If you write content and need a directory to help you navigate all the amazing tools and services on the web, look no further.
After writing 538 professional blog posts* (and that’s the last time I’m going to hunt down all the articles I wrote for various clients), I decided to share the many tools I’ve found helpful to research, write, edit, and share amazing blogs.
*counted December 7, 2015. I didn’t recount for any updates, but you can look at my portfolio to see what I’ve been up to!
This article is broken into five major sections with subsections. I’ve added links below for ease of navigation. The full guide is ~9,000 words and growing, so I suggest jumping directly to whichever section you’re interested in.
Table of Contents
- Industry trends
- Audience research
- Customer research
- Building your own surveys
- Customer interviews
- Team brainstorms
- Competitor analysis
- Keyword and topic research
- Compiling your ideas
- Formulating your title
- Crafting an outline
- Content creation
- Content platform
- Website design
- Bonus: Code-free apps
- Editing and proofing
- Checking for duplicate content
- Create your own images
- Find royalty-free images online
- Screen capturing tools
- Video hosting and creation
- Repurposing your webinar recordings
- Search engine optimization
- Amplification and sharing
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Online communities
- Pitching your content
- Measuring results
- Web analytics
- Monitoring coverage
- Session replays
- Conversion optimization
1) Inspiration and collecting ideas
When collecting content ideas, start by looking at what’s happening in your industry, what your customers are saying, and what your team members have observed.
Beyond speaking directly with customers, Google Alerts is your eyes and ears on the web. This service will monitor for selected keywords, then alert you when they’re mentioned. For example, if you’re interested in online marketing, set up alerts for “inbound marketing” to receive emails when someone mentions that phrase online.
Talkwalker Alerts is a similar service that can inform you of what your audience is buzzing about.
Pocket is excellent for discovering and saving useful online content. If you find an interesting article, just add it to your Pocket account to revisit later.
Flipboard is a service similar to Pocket. On Flipboard, you can “flip” different articles you find into your own online magazines. You can also browse articles other users store in Pocket or Flipboard based on topics that interest you.
To find trends across different topics, Exploding Topics can help, exploring subjects like eCommerce, technology, travel, and more. In their free version, you can filter by pre-set categories and see which topics are “exploding” now based on search volume and history. This is a great way to see what your audience is searching for, what’s relevant to your business, and how to capture some of that traffic with your content.
Drilling down further than your entire industry, take a look at your target market and what they care about. Here are a few market research tools and services to get to know your audience better.
Audiense helps you identify similar relevant audiences to expand and segment your target customer. It uses social data for its analysis, and its web-style mapping and color-coding make it easy to visualize your customer base.
SparkToro is an audience analysis tool that provides insight into what your target audience is talking about, the blogs and podcasts they follow, and how they use their social profiles. You can input key terms your audience talks about, hashtags they use, social accounts they follow, or websites they visit to compile a profile of their other interests and channels.
Attest offers market insights via their own pool of respondents. You can set up your questions, set audience parameters, and they will deliver the results from their consumer database. They can also help craft personas from the results.
Pollfish is a market research service that gathers clean, quality data from your target audience using their audience network of real consumers across 160+ countries. You can create your own survey on their self-service platform, link to third-party surveys, and use their API access point to power your research. They have a variety of predefined questions, organized into type, to get you started, and offer the ability to embed media and add screening questions prior to taking the survey.
Dynata allows you to create your own surveys, either by yourself or with guidance from their team. They can handle the entire process on your behalf and build the survey for you, then gather insights from their own pool of consumers and deliver them to you.
SurveyMonkey Audience lets you select your audience, build your survey, and have results delivered straight to you without any fuss. They boast respondents from 100+ countries, up to 5,000 responses with a <3% margin of error, and bot and fraud protection.
AYTM (Ask Your Target Market) allows you to build and analyze a survey using their proprietary panel of more than 60 million respondents around the world. They can also perform research for you and deliver their compiled findings.
Respondent is a market research tool that lets you create research projects, set up budgets for respondents, and invite professionals with verified work information to participate. This tool goes beyond a simple survey, as you can conduct video calls, phone calls, or in-person discussions as well.
Conjoint.ly possesses a wealth of tools and support for product and pricing research. This isn’t necessarily market research simply for the sake of content creation (e.g., what topics your market cares about most), but it can be useful for figuring out your market based on what people would pay for your product. You can also learn what features are most important to your market, and create content around those.
Wynter helps you measure how well your messaging resonates with people in your target market. They do this a few ways: message testing for your website, ad, and email copy (you can use this on blogs as well), surveys, and verified B2B audience testing.
When you need to hear directly from your market, surveys are an easy way to test the waters and get quick feedback for your most burning questions. But how do you know what questions to ask and how to ask them so you get the answers you need?
Below are some tools for building surveys and holding customer interviews.
Building your own surveys
Bellini Slushie is an open-sourced survey question bank. It eliminates your need to crawl the internet searching for sample questions, types of questions, response options, phrasing, and quizzing colleagues to build a survey.
