24 Best Online Marketing Tools
For Small Businesses and Startups Looking to Grow Online.
With hundreds of online marketing tools out there, it’s both complicated and time-consuming to determine what’s going to work for your business. The only thing you can be certain of is that if you aren’t using any tools at all, you are definitely doing it wrong.
The best online marketing tools should help save you time, increase your efficiency, and grow your reach.
We want to share with you the tools that we use on a regular basis for improving our marketing efforts, and our clients. Each and every tool we use is part of the overall strategy for growing our reach and improving our relationship with our audience.
Affiliate Link Sidenote: We have a couple of affiliate links in this post. We only link to companies we have used and trust, and would genuinely recommend to our friends. We aren’t promoting these products just for money; we truly believe in them. Clicking on an affiliate link does not cost you anything, but if you decide to purchase a product, we get a small commission as a thank you for connecting you with something valuable to your business.
Social Media Management
Best for: Content creation and scheduling, Social listening and responding, Monitoring engagements
Price: Free to start, $9.99/month for most of what you will want.
Platforms it works best with: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram
Hootsuite is one of my favorite social media management tools because it’s easy to learn, extremely powerful, and integrates with a number of platforms which makes scheduling posts for a large number of accounts super simple.
I would say that if you have more than two social media accounts, Hootsuite is an awesome tool to help you manage your social media efforts.
You can set up your dashboard to monitor multiple accounts for the same company, like your company’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Or you can get more granular and have separate sections for each account and monitor the various actions performed within a specific social channel (like “My Tweets”, “Mentions” and “Home” for Twitter specifically).
I know it probably sounds confusing, but it’s actually very intuitive once you get the hang of it.
Hootsuite also offers simple courses to help you learn how to use their program efficiently so that you can become a better social media manager.
And you can’t beat the price. It’s free for personal use (up to 3 accounts) and only $9.99/month for up to 50 accounts.
Also, I just want to note that Hootsuite recently began allowing you to schedule posts for Instagram. You can’t actually publish them from within the platform, but Hootsuite makes it easy for you to schedule the post, get a notification on your phone, and populate the image (with text) into the Instagram app. I recently started using Hootsuite for Instagram and it seems to be working pretty well.
Best for: Content creation, scheduling, and recycling
Platforms it works best with: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
Meet Edgar is a no longer a secret in the social media world. While it has a few irritating drawbacks (like not being able to order your posts), Edgar is an amazing social media tool that allows you to create a piece of content and share it on repeat forever (or whenever you decide to take it down).
It means that you never miss a chance to provide valuable content to your audience and once you’ve started building out your Edgar queue, you can never run out of things to say.
Edgar is reserved for your pieces of “evergreen” content that you want shared over and over and over again (especially links back to your website or other social channels). The more stuff you have in your library, the less often your content pieces will repeat, so it’s best if you are continually adding new, interesting things into your Edgar.
If you are attempting to be a good social media manager, you are probably spending tons of time crafting the perfect post… with Edgar, that time spent doesn’t go to waste!
It also lets you sort your content into categories and you get to choose your posting schedule and frequency.
With the basic plan, you are allowed to connect up to 10 accounts, and store up to 1000 pieces of content in your library for $49/month.
Best for: Content creation and scheduling for Pinterest
Price: $9.99/month, they are giving out free trials to some people.
Platforms it works best with: Pinterest
If your company relies heavily on having a Pinterest presence (which it should if you are any sort of visual or product-driven company), Tailwind is an unbeatable tool for you.
It allows you to schedule your pins so that when you go on a “pinning spree” your pins don’t get hidden from your audience.
Pinning Spree – When you pin too much in a short period of time, your pins get hidden from your followers so as to not overflow their feed.
But waiting patiently to make your next pin is just plain not going to happen, we want to pin NOW, So Tailwind takes care of that for you by publishing your pins hours or days apart.
For us, this literally jump started our following and
It also has analytics so that you monitor which pins are performing the best, which boards are your most popular, and how how viral your Pinterest is overall.
