Every digital marketer has a unique set of tools that they use to run their business. There’s no replacement for creativity and marketing strategy, but the proper marketing tools can make a major difference in your success.
Some digital marketers are tool junkies, always looking for the hottest new app, while others prefer to keep it simple and use only the tools that are essential to their businesses.
I’m not here to tell you how to run your business, but I’ll tell you how I run mine.
There are thousands of digital marketing tools out there and another thousand “ultimate lists” that have compiled these tools into a single resource. So, why create another post?
My intentions are slightly different. This isn’t a software “round up” post, nor is it a directory of all of the tools out there. These are the actual tools I use daily or weekly to run my online businesses.
I believe simplicity is key to taking action. I could list out 20 different tools that do the same thing, but I would only be making more work for you: work that I’ve already done myself. I’ve tested hundreds of digital marketing tools and these are my favorites. They each serve a unique purpose and contribute to my ultimate goal of making more money online. Furthermore, these aren’t tools that I use for a single project – that list would be twice as long. These are the tools, both paid and free, that are a core part of my online marketing business.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Email Marketing Tools
Email is one of the last true owned marketing channels and, while email marketing is not as effective as it used to be, it is still a very powerful marketing strategy that every business should embrace.
Mailchimp is an email newsletter service that allows you to build lists, send emails, and set up autoresponders. This is the main email service provider I use for all of my campaigns.Start Using Mailchimp for Free
Sendtric is a unique tool that allows you to add countdown images to your emails. The countdowns can be inserted into the emails with a snippet of code, and they will show up in most email clients. This tools is great for adding a sense of urgency to your promotional emails.Start Using Sendtric for Free
Newsletters are not the only type of emails many businesses will send, meaning a service like Mailchimp may not be able to handle all of your email marketing needs. Certain emails are transactional and may be sent from the server where your site is hosted (i.e. checkout emails, account confirmation emails, etc.)
The main concern when sending emails is making sure they actually land in the customer’s inbox. If you’re sending emails from a shared server, there’s a good chance they are ending up in spam folders. Services like Mailgun are used to improve deliverability and provide advanced analytics.
The service is relatively easy to set up and they have a free plan that will meet the needs of most smaller businesses.Start Using Mailgun for Free
Social Media Management Tools
Social media marketing should be a part of almost every business. Some businesses have a better social component than others, but there’s enough unique social media networks for almost every business to engage in social media marketing. These tools can help you automate some of your social media marketing efforts.
HootSuite (Starting at $29/month)
HootSuite is a social media scheduling tool with a few other social marketing features. For me, this tool serves two main purposes:
- Scheduling Messages – I use HootSuite to schedule messages and send messages in real-time. This type of scheduling tool is best for messages that are date/time sensitive (we’ll get to the alternative next).
- Social Media Monitoring – HootSuite has a great interface for monitoring brand mentions across multiple social media accounts. This is particularly helpful for marketers who manage a lot of different accounts and don’t want to login to each one separately. These tools can also be used for market research but I generally use them for engagement monitoring.
Social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite make social management much easier – MeetEdgar takes this convenience one step further.
With MeetEdgar, you create content libraries and automated social media schedules. Instead of scheduling each post individually, MeetEdgar will pull from a bank of content (that you create) and share those messages at the times you mention.
For example, you may create a “content bank” of 50 social messages related to your company’s blog posts and tell MeetEdgar to post one of these messages every Thursday at 4PM. You could create another bank of promotional messages to post every Monday at 2PM. The process is fully automated and much easier to manage than a standard scheduling tool like HootSuite.
Messages can also be recycled so none of your precious social media posts go to waste.Claim Your Free Month of MeetEdgar
Onlypult (Starting at $15/month)
Instagram post scheduling seems to be the achilles heal of most social scheduling platforms. Due to Instagram’s automation rules, it can be difficult to fully automate your Instagram content calendar. Many of the popular tools like HootSuite will send a notification to your phone when it’s time to post a scheduled message but they won’t post it for you.
