Courtney is head of content marketing at Buffer, the easiest way to share on social media. When she's not writing or editing, she's seeking Courtney is head of content marketing at Buffer, the easiest way to share on social media. When she's not writing or editing, she's seeking out the Internet's cutest animals. Find her on Twitter at @courtneyseiter.
This post originally appeared on the Buffer blog.
Aren’t shortcuts just the best?
While everyone else takes the long way, you and your shortcut get to breeze right through, skipping a few steps and feeling pretty smart doing it.
Finding a good marketing shortcut feels especially great, considering all that we marketers have to do in a day.
That’s why I went hunting for the top free marketing tools in a variety of marketing categories. These tools – all quick hits you can get started with easily – focus on everything from research and writing to benchmarking and analyzing. Here’s hoping you find the perfect shortcut for your work!
We’ll start at the beginning: researching topics, sites and ideas.
1. Google Scholar
I don’t know why more people don’t talk about Google Scholar, but I love this tool for researching science-heavy articles and digging into emerging studies. It limits your search to articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
Pair it with a Google Alert to get amazing research on your topics of interest delivered right to your inbox.
2. Open Site Explorer
Described as a search engine for links, Open Site Explorer allows you to see a list of the sites that are linking to you – or another site.
Links are great for SEO, and this is great info for building better relationships with sites that like what you do, or even keeping an eye on competing sites.
3. Google Trends
See what the world is searching for and how interest in concepts has changed over time with Google Trends.
For example, I feel like I’m suddenly hearing about “growth hacker” and “growth hacking.” Are you, too? I input those terms into Google Trends and it looks like there is a sudden new interest in the concept.
4. Blog Topic Generator
Stumped for ideas? Give Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator a few nouns that describe your content areas and it’ll spit out a week’s worth of post ideas.
I put in the words “social media” “content marketing” and “aardvarks” (how could I resist?) and got the following:
- 10 Signs You Should Invest In Social Media
- Think You’re Cut Out For Doing Content Marketing? Take This Quiz
- Miley Cyrus And Aardvarks: 10 Surprising Things They Have In Common
- 15 Best Blogs To Follow About Social Media
- What Will Content Marketing Be Like In 100 Years?
Not bad, huh? Which one do you want to read?
5. Content Idea Generator
Enter a keyword for a fun, irreverent suggestion from Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
Side note: Make sure to check out TNW conference Europe to get the latest in marketing and social media.
Next: Reading and Writing Tools
Reading and Writing Tools
These tools offer help with readability, keyword density and spelling and grammar.
Drag the Readability bookmarklet to your toolbar to convert any content on the web into a simple, easy-to-read format with an estimate of how long it’ll take you. Also check out the other bookmarklet options here, including one that sends longer content to your Kindle to read later.
Simple, clear writing – we all strive for it. Get a little help with Hemingway. Paste a passage into the app and you’ll get an analysis that highlights overly dense passages, unnecessary adverbs and more.
8. Onpage Optimization Tool
This free onpage optimization tool from Internet Marketing Ninjas is a one-stop look at what’s going on a specific page of your site. Toss in a URL and see stats on keyword density, internal and external links and more.
9. After the Deadline
A Chrome extension, After the Deadline checks spelling, style, and grammar wherever you go on the web.
10. Readability Test Tool
Enter a web address or a block of text into the Readability Test Tool for an easy-to-understand analysis of your content. This tools measures a ton of different readability scores, and does a good job of explaining each one.
Next: Twitter Tools
These tools help you maximize your Twitter presence, from timing to sharing to analysis.
11. Save Publishing
Instantly find passages under 140 characters with Save Publishing, a handy bookmarklet that highlights tweetable passages on your screen. Post to Twitter with one click (or Buffer simply by highlighting a passage and clicking the Buffer extension)
We hope you’ve already heard of Followerwonk, one of Buffer’s many partners in amazing social media data. In addition to offering lots of super useful data about timing on Twitter, Followerwonk also has some other neat Twitter features, like the ability to compare followers of different accounts like so.
It’s not breaking news. It’s not nonsense hashtags. Latest.is is an automatically generated list of interesting links on Twitter, surfaced through an algorithm that focuses on “the people that always tweet the best links – first” (no, it doesn’t tell you who they are).
Tweriod analyzes your account to show you the best times to tweet for more exposure and replies. Bonus: Once you get your peak times, you can sync your Buffer account with them!
15. Must Be Present
A free tool from Sprout Social, Must Be Present calculates how often and how quickly you respond to comments and questions on Twitter (in exchange for your email address and a bit of other info).
These tools analyze one or more Facebook pages to deliver an analysis or report on your activities – particularly important as Facebook is always changing.
16. Conversation Score
Discover any Facebook Page’s influence, engagement and performance with Conversation Score.
17. Wolfram Alpha Facebook report
To analyze your own Facebook account and get lots of interesting data about your connection, the language you use, the times of day you post and more, try Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook report.
LikeAlyzer provides you with recommendations and feedback on your company’s presence on Facebook based on metrics including presence, dialogue, action and information.
19. Fanpage Karma
Fanpage Karma is all about competition. Compare two fan pages by entering their names or IDs and see which ones comes out on top.
20. Facebook Page Barometer
Agora Pulse’s Facebook Page Barometer keeps track of how your Facebook performance stacks up against the average performance of 6,000+ pages.
Next: LinkedIn and Website Analysis Tools
These tools help you visualize and maximize your LinkedIn connections and presence.
21. SimplyMeasured LinkedIn Analysis tool
Get beautiful view of the action on your LinkedIn Company page – including most active posters, top days and times and much more – with SimplyMeasured’s LinkedIn Company Analysis. SimplyMeasured has quite a few freebie tools worth a look.
22. LinkedIn Maps
How do all of your LinkedIn connections relate to one another and overlap? Plug your info into LinkedIn Maps to get a new view that might just help you understand and strengthen some relationships.
Website Analysis Tools
These tools give you an overall look at many different facets of your site or marketing strategy.
by QuickSprout is a really comprehensive website audit, social media analysis and competitor report, all in one.
24. Marketing Grader
Hubspot’s Marketing Grader works similarly, offering you an overall look at the health of your marketing efforts in multiple categories.
Want to see how your content (or anyone else’s, for that matter) has spread across the web? For sites that don’t display social media share button numbers, just paste the web address intoSharedCount. Or use the multi-URL dashboard to enter lots of different web addressed and export a quick report.
Next: Relationship and Miscellaneous Tools
These tools focus on connecting with new people and strengthening relationships with existing connections.
Got some thought leaders or industry influencers you want to keep up with? Sign into Newslethrough Facebook or LinkedIn and it’ll track your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections & email contacts and let you know when they’re in the news.
Make your email work harder for you by installing Rapportive, a Chrome extension that helps you get to know your contacts better by showing their photo, job, company, LinkedIn profile and recent tweets.
See how any Twitter user is connected to others with MentionMapp, which makes all your connections visual and simple to understand and explore.
29. Down For Everyone Or Just Me?
Is it your Internet connection, or is your site (or someone else’s that you’re desperately trying to reach) really down? Find out with this simple website. Just enter your site:
And it’ll let you know if it’s just you or if the site is, well, down for everyone.
What super useful marketing tools did I overlook? Share them in the comments to make this list even more helpful.
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