My favorite part of Tailwind is that it allows you to pull your own original images directly from your Instagram account and schedule them as pins on Pinterest! If you’re only managing one Pinterest account, Tailwind is $9.99/month (paid annually).
Best for: Visual content creation
Price: Free or $2.99 (you can afford it…)
Platforms it works best with: Instagram
InstaQuote is a nifty little mobile app that makes having a quote strategy for Instagram a cinch.
All you have to do is copy and paste text from wherever (we use brainyquote.com) into this app, and you end up with a cute little text picture that you can share on Instagram.
It’s specifically designed to transfer your image directly into Instagram so you can share it with all of your followers seconds after creating it.
It’s extremely simple to use and creates images that look professionally designed. The best part is that it’s free. Or, you can upgrade for a few bucks and gain access to over a hundred different backgrounds, fonts and other fun design elements. You can even use your own photos as the background for your text image, which makes it very powerful.
Best for: Twitter Analytics and engagement
Pricing: Unknown, we paid $429 for a year I think. But you can do monthly at something like $30.
Platforms it works best with: Twitter, Instagram
Social Bro is the holy grail of Twitter management. They also recently added Instagram management capabilities which is huge!
It’s amazingly easy to search out and follow relevant users with this tool. You can analyze third party accounts, target specific hashtag users, start direct message campaigns, and build rules all from within this awesome platform.
It’s a little bit more costly than some of the other programs out there, but becoming a master user of this tool will allow you to grow your Twitter following extremely quickly. Here are my favorite features:
- “Best Time to Tweet” report. When used in conjunction with Meet Edgar or another social scheduler, you can really make sure that your audience is seeing your best content.
- Rule Builder. It allows you to set up automated happenings based on when your audience performs certain actions. I happen to love the “mention” option because everyone sees it when you mention someone and it seems to really get a lot of engagement, which means more eyeballs on your content.
- Follower retention/churn. SocialBro will analyze your Instagram (or Twitter) account and tell you how long your followers stick around for. That way, you can easily see who has recently unfollowed you and who’s in it for the long haul. If people are following and unfollowing at a high volume, you can draw the conclusion that maybe you should change up your content strategy.
Best for: Link tracking
Bit.ly is a free link shortening service that tracks each of your links and provides you with valuable insight into who is clicking what from where.
Using Bit.ly in conjunction with your social media efforts guarantees that you are able to track your click counts, and measure which posts are doing well.
This link got 111 clicks in about a month, and we can easily break it down by day or social platform. The “clicks from other bitlinks” tells us that no one else has created their own bit.ly link to share the same link.
You don’t need to use Bit.ly for everything you link, especially curated content. I only use it for links that I really care about, like things linking back to my website, all of my blog posts or links to and from my social channels.
We highly recommend creating custom bitly’s when linking from social sites back to your website.
Best for: Twitter hashtag optimization
Pricing: Free for 30 days, then $10/month
This nifty little tool will help you optimize your bio and your tweets, extending your reach on Twitter, and adding value to each and every post you make.
We recommend bookmarking the free hashtag research tool, and going there before each tweet to figure out what the right hashtags to use will be.
Never waste a hashtag again, take the extra minute and use Rite Tag.
Social Media Curation
Best for: Content curation
Price: Free to make your own magazine
Flipboard is a great tool for finding awesome content to share with my audience across other social channels.
It has hundreds of topics that you can follow. Once you’ve designated which areas are of the most interest to you, Flipboard will automatically populate your dashboard with relevant articles for you to pick and choose from.
If you are ever having trouble finding things to share with your audience, Flipboard will help you dig up things that your followers want to hear about.
Another great function of Flipboard is that you can build your own digital magazine for people to read and follow. When you find articles that interest you, or that you want to share, you can “flip” them into your own magazine and read them or share them at your own convenience.
A sneak peak at our digital magazine (go ahead and click through to subscribe).
I’ve installed the Flipboard chrome extension (which I highly recommend) because it allows you to flip anything you find on the internet into your Flipboard magazine. That way, you have a growing pool of content at your disposal.
