Every business knows the importance of content. There’s just one problem…
… ‘content’ has become a pretty generic term.
Remember – not all content was created equal!
There’s an almost never ending list of the ways that we can break down ‘content’ into smaller categories, but right now we’re going to focus on one of the easiest ways: separating content from good content.
Good content is content that ticks every single box. It…
- Portrays your brand personality
- Conveys a message that’s consistent across all your channels
- Engages with your readers through shared areas of interest
- Secures your spot as an authority within your niche
- Sparks discussion and makes readers want to share
- Offers actionable insight or ideas readers can take away with them
- Is easy to read, clear to understand, and brings value to the reader
- Tells your readers what they want to know, when they want to know it
Easier said than done, right?
Yes… if you’re doing all the hard work yourself, that is. It’s actually much easier than you think to create good content and derive increased value from your efforts and your campaigns when you utilize all of the incredible (and free!) resources that are at your fingertips.
9 free content marketing tools
Free tools… you’ve got to be kidding?
Nope. There’s a common misconception that free tools are useless tools.
Now let’s be honest for a moment, a free tool may not always be the best tool, but there are plenty that do offer the practicality and the functionality that content marketers need to overcome some of the most common challenges.
We’ve found 9 tools that can make you a better content marketer… without spending all your budget:
One of the most common things that content marketers overlook is actually the very first step in any campaign: fully understanding who your business is and what it values.
Without knowing these vital pieces of information, it’s impossible to anchor your content to anything; it’s impossible to create content that all connects effortlessly, both with itself and with your core brand.
Creating a strong brand identity is the foundation of content marketing, and design is the foundation of a strong brand identity.
Canva knows this, and offers businesses a free design tool that allows them to really work out what’s important to them, and showcase this personality through logos, posters, business cards, flyers, and more. Once you have a solid identity, it becomes easier to create content that aligns with your brand.
As you probably already know, a content marketer’s mind is always on. There’s no switching off. Especially when there’s so much inspiration to be drawn from day-to-day experiences and non-obvious sources.
There are often so many partial ideas and incomplete bits of information floating around in the brain that it’s easy to become jumbled and lose your train of thought, which is why noting, editing, tracking, and sharing these little bits of information is so important in the creation of great content.
Evernote can help. Evernote, one of the most brilliant of free note-taking apps, collates information from various sources into a single interface to help keep your ideas organised and ready to act upon. It’s also easy to share thoughts using Evernote, allowing other members of your team to collaborate and pitch in.
As any content marketer knows, this isn’t a job that you can simply phone in. No matter what sort of content you’re creating, there’s a huge amount of effort that goes in, particularly in terms of outreach.
Wouldn’t it be a shame to put all that effort it, only to end up sending your ideas to generic email addresses, allowing your efforts to become lost at the bottom of a rarely-checked account? Of course it would! It’s absolutely essential to ensure your ideas end up in front of the right eyes. Every time.
With the Snov.io free email finder, which is just one of the many features offered by this comprehensive platform (it can even help you manage your entire campaign!), marketers can add another layer of personalization to their outreach campaigns, quickly and easily finding direct email addresses for the right people, at the right places.
You can start using Snov.io for free, with no credit card required.
At a time when there is a bigger disconnect between businesses and audiences than ever before, engaging with audiences and publishing content that they want to read has never been more important.
The big challenge, of course, is that what audiences want to read changes constantly in response to the natural evolution of customer behaviour. Marketers need to be able to adapt to their audience’s needs, ready and willing to produce the sort of content that matches the right needs, at the right time.
Easy? Not always. But Feedly can help. Feedly is one of the more alternative keyword research tools, analyzing major search trends to highlight the most widely read, most visited, and most in demand content on the web, across some of the most prolific sites such as the New York Times and YouTube.
We’ve already looked at some of the biggest challenges for content marketers, but we haven’t yet touched upon the most frustrating of all: writer’s block.
