In the world of online marketing, content is king. (We're all familiar with the phrase Gary Vaynerchuk coined at the 2008 Blog World Expo, and yet, six years later, it still applies.) In fact, research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows that nearly all (93 percent) of B2B marketers now use content marketing and more than half (58 percent) plan to increase their content budgets throughout the remainder of 2014.
However, CMI's "B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends -- North America" report also indicates that marketers encounter significant challenges when it comes to creating the quality content they need to satisfy prospects and customers. Specifically, they suffer from a lack of adequate time to devote to content marketing and have trouble producing sufficient amounts of content.
So what can marketers do to make the content creation process, from start to finish, a little easier on themselves? The following is a look at 11 tools that make content marketing a snap.
I'm a writer by vocation, but I would be lying if I said there weren't times I felt fresh out of ideas. The dreaded blank page? We've all been there. Here are a few tools I regularly use to not only come up with ideas of what to write about, but also to make sure I'm writing about the kinds of things my target audience wants to read about:
Quora: Designed as a Q&A site for its community of users, Quora also works as a content discovery tool for marketers because it provides an idea of the types of questions readers are asking. Once registered, marketers can filter their newsfeed by relevant topics (e.g., content marketing, web marketing, writing, etc.) and elect to receive notifications about new questions being asked in any of those areas.
There are many ways to use Quora for idea generation, but I use it primarily to look for themes behind questions being answered and/or to identify popular questions that generate significant interest with users.
Feedly: Another great resource for blog inspiration is news aggregator Feedly (a source particularly useful when creating timely content such as industry news or articles that contain recent insights, research, or statistics). Stylish and streamlined, Feedly makes it easy to add, sort, or organize content that can be beneficial to content creation. In the screenshot below, I've highlighted results for the term "B2B marketing," which can easily be added to a user's stream by clicking the "+" button.
LinkedIn Groups: I'll admit that I sometimes overlook LinkedIn Groups for content ideas and focus instead on promoting content in groups that are relevant to whatever it is I'm covering (I participate in a number of different manufacturing groups, for example, because many of KoMarketing's clients are in this industry).
However, LinkedIn Groups can also be useful for idea generation. Similar to Quora, participants can use these groups to ask questions and/or solicit input from other group members. For content marketers, these insights can provide a way to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening in the industry as well as keep track of what's important to readers (not to mention build credibility within groups that can also be used for content promotion).
Unlike many of my peers in online marketing, I'm old school: To this day, I still keep a log of my content ideas in a plain, old spiral-bound notebook. While I do think it's handy to keep a small notepad on me at all times to jot down ideas as they come to me, I also recognize there are far more efficient (and practical) ways of keeping ideas organized. Here's a look at a few:
Basecamp: While Basecamp isn't a content marketing tool exclusively (it's a web-based project management tool that can be used across an organization), it's a good way to keep track of deadlines and archive content assets. At KoMarketing, we use Basecamp to set up milestones for upcoming assignments and for internal review of content, SEO, and social media projects (including drafts, communication between team members, etc.).
Set-up is pretty straightforward. Projects can be organized by client and messages (internal and client-facing), to-dos, events, etc. can be viewed under each client's subcategory. A central dashboard also shows upcoming milestones across all clients.
Google Spreadsheets: As my colleague Casie Gillette wrote in a recent Search Engine Land article, Google Spreadsheets may sound like an obvious way to stay organized and efficient (because they are basically just Excel), but they really are invaluable, especially with multiple people or teams working on a project.
One of the most effective uses for Google Spreadsheets, in my experience, has been for setting up content editorial calendars (such as the one below). Outlining the blog topics to be covered on specific dates and sharing the document with both my colleagues and the client allows everyone involved in the project to stay apprised of upcoming deliverables and make changes to the schedule as needed.
Evernote: Even those of us who fall into the old school camp can probably admit that keeping a stack of Moleskins by our desk isn't always the best way to stay organized. But, for relics like me who prefer the look and feel of a notebook, Evernote offers a nice (and much improved) alternative.
Evernote, an app that syncs across all devices (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.), can serve as a digital notebook of sorts. Roughly organized into notebooks that can be filled with notes, Evernote boasts some other cool features, such as the ability to share notes/notebooks with colleagues, the ability to attach files (Google Docs, images, etc.) to all notes, the ability to attach voice memos to notes, etc.
