6 awesome content writing tools you should be using

When it comes down to it, writing content can be painstaking. Even the most accomplished writers and those buzzing with fresh and exciting ideas struggle. They’ll find themselves staring at that poster on the wall, twiddling their thumbs and wondering where their next 400 words are coming from. The good news is this: there are lots of helpful and creative people out there, and they’ve come up with many handy content writing tools.

Here are 6 tools that we found particularly useful for all stages of the content writing process.

Quora

Use this tool for: Research, generating ideas and adding bulk to content

Get inspiration for content by visiting Quora, a social networking site that operates on a question and answer discussion basis. Sign up, pose your question and have it answered by experts in your industry, or identify trends from grouped topics. The likes of Stephen Fry, Rand Fishkin and Ashton Kutcher are all present and active on the site.

Quora is particularly useful for gathering quotes to add colour to your content, although of course you should always be aware of provenance. This article by SEMRush outlines the benefits of Quora for marketers.

InboundWriter

Use this tool for: Informing your content creation plan

How often have you and your team sat down to discuss content formulation, only to find yourselves doodling on scraps of paper and making outlandish suggestions that you know are never going to work?

Available as a web app or a WordPress plug-in, InboundWriter is invaluable when you’re forming your content creation plan. It provides marketers with an idea of how well content will perform prior to it even being written, using research data from across the web to analyse how that topic or area of interest is resonating with web users.

The tool can also recommend keywords for you to use; the only downside is that, unlike the other resources detailed in this article, it isn’t free.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” into the Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser. This received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!

Hemingway

Use this tool for: Cutting initial drafts and fine-tuning copy

Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and he almost never wasted a word. His unique and tight writing style substituted lengthy, flowery prose for short, minimalist sentences. He also used plenty of repetition and relied on punctuation to convey meaning to the reader.

Nobody expects you to write like a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Yet this handy little editing tool can give you suggestions on where to improve. Hemingway highlights sentences and words for clarity and readability and flags up use of the passive voice.

Don’t get caught up in trying to impress your readership. As content marketing whiz kid Neil Patel suggests: “you want to write as simply as possible to reach the biggest audience.” Paste your copy into the editor when finished and tweak where necessary.

Yes, we did check this paragraph in Hemingway. Here’s the original copy for an idea of how it works.

AtomicWriter

Use this tool for: Tailoring the voice of your content to your target audience

When you’re marketing a business or topic that you know like the back of your hand, it can be hard to look at it ‘from the outside’, as your readers would.

This brilliant tool, created by Toronto-based Atomic Reach and available as a WordPress plugin, is designed to help you stay on track with your blogging. It syncs with Google Analytics and your social media accounts, using this data to accurately inform how you can tailor your blog content to your target audience.

AtomicWriter is simple to use; just enter your copy into WordPress as usual and the plug-in will give you suggestions on how you can alter your post to make it clearer for the readership you had in mind. Articles are scored with a numerical Atomic Score (the higher the better) and you’ll be given an indication of Audience Match, which determines whether or not you should tweak further.

Quora - one of the best content writing tools
Quora – great for content research

Grammarly

Use this tool for: The final proofreading and editing stage

Not everyone is a naturally talented writer and most of us don’t have the time to be combing through finished drafts looking for errors. However, content rife with errors screams of a business that is unprofessional, so what do you do?

Grammarly is a plug-in that checks and corrects any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes it finds in your text. Grammarly works with all major browsers, as well as Microsoft Office, and will appear in any text editors or dialog boxes you open, in the form of a small, green, clickable circle. You have to sign up to Grammarly, but it isn’t intrusive, and doesn’t take much effort to use. The alternative could include simple mistakes such as this, so using this tool is a no brainer.

Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser

Use this tool for: Finding effective headlines

Choosing an effective headline is notoriously difficult. It can often be tempting just to summarise the basics of the article or adopt a lazy, clichéd pun and move on to the next item on your to-do list. However, as Jodi Harris highlights for Content Marketing Institute, there are a number of aspects you need to conform to, all of which seemingly contradict each other.

Advanced Marketing Institute’s free, web-based tool is handy as it gives you an idea of the emotional response your headline will garner with your audience.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” which received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!

The analyser isn’t perfect and it doesn’t really give you an idea of the keywords you need to use, but it’s useful for helping you understand what your readership looks out for.

These six content writing tools alone won’t provide a magic solution, but have a play with them and see what you think. You might learn something new!

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SEM-Tool.com Review

There are hundreds of SEO tools out there, each with different features and pros and cons.

