“If you could only use 3 content marketing tools for the rest of your life, what would they be?”
That’s the question we asked 40 content marketing experts over 6 weeks in a bid to find out what marketing tools industry professionals are using and what they recommend others try out.
The result? Some surprising recommendations and lots of advice from people you really should be listening to.
What are the best tools for content marketing?
If you’re new to content marketing then chances are you’ve attempted to find the best tools for the job. The internet is littered with dozens of articles; top 10’s, top 20’s, top 100’s; but these are vague and more often than not offer no real value to you. So, we’ve created what we believe to be the best resource for marketers and business owners alike.
Here are the Top 6 Results:
- Google Analytics – 10 votes.
- Buzzstream – 7 votes.
- Feedly – 6 votes.
- Hootsuite, Quora – 5 votes.
- Evernote – 4 votes.
- LinkedIn, Moz – 3 votes.
Read on to discover what other tools 40 top content marketers are recommending.
We tried our best to get a good mixture of marketers, bloggers, CEO’s, directors, magazine editors and entrepreneurs to contribute to this article.
Because this is an in-depth article, below you can discover each individual who contributed to it in alphabetical order. We have listed all responses in the order they were received in.
Aimee Joseph, Andy Little
Ben Acheson, Ben Dickens, Brooke Ballard
Charlotte Varella, Colin Cheng
Daniel Clutterbuck, David Douglas, Dave Chaffey, Daniele Bazzano, Doug Kessler
Elliot Jones, Eric Ingrand, Eugene Farber
Hannah Smith, Henley Wing, Helen Nesterenko
James Perrin, Jon Wuebben, John Miller, Justin P Lambert
Katherine Kotaw, Kieran Alger
Margot Bloomstein, Martin Harrison, Michelle Hill
Neil Patel, Nick Friese
Robert Hoare, Robert Rose, Ronald Kloots
Sammy Blindell, Sarah Amos, Scott Abel, Scott Siders, Simon Penson, Suzanne Baran
Hannah Smith – Distilled
Google Analytics – Because if you don’t measure what you’re doing you can’t improve it :)…
…We use GA to help us understand how the content which we create for clients is performing – you can use it to track page level metrics like time on site, bounce rate, exit rate, page value (revenue or conversion value divided by unique page views) etc. You can also use it to track conversions (request a demo, submit an enquiry, purchase etc) and micro conversions (email sign ups, social shares etc). Plus of course you can use it to understand how your content is being discovered – organic search, paid search, social media and so on.
Followerwonk – This is brilliant for anyone seeking to leverage Twitter (and really, who isn’t?). I use Followerwonk to identify new audiences, compare competitor’s followers and analyse my client’s current followers.
Reddit – I frequently lose myself on Reddit… What? I AM WORKING! :). Seriously though, it’s great for inspiration and you can learn a lot about what resonates online and what doesn’t. It’s also *the* place to hone your headline writing skills.
Charlotte Varela – Tone
Hootsuite – For scheduling and auto scheduling posts on my social channels. It makes my day a lot easier because it estimates the best times to post, and means I can bulk schedule a group of tweets to keep pushing out the content on a staggered basis.
Quora – For sparking content ideas when I’m feeling a bit stuck. If I find something that a lot of people are asking about, or an answer that I disagree with and can counter, then it’s usually a good thing to write about.
Wunderlist – For creating a little editorial calendar and figuring out how I can fit pieces of content in around my other tasks. The ability to set due dates and drag each task around the list so they’re all in order and I know what’s coming is really helpful, as well as being able to add more detailed notes about each piece of content.
We would also like to mention the EditFlow plugin for WordPress alongside Wunderlist – It’s great for managing the editorial content creation process in WordPress, allows you to assign more useful roles, define stages and discuss a post on the post page instead of reverting to an unrelated email thread.
