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Free Tools To Boost Your Content Marketing Planning And Distribution

Cat Fyson

by Cat Fyson on 23rd December 2013

bigstock-Array-Of-Tools-Isolated-4335135More and more businesses are now on board with the importance of content marketing, but its one thing to know how vital it is to your digital strategy and another to actually implement and stick to it as a valuable asset.

Let’s face it – for small businesses in particular with teams that are already stretched, finding the time to keep a blog updated, gain valuable links with guest blogging and increase brand awareness through other content mediums can be too much of an effort to comprehend. Not to mention the time needed to promote the content.

It doesn’t have to be hard though. By using some of these completely free tools available on the web, you can get organised and not only create a well-researched plan for your content, but you can also ensure you are targeting the right audiences for it.

Calendar Management

A popular excuse for not integrating content marketing into a business is the lack of time to manage it.

Here at Koozai we are fortunate enough to have the resources to update our blog every week day – and our blog schedule goes right up until Christmas Eve! No rest for the wicked here.

However, not every business can do this type of daily update, and they don’t always need to. You can update your company blog just once a week to appease Google’s guidelines on creating fresh content for your site. So how do you ensure this happens? By scheduling it in, of course.

There are loads of tools online that let you manage your time effectively. From built in tools on email management software such as Outlook, to plugins that can be downloaded via your site’s content management system.

WordPress Editorial Calendar

A particularly popular tool for WordPress is the Editorial Calendar plug in, which lets you do a few nifty things that make it a lot easier to manage exactly when your blog posts will go live, including being able to drag and drop your posts to change their post date.

Most of all though, it’s incredibly useful for visualising your planned blog posts. It also encourages a collaborative effort – if you have a small team of 4 who can each contribute a post a month, they can drop in their article and schedule it accordingly so that your blog stays populated regularly.

Wordpress Editorial CalendarWriting a blog post for your site does not have to take up a huge amount of time – by each team member dedicating a couple of hours a month to research and write a piece to upload and schedule, you effectively have a basic structure for your on-site content strategy.

Once you have an idea on a topic (more on coming up with those later), write it down with a few notes and a basic structure as this will make it much easier and quicker to write the piece.

Old School Tactics

If you fancy being a bit more retro, why not print out a calendar template and stick it on the office wall? Or if you have a whiteboard handy you can draw out your calendar. This is a great way of visualising and editing your content strategy as a whole, feeding in any planned off-site content as well, such as the date that any guest posts are due to go live so they can be promoted via your social platforms.

Research And Ideas

Now you know when to slot in content, you need to know what topics you can cover. Remember, content marketing is not about plugging your product or service – it’s about the topics around your product or service that your customers are interested in. You may also want to share industry insights, showing your business as experts in your specific field.

So which tools can help you research and determine the topics to talk about?

Feedly

There are several RSS feeds available online, Feedly just happens to be one of my favourites and the one that many of us here at Koozai use. An RSS feed allows you to add the URL of blogs that you read into one place so that you can easier catch up with articles that you have an interest in.

Feedly SearchOnce you have signed up to Feedly, use the ‘Add Content’ function to search for a topic, or specific URL to add to your feed. For example, if you operate within the Social Media industry, search for ‘Social Media’ for a list of blogs that cover this topic, or type in a blog you already know about and add it to your feed.

You can break your feed into categories, which is particularly useful for us as an agency keeping up with various different industries. For example, if I am creating content around motoring, I can create a Motoring category for key blogs in that niche, with a separate category for the Fashion blogs I follow to keep up-to-date for a client in that industry. Easy peasy.

Following industry blogs helps you come up with ideas of topics to cover, but it also allows you to keep an eye on any of your competitor’s content as well.

Pocket

If you come across interesting content that you haven’t got the time to look at straight away, Pocket is a brilliant tool for bookmarking content to come back to it later.

PocketAll you have to do is add the Chrome bookmark button, and whenever you come across an article you find interesting which might inspire a future piece of content, just click the Chrome extension button (you will be prompted to download this when you sign up), and it will be saved to your Pocket account. Alternatively, log into Pocket and click the + to save a URL from there.

