25 Online Tools for Freelance Marketers
Effective marketing doesn’t happen by accident. Targeting the right customers and crafting a message that’s not only eye-catching but also creates sales is both an art and a science.
To help freelance marketers – actually, to help any small business or entrepreneur gather and analyze data, find up-to-date information, and develop new marketing ideas, we’ve put together the following list of online resources:
1. Google Web Optimizer
Here’s a mouthful of a sentence. Google says, “Google Web Optimizer is a multivariate landing page optimization tool enabling marketers to test different ideas for variations of headlines, promotional copy, or images, and provides easy-to-read graphs showing which variation resonated best with their site visitors.” In other words, Google’s Web Optimizer lets you test different copy, images, ads, blog posts… basically any component of a website. Want to know what works and what doesn’t work? Google Web Optimizer can help – and the coolest part is that it’s free.
2. Site analytics
Collecting data is great… but what do you do with it? Making decisions based on that data is the key, and to make good decisions, a good analytics package can be critical. Webtrends lets you automate and refine the process of analyzing online data results. Google Analytics helps you track referrals, ads, and search engine results. Omniture offers a wide variety of web analytics, data capture, and search marketing and conversion testing. Plus Webtrends and Omniture offer free guides and white papers to help you learn more.
3. Incoming links
Yahoo! and Google both have tools to show you which websites contain links to your site (or to a competitor’s site). The results you get from Yahoo! and Google may be slightly different, so try both. Analyzing incoming links can help you determine the success of your link building campaign and possibly find potential marketing partners.
The Google Toolbar reports a site’s page rank, but if you’re using Firefox as your browser, trySearchStatus. This toolbar lets you view its Google PageRank, Google Category, Alexa popularity ranking, Compete.com ranking, Alexa incoming links, Alexa related links, and backward links from Google, Yahoo! and MSN. It’s a free tool that can give you a more comprehensive view of a particular site’s popularity.
If you’ve seen their Sitemeter on a blog, you’re aware that Technorati provides website owners comprehensive real-time website tracking and counter tools about their audience. You can learn more about who visits your site, how they found you, and what interests them. The basic tool is free, while a more extensive tool can be purchased for a monthly fee.
For advertisers, Technorati can place targeted ads on participating Technorati blog and social media sites. So, you can learn more about your audience or deliver ads to the audience you want to reach.
6. Referrals and conversions
Blvdstatus is a free tool that tracks where your visitors came from and whether they converted, and it even works on social media sites. This means you can track Digg referrals to see where your votes came from. Plus it offers live stats, RSS conversion tracking, form conversion tracking, and outgoing link conversion data.
7. Keyword marketing estimator
Want a sense of keyword traffic and expense without adding them to your account (or even signing up for an account) Google Traffic Estimator lets you enter keywords, your budget, and any geographic targeting to determine potential search volume, estimated clicks, and estimated spending.
8. Federated Media
Conversational media is a term Federated Media (FM) uses to describe informal, author and consumer driven websites – like blogs – and they deliver ads to these kinds of websites. Even if you don’t use their services, check out their site for ideas about how you can further refine your own advertising campaigns.
Analysis & Research
9. Net Promoter
Want to really know what customers think about your product or service? Then get your Net Promoter Score – just ask your customers a single question, usually something along the lines of, “Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
Based on the responses, customers are categorized into one of three groups: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. Promoters are viewed as valuable assets that drive profitable growth because of their repeat/increased purchases, longevity and most importantly, referrals or word of mouth marketing, while Detractors can negatively impact profitable growth because of their negative word of mouth.
Your Net Promoter score is determined by subtracting your percentage of Detractors from your percentage of Promoters. A number of companies, including GE, Proctor & Gamble, and American Express include the Net Promoter concept as a key metric.
10. Google Alerts
Need to keep up with online buzz about a particular company, subject, or person? Set up aGoogle Alert and you’ll be notified whenever there are new Google results for your keywords. You can restrict the results to news items, blog mentions, web page entries, videos, or groups if you choose. To sign up for a Google Alert, all that you need to do is enter the search term and the frequency of email notifications you’ll receive.
11. Elance’s Skills Central
Need help with any aspect of marketing, including branding, email marketing, SEO and SEM, market research, or campaign analytics? Elance professionals around the world fingertips are ready to help you. Even if you don’t need to hire skills, with Elance’s Skills Central you can quickly get a sense for new marketing trends by tracking popularity trends for the different skills for hire.