Typeform allows you to create interactive forms and surveys that are enjoyable for your audience to complete. It displays one question at a time to keep respondents engaged and features a library of photos and videos to embed. Conditional logic allows you to customize the questions that come next, making the form feel more intuitive to your viewer.
Google Forms is another way to send surveys; it’s a less custom and interactive experience than Typeform, but still allows you to add branding, images, videos, and custom logic. It’s easy to set up and use, and you can view responses in real time or export them to a worksheet.
Airtable allows you to create forms that go directly into a new database. You can then use add-ons to turn your data entries into charts to observe trends and takeaways.
Hotjar has a surveying tool that provides an in-app and on-website pop-up questionnaire to hear directly from your customers and visitors. You can use this tool to create and launch surveys all in one place. Plus, their heat mapping features can reveal where respondents drop off most frequently so you can place and adjust your survey for maximum responses.
PMF Survey is a free tool designed to help run the Sean Ellis test and measure your company’s product/market fit. The solution measures the percentage of users who would be disappointed if they could no longer use your product. Benchmarking suggests that 40% and above was the magic number needed for a company to succeed and grow.
Read: Is your customer exit survey giving you the insights you need? In this article, I share how to obtain the best data and insights from customer exit surveys, including key questions to ask.
I recommend setting aside half an hour every week to talk to one new customer (the good, the bad, and the ugly – don’t play favorites). Take off your marketer hat and dig into how they found you, what their buying triggers were, what annoys them about your product or service, and what content channels they favor.
Rather than trying to remember details post-interview or being distracted by taking notes, there are numerous tools to help you stay focused on your customer during the call and record all the important details for later review.
Tactiq converts audio to written text. It’s an official Technology Partner of Google Cloud and seamlessly integrates with Google Meet to reduce notetaking. Features include speaker identification, timestamps, and transcribing in real time. It integrates with Google Docs, Quip, Slack, Notion, Google Meet, Zoom, and more.
Fireflies is an AI assistant that records and transcribes meetings and allows you to search through recorded conversations. It has a meeting bot, “Fred,” which you can add via the email address in a meeting invite, or automatically join calls in your calendar. Fireflies integrates with major programs like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Teams, Google Calendar, Outlook, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more.
Rev uses both AI and human beings to convert audio and video to text. Pricing is per minute for human transcription, machine transcription, adding captions or foreign subtitles, or live captioning for Zoom meetings.
Otter can generate notes for meetings, interviews, and lectures. The software cleverly creates notes that sync audio, text, and images. It also records conversations and transcribes audio in real time. The basic plan is free, and there are paid versions with enhanced customization features as well.
Descript is an all-in-one audio and video editing tool to assist with podcasts, videos, screen recording, and transcripts. The company claims their video editing is as easy as editing a Word document. They have four pricing plans ranging from free to enterprise/custom pricing for larger teams with enhanced security, and they allow mixed teams with free members and paid editor subscriptions for only those who need it.
Avoma is a tool that summarizes a transcript’s key takeaways and pulls together a bulleted list of action items automatically. This makes it incredibly easy to highlight important quotes and follow-ups for yourself after the interview.
Epiphany organizes your audience research data so you can compile all your interview transcripts, survey responses, and even support tickets into one place. You can tag different insights for quick browsing, arrange key findings, and store your customer-inspired content ideas on a single platform.
Call recorders are an excellent option for capturing key information shared during a team content brainstorm; they capture not only what’s said, but what’s shown as well. So, if your data analyst pulls up trending blogs and shares their screen, you’ll have that context as well. Here are a few tools you can use to record your calls.
Gong integrates with your CRM software and works with web conferencing platforms to record calls, as well as transcribes sales call recordings.
Vidyard makes it easy to record and send videos with just a few clicks. Their free tool allows you to record your screen or webcam, send videos via email or LinkedIn, and track who watches the videos. They also have paid subscriptions with enhanced features.
Dialpad (formerly Uberconference) is a video conferencing tool that uses AI to take notes and action items from the meeting automatically. You can lean on this to capture the important details from your brainstorming sessions.
Look at your competitors to discover the keywords they rank for that have high business value and purchase intent. These are the same keywords and topics you want to target as well. For example, “blue Nike tennis shoes” has a higher purchase intent than “common shoe materials” since it implies someone wants to purchase specific shoes, versus doing a general search.
Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolkit that includes website optimization, competitor analysis, research on current customer search trends, industry content exploration, and rank tracking. You can use Ahrefs to look up competitor URLs and see where their backlinks come from and what keywords they rank for.
Pay attention to these keywords and gauge the value of that traffic. I identified some keywords my website ranks for organically and copied the results below. “Blog exchanges” doesn’t indicate high purchase intent, but it does show high educational intent, which is valuable because I teach others how to run blog exchanges (among other things).
Tip: Use Ahrefs to analyze your own website and discover opportunities for keywords you may have missed.
Similarly, Semrush is a one-stop platform for a variety of tools, including SEO checking, keyword research, content optimization and marketing, competitor research, website monetization, social media marketing and management, and more. The market research function exposes your competitors’ marketing tactics, showing traffic sources and categorizing your competitors, their target audiences, and promotion strategies.