Onlypult fixes this problem. With OnlyPult, you can fully automate your Instagram content calendar. You can schedule posts, add hashtags, and even add a first comment to every post.Try Onlypult Free for 7 Days
ManyChat is my go-to Facebook Messenger marketing tool. The platform allows marketers to build Messenger lists (similar to email lists but with FB profiles) that can be marketed to in a variety of ways. You can send one-off broadcast messages or create messenger bots using an impressive selection of automation tools.
I like to integrate ManyChat with my Facebook Advertising efforts when I have a campaign that will benefit from direct communication with customers.Get Started with ManyChat for Free
SEO is a data-driven marketing activity and it’s nearly impossible to run a successful SEO campaign without the proper tools. Those who say “content is king” are only half right. SEO tools help you create better content that has a better chance of driving traffic.
SEMRush is by far my favorite SEO tool. I could probably write a whole series of posts on how I use this tool, but I’ll provide a brief breakdown here.
- Keyword Research – Research new keyword ideas and get data on monthly search volume and competition.
- Competitor Research – See what your competitors are ranking for so you can emulate their SEO/content strategy.
- SEO Audits – Run a full audit of your site to uncover hundreds of issues related to on-site SEO, technical optimizations, and content improvements.
- Rank Tracking – Track your rankings for different keywords so you can monitor the performance of your SEO campaigns.
SEMRush offers even more features than the ones listed above, but those are the main tools I use on a regular basis.Start Using SEMRush for Free
SEMRush is my favorite SEO tool but there’s one area where I feel they are lacking – backlink analysis. This is where Ahrefs comes in. Ahrefs offers many of the same features as SEMRush but I really only use their backlink analysis tool.
In my opinion, Ahrefs has the best backlink tracking tool by a longshot. Services like Majestic, SEMRush, and Moz don’t even come close.
You can use Ahrefs to monitor your own backlinks and spy on your competitor’s backlinks.Take a 7-Day Trial of Ahrefs
Easy Blog Networks
In the world of SEO, link building can be a polarizing topic. On one hand, you have the “content is king” crowd who have never built any links in their lives. On the other hand, you have “black hat” SEO’s who will build as many links as they can in an attempt to game the system.
I find myself somewhere in the middle. I believe that building quality links is an essential part of any SEO strategy and I don’t want to put in the work to contact hundreds of site owners begging for links.
This is where Easy Blog Networks comes in. Blog networks are groups of sites you use to send links to your money sites. and Easy Blog Networks is a tool that allows you to host and manage these networks.
If you’re considering building a PBN (private blog network), Easy Blog Networks provides the absolute best tool for hosting and management.Try Easy Blog Networks Free for 7 Days
Site Performance Auditors
Site speed is a major factor in SEO performance. If your site is slow, you will have a much harder time ranking.
Site speed can be a mystery for many marketers, especially those non-technical ones. Many marketers don’t know what goes on behind the scenes to make their sites run. They can measure site speed but they don’t know how to improve it.
This is where site speed tools can be useful. These tools will analyze your site and grade its performance using a variety of data points. The results of these audits can be used to make improvements to your code and, ultimately, help you rank better.
Here are the three tools I use to run audits (I use all three every time):
- Google Pagespeed Insights
PPC is another data-driven marketing activity in which data tools are essential. Fortunately, most of the advertising networks provide most of the tools you need. For example, you can do audience research using Facebook’s Audience Insights tool and keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner. The majority of my PPC research is done using the tools provided by the networks (combined with SEMRush) but there are a few other tools I like.
I won’t go too deep into this since I explained the benefits in the SEO section, but all of the keyword research you do in SEMRush can be applied to both organic search marketing efforts and paid efforts. They also have tools for display advertising research which aren’t as great as specialized tools but they are definitely helpful.Try SEMRush for Free
AdPlexity is the best spy tool for native advertising campaigns, particularly for affiliates. Initially, I was a bit turned off by the price but after testing three of the top native advertising spy tools, I realized AdPlexity was miles ahead of the competition.
With AdPlexity, you can see which native ads are running on which networks. AdPlexity provides data on how long the ads have been running, which sites the ads were running on, which locations, and much more. The platform is very affiliate-friendly and you can even filter ads by affiliate network.Spy on Your Competitors with AdPlexity
Tracking marketing campaigns is a requirement. For certain campaigns, you can get away with using UTM parameters and tracking pixels. For others, such as native advertising, you need more data.
