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The 42 Best Content Marketing Tools, According to Expert Content Marketers

April 15, 2021
Camille Trent

We all know we need it, but not all marketing teams know how to create and distribute high-quality content. That’s why nearly 91% of blogs get no traffic from Google. Here are the top content marketing tools experts use to write well and rank.

Table of Contents

All marketing involves content marketing. It’s how marketers create attention, engagement and connection with their ideal buyers. 

We all know we need it, but not all marketing teams know how to create and distribute high-quality content. That’s why there are now 600 million blogs and 1.8 billion websites (and counting) but nearly 91% get no traffic from Google. 

While content marketing is often associated most closely with SEO writing, it actually includes all aspects of marketing communications — copywriting, content outlining, research, writing, optimization for search and content distribution. 

For this article, we asked expert content marketers which content marketing tools they use at every stage of the content production process. Here’s what they said:

Content Research Tools

This goes without saying, but you should understand what your audience wants before you attempt to create content. That’s why content and SEO consultant Meelad Mashaw told MarketerHire he uses three content research and analytics tools “day-in and day-out” — Google Search Console, Google Ads Keyword Planner, and Ahrefs Keyword Research Tool. We heard these and other tools from several content marketers. 

Here are the 12 most loved keyword and competitor research tools:

1. Google Trends.

  • Ideal for: all content marketers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: topic overview

One of many Google freebies, Google Trends gives you a pulse on the search market — are people Googling the topic? How has public interest changed over time? Often, I use Google Trends to justify my content decisions with data. It bolsters your argument for “who cares?” in the intro. 

For instance, when writing about growth marketing, I noticed a decline in “Growth Hacking” while “Growth Marketing” was still on the rise. I turned that trend data into a chart (well, MarketerHire’s designer did) and used it to strengthen my argument for “why growth marketing?” 

Content marketing tool example, how to use Google Trends
Source: Google Trends

2. BuzzSumo.

  • Ideal for: content creators, marketers and social media managers
  • Cost: paid plan starts at $99 per month (first 10 searches a month are free)
  • Typical content marketing use case: finding content inspiration and influencers

Similar to Google Trends and Google Alerts, BuzzSumo helps you see what content is trending in your industry and get notified when competitors post new content. The difference is BuzzSumo specializes in social rather than search. It also goes a step further than other content trend tools by helping you identify industry influencers behind the trending content.

Using this paid tool, you can see which content is most shared across social networks, run reports, get content ideas, and plan your content calendar accordingly. While you’ll want to do more research for SEO content, it does provide backlink data and is a great tool for creative and brand content inspiration. 

3. Feedly.

  • Ideal for: content marketers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: keeping up on industry news and trends
Content marketing tool example. How to use feedly.
Source: Feedly (screenshot)
Feedly is like Twitter for your favorite blogs. 

Feedly is like Twitter for your favorite blogs. 

Stealing from the messaging in their welcome email, Feedly helps content marketers keep up with material that matters most and cut out everything else. You can curate RSS feeds for marketing, advertising, fishing — whatever your heart desires. Once you’ve curated a feed, you can mark articles as read, read later or save to a board.

4. Statista.

  • Ideal for: SEO marketers and writers
  • Cost: starts at $4.5K per year
  • Typical content marketing use case: accurate statistics and charts

While not a free tool, this is a subscription you should consider early on if you want to write high-quality marketing content. 

Looking for credible sources and stats is a massive thorn in every content marketer’s side. You’ll often run into aggregator sites crediting one another, making it near impossible to find the original source.

Statista pulls data from market research, trade publications, scientific journals and government databases that you might otherwise have to pay out the nose for if you subscribed to each publication separately. 

5. Keywords Everywhere.

  • Ideal for: SEO writers and content marketers
  • Cost: free (pay per credit for keyword metrics)
  • Typical content marketing use case: SEO keyword research
Content marketing tool example. How to use Keywords everywhere.
Source: Google (screenshot)

Using the free Keywords Everywhere Google Chrome extension, “search results embed right into Google,” explained freelance content marketer and writer Miranda Eifler.

