40 free digital marketing tools to help grow your business

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If you’re just starting out with a business, or looking for tools to help you grow, there is a huge array of digital marketing tools, platforms and services available online.

But if you have a small budget to work with or you aren’t sure which are the right tools for you to be investing your money into – or maybe you just want to bolster your digital marketing without spending too much – then how can you narrow your options down?

To help out, we’ve put together a hefty list of 40 free digital marketing tools that can help you grow your business, in every area of marketing: from email to events, content to social media.

This is partly a refreshed and updated version of the excellent list of 50 digital marketing tools to grow your start-up put together by Bryan Eisenberg last year, and incorporates many of his picks as well as suggestions from the comments section. If you know any great free tools that have been helpful in your own digital marketing efforts, please suggest them in the comments!

General sales & marketing

Hubspot

Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform, much of which is free to use. Its free sales software allows you to build email templates, a shared library of sales content and documents, integrate with Gmail and Outlook, schedule emails and more.

Hubspot also offers a free Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software which integrates with it. If you’re minded to upgrade, the Pro version starts at $50 per person per month. (Suggested by Luke Hamon)

Sniply

Sniply is a very interesting tool which lets you build custom calls to action (CTAs) and add them to content that you share. As long as the page you’re sharing supports iframes, you can create your custom CTA button and message and add it in over the page, which only the people who access your link will be able to see.

SumoMe

SumoMe boasts a powerful suite of marketing tools, including content analytics, an email scroll box, contact form, image sharer and more. The free version gives access to all of SumoMe’s apps, plus more features like A/B testing are available to Pro subscribers, starting at $20 a month.

Ampervize

If you aren’t sure where to start with digital marketing tools, a free report from Ampervize could give you a springboard. Based on your responses to a couple of simple questions about your business, it will produce a tailored report recommending marketing providers and the areas of marketing which are most likely to deliver results.

Ampervize recommended providers

Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for managing your business tools online. Add widgets for everything from advertising tools to blog platforms, email tools, SEO and social media to manage them all in one place. The free version supports up to 5 widgets, or you can upgrade to premium for $19/month.

Email marketing

Boomerang

Boomerang is a free app for Gmail, Outlook and Android with a range of email management tools. It integrates easily with your inbox interface to add features like email scheduling, snoozing, read receipts and follow-up reminders.

I use this all the time simply for email scheduling and read receipts, and Boomerang has developed some more advanced features aimed at businesses, including – most recently – an AI assistant which helps you to craft the perfect email, launched just this week.

Boomerang respondable

MailChimp

You’ve probably come across MailChimp in your travels (especially if you’ve ever listened to the podcast Serial), and there’s a good reason why it’s so popular.

Completely free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month, it’s an easy option for small businesses and groups to get to grips with newsletters, with built-in signup forms, templates and free data insights to track how your email marketing stacks up against your industry.

Klaviyo

Klaviyo is an email marketing software which helps you send out personalised and targeted emails, and is free to use for up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends. The free accounts also include A/B testing tools, integrations, segmentation and a drag-and-drop responsive email creator.

Structured Data Markup Helper

Schema.org is a type of structured data markup that you can add to emails in Gmail to enable some great interactive marketing features, like auto-adding to Google Calendar, one-click reviews and RSVPs and integration with search.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper does all the hard work of coding for you, and all you have to do is highlight the relevant part of an email and select from the drop-down menu to mark it up. For more information on Schema.org for emails and getting started, check out how to add Schema.org markup to your email marketing.

A screenshot showing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper for emails.

Hiver

Hiver is an email collaboration tool designed to help you work more efficiently using shared accounts. Track tasks, access shared mailboxes, write notes, assign emails to team members and mark them completed when done. The free version supports up to 3 users, or you can upgrade from $6/month to work with larger teams.

Content creation & curation

Apester

Apester is a handy free tool for creating interactive content like quizzes, which can liven up your content marketing with some fun and engaging pieces. We’ve been using it here at ClickZ and Search Engine Watch to power challenges such as ‘How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?‘ and ‘Can you decipher these marketing and business buzzwords?

Piktochart

Piktochart is a popular and easy-to-use tool for creating infographics, along with other types of visual content like presentations and posters. Its drag-and-drop interface is really simple and the results look slick and professional.