ThriveTracker isa powerful tracking software that is ideal for affiliates. You can track almost any variable you’d like and organize the data using reports. You can also run split tests on landing pages, affiliate offers, and more. This tracker makes it easy to monitor data like:
- Campaign ROI’s
- Ad placements
- Landing page performance
This data can be aggregated to help you find the most profitable components of your campaign. For example, you could run a native advertising campaign on Taboola using 5 landing pages and 20 ads. With a few clicks, you could see your best placements, landing pages, and ads, so you can double down on what’s working.
You can also use this tracker to filter out bot traffic and potentially get refunds from native advertising networks who may have charged you for bad clicks.Start Your Free Trial of ThriveTracker
Qwaya is a Facebook Advertising tool designed to make the campaign management process easier. You can schedule campaigns, create campaign management rules, and split test marketing strategies.
To be honest, the tool has become less and less useful as the Facebook Ads platform continues to improve, but it still does a few things you can’t do in Facebook Ads. For example, you can use Qwaya to evenly split test ads within an ad set, whereas Facebook tends to favor a single ad after delivering a few hundred impressions.
Qwaya is the type of tool where you’ll know if you need it. It provides some convenience when managing large campaigns, but most of the features that initially attracted me to this tool are now available for free in Facebook Ads.Start Your Free Trial of Qwaya
Web Design/Management Tools
Your website is where all of the marketing magic happens. It’s where you sell products, collect leads, or provide information. Marketers need to have control over their websites (or hire help) if they want to maximize the performance of their marketing campaigns.
Back in the day, I used to search for a new WordPress theme every time I launched a new site. Eventually, I came across Elegant Themes and I’ve never looked back.
Elegant Themes offers a bunch of themes for a fair price, but I only use two of them: Divi and Extra.
Divi and Extra are pagebuilder themes that can be customized to create almost any design. They are efficiently coded and packed with great features. They also come with some prebuilt layout packs that can speed up the web design process.
I almost exclusively use these two themes whenever I build a new website or landing page.Check Out Elegant Themes
Instapage is a landing page creation tool that is built with convenience in mind. There are two situations in which I’ll use Instapage over Divi/Extra.
- Basic Landing Pages – Instapage makes it really easy to build landing pages from prebuilt templates. You can integrate these landing pages with Zapier, meaning they work well for almost every type of campaign.
- Building on Custom Development Projects – I use WordPress for all of my personal sites but occasionally I’ll work with a client who uses a custom framework. In these cases, it can be difficult and tedious to build landing pages. Instapage solves this problem by allowing me to point a subdomain to the Instapage landing page with a simple DNS update. For example, if a client has a custom-coded PHP site (site.com) and I don’t want to build a PHP/HTML landing page, I could create the page in Instapage and point it to a subdomain (i.e. sale.site.com).
Google Tag Manager
I started using Tag Manager a couple of years ago and my only regret was that I didn’t start using it sooner. GTM is a tag management solution that makes it easy to install all of your tracking code and integrations on a website.
Instead of adding each code snippet to your website’s source code, you simply add the GTM tag to the source code and manage all of your tags from the GTM interface.
This makes it easy to manage all of your tags in one place.
You can also do a LOT more within GTM, even with minimal technical knowledge. Here are a few of the helpful tools I’ve setup in GTM:
- Fire a tag on one-page only to avoid slowing down other pages
- Track outbound link clicks in Google Analytics
- Pass UTM variables from page to page
Hosting and Domains
Hosting and domains play a major role in your marketing, and both are essential to your business. There are TONS of different hosting providers and domain registrars and I’ve had the fortunate (and unfortunate) experience of trying a lot of them. These are my personal favorites.
Namecheap is hands-down the best domain registrar out there. Dot-com domains are about $10-12 and every domain comes with free Whois protection.
Unlike other domain registrars (like GoDaddy), Namecheap offers fair renewal prices.Start Saving on Domains With Namecheap
I’ve tested most of the top hosting companies out there, ranging from Hostgator to AWS. Siteground is by far my favorite, particularly for WordPress sites. Here’s why:
- Fast servers
- Great uptime
- Good support
- Easy server management
- Custom plugin for WordPress speed optimization
I currently have multiple servers with Siteground and I wouldn’t even consider another shared hosting provider for future projects.