For example, Keywords Everywhere pulls Google’s Related Keywords, People Also Search For, and Long-Tail Keywords for your search term into separate panels on the side bar. You can even download those keywords to an Excel spreadsheet.

The catch? It won’t give you the metrics to help you prioritize all those keywords (search volume, keyword difficulty score) unless you buy credits.

Content marketing tool example. How to use keywords everywhere (example 2)

6. Keyword Surfer.

  • Ideal for: SEOs, writers and content marketers
  • Cost: free (pay per credit for keyword metrics)
  • Typical content marketing use case: SEO keyword research

One of my favorite free SEO tools, Keyword Surfer gives you a list of related keyword ideas, their approximate search volume, and correlation charts. Like Keywords Everywhere, Keyword Surfer is a free Google Chrome extension. 

While you can get more accurate keyword data from Ahrefs or SEMRush, the correlation charts are fairly unique, giving you an at-a-glance visualization of your competition by site traffic, article length and keywords the piece ranks for.

Content marketing tool example. How to use Keyword Surfer

It gets better. Surfer SEO also doubles as an SEO content optimization tool.

Surfer SEO is a SEO copywriter's dream tool.

“Surfer SEO is a SEO copywriter's dream tool,” Brynn Johnson, Founder and Freelancer at Swandive Co, told MarketerHire. “The content editor is the primary feature I use.” 

“What I find most actionable is the high level recommendations for word count, headings, images and paragraphs. It helps you as a writer keep your parameters clear so you can focus on being creative,” said Johnson. 

Essentially, Surfer SEO is a poor man’s ClearScope or MarketMuse.

Content marketing tool example. How to use keyword surfer (example 2)
Source: Surfer SEO (screenshot)

7. Ahrefs.

  • Ideal for: SEO and content marketers and teams
  • Cost: starts at $99 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: keyword, backlink and competitor research

Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO and content tool known for its keyword and backlink data accuracy. It’s also a great way to spy on a competitor’s SEO health and do content gap analysis by comparing their ranking content to yours. 

“The keyword research process for me starts in Ahrefs, [then] jumps back to Google or one of these other extensions or tools,” Maddy Osman, an expert content marketing freelancer, told MarketerHire. “And kind of ends in Ahrefs where I'm just validating what I find basically.”

“With Ahrefs you're able to understand what your competition is ranking for, what their Domain Authority is, and which keywords are high enough volume and low enough difficulty to rank for, “ Nelson Jordan, Head of Marketing at Obodo, told MarkerterHire. 

Jordan uses Ahrefs to understand what content to create and ClearScope to rank for that content. We’ll dive deeper into ClearScope in the content optimization section of this article.

8. SEMrush.

  • Ideal for: SEO and content marketers and teams
  • Cost: starts at $119.95 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: keyword, backlink and competitor research

An Ahrefs competitor, SEMrush has long been considered the gold standard of SEO tools. Only recently has Ahrefs given it a run for its money. 

“SEMrush is my secret weapon when it comes to all things SEO and competitive research,” freelance content marketer Jessica McCune told MarketerHire. 

“Not only can it help give you an idea of where your website is performing in search rankings current[ly]... it also allows you to easily see what search terms your competitors are ranking for.”

SEMrush is freelance marketer and writer Sammi Dittloff’s SEO content tool of choice as well. 

“Even though I've used a lot of tools over the years, I keep coming back to SEMrush,” she said. While you can get most of the content research done within the tool itself, Dittloff also loves using it to cross-reference what she finds on other free tools, like Google Search Console. Similar to how Osman pairs free keyword tools with Ahrefs. 

9. SparkToro.

  • Ideal for: Content marketing and teams
  • Cost: Begins free, with paid plans that begin at $38 a year
  • Typical content marketing use case: Persona research and building

SparkToro helps identify key audiences you wouldn't necessarily be able to see otherwise, Adrianne Barnes, messaging and audience expert at Best Buyer Persona told MarketerHire. 

