2. Reviewing the latest developments in your industry
There still isn’t a better alternative than Google Alerts for reviewing mentions of your brand name, competitor or sector names by entering keywords, so it’s widely used.
Although RSS isn’t “in vogue” as it was 5+ years ago, I still find there’s no substitute for using this as a listening post for developments in your industry. When I wrote the previous post I used Google Reader to categorise sites to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in digital. When Google withdrew this since there was no revenue in it (Boo!) I used Reeder as an offline client on my Macbook Air and iOS for a while. But now I recommend Feedly since it's the most popular so you can see by the 'voice of the crowd' which posts are most popular. Similar to the feature in PostRank that Google also killed off. Although feed readers aren't in fashion they are the most efficient way to scan the latest news in different categories. So if you don't use them try Feedly out - our analytics shows it's one of the most common referrers to Smart Insights - do bookmark us!
3. Managing social media updates
I’ve used Hootsuite for posting updates to social networks and reviewing what others are saying for nearly five years now after using Tweetdeck back in the day - Twitter killed that one off for general use. Hootsuite seems to be comfortably the most popular free tool for posting and reviewing social media updates, but many still don’t know it, it can be used as a personal social media management tool too. It enables you to quickly post to all the main social networks including Google+ company pages and review conversations and messages. I’ve tried many paid tools, but none come close. The paid version is worthwhile IMO for adding campaign tracking and extra reports.
4. Finding influencers
There is no single free tool that works well for this - please suggest alternatives. You can use reputation tools like Klout, Kred or Peerindex, but I find that the use of Twitter autofollow means that this often skews the results.
LinkedIn sector skills used to be the best source for finding business influencers because of grouping by narrower topics - but LinkedIn killed this - monetisation again. LinkedIn advanced search is probably the best replacement.
I'm interested to know alternatives readers use here - please share in the comments or on social!
5. Understanding customer search behaviour
With search still driving the majority of visits, leads and sales for most businesses online, I believe that even marketers who outsource their SEO need to understand different types of customer behaviour when searching to help develop strategies for getting visibility AND creating content and messages to help meet consumer needs.
Google Insights for search has now been folded into Google Trends essential for understanding seasonal search behaviour trends in different countries.
Ubersuggest is also useful for summarising the Suggest/Autocomplete behaviour in different countries to check your covering the main behaviours.
As I was researching this post for 2015 I noticed a new 'Tool on the Block' for keyword analysis - check outKeywordTool.io. It's like UberSuggest, but with better formatting - I often use this to show how local consumer behaviour differs, for example I was giving a training workshop to a Shredders manufacturer - quite a different term en France par example:
6. Competitor site benchmarking
It used to be that Google AdPlanner was unbeatable for comparing audience size and dimension. That's been folded into AdWords as the Campaign Planner and now limited to media sites, but still useful for finding size and quality of audience for partner and media sites and don't forget about the related Google Placement Targeting Tool useful for remarketing and research.
Today, my 'go to' tool for benchmarking is Similar Web, a freemium tool launched in 2013 and offering free stats on all sites including referrers. Here's how Smart Insights looks:
Of these, Majestic and Moz Open Site Explorer have to be the “must use” tools. I think for non-SEOs, the Backlink History is great for basic benchmarking of competitor success in gaining backlinks although link quality isn’t shown.
8. On-page markup analysis for SEO
Hubspots Site, now Marketing Grader for reviewing on-page for SEO is often mentioned as a useful tool by people on courses.
For reviewing on-page markup like headings and also mobile screen resizing I find Chris Pederick's Web Developer Toolbar for Chrome and Firefox essential. The Moz Toolbar is better from an SEO POV. Here's an example of the overlay to show our 'semantic markup':