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There are so many tools out there, it can be overwhelming trying to wrap your head around it all.
That’s why I’ve spent quite a bit of my own money as well as my previous agency’s marketing budget to smash through some of these awesome tools included here.
Why invest in tools?
This is an important question. Truth is, a lot of these tools might not be worth investing in, in terms of both time and money, depending not just on what you get out of them, but how much.
A few questions to keep in mind when selecting a tool
Where will it fit in your workflow? Will it strengthen your workflow, and the work you produce? How?
How much extra time will it take to use the tool versus the value you get out of it? (If you use it for 10 minutes, but you make $50, and the tool only costs $10/month, then it’s a no-brainer.)
Can you justify the monthly cost? Will your clients’ expectations be so great that they’d be willing to pay you more for this added value? Will your new clients be able to perceive the value to such an extent that you can bump up your costs significantly?
Full Disclosure: Affiliate Links
We ONLY recommend tools here that we find helpful. Some of these are our affiliate links, but to ensure that we keep it 100% helpful (thus fulfilling our brand promise), we include ONLY tools we stand behind 100%. This also means that we use the recommended tools here. (Read our full Terms of Service.)
SEMRush or Ahrefs?
SEMRush and Ahrefs are the 2 beasts of SEO. Moz was another one, but it’s fallen behind considerably. SEMRush is known as the swiss army knife of SEO. It’s got a decent competitive analysis tool, keyword tracking is pretty good, and you can do some cool stuff with keyword research.
For instance, you can use the keyword difficulty metric to filter out keywords that are way too difficult to rank for. (Anything over 70 is where I get uncomfortable, but you can test between 65 and 75 and see how you feel about your targets.)
Ahrefs, on the other hand, is, at least reputation-wise, the most powerful tool, hands down. It doesn’t purport to be a jack of all trades. Instead, it boasts the most extensive and highly accurate link database, as well as competitive analysis that is second to none.
The one main difference between these two tools is the price: Ahrefs comes with a much heftier price tag, but this is what you pay to be perceived as an industry professional.
If you’re running SEO for your small business, and you’re just starting to get serious with SEO, then fine. SEMRush is very good, except I had to stop using it after it left a bad taste in my mouth. (The team seems to increase prices frequently, with a second price hike in just 1 year!) I used to recommend SEMrush for this, but now I tell my friends that they’re better off hiring an SEO.
But if you’re wanting to expand your horizons and niche into SEO as an SEO copywriter, there’s a lot of good money to be made here. I landed my first 5-figure projects with SEO, and it was easy money.
I love Ahrefs
By the way, sadly, I am NOT an affiliate of Ahrefs. I just keep hearing amazing things all the time from SEOs, and so far, it’s yielded some powerful insights and is fairly easy to use.
Content Marketing Tools
Buzzsumo is a powerful content marketing tool. If you’re into SEO, it complements SEO tools nicely because you can easily search for the most viral content online. The PRO plan gives you access to 1 year of historical data (which is the same for SEMRush).
Unfortunately, the PRO plan does not include access to Facebook Analyzer, nor does it give you access to the Question Analyzer, both of which are amazing tools. This is a shame because, without access to these features, it becomes much harder to recommend Buzzsumo.
Facebook Analyzer, for instance, lets you search for the most viral posts on the social media platform, and Question Analyzer does the same, but with online forums. Question Analyzer lists questions posed directly by your target audience, and being able to explore these is an obvious advantage every smart copywriter can only dream of.
But even without the Analyzers (you can get both for US$299/month), you still get to search and analyze viral content, see who shared it, which links, etc. These links and sharers can also give you valuable insight into where your target audience is hanging out, for example, and who they’re paying attention to.
Writing Assistant Tools
This sweet little app comes with a few pros and cons. It’s good enough that I paid the premium version for it, and I never submit an article without it. That said, here are the very sad cons:
- Lack of support
- Lack of third-party integration, specifically with Google Docs (This results in me having to copy and paste my edits back and forth)
- Lacks formatting copy/paste, including links, bold text, and italics (which means you have to do it again manually. Easily resolvable if they figure out Google Docs integration.)
I don’t recommend paying for the premium version, but do give the free version a try. It isn’t 100% intuitive though, so don’t forget to put your thinking cap on. It can help you spot oddities here and there and help you tweak your text, but ultimately, it’s your job to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
As a non-native English speaker, my partner uses Grammarly, and she strongly recommends it. (Admittedly, she’s not a copywriter. She’s an agency designer who’s worked with brands like Redbull and Conversion XL.) But she does a ton of ideation, where she has to share her ideas with the team, and she has an eye for good writing.
Try out the free version. If you’re a non-native English speaker, you should be using the free version at a minimum. For starters, it can help you cover up obvious mistakes that foreign copywriters make frequently. But it can also help you simplify and improve your copy, and it integrates fantastically with Gmail and Facebook as well.