According to the audience intelligence tool’s site it “crawls tens of millions of social and web profiles and finds what (and who) your audience reads, listens to, watches, follows, shares and talks about online.”

Similar to BuzzSumo, it will serve up interesting posts and podcasts that went viral and help you find influencers by keyword. 

In addition to using it as a topic tool, you can also use this as a distribution tool as it pins down the most influential people in your niche who can help your content get in front of the right people.

10. Google Search Console.

  • Ideal for: all content marketers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: keyword research and site growth
Content marketing tool example. How to use Google Search Console.
Source: Google Search Console (screenshot)

Another free Google app, Google Search Console helps content marketers research keywords and track performance. 

It shows what keywords their site’s pages are currently ranking for, explained Madshaw. “The information helps me optimize my pages to rank even better.”

You can also filter results by specific parameters like excluding branded terms, to get a better understanding of people discovering your content through search versus people typing your name in search after hearing about you on another channel. This can also act as a leading indicator of brand growth.

Content marketing tool example. How to use Google Search Console (example 2)
Source: Google Search Console (screenshot)

11. Google Analytics.

  • Ideal for: all content marketers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: website traffic and behavior

A must-have tool and skill for content marketers, Google Analytics is a marketing team’s command center for all things website-related. It gives them real-time data on site sessions, page views, average session time, bounce rate and more. Sessions and page views tell you how you’re doing on distribution and bounce rate and session time tell you about your content quality. 

“Google Analytics is one of my favorite tools to measure performance and it can give you so much information about how your content is performing on your website… Plus, it's free!” McCune told MarkerHire. 

12. Google. 

  • Ideal for: content marketers, writers, and SEOs
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: finding related queries and keywords

While there are plenty of great free and paid content research tools on the market, you really don’t need to break the bank to rank, Oracle content and SEO marketer Lauren Pope pointed out in a LinkedIn post. “Google will tell you which related long-tail keywords to go after for free.”

Let’s say I want to write about content marketing tools (like I’m doing now), I can draw from Google’s auto-suggest terms in the search dropdown, “People also ask” section near the top of the search engine results page (SERP), and “Related searches” at the bottom of the SERP. 

Content Sourcing Tools

It’s never been easier to reach experts. From sliding into social media DMs to joining niche Slack and Facebook communities, there are plenty of creative ways to gather primary research. 

Here are some of our favorite outreach tools for content marketers:

1. Google Forms.

  • Ideal for: content marketing consultants and small content teams
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case(s): basic surveys and questionnaires for expert roundups

“I have used Google Forms in many of my past positions in order to source information from a company's audience,” said McClune. “Surveying customers (past or present) can offer a deeper look into who they are, what their pain points are, and what they need from a company like yours. This information can be used to create content, products, and/or services to help relieve those pain points.”

But Google Forms has its limitations.

“I have used Google forms in the past. I think that's a great tool. It's free, it's easy to customize. It's just basic,” said Osman “If somebody wanted to coordinate the expert round up, that's what I've done in the past.” Now, Osman prefers using HARO for sourcing industry experts. More on HARO later.  

2. Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM).

  • Ideal for: content marketers and writers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $20 per month (free for up to 50 sends per month sans scheduling features)
  • Typical content marketing use case: expert outreach 

Speaking of reaching out to experts, that takes some serious time if you’re sending each email separately. Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM) is a Gmail add-on that lets your Gmail editor act more like an email automation tool. You can create a template in Gmail and YAMM with pull from your mailing list in Google Sheets to personalize the name, subject line, etc. 

3. Rev.com.

  • Ideal for: content writers
  • Cost: $1.25 per minute for their most popular transcription service
  • Typical content marketing use case(s): transcribing interviews

While AI commoditized transcription services, most of us are not super satisfied with the quality of AI transcriptions.They all have their flaws. Writers, editors and producers love Rev for its accuracy.