Canva

Canva is another versatile, free visual content creation tool – and in the age of the visual web, you might as well have all the tools you can at your disposal! Canva helps you create attractive visuals for everything from social media graphics to presentations, banners, blog graphics and business cards.

canva

Listly

Listly is a fun and free platform for curating and sharing all sorts of lists, on any topic from film to technology, education to marketing. Other users can follow your lists and upvote their favourite items to make them rank higher. I’ve curated the tools in this article into their own Listly, so feel free to comment and upvote your favourites!

Triberr

Triberr is one part content sharing platform, one part influencer marketing platform. If you’re a blogger or content creator, you can use it as a platform to share content with a network of fellow content creators, and join groups for specific interests and topic areas – think of it like LinkedIn groups.

If you’re an agency, however, you can also use Triberr to conduct influencer marketing campaigns. You can prepare a campaign for influencers to apply to, set a budget, digital assets, goals and more. While you do have to pay the influencer(s), everything else is free to use with no other fees.

Social media

Socioboard

Socioboard is a social media management platform for businesses and brands, aimed at helping them with lead generation, customer support, marketing and engagement. You can connect up a range of accounts including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to manage them from a central dashboard. The free version offers scheduling features, CRM and reporting tools for up to 5 profiles. (Suggested by Rupak Som)

Socioboard

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a widely-used social media management tool which allows you to manage and co-ordinate multiple social networks, schedule posts, track analytics and keep tabs on certain keywords and hashtags via its ‘streams’ feature.

The free version allows you to connect up to three accounts, or you can upgrade to one of its paid accounts for more features.

TweetReach

TweetReach is a great tool for analysing the reach of any username, hashtag or keyword, estimating how many impressions it has made and how many individual accounts have been reached.

The free version only gives a snapshot of the past 100 tweets, so to get a more detailed analysis, you would need to upgrade to one of the paid options – or you can take multiple snapshots to build up a picture over time.

socialmention

socialmention allows you to search for any word, phrase or hashtag to see where people are using it across the internet. It’s useful for keeping tabs on a hashtag campaign or brand name beyond social media, as it also covers blogs, bookmarks, images and videos. You can also see whether people are using your term in a positive or negative context, its level of reach, and whether users are mentioning it repeatedly.

socialmention

Simply Measured

Simply Measured provides a selection of free reports you can use to analyse various social media accounts, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Even more in-depth is its Social Traffic Analysis, which works in conjunction with Google Analytics to give an overview of your site’s social traffic, presenting it in a visual and easy-to-read format.

If you want to go further with social media tracking and analytics, don’t miss our list of nine free tools for measuring social ROI!

Video

Instagram Video

Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all have their video offerings, but Instagram is still, as Christopher Ratcliff wrote in his piece on the best branded Instagram videos of 2016, “one of the best places for brands to experiment with short form video”.

Instagram video has all the filters you’ll be familiar with from uploading photographs, plus a choice of ratio and now a full 60 seconds to play with. You can shoot directly within the app or upload and trim an existing video.

Wistia

Wistia is a video hosting service for businesses, which came highly recommended by local SEO expert Greg Gifford in his Brighton SEO presentation on going beyond local SEO. It provides detailed analytics, engagement graphs and heat maps to show exactly how users have interacted with a video. The free option only supports three videos, but you can upgrade from $10/month to one of its paid options.

Powtoon

Powtoon is a free tool for creating animated marketing videos, explainers, animated infographics, or even videos and presentations that you can share internally within your business. The free account allows for videos of up to five minutes, with a watermark and outro. (Recommended by Deepak Gawas)

powtoon

WeVideo

WeVideo is an online video editing and collaboration tool, with cloud storage, a music library and editing on-the-go with a mobile app. The free version allows for five minutes of video publishing in 720p, with watermark.

Events

Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a widely-used and effective event hosting platform which allows you to create an event, invite attendees, manage tickets and registrations and promote your event to a wider audience. While it’s only free if your event is free to attend, there are fairly low fees for paid tickets, which you can often pass on to buyers as part of the event registration.

