There are many moving parts to a successful marketing strategy and a powerful set of marketing tools will streamline and enrich your campaigns immeasurably. In 2021 we published our very first list of favorite tools but the digital world never stops evolving. A new year has brought a slew of new tools to our marketing toolbox – and while some tools endured the test of time, others did not rise to the challenge. From ridiculously simple plugins to leading technologies that are transforming the marketing landscape, find our expanded list of tried and tested digital marketing tools. As always, there are no affiliate links in this blog, just an unbiased list of favorite tools you’ll want to consider for your own toolbox.
Note: When a listed tool showcases “🛠️” it signifies daily usage of this tool in our own agency.
Established in 2008, SEMrush is a feature-rich, paid tool and a must in any digital marketer’s arsenal. When it comes to competitor data, SEMrush is a goldmine. Whether it’s using their traffic analytics tool to determine which channels your rivals are using, checking out competitor website traffic, using their organic research tools to determine your competitors’ SEO practices and keyword strategies, or using their backlinks analytics to check out link-building opportunities. Semrush seamlessly integrates with Google products, social channels, and Trello. Semrush also offers free phone support. Its downside is its cost, which starts at $119 USD per month (unchanged from 2021) if you buy into a subscription.
Founded in 2007, SimilarWeb is renowned for its website and competitive traffic intelligence and they really deliver. Fans say that it’s the closest a marketer will get to access your competitors’ Google Analytics. Where SimilarWeb really shines is with its suite of market industry analysis tools including big-picture market trends, traffic share by industry, traffic volume by source, audience loyalty, and beyond. More expensive than SemRush and Ahrefs, the paid subscription plan starts at $199 USD. According to fans, SimilarWeb scans website traffic more frequently than other platforms and supposedly Rand Fishkin is a big fan.
Another classic, Ahrefs has been around since 2011 and still comes in at slightly less than Semrush, with a start price of $99. Its interface is easy to use and it allows you to search in multiple search engines (not just Google). It also gives you a recommended backlink estimate to rank for a particular keyword. If you can verify ownership of a website domain there is no limit to the number of websites you can monitor. It’s also worth checking out their free backlink checker.
Screaming Frog is hands-down the best site audit tool available for technical and on-page SEO (including broken links, missing metadata, sitemaps, identifying temporary and permanent redirects, finding duplicate content etc.). A cornerstone tool that debuted in 2010, Screaming Frog can quickly crawl thousands of pages, even behind a firewall, giving SEOs the ability to make informed decisions in real time. They have an amazing support section and good customer support. There are some cons: the interface isn’t pretty and the free version has a small crawl limit (500 pages). However, it’s a low commitment at only around $200 USD per year.
A free Google SERP checker, Valentin allows you to check local search engine results from any location. Unlike its alternative, I Search From, Valentin allows you to actually click on the search result link and not just view the search results page.
Formerly Webmaster Tools, in 2018 the tool was updated and renamed Google Search Console. Initially developed to check indexing status and optimize visibility and site performance the dashboard now offers much more. Its robust performance reporting includes index coverage, search analytics over the last 16 months, links, URLs, and parameters reporting. Perhaps one of the most interesting updates is the page experience tab which provides insights on core web vitals, mobile usability, and checks for HTTPS security. The tool is completely free.
Google’s most famous platform, Google Analytics (GA) which was rebranded as Universal Analytics (UA) was established in 2005 as one of their free workspace tools. Designed to track and analyze website and app traffic, it also tracked user behavior, and gave you critical insights into how your site is performing. As of July 2023 however, in our new cookieless world, Universal Analytics will be completely phased out and the next generation Google Analytics 4 will be required. Hard launched in 2020 GA 4 measures data based on events and parameters instead of sessions. It’s new data structure that has turned data collection on its head with a machine learning methodology referred to as “modeling”. The tool is completely free.
Launched in 2013 Google’s Keyword Planner (formerly Google Keyword Tool) is part of the Google ads platform. GKP was designed to help advertisers research relevant keywords and related search volume for their campaigns. Doubling as an SEO tool, Keyword Planner allows you to get granular search volume data and other key metrics while easily exporting data. Unlike other tools which limit you to monthly search volume by country only, Keyword Planner allows you to access search volume by city. You can also get suggested keywords related to your search for expanded reach. The tool is completely free.