Rev offers two products — a 99% accurate transcription for $1.25 per minute and an 80% accurate transcription at $0.25 per minute. It’s easy to find transcription tools that do a B- job, but A+ is still worth 5X the cost for many content marketers who always seem to be strapped for time.

4. HARO.

  • Ideal for: content writers, journalists and PR specialists
  • Cost: paid plans start at $19 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: sourcing experts for articles

HARO, short for Help a Reporter Out, connects reporters — or content marketers and PR specialists — with the experts they’re looking for through daily email queries. Though, content marketers are divided on whether HARO is worth the effort. 

Josh Spilker, head of marketing at Friday.app, notes that he gets too many unqualified responses for it to be worth filtering through. “[Y]ou get a lot of people that aren't really experts,” he observed.

However, Osman likes that HARO lets her spend less time sourcing and pitching busy experts that may not respond. But she clarifies that you have to be very specific with your requirements.

“To give you an example, Bluehost is a client that I work with and whenever I'm creating expert roundups for them, I know that the name is going to attract a lot of people,” said Osman. “Whenever I'm writing a request for those, I put it in something like… you have to have run your small business for 10 years.” This, she says, helps set clear expectations from the start and reduces undesired responses.

5. Help a B2B Writer.

  • Ideal for: B2B content writers and strategists
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: sourcing experts for articles

Freelance writer Elise Dobson recently launched Help a B2B Writer as a most verticalized alternative to HARO. The site does a better job of routing you to real experts according to Osman, who uses it to source experts for articles.

While HARO is still useful, its popularity means that there are a “plethora of business owners and marketers using it incorrectly,” said Dayana Mayfield, SEO and PR Strategist at Pitch & Profit. “Too many people respond to queries that they know nothing about, which floods your inbox and makes sorting through responses very time consuming.”

6. Typeform.

  • Ideal for: product and content marketers and researchers
  • Cost: starts at $35 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: conducting large reporting surveys

Typeform is a supercharged version of Google Forms. Barnes uses the questionnaire tool to conduct industry surveys.

One reason: she can quickly scale her subscription up when she needs premium services for larger surveys (up to 1K responses per month) and back down for normal use — expert roundups and client collaboration. Plus, it creates clean data visualizations she can easily leverage for webinars and whitepapers. 

Content Writing Tools

So, keyword research and sourcing experts is great and all, but what about the actual writing part? Ultimately, it comes down to you sitting at a desk (or coach, or bed — no judgement) until it’s done, but AI writing and video communication tools can help get the ball rolling. Here are five favorites from professional content marketers.

1. Google Docs.

  • Ideal for: content writers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: outlining and writing blog articles

This list just won’t feel right without Google Docs. Afterall, that’s where content marketers spend a good chunk of their working lives. And while we’re not going to bore you with Google Doc facts you already know, we may just blow your mind with this hack: you can create a new doc by typing “Docs.new” into the Google search bar. Same rule applies to other Google apps like Sheets and Slides.

Lastly, you can stop flipping between your editor and content optimization tools with Google add-ons. Our favorite? ClearScope’s SEO content optimization add-on. More on ClearScope later. 

2. Fireflies.ai.

  • Ideal for: content writers
  • Cost: Paid plans start at $10 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: taking notes during your recorded meetings

As the name suggests, Fireflies.ai uses AI to transcribe meetings. But unlike other AI transcribers, this one integrates seamlessly with video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meets. In fact, the studious notetaker automatically joins your meetings as a participant, so you don’t have to worry about taking notes. 

For instance, a client could book a Zoom call with you through a Calendly link. While Fireflies isn’t as accurate as Rev.com or a human transcriptionist, it can keep you focused on the interview and save you from extra admin work on the backend. 

But, as Osman emphasized, it won’t do all the work for you. “You wouldn't want to take it and publish it for a podcast or something without editing it.”

3. Grammarly.

  • Ideal for: basic grammatical editing 
  • Cost: paid plan starts at $12 per month (Chrome extension is free)
  • Typical content marketing use case: grammatical and cosmetic editing

“Grammarly is one of those tools you set up and forget about until it swoops in to help make your writing better,” McCune told MarketerHire. “Grammarly is the perfect tool to use to make sure you don't send that email or post that blog with spelling or grammar issues.”

