Winter is upon us, which for me means two things: National Novel Writing Month, and a seemingly endless cycle of walking Dexter, bathing Dexter, then cleaning up all the mud he tracked over the house. I’ve been making do with the cleaning supplies I was able to steal from my mum’s house for the last couple of years. This did not include (among other things) a mop. Which meant that last winter I was cleaning the mud off the floors with a dishcloth.
I didn’t realise how laborious, tedious and utterly needless it was to crawl around on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor with a Terrycloth, until I got a cleaner…She lasted a week before demanding I bought her a mop.
It seemed like a perfectly reasonable request, so I obliged, but I hadn’t had occasion to use said mop until winter set in and the annual season of mud began.
My god, it was a REVELATION.
The ease of cleaning the floor that is afforded by an £8 B&Q mop can only be appreciated by a person that spent two years using a threadbare dishcloth.
Believe it or not, I do have a point…
Digital marketing is much like cleaning. It’s so much easier when you have the right tools.
Everything somehow feels sparkly and exciting when you have the perfect tool for the job at hand, even when that tool is as mundane as a mop.
Whether you’re using awesome blog posts to drive traffic to your site, crafting the perfect nurture sequence, of totally rocking your social media marketing, creating an effective content marketing strategy is a lot of work.
But with the right content marketing tools everything stops being a massive ball ache and actually becomes fun. Not only that, it’s faster, more efficient, more effective, and waaay easier to maintain.
With so many different moving parts in a comprehensive content marketing strategy, there is no one-size-solves-everything tool. There are, however, a lot of super-powerful tools that excel at very specific things.
I’ve spent the last few years fine tuning my own content marketing system and figuring out – through trial, error, and a lot of angry cussing when things went wrong – exactly which content marketing tools to use to ensure a everything works seamlessly…
#1 CoSchedule – Editorial Calendar, Scheduler And Planner
98% of my content is scheduled using one awesome tool: CoSchedule.
There are a few things I don’t schedule via this epic little editorial calendar, mainly videos that need uploading natively to a site, blog posts hosted on LinkedIn, and Instagram posts (it is capable of doing it, but it requires using the App rather than doing it directly from your desktop).
Otherwise, every piece of content I produce (both for myself and my clients) goes through CoSchedule.
The drag and drop calendar makes it ridiculously easy to use. It also includes other tools for super-easy content marketing such as automatic resharing of existing content, workflow templates, task templates, social media campaign templates, and the ability to assign tasks and posts to specific people in your team.
You can also integrate a lot of other tools with CoSchedule, including Evernote, Bitly and more. It works directly in WordPress, so you can access it on your website Dashboard as well as the desktop application and App, with the ability to edit and create posts anytime, anywhere.
As if that wasn’t enough it also comes with comprehensive reports on the performance of your content. Until very recently this was limited to a single report for all your social platforms, but they’re currently Beta testing a new system that provides bespoke reports for each individual platform.
I said there wasn’t a one-size-solves everything content marketing tool, but CoSchedule comes bloody close.
The downside to CoSchedule that it’s a paid System as a Service (SaaS). For functions like requeue and templates you need to get the higher end packages and it gets quite expensive.
I personally think it would be worth its weight in gold, if an intangible virtual system weighed the equivalent of a small elephant. I happily pay £215/month for the Growth Plan + Agency Pack + Requeue, with all the bells and whistles. My team and I can use it for all my content marketing, and all my clients who have The Divine Blogging Design with Scheduling.
#2 Google Analytics – Website Metrics
The more content marketing you do the more obsessed you become with metrics. This is good, but only if you have an effective way of collecting and analysing them.
It’s super-powerful, capable of giving you a detailed look at exactly which content is most popular, how much traffic you have, where it comes from, how long it stays, how much of it is new and how much returning, how long people stay on various posts, and how much money individual posts earn.
It’s free, easy to use, and simple to integrate with WordPress and a lot of other systems.
#3 Moz – SEO Research
While there are some amazing free resources you can use for SEO and keyword research (in particular Google’s Keyword Planner), my personal favourite tool to use in this area is Moz.
You can absolutely do all the research you need with free versions (and in fact Moz has free tools), but if you were to pay for an SEO research tool, Moz is the one to go for.
#4 ActiveCampaign – Email Marketing
I’ve tried a few different email marketing service providers over the years, including MailChimp, MadMimi and AWeber. They served me well when I was a noob, but when I started developing nurture sequences I switched over to ActiveCampaign. There were several reasons for this:
- I find it more user-friendly and very easy to use.
