Even if you’re a noob in the world of digital marketing, you’ve probably got wind of the slogan ‘content is king.’ The good news is it still holds the crown on its head since content marketing is one of the best ways to put your brand out there. The bad news is all marketers know this, which is the reason why everybody’s trying their luck at publishing now. This creates a need for content marketing strategies that can make your brand stand out above the rest.
As digital marketers, we’re always driven to produce valuable, relevant and consistent content to get the desired results. Creating valuable content helps sell your products or services by creating customer awareness online and building relationships with them. To achieve this, you have to follow a process.
- Plan - Devise a plan of action that will guide you through your content marketing process.
- Create - Turn powerful key messages and themes into raw material.
- Publish - Publish those raw materials as content assets.
- Distribute - Execute various promotional tactics for content distribution.
- Analyze - Track the performance of your content marketing efforts and optimize.
Looks basic enough to follow and execute, but there are different strategies you can use to help you get ahead of the pack. The key here is to make each stage of the process more efficient, so it’s best to utilize different tools to assist you in your efforts. And while there are those that you have to purchase to use, there are a host of free tools available that can be a great help. This is important to all you budding content marketers, so here is an ultimate list of free and freemium tools to jumpstart your strategies.
For Content & Keyword Research
Google’s Keyword Planner is a free tool from Google AdWords (now Google Ads) that provides data taken from the search queries done on Google and other resources. The data collected is used for planning advertising campaigns specific to Google Ads.
This tool has a host of features that can help you build Search Network campaigns or expand your existing campaigns. It also provides keywords, keyword trends, ad group ideas, competitions and statistics among others.
SEMRush is a software as a service (SaaS) tool that provides intelligence data that includes website traffic, keywords, projected Google AdWords spend, lead generation, topic research, website audit and other information related to SEO.
You can also benchmark advertisers and publishers who use Google AdWords and Google AdSense display ad network. Essentially, you’ll be able to observe what your competitors are up to with this useful SEO tool.
The Google website is arguably the most popular search tool for users who are trying to look for resources around the interwebs. These searches have become the basis from which SEO and SEM are built around. Specific data are tracked to give websites their ranking when search results appear, which is what businesses compete for. Use it to determine what kind of content pops with your chosen keywords and discover who among your competitors are ranking for those keywords.
This popular social network serves as a platform for Q&A discussions. Through Quora, you’ll be able to identify trends from frequently asked questions which can help you in your content creation efforts. Never underestimate the power of Q&A platforms. They’re powerful sources of real market insights that’ll bring you closer to your audience than ever before.
Slideshare is a hosting service (under the business and employment-related social network LinkedIn) for professional content such as documents, infographics, presentations and videos. Often an overlooked tool, Slideshare can be useful for content marketers who want to create professional documents that can be easily shared and found amongst professional connections on LinkedIn.
Ahrefs is a competitive intelligence tool that provides information about your competitors and their content marketing efforts. Useful reports include keywords your competitors are ranking for in organic search results and how much traffic this they get from them.
With this tool, you can find out how your competitors are ranking in organic search results, how much traffic they get from them and how they are acquiring backlinks, so you can replicate (or one-up) their strategies.
If you want to work smarter and ensure you’re putting out top content that resonates with your audience, BuzzSumo is the right tool for you.
You can gain valuable insights through BuzzSumo’s ability to look back in time and find out what topics were trending on social media, who was sharing them and how your competitors’ content is performing from a viral perspective.
All the information you gain from these sources can help make sure your content stands out and gets shared. You’ll also be able to dive into your backlink performance as well as your competitors’ to discover new ways to build site authority.
FatJoe is an organization that offers an outsourced link building and content creation for SEO agencies. Its free tool, FatRank, is a keyword rank checking app that can be nifty in your content marketing efforts. It allows you to add multiple websites and unlimited keywords while tracking your ranking positions in any country.
Formerly Inbound.org, the Growth Hub is a relatively new community and network initiative now under HubSpot. It aims to be a place where marketing, sales and service professionals can connect, collaborate and learn through shared content. This is definitely something to look forward to.
If you’re looking to discover trends and check to see if the subject you’re thinking of writing about is taking off or fading into obscurity, Google Trends is the place to be. This website is an excellent tool for keyword research and to discover new industry trends that you can incorporate into your marketing efforts.
Dubbed as a service that offers a ‘high fidelity marketing content stream’ curated by a marketers, Zest is a great tool for sourcing high-quality marketing content. You can install Zest as a Chrome extension to help you gain instant access to the site’s ‘distilled’ content stream.