Google Tag Manager is a tag management system that was established in 2012. Working seamlessly with Google Analytics, it gives non-developers the ability to add and update their own tags for conversion tracking, site analytics, remarketing, and through the use of tracking pixels. Prior to Google Tag Manager, code had to be manually added to a website in order to track events. Integrating natively with several popular third-party tracking tools It has an easy-to-employ interface and is completely free.
Canadian landing page builder Unbounce has been in business since 2009 and is a favorite tool on this list. Allowing you to build optimized, custom landing pages (rather than driving ad traffic to a generic one-size-fits-all website), you can create unique landing pages quickly with their drag-and-drop interface or use one of their 100-plus conversion-driven templates (many of them industry-focused). Unbounce makes it easy to a/b test multiple page variants simultaneously. Unbounce also gives you the use of dynamic text and the ability to optimize your pages for search. A sweet extra benefit is Unbounce’s sticky bar and pop-up templates. Packages start at $90 USD per month for 1 domain, but the price increases with multiple domains.
First-class Customer Retention Management platform (CRM) Hubspot happens to have an excellent, free landing page builder. However, to unlock its full capabilities you will need to upgrade. Easy to use with sophisticated templates, “Smart Builder” integrates into Hubspot’s analytics (dubbed Conversion Intelligence) for deep insights into your fully fueled inbound lead generation strategy. Smart Builder uses AI insights from over one billion conversions to help you launch higher-converting landing pages. It automatically sends traffic to the landing page variant most likely to convert.
A text-generating Chatbot and AI assistant, ChatGPT blew the top off of the marketing industry when it became available to the public in November. ChatGPT thus far has demonstrated the ability to generate high-quality content, dare we say, with more accuracy and sophistication than many humans, in the most conversational and human-sounding way. That’s not to say that the results are not without mistakes or controversy. Google has already issued a “code red” in response to the rise of AI bots. Currently ChatGPT is unable to fact-check what it says and can’t distinguish between verified and false information. Furthermore, it has limited knowledge about any event after 2021. It’s made it to our must-have list because its potential for impacting marketing content, (not to mention customer service response, lead nurturing, and personalization) is immeasurable.
A last-moment inclusion as we were recently introduced to this platform, Anyword is a clever AI copywriter, text generator, and writing assistant in one. Unlike its competitors, it offers a predictive performance score for every content option generated, so users can make smarter choices around the potential to engage with their audience. By plugging in audience descriptors, Anyword will generate a content “voice” geared toward specific audience types and personas. The platform allows you to test ad copy, headlines, blog content, website content, landing pages, product descriptions, and beyond. Established 9 years ago, pricing starts at $24 USD but for full functionality, you will want to consider the Data-Driven Plan at $83 per month.
A small investment at $35 per month, Copy.ai is easy to use. During the setup process, Copy.ai surveys writers based on the type of content they plan on creating (i.e. blog, ad, website copy, etc.), and content “voice” (professional, casual, bold, witty, etc.). Copy.ai provides customized content based on these attributes. From headlines, ad copy, post content, website CTAs, and beyond, the platform provides fresh content ideas for a/b testing. Don’t expect full-on quality articles or blog content though. This tool is better at handling short rather than long content. Other features include a nifty plagiarism checker, a helpful chrome extension, and 24/7 customer support. A new tool on the block (founded in 2020) Copy.ai has 380,000 users and growing.
The oldest tool on the list, established in 2001, Mailchimp still performs, especially for SMBs doing their own marketing. Its easy drag-and-drop interface allows you to design, automate and manage email campaigns without any design or development knowledge. With its audience targeting tools, AI creative assistant to help create custom designs, this all-in-one email marketing suite is a robust platform at an exceptional value. Their free version even allows for up to 2000 contacts and their paid versions offer a pay-as-you-go option.
