The tools you use should make your life easier. Too many people buy expensive and complicated tools they don’t understand. Instead of simplifying their workflow and adding value to their business, they make work more difficult with no measurable benefit.
I believe these tools and resources are genuinely helpful. Whenever a paid tool is recommended, I’ve done my best to provide a free alternative. Admittedly, the paid option is usually better, but I know how it feels to be bootstrapped.
Process Management Software
// Tools for creating your own processes and standard operating procedures. The ones provided here should give you a good starting point, but to truly optimize your workflow, your processes should be personalized on a granular level.
SweetProcess — The tool that inspired me to start this website. SweetProcess is sweet. Free 14 day trial.
Process Street [FREEMIUM] — An alternative to SweetProcess (or is Process Street an alternative to SweetProcess…?).
Notedock [FREEMIUM] — The underdog. You get a personalized subdomain upon sign up. Needless to say, best option for free features.
Google Docs [FREE] — Put the documents into folders for navigational structure. It’s messy, but you can make it work.
// The best places to spend your money. All of these advertising platforms offer pay-per-click bidding. They may have other bidding options available, but you won’t be taken by surprise and learn you’re only buying impressions.
Google AdWords — For advertising on Google and Google properties (i.e. the Google Display Network, Gmail, YouTube & more). If you’re reading this and haven’t heard of AdWords, you’re probably lost.
Facebook for Business — Social ads on Facebook and Instagram. Far from my favorite, but you can’t deny that it works.
Bing Ads — Paid search marketing on Bing and partner networks, including AOL and 51% of desktop traffic on Yahoo. Less volume than AdWords. Also less restrictions.
Yahoo Gemini — Native ads and (mostly) mobile search on Yahoo.
7search — Requires a $50.00 minimum deposit. Clicks are cheap, but you’ll want to monitor the quality of traffic.
Bid Management Software
// Tools that do their best to make the most of your budget and optimize campaigns for you. These are not for small accounts. They need statistically significant data to make educated decisions. Their price tags reflect accordingly.
Acquisio — Can’t say enough good things about Acquisio. Awesome products and support. Free 45 day trial.
Marin — Powerful, but rather ugly. Seems like the biggest budgets lean towards Marin.
Kenshoo — Recommended by friends. Haven’t used it personally. Those who don’t use Acquisio or Marin use Kenshoo.
// For analyzing and interpreting data. There’s a positive correlation between spreadsheet wizardry and campaign performance. If you want to run killer PPC campaigns, get good with spreadsheets. It will help you make smart choices, and it’ll save hours of your time too.
Microsoft Excel — The gold standard for spreadsheet work. Excel is to spreadsheets what Google is to search; they’re practically synonyms. Integrates with Bing Ads.
Google Sheets [FREE] — Not as powerful as Excel, but they serve different purposes. Easy to collaborate with others. Integrates with AdWords.
LibreOffice Calc [FREE] — Open source alternative to Excel. Runs locally. Comes with a learning curve.
// Digital marketing Swiss Army knives. These suites bundle a lot into one package. Specifically, they bridge the gap between paid and organic traffic (among many other things). Unless you have a specific reason not to, you should probably pay attention to both.
Raven Tools — I love Raven Tools. If you want the perfect digital marketing tool, go build it yourself. Raven isn’t perfect, but it’s as good as it gets. Free 30 day trial.
SEMrush — Great for keyword research and competitor analysis. Everyone and their mom uses SEMrush. From the same company as SEOquake.
Bulk Editing Software
// Make multiple changes and them push live once you’re ready. Get used to these editors. They’ll save you a lot of time — and keep you from going crazy with large accounts.
AdWords Editor [FREE] — Bulk offline editing for Google AdWords. A wonderful thing.
Bing Ads Editor [FREE] — Bulk offline editing for Bing Ads. It’s like a watered down version of AdWords Editor.
Project Management Software
// Keep track and manage your progress on multiple projects. It’s surprising how quickly we forget things. Use these to hold everyone accountable for their work (including yourself).