Similarweb is another platform that combines research, market analysis, SEO and PPC, and data on your customer’s journey. Track trends and forecasting in real time, and you can accredit your website to boost trust with your audience. They also have their own browser extension that provides website traffic analysis as you browse the internet in real time so you can keep tabs on your competitors. A free version is available, and you can copy the URL of any website into their site directly and see global, country, and categorical rankings, traffic overview, total number of visits, and traffic sources.
Tip: Here’s a helpful technique to find how many articles a competitor published between two dates. You can use this to determine what publishing cadence to aim for or the number of new posts per month needed to generate traction.
Use this formula on Google: “site:[URL] before:[YYYY-MM-DD] after:[YYYY-MM-DD]”
For example, if I wanted to see how many articles my competitor publishes every month, I could use this search to see everything a competitor published during the month of August 2021: “site:competitor.com before:2021-09-01 after:2021-08-01”.
Keyword and topic research
To discover the best keywords for SEO and dig deeper into different topics, the following tools are a big help. They show how popular a keyword or phrase is via average searches per month and display how fierce the competition is for that ranking.
Keyword.io and Keyword Tool provide keyword suggestions taken from your searches. Keyword Tool uses Google’s autocomplete to recommend keywords based on an algorithm from objective factors such as how often past users have searched for a term. You can use these to find keywords that are sometimes hidden in Google Keyword Planner. Keyword.io lets you look across numerous websites (Google, Amazon, YouTube, Ebay, etc.)
Similarly, Keysearch seeks out relevant, low-competition keywords for your website, and includes SEO competition analysis and suggestions.
Keywords Everywhere gives access to metrics on the go via a browser add-on. Install on Chrome or Firefox to get active research.
Ubersuggest simplifies SEO by reverse engineering a competitor’s website and strategy to gain insight into what works for them and how you can adopt and improve upon it. In addition, you can use this tool to get different suggestions based on an initial keyword, and see rankings in terms of search volume, difficulty, and more.
Looking to tap into original data and insights to fuel your content?
Once you have your keyword and topic, use outreach tools like Help a B2B Writer and HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get expert quotes, information, and advice on content creation. Vancery can also connect you to professionals across the world to exchange knowledge and ideas through paid consulting projects. You can tap into these networks to reach experts in their field willing to share what they know.
Compiling your ideas
Several great tools exist to compile your data, collect ideas, and collaborate with other blog writers on your team. Evernote supports everything from short lists to lengthy research; Trello uses the kanban board system; Google Keep is like a personal post-it note board online; and Notion connects all projects and deadlines in one space with numerous templates.
Each of these tools allows you to write down your ideas and brainstorm useful resources for posts, such as helpful URLs, comments, ramblings, checklists, and more.
Bonus tool: Obsidian is a knowledge base you can build on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files. Depending on how you work, consider using this to map connections between your data and research.
Finally, you can put all your research to use with Avrio. This tool can share data analyses, user research, and other team findings with the rest of the company. It’s an excellent way to disseminate information with the context necessary for the entire company to understand and act on it.
2) Writing and editing
Formulating your title
Your title draws potential customers from the search results to your article, so you need to make it compelling and click-worthy.
1) Look at titles that perform well
2) Test some title ideas
Once you know your focus, there are plenty of title generator tools online that can help you develop an eye-catching headline.
You can use SEOPressor’s Blog Title Generator or Portent’s Content Idea Generator to create titles for you. Then, run your final choice through this title capitalization tool to make sure you capitalize the right words based on your style guide.
3) Promise answers
You can also search popular questions on Quora to discover what people are asking about your topic. Position your title as an answer to those inquiries.
You can also search for your topic on AnswerThePublic, which shows you questions people are asking related to your keyword. Below is one of their search results for “remote work.”
4) Make it engaging
When you have a title in mind, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to have it “graded.” This program will let you know if your title is too wordy and will recommend alternative words you can add to make it more engaging. Aim for a score of 70 or higher.
You can also check how engaging your headline is using Sharethrough, which provides you with a breakdown of strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for improvement.
5) Measure your emotional value
Finally, paste your title into the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer to measure its emotional marketing value. This will show you how compelling your title is and the emotion it evokes the strongest.
Crafting an outline
Look at the common questions people ask about your topic to determine what you should include in your article. Then, analyze search results and use tools that investigate questions and intent.
Start by typing in your keyword(s) and keyphrase(s) into Google and take note of the auto-filled suggestions.
Once you make the search, note the “People also ask” section, which highlights common questions related to your input. This is an excellent place to find key points for your outline. Be sure to answer all the common questions shown in the search results.
Employ some of the tools you used to formulate your title (e.g., Quora, AnswerThePublic) to discover other questions asked, then incorporate those into your outline.
Also look at any articles that capture the featured snippet in the search results. Take note of the key points they hit and craft an outline that’s more comprehensive and up to date.
Surfer has a search audit feature to help you refresh outdated content, identify SEO errors, and more, automating much of the work you’d otherwise need to do manually. Surfer will suggest keywords to boost SEO, analyze content length, and give you the option to compare yourself to the competitors of your choice, ensuring the tips and data you receive from Surfer are applicable to you.
