Top 8 Content Management Tools

In today’s business world, there is a driving need to build a strong online presence for your company. While there are many factors that go into this, one thing that business owners struggle with the most is content management.

Finding the time to plan content campaigns, write content, schedule posts, track performance, adjust strategies, and more can be a challenge for businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses without a dedicated content management staff.

As a result, many companies that are dedicated to developing online content and an online presence are turning to content management systems for help. With these systems in place, it is much easier to manage content for a blog. And some systems are even effectively used to manage content across entire websites.

Running your business and managing content is entirely possible, you just need the right systems in place to help you. There are many to choose from, so our writers have narrowed the field down to the top eight to make the decision much easier.

But first, let’s discuss what content management tools are and how they work.

What is a Content Management Tool?

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A content management system (CMS) is a software program that is designed to help users and companies plan, create, post, moderate, assess, and maintain content for an online platform.

There are content management tools for blogs, websites, and social media platforms.

All of these processes are integral to building a successful online presence, which is why content management systems try to roll all of those processes into a single system.

If you do not have to turn to multiple systems to manage content, you can save time, effort, and energy that can be used for other parts of your business. It also reduces the barrier to starting your own online presence.

How to Use Content Management Tools

There are several ways to take advantage of content management systems to make it easier to manage your business. Which methods you use depend on your business, personal preferences, and goals.

However, there are a few things that you should try to do with any system, regardless of which one you choose or whatever your goals are.

Power Your Platform

Content management tools integrate into your online platform. For example, you can build your website using a platform such as WordPress or Drupal, and it would be “powered” by the content management system.

In essence, you create your website from within the content management system so that you can control nearly every aspect of it.

Integrate With Other Platforms

Other content management systems connect to your online platforms. Social media platforms, like Instagram for example, are built on their own platforms, and you just need something to connect to it to manage the content.

Platforms like HubSpot and Trello can connect to multiple social media platforms and post your content for you simultaneously so that you don’t have to go to each platform to do it.

Pre-schedule Posts When You Can

The best way to use a content management system is to create your content and post it regularly.

Nearly all of these options let you schedule when posts go out to the public.

If possible, create your content in batches of at least a few posts. That way, you can enter them into the system and schedule them for future deliveries.

When your schedule becomes chaotic, you won’t have to worry about the next post going out on time since you already scheduled it when you had time.

Track Analytics Constantly

One of the keys to success with content management is to track performance analytics constantly.

After all, you can’t make informed decisions about how your blog posts perform if you don’t have information to work with.

Every post that you put out should be monitored for performance. That way, you can tell what works and what doesn’t work, and adjust accordingly.

Top Content Management Tools

There are many content management tools developed over the past decade. Choosing between them can be difficult. However, there are a few that stand out because of their reputation, features, and use cases.

If you are looking for a content management system for your company, consider one of the following.

Trello

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Let’s begin with one of the most basic options that you can use: Trello.

Trello is a teamwork platform, meaning it helps teams work together more effectively. It does not integrate with social media or website management platforms, so it cannot automatically post for you. However, it can help you organize your content, create a posting calendar, and share information with others to help write the content more effectively.

Trello uses a list card-based system to organize information. When you log into the system, you can create lists of things that need to be done. On each list, you can place cards, which are placeholders for tasks.

Depending on how you like to be organized, you can move these components around to get organized quickly without retyping information.

Many people who use Trello to organize content do so by creating lists of topics that they want to cover, then creating cards for individual posts. They write the content in the cards and reorganize them as needed until they create a campaign strategy that is effective.

While not a complete solution, it is effective in getting things organized, which is one of the biggest problems that businesses face.

Perhaps the best part of Trello is that it is expandable if you upgrade your subscription. The basic Trello system is free for individuals and teams, and upgrading to the $10 per user per month business option gives you more ways to organize and visualize information with templates designed by Trello.

There is also an enterprise option that provides even more support and systems for organizations with more than 100 people.

Pros

  • Free to try and use the basic option
  • Affordable $10 per user per month upgrade for more business options
  • Easy-to-use organization system to start working with online content

Cons

  • Not a full content management solution, so other resources needed
  • Cannot post for you on other platforms

HubSpot – CMS Hub

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HubSpot is one of the older complete website management systems on our list, and it has an expansive reputation because of this.

HubSpot actually consists of five or more “hub” components, and your company can choose which ones it uses. In this case, CMS Hub is the one that you want.

CMS Hub, short for Content Management System Hub, is a system designed to help you develop a complete website, including different pages and content from within the CMS. It is set up so that you could create multiple websites using that system as if you were building and managing them for clients.

This makes it a complete website management system rather than one meant to manage content only.

CMS Hub gives you access to analytical tools and SEO optimization tools. One feature that is particularly impressive is its ability to optimize SEO in multiple languages. Users can switch to the language that is best for them without a lot of technical effort or hassle.

As far as analytics tools, CMS Hub has a variety of tool options to choose from. One tool that is particularly helpful is the contact attribution tool. It monitors which posts have high traffic and click-through rates so that you can see which posts are driving traffic to your website. Use this tool to make changes to your website so that every post can be high performing.

Perhaps the biggest downside to adopting CMS Hub is that there is not a free option. There is a 14-day free trial, though.

CMS Hub is $300 per month for the most basic plan. There is also an enterprise plan for $900 per month that gives you a deeper level of control over the website building process. The enterprise version also gives you the ability to make web apps.

It is important to note that HubSpot has an established history in the market. However, some people are saying that it has become obsolete. This may be true in some aspects, but it still provides a lot of value.

Has HubSpot Become Obsolete?

There are other platforms that offer similar services for better prices, but they are not a one-to-one match for HubSpot. Whether HubSpot is obsolete depends on your needs and if it works well for you.

Pros

  • A complete website management system
  • Post analytics tools
  • SEO management tools for multiple languages

Cons

  • $300 minimum cost to sign up
  • More expensive $900 enterprise package

Wrike

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A favorite of The Writers For Hire, Wrike is a project management system that you can use to manage content more effectively. The most important feature in Wrike is the ability to track performance for specific campaign elements automatically.