- There are a very good range of templates.
- The functions for autoresponder sequences are far more versatile and visually much easier to setup.
- It has great integration and works perfectly with my website and list-building tools – (mainly ClickFunnels, Thrive Leads, and Thrive Quiz Builder).
The downside of ActiveCampaign over the likes of MailChimp and MadMimi is that it’s a SaaS and there is no free option, regardless of how many subscribers you have. The price increases in proportion to the number of subscribers; it’s $23/month for up to 1000 subscribers and increases incrementally after that.
If you want to include the CRM and other functions available, that will also increase the price. At present I only have the basic option, as it does everything I need it to, but I did trial the more complicated versions and found them to be comprehensive and well worth the extra if you need the additional functionality.
#5 ClickFunnels – Sales Funnels
This one is a new discovery for me but thus far it’s proving to be another revelation. I signed up for the free trial to test ClickFunnels out ahead of overhauling my sales funnel in the new year. I was torn between ClickFunnels and InfusionSoft, but in the end the lack of a free trial on InfusionSoft, and the need to pay £1000 as for a non-optional setup lesson I didn’t need or want was the deal breaker.
I have no intention of setting up my sales funnels myself, as technical wizardry is well outside my zone of genius.
Honestly, I get Tech Rage (like Road Rage, but without the possibility of running people over).
Fortunately I have a fabulous web developer in the form of Chris over at Roots Creative, who is currently working on a brand spanking new website for TWCG, and a genius tech monkey in the form of digital marketer Robyn Kyberd at Optimise and Grow Online.
I love Robyn so much she’s actually joined the team and we’re about to roll out some exciting new options for The Divine Blogging Design, including full content upgrade and lead magnet setup and integrations, and sales funnel creation.
I plan and write, Robyn techs (yep, that totally need to be a verb!), and Liz (my new Social Media Manager) handles all the scheduling and social media post create.
It’s a dream team made in content marketing heaven…
Anyway, back to ClickFunnels. Robyn will be setting up a complex sales funnel to accommodate my growing business needs and offerings. I’ll do a more complete breakdown of that and ClickFunnels once it’s fully setup and I’m completely used to it, but the elements of the trial that won me over were:
- Excellent funnel templates, including one specifically designed for promoting books (I’m getting ready to launch Divine Blogging the book in the New Year, so this was very appealing!).
- A page creation system so simple even I can use it!
- Excellent integration with everything I need it to work with (WordPress, ActiveCampaign and Stripe).
- Competitive pricing – ClickFunnels is an SaaS, making it a fairly pricey ongoing cost, but compared to InfusionSoft and other alternatives it’s relatively inexpensive.
- No mandatory lesson in using it that I don’t need, want, or wish to pay £1K for!
#6 Schedugr.am – Instagram Scheduling
Although it is possible to schedule Instagram posts through CoSchedule, that wasn’t an option until very recently. Consequently I’m very used to using Schedugr.am for scheduling Instagram posts, and continue to use it despite CS now supporting Instagram.
Instagram are really picky about which software can directly schedule content to the platform. You can line your content up on CoSchedule, but still have to go into the App to publish it.
That, to me, is too much faff and a huge turn off.
This makes Instagram scheduling impossibly simple, and allows you to batch your scheduling without having to faff about doing it.
It may well be that CoSchedule’s Instagram function is a lot more user-friendly than I think, but at present I have a Nokia Lumia phone, that can’t support the CoSchedule App (which is required to schedule to Instagram).
Although I just got the iPad (literally last month) that can use the CS app, and haven’t looked at Instagram scheduling since getting it. So I don’t actually know what the app is like for Instagram.
For me though, the fact you have to faff around with the app at all, rather than being able to do everything from the CS desktop calendar (which is where I schedule everything else!) is more effort than I’m willing to spend.
The point of a scheduling system is to be as easily automated and simple as possible. Schedugr.am gives me that, so for now I’m sticking with what I know. When I have time I will investigate the CoSchedule Instagram function more.
Schedugr.am is a paid service, but it’s relatively inexpensive at $15/month.
#7 Outbrain – Paid Content Promo
This is one I have used for my clients, but don’t currently use for my own content. At some point, if I decide to run paid ads for my content rather than relying on SEO, and organic and free promotion via social media marketing and networking, I will use Outbrain.
