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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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Say hello to Sam, our new content delivery manager

Sam Carney - Content Delivery Manager
Sam Carney – Content Delivery Manager

Hi folks! I’m Sam and I’d like to introduce myself as the newest addition to the Copify team.

I will be joining the team as a content delivery manager, having completed an 11-week internship through the Santander Internship Programme.

I’m originally from Preston, but I spent three years studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

Since graduating last July (has it really been that long?), I’ve pulled pints at my Dad’s pub, packed parcels for a computer parts company and planned a pre-entry programme for autistic students with Lancaster University Student Services.

It was during the latter placement that I came by the opportunity to work for Copify. I applied for the position through the university, and I’ve spent the last two-and-a-bit months in the Copify office, moderating and editing content, supporting writers and clients, drinking excellent coffee and listening to BBC Radio 6 Music. I will now be taking up my position on a permanent basis at the end of the month.

Writing has always been a great passion of mine, and I spent much of last summer pursuing work experience opportunities in journalism. I packed a great deal into week-long placements at the Lancashire Evening Post and Deadline News agency in Edinburgh, but the cherry on top of a glorious summer was undoubtedly the time I spent at FourFourTwo in London, where I was afforded the opportunity to write a feature and interview Sky Sports News presenter and transfer deadline day supremo, Jim White.

The Sir Tom Finney Stadium - home of the great Bamber Bridge FC!
The Sir Tom Finney Stadium – home of the great Bamber Bridge FC!

I’m a big football fan and I do quite a bit of writing on the subject in my spare time. I’m currently match reporter for my local non-league side, Bamber Bridge FC, who play at the eighth tier of the football pyramid. I also have my own blog, and have written for popular original football writing sites, These Football Times and In Bed With Maradona.

As you might be able to guess from my degree choice, I like to relax with a good book. American literature and dystopian fiction are my preferred genres, and Cormac McCarthy and George Orwell are my favourite authors. My favourite book? Catch 22 – I read it once a year!

I did enjoy my trip to the Guinness Storehouse!
I did enjoy my trip to the Guinness Storehouse!

I love visiting different places on holiday and sampling vibrant, new experiences; a few Guinness’s in the backstreet pubs of Dublin, a visit to the ruin bars of Budapest and a trip to Tenerife’s Siam Park, Europe’s biggest waterpark, were personal highlights of 2014!

I also enjoy learning new things, which is probably for the best; as a Copify moderator, you never know what you’re going to be asked to read through and edit!

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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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Is your ecommerce site ready for the new PCI Data Security Standards?

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If you process card payments, read on…

In April 2015, The PCI Security Standards Council released version 3.1 of its “Requirements and Security Assessment” procedures.

The new document, which has outlined the minimum security standards for online stores since 2008, will be familiar to any ecommerce business processing card payments via their website.

In the aftermath of recent SSL vulnerabilities, mainly the BEAST and CRIME exploits, the way in which your server processes HTTPS requests is now under scrutiny.

The good ol’ trusty lock symbol you see in your browser’s address bar when you access a secure page, is no longer an indication your data is encrypted to the new PCI standards.

I have a SSL certificate, does this still affect me?

Yes.

When you visit a “secure” page on the internet using HTTPS, the method in which the data you send and receive is encrypted will depend on your operating system, and browser.

If you’re using the most up-to-date version of Google Chrome, then most likely your request uses the secure TLSv1.2 protocol. However, if you’re using an older version of Opera or Internet Explorer, you may be using a potentially weaker protocol such as SSLv2.

What’s new in PCI 3.1?

The latest round of requirements in the PCI DSS document state the following;

SSL and early TLS are not considered strong cryptography and cannot be used as a security control after 30th June, 2016.

The SSLv2, SSLv3 and TLSv1.0 protocols are all now considered non-compliant, and if your site is subject to a regular PCI DSS scan, and you still support these protocols, you will see these issues being raised very soon.

How the browsers stack up

Internet Explorer breaks the internet. Again.
Internet Explorer breaks the internet. Again.

What’s most worrying about the new standards, is how far behind browser support is for the new PCI compliant protocols.

At some point soon, you’re going to have to make a very difficult decision: Do I comply with the PCI guidelines even if this means losing customers who use older browsers?

Quite simply, by disabling TLSv1.0, any customers using one of the following browsers would not be able to access the secure pages of your website;

Browser Oldest version not to support TLSv1.1
Google Chrome 22.00
Google Android OS Browser Android 5.0
Mozilla Firefox 24.00
Microsoft Internet Explorer 10.00
Microsoft Internet Explorer Mobile 10.00 Mobile
Opera 9.00
Apple Safari 7.00
Apple Safari mobile iOS 5
Google Chrome 22.00
Google Chrome 22.00

That’s right folks, to remain PCI compliant users on browsers as late as Internet Explorer 10 will no longer be able to access your site. Eeek!

How to disable non-PCI protocols

If you’re not on managed hosting, configuring your webserver to only accept TLSv1.1 or above is quite straight forward. On Apache 2.4 for example, simply remove unwanted protocols using the ‘-‘ option in your config directive;

SSLProtocol All -SSLv2 -SSLv3 -TLSv1

We hope this helps! If you’re unsure of your website’s current setup and whether you might be falling foul of the new PCI guidelines, try the handy tool over at SSL Labs.

CC Images by Perspecsys Photos and Andreas Åkre Solberg

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