Here are a few free online tools that are pretty useful to help you kick off (or continue) your content marketing program. We use most of these on nearly a daily basis...
You can’t go past Google – no other (free) search engine comes close. We use quite a few of the functions in search, normally starting with searching the news section in Australia, before casting the net wider if we have to. It’s critical to have a number of different sources for your article, otherwise you will fall foul of Google’s duplicate content rules. We also will always quote our sources if we use any quotes verbatim from elsewhere.
2) Google Images
A text only piece may be perfectly fine for Google to rank you, but if you’re hoping to help/inform people, an appropriate image draws the eye, breaks up solid text and makes your article easier to read. When searching Google images we use the filter that shows us only those images that can be reused for free. Where we use an image we always give an image credit and a link back to the original image and the website where it appears.
Almost any search on Google will pop up Wikipedia on the first page. The temptation is of course to stop at Wikipedia and use this as your exclusive source. This approach not only puts you in the Google duplicate content firing line, but also your readers could have read the Wikipedia entry themselves – no added value. What we advise, and do for our clients, is use Wikipedia as one reference source, not the only one.
4) Google Alerts
Although you can do a manual search every 30 minutes on the topic/s you’re interested in, Google Alerts saves you the need to do this. We have alerts runnings for our clients and their areas of interest and are then able to suggest topical articles and stories, as well as also recommend engaging with the media where we think our client has the expertise the media might be looking for.
One of the best research tools! We recommend that your marketing strategy include a healthy dose of case studies and testimonials from customers, clients, in fact anyone that you work with. Clients, particularly business-to-business, see the added benefit of your promotion of their business through your publishing channels – a great win-win. The telephone is our preferred and recommended mechanism of interviewing our clients and our clients’ clients. Although we do sometimes use Skype.
Once you have your content, you need to get it out there. Here are some of the tools we use to do this…
Worpress is the default content management system for most websites around the world (around 80% apparently). It was originally built as a blogging platform and now has a huge range of free plugins available which enhance the way your website works – anything from popups to SEO tools to image galleries, as a matter of fact most applications you can think of. Also Google loves WordPress, we’re presuming because it is built for constant addition of content, something which Google likes.
The only word of warning with WordPress is that – as the most popular platform globally – it’s also the main target of hackers, so we recommend that you…
make sure you’re running the latest version of WordPress at all times
not use the default ‘admin’ control panel login (although be very careful before you delete this user if you have been using this login for a while)
install one of the popular security plugins
(disclaimer: if you are unsure about any of this, consult your IT/Wordpress consultant)
Probably the most widely used web-based email marketing tool, it’s a very sophisticated tool that allows you to run complex email marketing campaigns and monitor how well you are doing. It has a built-in autoresponder (which allows you to pre-schedule a series of emails to people who sign up to your lists) and split testing, which allows you to see which emails you send are getting the best response. And the other reason it’s popular is that it is free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers, although a few options are not available on the free version.
We started using Canva a year or so ago and found it insanely easy to use and pretty inexpensive - free most of the time. It is an online graphics system that is nothing like as complex as other ones out there, which are designed really for people who know their way around conventional graphic design software (which doesn’t include us!). With Canva you simply choose a suitable template, grab images and icons from their range of free and paid options (and paid ones are often just US$1) and type in any text you want to appear. When the graphic looks the way you want it to, you simply download it and use it.
You can’t go past YouTube as a way of communicating visually. It's also the second most used search engine after Google. Some people we know never watch any free-to-air television - it's all YouTube.
Facebook is an effective channel for both regular posts and communications and paid options, such as ads and boosted posts. Facebook now offers a dizzying array of (paid) options to communicate with your existing customers and 'fans' and identify and locate potential customers and fans.
Twitter is in our opinion not the first social media channel to go with, unless you are targeting specific groups who are active there. However we are long time users of Twitter and it can be useful if you are looking to get your message in front of the media in particular, since many journalists are active here. We perhaps should have put Twitter in the ‘Research Tools’ category above, because it can be incredibly useful as a research tool, to see what is being discussed in real time on whatever topic you are interested in.
If you sell to businesses, you have to be on LinkedIn. So much more than an online CV, it is now a publishing platform and a direct communications platform.