It happens to the best of us… the only difference is that the best of us use tools to generate inspiration and create something amazing. Overcoming writer’s block is all about taking notice of what’s happening at the moment and finding ideas that engage with audiences in the here and now; it’s getting the right ideas in front of the right eyes at the right time.
Google Trends is a similar — yet at the same time, entirely different — tool to Feedly. While Feedly provides marketers with access to the hottest topics of discussion on the web, this tool can actually break down real time search trends based on subregions, giving you great ideas to engage and attract.
Audiences don’t just want to read content that’s interesting to them. If they did, content marketing would be a piece of cake! Audiences also want to read content from businesses and brands that they can trust, so working to instill trust through the words you write is essential.
There are two ways to do this. Firstly, content should be accurate and show off your brand as an industry leader. Secondly, and perhaps most difficult, content should be PERFECT. A rogue spelling mistake could mean the end of the road.
With more than half of all audiences thinking there’s no excuse for confusing ‘your’ with ‘you’re (that’s right, nearly 60% of readers will run in the other direction if they spot bad spelling or grammar), Grammarly is a simple, completely free tool that picks up on mistakes before readers can spot them.
Perhaps one of the best ways to make yourself a better content marketer is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and really think about why you’ve chosen to read a particular piece of content.
For some people, it’s about entertainment, for others it’s about expanding knowledge, and for some it’s about learning more and gaining greater clarity through having their questions answered. So exactly what is your target audience asking? What do they want to know? How can you help them?
While topic generators are designed to analyze high performing content, Answer the Public does something a little different. This clever tool delves into what web users are searching for in real time, allowing you to create content that answers some of the most common questions in your industry.
Did you know that half of us share articles without actually reading them? Yep, headlines matter, so getting them right is essential.
While simply telling your audience what your content is about is technically enough to pass as a headline, there’s much more to a great headline than meets the eye. A great headline isn’t just descriptive; it’s also got a healthy mix of emotional and powerful words to attract and resonate, it’s the optimal length to grab attention, and it starts and ends strongly.
The Coschedule Headline Analyzer looks at the structure, grammar, and readability of your headlines, highlighting room for improvement and giving you handy pointers. We got a pretty impressive score of 77% for the headline of this article, which shows we’ve done the right things to attract our audience.
While we’re on the topic of sharing articles, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss one of the more overlooked aspects of content marketing: the URL. ‘But isn’t the body of the content more important?’ we hear you ask. Well, it doesn’t really work like that.
Body content is important for keeping audiences on your site, but don’t forget that the URL is what gets them there in the first place! Today’s audiences are pretty savvy, and a URL that looks long, complex, and possibly spammy isn’t going to get their clicks.
We really do have to give a well-deserved mention to Bitly. Bitly, the free URL shortener, helps you to create share-friendly, fully customizable descriptive links to the content you create, making it easy for readers to instantly know what each piece is about and instilling greater levels of trust in readers.
The invincibility of the marketing challenge
Some marketers set out with one goal: to destroy any challenges in their way by simply being great at what they do.
But here’s a little secret… marketing challenges are invincible. They may not always look the same, or feel the same, but the truth is that there will always be something standing in the way; it is impossible to eradicate every single challenge. We can’t destroy them… but we can work around them.
Tools are undoubtedly the best ways to effectively manage any obstacles in your way, and great marketers are the ones that don’t waste their time trying to get rid of problems, but find ways to hurdle over them through really making the most of the resources available.
Tools such as the ones mentioned above really are powerful navigators of change, helping content marketers to adapt as the lifecycle of the marketing challenge continues to evolve. But sometimes, finding the right tools isn’t always easy.
The concern right now is that free tools do not always equal the best tools, with many apps offering limited functionality in their more basic plans and packages. But that doesn’t mean that free tools should be overlooked altogether and, as we can see from above, some can be just what you need to succeed.