The best thing about Pocket is that you can access the bookmarked content offline, so you can have a read on your commute or any other situations where you might be without Wifi. You can also access your Pocket account on the go via the app.

Using a tool like this is also handy for curating content around a particular topic to add strength and depth to your research.

Content Strategy Generator

The thought of sourcing relevant news and research on your industry might sound exhausting and incredibly time consuming, but SEOGadget have made this job easier with their Content Strategy Generator.

All you have to do is have a Google account, download their spreadsheet template by saving a copy, and then type in your search term in the “Search Query” section to see the latest news from a whole host of online resources. It takes some navigating, but it will certainly give you some inspiration as to how your industry is being discussed across the web.

As you can see in the screenshot below, when searching for “SEO”, results will appear for top news stories from various sources.

Content Strategy Generator

Keep this document to hand in your Google Docs folder to gather inspiration for content that is relevant to current news and events whenever you need it.

Quora

It goes without saying that you need to be creating content for your audience based on their wants and needs and what they find interesting or useful. Quora is a website that essentially acts as a platform for users to ask questions, and give answers.

quora

So what does this mean for your content strategy? Quora allows you to identify trends and find the questions that people are asking based around the service or product your business supplies.

Be aware that Quora shouldn’t be a one stop solution – it’s just handy for a little inspiration.

Twitter

Twitter is often cited as a news source – and has quickly become the birthing place of many big news stories of recent times. Use it to your advantage by listening to your key audiences – what do they Tweet about, and what sorts of content are they sharing? Set up Tweetdeck to monitor keywords, hashtags and lists of key influencers who are discussing your industry.

Distribution

Content marketing doesn’t ‘finish’ at the publishing stage. It needs to be promoted to your followers, as well as potential new audiences. There are a lot of tools on the web for scheduling updates, automatic posting and finding the key influencers.

Buffer

BufferBuffer gives you the option of manually inputting a date and time for sharing your updates, or will automatically schedule them for optimum times in the day depending on your followers’ behaviour. What’s more, Buffer supplies baseline analytics of how your update has performed as well, so you can tinker the timing of your posts to reflect this.

Twitterfeed

No time to manually type up Tweets or Facebook updates to go with your content? Set up an RSS feed on Twitterfeed that will post your content for you. Bear in mind though that a custom update with some text and perhaps an image to go with it will likely bring in more engagement than just the title and a link.

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a great way to discover content within your niche – making it another handy research tool. However, it also offers an Influencer Search that shows you the key players in your industry to engage with.

Buzzsumo

When searching for Influencers, type in your industry and click Search. You will be presented with a list of key players on Twitter, as well as data such as their number of Followers and Retweet ratio – you want to be looking for individuals with a decent number of followers and % of retweets to get a good idea of the likelihood that they will share and engage with your content.

Social Sharing Buttons

The promotion of your content doesn’t need to be exclusively left up to you –  read this great post from Yoast on how to add social buttons to all of your blog posts so that readers who enjoy your content can share it with their network easily.

Are there any more to add?

These are just some of the many tools available to help you save time in creating a robust content marketing strategy that will help you build your site, and business reputation.

Have I missed any of your favourite tools out? Or are there other areas of content marketing that you would like there to be free resources for? Let me know in the comments.

Image sources

Tools Image From BigStock Photo
WordPress Editorial Calendar Screenshot From WordPress

Cat Fyson

Cat Fyson

Cat works as a Content Marketing Executive at Koozai. Having studied an NCTJ accredited course at University, she has gained valuable skills in creative copywriting, press communications and research. She is an avid blogger and has a keen interest in popular culture and technologies.

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16 Comments

  • Henley Wing 23rd December 2013

    Great suggestions, Cat, and thanks for recommending BuzzSumo. The WordPress editorial plugin is something I need to check out, as it’s hard to keep disciplined when planning content to write.

