12 Best Writing Tools for Planning, Editing, and Optimizing Content
Optimization is a critical—and challenging—part of content creation. Your content needs to be engaging and fresh to hold your readers’ attention and bring them back for more. And yet it also needs to have a critical mass of the same targeted keywords that your competition is also using. How do you write fresh content using the same key words as everyone else in your industry?
This is one of the many challenges of modern content creation. Writing can be a daunting task, especially in the digital age. Fortunately, there are best practices that can help you improve your writing and optimize your content.
If you’re looking for ways to improve both your writing and the process of creating content, then look at our selection of some of the 12 best writing tools on the market today. Writers, and managers of teams with writers, can take advantage of these cutting-edge solutions to plan, write, edit, and optimize content more efficiently.
Best tools for content planning
Starting a new project can be challenging. You have to balance what you need to say with what you know about your audience and the kinds of content that will engage them. Whether you’re writing product pages or a weekly blog, finding the right content planning tools can make all the difference in improving your workflow and creativity.
Content planning tools can help your piece target the right audience, include the most relevant keywords, stay consistent with your other pages and sites, and address what real people actually want to read about.
If you manage writers as a publisher (including publishing to your website!), content planning can also help you create content briefs to guide your writers’ assignments.
Semrush’s Content Outline Builder
Semrush bills itself as an all-in-one SEO, social media, and PPC (pay-per-click) management platform. It combines web analytics and SEO research tools, to help online publishers both create SEO content and track its performance.
Semrush has a number of tools that enable SEO-focused research and content creation. Their Topic Research Tool, available to Guru and Business users with unlimited access, allows users to enter a general topic, and the tool returns a variety of relevant, current content ideas based on recent search trends and other up-to-date SEO factors.
The Semrush Content Outline Builder provides a full AI-generated report based on the topic you provide for your specific domain.
Each report includes “Facts & Data” suggestions. This lists important data with links to their sources, which you can use to back up claims when writing your article. Another unique feature is the “Images” section in the report. You’ll see a selection of free, ready-to-use stock images that match your topic and can help boost SEO.
Each report also offers a recommended word count, readability level, and tone of voice based on similar pages around the web. This helps ensure your new piece of content is written to compete with existing content.
Later in this article, we also discuss the Semrush content-optimizing tool. So if the Semrush Outline Builder feels like a good fit for you, be sure to also check out how the optimizer might help you.
- AI generator suggests blog topics and develops content briefs
- Recommends AI-generated titles, article descriptions, and keywords
- Reports include facts with linked sources and free-to-use images
- Lists several existing articles for inspiration to reference when writing
- Outline and content brief can be shared with other teammates
- Basic. Free
- Unlimited. $40 monthly (free 7-day trial)
Best for: The new Content Outline Builder by Semrush is appropriate for any content creator who needs some inspiration in outlining a new, SEO-focused article. Managers who have a team of writers could also benefit from building multiple outlines quickly.
HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator
HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator is a free tool that provides lists of potential blog post ideas. This can help active bloggers or companies needing to generate multiple articles in a short period find topics to focus on.
The topics are generated based on keywords that you input, so you can be sure that the ideas are relevant to your blog's niche. All you have to do is enter a keyword or phrase, and it will give you several different topic ideas to choose from.
New users who are trying it out will get five topic ideas right off the bat. To see a list of 250 ideas, you just have to sign up with your name and email information. Payment is never required. You can view those 250 ideas either online or in a downloadable spreadsheet.
The downside to this tool is that the ideas are templates and can be repetitive, rather than based on current search trends or custom-generated. For example, we entered “Writing Tools” as a topic and received “Writing Tools: Expectations vs Reality” as the first blog idea. Then we ran another search for “Online Tutoring” ideas. The same general idea came up first again as “Online Tutoring: Expectations vs Reality.”
As with any tool, users should be mindful of the number of other users with the same tool who may be getting similar results and generating similar content. If you use the topic generator to get ideas for a new blog, we recommend taking the time to do a little more research, looking at the conversations other pages are having on the topic, and then putting your own spin on it. This way, you’ll create content that is both unique and interesting to your readers.