Lanyrd

An extensive social discovery platform for professional events, Lanyrd is great both for publicising your own event and finding other events at which to network, learn and make contacts. It allows attendees to share videos, slides and podcasts after the event, with remote tracking features so that anyone who couldn’t make it can follow along remotely.

lanyrd

Slideshare

Slideshare is an important complement to any event – the most convenient way to share and save presentation slides after an event has taken place, and a great platform for reaching a business audience.

AppsGeyser

AppsGeyser is a free tool designed to let you easily create an Android app. You can use it for any purpose, but it would be particularly useful for an event where you’d like to create a one-use app that will keep attendees connected and up to date, without a lot of expenditure.

HelloSign

HelloSign is a tool for helping you to get event contracts (and other types of contract) signed by requesting electronic signatures from up to 20 different people. It uses SSL encryption to keep documents safe, and will send out an email copy to everyone who signed a document, for their records. The free version is limited to 3 documents per month from a single sender; paid versions start from $13/month and have a 30-day free trial.

Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a must-have for any suite of analytics tools, and the best part is that it’s completely free. Google’s all-in-one analytics dashboard gives insights into different traffic sources, pageviews, demographics, SEO, social media and a wealth of other information.

To find out how to set up Google Analytics for your website for the first time, check out YuYu Chen’s comprehensive beginner’s guide. Our guide to confusing terms is also on hand to help you decipher the lingo!

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a content analysis tool which gives you a breakdown of the social shares for content published to any domain, allowing you to discover the most popular and shareable content for your own website – or a competitor’s – and find out which networks your content resonates with. Upgrading to a Pro account also gives you insight into backlinks and influencers, allowing you to see exactly who is sharing your content.

Bitly

Bitly is a free link shortening and tracking tool, which monitors traffic and referrals via custom links and displays detailed analytics about clicks, location, referring websites, activity over time and more. It’s widely used by publishers and businesses alike, and has a handy tagging system you can use to keep track of links from different marketing campaigns or portals.

bitly graphs

Quill Engage

Quill Engage provides reports which explain your Google Analytics data in plain English. So if you’re feeling baffled by all of the numbers and technical terms, give a free report a go – the free version offers reports for one Google Analytics account, which you can have delivered weekly and monthly.

SimilarWeb & GetHoneybadger

SimilarWeb is a useful tool for keeping tabs on your competitors. Using its free search tool, you can dig up stats on any website, including its rank globally, within its leading country, and within its respective category; traffic by country and sources; search and referral traffic; and more.

You can also audit yourself for some insightful stats, and put your performance side-by-side with competitors to see how you can compare.

For an even more seamless process, you can also use the Chrome extension Gethoneybadger to dig up stats about any website with one click. Gethoneybadger uses SimilarWeb to pull in analytics about that specific website, displaying them in a little window in the corner of your screen.

SEO

Google Search Console

Much like Google Analytics, Google Search Console is a must-have resource for webmasters, and is free to set up for your website. With it, you can monitor your site’s performance, identify any issues, submit content to be crawled, check on your mobile friendliness, view the searches that brought users to your site, and much more besides.

Christopher Ratcliff has written a complete overview of Google Search Console over at Search Engine Watch which breaks down each individual area and how to use it.

SEO SiteCheckup

SEO SiteCheckup will give you a quick and detailed health check of your website’s SEO for free, with an overall SEO score out of 100, along with a downloadable PDF report and information on keyword usage, images, backlink authority and other handy insights.

seo site checkup

Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

Yoast is a free plugin for WordPress to help you easily manage SEO and optimise your webpages. You can use it to set templates for, and optimise, titles and meta descriptions, enter focus keywords, and fine-tune just about everything you could want about your Google listing.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool is a desktop app that you can install on PC, Mac or Linux, which will crawl websites and analyse them for common SEO issues, such as broken links, duplicate content and response time. The free version works for up to 500 URLs, or you can buy an annual license for £99/year, which will also unlock a set of advanced configuration options.

Google’s Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool

For your business to be able to compete online, it’s become imperative to have a properly-optimised mobile site. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop web traffic for the first time in 2016, and Google’s various ‘mobilegeddon‘ algorithm updates have increasingly penalised sites that aren’t optimised for mobile. So to give your site the best chance in search, it pays to track down and fix up those issues that keep it from working well on mobile.