For Writing Headlines and Topic Generation
Putting regular content out there can be a daunting task. Writers can hit a brick wall and appear to run out of topics to write about. Fortunately, HubSpot’s Topic Generator is here to save the day. All you need is to enter the nouns (keywords) you’re thinking of writing about, hit the topic generator button and you’ll be given a set of titles. Easy-peasy!
This free tool can be used to analyze your headline to know its Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. Since your headline is the most crucial part of your copy used to reach your prospects, reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is key to achieve success in copywriting.
All you have to do is hit the analyze button and check your EMV score. Aside from the score, you’ll also know which of three emotions it makes an impact on: intellectual, empathic or spiritual.
Don’t let its simple UX fool you. ShareThrough’s headline analyzer helps you determine how engaging your headline is by looking out for context words, which the developers describe as its ‘secret sauce.’ This involves interesting neuroscience and advertising research to deliver your headline’s engagement and impression scores.
This is another simple-to-use free tool that gives a visual representation of what works with your headline and what doesn’t. It considers a few factors such as grammar, structure, and readability. The tool also classifies your headline type, checks your word balance and breaks it down according to both common and uncommon words, emotional words, and power words.
If you want to find out if your headline has the emotion, power and uniqueness to compel someone to take action, take this tool for a spin.
FatJoe is featured for the second time with its nifty headline generator. This is useful for bloggers and content marketers. Just enter a keyword or two, and you’ll get cool title suggestions. It’s free, good for unlimited use and it works in seconds. Perfection!
The Content Idea Generator by Portent is an easy-to-use and straightforward free online tool that generates blog titles from your choice of keyword. Some may be silly and sound funny, so just refresh it to get new ones. Portent also offers services for content strategy to push your content marketing efforts in the right direction.
When it comes to taking down notes or writing articles, a free tool that can sync across all devices and has a browser version is indispensable. Evernote also has a feature where you can discover related content, so you can pick up ideas from reliable experts. You can even integrate the tool in Google Docs. Now, that’s versatility!
Based on the Mac software WriteRoom, Windows’ DarkRoom is designed with a green foreground CRT-style text color on a black background for a no-frills, distraction-free writing experience. There are no buttons or menus that might disturb your concentration.
Another free tool is available for writers with just a few bells and no whistles to help keep them focused. FocusWriter is a distraction-free word processor designed to encourage writers to put their ideas on screen. It takes up the whole screen and has very few features with limited formatting options to keep you free from email or social media notifications. It’s just you, your ideas and the keyboard.
The OmmWriter takes the writing experience in a different direction by giving writers an ‘environment’ in which to work in. You can play ambient music and soundscapes while working, putting you in that special place you need to be to get work done.
This tool provides a quick and easy way to know the readability level of your work based on the most used readability indicators such as the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level among others. You can test an entire web page, a section of it or just type in your text to find out if your piece of content is easy to understand.
Writers frequently get stuck in a rut for a number of reasons, and one of the most common cases is when they’re trying to think of a more appropriate word to fit the context of a particular sentence. The most reliable tool you can have in situations like this is a thesaurus. You don’t have a reason to turn in dull and boring content anymore.
Creating content is heavily dependent on the words you want to convey, so you will need a certain level of mastery over them to pull it off. This is the reason a dictionary is a writer’s best friend, and nothing is more influential than good ol’ Merriam-Webster.
If you want to effectively reach and engage with your target audience, you’re going to have to speak their language. The Business Dictionary will make your job a lot easier by providing simple explanations to all that industry jargon. With this free tool, you’ll find yourself unconsciously talking ‘shop’ in no time!
Grammarly has a free plugin for Chrome, which you can now use with Google Docs to check your spelling and grammar even when Tweeting or writing messages on your social media accounts. This is indispensable if you’re a content agency that wouldn’t dare risk sabotaging your entire business model just because most social posting widgets don’t come with spellcheck.
Google Docs - Collaboration
Google Docs is an online word processing tool that is designed for users to collaborate on a document. Those who are allowed access can view and edit documents in real time, making it an ideal tool even if you work remotely.
Plagiarism is one of the worst atrocities in writing and content marketing in general. It’s prevalent all over the internet and essentially involves stealing someone’s work, which can hurt your SEO efforts. To make sure you’re not plagiarizing somebody else’s work even without knowing it, Copyscape can be an invaluable tool. Just post the URL of your site and find out if you have duplicates on the web.
Hemingway Editor is a free word processor and proofreading tool designed for writers and editors. It can help you write in a simple, clear and powerful manner by detecting too many adverbs, hard to read sentences, complex words or phrases, and sentences with a passive voice. You’ll be able to identify them through color codes that highlight these mistakes.
