New to Blogging? Content Marketers Love These Free Tools
Amy Daniels |October 09, 2015
The three most common challenges content marketers report are producing enough content, producing the kind of content that engages, and producing a variety of content. Whether you’ve started blogging for your storage facility or you’re thinking about trying it out, these are the challenges you’re most likely to face, too.
While online tools won’t eliminate all of the challenges of blogging, they can definitely help you along the way by providing inspiration, data, editing, and organization. I researched articles from eight extremely successful content marketers, including Neil Patel and Jeff Bulas, to share with you a number of tools that can help you both start and continue your blogging journey. Read more about these free resources below!
This tool is a great way to get a lot of research done at once. You can either enter a topic, like “storage” or “organization,” or a URL to get a rundown of the content that performs best (measured mostly by shares and backlinks).
BuzzSumo will take your search and show you what kind of content performs best for that topic or URL. So if you type in your blog’s URL, it’ll show you your most popular articles. You can also type in a competitor’s URL to see which of their articles perform best. I typed in “storage” and got tons of results, including those in the image below:
This tool gives you one place to analyze how your blog is doing and how your competitor’s blog is doing, as well as gain ideas for upcoming blog posts. It’ll show you the social shares, URL, title, date, and backlinks for articles, infographics, interviews, videos, and more, giving you an at-a-glance look at what has a proven record of success.
Of course, you should never simply copy titles and article ideas you find in tools such as BuzzSumo. Instead, use these lists to springboard your own topic ideas.
In all my research, this tool was the most recommended. Successful content marketers at Thrive Internet Marketing, Quick Sprout, Econsultancy, and Buffer all recommend giving the Hemingway Editor a whirl. Why? Because we all need a second set of eyes on our content.
This tool can be particularly useful if you’re responsible for all of your facility’s blogging on your own. If there isn’t another writer on your team to proofread your work, the Hemingway Editor takes spell check to the next level by catching wordy sentences, unnecessary words, and passive voice. By making your writing simple and concise, you’ll make it easier for your audience to want to keep reading.
If you aren’t using Google Trends for several aspects of your business, you could be missing amazing (and easy) opportunities to expand your reach and better target your customers. Before you use it for your blogging efforts, it can help you revamp the keywords you use on your website, especially since the relevancy of your keywords is much more important than how often you use them in the content. You can look at search term popularity over time across the nation or you can hone in on specific markets. Below is the data for the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area:
Beyond your website content, Google Trends is also an excellent tool for coming up with new blog topic ideas. Let’s say that you own a facility in Dallas, Texas, and you’re thinking about writing a post. You don’t know where to start other than with the phrase “storage tips.” Head to Google Trends, type in your idea, and click on the map to narrow your search area.
In this instance, you’d get a message reading “not enough search volume to show graphs,” which means that there aren’t that many people in Dallas going to Google and searching “storage tips.”
Don’t feel let down! What you can then do is try a different but similar term. Here’s how the graph changes if you add in “organization,” which is what many storage tips typically involve.
Though the search has declined a bit over the years, there are still people Googling “organization.” Thus, Google Trends can help you tweak your topics slightly to increase the amount of visitors you may receive.
What’s even better is that it can help you come up with new ideas. Say you write a generic post about organization tips. You want to write about the same general topic but you aren’t sure what else to cover. Simply scroll down in Google Trends and it’ll show you related searches and how popular they are:
In a matter of minutes you have at least seven new ideas. This chart also shows you right off the bat that “business organization” is searched more often than “home organization.” Let this information guide you in your blogging. You’ll generate new ideas for posts down the line and know how to tweak your wording to increase visitors — two problems all content marketers are always looking to solve.
Unsplash and Death to the Stock Photo
Blog posts with images get 94% more views than blog posts without images. If you ever spend time reading online articles, notice how your eyes naturally gravitate toward the images in the article. Sometimes you may even skim the content to the parts you find interesting, letting the photos guide you to the most interesting content.
Adding images is a simple way to increase views on your articles and make your pieces more interesting to your readers. But the last thing you want to do is spend time and money either taking your own pictures or paying for high-quality ones. Instead, head over to Unsplash or Death to the Stock Photo.
Unsplash adds ten new photos to their site every day and allows you to search for a particular term. You can see in the image above that these pictures are free and you can “do whatever you want” with them.
While I think the pictures on Unsplash are more inspiring for creative writing, Death to the Stock Photo may be a better choice for your business since it has many more options than the typical nature pictures you’ll see on Unsplash. Death to the Stock Photo does require that you provide an email address, but that just means their photos are sent straight to your inbox (rather than you having to check the site like with Unsplash).