It’s extremely simple to use, and allows you to either hook up your RSS feed, or add specific posts manually to a list. You set your audience and budget, and Outbrain takes care of the rest.
The premise is really simple. Outbrain places image links with meta descriptions in the ‘recommended posts’ section of posts read by your target audience.
It’s great because it doesn’t look like an advert, and will be genuinely related to the post in question.
Outbrain is a pay per click (PPC) ad service, and isn’t the cheapest. If you have an advertising budget it’s an excellent way of driving targeted traffic to your content and website, in a way that’s arguably far less intrusive for the user than, for example, sponsored posts on Facebook and other social media platforms.
It is not, however, by any means a vital addition to your content marketing tool kit – you can effectively promote your content without paid advertising if you have an effective system in place.
#8 GoToWebinar – Webinars
You may have noticed I don’t run live webinars very often. I have, in fact, only ever done one for The Write Copy Girl to date. I’ve always found the entire process of running webinars incredibly stressful. None of that stress and anxiety is due to the presentation itself (I used to lecture at Bangor uni, that part doesn’t bother me bit).
But the tech infuriates me. Tech in general infuriates me, which is why I love finding awesome tools that make it super-simple.
Webinars have previously been ineffective because I wasn’t able to get the technology working as it should. That meant losing all the huge list-building potential of the webinars, and struggling to get them to even run.
Then I discovered GoToWebinars.
The last webinar I ran was a huge success in comparison to previous efforts. The downside is that it’s a SaaS and not a cheap option.
But in my opinion, if you’re going to run webinars GoToWebinars is the only sane way to go about it. BUT, there’s a caveat:
That infrastructure is the one area of my own content marketing strategy that has been missing due to my own technical limitations. That’s set to change next year after the new website is live and the all-singing, all-dancing sales funnel I’ve created has been implemented by Robyn.
At that point, I’ll be using GoToWebinar regularly, because it will be worth the investment. At the moment, the amount of new leads I’m capable of attracting and converting is simply not high enough to justify the expense.
#9 Evernote – Content Creation
If you’re anything like me, ideas for content don’t conveniently hit you when you happen to be sitting at your computer, with a blank document open ready to receive them.
Instead, the muse strikes at random, varied and frequently inconvenient intervals.
I have a hoard of notebooks scattered about my world so there’s always something to write in, but there are several problems with this system:
- Most of them are full. This leads to writing on anything handy including (but by no means limited to) the paper bags they give you in the convenience car on Virgin trains, and my own skin.
- I frequently forget which notebook I wrote what in, leading to hours wasted fruitlessly searching.
- I often have a shower without typing up whatever is covering my limbs.
- Even more frequently I forget I had ideas entirely and stumble upon them again after the point they would have been most relevant.
To combat this I stopped writing in physical notebooks so much and transferred my idea creation and scribbling to the cloud. I use two systems for content creation now, Evernote and GoogleDocs (see below for that).
Evernote is perfect for when I’m on the go, and has been a particular blessing in recent years as I’ve had a desktop computer and no laptop. It’s only very recently I bought an iPad, prior to that if I had an idea when I was away from my desk (which happens on a daily basis, usually multiple times) I put it on Evernote on my phone.
Trains, bus stops, pubs, restaurants, cafes, my mum’s house, friends’ houses, and the wilds of Cheshire (which I frequently wander with Dexter) have been no obstacle to writing since I did this. I no longer have to remember a notebook with space in it and a functional pen (I always fail at the last part), I just need my phone.
And I always have my phone in case of emergency, or a desperate need to play Tetris (this happens more frequently than you might expect).
#10 Canva – Graphics
From the feature images on your blog posts, to the cover images on your YouTube videos, memes, in-text images, graphics, infographics, content upgrades, lead magnets, eBooks, print books, email marketing, not to mention your website and any physical packaging or advertising you may have, there’s no getting away from the need for images.
As long as you don’t need to do anything complex, like format the inside of a book, Canva will handle everything you need. It has templates, an easy-to-use drag-and-drop creation system, settings for your brand fonts and colours, masses of free templates and graphic elements, as well as both free and paid stock images, and the ability to magically copy and resize designs to fit multiple different platforms.
The latter is the biggest time saver ever. You can create one set of images for one platform, then resize them for all your other platforms.
#11 Movavi – Video Creation And Editing
I’m always banging on about the super awesome power of Video Marketing, and the biggest block people have (aside from being self-conscious!) is that they don’t know how to edit videos.