Pro Tip: lock in Siteground’s introductory pricing by paying for a few years in advance. If you don’t, your renewal price may be up to 300% higher than your introductory rate.Get an Exclusive Discount on Siteground Servers
Siteground is great, but sometimes a shared server won’t cut it. Certain projects have unique requirements and/or developers feel more comfortable working with non-shared servers.
For these projects, I use Digital Ocean’s cloud servers. They’re relatively easy to setup and the pricing is incredibly fair. I recently moved all of my AWS projects over to Digital Ocean for this reason.
They also have some handy features like one-click-installs and automatic backups.Get $50 Off Your Digital Ocean Server
Expired domains are domains that previously hosted a site but recently expired (duh). These domains can be handy for two main reasons:
- Building a PBN – I always look for expired domains with strong backlink profiles and a history of quality content
- Launching a new business – The logic is the same as a PBN but you would use the domain to launch an actual business. This can sometimes make it easier to rank your website in the future.
ExpiredDomains.net is a free tool that allows you to search and filter a mega-database of expired domains. You can filter domains by keyword, TLD, age, and other valuable metrics.Start Using ExpiredDomains.net for Free
WordPress plugins are one of the driving forces behind the popularity of WordPress. With just a few clicks, you can deploy powerful plugins that improve your marketing performance. I’ve tried hundreds of different plugins over the years and these are the five that I install on every single site.
Yoast SEO is my favorite SEO management plugin for WordPress. It’s easy to use and the team is constantly updating the plugin. This won’t magically improve your SEO performance, but it will give you the tools you need to optimize your site. Here are the main uses:
- Title/Meta editing
- Nofollow/noindex tagging
- Automatic sitemaps
- Proper social markup and schema
- Automatic breadcrumb insertion
There are more features and even more paid extensions, but I mostly take advantage of the core features.Download Yoast SEO for Free
W3 Total Cache
Google loves fast sites, so site speed plays a major role in your site’s search rankings.
W3 Total Cache is a plugin that helps you speed up your site and the performance benefits are crystal clear. I’ve chopped seconds off my load time (a lot in the world of site speed optimization) with this plugin alone.
If you’re a technical marketer, you’ll love all of the customization options. If you’re not, there’s plenty of free guides you can follow online.Download W3 Total Cache for Free
Autoptimize works side-by-side with W3 Total Cache to speed up your site even further. Whereas W3 Total Cache optimizes the delivery of your site’s code, Autoptimize optimizes the code itself.
The plugin is relatively easy to setup and the performance benefits are noticeable.Download Autoptimize for Free
AMP for WP
AMP, which stands for accelerated mobile protocol, is a coding framework designed to optimize webpages for mobile devices. The AMP technology was initially developed by Google (so you know they’re a fan) to help speed up internet browsing on mobile devices.
Creating AMP pages manually would be tedious (and near impossible for someone without the technical skills). AMP for WP automates the process and creates an “AMP-version” of your site.
This AMP-version is shown to mobile visitors and comes with the benefits of improved speed and performance. I’ve noticed that Google is particularly fond of these pages and some of them rank better than my main pages.
Setting up the AMP for WP plugin is surprisingly easy. The core plugin is free but they have some paid extensions that are very useful.Download Amp for WP for Free
Sumo is a lead capture tool with a handful of unique features. The tool is available for all sites, but they have a WP plugin so it seemed appropriate to discuss it in this section.
Don’t underestimate the power of Sumo. This tool can be used to create all kinds of email optin forms. You can create pop-ups, full page takeovers, smart bars, in-content forms, and more.
You can create different rules for the optins using advanced triggers like exit intent, referrers, cookies, and more.
Sumo can be used for more than just email collection. You can use the same lead squeeze tools to drive traffic to offers or sales pages, which I’ve found to be particularly helpful in increasing sitewide profitability.
Sumo has both a paid and free version and I will use both (depending on the site).Start Using Sumo for Free
Graphics and Videos
Graphics and videos play an essential role in every aspect of marketing, from your ads to your website. I primarily use Photoshop for my graphic design, but I also rely on a few resources and online tools.
