Decisions, Decisions! The Marketing Software Dilemma

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This post was originally published on State of Digital

Software is big business! Marketing software and online marketing software in particular is big business. Only recently, Hubspot floated on the New York Stock Exchange with a “closing price [which] reflects an overall valuation of $913 million” according to the WBUR. That’s nearly a billion dollars for a marketing software company!

Although we already knew it (or we should have), it goes to show the potential that is out there for digital.

Although HubSpot is one of the more successful forms of online marketing software that is available, there are lots of tools on offer to us as online marketers. There are many examples that I could have chosen, but staying close to search and SEO specifically, I have chosen link analysis products. This is a competitive niche, and has become an essential part of the marketing mix especially with the algorithm changes and Penguin updates.

Below is a small list of different software providers or companies that offer a link analysis service:

  • Majestic
  • aHrefs
  • Open Site Explorer
  • Search Metrics
  • Linkdex
  • Bright Edge
  • Web Me Up
  • Open Link Profiler

All the above provide some kind of link data for analysis. Some of the above use the Majestic API and then add an extra layer of filtering on top. Some, however, have their own indexes that may or may not provide different results. But for the majority, the main difference between each is how they present that data to us.

How many of the above do you use? Four? Five?

It’s great to have these options, and the list is unlikely to reduce – in fact they are likely to increase – but how many do you need? How much will they all cost? Do they all do something different? And this is just for a small niche within the SEO industry.

There is lots of content about what tools you should have, and why, but how do you evaluate why you need them? The next part of this post takes you through how we evaluate tools at, and how we make that all so difficult decision.

Try before you buy

We trial everything. Well when I mean everything, I mean the tools that we are interested in. This is THE most important step when deciding whether a tool is going to be an asset to your wider set.

Most tools will provide some kind of trial, whether it is 30 day access, a demo or a free version. If there doesn’t seem to be one available, then get in touch with them as I’m sure that they will provide you with limited access.

Once you have access to a trial, make sure that you actually test it. I can’t remember how many times in the past we have had a software trial only to let it run out without putting it through its paces. To stop this from happening, we now give one of our teams the task of testing the tool. They use it for client work, as well as any internal projects that we are running. Once the free trial has expired, the team provide their feedback on whether they feel that it is a valuable addition to the marketing mix.

This feedback is key. If you force tools onto your teams that they don’t need or feel add any value, you will find yourself spending a lot of money and not getting much from it.

Nice to have or must have?

During the trial, the team needs to very carefully consider whether the tool is a must have, or just a nice to have.

The reason for this is simple, there are many tools available that do exactly the same job. To understand whether the tool is going to be valuable or not, you need to create bespoke criteria to judge it on. This allows you to have a more analytical approach to determining whether the tool will be valuable.

Try not to fall down the trap of just getting a tool because you see people on social media raving about it. Make sure the tool will add value to what you are doing. Just because a tool is right for them, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you!


No matter whether you are agency, in-house or a freelance consultant, cost can be a sticking point and needs to be a consideration throughout the process. Tools can range from being free, to being charged based on credits resulting in variable monthly or annual costs.

So there you have it, three areas that we analyse before determining whether we need to add any extra software to our marketing mix.

How do you determine whether you need a tool? Do you have a process of evaluation or is it more of a purchase first, cancel later? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on Twitter @danielbianchini.

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