Because it’s technical and complicated and scary and shit.
As we’ve established, I’m a huge technophobe with zero patience for things like this, and yet somehow I’m perfectly content creating and editing all my own videos.
With ONE SERIOUSLY AWESOME TOOL.
This is a paid product, but it’s not an SaaS, so you only make one payment and that’s it – you own it. A personal licence will cost you around £75, while a business licence is about £130 (prices do vary, so check before you buy!).
For a full breakdown of all the kit required to totally rock your video marketing check out my Masterclass, How To Start A Vlog: All The Technical Needs…
#12 Issuu – Magazine Publication
Issuu is another thing I’ve been playing around with this year. I haven’t quite started using it yet, but fully intend to once I’m ready.
If you fancy publishing a magazine – as in, a real magazine, rather than a newsletter or series of post on your blog or website – Issuu is the way to do it.
It’s not cheap, but it’s very easy to use and has proven extremely effective for several people I know in several key areas:
- List Building (by giving your finished magazines away for free)
- Brand Awareness
- Generating Advertising Revenue
- Generating Passive Income (by charging for your magazines)
I am plotting a magazine of my own, which I originally intended to release this year, but ended up putting on a back burner so I could focus on getting the Divine Blogging book, free challenge, and eCourse out as soon as possible (watch out for those in the new year!).
When I finally get around to it I’ll blog more on the use of Issuu, but for now, suffice to say that if you’re looking to make a magazine part of your content marketing strategy, Issuu is the way to go!
#13 SurveyMonkey – Research
What is it about monkeys and marketing tools? Between MailChimp, SurveyMonkey and Monkey Web Apps it seems the world is obsessed with apes.
SurveyMonkey is a stupendously powerful tool for researching all that lovely content you’re creating. It’s also fabulous for market research.
There are two options: free and paid. The paid options aren’t cheap, but if you’re working on something BIG and need the weight of statistics behind it, it’s well worth it. Having original survey data (on a scale large enough to constitute a reasonable data pool, usually 100+ people) does a few things that are really tricky to achieve any other way:
- Makes your content 100% original, even if the subject you’re discussing has been talked about extensively elsewhere.
- Demonstrates your viewpoint, theory, or method is more than just a personal opinion but carries genuine weight.
- Builds trust with your readership as they have tangible proof that what you say is demonstrably true.
- Drives traffic (especially if your survey results demonstrate something controversial, previously unacknowledged or unknown, or extremely interesting).
- Naturally builds links to your content as people are forced to link to the source of the data you have collected if they want to use your stats.
- Helps you land guest blogging and PR opportunities by giving you a great hook and unique angle.
So paying for extensive surveys or large numbers of results can be well worth it. But there are loads of great ways to use SurveyMonkey for free.
You can create surveys with up to ten questions without charge, and share them as much as you like for free.
If you have an extensive network it’s entirely possible to collect a good number of results without having to pay for them (especially if you can afford to spend little on advertising or an incentive prize up for grabs).
Use surveys to monitor your own performance and client satisfaction.
I have a series of surveys I send to clients on The Divine Blogging Design to check in with them every two months, and shortly before they are due to renew their contract. It gives them a chance to easily tell me if they’re unhappy with anything so I have chance to fix it. It’s also very helpful for me in improving my services as it flags any areas that could be working better, or common problems clients are experiencing beyond the scope of the service, that I could solve by expanding it to include additional services.
For example, I have several clients who commented in their surveys that they loved the content I was creating but struggled to integrate the technical side of things in terms of hooking up content upgrades and lead magnets, and creating nurture sequences.
Due to my own technical ineptness, this was never included in The Divine Blogging Design originally, but it’s a natural need that arises for clients as a result of working with me. Unless they are technically capable, or have someone on staff who is, hooking up all the content I provide is an issue.
It was a no-brainer for me to expand the service to include technical support for those clients who needed it; they were literally asking for it!
The survey gave them an easy way of telling me what else I could do for them.
#14 Google Docs – Cloud Writing And Collaboration
As previously mentioned, content creation can lead to an overwhelming number of notebooks and an astonishing lack of organisation.
Or, you can use Google Docs…
Google Docs is perfect for content creation for oh, so many reasons, but the main ones are:
- Cloud storage so your data is safe, secure, and backed up in the event your computer melts under the force of so much typing.
