Each and every day I use a variety of tools and techniques. Some are focused on the technical aspects of SEO, others around content delivery and numerous others on everything from audience engagement, social media monitoring and the user experience.
Discussing some of these recently, it became clear many aren't receiving the recognition required or deserved, or it's not truly understood just how beneficial they can be.
Therefore, I've created this post bringing together 26 of my most used tools and techniques from the world of digital marketing, all in a very handy A to Z format!
A - Advanced Web Ranking
When you're looking at the more traditional side of SEO, Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) is a key tool from my point of view.
Giving you some fantastic insights into your website's search visibility, keyword positioning and many more aspects, it offers a huge amount of functionality and although it's a paid-for service, you get a 30 day free trial, which gives you access to the majority of the features.
B - Buffer
I'm a huge fan of Buffer. It's one of those tools that is easy to setup, straightforward to use and makes my life simpler. What more could you want?
Buffer is essentially a social media scheduling tool. Giving you the opportunity to schedule activity on a range of networks, it integrates seamlessly with Chrome (meaning you can schedule activity directly from your browser) and there's a fantastic mobile app that gives you access, too.
Notable mention: Boomerang - a great little tool that integrates with Gmail, amongst other features, Boomerang gives you the ability to schedule e-mails in advance and remind you to follow up on e-mails. Very useful when you're looking to stick to a schedule (and want a clean inbox!).
C - Content
I could write thousands upon thousands of words about the value of content in digital marketing, but now I just want to say that if you're not revolving your digital marketing strategy around content, you need to re-think it. Quickly.
Not just about blog posts, content can come in the form of things such as videos, infographics and white papers, too, and it's simply about understanding your audience and delivering what it is they want in a quality way. If you're able to do this, any digital marketing-induced headaches you're having should soon start to be alleviated.
Notable mention: Crazy Egg - if you haven't heard of Crazy Egg, you need to go check it out. One of the best heat map tools out there, it gives you access to a considerable amount of data other visitor tracking resources don't, including an insight into where your customers are looking most on your website.
D - Design
When the term 'digital marketing' is thought of, many often think of the tools and ways that are utilised to drive traffic to a site, such as social media activity, e-mail campaigns and SEO. Whilst these are important, the design of all resources needs to be just as great of a consideration.
Take the design of the website your audience will be landing on as an example. No matter how many people you can drive to your website through any type of inbound marketing, if your website is poorly designed, it's highly unlikely you'll see the level of conversions you expect, want or need.
E - Engagement
The user experience is vital to the success of a digital marketing strategy today. Whether you're looking at SEO or an e-mail campaign, it's imperative you're focusing on delivering a great user experience - and generally speaking, this is done through the creation of content that's engaging.
As consumers, we don't want to be bombarded with sales messages. We don't want to see generic content published simply for the sake of it. We don't want images that offer no insight into a product or service.
Instead, we want to be engaged with. We want brands to provide content that makes us think, smile, laugh or pass comment. We want to feel as though we're finding out more about the company and the information provided is of genuine use.
Simply put, we want to be engaged with by the brands who we'll be spending our time and / or money with.
F - Facebook Ads
One of my favourite things about Facebook Ads is it offers such in-depth targeting and customisation that it can be extremely beneficial for almost every organisation.
Want to focus on 25 to 28 year old university graduates within a 25 mile radius of Newcastle? Not a problem. Interested to reach out to every business owner who also travels regularly? Easy.
I'm not a PPC expert and generally leave PPC to those who do it day in, day out. With Facebook Ads, however, it's so user-friendly that a common sense, methodical approach can result in you seeing success almost instantly.
G - Google
I'm not talking about Google as a search engine here (we all know how powerful it is), but instead the vast array of products the company offers.
There's no doubt Google's search engine is one of the world's most popular resources, but the company has a huge amount more to offer.
H - Hootsuite
Have a number of social media accounts you need to monitor from a single place? What about having a need to schedule activity in advance? Or allowing numerous individuals to contribute to the social media scheduling strategy?
Hootsuite offers all of this - and more - and although there may be similar tools out there that are newer and more aesthetically appealing, I'm still a big fan of Hootsuite and the functionality it offers.
I - Images
As humans, we digest information better when it's presented to us visually. And if you ever need proof that this is the case, try testing out some tweets or Facebook updates with images, compared to ones that are simply text-only - I'm certain you'll see considerably more engagement on those with the images included.
