The start of the year has seen worrying falls in stocks markets, fuelled partly by low oil prices and the slowing down of important economies such as China. There are many saying that we could be in danger of a similar financial crisis to 2008, which saw banks on the verge of collapse and many companies going to the wall.
There is no doubt we are approaching a difficult period for businesses as the economy slows and budgets, therefore, need to be tightly controlled. With even the normally optimistic Chancellor, George Osborne, warning of tough times ahead, there is a real sense that 2016 could well be a pivotal time, not just in the UK, but globally.
Recent years saw an increase in start-ups as confidence was restored and making the right decisions now should help new businesses ameliorate the effects of any potential slow down. One place where companies can get real benefits is in their choice of free marketing tools and how these are incorporated into a meaningful promotional strategy.
Still the shining light in the analytics field and generally the first port of call for many marketing departments, Google Analytics provides a good set of tools and metrics to measure website activity. All you need is to attach the Google code to your web pages and you can track how many visitors you have, where they are coming from and how long they are staying.
- A set of useful web analytic metrics for free.
- The industry standard for many businesses.
- Easy to install and can be applied to both web and mobile, allowing for a range of customisable reports.
- Can often seem complicated for new users and takes some time to learn all the nuances.
- You need to upgrade to the Pro version to get the full range of tools which can be expensive.
Content is still king and many businesses are working hard to find the high value information that engages customers and produces better conversion rates. For many, it can be difficult to come up with the best and most effective content so free marketing tool BuzzSumo lets you put in a keyword or topic area or website address to come up with the most popular posting ideas at the moment.
- Quick results and a simple interface make it easy to search for content ideas.
- Gives a snapshot of social media engagement.
- You can filter data for better results.
- More limited insight compared to tools such as Socialcrawlytics.
Managing social media is one of the key marketing areas that businesses need to get a handle on, but it can often be time consuming, particularly for start-ups and small companies with few staff. Hootsuite has both a free and a premium offering which can provide numerous benefits, allowing you to keep track of a number of social media platforms at the same time.
- Easy to use and set up.
- Allows you to schedule social media engagement and get limited stats about performance in the free version.
- Connects to more social media networks than any other tool.
- Free version only allows for 3 social media accounts.
- Costs can increase quite considerably if you move to a pro account.
Finding the right CRM or Customer Relations Management system for your business is important to bring everything together and can cost a significant part of marketing budgets. There are a number of freemium products out there that provide online interfaces suitable for small and medium sized business. Capsule, for instance, gives free access to up to 2 users and with 10 MB of storage space but even the pro side of things is not too expensive.
- Allows businesses to integrate and compare their overall marketing strategy and customer contact.
- Capture leads and track communications easily.
- Integrates smoothly with Google Apps.
- Some issues with storing email communications.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
While onsite optimisation has started to drop down the pecking order it is still an important part of creating strong SEO. Screaming Frog’s SEO spider crawls through your site and produces in-depth reports about your tags, headings and linking.
- Free to use and produces useful reports.
- Accurate analysis allows you to tweak your site for stronger SEO and better search engine ranking.
- None really, a useful little tool.
Getting your metatags right in content pages and blogs is important if you want to increase visibility. For WordPress sites, Yoast provides a great SEO tool that helps you put together the right keyword density and metatags for better search engine ranking.
- Great for blog posts and landing pages that are working on a specific keyword or combination.
- Analyses a range of parameters including image tags and language complexity.
- Free to install as a plugin on WordPress and Drupal sites.
- Only works for one keyword or combination per page.
Finding the right keyword combinations that work for your business can mean that more relevant traffic comes to your website and engage with your product or service. Ubersuggest is a very simple tool to use and produces hundreds of suggestions.
- Free and simple to use.
- Can enter search for location and content type (pages/images etc) as well as keywords.
- Lacks the advanced keyword search functions of some other tools.
Choosing the Right Free Marketing Tools for your Business
The ability to get the best out of any marketing strategy at a cost that isn’t prohibitive requires a good deal of thought and clever decision making. It also depends on business owners bringing these individual tools together in a holistic fashion so that they work effectively as a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Despite the potential of an economic slowdown, Company Formations 24.7 believe there are excellent opportunities for businesses to increase productivity and engagement in the coming year and have produced a list of the most useful which are currently available. With more free and freemium tools around, there are plenty of ways to develop strong marketing strategies, boost brand awareness and deliver conversions without burning a hole in the company budget.