Digital marketing can seem mysterious and complicated, and at times it is very involved, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money buying, or a lot of time learning, the most important tools. In this short article, I will give you a list of the most important tools you will need to understand, plan, and manage your digital marketing campaigns.
The Essential Google Toolbox
This list is dominated by Google applications for the simple reasons that they are free, powerful, and widely used.
Whether you want to have a little more insight into how your website is doing or manage multiple ad campaigns and quantify their value, the first step is having insight into how people interact with your site.
After Google acquired the analytics engine from Urchin Software in 2005 they distributed it for free and expanded its features and strengths making it the default analytics platforms for most businesses.
Google Analytics is easy to install, only requiring a tag on each page of the site you are tracking to begin collecting data. Most content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress provide a way of tagging all pages in one place.
Google Analytics lets you see where your traffic is coming from, what users do on your site, and what kind of devices and browsers they are using. In addition, Google Analytics allows you to create goals and funnels to see if people are converting to sales or leads on your site and how they got to that goal. These goals can also be imported into your Google Ads to get conversion data and better optimize your marketing campaigns.
Google Search Console
Originally called Webmaster Tools this suite allows users to have more insight into how Google sees their site and helps correct issues that may keep it from appearing in the search results or functioning properly. In addition to giving insight into the structure of your site and activity, Search Console also allows you to disavow links that may be hurting your SEO and submit a sitemap to ensure your entire site is indexed.
When linked with Google Analytics, Google Search Console allows you to see the search terms visitors are using to find your site in your Google Analytics Search Terms report.
Google Ads Editor
Google Ads Editor allows you to make broad changes, copy and paste ads or campaigns, copy settings, and even search and replace ad variants over an entire campaign. While not essential when setting up your first campaign you will likely find it invaluable if you want to make a global change to an account. The more accounts and campaigns you have the more time it will save you. The fact that automating global changes reduces the chance of human error when editing multiple campaigns can also save time and frustration.
Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is another tool that is more of a time and effort saver. By placing a tag “Container” on your site you can add your analytics code, any other global tags and edit them from the tag manager interface, without even having to log in to the site. By creating tags and triggers you can add events that can be tracked as events and goals in Google Analytics and Google Ads.
Combine this with the Google Tag Assistant plugin to get insights into potential issues and what tags are running from your Chrome browser.
Other SEM Resources
A paid service that lets you look at your site and competitors to get insight into ad spend, keyword organic ranking, ad copy, display ads, and more. Semrush is a great place to start competitive research and finding other potential competitors. It also gives input into backlinks, traffic, and social media.
One caveat is that without direct access to the analytics and ad settings and data the information is approximate and I wouldn’t recommend using it for reporting numbers, but it can give useful insights and as stated excels at competitive research.
Answer the Public
A little more offbeat, this free site is great for brainstorming keywords, page ideas, blog titles, and more. Just put in a word or phrase and get related questions, keyword phrases, prepositions, and synonyms. Visit Answer the Public to get started and see where your keyword ideas will take you.
Another paid site that is useful for finding issues with your local search presence. With services ncluding monitoring your ranking, social media, on-page, and off-page SEO factors, and more. Other tools include link monitoring and changes in keyword positions. Moz is in the useful category, maybe not as essential as the Google tools but a great source of information that also has a regularly updated digital marketing blog.
Yoast SEO Plugin
There are several plugins for WordPress that will help monitor and improve your on-page SEO presence. Yoast has become the most popular and powerful of these plugins. Available in free and pro versions Yoast will give advice on keyword density, placement, and other on-page optimization tips.