    I’d love to see more tool suggestions on discovering influential authors (the Virante authorship tool comes to mind) – people you want to reach out to who can share your content.. and perhaps contribute for your blog. Author rank is gradually becoming very important these days.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 30th December 2013

      Hi Henley,

      Many thanks for reading and commenting on the post, Buzzsumo is a great tool that a colleague recommended to me. The Editorial calendar is great if planning and scheduling is becoming too time consuming.

      That authorship tool sounds great – and I agree I think there needs to be more tools for finding influencers across multiple platforms rather than just focusing on Twitter as most seem to do.

      Reply to this comment

  • Nic Beltramelli 24th December 2013

    Hi Cat, thanks for your post. Some other free tools?
    About research and ideas: Topsy
    About staying tuned with interesting contents: Flipboard
    About social distribution: Hootsuite. ;-)

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 30th December 2013

      Hi Nic,

      Many thanks for your comment. Topsy is a tool I still need to do a little research and exploration into. Flipboard is great for visualising interesting content, and I agree that Hootsuite can be great for distribution, my preference from experience lies in Tweetdeck, but it’s still a fab tool.

      Reply to this comment

  • Sergio Redondo 28th December 2013

    In Spain there is a web app called iKeendo (www.ikeendo.com). It’s a task management tool, but it can be used for a lot of things, ie, editorial calendar. In fact, you can find a post in their blog explaining how to create an editorial calendar with this tool.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 30th December 2013

      Hi Sergio,

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment on my post after recommending this tool over Twitter. Sounds like a great resource to add to the many task management software offerings out there.

      Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Wilkes 30th December 2013

    I found the article very helpful Cat, there were areas I just didn’t know such as Quora and Tweetdeck which change the dynamics of both blogging and connecting with others/traffic using social media, thanks

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 30th December 2013

      Hi Stephen,

      Many thanks for popping over from Google+ to comment on the post! Quora is an interesting resource for ideas certaintly. I’d highly recommend using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to not only share content, but monitor your competitor’s and also the types of content being shared that covers your industry.

      Reply to this comment

  • Gail Mullard 2nd January 2014

    Cat, great collection of inspirational resources (free to boot). Google and Bing News are great – don’t forget Google Alerts – daily inspiration about what is happening around the world!

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 3rd January 2014

      Hi Gail,

      Thanks so much for the comment. Free tools are always great! The Content Strategy tool is great because it brings up Google News and Bing News top stories, but I do agree that it’s certainly worth further utilising these sources. Google Alerts is another great one I use, thanks for the additions!

      Reply to this comment

  • Akash Agarwal 6th January 2014

    It’s a great post. I never try these tools to boost content marketing planning. All these tools are very new to me. Hope this will be helpful to me.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 6th January 2014

      Hi Akash,

      Many thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you do find the tools to be useful.

      Reply to this comment

  • Chris 7th January 2014

    For small businesses using WordPress – Spokal should be on that list! http://www.getspokal.com

    It’s a complete inbound marketing automation suite that doesn’t cost a college education, integrates directly with WordPress, and offers keyword research, content creation tools, lead scoring, tracking (even with ‘keyword not provided’), social media sharing, curating (through Feedly) and even a way to accelerate reach through Twitter.

    Integrates with the best out there including Buffer, Moz, SEMRush, AuthorityLabs, Feedly, Mailchimp, and more)

    Cheers!

    Reply to this comment

  • Sujay Maheshwari 24th January 2014

    Hi Cat Fyson,

    A nice compiled list. I think there should be one more “type” called as content curation – particularly using a platform like Netcurate.com which allows you to put your own “take” on an existing story, which gives you an opportunity to create minimal content, but which makes the most impact.

    Curation platforms are plenty and some of them are making a difference.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 24th January 2014

      Hi Sujay,

      Thanks for your comment – I completely agree that content curation is a good one, although I’d be careful creating content that is too ‘minimal’. It’s a delicate balance sometimes between being too meaty, or suffering from being too bare.

      Reply to this comment

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