One of the most in-demand features right now is keyword research and ideation. As Google continues to refine its algorithm, and reward those who are regularly publishing quality, relevant content, SEOs are increasingly looking to create this content on a regular basis.

Finding the phrases that people are commonly searching for when creating this content is a constant challenge, and a new platform, SEM Tool, has been designed specifically to help with this. In this review, I’ll look at the product in more detail.

SEM-Tool.com homepage
SEM-Tool.com homepage

First impressions

The site has a clean design and a clear user interface with a box to enter your desired head search term, as well as check boxes for various different search engines and other sites. Users can search for results on the following sites:

Google
Bing
YouTube
Amazon
DuckDuckGo
eBay
Google Play
Qwant
Wikipedia
WolframAlpha
Yahoo
Yandex

Users can also filter results by country. To test out the tool I entered the term blog writers.

Free vs. paid features

For free, users can search for keyword ideas based on data from the sites above. For an additional fee, they can see search volume, estimated cost per click and view their domain’s position for the terms listed in the results.

Shortly after signing up, I received an email from an account manager informing me that I had received some complimentary free credits to use some of the paid features on the site, which was a nice touch and enabled me to try out some of the paid-for features.

SEM Tools results page
SEM Tools results page

Accessing and using the data

Once you have performed a search, you can view the results in a series of columns, which can be toggled to view data in ascending/descending order. You can also download the results in a .xls/csv spreadsheet, which enables you to manipulate the data further.

Summary

As I started out by saying, there are hundreds of SEO tools on the market, many of which contain the features of SEM-Tool.com and more. Whether or not this product will be able to compete given its fairly limited functionality remains to be seen – the addition of a more detailed Rankings Tracker and ‘Potential Analysis’ features listed on the site as ‘coming soon’ may broaden its appeal.

This is a simple, useful tool, which will be a great help to those in need of keyword ideation for content marketing. It won’t, however, replace your chosen suite of SEO tools just yet.

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Ask an SEO – Jonathan Argile of twentysix

In the first Ask an SEO feature of 2015 I chatted with Jonathan Argile. I asked him about his role as Head of Search Operations at twentysix and the SEO trends we can expect to see in the year ahead.

Jonathan Argile
Jonathan Argile twentysix.

Q) Hi Jonathan, could you start by telling us how you got into SEO?

A) My history is not the typical “agency” SEO background you would expect.  I actually started working across SEO in some form or another during my university placement year which was a client side marketing role and then further developing in additional Digital Marketing roles client side before moving to agency. These roles however also included working across other digital marketing elements such as email marketing, paid search and aspects of development.

I only started working in a pure SEO role once I moved agency side back in 2012 with a role at Stickyeyes, before moving across the City Centre to start at twentysix in the summer of 2014.

Q) Tell us a bit about your agency, twentysix?

A) twentysix is a full service digital marketing agency with offices in Leeds, London, New York and Singapore. Our services within the Search area of the business include SEO, PPC, social media, affiliates and CRO making up over 40 members of Staff with a further 60 plus staff members working within the Development side of the business which includes Mobile & Website Development and our UX team.

twentysix is a fast paced, passionate agency where we have a real hunger to drive the best ROI for our clients.

Q) Leeds has a thriving digital marketing community, what’s it like to be part of it?


A) Leeds is a fantastic hotbed of search agencies with great pool of talented individuals which is ultimately pushing the industry forward, especially in Yorkshire. twentysix itself has some really strong competition from some great rival agencies which means we are pushed regularly to be one of the best and consistently develop and enhance our proposition.

Media City Leeds
Media City Leeds

Q) What is the first thing you do when you start a new SEO campaign for a client?


A) It really depends on what our client’s objectives are and what the scope of work is. This can be anything from technical analysis to data gathering and analytical reporting or even pure outreach and creative campaigns. But what we take real pride in is our complete immersion within a client and their activities; we are ultimately as an agency an extension of their company and so should be fully integrated and up to speed with everything that they are.

Q) As an agency, what are the metrics and KPIs that campaigns are measured against?


A) We focus on real world results. Rankings and search visibility are great, but there are far too many inaccuracies and uncertainties within third party metrics such as Moz’s domain authority, which means as an agency we can use these as comparison metrics but not alone.

We work to bottom line figures; we’re driven by the client’s KPIs and their business needs to drive the best ROI. Reporting, accountability and transparency are the core to our approach.

Q) What has been the most significant change in your time in SEO?


