Open Source Solutions for Internet Marketers

The world of Internet, web 2.0 and social media marketing decisions are becoming increasingly data-driven. To quickly and efficiently analyze market research data and large datasets, sophisticated tools are necessarily. Unfortunately these tools can be expensive, especially for contractors, freelancers, small business owners, and nonprofits. Given the cost of software, it can be tough to compete with agencies and big businesses.

The following tools provide legitimate and high-quality options for people who may not be able to afford mainstream software. These options are licensed for commercial use, so they are free and legal for students, businesses, and nonprofits to use:

Open Office: This is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office, and it is currently owned by Oracle. Open Office includes Microsoft-compatible spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation tools that are equivalent to Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

PSPP and R: If you need to conduct any statistical analyses, traditional market research software (SPSS and SAS) can be quite expensive. Meanwhile, Excel may not provide the resources necessary to handle large datasets. PSPP provides a visual, point and click environment for basic statistical commands while R provides functionalities that are more sophisticated.

Open Web Analytics: This free analytics software allows website owners to analyze how users are engaging with websites. Campaign tracking and e-commerce tracking reports are available.

Pew Internet and American Life Project: Syndicate data from market research vendors can be expensive, especially for small businesses, freelancers, and nonprofits who need to minimize their operating expenses. The Pew Internet and American Life Project, from time to time, releases its datasets for public use in SPSS format (which can be opened in PSPP). Their data comes from a social science perspective that helps individuals and companies understand how people are engaging with the Internet. If you do use Pew Center data, familiarize yourself with their licensing terms since you will need to source them properly.

Census Data: Location-based marketing is becoming increasingly valuable for Internet marketers. At the most basic level, it is important for markers and advertisers to know their demographic in terms of age, gender, income levels, and needs. Census data is freely available from the government for businesses, nonprofits, students, and other individuals to research geographic marketplaces.  This information might especially be helpful for location-based search engine marketing and search engine optimization campaigns.

QGIS: If you're interested in mapping your statistical data, QGIS is a free and open source alternative to commercial GIS software. QGIS allows users to map demographic information in a visually appealing way.

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