Writing consistent, concise, creative copy for the web on a regular basis involves quite a bit of planning and effort. Even if you have a stable of writers, managing a blog with multiple contributors can be a daunting task. Throw in the added responsibility of writing content with no spelling or grammar errors, that’s visible to search engines and highly shareable on social media — it’s a tall order for even the most creative and ambitious content creators.
Through the years I’ve developed a roster of go-to online tools to aid in the content planning and writing process. From helping to stimulate the creative juices to checking grammar and punctuation, these online apps make the process of writing creative copy a little less difficult.
A great free tool to help get you out of a word pinch, Word Hippo is like a thesaurus on steroids. It can help you find similar words, opposites, meanings, sentences that contain, plural versions, singular versions, past tense for, words ending with, meanings, words containing and more for any word you’re struggling with. It definitely helps give your writing a boost when you can’t think of a better way to say stuff like “optimize for.”
If you find yourself with the need to record live conversation, you’ll eventually find yourself with a need to transcribe it. Transcribe is a paid online tool (with a 20-day free trial) that merges a text editor screen with an audio player so you can seamlessly switch from toggling audio controls to typing. While it’s not as handy as paying someone else to transcribe your work — or better yet, getting a robot to do it —it makes this tedious process a bit more bearable, especially with controls that allow you to speed up or slow down playback.
I use Small SEO Tools’ Plagiarism Checker in our SEO consulting to help clients determine whether content from their website has been used elsewhere on the web. This free online tool makes it easy for you to cut and paste content and run it through a filter that determines what percentage of the text contained within it is original based on a web search for duplicate sentence fragments.
Draft is an online word processor created by a developer that has so many cool (but simple!) features it’s hard to keep track of them all. The clean and simple interface is free to use and enhanced by version control, easy collaboration, crowdsourced copyediting, an online transcription tool, easy publishing to a host of social and blog platforms, and more. It’s a great place to store all your blog post ideas and to start editing them once they’re ready to go.
Another incredibly simple online word processing interface, 750 Words is inspired by the concept of “morning pages” from the inspirational creative text The Artists Way. The idea behind morning pages is that you write 3 pages of “first thought, best thought” without backtracking or censoring. Three pages amounts to about 750 words, so 750 Words tracks your writing progress until you’ve completed exactly that much copy — then it monitors your progress over time. The application, which is free to use, tracks your data against that of its other users, and every account is equipped with the ability to access metadata about writing stats and the thoughts and feelings that comprise your entries.
Still the best tool to use for keyword research, Google Keyword Planner makes it easy for you to search for keyword ideas based on popular search terms so you can optimize your web content for search. For instance, a search for the term “panda habitat” pulls up related terms like “red panda,” “design a panda habitat,” and “why are pandas endangered.” This tool also gives you an idea of average search volume over time, so you can tell whether the terms you’re optimizing for will generate the volume of traffic you’d like.
Upload text from any source, or install the Chrome extension, and Grammarly will instantly check it for spelling and grammar mistakes. While most word processors do this already, Grammerly touts its ability to check your writing against 250 common grammar and usage rules in English. The paid upgrade offers a plagiarism checker, professional proofreading, and a vocabulary enhancement suggestions.
When news broke of Google Reader’s demise last year, one RSS feed reader, Feedly, ably stepped up to take its place. Unlike Google Reader, which sometimes made scrolling through your RSS feed feel like a chore, Feedly’s clean interface made keeping track of your favorite syndicated web content a reading pleasure. What does this have to do with creating content? Keeping track of what’s being covered by your favorite blogs and websites can help spark ideas, as well as tell you what’s been done before.
Word clouds are a great tool to help you instantly visualize the frequency and importance of keywords within your content. The trouble with many online word cloud softwares is that they’re too robust, requiring Flash or including so many bells and whistles you can easily get distracted designing something rather than focusing on content. Tag Crowd turns tag cloud creation into a simple, two-step process so you can easily get to the main ideas behind a giant mess of content.
Impact’s Blog Title Generator
The folks at Impact Branding & Design have taken some of the web’s most popular blog title formats and crammed them into a suggestion tool that helps you come up with titles for your posts. (It’s helpful for email subject line generation, too!) If your blog could use a little Clickhole-infusion, this free online tool might be a good place to start. (Full disclosure: I totally used this tool to title this blog post.)
Google Drive blog content calendar templates
Need help organizing all the content you’re writing and assigning to others? Don’t feel like you have to create a content calendar from scratch. There are lots of shared content calendar templates on Google Drive that you can copy and use yourself to give you a running start. This is a great one to start!