10 of the Best Free Tools to Help You Produce Killer Online Content

For brands, creating online content like blogs, web pages and social media posts is an effective way to build relationships with target audiences. When done right, this type of content delivers a lot of value for brands like building awareness, increasing social media followers, driving website traffic and even helping consumers convert into customers.

The bad news, however, is that creating high-quality content can take a lot of time, especially if your brand doesn’t have the internal talent or resources to do it. If you’re having trouble jumpstarting your content efforts, check out our list of tools below to learn how to:

  • Identify topics for online content.
  • Write better headlines.
  • Edit online content pieces.
  • Develop concise copy.
  • Optimize your content for search engine results.
  • Organize your content creation process.

10 free tools for creating better online content

No. 1: Google Keyword Planner

If you want to know how your target audiences are searching for your brand on Google, look no further than the Keyword Planner. The tool is designed for choosing paid search terms, but it works well for identifying organic content topics, too. As long as you have access to an eligible Google Ads account, you can find the search volume for specific search terms to help guide your online content creation.

In the early stages of creating online content, you can turn to the Keyword Planner to:

  • Identify topics to write about based on the types of information that target audiences are searching for related to your brand, products and services.
  • Choose focus keywords for content pieces. If you have a general topic in mind, you can use the Keyword Planner to find specific keywords to focus on when optimizing the piece for search results.
  • Discover future content topics. When you use the Keyword Planner, keep an eye out for popular search terms on related topics to guide future content pieces.

How to discover content topics using Google Keyword Planner

No 2: BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a great tool if you want to find the online content topics that are dominating social media conversations and earning valuable backlinks. While not as robust as their pro option, the free version of BuzzSumo allows you to check out the top performing content on pretty much any topic.

If you have a general idea of what you want to write about, just enter it into BuzzSumo’s search bar to find top online articles based on:

  • Facebook engagement
  • Twitter shares
  • Pinterest shares
  • Reddit engagements
  • Number of links to the URL
  • Total engagement

Discover popular online content topics with BuzzSumo

No. 3: CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

Want to write better headlines for your online content? Check out CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool. You can enter your headlines into the tool and it will analyze the text and provide you a score from 1-100 based on factors like:

  • Percentage of common and uncommon words – common words should make up 20-30 percent of your headline with uncommon words (e.g., awesome, beautiful, etc.) making up 10-20 percent.
  • Percentage of emotional words – terms that stir an emotional response from your readers (e.g., absolutely, wonderful, danger, etc.).
  • Percentage of power words – terms that demand readers’ attention and inspire action (e.g., pay zero, will make you, etc.).

How to write better headlines

No. 4: Grammarly

Grammarly is a freemium app that you can add to your browser or install on your desktop to help you edit online content. The tool detects grammar, spelling, punctuation and other common writing errors to help you create clean, professional-sounding copy.

There are a few ways you can use Grammarly’s free version:

  • Download their browser app and copy and paste your content into a new Grammarly document.
  • Use the browser app to automatically detect errors as you create content on other sites like WordPress, social media platforms, Google Docs and more.
  • Download Grammarly on your desktop to edit content in Microsoft Office products like Word and Outlook.

How to edit online content with Grammarly

No. 5: Hemingway Editor

When it comes to online content, writing in a simple and concise manner is always the way to go. The Hemingway Editor helps you sharpen your copy by suggesting edits to complex sentences and phrases. Just copy and paste your content into the editor and the app will highlight portions of the copy that need work.

The Hemingway Editor highlights and suggests edits for:

  • Passive voice – try to stick with an active voice.
  • Adverbs – limit the use of these as much as possible.
  • Complex phrases – opt for simpler alternatives whenever possible.
  • Lengthy sentences – shorten or split up long, complex sentences to make them easier to read.

How to sharpen your copy with the Hemingway App

No. 6: Merriam-Webster online thesaurus

When you’re creating content, do you ever find yourself using the same tired verbs and adjectives over and over again? If so, there’s a simple fix to expand your vocabulary and add an extra punch to your writing – Merriam-Webster. That’s right, you don’t need a sophisticated browser app or plugin to find unique alternatives to frequently used words and phrases. Just go to Merriam-Webster’s website, enter in a word or phrase into their Thesaurus and browse the synonyms.

Find alternative words and phrases using Merriam-Webster's thesaurus

No. 7: Pixabay

Nothing can ruin online content like large chunks of text. Adding images to your content will give your readers’ eyes a break and help the flow of your piece. If you don’t have an in-house creative team or the budget for a premium stock photography subscription, try out Pixabay. The website has more than 1.5 million royalty-free stock photos that you can use for a variety of purposes. (There are some restrictions, however, so make sure to read this article before using Pixabay’s images.)