Be it a serious infographic, humorous meme or a supporting graphic to a piece of copy, images draw visitors in, break up text and simply make the whole experience a much more attractive and engaging one.
J - Jay Baer
The digital marketing industry is constantly evolving and the only way to stay on top of it is to listen to, interact with and develop alongside others - and Jay Baer's 'Convince And Convert' blog is a great source of information.
In particular, Jay provides regular videos that make you think and offer an insight into a specific topic, all alongside the immense amount of copy that's produced frequently for you to get your teeth into.
K - KISS (Keep It Super Simple)
One of my favourite sayings is KISS - Keep It Super Simple. Able to be applied to a whole array of digital marketing techniques, the basic principle is exactly as its name suggests - keep everything you're delivering as simple as it can possibly be for the user.
When you're developing a strategy, for example, don't overcomplicate things for the sake of doing so. Sure, it can sometimes look better aesthetically if things are more complex, but for the majority of consumers, the simpler the entire journey and experience is, the more likely it is there'll be a positive outcome.
L - Lists
With so much to consider in the world of digital, I genuinely believe lists are paramount to success. Without them, you can very easily end up trying to remember - and forgetting - exactly what needs to be done and when by.
I personally use the 'Reminders' app on my Mac. Creating lists for each individual project, it allows me to clearly identify what needs to be completed (with a date alert if required) and what has already been completed. A quick tick moves an item from the former to the latter, something that's more than a little satisfying.
M - MozBar
Developed by the fantastic team at Moz.com (itself a wealth of information on all things SEO and inbound marketing), the MozBar is a handy toolbar installed on your browser that gives you some instant data on the page you're viewing.
For example, simply by installing the toolbar you can see Page Authority, Domain Authority, MozRank and social media sharing activity without having to click a button, and then a whole host of things, such as a more in-depth page analysis, from an easily accessible drop down menu.
Notable mention #1: mobile - in a few short years we've gone from mobiles being something we all used to simply text and call on to them being devices that form part of our daily lives. As such, whenever you're developing a digital marketing strategy, mobile has to form a key part of it - if it doesn't, you're going to be instantly alienating a huge portion of your audience.
Notable mention #2: meta tags - once considered a key part of SEO, the effect meta tags have decreased and as a result, many stopped utilising them effectively. However, although they don't have the same impact as they did several years ago, that doesn't mean they should be ignored, and your website's meta titles and descriptions in particular can have a considerable impact on your click-through rates from the search engines.
N - nofollow
The nofollow link attribute is key to SEO today, as it essentially allows you to highlight to the search engines what links you want to pass 'link juice' to, therefore impacting on their, and your, rankings in the search engines.
Google explain more about the nofollow attribute, and how to utilise it correctly, here.
O - Outreach
Up until a few years ago, gaining as many backlinks (links from other sources pointing to your site) as possible was the key to SEO success. Google considered backlinks an indicator that others were liking and recommending your content, regardless of the quality or relevance of the backlink source.
Realising the error of their ways by simply believing more backlinks should result in higher search engine rankings, Google began cracking down on backlinks. Whilst many took this as 'stop building backlinks', the reality is, they're simply encouraging people to only gain the highest quality, most relevant backlinks possible.
And one of the best ways to achieve this today is via outreach.
Covering the process whereby you 'reach out' to other bloggers and website owners with the aim of publishing content in front of their audience, actually requesting a backlink is frowned upon and an almost guaranteed way to not get one.
Instead, by asking for the opportunity to contribute to a content publishing strategy, as long as your content is of a high enough quality and audience-relevant, it's highly likely you'll get that coveted backlink (as well as some great click-through traffic).
P - Pocket
Without doubt one of my favourite tools to utilise, Pocket is basically your traditional browser bookmark bar. The difference, however, is that as soon as you save something to Pocket, it's readily available wherever you have access to Pocket - including offline.
Fantastic for when I come across an article online on my laptop, but don't have time to read it there and then, I save it to Pocket and often read it later on my phone via the Pocket app.
And it's not just great for keeping up with articles I want to read, either - I regularly use it to feed into our content marketing strategy, using the 'star' functionality within Pocket to highlight which articles I need to review in the future and potentially incorporate within one of our blog posts.
Q - Quick Sprout
If you haven't heard of the Quick Sprout blog, I'd strongly recommend you go and take a look now.
Maintained by Neil Patel, a serial entrepreneur and digital marketing expert, the blog offers up a wealth of information on all things digital marketing, very often drawing on Neil's own experiences within the industry.