Robert Rose – Content Marketing Institute
To me there are three core legs to creating compelling customer experiences across digital channels. So, if I had to pick only three tools to facilitate my content marketing, I’d pick a robust web content management system, integrated seamlessly with a marketing automation system which flows directly into a wonderful customer relationship management system (CRM). They would all work perfectly together – and give me instant real-time insight into my customer’s buying journey. Having this solution would also give me time to take care of my unicorn and harvest my rainbows.
Justin P Lambert – The Content Marketing Hurricane
If I were only allowed the use of three content marketing tools, I’d have to rely on my most profitable and productive combination (which I use on a daily basis.)
Feedly – Since the demise of Google Reader, Feedly has been my go-to source for keeping up with all my feeds, Google Alerts, and trending news topics. I also have all of my own content channels fed into my daily Feedly so I don’t lose track of what’s been released, on which channel, and where else it (or a re-purposed form of it) has already appeared. The lightning fast “save for later” feature and the fully integrated social sharing functions make Feedly indispensable for keeping my own finger on the pulse of the industry, supplying tons of great content for curation and inspiration, and tracking my own content as it flies from the nest.
LinkedIn – While I am present and fairly active on a number of different social media sites, LinkedIn has long been my most profitable and productive source of new leads, lead nurturing opportunities, engagement with like-minded professionals and potential partnerships. The site’s seamless integration’s with Twitter and Slideshare have made those two channels larger parts of my mix without adding a lot of additional time requirement. And, the powerful search functions have made my marketing research so much easier than it used to be. If every other social media channel disappeared tomorrow, I would still be able to profit from LinkedIn.
Hootsuite – This “social dashboard” just keeps adding incredible features left and right, making itself more and more indispensable. I use it far more as a listening and monitoring tool than as a broadcast tool, but both functions serve me well. I can’t count the number of times I’ve picked up on some trend, some potential lead, or some error on my part just because my Hootsuite streams made it glaringly obvious. As a busy freelance content marketer, I couldn’t possibly keep up with all my various social streams and stay effective if I had to handle them all individually. So, Hootsuite is a true productivity savior for me.
Jon Wuebben – Content Launch
Hubspot – An all-in-one inbound marketing software. It’s great for content marketing newbies because it has a complete set of tools for blogging, e-mail, landing pages, sites, SEO and social.
Kapost– Awesome content marketing software. It’s an all-in-one platform offering up a content calendar, workflow, and analytics. It puts all of your content in one place making it easy to manage.
InboundWriter – This app is fantastic for generating ideas on what to write about and it helps to improve existing content and measure results.
Scott Abel – The Content Wrangler
Doug Kessler – Velocity Partners
Neil Patel – Quick Sprout
Neil Patel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of such tools as Hello Bar, Sprout Social and agency Crazy Egg. He is a thought leader and highly respected entrepreneur, offering incredible guidance and tips for business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs and brands.
Social Crawlytics – it helps you determine what content is really popular on the web. You can then use that data to figure out what blog post topics you can consider writing on.
Simon Penson – Zazzle Media
Linkedin – A brilliant resource to build relationships with and connect with real content influencers. It’s also improving as a B2B content sharing platform.
Buzzstream – To help organise marketing campaigns at scale.
Also Zazzle’s new tool. See it develop here.
John Miller – Scribewise
Evernote – We love it; for us, it’s an updated version of the old reporter’s notebook. We use it for note taking as we conduct research, interviews and typically begin writing our drafts in it. The fact that it synchronizes across devices makes it work for us.
Excel – Yup, good old Excel. It may be boring, but this is what we use for our editorial calendars. We have a template that brings the proper rigor to our process without creating work (we’re not fans of most project management software because that’s what it does – create work).
Hubspot – Our website is on Hubspot, and we have several clients on it as well. Other all-in-one marketing platforms also have their fans, but we’re on Hubspot so that’s what we know. It ties together our CMS, analytics, email and social media in a way that makes us both smarter and more agile in the work we do.