Pexels is the best website for getting free stock images. Pexels pulls free images from a few sites and they usually have the best selection of quality images.Start Using Pexels for Free
DepositPhotos is my go-to site for getting paid stock photos. This is more because I took advantage of an AppSumo deal to get discounted photos, but the site has a pretty good selection.Search for Images on DepositPhotos
Envato Elements is a membership service that offers unlimited access to graphic templates, graphics, photos, videos, and much more. As a graphic designer, this is one of the most helpful tools I’ve found.
Using templates from Envato Elements saves me hours of design time and improves the quality of my graphics. That said, you still need to know how to use tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects if you truly want to maximize the value of this site.Sign up for Envato Elements for Free
Canva is the easiest way for marketers to create graphics without Photoshop. It’s an online platform that provides visually appealing templates for social media images, ads, flyers, and more.
I generally stick with Photoshop but Canva is definitely convenient.Start Using Canva for Free
RelayThat is similar to Canva in that it helps marketers create different types of images using a range of pre-designed templates. The main difference is that RelayThat create a variety of different image sizes/styles using whatever text and graphics you want to use. For example, if you wanted to promote a blog post titled “Best Recipe Ideas,” RelayThat would help you create promotional graphics for Instagram, Facebook, featured images, and more.
Once again, I mostly use Photoshop for graphics, but RelayThat is a convenient tool, and you can share it with your freelancers as well.Start Creating Graphics with RelayThat
Most marketers know that video creatives beat photo creatives, especially when it comes to advertising on platforms like Facebook. The problem is, creating videos can be difficult.
This is where Magisto comes in. With Magisto, you simply upload a few images or videos, choose a template, choose your music, and the software will automatically create a video for you.
There are a few platforms that do this, but most of their templates are mediocre at best. Magisto has some great templates and the app is very easy to use. I mostly use this tool to create Facebook video ads fast.Get Started with Magisto for Free
Visme is another online graphic editing tool that is similar to Canva. Visme differentiates itself by focusing primarily on “data-driven” graphics such as infographics and charts. You can import data tables and choose from a variety of well-designed charts and data-oriented graphics.
These types of graphics can provide great support to a blog post and they’re much easier to build in Visme than they are in Photoshop.Start Using Visme for Free
As you expand your business, you’ll need to bring on help. One of the beauties of internet businesses is that they can be run remotely. You can avoid the costs of offices and full-time employees by hiring remote workers for a variety of tasks. If you really want to scale your business, outsourcing is essential.
UpWork is the best source for hiring specialists for a variety of tasks. You can find writers, graphic designers, developers, and just about any specialist you’re looking for.
Many business-owners prefer to work with B2B companies instead of individual freelancers, but I much prefer the quality I get when I work directly with my team. For example, I’ve ordered articles on five of the top article sites and they were all garbage. My best talent has always been sourced from UpWork.
Building a team is an investment in the future of your company so make sure you take it seriously and focus on finding the best people to help you grow your company.Search for Freelancers on UpWork
Fiverr is great for simple one-off tasks where you wouldn’t want to go through the work of finding a freelancer on UpWork. The platform seems to have lost its way a bit over the past few years and they now offer expensive services alongside the $5 gigs that they built their name on, but there are still some good services there.
The key is knowing what you are looking for. Be specific. If you try to hire an SEO specialist on Fiverr, you could run into trouble. Contrarily, if you hire someone to build local citation links, you know exactly what you’re getting (and you can get it at a great price). Here are a few of my favorite types of gigs:
- Logo design
- Very basic graphic design
- Specific types of link building
Be diligent when selecting your gigs. There are a lot of low-quality services in the $5-$10 tier, but there are still plenty of gems if you do some searching.Browse Marketing Gigs on Fiverr
SEOClerks is similar to Fiverr but it’s primarily focused on SEO. SEOClerks also has a lot of cheap gigs, some priced as low as $1. Similar to Fiverr, there’s a LOT of low-quality gigs so you really need to do some searching if you want to find something special.
