Category Archives: Marketing Zone

Free and low-cost software that’ll help you attract new customers (or suppliers!).

It’s never been easier to spend heaps of money on trying to attract customers (you think it’s easy to spend money buying stuff from the comfort of your armchair – wait till you try and get new customers!).

So we’re here to scour the interweb to find useful tools that’ll help you market yourself for no – or next to no – money. Hurrah!

Inspirational Marketing Articles

How do you get your business noticed? How do you use social media to create a buzz? On this page, we’ll link to great case studies and reading gathered from around the web.

If you find any great marketing resources we should share, please use the submissions box at the bottom of the page.

How Dropbox, Reddit, Quora, Foursquare, Groupon, Tinder & Airbnb promoted their fledgling businesses. A Fascinating article found on Reddit. 

Website Tools and Utilities

If you own or run a website, you’re always going to need tools to check it’s fit for purpose. Here are a selection of free and insightful tools you’ll find useful.

SEO

For a tool that quickly crawls your website and finds important SEO-relevant information such as meta tags and page errors, Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a fantastic utility that allows you to quickly audit your website. It works on Windows, OS X and Ubuntu.

Links

To check your site for broken hyperlinks, download Xenu’s Link Sleuth – available for Windows/Ubuntu (instructions for running on OS X available on the site). Running the app will scour your site and report on various errors and broken links.

Free Mockup and Design Tools

It’s always useful to be able to mock-up what a screen will look like before entering the asset creation phase. But it can be a little daunting if you’re unused to paint or photo-manipulation software.

However, there are some tools which have been created to make the design of websites and software that bit easier – if you know where to look…

Balsamiq isn’t free software, but the trial version is fully functional for 30 days which should give you time to design whatever it is you need on a smaller project. It’s available through the browser or to download for Windows and Mac – and is just a fabulous and easy to use mockup design tool.

Invision offers a fully free version which allows you to not only create wireframes, but is also a collaborative design tool used by lots of larger software companies.

There’s a 15 day free trial version of HotGloos wireframing and website mockup tool, thereafter their starter plan is €4 per month. However, MockFlow offer a basic free account for one designer with their wireframing and collaboration tool. MockFlow is also particularly intuitive to use.

Free Video Players

Built-in system video players are useful but are often limited in their ability to play all video formats – especially older videos. So if you’re struggling to play a video or would just like something better, y ou might want to try one of these class-leading video players instead.

Videolan produce the massively popular free VLC media player which is great for playing more or less all video files, DVDs and audio formats. It works with on Windows, Mac, Linux as well as iOS and android devices.

Kodi (formerly XBMC) is a fully-featured free and open-source media centre and video player for OSX, Windows, iOS, Android and Linux which is great for media play back as well as streaming over networks.

For a Windows-only player that’s adept with more or less any codec, Potplayer is hard to beat and is widely thought of as the best Windows video player.

Free Websites

Every business wants and needs a good quality website. But they can be a real drain on resources – whether paying for your domain name and hosting or administrating the content.

But there are ways to reduce the cost and time spent on creating your website, and it’s never been easier to do things yourself  with just a small amount of know-how.

Follow our links below and you’ll discover lots of free and low-cost ways to find your ideal website address and quickly get up, running and productive.

 

 

Surveys and Forms

Forms are incredibly useful tools to store and gather information. The ability to build an online form then share or distribute it to your target audience can be very powerful, especially in these days of social media marketing.

Here are some websites which offer free versions.

Wufoo offers a range of templates and reports. Their free version allows 3 forms, 10 fields and 500 entries per month.

Free Image & Photo Editing Software

A simple, free way to manipulate and output photographs for your website or print is important for many businesses’ marketing. Thankfully, there are a wide range of packages available that don’t cost a penny.

Simple Photo Editors

Photoshop Express Editor is a free, online tool that allows you to quickly edit your photo to make it look better or add a variety of effects. IPiccy is similar, allowing you to edit photographs in a number of ways and doesn’t require installation so works on a number of operating systems. Another editor that’s available online and also supports ios and android is Befunky which also features a nice collage-maker. There’s also Fotor’s editor that offers editing, collages and a card designer, all through the browser or app. Finally, for an app to download (but unfortunately only works with Windows), we’re big fans of Irfanview, probably the most useful image viewer around which also allows image editing and manipulation.

More Advanced Photo Editors

Photoshop is the defacto standard for photo manipulation software; however it isn’t free. Gimp is a free alternative that works on multiple platforms including Windows and Mac. For an online advanced editor, Sumopaint works straight in the browser and offers many similar features to Photoshop. The online version is free to use and there’s also a downloadable version that’s available for a small monthly charge.

