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’ve decided to share the many tools I’ve found useful to research, write, edit and share remarkable blogs.
*counted December 7, 2015. I didn’t recount for the update, but you can take a look at my portfolio to see what I’ve been doing!
Here’s what I’ll cover in this blog. Use the links to navigate through the article.
- For Inspiration and Collecting Ideas
- Doing Keyword and Topic Research
- Competitor Analysis
- Discovering Your Title
- Creating an Outline
- Writing and Publishing
- Every Good Post Needs Images
- Don’t Forget to Edit Your Article
- Search Engine Optimization
- Share It
- Measure Results
For Inspiration and Collecting Ideas
Evernote, Trello, and Google Keep are great tools for collecting ideas and collaborating with other blog writers on your team. Evernote supports everything from short lists to lengthy research, Trello uses the kanban board system and Google Keep is like your personal post-it note board on the web.
Each of these tools allows you to write your ideas down and brainstorm useful resources for each post, ie. helpful URLs, comments, rambles.
Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts are your eyes and ears on the web. These services will monitor the web for keywords that you determine, then alert you when they are mentioned. For example, if you’re interested in online marketing, set up alerts for “inbound marketing” to get emailed whenever someone mentions it online.
Pocket and Flipboard are excellent for discovering and saving interesting content from around the web. If you find an interesting article, just add it to your Pocket account to revisit later. On Flipboard you can “flip” different articles you find into your own personal online magazines. You can browse the articles that other users store in Pocket or Flipboard based on topics you’re interested in.
Want more? Kristi Hines collected 25 Resources for Content Marketers so you never run out of blog post ideas again.
Doing Keyword and Topic Research
These are the tools that I use to discover the best keyword to optimize for.
Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Canine, Semrush, and KeySearch are a small sampling of many tools that show how popular a keyword or phrase is via average searches per month. They also show how fierce the competition is for that ranking.
Keyword.io and Keyword Tool provide great keyword suggestions based on what you’re looking for. 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.
You can use Ahrefs to research your competitors. Look up their URLs and see where their backlinks are coming from and what keywords they’re ranking for.
Pay attention to which keywords they’re ranking for, and gauge the value of that traffic. For example, “blue Nike tennis shoes” has higher purchase intent than “common shoe materials” since it implies someone is looking to purchase specific shoes, versus doing a general discovery search.
I took a look at some keywords my website is ranking for organically and copied the results below. “Blog exchanges” doesn’t indicate high purchase intent, but it does show high educational intent that’s valuable, because I’m trying to teach others how to run blog exchanges.
Tip: Use Ahrefs to look up your own website and discover opportunities for keywords you may have missed.
Discovering Your Title
Buzzsumo and Content Explorer both show highly shared articles so you can draw inspiration from their titles. You can also search popular questions on Quora to find out what kind of questions people are asking about your topic. Position your title as an answer to those questions.
When you have a good title in mind, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to get it “graded.” It will let you know whether your title is too wordy, what types of words you can add to make it more engaging, etc.
Aim for a score of 70 or higher. If you’re having trouble getting your score up, you can also check out CoSchedule’s list of Power Words.
You can also use Portent’s Content Idea Generator to create titles for you, then run your title through this title capitalization tool to make sure you’re capitalizing the right words based on your style guide.
Finally, paste in your titles into the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer to measure your titles’ emotional marketing value. This will show you how compelling the title you’ve chosen is.
Here are the results from the headline analyzer when looking up this article’s title.
Here’s an awesome article on 9 Useful Headline Tools that has even more useful links.
Creating an Outline
Look at the common questions people ask around your topic to find out what you should include in your article. You can do this by analyzing search results and using tools that investigate questions and searcher intent.
Start by typing in your keyword(s) and keyphrase(s) into Google, and taking note of the auto-filled suggestions.
Then, once you make the search, you should note down the People also ask section that highlights common questions. This is an excellent place to find key points of your outline – be sure to answer all of the common questions shown in the search results.
You should also look at any articles capturing the featured snippet in the search results. Click into those articles, take note of the key points they hit, and craft an outline that is more comprehensive and up-to-date.
Finally, you can use tools like Answer the Public, which shows you questions people are searching related to your keyword. Below is what one of their search results look like for “remote work.”
Writing and Publishing
My absolute favorite content management system is WordPress. It’s customizable, beautifully designed, and has a great user interface. WordPress.org also has awesome plugins (my favorite is Yoast for SEO) and great themes.
This blog is run on WordPress.com because it’s incredibly low maintenance, still has awesome themes and it’s 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.
Medium and Ghost are a few other blogging platforms you can use to get your writing out there. I’ve personally used Medium and find it easy to simply get your point across. Medium also has some amazing blogs you can explore, I’m signed up to get email digests and always enjoy the articles they send.
If you want an incredibly simple website, you can also check out Squarespace. You pay one fee and they take care of your domain and e-commerce compatibility.
Every Good Post Needs Images
All great blog posts need awesome images. I’ve personally used Canva (my favorite), Piktochart, and Pablo from Buffer. I love how easy it is to use these tools! You can select the perfect image sizes and they provide stock images right in their platforms to make the user experience even easier.
Don’t Forget to Edit Your Article
Once you have your keyword, title, article, and images all set, it’s time to edit the content. Read over everything you wrote and use these tools to make sure it’s perfect.
Grammarly also has a Chrome extension that works as you type and will check your work in real-time. It is able to detect contextual spelling errors and will alert you if you use the wrong word even if it’s correctly spelled.
The readability score of your blog will tell you how easy it is for people to understand your writing. The goal is to make your article as accessible as possible. It should be easy to understand and absorb. You can use this Readability Test Tool to evaluate your content from a URL or direct input.
Search Engine Optimization
Hooray for search engine optimization! I love SEO because it adds a technical aspect to a creative pursuit. SEO is almost a game; Our content competes with other, endless content on the Internet to reach the top spot on search engine results and land on reader’s screens.
The Yoast plugin, as mentioned above, helps you create optimize articles based on a set of best practices. Here’s a quick rundown on SEO best practices and you can view an SEO article I wrote for 237 Marketing + Web – here.
Use this Keyword Density Analyzer to make sure your article includes your keyword enough (but not too much).
I use Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule social media shares (you can also find awesome gifs to add here). As far as I know, Hootsuite is the only platform that allows for pre-scheduled Instagram posts. Buffer is incredibly easy to use and can tell you when the best time to share for your audience is with their Optimal Scheduling tool.
*You will need to use WordPress.org to use these plugins.
Going beyond social media, you can use JustReachOut to pitch to journalists.
Here are a few other channels and resources you can use to amplify your content:
Almost done! After you publish your blog, make sure you measure the results. Google Analytics is awesome for seeing how many visits a certain blog post earned and how many views you’re getting each day, week, month, or year. Check out where your visitors are coming from, how long they’re spending on your site, and where they’re going after.
You can also analyze your site or blog post with Moz’s Open Site Explorer to discover how many backlinks you received and where you’re mentioned on the web.
What did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for checking out these 37 content creation tools. I hope you found something useful.
Originally published December 7, 2015
Updated December 7, 2020