27 Essential Content Marketing Tools to Skyrocket Your Branding Efforts
Businesses and brands are prioritizing content marketing more than ever before.
In a 2021 report surveying 1,500+ marketers, more than 80 percent said they invest in content marketing, which was up by more than 10 percent from 2020.
It makes sense. With so many experts seeing it as the future of the marketing world, there’s no doubt that content creation is important for your brand. And it’s also one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies.
While nothing replaces a solid strategy and putting in the time to create compelling content, there are tons of valuable tools you can add to your marketing efforts to help you achieve optimal results, better tell your brand’s story, and keep customers coming back for more.
Choosing the best tools for you
Because there are so many content marketing tools out there, here are some important questions to ask before deciding which ones to try:
- Budget: How much do you have to spend?
- Needs: What types of features are most important for you?
- Capacity: How much time can you put into learning new tools?
- Biggest priority: Do you value greater flexibility or ease of use?
In this post, I’ve compiled some of my favorite tools to help you reach your marketing goals. They’re divided up by the content creation need and categorized by price (low–high) so you can easily find the right fit.
While many were considered, the final list includes those with the best range of features and functionality for ecommerce business owners. The placement for each was determined by a tool’s main purpose and biggest strength.
Whether it’s research, analytics, content optimization, marketing automation, project planning, visual content creation, or a combination of features, there’s something here to guide you each step. Many on the list are also used and recommended by the pros here on our Printful team!
Content research tools
Research is vital to making informed decisions that direct your marketing strategy. The following tools will simplify your research efforts and help you create content that builds relationships, increases brand trust, and drives conversions and sales.
1. Google Trends
Best for: Growth marketing, trend forecasting
Free tools like Google Trends are a big help in guiding the content creation process. Type in a keyword or topic and Google Trends will tell you whether its popularity is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. See how popularity changes across different locations and timeframes. You can also compare words or phrases to see the performance of each.
- Data displays visually in easy-to-read maps, graphs, and more
- Download data for use in spreadsheets, presentations, or to share on social media
- Recommends other queries and topics related to your search
- Doesn’t give you the total search volume
- Doesn’t integrate well with other Google products
- No data based on demographics or anything smaller than a subregion—no individual cities or postal codes
Best for: Audience insights
Cost: Limited free plan and paid (starts at $38/mo.)
SparkToro is a keyword and topic search tool that gives you a deep dive into your audience and their interests, letting you know what they’re talking about, paying attention to, and searching for. With SparkToro, you can see what social media accounts people follow, hashtags they use, and media they absorb. You can also check out audience demographics and insights into niche “hidden gems” you might have overlooked.
- Shows where to invest your time and money to make the biggest impact
- Great starting point for beginners to learn more about their audience and where to engage with them
- Paid plans are more affordable than some competitors like BuzzSumo
- Free plan only gives you 5 searches per month and access to limited data
- Doesn’t offer the same range of features as some competitors
- Demographics are only available if you upgrade
- Filtering tools cannot be combined together, only used separately
Best for: Social listening, growth marketing, trend forecasting
Cost: Limited free plan and paid (starts at $79/mo.)
AnswerthePublic gives you information on what your audience is asking and searching so you can create relevant content to directly address their needs. Use its detailed results as a guide so your content connects more with your audience. Type in a keyword and AnswerthePublic will show you popular questions asked, comparisons made, and prepositions used around the topic.
- Let’s you download data for later use
- Has an interactive interface with different view options
- Can hide suggestions that aren’t relevant so you can easily find what you need
- Limits you to 3 searches a day on the free plan
- Doesn’t provide a ton of keyword metrics (competition insights, cost-per-click value, etc.)
Best for: Audience insights, competitor analysis, brand management
Cost: 30-day free trial and paid (starts at $99/mo.)
BuzzSumo analyzes content from across the web so you can create relevant content of value for your customers. Similar to SparkToro, BuzzSumo gives you in-depth insights into your audience’s interests and online engagement habits. Additionally, BuzzSumo gives you competitor content analysis, access to influencer marketing tools, and PR insights to help monitor and manage your brand’s reputation.
