11 Free Digital Marketing Tools to Plan Your Strategy in 2018
Digital Strategy | Untitled-13 13 min read

11 FREE Strategy Tools to Help Plan Your Marketing In 2018

by Dennis Kibirev December 20, 2017

What can be better than getting your marketing strategy all signed off and ready-to-go for 2018 before the new year arrives?

Yes, that would be a nice present under your marketing team’s Xmas tree.

We can’t help put a smile on your boss’s face when you break the news that there’s more budget required for your user-generated influencer marketing strategy, AI-powered social content calendar and machine learning-driven programmatic advertising engine that sings like Pavarotti…

…Buuuut, we can put a smile on your face by providing this list of free marketing assessment and grading tools that can help you figure out your marketing strategy for 2018.

So, you can finally cancel that annual Q4 fortune teller visit and get rid of the Ouija board that you’ve been using for the last few years (yes, the one where you drew social media icons in place of the cryptic looking letters… Seriously, throw it out!)

Create Your 2018 Marketing Plan (For Free)

Best of all? All of these tools are free. That’s right. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Like air or water. But not Fiji Water. You get the drift…

Think of this list as our early marketing Christmas present to you.

And the best part is that none of these tools require you to sign up for any trials or provide your credit card details. It’s mostly a case of typing in your brand’s URL and away you go.

Now let’s start unwrapping the goodies.

(Re)Build Your Brand

It all starts with knowing where your brand stands in the market. And what it stands for.

As marketers, we all know this, buuuut… we sometimes get too campaign-focused to worry about the bigger picture. KPIs aren’t going away anytime soon after all.

These two tools will help you take a step back and look at your brand with fresh eyes. So you can then get straight back into the campaign work as soon as you return from holiday.

Brand Grader

The ‘Brand Grader’ is a great tool to help you gain a high-level overview of how many ‘lovemarks’ your brand gets online.

It shows you the following useful information about your brand:

  • Anyone with serious Klout who’s talking about it
  • Any mentions it received online
  • Whether it’s being viewed in a negative or positive light ie your online brand equity
  • Where it’s being mentioned, including location-specific information
  • A summary of your social following (in case you don’t already know this).

OnBrand Grader

That’s right, there’s also an on-brand grader appropriately titled, ehm, ‘OnBrand Grader.’

While Brand Grader gives you a snapshot of where your brand stands, OnBrand Grader gives it a kick in the pants and tells it to stay on-brand.

This involves – that’s right – judging your brand on the following dimensions:

  • Visual consistency –

with a nice breakdown of how consistently you’re using colour as well as text and fonts

  • Messaging –

which includes your use of complementary and logo colours as well as your meta information that communicates your brand message

  • Visibility –

how well you are doing in terms of using Twitter and Facebook cards as well as header contrast and colour temperature

  • Accessibility –

how findable your brand is from a social media perspective as well how on-brand your domain name is. It also assesses your privacy policy and SSL certificate. A brand isn’t a brand without an SSL certificate these days.

Both Brand Grader and OnBrand Grader are useful tools and the last one will definitely give your brand a run for its money. The trick is not to get their names mixed up.

Own Your Owned Media & Content Marketing

Now that you’ve taken your brand through the wringer, it’s time to put your content marketing under the microscope.

Readable.io

What better way to put a ‘sadface’ on your copywriter’s face than by scrutinising their writing using an app that was built for this exact purpose.

Well, ok, Readable.io is not about putting sadfaces on various members of your marketing team. It’s just a great way to ensure your content marketing is consistent from a messaging and copywriting perspective.

It analyzes any URL or piece of copy as follows:

  • Three popular readability scores to grade your content: Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning Fog and SMOG
  • A variety of text stats, including counting your letters, words and syllables as well as your use of adjectives, nouns and adverbs. This includes use of long words and sentences
  • SEO-focused keyword density analysis for single keywords or phrases
  • Estimate how long your content will take to be read or spoken aloud
  • Analysing your copy for positive, negative or neutral sentiment
  • Pointing out the use of passive voice and cliches.

