Top Tools for Efficient and Effective Content Marketing
Updated Aug 27, 2016
I use tools for online marketing, paid advertising, graphics design and communication. My tools help make my blogging more efficient and my social media more effective.
One thing I don't actually do is use tools for fun. I enjoy making my overall content marketing better, but I don't really enjoy taking the time to learn a new tool.
Can you relate to that?
Generally, I don't get excited about trying something new unless someone I know and trust has specifically told me, "Mike, why on Earth aren't you using this tool yet?" And even then, I'm reluctant. Too often, new tools have been time-consuming and disappointing. And of course after a while, those paid subscription tools can really add up!
So I'm careful about which tools I use, and which ones I take the time to evaluate and incorporate into my business processes.
But still, I do use a lot of tools. That's why broadcast hosts like Mia Voss have brought me on their shows just to talk shop. And it's why a great deal of the social media questions and comments I get from readers like yourself have to do with tools. What tools do I use? What are the best ones for x? Is x better than x? How are they different?
And so on.
I've published many different articles in the past on specific tools, and I'll provide links to those where appropriate. Today's article is, as you already know, an effort to document all of the different tools I use, broken down by Category. For each, I'll mention how and why I use that tool and give you a link so that you can grab it for yourself, as well as links to any additional resources I may have already created. So this is more than just a list of links.
Of course, some of these links will be affiliate links, and I'll indicate those where appropriate. Sometimes it's a small fee for the referral, while other times your action will result in both of us receiving something. Your participation is appreciated. :)
With that, let's get on with the list!
These are the tools that support my blogging, both from a content sourcing and creation point of view, as well as optimizing and promoting.
Evernote is my most important tool for blogging and content marketing. All of my blog post ideas, strategies and actual articles are born here. I use Evernote on my laptop, iPhone and iPad, as it automatically and immediately syncs all of my devices.
Google Drive & Google Docs / Slides
While I know that Evernote notes can be shared and edited, there are few collaboration tools better than Google Drive. Whenever I need a team member or colleague to work on a blog post with me, it gets shared via Google Drive. Often, I'll start the post in Evernote and then transition it to a Google Doc so that I can share it and we can mark it up together. I also use Google Docs and Google Slides for creating eBooks.
Drupal is the platform for my website, a professional-grade CMS, and therefore very critical to my online presence. I chose Drupal because, at the time, it was far more flexible than WordPress in terms of being able to create different kinds of content and manipulate how they're presented. After the first of the year, I will be updating my site to Drupal 8 with a new responsive design.
LiquidWeb is my preferred hosting company, and they've been providing incredible service and reliability for me for years. They offer both shared and dedicated hosting options [affiliate link].
For those of you creating your blogs on WordPress, or if you want to get started inexpensively, I strongly recommend Bluehost for your website hosting needs. [affiliate link]
Creating list posts (like this one) is a fun way to build a blog post. It gives you a nice way to structure the post, making it a little easier on the creative side. To make a list an Uber-List, I use List.ly. You can list items or links or videos, and you can allow other people to add to your list and even vote on items, making it interactive and crowdsourced.
Feedly is one of the tools that I use to keep an eye on my industry. I use Feedly to subscribe to RSS feeds from bloggers I trust, as well as press releases from the vendors and players I may want to write about. When Facebook, for instance, has a new feature, they write about it and publish to their Pressroom, and I can see that announcement immediately.
I use all-Apple devices, so I pay attention to the Available Updates within the Apple App Store. Since I'm in the social media and digital marketing industry, I recognized early on that significant updates to the apps we know and love - or new apps - might make for great blog posts. For me, this was just another form and source for newsjacking. (If you're on an Android device, you can use the same technique with the Google Play Store.)
Another source of information and material for me is Scoop It!, which I use for both content curation and content distribution. My Scoop.it topic is Content Marketing so I bring in articles from Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Copyblogger and others, as well as scooping my own articles.
Where would we be without Google Analytics? The ubiquitous tool gives me great insight into not just overall site traffic, but how individual posts are performing, and which articles are getting more traction in Google Search.
And since I'm a freak about analytics, I had to have an app for iOS that let me see Google Analytics reports on the go. Now, Google Analytics does finally have a mobile app for iOS, but I'm used to using iDashboard and still check it daily (ok, hourly).
WordPress sites often include the ability to "ping" (notify) other networks and websites that you have new content, but Drupal has never had such a feature. There are numerous websites and apps available, but I liked how Blog Pingy could sit on my iPhone and as soon as I have new content, I can open the app, my URL is already there, and with the tap of a button, ping 30+ sites.