Sure, if you’re looking for goofy animal videos or clips from old movies, Youtube is the place to go. But some advertisers have run incredibly successful campaigns simply by posting videos on Youtube. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” video showing the results of putting an iPhone in a blender has been viewed over 5 million times. Blendtec has “blended” golf balls, marbles, hockey pucks… and along the way shown potential customers the power and durability of their product. Check out our recent article, 7 Steps Sweet Steps to Producing Irresistible Video Content.
Sites like MySpace, along with hundreds of other social media sites, can be gold mine for viral campaigns. Almost every musician, no matter how commercially successful, uses a MySpace page to connect with fans. Can the same approach help you reach new clients?
Facebook can be a great resource for information on your prospective customers. Say your target market is writers – do a quick search on Facebook for the word “writers”, click ‘Groups’ and you’ll see a list of groups dedicated to this topic. Don’t outright market to the members in this group as this generally very frowned upon (and may get you kicked out of the group), but read through the discussion boards and comments posted by members to learn more about the psyche of your target customer. Remember, this is an information-gathering exercise – not a marketing exercise.
15. Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)
The IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices, performs interactive effectiveness research, and provides information about online advertising. Approximately 85% of online advertising in the U.S. is sold by IAB members. By consulting the IAB, you can easily stay on top of up advertising news and trends, learn about industry standards for audience measurement, and even get standard ad size specifications.
16. Audience Measurement
Sites like Compete.com and Quantcast create audience reports for websites including traffic, user demographics, and lifestyle assessments. Media buyers can evaluate thousands of sites to deliver a target audience, while website owners can tag their own sites for a detailed direct measurement of their visitors. If you need to find the right audience for your message, or you want to prove that your audience is right for another advertiser, consult an audience measurement tool to get the data you need.
17. Affiliate Marketing Companies
If your clients sell products online, affiliate marketing can be a cost-effective way to find new customers. (Affiliate marketing, in a nutshell, is paying other sites commissions for leads.) Publishers place advertisers’ ads, text links, or product links on their websites or blogs, or include them in e-mail campaigns and search listings in exchange for commissions on leads or sales. Sites like Commission Junction, Linkshare, Pepperjam, MyAP, Share Results and others manage the affiliate relationship for you, identifying appropriate partners, tracking results, and managing payments.
Need to include screen captures in your presentation? Or simply send a few screens to a colleague? Snagit lets you save and edit images and incorporate them into presentations, slideshows, and videos. It also includes storage and search tools to make archiving easy.
You know what they say – a picture is as good as 1,000 words. This is even more true when creating a presentation to give to customers or vendors. To spruce up your presentation, check out iStockphoto. It’s a great, affordable resource for photographs and illustrations that will add visual interest to whatever you are communicating. In fact, the image we used on this article is from iStockphoto!
News & Online Resources
20. Marketing Sherpa
MarketingSherpa is a research firm specializing in tracking what works and doesn’t work in marketing. They’re not an advertising agency; they publish their research for the benefits of their members. A number of free resources are available, or you can pay for a membership to gain full access to the site. You can check out their free trial membership before you sign up.
21. Duct Tape Marketing
Duct Tape Marketing provides information, products, and coaching targeted to small businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s a great source for hands-on marketing ideas for those who don’t have a big budget to work with.
22. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
According to their website, “HBS Working Knowledge is a forum for innovation in business practice, offering readers a first look at cutting-edge thinking and the opportunity to both influence and use these concepts before they enter mainstream management practice.” The Marketing section includes articles about trends, new research, company profiles, and marketing innovations.
23. Wall Street Journal Media & Marketing Edition
The WSJ Media & Marketing edition aggregates industry-specific news. Plus you can access the complete WSJ site if you like. As one of the top business news organizations in the country, the WSJ provides a high-level view of economic and business news and trends. The WSJ offers a two-week free trial subscription if you want to check it out first.
24. Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land reports on trends and news in search engine technology, optimization, and marketing. Along with news it offers columns and articles on search marketing tools, SEO tools, and conference and webcast schedules. If you want to stay on top of search technology and trends, it’s a great place to start.
Bloglines is a free web-based RSS reader and aggregator. If you want to keep up to date with news and blog postings, you can subscribe to them in Bloglines and read them all in one place. Plus you can be notified when new posts come in. If staying on top of trends and industry news causes you to stay on top of a number of blogs, Bloglines can make your reading much more efficient.