15 content research tools no marketing campaign should do without

Kyle’s Note: “This post from Jonathan John is an excellent roundup of tools that are perfect for coming up with new content ideas, or doing research to improve ideas you already have. John includes a few tips on how to use each tool as well.”

Creating awesome, shareable content day in and day out requires creativity. But when you’re brainstorming and researching content ideas day in and day out, though, creativity usually disappears faster than you can say “content marketing”. Your mind is left burned out, tired, and stressed.

But never fear: there are scores of content marketing tools available to help you to routinely generate and thoroughly research creative content ideas that have great potential—all without losing your sanity.

“Without the right tools, regular content marketing and content creation will leave you burned out” – (CLICK TO TWEET)

In this post, I’ve collected 15 of the best content research tools. These tools span everything from keyword research to competitor analysis to infographic search, so there’s bound to be at least a few that will work well for your content strategy. Pick the ones that fit your content campaigns the best, and use accordingly.

1. Social Crawlytics

Social Crawlytics is a nifty research tool that allows you to analyze the most popular URLs of a specific website. It can be used to research trending content within a certain industry based on the best-performing content of one of your popular competitors.

To use Social Crawlytics, you’ll have to first sign up with Twitter via OAuth. Once you’ve signed in, you’ll be faced with this dashboard that tells you to configure a few options, namely:

  • the URL of the website you want to crawl
  • whether or not the tool should analyze pages from the subdomains of the website
  • crawl depth (the number of subpages the tool will crawl to; the default is 2, which is generally the best option)

Social-Crawlytics-Input

Once you’ve proceeded to the next step, you can also choose to schedule a recurring report (the maximum number of repeats is 10).

Social-Crawlytics-Input2

On the final step, you’ll key in the email where you want to report to be sent. After the tool has finished creating the report (this can take 5-10+ minutes, depending on the size of the website crawled), you’ll get an email with a link to view the report. Here’s what a report typically looks like.

Social-Crawlytics-Report

As you can see from the URL list, the report gives you a ton of vetted content ideas based on the topics that have been working for your competitor.

Keep in mind that Social Crawlytics is a totally free platform with no premium options. As such, you have a limited number of searches.

Each week, your account is awarded a certain number of credits; each search will take up a percentage of those credits, again depending on the size and depth of the sites you crawl.

2. IFTTT

IFTTT (full form: If This Then That) is a popular automation tool that, as per their slogan, “puts the Internet to work for you”. In essence, IFTTT allows you to create “recipes”, which are conditional statements that perform certain actions when specific triggers are fired.

IFTTT is a very popular tool in the social media curation space, but it can also double as an excellent content research tool when used appropriately.

For instance, let’s again say that you want to use competitors’ content strategies to research content ideas for your own. You can create an IFTTT recipe that will aggregate all new posts from your competitors’ blog feeds, thereby providing you with a constantly refreshed library of content ideas.

The process of creating a recipe like this is very simple, thanks to IFTTT’s clean and minimal UI. After signing up for an account, you’ll first add a trigger (in this case, a “Feed” trigger).

IFTTT-Feed

Next, you’ll choose whether you want this trigger to fire every time a new entry is added to the website feed, or only when a new feed entry matches a certain keyword. For this specific recipe, you’ll want to choose the former option.

IFTTT-Feed-Option

You’ll then key in the URL for the website’s feed (tip: the feed URL is usually domain.tld/feed — see WP Curve’s feed here).

IFTTT-Feed-URL

After this step, you’ll connect your Google Drive account via OAuth, then choose the appropriate action (“add row to spreadsheet”).

IFTTT-Feed-Spreadsheet

Finally, enter in the spreadsheet name (a new one can be created right from the IFTTT interface), Drive folder path, and customize the formatting of the row (I recommend going with the default format the first time you create this recipe).

IFTTT-Drive

The final step is just hitting the “create recipe” button, and then you’re all done. Every time a new entry is posted to the website’s field, a new row with the relevant information will be added to the spreadsheet. You now have a never-ending, constantly replenished supply of content ideas.

3. Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a highly popular research tool that comes recommended by some of the most well-known digital marketing experts. It’s somewhat similar to Social Crawlytics in that it can analyze a competitor’s best-performing content. What makes it different is its additional ability to analyze trending content based around a specific keyword from all websites in the industry.

If you are looking to find content from a specific industry, just input a broad keyword and you’re instantly presented with a plethora of URLs of content around that topic, sorted by share count.