I would say that we believe tools can be incredibly useful, but a deeper journalistic sense – being able to identify and tell a great story – is what matters most for the work we do. The tools merely help, but you need to inject the right DNA to create great content marketing.
Daniel Clutterbuck – Webtise
Agile marketing – Okay, so I get that I’m being awkward by not picking 3 tools, but bare with me; in order for your marketing to succeed it MUST be agile. By agile, I mean you’ve gotta’ nail your positioning AND relevancy in a time frame that’s usually narrow.
Social media reach – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, MySpace, Google+, Linkedin, Flickr, Reddit; utilise all relevant social media available to you for marketing reach.
A strong contact list who like you! – It’s ALL about who you know. By building relationships and strong contacts all the time (mostly for non-business reasons) you will have a network of experts to help you succeed in your directives. Try to help people as much as you can.
Sammy Blindell – How to Build a Brand
DivvyHQ – Probably the best editorial calendar in the world. It’s more for high-volume content writing teams so if you’re a large business you should definitely check this tool out.
Buzzstream – A fantastic resource that’s ideal for small business owners and large business owners. This content marketing tool helps to organise marketing campaigns.
Evernote – This free app has saved my skin so many times! I’ve got it on my S3, my iPad, my laptop and my desktop PC. It’s a vital tool for being able to access workflow at any time.
Can I also put a fourth tool in? All content marketers should check out IFTTT (If This Then That), which is an amazing tool for automating your social media. The system works on recipes and it has helped me grow my own brand tremendously. It’s 100% free and it makes life so much easier.
Aimee Joseph – Blueclaw
Followerwonk – This is my number one tool for finding influencers in any niche. I find it essential for targeted outreach and building relationships. By looking at what your top influencers are sharing, you can gauge what type of content interests them and let this guide your content marketing campaign.
Quora – This is a great tool for long-tail keyword research. You’ll be able to find customers pain points that you may not already be aware of and then create content to solve these problems and issues that are Hummingbird-friendly.
Reddit – If you’re not using Reddit to inspire creative content, then you’re missing out on a big opportunity to create something that could potentially go viral. Most of the popular stories on sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy are posted on Reddit first. If you want your brand to be cutting edge, then scour the site for timely news to inspire related content ideas.
Daniele Bazzano – Mob.is.it
My 3 tools would be:
TweetDeck – Great monitoring features that allow you to participate to the conversation with your audience, promote your valuable content and find new prospects.
Feedly – Essential to stay abuzz of the current trends of your industry and boost your personal branding, by serving your audience relevant information with the Buffer platform integration.
Scoop.it – Very useful to find all the hidden gems of content drowned in the ocean of information that is the Web. A real time-saver with its curation feature,s and a great tool to address target niches.
Henley Wing – Buzz Sumo
Disqus – for connecting with other bloggers / influencers and sharing content.
Margot Bloomstein – Appropriate, Inc
Tools? I’m much more low-tech than that—because really, the biggest problems of content strategy and content marketing are more low-tech than we realise. We still don’t do a good enough job listening to and learning from our customers and each other.
My three tools?
The notepad and whiteboard help me work out problems visually and spatially so that I can see how tasks and content types need to associate. Excel, or any spreadsheet tool, helps me impose structure and parity on content elements that should be similar. Everything else gilds the lily.
Robert Hoare – Panphoenix
Buzzstream – A fantastic tool for connecting with like-minded professionals and building relationships. The team-based software for building and managing relationships is simple to use and effective, and the automated tools are perfect for finding new prospects.
Google Analytics – This is simply an essential part of our own website and our client websites. Along with Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics provides invaluable insights in to content and how effective it is.
Google Docs – We love Google Docs at Panphoenix. The ability to create and share documents online is so much more intuitive than Microsoft Word. It might not yet be the number one tool for content creation, but it’s pretty damn close to perfect, and the ability to access all writing and spreadsheets on our smartphones and tablets is fantastic.
