Tools of the Trade: Recommended Resources for Content Marketing Success

content marketing resourceOne of the most common emails I get from DMR visitors is asking about specific tools I use or recommend for various aspects of this site. While I encourage any and all messages, I figured I would create this handy page to list out some of the more helpful content marketing resources I use for DMR. Building and maintaining such a large site with dynamic content is definitely a challenging part-time job. The blogging resources, tools and gadgets below have been lifesavers for me and really are what enable me to keep DMR going all these years.

It is worth noting, that some of the links below are affiliate links and are marked accordingly. If I use a product and find it helpful, I'll recommend it regardless, but even better if I can make a few dollars to pay for the costs of running this site while helping you all. Just want to be up front about that.

Anyways, I hope you find this helpful. Check back in the future as I will continue to add to this list as I find more useful products.

Hosting/Blogging Platform:

  • WordPress -  I've used a bunch of off-the-shelf and custom content management tools and WordPress is, by far, the best solution. WordPress is the right platform for bloggers of any skill level. It is intuitive and very easy to customize. It requires very little coding experience, if any, and there are tutorials everywhere to help you through just about any issue you'll run into. WordPress costs very depend on what you want your site to do. You can easily build a fully functional, nice-looking, free website using WordPress by utilizing a stock site template and plug-ins. You may find down the road that you want additional functionality of a specific look and feel that you will have to pay a few bucks for. All in all, it is still a much cheaper solution to professional development and certainly something a do-it-yourselfer can handle.
  • Bluehost - I have been using Bluehost for a couple of years to host DMR and have been very happy with their service. They have some very nice and easy to use tools in their admin dashboard and they have very helpful tools that help WordPress publishers get setup quickly and easily. Their prices are very competitive and I actually found them cheaper than a number of their competitors when I was searching for a host. Their WordPress functionality and the ease of setup was what sold me. When I switched to Bluehost, I had very little IT experience, but using Bluehost's handy tutorials and a Googling a few things, I was able to move DMR in less than an hour. It was much, much easier than I anticipated thanks to Bluehost. I highly recommend them. Note: DMR is a Bluehost affiliate.

WordPress Plugins:

  • Askimet - The best spam filter out there for WordPress. This little helper will save you a bunch of time sifting through all the comment and trackback spam you'll get. Trust me, you'll get a lot!
  • Disqus Comment System - Disqus has one of the largest user bases and is widely used by most blog readers. I have been using Disqus for years after switching from Facebook comments and have been very happy with it.
  • Easy Digital Downloads - If you are going to sell something electronically on your site, this plugin is a huge help. After trying out 5 of its competitors and running into bugs with each of them, I found Easy Digital Downloads and haven't had a problem yet. It is a lot of work to sell books and other products on your own; the last thing you want is someone walking away because of a broken plug-in.
  • Embed Code Generator - If you are going to use graphics as part of your content marketing mix, be sure to make them easy to embed. Embed Code Generator allows other sites to easily copy and paste a code into their posts and include your graphic. It allows you to control where the graphic links to and ensures you get the proper credit for the graphic. Graphics can be a source of a significant number of quality links to your site if done right. This plug-in facilitates that.
  • ImageInject - I stumbled on this plug-in randomly about a year ago and it quickly became one of my absolute favorite tools. ImageInject adds an additional module to your post and page editor screens that allows you to search flickr's Creative Commons for images to use. After entering in a search term, it gives you a thumbnail grid of the available images and allows you to select a size to download. Once an image is selected, it inserts the image and adds the proper attribution to the bottom of your page or post. This is a HUGE time-saver.
  • Pending Submission Notification - If you are running a multi-author blog where you are the only admin, this tool is very handy. Once an author has submitted a post and doesn't have permission to publish, it becomes "pending." This plug-in sends the administrator of the site an email notifying them of a new pending post. This saves the admin from having to constantly check their post list to see if there is anything new. Simple, yet very helpful.
  • WordPress Popups - Popups are one of the web's most interesting phenomenons. Users constantly rant about how much they hate popups, yet they continue to be one of the most effective call to action tools available. I use this plugin on my site to promote a number of things including email signups and ebook announcements. This plugin uses the same editor that you use to create pages and posts, so designing a popup is quick and easy. It also gives you a bunch of control over when and where a popup appears.
  • Revive Old Post - For you WordPress veterans, this is the old "Tweet Old Post" plugin. If you have a robust blog with loads of posts that are still relevant, you are doing yourself an injustice if you aren't still promoting them. This plugin allows you to link you Twitter profile and tweet out old posts at a set time interval. There is a number of customization options that give you control over what is tweeted, when it is tweeted and how it looks. You can even pick how far back you'd like it to pull posts from. Just be sure you use the included filters properly if you have old posts in your selected time frame that are topically dated to prevent you from tweeting something confusing and potentially embarrassing.
  • W3 Total Cache - Page speed is everything in this new mobile world, so you need to cache portions of your site and make it faster to load. There are a few very good WordPress plugins that help with this. W3 Total Cache was suggested to me years ago and I have never had a problem with it. It is highly customizable and gives you a bunch of control over what is and isn't cached on your site.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast - My absolute favorite WordPress plugin. This feature-rich tool gives you everything you need to get your content found in search engines. It even helps with social media optimization. The Yoast team is constantly updating this plugin and adding features to adapt to the ever-changing world of SEO. They also have a great blog that offers very helpful SEO tips for all user levels.