Wrike excels at organizing campaigns, which is something that every company should focus on when posting content.

You can create detailed campaign strategies and resources in the system that make it easy to collaborate with others and finish the work quickly. Then, you can set up filters to collect information from different channels, including social media. That way, you can easily track performance and adjust, as necessary.

The one downside to Wrike is that it cannot post to different platforms. Its only connection is to collect information. Fortunately, there is a free version to start with and several pricing plans that let you expand capabilities and resources as needed.

Pros

  • Free option to try the platform
  • Easily coordinate campaigns and collect data
  • Powerful integration and customization options

Cons

  • No posting to other platforms

WordPress

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WordPress is the most popular CMS option on this list and for good reason. It powers more than half of all websites on the internet.

It started as just a simple blog management tool, and it has grown into a tool that can manage a full website.

The best part of using WordPress is that there is a massive support community that consistently provides help with technical issues and creates resources for WordPress. Any problem that you have can be solved by the WordPress community.

WordPress also makes it easy to upgrade the platform with plugins. There are many programmers and companies that make plugins for WordPress that expand its functionality significantly. WooCommerce is a plugin that enables WordPress to use eCommerce tools and analytics, as well as SEO tools. Using these plugins will make WordPress a full marketing, content management, and analytics platform.

Why is WordPress So Popular?

WordPress is popular because it is entirely free to use the basic platform, which is complete on its own.

There are two options that you can try. The first is to download the core files and set it up yourself, which gives you full control over every aspect of your website. You can also take advantage of the hosted version of WordPress, which has many of the same features and is managed by WordPress (the company).

Both options make it easy to build a robust platform that you can use to manage content online.

Pros

  • Free to use no matter which version you choose
  • Massive support community that creates resources and provides a lot of help
  • Extensive ability to upgrade and customize the platform to your liking

Cons

  • You pay for some plugins and theme upgrades
  • The platform is not as tailored to website management as some people would like

Joomla

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Whenever you talk about WordPress, Joomla and Drupal naturally follow. All three are considered the standard of content management systems, and they are some of the oldest and most successful platforms available. Both Joomla and Drupal are similar to WordPress but are tailored to other uses.

Joomla is designed to manage content and build websites for mid-size or small enterprises. Joomla is more focused on building websites than WordPress, which is understandable since Joomla will likely build larger, more complicated websites.

Joomla gives you deeper control over how the website is designed in that you can move components around and structure the website differently, rather than plugging content into a specific place on a template. It also lets you develop and manipulate more complicated file structures, making backlinking and other SEO techniques easier.

The downside to Joomla is that it is not quite as user-friendly as WordPress. Businesses just getting into CMS, may need help learning the system and getting everything setup. Otherwise, it is capable of powering larger websites using fewer resources than some other platform choices.

Pros

  • Capable of managing larger websites with fewer resource requirements
  • A deeper level of website setup control
  • Used extensively for larger websites and companies

Cons

  • A steeper learning curve for new CMS users

Drupal

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Drupal is similar to both Joomla and WordPress and has a similar following in the business community. However, Drupal is designed for one specific thing: managing content and development for large, enterprise-level websites.

In essence, Drupal takes the best features of WordPress and Joomla to an absolutely massive scale. While this is great for companies with large websites, it makes it more difficult to use for smaller applications.

Drupal has been modified over the years to be a more robust platform. In fact, Drupal even refers to itself as a digital experience platform rather than a CMS. This is because it has platform applications for marketing, content management, and integration with other platforms.

An enterprise could potentially run its entire web presence through Drupal and minimize the need for outside platforms.

The best feature of Drupal is its cost. Since it is for large projects, anyone would think that it is an expensive platform. However, Drupal is free to download. There are plenty of expansion modules and themes that you can use, although some are paid options made by third party companies. Still, Drupal is an effective platform for a variety of use cases.

Pros

  • Free to download and setup
  • Great for comprehensive enterprise management for large projects
  • Extensive collection of expansion tools and modules.

Cons

  • No hosted option
  • May not be easy for small businesses or individuals to use

SharePoint

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The last option on this list is a teamwork system, but it has grown to be so flexible and popular that it is worth mentioning.

SharePoint is used by companies to share documents and promote collaboration on projects. Unlike some of the other programs on this list, SharePoint has the ability to share documents and integrate with programs like Microsoft Word, so that you can create content in programs specifically designed for that, for example.

SharePoint is a great way to help your staff work together on writing projects since it can create a workflow. Once a writer has finished the document, they can send it to the editor, who can also edit it in Word. Then, it can be sent for approval to the manager and uploaded to the website by the IT team or content manager.

You can also use SharePoint to create deliverables, such as eBooks or infographics, which would be a problem for other content management programs. In short, SharePoint makes it easier to create content among teams.

Pros

  • Plans bundled with other Microsoft software
  • Affordable prices at each level ($5-$20 per user per month)
  • Makes collaboration easier for text and non-text deliverables

Cons

  • No integration with posting platforms
  • No free option to try
  • All plans are annual commitments

Managing Content Development Can Be Easy

Content development does not have to be a difficult process. You just need the right software to help you. Each of these options is effective in its own way, but there are plenty more options to choose from if you don’t find what you are looking for in these choices.

The bottom line is, do not be afraid to try a new content management system. You may find that it is exactly what you need for your business to reach a new level of success.

And if you need help deciding which is right for your company, just use our handy checklist to assist you in finding the perfect match.

How to Manage and Organize Content for Blog Campaigns

Launching a blog campaign is an effective way to grow your business’ influence online. By posting regularly, it allows you to provide value for your customers by educating them on specific topics. More than that, it establishes you as an expert in your field, which can draw more attention from potential customers or clients.

Indeed, blogging has proven to be a very effective tool for businesses, but there must be a method behind how you manage your blog posts. This is where the blog campaign comes into play.

Sort the Fine Details Before You Write

Before you jump into organizing or even writing the content for your blog campaign, start by sorting the fine details you want to include in your posts. Jumping directly into the writing process will lead to confusion, both for you and your readers.

