Regardless of where you work and what type of budget you have, utilizing free online resources can help you be more efficient, save money and get what you need done more quickly. Even better, many of the available free applications can help businesses gain exposure and make products and services easier to be found.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite “free” online resources and applications. Some of these have a small monthly or annual fee for more features and functionality, but the free versions still provide great benefits and allow users to achieve quite a lot. If you haven’t already, you should check each of these out:
Social Media Management:
Hootsuite provides a much more efficient way of posting on social media channels. The free version of Hootsuite enables you to manage up to three social profiles. These profiles can be from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google +. With Hootsuite, you’re able to schedule your posts by the hour, date and profile(s). If you have more than three social profiles that need to be managed, you can upgrade to Hootsuite Pro for around $10 a month. There’s even a Hootsuite Enterprise for larger organizations. Hootsuite provides analytics at an extra cost.
Website Optimization Tools:
A Google Webmasters Account is free and contains an abundance of useful tools and resources for anyone (you don’t need to be a web developer!) that wants to learn how to make their site better. The Search Console provides insights on site search traffic, links, Google index statuses, content keyword occurrences, crawl stats/errors and security issues. Google Webmasters also provides courses, guides and resources for learning all the ins and outs of creating a great site. There’s also a Webmaster Central Help Forum where you can get additional help and ask questions.
Google ranks sites that are fast and user-friendly better than those that are slow and not user-friendly. Through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can quickly analyze the speed and user-friendliness of your site for both mobile and desktop. For scores less than 100, Google lists things that you should consider fixing to improve the site’s speed and user experience. Note: You can also use this to check the speed of your competitors’ websites.
Google ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than those that aren’t. So, every site should strive to be mobile-friendly – even if most of your visitors are coming from desktops. If you’re not sure whether or not yours is mobile-friendly, check to see if it passes Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If it doesn’t pass, Google provides a list of reasons why. Note: You can also use this to find out which of your competitors sites are mobile-friendly.
Google Analytics is free and something that every site should be set up to use. With it, you can collect in-depth insights on traffic, demographics, behavior, conversions and more. Using Google Analytics will also help you determine how many people are visiting your site via a mobile device.
This is another free tool that helps you determine what keywords words and phrases people are using to search for products and services like yours. Type in the words that you think people are using and find out how many local and national searches are being made for those words. Google Adwords also provides data on other words with similar meanings. Note: The keyword tool is available regardless if you’re running a paid advertising campaign or not.
Google is constantly changing its algorithms for SEO. Google's SEO Starter Guide gives you the most accurate information regarding how Google ranks sites.
Many times, the secondary pages of a website contain a long URL. The easiest and quickest way to turn a long URL into a short URL is by using Google’s url shortener.
To help give your business more online visibility, make sure that it’s displayed on Google Maps. In order to do this, you need to register your business at Google My Business. After providing your business contact information, Google will send a postcard to your business mailing address with a verification code, which you’ll need to complete the process. Once your business is listed, people will be able to get driving directions to your business and write reviews. Through Google My Business, you’ll also be able to create a Google+ business account.
MailChimp is an email marketing service that allows you to create and send emails, and receive data insight. The free version enables you to send to up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Marketing automation, the ability to send more emails and receive advanced analytics is available at a monthly fee starting at $25 a month.
File Storage, Sharing and Creation:
Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows you to store and share files. A free account provides up to 2 GB of file space. For individuals needing up to 1 TB of space, the monthly fee is $9.99. Or, for businesses needing unlimited space, the monthly fee is $12.50 for a minimum of 5 licenses.
Google Drive provides all Google accounts with up to 15 GB of free storage to share across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. More space can be purchased starting at 100 GM for $1.99 a month, 1 TB for $9.99 a month and numerous other plans going all the way up to 30 TB for $299.99 a month.
Google Docs is similar to a free version of Microsoft Office. Google Docs consists of
Slides, Sheets, Docs (comparable to PowerPoint, Excel and Word) and Forms. The ability for better collaboration by allowing multiple users to view and edit simultaneously is another great benefit (besides for being free!).
With the Wayback Machine, you’re able to see the visual history of URLs. This can be useful if you want to see how your website and competition have evolved.
The free version of Survey Monkey allows you create online surveys and track results for up to 100 people. Customization and the ability to receive more responses is available for a monthly fee starting at $25 a month.
These are just a few of the many free and affordable online tools that are available to help businesses succeed. Which of these are your favorite? Please feel to comment on any other free online tools that you use that were not mentioned.
Contact Break Ice Marketing for more ideas on how your business can be more efficient, save money and reach more people.