A good monetization strategy for any blogger is a diverse monetization strategy. So I naturally combine affiliate links and relationships with paid advertising. Google AdSense may not be the most lucrative advertising system, but it's easy to set up and maintain.
Another critical component for any successful blogger is Email Marketing, and MailChimp [affiliate link] is my tool of choice. I've completely customized and styled the emails that I send so that they clearly reflect my blog and brand, and I use those emails to share new content and new ideas.
Another great option for my WordPress clients is to use AWeber [affiliate link] for their email marketing, since it creates a tight integration between customers and signups.
If you're going to truly excel at email marketing, you need to build your list, and SumoMe [affiliate link] is my tool of choice. SumoMe powers an incredibly smart and effective exit-intent popup that adds targeted subscribers to my list daily.
Web [affiliate link]
When promoting blog posts, I like to share them to sites that I refer to as "aggregators." These are sites that allow and encourage submissions of the latest news and articles within the industry. One that I've used consistently for years is BizSugar. I also use DoSplash and Inbound.org from time to time with varying degrees of success. If you're not blogging about online marketing and related topics, look for alternate aggregator sites to submit to.
Empire Avenue is at once an online game and social network. I've been a member of EA for years and have started many online friendships with peers and colleagues there as a result. When it comes to blogging, I use EA to announce new posts and encourage connections there to check them out.
JustRetweet is a "reciprocal sharing" network based on Twitter. Whenever I have a new blog post, I use JustRetweet [affiliate link] to encourage others to retweet my new content.
Similarly, ViralWoot [affiliate link] is a reciprocal sharing platform for Pinterest. It's great for getting a few more repins of your latest content, giving it a nice boost in visibility for very little effort.
For more details on how I promote my blog posts, be sure to check out:
Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion
It's important to me that I am focusing my business, and my content, on topics that are truly of interest to my target audience. A lot of that comes from intuition and experience, but it's also good to have data. That's where Keyword Research comes in.
One of the first places I go to understand search behavior and current results is Google Search itself. I can see what the current results are, get some ideas there, and also use the autocomplete of Google Search to get additional ideas. On mobile, it's the Google Now app.
Google Keyword Planner
Next, to review search volumes and/or cost of advertising, I use Google Keyword Planner. I can plug in specific keywords and get current data back on them, but to find other keywords I didn't think of, I use...
SBI! for WP
SBI! for WordPress does a lot, including the provision of access to a wealth of premium content on business building, but the main aspect of interest to me is the Brainstorm It! tool. Using Brainstorm It!, I can do keyword research that not only brings back keyword data, but also helps me to discover related keywords I hadn't thought of, and stores them all for me for later reference.
Of course, every blogger's toolbox should be filled with social media tools. From management and distribution, to the core apps that help keep you engaged and aware. These are the tools I use.
AgoraPulse has become my go-to tool for social media management. I am able to post and schedule posts to my brand accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, as well as queue posts for resharing. But what AgoraPulse does best is allow me to streamline how I see and respond to my 'social media inbox' - mentions and direct messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Thanks to the AgoraPulse mobile app, I have reduced the amount of time I spend responding to and thanking followers, while actually doing more. The app is able to filter out most of the spam DMs, while at the same time surface tweets that didn't directly mention me.
Post Planner is an invaluable tool for surfacing the most popular, most engaging content from around the web and within your niche, making it easy to share and schedule that content to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. You can pull in RSS feeds, other Facebook Pages, Twitter handles, and even Instagram feeds. Post Planner's unique algorithm scores each post and shows you the content with the highest potential within whatever category or post type you select. You can then share that content or schedule it out according to your needs.
Web [affiliate link]
Hootsuite used to be my default tool for social media since Hootsuite helps me post to multiple networks, maintain multiple Twitter profiles simultaneously, and monitor a variety of networks and key topics. I still recommend it for bloggers on a budget.
What the Buffer tool does exceedingly well is facilitate advanced scheduling of activity. Buffer lets you set up specific schedules for specific networks, queue up social shares, and then review how each performed.
If Google+ is an important platform for you, as it is for me, it makes sense to have one or more tools in place to help, and Friends+Me is perfect. It uses clever workarounds to help you schedule posts to personal profiles, communities and even collections. And, even better, Friends+Me can take those posts and replicate them to other platforms so that you don't have to manually cross-promote if you want the additional exposure.