People who know a lot about something often want to say a lot about something, which can lead to providing information in a very unorganized fashion. Preplanning helps you bring your thoughts together on specific topics so that you don’t forget anything, and so you can organize it into a system that helps others learn.

Start by working through themes for your campaign. For example, a technology company would want to teach customers about the latest technology on the market. This may take several blog posts to cover all of the information, such as:

  • What the new technology is
  • How different it is from other options
  • Its history and how it became what it is
  • How to use it or what it is used for
  • Why customers should want it
  • Specific things that only technology aficionados would know
  • How to get the new technology
  • Why they should get that technology from you

From this list alone, there are a lot of specific things to cover about this new technology that will be interesting to clients and help companies get a boost in sales. To get the most out of this content, it needs to be organized into a campaign that follows logical steps. That way, you can effectively educate clients while creating an effective sales funnel so both sides benefit.

Pro Tip: Make a List of Content Points for the Year

An easy way to organize your content is to make a list of content points that you need to address throughout the year. Some of these will be easily predictable, such as holidays or special events. Industry trade shows and similar events also make great content points to write about. Here are some content points that are commonly used to organize blog content:

  • Industry-specific themes
  • Specific products or promotions
  • Product launches, sales, or other special events
  • Major business changes like an expansion or merger

Develop Your CTA

One of the most important parts of your blog to develop is your CTA or Call-to-Action.

This is the part that asks the customer to do something, such as buy a product or schedule an appointment. It is usually found at the end of the blog post with links to landing pages or other sales resources.

The CTA is important because it takes a reader from being passive to being active and engaged with your company. Without it, your blog will not drive sales.

Creating a CTA does not have to be complicated, but it does require specific pieces of information. Before you create any content, create a CTA.

Information for Your CTA

There are specific pieces of information that need to be included in your CTA. Otherwise, it may not be effective at directing your potential customers. Your CTA needs to include:

  • Your company name
  • Company primary contact information
  • An invitation to what you want customers to do (i.e., “call us” or “click this link”)
  • A link to a landing page or the business home page

Once you have this information, you can compile a CTA using a basic formula for each blog post. This formula will change slightly based on the topic and where the post sits in your sales funnel.

If the post is about general information about the business or is early in the sales funnel or campaign, your CTA will focus on getting clients to your website or a specific landing page to learn more.

If it is deep enough in your sales funnel to ask for the sale, then the CTA should focus on getting clients to the sale through a product page or a landing page that asks for the sale.

Your CTA should follow a template and look like the following:

  • Sentence 1: Introductory sentence to transition from content into CTA.
  • Sentence 2: Sentence on how the product can be valuable to the consumer.
  • Sentence 3: Request for a specific action, with contact info or link.
  • Sentence 4: Sentence on how the company can support the consumer.

Example (Early Sales Funnel)

Replacing your outdated TV with a new 80-inch flat-screen will make watching the game more enjoyable, but taking your old TV to the dump can be a challenge. It is much easier if you can find a service to pick up your TV and take it to the landfill for you. [Company Name] can help you get that old TV to the dump without you having to lift a finger except to call us at [company phone number]. Let us help you make every game special by making it easy to install your new TV.

Example (Late Sales Funnel)

Replacing a broken TV shouldn’t be a hassle, but large TVs are hard to get rid of. You want to order a new TV to watch the game with your friends, but your old TV Is standing in your way. Call [Company Name] at [phone number] to get that old TV out of the way. We’ll drag your old TV to the dump and let you enjoy your new TV without getting off of the couch.

Organize Content by Relevance

Once you know what your content will be about, put it in order of relevance for the goals of the campaign and the subject matter. There are several ways to organize your content by relevance.

Relevance to the Reader

Your content should be in the order of relevance to the reader if there are multiple subjects or the content becomes progressively more complicated. This is common on education websites where the content starts basic and becomes more complicated over time.

However, it is not always that straightforward since some parts make sense to go out of order. Businesses use this method when introducing multiple products or services. They may introduce them as a whole so that customers have a frame of reference for all of the options, then start to go through them individually.

Relevance to Time

Content can be organized based on chronological events.

History classes do this so that everything develops in a logical progression.

And companies use this when they are guiding readers through tutorials.

Every post builds on the one that came before it, so doing them out of order does not make sense for the reader.

Relevance to Topic

Another way to organize content is to organize by topic. This works best when the blog posts may seemingly have nothing to do with each other.

For example, writing blog posts about bananas, oranges, and apples that do not compare them means that each post has nothing to do with each other. However, you can combine the posts into a campaign that teaches readers about different kinds of fruit to make them better shoppers at grocery stores.

Group content based on your themes so that content related to a topic is treated in a single series of blog posts.

Build a Storyline

Having a method for organizing your content helps you get a feel for what posts need to go where and when, but that is not the end of the process. Once you have an idea of how to group your content, you need to organize it so that it builds a storyline.

For the most part, consumers do not make a purchase based on the technical specifications of a product. They don’t even buy because a product solves a problem for them. They buy because they connect with the narrative of that product.

You can use this to connect with readers and make asking for the sale more effective.

For this to work, every piece of content in the campaign must support a narrative in some way. Instead of focusing entirely on features, talk about how the product was developed and why customers enjoy it. Paint a picture of how customers can use it to make their lives better.

Once they can imagine using your product to resolve a pressing need for them, they are beginning to buy into the storyline.

It is important to remember that although the posts are working toward a common goal, every piece must be able to stand on its own.

Every blog post is a self-contained story of its own, and you want to make sure that customers get a good understanding of what you are writing about, even without access to other posts.

That way, readers can keep up with what you are writing without having to read back through old posts for everything to make sense.

Develop a Simple Tracking System

As you launch the campaign, it is important that you track the success of each post. Without a tracking system in place, you won’t be able to effectively evaluate your campaign strategy.

The good news is that your tracking system does not have to be complicated. A simple system could be to track KPIs on every post to see which ones perform the best.

If you have posts that do well and others that do not, figure out what makes some perform well and change your process to make the others more effective.

