Content tools, platforms and applications are evolving rapidly and any “best of list” is almost instantly out of date. But, ignoring the short self life of all tools here is our list of recommended content marketing tools for your business.
What You Can Expect to Pay for Content
- Rock Star Content: $750-1,500. per 600-1,500 Word Blog Post (well researched, great headlines, SEO best practices integrated, calls to action)
- Middle Grade: $250-750. per 600-1,200 Word Blog Post (probably won’t do much for you in today’s content smogged world)
- Entry Level: $150-300. per 600-1,200 Blog Post (save your money it’s not going to convert)
- Editorial Calendar: $250-500. (Assumptions: Keyword Research Integrated & 90-180 day Calendar)
- Web Site Content: $65-150. per page (Assumption: images not included)
- Image Sourcing and Curation: $150-500. for Custom Image (Top Tier Quality); $75-300. (Mid Tier) – Paying less than this you are again probably wasting your money.
- Press Release: $300-500. per individual release, not including local or national syndication costs: $300-1K on average, SEO optimization included and custom “about” section
- Commercial Images: Getty Images defacto industry standard source but reoccurring royalty fees can be pricey, istockphoto is reasonable alternative with no royalty payments (owned by Getty)
- Some Stock Photos are okay but choose carefully (Visually has a good list embedded in this bullet point) and Tin Eye reverse image search is always a good thing to do when sourcing images.
Content Syndication Platforms
- HootSuite: Defacto market leader, supports Twitter, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn and even WordPress; good for scheduling but can be a bit challenging for Team Collaboration, good baseline functional analytics; but, for Facebook “can’t access Liked pages” requiring toggling.
- Sprout Social: Only supports 2-3 Channels, on-board analytics are good; built in CRM functionality (SalesForce, Zendesk, User Voice) bit pricey for the functionality.
- IFTTT: Not pure play syndication platform; uses “channel” building blocks to create “triggers” and “actions” – think of this as a cool “DIY” platform for content syndication.
- Zapier: Same functionality as IFTTT: User Interface is a bit more polished than IFTTT and supports 30-40% more web apps; no onboard “recipes” and expect to pay $15-30. per month for achieve real productivity.
- Buffer: Supports all top tier social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), great for scheduling updates; has over 50 apps integrated with the platform that drive competitive advantage; great TOS, pricing is reasonable and c/service is excellent; have now integrated Google Analytics with platform.
- Note: we didn’t include HubSpot, Marketo and/or Infusionsoft in this group – all have overlapping features and functions with more emphasis on lead gen and tracking and are not “pure play” content syndication platforms.
Six Best Content Publishing Platforms
- Outbrain: Brands can syndicate content (sponsorships) across other top tier sites as “sponsored” or “suggested” – solid platform for publishers and bigger brands.
- Content Blvd: supports submission of sponsored or guest posts to blogs and third party sites your brand approves of; utilizes their own dashboard for managing content publishing.
- Gravity: Promote your content to targeted audience demographics (has built in API for publishers) across several hundred thousand sites, has nifty “Chrome” browser plugin for consumers to personalize content.
- OneSpot: Owned or “earned” content is converted to optimized “spots” (think very targeted ads) on third party sites and social networks.
- ShareThis: Create account via web site (free and paid up-sell) for brand analytics tracking; the absolute best way to share “one off” content via a browser (plug in), with built in “automation” for LinkedIn Groups, which is cool.
- Taboola: Content “recommendation engine” your paying to have your content “discovered” across top tier publisher sites, with onboard analytics.
Platforms for Sourcing Written or Visual Content
- Visually: marketplace for sourcing infographics and other types of image content: community model is still being fleshed out.
- Scripted: Submit a job, industry and guidelines and your brand is matched with a provider. Content: just about anything: blog posts, tweets, status updates, newsletters, PR, custom photos and more.
- Elance: Submit an RFP and get bids from contractors; expect 75% to be from outside U.S., providers; rates and quality vary tremendously; “Odesk” now part of Elance.
- Contently: Structured for brands and providers (journalists and others), with built in portfolio capability: does great job of connecting brands and journalists.
- Bllogger Link Up: Cathy Stucker’s stellar site for connecting bloggers and brands (no fees whatsoever); great resource and high quality blogger/writers on this site.
- Zerys: Automated back end managing bids and costs for content sourcing, connecting writers with jobs and brands/agencies with per-qualified writers.
- Writer Access: “white label writing” resource for brands and agencies: writer recruitment automation and content production.
- LinkedIn Groups: great for sourcing content writers, requiring more front end work vs. automated platforms; posting gigs capability controlled by group admin requiring their “permission” in some cases.
- Scoop.It: great source for sourcing and curating news and/or thematic topics for sharing on social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and RSS); morphing to a mini social network, requiring more and more time to leverage the platform with an associated learning curve.
- Pinterest: your brand’s Pinterest account is a ready made source for images; you should be using images that drive brand resonance, so re-purpose these across other content marketing initiatives.
Content Marketing Gotchas Your Brand Should be Aware of
So much heat and light written about content syndication platforms and processes and their “magic properties.”
Yes, content syndication is critical, especially in today’s noisy markets. But, make sure you have quality content worth sharing.
Another gotcha for sourcing content: be aware in creating content your brand is going to get what you pay for. It’s a competitive world, especially for creating stellar well written content.
You may squeeze a writer or agency’s price down to a rock bottom rate; but, it’s a creative process and your minimizing the writer or agency’s ability to invest the right amount of time in creating good content.
The old maxim: “you get what you pay for” has a lot of relevance with content marketing or any creative discipline for that matter.
Great Content Has these Basic Hallmarks
- Informative and factual.
- Borrows from book formats liberally: Headings, Block Quotes, Sections.
- Incorporates brevity.
- Integrates images that resonate with the visitor.
- It’s conversational and relates to your audience.
Don’t forget great content is just half the battle – analyzing ROI metrics is critical as is sales funnel integration.
Content not measured is content wasted!
Great Content is a Relationship Builder – It Opens the Door but Does Not Seal the Deal
- You have ten seconds to get the attention of your visitor. The usability maestro Jakob Nielsen’s Darwinian logic is spot on for content marketers.
- Headlines drive the visitor into the text; or not! Be compelling.
- Know your visitor – what do they want to read and how do you educate?
- Try to integrate some emotion or personality into your content.
- Confusion kills: God knows all content marketers struggle with this. Try to be concise.
- Text should broken up with headers, bullets or numbers.
- Web site users read in an “F” pattern, starting at top left and moving down.
- Go lean and mean with your text. #lessismore
- Bullets and Numbers are smartphone friendly – use them or lose the visitor’s attention span.
- Mix and match practical images with “creative” images – some times the wackier the better.
Smartphone Takeaways for Time Challenged Execs
Don’t fall in love with content marketing platforms and syndication. The technology is just a means to an end.
Create stellar content that’s “comment enabled” and listen to the community. You’ll know if the content is resonating based on sharing and time on your site.
Mastering content takes time patience and hard work – it’s an iterative process for any business.
Images are interest builders that help to drive visitors into your content – be creative with these.
Remember cheap content is just that, nothing more.
Expect to spend 6-12 months sourcing, creating and sharing great content.
There are no shortcuts to creating great content – it’s going to take blood, sweat and tears and don’t listen to anyone that tells you something different!