The immortal Billy Shears once said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” A nice sentiment, and one that holds true for the content marketing world as well.

via GIPHY

Content marketing is a competitive business, after all, and you need every advantage you can get to improve your site ranking, get eyeballs on your content and spread your brand message.

You don’t need to go it alone, of course. Content software improves everything from content quality to distribution, helping you execute on your strategies and get the most out of your budget.

Content software can take your marketing game from 0 to 60 in a flash – if you pick the right platform, that is.

Why you need content software

You may be asking yourself, “Can’t I manage my content marketing plan on my own?” Theoretically, yes, assuming you’re a masochist, of course. If you enjoy pain and all the headaches that come with trying to manage your content marketing needs without a supporting software platform, go right ahead.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to effortlessly coordinate your efforts and oversee every aspect of content marketing from a single portal, content software is absolutely essential.

Not completely convinced? Consider everything that goes into content marketing:

  • Editorial content.
  • Graphics.
  • Video.
  • Social media.
  • SEO.
  • Email campaigns.
  • Distribution.
  • And much more.

That’s a lot of moving parts. Even the most absurdly detailed person would have trouble keeping tabs on everything without a little assistance.

Content software condenses all of those pieces into a single – and hopefully easy to use – platform. Need to know the status of a blog post? Check in on your social strategy? See how your drip email campaign’s doing? It’s all right there in one place.

Best of all, every stakeholder can pop in and get updates on your content marketing plans whenever necessary. Writers, designers, social teams, marketers, executives and third-party vendors all have eyes on each cog in your content marketing machine. You can stay on top of the bigger picture while also keeping an eye on the finer details.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. There are all kinds of content software tools out there, each with different specialties and features. Knowing what you need help with is the first step to finding the right solution for your organization.

What are the different types of content software?


Now we’re getting to the good stuff. The world of content software is vast – much more extensive than most probably realize. If there’s a content marketing pain point, then there’s an application specifically designed to solve it. Need help optimizing your written content? There’s software for that. Or how about giving your influencer marketing strategies a boost? Paid promotion, webinars, analytics (of the website, social media and funnel variety) – there’s a tool for every occasion.

I mean, just get a load of this:

Via Curata

That’s a heck of a lot of categories, too much to reasonably cover here. To be fair, not every item included here is an actual content marketing platform. Keen eyes will no doubt spot good ol’ Brafton listed, among other service providers.

Still, it’s a ton to unpack, so let’s break things down into a more manageable list of the major content software types:

Content production

If you need help creating the fuel for your content marketing machine, there are several platforms that can provide some guidance. Different software platforms can help you optimize your content for SEO purposes, giving recommendations on keywords, content length, discussion points and more.

There’s only so much these applications can do. It won’t actually be able to write blogs or design infographics for you. You’ll still need to take care of that the old-fashioned way: with a team of talented creatives.

Measurement

Content won’t do much good if you can’t measure how each piece is performing, remove whatever elements aren’t working and reinforce strategies that are paying off. There’s a host of content software platforms that provide performance metrics and analytics for every single aspect of content marketing.

Analytics tools can cover anything from SEO metrics to social media performance. Whatever area of your content marketing strategy you want to gain more insight into, there’s a content software platform that’s right for you. Some of our favorites here at Brafton include Google Analytics (obviously) and SEMrush.

Collaboration

No one goes it alone in the content marketing game. Well, there could be some poor souls out there trying to strategize, produce, optimize and measure all by themselves, but hopefully they are a very tiny minority.

In most situations, you will have a number of different stakeholders involved in your content marketing projects: writers, content strategists, social media managers, videographers, etc. Keeping everyone on the same page is pretty tough without a collaboration and project management platform. Ask anyone who’s tried to manage their content marketing plan solely with spreadsheets – it’s awful. Just awful. We’re fond of Airtable ourselves, but poke around to find one that best fits your team.

Distribution

Once you’re content’s ready to go, you’ve got to get it out into the world. The options to consider here are plentiful. You can promote new pieces on social channels, share them with customers and potential leads in newsletters or boost them up with a shoutout from a strategically chosen influencer.

Many content software platforms have overlapping features, dipping into multiple buckets. The odds of finding one that has absolutely everything you’ll need may be pretty slim, but you can mix and match applications to get just the right balance of capabilities to make your content marketing efforts shine.

What to look for in content software

Obviously, every situation is different and some businesses will have certain must-haves on their list of features that others could take or leave. Generally speaking, however, there are a handful of items you’ll want in a platform.