- Offers an extensive list of features compared to some of its competitors
- Gives automated alerts in real-time to track competitor behavior and trending topics
- Lets you customize your reports and dashboards to easily find what you need
- Comes with a higher price tag than competitors like SparkToro
- Keyword research findings and filtering are sometimes too broad to be useful
- Social media monitoring and engagement analysis is limited to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit
Because these tools are pretty straightforward, determining what to try depends on the features provided and the price point that fits your budget. Luckily, all the ones listed offer at least a free trial, so you can test them out before committing.
Content optimization tools
Now that you’ve done the market research, you’ll need to make sure your audience can easily find and engage with your existing content. The tools in this section will help you analyze and optimize the content you create for maximum visibility and performance.
5. Google Analytics
Best for: Analyzing website traffic and user behavior
With Google Analytics, you have tons of raw data available at your fingertips, and it’s the most comprehensive free analytics tool there is. Connect it to your web pages, blog, social media accounts, and more to track traffic, user behavior, and website performance.
- Detailed results on traffic sources, paid vs. organic search results, acquisitions, and referrals
- Comparable data segments so you can see what’s working and what’s not
- Trackable ecommerce conversion insights to help you boost sales
- Website page flows to show how visitors move through your site
- Unrecognizable traffic sources and some cookie settings can skew reporting
- With so much data, there’s a learning curve to getting started and making the results work best for you
- May need a webmaster to help install the Google Analytics tracking code
- Data on keyword search results is no longer provided through Google Analytics, so you’ll need to connect Google Search Console to have this all in one place
Best for: Overall SEO and SERP ranking
Cost: Limited free plan, 7-day free trial, and paid (starts at $100/mo.)
With so much out there, a challenge for content marketers is to create content that gets noticed in the first place. SEMrush is one of the best content marketing tools to optimize your content and boost SEO. With performance audits, social media management, competitor and keyword analysis, and SEO tools, SEMrush’s all-in-one online platform helps you create high-ranking, top-performing content.
- Has a wide range of features to manage and improve content performance
- Helps you identify spammy backlinks and other toxic elements that can harm your SERP ranking
- Blog posts and tutorial videos help you learn your way around and get the most out of the platform
- Not the most intuitive software, so it can take some time to figure out
- Doesn’t allow for subsequent logins, so if two are on the same account at once, one will get kicked off
Best for: Optimizing internal website links
Cost: Free trial and pay-what-you-use
InLinks improves your website’s internal linking to help both visitors and search engines easily find what they need. Use InLinks so website visitors will engage with your content longer and search engines will better identify topics to recommend. Both of these ultimately boost SEO and SERP rankings to drive your content marketing efforts.
- Manual and automated options for linking recommendations—either have it find and implement linking opportunities for you or print out a report of suggestions to do yourself
- Improves the semantic understanding by also focusing on the context of your content
- Gives reports showing what topics visitors engage with most
- Costs can be unpredictable with the pay-what-you-use pricing model
- Learning curve to figuring it out so the results work best for you
- Limited to English-language sites only
Best for: On-page SEO
Cost: Paid (starts at $49/mo.)
SurferSEO is a content optimization tool best used for on-page SEO and improving your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. Surfer analyzes your content based on 5 main features:
- SERP Analyzer: Insights on top-ranking content and what makes it top-ranking
- Content Editor: Optimizes content in real-time as you write
- Keyword Research: Keyword and search analysis to improve rankings
- SEO Audit: Detailed suggestions to optimize content
- Keyword Surfer: Chrome extension for keyword research and search volume data
- Offers a full and thorough content analysis
- User-friendly, visually pleasing interface, and several view options to choose from
- Keyword Surfer Chrome extension can be used as a free tool on its own
- No free plan or trial
- Paid plans all have monthly limits on content editor and audit feature uses
- Keyword search feature is underdeveloped
While all tools in this section will improve the performance of your content, each one has a slightly different, unique strength. Thinking about your budget and goals will help you narrow down which ones to try. Do you need an all-in-one platform or something more targeted?
