Neil Patel’s recent blog post shows how creating a free software tool can be more valuable than content marketing. He launched a free SEO analyzer that you can use to evaluate any website, and quickly got over 22,000 people using it with much higher site engagement than regular blog posts or even his in-depth guides that provide a lot of value. Even though he is an expert content marketer, this tool created better results than his regular content.
Most marketers promote their business online using tools such as content marketing and infographics. Although those can stand out, everyone is doing it now (even infographics) so it’s harder to get noticed. If you want to really grab people’s attention it helps to create something that your audience has never seen before. Creating a free software tool or application is one way to do this.
I recently created a similar tool and got high engagement as well. It actually wasn’t for any existing business. I just had an idea and wanted to measure the interest. This was a market where I had no existing following or audience. I had participated in a few blogs but never even bothered to attach my full name so I was starting from nothing.
To test this idea I created a free tool for investors to rebalance their portfolio. Then I got a short profile in a national newspaper that included a link back to the tool. This led to 1,164 new visitors to the website over the following month and 1,493 pageviews.
Normally if you get a piece of content featured in the media you’ll see a burst of traffic that dies off quickly. That happened here too. Within 4 days the traffic was back to very low levels. I had an email capture form at the bottom of the page that 1.5% of the visitors filled in. So far it sounds pretty typical… but what happened next was different.
As I had hoped, visitors kept coming back to the website. Even though it hasn’t been updated apart from one small new feature and I haven’t done any more promotion other than a few blog comments, the site got 125 visitors in the last month. Of those, 52 visitors are new visitors from referrals, 47 are direct traffic (typed in, bookmarked, or clicked a link in an email), and the rest are search or social media.
The direct traffic is the best indication of people who remembered the website and chose to go back to it without being prompted. It looks like anywhere from 4 – 10% of the original visitors from the media exposure come back every month. This tool is designed so any individual visitor should only need to use it once every 3 – 12 months so many of those people will wait more than a month before returning.
Based on that I would estimate that it’s retaining 12 – 25% of the original visitors. Most of them aren’t on the mailing list yet but as long as they keep coming back to the website I have their attention. Since the website is very sticky, it’s also worth promoting it more to get additional traffic.
All this comes from a simple tool that didn’t cost much to develop. All it took was my time, but you could hire a professional developer to build something similar for under $5,000. The cost will vary depending on the level of quality. For a promotional tool you want to make a really good impression.
If your marketing doesn’t give you results like that, it may be time to consider different approaches to promote your business! Stay tuned… the next post will outline some important criteria if you’re deciding whether to promote your business with a free software tool.