An effective communications strategy requires insight and analysis as much as it does empathy and creativity. If your communications teams are heavy on wordsmiths and light on analysts, here are five free data tools that can boost marketing efforts.
Still need support? For each tool, we’ve provided our recommendation for upgrading.
Google Keyword Planner
Purpose: SEO/content strategy
What it is: The Keyword Planner is a tool to help media buyers place Google ads, but many PR professionals and marketers use it to guide their content and SEO strategy.
Key takeaway: The Keyword Planner shows trends and interest levels among various words and phrases people are searching to find businesses like yours. You can use this free information to help make decisions about content — including content ideas, headlines and key phrases — for your website, blog and media pitches.
Upgrade: Google Keyword Planner was not intended to be used this way, so it’s a little clunky as an SEO tool. If you’ve reached a point where you’re ready to upgrade to software designed specifically for SEO, we recommend MOZ.
How we can help: Our creative team uses Moz Pro to assist clients with keyword research, as well as site audits, backlink analysis and rank tracking. Our account staff can research and write blog and website content for you. Let us know if we can take any of this work off your plate.
U.S. Census Data Tools
Purpose: Understand communities and business environments
What it is: The U.S. Census Bureau website is a treasure trove of raw numbers and interactive graphics of population data, economic development indicators, workforce trends, real estate, and other factors that could be useful in assisting clients, building B2B communications strategies or speaking directly to consumers.
Key takeaway: Census data can add depth and context to story pitches and provide a clearer understanding of economic outlook for marketing clients.
Upgrade: Data analysts can help make better sense of census information, and integrations specialists can help you blend census data with other key analytics.
How we can help: Our data/integrations team recently used census data as the foundation of a development strategy for a client interested in acquiring new businesses.
Purpose: To gain insight into who is using your digital spaces, how they’re finding you and what they’re doing once they’re there.
How it works: Google Analytics works by placing a piece of code on the back end of your website. The code tracks user demographics and interests based on visitors’ search and browsing behavior.
Key takeaway: Google Analytics will help you figure out if your content marketing, user experience, advertising, social media and digital tools are effective.
Upgrade: Most websites’ content management systems (i.e., WordPress or Squarespace) will walk you through how to install Google Analytics.
How we can help: It is helpful to have a developer or integrations specialist ensure tracking is set up correctly, especially if you also want to track the effectiveness of digital advertising and marketing campaigns. We have these skill sets on our team and are happy to help if you need a hand.
Analytics Heat Map
Purpose: See how people experience your website.
How it works: Digital heat maps work by overlaying analytics software like Google Analytics onto a visual representation of your website.
Key takeaway: It’s one thing to look at a bunch of graphs and tables to learn how people are using your website. It’s another to look at an actual heat map of your website to see — visually — how people are using it. This is especially useful for designers working on redesign projects or UX improvements.
Cost: Chrome has a free analytics plug-in that displays Google Analytics onto whatever page you happen to be viewing (assuming you are logged into Google Analytics for that page’s website).
Upgrade: Software from companies like Crazy Egg and Hot Jar take this concept several steps further by allowing designers to see multiple pages at a time, compare changes over time and A/B test designs.
How we can help: Our design/UX team uses Crazy Egg and is happy to help if you need assistance.
Business Intelligence Software
Purpose: View multiple datasets to see how people experience your business.
How it works: Business Intelligence software will allow you to integrate multiple aspects of your business — communications, reputation management, marketing, sales, operations, HR, finance, supply chain, etc. — to understand opportunities and weaknesses in data form.
Key takeaway: In our industry, we use BI software to help integrate the work of marketing, communications, PR and sales teams. It’s easier to create and execute an effective strategy when all teams can see the impact of their efforts and results in one dashboard.
Cost: Google Data Studio is a free tool that will allow you to import and display data from several different sources.
Upgrade: It is helpful to have a data analyst and/or integrations specialist build and maintain a Google Data Studio dashboard if you have complicated data sets from numerous sources such as websites, CRMs, email services and advertising accounts.
Also, if you plan to integrate sources outside the Google ecosystem, consider investing in business intelligence software designed to accommodate more data and APIs. Tools like Tableau and DOMO are heavily marketed for this purpose, save time on analysis and — in theory — allow your team to focus more energy on using data to glean insight and develop strategy. MP&F uses Tableau for our largest clients.
How we can help: MP&F has data analysts, integrations specialists and strategists on staff to assist clients with a need for dashboard building, management or analytical insight. We handle data and measurement needs for all sizes of campaigns and accounts.