Let’s be honest: none of us can run a successful blog solely on our own intuition. I know that I have a natural skill for growth hacking, and it’s something I love to do, but that doesn’t mean that I know the answer to every growth problem I face.
The truth is, I have a whole tool belt of resources that I use every day for making my sites the best that they can be. I’ve set some personal rules for myself to stay focused, and I stay disciplined to keep on my daily tasks.
With that, I want to share those resources here, because I believe that you can benefit from using them just as much as I have—as they’re not really limited to one industry.
The secret to good content marketing is being able to ask and answer the right questions, and from there being able to create actionable steps that get you closer to your goals. Each of these tools helps ask a different question, so feel free to explore each of them as you come across new challenges in your daily grind.
Buzzsumo is a keyword and topic research tool for content marketing, and one that I rarely go without mentioning. The beauty of this tool is that it forces you into the conversation. Especially when you’re starting out your blog, it can be hard to know where to go, who to talk to, or what to talk about. Buzzsumo solves that.
The tool helps you, topic by topic, to see who is talking about what, and even where they’re talking about it. It can help you get keen insights not only into other industry professionals, but also into your potential audience and customer base.
Snip.ly is the ultimate call to action tool. One thing that I love to preach is sharing other people’s content. Not only do I think there are a lot of people out there that have something good to say, but I also think that sharing each other’s work is a hallmark of what makes the content marketing community so great.
In the spirit of sharing content in a way that actively contributes to the community, but also fosters your own growth and promotion, snip.ly is a tool that puts your call to action on any web page you share. It’s a scary genius tool that also provides really helpful analytics.
Hellobar is similar to snip.ly in format, but totally different in function. It’s designed for your own website as a way to encourage easier signups for things like your weekly email newsletter (you should have one of those).
Rather than having to worry about finding the perfect placement, Hello Bar stays tacked on to the top of your blog’s window, casually nudging users to sign up as they read through your fantastic blog posts.
It’s a smart, ever-present reminder of one of the most important aspects of building a good blog.
Filament.io is an engagement tool that I’m extremely impressed by. For starters, their tool Flare is a simple sharing bar that you can customize to make social media engagement even easier. But beyond that, their new engagement metrics are freaking amazing.
Boasting metrics without the need for coding skills, Filament dives really deep into who is engaging with what, and how. Like Google analytics, it shows you who’s bringing what kind of engagement (but on a more targeted user level), which can help you focus on investing in really smart growth.
Moz has a myriad of SEO analytics resources that most everyone uses these days. From simply tools like checking your meta title lengths, to backlink checks, Moz is a great tool for getting into the meat of your technical SEO work. Moz helps me to gauge what’s really valuable, and gives me a road map to help plan where I’m going to push next.
SEMrush is my go-to for keyword research. This definitely isn’t entry-level software, but that’s because it has unprecedented value in terms of its scope and depth.
What I like about SEM Rush is that more than just keyword suggestions, it has data that helps to shape recommendation on what phrasing really works best—so it’s advertising and marketing software as much as it is SERP software. On the SEO side of things, it’s also really easy to see what the competition is doing, which is always a plus.
Qualaroo is a user feedback tool that in my estimation is the best of its kind. Rather than creating invasive surveys and leaving you with a ton on your plate in terms of outreach, Qualaroo does the insight finding for you.
It helps to intuitively gather data and feedback from targeted groups of customers that can help give you extremely valuable insight from your viewers. It also has a customizable look which helps give it a more natural feel for customers.
Zemanta provides you with paid traffic on a given blog post. I think that there’s absolutely merit to spending money on promotion—but normally I really campaign for low-cost, high ROI. There are very few times where spending a lot of promotion is going to be worth it.
In this case, Zemanta helps me to maximize my ROI on different promotional efforts. It’s hyper-targeted, so rather than wasting time on bad queries, I’m only marketing to the people who I’m really interested in and are interested in me.
Ultimately what that ends up doing is significantly reducing my bounce rate and extending time on page—both of which are extremely valuable for conversions.
Yesware helps me with an integral part of how I’ve built my personal brand: cold email outreach. I’m always looking for ways to improve upon my own techniques, and cold emailing is a place where I’m constantly tryout out new ideas and learning to refine my skills.
Not only does Yesware provide real time insights for my cold email strategy, but it actually tracks the activity of my emails—I know if someone had opened it, clicked any links, or downloaded any attachments.
It may sound cold, but that can help me quickly figure out when I’m wasting my time. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested—but it may be something more, and Yesware helps me to not misread my cold outreach efforts.
UserTesting helps to give me the feedback I need as I build out a new website, work within the app over at When I Work, and explore new ideas. Rather than putting out a product and expecting users to fill out surveys, UserTesting helps targeted users to provide real time feedback as they go—and you can get it back within an hour.
It’s the kind of feedback you don’t always want to hear, but sometimes that’s what you need. You can’t be afraid of criticism, that’s what makes you sharper. I want to figure out exactly what I’m doing wrong so that I can get it right.
Crazy Egg (helps me to understand a part of my audience that sometimes they don’t even understand themselves, through heatmapping. The beauty of heatmapping is it’s not just showing you what a user does or doesn’t like: it’s showing you what they’re naturally drawn to—and ultimately, what they’re going to value the most on my site.
A lot of that simply has to do with how we read and browse websites. But the better that I can understand that, the better I can place CTAs and valuable information.
Optimizely is essential to my refining process. I believe that if you aren’t constantly A/B testing your stuff, then you’re cheating yourself out of the best results. People change, as do trends, and that means that viewers aren’t necessarily drawn to what they may have been a few months or years ago.
A call to action that may have been working for a while may now turn people off. Or maybe the banner picture that you have on your homepage isn’t doing as well as another image could be.
Combining some of these other tools (like heatmapping) with a good A/B test helps me to create a site that really works for my audience—and ultimately creates smarter leads and better conversions.
Vero is an amazing SaaS product that I use for drip emails. It provides me with smart customer insights, and allows me to market to customers in a different way, capitalizing on non-direct traffic without creating too much of a commitment.
Over at When I Work we created the Crash Course to Better Scheduling, which is a dream email campaign designed to deliver a series of case studies to those who sign up. It’s a different way to deliver content to prospective customers that acts as a kind of sales pitch.
SumoMe is a suite of tools, most importantly for me it provides an amazing email list building tool. It simply helps you find people that are actually interested in your newsletter, and helps you to build out a consistently growing sign up list.
List building, especially in the early stages of your blog and newsletter is essential, it’s how you gain momentum and referrals as you’re building a faithful audience. I cannot recommend this tool enough.
Prismatic is an aggregate that I use every morning when I’m trying to find a few good articles to chew on.
In general, I like to limit my content intake on a daily basis. Reading 50 different articles isn’t actually helpful, because you’re not letting room for information to stick. I like to keep it to about three articles a day. That way I can really dive into things, instead of sifting through all the shit that we get barraged with online.
I hope that you find this list helpful, and have been able to add some new tools into your tool belt. What are your go-to tools every day? Let me know in the comment section!