If you find any other tools that you think we should include, please let us know below.

Advertising Networks

Advertising networks aren’t free – at least worthwhile ones aren’t. However, the best networks will bring enough converting customers to your site to make them, at the very least, cost-neutral; at best, highly profitable. And there’s always the option to join an ad network as a publisher, where you can make between 50-80% of the advertising revenue by displaying ads on your website.

Advertising networks

Google Adsense (where ads are displayed on partner websites) and Google Adwords (ads appear on the Google search results page) are the widest used advertising networks and suitable for businesses of all sizes. You can choose from text or display adverts and the ads served attempt to be relevant to the hosting website content or search results. There are options for remarketing and demographic targeting too. Sign up with your Google account for free. Google Ad Exchange is their real-time marketplace for advertising trading and has an 80% publisher share. Prices of ads on Google depend on the popularity of keywords or the hosting website.

OpenX is possibly the next largest advertising global network with real time ad exchange. Media.net is the contextual ad network run by Bing and Yahoo which allows you to modify ads to reflect your site style too. Other advertising networks worth checking out include Sonobi, Conversant and Adroll.

Advertising on individual websites

Facebook offers relatively low cost per click (CPC) rates along with good targeting options which mean your ads get served to very specific groups. You can sponsor Twitter posts too and their platform has good targeting and reporting. The price you pay depends on the specific goal targets you define, such as more followers or retweets.

Best Free Web Hosting

Amazingly, there are places that will host your website for free. The following sites offer free web hosting for ever with no strings attached. To make the most of the hosting you’ll also need your own domain and a content management system such as WordPress to help you create content. See our websites page for more details.

Free web hosting

FreeHostia have been offering their free ‘Chocolate’ hosting package for a number of years, which includes simple scripts to install WordPress and Joomla site installations (see websites). It also includes 250Mb of site space and 6Gb of monthly traffic. 000Webhost offers 1.5Gb of space and 100Gb of monthly traffic in their free hosting account together with 2 SQL databases. 5Gbfree offers MySQL databases, PHP and cPanel accounts with 5Gb of free webspace and 20 GB of monthly traffic bandwidth in their free account. Finally, Freehosting gives 10Gb of space, 250Gb of traffic bandwidth along with cPanel admin interface on their free website plan.

Best (cheapest) web hosting

Of course, when you get more serious about your website, your focus will probably move from free hosting to ensuring you have a dependable, robust web host that guarantees server up-time. Here are some web hosts you might want to consider which, though amongst the cheapest, are known for providing good quality hosting and support.

Zyma offers excellent support and 99.9% server up-time. And if you’re looking to install a WordPress site, they’ll do it for you for free.  Name offers a low-cost hosting package that allows unlimited websites, databases, disk space and bandwidth and has a good reputation. JustHost is a web host that is known to be very reliable and offers excellent support. Their pricing is very low too, with competitive deals that include a free domain name and unlimited bandwidth.

If you have created a free website using something like WordPress.com, you can often convert it to your own website domain name and carry on having WordPress host your site for a small fee.

Free Website Building Tools

It’s possible to spend a ton of cash on a website. But with a small amount of skill, it’s also possible to build your own for free. Below we list the best sites to visit to quickly create your free website.

When you create a website, you need to register your domain name (such as www.freebusiness.com), find a web host to provide storage for your site and link it into the web, then finda way to add content to the site – usually by using a content management system or CMS. That used to be a complicated and costly process. But there are sites that provide all these and more for free.

Quick and free all-in-one site builders

WordPress.com allows you to quickly build your site and use their free tools to create content. The basic account allows you to create your own domain name such as www.wordpress.com/freebusiness. You can pay a little to use your own website name though (our domain www.mappo.co.uk is hosted using wordpress.com).

Google’s Blogger is very simple to use while Tumblr is another popular and very sharing-orientated builder that’s particularly great for visual content. Other builder/blogging tools which are becoming popular include Anchor, Feathers (great for distraction-free article writers) and Medium.

More fully-featured free builders

These offer free versions but may serve ads on your site or require small, usually monthly payments to add extra functionality (e.g. adding your domains name is always extra). However, they’re all easy to get up and running quickly. Wix, Weebly and Jimdo are all similar with attractive themes and e-commerce options.

Advanced (but free) CMS solutions

If you have your own domain name and hosting, using one of these content management systems (CMS) makes building, designing and managing site content easy.

WordPress.org is hugely powerful and allows you to add ecommerce and new content by using free third party ‘plugins’, as well as design your site using ‘themes’. Similar open source systems are offered by Drupal and Joomla – all are used on gazillions of sites worldwide.