Luckily, Google has made this free and quick to do with its Mobile Friendly and Speed Test Tool, which will analyse and test your site for mobile functionality and also speed issues, and advise you on how to fix them. Of course, you can always beat Google to the punch with our mobile-friendliness checklist.

mobile friendly

If you want to dive into free search optimisation tools in more depth, including site health checkers, sitemap generators, keyword research tools and more, don’t miss our roundup of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools.

This article was previously published on our sister website ClickZ.

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Microsoft announces new resources to reduce hate speech


Microsoft today pushed out in a blog post for users of its consumer services new resources to reduce hate speech. Users will now be able to communicate directly with the company to report hate speech, and petition for reinstating content via new online forms.

Most people are familiar with efforts by social networks like Twitter and Facebook to ensure safety within their respective online communities. Just last week, Twitter announced the suspension of an additional 235,000 accounts for promoting terrorism.

While Microsoft has also been active in preventing terrorist content from propagating on its services, the company has received less attention than its peers. Services like Outlook, Skype, Xbox, OneDrive and Office 365 draw millions of users that are too easily forgotten with the rise of new platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

And while most interactions on these platforms are positive, even Microsoft is not immune to the distribution of hateful, inappropriate and sometimes illegal content. Microsoft regularly processes European “Right to be Forgotten” requests and filings for the removal of revenge porn, copyrighted content and illegal content.

Tangibly, in addition to prior efforts, Microsoft is launching two new forms, one each for reporting content and restoring content. At this point, Microsoft already moderates content for inappropriate speech and allows users to request review of a content removal decision.

“We will continue our ‘notice-and-takedown’ approach for removing prohibited content on hosted consumer services, and the new form aims to improve the quality and speed of our reviews,” said Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer, in a blog post about the new forms.

The new resources are aimed squarely at reducing hate speech and increasing community by giving both sides a much needed voice.

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Facebook ditches helpful Trending Topic descriptions for global scale


Twitter’s “Trends” are often confusing. Why is #MPBMS or #TechMunch trending? You had to click through and figure it out for yourself. When Facebook copied Twitter’s trends in 2014, it vastly improved them by adding human-written descriptions right below so you knew if you cared or not.

Today Facebook is removing those descriptions, and claims it’s to increase the scalability and personalization of the product. This is a win for users who don’t browse Facebook in English and might get access to Trending Topics sooner. But it’s a loss for those English-speaking users who could previously much more quickly scan the descriptions of Trends for whether they were worth a click.

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Without humans slowing down and driving up the price of the product, everyone will get to see Trending Topics that are even better tailored to your interests based on Pages you Like, your location, Trends you previously interacted with, and more. It will also be able to bring Trending Topics to more languages.

One other explanation is that Facebook is seeking to minimize human interaction with trends. Earlier this year it was accused by Gizmodo’s anonymous sources of suppressing conservative Trends, though an investigation found no evidence to support that. [Update: However, Facebook doesn’t have complete data logs of curation choices from the time period questioned.]

The allegations still riled right wing feathers during an election cycle when Facebook is seeking to seem impartial. Humans will still ensure Trends are about something newsy, not just #Lunch every day.

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Sure, if you’ve got some niche interests like an extreme sport, geeky academic pursuit, or B-list celebrity, the new Trending Topics will be able to show you more hashtags about them now. But you won’t be able to tell what the cryptic hashtags are about at a glance anymore. Instead, you’ll need to hover over the trends to see a news story, user post, or an excerpt from the original source about the trend.

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Why yes, Facebook, I’ve heard of those celebrities. But without context for why they’re Trending, I don’t feel compelled to care

The strategy seems like a step backwards. Facebook makes tons of money — over $2 billion in profit last quarter alone. Financing the existing human description writers shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Hiring scribes for a few of the other most popular languages on the planet probably wouldn’t break the bank, either.

Instead, Facebook could have chosen to keep descriptions for major Trending Topics shown to lots of people in English, and just drop them when the algorithms suggest a niche Trend or one for users with unsupported languages.

At 1.71 billion users, Facebook has to do what’s right for the masses. Yet it’s rare to see the company quite clearly degrade the usability of a product a shortcut to scale.