For content marketers on the go (whose best ideas, like mine, always seem to come to them while on the train or waiting in line for coffee or any other time outside the office), Evernote is a solution that can solve a lot of problems!
As any content marketer knows, blog post creation is only half the battle of content marketing. To drive measurable results, marketers also need to develop effective content promotion strategies (after all, what's the use in creating a winning piece of content if no one's going to read it?). The following is a list of tools that can make the process easier:
Click to Tweet: How many times have you read through a blog and found the information so valuable and insightful that you've wanted to get it out to your social network immediately? If you're a content marketer, the answer is likely daily. But now answer this: How many times have you spent longer than you'd like scrolling through the blog to find the most share friendly information to tweet out to your followers?
With Click to Tweet, a quick and easy way to advertise a blog, all the promotion work is taken care of in advance. Here's how it works: When creating a piece of content, marketers can log in with Twitter, write the tweet they'd want to share with others, and click the "Generate New Link" button to create a custom link (see below). Best of all, the link allows marketers to track the activity of each link over time so they can determine what's been most successful.
BuzzStream: As I mentioned above, even the most brilliant content won't drive substantial website traffic if it isn't placed in front of the right audience. To help with this effort, link building and PR tool BuzzStream can prove critical to content marketers. BuzzStream helps marketers increase visibility, gain links, and drive traffic to content by identifying social influencers in the industry.
Buzzstream's Email Research Tool in particular allows content marketers to enter basic information (i.e., name, company, website), and then it automatically generates Google searches to help them identify influencer email addresses.
Google+ Ripples: Ripples is a data visualization graph built into Google+, which shows specific Google+ users who have shared a particular piece of content. When viewing a ripple, the original poster displays at the center of the circle, with Google+ users who have subsequently shared the content appearing as smaller circles connected to the center by straight lines.
As my colleague Ryan Young wrote in a recent blog post about content promotion, "the ripple effect of specific pieces of content allows users to gain a better understanding of what certain Google+ influencers are more likely to share."
Analysis and reporting
The content marketing lifecycle, of course, comes full circle. After a particular piece of content has been created and promoted via social media, it's time for a thorough analysis to determine what types of content will drive future strategies (i.e., what has been most successful versus what hasn't). Here's a look at a couple of tools that can be helpful with this effort:
BuzzSumo: In a nutshell, this web-based software tool allows users to enter a specific URL into the search query box, generating results on who shared that piece of content across various social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, as well as overall shares). In the screenshot below, I've highlighted results from my company's website over the past month, which can be filtered by content type and date and sorted by social channel.
Aside from providing information on who has shared content (which can lead to future interactions and relationship building with key industry influencers), BuzzSumo also helps with content discovery. Larry Kim notes in a Search Engine Watch article from June 2014 that BuzzSumo can identify trending topics broken down by individual article, which can then be rearranged and sorted by social channel and exported as a spreadsheet. "This tells me, at a glance," he says, "which stories are circulating the web via social -- an often reliable indication of whether something is worth reading."
Google Analytics: I won't spend too much time on Analytics, since anyone in content marketing is (hopefully!) using it on a weekly and monthly (if not daily) basis for tracking website traffic, measuring content, SEO, and social media efforts, creating customized reports, and so on.
However, due to the sheer amount of data Analytics provides, it can be difficult (and even intimidating) to figure out what type of information will be most useful for content marketing purposes. The following is a list of recent articles that can help clarify how to use Analytics for content marketing analysis and reporting:
- "Content Marketing Strategy: 3 Ways to Measure Success with Google Analytics"
- "Google Analytics: How to Make Smart Marketing Decisions"
- "8 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Measure the Success of Your Content Marketing"
Of course, there's no "magic bullet" for achieving content marketing success. Building out an effective and comprehensive content marketing program takes a significant investment in time and departmental collaboration (content, social, SEO, PR, etc.) to drive actionable results. However, the above content marketing tools can make the actual content creation and execution process much simpler, allowing marketers to focus on what they can do to continually improve their content marketing initiatives.
Which tools, applications, and/or services has your company used for content marketing success? Which would you add (or remove) from the above list?
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