Web Marketing Resources for Specialists, Non-profits, and Businesses
Learn how to grow your own practice, non-profits, and client businesses through proven website marketing tools and methods.
Types of Resources Included in This Collection
There are so many websites, “experts”, and companies out there on the Internet claiming to be sharing exactly what you need to be successful in digital marketing, that it’s easy to spend years learning without feeling confident in your abilities. Real experts are extremely rare these days, so I’m glad to share some of what I have learned so far in school and on the job, and hopefully some of it will prove useful to you.
Below, I’ll be sharing a variety of lessons, ideas, and tools that I’ve found, mostly of the free variety, but when paid, definitely worth the investment if it fits your use case. I do not necessarily totally endorse every aspect of each third party tool or resource I link to, but I try to explain why I do support something when I do. I am not receiving any compensation if you click or make purchases from the links below.
I generally break up resources into categories based on the tactic or discipline of work involved. Some examples include digital design, web programming, technical writing, and lead generation. You will see the full list below.
Digital Design Resources
- Ellen Lupton’s Graphic Design: The New Basics is a design book that would be a great introduction for anyone just starting out to grasp a lot of the elementary theory behind digital design
- Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type is another print resource turned website that would be a great starting point for anyone who wants to very quickly level up their understanding of typography
- Adobe’s Color Wheel tool, which was called Kuhler when I first started using it in college, is a nice resource for quickly grasping color theory and relationships, and it helps you build a color palette pretty easily too
- GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, which I used in school to avoid paying for Adobe’s Photoshop and I still use it at my current job instead of Photoshop
- Inkscape, the free and open source vector graphics creation and editing program that I use instead of Adobe’s Illustrator, which I admittedly hardly use due to the changing nature of my job responsibilities, but which I also find quite handy for small tasks when needed
- Diagrams.net (previously known as Draw.io) is a free wire framing and diagramming tool that works pretty well for beginners and is free to use and download projects to Dropbox, Google Drive, and other personal cloud storage options
- Remove.bg is a great tool for quickly and easily removing the background from headshots or profile photos. The free version allows you to download a smaller version of the image, so try to start with something large if you can
- Everyone is biased towards their own designs, so it is always nice to get an objective voice to share their opinion on how a design looks or works, which is ideally someone from your target audience. UserTesting is a great service for quickly getting feedback through the qualitative user research method called, appropriately, user testing. The company finds testers that match your target audience and then provides videos of them using your digital products. Find out why your page did well or poorly without all the guessing. According to one popular consultant, “Following a usability redesign, websites increase desired metrics by 135% on average…” (Nielsen Norman Group).
Website Design, Development, and Publishing Resources
- WordPress.org is the currently most popular content management system (CMS) available today, especially for beginners, although it is almost necessary, especially for younger folks, to have someone teach or lead you through setting up and using the first several times if you’re totally new to it. It is based on the PHP programming language and provides a robust library of free and paid themes and plugins. Themes are for controlling various aspects of the visual design, whereas plugins provide additional functionality like out-of-the-box solutions for custom content types, i.e. podcasts, e-commerce products, and page-builder interfaces
- GeneratePress is a free and relatively easy to use theme for WordPress that happens to be my favorite. It has a lot of essential features like a small footprint, good CSS, and decent starting options found in the Appearance > Customizer menu within your WP dashboard once installed. I also use the GeneratePress Premium version and their GenerateBlocks plugin, but it isn’t necessary to use those in every use case
- Atom, the open source text editor owned by GitHub is my favorite for writing code because of how lightweight and customizable it is (you can literally hack it and change the CSS), but I also sometimes use Visual Studio Code, which is a closed-source, more fully featured (almost IDE-like) text editor, if you need that sort of thing. I especially like how Atom has a community package to allow center-wheel scrolling
- SiteGround is my favorite web hosting provider because of their low-cost options and easy to use tools for managing WordPress. It was a lifesaver when my previous hosting solution had several failures due to a planned migration that seemed to never end, and I had to get a client’s email back up ASAP
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is extremely helpful for developers (especially newer ones), SEO folks, marketers, and business owners to find an objective, quantitative evaluation of their websites’ user experience. It tells you mainly about loading speed, but much of the user experience on your websites, especially on mobile, depends on how quickly it loads. The tool is based on the speed audits also available in the Chrome browser’s Lighthouse auditing tool
- A decent server analysis tool is the Qualys SSL Server Test tool. It will help you troubleshoot SSL issues and help you find solutions when needed
- If you want to learn front-end web development, which is a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn to code or program in general, I’d consider using a reputable source like MDN’s Front-end web developer guide (free) or Scrimba’s Front-End Developer Career Path (subscription required). I have also used W3Schools and Stack Overflow extensively as research resources, but I’d say you want to test and verify everything you learn on both those sites as much as possible.