Web [affiliate link]
With over 400 evergreen articles in my archive, and an environment on Twitter where tweets only live for 18 minutes, SocialOomph is my tool for maintaining a constant presence and active feed there.
Web [affiliate link]
The most effective way to increase your audience on Twitter, or really any platform, is to engage with other people. The problem is that initial, superficial engagement like Likes or Follows is incredibly time consuming and slow to develop. That kind of robotic activity is perfect for automation, and that's where SocialQuant comes in. After establishing specific keywords of interest, the tool automatically seeks out other Twitter users that might be interested in what you're talking about.
Web [affiliate link]
I use the bit.ly service to shorten and track a lot of the links that I share out, particularly ones where I want to be able to share the same shortened link over and over, like http://thesmh.co/BlogPromotionlogy. It integrates automatically with my Buffer and SocialOomph accounts.
Shareaholic is my preferred tool for social media sharing icons on my content. Enabling and encouraging my readers to share my content to their own social channels is critical, so I rely on Shareaholic to provide beautiful, customized buttons.
For my WordPress clients, Social Warfare [affiliate link] is my recommended tool for social media sharing icons.
Since Google+ is my most important social network, one of the most important apps on my iPhone is Google+.
Google My Business
Similarly, the Google My Business app provides mobile access and control over my Google+ Page.
The Facebook mobile app is certainly nice for keeping up with your friends and family, but it's also important to keep on top of mentions, comments and other engagement with my content on that platform.
Similarly, the Facebook Page* app provides mobile access and control over my Facebook Page(s).
The mobile LinkedIn app offers easy review of notifications, as well as great access to the news feed.
As I mentioned, I rarely use the native Twitter app as Hootsuite is far easier to manage multiple accounts. It's mostly for testing how other's are seeing activity on Twitter.
I use the Pinterest app 2 - 3 times per day to scan and curate new pins for my boards, as well as review notifications.
Of course, Instagram is basically a 100% mobile experience, so I use the app to share new blog posts to the network.
Another network that's focused on mobile, I've explored using Periscope to communicate events and product launches.
The live video arm of Google+, Hangouts have had a tremendous impact on my blog and audience. I prefer to appear as a guest on other people's Hangouts, but have hosted several of my own. Each Hangout offers an opportunity to connect with people and help them live, as well as produce a vide which can then be turned into a blog and/or podcast. I also use the mobile Hangouts app to communicate with key colleagues.
I use the mobile YouTube app to consume some of my favorite vlogger content, as well as search for relevant videos to share or embed in content.
This is the app that I use to maintain activity on Empire Avenue during the week. Most days I use it to review and expand investments in other members. I create missions from the web interface.
(no longer available for download)
I used to use Klout via the web, just once or twice a year, to monitor my score and make sure nothing significant had changed. Now, however, with the mobile app, I can use it once or twice a month to source some unique content to share that I might not have seen otherwise.
Triberr is one of the most powerful tools in my content marketing arsenal. Triberr allows me to connect with thousands of other bloggers who are all blogging about similar topics and building audiences interested in those topics. Triberr makes it easy for me to see and share their latest posts, and they do the same for me. The result is hundreds of tweets of my latest blog posts within hours and days of publishing.
CircleCount is one of the tools available to monitor Google+ activity, specifically, my personal account and my follower activity. I get a weekly email that summarizes who's circled me, my post engagement, and other key indicators of the account's performance that week.
Brandwatch is an incredibly insightful tool that helps me to measure my Twitter and Facebook performance, as well as do deep research into the performance or interest in specific campaigns and search terms.
Tailwind is one of the tools available to monitor Pinterest activity. I get a daily email with new followers, pin engagement, and other key indicators of the account's performance that day.
Web [affiliate link]
Note that I do have many other apps on my iPhone for other social networks, namely Foursquare, Vine, Meerkat, Snapchat, WhatApp, SlideShare and so on. Since I'm not active on those networks, I rarely use the apps. I do, however, use Netflix quite a bit. Does that count?
For me, the best SEO is when I'm creating great content around the topics my target audience is interested in (see Keyword Research above), so when it comes to SEO tools specifically, my needs are mostly for monitoring and optimizing.
SEMRush is my one and only SEO tool today. SEMrush [affiliate link] allows me to conduct audits as needed on specific domains, bringing back details reports on errors, issues and warnings which might adversely impact search ranking. I can also track my site's ranking for specific keywords. SEOquake is available for mobile and browser extensions.
