Y ou know the value of creating and distributing content for your business or brand. It’s what powers your SEO, social, and email strategies, bringing consumers to your website. But content marketing is not just reserved solely for top-of-funnel tactics, it’s what moves your consumers into the consideration phrase, bringing your brand to life in a way standard marketing simply can’t, finally leading to conversion by aligning the topics you talk about with perfectly matched CTAs. Heck, this very blog post is a form of content marketing.
So how do you develop a great content strategy that is going to achieve results? For one, you can partner with a content marketing agency, like Hawthorn Creative, to do all the heavy lifting in terms of strategy, development, implementation, and reporting, so you can better focus your energy on other important business needs. But if that doesn’t seem to be in the budget (and it actually might, don’t be shy about reaching out), then you need to strap on that tool belt and get to work. What’s that? Your toolbelt’s empty? Here are some of our favorite free tools to help you hammer down a beautiful content strategy.
For Content Creation & Writing
We can’t even begin to tell you how many clients come to us scratching their heads over what they should even write about (our team of content experts – adept at finding the most novel and intriguing angles with regard to any subject – practically have content ideas coming out of their ears). If doing it yourself, the smartest approach is to take stock of what are some of the most common questions, challenges, pain points that come directly from your audience and shape your content ideas around that.
However, if you simply need some inspiration or some help crafting catchy titles for your next blog post, these two topic generator tools can help. Just type in a noun related to your topic (up to five nouns in Hubspot’s tool), and see what they spit out to find something that sticks. Just be aware: These tools don’t do any research around keywords or give you any information on top content in your market. Which leads us to our next tool.
There are dozens of keyword research tools out there, everything from Moz Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, SEMRush’s Keyword Overview, to good’ old Google Search Console. While many of these applications start with free queries, they usually eventual require some sort of paid subscription to search more queries or get more insights into the volume and competition level of keywords.
However, such tools can be overwhelming if you’re not already relatively steeped in keyword research. For a very user-friendly and visual keyword tool compiler, Answer The Public, visualizes search questions and suggested autocomplete searches in a “search cloud” image that tackles the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why, plus “how,” “can,” “are,” “which,” and “will”) that people are currently searching around the topic. So like Portent, all you have to do is input a topic, brand, or product (we suggest one to two words for best results) and it will spit out instant, raw search insights.
While we have staff copyeditors who get their eyes on every bit of content we pump out, this might be a bit luxury for your company. Still, the value of good grammar can’t be understated when it comes to best presenting your business or brand.
Enter this digital writing assistant that acts as a personal copyeditor, from grammar and spelling to style and tone. In the desktop app, simply drop your document (upload or copy and paste) into the online editor and let the AI get to work analyzing each sentence and looking for ways to improve it, whether it’s correcting a verb tense, suggesting a stronger synonym, or offering a clearer sentence structure. There’s even a browser extension that allows you to check your writing in email, Google Docs, and within your website CMSs.
Take Your Content Strategy into the Stratosphere
Content marketing is the engine powering all of your digital channels – without it, you’re going nowhere
For Visual Content Development
We live in the age of Instagram, where stunning visuals aren’t just a treat, they’re an expectation. That’s why when brands boost their content with graphics, visuals, and images, they see higher engagement, more shares, and more actions taken. So what do you do if you don’t have a photographer or designer at your fingertips? At the very least, you should always be pairing your blog content with high-quality imagery. Unsplash is one of the best places to find free images, plus one of the largest (it is now used more than Getty, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock combined) that is constantly growing. In fact, brands – like S’well, The New York Public Library, and Curology – are now even using it as their own visual marketing channel, proving that this is a visual content resource you’ll want to keep your eye on.
Adobe Spark and Canva
Both these tools are great for people who need to create visual content rapidly without a professional graphic designer, with thousands of pre-designed templates to choose from and a drag-and-drop editor that allows you to customize your creation. As for what you can create, with the exception of Adobe Spark also allowing you to create web page designs, both are used for anything from flyers to logos to cards; however, they are particularly popular when it comes to creating video and graphics for social posts. Our opinion is that Canva is a bit more user-friendly with an interface that is more intuitive.
One of the features that Canva and Adobe Spark lack is the ability to make your graphics interactive – after all, one of the ways to get consumers to engage more and longer with your content is to make it interactive. Skyrocketing in popularity during the pandemic among teachers as way to create audio-visual learning materials for remote learning, this software provides users with the ability to make interactive images, videos, and 360 content with links to share on social media (or you can upload your own images, add icons, and link back to your website or blog). It’s also easy to customize so you can match the look and feel of your brand.
Eye-Catching Visuals is a Marketing Must
Turn browsing into booking with photography and videography that captures your unique brand experience.
For Content Distribution
No, it’s not an email marketing software – just our content and email strategists’ favorite resource for curated email inspiration (not to mention, we love the brand’s killer tone – think informative, but cleverly funny). Essentially, they’ve taken thousands of real-life email examples and cataloged them across industries and types (everything from marketing newsletters to product launch emails to password resets to customer appreciation, and on). Not only can you access any email in the collection to see a visual design, they also provide insight into the frequency of email sends, the email service provider, the readability of the email (like whether or not images have alt text, etc.), plus, the actual code behind each design. So when it comes to pushing out your content via email, this is a resource that shows what’s on trend in terms of email strategy, why it works, and how you can do it for yourself.
Gone are the days of having to constantly change your Instagram bio link if you’re looking to share more than once piece of content (and after all, so many businesses would rather reserve that one linkable feature for their website url). However, thanks to new bio link tools, like Linktree or Instabio, brands can now easily create a landing page – kind of like a micro page – containing all your pertinent links (so think homepage URL, latest featured blog content, various pages from your website) to encourage clicks to other places. Then, the link to that mini-page is what you then put in your single Instagram link. The only con is that the landing page in these tools is often not super customizable to your brand style guidelines, unless you’re willing to pay for a subscription.
For Overarching Strategy
For additional content marketing insights, we’ve created a handful of our own downloadable guides, covering a range of subjects from how to make your social media account stand out (types of posts, ideal frequency, other ways to use Instagram or Facebook features) to managing a blog as your content hub and distribution point strategies. While we’ve catered the following guides to a few of our core client types (hotels and event venues), there’s still translatable lessons to be learned no matter your industry.