SEO & Content
- The best way to get started becoming an SEO (search engine optimization specialist) is to get thoroughly acquainted with Google’s SEO Starter Guide, which was actually written for regular folks like business owners and beginner search specialists/freelancers
- If you’re looking for a comprehensive book, the one I got from my data structures class in college was a keeper: The Art of SEO by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola. One of my coworkers at Audigy once said that books about SEO are immediately outdated because of how often search engines update their algorithms. This is far from true, since they are mostly adding to their algorithm, not necessarily totally changing it. So most of the basics are still applicable and will be virtually forever. But, if you’re ever in doubt, just cross-reference what you learn against Google’s docs, and you’ll be fine.
- The most important tool I’ve found for SEO is Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, which is a website crawler or bot (free but a paid option is available) that allows you to analyze important SEO health data about the target site. If you scroll towards the bottom of their pricing page, you’ll notice a buzzing fly, and if you click it, a happy frog will get the fly with his tongue 😉
- While Screaming Frog is a more comprehensive tool, and it does allow you to find broken links, I find the Broken Link Checker site to be more helpful when specifically trying to fix broken links. The reason is that it helps you find out the exact anchor text used for the broken link, it lets you look at the markup, and it also allows you to toggle whether you want to show all occurrences (can take a while) or only each distinct broken link to save time
- Some companies use paid tools to track their website’s visitor traffic, engagement, and conversion data, but most SEOs earn their bacon by getting really familiar with Google Analytics, which is free to use. There are third party training courses out there, but I find Google’s Analytics Academy to be fairly easy to learn from, especially since GA has undergone a lot of changes over the last several years, and you wouldn’t want to learn from an outdated source of info
- Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is another free tool that most SEOs need to become proficient with. It has grown a lot as well over the years and is much more useful and easy to use than ever before. If you own a website, make sure to add your domain to Search Console and submit your sitemap anytime your site gets new and valuable content to request Google to re-crawl your site (when convenient for them)
- Bing Webmaster Tools is even more useful and easier to use than GSC in my opinion, and even though the search engine won’t bring in as much traffic to your site in most cases compared with Google, it is important to make sure your site is on it. It is really helpful because you can enable Bing to automatically pull in any sites you have registered with GSC just by logging in with your Google credentials. This is great when you manage a lot of sites in GSC and want to quickly get them into Bing
- My favorite SEO plugin for WordPress is the Yoast SEO Plugin. It is one of the older options, but with that you also get a well established plugin and community and many resources for learning SEO best practices. Just take a look at their website for great articles to help you get beyond basic ranking tactics. Other plugins like RankMath are okay and may provide more features for free, but they are not necessarily easier to use or really trying to help people learn SEO rather than just trying to get you to buy their premium software. Yoast even works with other platforms now like Shopify
- There are many non-essential SEO tools available like Moz, Semrush, and others that make SEO a little easier but are very expensive after the free trial is over. Personally, I have only used (yet never really needed) Ahrefs, which I found to be not only easy to use but also very helpful. I would especially use their premium tools if I were doing a lot of advanced SEO for clients regularly, like competitive research. They give email alerts for search ranking and backlinks, but unless you are trying to be really aggressive with your SEO strategy, those items are too important for most folks. I think the best part about Ahrefs is they seem to really understand the importance of content in their own marketing, so they have many helpful articles on their blog about getting started in SEO, especially while using their tool of course 😉
- Another huge resource for learning web accessibility principles and finding other resources is the WebAIM website. They provide a ton of articles on specific topics, and I think may have something to do with the development of the WAVE tool mentioned above. They also have some videos on YouTube.
