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Free Tools to Take Your Blogging to the Next Level

Dec 8, 2017
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Free Tools to Take Your Blogging to the Next Level.jpg “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemmingway’s simple encouragement to writers to write the truest sentence you know is a great place to start, but if you are anything like me, a lot changes between the first sentences written and the final post. It can be easy to get stuck searching for the right combination of words or developing the perfect sentence structure. The problem with this is that while crafting content, we cannot ignore context.

When it comes to marketing content, Ryan says “Good marketing is about telling a story that resonates with the audience you are trying to reach. It's about unblurring the lines of miscommunication and being open and authentic.” (source) Content creation that resonates with your audience is just as important for a blogger as it is for a marketer.

Excellent bloggers develop content with the intent to reach their audience where they are and present their information within a context their readers will find engaging and relevant. This may seem like a daunting task, but by utilizing the right tools, every blogger can continue to strengthen their writing skills and develop next level blog content in less time.

Writing an excellent blog post is about much more than putting words on paper. Today we are going to cover some of the best free tools on the web available to bloggers. Utilizing all or some of these options will help you develop dynamic content your readers will find helpful and engaging. You will also help your reader find your content more easily. 

Ideal Reader Persona

It may seem like a silly step, but in reality, it’s one many bloggers skip, and it hinders content development. Creating your ideal reader persona is a crucial step in the journey to learning how to write next level blog articles. This process helps you figure out who your audience is. It’s the difference between playing darts with a blindfold and seeing the target clearly.

Download our Ideal Reader Persona worksheet here.

Grammar

Anne Lamott is famous for encouraging writers to write every day and to write a terrible first draft. This is great advice, but eventually, you need to shape that terrible article into a great one. My absolute favorite tool to use through the editing process is Grammarly.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a free tool that works to automatically detect grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, as well as style mistakes in your writing. There are several ways to utilize Grammarly. It can be downloaded to sync with Microsoft office, or you can copy an article into their online platform. There is also an extension for web browsers.

Grammarly works with WordPress and Hubspot when typing in Zen Mode in addition to Microsoft Word. Although the free version of Grammarly will catch a lot of mistakes, upgrading to the premium version increases the tool features.

SAS Writing Reviser

If you are working on a Google Doc, you won’t be able to use Grammarly. This doesn’t mean you are on your own! SAS Curriculum Pathways is a free plugin option that works similarly to Grammarly. “SAS Writing Reviser provides tools to help make your sentences economical, varied, powerful, and clear.” (source)

Context

Grammarly is great for catching some errors, but the search algorithms won’t place everything in context. This is where Hemmingway Editor and ProWriting Aid come in.

Hemmingway Editor

The Hemmingway Editor has a specific goal. “Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It's like a spellchecker, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” (source) With the free version of this program, you can copy and paste your article directly into the online platform. If it finds anything, it will then highlight your content for different structural issues. The document is color coded depending on why Hemmingway Editor has flagged the sentences.

This program has a desktop version that you can upgrade to, but I think the free version is excellent and have not found a need to upgrade so far.

ProWriting Aid

ProWriting Aid works similarly to the Hemmingway Editor. The free version has some limitations. It only analyzes 500 words at a time. For $40 a year the desktop app integrates with Word, Google Docs, and Scrivner. There is also a Chrome extension. ProWriting Aid explains, “Tools like our word explorer and contextual thesaurus help you find the perfect words to make your point.” (source)

Headline Tools

Joe Sugarman used to ask his students “So, what’s the primary purpose of your headline, your graphics, your fonts, and every other part of the content? The simple, surprising answer is… To get the first line read.” Copywriting 101 by Brian Clark

Headlines are a crucial part of every blog post. There is a lot of noise on the web and headlines not only catch the attention of readers; they help the web crawlers find your content and bring it to the right people.

We use the several tools to help create headlines that stand out and draw in the right reader. Each does something a little differently.

Here are three free ones to consider using:

Images

Every excellent blog post includes an image. Images are visually appealing and stand out when sharing a post on social media. One of the most important parts of creating an image is to make sure the dimensions are correct.

Design Tools

There are a variety of tools that make designing graphics easy.  Canva is a free graphic design tool that allows the user to create images using templates or custom dimensions. Upload images or use their image library which includes thousands of free images as well as many you can purchase for a small fee. Adding text is very simple using their font library and the text-alignment tool. With Canva for Work, you can import fonts and share creations between team members. Your final products created in Canva are downloaded straight to your desktop.

Design Wizard is also a great design tool. They offer over 17,000 templates (10,000 of which are free) and have over 1.2 million images in their database. You can even use Design Wizard to create videos!

Check out this link for free stock photos! 50 Free Photography Sites Remember always cite your photos.

Social Scheduling

The final steps you can take as a blogger to create great blog content is to schedule your published posts on social media. Using strategic hashtags will help the right people find your blog articles and engage with your writing.

This may seem like an odd aspect of creating a great blog post, but it goes back to step number one. Your Ideal Reader Persona will continue to fully develop as your readers offer you feedback on blog posts. For free social scheduling consider Hootsuite.

For more information on social scheduling strategies read our article Twitter Hashtag Best Practices.

Hootsuite

This free tool allows you to schedule up to 30 posts a month across multiple social media channels. You can attach pictures and include hashtags and then Hootsuite will send out your content.

Next level blogging requires an investment of time an energy that goes beyond the writing of content. While content and context are still the most crucial part of excellent writing, it takes additional steps to be found by the right people. The great thing is that this can all be accomplished at a quicker pace without a financial investment with the support of these tools.

If you are looking for help developing content, here at SMA we have a great group of experienced content writers and editors who take blog articles to the next level every day. We’d love to help you develop the content you want for your business blog. Send us a note; we’d love to help.

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Beth Walker

By Beth Walker

Beth Walker is a Content Strategist who is passionate about storytelling. She leads our In-House writing team and works closely with clients and Inbound Strategists to ensure all the content SMA creates meets SEO best practices and tells each client's unique story.

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