MarketMuse accelerates the process of content research, creation, and optimization. Its automated content inventory quickly analyzes what you need to focus on, whether you’re at the research or writing stage, and the text editor gives live feedback with easy-to-follow colored flags.
Copysmith is an AI writing tool that helps you brainstorm topic ideas, generate content, and collaborate with your team. It offers everything from outline generators to full articles.
Frase is another AI tool that assists in the entire content writing process, including research, developing the brief, writing, optimization, and analysis. Frase promises to generate full-length content briefs in just six seconds, with a “Write for Me” feature that can autocomplete your sentences. Additionally, its dashboard shows content opportunities to highlight easy improvements that will boost your rankings.
Content Harmony is a subscription-based tool that aids in building content briefs. It helps identify and streamline keywords, study competitors, craft an outline that will cover readers’ key questions, cite and link sources, and detect any graphic and visual content needed.
Tip: If you choose to outsource your content creation, you can record video briefs for your writers using video tools like Vidyard and Loom. You can also find my project brief template in my content templates.
Next up is a platform to make your content accessible to your audience. My favorite content management system is WordPress. It’s customizable, beautifully designed, and has an intuitive user interface. WordPress.org also has a variety of plugins (I love Yoast for SEO) and eye-catching themes.
This blog, for example, is run on WordPress because it’s incredibly low maintenance, has striking themes, and is free. WordPress has a “distraction-free writing mode” that makes the visual/HTML editor full screen so you aren’t tempted to switch to a different tab or window.
Other website and blogging platforms include the following:
Ghost is great for start-ups and entrepreneurs in need of a website, as it provides a comprehensive platform that covers content, newsletters, members, and payments through simple, subscription-based billing.
Squarespace is great for creating simple and easily navigable websites that integrate payments and other related features. You pay one fee, and they take care of your domain and eCommerce compatibility. Numerous extensions are available if you need to add more features to your website.
Medium is a blogging platform I’ve personally used, and I find it easy to get your point across with it. Medium also has amazing blogs you can explore according to your chosen topics of interest (I signed up for their email digests and enjoy the articles they send). However, it has since started putting paywalls on some of their blogs, which limits reach.
If you have yet to find a blog design you like, you can create a prototype with Mockplus. You can design how you want your blogs to look, how the navigation should work, any footers or CTAs you want, and incorporate interactions to make the functionality crystal clear.
Once it’s live, you can use BugHerd to leave internal feedback directly on your live website or blog for tweaks and adjustment – perfect for calling out developer mistakes and fine-tuning.
Here are some other tools to help you build your website.
Figma speeds up the design process by connecting everyone in the team so they can diagram, add sticky notes, and workshop together using their online whiteboard, FigJam.
Zeplin allows you to pass designs to developers in a controlled manner. You can finalize using your favorite software – whether that’s Adobe XD, Photoshop, Figma, or Sketch – and hand them to developers to build upon while keeping the design locked. It also has an accessible workspace for collaboration across the whole team, including non-designers.
InVision is useful for digital product design, workflow management, and team collaboration. Their Freehand whiteboard app is free to use and makes the online collaboration process more inventive, hands-on, and visual to help teams work together. Their Cloud platform assists with putting together interactive prototypes, without the need for code – fantastic for when you know what you want, but are having a hard time communicating that to your developers.
Marvel can help you create prototypes out of your existing design mock-ups. Quick URL sharing and embedded codes means you can easily share your prototypes with developers, stakeholders, and your audience to gather feedback, or move along the design to the final product. Marvel also provides heatmaps, user testing to give you feedback via voice and video, and firm goals for your test users to complete.
Balsamiq helps build wireframes of your website that are easy for visitors to use and navigate. Think of it as a blueprint of what your site navigation should look like. They also have online resources and courses if you want to learn more about wireframing and UI design.
Bonus: Code-free apps
While we’re on the topic of website platforms and design, let’s take a quick peek at apps as well. After all, your content can live in multiple mediums.
Wix is much more than a website builder: it has all the tools you need to build and run your business with numerous features such as a logo designer, blog tools, online scheduling software that allows your customers to book services and pay directly, online stores for eCommerce, and SEO tools. No coding required.
AppSheet cleverly helps you move projects from spreadsheet to app, automating processes and saving you and your team time and energy. Some examples of AppSheet’s capabilities include signatures, delivery notifications, location data, barcode scanning, reports, capturing images, dashboards, emails, and applying your own steps and logic rules. It also syncs with numerous existing programs, such as Dropbox, Salesforce, Excel, Google Drive, and more.
If you’re interested in a channel that supports online courses and communities, Mighty Networks provides a customizable website platform that integrates these directly into the website for a seamless user experience. You can create memberships, subscriptions, and more, all with analytics at your fingertips to help you increase retention. It integrates with Zoom, Events, and more.
Similarly, Thinkific is an educational app that enables you to sell your own online courses and memberships, as well as build a customizable website. The integration of memberships and communities, quizzes and assessments, and live lessons are all at your fingertips to enhance learning for your users.
