There’s now a plethora of online tools out there that can make running your business and your content marketing and promotion efforts so much easier. Best of all, many of these offer free versions, or free trials on their paid options. They can be very handy for businesses without the budget to outsource to a content marketing agency.
In pre-internet days, content marketing was often an expensive exercise, involving printed brochures and catalogues, direct selling, or TV, radio and print advertising.
It was also largely hard to measure, which meant it could be very hit-and-miss.
American department store pioneer John Wanamaker, who is credited with printing the first copyright store advertisement in 1874, is famously quoted as saying that half of his advertising spend was wasted, but he wasn’t sure which half!
Some of the tools we’ve singled out not only make content marketing easier and cheaper, but infinitely more measurable, so you can avoid wasting time, money and effort on content strategies that aren’t working.
Read on to find out more about 10 free tools you should consider using in your business.
- GoSpaces – free e-commerce website building
Shopify’s GoSpaces app enables fledgling e-commerce businesses to build an online store for free. Once you join up, you are provided with a generic website template which you can alter to suit your business by adding your own content, images, and products.
The platform also comes with multilingual (up to 20 languages) and multi-currency support, and a shopping cart support service. It is free to set up and use until you reach sales of $50 per month, after which there is a small monthly subscription.
An article in Small Business Trends describes GoSpaces as very easy to use for any beginner, and a good place for testing out business ideas – all at no extra cost!
- MailChimp – email marketing
You may have heard of MailChimp or seen its logo at the bottom of emails. This platform enables you to create custom e-newsletters and automated email campaigns, with the free version allowing you to send up to 12,000 emails per month to as many as 2,000 subscribers.
Freebies include templates, data insights, free reports and built-in sign-up form. Paid versions start at around $20 per month, and allow for unlimited numbers of emails.
- Hootsuite – social media management
Even if you are already aware that social media provides businesses with opportunities for some free online marketing, managing several social accounts can be time-consuming and tricky. This is where Hootsuite comes in.
Hootsuite lets you manage your various social media accounts from the one dashboard, as well as measure the ROI on your social media marketing.
Features of the free plan include management of three social profiles, basic analytics and content scheduling. Of course if you want to turn it up a notch, you can always opt for a paid plan, which start at around $20 per month.
- Canva – for graphics and visual content
Canva allows people with no design experience to create their own visual content. Examples include documents, banners, logos, cards, labels, calendars, newsletters, letterheads, business cards, brochures and graphs, and there is also a photo-editing feature.
The free version allows for up to 1GB of storage and access to thousands of templates and a huge range of images and fonts. Premium images are also available, starting at $1 each. A monthly ‘Canva for work’ subscription offers unlimited storage and other extra features, and starts at around $13 per month.
- SEMrush – online visibility tester
While it’s easy for any small business to get up-and-running online, there is also a lot of competition out there, and getting noticed isn’t always so easy! SEMrush lets you test how visible your website is on search engines such as Google. SEMrush features include site audit, keyword research, position tracking, social media tool, SEO ideas, and tools for checking out how the competition is faring. There’s also an SEO content template you can use to brief your content writers.
- Evernote – note-taking app
If you’ve ever carried a notebook around with you for jotting things down as you go, you will appreciate Evernote. It can be used for taking down and sharing notes, creating to-do and check lists, journaling, scanning text, attaching images and files, tracking your time and finances, tracking goals, creating voice memos and keeping important information to hand. The app runs on multiple devices, including mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop. It is free for up to 60MB then starts at $50 for a year’s subscription.
- Website Grader and Marketing Grader
Website Grader is a program developed by Hubspot. It enables marketers to make improvements to their websites by providing a score on a site’s marketing performance, and giving ideas and suggestions for improvements.
A more recent development by Hubspot is Marketing Grader. This one goes way beyond websites, allowing for the grading of a range of content marketing efforts, including social media, blogging, email, mobile and lead nurturing.
8 Survey Monkey – free survey tool
Getting feedback from target audiences is always useful, but most of us probably don’t have much idea about designing a survey from scratch. This is where Survey Monkey comes in. It offers a range of survey templates for various types of surveys and questions, as well as analytics so you can measure results.
The basics are provided in the free version, offering up to 10 questions, 100 responses and standard email support. Paid versions offer more features and start at $24 per month.
- Seobility – SEO tools
Seobility provides you with the tools to test your site’s search engine optimisation (SEO). The free version includes up to 1,000 crawled web pages, checking of 10 keywords and three competitors per project, website structure and content checks and basic reporting.
- Password manager apps
While these apps might not have much to do with content marketing, they can certainly help you save time in running your business! Most of us have probably experienced the problem of forgetting passwords, or omitting to write them down somewhere secure. Apps of this type remember your passwords for you so you don’t have to.
We’ve listed three of the top ones according to a 2015 LifeHacker survey:
- LastPass – supports a range of operating systems and browsers, and will even auto-change your passwords if they are compromised. It is free to download and use, and costs $12 a year to upgrade to a premium version.
- Dashlane – provides flexible features such as the ability to easily change multiple passwords all in one go. Free to download with a paid premium version at $40 a year.
- KeePass – stores your passwords in an encrypted database that you are in control of, and comes with a password generator to ensure password strength and uniqueness.
Other tools to consider
There are of course many other excellent free tools, such as Google Analytics, Google Trends, WordPress, Google Keyword Planner, Facebook Insights and more.
We hope our list has at least given you food for thought and motivated you to check out which free tools could be useful in your business!