A) There have been so many changes across digital as a whole from the rise of mobile search to the launch of Panda, Penguin and Pigeon algorithm updates, but “not provided” has been a real game changer for not just agencies but clients themselves. There has been a real shift from having SEO KPIs purely based on rankings to incorporating traffic, revenue and overall organic visibility of brands and that ranking for “Golden” high volume terms are not the be all and end all of SEO campaigns. There is so much more that agencies should be focussing on such as the actual monetary return on investment for clients and showing a clear bottom line progression.

Q) What are your SEO predictions for the year ahead?


A)  SEO evolves so fast that most predictions within this industry are blown out of the water with something completely new and unthought-of by the end of the year. What I really see in the year ahead includes:
•    The further development and refinement of the recent Pigeon update within the UK market.
•    A real focus from clients on the closer unity of SEO within the digital marketing mix. How SEO impacts and reacts with the other marketing channels.
•    Further refinement from Google on the Penguin algorithm and the manipulation within a sites backlink profile.
•    A significant change within mobile search from how Google interacts with un-optimised sites.
•    A better understanding from Google on user experience and how this differs between markets and industries, UX is not one size fits all and certainly isn’t determined by Google but remains with the user.
•    The rise of new technology – the game isn’t just desktop, mobile and tablet, welcome to smart watches and many more devices.

Watch out for more Google Pigeon updates
Watch out for more Google Pigeon updates

Q) What are your top SEO tips for sites with little/no budget?


A) As a business clearly define realistic key organic search objectives and make your agency work for you not the other way around. Be realistic in where you are and where you want to be, if you have clear objectives you won’t get led down the wrong path. Be aware that search engine optimisation is not an off the shelf product or one off buy, it is a continual process of implementation and development which should be involved and integrated with all of your marketing activities.

Q) What are your favourite SEO tools and why?


A) As far as I am concerned, SEO is all about variety, there are some fantastic tools in the market from link analysis tools such as Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs to visibility and ranking platforms such as Searchmetrics and Brightedge but never forget Google’s continually developing arsenal of testing and reporting tools within Webmaster tools and analytics. Working in SEO, we should always test and try new tools in the marketplace because we are always pushing the barriers and can never stand still.

Everyone's favourite SEO Rockstar - Rand Fishkin
Everyone’s favourite SEO Rockstar – Rand Fishkin

Q)Who are your favourite SEO ‘rockstars’?
A) The SEO community is such a diverse group of professionals with varying knowledge, expertise and advice. Personally I am open to listening and reading to as many peoples and agencies opinions as possible. I have a tweetdeck specifically set up to follow blogs, agencies, SEO and digital marketers which is constantly updated when I come across interesting new information which I could test and implement across my clients.

For any person wanting to develop their knowledge of SEO the UK has some great events and conferences such as Searchlove and Brighton SEO, which really highlight the quality the UK has in SEO professionals, but I would also highly recommend following guys like Bill Slawski, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz and of course Mr Matt Cutts.

Read up on sites like SearchEngineLand, SearchEngineWatch, SEORoundtable and read the detailed information across Moz’s Blogs and guides. But don’t forget the UK market is a very different animal to US so take some information with a pinch of salt!

 

Are you an SEO with a story to tell? Email help(at)copify.com to be featured.

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Ask an SEO – Matt Beswick on automation with APIs

Matt Beswick
Matt Beswick

Automating some of the tasks that are carried out as part of an SEO campaign can give you a competitive advantage and also help those who are stretched in terms of resource. But with Google seemingly cracking down on any form of scalable, relatively easy form of link building, is it still possible to automate tasks by using APIs?

I put this, along with other questions to an SEO and API fan Matt Beswick.

Q) Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, how did you get into the weird and wonderful world of SEO?

A) Completely by accident! I started out developing Facebook games in late 2007 and stumbled across a formula that really took off. We went from 0 to 150,000 daily players within a few weeks which enabled me to leave my job and start Hidden Pixel. From there we just had a natural evolution into running marketing campaigns for clients and SEO formed part of that.

Q) Can you tell us a bit about the team at Hidden Pixel?

A) We’re a fairly disparate team based all over the world who, other than our developers, work from home. We have copywriters out in Ireland and the US, a designer in Amsterdam and Romania, a dev team in Ukraine, and outsource any process work via oDesk.

Q) You run an integrated web design and marketing agency – how do you ensure that designers and developers take SEO considerations into account when putting together a site?

A) Unfortunately it comes down to micro-management and, so far, I haven’t worked out a way of getting past that. There’s definitely a process of ongoing education and our developers are pretty much set now (Google haven’t indexed a dev site for at least 6 months!) but everything still gets fully briefed, documented and checked to make sure there aren’t any balls-ups.

