Tightwad Marketing

Reviews of free and cheap website management tools

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com


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My reviews are independent and unaffiliated. I make no money off these links. In most cases, I have used the services of the companies reviewed, or I have first-hand reports from people I trust. When you click on each link, a new window will open. You can close the new window to get back here.

Quick finder:
Free search engine submission tools
Free and cheap webmaster tools and resources
Free and cheap safety and security tools and resources
Other helpful website tools and resources

Free search engine submission services (alphabetically)
Before we get to the links, here are six critically important notes about using these automated search engine submission tools.
First, do not submit your website more than once a month, and less-often is better. The most counter-productive thing you can do, is to get your website banned from a major search engine for spamming their server.
Second, submit your website regularly. The first of every other month is good - mark it on your calendar.
Third, do not confuse search engines and directories with links pages, especially FFA (Free-For-All) pages. FFA pages (which frequently call themselves “directories”) are simply scrolling lists of submitted websites; your website listing enters at the top and falls off the bottom. The life of your website listing depends on the popularity of the link page; it could fall off in a few days or even a few hours. A warning about link exchange programs: Google now penalizes websites that use a non-relevant link exchange page to boost “site popularity” results. I believe that submitting to FFA lists and participating in mass link exchange programs are ideas whose time has past.
Fourth, there are only a half-dozen or so search engines that deliver meaningful results. Showing up ranked #1 on a search engine nobody uses is futile.
Fifth, directories that target your region or industry have increased in importance. This is because many search engines use relevant inbound links as part of their ranking algorithm. Many of these directories you will have to locate and submit to on your own; FFA-type directories are seldom relevant and may actually harm you.
Sixth, be patient. While FFA pages list you upon submission (and typically de-list you within the day), most search engines and directories take at least a week to index your site. The bigger search engines and directories can take six weeks or longer to get around to indexing your website.
AddPro: This free automated search engine website submission program has a good list of 18 major search engines and directories including Google. It also has a paid submission service with express submission to a few more search engines and directories. The “Webmaster Resources” section is weak, but there’s a functional ranking report. AddPro is based in Sweden.
INeedHits.com Submit Free: This company, based in Western Australia, focuses primarily on paid search services. It now requires registration and a valid credit card to access even the free services. The free service claims submission to 20 search engines and directories. The paid submission service claims a list of “300 search engines.” The last time I tried it, a few years ago, I found it not worth the money. Out of the 310+ submissions for each website, I counted more than 150 FFA pages. More than 50 were country- or industry-specific directories of which only a few were relevant to my websites. About 50 were classified listings of dubious value. About 25 I couldn’t identify. That left about 40 search engines and directories, many of which were obscure sites with little value. The remaining submissions to major search engines and directories were ... pretty much the same ones included in the free service. Over the next several months, there was no change in either website’s search engine ranking, although both were well-ranked to begin with. The free service is good, as long as you don’t mind turning over personal data and a credit card number to a company based in Australia.
NetMechanic: Click on "Products" on the main menu bar near the top of the page, then scroll down to the section titled "Search Engine Power Pack." Look for the "Free Trial" of what they call "Search Engine Starter." It submits your website to 10 second-tier (but still important) search engines. Because you can manually select which search engines to submit to, this is a handy tool in combination with one of the other free search engine submission services listed here. NetMechanic is based in Plano, Texas.
Submit Express: A free automated search engine website submission program with a good list of major search engines and directories (40 claimed, but the real number is in the high-20s) including Google and Dogpile. It also has a paid submission service with a vast list of search engines, directories, and links pages (75,000 claimed but only about 650 substantiated by name). The free monthly e-newsletter has some good information, and is well worth paying attention to for at least your first year, and probably beyond. Submit Express is based in Glendale, California.
Submit Plus Best 100: Prioritized links to the “Add URL” page of nearly 100 search engines and directories. The largely manual process means it could take all day to submit to all the search engines and directories, so use one of the fully automated ones first, then use Submit Plus to submit your website to additional search engines and directories. There’s also a fully automated version with ten major search engines. Submit Plus is based in Victoria, B.C., Canada.
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Free and cheap webmaster tools and resources (alphabetically)