There are tons of other places to get great images for your blog. But these two websites are most recommended by content marketers for their beautiful collection of images, their no-hassle system, and their variety of options.
Think about the goals you want to accomplish with blogging. It’s more than writing interesting posts. The ultimate goal is for visitors to rent a storage unit with your facility. Smaller goals along the way may include asking them to like you on social media, share your posts, or subscribe to your blog. Hello Bar is your perfect companion for all of these goals.
When you first visit Hello Bar, enter your website’s URL. It’ll then ask you to log in with your Google account. From there you can create a form for your blog visitors to fill out based on the goal that you have:
Choose your goal and then customize everything about it. You can display a banner at the top of your blog, a small modal in the middle of the screen, a small slider in the corner of the screen, or a pop-up that covers the entire page before the viewer can move forward.
I’d personally recommend you use either the bar or the slider option from this list since most readers don’t want ads and forms popping up over the content they’re trying to read..
After you choose your style, you can customize the colors, the text, the visibility, and how long Hello Bar waits to display when a user visits your site. Hello Bar will track what happens with your form and let you create multiple options. It’s a great tool for thinking about the end-game of your blog and getting your readers to do something after reading your post, moving them closer and closer to becoming customers.
It’s pretty impossible to read an article about resources for bloggers and not stumble upon Trello. This project management tool is powerful enough for organizations to rely on and simple enough for individuals to use. Our marketing team uses Trello, dividing up the department into Trello boards for easy organization:
Within each board, you can create columns and label them however you please. Our Marketing - Content board has columns like “This Week,” “Content in Progress,” “Need Adjustments,” and “Proofreading” to let us visualize where all projects are. Fellow writer Erich Noack and I use the board to send each other comments, request proofreading on an article, and keep all of our information in a centralized place.
Even if you’re the only blogger at your company, Trello can be a great way to make a blog schedule, watch each article move through each step of the process, and visualize your progress. Below is an example of how you could use Trello:
Each card gives you options to add labels, due dates, members, checklists, attachments, and much more. Your card could look something like this one:
Trello helps you create a schedule, personalize how you organize that schedule, and attach everything you need for a project in one place, ultimately making the process of blogging much less intimidating.
Blog Topic Generator
HubSpot’s blog topic generator is another great tool for coming up with new content ideas. You simply give it three topics and it produces five topic ideas for you.
As you can see in the disclaimer, these topics aren’t perfect. You’ll want to tweak the titles so that they’re more personalize for your blog, but this tool at least gets the ball rolling for you. I typed in “storage,” “organization,” and “moving,” and HubSpot provided these topics in seconds:
If you fill out the form, they’ll give you even more topics. If you don’t want to fill out the form, you could also keep coming up with different words by hitting the “try again” link. Combining this tool with other topic generating tools will help you come up with weeks or months worth of topics in no time at all.
When I found this tool, I had hundreds of articles saved on my work account, personal account, in my phone, and on Facebook. It was a mess. Now, they’re all saved on Pocket, which I can access from any browser or with the app on my phone. They even have a Google Chrome extension, allowing you to click a button and instantly save to your Pocket account. From there you can add tags (like “design”, pictured above), making it easy to sort through information down the road.
Another great feature of this app is the “Recommended” tab. It pulls information from all the articles, images, and videos you’ve saved. Once you’ve run out of new content and want to find some interesting new pieces, simply head over to the “Recommended” tab. My Pocket app knows that I like to read about content marketing, business, startups, and design, and that some of my favorite sites are Kissmetrics, HubSpot, and Thought Catalog.
Sometimes the best inspiration to keep writing is to keep reading. By keeping all of my links (from both personal and work life) in one place, I don’t feel like I’m getting stagnant and I can think beyond the typical topics for my industry. Even if you aren’t a blogger, Pocket is the perfect little tool for keeping all the ideas floating around in your head in one place, which can clear your mind and allow you to get focused easily.
Again, the biggest challenge you’ll face while blogging is coming up with new ideas and keeping inspired. Several tools on this list help you do that. Honestly, the more tools you have for this purpose, the better. This next option allows you to type in one keyword. Then it comes up with pages and pages of ideas for you.
It's important to use these ideas as springboards for your own ideas. You can see that some of the titles aren’t grammatically correct or logical. They’re pulled from existing articles, too, so you don’t want to copy the title for your own blog. When I typed in “storage” I got the following:
It’s pretty amazing how many ideas this one tool can give you. It also helps you keep track of them by allowing you to save the ideas you like. Simply click the “>>” button next to an idea and it’ll add to a list on the right side of the screen. After you’ve scrolled through the pages of ideas and saved the ones you like best, you can copy that list over to wherever you keep a running list of blog topic ideas.
