Creating effective content is a skill which takes time and effort to master - even if you can write, that doesn't mean you'll immediately know how to put together all the elements and publish prose which connects with your target audience and maximizes your opportunities.
You have to consider the wording of your headline, the effective use of keywords, sub-headings, images, subjects of resonance - there are any number of details that cannot be overlooked, which, as noted, will take you time and practice to get your head around.
Thankfully, technology can help to speed up the learning curve quite a bit. As you go about your content creation process, there are a few tools you should know about which will help you a heap at each step.
Here are five free tools that you should be using to help you write better blog content.
Let's start with the basics - as the name suggests, Grammarly is an app which picks up your most (potentially) embarrassing editorial mistakes before you hit publish or send.
Let's be honest - regardless of how seasoned a writer you are, you're going to slip up from time to time. Grammarly is your first line of defense, highlighting all your grammar, punctuation, and spelling slip-ups, and providing suggestions to fix them.
Grammarly can be used in multiple ways. One option is to copy and paste your work directly into its web or iOS app and make edits there.
I often use the latter directly in Google Docs, and it has saved me more often than I care to admit.
Named after novelist Ernest Hemingway, the Hemingway app is an excellent tool for sharpening your writing and making your words count.
How so? Once you've pasted your work into the editor, it will automatically highlight sections of your writing, with each color representing a type of improvement you could make.
Ultimately, Hemingway's suggested improvements revolve around helping you to produce concise, objective prose.
- Yellow - Lengthy, complex sentences. Hemingway suggests shortening or splitting these
- Red - Sentences that are too dense and complicated, to the extent that your readers might not be able to follow
- Purple - Overly complex words - if you hover over them, Hemingway will suggest simpler alternatives
- Blue - Use of adverbs, which come across as weak - a big no-no, according to Hemingway
- Green - Use of passive voice, which generally sounds less engaging
When I first started out, I wrote my drafts directly in Hemingway to consciously train myself how to write more succinctly. Gradually, it became a habit to choose simpler ways to express myself.
3. Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer
With modern consumers able to access more content than ever, and exposed to such in their never-ending social feeds, nailing your headline is key to getting that first spark of attention, and prompting clicks.
Hence, the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer (yes, quite a mouthful). Don't let the dated website design fool you - created by the Advanced Marketing Institute, the Analyzer has its basis in the research of US government scholar Dr. Hakim Chishti, which began in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Here's how it works: EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) words have "sounds tones" which produce stronger "emotional" reactions, and are thus better at reaching the reader on an emotional level. The Analyzer will give your headline a score based on the total number of EMV words it has, relative to the total number of words it contains. The higher the percentage of EMV words, the better your headline is likely to perform.
For example, the headline of this article scored pretty decently:
If that feels too touchy-feely for you, consider using it in conjunction with CoSchedule's own headline analyzer, which adds a number of additional factors - such as word balance and length - on top of the list of EMV words to give its final verdict.
CoSchedule's score for this article's headline was pretty consistent with the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer:
Ironically, one of the biggest issues budding content marketers face is coming up with blog post ideas. Your topic ideation muscles aren't quite developed yet, and so it can feel like everything you come up with has already been written and published.
That's where Buzzsumo comes in. With this tool, you can look back over the past 12 months to see which topics in your area of interest were most popular on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
For example, I'm looking for topics related to content marketing:
A quick glance at the results reveals that readers are currently interested in the art and science of content marketing - from here, I can come up with new topics relative to that angle, or figure out how to improve on the current top topics.
As you continue to use Buzzsumo, you'll eventually develop an eye for the topics that are most relevant to your target audience.
5. Yoast SEO
Finally, the topic that leaves many content marketers scratching their heads. At any point in time, there will be a range of ongoing debates regarding SEO best practices, but the one thing that all agree on is that keywords are vital to the process.
So how can you ensure that your blog posts are consistently sprinkled with your keywords of choice - but not saturated?
If you're using Wordpress as your CMS of choice, Yoast SEO offers the perfect solution. This plugin provides a set of features that will aid you in publishing SEO-friendly blog posts, every single time.
As you can see, you Yoast gives you the power to tweak your title, slug, and meta description in order to insert your keywords where they make the most sense.
You can also specify the main keyword that you want to rank for and Yoast SEO will analyze your post to see if it meets certain factors that will optimize its opportunities for success. If it doesn't hit the mark, you can dive back into your post to edit accordingly.
Practice makes perfect
We're extremely fortunate to have access to so many tools - free to use, no less - that can help us do our jobs as content marketers and writers better.
However, there's always the danger of relying excessively on these tools, like a crutch. It's important to treat these products and services like training wheels, to be taken off eventually and used within an integrated approach.