Sarah Amos – Freshwire
Sarah Amos is the Chief Creative Officer at Freshwire, one of the most influential content brands in the world.
Because this world is constantly changing I have a hard time picking three tools to use for the rest of my life. I think it is really about always picking the right tool to help you share or create the right piece of content for the right platform. To limit yourself to three would drive me crazy.
Nick Friese – Digiday
1. A supremely talented ex-journalist that is imaginative and can tell stories. The result is branded content that is entertaining, informative, and has real value. Easier said than done! But we have one running our content studio and she’s the best thing we could have.
2. A great design resource to help you wrap and tell your story through imagery as well as words.
3. A powerful distribution engine (a web publication in our case) that can connect your content with a community that is engaged, trusts you, and can quickly generate social lift.
Ben Dickens – QUAD Digital
I think the 3 tools we probably find most useful [at QUAD Digital] are Google Analytics, Brandwatch and Gorkana. We’re really hot on analytics and measuring what happens with the content we create. Gorkana is more of a database of journalists but it’s totally invaluable when we want to engage with influencers to extend the reach of the content that we create.
Brooke Ballard – B Squared Media
While I’d be really sad to ONLY have three sources, or tools, for content marketing I really don’t think I could get things done without:
WordPress – This is where I, and the ghost bloggers we employ at B Squared Media, do all of our work. Drafting, editing, SEO and keyword strategy, and the list goes on and on. With all of the (most of them FREE!) Plugins you can use within WP, there’s practically nothing you can’t do. My fave Plugins are Yoast, Akismet, and Gravity Forms — in case you were wondering!
SmartBrief – We spend a lot of time helping our clients curate content that makes sense for their brand to share. One of our favorite sites for finding the right content (that’s also credible) is SmartBrief. There are several topics you can browse through to find relatable articles for your industry. Once you’ve got your “briefs” picked out, you can subscribe and receive daily digests of content ripe for the picking.
Google Analytics – Without Google Analytics we wouldn’t be able to use data to tell us what’s working and what isn’t. We use the top blog posts or searched terms to help us create similar content (why reinvent the wheel?!). I especially love setting up custom dashboards. A few of my faves were found in this helpful article from E-consultancy.
Scott Siders – Content Marketing Program
Right now my favorite tools are:
Helen Nesterenko – Writtent
If we were to use the 3 tools till the rest of our life – they’d be:
Kieran Alger – editor-in-chief, T3 Magazine
My three would have to be:
Martin Harrison – Copify
Thanks for considering me. I take a slightly different approach to content marketing than most people. I don’t spend a great deal of time planning and scheduling content, I put content out when I find the time or I have something meaningful to say.
So my three tools are more focused on making the most of content assets that have been produced (both internally and externally) and are as follows:
Screaming Frog – To grab URLs and page titles of every page on our site.
Open Site Explorer – To grab the URLs of all pages linking back to our site.
Hootsuite – To schedule posts containing links to internal and external content.
Colin Cheng – MintTwist
BuzzStream – An awesome tool to manage outreach and PR opportunities.
Vocus – Vocus’ Advanced PR platform makes communicating with journalists and media contacts easy and straight forward. You can find contacts via keywords, industries and locations.
Google Drive/Calendar/Hangouts – We use Google a lot at our agency and it’s great for planning content and scheduling it with a shred calendar. We use Google Drive to share the content and work collaboratively. Finally, Google Hangouts make it easy for us to communicate and share ideas even when someone is out of the office.
James Perrin – Koozai
Google Trends – To get an understanding of search and location data I couldn’t live without Google Trends. It’s my bread and butter when it comes keywords research and content ideas.
Followerwonk – To find key influencers and for outreach you can’t beat Followerwonk. It enables me to know who I’m targeting my content towards based on what those people have written, shared and liked. It gets your content to where it needs to be seen.
