If you want to grow your brand, increase reputation, brand exposure, invite more customers online, your website/service and proprietary tools are never going to be enough. You have to use other tools and services – some free and some paid too. It’s the story of every business. Even the big businesses in the world need to use numerous other tools and services to grow their brand online.
Only name doesn’t sell products or attract customers online. You need to stay active, provide good support, be socially active, take out new updates regularly, boost your website’s visibility in search engines, stay connected with current customers base and keep attracting new customers to keep up with your reputation online and increase brand growth.
To do this, along with providing services available in your hand, you need tools to utilize power of social media, boost SEO, observe competitors to take benefits both from their positive and negative actions, stay connected with the current customer base, invite new customers from potential communities and monitor your own actions.
There are hundreds of tools available online to handle these tasks in one way or another but you really don’t want to waste your time in any such tools which give you false information or inaccurate data especially then when your brand is new because new brands plan their all actions on the basis of performance, reports and analysis.
So, choosing only good tools is necessary, whether they are paid or even free. I am in online business and marketing from last 5 years now and have used many different tools. From my experience, I am providing a list of free tools and services which will handle all important aspects of your online business:
- Website development and security
- Search Engine Visibility
- Social Media Marketing
- Emails Collection and Lead Generation
- Customer Support
Read below carefully and decide by yourself what specific services and tools you should use for your business.
Website development and security
To start building reputation for your brand you need to set up a base where people can land from different sources to obtain all information about your tool or service, buy it and can consult staff whenever required The best way is to provide an official website which can be made and maintained either free or at very little cost.
If you are considering creating a free website or blog then there are lots of blogging platform where you can sign up to create blog/website for free. Two most popular blogging platforms are : WordPress.com and Blogspot.com. Both are ultra safe, easy to use. All necessary tools are provided and you can choose among thousands of freely available professional themes for your website.
If you are curious about other blogging platforms which allow you to create free blog/website then you can refer to this article which is listing top 5 free blogging platforms other than WordPress and Blogger
Free Domain Name and Hosting
If you need branding and the freedom to do whatever with your website it will not come from above mentioned free blogging platforms because they provide you mere sub-domains on their website to work with (your branding gone) and they hold a lot of limitations which will not allow you to work professionally and with all the freedom you require for your website.
So, when your business grows, you will realize you need a separate domain and hosting because working with these free blogging platforms become really frustrating. But, if you are still not ready to spend money in custom domain or hosting, a good alternative is to go for free domain and web-hosting.
Domains with extensions .tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, .gq are free to register. You can register them for free at Freenom.com. For free web-hosting, try 000webhost. It is the best free web-hosting service in my opinion. Well, you can read this article to know top 25 free web hosting websites but before that make sure to read the article from TechGYD.COM explaining why one should avoid free web hosting.
Free Content Management System (CMS)
CMS are software that you install on your web-server to have a blogging platform in your custom domain. Different CMS are available for different type of websites and luckily all popular ones are free.
If you want WordPress CMS on your domain to create a blog or website, you can download it from WordPress.org and install in your web server. For Blogspot CMS, you can connect your domain with your Blogger.com account.
Similarly Drupal, Joomla, b2evolution and many other CMS are available online for free. You can check the full list of CMS here which contains all professional content management system with their name, language and supported database type.
Website Protection and Security
If you already have your website up & running and you want to add protection to your website but for free then CloudFlare CDN is the best tool. This Content Delivery Network supercharges your website both by optimizing its speed and security. It is not entirely free but the basic plan is free which will be more than enough if you have a small website.
For WordPress CMS, there are lots of plugins already available for security purposes and services like Akismet are also there, especially for spam protection.
Search Engine Visibility
Internet is vast. For any category or topic, there are already hundreds of websites available from years holding powerful reputation and trust-factor online. So, your new website isn’t going to rank at the top for any search term when so much competitors are already available from ages. You can’t outrank them just by releasing appealing product/service or writing long description about your service.
Content is necessary but it isn’t enough to beat the competition. You need to do SEO for your website to improve its ranking in Google and other search engines. For this, you need to do On-page and Off-page SEO both. So here in this section, I am providing few guides and tools to help you enhance your website’s SEO.
Improve On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO is the Search Engine Optimization technique one should implement in his website to make it SEO-friendly for search engine. As, search engines are not humans, they work using web-crawlers (aka web-spiders). They have certain algorithms and weighing factors already set to evaluate a webpage content’s worth by crawling it itself.
Make it comfortable for web crawlers to crawl and understand your webpage, add those in-page factors to your webpage and important terms which crawlers value and you will be good to go with On-Page SEO. Some generally On-page SEO tips are –
- Make webpage and website easy for search engines to crawl
- Choose main 2 or 3 focus keywords for which you want to rank your webpage
- Add focus keywords in different level of headings, URL, meta description and throughout the article
- Use Bold, Italics, Underline formatting throughout the article, especially for your main keywords
- Write long, well-descriptive article with internal links, external links, images and add your main keywords to their attributes.
- Use richsnippets, breadcrumbs and other structured data elements
These are some common but important On-page SEO tips that you should implement in every article. You can read detailed article on On-Page SEO here.
