A calculator is worthless unless you understand the math behind what it is calculating. If you didn't spend years in grade school learning how to do addition, long division, fractions and square roots, a calculator would be little more than a random number game with a bunch of buttons.

Power tools can be used to do the job better than manual labor, but again, they can't be fully appreciated until you use their analog alternative. A power drill is a lifesaver when you are cranking endlessly on a screwdriver with no indication of progress. A power saw can rip through a board in 10 seconds, where a handsaw might take you an hour and result in blisters galore. We use the primitive tools that have been used for ages and we dream of a quicker alternative.

Thankfully, calculators are a dime a dozen and most of us have a Home Depot around the corner.

In both of these cases, it's clear that you need to learn fundamentals before you can fully appreciate the experience of using automated tools to get the job done.

Why, then, do many Internet marketers insist on finding the latest and greatest tools to do the job, when they barely have an idea as to the fundamental reason the tool exists in the first place?

Much like each time Apple releases a new device, it's easy to fall into the trap of dreaming about how the latest and greatest tool will make your life easier, only to be disappointed when the tool doesn't meet your lofty expectations. Much like Christmas morning, the anticipation is often much better than the actual experience.

Here are Some of Our Favorite Internet Marketing Tools

Of the tools that Internet Marketers use, only a handful of them really hit the mark on making our lives easier. Those are the tools that we keep on renewing each year when our contract is up.

  • Open Site Explorer/SEOMoz - Why it exists? Web crawl data was sporadically provided by search engines like Google and Yahoo, with limited information shared, and sometimes they didn't work at all. Open Site Explorer provides an unbiased view of the information that these engines used to provide, and is more insightful and actionable than they ever were
  • Scrapebox - Why it exists? Trying to find insights from Google suggest is a fun game where you type in a query and see what they suggest. It is fine to do this manually if you do 1 query a day, but Scrapebox allows you to automate this process. Please note, we don't endorse all functionality of this tool, especially anything having to do with spamming.  
  • Google Analytics - Why it exists? Before this tool became available, small to medium sized website owners needed to study server log files to gain insights using tools like webalizer, Analog and Awstats. These tools sucked. Google Analytics makes these insights much easier
  • Silverpop/Marketing Automation Suites - Why it exists? Say that you receive a lead on a Wednesday and call the person right away. They don't answer, so you call them again Friday. When you finally reach this person, they say they are 6 months away from making a decision. Rather than set a reminder to email this person in 6 months, smart marketers are using marketing automation tools to automate this process
  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider - Why it exists? To simulate what Google sees when they visit your website, you would need to manually click on every single link, download the HTML source code, and analyze in an excel spreadsheet. This would take hours for even a 20 page website. Thankfully, there are tools like Screaming frog that do the harvesting for you, scanning your entire site in minutes, and organizing this information into a table format that can be exported to excel or other tools of choice
  • Paid Search Management Tools - Why they exist? Managing Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter accounts for the same client can be a pain, because the systems don't talk to each other. Paid search management tools enable you to manage multiple engines and clients in a single interface

Golden Rule (courtesy of Avinash Kaushik)

Dedicate 10% of the money you spend on tools and 90% of the money you spend on the people who analyze the tools

Don't rely on tools without first understanding why you have the tool in the first place. Sometimes tools will actually make you less efficient if you make a problem more complex than it needs to be.

Don't be a tool, and don't automate too soon.