- Generates hundreds of blog topic ideas based on a keyword or phrase
- Option to download spreadsheet list of topics makes for easy organization
- Free consultations available with HubSpot experts can help you create “topic clusters”
Best for: Bloggers who are looking for budget-friendly inspiration for a new blog post could benefit from using HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator.
AnswerThePublic is a relatively simple topic research tool that writers can use to find ideas for new article topics.
The tool works by “listening” to search queries, specifically autocomplete data, to provide insight into what people are searching for in relation to a certain topic. Writers can use it to get up-to-date information on what their target audience wants to know and then develop content around those queries.
Free searches are limited based on the platform’s use, and offer more limited tools. The paid versions come with premium features including a historic trends tool that shows you how search queries have fluctuated in volume over time. You’ll be able to identify which topics are waning in popularity and which topics are gaining interest.
- Free search listening tool delivers comprehensive reports on current search queries surrounding a given topic
- Categorizes search queries into different types (questions, comparisons, related queries, etc.)
- Indicates popularity of each search query with high, average, and low ratings
- Search Listening Alerts (paid) provide weekly emails showing new questions being asked about your topic
- Basic. Free (searches are limited)
- Monthly. $99 monthly (free 7-day trial)
- Annual. $948 billed yearly (equal to $79/month)
- Expert. $199 monthly
Best for: Content marketing professionals wanting to discover topics focused on a target audience, and public relations departments want tomonitor the search queries related to your organization with AnswerThePublic and respond accordingly.
Best tools for writing content
Writing great content can take a lot of time researching, developing an outline, and of course, producing the actual article that will be published. The process can be time-consuming and mentally challenging.
What if you could unlock your writing potential and become an even more productive writer? These content writing tools might be the solution you need.
Jasper is an AI-driven writing assistant that can help writers create quality content more quickly. In our test, we signed up for Jasper’s premium “Boss Mode” plan and tried out the One-Shot Blog Post tool. It has an easy-to-use interface that asks for your blog topic, intended audience, and tone of voice. The tool then generates a complete blog post intended to meet your requirements.
We asked Jasper to write a blog post on itself. Our topic: why writers use Jasper. The tool generated a 400-word article explaining the main benefits of Jasper’s software. On the plus side, the content was well-written, grammatically correct, and well-structured with an introduction and conclusion. On the downside, it didn’t provide any reliable sources, and its tone was a little canned and lacked a human writer’s touch.
While the content in our test passed both Copyscape’s and Grammarly’s plagiarism checkers, other reviewers have had different results. So be aware that your own experience may differ from ours in terms of original content.
Another problem you may encounter with any AI-generated content is accuracy and tone. AI-generated content is only as good as the sites it amalgamates information from. If it pulls information from sites that are factually wrong or biased, then your material risks having those same problems.
So while Jasper offers a great resource to help you speed up your writing, you should always review and edit any piece that Jasper generates for you before publishing.
- Auto-generates sentences, paragraphs, and entire content pieces
- Content is generated to be original and pass plagiarism checkers (although reviewers have shown mixed results)
- Creates social media copy and headlines for all major networks
- Integrates with Surfer SEO to enable keyword optimization
- Starter Plan. $40 monthly (free 5-day trial)
- Boss Mode. $82 monthly (free 5-day trial)
- Business Plan. Customize your plan at a custom price
Best for: Jasper is ideal for writers who want to produce content quickly. With AI-generated content, you can get a decent first draft in place that just needs to be polished.
Frase is an AI-powered content creation platform that helps writers create content faster.
Frase is known for auto-generating very rough content when you’re stuck or looking for a place to start, either with an entire content piece, and introduction, or a single sentence.
We tested out its AI features, and they generated ideas we felt were decent based on our input. One of our favorite was the Paragraph Answer tool. When we entered a question, Frase generated an answer that is custom-written with content that it claims to be original.
While we felt this tool to be quite valuable, sometimes Frase takes some tinkering with to get the results we wanted.
For example, when we asked Frase to generate a small paragraph about the difference between Jasper and Frase, Frase didn’t recognize its own name and thought we were misspelling the word “phrase,” so it returned content about what a phrase is in writing. That’s not what we were looking for.
In round two, we asked Frase to generate a how-to article explaining ways that online tutors could be more efficient. The tool returned a decently written article on how to promote yourself as an online tutor.