Basecamp — Free for teachers and students, discounts for charities and non-profits. No limit on projects or users. Free 30 day trial for everyone.
Trello [FREEMIUM] — Alternative to Basecamp. The free version is legit, and it might be plenty for your needs.
Tracking & Analytics
// Track and analyze campaign performance. It’s hard to optimize campaigns when you aren’t tracking results. Analytics is a rabbit hole, and conversion tracking can be a real pain. These tools should make both a little easier.
CallRail — For tracking inbound phone calls and attributing them to your marketing efforts. This shouldn’t be optional for any business with a phone. If you have money to spend on advertising but not on tracking the effectiveness of your advertising efforts, you’re doing it wrong.
Google Analytics [FREE] — Standard web analytics tracking. You agree to let Google track virtually everything about your audience. In return, they give you detailed, yet non-personally identifiable information about your visitors. It’s a decent deal.
Google Tag Manager [FREE] — Place all of your tags in one location, then edit them later. A complex tool, but convenient once you understand it.
Ghostery [FREE] — Chrome extension that detects and blocks trackers. Use it to check if your tags are working properly.
Education & Certifications
// Learn the details of each advertising platform. These couses are self-guided with optional exams at the end. Take everything they say with a grain of salt, because the more money you spend, the more money they make.
Google Partners [FREE] — Study guides, exams, and certifcations for advertising on Google. Eight exams available, with time limits from 90 to 120 minutes. 80% is required to pass. Most certifications last for a year.
Bing Ads Accreditation [FREE] — Study materials, exam, and certification for advertising on Bing Ads. There’s only one exam here, and you don’t have to worry about a time limit. 80% is required to pass. Certification is good for a year.
Facebook Blueprint [FREEMIUM] — Training courses, exams, and certifications for advertising on Facebook and Instagram. The training courses are free, but there is a cost associated with taking the exams.
Domain Name Registrars
// Where to purchase domain names, whether it be for clients or your own websites. I’ve bought domains from all of the major players. Some are better than others.
Hover — The majority of my domains names are now with Hover. Management is simple and the interface is clean.
Namecheap — You can’t go wrong with Namecheap. If something did go wrong, half of the internet would go down with you.
iwantmyname — Small team with roots in New Zealand. They’re doing good things with their money. If you want to feel good spending yours, check them out.
// Where to host websites, either for clients or your own. Be skeptical of any web host offering “unlimited” storage and bandwidth. Remember, you get what you pay for. No place is this more true than with web hosting.
Liquid Web — Next level web hosting with a price tag to match. If budget is no concern, these are the guys you want.
A Small Orange — Affordable option for newbies. Scalable from shared hosting all the way up to a dedicated server.
MDDHosting — A solid alternative to any EIG host. Currently hosts this website.
// Learn more about pay per click advertising. PPC blogs are hit and miss (with a lot more misses than hits). Most of them are run by agencies churning out crap content, trying to get your business. The blogs listed here are worth your time.
Inside AdWords — The official blog for Google AdWords. Pay attention for updates and new features.
Bing Ads Blog — The official blog for Bing Ads. You’d think they would have come up with a better name.
KlientBoost — Johnathan Dane and the team at KlientBoost know what’s up. They’re setting the bar for quality content in the PPC realm.
Tenscores — Focus on improving quality score within AdWords. Underrated.
// Various tools and resources that you might find helpful. These don’t fit nicely below any of the previous sections, so they get a section of their own.
Jing — Quick screenshots and screen captures. Looks like a small sun and hangs out at the top of your screen.
TinyPNG — Another productivity tool. Quickly shrink image file sizes without losing too much quality. Nice for display campaigns.
Charcounter — An attractive character counter. Counts with and without spaces. Includes a word count as well.
TitleCap — Automatically capitalizes your titles. Works with different formatting styles.
Moz — The best place to learn SEO wizardry, assuming you’re into that sort of thing.