Cover image credit: AJ Yorio.
Today, the web is saturated with content. Everywhere you turn, there are blog posts, email newsletters, and autoplay videos clawing for your attention.
Yet creating content remains one of the most effective ways to build a brand: when you write something that strikes a chord, it lives on your website forever and can be read by an infinite number of people.
But the ability to create content today that stands out from the noise is a bit like telling the future. First, you have to figure out what topics people care about and want to read. Then, you have to assemble all the different parts together in your editorial pipeline to actually write the content, publish it, and distribute it.
This boils down to essentially two stages:
Figure out what to write
Execute on how to write it
Luckily, there are more tools than ever that can help you at each stage of the process. Choosing the right research and analysis tools can help you choose the topics and keywords that will drive recurring, organic traffic to your blog. They can help you identify which types of content perform well across different channels, boosting your distribution. The right tools also help make your content writing machine more efficient, and help you move seamlessly from brainstorming ideas to publishing content at a steady clip.
In a recent post, we talked to content marketers about their strategy and how they get an edge in 2017.
To get a better look into the actual tools marketers use every day to do their jobs, we asked them one simple question: “What tools do you use to get an edge in content marketing?”
1) Identify content topics and your target audience
Matt Sornson, Growth at Clearbit
Our longtime favorite tools for content are Ahrefs, SEMRush, and OptinMonster. However, my secret weapon lately has been Clearscope.io, a content analysis tool that has helped 70%+ of our latest content rank for target keywords. Clearscope compares your content with the top search results for your term and grades it based on length, keywords, and readability. It helps give you an idea of how your content might perform, before you start writing it.
Jenny Mudarri, Social Media Coordinator at Wistia
At Wistia, one of our favorite content plays is boosting posts on our blog through Facebook. If we have something that we know is working or want to get in front of a brand new audience, Facebook typically performs really well. Simply create audience-specific content, and target those folks on Facebook.
One of our favorite tools that we use to get a better idea of how our content is performing is called Parse.ly. It’s been really helpful to identify which posts are performing the best, which ones we’re seeing less traction on, and what types of content work well for our audience. Really cool insights there.
Wistia recently launched Soapbox, a free webcam and screencasting tool that helps you make video content directly from your browser.
Ty Magnin, Director of Marketing at Appcues
The most important tool in our content marketing stack at Appcues is Google Adwords. The majority of our successful pieces of content begin with thorough keyword research. When we get a hit, recurring organic traffic is the sweetest thing.
We made a Content Distribution Checklist in Google Sheets that serves as both an ever-evolving list of places where we should promote content, as well as a UTM creator. This tool helps us stay disciplined to distribute each post effectively, and in turn lets us track traffic back to each source.
Getting traffic to our blog is only half the battle. Converting them so you can re-engage them is the other half. We use Sumo’s List Builder tools to test and optimize different content upgrade offers. Without this tool we wouldn’t have been able to build our subscriber list to 15k as effectively.
Flavia Caroppo, Executive Editor at AdEspresso
Unlike what many think, the bigger the blog, the more difficult it is to manage. The hardest part isn’t finding new subjects to write about, but finding the right angle for each blog post. The goal is to go deeper and deeper on the same subjects simultaneously, without competing with topics we’ve already published. MozPro and SEMrush are my favorite tools for keyword research and SEO. I also keep track of all articles posted in the last 3 years in a spreadsheet, so I can have all the information I need at my fingertips.
Even in the digital era, I would never substitute an SEO tool for brainstorming with my team of writers. I think the most important thing with content is the ability to grow your group of contributors — who may be scattered across the world — and have them perform like a team.
Find Flavia on Twitter here.
2) Content Planning & Management
Jimmy Daly, QuickBooks and JD Consulting
There are a few content marketing tools that I simply cannot live without.
I use Ghost to run my personal blog because it’s dead simple and I love Markdown. I use Grammarly to check everything I write before publishing, because I still can’t spell the word “entrepreneur.” For getting sign-ups to my blog and managing my email list and form, I use ConvertKit — it’s awesome.
To run a high-volume content pipeline, I use a combination of Airtable and Zapier. Airtable helps me keep track of my content workflow, from brainstorming ideas to publishing blog posts. Under the hood, Zapier works as an automation layer that runs under all the different tools I use. Whenever I change the status of an article in Airtable, from something “In Production” to “For Revision,” Zapier automatically triggers an email notification to an editor.
Keep up with Jimmy by signing up for his email newsletter, the Swipe File.
Samantha Ferguson, Director, Acquisition Channels at Campaign Monitor
At Campaign Monitor we use content not only as a way to bring people in at the top of the funnel, but also to nurture them through to sign-up, onboard them and continue to educate them once they are customers.
We try to speak to our list based on their industry, interests and previously engaged with content. The more granular we can get with our messaging, the better the response rate is.
You can find Samantha on Twitter.
Kendrick Wang, Growth at Dropbox
When writing posts, I would focus on research and expert opinions. So when combing through articles, I use Highly to highlight stats, quotes, or other interesting tidbits. I’d copy them down onto index cards using Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene’s notecard method, then use them to create the outlines of a post.
Dropbox Paper (little bit of a plug, but I actually did love it before I started working here) — one of the biggest frustrations I had with Google Drive was that I would spend a ridiculous amount of time formatting the post while writing it because I can’t stand when text would have inconsistent spacing, font, colors, etc. Paper took care of all the formatting for me, so I could focus on the content while still having an aesthetically pleasing workspace.