You should also be very careful when paying someone a low price to build links to your site. Ask questions and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
I would never buy services like link pyramids or 30-day SEO campaigns. Instead, I’ll buy very specific services such as guest posts or tier 2 links.Browse SEO Services on SEO Clerks
PeoplePerHour is similar to both Fiverr and SEOClerks but it tends to be on the more expensive side. I usually only use this site when I can’t find what I need on Fiverr or SEOClerks.
The site offers both a freelancer directory (similar to UpWork) and gigs (similar to Fiverr). Once again, the range of quality varies a lot so you need to do your research.Find Help on PeoplePerHour
Before you get tripped up about hearing the term “black hat,” remember that almost every link building effort is certainly not “white hat.”
BlackHatWorld actually has some high quality link building services that I’ll use from time to time. That said, I adhere to a very strict process when dealing with these service providers.
- Do your research on the service provider – Check out his/her other posts and do your best to gauge his/her legitimacy. If you’re unsure of anything, ask questions in the service threads or via private messages.
- Start with a test order – Allowing another company to build links to your site is always a risky endeavor (especially on a Black Hat forum). Choose the wrong service provider and you may end up doing irreparable damage to your site. Whenever I work with a new provider, I always start with a test order on one of my smaller sites. I run my own mini case study to see how well the links perform. If they work, I’ll use the links for my main project. If they don’t, I didn’t jeopardize one of my main businesses.
Business Management and Other Services
Business operations are just as important as the business itself. You need to be able to track company-wide profitability, maximize internal productivity, and streamline day-to-day activities. Here are a few of the tools I use to make business management easier.
Zapier is a tool that can be used by non-developers to create helpful automations. Automations are called “zaps” and they can be used to automate a wide range of marketing activities.
Zaps are built using an “if this, then that” functionality. For example, IF a new lead comes in, THEN email our sales team.
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- Automatically post new blog posts to social media accounts
- Send real-time lead alerts to the sales team
- Cross-post between social networks using advanced criteria (i.e. post tweets to Facebook IF they include an image)
Wave is a free online accounting software that’s similar to QuickBooks. The platform is easy-to-use and helps you get a birds-eye view of your business’s performance.
You can track and categorize income and expenses, run reports, and monitor company growth. You can even use the software to send online invoices (and recurring invoices).
This platform helps business owners better understand their true profitability. It also saves you a lot of headaches during tax season. Just send your CPA your login info, sit back, and prepare to send Uncle Sam his cut.Create Your Free Wave Account
I use Dropbox for all file storage and sharing. No advanced tricks here – Dropbox is pretty simple, but it makes it easy to send large files when collaborating on a project.
I also like to backup a lot of data (such as site backups) and store it on Dropbox instead of wasting space on a local hard drive.Create Your Free Dropbox Account
Dropbox is great, but its document management features aren’t the best. I use Google Docs for collaboration on spreadsheets and articles. I also find that it can be used to build business processes. For example, you could have a writer upload an article to one folder where an editor can make changes. From there, you could have an assistant post the blog and mark it as posted – all within Google Docs.Start Using Google Docs
Anyone who works at home has their own set of tricks for staying productive and motivated. Mine is Wunderlist.
While some people enjoy using a calendar, I prefer using a checklist. This keeps me focused on important tasks and comes with the added satisfaction of being able to check things off a list.
Wunderlist allows you to create as many lists (and folders of lists) as you’d like. Here’s my top secret setup for list organization:
- Short-Term Tasks – Short term tasks are the tasks I want to work on during the week. If a tasks doesn’t need to be completed this week, it gets moved to the medium-term list.
- Medium-Term Tasks and Tasks in Progress – The medium-term list is for tasks that will eventually make their way to the short-term list. I will also move tasks to this list if I’m waiting on another person before continuing a task (i.e. web development)
- Long-Term Tasks – Long-term tasks are the tasks that have lived on the medium-term list for too long. They’ve proven to be less important so they get moved to the long-term task list (which I only review every few months).
- Reminders – The reminders list adds a “calendar-style” component to the Wunderlist app. You can set reminders for calls, meetings, or appointments. You can even set up email alerts to ensure you don’t forget anything important.
What Are Your Favorite Tools?
That sums up the list of the most important marketing tools! Are there any tools you would add to the list? Share in a comment below!