Google has recently launched “Google Tips“, a handy collection of tips and tricks for the many free Google products out there, it’s well worth checking out once signed in to your account.
Learning new ways to use software is an ideal way to improve your overall productivity, especially in a very computer focused environment such as Internet marketing.
Why spend time learning new techniques when I can get some work done instead?
A conundrum for many people is whether to spend an in-determined amount of time learning a new technique or a known set amount of time doing things the way they always have been done.
Working with hundreds of clients we have seen the two ends of the scales; people who waste a lot of time trying out different tricks and tools that may save them some effort and people who never seek out to improve how they do things, doing tasks in-efficiently for many years down the line.
Obviously there is a happy medium in between the two extremes, optimising your productivity pays off big in the long term but I wouldn’t make it your main focus or you’ll get nothing done!
Finding productivity tips
Searching online for a productivity tips should be your first port of call, there are excellent blog posts on all sorts of useful topics such as “how to remove duplicate rows in excel” or “how to open and close browser tabs without the mouse” for example.
YouTube is full of handy videos on how to do things online, watching someone perform all the steps is much quicker than following hundreds of steps. If you want to learn something complex such as “how to automate tweets” or “how to resize multiple images in Photoshop” then YouTube is a great choice.
Some of the best productivity tips are ones you may never have though about, attending marketing conferences and showing collogues how you do things can bring up all sorts of time saving tips and tricks.
Improving technology for productivity
The technology you are using for Internet marketing may well be slowing you down and there are some surprisingly cheap solutions to most problems. The four most common problems we commonly see are:
- No Mouse / Inaccurate Mouse – One of the most common issues with people working on laptops is that they use the track-pad instead of a mouse to navigate. These are often painfully tedious when having to jump from one side of the screen to the other and many do not have a reliable scroll up and and down function which means you have to use the scrollbar on the right often. Inaccurate mouses tend to take a second or two extra time to click in the right location, if you are clicking on average around 400+ times a day that’s 7 or so minutes lost per day or over half an hour per working week!
A new optical mouse can set you back as little as £2 which is worth much less than half an hour of your time.
- One monitor / Small monitor – Having one monitor can be a bit overwhelming when you have multiple windows and programs all overlapping in the same place. If you do any web design or web development then duel monitors is a life-saver as you can work on a project one side and see the results on the other side. If you are big on social media then you can have social media tools such as Hootsuite running on one screen so you can be on top of any comments or developments online instantly.
A new HD monitor can be as little as £60, most laptops and desktops can support a second screen easily.
- Slow Computer / Overloaded Computer – If your computer takes ten minutes to “get up to speed” each morning then that’s nearly an hour lost each week, plus usually there will be other bottlenecks when you open certain programs or have too many things open at once. Quick fixes for slow computers include simplifying how the operating system looks, cleaning out dust from the internal fans or making sure it’s turned off or restarted every now and then. Some slightly older computers can improve speeds with little upgrades such as more memory, a simple graphics card, a speedy SSD hard drive or more hard drive space if there is little left on the computer. Every tab you have activated on a browser, every spreadsheet or word document that you have open and every tool takes up memory on a computer, see if you can reduce the number of active items open or any unnecessary tools running to speed things up.
- Slow or Unreliable Internet Connection – Performing Internet marketing on a slow Internet connection is going to hold you back at every stage, it’s worth testing out your connection using a service such as Ookla Speed Test and looking at the upload and download speeds as well as how choppy the connection is on the output graph. Using WiFi can give a unreliable signal, especially if there are a lot of users on it, you may be able to plug straight into the router using a plug system such as TP Link where you can have a wired connection through the plug sockets in a building. Turning off heavy Internet using programs such as Spotify and Skype will speed things up also as both are constantly sending and receiving data.
Nearly every simple interaction with a computer can be done much faster using the keyboard than the mouse. It’s then well worth learning these simple keyboard shortcuts to speed up your online marketing and every other computer activity:
- Copy anything to the clipboard – CTRL + C
- Paste anything from the clipboard – CTRL + V
- Undo most actions – CTRL + Z
- Select all – CTRL + A
- Find a word – CTRL + F
- Next part of a form – TAB
- Previous part of a form – SHIFT + TAB
- Select multiple items – CTRL + SHIFT + ARROW
- New document/spreadsheet/report – CTRL + N
- New tab (while browsing) – CTRL + T
- Close tab (while browsing) – CTRL + W
- Next tab (while browsing) – CTRL + PG UP
- Previous tab (while browsing) – CTRL + PG DW
- Skip a word (whilst typing) – CTRL + ARROW
Just replace the “CTRL” for “CMD” for Mac computers and it’ll do the same tricks.
Internet marketing tools to increase productivity
Most people within the SEO community are obsessed with Internet Marketing tools; handy programs or websites which make a laborious or huge task easily manageable. Most tools are free but it may be well worth spending anything from $2 to $100 per month on a tool depending on your needs and how much you can afford.
There are so many tools that you can use for Internet marketing with hundreds for paid advertising alone. Below are some of the most important tools we use to improve productivity:
Gmail is excellent when it comes to filtering out your emails, very few spam emails will ever get through and emails are checked for viruses or harmful links on the fly. If you receive unwanted promotional emails then Gmail now filters them out into separate folders or you can simply filter emails from certain addresses into different email folders automatically.