Buzzfeed-Research

Buzzsumo also comes with powerful filters, like content type (articles, infographics, guest post, videos, etc.), top level domain (which is essentially geo-location), date, and more. Buzzsumo’s pro plans, starting from $99/month, build in even more functionality, like alerts, exportable data, and unrestricted searches.

4. Topsy

Topsy is a social search platform that’s been analyzing Twitter trends since 2006 (CLICK TO TWEET). You can use Topsy to find trending links, tweets, photos, videos, and influencers in a given niche.

To use Topsy, all you need to do is input keywords into their search engine and select the appropriate filter.

Topsy

In the search results, you’ll see the number of tweets around this topic over a given period of time. It will also show you the most popular links, tweets, videos, and more depending on your filters.

Topsy-Results

Also note how you can restrict your search to a specific language (you have 10 to choose from). This is a great help if your marketing strategy calls for non-English content.

5. Ahrefs Content Explorer

Ahrefs Content Explorer is a sister tool to one of the most well-known SEO competition research tools, Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Content Explorer is very similar to both Buzzsumo and Topsy: it aggregates the most shared content around a certain keyword.

Content Explorer

Like Buzzsumo, you can also filter results by language, a custom date range, and by specific websites. Content Explorer’s free plan, though, is a little limited in its reporting. You can only see 5 rows per search, and the number of keywords you’re able to search per month is limited.

Content-Explorer-Results

However, the results are well worth it, because Content Explorer’s search engine delivers very high quality and well targeted links.

6. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a part of Google’s AdWords program. It’s typically used to analyze and create a PPC strategy, but it can also be used to brainstorm qualified keywords for your content strategy.

Using Keyword Planner is quite simple. First, sign in with your Google account. Then, input your keywords (possible filters include geo-location, language, search engines, negative keywords, and keyword popularity), switch to the Keyword Ideas view (the default is for Ad Groups), and scroll down.

Keyword-Planner

Alongside each keyword, you are also shown its monthly search volume, advertising competition rating (low, medium, or high), and the suggested advertising bid based on average CPC.

Keyword-Planner-Results

Keyword Planner is totally free to use, so both the number of searches you make and the results you see are unlimited. It’s an excellent way to brainstorm keyword ideas that are can be vetted instantly based on search volume.

7. SEMRush

SEMRush is a multifaceted SEO research tool that can be used in several different ways. Personally, my favorite function is its ability to spy on the keywords your competitors rank for.

To use this function, just key in the website URL you want to analyze into the tool and select which geographic-based search engine you want keywords to be taken from (defaulted to US).

SEMRush

The next screen will show you a wealth of detailed information about the website. The information we’re focused on is hidden under the “Organic Research” tab in the side menu.

SEMRush-Report

Here you’ll see several of the keywords that the site ranks high for. This once again provides you with a list of pre-vetted content ideas that are proven to get organic traffic.

The free plan is limited in the depth of reporting and the number of reports you can create per day, but to date it’s proven to be quite enough for my semi-frequent usage.

8. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a popular keyword brainstorming tool that markets itself as “Google Suggest on steroids”. It’s a great way to get a boatload of keyword ideas in a very short amount of time. Here’s how it works:

  1. You enter a stem keyword.
  2. Ubersuggest runs this stem keyword + a certain letter of the alphabet in the Google search engine e.g. “small business marketing a“.
  3. Ubersuggest then retrieves all the keyword suggestions Google’s autocomplete feature provides for this keyword + letter combination, and then presents them to you.
  4. The process is then repeated for all other letters of the alphabet.

To use Ubersuggest just, enter your stem keyword in, set your filters (content type and language), and hit the “Suggest” button.

Ubersuggest

You can also click each keyword idea result, and Ubersuggest will repeat its ideation process using that idea as its stem.

Ubersuggest-Results

9. Keyword Tool Dominator

Keyword Tool Dominator is actually a suite of keyword tools, with specific tools for Amazon, YouTube, Bing, eBay, Google Shopping, and Etsy search engines. It also comes with one tool very similar to Ubersuggest — Google Autocomplete Keyword Tool. Like Ubersuggest, this tool also uses Google suggestions to brainstorm long-tail keyword ideas.

Keyword-Tools

Google Autocomplete Keyword Tool, though, comes with slightly advanced features, as it also ranks each keyword from 1-10 based on relative search volume.

Google-Autocomplete-Tool

The free plan is limited to 3 searches per day, but since each search tends to yield 200+ suggestions, it’s usually quite enough.

10. Google site: search

This particular tool is a not a third-party software, but rather a Google search function. The “site:domian.tld” section of the search query limits all results of your query to a specific domain. Here’s an example of what it looks like in action.

