I’ll admit it – I tend to be a cheapo when it comes to most things in my business. When going to the airport, I’ll volunteer to schlep an extra hour on the Metro with my suitcase over taking a cab.I will buy the generic over the name brand any day. And if I can find some free online content creation tools for the winning content marketer, something I’d otherwise have to pay for in my marketing … you guessed it — I do it.
More to think about: Learn How to Think What No One Else Thinks
In my quest to find alternatives to the most sophisticated computer apps, I’ve come across a lot of free tools that help take my marketing up a notch while also save my team’s budget.
I love to share my research, and I wanted to share these tools with you. Although there will be some occasions where you won’t be able to avoid paying for the tools you need to rock your job, lots of times you can increase the quality of your visual content with just a free resource.
But you have to know the free tool is out there in the first place. That is where this post comes in!
So without any further ado, let’s get to the meat of the post: the most important free tools you can use to create winning visual content.
This is a handy Google hack I use every day. It allows you to do a Google search that’s limited to a particular website.
For example, if I wanted to search Digital Spark Marketing’s blog for marketing resources so I can cite one of our old blog posts, I’d do a site: search for blog.digitalsparkmarketing.com with the search term marketing resources. The formula for site search is site:samplewebsite.com [search query].
So my example would be site:digitalsparkmarketing.com marketing resources.
Give it a try, it can really be helpful.
BeFunky is a multi-functional image editor which allows you to produce beautiful visual content, even if image-editing and graphic design aren’t one of your stronger suits. Its functionality is not limited to just creating images, though. You can come up with striking collages and your very own custom graphic designs.
Best of all, it is browser-based so that you can access it anywhere, anytime.
You know that co-worker who always seems to find the perfect animated GIFs for your social posts or internal chat client? With the free Giphy Chrome extension, you’ll be able to find great GIFs just as quickly.
To use the tool, all you have to do is open the extension in Chrome, search, choose a GIF, and drag and drop. So far, the tool works in Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and more — and they’re constantly expanding support.
If you like drafting blog posts in programs like Microsoft Word, Evernote, or Google Drive instead of your content management system (CMS), then this simple tool can be your best friend. Why?
Because when you copy a document from Microsoft Office and paste it into your CMS, lots of little, weird formatting issues can crop up in your HTML.
Word2CleanHTML applies filters to fix all those things added into the HTML, resulting in well-formatted HTML you can paste directly into a web page CMS. Simply paste in your draft, click one button, and then copy the resulting HTML straight from the tool.
When you paste that into your CMS (most will have buttons reading “HTML” or “</>” in their toolbar above your draft), it will appear nice and clean. No hair-pulling or swimming through code required. That is a must for me.
Content marketer … Share as Image
Share as Image enables you to create some potent eye candy for your blog. You can turn any text or image into attractive and shareable content in minutes, thanks to a wide variety of fonts, high-quality photos, and filters offered by the app itself.
Nothing like some custom images to help you dazzle your audience. Something you must utilize.
Content marketer … Blog Topic Generator
If you need to get to writing blog posts but aren’t sure of an angle or title to get your creativity moving, HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator can do the work for you. Simply enter a few keywords that your blog focuses on, and the Blog Topic Generator will produce a week’s worth of titles and topic ideas for you.
It might not produce the final title of your blog post, but it helps get you thinking about creative new angles for topics you’ve written about before. It has worked effectively for me.
Here’s a scary stat for you: Only 60% of people who click on an article end up reading past the headline. That makes your headline both the first and possibly the only chance for you to compel readers to keep reading — so it’s worth it to spend the extra few minutes coming up with a really good one.
What does a really good headline look like? The free tool Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule can tell you. It scores your headline quality and rates its ability to drive social shares, traffic, and SEO value. In my experience, its strength is helping you strengthen specific components of your title.
For example, it reports on perceived sentiment and commonality of word types. It’ll even show you how it will appear in search results.
So although you should take these scores and grades with a grain of salt, you can use this to give your headlines a “once-over.”
Again, I have found this tool most rewarding.
