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Five free content monitoring tools to help you track topical themes and user engagement

You’ve laboured to craft your finest content. From fonts, to mobile-friendly layout, to eye-catching video and sweet touches of interactivity, it’s just as damn near perfect as you’ll ever get. Now your creation is ready to be released into the wild. Will it thrive or fall flat? Will the intended audience embrace it, or ignore it? Have you hit a hot topic of interest?

There’s more at stake than industry acclaim and dreams of a new trophy in the office cabinet. You want to know your investment of time, faith and cash is going to deliver results. And if you’re working for a client, they want to know that too. So once released, you need to track your content beast. Not every content marketer has the budget for premium tracking tools. So here are a few pointers on some of the best free options out there:

  1. Market Space

Your content is joining a conversation; your business is surrounded by competitors. In other words, you need to understand how content performs in a market. With Market Space, you can submit as many competitor or brand terms as you like and the tool will crawl for mentions and social shares and deliver a regular (daily or monthly) summary of who’s said what – and how much attention has it got. Most importantly, those monthly summaries will give you the “share” of the overall conversation each competitor/term has won over that period. There’s a premium version for those looking for deeper analytics, but the free-to-use option will cover the key bases for many content marketers.

  1. Social Mention

Type in a topic into Social Mention’s query bar and it will “search the universe” for mentions – from blogs to social channels – over the last hour, 12 hours, day, week or month as you wish. Results include analysis of “sentiment”, although that’s still a notoriously tough feature to perfect as human irony eludes most artificial intelligence. But you’ll get an indication of whether the tone around this topic is broadly positive, negative or neutral. You’ll get details of top influencers on the topic over the period in question, as well as hashtags and relevant keywords. If you’re looking to make an immediate social impact, this is a good free tool to see if your project has gone off with a bang … or a whimper.

  1. Buzzsumo

Here’s a versatile tool that can help with researching content themes that appear to resonate with journalists and bloggers – and help to benchmark how your content efforts compare to the most-shared, most-successful content for any period up to the last 12 months. Buzzsumo breaks down the results by the main social channels, so you can see whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest that’s working best. Or Google+. Remember them?

  1. Bitly

If you’ve not used Bitly to help to track your own content, the odds are you’ve clicked on a shortened Bitly link created by someone else. Once the perfect tool to squeeze a link into Twitter’s 140-character limit, Bitly is now oh, so much more. You can use it to monitor click-performance from your link across different channels. Is it your email campaign that driving more traffic than social media? When is your audience most engaged? Bitly’s neat dashboard analytics will tell you.

  1. Google

Don’t overlook the obvious! Google Alerts is now in its teenage years – having been launched back in 2003. But it’s still a great way to monitor coverage of topics, brands and their competitors. Set your search query and decide how frequently you want to be notified of new coverage by email. But while we’re talking about Google, it’s worth keeping Analytics in mind to assess how on-site content is performing: whether you’re looking for insight into demographics and interests or simply comparing which channels are delivering traffic – and when.

 

But these free options are just a start. Probably the best pro tip: the “free trial” is your new friend. Don’t just think of it as taking a tool for a road test before deciding to commit to it, you’ve potentially got a month to get the job done for free! You’ll find some firms are wise to this tactic and will restrict premium features to full paying customers only.

But there are plenty that will let you try-before-you-buy enough functionality to complete one-off, short-term monitoring tasks. So why not put a few other tools through their paces on a trial basis. In particular, look at the highly-regarded monitoring tool mention.com. Or try coveragebook.com, which takes links to the coverage that’s been achieved and auto-generates a neat report for clients, complete with screen shots.

Content monitoring doesn’t have to be costly … even if the results can be hard to watch for nervous content producers and marketers!

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