Adding a blog post to your website is a cinch. It's everything else that gets complicated.
- Developing post ideas
- Optimizing for search
- Getting stakeholder approval
- Promoting on social media
You need the right tools to get a handle on all of these moving parts. Fortunately, there are some great tools out there that don’t cost much to use. Indeed, our three favorite tools for content creation are free for individual users.
When we chose our favorite content/project tools, we had a few requirements:
- 24/7/365 access — Blue Star Design’s content team works on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and we need connectivity anytime and anywhere we have Internet access. That means our apps need to be hosted in the cloud, where we can reach them on any web-connected device.
- Browser compatibility — The tools need to be easy to use on all the major web browsers (Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.) on all the major operating systems (Android, iOS, etc.).
- Integration — The tools need to work well with each other and provide API access in case we need to customize them for more sophisticated tasks.
Given these requirements, here are our three favorite project tools for content creation:
Trello is a visual-organization tool that lets you see exactly where certain jobs are in the continuum from ideation to creation to completion. You can add deadlines, assign people to specific tasks, and know where pretty much everything is, all the time. Trello’s working environment has three key components:
- Boards — These are the largest organizational sections. You host related tasks within each board. A content agency like ours might assign a board to each of its clients and organize all their content within each board.
- Lists — Everything inside a board is organized in lists. In our publishing example, we would create a list for each phase of the process, such as topic ideas, writing, editing, and so on.
- Cards — Each individual job gets its own card, which users can drag and drop to respective lists to show where each job is in the production process. Users can assign deadlines, provide comments, and upload files to ensure everybody is on the same page.
Each person who needs to know the status of a project can be assigned to it and kept up to date via notifications. We add our clients to our Trello environment so no one is left out of the loop.
As a writing and editing tool, Google Docs don’t have quite as much horsepower as Microsoft Word, but they are available in the cloud and allow us to collaborate in real time. We also don’t have to worry about not having the latest version of a document.
Multiple people can work on a Google Doc simultaneously, which admittedly takes some getting used to. (At first glance, it looks like a ghost has taken over your document when text you didn’t write starts showing up on your screen.) Google Docs have standard editing tools like spellchecking, find-and-replace, and word count. Headline and body formatting generally gets translated into standard HTML when you copy text into a CMS like WordPress. (For instance, a Heading 2 is imported as an HTML H2, which is handy because using standard HTML heads is good for on-page SEO.) Formats for bulleted lists also import easily.
The main caveat with Google Docs: You have to be careful about the sharing settings on documents to keep them out of the hands of unauthorized users.
Grammarly is like insecticide for annoying typos: It helps you spot repeated words, hard-to-spell words, and other boo-boos that tend to get overlooked in the push to publish. It also keeps track of all your work and sends you a report on how much you produced in the past week.
The paid version has a more robust toolset that tells you how to streamline your writing and avoid grammatical errors.
Perhaps the best thing about Grammarly is that you can add browser plugins that scan every post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms that require you to type text in a browser field. This is a huge help because most people’s attention isn’t focused on their spelling and grammar in these settings, so they have a much stronger tendency to muff the basics and make embarrassing mistakes — publicly.