Marketing with content is like marketing with social media: “Free.” Sure, you can create a blog and a Facebook page for the same amount of money, but neither will be successful without a very healthy helping of talent, energy, and a kick-butt strategy.
And clearly, the biggest cost of content marketing success is time.
Save time by automating parts of the content marketing process, including workflow, writing, SEO, promotion, and image creation. To help you out, I’ve put together this list of free content marketing tools!
Content marketing plans live and die by their editorial calendars. You need one to maintain publishing consistency, plan ahead so you don’t miss a post, and stay organized.
The best free option for your editorial calendar is Google Calendar. You don’t need to create a new account either (as long as you already have a Gmail); just create a new calendar for content.
To do this, click the arrow next to My calendars and choose Create new calendar.
If you’re working with others on content, you can choose to share the new calendar with them.
Just create events for each post’s deadlines, including first draft, first round of edits, and publish date. You can use colors to indicate who is responsible for each task, or put that information in the details of the event.
Okay, so you’ve got your calendar of articles, but how do you keep up with who’s edited what and when?
May I suggest Trello? Its boards system works like a digital cork board, and lets you see at a glance where your draft is in the editing process. Create a card for each piece, and just move it to the board corresponding to its current stage — writing, editing, ready to publish, etc. For each card, you can assign users, attach files, and conduct conversations about the piece.
Lastly, for keeping up with to-dos, Wunderlist is my favorite free tool on the marketplace. It’s an incredibly easy-to-use, to-do list manager. But if you want more functionality, like due dates, notes, categories, multiple lists, alerts and reminders,, that’s available, too. And all that is available at the free level. I’m not exaggerating when I say Wunderlist is open on my browser AT ALL TIMES.
The least time-consuming (zero minutes) way to move a draft from writer to editor and back again is Google Drive. The advantages over Microsoft Word are numerous. That’s what we use here and I’ll never go back.
First, you don’t have to save anything to your desktop. Not only does this save time, but it lets you work from anywhere easily and you know you have the latest version of a blog post. And with shared Drive folders, everyone knows where every blog post is at all time and can easily find them.
The most important feature for content marketing purposes is the ability to track changes. Just click “Editing” in the top right corner, and then choose “Suggesting” from the dropdown options.
Unless you love seeing your work disappear with no way to retrieve it, don’t ever, ever, ever draft or edit in WordPress or any other CMS.
Besides Google Docs, my most-used writing tool is Evernote. It’s the easiest way to organize your research. Any time you find a piece of information you might be able to use in a future blog post, you can save it and organize it in Evernote quickly and easily. Save whole pages, images, or blocks of text under tags and in folders. Believe me, when you do this for a few weeks, go into one of your tags, and see all your research on a topic right there, it makes writing that post a whole lot easier.
In the list of tools I don’t use but have heard are good are Twinword Writer and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Twinword Writer seems like a great tool for a beginning writer to make sure they don’t get stuck. When you’re writing, it will automatically sense that you have paused on a word. To get you writing again, it will analyze the context of your writing, and open a box suggesting alternative words you can use. Headline Analyzer offers suggestions for making your headlines more clickable.
So, you’re probably noticing a pattern here. For free tools Google is your friend, and the Google Keyword Tool is no exception.
The bad news is that it has a steep learning curve and requires you to sign up for an Adwords account. The good news is that it gives you estimates of how many times per month people search for specific keywords.
If you’re looking to be inspired and need new ideas, pop some words into this baby and write posts based on which keywords get the most searches.
The other free SEO tool you can’t afford to ignore is the Yoast WordPress plugin. According to Elegant Themes, “With over one million active installs, Yoast SEO is the leading plugin on the market.” It makes it easy to optimize your page titles, descriptions, and URLs for maximum SEO benefit. It integrates with major social networks for easy social sharing. And it generates an XML sitemap. URL redirects are available for premium users.
If you’re scratching your head about what page titles, descriptions, and URLs have to do with SEO, check out Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO. And after you do that, check out the many free SEO tools Moz also offers.
The most underhyped social network is… SlideShare. Yep, you heard that right. Slideshare today is what YouTube was in 2008. Large demand for content relative to supply, with high rankings in Google search.
Quora is also underutilized for content promotion. And, it’s a great place to discover which questions people have about your subject matter aren’t being answered well yet.
If you do only one thing to promote your content, it should be to build an email list. Email subscribers are way more valuable than social media followers, pageviews, or any other metric. This is true for two reasons.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can separate you from your audience or force you to pay to reach them when there’s an algorithm change. But you’ve earned the email addresses of your email subscribers; they opted in to consume your content and they always want more So if you don’t like one email platform, you can just move those addresses to another. Try doing that with Facebook page likes!
The second reason is that email is the primary way people subscribe to blogs. If you want recurring readers instead of having to chase new ones every time you hit publish, you want a large active and engaged email subscriber base.
The best free option for blogs is MailChimp. It’s the easiest to use and has the cleanest interface. It also has tons of integrations, including Zapier. And for an even simpler and easier-to-use option, you can use MailChimp’s slimmed-down product: Tinyletter.
This is my least favorite part of blogging. I’m a writer, not an artist.
But posts with images do way, way better. So to help get this part over with as quickly as possible, here are some noteworthy tools.
To put text on stock photos, Canva is very easy to use, and free. But beware, if you use their stock photos you have to pay, so it’s better just to upload your own.
So these are the free content marketing tools I know about and love! Which ones do you use and can’t live without? Let me know in the comments.