Of course, after you try one keyword, you can always try another and another. Use the “Saved Ideas” tool to track the best options for you and then copy all of them to a Word or Google document. Anytime you’re at a loss for a blog idea, simply open up that document and you’ll be well on your way again.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
One of the most important aspects of blogging is writing a headline. It’s the initial thing that grabs the attention of the reader. And if they’re using Google, it’s one of the only things that prompt a reader to even visit your blog. Only 2 of out of 10 people will actually read your blog after seeing your headline, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.
There are all sorts of recommendations for writing the best headlines: numbered lists often perform the best, most simple topics are improved by adding “how to” at the beginning, and emotional words with strong positive or negative connotation get more clicks. It can be difficult to keep track of all the rules and suggestions out there. Thankfully, CoSchedule does it for you.
Simply type in the headline you’re thinking of using. From there, CoSchedule will analyze it for you, give it a grade, and tell you what you can do to make it better.
I actually discovered this tool while researching for this article and decided to give it a go for my headline. My original title for this post was going to be “New to Blogging? Content Marketers Swear By These Tools.” I put it through CoSchedule’s headline analyzer and received a score of a 65. Then I tried a series of ideas, listed in reverse order in the image below, before landing on “New to Blogging? Content Marketers Love These Free Tools.”
When Neil Patel of QuickSprout recommended this tool, he pointed out that almost no headlines get a score of 100. The headline he tested received a 77. Rather than beating yourself up trying to get 100, enter some of your old headlines and see how they score. For that matter, pop in some of your competitors’ headlines. Once you get a feel for the average, strive to get better with each headline.
My starting headline had a score of 65 and, according to CoSchedule, was missing emotional words and had a slightly negative connotation. My final headline scores three points higher, has a positive connotation, includes powerful words like “free” and “love,” and received a B+ for word balance:
CoSchedule shows you how you can improve the headline, providing links to articles they’ve written about that particular topic. I’ve only included small screenshots of their analysis because it’s quite extensive. They also evaluate character count, word count, how your headline looks in SERP, how it’d look as the subject line of an email, the words readers are most likely to look at, the SEO value, and its emotional sentiment.
While it’d be easy to get completely lost in this tool and spend hours trying to become the master of headlines, simply popping in your idea and making a few tweaks to it can potentially draw in more readers. And if you use this tool in intervals over time, I’m betting your headlines will only get better and better with each post. That’s certainly what I’m hoping for mine!
Finally, Quora is a great tool where people ask questions and experts (or self-proclaimed experts) answer them. There are all sorts of topics that you can subscribe to, allowing you to see a complete feed of questions asked about that topic. A few examples include “small businesses,” “organization,” “moving companies,” and of course “self storage.”
Users turn to Quora to ask all kinds of questions, no matter how ridiculous or in depth. People answer those questions and then users can “upvote” those answers, pushing the most helpful and most popular answers to the top of the page. The “self storage” feed features questions like “is it legal to live in a storage unit?,” “what is the best lock for a storage unit?,” and “what is the difference between indoor storage and outdoor storage?” Check out the top answer for the question “Any useful tips in choosing a self storage facility?” in the image below:
I learned about Quora through researching for articles I’ve written on the storEDGE blog. While the site rarely showed up in SERP a few years ago, now it’s hard to ask Google a question without finding Quora somewhere on the first page.
What does this fact mean for you? Two things: First, Quora paints a pretty accurate picture of what people are wanting to know about and what they’re confused about. No matter what you know about self storage, it’s important to know what your customers and the general public perceive about the self storage industry. You can get article ideas by browsing these questions and learning what kinds of answers people are looking for.
Secondly, Quora is a great place to get involved and send readers to your blog. That answer above links to SpareFoot’s blog and SelfStorage.com. Say that you wrote a post about one of these topics. You could jump in on the discussion, provide your expert opinion, and link to your article on a page where you can be fairly confident that the people visiting want to know more about that topic. Even if your blog isn’t ranking well in SERP (yet), using Quora can help you get your content in front of the right eyes.
One note: No one likes a spammer. Don’t jump into Quora just to link to your blog. Follow topics you find interesting, ask questions, and provide answers. Become a natural contributor to the conversation, not a spammer who’s only out for their own interest.
Find your favorite tools and start blogging
With so many tools out there to help you through the process of blogging, I’d recommend that you give a few a try with your next blog post. You may not like all of them while there may be others that you repeatedly use. Find what works for you and makes your readers more interested.
As a fellow blog post writer, I’d love to hear about any tools you love to use. What recommendations do you have for researching, writing, editing, or increasing engagement? If you try any of these tools out, what do you think of them? And are there any aspects of blogging that you aren’t sure how to conquer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!