Despite those drawbacks, Frase still has its place in a writer’s toolbox. You might use Frase to identify big-picture ideas or brainstorm outlines and briefs for a content piece, and look to Jasper to quickly auto-generate the meat of an article.
As with any AI, material from Frase should be checked for plagiarism, sensitivity, and tone. The material it gives is only as good as the sites it pulls information from, and may not be on-brand for your business..
- Build content outlines with the drag-and-drop tool
- Auto-generate rough content for specific uses
- Develop AI-generated content briefs based on a topic
- Explore community-created AI content generation tools
- Solo. $14.99 monthly (5-day trial for $1)
- Basic. $44.99 monthly
- Team. $114.99 monthly
Best for: Frase has a wide range of features, with tools like topic discovery and keyword research. If you’re primarily concerned with optimizing long-form articles for search engine rankings, Frase is a great choice.
This analysis tool lets you enter your headline for an article, email newsletter, or any other piece of content, and receive detailed feedback on how it can be improved. HeadlineAnalyzer gives your headline an overall score, as well as an SEO score, both with specific suggestions for how you can tweak issues like language, length, and syntax to better grab readers’ attention and drive traffic to the full piece of content.
The HeadlineAnalyzer gives you one free premium headline report per month, and unlimited standard reports. The premium reports are the ones that give you specific, actionable recommendations for improvement—so they’re definitely what a writer is looking for when turning to this tool. Additional premium reports are available when you upgrade to any of the paid plans.
- Analyzes headline length, keyword usage, word placement, clarity, and sentiment
- SEO score provides recommendations to improve headline optimization
- Free browser extension and WordPress integration for convenient use
- 1 Premium Headline per month. Free
- 5 Premium Headlines. $19 monthly
- 20 Premium Headlines. $29 monthly
- 60 Premium Headlines. $99 monthly
Best for: HeadlineAnalyzer has a wide user base, catering to writers who need to form catchy, optimized headlines. It’s useful to SEO managers, bloggers, journalists, email marketers, ad writers, and researchers who are looking to generate traffic to their content.
Best tools for editing
Content editing tools help writers produce copy with fewer errors, and they offer a variety of features that can improve the readability and overall quality of a piece. For these reasons, professional writers often use at least some of these online editing tools to help them produce their best work.
Need a professional editor? Find high-quality content editors on Upwork!
Grammarly is copy-editing software that goes a step above your standard Microsoft Word spellchecker or the “Spelling and grammar check” tool in Google Docs. Grammarly looks for standard grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors and typos in content—while also going pointing out more advanced writing “errors,” such as missing antecedents or issues of tone and style. Grammarly can help writers tighten their content and improve clarity. It does this by suggesting unnecessary words you can cut out and by recommending new ways to write a hard-to-follow sentence or phrase.
The basic writing tips are available with a free account. You can either install the free browser extension and see Grammarly’s proofreading edits in your other content writing tools in real-time, or open up the Grammarly website and enter your content for editing into the Grammarly editor.
A premium plan comes with more advanced editing recommendations, like tone suggestions, consistency recommendations, and a plagiarism checker.
No matter which plan you use, remember to take Grammarly’s advice with a grain of salt. Language is complex, and a professional editor can point out mistakes in Grammarly’s “fixes.” Blindly following all of the recommended changes can introduce mistakes to your work and lead to a canned writing style.
- Suggests more advanced writing corrections than standard word processor spellcheckers
- Integrates with all major software, from Word and Google Docs to Twitter and Safari
- Premium plan allows writers to set parameters for the audience, level of formality, etc
- Basic. Free
- Premium. $12 monthly
- Business. $15 monthly per member (free 7-day trial)
Best for: Grammarly is a useful proofreading and in-depth editing tool for writers who need to write well-developed content with fewer errors.
The Hemingway Editor is a well-known, popular tool writers use when they need to simplify their content. Also known as the Hemingway App, it analyzes content and provides feedback that focuses on making the language easier to read for people at average reading levels. The tool also points out instances of passive voice.
The editor is named after Hemingway for his famously terse, easy-to-read style. If your content needs to be geared toward an average reading level and you want quick suggestions for how you might simplify your language, Hemingway could be an awesome solution.