Even if you have the tool to create a gorgeous screenshot, that’s not always the most professional way to display web page content. Sometimes, you need a photo of your website, blog, or Twitter profile, but with a polished flair. While you can try manually customizing your screenshot to fit into a stock photo you already have,
PlaceIt is an even better alternative. Upload photos directly into Creative Commons-enabled stock photos — you’ll see your screenshots come to life immediately.
PlaceIt is probably the best app anyone running an online business could ask for. It allows you to create high-quality images featuring your app or product being used in real life. All you have to do is upload a screenshot of your product and let the tool do its magic.
It will save you countless hours, because it does this automatically for you, which would otherwise take hours of work in Photoshop. Not what I was looking for.
Ever wanted to make an image (or infographic) clickable? ThingLink lets you upload an image and add little icons to it that appear when a person hovers their cursor over the image. These icons allow users to visit links, watch videos, or read messages you’ve written.
Plus, it’s easy to share: Users can easily embed ThingLink images.
As a content marketer, you might feel more comfortable creating written content than visual content, but that’s no excuse to exclude infographics from your strategy. Visual content is growing in demand from your audience, and infographics are particularly shareable.
We’ve created the backbones of 15 different templates that you can easily play around with to customize your content and audience.
Certainly lots of design options for you.
If you’re looking for more “do whatever you want” photos with scenery or inanimate object tilt, check out Unsplash. Just like our stock photos, no attribution is needed with Unsplash. The pictures speak for themselves.
So go check out the website for more.
Content marketer … Haiku Deck
If you’ve ever had to create a PowerPoint or SlideShare presentation in a pinch, you’ll wish you knew about Haiku Deck. This tool helps you quickly find simple layouts, beautiful images, and great fonts. It’s available on the web and iPad.
Want to see what one looks like? Below’s an example I pulled from their list of featured decks. Note the simplicity of the design — if you want to create super-detailed slides, this may not be the right tool for you.
Looking for the perfect GIF to include in your blog post? If it doesn’t already exist on Giphy, you can make one yourself using LICEcap.
Film a screenshot and turn it into a GIF using this handy, free tool — we use LICEcap for our blog posts, too.
If you’re looking to make interactive infographics — not just plain visuals — check out this free tool. Easily add graphs, maps, text, and even playable videos without diving deep into a design program.
It also has social sharing tools built right into the infographic, so you don’t have to worry about creating a custom Pin-It button. It’s a pretty nifty tool if you want to create and ship an infographic — fast.
Like with stock photos, another challenge content creators face is finding elegant icons that resize without getting all fuzzy. There are a few resources out there for great, resizable icons.
The Noun Project is an extensive library of thousands of icons uploaded by contributors. With a free account, you can use icons as long as you either give credit to the creator or purchase them royalty-free for $1.99 apiece.
HubSpot has a library of resizeable icons, too, which you can download for free and without any licensing or attribution. The kit comes with a free guide for how to change the color of the icons using PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
What to learn: Amazon and Managing Innovation … the Jeff Bezos Vision
One of the most important elements of design is your color palette — you want to make sure your images, graphics, and font colors all help convey your message and maybe even drive conversions.
But often, it’s hard to find that exact shade of blue that’s in a photograph you need to use — which is where Pictaculous comes in.
Upload a photo and then instantly get recommendations for colors to use, including their respective HEX codes. Your color palettes will never be uncoordinated again!
The bottom line
The tools and resources listed above can help you create, but it’s ultimately up to you to control the quality of your content. You still need to know your customer incredibly well, understand what challenges they face that your product or service solves, and create content that helps them address those challenges.
The brains and heart behind the content creator trump the code behind any tools and technology — and that’s a good thing for succeeding in marketing today.
What other tools or apps do you use to create content more easily? Leave them in the comments so we can extend this list right here!
Need some help in improving the innovation process for you and your staff? Innovative ideas to help the differentiation with your toughest competitors? Or maybe ways to innovate new products and services?
Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options for innovation workshops to get noticeable results.
Call Mike at 607-725-8240.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new innovative ideas.
When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Do you have a lesson about making your innovation learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of the business. Find him on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on creativity and innovation from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Like this short blog? Follow Digital Spark Marketing on LinkedIn or add us to your circles for 3-4 short, interesting blogs, stories per week.
Winning Content from These 17 Tools for the Content Marketer