LinkedIn – Whilst this may sound like a strange choice we find ourselves relying more and more on LinkedIn for a variety of Content Marketing solutions. LinkedIn today keeps me up to date with industry specific news, I can connect with relevant figures and key influencers, as well as promote my content to specific people and groups.
Andy Little – That Web Look
Content marketing to me is ever changing. Due to this, I always vary my tool use… one month a tool that I love could become obsolete. Having said that, I love using Buzzstream for link building and connecting with people, and I love using Quora to assert thought leadership – I use Quora on behalf of my clients, not for myself. If I had to pick a third tool, I would go with the humble pen and notepad, because I tend to remember things much better when I physically write them.
Suzanne Baran – Content Empress
Tools depend on each company, brand and organisation’s budget, needs and familiarity with the product in my experience. As someone who has published content without a curation tool in the early 2000’s, I am well-versed in the exact features tools should have to increase productivity and monitor results effectively.
Having said that, I would recommend Curata, given the right resources (people and budget) to make it work. Curata is an enterprise solution and it touts itself as one of the only discovery, organisation, and sharing tools. Its features help large organisations that have high volumes of content to re-purpose and publish.
Compendium (enterprise solution) – helps organisations capture and create original content in a branded platform for any marketing channel. It makes social media marketers clap with excitement when they use its features and its interface.
Kapost – If you create a content editorial calendar and plan content or manage a community Kapost makes Excel spreadsheets obsolete. It provides a content calendar template that allows you to edit, review, revise, and scheduled in one place. It also categorises each post by channel (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, blog).
Katherine Kotaw – KOTAW
If I could only use three content marketing tools for the rest of my life, they would be:
Google Analytics – I hate USING this tool, which is why I’m glad I have an expert who delivers the data to me. But GA is unbeatable for tracking activity in specific, well-defined ways.
Bing Ads Editor would be the other, because it’s critical to assess your relevance on Bing as well as Google, and ads editor makes it fast and easy.
I should probably mention some sort of automation tool here because it’s expected. But I don’t like any of them. If I don’t have the time to type an in-the-moment tweet, I don’t deserve to be on social media. So my third tool is an alarm clock. If it’s imperative I post something at 5 in the morning, I get up and do it.
Ben Acheson – Digivate
Mine would be:
Ronald Kloots – Content Marketing Wizard
Good question… at this moment these three:
Paul Walker – Clix
Buzzstream – Build Relationships. Build Buzz. Buzzsream is an excellent tool for content marketers and marketers in general, because it tracks influencers, relationships, communications, engagement, and allows you to research online influencers and collaborate with them.
Quora – When I first used Quora I’ll admit that I didn’t see the point. You can ask questions on Yahoo, can’t you? You can just tweet a question and #hashtag it, can’t you? Well, as time has gone on, I can see the real power and value behind Quora for marketers. It allows one to become a thought leader and rack up real followers who are interested in what you have to say. It can also be branded, although, using a real name is highly advised as you can have your account limited.
IFTTT – Social media automation is a life saver for big business. We work with several clients who have multiple Twitter handles, multiple Facebook pages, and lots of other social accounts. There will always be a need for direct human communication through social media, however automation plays a key role in filling in any gaps and ensuring that the WHOLE of a message gets across to the Customer. To this end, IFTTT is a wonderful tool for linking different platforms to one another. We use it for Twitter, Facebook, WordPress based tasks, and it works a treat.
Eric Ingrand – EnVeritas Group
Many of the tools mentioned here will come and go and will certainly not last as long as quality content do. So I would answer that the best tool is quality content because without that you have nothing. Instead of “tools” I would go with people – like top-quality translators, a strong network of locals and a team of writers who actually know what they’re talking about.
So our primary tool is and will always be our smart people: the strategists who listen to the client and develop solutions for their needs, the project managers who build teams and processes to execute those strategies, and the writers, editors and translators who handle things from a tactical perspective.