Here’s my real Flipboard secret: I take all of the best blogs on the web in my industry – Moz, Neil Patel, Social Media Examiner, and a couple more – and I Flip the content into our magazine. Now there is one place to keep up on all of it, that I can visit whenever I have free time to catch up.
Best for: Content Curation
Price: Free to start, $9/month for Pro
Like Flipboard, Paper.li is a content curation tool, but instead of a magazine, they take the form of an online newspaper.
The main difference between the two is that Paperli helps automate the process of content curation.
The platform gives you access to articles, blog posts, and automatically finds content on any subject that you specify.
Paper.li helps you find content based on your desired topics, and makes it easy for you to publish it directly to the web and to all of your social channels. The cool thing about Paper.li is that it automatically finds the content for you. Or, you can quickly and easily add your own content sources like your favorite blog, or your own blog.
The Splash Paperli Magazine. Go ahead, subscribe :-D
Once curated, you can prioritize your sources and add specifications to hone in on the exact type of content that you want for your paper.
You can set your Paper.li schedule to publish whenever you want.
Unfortunately, you can only have one topic per paper, so this slightly limits how broad your paper can be. But, you can always have more than one paper.
With a pro account for $9/paper per month, you can make a super customized paper with your own branding and you can add CSS to match the style of your blog or website. Plus, you can even include your own advertising to help you generate revenue. Pretty cool.
Best for: Measuring social influence, content curation
Klout is a social media influence measuring tool that gives you an accurate score (between 1 and 100) of how influential you are on Social Media.
Building your “Klout score” is akin to gaining a larger amount of online social influence. The higher your score, the more likely you are to influence a larger number of people.
Our Klout score, currently 51, integrated right into Twitter when you install the Chrome extension.
This score can help determine if the account you are thinking about following is a thought leader in your industry or a novice. The long established thought leaders will be 75+, and anyone under 30 is either new or not trying.
In order to gain accurate insight into your Klout, they connect all of your social accounts, and even your WordPress site.
Once you are properly connected and have highlighted your industry and related topics, Klout helps curate content for you to publish online that identify perfectly with your brand.
Social Media Education
[Affiliate Link] Social Media Marketing Society
Best for: Social Media education
Price: $40/month (currently closed to public)
Social Media Marketing Society (or SMMS), is an amazing resource for Social Media novices and experts alike. This exclusive group is run by [Affiliate Link] Social Media Examiner and requires a membership to join.
Once you become a member, you are given access to many insightful Social Media forums with over 1,000 active industry users.
The best part of the society is the weekly live training sessions where extremely valuable information is provided.
Splash on Google Hangout with Social Media Marketing Society learning about tools of the trade (how fitting).
You don’t have to participate in the live training to get the benefit either. They have all of the sessions on demand days after the live event actually occurs.
The forums are a great way to discuss any personal social media problems or questions that you may have, and the members within the society are a wonderful network of like-minded people who are there to learn and educate others.
It’s great environment for mastering your social media strategy, every Social Media professional should be a member.
Unfortunately, membership to the society is limited and the doors won’t open again until 2016, but you can still [Affiliate Link] put your name on the list to make sure you are notified when enrollment picks back up. At the current time, enrolment for the society is $40/per month.
If you’re truly in to becoming the best at Social Media for your business, than I highly recommend checking out the [Affiliate Link] Social Media Success Summit coming up in October. It will blow your world, there is just so much value.
Best for: Project management
Pricing: Starting at $21 / month
At Splash, we’ve used a number of project/task management tools and have found Asana to be, by far, the best one for our business. I’ll be honest and say that it doesn’t do everything that I would like and it may not be the best for your business, but it has some of the coolest little features that make it something in between a really handy note-taking tool, and a way to chat or collaborate with team members.
Asana is interesting because it lets you make projects, add tasks (and sub tasks), assign them to people, and link tasks to multiple projects. It also has the functionality of being able to have a project act as a “pipeline,” where you can manually move tasks around into categories so you can visually see where you are within a certain project.