Try Different Campaign Strategies

Campaign strategies can always be changed to fit your needs. If you try to develop a successful campaign and don’t get the results that you want, pivot and find a strategy that works. You can try as many strategies as you like until you find the one that works best.

Successful companies make sure they can track the performance of their posts in a meaningful way. When they find a specific element of a post that works, they integrate it into their strategy and apply it to every post.

Even if you only get one thing that works out of your campaign, that is an improvement. Collect these little improvements and you will eventually create a campaign strategy that works reliably. All it takes is effort over time and a desire to consistently make improvements.

The Content Publishing Storyline

Every blog post campaign needs to tell a story. Customers buy based on the narrative of a product more than any other factor, and this is your key to making more sales.

For help building your campaign storyline, just use this helpful checklist.

8 Reasons Why You Really Do Need a Business Blog

In this day and age, people spend a lot of time online reading blogs. After all, they are an excellent source of entertainment and information. Some make you laugh, while others help you understand complex concepts or even products.

Following the blogs of your favorite businesses keeps you in the loop and makes you feel like you’re a part of its inner circle.

You know all of this to be true, but for some reason, you’ve never created a blog for your own business. The questions are: Should you? and Why?

The short answer is: Yes, a company blog is a great idea! While it’s not as simple as it may seem at first glance, having a blog for your business, any business, has a lot of upsides.

Here are 8 reasons why 2021 should be the year you dive in and start blogging for your business.

8 Reasons Why You Should Start a Blog

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1. It Reinforces Your Brand Voice

Your brand has a unique voice. If it doesn’t, it’s time to change that. Every ad, product description, and webpage should reinforce that voice. It could be friendly, funny, authoritative, or any other voice that fits what your brand is all about. It needs to be consistent in everything you do.

A blog is a perfect way to hammer that home. Longer blog pieces allow you to let that voice shine and give your brand not just an identity but a personality.

2. It Increases SEO Rankings

If you own a brand and have a website, you know the importance of pleasing those search engines, especially Google. One of the most important factors for great SEO rankings is to make your website relevant and useful to consumers. Your blog does just that!

Think about the questions your customers might have and build your blog posts around them. As your blog grows, it will become a trusted resource in your industry, and your SEO rankings will climb higher and higher. That’s just smart business.

3. It Increases Website Traffic

This goes hand-in-hand with reason number 2. If your blog is full of information that people want to know, you’ll climb in the SEO rankings, and you’ll get more website traffic as a result.

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For example, let's say that you sell Earth-friendly baby products. You carry cloth diapers, and some people come to your site because they know you have them. But if you add a blog post titled 'Should I Use Cloth or Disposable Diapers?' new parents who are researching that very question will be led to your site to learn more. Once they are there, who knows what else they'll see, love, and buy!

4. It Provides an Opportunity to Establish an Email List

You don’t always want to wait for your customers to come to you. When you create a blog, include a CTA (Call To Action) to give your readers an opportunity to sign up for emails or newsletters from you.

These communications can let them know when you have new products or even new blog posts. This keeps customers connected to your business in a fun and meaningful way.

5. It’s a Platform to Introduce New Products, Services, and Events

When you introduce new products or are hosting an event, there’s only so much you can say on your product page or advertisements.

A blog gives you the bandwidth to delve into the background, provide case studies, and flesh out the reasons you are promoting this product, service, or event.

Even if you don’t want to do a whole blog about something new, it can find its way (with a link to where the reader can find more information) into the copy. It’s a great way to highlight new items or events that you want your customers to see without spending a ton on advertising.

6. It Establishes Your Subject Matter Authority

If you stay consistent and write about your subject with proper research, you’ll grow to become a web authority on the topic.

Think of any topic or product you enjoy. Chances are, you can name one or two people or businesses that are your “go-to” sites to learn more about it. Those are your subject matter authorities.

Becoming a subject matter authority boosts your status in the eyes of your customers as well as search engines. It’s a goal every business blog should want to reach.

7. It Goes Hand in Hand with Social Media

You know that social media is a critical part of your business plan, but what do you put on it to engage your customers? Your blog is the perfect way to keep things fun and fresh on social media.

Think about that diaper blog post. If you shared it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, do you think it would get people talking? Probably. The new parents who are asking that question will find a whole lot of experienced parents weighing in, and your company and your blog post will be at the center of that conversation.

Nothing keeps your business active in your customers’ minds better than a fabulous social media presence, and a blog can help make that happen.

8. It Keeps People Coming Back to Your Website

When you put it all together, from becoming a subject matter authority to establishing email lists to social media and more, the real result of creating a great blog is that it keeps people interacting with your business and coming back to your website over and over. That means you stay relevant and top-of-mind for your customers.

New customers are great, but returning customers are the foundation of any business. 

But, what if I’m not a writer?

As you can see, the benefits of a blog for your business are many.

But we can’t forget to address the elephant in the room: You may be hesitant to start a blog for your business because you aren’t a great writer or simply don’t have the time or desire to write the blog.

That’s just fine. You can hire a professional writer to do that part. In fact, unless you are a superb creative writer, it is a smart idea to let a pro handle it.

As the insider for the business, your job is to figure out what to write about. New products, your brand’s mission, fun and exciting stories about customer interactions (with their permission, of course!), and how-tos are all great ideas.

Just come up with some topic ideas, and let your writer take care of the rest.

Conclusion

These days a blog is expected from your business page. Customers look for it to learn about your business, your products, and your brand’s identify. The best part is that it can work wonders for your brand with minimal investment.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that your blog needs to be done well. If you want to build up all of those things we just talked about, your blog needs to look good with a well-built webpage and eye-catching photos, be consistent, and most important, be well written so that people will actually want to read it.

And remember, it’s OK to hire out any of those tasks if you don’t feel comfortable doing them. Compared to traditional or pay-per-click advertising, you can build your blog for minimal investment and boost your brand’s web presence exponentially.

So, what are you going to blog about?

What is a Blog?

A blog, short for “weblog,” is a text-based online diary or website product used for informational or entertainment purposes.