Pro tip: Grammarly has a beta Style Guides program where you can build your own dynamic dictionary for brands.

4. Wordtune.

  • Ideal for: content writers and copywriters
  • Cost: paid plan start at $9.99 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: A/B testing ad copy or refining syntax

An AI content generator and optimizer, Wordtune is a free Chrome extension that rephrases sentences for you. Or rather, it highlights opportunities and provides you suggestions in a pop-up bubble. By the way, all this happens within your Google Docs, rather than you copy-pasting to another tab.  

“You can get suggestions for how to shorten it or lengthen it,” explained Osman. “I think this is a really cool way to play with AI because it's not like cheating the system. It's just like being more efficient with your own writing.”

5. Loom.

  • Ideal for: content marketing leaders and editors
  • Cost: starts at $8 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: onboarding new writers and quick briefs

A screen capture and video tool in the form of a Chrome extension, Loom is great for briefing new writers or walking an editor through the final piece. 

Josh Spilker finds it especially helpful when onboarding new writers. “It's just a little bit easier to talk about it, especially if the product is unfamiliar to them, or if there's a second new writer.”

In contrast, Barnes uses it post-creation. “I would send [the final piece] to the editor and use Loom to kind of run through it when I wanted to have a face to face explanation, but it didn't require a full blown meeting.”

Content Optimization Tools

Before you upload that article, you’ll want to make sure it’s primed for distribution. If you’re an SEO content marketer, that might mean optimizing a piece of content for the right keywords and compressing images. The SEO writers we talked to tend to gravitate toward these tools:

1. Clearscope.

  • Ideal for: content writers and marketers
  • Cost: starts at $170 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: optimizing blog articles for search

ClearScope is to content optimization what Ahrefs is to competitive research. While they both help with keywords, they’re not mutually exclusive tools. They complement each other.

Using ClearScope’s in-app report or Google Docs add-on, “you can optimize your content in real-time as you write,” said freelance content marketer and writer Miranda Eifler. 

The popular content optimization tool grades your article on word count, right keywords, headers, and gives a readability score. Plus, it’s Google add-on lets you do all that within Google Docs. 

[ClearScope] is honestly my favorite SEO tool because it's one of the few that's actually designed for writers, rather than analysts,” said Beth Owens. “You can take an article from a C to an A++ that stands a good chance of ranking in less than 30 minutes,” added Jordan.

2. Frase.

  • Ideal for: consultants and small content teams
  • Cost: starts at $44.99 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: SEO article outlines and keyword optimization

Frase helps on both the front and back end of SEO content writing. It pulls keywords and topics from Google to help you figure out how to structure a piece of content — generating an outline and featuring a ClearScope-esque content grading tool that helps you reach the right balance with your keyword density.

While ClearScope and Frase are technically competitors, Spilker and Osman use them for different tasks. 

Osman says she prefers Frase’s outline generator, which gives her data on what people expect to see in the heads, and ClearScope’s optimizer to make sure she’s using all the suggested keywords. Content marketers suspect ClearScope’s keyword data is more accurate, but Frase’s outline and research features are more helpful. Though, we’d still recommend Frase over Keyword Surfer’s content optimization tool.

3. MarketMuse.

  • Ideal for: mid-sized content teams
  • Cost: starts at $79 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: post-production content optimization

Like Frase, MarketMuse uses AI to improve content for search. It includes both pre- and post-production content tools. While Spilker says MarketMuse’s outline capabilities and research tools are too expensive compared to Frase, he likes to use MarketMuse to optimize his content after it’s written. 

“[MarketMuse] is a great tool for improving personalization of content for various target audiences,” said Rachel Neppes, Founder & Principal at ResultRocket.

4. TinyPNG.

  • Ideal for: SEO content writers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case: compressing images for websites

Sometimes image compression is included in your website hosting. Alternatively, you can download Wordpress plugins or use free tools. TinyPNG is what we use to compress all blog images before we stage articles here at MarketerHire. Why? It’s fast and free.

