As if we didn’t already have enough to do, “content creator” was been added to the list of hats we must wear as online marketers.
It’s a really big hat, too. Content marketing encompasses so much more than just writing— SEO, graphic design, project management, lead capture, video editing, and social media— all come into play as we go about creating and distributing promotional content.
Thankfully, there are fantastic tools out there to help you create the best content possible, make your life easier throughout the process, and maximize the promotional value you get from your content.
These are some of the “best of breed” online tools you can use to improve your content marketing:
To generate ideas for content:
Keywords (and questions) on your topic
Find out what keyword phrases people are googling with your subject matter. Bills itself as an alternative to the Google Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest. Keyword.io’s clean interface and “questions” tab have knocked Ubersuggest out of its spot as my favorite keyword research tool.
Follow @magicrecs and it will suggest content and accounts to follow that are aligned with your interests.
Submit an idea and community members indicate what they’d actually read with an “I’d read like to this” button. A helpful way to test out an idea before investing in it.
Built on top of the wildly popular Periodic Table of Content Marketing this tool will spit out ideas by combining your topic and audience with different angles of exploration.
Gives you ideas in the form of a title. Hit refresh until you find a winner. It’s similar in purpose to Online Venture’s offering, but I included it because it generates some really unique ideas you’d be hard pressed to find any other way. This one may have been a winner but we’ll never know…
Know what content is working
No list of content marketing tools would be complete without Buzzsumo. It’s a treasure trove of content ideas that have gone viral. Keep in mind that the list of most successful content is biased by promotional leverage — there are also fantastic ideas at the bottom of the pile that never had a chance because they were distributed to small audiences. To get a better idea of which content work best, limit your search to a single source and see what is working best for them (this works better because you can assume each piece of content had somewhat similar promotion and opportunity to succeed).
To organize, prioritize, and manage your best content ideas:
Brainstorm and collaborate with your team
Not a mind mapping tool, it is a flexible way to visualize your ideas with a post-it note style theme. Draw connections between ideas, comment on them, and vote the best ideas up.
Drag and drop between buckets
There is something intuitive about managing your content ideas with the bucket paradigm. It needs no explanation and it is super easy to move things around (which you’ll do often as your priorities shift and your writing progresses through stages). Trello is flexible enough to store your ideas and, because it is a project management tool, you can also use it to take your content projects through the entire process of execution.
To maintain your content marketing editorial calendar:
A calendar built for content marketing
How will you feel bad about missing deadlines if you don’t have a schedule for your content publication? That guilt is necessary — it’s what defines you as a pro content marketer. Coschedule offers quite a few advantages over Google Calendar including integrating with your blog, making it easy for you to coordinate with a team throughout each part of the content creation process, and tight integrations with common content marketing tools and platforms. If you do a lot of social media promotion, it is very useful for coordinating a social media plan among team members for maximum impact. Coschedule has a thorough post on the importance of content scheduling and best practices that is worth checking out.
To research your topic:
Info on anything
As the popularity of Quora, a Q&A community, has risen, so has the quality of the content. Users ask questions and users submit answers. The best answers are voted to the top. Quora’s strength, versus similar resources like Reddit, is how well-organized and searchable the information is. Also, users are focused on being helpful rather than making jokes, they don’t have names like “SlugbutterWaffle” (in case you ever need to credit a source), and you can read a bio on their qualifications. Don’t get me wrong, I love Reddit, but not for research.
Bookmarking tool with highlighting and commenting
Of all the bookmarking tools available to you, and there are many, Annotary is uniquely suited to researching and organizing information you’ll need to refer to later. Create collections of information centered on topics. Save information into collections and add tags for further organization. Highlight the sections of interest and leave comments as you read so you don’t have to search through the entire document to find the brief excerpt that motivated you to save it. Here’s an example from my “Marketing Automation” collection to show how easy it is to save the important parts of your research and reference them later:
Quickly save and tag information
If you aren’t interested in highlighting, and just want a place to shove things so you can read them later, Pocket is a fast and easy way to do that.
To develop your ideas and consolidate your research:
Create and share beautiful mind maps
For years, I’ve yearned for a web-based mindmap tool that mirrored the fantastic simplicity and elegant beauty of the lightweight OS X app, “Mindnode.” Coggle has done it. Many mindmapping tools are bogged down by feature bloat and, frankly, are too ugly to use. Coggle has sidestepped those failings and created a quick, simple, beautiful online mindmapping tool… and it supports markdown and keyboard shortcuts, so, I’m in love.
A unique approach to outlining
This app uses a horizontal “tree” structure to organize information and it’s not just a gimmick. You put your main ideas in the leftmost column and then break them down further and further by adding columns to the right. This effectively maintains your focus on the point you are expounding on and contributes to a logical organization of information. Easily move around your document with keyboard commands. Even if the description of the idea doesn’t interest you, I’d recommend a free trial so you can give it a shot — you might be surprised. Ginkgo appears to have a committed, passionate, and responsive developer. It’s one of my favorite tools on this list.
A quick, lightweight outlining tool
If you prefer a traditional approach to outlining, this is a minimalistic tool that gets out of your way so you can get to work. Easily focus on different sections of your outline by clicking into them. In spite of the misleadingly clean interface, the capabilities are there, so you could definitely use this app to progressively transform an outline into a complete document. It includes task management features too so you could use this app for everything — from capturing ideas to managing their execution all the way through to publication.
To write collaboratively with a team:
GitHub style collaborative writing with markdown support
It’s literally Github for writers. Seriously, you can use Git-enabled, and even command line, tools to keep your writing in sync with others. It uses the same: “master, branch, pull request, review, merge” workflow any programmer is already familiar with. It’s a great idea because that’s a proven process for collaborating on complex projects. It offers markdown support, version control, chapter organization for larger projects, and more. To create private projects, you’ll need to pay (starts at $10 a month) otherwise it is free to use.