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June 21, 2007

27 Great Tools for Copywriters

After more than 12 years as a professional writer, I have more effective copywriting and SEO copywriting tools at my disposal than I could poke a stick at. I’ve already shared this list at the Divine Write Copywriting Forums, but thought I’d distribute a little wider.

Hope it helps…

(Note: If you run a copywriting business from home, you may also be interested in reading my three-article series on home business technologies.

1) Microsoft Word (EXPENSIVE!) – No real need to describe, but some features that warrant a mention as particularly useful to copywriters include:

  • Macros (Tools | Macro | Record New Macro) – particularly useful for automating those tasks that copywriters perform over and over each day. TIP: If you plan to delete a macro that’s assigned to a button in a toolbar, delete the button first. Some versions of Word won’t let you delete the button after you delete the macro. If you do happen to get caught by this gem, you have to re-add the macro – without assigning dragging it to a toolbar – then delete the button, then delete the macro again.)
  • Track Changes (Tools | Track Changes) – Previously called revisions. Great for clients who like to make changes in the document. Just make sure you turn it on before you send the doc for review, because many people don’t know how to turn it on themselves, or won’t bother.
  • Templates (File | Save As and set the file type to .dot) – Define all your styles and page setup in a template, then double-click on the template to create a new document based on that template – your new doc will inherit all of the styles, page setup, macros, etc., from the template.
  • Dictionaries for multiple languages (select all, then click Tools | Set Language and choose your language – when you do your spell check, it will default to the correct dictionary)
  • Word count toolbar (select View | Toolbars | Word Count)

2) Macromedia Contribute trial version (FREE) – I don’t actually use Macromedia, but by installing the demo, you get a great PDF creator. It’s been a while since I downloaded my trial version, but I suspect you still get the PDF creator.

3) Notepad (Start | Programs | Accessories | Notepad) – Great for those times when you need something written in pure text from the outset. Notepad comes as part of Microsoft Office.

4) Puretext (FREE) – A fast way of pasting as pure text. Great for use with Microsoft Word. Instead of having to select Edit | Paste Special | Unformatted Text or copy and paste via Notepad, you simply paste as text using user-defined short-cut keys (e.g. Ctrl | T). (And let’s face it; as copywriters, we do a LOT of copy-pasting…)

5) Mozilla Firefox Internet Browser (FREE) – Allows you to supplement its native functionality with lots of add-ons that let you do cool stuff. One of the most useful is the word count calculator. Simply select the text you want to count, right-click and select Word Count (excellent for copywriters who need to quote for the rewrite of an existing site and the client wants approx the same word count). Apparently Firefox is also more secure than IE ‘cos it’s not integrated with the operating system. This is what I’ve read, anyway; don’t know if it’s true.

6) Google Desktop (FREE) – A great way to search your computer for stuff. Especially useful when you’re having trouble finding an email or Word document that you know you’ve written, but you can only remember a phrase or a few words. (What copywriter hasn’t experienced this dilemma?) I find it HEAPS better than the Find function in ‘My Computer’.

7) Paint Shop Pro V3.12-32 (FREE) – Excellent for taking screen captures. Also good for reducing the file size of screen captures (by reducing the number of colours used). I’m not saying it’s the best product out there, but I’ve been using it for about 8 years, and I’ve tried heaps of others. It’s simple and ugly, but it does the job, no fuss.

8) Google Adwords Editor (FREE) – If you’re a copywriter who manages / works on lots of Google Adwords projects, this tool is great as you can do everything locally, and only upload on completion. Makes things a lot safer and faster as you’re not working over the Internet the whole time.

9) MessageSave & EzyDetach (approx USD $30 each but you can get a FREE trial version) – Excellent for managing and filing emails and their attachments to hard disk. You save the email / attachment as a file and the product automatically names it with the sender’s name and the date of receipt. This makes these products excellent for keeping track of client reviews of your copy and recording correspondence regarding your copy. Also significantly reduces the size of your PST file.

10) Dictionary.com (FREE) – Contains a good thesaurus. Biggest limitation is that it’s in US English. (Well, that’s a limitation for copywriters who write in Australian or UK English!)

11) DomainsBot (FREE) – Neat tool for turning ideas into names. Excellent for copywriters who work in the conceptual field or short copy copywriters.

12) Ezemail Email / eNewsletter Distribution (Approx 5 cents per email) – Very useful for sending HTML e-newsletters. You can personalise your mailouts by including the recipient’s name in the Subject line and in the email body. Also tracks all sorts of useful recipient data (who read what, what they clicked on, etc.). Template based so you can re-use your email designs.

13) Stock Photography (royalty-free photos from $1) – Excellent if you need to include photos in your copy or proposals, or if you have to manage a design project (both things most copywriters will do, at one time or another).

14) Rhyme Zone (FREE) – Type in a word and find rhyming words. Something for jingle copywriters?

15) Google Alerts (FREE) – Have Google notify you whenever it finds a page that contains a particular word or phrase. Particularly useful for identifying sites that have plagiarized your copy. (You’d be amazed at how many alleged copywriting sites have plagiarized the copy from my website!) Also useful for SEO (see below).

16) Copyscape plagiarism detection (USD $0.05 per search for Premium, USD $4.95 per month for Copysentry) – Identifies sites that have plagiarized the copy on your site or a client’s site.

17) Adeeze (AUD $20) – An ebook containing hundreds (maybe thousands) of headlines and slogans ready for royalty-free use. Great for all sorts of industries. I haven’t read them all, but the ones I have seem pretty good. Written by a professional copywriter with quite a bit of experience in headlines and slogans.

18) Text to HTML converter (FREE) – I’m sure you’ll find a use for it!

19) My SEO eBook (FREE) – Great for learning the ins and outs of search engine optimisation (SEO) and SEO copy.

20) ArticlePR.com (FREE) – My list of article submission sites (aka article banks) to which you can submit your articles in order for them to be syndicated on other websites.

21) Backlink checker (FREE) – A fairly accurate way of counting the number of unique backlinks to a site.

22) Google Alerts (FREE) – Have Google notify you whenever it finds a page that contains a particular word or phrase. Particularly useful for learning when your URL or a client’s URL is published on page. (This generally indicates that a link to your site / your client’s site has been added.)

23) Matt Cutts’ BLOG (FREE) – A handy resource for learning about all things SEO and SEO copywriting. (Matt Cutts’ is also known as the ‘Google Insider’.)

24) Google Toolbar (FREE) – Great for getting a quick, high level picture of the search presence of your copywriting website or a client’s website. (Also very useful for establishing the credibility of online stores before you buy…)

25) WordTracker keyword analysis (Approx $12/day -) – The best keyword analysis tool I’ve found. Type in a word, and it lists a whole heap of related words, tells you how many times they’ve been searched for in the last couple of months, and rates them all according to how hard they’ll be to target for SEO.

26) Keyword density calculator (FREE -) – Copy and paste your SEO copy, define your target keywords, and it calculates the density of each for you.

27) Search engine spider simulator (FREE -) – Great tool for seeing what your site (or your client’s site) looks like in the eyes of a search engine. It’s only an indication, but it’s helpful, nonetheless.

I hope you find these tools useful as you go about your day-to-day copywriting tasks. I’ve come to rely on them very heavily. Obviously, they’re a only a sub-set of all the really cool stuff out there, so if you have any other suggestions, please feel free to reply to the thread on my forum that hosts this list, at divinewrite.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=63.
Author:  Glenn Murray is an SEO copywriter and article submission specialist. He is a director of article PR company Article PR and also of copywriting studio Divine Write.

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