5. Yoast.

  • Ideal for: SEO and content marketers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $89
  • Typical content marketing use case: optimizing web pages for SEO in WordPress

A WordPress plugin, Yoast is basically an SEO checklist for blog articles and web pages. It helps content marketers remember to fill in things like metadata and internal linking. It also provides keyword suggestions and alerts you when you need to update old content. 

6. SEO Minion.

  • Ideal for: SEO and content marketers
  • Cost: Free
  • Typical content marketing use case: optimizing web pages for SEO 

Chrome extension SEO Minion is a poor man’s Frase. The tools gives you an at-a glance view of the SERP and lets you download listing data — from ad results to People Also Ask questions.

Content marketing tool example. How to use SEO Minion.
Source: SEO Minion (screenshot)

Content Design and Video Tools

As much as content marketers love words, they realize the importance of weaving in visuals. Whether you need an infographic for your blog or videos for your social media posts. 

1. Canva (design).

  • Ideal for: content marketers and designers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $12.99 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: designing social and website graphics

Canva is the easiest way to create visual content in 2021. While Adobe’s creative suite is more robust, Canva is built for non-designers, making it a go-to for many content marketers needing to whip up a quick quote or pie chart. 

Not only can you create visuals in Canva, Barnes also presents webinar presentation slides directly from the platform. 

2. Unsplash (stock photography).

  • Ideal for: content marketers and designers
  • Cost: free
  • Typical content marketing use case(s): website photography

One of the best free image libraries, Unsplash’s archive hosts more than one million photos. It’s a great resource for sourcing photos for hero blog images, website photography, social media assets, and more. 

3. Vidyard (streaming and recording).

  • Ideal for: content marketers and producers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $15 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case(s): streaming live webinars

Like Loom, Vidyard has a screen and video recording Chrome extension. It also integrates with LinkedIn and other platforms so people can stream your live webinars in multiple places. 

4. Figma (prototyping and designing).

  • Ideal for: marketers and designers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $12 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: UX design for websites and apps

“Our designer right now loves Figma,” said Spilker, “So we kind of do everything in Figma.”

Spilker particularly likes the template library and ability to move around in the tool. Zooming in and out and copying elements — it’s all pretty seamless within Figma. Friday.app and MarketerHire both use this tool to mock up website designs. 

“I think [the designer] likes it because it's really easy to share too,” added Spilker. 

Content Distribution Tools

There’s no one right way to distribute content. It depends on where your audience is most engaged. Some brands are all over social whereas others dominate search or email. These tools don’t replace a distribution strategy — or quality content — but they can give you a boost. 

1. Quuu.

  • Ideal for: social media and content marketers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $5 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: promoting blog articles on social media

Quuu is like a social media pod with rules. It’s a network of people who agree to help promote other creators’ posts. So, instead of just your company hyping up your new article on social media, you can leverage the followings of other creators. However, the standards are high, says Maddy Osman, who uses the platform. Self-promotional posts don’t get approved. 

2. Hunter.io.

  • Ideal for: SEO and content marketers 
  • Cost: paid plan starts at $49 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: sourcing valid email addresses for outreach

Whether you’re looking to bolster your website and articles with quality backlinks or reach out to industry experts to inform and promote your content, Hunter.io helps content marketers and consultants find professional emails in seconds from a library of 100 million indexed emails. While that might sound a little sketchy, they work with professionals at big-name companies like Google and Microsoft.

3. Hubspot.

  • Ideal for: B2B marketing teams
  • Cost: paid plans start at $45 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: CRM-powered email marketing and social media content

Including powerful email marketing automation and social media management tools, it's no wonder so many marketing teams use HubSpot to automate content distribution. From creating email segmentation and workflows to scheduling social content, this all-in-one marketing tool excels at distributing brand, thought leadership, and trend content to your email lists and followers. It even has a few simple SEO features built into its blog and landing page builder. 