A blog can be written by a single writer, or a group of writers. And the information contained in this platform varies according to the topic or theme.

Generally speaking, a blog shares the viewpoint and opinions of its writers. However, blogs can also be written in a non-biased manner, depending on the desired goal.

Individuals can use blogs for personal reasons, such as sharing personal events. Businesses can use blogs for commercial purposes, such as informing clients about their products and services. Ultimately, the overall purpose of a blog is to connect the writer with a target audience by way of relevant content.

Structure of a Blog

In general, blogs have the following structure:

  • Main title
  • Table of contents and/or navigation bar
  • Main content section with subheadings
  • A sidebar with links to social media, e-commerce sites, or a call to action
  • A footer with relevant disclaimers and contact information

Writers can alter blogs to suit their needs. That’s why formatting a blog often takes practice and experience.

Why Are Blogs Popular?

Blogs are popular for the following reasons:

  • They provide accurate and up-to-date information.
  • Companies use them to keep their clients and suppliers informed.
  • Visitors can interact with individuals and companies through comments and messages.
  • Bloggers can earn money by doing activities such as affiliate marketing.
  • They generate traffic for websites and e-commerce portals.

Who is a Blogger?

A blogger is essentially anyone who writes a blog. This includes individuals, companies, and organizations that share information and points of view through this type of format. Bloggers are informers or storytellers that have something to say to the world.

With the tools available nowadays, virtually anyone can become a blogger. But the success of a blog depends on the right message reaching the right audience.

Content Audits: Why Your Site Needs One and How it’s Done

You’ve worked tirelessly on creating the perfect website for your business and have even added some great content to beef up your blog section. So, how do you know if your site is performing well?

That’s where the content audit comes into play.

A content audit is the process of going through all the content on your website and analyzing it to better understand what’s working and what’s not. Then, once you have all of the data, you can use it to make your website the best it can be.

Let’s get real—websites aren’t made to hide in the crevices of Google or drive away users with boring or hard-to-use content. Without web traffic, proper user engagement, and simply results (which can vary depending your goals), churning out content is fairly worthless.

So yes, content audits are as important as they seem. But how do you conduct your own?

Content Audit How-To

First, let’s understand the various metrics you can use to measure the performance of your website.

SEO

You may be vaguely familiar or intimately acquainted with SEO. If you’re the former, here is a crash course.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process used to make sure your website is seen by your target audience. A website or page that has very little or poor content, or hasn’t been updated in years, will most likely have poor internet traffic, and hide in page 72 of Google’s search results.

Since people tend to click on the first few results that pop up on their internet search, you want to make sure that your site is easy to find and accessible. If you’re not paying for your site to pop up first, you want to optimize your site so that it will appear early on in an “organic search” (non-paid search engine results).

Here’s where SEO comes in. Search engines hold a database of all available internet content. They get all that information through crawling and indexing pages available on the web. Once there’s an index of all pages, videos, pictures, etc., the search engine ranks everything in order from most relevant to least on the results pages for any given search.

Say you’re looking up “panda bears in the wild.”  Based on SEO, sites that are the most relevant to that search will come up on the very first page. Relevance is determined by many factors, the most important one being keywords. So, in this case, a site that has the phrase, “panda bears in the wild” multiple times will surface at the top of your search results.

While there’s a lot more to SEO, even a basic understanding can help you to conduct a content audit that measures your website’s visibility and ranking on search engines. If you find through your audit that your site is hard to find or not using keywords in an optimal way, it’s time to implement some SEO best practices.

User Engagement

SEO is only one factor in the complex web of content auditing. User engagement tells you how interested users are in your content. Lots of clicks, shares, and a low bounce rate, (when people stay for a while on your page as opposed to visiting and immediately leaving), demonstrate high user engagement.

High user engagement means your site is getting attention and appreciation from users. No one wants their site to be found via SEO metrics (using the words “panda bear in the wild” 1,000 times) but then dumped after one second because the user experience is so poor (which it would be, in that case).

That’s why it’s important to strike a balance between keyword usage and giving people a positive experience.

If your site is found on a search engine and enjoyed by its intended audience, your user interaction and engagement will be quite high. To measure these factors during a content audit, you’re going to focus on the number of shares, likes, comments, and page views, and length of average visit, to name a few.

You can also compare different types of content to see which got the most user engagement.

Looking at variables like type of post, length of post, and content of post and comparing them against each other can give you a good idea of what’s optimal and what’s falling flat.

For example, if you compare blog posts at 2,000 words vs. 500 words by looking at the number of likes and shares they both received, you can tell whether a larger or smaller word count is more popular. You could then either restructure existing content to make it more optimal or create more of what’s popular.

Sales Metrics

Sales is its own beast. Sites that sell a product (an item, a downloadable, or something else), are probably most interested in finding out what generated the most business.

While you might be tempted to focus solely on sales-related metrics, you do need to consider SEO and user engagement as well. After all, if your site is unfindable or unusable, you won’t be selling much of anything.

Beyond these factors, you can analyze business-related metrics by tracking leads, revenue, and conversion rate.

Leads are important because they are the site visitors who can potentially purchase your product or service. Several metrics can demonstrate how many leads you have—like how many people visit your site every day, or how many email subscribers you have.

Leads can also inform you about conversion rate: how many of your page visits turn into customers, or how many subscribers end up making a purchase.

The difference between number of leads and number of consumers becomes your conversion rate and helps provide insight into your return on investment (ROI).

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay 

As you can tell, there are a lot of factors you can look into when auditing your website. So where do you begin?

Narrowing Down What You Want to Know

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, start with focusing on what you actually want to know and eliminating what’s just extraneous.

It’s hard to make a general guide to content auditing since each website, company, or individual is looking to find out different information and reach different goals. So, first outline what you’re looking for based on who you are.

Not sure how? Who are you? What is your company?

If you are selling something, it’s important to look at sales metrics like leads, conversions, and revenue.

If you want more visits/views, look into SEO and engagement metrics.

Maybe you want to attract new viewers/visitors, or you want to nurture leads you already have. In that case, focus more on sales or engagement metrics.