It also gives a nice overview of your tone of voice. So, it’s a great supplemental tool to use alongside OnBrand Grader to get a snapshot of how on-brand you might be:

Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Analyzer

Yes, the Advanced Marketing Institute’s EMV tool’s user interface looks like something that emerged from a 90s internet time warp. But just like you can’t fault Tetris for pure gameplay, neither can you fault AMI’s tool for its utility.

Well, you can try and fault it… If your headline sucks. But that’s not the app’s problem, it’s your problem. And given that 59 percent of all links shared on social networks aren’t actually clicked on at all, it’s a problem you want to fix ASAP.

The EMV tool works by assessing your headline against its database of ‘impact’ words. Through their research, the AMI have found that these words provoke a stronger emotional reaction in readers. EMV then uses an algorithm to find these words in your headline and spits out a score from zero to one hundred based on its analysis.

The tool also has a cool feature that tells you which particular part of your customer’s psyche your headline appeals to most i.e.:

  • Intellectual
  • Empathetic
  • Spiritual.

Depending on your product or service, you can then play around with the headline to align it more with your intended audience’s emotional state.

Check Yo’ SEO Self… Because It Still Matters in 2018

Yes, yes. SEO isn’t going anywhere and will continue to form part of a well-rounded marketing strategy for years to come. So, stop trying to find an excuse to not do it properly!

The following two tools will help you lift the veil on the state of your website’s SEO. You can then go and hire an SEO agency to deal with the mess. Come to think of it, do SEO agencies even exist these days?

Anyway, you can always use these reports as an excuse to go and make some more cool content. Because we all know that’s how you really get rankings in 2018 anyway.

FOUND’s SEO Tool

FOUND’s free app gives you a good general overview of your website’s SEO state-of-play. It does this by putting your site through its paces using the following measures of search engine worthiness:

  • Canonicalization
  • Robots.txt
  • Sitemap
  • Load Time
  • Links
  • Headings
  • Images
  • Keywords
  • Metadata
  • SEOmoz URL Metrics
  • SEOmoz Strongest Links.

But it’s not the kind of tool that just dumps a bunch of negativity on you in the form of errors and warnings. It does give credit where credit is due by mentioning all of your successes and wins too. See, SEO analysis isn’t as scare as it first looks!

And, yes, you can export all of this information as a PDF. It just couldn’t be any easier.

Varvy SEO Tool

Varvy’s SEO tool does cover much of the same ground as FOUND’s handy service but it does plug a couple of gaps that can really help you bring your SEO ‘A’ game in 2018.

It does this by assessing the more technical aspects of your website, such as:

  • Mobile device rendering
  • Security
  • Accessibility for visually impaired users
  • Page speed
  • Image alt tags
  • Whether paid links are present
  • HTML validity
  • HTTP headers.

There is a chance this list has made your eyes glaze over but the goal here is to check whether you may have a flat tire, not to get your hands dirty with a wrench. You can leave that to the specialists.

When used together, the FOUND and Varvy tools give you a well-rounded picture of where you need to make improvements to your SEO strategy.

Make Your Social Media Sizzle

Because the days of MySpace domination are long gone, you need more than just one tool to help you evaluate each of your social channels. So, we’ve assembled a slew of different graders to help you scrutinize each of your accounts.

Publing Social Grader

Think of the Publing Social Grader as a schoolmarm who will give you a letter grade for everything related to your social media presence.

Yes, it is just like being back in class so make sure your social accounts are wearing their Sunday best. Schoolmarmish Publing will grade your social marketing on the following:

  • Overall social media presence
  • Official accounts
  • Social content.

Look, it may not be the most pleasant experience (and neither was school) but it’s for your own good. Unlike school though, you can’t cheat so don’t even think about buying followers before you take this test!

Likealyzer

While Publing gives a very high-level benchmark of your overall social presence, Likealyzer only looks at your Facebook page. Despite what the name suggests, it goes much deeper than counting up your Likes.

