I’ve been working as a single-person marketing department for the past two years with a primary focus on content hacking for the generation of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and brand awareness. It’s needless to say that I wouldn’t be able to punch above my own weight and be effective without using freelancers, interns, and online tools that help automate and facilitate inbound marketing efforts and reach crucial KPIs.
While nothing compares to collaborating with real humans on content creation and design, we, hands-on marketers, can rarely afford to work with the best of the best (merely due to budget restrictions and tight deadlines). Thus, we have to rely on many average (read mediocre) freelancers who miss deadlines, become irresponsive and can screw you up when you expect it the least.
Having gained negative firsthand experience with many freelancers and part-time associates, I turned to online tools to save money and time and avoid/minimize the stress of working with “pricks”.
Based on my own experience, I’ve put together a list of apps that prove to be highly efficient and cost-effective for hands-on marketing leaders. These tools have both free and paid versions and offer free trials so it’s up to you to decide which subscription level to go with depending on your budget and overall inbound marketing expectations.
Content creation tools
Canva is a must-have tool for all marketers with limited or zero graphic and web design skills. It allows for creating truly awesome designs of multi-genre content, including interactive presentations, video, slideshows, online brochures and leaflets, posters, banners, etc. Using the tool is a no-brainer: it’s loaded with a lot of free and paid pre-built templates which are easy to customize and brand. It literally takes a few minutes to create a research-based video presentation and other types of highly engaging social media content.
Also, with Canva, it’s a breeze to update backgrounds of your social media profiles, as it has many pre-built templates adjusted by size and tailored to different social media channels’ standards.
If you want to deliver “sexy” brand content – Canva is your must-have tool, with no exaggeration!
This is a mobile app (iOS and Android) that helps create cool video content from your existing brand imagery and video footage. If you want to make a fun or inspirational video featuring a trendy soundtrack and a myriad of visual effects, you should give Magisto a try! You can create beautiful video stories from your corporate parties, events, or business workshops and share them instantly with your brand followers and partners. Their $4,99/mo plan is more than enough to beautify your video content and make it stand out.
Flourish is a must-have tool for all marketers who need to visualize their own or third-party data (e.g. research data, small data, or big data) interactively without involving a programmer or a designer. All you need to do is load your data spreadsheet into the application and wait for the magic to happen. Once done, you can embed the charts into your blog or social media posts, and your readers will be able to easily slice and dice the data by clicking on particular chart elements.
Content proofreading and anti-plagiarism
I don’t actually have a list of tools for this category as I’m an aficionado of just one application – Grammarly! For me, it’s a one-stop-shop for content proofreading, plagiarism detection and…writing motivation.
As a hands-on marketer, I’m not really used to working with large budgets (as you can imagine) so I rely pretty heavily on content hacking techniques. As a bilingual person (I speak native Ukrainian and Russian), I leverage a lot of curated and translated content for the creation of unique brand content in English. As such, I need to make sure that whatever I translate and compile from non-English sources reads and sounds as close to native English as possible.
Grammarly helps me a great deal in finding my own voice in writing, i.e. style, tone, and authenticity.
Each time I write up a blog myself or get an article submission from a freelancer, I copy the text and paste it into Grammarly to set content goals (e.g., target audience, formality, domain, tone) and check the following:
- uniqueness (no plagiarism).
What I also love about Grammarly is that this brand encourages us to write more and better via an inspirational newsletter that praises you for progress compared to all other Grammarly users (see screenshot below).
Believe me, when I see that I’m more accurate than 98% of Grammarly users (even if it’s not true and is just a marketing gimmick), I feel encouraged enough to keep using the tool going forward! So, it’s a great way to address customer loyalty that other brands need to consider.
Built by a famous SEO expert Matt Diggity (@mattdiggityseo), AB lets you guest-post in top-tier and fringe media and can find you a blog that will accept your link depending on your budget. The only thing I don’t like about them is that you have to make a blind purchase, i.e., you don’t know what media your guest post will be published on unless you’re using their premium publication services which are pretty expensive.
So you’re basically buying a pig in a poke: you can only choose blogs by category, domain authority ranks, and price. There’s no geo-based filter either, so brace yourself that your guest post can be published on one of those mediocre Indian resources with artificially boosted domain ranks.
However, if you’re creating a link building machine and aiming for Tier2 links/link pyramids, you should explore this service, as it can be very effective for your SEO campaigns. However, note that you should have a guest posting budget of at least $1,000 to benefit from this service and yield appropriate results.
OutreachMama is my most favorite guest posting tool so far. Unlike Authority Builders which is completely automated, OutreachMama provides you with a dedicated account manager who communicates with you as long as your project is in progress, from an initial request through to the final publication in the selected media. Also, unlike Authority Builders, OutreachMama lets you choose the exact publication you want your guest post to appear AND review an article they create on your behalf (this is a luxury other blogger outreach solutions don’t offer!). Furthermore, you can even suggest article improvements and the OutreachMama team will make all respective changes to the article. Their service quality is exceptional. Costs for placing an article in media resources with high-authority domains start at $175.
SEO & Link Building
Ahrefs is by far the most popular and commonly used SEO tracking tool out there. It does the job of backlinks tracking much better than SEMRush, but I generally find their dashboard less user-friendly. You can try it for seven days for $7. I recommend using Ahrefs and SEMRush together for identification and validation of trends and issues. In this case, you always have the “second opinion” about your SEM results.
An alternative to renowned Ahrefs, SEMRush offers a $120/mo package that is great for competitive research, positions tracking, and on- and off-page optimisation strategy. However, their backlinks profile tracking sucks, as the data they show is always several days behind the actual stats.
Diib uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze website performance and keywords tracking and provide very clear and descriptive instructions as to what needs to be done to fix issues and improve SEO rankings. Their free option offers limited growth plans and website performance tracking; you can access their PRO features for $19,99-29,00/mo depending on your current traffic.
This app is pretty good for backlinks tracking and influencer outreach, too. They have a clear and intuitive interface and offer a free trial for 7 days. Their PRO solutions start at $99/mon. I use Buzzsumo in combination with SEMRush and Ahrefs for better tracking of backlinks and content performance evaluation.
SEOclerks is an all-embracing gig portal where you can find white- and gray-hat SEO freelancers, blogger outreach specialists, backlink builders and hustlers at very affordable rates. The site is great to build and boost a backlink profile, get drip feed links, and more.
It’s an AI bot that provides automated (bot-generated) traffic that clicks on your landing pages on the Google SERP to increase your rankings. It’s pretty useless if you rely on it alone for your traffic boost, but it proves to be very effective when used together with traditional organic traffic boosters.
Did I miss any hands-on marketing tools that make your life easier?
Feel free to add them in the comments below!
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