Since analyzing your content is a means to an end, come in focused on that end.

Conducting Your Audit

Gathering Your Data

Now for the technical how-to: Roll up your sleeves, settle into your chair, and consolidate all your URLs into one spreadsheet.

If you only have a few URLs, you can do this manually, but if it’s a big site with many pages, download a crawler like Screaming Frog (free up to 500 URLs) or URL Profiler (paid service).

These downloadable programs will search your whole site (known as “crawling”) and set up a list of your URLs along with some basic criteria to get you started.

Your list will look something like this:

As shown in these pictures from Screaming Frog’s site, you’ll get a list of your URLs accompanied by certain criteria, like what kind of site it is (text, image, or something else).

Exporting is the next step, and you can do this in a few different ways. One, pictured above, will export the sites you select. If you want all of them, do a bulk export by selecting “Bulk Export” on the top menu, and then choosing “All Inlinks.”

For more information, visit the Screaming Frog or URL Profiler websites. With their comprehensive instructions, downloading and setting up shouldn’t pose a problem.

Next, export your list as a CSV file and create a spreadsheet, using a program like Excel or Google Sheets.

On your spreadsheet, use the filter feature on the top left of your list to filter out the unnecessary pages, looking only at your HTMLs.

Congrats! You have everything in one beautiful, confusing document. Now it’s time to analyze what you have.

Analyzing Your Data


Google Sheets or Excel Docs:

Using conditional formatting through Google Sheets or Excel allows you to arrange the cells so you can visualize the information easily.

For instance, if you’re analyzing word count and comparing longer and shorter articles, you can color code cells above and below certain numbers of words to make it easy to spot longer and shorter posts.

To set conditional format, select Format > Conditional Formatting from the top menu. It will look like this picture from Google Sheets.

Now it’s time for the fun part: understanding your data. Drawing conclusions from the tables, graphs, and charts generated on your Excel or Google Sheet is the whole point of the audit, so don’t take it easy just yet.

Sorting the data into various visuals like graphs and charts, and using conditional formatting in your lists, you can now begin to answer questions like: “Which article length is most popular?” “Which type of post gets the most shares?” and, “Which posts have utilized best SEO practices?”   


Google Analytics:

You can either make your own inferences with your sheets, or you can go a different route and use Google Analytics, which is very helpful for content audits and understanding your website, as well as helping to track user behavior.

Importing your website information and data into Google Analytics automatically generates various charts and graphs and sets you up to track different parameters. Instead of creating a spreadsheet that you can manipulate yourself, Google Analytics feeds directly from your site and tracks it, boiling down information it collects into digestible statistics and graphs.

Here’s how to get your data into Google Analytics, via their informational site:

Once your site’s information is in the system, Google Analytics will do the work for you, providing insights into your data. Your job is to find it and understand it.

First, you can check out user engagement metrics by going to the “Behavior” Tab on the left-hand side menu. In this screenshot from Google Analytics’ demo page, you can see the “Analytics Intelligence” on the right.

By clicking on “Insights” at the top of the page, the “Analytics Intelligence” sidebar pictured above pops up with information on the implications of your data. You can click on these succinct reports to further explore and solve any issues.

In addition to the “Behavior” tab, the “Conversions” tab is useful, as it allows you to set and track goals. These tabs can be customized to track specific values. For instance, you can set a goal to find out how many leads on a certain page turn into customers. This is a way to identify and understand your conversion rate.

To set a goal, select the “Admin” option on the bottom left (the one that looks like a cog or “settings” button), then select “Goals” in the “View” column on the right, pictured here.

You can create a custom goal or use an already generated template goal. Once you set it, Google will track your site and create a report for you. It’s best to wait at least a few days, if not a couple of weeks, for results to be meaningful–one day will not give you enough information.

To track your goal, you simply choose the “Conversions” option on the left side and open Goals > Overview. You will see how many goal completions were achieved (like how many products were sold), conversion rate, and abandonment rate, to name a few.

On the “Audience” tab, you can view other metrics of user engagement, including bounce rate and average session duration. You can even see the most popular places your views come from, displayed in a pretty pie chart to compare social media to organic searches to direct searches. Or, like the view pictured below, you can see graphs demonstrating percentage of new users vs. returning users.

For more help using the extensive tool that is Google Analytics, we suggest watching the great tutorial videos they offer.

Wrapping It Up

Whether you’re using Google Analytics, Excel, Google Sheets, or a different online template, you can explore options of displaying, tracking, and reading your data for your content audit. And now that you have answers in front of you, it’s time to optimize your website.

If videos are doing better than articles, for example, publish more of those over their wordy counterpart.

If you’re losing leads when you wait too long to send a follow-up email, fix your funnel system. If SEO isn’t strong, use more keywords and put in headings.

And if certain types of pages are getting a ton of views, maybe consider adding a ‘call to action’ to them.

The possibilities are endless, and sometimes small changes can have big effects. So, go forth and conquer!

Avoiding the Copyright Police: Ways to Find Free Images for Your Blog

Remember story time as a kid? While the story was great, you have to confess it was the pictures that drew you in, right? Looking at the pictures was the best part of the entire experience.

The same applies to digital and printed communications.

Visuals, including photography and infographics, play a significant role in helping people take action, become inspired, or grasp a concept.

But you need to be careful about where you obtain your images.

Some imagery, including those on Google Images, are more often than not copyrighted and could land you in hot water if you use them without written permission.  

“One of the issues we often see is clients using what they find on Google as images for a blog, website, or social media post. This is a dangerous game as many images are protected by copyright, or creative commons license, which limits their usage without proper payment or permission from the owner,” says Charlie Ewing, creative director at CGS Digital Marketing.