The report generated by this tool contains a level of detail not provided by any of the other social media graders. It even has its own proprietary ‘LikeRank’ that gives you an emoji based on your overall performance. It doesn’t get more scientific than that really.

Likealyzer then goes into detail about your Facebook page’s constituent parts:

  • Frontpage
  • About
  • Activity
  • Response
  • Engagement.

It assigns a percentage out of one hundred for each of these and gives a detailed breakdown of where you’re winning or losing. Given the importance of Facebook as a marketing channel, you definitely want to be winning so it’s worth listening to what Likealyzer says.

Prime Your Paid Media and Performance Marketing

Your inbound and content marketing strategy matter a lot in terms of establishing your owned media foundation but you then need to support and extend this with a paid media strategy.

Word of warning – you will have to sign into this tool through your advertiser account in order to receive an assessment. However, if you’re serious about not wasting your AdWords dollars then this is a small sacrifice to make in order to potentially save a lot.

Wordstream AdWords Performance Grader

Unlike its social brethren, AdWords is no longer seen as the sexy new advertising channel it once was. Yet, it is still a trusty workhorse that can achieve great results for your brand depending on your product or service.

Managing AdWords was never easy and it still requires a specialist to squeeze as much ROI as possible from your search campaigns.

The AdWords Performance Grader can help you establish whether the performance of your ad account is up to scratch. It will thoroughly assess your AdWords account based on the following:

  • Wasted spend
  • Quality score optimization
  • Click through rate optimization
  • Account activity
  • Text ad optimization
  • Long-tail keyword optimization
  • Impression share optimization
  • Landing page optimization
  • Mobile advertising
  • PPC best practices.

You will receive an overall score and a list of suggested improvements. If you’re running paid search campaigns, then using this tool is a no-brainer.

Map Out The Master Plan

While the previous tools are great, each one provides only one side of your brand’s marketing story. You also need to look at your overall inbound and advertising strategies.

Bench Discovery

Now that you’ve assessed your individual AdWords channel performance with the previous tool, it’s time to step back and take a look at your overall paid media game plan.

Bench’s Discovery tool is unique in that it’s a comprehensive assessment of your overall digital advertising strategy. In fact, it is one of the most comprehensive assessment tools available online for analyzing your paid marketing.

Discovery formulates a tailored media plan for your brand based on the following:

  • Your product or service offering
  • Seasonality
  • Audience and marketing personas
  • Competition
  • Current marketing activity
  • Where you are looking to advertise online.

If you got the feeling that Discovery leaves no stone unturned then you’re right.

The tool assesses your advertising from an omnichannel perspective and provides recommendations for your how to get the right mix of social, display, native and video ads to achieve your marketing goals.

These recommendations are based on the trillions of ad impressions and millions of data points derived from the thousands of campaigns run on the Bench platform to-date.

Your campaign objectives are then married up with this data and you get recommendations based on the stage of the buyer funnel you are focusing on:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Leads
  • Direct Response
  • Acquisition.

Hubspot Marketing Template Generator

Ah, the place where it all comes together – your marketing plan. You know, that Word template passed down by your predecessor, which she in turn got from the previous CMO, who in turn got his from the guy who considered himself an online marketing guru back in the 1990s.

We’re not suggesting that you abandon your heirloom Word marketing template… Actually, wait, we are. Why not make things easier for yourself this year?

A lot of marketing folks are aware of Hubspot’s Website Grader but not many know that they also have a tool that helps spit out your marketing plan at the press of a button.

Well, alright, it’s not that easy. You do have to enter some information about your planned marketing activities. But then the Hubspot Marketing Template Generator grabs the reigns and spits out a snazzy marketing plan for you.

Combine that with the results you get from Bench Discovery and the other graders discussed in this blog and you have a very solid foundation for your 2018 marketing strategy.

Don’t Leave It Until It’s Too Late

All of these tools are great but the main point of having them all at your fingertips is for you to take action.

You’ll thank yourself afterward, when your boss finally signs off on that additional video marketing budget the size of the previous year’s entire marketing budget.

Now, go forth and strategize!

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