For content marketers or companies looking to boost traffic and sales by telling their story, there are a plethora of free tools available to assist with reaching content marketing goals. Here are 10 free content marketing tools you can use right now to set new milestones, track your successes, and tell your company’s story:

Content Ideation

We’ve discussed 10 types of content that work for every business, but what about tools that can help you come up with new ideas after your “idea-well” has run dry?  With the changing trends or topics in any industry, it can be tough to stay creative and provide something valuable to your followers. But by using these free resources, you can easy generate some new content ideas to bring to your next brainstorm: 

Alltop

Curated Posts allow you to take the best and most relevant content in your industry and present it in a crisp, easy to consume format. The value to your customers that comes from curation will be attributed to your brand, lending you an air of authority in your industry. The Storyteller Agency’s “The Friday Fix” is an excellent example of a valuable curation content piece. 

Alltop.com is quickly becoming one of the most popular curation sites available today. Alltop.com allows users to search for curated lists of content from a broad range of industries.  Each page lists the top performing content alphabetically from various distributors around the Internet. 

Alltop can be used as a very beneficial content marketing tool - look at the content titles and topics that catch your eye. Do you think that your niche audience would find this useful? Is this something that your clients are asking all the time?  Tracking curated content that’s being searched for, engaged with, and shared can help you generate myriad content ideas for your business. 

Jot down these topics and take specific notes on how you can improve that existing piece of content. This makes Alltop an excellent resource for generating new ideas while also proving followers and industry peers with new, useful content. 

Quora

Q&A sites have been an old ally for content marketers over the years. Sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora provide a huge database of questions and answers that can help better understand a target audience’s needs, while generating great content ideas at the same time.

With Quora, each user has to categorize a question by topic before submitting, which makes it extremely easy to research questions that relate to your specific market. Use keyword phrases to filter through and surf questions that are being asked, either within niche categories or as a broad search. Quora is often considered “high-end” compared to Yahoo Answers, and that’s why it makes our list. 

Quora is a continually improving and refining its collection of questions and answers, based on a great community that takes their questions and need for answers a bit more seriously. The questions and answers on Quora are reviewed, edited, flagged (if useful or not) and organized by its dedicated users. When you see a lot of activity around specific questions, take note of these ideas as future topics you might address on your website.

Social Media

We’ve discussed the importance of social media when promoting content – and the social giants such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are all free to use – but there are various tools that can help efficiently reach broad audiences and optimizing your social media engagement. 

Followerwonk

Followerwonk is one of the most robust tracking tools availableand helpsboost follower-engagement through Twitter. Followerwonk (recently acquired by SEOmoz) is an excellent tool for finding social influencers operating in the same niche as you. This tool allows you to analyze metrics from Twitter in order to maximize your promotion through the popular social channel. 

freetools

The "Search Twitter Bios" function is one of the more popular features on the platform. Any user can find the most popular Twitter accounts in a particular field or industry. Using a content marketing example, you could type "Content" or “Storytelling” into the search bar, and Followerwonk will suggest all of the Twitter accounts that feature the word "Content" or “Storytelling” (or closely related keywords).

Along with the vast amount of results, you can then sort through the data by such stats as tweet count, account age, social authority, following or followers. This is crucial information on your audience, and provides an even larger outlet with promoting content.

Hootsuite 

HootSuite was originally created for improving Twitter engagement by optimizing and managing posts, but it also allows you to post from personal Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. This tool enables a brand to create a new post and send to any one, two or all of the connected social media accounts. 

HootSuite’s main mission is to help schedule posts across many different social networks. Allowing anyone to easily plan ahead and actively engage with the most followers possible. Simply select the date and time, and let Hootsuite post that awesome content for you. 

Another little bonus feature of HootSuiteis their “link shortener”. If a piece of content is on a page with a really long URL, you can place the link in the box, and click "Shrink". HootSuite will then place the shorter URL (in the form of ow.ly) at the end of the text in compose field. 

But here’s where it gets really cool - HootSuite's link shortener will also track important social metrics found in the "Analytics" section. This means you can create full reports on engagement, clicks and collective data – each for specific social accounts. This is a vital promotional tool that can greatly save time for any content marketer.

Content Optimization

In this case, optimization means making web content more search-engine-friendly; to ensure that the content is recognized as highly relevant in order to appear high in the search engine results (SERPs). Even with the large updates such as Google's Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, there are tools available to help ensure that your content is fully optimized and ready to reach the biggest audience possible. 

Xenu’s Link Sleuth 

For those who are professionals in SEO or have dealt with website optimization, this tool is already well-known.  But Xenu’s Link Slueth can also be used for content marketers or brands to help improve current content that is already published on a blog or website.  From an SEO perspective, great content should include authoritative or relevant links within the content. But over time, the links that point to other websites might change or be taken down – making your content less valuable in the eyes of not only readers, but search engine algorithms. 