Doing an honest assessment of your needs will make sure your budget is used on the tools that make the biggest impact on your business.
Project management and automation tools
Best for: Project management (visual workflow)
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $5/mo. per user)
Trello is a project management tool for more efficient team collaboration. With administrative access controls, you can easily manage team projects and boost productivity.
Create a board for each project and use lists and cards to break down tasks and manage roles and responsibilities. Trello uses a visual workflow to easily view all your tasks, see who’s responsible for what, and move items based on progress.
- Extensive free plan with unlimited personal boards, 10 collaborative boards, plus unlimited lists, cards, storage, and users
- Can assign more than one person to a task
- Only one power-up per board on the free plan (e.g. features like app integrations and task automations)
- File sizes are limited per attachment based on the plan you go with
- Only view option Trello offers without using a power-up is the visual board view
Best for: Project management (multiple workflow view options)
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $11/mo. per user)
If you like Trello’s features, but prefer something less visual when project planning, give Asana a try. Asana has more flexibility with viewing projects and tasks—board, list, calendar, and timeline are a few of the options. With its wide offering of integrations, Asana is also a great choice for growing teams to scale as needed.
- Generous free plan with unlimited tasks, projects, activity logs, and file storage
- File size per attachment is greater with Asana’s free plan compared to some of its competitors
- Great for scalability as your team grows or increases capacity
- Free plan only lets you collaborate with 15 teammates
- Only gives you 100 MB per file upload no matter the plan
- Doesn’t let you have multiple assignees per task
Best for: Marketing automation
Cost: Limited free plan and paid (starts at $20/mo.)
Zapier connects your apps and automates tasks so you can focus on running your business. Select your most-used apps and create connections (or Zaps) between them from your main dashboard. With Zapier, you can simplify your to-do list and streamline your workflows.
- Integrates with most popular apps (e.g. ecommerce, email marketing, financial software, project management, calendars apps, etc.)
- Zaps can range in complexity between one or multi-action steps (aka tasks)
- Makes Zap recommendations for you based on your selected apps
- Initial learning curve to get the hang of how to set up tasks and Zaps
- Free plan only gives you 5 active Zaps at a time and 100 tasks per month
The tools above help with team collaboration, automation, and efficiency so you have more time to manage other aspects of your business.
For project management, Trello offers a visual work style, smaller price tag, and more administrative access controls while Asana has more workflow style options and greater scalability for growing teams. Because Zapier can be complex to set up, your biggest consideration is assessing your app use to determine if it’s worth automating connections between them.
Text optimization tools
Communication is about being understood. When writing, you don’t want your readers getting hung up on a typo, spelling error, or confusing sentence structure. And as a business owner, these errors can affect your bottom line. The following tools are here to help make sure your content is clear and error-free.
Best for: Text rewriting and rewording
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $10/mo.)
Wordtune helps you say what you mean. At its basic level, it suggests text rewrite options to enhance your writing. Use Wordtune to go beyond copy editing and clearly communicate your content ideas to your customers.
- Works with many platforms like emails, social media posts, Microsoft Office, and Google Docs
- Upgrading offers even more features like vocabulary alternatives, tone-of-voice recommendations, and sentence length suggestions
- Only works with single sentences at a time
- Free version limits you to 20 rewrites per day
Best for: Quick results, short to medium text lengths, team collaboration
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $12/mo. per user)
Grammarly is a must-have tool to catch typos, misspellings, and style errors as you write. With the paid versions, you’ll also get features like vocabulary enhancement, plagiarism detection, and brand tone recognition.
- Offers a comprehensive free option that corrects as you go
- Works with many platforms including email, social media, Microsoft Office, and Google Docs
- Comes as a mobile app, desktop app, WordPress plugin, and browser extension
- Offers customization options
- Not always accurate, so check the suggestions before accepting
- Reporting is not as in-depth as a competitor like ProWritingAid
- Paid plans can get pricey since they’re per user
- Only works with English-language content
Best for: In-depth reporting, longer text lengths, individual use
Cost: Free grammar checker and paid (Pricing options are affordable and flexible—pay monthly for $20/mo., annually at $79/yr., or a one-time lifetime payment of $399)
ProWritingAid is an all-encompassing grammar and style tool to enhance communication with your customers. It catches grammatical and punctuation errors, optimizes word choice, and detects overused words, passive voice, unclear sentences, and incorrect tenses.
