Whenever I dream up a home improvement project for my place, I end up working smartest and fastest when I have the right tools at my disposal. It’s amazing the difference a good tool can make – and the extra time it takes to get work done without a helpful tool.
Fast-forward to online marketing. How can you work smarter and faster with SEO?
I’ve collected a big sampling of the best free SEO tools on the market—tools with a wide variety of uses and covering a number of common needs. These tools are fast, free, and easy-to-use. I hope you find one or two (or twenty) you can put to good use, today.
Check the speed and usability of your site on multiple devices
Enter a URL, and this tool will test the loading time and performance for desktop and for mobile, plus identify opportunities to improve (and pat you on the back for what you’re doing well). The mobile results also come with a user experience score, grading areas like tap targets and font sizes.
Moz crunches data from more than 15 different sources—including Google, Foursquare, and Facebook—to score your brick-and-mortar business on how it looks online. Results come complete with actionable fixes for inconsistent or incomplete listings.
Enter a keyword or group of keywords into the tool, and Google will return all sorts of helpful stats to guide your keyword strategy: monthly search volume, competition, and even suggested terms you might not have considered.
Searching Google.com in an incognito window will bring up that all-familiar list of autofill options, many of which can help guide your keyword research. The incognito ensures that any customized search data Google stores when you’re signed in gets left out. Incognito may also be helpful to see where you truly rank on a results page for a certain term.
Create custom code so that your reviews, events, organizations, and people are displayed the way you want on search pages. Once you’ve created your schema code, copy and paste to your website, or try the free WordPress plugin for an even easier implementation.
Enter your site, and this tool will strip out everything but the guts, revealing your website the way search spiders see it. This particular view can be helpful to see the hierarchy you’ve given particular elements (maybe without realizing it!).
I’ve shied away from referencing any toolbars thus far, but the Moz toolbar is just too good to pass up. Once installed, the Moz toolbar can show you SEO insights from within Google search results pages and at any particular website.
Robots.txt files let the web robots know what to do with a website’s pages. When a page is disallowed in robots.txt, that’s instructions telling the robots to completely skip over those web pages. There are some exceptions in which case a robots.txt might be ignored, most notably malware robots that are looking for security issues.
The Microsoft SEO Toolkit combines quite a few different tools into one. Used together, it can analyze your site and provide recommendations on how to make your site’s content more SEO-friendly, including tweaks to your sitemap and robots.txt. Sorry to all of the Apple folks, this one seems to be Windows-only!
Putting together a list of free SEO tools can be a daunting task. There are hundreds out there! I aimed to grab the ones that we’ve found valuable here at Buffer and the ones you can use via the web within minutes to get some amazing insights.
Email. It’s the first thing you check when you sit down at your computer at the office and it’s the first thing you look at when you get home.
We’ve gotten conditioned to check our email not just daily, if not hourly (thank you very much to the constant alerts on my phone) thinking we’ll miss an important message or lose out on the best limited-time offer ever.
As excited as we are to see a new email message from one of our contacts, it can quickly become a nuisance and a not so fun task wading through the hundred or so emails we get each day from a variety of sources, most of which are fighting over our dollars and bank account.
Email marketing has become a staple tactic in every marketer’s playbook, and as annoying as those pesky salesy emails are, they are highly effective and efficient.
If you’re new to email marketing, or have assumed that it isn’t effective, now is the time to get started. Here is how:
Mind Your Manners
People are bombarded with advertisements and interruptions every day, including email. They have to set aside precious minutes out of their life to go through all the emails and hopefully stop to read yours.
The first key to a successful email marketing strategy is to compose emails that catch the eyes of your recipients by setting yourself apart from the many other emails he or she receives on any given day.
Remember, at this point, your potential customers aren’t looking for something to read. They’re looking for things to delete.
Your emails need to get their attention, but they shouldn’t be obnoxious. Personalized emails that are sent in alignment with the customer’s timing preferences seem to perform the best.
When you send an email, after all, you are, in a way, entering their home and world.
When launching an email campaign, be considerate in how you word your email and the timing and frequency in which you send emails.
A strong and successful email campaign needs a sizeable email list to get started. There is no magical method for doing this, though, and different companies will have their own strategies for building up their lists.
The most common methods include giving something away for free, offering a newsletter or company updates on products. The purpose of these efforts is to offer something of value for the low, low price of a name and email address.
