13 Free (or Almost Free) Content Marketing Tools to Make You More Effective

May 17, 2016

One of the best things about living and working in this day and age? The absolute plethora of cool tools that help make us all look like geniuses. Here’s a quick round-up of the top 13 killer apps every content marketer should know about.

Keyword Research

1. Answer the Public: Don’t be fooled by the pretty face.
This web app offers a powerful way to explore topics and get into the heads of your audience. Type in a keyword, and the intrepid Seeker shows you questions people are Googling about it—as well as what happens when you add prepositions (like “for” or “with”). You also get a comprehensive alphabetical list, adding letters before and after your search term.

2. Übersuggest: Get a quick visual.
My favorite thing about this tool? The word cloud feature. When I type in “content marketing,” for example, “tools” shows up prominently, as well as “strategy,” “trends,” and, yes, “LinkedIn.” It’s a great way to start thinking about that next post. Übersuggest also gives you a long alphabetical list of search terms, but with additional follow-up features: Click on any suggestion to get more suggestions, see Google Trends data, and do a quick Google search.

3. Soovle: Go beyond basic search.
This simple tool gives you fewer suggestions at a time, but it shows you keyword auto-suggestions from up to 15 search engines at once. Customize your search by choosing from 27 different engines, including the basics: Google, Bing, YouTube and Amazon, as well as niche players: Yelp, Hulu, Foodista, and Dogpile.

Visual Design

4. Haiku Deck: Killer presos—no designer required.
If you haven’t discovered this one yet, get ready to breathe a sigh of relief. Imagine a tool that teaches you how to do presentations well, and then actually helps you put that knowledge into practice. Haiku Deck is great because, let’s be frank, no designer I’ve met ever jumped at the chance to do a PowerPoint. For the rest of us, who know what we want to say but need help putting it all together—it’s an absolute gift.

5. Piktochart: A designer’s library, at your disposal.
No matter how valuable your content, its chance of being useful depends in large part on how well you present it visually. That’s where Piktochart comes in. For infographics, charts, graphs and maps, or banners, this is my tool of choice. Its huge library of images and templates, along with its color and text manipulation features, helps make short work of high-impact visuals.

SEO

6. Rank Checker for Firefox: Down and dirty simplicity.
SEO can seem complicated but ultimately, you just need to understand why your content is (or is not) ranking high in search engine queries. Right? This free Firefox extension helps you keep tabs on how keywords rank on Google, Yahoo! and Live. You can also set it to run scheduled queries in the background to see how your rankings change over time. Save preset lists of keywords, pull from international versions of Google, and more.

7. SEO Tool Bar by Moz: Make SEO analysis a habit.
The SEO landscape changes constantly. If your job is to produce consistently popular content, it helps to keep an eye on competitor sites as well as your own. Moz Bar cuts down on the time it takes to do that research by showing it instantly, within search engine results pages. Get as detailed as you have time for, analyzing inbound links, page attributes, elements, and more. You can check keyword difficulty and get more detailed metrics with a paid subscription.

Automation

8. Buffer: Wrangle your social schedule.
Ever find yourself about to share an article about, oh, sleep deprivation (for example) and having second thoughts because it’s … 2am? Yeah. Buffer solves that problem. This social media publishing platform stands out for its drag-and-drop ability to schedule posts at the times they’re most likely to be seen and shared. You can also find excellent image posting tools here.

9. Hootsuite: Teams love it, for good reason.
If you’re managing managing multiple social networks or a team of social media marketers, you better have Hootsuite. It’s more than just scheduling and managing posts—you also need it to help keep the chaos at a minimum, delegate responsibilities, and bring structure to your social strategy. It’s also great for monitoring feeds, by the way.

10. IFTTT: Connect everything.
Can I have your recipe for that? It’s a question I used to ask my mom a lot. These days, my coworkers and I say it to each other quite a bit, but not because we’re spending time in the kitchen. IFTTT “recipes” help us connect divergent apps and web services to automate everyday tasks. You can use IFTTT recipes to automate social media posts. To generate an alert when your company is mentioned online. Or to turn the heat on at home when you leave the office at night. Seriously cool stuff.

Measurement

11. Google Analytics: Understand the numbers that matter most.
For deep insights into how audiences are interacting with your content, you can’t go wrong with GA. It’s simple to use and because almost everyone has it, you can find lots of tutorials and videos to help expand your repertoire. Use it to track audience behaviors in real time, find out where those audiences come from, and make good decisions about where to invest your content resources.

Writing Well

12. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: Instant clickability advice.
Do a search for “writing headlines,” and you’ll pull up loads of advice about emotional language, character count, specificity, and catchiness. The Headline Analyzer, on the other hand, just tells you whether you wrote a great headline—or a crappy one. Type in your best shot, and it spits out a score, along with explanations of what kinds of words are missing, what category type it falls into, and more. You can learn a lot with this tool, although its vocabulary seems a bit limited. (It doesn’t recognize “genius” as a “power” word. Go figure!)

13. The Hemingway App: Find your action verbs.
I love this app’s ability to point out passive voice, overly complex language, and pesky adverbs. If you have a tendency toward any of those issues, please Hemingway away. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to differentiate between complex but structurally clear sentences, and ones that are unnecessarily long and convoluted. Short sentences are great—but too many of them, and you start sounding like a robot, IMO.

Special Bonus Tool: The Most Dangerous Writing App

Having trouble just sitting down and getting the words out? This tool puts the pressure on and doesn’t let up until time’s up. It’s great—and also dangerous. (Thus the name.) If you stop for more than a few seconds, all is lost. Noooooo!

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