Xenu's Link Sleuth is a free, lightweight download that runs on all versions of Windows. To put it simply, Link Sleuth will crawl around the site and provide a report on the broken links on your site (if any) that result in a 404 error page. By updating your existing content and removing these broken links, it becomes more valuable to the audience and is further optimized for Google’s crawl bots that will initially rank your content within the SERPs.

Moz

Moz – formerly known as SEOmoz – has done a wonderful job at creating and distributing useful tools for SEO and marketing professionals alike. Granted, premium versions of these tools are not free – Open Site Explorer is too valuable not to mention. 

Open Site Explorer is useful in many ways. It generates the backlink profile of websites based on your specified entries, making it extremely advantageous for content marketing research. Content marketers can use it for competitive research – to find out what has been working for the “other guys”. 

By using the “Top Pages” tab and browsing a competitor’s back links, you can see where they have found success with their content. Are lots of reputable websites linking to one certain piece of content? What type blog posts have the most backlinks? The answers to these questions can provide a look into your competitor’s content marketing strategy, allowing you to fill in the gaps or improve upon what they have already started.

Promotion

Even if you create the absolute best content out there, how do you reach the most people? Publishing content on your blog doesn’t mean everyone is going to find it – brands must also effectively promote and attract an audience to their product or service. Slideshare and Outbrain are free tools that can help promote content and reach the biggest audience possible: 

Slideshare

If you conduct case studies or other research, Slideshare is an outstanding distribution channel for enlightening, dependable content that provides great value to readers. Slideshare helps showcase industry knowledge and boost your authority by hosting top-quality content and presentations.

The bulk of content shared on SlideShare and other presentation sharing-sites is the traditional PowerPoint presentation. However, there are some very creative uses for slideshows that go beyond the same old presentation. Users can post pictures from a trip and add text descriptions of the experience, entire repurposed eBooks, white papers and even product comparisons as slideshows. 

Outbrain

Outbrain is a great tool that categorizes your content, and displays it to readers based on their online behavior. Outbrain helps drive traffic to individual blog posts or articles, slideshows, video content, mobile-optimized content and many more.

Big brands from all industries have used Outbrain as their content recommendation widget. You might have seen it before – if you have ever read to the bottom of an article or blog post and seen related or popular viewed content – this content has been promoted through the Outbrain widget.

When advertising through Outbrain, each piece of content is checked for quality and categorized depending on topic and niche. If Outbrain accepts the piece of content, it will provide a thumbnail image for content and it will appear in Outbrain widgets across the internet.  This means huge exposure and promotion for your brand.

It’s important to note that only editorial content is accepted, not promotional content. In other words, this means you can’t advertise any content piece with a lead-capture form or other means of gathering contacts or sales in exchange for content. Sorry guys, those awesome gated-free guides will have to find promotion in other ways.

Measurement

In order to start tracking the success of any content marketing strategy and guide future efforts, you need specific objectives. By implementing these specific objectives or goals, you can then determine what makes great content within your industry. While there are many different tools available to measure the value of great content -Google Analytics is by far the most popular. 

Google Analytics 

This tool offers a huge amount of useful data, but it can be difficult to choose which metrics to track. Whatever your goals may be – from measuring overall traffic and time-on-page to conversions, referral traffic and more – Google Analytics provides a robust amount of information that can be used to measure content marketing success. 

Through measuring the available data, you can focus on the type of content that have worked for you and your competitors. With Google Analytics, you have the ability to adapt your content marketing strategy toward success and not waste time producing content that won’t truly connect with your audience.

Audience Insights

It might sound obvious, but the more you know about your audience, the more effective your storytelling. With Facebook’s Audience Insights, you can measure which type of content is resonating with your Facebook followers. The tool is designed to help marketers learn more about their target audiences in order to create better content for the future. You can collect anonymous information such as: 

·         Demographics: Age and gender, lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role and household size

·         Page likes: The top Pages people like in different categories, like women’s apparel or sports

·         Location and language: Where do people live, and what languages do they speak

·         Facebook usage: How frequently are people in your target audience logging onto Facebook and what device(s) they are using when they log on

·         Purchases activity: Past purchase behavior (i.e. heavy buyers of women’s apparel) and purchase methods (i.e., in-store, online) 

By analyzing the people who might live near your company, have interest in your field or even purchased something similar to your product - you can create content around their needs and insight.

So, what FREE tools do you use for content marketing success?


Brad Kuenn is a Content Writer, Editor and Strategist living in Nashville, Tennessee, and he provides research, content topics, writing, editing, and content development expertise to clients. He has a passion for writing as well as art, which shines through in his work. His creativity and attention to detail makes him a valuable asset for a wide range of clients. During his time off he enjoys spending time with his wife, family, and his two dogs Brutus and Kane. 
Connect with Brad:  Twitter   LinkedIn   Google+

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