Your call to action and the purpose of the emails need to be strong, compelling and clear. You need to be careful on how you word your email.
It can be helpful to get inside the heads of your recipients by coming up with questions they will likely consider, including:
What do I get when I give you my email address?
Are you going to spam me?
How often will you email me?
Will I get discounts?
Will I get a first crack at your beta?
Will you send me relevant offers or more junk?
Your “ask” needs to be compelling and incentivizing. Avoid the generic, bland “enter your email for updates.”
You can also look at your own inbox and see what types of offers you subscribe to and figure out what compels you to click on certain emails and not others.
Use a Reputable Email Service
When you use a reputable, well-known email service, you increase your chances of recipients opening, clicking and converting through your emails. This is because these email services help you send emails that look professional and interesting. This builds trust between your brand and the recipient.
Some reputable email services you could consider include: (Please note: we are not endorsing any one of these in particular, just highlighting some of the known players in the field.)
An email marketing campaign is founded on expectations. Your campaign will fail if you send out emails every day when you promised to only send once a week. If a subscriber expects daily product update emails, but you only send out emails weekly or monthly, your subscriber will get angry and your campaign will likely fail.
You may be apprehensive about follow-up emails because you don’t want to send emails out too frequently.
Follow-up emails, however, are an essential aspect in a successful email marketing campaign. If you don’t send a follow-up email, your customers are likely to forget their interaction with your brand and you’ll go back to square one again.
Follow-up emails are great opportunities to utilize the auto responder feature on your chosen email service provider. You’ll be able to adjust the frequency and text of the autoresponder based on the feedback you get from customers.
What’s in a Newsletter
You may already have a newsletter as part of your email campaign, but not all newsletters are equal. Customers want newsletter that look professional, are easy to read, have a mix of graphics and text and can be easily opened and rendered on smartphones.
Some companies misuse their newsletters and use them more as a pitching tool rather than a relationship building tool. The content, therefore, will suffer. Newsletters targeted for pitching will come across as spammy and salesy, which is often a major turn-off.
A strong email newsletter will include a mix of product updates and images, industry and company insights, new content as well as a personal message. Quality newsletters are emailed to customers who opted in to the subscription, not those who expressed no interest.
Use Analytics to Make Improvements
If the results of your email campaign aren’t as stellar as you wanted or anticipated, there is something you’re not doing right. Instead of canning the whole campaign and starting from scratch, it is way more efficient and cost effective to use analytics to diagnose specifically where the problem is.
The three main analytics to pay careful attention to is the open rate, click through rate and number of unsubscribers.
A low open rate indicates that recipients are not even bothering to open your emails and deleting them upon receipt. This indicates that your emails are too spammy, sent too frequently or the recipient perceives your brand as providing little value.
Try customizing your email, having an attention-grabbing headline and improve the copy in the email to address this problem.
A low click through rate (CTR) indicates the recipient clicks on the email, but then abandons the destination webpage. This may indicate that the copy on the destination page isn’t targeted enough, or that the call to action is too obscure.
A high unsubscriber rate indicates that people don’t trust your brand. You’ll need to work on upping your brand’s reputation and building trust with your customers.
You can use analytics to see how recipients respond to certain autoresponders and marketing messages and then making necessary improvements.
An email marketing campaign is just like any other type of marketing campaign, in which your targeted audience will be diverse and have multiple sub groups. For these subgroups, buyer personas are formulated to characterize the personality, interests and buying behavior and thought process of the ideal person within each group.
People in each subgroup will have different characteristics than those of other subgroups. Defining your buyer personas is a way to segment and tailor your marketing messaging and tactics to speak to each sub group in a way that will increase the likelihood of conversion.
Segmentation is useful in email marketing as well. To keep your emails from automatically going into the recipient’s spam folder, your emails need to be personal and address a specific need he or she has that your product or service can solve. Segmenting buyer personas can help you identify the specific needs of each group within your targeted audience.
Your email’s messaging should also meet the recipient where they’re at in the buying process.
Some recipients may never have heard of your brand so you want to provide them with more detail and possibly give them a free resource when they sign up for a newsletter. Others have been loyal customers for years and you can further deepen the relationship by rewarding them with coupons or discounts on products.
The appropriate messaging will more likely compel the recipient to take the desired action and move forward along the conversion funnel.
An example of how you might segment your email campaign may include:
Product Updates List
Daily, Weekly, Bi-monthly and Monthly Email List
An email campaign is a great way to get in touch with current and potential clients and build crucial relationships with them.