4. StoryChief.

  • Ideal for: content and social media marketers
  • Cost: paid plans start at $90 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: social media management

An all-in-one content tool, StoryChief includes content optimization tools for SEO and readability and integrations that allow you to publish blog articles, promote to social media and email lists, and measure marketing campaign success, all from one app. 

“StoryChief is a great option for measuring content marketing if (like me) you aren't a Google Analytics pro,” said Mayfield. “You can use it to measure content impressions, reads, and the number of leads driven from that content.”

Content Management Systems

Nearly every marketing team has a website. And nearly every content marketer battles daily with whatever content management system (CMS) they have. Here are the most popular, and why.  

1. WordPress.

  • Ideal for: semi-technical marketers on a budget
  • Cost: free

One of the more established CMS out there, WordPress is the “Swiss army knife” for website building, according to Osman. You can choose from a library of free and paid templates and there’s a plugin for just about any widget you’d want. 

The cons? Those plugins tend to slow down your site. Plus, they can be high maintenance. For a more WYSIWYG experience, many marketers use WordPress drag and drop tools like Divi. So now you’re updating plugins and designing from a separate app. Don’t stay on top of it, and it will crash. 

But content marketers like  Dittloff are impressed with the new WordPress block editor. “Between the plugins and themes, you can create any kind of page you want. I love having control over every piece of my site,” added Dittloff.

2. Webflow.

  • Ideal for: designers
  • Cost: paid CMS plans start at $16 per month

“Webflow is designed for those who need to design something special which isn't possible with the templated approach that WordPress has become famous for,” Jordan told MarketerHire. 

Webflow’s more visual and interactive — more flexibility with the design than WordPress templates, giving it that more premium SaaS feel. Though, its editor is inferior to Wordpress’s and it’s much more glitchy, according to MarketerHire editor-in-chief Mae Rice. Plus, you’re not able to preview blogs before publishing, like you can in WordPress.

3. Shopify.

  • Ideal for: e-commerce operators
  • Cost: starts at $29 per month
  • Typical content marketing use case: e-commerce shop

Widely considered the best overall e-commerce platform, Spotify sites are easy to build and they scale with you. This CMS includes hundreds of features, partner apps and integrations — allowing you to set up a micro Shopify store on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay and within a marketing email. 

Comparing the top content marketing tools

So, we’ve given you a comprehensive list of the best content tools in every category, but we haven’t necessarily helped you make final decisions. You’re still overwhelmed with options. The section pits popular content tools against one another so you can better understand the benefits of each. 

ClearScope v. Frase

Founded in 2016, ClearScope has been the go-to content optimization tool for the last few years. Recently, MarketMuse and Frase — both of which launched life-time deals through AppSumo — have given Frase a run for its money. Frase’s pricing and user praise made it especially competitive. However, the two tools have distinct strengths, according to content marketers. 

Feature Comparison

While both Frase and ClearScope have competitor research, keyword research and SEO optimization features, Osman uses them for different tasks. 

“For me, Frase fits really well into that briefing stage where we're doing research. I think that's where Frase really shines,” explained Osman. However, she still uses ClearScope for SEO content optimization because she doesn’t believe Frase’s keyword research is as accurate.

Winner: ClearScope (but it depends on what features you need most)

Cost Comparison

It’s nearly 4X more expensive to start with ClearScope than to start with Frase. That’s the primary reason Active Campaign growth content marketer Brendan Hufford says he uses Frase for his personal use. “The unlimited reports for 85% less cost make Frase the winner for me.”

Winner: Frase

Winner

If you’re more interested in using the content optimization features, choose ClearScope. If research and outline features matter more, or you’re looking for the best all-in-one blog content tool for the money, choose Frase. 

“We were deciding between Clearscope and Frase and selected Frase,” said Alessandra Colasi, VP of marketing at MailShake. “Both great tools with similar features, but Frase seems to be adding really cool features often and is more cost effective.”

