2016 has been a tough year for content marketers, as the sheer volume of output continues to grow and reaching the right audience becomes increasingly competitive. The golden yardsticks of successful online marketing are the number of views, shares and links each article generates, but recent studies suggest that around half of the web’s content receives next to no meaningful engagement.
With the majority of output simply contributing to the Internet’s background noise, writers need every edge they can get to compete with the content marketing heavyweights. If you’re a writer, you know what reads well and a robot won’t be able to tell you how to write engaging copy, but there are some vital parts of the process that you can safely offload to an automated program, leaving you to focus on the creative side of things.
Here’s a brief rundown of the tools we use to give our content that extra polish and ensure it has the best chance of getting seen.
Are you trying to answer a question that no-one’s asking? Make sure you’re choosing keywords that are likely to generate results by running them past this handsome bearded gentleman. You’ll then be presented with hundreds of actual Google searches which contain your keywords (think of this tool as a giant, automated Google autocomplete).
This is a great way to identify niches for content; once you’ve identified a good topic for your keywords (such as “content writing tools”) try running a Google search for commonly-asked queries, and if no compelling answers are returned you’ve found a gap in the market for your next piece.
You can find out more about how to use AnswerThePublic.com here.
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
Your title is your sales pitch - you’ve gotta get them reading before anything else, and this handy little headline analyser makes it easy to tell the good titles from the bad and the ugly. A little common sense is necessary, as it’s possible to get carried away trying to “game” a high score; “How to Be Actually Awesome Sandwiches Every Day” gets you a top-notch headline score, but clearly doesn’t make any sense. Here you can see the process I took to refine an initial topic title into a more balanced, click-worthy headline (my initial idea is at the bottom):
By using more emotionally engaging words and changing the article type into a defined list, I’ve been able to add a bit more sparkle to the title without changing the meaning. The analyser gives useful feedback on how your score has been generated, suggesting additional word types and article formats to incorporate. For example, “How To” and list-type articles score higher than generic titles, and using a mix of “word types” (uncommon, common, power and emotional) makes for a better score.
Don’t get hung up trying for a perfect score when using this tool, though. Just find ways to make your headline that little bit snappier. This tool also displays your title as it will appear in search engine result pages (SERPs), so you can check that your headline’s meaning isn’t lost to truncation (although this currently only shows how it’s displayed on desktop, not tablet or mobile).
Although there is a premium version with more advanced features, Grammarly’s free grammar checker is a godsend, amazingly effective at picking up (and explaining) linguistic sins. Where Microsoft Word simply tell you there’s a “fragment which needs revising”, Grammarly will explain the error in detail and suggest how to remedy it. The extension for Google Chrome also allows you to check all your browser-based writing, be that emails or tweets. Google Docs isn’t yet supported, but this is in the pipeline.
Nothing kills a sentence’s flow like repeating the same word over and over (and over) again, so if you’re stuck for a synonym, head over to Thesaurus.com for ideas (no, it isn’t cheating). This also works really well in conjunction with WordCounter.com, which identifies the most commonly-used terms in your article.
Remember, seeking the perfect keyword density is a bit of a myth in the SEO world, and it’s far better to incorporate a range of key phrases and related terms that all point to the same topic (what Google calls “latent semantic indexing”, or LSI).
Okay, so “Google” isn’t a particularly helpful tool in itself, but they do offer some really, really handy bits of kit. For example, Google Trends is a great way to identify hot topics for content (and a well-placed Google Trends graph also provides a useful way of illustrating points in your articles). As you can see, searches for “content writer” have consistently increased over the past five years, illustrating the growing demand for professional quality content.
You can also skip the many third-party tools which promise to help you identify useful LSI phrases, and instead just check out the “Searches Related To” section at the bottom of a Google search.
Getting your content seen
Of course, writing the content is only half the battle; if you want it to be read, you need to amplify it, but developing relationships with authoritative websites is one of the most challenging aspects any content marketing agency faces.
If you’ve got quality content but are struggling to get it seen by the right people, check out our content marketing outreach guide to get you started.
By Magnus Linklater, managing director at Bespoke Digital
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