What sets ProWritingAid apart is its in-depth reports, instructional videos, and guides that help you improve your writing and develop your skills overall.
- Pricing is affordable, flexible, and there’s a lifetime option
- Automatically updates with the latest changes in the English language
- Works with many platforms including Microsoft Office and Google Docs
- Doesn’t correct as you go (copy and paste only)
- Plagiarism detection tool costs extra
- No mobile app
- Only works with English-language content
As established, clear writing is important for your brand’s credibility. Using any of the tools here will help you achieve that goal. Particularly between ProWritingAid and Grammarly, the one you choose depends on your budget, team size, length of texts you work with, and the amount of detail you prefer in reporting.
Even with its free option, Wordtune is a great complement to either Grammarly or ProWritingAid so that your communication with customers comes across error-free and as you intend.
Tools for visual content
Videos and infographics were in the top 3 primary forms of media used in 2021, with video being ranked as the no. 1 content type for the last two years in a row. Therefore, a well-rounded content strategy should also include visual content.
The tools below fulfill a variety of needs for creating visual content. Rather than an either-or selection, the ones here complement each other and can be used together for a more comprehensive visual communication plan. Free stock photography, background removal tools, easy video creation, and more, here are some of the best marketing tools to create visual content like a pro.
Best for: High-resolution stock photography
Unsplash is an extensive library of high-resolution photos that you can download and use for free. Just remember to credit your photographer—while permission isn’t necessary, attribution is good practice and helps artists get recognition for their work.
- No permission needed and no sign-up required
- Allows commercial and non-commercial uses
- Moderated, curated community with an emphasis on quality
- Has an alleged history of not compensating photographers well
- Somewhat inaccurate keyword search results
- Occasional slow image loading times
Best for: Visual content creation overall
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $13/mo. for up to 5 users)
Canva is the ultimate tool to easily make professional and beautifully-designed visual content. Because of its vast offerings on what you can create—social media posts, flyers, infographics, newsletters, blog headers, landing pages, invoices, and more—Canva is a must-have content marketing tool for you and your team.
- Free plan with 8K+ templates and hundreds of photos and graphics
- Content calendar to manage and schedule posts straight to social media
- Paid version gives you digital asset management tools and brand kits
- Design elements like lines, frames, stickers, and shapes are limited to what it gives you
- Some layout discrepancies between the mobile and PC versions
- Aren’t many options to help keep content organized (folders, etc.)
Best for: Background image removal
Cost: Free-trial and paid (pay-as-you-go starts at $7 for 10 image credits; subscription plans start at $13 for 100 credits/mo.)
Create a clean, uniform look to your product photos by using Slazzer to quickly remove unwanted background images and easily add new ones. Slazzer is the background removal tool with the ecommerce business owner in mind by offering convenient photo editing directly on your ecommerce platform.
- Flexible, scalable pricing structure with subscription plans and one-time purchases
- Generous bulk editing option
- Easy to use even if you don’t have any photo editing experience
- No undo button to go back if you make a mistake
- Detects the background automatically, so it doesn’t always get it right
- No advanced features to edit or adjust manually
Best for: Text-to-video content creation
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $11/mo.)
Particularly apt for social media, Lumen5 excels at combining visuals, text, and audio to easily create professional-looking videos regardless of your experience level. Upload your own media or use options from the Lumen5 library. The most unique feature is its text to video option, where Lumen5 uses AI to adapt your written content to video.
- Free plan includes unlimited video creation
- Recently added a voice-over feature for better customization
- Variety of support and training options
- Free plan videos are limited to a 720p resolution and have Lumen5 watermarks
- Limited customization and advanced editing features
- Personal branding and higher resolutions are only available on pricier plans
- Retired the mobile app in May 2021
Best for: Engaging customers through email and social media
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $15/mo. per user)
Sendspark is a video content tool to help you easily connect with your customers. Create tutorial videos, showcase your products, introduce yourself, answer questions, and more. Share your final versions over email, your website, or social media.
