Let’s be honest, being a content writer can be difficult. Not only do you have to constantly rack your brain to come up with new and interesting things to write about, but you also have to compete with thousands of other writers and existing articles. Then you have to proofread, make sure it’s search engine optimized, has a catchy title, as well as the appropriate imagery and headings. Even after all that you still may be left wondering if your article is any good, making you hesitant to press publish.
There’s no doubt that content writing can be a frustrating profession. I’m sure even the folks at BuzzFeed have their days. But don’t give into despair. There are a plenty of tools on the web specially designed to ease a content writer’s woes.
Sometimes the only thing holding you back is having something to write about. In situations like these, look to the HubSpot topic generator to help get the ball rolling. Input 1 to 3 nouns and it will give you 5 titles to work from. If those don’t work, try it again. After enough times, something should catch your interest.
Google Trends is an excellent place to see what the trending topics of the day are. Trends uses Google Search to show what people are looking for online. There’s really no better tool for figuring out what topics will have immediate interest. For more on Google Trends, check out my blog post: Using Google Trends for Smarter Marketing Campaigns.
Title Writing Tools
While perhaps not a huge problem, sometimes a title just doesn’t look right. Should I capitalize the “i” in “is” or keep it lower cased? What about this preposition? TitleCase helps you answer these questions. Just copy and paste your title into the tool and voila, a perfectly cased title.
Definitely one of my favorites on this list. CoShedule’s Headline Analyzer evaluates any headline you enter and basically tells you how good it is. It does this based on several factors.
- Word Balance. Tells you the percentage of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words in your heading.
- Heading Type. Tells you if your heading indicates a list post, a “how to”, a question, or just generic.
- Length Analysis. Tells you the character and word count and whether it’s a right length.
- Google Search Preview. Shows you how your headline will appear on the SERP.
- Email Subject Line. Shows you how your headline will look as an email subject line.
- First & Last. Highlights the first 3 and last 3 words in your headline.
- Keywords. Shows the searchable keywords and phrases your headline contains.
- Sentiment. Tells if your headline has strong positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.
As you enter headlines into the analyzer, you’ll start to create a history. As you can see, it took me quite a few tries before I landed on the right one for this article. You’ll also see that I didn’t actually go with the headline that had the highest score. I did this because I thought the one I chose had more intrigue even though it’s a bit lengthy.
Writing Productivity Tools
Again, while probably not a huge problem for most, Calmly Writer gives you a clean white space to do your writing in peace. It has a spell checker, gives you the word count and estimated reading time. It automatically saves your work and you can download it when you’re done. You can also insert photos and enable the typewriter sound by installing a browser extension. (I actually had quite a bit of fun with it.)
StayFocusd is a browser extension that allows you to limit your activity on “time-wasting” websites such as Facebook, Reddit, you know the kind. It has lots of configuration options, so you shouldn’t have a problem fitting it to your productivity needs.
I actually don’t recommend using this one, but thought I’d throw it in for fun. You start by setting your session length and then deciding whether you’d like to enable “Hardcore Mode.” All this does is prevent you from seeing what you’ve written. Without it enabled, you can see everything just fine. The point of the app is to keep you writing continuously for the length of your session. Because if you stop writing for more than 3 seconds, it will delete everything you’ve written. I can see how this might be useful for a short brainstorming session, but that’s about it. Use at your own risk.
This tool is great if you ever need to transcribe some audio. Simply upload the video or piece of audio you’d like to transcribe, and it will place it on the same page as your word processor. Now you don’t have to switch between different screens or windows to stop and play back your audio. In the tool, the ESC key works as a pause/play button, rolling back the footage/audio about 1 second every time you press it. You can also slow down or speed up the playback speed. Pretty useful.
If loud disruptions or dead silence easily breaks your concentration, A Soft Murmur has a bunch of ambient sounds to help you stay focused. Just plug in your headphones, select your preferred sound, and get to writing. This tool also comes with a fun challenge. Play all the sounds at the same time and see how long you can stand it. I made it about 20 seconds. Turns out listening to 10 ambient noises at once is not at all soothing.
Style and Grammar Tools
Besides Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, these are some of the best tools you can use to solve stylistic and grammatical issues with your writing.
Grammarly is basically a souped-up spell checker. I use it regularly and find that even the free version catches more mistakes than MS Word. There’s also a premium option that gives you even more checks for structure, style, and vocabulary usage. Premium also gives you the ability to link Grammarly up with MS Office. The browser extension is also pretty handy, as it will run Grammarly’s checker on almost any website. This includes inside comment boxes on social media sites and other platforms.
As writers, we naturally have a lot to say. But that doesn’t mean we should say it all. If your sentences tend to ramble or just go on a bit too long, the Hemingway Editor will help you reel them in. Beyond pointing out long or hard to read sentences, this app will highlight phrases that have simpler alternatives, unnecessary adverbs, and passive voice.
After you’ve made your changes, you can view your article’s readability score and word count. You can also drill down by clicking the More button to see the number of paragraphs, sentences, characters, letters, and estimated reading time. It’s truly a great tool, and I highly recommend it.
If you feel like you’re using the same words over and over again, Wordcounter will tell you just how many times you do. With some basic filters, Wordcounter will produce a list of the most frequently used words along with the exact number of times each appears. If it happens that you’re overloading on a certain word, grabbing a thesaurus or rewriting the sentence should help diversify your word choice.
SEO Writing Tools
Finally, once your article is stylistically and grammatically perfect, you have to make sure it’s search engine optimized. The Yoast WordPress Plugin will help you verify that it’s up to current SEO standards. Installing and setting up Yoast on WordPress is pretty simple, but here’s a guide to help you out. For information on SEO in general, the Moz Beginners Guide to SEO is a great resource.
Hopefully now with all these tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to take your content writing to new heights and pacify some of your frustrations.