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Free digital tools every business owner should know

The internet is huge, constantly growing, and is a changing universe of information, and there are some great tools to help supplement your marketing efforts — from producing content to tracking your results. We’ve scratched the surface and provided our list of noteworthy (and free!) tools for business owners.

Meredith Cunningham Published: September 26, 2017

When it comes to handling your marketing, you get what you pay for. Professional marketing partners and paid tools are commonly on the route to positive marketing ROI—but that’s not to say that there aren’t free tools out there to be aware of and leverage for your business.

The internet is huge, constantly growing, and is a changing universe of information, and there are some great tools to help supplement your marketing efforts—from producing content to tracking your results. We’ve scratched the surface and provided our list of noteworthy (and free!) tools for business owners below, broken down by purpose.

Trackable URL shorteners

Years ago, the advent of Twitter put a premium on the number of characters used to share a message. Today, URL shorteners are for more than making sure everything fits—they can help you track your links and even customize links to fit your needs.

Bitly

Bitly was among the first to provide shortened URLs. In addition to the shortening, it allows you to track link performance, including information the audiences it reaches. Bitly also provides a paid enterprise option that features branded and customized URLs, advanced metrics and campaign optimization.

Goo.gl

Google is a master of digital innovation, so this tool comes as no surprise. It provides click analytics and audience visualization. However, keep in mind that the link and its data are public when you use this shortener.

Bit.do

Bit.do can be used with or without an account, and provides customization options. However, an account is necessary to manage and access analytics, including referral websites and geolocation. A paid version is available that also provides a custom domain.

A marketing professional can help create your own custom URL shortener branded to your company, and even take analytics to the next level in many cases.

Social media management

Management tools help you save time by simplifying the number of programs you have to interact with in order to produce, publish content and reach users across multiple social media platforms.

Buffer

As one of the premier services on the market, Buffer allows you to post to multiple social platforms all from one dashboard, view and manage engagement, track certain metrics and schedule posts to automatically publish later. The free version limits the number of accounts you can connect and the number of scheduled posts, but there are reasonable pricing options to expand when ready.

Hootsuite

Built with businesses in mind, Hootsuite allows you to manage all of your social platforms and get collaborative while keeping your brand safe. You can create teams where each member has customized permissions for posting, editing and more.

Stacker

While Stacker is a much leaner manager—it only handles Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest—the free version permits scheduling, link shortening and performance reports. Paid versions enhance the options for each, as well as unlock customized short URLs, branded reports and collaborators.

These tools are there to help make social media management easier, but they still require a human touch and strategic thinking. This is an area where social media professionals can make sure you’re engaging effectively and generating the right kind of buzz.

Audience analytics

The first step in successful marketing is identifying and understanding your target market. The tools below help you do that across a variety of digital spaces.

Google Analytics

Google is a powerhouse for businesses looking to connect with audiences in strategic ways, and its analytics platform is a must-have for most businesses. While Google now provides a full suite of analytics-related products, the free tool allows you to understand how customer behavior relates to channel performance across sites, apps and more.

Talkwalker

A social listening tool, Talkwalker helps you monitor mentions of your business, products or industry across social networks, including the ones you don’t have an account with. It also provides some insight into cross-channel campaign performance and hashtag tracking.

Hotjar

Hotjar helps you find “hot opportunities” for growth. It creates heat maps to represent taps, clicks and scrolling on your website, and can even help you identify usability issues by providing recordings of real visitors on your site as they navigate through pages. The basic version is free, though it provides limited reports and data storage.

Understanding your target audience is no small task—nor is it something you can check off your list once and be done. With many variables to factor in, it takes dedicated resources and industry know-how to stay on top of who you’re trying to reach.

Research & design

While the tools we’ve mentioned so far focus on managing content and measuring campaign performance, sometimes you need a hand earlier on. These free tools can help you get started.

Think with Google

Google has a variety of free tools to strengthen you digital marketing, including:

  • Test My Site, where you can check your mobile friendliness. Enter your URL and you’ll receive a free report in a matter of moments on load time, estimated visitor loss, where you stand against industry benchmarks and more.
  • Google Trends gives you a glimpse of what’s most important to people on the web worldwide, and you can search for topics to see customized insights including interest over time (as far back as 2004), regional interests and related topics. You can even run comparisons against other search terms.
  • Consumer Barometer lets you explore how people use the internet, so you can understand the role of online sources throughout your audience segments’ consumer journey. Create your own custom graphs and compare data trends over time.

Canva

Pictures are worth a thousand words, but more importantly, they provide enhanced engagement and recall. Canva makes it easy for users that aren’t artists and don’t have design experience to create graphics with text and more. Free accounts have access to free templates and a selection of images and fonts, with the option to individually purchase premium elements. Designs can be optimized for websites, emails, blogs, social media posts and more.

Wistia

Wistia operates with marketers in mind, allowing you to customize your videos, share them with your audience, learn from analytics and more. A free plan comes with three videos, 200 GB of bandwidth per month and storage to house those videos. It also comes with Wistia player branding.

There are more free options out there to help with content creation and strategy, but it’s up to the team behind the tools to make your contentengaging, shareable and memorable.

The free digital tools for business owners that we’ve collected here are just some of the options available. When selecting a tool, don’t pick it just because it’s popular or free. Choose what will provide value and help you reach your goals.

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