Site-Search

By adding “site:wpcurve.com” to my “small business marketing” keyword, all search results were limited to pages on wpcurve.com.

Even though site: search is a relatively simple function, it’s still one of my favorite content research tools that I use for nearly every post I write. I use it to find good content to link to on a certain topic from a specific, reputable website (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used “site:blog.kissmetrics.com” alongside my search queries).

11. Quora

If you haven’t heard of it already, Quora is an online question-and-answer community filled with user-generated content — it’s an excellent place to find anecdotes and personal experience you can infuse into your content.

Quora is very unlike any online Q&A site you might be used to, like Yahoo! Answers or Wiki Answers. This is because Quora answers are typically very in-depth, created by topic experts. All contributors also typically use their real name and career information, so the incentive to create helpful, detailed answers (example below), rather than one-liner junk, is much higher. The built-in upvoting system also ensures that the cream of the answers rises to the top.

Quora

12. Reddit

Like Quora, Reddit is also an online community, but with a very different purpose. Hailed as the “front page of the Internet”, Reddit is a collection of trending news from nearly every imaginable industry contributed by its redditors (users), with a particular focus on the humorous and the bizarre.

Reddit is divided into “subreddits” (smaller communities based specifically on a certain topic, e.g. r/WordPress). For content research, Reddit’s subreddits are a goldmine (CLICK TO TWEET).

Take for example the WordPress subreddit. Because this is a more tech-related sub, there’s a lot of questions from WordPress users/developers on how to do something.

Reddit

For instance, there’s one redditor trying to find educational resources for new WordPress developers. There’s another anxious to learn why his theme is getting rejected by the Themeforest marketplace and what he can do to fix this problem.

Both of those threads could make excellent topic ideas for a WordPress blog: e.g. an aggregation of the top 10 WordPress educational resources, or a guide to getting a theme submitted on ThemeForest.

Once you start browsing the subreddit(s) relevant to your niche thoroughly, the opportunities will truly be endless.

13. Growth Hackers

Growth Hackers is yet another online community, but this time one that’s focused specifically in the B2B/marketing industries. It’s an excellent place to find trending content topics if you’re in either the B2B or digital marketing industry.

Some of the most recent trends including conversion rate optimization, mobile app marketing, and social media marketing via Snapchat.

Growth-Hackers

14. Slideshare

Slideshare is a slide hosting service that allows you to upload and publically share PowerPoint presentations.

Slideshare is another tool that’s popular with the B2B industry. Several brands and agencies use SlideShare as a way to distribute educational content. As such, it’s an excellent place to find statistics and case studies to beef up your content, like the one below.

Slideshare-Case-Study

To find case studies and statistics relevant to your industry, just search Slideshare for the appropriate keyword with “case study” attached. More often than not, you’ll be hit with more results than you’ll know what to do with.

Slideshare-Results

15. Pinterest

Our last content research tool is Pinterest, and image sharing site. Pinterest is an incredibly popular social network that’s only been growing in fame in recent months.

At first thought, you might find it a little weird to think of Pinterest as a real content research tool. It’s certainly an understandable sentiment, considering that the images shared on Pinterest usually revolve around the food, cooking, beauty, fitness, and such niches.

However, Pinterest can still be a great research tool for most industries because of one excellent reason: it’s chock-full of infographics.

Infographics, as you know, are fast becoming one of the best ways to get a whole lot of social shares and backlinks to one piece of content. Regularly creating infographics, though, can be quite expensive. So the next best solution is infographic curation. The only trouble here is finding high-quality infographics worthy of being shared on your site.

Related: 12 ways to increase engagement with visual content

Pinterest, because of its image-based nature, is littered with top-quality infographics. There’s an endless supply of them, and you’re bound to find at least one infographic on your choice of topic.

Finding an infographic on Pinterest is as easy as typing in your keyword with the word “infographic” attached.

Pinterest-Infographics

Conclusion

Without the right tools, regular content marketing and content creation will leave you burned out. Take advantage of the available tools.

Of these 15, my personal favorites are the following:

  • Google Keyword Autocomplete Tool for keyword suggestions
  • SEMRush to see what what my competitors are ranking for
  • Google’s site: search function to identify relevant content from high-quality websites

Kyle’s note: We have a set of tools free to download that help you manage, automate and scale your content marketing. You can download the tools for scaling content marketing here.

Which of these tools do you think will help most in your content strategy? Do you have questions about any of these tools — or suggestions of your own? Let me know in the comments.

About

Jonathan is a freelance writer and a digital marketing enthusiast. He writes on e-business, content marketing, and entrepreneurship topics.

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