For more sophisticated email marketing campaigns Klavio provides advanced automation, targeting, a/b testing, and segmentation capabilities as well as a predictive analytics tool. Founded in 2012, Klaviyo was built specifically for the eCommerce industry and integrates with most e-commerce platforms. While it’s more complex to navigate than Mailchimp, the editor is highly customizable. Their free version only allows for 500 contacts but their most popular pricing plan starts at $45 per month for 15,000 monthly email sends, plus email and chat support, and the ability to pay as you grow.
Interactive content platform Outgrow, established in 2016, is an exceptional lead qualification and generation tool. Using one of the thousands of pre-optimized templates, you can create personalized quizzes, calculators, chatbots, and polls without any design or development expertise. Starting at $14 per month, outgrow also has great customer chat support.
On the market since 2014, Hotjar helps marketers to better understand how customers are engaging with your website and why they may be dropping off or not converting. Through heatmaps, session recordings, polls, instant customer feedback, and other behavioral analytics functionality you are able to really dig deep into user behavior. Easy to install using Tag Manager, Hotjar conveniently integrates with popular website platforms and starts at just $39 per month. Their free trial is generous – it’s 15 days for both Plus and Business Plans with no credit card required.
A live chat outsourcing agent service, The Chat Inc (not to be confused with Chat Inc) is staffed by humans and helps convert website and landing page traffic. Unlike typical live chat tools, customers only pay when they receive a “qualified” lead, determined during the setup process. For anyone running lead generation campaigns, this is a must-have tool. Very easy to set up with excellent customer support, The Chat Inc works on an affordable pay-per-lead pricing plan that makes this service very budget-friendly.
We first featured Tolstoy in 2021 when it was new to the market. Even in its infancy, Tolstoy was one of the best interactive video platforms available. A disruptor in the market, they were one of the first platforms to democratize interactive video to the masses. Now with over 5000 customers strong including companies like Yotpo and Monday.com, Tolstoy has created an intuitive and easy interface to create personalized and immersive video journeys for prospective new customers. Using a strategy called “branching” viewers get to choose the path they want to take next based on their interests and needs. It feels more like a face-to-face conversation than a passive video experience. They have taken their technology from a website and landing page widget experience to quizzes and feeds and Instagram-like story experiences. Starting with a free version, Tolstoy pricing is ridiculously affordable for their professional version which starts at $19 per month.
Call and text tracking software CallRail was established in 2011 and supports over 180,000 companies globally. From understanding which digital and traditional channels your most qualified leads ring in from to managing your team’s leads from one single point of truth, CallRail is a must-have for any marketing team running digital lead campaigns. CallRail allows you to monitor the behavior of each contact’s incoming, active, and recent interactions and beyond through dedicated, local numbers as well as call recording and routing and excellent analytics. Plans start at $45 per month.
A lead response management tool, Callingly was founded in 2019. Essential for lead follow-up, Callingly triggers calls from your landing page form or CRM, generating a call to your sales or front desk team within seconds of lead conversion. If your team doesn’t pick up, Callingly automatically texts the lead and calls again later. If a lead comes in after business hours, Callingly will dial your team the next day. Built around the proven concept of “speed to lead” (i.e. the first company to call a customer back closes the lead), at just $49 per month, it’s a pretty sweet deal.
Launched as a social media management tool Hootsuite in 2008, the company has added significant functionality over the years including competitor intelligence and analytics. Their side-by-side competitor comparisons of key performance metrics (including mentions, engagement, sentiment, and exposure) is a popular feature and the competitor report builder can be customized to compare activity overviews, stats, growth, and more. Starting at $29 per month for ten social profiles and one user.
Sprout Social has transformed since its inception in 2010 into one of the leading social listening tools on the block. Due partly to its affordability compared to some of the new kids on the block, Sprout Social touts itself as an enterprise-grade social media management platform that provides powerful solutions for social listening and analytics, customer care, and employee advocacy, and yet it’s priced very moderately at $99 per user per month (after free trial period). It’s also supremely easy and intuitive.
