Long gone are the days when you need to be a big company with lots of resources to run effective marketing campaigns. Nowadays, there is a wealth of free and/or cheap digital marketing tools that you can use to build a winning marketing strategy.
When I go to speak at conferences, I’m often approached by entrepreneurs who ask which digital marketing tools I recommend that they use. Due to popular demand, I decided to create a complete list of free and cheap digital marketing tools for small business owners. These are tools that I myself have used, and are perfect for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to create strong marketing campaigns on a budget:
WordPress is a powerful content management system that powers over 34% of all websites. The website builder makes it possible for ordinary folks without programming skills to build robust websites. And the best part? It’s free! You just need to purchase a domain name and web hosting to install it, but you can also use a wordpress domain for free until you purchase a domain. Choose from thousands of free themes and plugins to customize and manage your site.
I recommend WordPress because of its flexibility and ease of use. However, there are several other website builders that will also let you build beautiful websites. The first one is Wix, which has drag-and-drop features that make it easy to use. Squarespace and Weebly also feature intuitive design and beautiful templates. While these builders tend to be easier to set up, their relative lack of customizability may cause trouble down the road, which is why I recommend WordPress.
A consistent social media strategy will help you get new followers and keep your existing followers engaged. Instead of manually posting everything, social media scheduling tools allow you to draft, schedule and publish posts to all your accounts, all with one tool!
The leading social media scheduling tools are Hootsuite and Buffer. They each have a free version; Buffer allows up to 3 accounts and up to 100 scheduled posts on their free plan, and Hootsuite allows up to 3 accounts and 30 scheduled posts. If you want to add more accounts or reach the publish limit, you can bump up to one of their paid plans. But if you’re just starting out, using a free account to post to your main social platforms will be enough to jump-start your social media presence.
You no longer need to be a graphic designer to create beautiful images. Canva is free graphic design tool that you can use to create social media graphics, logos, flyers and more. The platform is extremely intuitive and easy to use, and has pre-made templates that you can take and make your own. People retain 55% more information when it’s paired with a relevant image than when it’s without visuals. Using Canva to create eye-catching visuals is a great way to stay in your audience’s mind.
You used to have to pay iStock or Shutterstock to get high-quality, royalty free images. Now, there are several websites where you can find beautiful copyright free photos for free.
One of my favorites to use is Unsplash. Simply search for the type of photo you’re looking for, for example “people laughing,” and the search engine will pull up dozens of professional, photographer-submitted photos that you can download. Unsplash also gives you the option to create “collections” for your photos, so you can categorize them and find them later.
A couple other photo libraries are Pexels and Pixabay. Pixabay is unique in that it offers photos as well as illustrations. I use all three photo libraries, since each one has their own unique collection of photos.
Do you ever need to hire a freelancer for a quick project such as logo creation or video editing? Fiverr is the best outsourcing platform out there for short-term projects, or “gigs,” that need specialized expertise.
Fiverr has freelancers that can help you with anything from data entry to website development. You can either post a request for the project that you want sellers to apply for, or browse sellers and their past work and message them directly.
Rates on Fiverr tend to be inexpensive (some jobs start at $5), since there are so many freelancers on there competing for gigs.
Fiverr is more designed for freelancers who are looking for short-term projects. If you’re looking for a freelancer to work with on a long-term basis, Upwork may be a better platform for you. On Upwork, you post a job that you need help with, and wait for freelancers to bid on the work. You’ll likely pay more on Upwork than on Fiverr, since the platform rates freelancers on skill level and past job success and so attracts freelancers looking for more steady and long-term work.
While a strong SEO strategy can bring you substantial visibility through higher rankings, you’ll want to supplement your organic traffic with paid traffic. Running pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google Ads is one of the fastest and most effective ways to rank for your most important keywords.
You don’t need to spend $50 or even $5 a day to see results from Google Ads. There is no minimum daily budget for Google Ads, and you can pause your ads at any time to stop spending money. Depending on your SEM team’s PPC strategy and testing, you can run a profitable Google Ads campaign on a relatively shoestring budget.
It used to be easy to get lots of exposure and engagement by posting on Facebook and Instagram for free. Nowadays, however, both social media platforms have become largely pay-to-play.
That doesn’t mean you need to spend beaucoup bucks to reach your target audience on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook’s advanced targeting features means you can hone in on your specific audience, only allocating your budget to get their attention. Facebook Ads are connected to Instagram Ads, so you can run both in a single campaign.
Whether you’re in the early stages of your business, or just want to bootstrap your marketing efforts, using these cheap and free digital marketing tools can help you get more visibility and awareness while staying under budget.
Once you’re ready to scale your business, you can look into more advanced paid tools or consider working with a digital marketing agency to handle it for you.
Marketing agencies tend to use the same tools for multiple clients, meaning you can take advantage of their economies of scale to handle your marketing campaigns while you focus on other aspects of your business.
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Matthew Capala is the Founder and Managing Director at Alphametic, a boutique search marketing agency. He is also the Founder of SearchDecoder SEO Training Institute, an industry-leading platform for actionable workshops, bootcamps and online education for businesses and entrepreneurs. At Alphametic, Matthew helps clients increase their online visibility through integrated SEO and SEM solutions that yield higher ROI. His clients include L’Oreal, Novartis, Hoval, Quest Diagnostics, ilani Resort, Shopkeep and Primoprint. His work and ideas have been featured on Inc Magazine, Chicago Tribune, eMarketer Huffington Post, Mashable, Entrepreneur, The Next Web, and Inc. He has delivered talks and keynotes all over the world, from Trinidad to the Swiss Alps. He is the author of bestselling “SEO Like I’m 5: The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization.” Formerly Adj. Professor at NYU (’12-’14) in the field of digital marketing, Matthew has three business degrees, including Marketing MBA.