- Free plan gives you 30 videos per month
- No time limits for videos
- Includes analytics to track reach and engagement
- Personal branding and call to action options are only available on paid versions
- Free version has Sendspark watermarks and you can’t download videos for later use
- Longer videos tend to have long buffering times
Best for: Showcasing and promoting products
Cost: Free trial, paid plans (starts at $15/mo.), and pay-as-you-go
Placeit is a video tool where you can make eye-catching product demos, Instagram stories and videos, slideshows, intro pages, and more. Because of its vast range of templates and ease of use for all skill levels, Placeit is a great option to showcase your brand and products to your customer base.
- Can apply your brand’s color scheme across all your creations
- Includes an audio library to add an extra level to your creations
- No advanced editing options
- Pay-as-you-go option can be costly
- Won’t let you upload custom fonts, which limits branding abilities
The tools in this section offer a wide range of options so you can fulfill all your visual content needs. With most on the list offering a free version or affordable pricing, the main considerations for choosing will depend on your
- goals and focus (promoting products, educating customers, providing customer feedback)
- content mediums (social media, email, website, print)
- resources you already have (in-house photographer, Photoshop pro)
Social media management tools
While the hottest platforms may change, the popularity of social media is here to stay for the foreseeable future. As a business owner, you’re missing out on valuable engagement opportunities if your presence there is lacking or inconsistent.
The tools in this section will help simplify the process of creating and scheduling content so you can start increasing engagement and grow your social media presence.
Best for: Social media content planning
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $8/mo.)
Most suited for Instagram, Later is a visually-focused, drag-and-drop social media publishing tool and content planner. Later works with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and TikTok. Use its media library to upload, store, and organize your materials and its social media analytics tools for insights to drive your content marketing strategy.
- Linkin.bio feature makes your Instagram profile interactive and trackable
- Free version gives you 30 posts per month per social media platform
- Paid plans give you best publishing times based on audience engagement per platform
- No automated scheduling for stories, videos, or multi-photo posts
- Only works with business or creator Instagram accounts
- Can only connect one account per social media platform
Best for: Managing and scheduling social media content
Cost: 14-day free trial, limited free plan, and paid (starts at $79/mo.)
Agorapulse is an all-in-one management solution for your social media content. It does everything from managing social mentions, planning and optimizing content, connecting with followers, and keeping up with conversations happening around your brand and competitors.
- Organizes messages, comments, and reviews across social media in one inbox
- Publishing tools for teams to plan, approve, and schedule posts
- Optimizes content for best performance per social media platform
- Digital asset management features in one place
- Analytics tools on content performance, trends, and follower behavior
- Free plan only gives you one user and 3 platforms
- Difficult to reorder photos in multi-photo posts and to resize photos based on social network
- No team approval process for responding to messages and comments
- No option to save posts as drafts on the calendar tool
Best for: Recycling and repurposing social media content
Cost: Paid (starts at $19/mo.)
MeetEdgar may look like your standard social media scheduling tool, but it has a little something extra—it’ll recycle your content and continue making posts for you to keep your audience engaged. While you’ll need to schedule time slots for those posts and give it topic ideas, it does the rest for you.
- Created specifically for entrepreneurs and small businesses
- Alternate text feature suggests rewording ideas so your recycled content looks new
- Provides insights like A/B and link testing options to monitor audience response
- Overall features and insights aren’t as robust (e.g. no brand monitoring or in-depth analysis)
- No integration with YouTube
Growing your social media presence and effectiveness is an important step in reaching your audience and increasing engagement. Tools like the ones listed here will help boost those efforts. Base your picks on your content needs, preferred platforms, and where you’d like to see the most improvement.
If Instagram is your priority, Later is a good option for you. If you want an almost hands-off approach, MeetEdgar sounds like a great fit. For an all-in-one social media content manager, Agorapulse is the best option, especially with its free plan to start.