Before you get in haste to copy and paste, here are a few tips to tell if something is copyrighted or not:

  • Credit or contact details – If an image is copyrighted, take a careful look at the caption. You might spot the name of the photographer or whoever created the image. You might also find that person’s email address in the caption. If you really like the picture, you can contact them to see if you can use it; however, don’t be surprised if you will need to pay a small royalty fee.
  • Watermark – Many times, when an image is copyrighted, there will be a watermark or a faint design in the background of a logo or image. No matter how much you love the photo, don’t attempt to remove the watermark. It could cost you later on. 
  • Metadata – You may want to check an image’s metadata. Sometimes referred to as EXIF data, metadata is described as a set of data that gives information about other data. The website “How to Geek” provides a good explanation of how to do this using a PC or Mac. 
  • Reverse image search – If you are adamant about using the image and are determined to find the creator, you can use Google’s reverse image tool. You can upload the image there, and it will trace the photo back to where it resides online. From there, you might be able to determine the owner and contact him or her. 

If you can’t find the owner to ask for permission, err on the side of caution and don’t use the image.

Photographers, illustrators, and graphic designers need to protect their livelihood and, as such, often check to see if there are situations where their images are being used without their approval. 

It’s probably a smart idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of copyright laws and what they mean. Here is a list of the most common licenses:

  • All Rights Reserved
  • Royalty-Free
  • Public Domain Work
  • Attribution
  • Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Attribution-NoDerivs
  • Attribution-NonCommercial

If I can’t use Google images, what can I use?

The consequences of using a copyrighted image can be, for lack of a better word, unpleasant. 

“Copyright is always something to be mindful of in the age of information,” says Emily Glass, director of marketing for Because Marketing. “With free services such as Unsplash and Pexels, there are plenty of stock photo options that won’t break the bank. Still can’t find a photo that fits? Adobe Stock or Shutterstock are great paid options.”

Below is a roundup of some of the best websites out there that offer royalty-free use of images: 

Pexels.com 

Pexels provides unlimited downloads of beautiful photos, and you’re bound to find something to match the subject at hand. Here’s an example of a beautiful picture you can download for free on this site:

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Burst.shopify.com 

This site provides thousands of free images for websites and commercial use. Here’s a sample:

Reshot.com 

Reshot says it is a “uniquely free,” “non-stocky” source for photos. Here is a great example of something that you might not find elsewhere:

Photo by Waldemar Błażej Nowak

Pixabay.com 

This expansive site provides over 1.8 million stock photos you can download for free. Here’s a sample:

Image by Tài Thiện from Pixabay 

Gratisography.com 

Gratisography markets itself as “truly unique, usually whimsy, and always free.” Here’s an example of what you can find on this site:

PXhere.com 

Another full site that states the photos are free of copyright, so “do whatever you want.” Here’s a cool photo we downloaded from PXhere:

Image by Konevi

Unsplash.com 

Unsplash has a robust collection of images ranging from pets to interiors to places of worship. Here’s a picture-perfect puppy we found:

If these sites don’t have what you’re looking for and you’re willing to pay, there are a few sites out there you can subscribe to for a reasonable price, including:

“We go through hundreds and thousands of stock photos with our clients every month. Stock images provide clients and writers with affordable, high-quality photos at their fingertips, and they have plenty of choices to pick from. Not only that but you can test and try the images before you purchase them. Photos are easy to license so you can be assured that you will not infringe on the copyright. A few of our favorite resources are freepik.com, pexels.com, unsplash.com, stock.adobe.com, and shutterstock.com,” says Sami Khaleeq, president of CGS Digital Marketing.

Creating Your Own Images

Maybe these sites don’t provide precisely what you need. If you need a quick photo and don’t have time or the resources to hire a professional photographer, you can always take advantage of your phone.

You can capture stunning images with your iPhone or Android. Digital Photography School provides some quick tips: 

  1. Light up your subjects.
  2. Get close to your subject.
  3. Hold your phone steady.
  4. Save the editing for later.
  5. Don’t delete your mistakes.
  6. Don’t use the digital zoom feature.
  7. Experiment with white space.
  8. Take lots of shots, have fun, and experiment.
  9. Learn some basic composition rules, and then don’t be afraid to break them.
  10. Keep your lens clean. 
  11. Practice camera phone etiquette 101: Obtain permission to take photos of others in public.
  12. Use the highest resolution possible.

Creating Graphics and Infographics 

What if you need a quick graphic or infographic to explain a concept or present information? There are several great tools available for this purpose. Here are some examples:

Canva.com 

Canva allows you to create professional-looking graphics that will make you wonder if you shouldn’t have pursued that degree in graphic design.

It’s user-friendly, intuitive, and provides a wide range of backgrounds, colors, and design elements.

You can use the basic version for free or pay a little extra to use the professional version.

Canva lets you create everything from business cards to social media posts, posters, flyers, infographics, and restaurant menus. Below are images of designs made in Canva:

AdobeSpark.com 

You can choose from millions of free photos from sites such as Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels to create your graphics in Adobe Spark.

It lets you add text animations and stickers, and also has a library of exclusive fonts.

There is a free version, which provides the basic usage, a $9.99 per month individual version, and a $19.99 per month version for multiple team members.

Below is one of the templates you can edit and use as your own:

Picmonkey 

This online photo editing and designer program can be accessed via the web.

It provides graphic design and editing tools and design templates for wedding invitations, announcements, business cards, and more.

You can use the basic features for free, but to get access to all the bells and whistles, you’ll have to pay a membership fee.

Here’s an example of what you can make using PicMonkey: 

Visuals are an essential element of your blog post, website articles, and social media posts. With these resources at your fingertips, you’re sure to steer clear of copyright infringement, while at the same time creating something engaging and compelling for your audiences.

WHAT IS A URL, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Most people are familiar with the term “URL.” However, unless you are surveying a bunch of Google employees, few could probably tell you what each letter stands for, and what it actually means.

But if you use the internet with any regularity, it could be helpful to gain a better understanding of the term and its importance.

Start With a Definition

The term “URL” is an abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator.

Which does nothing to help anyone understand what it actually means.

Basically, a URL is the address for a website (the “web address”), page, or file on the internet. Anything that can be stored digitally can be given a URL. For example, the URL for this website is https://www.thewritersforhire.com.

A URL is made up of three distinct parts:

  • The protocol
  • The domain name
  • The path

The following breaks down and explains these main components of a URL.