Company/customer relationships are even more critical now than ever with the Internet and mobile phones.
An email campaign takes work and pre-planning. If they aren’t done right, they can severely backfire. If done well, email campaigns can increase trust with customers and lead to greater conversions and loyal customers.
The success of any agency is heavily reliant on the continual development and growth of its client base, and it’s no different here at Add URL Directory. For the Client Services team, developing client relationships that stand the test of time is a crucial aspect of our role.
Building long lasting business relationships requires considerable time and effort. That said, all this time is worth the effort as developing and harnessing these relationships can lead to successful projects, increased sales, further connections, and word-of-mouth referrals.
By following the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to forging long-lasting relationships with all your existing and future clients.
Tell the truth. They say romantic relationships don’t survive when there’s a lack of trust, and business relationships are no different.
Long-lasting business relationships only occur when clients have complete trust in the suggestions you make, in everything you promise, and in everything you say.
Most people can spot a liar, and clients are no different. Even if they don’t think they’re being lied to at first, they’ll eventually figure it out and you’ll soon find yourself reeling in the consequences.
Show integrity, tell the truth, and be open and honest, even in the face of adversity. Your clients will appreciate it.
Deliver on time
If you say you’re going to deliver something at a certain time, make sure you deliver on time, or (even better) ahead of time. If you say you’re going to send something to the client, they will usually take that as absolute verbatim.
If you’re unsure of hitting a deadline, either tell your client as soon as you can that you’re going to need to push it back, or simply don’t promise it in the first place.
Committing to a deadline means leaving your client safe in the knowledge that they’ll have what they need when they need it. If you don’t deliver, how can they trust you? And, as we know from our previous rule, a relationship without trust doesn’t last.
Making sure your client is reliant on your input and expertise is a sure-fire way to develop a long-lasting relationship.
The more value you can offer, the more your client will seek your expertise. Share relevant information, be on hand to offer advice, even if it doesn’t directly benefit you or your agency’s back pocket. Be that person they can rely on and you can be sure it’ll pay off in the long run.
Know their company and industry like it’s your own
You don’t need to be an expert, but being aware of your client’s challenges before even they know about them demonstrates your indispensability and can only strengthen your relationship as someone they need.
I mean, you wouldn’t enter, let alone stay in a relationship if you didn’t know anything about each other, would you?
Don’t hide behind an email address
Keeping in contact via emails is a completely normal and valuable practice, but there is significant value in picking up the phone and arranging good old face-to-face communications.
With emails, there is always the possibility of something being misconstrued or miscommunicated, especially when multiple people are included. Face-to-face and (to a lesser extent) phone calls negate any possible miscommunications as both non-verbal and verbal cues can be read, helping bring clarity to any potentially unclear communications.
Face-to-face communication can help boost efficiency, enabling you to get something which could take a whole day emailing about done in one fowl swoop.
Communications away from email also allows you to add a “personal touch”, allowing you to demonstrate personality, then likely reciprocated by your client, helping to develop a more personal, substantial relationship with the ability to last.
Some people may hate the term, but there's no doubt that content marketing has caught on big time.
As many people point out, there isn't anything especially new in the concept of using content to attract customers, but what's new is that content marketing roles are being created, and teams are being restructured.
Content is becoming more tactical as a result.
Here's a selection of 15 of the best content marketing tips...
Define your target audience before you start to produce content
Think about audiences rather than customers. The aim is to produce content that is compelling, but also aligned to your brand.
Take a look at your best customers, and your most engaged visitors, and try to figure out what kind of content attracts these people.
What kind of content transforms a visitor into a customer?
Create a style guide
We can argue about the intricacies of grammar, but what's important is consistency, and this is where a style guide comes in.
At Econsultancy, we have a style guide that we give to staff writers and outside contributors, to ensure that there is a consistent approach to the presentation and formatting of articles across the site.
Originally used as a post, it turned out to be very popular, so we have since made this into posters and more.
Aim for evergreen content
We use the term evergreen content a lot, as this is the kind of content we aim to produce most of the time.
While news and news-related content has a distinct shelf life, articles containing useful tips and advice can continue to perform well over a longer period of time.
For example, looking at these blog stats for the last 30 days or so, all except the top post were published six months or more ago.