Q) With the recent changes Google is making, is it not becoming virtually impossible to automate link building activity?

A) For brands, thankfully, yes. You can still semi-automate a lot if you have the correct processes in place but even well templated outreach is now giving diminishing returns. That’s how it should be though, isn’t it? Old school directory submissions are equivalent to sticking your business card in as many phone boxes as possible and hoping that someone sees it.


The really interesting thing I’ve noticed recently is that some of the most outspoken affiliate marketers are slowly but surely starting to admit that their software isn’t working as well as it used to and there’s no at least an element of manual outreach needed. If they’re saying that then the tide is definitely turning!

Q) What does a typical SEO report look like for you? what data is in it?

A) Reporting is definitely a weakness for us, which is being addressed at the moment. We use a mixture of Raven Tools, Google Analytics, AWR, and Excel… but I wouldn’t honestly be able to say that our reports are anywhere near as good as they should be. Give me a month, though, and they will be!

Q) How do you deal with ‘that’ SEO client – the one who refuses to allow access to their site/action recommendations/do anything in the least bit creative/funny/interesting?

A) We either don’t take them on, or we get rid. Seriously – if the client won’t work with you then it’s not worth keeping them on. As a business owner turning down a monthly retainer is hard to do but it works out better for everyone in the end.

Q) What are the metrics/KPIs you agree on when doing client SEO work?

A) If at all possible, traffic and sales / enquiries. You can send ranking and link reports until the cows come home but at the end of the day, for most, it’s all about the bottom line.

Q) Why are you not using the Copify API?? 😉

A) I knew you’d ask that… and I’ve got nothing but an apology. We’ll rectify that soon 😉

SEMrush
SEMrush

Q) You have written about SEO APIs extensively, but if you had to choose one along to recommend, which would it be?

A) The SEMRush API has saved me hundreds of man hours in competitor and keyword research so that’s the one I’d also go to first. Either that or Majestic, purely for the speed and amount of link data you can get.

Q) SEO reports have historically been focused on tangible elements such as X number of directory submissions, articles etc. Now that it is more about creativity, how do you convey, and most importantly justify that to clients?

A) We’re really, really lucky with our clients. Part of that comes back to pre-sales as we spend a lot of time finding out about the business, making sure the client knows what to expect, and showing them examples of the kinds of content we’ve done in the past and the effect it can have.

We justify it by showing the results we’ve had for other clients, educating our new ones as to what they can expect, and gently moving them away from the thinking that SEO is about the kinds of things you mentioned there.

Q) What standalone SEO tools do you use/recommend?

A) RavenTools, SEMRush, BuzzStream. Between those three you’re pretty much covered.

Q) How do you negate the risk of relying on APIs in terms of the consequences of a service going down?

A) APIs, like any other tool, are just there to make life easier. If you’re automating anything with an API it should be because you’ve got a manual process that you need to speed up so there’s always an alternative.

Q) Is SEO becoming a dirty word?

A) No – I think it’s going the other way. Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed more and more businesses shying away from the low quality, low budget, SEO and starting to understand that it’s a genuine marketing channel that you need to invest in.

Q) Are you still guest blogging?

A) Yep, and this hasn’t really changed for us at all. For smaller clients we do some mid-level guest blogging and for larger ones we go for the big wins. If you’re writing great content that’s going on sites that generate referral traffic then you can’t really lose.

Q) I’ve got a site I want to SEO, but I have literally no budget, what is your number one, free SEO tip?

A) Make great content 😉

I’ll wait a couple of minutes for you to stop headbutting your desk.

In reality if there’s one tactic that you could still do with no budget it would be guest blogging. That isn’t just because of the links but also the other opportunities that are generated, and how much you learn about the importance of building relationships.

McLaren - Matt's dream client
McLaren – Matt’s dream client

Q) Who would be your dream SEO client and why?

A) This is a great question! As a business owner I want to pick a brand with a 6 figure budget but I also love working with smaller companies. Either way they need a great product as that makes life infinitely easier. Either McLaren F1 or Sonos would be cool.

Q) Who are your favourite ‘SEO rockstars’?

A) Haha! I’ve been lucky enough to spend some drinking time over the last few years with a lot of the ‘rockstars’. If I was giving out awards it would be Rand Fishkin for inspiration, Wil Reynolds for making you just want to go out there and get shit done, Hannah Smith for content, Phil Nottingham for video, and Paddy Moogan for links and being the most genuine, solid guy you’ll ever meet.

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