Launched as the first-to-market Instagram scheduler in 2014, Later (formerly Latergramme) has grown from a simple Instagram tool to one of the most popular visual marketing platforms for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Starting at just $18 per month for 1 user (although most agencies can unlock their advanced option which allows you to manage multiple brands for just $80 per month), Later has excellent customer service and is easy to set up. Features include a content library, content calendar, social analytics, drag and drop content creation and editing tools and publisher.
Launched in 2015, BrandMentions Touts their ability to “dig every corner of the internet” for a mention of your brand. A reliable and easy to use tool BrandMentions is great for reputation management, sentiment analysis, competitor intelligence, and beyond. The platform includes a hashtag tracking tool, a social media brand mention tracking tool, a social spying tool that gives you access to your competitors’ strategies and find out where they stand in the market. They offer a free 14 day trial. Monthly pricing starts at $99 per month.
With a more affordable startup price of $39.99 per month, Brand24 was launched in Poland in 2011 and its customer list is pretty impressive (think Uber.) Brand24 is a brand mention and social media analytics platform across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch. The platform allows you to measure share of voice, hashtag performance, and brand sentiment with the ability to segment positive, negative, and neutral mentions plus instant alerts for negative mentions.
Launched in 2003 Google Alerts is still going strong twenty years later. Completely free, it lets brands know when they have a new mention in the news, and on web pages and users know when a keyword they are monitoring shows up in content online.
The most intuitive design platform for the non-creative, Canva is used by 30 Million users to date and as of last year was worth a sweet $15 Billion USD (in just 9 years). It’s a great platform and I would be remiss to exclude it from this list. With an easy-to-use desktop interface and excellent mobile apps, the free plan is very rich and the paid plan starting at $119 a year is even richer. Used to develop creative for social media, ad banners, presentations, and other visual content you have access to stock photos, audio, video, hundreds of thousands of templates, and loads of cloud storage. You can even schedule and post social media content to 8 platforms.
Founded in 2006, Hubspot has grown to a billion in revenue serving over 100,000 companies around the globe. HubSpot is an inbound marketing, sales, and service platform that fully integrates with your favorite ad platforms to ensure that “all your marketing comes together” in one single point of truth. Hubspot has a free plan, but serious functionality starts at $45 per month for the Marketing or Sales Software “Starter” hubs and jumps to $800 per month and beyond to unlock the “Professional” marketing hub and $450 for the Sales hub respectively. For small to medium organizations, Hubspot is a game-changer tool that grows with you. Designed to help companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close & retain customers. It does this through a single source of truth, intuitive UX, and a unified codebase. HubSpot equips companies to better manage marketing, sales, service, and operations efforts. From landing page builders, to live chat, payment integrations, and omnichannel marketing channel automation the list of functionality is endless. Video hosting, lead scoring, collaboration tools for teams, campaign management and analytics, A/B testing, sales forecasting, and awesome customer support are just the tip of the iceberg.
Founded in 1999 Salesforce has been the longest and largest Saas CRM on the market with 38% of the market share. Salesforce provides highly scalable customer relationship management and marketing software, similar to Hubspot but with some significant differentiations. When it comes to complex customization (including coding and an open API), Salesforce has superior analytics and more advanced infrastructure. They also have an excellent customer service response time. The platform is designed for large organizations with sophisticated sales processes and sales forecasting as well as extensive marketing features and deep personalization features. The Salesforce dashboard shows you the entire customer journey, their estimated value, and revenue potential at a glance. Their customer scoring system has been adopted as one of the best in the industry. The negatives? It’s built for the technologically savvy and is higher, more complex pricing (although it starts at $22.50 per month for one user). Salesforce charges per user per month and many variables and features come as standalone apps accessible by purchase.