Social Media Ad Research Tools
This one’s an agency favorite. Usually I have to submit a proposal to justify the investment, but we rolled this one out to the entire creative team in a jiffy. And guess what? The team absolutely loved it, from the video creators to the designers and copywriters.
At the agency, I used to keep an Adspy tab open at all times on both my laptop and my desktop. This way, I was constantly reminded that I could be looking at and studying ads whenever I got a free minute.
So this is how Adspy works:
It’s mainly for Facebook and Instagram ads, and it’s a search engine. You put in a keyword and set the filters you want, ranging from gender and age targeting to country and number of total likes.
When the results are populated, the ads are listed in no particular order, but there is a sort feature. You can sort by shares, which is awesome, hinting at the virality potential and letting you observe trends within a small grouping.
At the time of this writing, it’s $149/month. If you want to work with Facebook and Instagram ads, I cannot recommend this tool enough. It will save you time and make you not just a better copywriter, but improve your overall marketing skills. (Facebook ads are more than just copy.)
PowerAdSpy (NOT recommended)
Poweradspy is extremely similar to Adspy. Despite being packed with awesome features like being able to target by funnel (Clickfunnels, Leadpages, etc.) and ecommerce platform (Shopify, Magento, or Woocommerce) as well as ad placement, searching by the number of shares is actually highly inaccurate. And the search results that are populated failed to meet expectations.
It’s a shame, because even the dashboard looks messy. And competing at the same price as Adspy, Adspy is the clear winner. Because despite not having some of these filter features, Adspy does what it’s meant to do, and it does it extremely well.
Feel free to check it out for yourself here. You get 20 free searches a day for 10 days, but for all the features offered, Adspy is the easy choice.
Run by Mike Schauer, this awesome website also goes by its lesser known “official” name “Swipe-worthy”, and it’s meant to give you inspiration for ads.
There are two main reasons this site is a goldmine:
- The site’s ads are not bottled into a specific niche, so you can review persuasion principles as they’re applied from one format/niche to another, and observe how they translate and are adapted between different niches, platforms, audiences, and so on.
- Each ad comes with a lot of context, and Mike includes his notes, which oftentimes includes sharp insights with eye-opening analysis.
If I can cite a major disadvantage, it’s that the site seems dead. It doesn’t seem to have been updated in quite some time, and that’s a real shame. But do go through these over time, because they are an education in themselves.
Run by Neville Medhora of Kopywriting fame, this is the second most comprehensive collection of swipes online. My only gripe with this swipe file is that the plugs are a bit more obvious.
Despite boasting nearly 700 swipe files, quite a few of them are just plugs for Kopywriting or Neville himself. The good thing is, some of his own content is admittedly gold.
Another major benefit is that Neville provides a separate page of “Resources”. This includes a list of awesome sites worth checking out, and some others that are probably better left alone.
The second part of the Resources page includes a list of all the swipes on the entire site. This way, you can weed through your favorites quickly, save them, and study them at your leisure.
This is a shameless plug. A personal project of mine from last year, I started it to produce some internal training material for my creative team while I was at my previous agency.
FB swipes is a large collection of Facebook ads I’ve analyzed in depth. They include both good and bad ads because, as long as an ad has something to teach you, it should be studied. If you’re into social media copywriting, it might be worth checking out.
This one’s a real gem. I’ve only had a few chances in the past to explore this little gem. Adespresso used to host one of the biggest collections of ads online. It’s been a while since they’ve said they’d be back up. I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting and keep an eye out.
In the meantime, however, be sure to download their free ebooks on the same link. These ebooks are packed to the brim with examples of amazing ads that warrant careful analysis.
Headline Analyzer is a godsend, and I’ve been using it since the day I found it. Whenever I write copy and need to brainstorm headlines, I pop it into the field and have the algorithm measure the “emotional value” of a headline.
The efficacy is, of course, debatable, especially since at times you can get a completely nonsensical string of words, but because the words are impactful, the algorithm will give you a good but inaccurate rating.
That’s why it’s good to use your head when you use it, but I strongly recommend that you do use it. If nothing at all, it will train you to use more impactful words over time and help you get better at recognizing good headlines.
Just look at this fine layout and specificity compared to the AMI Headline Analyzer. Yes, it’s a classic, and it serves my many basic headline needs, so the temptation to jump ship and cheat on the classic was low. Especially because they make you give up your email!
But I’ll tell you what. It was worth it. Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer is bar none the finest. And it links to a few excellent articles on headline writing as well. If you’re interested, here are my thoughts on writing exceptional headlines (although I do need to update this article.)
Do you use a tool every day that’s not listed here?
Oh noooo! Is your favorite tool not listed here? Shame.
Ping me via my Facebook page and let’s chat about your “tool” and see if we can add it to the list!
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