Internet Seer: A website monitor that tries to hit your website hourly. If it can’t get through, it sends you an email notifying you that your site is down, as well as notification when it’s back up. It’s free when you sign up for the “Business Advisory Panel,” which basically means you have to fill out a long survey, then you receive a newsletter and monthly surveys via email (which you can safely ignore). More-frequent pings can be purchased. The emailed “Weekly Performance Report” now carries a heavy load of promotional messages along with your website uptime statistics. The company is based in Thornton, Pennsylvania.
MarketLeap: Three free search engine marketing tools: link popularity analysis, keyword search verification, and search engine index counts. With the increased importance of link popularity in getting high search engine rankings, the unique ability to compare your website’s link popularity with that of three competitive websites provides essential business intelligence. MarketLeap is based in San Francisco, California.
NetMechanic: A bunch of useful free tools, including link checkers, HTML checkers, and an image file compressor. One-time samples and trials of certain products are free, after which they charge (and deserve) compensation. There is also a “free sample” search engine submitter reviewed above. NetMechanic is based in Plano, Texas.
phpBB: An open-source bulletin-board package for creating forums and online communities. The download is free, but you must be able to install a PHP script onto your server. Support is via online FAQ and user forums. The product is an international, open-source effort, but the project is based in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.
WebCounter: A free website hit counter from www.digits.com, based in Irwin, Pennsylvania. Unlike other free counters, this simple, quick-loading counter carries no advertising message, and won’t plaster your site with banners or send spam to your visitors. To get the free counter, just provide a text link back to the provider’s website. Note that it’s just a hit counter. If you want traffic statistics, then this company offers a great commercial account starting at $35 per year which will give you more data than you could shake a stick at.
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Free and cheap safety and security tools and resources (alphabetically)
Ad-aware: A program that scans your computer for memory-hogging, privacy-stealing “spyware,” identifies it, and gives you the option to remove it. Once you install it, run it every week or so to clean off all the data mining trackers you’ve picked up as you’ve surfed the ‘Net. Be sure to get the updates, too. The stripped down, but highly effective “standard” version is free for personal use; businesses, schools, and users who want more can get upgraded versions starting at just $26.95. Ad-aware is a product of Lavasoft, based in Sweden.
Avast! antivirus: A rock-solid, real-time antivirus solution that also protects your inbox. The product is free for home users only; commercial users (including businesses and non-profit organizations) are asked to buy Avast! Professional, which costs $39.95 for one year with a sliding scale for multiple computers or years licensed. If you have more than one computer to protect, this licensing model gets very pricey very quickly. Avast! is a product of ALWIL Software, a Czech company based in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
AVG Anti-Virus: A stable antivirus solution that also protects your inbox and scans outgoing mail (appending a footer to each email saying it has been scanned with AVG Free). The full system scan takes hours, but doesn’t slow your computer down ... much. AVG has been around for years and years. The product is free for home and personal users; AVG Anti-Virus 9.0 costs $34.99 for one year and adds more-advanced anti-rootkit protection, file echange protection, and 24/7 tech support. AVG is a product of Grisoft, a company based in the Czech Republic but with a US headquarters in Milburn, New Jersey.
Avira: This security software company is based in southern Germany. The free version of its flagship antivirus product, Antivir Personal, is highly rated. It also includes basic anti-spyware capabilities. It asks for, but does not require registration to install. Scans are fast, and you can enable a host of real-time protections. However, it does nag you daily to upgrade to the premium edition, which adds capabilities, for $29.95.
Email address encoder: Instantly translates your email address (or any other short string of text) into a string of ASCII character entities, which read as gibberish to the automated email address harvesters. Then, you just cut-and-paste the encoded version to your webpages and forum postings. This encoder is a free service of West Bay Web, based in Wickford, Rhode Island.
Housecall free online virus scanner: This site is a useful little bookmark. Depending on your connection, scanning your complete system could take a half hour or so. The neat thing about it, is that it resides completely off your computer. You don’t have to download or install a program to make it run (although you do need the latest version of Java); but you do have to provide your name and email address. Also, although scanning is free, cleaning is not, and there’s no way to tell beforehand what the cleaning “ticket” will cost, and you have to pay through a third-party payment processor. The company, Trend Micro, is a Chinese company based in Tokyo, Japan.
MailWasher: Essentially an email previewer that sits between your email server and your computer’s email inbox. It detects and isolates spam, viruses, potential viruses, chain letters, and more. The free version is free forever; the more-powerful Pro version costs $39.95. I still use an older free version which is no longer available. USAGE TIP: Just delete suspect email and don’t bother with the blacklist or bounce feature; spammers constantly move and blacklisting addresses piecemeal accomplishes nothing. MailWasher is based in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: This is an anti-virus and anti-spyware scanner and removal tool that runs on demand, which means it offers no real-time protection - you need to run the program like any other application. That said, it's highly rated, updates quickly, and runs fast. It's free for non-commercial use; real-time protection costs $24.95 and commercial users must apply for pricing. I have it as a stand-by, for periodic sweeps in case something slips by Microsoft Security Essentials and Avira Free. Malwarebytes is based in California.
