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How to Blog Like Cloudbeds

By Alex Gaggioli, October 16, 2015

When it comes to creating content, there are many free tools on the internet to help you out. At Cloudbeds, we use a myriad of tools to create our content on a daily basis. These tools help us find good topics, discover sources, edit and spruce them up with pictures. Not everyone (including us!) has the luxury of multiple editors and an optimized editorial process. We survive with free tools, so we curated this list to help you create better content for free.

Sourcing Content Ideas

At Cloudbeds, we use a few different sources in order to find the best blog topics. We produce the majority of our content based on our expertise in the industry. The marketing team gets together and comes up with ideas and perspectives based on our experience and knowledge of hotelier struggles.

Then, we talk with our customer service team and discover what information our clients want to consume. We then conduct research and produce content that directly helps our customers. Asking your customer base what they want to learn about is one of the easiest ways to create impactful content.

Generally, we focus on creating “evergreen” content that will be useful over a long period of time.Finally, we stay topical. We keep up with industry news and trends, and we produce content with a unique perspective that is pertinent to what is being talked about right now.

As a hotelier, there are many ways you can source content using our tactics. Use information from your personal experiences as a hotelier and traveler to help your potential customers get to know you and your property better. Create content about your guests’ top questions and concerns. Also, look to other properties in the area and see what they are talking about. You can also pay attention to ongoing travel trends such as experiential travel or adventure travel. Use timely information and relate it to your own property.

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a platform that analyzes what content performs best for a specific topic. You can also search for influencers relevant to any topic and see what they are talking about.

One of the best features is the ability to plug in any website and discover their most popular content. The most popular content will appear on top and you will be able to see how many times people shared it by platform.

Buzzsumo Cloudbeds Screenshot

You can find content ideas based on local attractions, your competitors, and other general travel topics that may resonate with your target market.

For example, if you own a BnB on Whidbey Island in Washington State, you can navigate to the ‘Most Shared’ tab on Buzzsumo and type in www.whidbeycamanoislands.com and you will see their most popular content.

Buzzsumo location based screenshot example for a BnB in Washington State

From this screenshot, you can see that Fort Casey Underwater Dive Park and Deception Pass State Park and Bridge History are their two most popular pieces of content. Then, you can produce your own content about these subjects. Share your experience at either attraction and how other guests have felt about the activity.

This is also a great tool to quickly find out how well your own posts performed. Simply input your company website, and the content you have already published will show up in the feed. If your content is brand-new or hasn’t received at least 20 shares, it may not show up.

Buzzsumo offers three different tiers of paid plans. But, they do offer a free version that throttles searches by number.

Google Docs

Google docs is free and easy to use word processor. We use google docs in our editorial process for its editing and suggesting features. One individual can write the piece, and someone under a different account can easily edit while tracking their changes. Click on “suggesting” in the top right-hand corner and it will track all edits and comments you make. Separate authors can make comments, fix errors, and ask questions. It is a great editorial collaboration tool.

Google docs is particularly helpful because it is all saved online. Many people can edit the document at the same time, making collaboration a breeze.

Microsoft word offers a similar tool called track changes. But, most Microsoft documents are not online and it is not free.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an extremely useful tool to fix common grammar errors. If you use Google Chrome browser, you can install the free Chrome extension and it will underline any misspelled or grammatically incorrect words in your web browser. If you do not use Google Chrome, you can input your text at grammarly.com and fix any mistakes there.

According to the Grammarly website, the tool does the following:

  • corrects contextual spelling mistakes
  • checks for more than 250 common grammar errors
  • enhances vocabulary usage
  • provides citation suggestions

It is seriously a life-saver when it comes to silly grammar mistakes that are often overlooked.

Bonus: At the end of the week, Grammarly sends an insights email. It shows you how many words you wrote, the number of mistakes you fixed, and how versatile your vocabulary is. This extra doesn’t necessarily help you create content, but it is fun to see your progress over time and compare it to other Grammarly users.  

Example of what grammarly email screenshot showing weekly results

Grammarly screenshot showing weekly results

Hemingway

Hemingway is an online tool that makes your writing bold and clear. It ensures your reader will focus on your message, not your prose. There is a free online edition and a paid desktop application that costs $10.

Hemingway tells you what U.S grade level a reader needs to understand your content. It tells you how many sentences are hard to read and how many are very hard to read. It highlights phrases that have simpler alternatives and how many adverbs you used. One of the best features is the passive voice identifier.

Hemingway screenshot of how it identifies different writing style guides

A higher grade level rating doesn’t mean that the writing is actually better. A higher grade level often means that sentences aren’t clear and have conflicting phrases.  Therefore, it’s harder to understand. A lower grade level means your writing is clear and concise. Hemingway suggests you shoot for a grade 10 rating or lower based on the average reading level in the United States.

Free Stock Photography

Many stock photography sites are simply terrible. Traditional stock photos look staged and inauthentic, yet so many people still use them. Finding good, free stock photos can be a challenge. It would be much easier if you could copy photos from Google images, but many of those images are protected by copyright.

Lucky for you, we have found many sites that offer great free stock photos. Here are our favorites:

These websites allow you to use their photos without attribution and licensing. Therefore, you can change them to look however you wish. With license-free photos, you do not have to worry about attribution either.

Creative Commons is also a fantastic place to find free images. Creative Commons searches many different websites such as Flickr, Google Images, and Wikipedia for images. Many of these pictures require licenses depending on their copyright rules, but each photo will notify you.

Flickr Creative Commons offers many photo options as well, but you may need to include a link. To give attribution, all you have to do is write “Photo by *photographer name here*” at the end of your blog post or web page or underneath the photo itself.

Public Domain Photos:

“Public domain works are not restricted by copyright and do not require a license or fee to use. Public domain allows the user unrestricted access and unlimited creativity” – Source

You can use Flickr Commons and Wikimedia Commons to find public domain photos. Public domain photos are typically good for finding historical images.

Great photos are a must for blog posts, and finding authentic pictures can be a challenge. But, with these free resources, you can spruce up those blog posts to interest your readers for free!

Canva

Example of a Canva example screenshot. Super quick and easy.

Canva is an online “Photoshop killer” because it is free and incredibly easy to use. It is perfect to create custom visual content to add to your blog or share via social media. It cannot do nearly as much as Photoshop, but it can do enough to create visually pleasing photos fast.

They provide templates for almost every social channel, so creating size appropriate photos is simple. There are also templates for presentations, posters, and more.

Canva allows you to upload your own photos, but you can also buy their stock photos for $1. They also offer free basic photos if you looking for a simple colored background or texture.

Word2cleanhtml

Hubspot recommended using Word2cleanhtml’s online resource if you compose your blog posts outside of your website. It translates your document to HTML code to fix formatting errors like extra spaces and wrong characters.

Simply drop your entire post into their website and it will create a “clean” HTML version for you to post in your website. It will save you time when you go to post your content.

Conclusion

There are literally hundreds of tools available online to help you create better content. We included the tools that help us on a daily basis here at Cloudbeds. They save us countless hours and help us create better content.

Our Process:

  • We generally write a blog post (like this one!) in Google docs with the Grammarly Chrome extension turned on to check for mistakes while we write.
  • After we finish writing, we insert our document into Hemingway.
  • Before we migrate our content into WordPress we use Word2cleanhtml to help with formatting.
  • Then, we find pictures on one of the free photo sites listed above and edit their sizes in Photoshop or Canva.
  • After we take those steps we are ready to publish and send it off to our social channels.

What are your favorite tools for creating content?

 

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