- If you want to learn to write in a competent way online and look like you know what you’re doing, one resource is the excellent book Technical Communication Today by Richard Johnson-Sheehan. You will learn how to focus on your reader, different audience types, various documents you may have to write in a professional setting, and many other important lessons
- To keep your writing top-notch online, there are some great browser extensions that can help your spelling and grammar. My favorite is LanguageTool, which they say was created in Europe and the United States. I’ve also used Grammarly, but I feel that LT does a better job of catching more problems. However, it can sometimes warn you about too many non-issues, but you can customize the suggestions a bit and save words to your custom dictionary as well
- If you ever find yourself reusing the same word or phrase over and over, or you are trying to customize some content that you’re reusing from another project, you can get pretty far just using a good thesaurus. A good site that provides alternate words is thesaurus.com. You could also try Unbounce’s Smart Copy browser extension helper, which allows you to replace your text with something re-worded via AI, that is different enough to seem unique
- You can have a really useful website with many helpful articles, but if you don’t have a clearly positioned product or service with an excellent sales experience, your website may not be very good at earning business from real people. There are tools available to help with this area of work, but the most important thing is learning the basic concepts and theories behind online marketing and sales, like product positioning, identifying your target audience, building a sales funnel, and knowing how your marketing efforts assist your sales process. I learned these concepts from a number of places, including Isaac Rudansky’s Udemy course on Landing Page Design & Conversion Rate Optimization, Salesforce’s Demand Generation trailmix, and many articles on HubSpot’s blog
- Unbounce is a tool that is very popular in this industry, although I don’t really recommend it for a few reasons. It is expensive and not entirely user-friendly or easy to learn. Everything you can do in Unbounce can be easily achieved using WordPress or even static HTML files housed on your own server via your favorite hosting service. With the ease of modern page builders, it is a marvel to me that anyone uses tools like Unbounce, since it really only makes things easier for people who don’t know how to do anything on their own, and even then, it’s not all that easy except to do only the most basic tasks. If you want to make any on-page elements interactive (other than forms and light boxes), then you will have to use unofficial, community provided code with major limits (i.e. collapsible page sections and tabbed sections). Even though I am not a huge fan of Unbounce, I’ve got a ton of experience with their classic builder interface because Audigy is heavily invested in it, and so I’ve had to learn how to make the best use of it for many enterprise-grade projects
- I am also not a huge fan of many of Unbounce’s landing page how-to articles, since they often seem to be promising more than they deliver. However, one content resource they provide that is absolutely essential from my perspective is The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report. This excellent resource is backed by their extensive data, and while their landing page builder app doesn’t guarantee good conversion rates, they have legitimately built up a huge wealth of data by hosting so many landing pages across so many industries. I found it to be very helpful and accurate in describing the differences between the business consultancy (B2B) industry and the medical services (B2C) industry.
- Google Optimize is a free A/B testing tool that differs from others in that they use Bayesian methods for coming to a conclusion whether a landing page variant is likely to do better than the original. The main downside is the limits on how much testing you can do and the fact that to analyze test results, you must send data to Google Analytics, which sometimes is difficult to set up and do correctly, especially for a client who already has a GA account and doesn’t want to give you access
- VWO is a great paid tool (with a free trial) for conversion rate optimization tasks like A/B testing, surveys, and more. It is pretty comprehensive, so if you can afford to do this for a living and don’t mind paying, VWO will provide not only the tools for testing changes to landing pages, but they also provide a platform for publishing those changes (kind of like Unbounce) and for analyzing the data (unlike Google Optimize). They also have many helpful articles for understanding landing page design and CRO as well
How Others Have Accomplished Their Website and Conversion Goals
“I have had a great experience with Woodruff Multimedia. Changing my website was much easier than I expected. Ben is very hands on, easy to work with, answered all of my questions, and really listened to what I wanted for my website. He had really great ideas for what would attract more customers and since we have changed the site I have had a lot more online submissions. I am very happy with the end result.”
Tina Nollette, Owner – A To Z Blinds – October 28, 2020