Other ones we have tried in the past and may be worth checking out for your business are (and we have tried all of these):
Basecamp – better for web devs collaborating with clients.
Trello – overall good flow and visually appealing.
Pivotal Tracker – internal tracking of a development project.
Insightly – simple yet flexible.
Brightpod – very visual oriented.
All of these were pretty good, but they didn’t solve all of the problems we were hoping to solve. When it comes to project management, you really just need to test them all and figure out which one works well within your business. Everyone is different.
Graphic Design and Digital Media Tools
Best for: Social media headers, Social media posts, Facebook Ads
Price: Free with $1 upgrades that will get ya every time.
The fact that some people haven’t heard of Canva yet seriously blows my mind. I know we talk about them a lot on here, but that’s because it’s so helpful for our business.
Canva is an awesome tool that makes creating visual images easy. It’s not hard to learn like Photoshop, and comes with plenty of pre-designed elements that you can use.
It’s amazing because you don’t have to be a designer to use it, but even if you are a designer, you can still use it because you can create something decent in a matter of seconds. Literally.
All of our custom images for blog posts, ads, and social media are made with Canva.
It’s certainly not as powerful as Photoshop, and pales in comparison for photo-editing and detailed, multilayered design functionality, but unless you are a freelance graphic designer by trade, you probably don’t need to use Photoshop in your everyday agenda.
Canva allows you to create images that are pre-sized to fit for whatever purpose you disclose when you begin your project. It has a large variety of fonts, icons, and photos (some free, and some for $1 each) that you can use to build your design.
It also lets you upload your own images like logos, event photos or other brand-related visuals, so that you can customize your work however you like.
You can apply filters, blur or sharpen images, or change their colors at the click of a button.
The best part is the magic resize tool (which is part of their paid service called Canva for Work) that lets you take one design and apply it to any other size that you might need, like taking a Twitter post image and turning into the perfect Facebook post image. This extra useful tool is one of many in the Canva for Work arsenal, and it costs about $9.95/month (billed annually).
Canva really takes the guesswork out of figuring out what sizes your images need to be, and it makes it really easy for people who don’t design things very often to create beautiful, engaging images to share with their audience, post on their website, or print out for marketing purposes.
Best for: Email Services and Newsletters
Pricing: Free for small lists, and reasonably priced for larger ones.
Creating email blasts has never been easier. Use MailChimp to create, schedule, and monitor your mass emails. They have built in A/B testing, help you manage your lists, and keep you CAN-SPAM compliant with their built in unsubscribe button.
Sending emails to your list is probably the number one way to get repeat business, but it has a few other potential benefits. Check out this short video on 3 ways to use your email list better:
Mail Chimp makes it so easy to keep in touch with your audience, that there is just no excuse.
Best for: Email Tracking
Price: Free for 100 emails/month, $12/month after.
Yesware is not exactly a one-of-a-kind tool, but it does something pretty basic that I can’t get enough of: It tracks each email you send and lets you know when the other person opens it.
Yesware is a Chrome extension that works inside of your Gmail browser allowing you to easily turn on tracking for email opens, set reminders for follow ups, and easily pull up email templates that save you time when sending out a similar message over and over.
Yesware will not only let you know if someone has opened your email, it tell you if someone clicked on a link in your email or downloaded an attachment also.
Best for: Invoice and Payment Management
Pricing: 1 month free then $19.95/month
Freshbooks is simplifying how you get paid as a small business, especially if you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, or startup. It takes a little bit to setup and get familiar, but they have a robust platform for invoicing, among other things.
Personally I don’t use their expenses or time tracking sections, and really don’t even need the reports right now, but I’m sure they help out someone.
We specifically use Freshbooks to invoice our clients. Now, while it’s really handy, there is an associated cost when you charge someone via credit card… 3%. And when you are just starting 3% can be quite a lot, especially on a $2,500 invoice (it’s $75, the equivalent of a nice steak dinner for two).
So, while we prefer to get a check in the mail, direct deposit, or can use another service like Pay Simple, Freshbooks gives a level of convenience for our client’s that we just couldn’t live without.