Winner: Frase

Ahrefs v. SEMrush 

Both well-respected all-in-one SEO tools, you can’t really go wrong with either of these choices. However, each have subtle strengths and pricing differences worth considering. 

Feature Comparison

“Ahrefs offers very comprehensive keyword research and backlinking data,” said Mayfield. “[W]hile SEMrush does a great job of offering tips to optimize content for SEO and research trending topics.” 

“I've tried both tools and while SEMrush has the same features as Ahrefs, I've found the latter to be more intuitive,” said Johnson. “The video tutorials for Ahrefs are the right amount of education and explanation. SEMrush seems to fit really well for agencies and Ahrefs seems to be a freelancer's tool of choice.”

Winner: Ahrefs

Cost Comparison

At $119.95 per month, it’s slightly more expensive to start with SEMrush than Ahrefs. Ahrefs starts at just $99. However, SEMrush tops out at $449.95 for their premium plan and Ahrefs’ highest plan is $999 per month. However, $999 lets you add unlimited projects whereas $449.95 at SEMrush gets you 40, so Ahrefs scales better for large agencies. 

Winner: Ahrefs

Winner

Ahrefs lower price point and stronger keyword and backlink data make it a better choice for most content marketers. That said, the features are nearly identical and SEMrush may be the better option for agencies. 

“Ahrefs for me is the ultimate.”  concluded Osman. “That's what I trust as far as numbers. The other [SEO tools] are more idea tools.”

Winner: Ahrefs

Airtable vs. Asana

Google Sheets is the incumbent for content planner. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. A more traditional project management tool, Asana was one of the first to market in the space. Airtable came out four years later (2012) and has managed to make a lot of noise as a disruptive content tool.

Feature Comparison

Asana is an “easy-to-use, comprehensive project management tool,” said Neppes. It’s most effective for smaller teams looking to streamline projects and tasks, collaborate and meet deadlines, she added. 

“Once you get past the brief learning stage, you're an evangelist,” said Johnson of Asana. “The Kanban view is a lifesaver for a visual planner like me, too.”

In contrast, Airtable is more flexible than Asana, but it’s default view looks more like a supercharged database than a project management tool. It includes most of the same views and features as Asana — Kanban, lists, and editorial calendar — but it’s less templated and intuitive, requiring more imagination. 

Winner: Tie

Cost Comparison

Starting price is pretty comparable between these two tools. Asana’s paid plans start at 10.99 per user while Airtable’s paid plans start at $10. However, most of Airtable’s features are unlocked in its basic plan and upgrading simply gives you more storage, records and attachments per base. 

If you need more features and less space, start with Airtable. If you need less features but more space, start with Airtable. 

Winner: Airtable

Winner

Asana is the winner if you’re looking for an intuitive collaboration tool for team members, but Airtable has more powerful functionality and is better for high-level content planning and visibility. While Airtable lacks the day-to-day task checklist, it’s the better choice for content strategists and leaders. 

Winner: Airtable

How content marketing tools turn content marketers into full funnel experts

True content marketing pros work throughout the funnel — from top of funnel blog posts to sales pages. In fact, we’re seeing Brendan Hufford’s “growth content marketer” title pop up in more digital marketing job descriptions. 

“To measure content marketing, you need to have your arms around the entire funnel — from the initial landing page to the final conversion,” said Johnson.

Not only can content marketers act as chameleons, tackling all sorts of content types, they know how to get the most out of the content they create — from repurposing pillar content across the entire organization to developing distribution plans. 

These content marketing tools help them tweak their production process so the content creation process runs smoothly, but you still need an expert to create and execute a sustainable content marketing strategy. If you’re looking to get better conversion rates on your content, hire an expert content marketer.

Camille Trent
about the author

Camille Trent is the managing editor at MarketerHire. A copywriter and marketing nerd, she's passionate about helping freelancers and creatives recognize their value and get the knowledge they need to win long term. When she's not writing, she's hanging out with her pup and two favorite redheads. Or she's trying to coach the Portland Trail Blazers to victory from her couch.

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