For interactive game creation, Stencyl does require coding experience, but you can add your own if you wish. It makes building game sequences and logic a breeze with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop style dashboard. You can reach just about any user or player since Stencyl integrates with all major platforms. Once you’ve built your game, the app can then help launch it on the App Store or Google Play, embed ads, and more.
For any type of relationship or matchmaking, CloudMatch allows you to create an app for it. It hails itself as “Tinder-style” with profiles, geographical matching, swiping through profiles, and chat rooms.
Editing and proofing
Once you have your keyword, title, and written article, it’s time to edit the content. Read over everything you wrote and use these tools to clean it up.
You can use one of the following to verify readability and discover frequent spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing:
Grammarly works as you type, checking your writing in real time. It can detect contextual spelling errors and will alert you if you use the wrong word, even if it’s spelled correctly. Extensions are available for Firefox and Chrome.
Hemingway App similarly analyzes your writing and offers suggestions, but only in the browser, so you either have to write directly or copy and paste your existing work in progress.
QuillBot can help you rewrite clumsy sentences by suggesting word and sentence structure changes. It has options for word substitution recommendations, such as how formal or elevated you want the language to be. However, it only allows 700 characters at a time for analysis.
Your article should be as accessible as possible; the goal is to make it simple for your audience to absorb and comprehend the information. Readable gives you a score on how easy it is for people to understand your writing, via copying and pasting your work or writing directly into the browser.
You can also use this free Readability Test tool by WebFX to evaluate your content from a URL or direct input.
Checking for duplicate content
If you outsource writing to external contractors, part of your editing process should include running their work through plagiarism checkers. This ensures you only upload original works to your website and avoid penalties for publishing duplicate content.
Whether you’ve outsourced or written content yourself and want to check, here are a few tools you can use:
Plagiarism Checker by Grammarly allows you either to enter text directly or upload a file. A free version is available and is commonly used by faculty and students at top-ranking universities.
Duplichecker is another free plagiarism checker with a premium version that has extra features and no ads. Check your work via direct input, file upload, or a webpage URL.
Plagium, also free for occasional use, has a Google Docs add-on available, or you can copy and paste text. For more frequent use, they have three levels of analysis (quick, deep, and file level to compare text documents) with transparent pricing per page.
Plagramme quickly scans even large documents via copy and paste in the browser. It’s free to use, or you can sign up for more features.
Quetext checks your documents using a color code for feedback so you can see how close your writing matches others’, from nearly exact to “fuzzy” matches. Free for light/occasional use, with a reasonable monthly subscription if desired.
A good post needs graphics. Engaging images and videos will boost your blog posts, but it’s important to make sure you have the necessary permissions for whatever you use.
Create your own images
Why not go completely custom? I love how easy the tools below are to use. You can select the perfect image sizes, and they provide stock images right on their platforms to make the user experience even easier.
My favorite is Canva. They have a library of templates, free stock photos and graphics, over 3,000 fonts, and more than 100 design types to help you create original graphics for your blogs. Their Pro version has even more templates and stock photos, audio, videos, and graphics, as well as higher-tier editing tools such as removing backgrounds and saving design templates.
Other image creation tools include:
Piktochart is great for creating clean infographics, reports, and posters that clearly communicate content. Their templates are easy to browse based on the intended outcome (e.g., “Ways to Increase Online Sales”).
Crello has a number of templates specifically labelled for each medium – Instagram post or story, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube Thumbnail, Intro, Banner, and more.
Pablo from Buffer doesn’t waste any time: their website jumps straight into creating your own image with a range of stock photos and templates.
Easelly is another great option to create infographics, and their template categories make it easy to get started with timelines, reports, comparisons, and more.
If you have some graphic design experience and just want a free photoshop-esque tool right in your browser, look no further than Photopea. It has a similar interface and features as Photoshop, with a UX most designers would recognize.
Pinetools’ Invert Colors can help you edit photos as well, with special effects like sharpening an image, adjusting color and lighting, inverting colors so you can find complementary palettes, and more.
Paletton’s color scheme creator helps you produce a color scheme and see coordinating hues with the click of a button.
Find royalty-free images online
You can search through a number of websites to find high-resolution, royalty-free photos to use without worrying about copyright infringement.
Gratisography claims to have “the world’s quirkiest collection” of free stock images, so if you’re looking for something a little creative and different, this may be the place to start.
Unsplash separates their photos into useful categories such as “Business & Work,” “Nature,” “Architecture,” and “Textures & Patterns.” Their pictures are sourced from professional and hobby photographers.
Pexels has a useful search tool that makes suggestions as you go to help you find the image you need. For example, searching for “Professional” returns a number of related suggestions.
Pixabay has a unique feature that allows you to search across free illustrations if you’re not looking for a photograph. They also have free stock photos, videos, and more.
Rawpixel has an excellent bank of free and paid photos to choose from that also include vector graphics, PSD mockups, PNG stickers, templates, and more.
Dreamstime provides stock photos, but also has a searchable database of royalty-free photos. You’ll need to create an account to download images without watermarks.