Social Media/RSS Monitoring Tools:

  • Hootsuite - There are many solid social media productivity tools out there, but Hootsuite has been my tool of choice for years. I used the pro version of Hootsuite in my agency days and it was perfect for managing multiple client social profiles on multiple platforms. You can easily monitor lists/keyword searches and feeds for each client in nicely laid-out streams. A Hootsuite Pro subscription is well worth the inexpensive spend. If you are a team of one, the free version of Hootsuite is more than enough to suit your needs. Hootsuite also has an excellent internet browser bookmarklet that allows you to schedule and share great content to multiple social profiles right from your browser. DMR is a Hootsuite affiliate.
  • Feedly - When Google Reader was shelved, I was devastated. On any given day, I "read" over 75 different websites. That is how I am able to keep the stats, gadgets, etc here on DMR as up to date as possible. Keeping tabs on so many digital publications is really only possible through RSS. RSS is pretty much a real time feed of website articles. Depending on the site settings (and your reader), RSS feed can contain either just article titles, titles and excerpts or sometimes even full articles. Each day, I use Feedly to go through headlines from all of these websites quickly and tag the ones that look interesting. I then go back and read through the tagged articles when I get a chance. It makes for a very quick and easy way to sift through thousands of articles and read only the ones that interest you. I used Google Reader for RSS reading for years. Since its demise, Feedly has really filled the void for me. It is easy to use and transitioning between desktop and mobile is pretty much seamless. There is a pro version of Feedly, but for most of you, the free version should be fine.

Hardware I Use:

  • Dell Inspiron 15ELL Inspiron i15RMT-9977sLV - I use a MacBook at work and have found that this laptop is about the closest you can get on the PC side to a MacBook. It is aesthetically similar and contains a number of the same useful features of a MacBook such as long battery life, a backlit keyboard, a lightweight slim design and a great display. It is also much cheaper than a MacBook, selling for well under $1000, depending on the options you select. I have been using mine for close to 6 months now and love it. I have even found its touchscreen more useful than I originally expected as it is very handy when I am crammed into a tight commuter bus and still need to be productive. I have only found one issue with this laptop. The built-in Wi-Fi can be a bit buggy and your connection is occasionally dropped when the signal is weaker than normal. In my research before buying a new machine, I found this is a common complain among just about every mid-high quality Windows-based laptop these days. It isn't a huge issue, but can be slightly annoying, at times; Not a big enough issue for me to not recommend this laptop. It really is a great machine.
  • Google Nexus 7 (2013 edition) by Asus - This tablet is a workhorse. I have had it for about 14 months and have pretty much been using it about 20 hours a day, 7 days a week with virtually no issues. It is fast and has a nice battery life. It is one of the few tablets that currently runs the Lollipop operating system, which I love because this allows you to mirror your tablet screen on your TV via your Chromecast right from your tablet settings- no app required. This is really a solid tablet that I highly recommend for anyone looking for a reliable and powerful Android device.

Misc:

  • Evernote - It is tough to explain exactly what Evernote does because, quite frankly, it does just about everything. Essentially, Evernote is a repository for notes and other digital items you want to save and access across any device. I use it for a number of purposes from post ideas to keeping track of recipes. Evernote can be whatever you want it to be, but it is a key organizational tool for any digital marketer that wants to stay on top of things.
  • Trello - Much like Evernote, I would have a hard time keeping things organized and on track without Trello. Trello is basically a digital task board. You can create to do tasks on Trello and then subsequent subtasks with a number of organizational options. Trello is also great for keeping a team organized as you can assign various tasks of a project to individual team members. It is a very simple, yet effective tool for keeping projects moving along.
  • Google Analytics - Google Analytics is the grand daddy of web stats and still going strong. Do I really need to go into detail about why a robust web stat platform is important to a digital marketer? Easy to install; easy to use. Go for it.
  • Google Webmaster Tools - If you want your content to be found, you need to understand and use Google's Webmaster Tools. Dive in and start learning what each section does and how each pertains to your site. The combo of Yoast's SEO plugin and Google Webmaster Tools can make for some kick-ass search engine results, when used properly.

Photo by toolstop




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