Good blog and content imagery requires time, and a deep commitment to providing a consistent brand and enhanced reader experience. These tools help me accomplish that.
First and foremost, Canva is the tool I've adopted for all of my blog and social media graphics. I've developed a style and format for my regular blog images that I'm able to quickly replicate over and over.
This is the tool that I use to color pick images, or make sure that I'm using the right hex codes for my brand. It's a nice app for Mac OS, but there are all kinds of other options. I do like that I can save a scheme and have all of my brand colors easily accessible.
The stock images within Canva are $1 to use, but when I want something a little different, Pixabay is an outstanding resource. The images tend to feel less like stock photos, and they're free to use.
Another source for free images to use within blog posts is Flickr, though you have to make sure that the image owner has allowed such use, and give them credit within the blog post. I don't use Flickr very much any more, now that I have Canva and Pixabay.
Of course, nothing can replace creating images yourself, so my camera and Photos app come in quite handy. The trick is being open and aware of all of these methods so that when you have a blog post that needs an image, you can quickly review your options and go with the best one.
This has become my primary tool for taking screenshots and marking them up. Skitch offers great options for selection or timed screenshots, and the markup functionality is perfect for those example images embedded within blog posts.
And no business or blog would be complete without a handful of business-oriented tools, for things like accounting, billing, communication, and so on.
When it comes to invoicing clients, I've found FreshBooks to be one of the best possible tools. I can set up automatic recurring invoices, preset tasks and products, and accept payment online. It automatically sends out reminder notices, and is nicely brandable so that my clients always know they can trust what they're seeing as legitimate.
Of course, those invoices have to be paid somehow, and for that I use PayPal. It's almost universally accepted as a payment option for clients, and everyone else just sends a check.
This [affiliate link] is my tool of choice for creating custom landing pages, contests, campaigns and pop-up ads.
24-7 Press Release Newswire
When you have something newsworthy to say about your business, you're going to want to get journalists involved, and that still requires issuing a press release. Press release distribution services today include a variety of levels of service to meet your needs, whether it's simply getting copies of the release distributed to news syndication sites, or connecting your business with relevant media. 24-7 Press Release Newswire is my recommendation.
Google Webmaster Tools
GWT is where you can go to see how Google sees your website. Are all of your pages and posts indexed? Is Google running into any crawl or security errors? Reviewing the data here should be an easy part of your monthly routine so that nothing goes too long without being addressed.
While I don't do too much paid advertising for my blog and brand, it's something I've routinely experimented with, and that includes AdWords. It's particularly critical when you have a specific product you wish to promote. So while I wouldn't invest in promoting, say, a blog post, even if it's a good lead magnet, I certainly would invest in advertising my book.
It is important as a blogger to have access to each of the major internet browsers so that you can routinely check your site and posts to make sure they're being presented correctly everywhere (known as browser compatibility). But more importantly than that, the Chrome browser seems to have the best selection of browser extensions. I use Hootsuite, Buffer and Bit.ly extensions regularly, as well as Hangouts and SEMQuake from SEMRush. Hangouts and Blabs perform best in Chrome. So this is my default browser, and I use Safari and Firefox for clients, other logins, and testing.
I funnel all of my email through Gmail as it allows me to have a consistent email experience across all of my devices. I can send and receive from (and as) any of my professional email addresses, and don't have to worry about a computer downloading new messages which then won't be available for me to read on mobile.
At The Social Media Hat, it's just me, so there's no need for extensive project management and communication tools. At SiteSell however, as the CMO, I run the entire Marketing Department, and we depend on Basecamp to track and discuss our most important projects and initiatives.
I started using Skype more extensively when I joined SiteSell, and it's now an important part of my communication toolbox. We have permanent channels for our various departments and tiger teams, and it's also a great tool for conducting voice interviews for podcasting.
OVER TO YOU
Like any of my posts, this is one that I'll routinely update as new tools are evaluated and integrated, and older tools are abandoned or replaced. I think it's useful for me to keep a lofty eye on all the tools I'm using, and I hope that it's useful for you to see what's out there and perhaps discover a tool or two that you didn't know exist.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want to try one of these tools and I've provided an affiliate link, please use it. Every little bit helps me to be able to continue to experiment and share my findings with you.
And now, I'd love to hear from you! What stood out in this list to you? What's missing? In your experience, are there any other tools out there which are even better than what I've described? Please leave a comment below.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."