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The Best Online Tools for Digital Marketing Agencies

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tools for seo agenciesSince Freelance SEO Essex took its first baby steps five years ago, we have tried and tested just about every online tool that has promised to streamline our workflows and improve productivity.

Some of these tools are specifically for digital marketing, while others provide invaluable support for all business types. So, whether you’re just starting out, or have been running your own business for a few years and now feel swamped and stressed with all the chaos around you, April is a good month to get organised and cut out that workplace stress! In no particular order, here are some of the online tools that we’ve stumbled across through the years that can bring extra value to your operations. Many of these can provide excellent cost savings and can help you enhance the way you do business.

SEO Tools

The SEO tool industry is huge and you can easily blow your annual software budget on SEO tools alone. Over the years, we have ditched a fair few tools that failed to show adequate time-management hacks. These are the ones that survived:

SEMRush

SEMRush provides a wealth of digital marketing data about any website. You can quickly see if a website is performing well either in organic search or paid search. You can use this tool to quickly assess the health of websites and set out a preliminary optimisation plan.

So, what is best about SEMRush? We utilise many of the SEMRush reports to help develop a strategic content plan that is tailored specifically for each of our clients. By using SEMRush to both analyse the health of a website and to better understand what competitors are ranking for, and how they’re achieving this, we can create a strategy to deliver exceptional search results to our clients at a very competitive price. Some agencies use template SEO strategies which mean that each client receives a near identical package. As these packages are not designed to achieve specific goals, they often fail to deliver.

SEMRush provides data from two broad areas of search engine marketing: organic search and paid search. By examining where competitors are spending their ad money we can determine which keywords are mostly likely to be provide the best ROI, which means we waste no time in supercharging our client campaigns. The organic data shows us where the market really is, so rather than chasing a range obscure keyword phrases we can focus on the ones that are being used most often. Keyword research still forms a vital part of all our SEO strategies.

Majestic

The importance of links has declined in recent years, but they are still a vital part of the search engine ecosystem. Majestic is the best tool for gathering and analysing any website’s backlink data. When we speak to a new client, this is one of the first tools we fire up, as it will tell us how active they have already been with regards to their online marketing.

Majestic serves two main purposes really. First, is allows us to take a look at the backlink profile of competitor websites. This allows us to quickly discover gaps in our clients’ link building strategies. Often a client will overlook vitally important trade organisations and business directories where they can showcase their business to their target market. Long gone are the days when an SEO could just create thousands of random links to rank a website well – today it is all about developing an authoritative and relevant backlink profile.

The other use for Majestic is to analyse our client’s current link health. Since the development of the Penguin algorithm, which is now more than five years old, we have had to take a far more cautious approach to any link building that we do. Also, sometimes we need to remove toxic links from our clients’ link profile, if we feel that they have received an algorithmic link penalty.

Majestic also shows us the anchor text used in links, and this can also help to mitigate link building risk. We know that websites that focus too heavily on a narrow set of high traffic keywords are far more likely to receive a Google penalty than those which build a wide range of links with more natural language. If we see that a client has already built too many links with the same anchor, we’ll advise them to revise their keyword strategy urgently.

SEOBook Toolbar

SEOBook is one of the original SEO toolbars, and still our favourite. We pretty much run Firefox on all PCs in the office purely because the SEOBook toolbar works so well on it. We use this tool for general domain research, as it will quickly show information on link strength, meta data, whois info, keyword research and a whole host of other tools. Traditionally, it was largely used for TBPR (Google’s toolbar pagerank) but that has long been abandoned by Google. The SEMRush data it provides is, however, a very useful way to get some quick insights into the quality of a website without having to run reports.

Communication Tools

Communication is the key to success in any business, and these tools will be familiar to most of you already. For email, MS Outlook and Gmail, are great – both of these provide cloud based email access so colleagues can work from any location. Gmail is mostly used when collaborating on Google Sheets and Docs.

However, a comprehensive digital marketing strategy must include a wider array of tools, which is why we also make good use of Facebook Messenger, Skype, SMS, and of course, the telephone! While computer based tools play an important role, you cannot beat the efficiency of a good old fashioned telephone.

MailChimp

MailChimp is the best tool for email marketing. It’s very user friendly and provides a selection of professional looking email templates, and is also free for the first 2500 email subscribers, so is perfect for small businesses that are just starting out.

After you have used a system like MailChimp, you’ll never look back. As well as making sending emails to large groups of subscribers an easy task, it also provides analysis tools that report click through rates, identify specific links clicked and also report when people unsubscribe or report a mail as spam. These tools are vital to ensure that you optimise your emails. Without such a tool, getting the perfect balance of high open rates and click-through rate with low unsubscribe rates is practically impossible.

HootSuite

Hootsuite is a social media management tool. From one online interface, it’s possible to publish across a wide range of social media platforms. It also allows you to schedule posts, monitor engagement, analyse traffic and follow trends. This is a great tool for managing multiple social media profiles.

What we really like most about Hootsuite is that it provides ways to automate some aspects of social media. Although manual updates are the preferred method, there are occasions when you want to be sure that site updates are automatically sent out to all social media accounts. Hootsuite can also be used as an alternative to using Twitter, as the visual streams allow you to better focus on your own marketing campaign rather than getting swamped by the irrelevant noise.

CRM and Workflows

Businesses will typically use Google Sheets and Excel to manage their daily workloads. Client database and workflow management can be more efficiently handled via Insightly. Insightly is another tool which is free for individuals and very reasonably priced for small teams. It allows tasks to be allocated to team members and updated, which ensures nothing is forgotten. It also provides a customer database, and all customers can be linked to assignments.

Money Management

Money – it is ultimately what makes or breaks every business! The key is to use great team of accountants and make use of online banking to process many payments, but you can also make use of PayPal for all international payments. BACS is fine for UK transactions, but when ordering digital services from overseas, PayPal is the easiest and safest method.

To help reduce the stress incurred on your accountants, perhaps you could use Quickbooks to manage invoicing, process receipts and business expenses, and for managing payroll and VAT? It has a handy mobile app that allows us to keep accounts updated from any location.

Google’s Webmaster Tools

No discussion on web SEO tools is complete without a mention of Google’s now extensive range of tools. As well as Search Console (previously called Webmaster Tools), Google also provides Analytics, PageSpeed Insights, Mobile Friendly testing tools, and the Keyword Planner (via AdWords). Another mention must go to Google Chrome’s Incognito mode, which is invaluable at quickly looking at search results in a “fresh” browser – due to personalisation, it can be difficult to know where others see a website ranking – this tool largely solves this problem, although there are still some issues with geolocation data clouding the results.

The technology that supports small business is evolving rapidly and it is likely that if you ask any company in another five years what products they are using, many of these tools listed here will be replaced. The most resilient products are often the simplest, so the likes of Outlook and spreadsheets will probably be with us for decades to come, but all the other tools are subject to change over time.

When choosing tools for your own business, always make use of the free trials on offer and test as many as possible before settling on a few that will enhance your business the most. So long as you only pay for tools that pay for themselves, your business will be healthier, and you will feel far less stretched!

The technology that supports small business is evolving rapidly and it is likely that if you ask any company in another five years what products they are using, many of these tools listed here will be replaced. The most resilient products are often the simplest, so the likes of Outlook and spreadsheets will probably be with us for decades to come, but all the other tools are subject to change over time.

When choosing tools for your own business, always make use of the free trials on offer and test as many as possible before settling on a few that will enhance your business the most. So long as you only pay for tools that pay for themselves, your business will be healthier, and you will feel far less stretched!

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