I am a large proponent of using web services to build your internet presence. You may be amazed at how some of the most important things that you do online can be done using a free web service. Not every service is free but there are a lot of services out there that do a lot for free but they can do a whole lot more by simply paying a small fee. I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are some of the best web services out there. These are services that I use every day, especially when I am setting up blogs or websites, which means that you should at least take a look at them.
(Image Credit: Graham Kingsley)
Google Keyword Tool
To kick of this list of the best web services we are going to take a look at the Google keyword tool. It is great for doing basic website keyword research. This kind of research will help you to find topics to write about on your website and is one of the first steps that you should take when looking at improving your onsite SEO (search engine optimization). The tool is designed for people looking to do Adwords campaigns but it can be very valuable when doing research.
One of the best web services that I can fine for rank tracking is Serpfox. After you have used the Google keyword tool to target a certain keyword or phrase, you can use Serpfox to keep track of your rankings.
Rank tracking is when you monitor the search position of your website to see how it is doing in the search results. Let’s say that you are Acme Co. and you make Acme Widgets. Well, you would want to know where in the search results you will apear when someone types in the search term “Acme Widgets”. This is rank tracking.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Why can’t I just do the Google search myself?” The problem these days is that Google customizes search results for you based on a number of different variables. As an example, if I am logged into my Google account and I do a search for “Acme Widgets” and I was just on Acme’s competitor’s site yesterday, then there is a stronger chance that their site will show up in my search results than if I had never been to that site before. Additionally, if I am in Canada and I want to see how my keywords are ranking in the US, then I need to use additional tools to see those results. With Serpfox, you are able to specify which geographical area you are targeting.
After you input your URL and your keywords into Serpfox, they take care of all of the rank tracking. This is a lot easier than manually doing all the searches every day anyways.
Google Analytics is one of those tools that is hard to believe is free. This online service is provided by Google so that you can learn more information about where your traffic is coming from and what it is doing on your site.
Through the use of Google Analytics, you are able to see:
- which terms people are using to find your web pages
- what pages are the most popular
- what do people do after they come to your website
- how long they spend on your site
- and much more…
I have long given up on the likes of Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. In fact, I detest them. I was so tired of how poorly they performed on my Mac and how expensive this software was (when I only used a few basic features) that I went looking for better options.
Google Apps is a replacement for a lot of the office applications like word processors, spreadsheets and email clients, among others. I use the free version of Google Apps for Business (previously Google Apps for Your Domain) which means that I can use it with my own domain so that I can have @matthewhooper.com email addresses.
With Google Apps you are able to share documents online. You can also work within documents simultaneously with others without having conflicts. You can actually see what the other person is typing as they type it. Pretty slick!
Google Reader + Google Alerts + Reeder
I decided to group these web services together since I use them together. I am a big fan of RSS to read blogs or news sites. Since RSS is basically a delivery technology, you’ll need an RSS reader of some type to read the RSS feeds. I use Google Reader on my Mac to subscribe to the RSS feeds and I use the Reeder app on my iPhone or iPad. (I know that Reeder is an app but it relies on a web service.)
Google Alerts lets you create custom RSS feeds based on certain search criteria. This means that if you are a brand, you can create a custom RSS feed that will send you news whenever a blog mentions your brandname. You can also use Google Alerts to create a custom RSS feed for terms that are specific to your industry. You can have these alerts emailed to you. I find it much more convenient to have this information in Google Reader rather than filling up my email inbox.
Instapaper is a quick way to save articles to read later. Instapaper works in your web browser but there are also apps for various devices like tablets, phones and even Kindles. There are competing services but I find Instapaper to be one of the best web services in this category because it has the best user experience.
The way it works is that when you find a long article on the web that you want to read later, you click a custom bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar and Instapaper saves it to your reading list for later. When you read these articles in Instapaper, all of the “fluff” is removed. This means no sidebars, ads or annoying popups to distract you from what you were reading. You can also use the above mentioned Google Reader or Reeder app to send articles to Instapaper for reading later.
I use Skype nearly every day so I am always surprised to learn that there are people that still have not even heard of Skype.
Skype is basically a web service that can replace your telephone. I know there are other similar services out there but Skype is probably one of the best web services of it’s kind, if not the best. There are apps for almost every device you can think of which means it’s very accessible.
I use it to make phone calls but I also use it when working with clients when I need to see their screens. Skype has built in screen sharing which means that I can see the screens of the people that I am working with. This is very useful when I am trying to walk them through a problem. I can also share my screen with them.
This is another one of those tools that I use every day that I almost fall off my chair when I find someone not using it or completely unaware of it. This is probably one of the best web services that you’ll find on the web today. Simple, yet so useful. I find new uses for it everyday.
Dropbox is a simple application that creates a folder on your computer that syncs online. Again, there are apps that are on tonnes of devices which means that anything in your Dropbox folder can be accessed from almost anywhere. The great thing is that there are third party applications that integrate with Dropbox that make it even more powerful.
You can also share a folder within your Dropbox folder and work with others. This means that you can have file open, edit it, save it and then someone can open it on their computer and see the changes right away. No more emailing files or shuffling them around on flash drives.
Honourable Mention… Evernote
Evernote is a service that lets you manage notes, images and various other files online. Like some of the other services I already mentioned, Evernote has apps that work on a plethora of devices but all of the data syncs back to an online web service.
The killer feature of Evernote is it’s ability to find text in an image. This means that if you take a photograph of something (like a business card) you will be able to find it again by searching for text on the card. I mostly use this to “remember” product labels I’ve photographed or any other photographic image that I may need to find again based on a text search.
The only reason that I mention Evernote as a honourable mention is that I don’t use it much anymore. These days, I mostly use it as a replacement to a file cabinet since I prefer to keep my notes in plain text format and my files in Dropbox.
Are these the best web services for you?
Well, what do you think? Do you use any of the services above or are there some other web services that I didn’t mention that you like to use? Tell us about your picks for best web services in the comments.