But the Hemingway Editor doesn’t suit every writing project. For example, it will recommend changing passive voice to active—but sometimes passive voice is the right choice. It will recommend shortening long sentences—but sometimes long sentences are necessary. And it will recommend limiting adverbs—but be unable to tell you which adverbs are necessary and which are better than others.
So again, as with any editing software, take Hemingway’s suggestions with a grain of salt and ask if the voice it’s creating is right for your audience.
- Readability score indicates if your writing is at the right level for the audience
- Passive voice checker helps make your writing clearer and stronger
- Identifies complex words that can be replaced by simpler language
- Counts the number of adverbs in the text to help you minimize adverb usage
- Online Version. Free
- Desktop App. $19.99
Best for: Hemingway is a valuable tool for writers who tend to write lengthy, complex sentences and need assistance making their content more accessible to readers of all levels.
ProWritingAid uses AI to provide a comprehensive editing tool. It has a browser extension and an online editing interface, making it a versatile writing assistant. Its clients include major corporations like Amazon and Microsoft.
It provides a free Grammar Checker anyone can use to quickly run a grammar check on a piece of text.
When you enter your content into the full online ProWritingAid interface., it generates a “Summary” report that provides a detailed analysis of many different aspects of your content. The report provides scores for basics like spelling and grammar, plus more advanced elements—such as sentence structure, passive voice, inclusive language, clichés, and acronym consistency. In areas that have lower scores, the report offers specific recommendations for improvements.
All of this is free for up to 500 words at a time.
If you want to analyze more than 500 words at once, you can upgrade to the premium unlimited plan for a monthly, annual, or lifetime fee.
You can also separately purchase a la carte “Plagiarism Checks” (every ProWritingAid Premium plan includes 60 free plagiarism checks per year).
As with any automated editing tool, ProWritingAid can help writers pinpoint places in their writing to consider, but its recommendations shouldn’t be followed without question. It can make mistakes, offer bad advice, or lead to a style that lacks a human touch.
- Generates a comprehensive editing report with scores and recommendations
- Identifies “repeat” words and built-in thesaurus offers synonyms to avoid repetition
- Analyzes balance of slow-paced versus fast-paced sections to improve engagement
- Consistency checker identifies stylistic inconsistencies, such as serial comma usage
- Premium plan allows you to create your own style guide to check using reports
- Basic. Free
- Premium. $10
- Teams. $12.08 per seat
- Enterprise. Customize your plan at a custom price
Best for: Professional writers who have specific goals for their content’s voice and style will find ProWritingAid most useful. The software’s wide range of detailed feedback on various aspects of language, content structure, tone, etc., can help you edit your content to make sure it’s geared in the right direction.
Best tools for optimizing content
In today's world, SEO optimization tools are essential for online writers. They are the key to gaining an edge in a highly competitive digital environment.
By optimizing content with keyword phrases, meta tags, and other techniques, online writers increase their content’s visibility and rankings in search engines like Google and Bing. You can optimize your writing for SEO using these top content optimization tools.
Clearscope and other writing tools like it (Dashword, Surfer SEO, etc.) are game-changers when it comes to writing long-form SEO content. After you've written a well-planned, well-researched blog or article, you can run it through Clearscope to see how you're doing with keywords for SEO, and then revise accordingly.
Clearscope was created using the IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding service. In other words, it's really smart.
While Clearscope can help you plan content by doing initial topic research and creating an article outline, the keyword optimization tool is most useful once your piece is nearly finished.
You'll simply enter your title or topic into Clearscope and it will generate a list of related keywords, each with a target number of times that each word should show up in your content. If you paste your article into this report, Clearscope will then grade it based on adequate keyword use.
Clearscope will also highlight keywords within your content, so you can see which keywords you already have covered and which ones you need to work into the text. As you edit to add missing keywords, your piece's SEO score will gradually increase.
Blogs and other online articles that score at least an A in Clearscope should be well optimized for search engines from a keyword standpoint.
One downside is that Clearscope is pricey. There is no free version and even the most basic plan starts at $170 per month, making it best for teams of writers, rather than individuals.
On the upside, there are less expensive alternatives, like Dashword (free trial, then $39 per month) and Surfer SEO ($49 per month), which cater more to the individual writer.
Whichever brand you choose, these SEO keyword analysis tools do offer priceless insights to serious SEO writers.