All-in-one digital platforms
So far, most tools listed have addressed specific purposes or needs, but maybe you’re someone who prefers to have everything in one place. Here are some of the best all-in-one tools to handle your digital marketing efforts.
Best for: Flexible, customizable digital content management
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $4/mo.)
WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS). Use WordPress to build blogs, landing and web pages, and more. It also offers email marketing tools, SEO capabilities, and tons of plugins to customize, manage, and supplement your content.
WordPress has two versions.
WordPress.com handles the hosting for you, and its customizable, drag-and-drop templates make it easy to manage your website content regardless of your skill level.
- Lots of plugins to enhance the functionality of your site
- Hosting, SEO, and site backups are handled for you
- Some plugins are more trustworthy than others
- Most plugins aren’t free, and those costs can quickly add up
- Website speed and security is limited to the hosting site
With WordPress.org, download the free, open-source software and integrate it with your website. For this option, you’ll need to find and pay for a 3rd party website host and domain separately.
- Unlimited plugins for your use
- Complete control over hosting and optimizing site speed and security
- Lots of flexibility as your business grows
- Need in-depth knowledge of managing and building websites— coding, SEO, managing security and updates, and troubleshooting when things go wrong
- You’re your own customer support
25. Hubspot CMS
Best for: Managing and building relationships, growing your network
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $23/mo. + add ons for a plan customized to your needs)
Hubspot is customer relationship management (CRM) software that makes it easy for you to grow your brand and build deeper connections with your customers. With a wealth of free tools and customization options, Hubspot is a great choice that gives you the tools you need without breaking the bank.
- Comprehensive free plan that competes with and even outperforms many paid CRMs
- Flexible, customizable pricing plans based on your business needs
- With so much flexibility, pricing can be confusing to figure out
- No customer support options with the free plan
Best for: All-in-one digital content creation and management
Cost: Free and paid (starts at $10/mo.)
You might primarily think of email marketing when it comes to Mailchimp, but with CRM features, website and page builders, scheduling and calendar tools, surveys, social posting, and yes, email marketing, Mailchimp is a one-stop-shop content marketing platform. With its clean interface and drag-and-drop templates, Mailchimp is a great option for all skill levels.
- Free plan with up to 10,000 email sends/mo., a 2,000 subscriber audience, and access to CRM features, surveys, sign-up sheets, landing pages, marketing calendars, and tools for social posting, ads, branding, and app integrations
- Reporting data that connects with Google Analytics and social media
- Automations for workflows to guide the customer journey and influence behavior
- Charges you and puts your account on hold if you exceed your subscriber or send amounts
- Penalties for using it for affiliate marketing purposes
- Emails sometimes end up under the Promotions tab for Gmail users instead of the main inbox
Best for: Managing all steps of the customer journey
Cost: Paid (starts at $79/mo.)
Kartra has what you need in one place to manage your ecommerce business. All Kartra features talk to one another to help you manage relationships, communication, and interactions with customers. Kartra also has advanced automations based on behavior to help you easily send follow-up messages, subscribe people to lists, assign tags, and handle other marketing and sales needs.
- All plans include every main feature offered
- Can be used to replace several different tools
- Good option for all skill levels
- Strict about email quality, which results in a higher number of blocked emails
- Emails contain Kartra branding
All the tools listed here are great options for managing your digital content and communication needs, so the biggest consideration is your capacity. Do you have the skill to take on developing code and maintaining your own security or would you rather go with options easier for all skill levels to grasp?
Start making your content work for you
Finding the best content marketing tools for you is kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears—you’ll need to test out a few before finding the ones that are just right. As you explore, feel free to come back and share your thoughts on your favorite (or not-so-favorite) ones.
While these are some I find particularly useful for ecommerce businesses, there are plenty of other content marketing tools out there. Did I miss one you love? Drop a comment below, and let me know why it makes your list.
And check out more helpful tools and tips from my Printful teammates to add to your toolbox. In addition to the ones already linked throughout this post, here’s one that instructs you on how to create an organized and effective marketing calendar and includes free Google templates for your use.
Now that you have the tools, what are you waiting for? There’s no better time than today to start achieving your content marketing goals!
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