The Adwords Editor program for Google Adwords is a huge time saver for when campaigns contain 100+ keywords or there is a lot of repetition involved within different Ad Groups.
This program downloads an entire Adwords account offline where you can work on it at your leisure and then post the changes back online once done. Google Adwords is typically very slow to use and you can do very nearly everything on an Adwords account using the Adwords Editor program now. Two of the most useful features on Adwords Editor is the ability to copy and paste at any level (Campaigns, Ad Groups, Ads, Keywords, etc.) and the find and replace function where you can swap one word for another instantly.
I personally do everything on spreadsheets, my marketing time is planned out for the whole month ahead on a spreadsheet for example and I have hundreds of lists of URLs, data exports and content ready to be used or manipulated.
Adding URLs to spreadsheets means that you can easily copy and paste them into a browser or do mass manipulation on them, for example removing all parameters from URLs and saving the standard URLs. You can also look at statistics really quickly on a spreadsheet such as measuring the cost vs. profits of a paid advertising campaign. Some programs have a mass import feature which allows you to upload a spreadsheet all at once into a system using the CSV output format, adding say 600 products into an ecommerce system would be a painful task if done one-by-one!
Instead of relying on online tools or clicking through a website yourself, you can use website crawlers to check an entire site for broken links, title tags and meta descriptions, spotting website improvements very quickly. Exporting the results into a spreadsheet allows you to use the URLs for marketing purposes and remember that these crawlers can be used for ANY website including your competitors.
Intranet or Cloud Storage
Keeping organised reduces a lot of wasted time, especially when it comes to file version control and time management. When there are more than three people working at a company or the company deals differently with several other companies it’s a good idea to keep organised with an Intranet system or a Cloud based solution.
Placing files on an Intranet or Cloud based system stops the back and forth of sending files on several emails, Google Drive’s cloud based system for example is a great way to safely collaborate on word documents or spreadsheets or you can even share extra large files such as image libraries or videos. You can get over 1000GB of cloud storage on Google Drive for less than $10 per month currently which can never be lost if you have a computer malfunction or fire for example, it’s well worth backing up important files on here, you get 15GB free Google Drive storage with a Gmail account or a little less on rivals Dropbox.
BuzzStream (starting at $29/month) is fantastic for managing your social outreach, it manages your contact history with a number of websites by integrating with your email address. You can see lists of who you want to contact and who you have already contacted, BuzzStream also does a good job gathering emails addresses and phone numbers for any web domain you add to it automatically so it can save lots of time gathering contact information.
Email templates in BuzzStream allow you to do “mail-merge” emails which can save valuable time when you are writing a similar worded email to a lot of contacts. Also the “BuzzBar” allows you to add a contact directly from your browser into BuzzStream when viewing potential websites or people to contact saving you time logging in and switching browser tabs.
If you perform social media on more than one platform then Hootsuite can help streamline your accounts and give you a quick overview of what’s happening. With a free basic account option, Hootsuite can give you a live feed of your Facebook and Twitter accounts at the same time for example. If you run multiple Twitter accounts, then Hootsuite can log in to multiple Twitter accounts simultaneously and saves time logging in and out of each account all day or mistakenly Tweeting on the incorrect account.
Within a lot of Internet marketing tasks you will have to share screenshots of processes, data or annotations on designs. There are some painfully slow methods of creating and sending screenshots that some people use. Also mouse drawn annotations on some paint packages can be very unclear to the recipient meaning that you have to send over an explanation or another annotation to get your message across.
There are many free and paid screen grabbing apps and plugins for Windows and Mac computers, each with good and a few bad features so you may want to use a few to cater for different situations. The ones I use are mentioned below:
- SnagIt (£35) – A handy screenshot tool which allows you to capture an entire window or area of the screen and then annotate the screenshot with a simple image editor catered for businesses
- Webpage Screenshot (Free Chrome Plugin) – A tool which allows you to take a screen grab of an entire web page from top-to-bottom in one go without scrolling or patching up the images
- Skitch (PC or Mac) – An all-in-one tool which also uploads your screenshots allowing you to take a screenshot and simply send someone the link (not the file) to the screenshot image with optional annotations. A huge time saver for any graphical projects to save the back and forth of hundreds of emails with attachments
A simple notepad program (such as the one which comes along with your operating system) can help save a lot of time when editing and styling content. You may wish to write content on a word document program but you may have styling issues when copying and pasting into say a blog or a CMS system. Pasting the content into a notepad program strips out all the style information, you just then need to copy it once more and then paste the text only version in the blog or CMS.
Handy free text editors such as Notepad++ also allow you to do cunning find & replace operations using regular expressions. Regular expressions look for patterns of text or numbers and can manipulate the data based on the expression, for example you could replace every comma in a list of items with a new line to make a long list of items instead. Regular expressions save an incredible amount of time when dealing with large amounts of data such as 20,000 email addresses or 100,000 ecommerce products and can be used alongside CSV spreadsheets in their raw format very effectively.
Read more about regular expressions here with a handy tutorial to learn the tricks: http://regexone.com/
Optimising your productivity can free up so much time for Internet marketing, just simple improvements can free up nearly an hour per week, the bigger improvements could save several hours a week!
Getting more done in a shorter space of time not only makes you more efficient, you also will be less stressed about little annoyances or the threat of mindless repetitive tasks.
If you have any more productivity tips then please let us know in the comments below and we will add them to the list!