R - Reading
Producing content of all forms and across all channels as part of your digital marketing strategy is key to its success. However, reading content is just as important - if not more so.
The world of digital is so far-reaching and quickly changing that it's impossible to have a complete, 100% knowledgebase on every topic. Even when we look at a specific topic such as SEO, there's always someone asking new questions and researching new ways to approach a process - and if you know the answers or don't agree with the research, it's highly likely it will still make you consider a certain aspect and investigate to see if even further success can be achieved.
S - Screaming Frog
One of those tools that as a SEO professional, you a) find yourself using regularly and b) can't believe is free, Screaming Frog is essentially a search engine crawl tool, putting a whole host of information the search engines (and users) see when they visit your website into one place.
From H1 tags and meta titles to internal links and image alt tags, it's a fantastic little tool that makes checking some of the vital, content-based information of a website a much quicker and more effective process.
T - Twitter
Although I'm fully aware Twitter is arguably the most obvious choice on this list, it's included because its importance in the digital landscape is only continuing to grow.
Offering the ability for any organisation, regardless of size, to engage and interact with a global audience, it's the only social network I recommend is utilised for every organisation, without question - it's benefits really are that considerable.
U - Unique
A lot of things have changed in the world of digital over the last couple of years. As mentioned with backlinks above, with copy we've gone from being able to almost duplicate the same copy, just tweaked slightly, to suit a different audience or keyword, to needing to have a completely separate focus for each audience or keyword.
And the way to achieve this is by understanding the importance of being unique.
By producing and distributing unique content, you're standing out from the crowd. You're delivering something new to your audience, positively separating you from your competitors.
What's more, you're identifying yourself as a brand who truly understands their audience, engages with them on the topics they want to be engaged with and ultimately does so in a way that differentiates you from others in your industry - even if it's on an ever-popular topic.
V - Video
An important component of a digital strategy, video meets our ability to digest information quicker and more effectively when it's presented to us in a visual way.
Whether it's a quickly recorded, six-second Vine or a large-scale production giving a five minute overview of a client case study, videos are engaging, attractive and provide the perfect opportunity to retain visitors on a platform where they're listening to what your brand has to say.
W - Webmaster Tools
Although I did touch on Webmaster Tools under 'Google' above, the importance of this resource makes it deserved of its own discussion.
When you log in to Google Webmaster Tools and add your website, you instantly open up a direct channel from Google to yourself about what they're seeing in relation to your website.
Covering topics such as duplicate meta information, who is linking to your site and any crawl or security issues Google has with your website, it's a fantastic resource with a wealth of information and is a great starting point when ensuring your website performs as well as it possibly can in Google.
X - XML Sitemap
The basic purpose of a XML Sitemap is to make it easier for the search engines to discover your website and the content within it.
Easy to create (particularly if you're using WordPress - there are numerous plugins that will complete the task for you), if you upload it to Google Webmaster Tools, you'll not only indicate where Google's spiders should be crawling, but also discover if there are any issues that need attention within your sitemap.
Y - Yoast
A great plugin for WordPress, Yoast has gone from providing the ability to edit a handful of small SEO aspects on your website or blog's content (meta titles and descriptions, for example) through to offering an arsenal of resources to assist with your SEO and wider digital marketing efforts.
For example, it can help with your robots.txt file, XML sitemap creation, canonical URLs and if you're focusing on ranking for specific keywords, recommendations on things such as keyword density - and that's all just to begin with!
Z - (generation) Z
Whilst Generation Z isn't a tool or technique (and may not really fit under the 'Z' heading...), it is something you need to understand, as the reality is, Generation Z encompasses the group of people who effectively grew up in today's digital world.
These people are the ones who are driving forward the digital industry. They're the ones who have made it a necessity to utilise mobile within digital marketing, and the ones who are making it ever more important to deliver an omni-channel strategy, as they expect a seamless approach across all relevant mediums.
Open to new technology and having ever-growing expectations from organisations, by listening to this portion of your audience - or simply this generation in general - you'll be doing a lot to stay at the forefront of your industry and ahead of your competitors.
Although I've aimed to cover a broad range of tools and techniques in this A to Z of digital marketing, it obviously doesn't include every one that should be utilised within digital marketing - and if you feel I've chosen a tool or technique over one you believe is more worthy of inclusion, please do let me know and I'd be only too happy to investigate!