Find stock photos for your online content on Pixabay

No. 8: Yoast WordPress Plugin

If you’re using WordPress for your website or blog, you should definitely download Yoast’s SEO plugin. Yoast helps you optimize your online content for the search engine results that matter most to you. Here’s how it works:

  • Enter in a focus keyword for the content piece.
  • Optimize the piece based on that keyword.
  • Yoast will provide you an optimization score and tips to improve the content.

Optimize online content with the Yoast SEO plugin

No. 9: Google Drive

If you’re looking for a convenient place to save, organize and manage your upcoming online content pieces, look no further than Google Drive. With Google Drive, you can save all the content pieces and tools you need into easy to access folders by:

  • Creating editorial calendars with Google Sheets to plan out your upcoming content.
  • Saving blog drafts with Google Docs to research and outline future blog posts.
  • Uploading images to add to your content pieces later.

Using Google Drive to organize content

No. 10: Google Analytics

Once you’ve created a piece of online content, it’s important to find out if it’s actually capturing the attention of your target audience and driving engagement on your website. This is where Google Analytics comes in handy.

With Google Analytics, you can:

  • Monitor how much traffic your online content pieces drive to your website.
  • Understand what sources drive the most traffic to your content pieces (e.g., social media, email, organic search, etc.).
  • Identify top performing pieces to inform future content.

Monitor online content performance with Google Analytics

Need help creating awesome content for your brand? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn more about our Content Marketing solution.

5 Reasons to be Stoked About Snapchat Advertising

Mindstream Media Group is very excited about becoming a certified Snapchat partner. We’re looking forward to leveraging the platform’s projected user growth and its ability to capture differentiated audiences not found on Facebook and YouTube. While it may be early on in our partnership, we’re already seeing the benefits of Snapchat advertising and are excited to share these capabilities with our advertisers.

If your brand is still lukewarm on (or unfamiliar with) Snapchat’s advertising potential, here are five reasons why we’re bullish on the platform. (Consider this your official invitation to join us on the Snapchat advertising bandwagon.)

No. 1: Snapchat’s growing access to unique audiences

On average, 188 million people around the world use Snapchat daily including many audiences not found on other top social platforms. According to Snapchat, in a given week:

  • 27 percent of Snapchatters aren’t on Facebook.
  • 33 percent of Snapchatters can’t be found on Instagram.
  • 46 percent of Snapchatters won’t visit Youtube.

In 2018, Snapchat is projected to have 85 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone, up more than 7 percent over last year, according to eMarketer. By eMarketer’s estimates, Snapchat will grow faster than both Facebook and Twitter, which will see user counts increase less than 1 percent this year.

No. 2: Snapchat’s access to younger audiences

Snapchat is an incredible tool for reaching younger, emerging markets. According to eMarketer, 16.4 million teens in the U.S. will use Snapchat this year. That’s almost two-thirds of all teens and close to 5 million more teen users than Facebook and 3.6 million more than Instagram.

These numbers are expected to get even better for Snapchat. eMarketer estimates Snapchat will add 1.2 million U.S. users in the 12 to 17 age group by 2022, while Facebook is projected to lose 2.2 million during that time frame.

No. 3: Users are increasingly using Snapchat while making purchases

Snapchat users are very engaged and often use the platform throughout purchase processes, which is very advantageous for advertisers. Consider the following stats from Snapchat:

  • 33 percent of users post to their Snap story after purchasing a product.
  • 35 percent of users send Snaps of where they are shopping.
  • 60 percent of Snap Ads are watched with the audio on.

Based on these stats, we see users’ affinity for self-identifying what they buy while highlighting the retail locations where they made those purchases.

No. 4: Snapchat’s expanding advertising capabilities

Among social media platforms, competition is getting fierce when it comes to advertising capabilities. Snapchat’s steadily increasing advertising opportunities are a major driver of this competition. Top social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are fighting like hell to keep up with the more nascent Snapchat.

For example, Snapchat announced an Offline Conversions Pilot in early October for advertisers who have data from offline conversions that can’t be tracked through an online site in real time. Through the pilot, advertisers are able to send offline match data to attribute those sales to Snapchat campaigns via the return on advertising spend (ROAS) field in Ads Manager. This is great news for agencies as tracking offline conversion activity is paramount for attribution models and calculating ROAS.

