.
Once I’ve noted the dimensions, I head over to Canva and create a custom graphic of the same size.
Install the ColorZilla extension to instantly get the RGB and hex code of any pretty colour you see on the Web.
Once added to your browser, click on the icon, select ‘Pick Color From Page’ and pick the colour. This will then be saved for editing or copying to another program.
An example of how I used this on my own site is with the newsletter signup boxes. The colour is one that I liked from Neil Patel’s site. And as it seems to be working well for him, I went ahead and picked it.
Hopefully some of that Patel orange will pay dividends soon.
Images are a big factor in site speed, and site speed directly influences your search ranking.
You should compress every image that you use on your website.
There are loads of tools to do this, but Compressor.io is my favourite. It’s straightforward and reduces file size by up to 90% with no loss of quality.
58. PDF to PNG
PDF to PNG does exactly as its name suggests: turns PDFs into PNGs. It also turns PDFs into DOC, TXT and JPG files, and vice-versa.
You can upload 20 files at one time and download them all in a ZIP file.
There are various reasons why you might want to convert PDFs to PNGs, but here’s why I do it…
On Canva, as good as it is, you may on occasion notice that text on an image or graphic is slightly fuzzy when downloaded as a JPG or PNG.
I came up with a solution to this issue. Download your file as a PDF-print file. This gives you a 300 Dots Per Inch (DPI) professional print quality image file. Put this file through the PDF to PNG machine and voila! No more fuzziness.
You should always give credit for any images that you use in your content. If you created the images yourself, then by God take the credit — you deserve it.
Images get shared around willy-nilly on the internet, so the place you find it might not necessarily be where it originated. A TinEye reverse image search is the best way to track down the original owner / user.
Upload an image or enter its URL and sort the results by oldest first. You now know who to credit.
TinEye is also a good tool for finding out who’s linking to your images, or using them without proper credit.
And that’s about all I’ve got. 59 tools, apps and resources for you to improve your marketing without putting your hand in your pocket.
Of course, I’m really only touching the surface here. There are tons more free tools I’ve never even heard of. You might of, though. Let me know of any good ones in the comments.
This post was originally published on That. Content. Shed. https://www.thatcontentshed.com/blog/59-free-tools-to-grow-your-business