Digital Marketing Tools & Platforms
Preferred and Recommended Marketing Tools and Services.
In January 2020 I took part in a panel discussion on Organic Reach at the Marketing Connect Conference in Nanaimo, BC. During the wrap-up portion, I mentioned that there are free tools available for measuring your digital efforts that every small business owner should be taking advantage of. As promised, below is a list of free tools I recommend, as well as several paid platforms I use that also offer free (limited) versions.
This list if by no means comprehensive, and my descriptions below are very high-level. Use this list to begin exploring on your own, or if you work with an agency or marketing expert, this might help you understand some of the tools they may be using, or help you ask informed questions.
The Google Suite of Free Tools
Let’s start off with the expansive suite of Google products. Google powers roughly 75% (+/- 15%) of all internet searches in Canada. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who uses a search engine other than Google, and most couldn’t even name one if asked.
Google has moved beyond just being a search engine and developed an extensive and largely integrated suite of tools to help you reach your market (Google Ads), track your success (Google Analytics), and even present the results in a visual form that makes sense to non-marketers (Data Studio). Along with a few other tools you may, or may not, know about.
- Google Analytics (https://analytics.google.com) is a powerful and free website analytics platform to understand who comes to your website, and how they found you. Too many features to go into here. Google offers both free online training for both beginners and more advanced users.
- Search Console (Webmaster Tools) https://search.google.com/search-console/welcome is where you tell Google about your website, make sure you are being indexed, and get the basic insight into your traffic, search terms and possible errors and issues Google is having with your website.
- Google Trends (https://trends.google.com). Learn what people are actually searching for relevant to your business or industry, or how many people search for a term you think is important.
- Google Optimize (https://optimize.google.com/) A free tool to help test what works and doesn’t on your website. Perform A/B or multi-variant tests to learn if a red “buy now” button drives more sales than a green button – as just one example. Connects to Google Analytics for a detailed analysis of your test results.
- Data Studio is one of Google’s latest free offerings and is an online platform for creating dashboards, tables, graphs, etc. It connects directly to your other Google platforms, such as Analytics and Google Ads, as well as other data sources, including spreadsheets and large databases.
- Google Tag Manager is a platform that allows you to quickly and easily update tracking codes and other code fragments, collectively known as tags, on your website or mobile app. Once the GTM code is in place, you can safely deploy analytics and measurement tags from a user-friendly interface.
Some Great Non-Google Tools I Use...
- MouseFlow is UX (user experience) platform that shows what people do after they arrive at your website. What do they mouse-over? What do they click on? Are there parts of your website people find confusing? Heat-Maps, Scroll-Maps and video recordings of visitor interactions. Free entry-level option.
- MOZ is the industry-leading SEO tool for research and optimization. Benchmark your organic performance against your industry and competitors, track specific keywords, discover new content and optimization. (Free and paid subscriptions)
- SEMrush is another great platform for SEO research and website optimization. Discover what search terms are bringing people to your website, and compare your performance to your competitors. (Free and paid subscriptions)
- Screaming Frog has the best name of all tools and is a desktop tool that will crawl all of the pages of your site (up to 500 pages with free version) to identify areas to optimize, as well as potential content and meta-tag issues. Crawl results can be downloaded into Excel for analysis.
- Motamo (formerly PiWik Analytics) If you have concerns about Google having access to your website analytics data there are a few free alternatives. One of the most popular is Motamo, which provides similar tracking and metrics to Google Analytics, but you own and control the data collected. It can be cloud hosted or installed on your webserver.
- GTmetrix is a platform that tests the loading speed of your website and also provides insight into what may be slowing your site down and how to correct those issues.
- Bing Webmaster Tools… yes, BING! They have a similar webmaster section as Google, but they provide insights and data that Google long-ago removed. It’s free and there is a new beta version call Search Performance. They also have a great crawl tool to identify SEO issues on your site.