Microsoft Security Essentials: This free security solution from Microsoft replaces its old OneCare suite. It blocks and removes viruses and spyware, but unlike OneCare it lacks a firewall, backup and restore capabilities, and performance optimization. Also unlike OneCare, it is free. According to friends and associates, it's pretty sluggish on Windows XP, works better with Vista, and best on Windows 7. On my Vista machine, it scanned a lot faster than OneCare. Some people will trust this service because it's from Microsoft, and others will not, for the same reason. Disregarding prejudices, it's one of the better and quicker free online scanners.
Panda ActiveScan: An excellent web-based free virus scanner and cleaner from Panda Software. No registration is required, but it does require that you download an 8MB ActiveX control and provide a valid email address to receive its report. ActiveScan is updated daily. Unlike Housecall (above), Panda ActiveScan both detects and disinfects viruses. Plus, it detects spyware and malware, but the free version doesn’t eliminate them. It runs pretty fast (once all the controls are installed) and hardly slowed my computer down at all. The catch, at the end, is a sales pitch for its paid subscription. Panda Software is based in Bilbao, Spain, with a U.S. headquarters in Glendale, California.
Spybot Search and Destroy: This shareware product has been around for ages. The current version of the main program is Spybot 1.5, but there are updates every week - so make sure you get the updates. Spybot finds spyware and tracking software, and also certain types of viruses and virus-like programs. As shareware, it is free but donations are welcomed on the download page. Spybot S&D is a product of Safer Networking Limited, based in Ireland.
Virus hoax debunking: Before you take action based on anything you read in an email or newspaper article, check out vMyths.com.
ZoneAlarm: Zone Labs, based in San Francisco, California, makes network firewall software. A firewall is a virtual barricade between a computer and the outside world, which includes hackers and websites trying to obtain information. A scaled-down version suitable for single computers is available as a free download for personal or non-profit use. The software works well. Zone Labs asks for-profit businesses to pay a $19.95 license fee after an initial 60-day trial period. I have found that ZoneAlarm does not get along with some resident anti-virus programs, notably McAfee VirusScan, and some always-on email or messaging programs. When set to its maximum security settings, ZoneAlarm makes online purchases almost impossible to transact, so you’ll use the medium settings most of the time.
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Other helpful website tools and resources (alphabetically)
Adobe Acrobat Reader: The .pdf is a useful tool for distributing and viewing documents with relative security and copy control. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free download, and lets you view document files regardless of your computer platform or installed software. To create .pdf files, you need the full Adobe Acrobat, which costs $249 - or, read on for third-party .pdf creation programs. PDF, by the way, stands for Portable Document Format, and was invented by Adobe Systems, based in San Jose, California.
Bullzip PDF Printer: This lean, no-frills program is the free version of the bioPDF Writer; bioPDF is based in Sweden. It installs as a printer, and can create .pdf files out of almost anything you create. As with the other free PDF creators, jumps and links are not supported. Notable: I found that it creates much smaller PDFs than other PDF makers, yet print quality remained high, making this one my personal choice. Also notable: the free license is open to commercial users, and covers up to ten computers in an organization.
CutePDF Writer: A simple, completely free .pdf creator for commercial and non-commercial use. It carries no pop-ups, watermarks, or other advertising, and runs as a printer selection. Jumps and links are not maintained, and you must download another component, GNU Ghostscript, separately (there’s a link on the page). Support is provided via online FAQ and email. CutePDF Writer is a product of Acro Software, based in Newport News, Virginia
FreeTranslation.com: Quick, free machine translations of text or webpages. Just cut-and-paste the text or enter the URL to be translated, and select your input and output languages. Machine translation merely provides a rough idea of what’s been written. Language options include English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portugese, and Spanish. This free service is part of SDL International, which is based in New Hampshire.
Hotmail: One of the first, and still one of the best free web-based email programs. Hotmail now offers larger mailboxes for $19.95/year. Nice touches: every email and attachment is automatically scanned for viruses, you can delete emails without opening them, and you can apply any number of junk mail filters. The down sides: you have to check your mailbox at least once every 30 days to keep your free account active, every email you send out has a Hotmail signature, and you get pop-up ads thrown at you after you log in. Hotmail is owned by Microsoft, and based out of Mountain View, California.
PrimoPDF: Like Bullzip PDF Printer and CutePDF Writer, Primo PDF is a simple, completely free .pdf creator from activePDF, Inc., based in Mission Viejo, California. It carries no pop-ups, watermarks, or other advertising, and runs as a printer selection. It claims to optimize PDF images for printing or on-screen viewing, but I have not noticed a difference. Jumps and links are not maintained. Support is provided via a free user forum.
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