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Digital marketing spends are projected to hit $103.37 billion in the U.S. by 2019 — that works out to roughly $168 per internet user in North America. It also means that a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, with a mix of platforms and techniques, is now essential. A strategy, though, is only as good as its execution.
To get good ideas off the ground, and make sure they reach the right audience, you’ll need to use the right tools, especially if you have a small team (or are doing things yourself).
Here are six digital marketing tools that will streamline your processes, and improve your campaigns and strategies, helping you work smarter, not harder.
Use it to: Perform SEO and keyword research
Cost: Trials start at $7, with pricing plans starting from $99 per month
Whether you’re creating a blog for your customers or writing a series of product descriptions and pages, you need to optimize your content for SEO. In fact, more than two-thirds (72 percent) of marketers worldwide said relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic. The trouble is, conducting keyword research can be tedious, to say the least.
With a tool like Ahrefs, however, you can speed up the research process. While there are plenty of SEO tools available (including Serpstat and Google Keyword Planner, among others), Ahrefs is one of the most comprehensive, with a number of features you’d need to optimize your content — in one platform.
Marketers can, for example, explore relevant keywords, check backlinks to your website’s pages, pull up related keywords based on your searches, analyze your competitors SEO, and even discover the most shared content online. On this last point, it should be said that you should also be making use of Google Trends, a free public database of search trends, that can help you plan timely, relevant content.
Use it to: Design images and create logos
Wondering why your social media posts or emails don’t have much engagement? Is your company blog a little bland? Dynamic, engaging images and infographics can make a huge difference. Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images. Research also shows that articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.
So what do you do if you don’t have a designer (or if your team’s designer has a packed schedule)? You can start with Canva, a free graphic-design tool.
Canva provides a really easy-to-use drag-and-drop format, with access to over a million stock photographs, templates, graphics, and fonts, making it easy to create engaging, custom images and infographics for your social channels and blog. On the stock photo front, free services like Unsplash and Shopify’s Burst can also provide a wealth of eye-catching, copyright-free images.
Use it to: Create landing pages, get more email subscribers, host webinars, and send marketing messages via text message
Cost: Free 14-day trial with plans starting at $25 per month
When asked which online marketing technique would have the biggest impact on their business this year, 20 percent of marketers said content marketing. The question is, how can you turn a stream of content into a lead generation tool? Enter LeadPages, “the industry-leading landing page creator,” which makes it easy to create landing pages, increase lead generation, and simplify visitor opt-in.
With LeadPages, you can create engaging landing pages for pieces of gated content (like that new whitepaper or eguide you’re planning to create), and add opt-in boxes on individual blog posts, both of which will help you grow your email list and audience.
It can, however, also help you diversify your comms strategy, with a unique way to reach out to users via text message. Aptly titled LeadDigits, the feature lets marketers send personalized text messages to their users’ smartphones, encouraging further engagement and subscriptions.
Use it to: Send branded e-mails, store e-mail subscriber lists, segment audiences, A/B test e-mail messages
Cost: Free up to 2,000 subscribers; pricing plans start at $10 per month for more subscribers
Email marketing is a digital marketing channel that offers a massive return on investment — according to one UK report, marketers who invest time and effort into e-mail can expect a return of $38 for every dollar spent. On this side of the Atlantic, 73 percent of marketers ranked email as “excellent” or “good” when it comes to ROI.
All this to say, email marketing is now an essential component of digital marketing strategies. To maximize this channel, you need a tool that allows you to create sleek, branded emails without much fuss. There are obviously a number of options available to would-be email marketers (including GetResponse, Constant Contact, AWeber, and more), but MailChimp is one of the most recognized and intuitive email and marketing automation platforms.
With MailChimp, you can create custom e-mails using drag-and-drop templates, segment your subscriber lists, and run A/B tests to make sure you’re using the right subject lines. You can then track the performance of your e-mails, ensuring you can keep refining your messaging, templates, and tactics.
Use it to: Create engaging, animated marketing and explainer videos
Cost: Free 30-day trial, with basic plans starting at $49 per month
Unsure if you need to add video to your marketing mix? Consider these numbers: 81 percent of businesses use video in their marketing; 76 percent say it helped them increase sales; 72 percent of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service.
The question is, though, how do you make a professional-looking video when you don’t have those kinds of skills in-house? Thankfully, there are a number of animated video software platforms available (like Animaker, VidYard, CrazyTalk, PowToon, and more), with GoAnimate providing some of the best bang for your buck.
With GoAnimate, you can create whiteboard animations and 2D animation with a variety of templates, backgrounds, and characters. You can also record voice-overs easily, import PowerPoint presentations, and integrate with other marketing tools (including MailChimp).
Use it to: Schedule social media marketing posts
Cost: Free for three social accounts; Pro plans start at $19/month
According to a report from Deloitte, when social media is part of their buyer’s journey, customers tend to convert at a 129 percent higher rate. They are also four times as likely to spend significantly more than customers without any social media exposure.
Managing multiple branded social channels can often require some serious juggling, especially if you’re creating unique content for each platform. The trick is in using a social media management tool. There are a number of options, including Tweetdeck, Sprout Social, and Buffer, among others, but the most widely used is Hootsuite (with over 16 million users).
Hootsuite lets you monitor multiple social channels (including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and more), post and reply directly to these streams, and have multiple users managing your social media (so you don’t have to).
Looking for more? Check out BrainStation’s Digital Marketing course to learn from Instructor currently working in the field.