Burst is powered by Shopify and allows users to download both high- and low-resolution photos. Their Business Ideas are collections of free photos and case studies directly aimed at assisting eCommerce businesses, ranging from Bluetooth speakers to tea and makeup products.
Noun Project offers photos as well, but it’s their library of icons that makes them stand out from the crowd. Their free add-on version provides unlimited use of 100 icons that you can drag and drop into almost any Mac, Google, Adobe, or Microsoft project.
An extra tip for images: Use imgbox to upload photo galleries you’d like to keep available on the web, then edit or delete them with a link. You can leave comments in communities and forums if you don’t want to be seen as too spammy or endorsing your brand.
Moving on to videos. A video is a great way to summarize an article for visitors who aren’t in the mood to read, or who want to listen to the article in the background while they do something else.
If you don’t have a dedicated video team, record a video of yourself explaining a topic or host a few webinars (which are also great for lead generation). You can take clips of your webinar recordings and embed them into your articles where relevant.
Screen capturing tools
Screencast-O-Matic is a screen capture tool that can integrate screen recordings, video editing, stock images, screenshots, music, and more – all for easy video creation for training, marketing, and demos. It also allows for quick publishing across a variety of platforms.
Screencastify promises to be so easy to use, you’ll have the hang of it in the time it takes you to read a sentence. It captures live in your browser without having to download any software, allowing you to record, edit, and send/share as needed.
Loom also lets you create quick videos of your screen or webcam to assist virtual and hybrid workplaces. They have a free starter version and paid subscriptions with enhanced security features for larger businesses.
Video hosting and creation
Wistia is a video hosting service with a customizable platform that can group videos and podcasts together, and integrate with your CRM, advertising, and marketing tools to track engagement and A/B testing. The platform also has countless webinars, tools, and educational guides to help get you started. Its free version grants access to all the standard features on three videos or podcasts, with paid subscription plans available for extra capabilities.
PlayPlay is an online video maker that has all the tools you need to create interviews, ads, and visual storytelling. You can easily customize to add your branding and use their professional templates to get started. Their library has millions of free stock photos and videos to integrate with your content, and their formatting options let you create one video and adjust for different platforms (for example, landscape for website, square for social).
BombBomb is a video messaging service that allows you to record via your webcam, screen, or a combination of both. It integrates with your email service to send videos easily, the same way you’d send text, to give your recipient a simple gif preview that encourages them to click and watch.
Repurposing your webinar recordings
BigMarker is an excellent webinar tool that supports events of all sizes. They have a breadth of useful features you may or may not have even thought of, like redirecting webinar attendees to a certain URL once the event ends, or creating a presenter test room environment.
Demio is a no-download webinar service that makes registration and viewing a breeze for your customers. Event analysis at the end shows your audience’s attendance and focus rates. Demio integrates with a range of existing marketing software as well, making them a strong contender for small- to medium-sized events.
Livestorm is another webinar service that’s straightforward and easy to use. I recommend this one for small to mid-sized standalone events.They also support live polls and Q&A within the webinar, and have a no-download meeting product for virtual brainstorms.
4) SEO and sharing
Search engine optimization
Hooray for search engine optimization! I love SEO because it adds a technical aspect to a creative pursuit. SEO is like a game: our content competes with countless others to reach the top spot on search engine results and land on readers’ screens.
Use this Keyword Density Analyzer to ensure your article mentions your keyword with enough (but not too much) frequency.
Clearscope is a web-based tool that offers tips and suggestions as you write. Its easy-to-use dashboard displays a content grade, word count, readability score, and an overview of key terms. Clearscope guides you through the writing process, from keyword research and content outline to workflow management and content refresh. All plans include training, onboarding, support, unlimited exporting and sharing, flexibility to change plans, and a highly intuitive interface that makes it easy to jump in. It integrates with Google Docs and WordPress as well.
Lighthouse is an open-source tool for web developers. It plugs into Google Chrome and can run through any web page to audit SEO, accessibility, and performance. If you give Lighthouse a URL, it will produce a report that indicates how the page performed against a series of audits, each with a reference document providing further explanation and suggestion. The program can operate from the command line, in Chrome DevTools, as a Node module, or from a web UI so you can work however you prefer.
Finally, Ahrefs has a set of free Webmaster tools that gives website owners access to their Site Explorer and Site Audit tools.
Amplification and sharing
Next up comes amplification. This is how you disperse your content everywhere so your audience can see it.
A quick checklist of amplification channels:
- Email newsletter
- Social media
- Online communities
- External pitches
- Paid ads
You can follow a few email marketing best practices and share your content in your newsletter. Be sure to check your emails’ spam scores with an email spam test. You can also share them with marketing partners to see if they’ll add it to their own newsletters.
Some email marketing tools you may want to use are listed below.
HubSpot does so much more than just email, but thus far, its drag-and-drop builder has been my favorite to work with. Their UI is intuitive, and if you also use them as a CRM, you get easy access to an updated list of tagged and segmented contacts to email.
Constant Contact has an email template builder that includes mobile-optimized templates to suit a range of needs, along with reports in real time and analytics to show you how effective your campaign is.