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WhatsApp-Facebook data-sharing deal probed by UK privacy watchdog


Well that was fast. Just one day after WhatsApp revealed a sea-change in its attitude to user data, by detailing plans to share the mobile numbers and last seen status of its users with parent company Facebook for ad-targeting and marketing purposes, the UK’s data protection watchdog has fired a warning shot across Zuckerberg’s bows by announcing it intends to investigate the arrangement.

In a statement today, fresh-in-post UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, who only took up the role last month, said: “We’ve been informed of the changes. Organisations do not need to get prior approval from the ICO to change their approaches, but they do need to stay within data protection laws. We are looking into this.”

Denham said the regulator will be considering whether the two companies are being transparent with users about how their data is being shared and used.

“The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control. Our role is to pull back the curtain on things like this, ensuring that companies are being transparent with the public about how their personal data is being shared, and protecting consumers by making sure the law is being followed,” she added.

A WhatsApp spokesperson had this to say when asked for comment on the ICO’s interest in its new privacy policy: “We look forward to answering any questions regulators or other stakeholders have about this update.”

Discussing the legal implications of the new data-sharing arrangement between WhatsApp and Facebook with TechCrunch earlier today, Scott Vernick, partner and head of the data security and privacy practice at U.S. law firm Fox Rothschild LLP, suggested regulators will be keen to ensure the language used in the updated T&Cs clearly and accurately conveys the changes being made.

“The question that any regulator will be asking is whether or not the new policies and the way in which you opt into them — or opt out of them — is expressed in clear to the average user,” he said. “There’s no doubt that a disclosure is being made, but it’s a question of whether it’s transparent enough to the average user so you know exactly what it is you’re giving up.”

When WhatsApp users are prompted to agree to the new T&Cs in the app, the wording that describes the purpose of the setting where they can opt out of sharing data with Facebook is as follows: “Share my WhatsApp account information with Facebook to improve my Facebook ads and products experiences. Your chats and phone number will not be shared onto Facebook regardless of this setting.” — Emphasis theirs.

It’s possible that someone reading that wording quickly might think their phone number will not be shared with Facebook. When in fact it will be shared with Facebook the company. (But will just not be publicly posted onto their own Facebook page.) So there certainly looks to be some room for confusion, although it remains to be seen whether the ICO will view the phrasing as troublingly opaque or not.

Vernick also suggested another area that might be problematic for the WhatsApp/Facebook data-sharing arrangement is if the two companies gave certain guarantees to regulators about how they would handle user data at the time of the WhatsApp acquisition — and can now be shown to be reneging on any earlier commitments.

“The regulators have been much more active in looking at the M&A space, and looking at the privacy consequences for M&A activity,” he noted. “And so I could see a scenario in which if either Facebook or WhatsApp or the both of them made certain representations to the regulators, either in the States or in Europe, about what was going to happen with individual user information once the two companies hooked up and now they’re going back on that, then that could be a real issue.”

Potential legal implications aside, Vernick argued there is an unavoidable “visceral” reaction to such a big change by WhatsApp on sharing user data, given how the company has previously positioned itself as a privacy champion — which in itself could have serious trust/reputational consequences if users feel betrayed.

“I think there’s a real visceral issue here which in some ways is more important than the legal issue — not that the legal issues aren’t important, but it’s just this idea that as consumers, or as users, we continue — assuming there’s anything left to lose — we just continue to lose more,” he said.

“It feels like a bit of a bait and switch. Or it feels like I’m losing more control even though my choices are ‘well if you don’t like it, just don’t use it’,” he added.

In terms of ‘choice’, other encrypted messaging apps are of course available. One example, Telegram, offers end-to-end encryption via a secret chats features. Another, Signal, is made by the same company that makes the open source secure-messaging protocol that WhatsApp has rolled out to its own app — completing that rollout earlier this year.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov confirmed to TechCrunch the app has seen a small bump in downloads since the WhatsApp privacy policy change was announced, with an increase of new users in the region of 30 to 40 per cent over the past 24 hours. Although he added that it has not seen “millions” of downloads — as it did when the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition was announced, back in February 2014.

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