When considering your options, keep in mind the three core benefits of content software to help guide your selection: collaboration, efficiency and analysis. A good platform will provide a boost in all three of these areas, giving you the most bang for your buck.

Does it bolster collaboration?

A large number of people are going to have some kind of say in the development of your content marketing strategy, as well as its execution. You’ve got writers, designers, strategists, marketers and even sales and product teams in the mix, and there will be times when each one needs insight into ongoing campaigns.

Your content software solution should facilitate collaboration internally within your content marketing team as well as across disparate departments. If you have a drip email campaign in the works, for instance, your sales team needs to know about it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of that information – release schedules, content descriptions, etc. – condensed into a single, easily accessible platform?

Content software platforms can provide insight at both a very granular and broad viewpoint, giving important members of your organization – i.e., department heads, C-level officers and other decision-makers who control your marketing budget – a clear window into your strategy and how it’s shaping up.

Does it make you more efficient?

Many potentially great content marketing strategies never really got off the ground due to operational bottlenecks and lengthy delays. Whether you have a hiccup in your production pipeline that’s preventing the release of content or team members spending far too much time jumping from one portal or platform to another, inefficiencies add up fast.

Take a hard look at an application’s list of features and determine if it will help streamline your content marketing workflow or just add another piece of software onto the pile of tools you’re already using but not really getting the most out of.

Will it clear production obstacles out of way, helping with content planning, developing and optimization? Will it make some of your other software platforms obsolete, thus giving your team fewer headaches to deal with?

At the end of the day, your content software should make your life easier, not more complicated. If it just introduces new problems on top of your old ones, it’s not the right fit.

Does it analyze performance?

Content marketing strategies are a lot like sharks: They need to be constantly moving in order to survive. If you let your campaigns grow stagnant, or settle for the content that’s just good enough, you’ll never capitalize on the potential of digital marketing.

via GIPHY

An even worse crime is continuing to pump out subpar content because you have no idea if it’s gaining traction with your audience or how they are responding to ongoing campaigns. You absolutely need to measure every aspect of your content marketing strategy, from site traffic to blog performance to social media engagement to email campaigns. There are tangible metrics for everything, if you have the tools to analyze them.

Depending on what areas of content marketing are most important to you – organic traffic, social engagement, qualified leads, etc. – your content software should help measure those KPIs and provide guidance on how to get those numbers to where you want them to be. Otherwise, you’ll be just blindly producing content with no real purpose.

What is the best content software of 2018?

We’ve carved out a few important areas to look at when vetting content software, but what’s the best option for each category?

Content production: MarketMuse

If you want to be sure that every single piece of content you produce is fully optimized for engagement and ranking, MarketMuse is where it’s at. This AI-based platform analyzes content and highlights specific ways to improve its performance. It gets very granular, recommending specific topics to cover, target keywords to include and word counts to aim for, ultimately generating a score based on your content’s expected performance.

Collaboration: Airtable

This project management platform is guaranteed to keep your teams on track and on the same page. Airtable uses a spreadsheet-style interface that should be familiar to any member of your team and is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Users can upload files, create production and publication schedules and share it all with anyone in the organization.

Best of all, Airtable’s a cloud-based platform, so you can access it anytime, anywhere.

Measurement: Google Analytics

Not the most creative selection, but there’s a reason for that: Google Analytics is the platform to use to measure site and content performance. Brafton’s Direct of Digital Marketing Strategy, Jeff Baker, famously once compared trying to run a content marketing campaign without Google Analytics to “playing football with one arm while hogtied, blindfolded and being punched in the face.”  

Don’t overthink it – just use Google Analytics, already.

Honorable mention: SEMrush

SEMrush may not have the ubiquity of Google Analytics, but it holds its own when it comes to competitor analysis and keyword research. If you want to get started out on the right foot with your content creation, SEMrush can point you in the right direction.

Which content software is right for you?

So, with all of that being said, is there one end-all, be-all platform for your content marketing needs? Probably not, but you can limit your tools to a select few that address your most pressing needs, eliminate roadblocks and streamline your digital marketing efforts.

Like everything else in content marketing, the best platforms are constantly evolving to keep up with industry best practices and provide the most impactful features possible. Today’s leaders could quickly become tomorrow’s afterthoughts, so keep an eye out for software updates and new platforms that might give you more bang for your buck.

In the meantime, you can’t go wrong with any of the content software platforms we’ve highlighted here.

Jeff Keleher is a writer and editor at Brafton. A man of simple tastes, he enjoys playing guitar, playing video games and playing with his dog - sometimes all at once. He still hasn't gotten over Illinois' loss in the 2005 NCAA National Championship game, and he probably never will.