Emma is a comprehensive email service that offers automation, segmentation, A/B testing, landing pages, analytics, and more. Share logos and templates across your team to save time and ensure consistent branding.
Goodbits helps you create email newsletters without prior coding or design experience. You can drag and drop saved content to add links and stored material to newsletters in minutes.
Mailchimp employs an AI creative assistant to help with design, audience management, automation, marketing across multiple platforms, and brand tools for a comprehensive email marketing experience.
GetResponse is an email tool that allows you to drag and drop content for easy customization. Templates, free stock photos and GIFs, and full customization of sections with desktop and mobile previews ensure you can deliver high-quality emails to your audience.
SendGrid by Twilio is an email service that can streamline email newsletters, promotional emails, shipping notifications, password resets, and more. They offer custom plans so your email campaigns have exactly what they need to succeed.
HEY claims to have “fixed emails.” It’s a comprehensive email service that organizes your inbox with a range of features. You can screen emails like call screening, bundle emails from the same sender into a single row, fix bad subject lines without starting a new email thread, send large files that are prohibited on other email services, add “reply later” and private notes to emails, and more.
I personally use Buffer to schedule social media shares across Twitter and LinkedIn. You can play your social posts across in advance and have them go live whenever you like. If you have a team working on your social profiles, you can set up drafts for approval to ensure only on-brand content is shared.
Hootsuite is another great social scheduling tool with stand-out analytics. I use them for many of my clients, since their reports are so customizable, in-depth, and easy to understand. As far as I know, they are the only platform that allows pre-scheduled Instagram posts and also has content libraries and calendars on its dashboard to make posting easier.
Sprout Social saves you the hassle of manually logging in and out of your social media accounts on their platforms to post content. It automates much of the process through helpful integrations and displays a broad overview so you can see your content calendar across multiple platforms.
Encourage blog readers to share your post by generating automatic sharing links with this Share Link Generator.
Social Warfare adds quick and customizable social share buttons to your website or blog without bogging down your loading times. It has numerous other features and benefits, including Twitter-friendly quotes, image-rich shares, and keeping your social share counts even if you change your domain name or move to SSL.
To expand your content reach, answer questions and provide information to online communities such as Quora (mentioned previously) and Reddit, both of which are digital forums with sections dedicated to specific topics and interests.
Here are a few other free channels and resources you can utilize to amplify your content:
- Bootstrappers is a collection of content across the web by and for bootstrapping entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers. You can sign up for a weekly email that helps you create, launch, and market your product.
- Digg allows you to create custom feeds and browse topics containing content across the web, reducing clutter, and delivering the content and stories you want to see.
- GrowthHackers is a community dedicated to sustainable and scalable growth, providing Q&A sessions with leaders, training, virtual events, and more.
- Hacker News is a community and news website with a focus on computer science and entrepreneurship.
- Mix is a platform that allows you to curate, share, and discover the best pages on the internet. Mix learns what you like to browse and makes suggestions. Note: StumbleUpon has migrated to Mix, as they were developed by the same makers.
- Quuu uses clever AI to help you source relevant content across the web to share on social media.
- Scoop.it allows you to create topic pages and private hubs where you can collect and share content to publish on your website, blog, or social media channels. If you use WordPress, it allows you to collate across multiple WordPress blogs.
- DZone connects technology professionals and software developers across the globe to share knowledge, tools, best practices, and strategies.
- Tech in Asia is a news website that covers topics relevant to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and innovators in Asia.
- Beacon is a company working on next-generation financial technology and infrastructure. They have a community dedicated to supporting inclusion, sharing information, and charity endeavors.
- Zest is a community for marketing professionals to share and help each other, and it has a convenient Chrome extension.
Pitching your content
Beyond social media, you can use JustReachOut to pitch to journalists and build sustainable PR strategies to enhance your exposure and publicity.
HARO (mentioned previously), is dedicated to connecting bloggers and journalists. Its simple pitching process targets expert sources in the field, industry, or experience needed for any project.
Help a B2B Writer (mentioned previously) is a similar service you should enroll in. If any questions relevant to your content pop up, send them directly to the writer for a more in-depth response.
5) Monitoring, analysis, and development
Almost done! After you publish your blog, you need to measure its performance. Google Analytics lets you see how many visits a certain blog post earns and how many views you get each day, week, month, or year. Check out where your visitors come from, how long they spend on your site, and where they go after they leave.
You should set up goals within Google Analytics so you can check the conversion rates of each of your blogs. You can measure these with first-touch, assisted, and last-touch attribution.
- First-touch: The blog was the entry point of an eventual conversion
- Assisted: The blog was visited sometime along the conversion path
- Last-touch: The blog was the last page viewed before conversion
Also on the Google suite list of tools, you can use Google Surveys to check for brand recall, and Google Search Console to see if people search for you by name, which can gauge consideration and assist you in optimizing your content to achieve better results.
Lighthouse (mentioned previously) is an add-on tool that helps you find focus inside Google Analytics. It links browsing activity to your site users, and segments activity by pages visited, location, and type of device used. Free and subscription versions are available.