Founded in 2017, ClickUp has become a huge contender in the project management app space in the last 2 years. With over 800,000 users they work with an impressive array of brands including Samsung, IBM, and Booking.com. An incredibly easy interface, ClickUp functions smoothly on mobile and Desktop. ClickUp promises that its all-in-one tool will help companies plan, track, and project manage any type of work. For marketers, ClickUp is particularly robust with 35+ apps rolled into one. Their free version offers a ton of value. From collaborative docs, Kanban boards, real-time chat functionality, in-app video recording, and beyond. Their paid plans which range from $5 per user to $19 per user per month offer a ridiculous amount of functionality including Gantt charts, Teams, automation, and time-tracking,
If your team responds best to a visual experience then Trello may be a great option for your agency. A project management tool, it’s also an agile Kanban board. Trello visually showcases projects and their workflow status at a glance. Created in 2011 by Glitch, it became a stand-alone company in New York City in 2014. Sold to Atlassian in January 2017, Trello has over 4.7 5 million users and boasts clients like Google, Zoom, and Visa. As a pure project management tool, without extras like budgeting tools, Trello is very easy to set up and is very intuitive. It offers a free version but even the enterprise version with up to 50 users is just $17.50 per month.
Founded in 2011 during a Columbia Startup weekend, Zapier is a process automation tool that allows companies to automate and communicate with over 5000 web apps. For marketers, Zapier is an absolute gem. Simply speaking, Zapier allows you to link and share data from one app to another. It sounds simple but it opens up a world of opportunities. Marketers use Zapier in a variety of ways. Zapier tracks lead performance by source – they integrate with all the popular paid acquisition channels like Google and Meta. Your newest blog content can be automatically shared on social media too. You can build your email lists from multiple sources (they integrate with Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc.), and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Pricing starts at $19.99 per month.
Super intuitive and easy to set up, Yoast SEO is an award-winning Free WordPress plugin and you just can’t beat its simple-to-use functionality to ensure your technical SEO basics are up to snuff. The premium version is even more robust with on-page SEO tools that help beginners optimize their content with ease. With the paid version you also get internal linking recommendations and access a “redirect manager” to handle your 404s. Their premium version which costs $99 offers some nice functionality but the free version works just fine.
A free chrome extension, Tag Assistant is a debugging tool that helps you validate that you have correctly installed the tracking code on your website, showing you which tags are firing correctly as well as reporting any errors. One of its coolest features is that it allows you to record user behavior and track interactions. If problems are identified Tag Assistant will diagnose any problems on the pages you visited during the recording session and troubleshoot issues.
A website performance testing tool, GT Metrix has replaced Pingdom Tools as my current favorite. While it takes a few moments longer to run, the page performance results are more robust. GT Metric was launched in 2009 by the team at Carbon 60 as a simple testing tool. It was revamped to bring an affordable website performance tool to the public. Its free tool is great and stands on its own.
A free, nifty little plugin from the folks at Meta, Facebook PIxel Helper helps you validate your pixel implementation by providing real-time feedback on the page’s pixels including warnings, errors, and successes.
Wordtune is a Grammarly alternative that offers clean, polished, and grammatically correct content recommendations. It’s also highly affordable at $9.99 per month. Similar in function to Copy.ai it not only polishes content but provides alternative rewrites as well. The “translate and rewrite” function allows you to simultaneously translate and rewrite content from one language to another. Launched by AI21 Labs in 2020, Wordtune was created with AI21 Lab’s own AI model.
Fran Jakubowicz is the CEO of SunHouse Marketing, a full service digital marketing agency with a track record of excellence. A digital lead generation expert, Fran and her team have generated hundreds of thousands of leads and millions of dollars in sales for her clients. Fran invests in training and certifying her team across all digital marketing channels to ensure that her clients are benefiting from the freshest digital marketing strategies, Google best practices and tools available. Working across multiple verticals including health, pharmaceutical, finance, law, education, non-profit and eCommerce, Fran and her team have been helping organizations reach their digital goals since 2009. Fran grew up in communications. Early in her career, she worked in her family’s public relations firm, DCI (Dworkin Communications Inc). Since that time Fran has been involved in an impressive array of projects, assisting companies and non-profit organizations to attain their goals. In the days before the internet Fran practiced traditional marketing and PR. With this background, it was only natural for Fran to evolve her skills, and to become a very successful online marketer. In a rare combination, Fran blends over 20 years of experience with her love and passion for the latest and hottest technologies. This unique worldview allows Fran to assist companies to achieve their goals. Connect with Fran on LinkedIn.