I recently took part in a SEMrush webinar (slides available here if you’re interested) where one of the viewers asked me what my top free tools are and which ones I’d recommend. I realised there were too many to include in a 140 character tweet, so thought I’d round up in a blog post instead!
I also decided to call on my awesome B3 colleagues to see which free tools they can’t live without. This turned into a pretty whopping list, so I’ve broken it down into the specific areas we use the tools for.
Note – these aren’t necessarily in the order of how much I love them. Rather, they’re ranked according to which ones I find myself using on a regular basis:
- Followerwonk – Find relevant influencers to contact when building campaigns, instead of being confined to expensive media databases. Analyse your own followers, and those of other accounts, to find useful data such as the most active times of day etc.
- Buzzsumo – I rave about this a lot – technically it’s not a free tool, but you can sign up easily for a 14-day free trial. It will allow you to find influencers, see the most shared content on topics/domains, see what’s trending now in different categories (for newsjacking) and analyse what content gets shared most for specific topics. You can also set up alerts for key terms.
- Google Analytics – This has so many useful features across so many different platforms. For PR purposes, we use it to see how our campaign/content is performing and to see which sites drive the most traffic. I’d say nearly every team in our agency uses GA (which isn’t surprising).
- Tweetdeck – Easily see different streams from Twitter, including different accounts, lists that you create, and hashtags that you want to follow. Great for managing multiple Twitter accounts.
- Anewstip – Find media contacts that have tweeted about your brand, your competitors or a keyword.
- Quora – Find questions that people have about your brand or industry that can feed into campaign or content ideas.
- Google Trends – See when certain topics have peaked historically to plan campaigns. Also useful for keyword research and determining seasonality.
- Unsplash – Amazing photos that are absolutely not stock imagery but are still free to use.
- Giphy – I mean, what Digital Marketer doesn’t need a repository of GIFs at some point?
- Answer the public – See the questions people are asking about a topic, keyword, brand – you name it. Fed by Google and Bing autosuggest.
- Google public data – Find worldwide public data to use in campaigns – data.gov.uk is also great for UK only data.
- WhatDoTheyKnow – Browse previous FOI (Freedom of Information) requests and easily file your own. AsktheEU is the European version.
- YouGov Profiler – Segmentation and media planning tool. You can also gain information about the audience of a brand, a person, or a ‘thing’, and find out about the media they read and other brands they like.
- Canva – Easily create social media graphics without having to be a design wiz! Already formatted to the correct dimensions for each platform.
- Let me tweet that for you – A bit of a lazy one, but it allows you to help clients visualise what tweets could look like when you’re pitching a campaign. *Edit 04/09/17 – it’s gone, so we guess this is really only 45 tools you shouldn’t be without. Sorry we lied to you!
- Trello – Great for project management – create boards for different lists and actions. I use it for my own, multiple to-do lists.
Big thanks to our Senior Insights & Analytics Analyst Emma Barnes for these:
17. IIS SEO Tools (SEO Crawler) – Crawl a website to find SEO, content and performance errors.
18. Google Search Console – Info into how Google sees your website, what pages has it crawled, what search terms people use to find your site, who links to you etc.
19. Google Tag Manager – Allows you to manage all of your marketing (and any other) code in one place.
20. Bing Webmaster Tools – Similar to Search Console, but it’s Bing.
21. Mergewords – Useful tool for keyword research. Say you have a list of products and locations and you want to get a list of keywords like “Buy [product] in [location]”. This does that instantly, and spits out a mega list.
22. Keyword Shitter – Put in a keyword and it will just ‘crap’ out any keyword related to it via Google Suggest .It’s similar to Answer the Public, just less refined.
23. Web Page Test – Gives a breakdown of your webpage’s speed, how it loads and in what order the content is loaded. Useful to understand why a webpage is slow.
24. Pingdom – Similar to Web Page Test – used to find the speed of your page.
25. B3 Site Speed/Conversion Rate Tool – Okay, we built this. You put in your site’s current speed, visits and conversions and it tells you “if your site was quicker, you could get this much revenue.”
26. Page Speed Insights – Tells you how to make your page quicker
27. Regexr – Lets you test your Regular Expressions to see they work as intended.
28. Ghostery – Shows you all the tracking a website has.
29. James – Useful for exploring the Data Layer of a webpage.
30. Event Tracking Tracker – Lets you check that the event tracking you have in place works (or not).
31. Ayima – Shows the redirect path of a page – really useful for SEO.
32. GA Debugger – Can be used to see what’s loaded within Google Analytics to help you find any problems.
33. Page Analytics – Allows you to see where users click on a page (provided you have GA access).
34. User Agent Switcher – Allows you to view a website via a different agent (i.e. if you’re on desktop you can switch to mobile to see how it looks on mobile).
35. Tag Assistant – Allows you to see which Google Tags are running on a web page and lets you see what data is passed to Google Analytics.
36. GA URL Builder – Lets you build UTM tracking codes really fast.
Big thanks to Designer Abby Rose for her suggestions:
Big thanks to our Developer Alex Moreton for his contributions here:
40. Debug frontend code – This inspects the code you or someone else has written on a given webpage, like a secondary window that goes behind the scenes of a given webpage. It displays errors and warnings that the browser might not like and basically tries to describe to the developer why it’s not working. It has several different tabs/tools that help toward a functioning webpage.
41. Atom customisable text editor – One can write code in here and it has a highly customisable interface, including themes, so you can instantly see the clear difference between a function, variable and parameter in the colours and style of users choice.
42. Console emulator/bundler: Cmder – This is basically the terminal (black matrix window in Windows and Mac) that helps with running commands, building and deployments and live edit updates of the code during development. This software actually bundles several terminal/shells together if you choose to configure it that way, so you have many tools from different shells in one terminal. (A shell is basically the terminal window).
43. Stackoverflow Forum – Forum to help with code issues, or if you want to ask a question. 50.4 million visits a month.
44. Github – Similar to Stackoverflow but it’s more centred around storing and collaborating pieces of code to build small pieces of reusable programs. Anyone in the world can contribute, add, refactor, utilise or upload their own stuff for free. 32 million visits a month.
45. VirtualBox/LinuxOS – The first creates a replica of any operating system you wish, like the one you’re on right now but without all the fancy installed programs. An ideal test environment to build and develop programs in. And if it breaks, you can destroy it and generate a new one in seconds. Linux is the main other OS after windows and MacOS. One of the oldest Operating Sytems, and therefore it’s the most universal for anything tech related.
46. ReactJS chrome extension – ReactJS is a library created by the Facebook dev team specifically to help front end devs build UI. This extension is one the several tools mentioned in the Chrome Devtools that helps debug the code within the ReactJS abstractions it uses.
So that’s our 46. I’d love to hear of any tools that you think I’ve missed from the list. Just tweet me @lauracrimmons and I’ll be happy to update (and give you credit) if you have a great one to suggest!