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Article: Top Digital Tools & Resources

The Best Things In Life Are Free: 10 Tools For Digital Professionals That Don't Cost A Dime

Which tools do experienced digital marketers rely on to develop their marketing strategies, plans, and programs?  There are many valuable resources to provide insight into target audience behavior, competitive activity, social media mentions, search keyword volume, current marketing trends, and a host of other useful information.  But did you know that many of the very best are available online to everyone, for free?


Before building your next digital plan, be sure to check out these terrific free tools for input, support and guidance in 10 important areas.


1)    Competitive site traffic: Compete.com estimates the number of U. S. visitors to practically all the top web sites, enabling users to enter up to five website names and receive Traffic Volume for each, along with additional site analytics.  Quantcast.com provides U. S. audience composition stats, including gender, income, age group, visit frequency, and other sites visited.  Alexa.com ranks sites comparatively based on traffic  by millions of its toolbar users.


2)    Search volume: Google Trends lets you enter up to five topics and see how often they've been searched on Google over time.  It calculates how many searches occurred for the entered term(s), compared to total Google searches, and graphs the results. The Hot Searches feature displays the 40 fastest-increasing searches in the U. S., and is updated hourly.  Google Insights enables narrower analysis to compare search volume patterns across specific geographic regions, subject categories, time frames and other Google properties.  Google Traffic Estimator shows predicted search volume, average cost-per-click, and ad positions for specified keywords.


3)    SEO Evaluation: WebsiteGrader.com, a free SEO evaluation tool, grades any site on its SEO effectiveness, based on factors including title, meta description, keywords, headings, images, Google Page Rank, inbound links, Google indexed pages, directory inclusion, and Delicious bookmarks.  Entering your own url or a competitor's delivers a quick SEO assessment.  


4)    Competitive search activity: SpyFu.com reports the keywords a website buys on Google Adwords and the keywords causing a site to rank in search results. It also provides cost per click, search volume, and estimated search advertising spend. Other available information includes keywords used, organic search rank, top competitors, sites purchasing specific terms, and sites ranking organically for a given query.


5)    Social media dialogue: SocialMention.com tracks the most current conversations about a company, product, or any other topic across the social media landscape, encompassing blogs, forums, bookmarks, comments, events, news, etc., by monitoring over 100 social media properties like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and YouTube. Technorati.com is the leading blog search engine, indexing over a million blogs, tracking the authority and influence of blogs, while providing an index of what is currently most popular in the Blogosphere.


6)    Twitter monitoring: TweetMeme.com aggregates all the popular links on Twitter to determine which are popular, organizing these into Categories, Subcategories and Channels, so it's easy to filter and find what you are most interested in.  Klout.com measures influence on Twitter (and Facebook), on a scale from 0 to 100, using variables like the number of retweets, the Twitter audience size, and influence of followers, while also providing influence monitoring tools.


7)    Social media case studies:  To keep abreast of social media marketing activity by industry leaders or competitors, visit these wikis/sites, which provide a wide range of case studies.  For Social Media Cases across all industries, check out A Wiki of Social Media Marketing Examples. If you're focused on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, read the cases at the Dose of Digital Social Media Wiki.


8)    Sample Size Calculator: If you aren't a statistician, but require a simple, quick way to quantify the validity of your results, or establish the correct quantities for an in-market test, either of these two tools will do the trick: http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm or http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html.


9)    Online Advertising Impact: Both DoubleClick Research and Atlas Institute Insights regularly publish valuable white papers with insightful analyses of online media performance impact, benchmarks and trends.


10) Marketing Stats and Presentations: Slideshare.com lets you share presentations, or view documents written by others, across a whole range of topics and industries. PewInternet.org is an ongoing research project providing a rich resource of trends and statistics about consumer usage of digital channels. 


These are among the most powerful, free tools that equip digital marketers to plan and analyze more effectively, but if you have other personal favorites, please share them by posting or emailing.