The Protocol

Also called the scheme, this is the very beginning of a URL. The most common protocols used are http:// or https://. The letters stand for hypertext transfer protocol; the “s” stands for “secure.”

The protocol is extremely important. It tells your browser how to communicate with a website’s server to send and retrieve information.

Unless you are interested in the minutiae of how data travels from one location to another, diving into the technical details about how the protocol works is really not necessary.

The Domain Name

The section immediately following the protocol is the domain name. It is usually the name of a website, such as “google.com” or “thewritersforhire.com.”

When someone decides to set up a website, it is up to them to choose the domain name. It is a good idea to choose a name that is easy to type, remember, and relates to the purpose of the website.

The last part of the domain name, such as “.com” is the domain suffix, or top level domain. While .com is the most commonly used, there are over 500 domain suffixes available. The most common ones are:

  • .com
  • .edu
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .gov
  • .net
  • .co

Many domain names used to begin with “www.” This was an abbreviation of the World Wide Web. It is usually not necessary to type in the www as you will be directed to the correct domain without it.

The Path

The file path (often shortened to “the path”) directs the browser to a specific page associated with the domain. If no path is specified, the browser will take you to a default page, such as a home page. For example, https://www.thewritersforhire.com/blog/ will take you to the main blog page of The Writers for Hire website.

The Parameter Stream and Anchor

Following the path, a URL can contain many more words, symbols, and numbers. These are often the parameter and anchor.

The parameter usually contains the “&” symbol and the anchor usually contains the “#” symbol. Both parts generally provide more specificity about where the browser should take a user.

One simple way to think of all these parts of a URL is to put it in terms of a mailing address.

  • The protocol is the delivery service
  • The domain name is the city
  • The path is the building
  • The parameters indicate the apartment
  • The anchor represents the person receiving delivery

How to Get a URL

If you are interested in creating a website, you will need to get a URL. The part that you need to focus on in this case is the domain name. You have control over what to name your website, and it will form the core of your URL.

In order to own a domain name, you will need to purchase it from a domain registrar (often referred to as “registering your domain”). There are many options available to do this. Prices may vary, and you should do your research to make sure you are buying from a reputable source before making a purchase.

You can check to see if the domain registrar is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Registrars must meet certain criteria to be accredited. However, it’s probably best to do further research to make sure the domain registrar you use also offers good technical support and has many satisfied customers.

Most web hosting services will also offer to sell you a domain name as part of your web hosting package. Some will even give you a domain name for free for the first year. Just be aware that you will likely be charged for your domain name when the promotion is up.

How Does a URL Work

Destinations on the internet are actually identified by a series of numbers. These are called IP Addresses (Internet Protocol Address). They consist of 12 numbers separated into groups of three by a period, like this: 123.123.123.123.

It is possible to arrive at an internet destination by typing in the IP address. But imagine trying to remember a series of 12 numbers every time you wanted to visit a website. You might memorize a handful that you visit frequently, but it’s a terribly impractical system.

Instead, domain names with words are used. When a URL is entered into a browser, it is then translated into an IP address by something called a Domain Name Server (DNS). So the browser is using the string of numbers to bring you to your desired destination. The DNS just makes the job a lot easier for us to do.

Secure URLs

It is important to understand the difference between http:// and https://. Previously, http:// was in widespread use. More recently, there has been a move toward using https:// because it is a much more secure option. The “s” indicates that any data sent back and forth is encrypted before being transmitted. Encrypted data is converted in such a way as to make it safe from interception by hackers. 

It is easy to tell if a website uses a secure protocol. In addition to the “s,” there will also be a padlock icon shown on the far left of the website address.

How to Design a Good URL

If you need to create a website, choosing the right URL is important. You should first just focus on the domain name and top-level domain, or suffix, when making your choice. 

Keep it Simple

Short, easy-to-remember domain names are best, but many of the best names have already been taken. Still, the closest you can get to meeting these two requirements, the better.

It is not necessary to keep your domain name to one word. Simple phrases, as long as they are easy to remember, work fine. Thewritersforhire.com consists of four words, but it is easy to type, and each word is fairly short.

Try to match your domain name to the subject of your website. Again, thewritersforhire.com serves as a good example. Anyone seeing this URL will have a pretty good idea of what to expect when they land on the website. Conversely, cryptic names or ones that provide no clues about the website are harder to remember and can cause visitors to become confused.

Try to avoid the use of symbols. If you must use a separator, a hyphen (-) is better than an underscore (_), largely because typing a hyphen doesn’t require using the shift key.

Using the .com Extension

Sometimes the domain name you wish to use is not available. In order to find out, you can simply type in the name you are hoping to purchase, such as domainname.com. The registrar will be able to immediately indicate if that name is available.

If it isn’t (and this happens fairly often), the registrar will usually offer some alternative suggestions. Often the suggestions will be the same core name with a different top-level domain, such as .net, .biz, or .co.

It is a good idea to think carefully about whether or not to use a different suffix other than .com. Obviously, .com is the most commonly used, unless it is for a specific type of organization, such as a government agency (.gov) or educational entity (.edu).

Most people will assume your domain name uses the .com extension. So, if you want to name your website mywebsite.com, but it is already taken, you could instead purchase mywebsite.biz. The risk is that when someone wants to go to your website, they may not remember yours uses the .biz extension, and instead end up at your competitor’s site with the .com extension.

You can try modifying your first choice by adding a descriptor and seeing if that is available. For example, if you are an author and want to use your name for your website, you might run into trouble if your name is somewhat common. For example, there is a pretty good chance that JaneSmith.com is already taken. In this case, you could try adding your middle name, such as JaneAnnSmith.com. Or you could add a descriptor, such as JaneSmithWriter.com.

Why It’s Important to Understand URLs

This post has kept the discussion of URLs to the basic concepts that would be most useful to anyone seeking a casual overview of the subject. Diving deeper into the topic would require a more sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the internet, and is not really necessary for the average person.

But URLs are one of the most important foundational pieces of the internet. Taking the time to understand how URLs work, and how carefully designing one for your website is important, will allow you to make more informed decisions when it comes to your own website or business.