Looking for the gaps on Google is something the content marketer should do to identify valuable search positions that you do not currently own, and steer the content producers in the right direction.
Consider the volume of searches for a particular term. Take a look at the competition, to try to figure out the scale of the challenge, and the type of content you should produce.
Make the most of the tools available
There are some useful content marketing tools out there which take some of the hard work out of content generation and aid the brainstorming process.
For example, we have used Google's Keyword Planner to identify a list of valuable terms and phrases to target in the SERPs.
Having identified these terms, our content team then brainstormed article ideas to target these terms. This king of planning exercise ensures that the content we create does as much work for us as possible.
Learn from others
There are some great examples of content marketing around, so read widely and learn from them.
There's a lot of content out there, and lots of competition so yours needs to be good to stand out.
Doug Kessler put this point very well in his CRAP slideshow last year (itself a very fine piece of content marketing), and I'm not going to try to improve on that.
This is the only way to stand out.
There's lot of samey content and thinly veiled reblogging out there, so coming up with with your own ideas is the best way to differentiate yourself from the rest.
The way to do this is to use your own voice and your own opinions, rather than regurgitating press releases and white papers.
I receive lots of press releases, and you can see how many sites do short rewrites of these and package them as news. This content only works at volume, and has no longlasting value.
Over time, the best content for us is that which is original and cannot be found elsewhere.
Of course, this won't be the only content marketing tips article on the web but these are tips written from experience, not cobbled together from other sources.
Don't rely on news
There's nothing wrong with reporting on news but it's not a strategy that works for us, and it's unlikely to work for most content marketers.
It's not that we don't talk about news, but we have to go further than merely reporting facts and explain why this news is significant for our audience and what they should do about it.
Create readable content
Even if they have been enticed to your post by the title and subject matter, readers can still be deterred if an article is badly formatted.
Huge swathes of text with large paragraphs, little formatting, and no images would be enough to make most readers bail out.
Instead, you need to break up blocks of text with headings and sub-headings, use short paragraphs, highlight key points and stats, and use images and charts, both to illustrate the points you are making, but also to make the article easier to read.
Look at sites like Smashing Magazine. It produces long and detailed posts but, thanks to excellent presentation (and great writing) they never feel a chore to read.
Think about SEO
When planning and creating content, you need to think about how you can use SEO to gain more traffic, but also how said content can improve your search positions.
As mentioned before, we look to identify gaps, but also to optimise for the terms that bring in the traffic.
You can identify these terms in Google Analytics, though this is becoming ever more difficult thanks to (not provided). Site search reports are one useful alternative.
It’s not about quantity
It's very important to keep the articles coming to give people a reason to keep checking your blog, and to give Google some fresh content to crawl, but this shouldn't be at the expense of quality.
Look at your resources and adapt accordingly. If you have a small team, I'd argue it's always better to product smaller amounts of quality content rather than trying to keep the number of articles at a certain level.
Don't be afraid of long form content
The popularity of the expression TL;DR suggests that the online reader is impatient and doesn't have time to read longer articles.
While many may be, there is still an appetite for longer posts. Indeed, some of our most successful evergreen posts fit into this category.
The Quartz Curve is a useful way of thinking about this. The theory goes that people want either short form content which can be digested quickly, or they want to dive into the detail and take some time.
The bit in-between (500 to 800 words) doesn't work as is too long to read quickly and too short for depth.
Measure and learn
I use Google Analytics a lot in my role. We're not obsessed my numbers to the extent that it dominates all else, but I firmly believe in making sure content performs as well as it possibly can.
We use a range of standard and custom GA reports and dashboards to analyse data and view the performance of the blog.
We also use tools like PI Datametrics to track search rankings over time which helps us to target and optimise for important keywords.
We also use tools like Buzzsumo to analyse the performance of our posts on different social channels. We use plenty of other tools too.
Bonus tip...optimise older content
This is something we've done a little here and there, but a recent Hubspot article has convinced me to try this more, and this article is part of it.
The idea is to refresh older content which still performs reasonably well to benefit from Google's preference for fresh content. It should also attract new social shares and inbound links.
At the moment, this post (originally published in June 2014) is at the bottom of page one on Google for 'content marketing tips', though it has been higher in the past.
So, I have updated several points in the article, updated links and references, added new charts and then republished it. (The republishing bit is something I have reservations about, but I'm all for experimentation).
Will this tactic lift it back up? Will it bring in more links and shares? I'll report back later...