For another example, Snapchat rolled out its programmatic ad platform in June 2017. The transition to a self-serve ad format has increased the number of advertisers and resulted in lower ad prices overall compared to their managed service.

No. 5: Early success with Snapchat advertising

The last reason we’re excited about Snapchat advertising that we’ll share today is based on our actual experience with the platform. Recently, we began running a campaign for a retail photography studio. The campaign has delivered a high volume of swipe ups on prospecting, look-a-like and customer relationship marketing (CRM) based audience segments.

By using Snapchat’s advertising platform and optimizing the campaign based on ongoing performance, we saw:

  • Low cost-per-thousand-impression (CPM) totals.
  • Twice as efficient cost per acquisition (CPA) totals than other platforms.
  • 21 percent more efficient cost per swipe ups (CPSU) on look-a-like campaigns compared to prospecting.

Given these numbers, we’re very bullish on Snapchat’s ability to help us deliver the business results that matter most for our clients. As an added bonus, Snapchat also provides a terrific outlet for showcasing brand creative.

Follow us on Snapchat!

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If you want to start incorporating Snapchat into your digital strategy, contact our digital media experts for help.


How to Boost Your Marketing Strategy by Understanding Consumers’ Buying Intent

As consumers research purchases online, they leave behind a myriad of clues about their buying intent. Every search conducted, website visited and link clicked tells a story. Combined, these actions tell marketers everything we need to know about a consumer’s purchase intent (i.e., the products they’re interested in buying) and shopping preferences (e.g., buying in-store vs. online).

All of these actions are steps in what marketers commonly refer to as the consumer buying journey. With each step in the journey, consumers’ searches become more specific, their behavior more deliberate, their preferences more transparent. The closer a consumer comes to making a purchase, the more clues they leave behind for marketers.

Think with Google has been writing about the steps that make up the consumer buying journey for years. They call these steps micro-moments: “The I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments and I want-to-buy moments – that really matter” to consumers. As marketers, it’s on us to predict what consumers want in these moments and deliver the information they need to make a purchase.

To help marketers deliver the right information in the right moments, let’s look at a few recent trends from Google to see how we can use these clues to understand consumers’ buying intent.

Searches for Shopping Near Me

Even generic searches can tell us a lot about what consumers need at a given moment. For example, when a consumer searches for “shopping near me,” we can infer that:

  • The consumer is on-the-go (potentially on foot) and wants to narrow down her options to businesses within a few miles.
  • The consumer is probably in the early stages of her buying journey and may not have a specific purchase in mind.
  • The consumer is looking for stores with a variety of products (e.g., department stores) or locations with a collection of shops (e.g., shopping centers).

Searches for “can I - to buy” & “near me”

Searches like these are inherently tied to local businesses. When a consumer enters a search like this, they’re getting more specific about their buying needs and are likely close to making a purchase.

This trend also exemplifies how people are moving away from generic searches like “furniture stores near me.” Instead, consumers often search for specific purchases like “where to buy a TV stand near me.” When a consumer searches for specific products with intent-laced phrases like “to buy” and “near me,” marketers can make several predictions about what information she needs at that moment:

  • The consumer is looking for a local business, probably within a few miles of her current location.
  • The consumer is relatively far along in their buying journey, probably has a good idea of the product she wants and may be ready to buy immediately.
  • The consumer probably owns a TV and might be redecorating. This prediction is key for serving her ads in the future (i.e., she’s probably not a good prospect for ads for TVs but may be receptive to ads for living room furniture).
Ads served with intent signals

When we serve ads to consumers based on behavioral signals like search and browsing history, audiences are much more likely to respond than when we just use demographic signals. That’s not to say we should disregard demographic targeting when setting up search, social or display campaigns. Rather, we need to incorporate a variety of targeting methods. Think of campaign targeting like a series of layers, each one representing a deeper level of understanding of your target audience:

  • Demographics: This type of targeting can still be helpful if a product or ad is intended for a specific gender, income level, etc.
  • Location: For local businesses, this type of targeting is key to ensuring that only nearby consumers see the ads.
  • Online behavior: If a consumer is conducting online research related to your products, this is a clear sign they should be in your target audience.
  • Customer lists: Targeting consumers who have already interacted with an advertiser can help keep the brand at the top of potential customers’ minds and encourage repeat purchases from existing customers.

Give consumers what they want

All of these trends boil down to a simple takeaway for marketers: when consumers’ online behavior gives us obvious clues about the information they need to make a purchase, we damn well better listen. The onus is on us to interpret these clues, anticipate consumers’ needs and deliver the right information at the right time.

Need help reaching target audiences with the right messages?

Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how we Fast-Forward business to drive results.

[OCTOBER 2018] Google Celebrates 20th Anniversary By Introducing 3 Fundamental Shifts in Search

During the 20th anniversary of Google’s Future of Search event in September 2018, their Vice President of Search, Ben Gomes, introduced three fundamental shifts in how the company thinks about search.

  • From answers to journeys: Google is bringing new features to Search to help searchers resume tasks where they left off and learn new interests and hobbies.
  • From search queries to query-less discovery: Google wants to surface more relevant information related to searchers’ interest even when they don’t have a specific query in mind.
  • From text to visual content: Google is bringing more visual content to Search and completely redesigning Google Images.

Here’s a look at some of the updates Google is working on to respond to these shifts.

Personalizing the Search Journey

Google will be releasing two new features that will resemble the ongoing search pattern of its users: Activity Cards and improved Collections.

Activity Cards will help users find out where they left off during their last search query, showing previous pages and sites visited, as well as previous queries. Users will be able to edit or remove the results of the Activity Card.

The update to Collections has been altered to work in conjunction with the Activity Cards on your mobile phone. While using Activity Cards, users can save pages to their Collections and view related topics to their search query. Google has also added a “topic layer” which allows provides users with suggestions based on related topics.

Google Collections

Image source: Google

The Discover Feed

Google Feed will now be called “Discover.” The Discover feed is a large source of third-party publisher traffic and will appear on the mobile version of Google’s homepage. The updates to Discover include:

  • An increase in video content.
  • The ability for users to control how much content they see for the topics they follow.

Google discover feedImage source: Google

Visual Search

Like Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram, Google’s AMP Stories will be expanding search results based on popular news, celebrities and athletes. The update allows users to quickly view articles based on topics that they find interesting.

Google AMP StoriesImage source: Google

Google will also update the way they display images on both desktop and mobile devices. The update will show more context around images, which will give users more information and better enable them to take an action. Google added that Google Lens will be coming soon, which will enable visual search on an item in a photo.

What do these updates mean for local marketers?

These updates are geared more towards enhancing users’ search capabilities than improving advertising functionality across their platforms. However, Google is bringing more structured content to search results, and in some cases, pre-empting queries or suggesting queries that will generate additional search sessions. The new features should keep searchers on the platform thus creating potential new contextual ad inventory for marketers.

Mindstream Media Group named to early list of Snapchat Certified Partners

Mindstream Media Group, a locally-focused, full-solution, national media agency became one of less than 100 Snapchat Certified Partners globally, as it increasingly incorporates Snapchat into advertiser strategies.

Certification criteria for the program include:

  • Demonstration of Snapchat advertising knowledge through successful completion of agency team training and assessments.
  • Demonstration of campaign expertise by meeting ad spend requirements.
  • Undergoing continuous training on the most current Snapchat advertising capabilities, best practices and campaign strategies.
  • Proven client success through retention, case studies and positive feedback.

“We’re thrilled for this opportunity to partner with Snapchat in this capacity. They’re moving quickly and building technology that makes sense and solves the needs of our enterprise clients, as well as our local clients,” said Bailey Bosson, vice president, digital media services at Mindstream Media Group. “We’ve been very impressed with the way Snapchat has supported us from the inception of our relationship, and we’re excited to see the relationship grow through this partnership.”

The Snapchat certification is one of many industry-leading designations for Mindstream Media Group, which is also a Google Premier Partner, Facebook Preferred Agency Partner, Microsoft Advertising Partner and Yext Preferred Partner.

Mindstream Media Group creates comprehensive, holistic strategies across social, paid search, display and video, content marketing, creative and traditional media for brands like ServiceMaster, Gold’s Gym, Smoothie King, Fantastic Sams, Sony, Roto-Rooter and The UPS Store.

About Mindstream Media Group

Mindstream Media Group, a full-solution media agency, designs and executes sophisticated traditional and digital marketing strategies that deliver sales for national brands by growing brand awareness and generating qualified local leads. Mindstream Media Group’s is headquartered in Dallas and has teams working across the country from New York City to San Diego to Fast-Forward business for its client base.

Stay in touch with Mindstream Media Group by subscribing to the blog and following us on Snapchat using the Snapcode below.

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Point and Shoot to Search, Learn and Shop

You’ve searched online for an image using words to describe what you’re looking for, but how do you search for something you can’t put into words? Sometimes a picture can convey a message more effectively than a written description. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. We already take pictures of all sorts of things. Now, thanks to recent advances in visual search technology, those pictures alone can be used to perform searches. Whether you’re trying to identify an object, determine what’s wrong, find a coordinating piece or learn where to buy, visual search could provide the best answer.

