Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Getting Started, Managing Your Website, Marketing Your Website

Everybody loves a freebie and when running a business or trying to stick within a budget free tools are a pleasant rarity, especially ones that really do make your life easier.

I have compiled these Top 5 free tools in terms of the value they bring to my websites and clients, some of these services could quite easily charge a monthly fee and still be as popular as they currently are. A couple of these tools provide a free product as well as paid-for version, but I’ve only included the tools that offer a comprehensive free product, these are not just trials! These tools vary in their purpose but all help me manage or market my websites and should also help you with yours

#5 – Jotform (Webform creator)

If you want a form on your website for whatever reason, whether it’s a survey to collect information or a simple form to allow customers to contact you, but you don’t have the technical ability to do it yourself or simply want a quick and easy solution then Jotform could be the answer. They offer a free account which allows up to 100 submissions per month, so if you are expecting high volumes then this might not be for you, instead you should probably find someone to create the form for you.

Their website allows even the most technologically challenged individual to create a webform, it really is that simple. Integrating the form into your website might be a little bit more tricky for some but they do offer a user guide which helps you through the process.

#4 – Google Keyword tool (Search engine keyword research)

Another tool I use (almost) on a daily basis is the Google Keyword Tool, its primary function is to give you the necessary information when choosing keywords for your Adsense (paid search) campaigns but it’s used by many as a general Keyword research tool.

Be careful not to pay too much attention to the actual figures it states and just use as a rough guide or to compare one keyword with another.

You can search for information on a particular keyword and it will return ‘Competition’, ‘Global Monthly Searches’ and ‘Local Monthly Searches’. The amount of Competition for your specified keyword is given as High, Medium or Low, obviously those with a Low amount of competition are better to target and will be easier to achieve page 1 rankings.

Global Monthly Searches refers to the amount of searches throughout the world (Google has a different website for most countries as well as the main google.com, e.g. google.co.uk for England). Local Monthly Searches refers to the total amount of monthly searches within the country chosen in the ‘Advanced Options and Filters’ or your default country.

If you compare these results with those from other keyword tools they are often massively different and there are many theories for this but no single concrete explanation, so without boring you with those, all I will say is use this tool as a guide but don’t quote these figures. It is good for assessing the amount of competition or for seeing which keywords are being used compared with others.

As an example, if you enter ‘weight loss exercises’ into this tool, you will see there are 110,00 ‘Local searches’ but if you look further down the ‘Ideas’ list you will see that ‘weight loss exercise’ has 135,000 searches, simply dropping the ‘S’ from the end could result in an extra 25,00 potential visitors to your website.

#3 – SXC (Free stock photography)

Gone are the days where an additional loan would be needed just to buy the images for your website. There are now many websites like Fotolia that offer professional standard images for as little as $1. But here I’m recommending a site that is often my first port of call - SXC offer images for free, they don’t have the amount of images that Fotolia might have but you can often find a good image on there without having to pay. There are often conditions of you using the image in the form of a credit – you state where the photograph was obtained from and credit the photographer with a mention. I will always look first on SXC and if i can’t find what I’m looking for I will go over to Fotolia.

#2 – Mailchimp (Email marketing)

If you want to stay in touch with your members via email then for me Mailchimp is the best solution, I have been using them for a long time now and am always expecting them to start charging for their service but to this day it still hasn’t happened – and they claim it never will! They offer a free account which lets you hold up to 2,000 email addresses and will allow you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. If you are sending more emails than this on a monthly basis then the chances are you can justify upgrading to a paid plan for as little as $10 per month.

Many other email services allow free accounts with limited features, Mailchimp only hold back a few features which for most is not an issue as they are not essential features.

Another massive plus for Mailchimp is their support, although not instant it is often very quick and the responses are generally very good – some support teams elsewhere don’t really read your request properly and just send a generic ‘canned’ response which doesn’t help – Mailchimp actually listen, which is quite amazing considering you are not paying them for this help.

#1 – Google Analytics (Website statistics)

The top spot was a tough choice between Google Analytics and Mailchimp, both offer such a great service for free but I chose Google Analytics because it’s 100% free whereas Mailchimp do hold back a few features to those on a free plan.

If you want your website to succeed then you really should be looking at your statistics to help you with your plans going forward. The information provided is extremely vast, but even for those just wanting to know how many visitors you had last month or finding out which are the most viewed pages on your website it’s a must.

The following is a (very small) sample of some of the information you can find out, it does offer LOTS more though:

  • How many visitors you had for any time period
  • Which were the most popular pages on your website
  • How long your visitors spend on any particular page
  • Where your visitors are coming from – other websites or typing your web address directly into a web browser
  • What keywords your visitors are using in search engines to find your website

There are many other statistical tools out there but from my knowledge there are no others this comprehensive that offer it completely for free.

To install it onto your site it’s as simple as adding a small snippet of code to each page of your website, any web professional should be able to add this to your site within minutes.

Some other free trials

I felt compelled to list a few other tools that will help you with your website, these are not free products but do offer a free trial and are definitely worth checking out:

  • IBP - Internet Business Promoter is a suite of tools that will help you achieve higher rankings with the search engines
  • Wordtracker - A more comprehensive keyword research tool
  • Lynda - a good source for training on all things web, they offer a free trial for 7 days so you can view video tutorials on most aspects of web creation, great for the novice or techie