It’s worth checking out, especially if you are in need of an online invoicing system.
[Affiliate Link] LeadPages
Best for: Landing Pages and Online Lead Generation
Pricing: Starting at $25/month
- So I have tried almost every single landing page making tool out there, and the truth is, they are all about the same. We use LeadPages for the most part right now because they give you the ability to create pop-ups, great sales pages, and manage across multiple website relatively easily.
Our leadpages double opt in form (yes its live, go ahead and click it).
But there analytics are so-so, A/B testing is so-so, and they aren’t that customizable. Some alternatives that may work for you include:
Unbounce – probably more for advanced users, heavier traffic pages, and people comfortable with coding a little in CSS.[Affiliate Link] ClickFunnels – better for creating long sales processes, incorporating with payment processors, and upselling and downselling.
Instapage – I’ve never actually used them, so I don’t have much to say on this one.
Best for: Blog Title SEO
Price: Varies, we pay $250/month right now and it’s totally worth it.
IF YOU BLOG, THIS IS A GAME CHANGER.
It really is… This tool connects your website analytics, Google SERPs, and SEO best practices with potential blog post titles to tell you what topics you write about will perform the best. I’m going to go meta on you and talk about this very post. We originally called this “The Ultimate Digital Marketers Tool Box” and started writing about all the tools we wanted to talk about in the article. When we ran the title through their software, we found that it was downright terrible.
So we began brainstorming on how we can use everything we wrote, keep the topic the same, but change the title around. We started using terms like “marketing tools for entrepreneurs.” Nope, still no good.
Then we tried “digital marketing tools for small business” and that was good, but the algorithm was able to identify that the “small business” part wasn’t searched as much and was a rather limiting factor.
That’s where the human decision comes in: Do we keep “small business” and cater towards our demographic, or do we drop it and get more traffic, that isn’t quite as targeted?
Well, if you think about what types of people are searching for each, I think its safe to say that plenty of small business owners aren’t including “for small business” in their search every time. So if we include small business in our h2 tag, but not our h1, we will probably get the outcome we are looking for.
After deciding to eliminate “small business from the h1 title and URL slug, we checked “best digital marketing tools” and “best online marketing tools” and found that “online” would give us 3x more organic search traffic than “digital.”
We completely would have missed this if not for this power tool. Our topic and content is relatively still the same, but by taking their advice on naming our title and URL slug, we are able to drastically increase our organic traffic.
I will be sure to write a blog post specifically on how all of this works at a later time, when we have detailed results.
Best for: Website Optimization
Pricing: Free for some, paid for others
This nifty and free to use plug in can do quite a lot for your business. They have an entire arsenal of tools at their disposal, some free, and some paid. Let’s start with the smartbar. You know that bar that drops down from the top of the screen on some websites? It’s probably a SumoMe smartbar.
Aside from that, they also have a heat map app that will allow you to see where your users are clicking and how often, and a content analyzer that tells you how far down the page your users are getting. This gives you hints at what kind of content might not be resonating with your audience, and where in the page you should focus making some changes.
Another great tool they have is the easy share icons, which allows users to quickly share your content on social channels. This is perfect for helping gain reach on all of those epic blog posts you should be writing.
Best for: User Testing
Pricing: Free to start
This fun site helps you give and get feedback on lots of different aspects of a business, mainly focused around the website.
You can setup navigation tests, A/B tests for landing pages, and ask real users what they think of the layout, flow, or design of your website.
If you have a few minutes, sign in and take a couple of tests. It’s fun to give feedback, and it builds up your credits so that you can run your own tests for free.
If you don’t have time for that, you can buy credits in bulk and run some tests yourself.
Ever battle out with a teammate on which design looks better? Let the users decide with a simple usability test. It will only take 5 minutes to setup, and you will have your results within a day.
Online Reputation Management
Best for: Online Reputation Management
If you aren’t managing your businesses online reputation, than who is?!?
If you aren’t sure how to get started responding to online reviews, check out this video I did on online reputation management:
ReviewTrackers is a great tool for simplifying the process of online reputation management.
