Last week, I got an email from a colleague asking what tools I use day-to-day specifically for our higher education clients. There are so many marketing and organization tools to use it can be overwhelming, but through trial and error I feel I’ve gained a pretty solid understanding of what tools are truly effective.
Obviously there are hundreds of tools you can use for each of the categories below (some more obvious than others) but I wanted to give you a snapshot into the focused toolset I utilize each day.
Most of these are web based or MAC apps, so if you’re on a PC you should still be able to utilize them all.
Organization / To-Do Lists
Evernote is by far my favorite and most used tool. It took me quite a while to truly figure out how to properly utilize it, but once I did I can’t imagine living without it. I’m also a big fan of GTD (Getting Things Done), and Evernote is an outstanding tool to effectively follow this methodology. If you don’t know what GTD is, you definitely need to throw it in Google to learn more. To learn about GTD and Evernote, check out http://www.thesecretweapon.org/the-secret-weapon-manifesto/manifesto-part-1-the-issue. The Secret Weapon will help you setup Evernote to align with GTD.
Currently I utilize Evernote for:
- Managing emails – If I can’t get to an email immediately, I forward it to my Evernote account and tag it so it’s included in my to-do list (classified as now, next, soon, later, or someday – This is explained more if you click on the link above). In doing so, I never miss an email or forget to respond.
Tip: There is a program called Powerbot for gmail and gCal that syncs each to your Evernote account, so if you actively use all three I’d highly recommend checking it out.
- Link building – As many of you know, manual outreach during the link building process can be overwhelming. I utilize Evernote to do a number of link building tasks, from research to managing follow-ups on outreach emails. It also allows you to keep email templates and manage contact information for link prospects.
- Managing blog posts, websites, or other useful content – Part of being an effective internet marketer is staying on top of the ever-changing industry. I read a number of articles and blog posts on a daily basis that I either need to go back and further investigate or hang on to in case I need them for later. Evernote is perfect for this. I have a work “cabinet” that I have sub-folders in place to organize the articles or blog posts by theme. (for example, SEO, Paid Search, Content Marketing, etc.)
- Managing To-Dos – As I mentioned, I utilize Evernote to manage all of my to-dos according to the GTD methodology. I use it both personally and professionally and trust me, once you start utilizing Evernote along with GTD you won’t miss a thing.
I started using Basecamp about a year ago after a client requested we setup a new SEO project using the software, and I’ve never turned back. We use it for every project we’re apart of, and have found it very helpful.
I have received great feedback from clients, and have found it helps keep everyone up-to-date on even our most complex projects. As you all know, most marketing projects for universities will encompass a number of individuals from many departments. Unfortunately, this usually results in confusion and way too many conference calls. With Basecamp, you can invite anyone you like to the project and share comments, documents, and to-dos providing a perfect hub to keep everyone updated and organized.
A couple suggestions when using Basecamp:
1) Enter each program you’re marketing as its own individual Basecamp project. We found grouping them by university or school proved to be confusing and less effective in keeping us organized
2) Offer the use of Basecamp but don’t require it. Like me, you probably work with an older generation of educators who don’t fare well with technology and something like Basecamp can seriously overwhelm them. Continue to use it in-house and invite them in, but if they don’t actively use it you’ll need find other methods of keeping them updated.
Google Drive is most likely a tool you’re already utilizing, but since it plays such a large role within our company I had to mention it. Google Drive is more of an internal organizational hub for Circa, where we manage shared documents, project details (keywords, target URLs, etc), and research.
You can share documents or folders with as many people as you like with the click of a button, and everything is updated in real-time. Again, I know this one is quite obvious but if you’re not using it you’re missing out.
Social / Link Building Research
Recently purchased by SEOMoz, Followerwonk is an extremely valuable tool for conducting Twitter research and locating potential link targets for future SEO efforts. This is by far the most effective way to find and connect with industry influencers and key individuals who can help distribute your content or increase your social influence.
Open Site Explorer
Developed by SEOMOz, this tool is a key element to conducting research for any organic search campaign. Get a gage on competition, locate link building targets, and help prevent gaining links from questionable sources. It’s also a great tool to monitor the links you’ve generated and monitor your Domain Authority (DA).
Basic Search Operators
So this is not a tool, but a key component to my link building toolset. It’s key to ensure that your building high quality and relevant links for a university or college and search operators can help identify those opportunities.
For a solid list of search operators, click here.
Rank Tracking / Analytics (aside from Google Analytics)
Advanced Web Ranking
One of the more advanced SERP rank trackers I’ve utilized, AWR has definitely grown on me. It not only monitors SERP rankings, but also Google Analytics and social data as well providing a holistic view of your multi-channel online marketing efforts. AWR does have a learning curve, but once you get it down it can help you gain more insight into the specific program you’re marketing than ever before.
The only drawback – it’s not cloud based like other tools I’ve used, so I can only access AWR through the computer in which I downloaded it to. Additionally, updates can be slow if you don’t purchase additional proxies.
Buffer is a Tweet/Post scheduler (which is great in its own right) but I like it more for the analytics data it provides for each Tweet or post you publish. Their analytics feature offers data on retweets, mentions, potential reach, favorites, and clicks for anything published within Buffer itself. It’s simple, that’s the main reason I use it.
If you’d like something more comprehensive, Hootsuite is a great alternative to Buffer — it has a wider set of capabilities and features, including over 30 individual report modules.
Bit.ly is my preferred URL shortener for a few reasons. To start, I love their website and user interface – very easy to use. Bit.ly also offers valuable link statistics, so you can monitor clicks, favorites, reach, etc for Tweets or posts that you’ve inserted a shortened URL. This helps me gain additional insight into the performance of our efforts and allows us to more effectively report results to our clients. Finally, I love the fact that Bit.ly integrates with Buffer. I can utilize Bit.ly right within the Buffer interface, preventing unnecessary back-and-forth between the two websites. Anything that helps me save a few minutes is a win in my book.
I hope this post was helpful and provided some insight into up-to-date and efficient tools you can use as an internet marketer in the higher education industry. If you have any useful tools you’d like to share please include them below!