What is visual search?

Visual search uses an image or part of an image as a search query instead of text. The image can come from anywhere – a webpage, app, your saved photos or a real-time image on your screen in the camera app. While it only accounts for a small portion of searches, visual search is gaining popularity and is expected to continue growing rapidly for the foreseeable future.

Volume for visual search is currently estimated at 1 billion searches per month, which pales in comparison to the hundreds of billions of text-based searches. But, that’s still pretty impressive when you consider only about 27 percent of US internet users are even aware it exists, according to a 2017 survey by Toluna and the National Retail Federation.

Explosive growth is anticipated, especially in relation to digital shopping. An August 2018 study by ViSenze found that the ability to search by image topped the list of new technologies millennials would be most comfortable with as part of their digital shopping experience. That same study also showed 62.2 percent of Generation Z and 61.7 percent of millennial consumers want search capabilities that would “enable them to quickly discover and identify the products on their mobile devices.”

How does it work?

Visual search platforms interpret the image queried using image recognition tools and return results in the form of other images as well as text-based responses. Not only correctly identifying the image but also determining the implicit question the user wants to answer has been notoriously technically difficult. For example, an image of a pomegranate could be a query looking to identify the fruit, how to grow them, where to buy them, find recipes or learn about the health benefits. Thanks to artificial intelligence and a growing library of data and images, accuracy of visual search responses is improving.

When is visual search useful?

Visual search works in tandem with textual search; the two are complementary not competitive since each fulfills a different need. Visual search is ideal for queries that are hard to verbalize or don’t make sense without an image, such as “What goes well with these pants?” or “What kind of car is that?” It’s ideal for questions in these key categories:

  • “What is this?”
  • “How can I replace this part?”
  • “What goes with this?”
  • “What does this mean?”
  • “Who is this?”
  • “What’s wrong?”

Key visual search platforms


With over 175 billion pins on more than 3 billion boards and counting, it’s no surprise that Pinterest is one of the top visual search platforms. Although Pinterest launched its first image search options in 2015, its core visual search tool, Pinterest Lens, was introduced in beta just last year. Lens gives users the ability to search using saved photos or real-time images from their camera. Thanks to “responsive visual search,” it’s also possible to zoom in to search only a specific part of an image. So, what are people searching for?

Pinterest Search Trends


Remember the Fire Phone? Me neither, that’s because it was a flop. But, its visual search tool, Firefly, was one of the first developed and that technology is now available to other companies through Amazon’s Rekognition platform. In fact, Pinterest uses it to interpret text within images. It’s also the muscle behind Snapchat’s visual search tool that allows users to point their camera at an object then press and hold the screen to see an Amazon product card pop up.


Google has been using visual search to tag the images and videos it crawls for years, but only recently went all-in with the beta release of Google Lens in 2017 as part of a broader strategy to make search more visual. What sets Google Lens apart is the limitless range of questions it can address since it’s actually a general search engine itself. Planning a trip to a foreign country? Be sure to have the Lens app installed. With its translation capability, you can simply point your smartphone camera at written text or a sign in a foreign language and see a translated version. You can also scan an area with the camera, without taking a photo, and Lens will display results for objects it has identified. See someone wearing a pair of shoes you just have to have? Snap a picture and Lens will link directly to a product page or show you just the right outfit to pair them with.


eBay has been busy developing search tools as well, including Image Search and Find It On eBay. Image Search allows smartphone users to take a picture of an item and search for it on eBay, or search product reviews and recommendations based on an image found on another site. Similarly, Find It On eBay allows users to send images found elsewhere online to eBay for analysis and recommendations. Drag and drop features let users drag anything on eBay into the search bar to find related products.


Despite its sophisticated image recognition ability, Facebook is yet to join the visual search race. As of now, Facebook has limited its technology to tagging photo content to improve text-based image search results. But, it’s bound to eventually, given the visual nature of Instagram and the core role of the smartphone camera across its properties.

What does the future hold?

Currently there is no advertising within visual search, but the technology is becoming increasingly important. Now is the time for brands to build and catalog their product image libraries and create links from images to the most relevant landing pages. Thinking about the variety of actions a user might take or questions they may have after seeing an image and creating ways to address them is also essential.

Visual search is changing the way consumers find products and information. It’s part of a virtuous cycle – as awareness grows and usage increases, accuracy will improve. Improved accuracy will fuel extended use, making a picture not only worth a thousand words, but a thousand search queries.