They help you manage all of the various online review sites from a single dashboard.
If you have a new review on the web, they’ll send you an email with the details, ensuring you don’t miss the opportunity to help an unsatisfied customer, or promote a great review.
Once you see that you have a new review, you can access the exact review from inside the platform. Then you can mark off whether or not you have responded, or if it still needs attention, possibly by upper management.
Another nice function of ReviewTrackers is that you can manage multiple locations of a single company, or multiple companies from within one single account.
It costs extra to add additional locations, but if you are the owner of a multi-location business, this tool is a must in order to keep all of your location’s review information organized.
The best feature from ReviewTrackers is you can send out emails to your audience – it works best with your most recent customers – and request feedback. But it gets better…
The email takes users to a simple 1-10 scale feedback page.
Allow the user to rate their experience.
If they score a 1-7 they are taken to a feedback page where you get more information on what went wrong.
If they give negative feedback, they tell us what went wrong.
But, if they score a 8-10, they are taken to a page that links to your online review sites! Thus increasing the likelihood of getting a positive review, while minimizing the risk of getting a negative review, and getting tons of feedback all along the way.
If they were very happy with their experience, we ask them to review us online.
Best for: Time management
Price: Free, with $5/solo account or $10/business account.
Time doctor is a tool that helps you track your time usage through the self-reporting of timed events.
You install the software on your computer and phone, and log in when you start work every day.
Each task that you work on has a dedicated project, and when you complete a task, you check it off and it gets archived.
You can pause your time if you need to take a bathroom break, and you can sort your time usage by project.
You can manually edit time if you get off track, and you can even set up Time Doctor to interrupt you if you go off topic (like messing around on Facebook when you’re supposed to be writing a report).
If you are the owner of your business and manage a few employees, you can monitor their reported time and see what they are spending their hours working on.
I like it because you can see how many hours you’ve dedicated to a certain project and make sure that you aren’t going over time or over budget.
The Time Doctor bar floats at the bottom of your screen on top of everything else, so if you want to know how long you’ve been working on a certain project, all you have to do is look down.
You can even segment off all of your tasks into customized folders so that you can keep things organized while you work, and thus increase tracking and efficiency.
Use for: Password Management
Pricing: Free trial with $49 upgrade.
There are tons of reasons why you need to start using this app right now. The first is just simply how much time it will save you. 1Password will securely store and handle your passwords for you across all of your devices, thus making it faster and easier to input passwords.
I know you are totally using the same password for all of your logins. STOP IT. It’s dangerous and completely unsecure.
Think about what would happen if your email got hacked… your Facebook, your Twitter, your website. You need to secure all of your tools with unique and randomly generated passwords, and two-step verification when possible.
And since you cannot be expected to remember those passwords, you need a password management tool to help. This one comes highly recommended from Social Media Examiner, just listen to their podcast on online security and you will be changing your passwords in no time.
Best for: Social Monitoring
If you haven’t set up your Google Alerts yet, you need to do so. It will take about a minute and can really be handy for keeping on top of your business, your brand, and even your personal life.
What you do is just go to google.com/alerts, login with your Google account, and create alerts around your products, brand name, or personal name.
From here on out, any time someone creates a piece of content mentioning those things, you will get an email and be able to take a look at it.
This can be great for building partnerships, extending social reach, getting testimonials, and just plain getting in touch with happy customers.
Go set up your alerts now, what are you waiting for?
If a tool costs you $10/month and saves you 1 hour a month, you should absolutely get it. Every time you increase your efficiency, you will be able to do more in a day and make more money at the end of the month.
Most of these tools will help you grow your business, but they are only as powerful as the person wielding them. Take some time to figure out which ones are right for you. Once you commit to one, take the extra time to learn it properly. And monitor your performance with the tool, in order to determine its efficiency and value to your business.
So what do you think? What online marketing tools do you use? Is there a tool that you think should have made this list? Let us know in the comment section below. And remember, if you learned something, share it, won’t ya.