- Super-easy sharing of documents between the numerous people who may need to work on it, from other team members to friends, family, and clients. (All my client work is done on Google Docs, allowing for super-easy sharing!)
- Tracking and commenting functions, which enable collaborators to ask questions, make edits, leave notes for each other, and communicate very quickly and easily directly on the document. It’s essentially a live document you can edit as you would with Tracked Changes in Word, but there’s no need to email it back and forth, upload it, download it, and try to coordinate changes made by multiple people and several different versions of one document. You can see who is viewing your document in real time, and even watch as they make changes to it. (This is actually kinda creepy…)
- Pretty much all the functionality of Word PLUS built-in HTML formatting. What does this mean? You can write a blog post in Google Docs and format it with headings, tables, and everything else you need, then copy it directly into your visual editor on WordPress and BAM, fully formatted blog post. (The only thing that won’t translate are images, which you will need to upload to your site and insert as usual.)
#15 WordPress – Website Creation
I’ve tried other website platforms and I just don’t like them. If you’re serious about content marketing, a WordPress site is a must-have. It has so much more functionality than other DIY website creation tools. The range of themes and plugins available for WordPress is far more extensive than other platforms. Your WP site will integrate seamlessly with pretty much anything.
Also, and I really can’t stress this enough…you can’t use a lot of the other tools without it.
CoSchedule is a WordPress plugin. For that reason alone, it’s worth having a WordPress site!
(No, I don’t get paid by CoSchedule for blathering on about how awesome they are. I gain nothing by recommending it other than a warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you’ll be floating on a cloud of Content Marketing bliss if you use it.)
#16 Character Count Online – Social Media Content Creation
This is the simplest tool on the list but it’s so useful!
Twitter may have just upped the character limit on Tweets to 280 but that doesn’t take away the need to obsessively count your characters.
Even if you’re not marketing on Twitter, most social media sites have some form of character limit in place (even Facebook, although it’s so high you usually don’t have to worry about hitting it). Simply paste whatever you want to use into the character counter and it will instantly tell you how many characters you’re dealing with.
A few things I find this super-helpful for:
- Writing Meta Data Descriptions (which are capped at 160 characters)
- Elevator Pitches
- Product Descriptions (for designs that have very limited space)
A couple of other handy tricks to count your characters if you don’t want to faff about copying and pasting. Use these shortcuts to bring up the word count (including characters with and without spaces):
In GoogleDocs, simply select the text you need to count and hit Ctrl+Shift+C (on Windows) or ⌘+Shift+C (on Mac).
In Microsoft Word, select your text and hit Ctrl+Shift+G (on Windows)…if you know how to do it on Mac please comment below and let me know and I will add it (I’m not a Mac used and I couldn’t find it!!).
#17 Designrr – Ludicrously Easy eBook/Content Upgrade Creation
Want to offer a downloadable eBook version of your blog post for people to read on the go? Copy your URL into Designrr, click a few buttons to select your template and BAM.
Instant Content Upgrade, zero design, technical skills, or extra writing required. Get PDF, Kindle and ePub versions!
#18 Thrive Quiz Builder – Lead Magnet Quiz Creation
This is another new one I’ve been experimenting with recently, and I love it. Part of the Design Blogging Design is the use of archetypes to build a really detailed profile of your ideal client, and tailor your content marketing schedule to appeal to their psychological makeup. There are twelve archetypes, and I wanted to create a quiz that would allow people to easily identify the main archetype of their ideal client.
After fiddling around with a few different quiz builders (I also tried DilogR and Viral Quiz Builder) I shelled out $97 and got Thrive Quiz Builder. (You can get it for $67 if you only want it for one site, but I got it with a 5 site license in case I wanted to use it elsewhere.)
Genius plugin, I love it so much!
It’s extremely responsive, has an incredibly easy-to-use drag-and-drop dashboard that lets you create complex quizzes very quickly, and is responsive enough to display bespoke content depending on the result of the quiz (vitally important!).
I’ll do a full review of it and some tutorials next year, but if you’re looking for a way to generate a ridiculous number of email signups with a hook that can be perfectly tailored to your core offering, a quiz is the way to go.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Ideal Client Archetype Quiz, which will be rolling out with the new website at the end of the year. And if you need help creating the perfect content marketing schedule for your business (complete with all the best content marketing tools!) book a discovery call now and let’s chat about what The Divine Blogging Design can do for you…