You can also analyze your site or blog post with Moz’s Link Explorer to discover how many backlinks you received and where you’re mentioned on the web. Simply create a free Moz account, enter your webpage’s URL, and receive a report analyzing the page. This can show how you compare to competitors, fix broken links, and reduce spam.
Finally, you can pull all your dashboards together into one place with any of the tools below.
Databox pools data from multiple tools and allows you to track on any device. With 70+ native integrations and 300+ dashboard and template examples available, you can visualize data across numerous sources.
Google Data Studio will similarly pool data from numerous sources. The interface is more readily customizable, but it has fewer templates to choose from compared to Databox.
Metabase pulls multiple databases together, allowing you to create custom dashboards to edit, analyze, and share with your team. User-friendly to non-SQL users, it’s also SQL-friendly for those who know how to use it and want to ask deeper questions.
Dreamdata gives insight into every customer’s journey, from a first-time anonymous visitor to an existing subscriber. It shows actionable insights to boost revenue by streamlining multiple data points.
Baremetrics can help you reduce churn by providing insight into subscription data, with detailed analyses of month-to-month revenue, forecasting cash flow, and more.
Woopra is a related analytics and customer journey tool, connecting multiple data points (sales, support, marketing, and more) into one dashboard to give you actionable insights and analyses.
Klipfolio converts data into easy-to-skim dynamic visuals to help you and your team analyze leads, monthly recurring revenue, new conversions, and more.
If you don’t want to handle the analysis and attribution tracking yourself, Trust Insights is a service that provides training and education for marketers, and solves issues with data collection and measurement. They can also assist with data mining, analytics best practices, metrics selection, predictive analytics, and more.
A number of services exist that can help you monitor your brand’s reputation and mentions across the web. Below are just a few examples.
Mention allows you to monitor online media (including reviews, social media, news, and blogs) to see who’s talking about you. You can use this information to analyze competitors, build and nurture brand perception, and craft your social media strategy.
Talkwalker also helps you monitor what’s being said about you across the web. Their tool can create content clusters to help you better visualize all the topics your audience is talking about, and can automatically sort data points from text, images, video, or audio into custom categories.
Brand24 uses AI to segment mentions of your brand into three categories: positive, negative, and neutral. You can set alerts and notifications so you can join conversations to shift perceptions in live time.
Heatmaps show how your readers and viewers interact with your page, visualizing data through a color-code system representing different values. These can reveal, for example, how far your reader scrolled down a page or what they clicked on.
VisualEyes provides you with three key reports: Attention Map, Clarity Score, and Areas of Interest. Each of these serves to replace laborious Eye Tracking studies. Test designs before release to speed up product cycles and spend less time wavering on the particulars. It has a free version and a subscription starting at $17/month.
Similarly, Hotjar (mentioned previously) speeds up arduous data collection by providing heatmaps to show viewer behavior on your page, recordings that display your actual viewer experience, and feedback and surveys. Integrate with dozens of existing software and tools without worrying about data privacy compliance. A free version and subscriptions are available.
Heatmap integrates directly with your website to show heatmaps within seconds. It also automatically updates to maintain accuracy without needing to reload the page. Easy to install with a small footprint (i.e., won’t slow down your pages), the tool guarantees privacy for your readers, and you can order extra consulting services if you need more advanced data. It offers both a free version and subscriptions with a free trial.
Although it falls under the same umbrella as heatmaps, FullStory is slightly different: It provides session replays to reproduce a viewer’s experience on your website in video form. It can help you understand where the user is clicking, where they may get confused or frustrated, and how easy it is for them to find what they want. This provides a detailed picture rich in behavioral insights for you to act on, all while maintaining user privacy. Free version and free demos/trials for subscriptions are available.
VWO is an A/B testing tool that helps you test and obtain the data and analytics you need to see your content’s impact. Run variations, see conversion rates, and convert to revenue to see your performance statistics.
Mutiny helps optimize your content for conversations by cleverly identifying and targeting visitors with the correct next steps, depending on where they are in the conversion stage or other factors, including industry or company size. It can also help write headlines to improve conversion rates.
Appcues provides in-app notifications and website pop-ups that can boost your content’s revenue generation. Think strategically about using these, for example: directing a high-traffic, low-converting blog to a low-traffic, high-converting blog to close the sale for more people.
Here, I’ve listed a few other useful tools that don’t quite fit into any of the above categories.
We all need help concentrating from time to time. Brain.fm utilizes science to create the perfect background soundtrack to reduce distractions. They’re open about the research behind the music, with white papers and sleep studies if you want to learn more. Try five sessions for free.
For referrals, Growsurf can track who promotes your most popular content on your team or among your users. Features include copy-and-paste code to embed into your app or website, quick setup, automated reward fulfillment, and integration with your brand for a seamless, custom experience for your customers.
Wrapping up — Use the right content tools and strategies to elevate your efforts
With more than 200 content tools (and growing), there’s something out there to help you take your content creation to the next level. I hope you found something useful in this directory.
P.S. I keep a running list of neat new tools that come out so I can update this article every now and then. Did I miss your favorite tool? Please let me know!
Originally published December 7, 2015
Updated December 7, 2020
Updated December 15, 2021