It’s not always easy to make big things happen as a smaller business or start-up. Budgets are tight, resources are limited and there’s the constant challenge of trying to do more with less. This is especially true when it comes to marketing your business and achieving the kind of sustainable growth you need to compete with the big names in your industry.
Choosing the right tools to market your business is essential, especially when you’re still trying to make a name for yourself. Here are 15 free digital marketing tools for SMEs and start-ups that will set you on the right path.
WordPress is still the best option for SMEs and start-ups in need of a full-featured website for minimum investment. WordPress itself is free, and plenty of its themes are free too. That said, it’s worth investing in a premium theme because these generally come with some set-up support, which can be invaluable if you’re not hugely tech savvy. Premium themes also tend to offer more functionality, styling and custom options. Either way, WordPress provides the cheapest entry point to an enterprise-quality website. Don’t forget to factor in hosting costs as well.
Another key benefit of WordPress is the library of plugins you can use to add functionality to your site. If there’s one WordPress plugin every SME and start-up should use, it’s the Yoast SEO plugin. This free tool helps you optimise every post you publish on WordPress, and guides you through all the SEO basics needed to make your pages more visible in search.
While Yoast alone isn’t all it takes to become fully optimised for search, it will help ensure the on-page essentials are in place before you hit the publish button.
In 2015, mobile-friendliness become a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm and the tech giant is now moving to mobile-first indexing. In other words, poor mobile experiences can hurt your search ranking and Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test aims to help you optimise your site for mobile users.
If your pages take longer than two seconds to load, your chances of holding on to traffic and converting visitors drastically decreases. Loading times are also about to become a ranking factor for mobile searches on Google, which means slow pages will start ranking lower from July 2018. Luckily, Google’s PageSpeed Insights gives you detailed feedback on your loading times, and provides tips on how to increase the speed of your site.
It would be remiss to provide a list of free digital marketing tools that didn’t include Google Analytics. You won’t find another free platform that comes close to offering the same reporting features. The ability to link it to your AdWords account makes it especially powerful. This is a must-have tool for every online business.
Google’s Keyword Planner is still the go-to tool for keyword research, but you need an AdWords account to access it - and it offers limited functionality if you’re not running any campaigns. This shouldn’t be a problem for most businesses (you probably should be advertising on AdWords) but KeywordTool.io is a handy alternative.
SimilarWeb is an online competitive intelligence tool that provides traffic and marketing insights for any website or mobile app. It provides users with a quick overview of a site’s reach, ranking and user engagement. The reports on the free version are somewhat limited, but they’re a useful addition to the free data you’ll already be getting from Google Analytics.
Open Site Explorer from Moz is a backlink tool that allows you to check the quality of the links pointing towards your site, and explore new link building opportunities. Backlinks from high-authority sites remain one of the most important ranking factors in Google – if not, the most – and there’s no sign of this changing anytime soon.
Hotjar is a heatmapping and analytics tool that helps you see what users get up to on your site. Using this information, you can identify areas that need improvement, such as the layout and design of your pages. It can help you increase conversion rates, and achieve other marketing objectives. The free version will be enough to get you started, but you’ll probably want to upgrade to a paid version eventually.
Buffer is a social media management tool that allows you to schedule posts and get insights on performance. You can manage all of your accounts in one place and automate a large chunk of your social media marketing efforts – a huge deal for SMEs and start-ups that are short on time and resources.
BuzzSumo is a content discovery tool that lets you know what people are engaging with online. You can discover what people are sharing most on social media, get alerts when specific keywords are mentioned, or when publishers post new content. You can also review competitor analysis data – all to improve your own social media marketing efforts.
Curata is a content discovery and content marketing management tool all rolled into one. Aside from helping you discover the freshest content online, it also helps you manage your own team of creators to produce content that gets results, while measuring performance along the way.
13: Simply Measured
Simply Measured is a social analytics platform that offers a number of free tools for Facebook and Instagram. If you’re serious about running enterprise-level social media campaigns, the paid version of the tool is worth checking out but their free offering is a good place to start.
Canva is a free tool for creating simple graphics, allowing you to edit images and visuals for social media. It’s an impressive app that charges you only for any stock images you use. These images are not up to much, though, so you’ll be better off using your own ones or getting them elsewhere before editing them in Canva.
Speaking of which…
Pixabay is one of the few sources of free online images that’s worth recommending. All images uploaded to Pixabay are free for commercial use and the image quality is generally much better than other free sources. You can also source video clips from Pixabay, which can be edited and customised to your needs.
Make an impact right away
Using these free digital marketing tools, you should have more than enough to make an immediate impact as an SME or start-up. The only thing you’re missing now is a marketing strategy to make the most of these tools and hit your business objectives as effectively as possible. Once that’s in place, you’re ready to go.
If you haven't got the time or the confidence to make the most of these DIY tools, you might want to hire in an agency or a new team member to look after your marketing efforts. At Linked Finance, we can provide fast, affordable finance to support recruitment, marketing campaigns or any other capital requirements you have.