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Six essential (and FREE) tools to transform your content marketing

By . Posted 4 October 2021

Last modified on 19 October 2021 at 4:49 pm

Content is a significant part of any marketing strategy. It’s what draws organic visitors to your website via search engines. It’s what grabs and keeps a potential customer or client’s attention. It’s how you communicate what you do or what you sell, and it helps people to make decisions about services or products. It informs, inspires, entertains and convinces your target audience, in a variety of different ways and forms, so getting your content marketing right can be transformative for any business or organisation.

Tools can play a vital role in every stage of your content marketing strategy, from initial ideation and planning right through to implementation and measuring results. They can provide insights into what kinds of content you should be producing to meet the needs of your specific audience, can help to direct and project manage the creation and distribution of content, can assist with quality assurance and can track results.

What tools do you need to be a successful content marketer?

The specific tools that can help you develop and run more effective content marketing activity can vary somewhat, depending on your business objectives and your audience, but we have compiled a list of online tools that we believe offer assistance in at least one area and can be used to ‘level-up’ your content strategy. All of these tools have free versions, though some also have subscription models that offer additional features or expanded functionality.

What tools do content strategists use?

We have divided our six favourite content marketing tools into the areas of strategy development that they can best assist with. Some of these tools are mentioned in more than one area because they can help in different ways at different points of the process.

Research, data analysis and coming up with ideas for content marketing

Every content marketing strategy, before you even think about digital content creation itself, starts with research and analysing relevant data to help you determine the kind of content that is most likely to resonate with your target audience and help you achieve your business objectives.

1. Google Analytics for content marketing research

One thing that Google Analytics (GA) gives you that many other tools don’t is specific data on your own current website content performance and how your existing audience is engaging with that content. This can help to highlight what is working and what isn’t, as well as looking at the user journey and how well (or otherwise) your website is catering to the needs of your target audience at every stage.

If you don’t already have fleshed-out personas, GA can help you to build them, showing you information including, but not limited to:

  • Who is landing on your content, by their age, gender, location and the interests they have
  • Which devices they used to access your site
  • Which channel they arrived at your site by e.g. via a search engine, PPC ad, social media or by clicking a link on another website
  • Which existing content on your site is being engaged with (and how) and is even contributing towards sales/conversions

2. SparkToro for audience and content research

If your audience is active on social media platforms, a tool like SparkToro can give great insights into who your audience are, what they talk about, what accounts they follow and even what podcasts they listen to. The free version of the tool only gives you limited results and features, but can still be really helpful in terms of insight for who you’re trying to reach and what digital touchpoints you can use with your content strategy to do so. SparkToro can also be invaluable for content outreach, but more on that later!

SparkToro

3. Buzzsumo for content research and ideation

Buzzsumo is a tool that can show you which types of online content for topics related to your industry are most successful in terms of social media shares (and on which platforms) and the links that they earn from other sites. This can include seasonal or trending topics as well as evergreen content that consistently delivers over time. You can look at content your competitors have produced and how that has performed and find out the kinds of questions that people are asking on relevant topics. This can spark some great ideas about content that you can produce which will meet the needs of your audience and be better than anything else currently out there.

Buzzsumo

Planning and project managing your content marketing

Once you have your content ideas, it’s essential to ensure that you have a tool in place that overviews the plan and helps ensure that things get done – and within deadline.

4. Using Google Sheets for content marketing

Let’s be honest, a spreadsheet isn’t everyone’s idea of fun – but when it comes to a collaborative plan that shows what stage of the process things are at, what needs to happen and who is responsible for what, Google Sheets is a free tool that really does the job.

A well-worked content marketing plan will include information about what each content asset is, who it’s aimed at (and at what stage of the buying journey they are at), what the objective of the piece is, when it needs to be created by, when it’s due to go live, what channels will be used to distribute it and, of course, who in the team is responsible for which elements.

The plan might look a bit different for various content types. For example, visual content like a video or graphic might need a different creation process than a text-based blog post, but the spreadsheet can essentially act like a content marketing calendar for the team, helping to ensure that things are produced, published and outreached to an overarching plan and timetable – like a content marketing matrix that contains all of the necessary information to see where things are up to at a glance.

This spreadsheet plan doesn’t replace a content brief for every piece, which contains essential components and information such as the keywords that you need to target in the content to ensure it ties in with your wider SEO strategy, but the fact that anyone in the team can access the plan at any time will help keep you updated on the current status of all areas of your content marketing strategy and ensures you have a top line view on whether it includes something for every stage of every persona’s journey towards conversion.

Tools to help with content creation

Anything that can help save time and resource when it comes to content creation is helpful, along with ways to help ensure that the content you’re producing is on-brand and of consistently high quality. Tools can’t replace a talented designer, filmmaker, creative writer or even proof-reader, but they can help to get fairly straightforward jobs done more quickly in many cases.

5. Canva for content marketing

Canva is a tool that started off as a quick and straightforward way to make images, visuals or even presentations for free. However, the tool has expanded over the years and now offers a high level of functionality, especially in the paid version, including access to stock image and video libraries all in one place.

Using templates or starting from scratch, you can create brand-friendly social media images quickly (and in the correct dimensions for a range of platforms), create videos, animations and much more.

Canva

6. Grammarly for written content checking

Ensuring that your written content is easy to read, free from spelling errors or typos and uses appropriate punctuation is always a challenge. Nothing can quite replace a human proofreader who understands the context of what you’ve written and perhaps has access to the brand guidelines you should be adhering to, but Grammarly can be a really useful tool to check the basics with.

Grammarly

There is a premium version which gives a much higher level of feedback, but for many uses, the free version provides enough to help you spot and correct the most common errors that often appear in written pieces, even for professional writers.

Getting your content seen by the right people

There is no free tool that can replace an effective digital PR plan or longstanding relationships with journalists that many PR professionals have, but for finding online influencers, experts and opportunities for outreach, SparkToro can again be really useful. They also have a great tips article on how to outreach content.

Tools for measuring content marketing success

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy, GA is again a brilliant free tool, for many of the same reasons as it informs your strategy in the first place. Benchmarking against performance before and after implementing your content marketing strategy will indicate progress in any number of areas, from organic traffic levels to content conversion rates and the role that specific pages play in the user paths to conversions.

Whatever channels you utilise as part of your content marketing strategy, GA can help to show you vital information about the people who land on your website and what they do from that point, which will inform your future strategy.

If you’d like to have a chat about any aspect of content marketing strategy, get in touch with the team.