As for true tools:
Platform-specific social tools
Elliot Jones – Boutique Digital
Without a great understanding of what your content is doing, it’s meaningless.
David Douglas – ebow
Dave Chaffey – Smart Insights
Hootsuite – I still meet many people who don’t know about this tool. I use this content marketing tool to learn and share the latest developments using Twitter lists of influencers I have setup – I can also schedule social updates to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ individually or together. We use the paid version for the analytics, but the free version is fine.
Google Analytics – Most marketers will know about Google Analytics, but they may not know about the Page Value metric you can see in the Behaviour/Top Content reports. This shows me which content influences conversion so I can shape customer journeys on the site to increase conversion. To see Page Value you need e-commerce tracking setup or to assign a value to a goal.
Social Analytics Chrome extension – A simple tool to show you how socialised content on your site and others is – a good and quick way of finding out what users want.
Eugene Farber – Content Strategy Hub
I’m going to answer these with the assumption that the tools I use now aren’t going to go away any time soon and that they will be around for the rest of my life. And there won’t be a “secret” tool here that instantly creates content marketing magic. But really that’s because there is no “magic.” The simple stuff usually is enough to get it done. The following three are absolutely indispensable in terms of content marketing…
WordPress – I’m sure there will be people that want to argue the benefits of WordPress as a CMS and what not. But there is a reason that so many websites are using the platform. It’s powerful. Not only is it easy to create content within WordPress, but it’s also insanely easy to optimize your site for SEO. Plus you can do a lot of design changes to optimise for usability and for the goals you want to achieve without really doing much coding.
Gmail – Of course you can substitute whatever email service you choose here. But email is absolutely indispensable. One of the parts of content marketing that a lot of people forget is the “marketing” part. Just creating content isn’t going to cut it. You have to help it spread. And that is where email comes in. A round-up like this is a perfect example of how outreach can help you create content. But you can also do outreach to promote content you have already created. This is obviously powerful in terms of getting social traction and also for building backlinks for SEO purposes.
Evernote – You never know when inspiration is going to strike. And you never want to forget a good idea. Plus writing something down and getting it out of your head allows you to focus on the thing that you have to do in the moment. Admittedly, I don’t always use Evernote for notes. Sometimes I just use the simple Notepad that comes with Windows, or even the old fashion pen and paper. But when you’re on the run it’s great to have a tool where you can jot down ideas on your phone and then access them from all your other devices.
Michelle Hill – Red Rocket Media
Editorial Calendar (we don’t use specific software for this though – we find that a good old fashioned Excel spreadsheet works best).
Jakk Ogden – Content Hero
No content marketing tool post would be complete without its creator weighing in with his three favourite tools, right?
IFTTT – This is an invaluable automation tool for content marketers. Whether you want to automatically update your Facebook page whenever you publish a new blog post on WordPress or you want to automatically tweet about any Instagram photo you hashtag, If This Then That will do this plus so much more.
Buzzstream – as above, this is a fantastic resource that’s ideal for small business owners and large business owners. I have used Buzzstream for over 12 months now for connecting, and I am still amazed at just how easy it is to connect to professionals in my industry with Buzzstream. This is also a powerful link building tool, although I don’t use it for that.
Quora – This is the ultimate question and answer website which I recommend any thought leader uses. It brings together a range of experts and newbies and it has, personally, allowed me to connect with many like-minded folk over the past 6 months.
I would also like to mention Kapost and Compendium, two stellar content marketing software platforms with rich feature sets. Both have an excellent editorial calendar and both have advanced analytics to measure success.
A big thank you to everybody who helped us craft this amazing post!
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Here are the top 6 results once again:
- Google Analytics – 10 votes.
- Buzzstream – 7 votes.
- Feedly – 6 votes.
- Hootsuite, Quora – 5 votes
- Evernote – 4 votes.
- LinkedIn, Moz – 3 votes.
If you could only use 3 content marketing tools for the rest of your life, what would they be?