Best of all, it lets you know your article’s readability too. As a rule of thumb, try to avoid writing any higher than an 8th grade literacy level. It’s not a good idea to make your audience expend unnecessary effort.
For Visual Content
Canva offers businesses and professionals a simple design platform that allows them to create exceptional quality and professional grade graphic designs. It has powerful features that include a drag and drop design widget with over a million images, graphics and fonts to choose from.
Pixlr is a Flash-based image editor that’s available both on the web and on mobile. Also tagged as the closest thing you’ll ever have to Photoshop in your browser, Pixlr is more advanced than most desktop photo apps out there. And the fact that it runs on your browser wins brownie points in the convenience category as well.
Pexels is a free source for a wide range of public domain stock photos from around the world. This means anyone can upload pictures on the site and the curators will select the best photos to populate its collection of public domain images. When it comes to searching for stock photos, you can look for something specific or do it by themes.
If you are looking for stunning pictures taken by professionals and semi-professional photographers, Unsplash has a well-curated collection you can choose from. The site may have fewer images than other stock photo sites, but the quality is a lot more consistent.
PlaceIt is a website where you can create mockup images and videos of products that include apparel, apps for mobile, and books. Just upload the product image, and the site will apply the design to that product as if it existed. This is great for shirts and logos on virtually anything.
If your content involves impressive charts, slides and infographics, you can use Piktochart’s intuitive, cloud-based solutions. There are a series of templates available, making the tool easy to use in creating professional-grade infographics, reports and even printable posters---perfect for your social media sites and blogs.
Want to create more powerful visuals for your presentations and infographics? Visme is a great tool for creating captivating visual content that grabs your audience's attention. They've got hundreds of pre-built templates and a user-friendly visual editor UI that's built for everyone, even if you're not so graphic design-savvy. Their basic plan allows you to create up to 5 projects for free!
Trello is recognized as one of the leading project management apps in the market today. It uses the concept of Kanban boards, which pertains to projects, and within those boards are cards that represent tasks. These cards contain a list that is used to track task progress or simply for categorization.
Keeping track of a busy schedule can be tough, but if you have an impressive free tool to manage your life like Google Calendar, you’ll never miss another event. Aside from managing your activities, you can also set up reminders, send invitations and keep track of your RSVPs. Best of all, your entries can be shared to or accessed by others who have permission, which helps in collaboration.
This capable to-do-list app with a catchy name has some sharing options included at no cost, making it perfect for home use. Its features include the ability to assign tasks to others, view tasks that need to be done as well as those that have been completed. And despite not having location-based reminders, Remember the Milk has the ability to assign a task to a location. This works for those who have responsibilities that are supposed to get done when they’re at a particular place.
The free account of Wunderlist still packs a lot of value compared to the expensive Pro version, and the good thing is users won’t need all the Pro has to offer anyway. You can manage tasks and share shopping lists with its simple and easy-to-use UI. It’s also available to use on mobile.
When creating a new task, Wunderlist allows you to assign a reminder or due date to it and make either one recurring. You can also add other details such as an assignee, attached files, notes, and substasks. It even lets you change the look of the app while you use it across all devices.
WordPress is a free content management system used by many, and it comes with free plugins to help manage tasks efficiently. One of the niftiest is WordPress’ Editorial Calendar, which reminds you to post content on any given day. It also provides you with an overview of your blog and when your posts are going to be published. All you have to do is just drag and drop to move your posts, edit them right in the calendar and manage your entire blog.
Having people share your content is what you’d want to happen when you put it out there, but it can be tough for visual content such as infographics. This is the reason why embed codes are useful. To create them for free, Siege Media has a code generator that allows you to post URLs related to your visual content and turn them into a code that your readers can share.
All you have to do is enter the URLs of both the page and image, log in the correct dimensions and an embed code would be generated for posting. It’s that easy.
FatJoe makes a third appearance on our list with its simple embed code generator. It works the same as any code generator and only involves four steps: enter the infographic URL, the image URL, your ‘text before link’ and the target link with the anchor text.
There are a lot of things involved in the content marketing process. With these tools, hitting your targets will be easier than drinking water through a straw. Each of them will help your efforts in creating engaging and relevant content that could be shared across all channels, which is precisely what we do at Spiralytics.
If you’re in need of help from the experts at conversion-driven content marketing services, the company provides full services that include the creation of compelling content, SEO, paid advertising and social media among others. It’s a one-stop shop of everything you need for your business to grow online.