- Content grading scale measures SEO quality of the piece
- Generates a list of relevant keywords to include for SEO
- Highlights keywords within content for easy identification
- Identifies missing keywords to add for improved SEO and content grade
- Essentials. $170 monthly
- Business. $1,200 monthly
- Enterprise. Customize your plan at a custom price
Best for: Clearscope and its competitors are valuable SEO tools for writers who need to publish blogs and articles that are highly keyword optimized for search engines. The Clearscope tool is specifically designed for teams of writers or busy individual writers.
Semrush Writing Assistant Tool
We already covered Semrush when we talked about content planning, but it also features a writing assistance tool that’s worth mentioning.
If you’re already paying for Semrush for its other features (or you’re signed up for the free trial), don’t forget to take advantage of the SEO Writing Assistant when optimizing a piece for the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Semrush isn’t the most robust content-optimization tool, but it is worth running your content through if you have an account. The SEO Writing Assistant has a neat feature that will extract SEO keywords from your written content so you can see which relevant keywords you’ve already included—plus the assistant will then generate a longer list of keywords based on your existing text. You can use this list to further embed more SEO keywords into the piece (similar to the way you would edit a piece with Clearscope as described above).
The tool may be less well focused than others that are designed specifically for this function. But if you use Semrush for content planning, then this is a useful feature to keep in mind when you’re editing SEO content.
- Extracts SEO keywords from an existing text and generates more related keywords
- Downloadable “extended” report includes detailed SEO recommendations
- Provides a list of competing links with content about similar topics
- Add-on integrates with Google Docs for seamless, real-time SEO editing
- Part of the larger Semrush platform with extensive SEO tools
- Pro. $119.95 monthly (free 7-day trial)
- Guru. $229.95 monthly (free 7-day trial)
- Business. $449.95 monthly
- Custom. Customize your plan at a custom price
Best for: The Semrush writing assistant is especially helpful for multi-topic bloggers, copywriters, and other professional content creators. Users of the Semrush platform should remember that the SEO Writing Assistant tool is available to help you optimize your content with relevant keywords.
Writers who are interested in this type of editor but don’t need the full features of Semrush might be more interested in a solution like Clearscope (details above).
Ahrefs bills itself as an “all-in-one SEO toolset,” and it has many features that content creators will find useful, including competitor analysis, site optimization, and performance tracking. Customers who need these features and find Ahrefs to be a good solution for them, will likely also benefit from Ahrefs’ content optimization tools.
Two SEO tools particularly stand out: the SEO Toolbar that adds to your browser and the SEO WordPress Plugin.
The browser toolbar analyzes the SEO metrics for any webpage you visit, including backlinks, referring domains, organic search traffic, and more. This information can help you improve your website's SEO and compete more effectively against your rivals.
The WordPress Plugin helps you audit your existing WordPress posts, so you can identify any content that needs work. It checks for things like missing titles, meta descriptions, and images, and then provides feedback on how to fix them.
- WordPress plugin identifies low-performing pages that need optimization
- SEO Toolbar develops detailed SEO reports for published webpages and articles
- Keyword Generator lists relevant keywords to add to content
- Lite. $99 monthly
- Standard. $199 monthly
- Advanced. $399 monthly
- Enterprise. $999 monthly
Best for: Ahrefs is an entire SEO management platform designed to help website owners keep tabs on their site’s performance. If you need that type of platform, then using Ahrefs’ optimization tools will keep many of your tasks on the same platform. WordPress website owners could especially benefit from using Ahrefs.
If you don’t need all of the tools Ahrefs offers, you can find similar SEO tools that offer the same value for less money.
Find writing jobs on Upwork
Online writing and editing tools can help even professional writers and editors work more efficiently and generate better copy. However, the AI behind these tools has a long way to go before it can replace a human touch.
If you need great copy and these online tools aren’t cutting it, consider hiring a professional freelance writer on Upwork, the world’s work marketplace.. From articles, blog posts, copywriting, and manuals to the more specialized skills that can be found within its many categories and subcategories, Upwork provides a reliable and cost-effective option for businesses that need professional writing services.
Upwork is also a great place for writers and editors to find meaningful work as freelancers. With Upwork, you can find flexible writing jobs that fit your lifestyle and allow you to make money writing articles, blog posts, copywriting, manuals, and more.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.