Off-page SEO includes lots of quality factors (other than webpage’s layout and content) that Google consider to rank a webpage. It is much more complex part to handle as Google doesn’t tell all the off-page SEO factor which it consider to rank a webpage and as the search engine keeps on improving, more and more off-page SEO factors are being added to its SERP filter list to rank only the high quality website for any keywords.
But one easy trick you can follow is to follow your competitors. You can monitor your competitors to know for what keywords they are being ranked and what pages of their website are ranking on top. From where they are receiving visitors to their website, backlinks, domain authority, page authority, trust rank, and lots of other things.
By observing competitors, you can have safe blueprint to rank your own website by avoiding mistakes they have made and implementing only those tactics from which they are receiving benefits.
For this, SEOProfiler is the one powerful and free SEO tool you can use. Just register for free here and you will have access to all necessary SEO tools you require to monitor competitors’ as well as your own off-page SEO.
SEOProfiler is an easy but powerful SEO tool which allows you to know a website’s ranking keywords, ranking pages, demographics, backlink sources, top referrers, linked anchor texts, and lots of other necessary data to expose competitor’s ranking tactics easily.
Another easy trick that you should consider is to research in your own niche and know from which specific keywords people search in your market. Keyword research is necessary so that you can know which keywords should you try to rank for and hence implement those keywords in your both on-page and off-page SEO strategies.
I recommend you to check these 10 powerful keyword research tools, most of them are available for free.
Must Read – Google’s 200+ Ranking Factors To Rank A Website
Social Media Marketing
Growing visibility in Social networks is important for every business. They are among top referrers which, if utilized perfectly, can provide hundreds of potential customers and loyal readers for your website. Perform experiments to know which social networks provide you best results.
Usually, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are main social networks which every brand target and try to gain exposure from. If you have the same aim then along with posting manual updates for your fans in these social networks, you should try automating the process. One free service you can use is Buffer App which allows you to pre-schedule bulk-posting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.
You can read this article to know how to setup Buffer App to automate your social media marketing.
Email Collection and Lead Generation
You hard-work is what attracting visitors to your website and, those visitors who are coming to your website chose to come on their own. So, they can be your potential customers or loyal readers.
You don’t want to lose them, right? So, to make them permanent visitor, you need to hold them by collecting their emails which you can use later to remind them about your website or service.
Email Marketing Software
For free, Feedburner.com is available which is can be integrated to your blog to create attractive newsletter forms and later on sending email updates about your blog to subscribed users but, collected emails can be used for lead generation too.
So, if you want to make most out of collected emails, I suggest you to use MailChimp, a powerful email marketing service. Basic plan of MailChimp is free which have a limit to hold 2000 subscribers and send 12000 emails per month with almost all features premium accounts have. Using MailChimp, you can collect email with names to multiple lists of subscriber’s choice, automate regular updates, create custom newsletters, campaign with custom layout and design, schedule campaign, split test title, track clicks, conversation and much more.
Keep Subscribers Engaged
If you don’t post regular updates then subscribers will start unsubscribing from your list. To keep them busy, you can use a simple service Paper.li which will help you keep your subscribers engaged. It allows you to create newspaper with having interesting updates from websites of your choice. You can either create a newspaper by yourself, send or schedule it or allow Paper.li to automatically send newspaper from your selected blogs regularly.
Providing support to customers is important. When you sell the product, you not just sell it and vanish, you try to provide maximum support to the customer so that he will have no problems using your service and get a harmonious experience from your company. It boosts credibility and reputation, attract more customers to a brand which are important.
So, if you understand the necessity of providing good customer support then add contact form to your website and provide other contact options (like contact via email, Skype, etc.) to your customers too.
For popular CMS like WordPress and Blogger there are lots of live-chat plugins are available too which you can install.
If you want to provide a dedicated support system but then again you don’t want to start with investing money at first then you can either test with Zoho Free Plan or Zendesk Free Trial. Both of services are used by big brands to provide customer support. Try and test for yourself which out of both services fits your business best.
Bonus Tool If-This-Then-That (IFTTT)
IFTTT is like swiss army knife, not only for internet marketers or online businesses but also for smart internet users to automate many important tasks.
Can be used with over 357 different services, IFTTT performs a trigger-initiated action depending on what trigger you have set and what action you have assigned while creating your recipe. It can automate lots of your task like –
- If this feed receive updates, post update on that Facebook page
- If this Google+ profile post image, save it into that Dropbox account
- If this GMail receive email, send SMS to that mobile number
- If this Date & Time value achieved, make fake call to that mobile number
To better understand the concept of If-This-Then-That, read 15 smart applications of IFTTT to use.
IFTTT is a very simple yet powerful tool to automate lots of different task and make your life easier. People have already created lots of useful recipes (templates) which you can directly use and the service is all free.
I have provided tools out of my own experience but internet is vast and there can be lots of other important factors of an online business and many other free tools which I haven’t include here. So, if you think any other important business factors should be considered or if you know any other awesome tool that I should include in this list, please share them in comments below.