I’m going to be honest: this wasn’t the easiest review to do. It was mostly due to the confusing pricing and naming of this product. But now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at this suite of apps built for marketers!
The Long-Winded (But Needed) Intro
I first needed to figure out what this was, since I first found out about AtomicWriter as a Chrome extension. Then I see it has a WordPress plugin. And also a Lite version in the form of a web app.
So Atomic Reach is the company that makes this audience-centric content marketing suite of apps.
The basic app is AtomicWriter. This one comes in 3 flavours and they’re all free:
- A web app
- A WordPress Plugin
- A Chrome extensions
They all do the same thing: analyze your content and provide you with suggestions. I’ve seen similar tools before, but never so integrated. I also enjoy the added bonus of having a slider about my target audience: whether they’re beginners, experts or geniuses.
Even though they’re powered by the same editing engine, the 3 versions don’t match up in terms of speed. The interface is almost identical and the provided results are the same. But it seems to take longer to provide you with suggestions in the web app. Or perhaps it’s just a way to artificially increase Time On Site and allow you to look at more apps from their suite at the same time.
The next piece of the puzzle is Atomic Insights, which acts like a dashboard for all your activity (traffic, shares, scores).
Finally, we have Atomic Studio, which acts like a marketplace to get content pieces created for you, for a fee.
Because I was only interested in testing the Writer part of the apps for now, this concludes my long-winded intro. Next up is the actual review of Atomic Writer.
1. Getting Started
Since there are 3 versions for Atomic Writer, it’s pretty much painless to get up and running. The web version of Atomic Writer is only a few clicks away and provides (from what I’ve seen) the complete feature set, so It’s easy to start with that.
Once you feel confortable with it, you can decide whether you want to go Chrome Extension or WordPress Plugin. The first one only allows for editing of existing works, while the last is integrated into the blogging platform and analyzes your writing.
Installation is very fast and you end up with another section next to your writing screen. The first screen forces you to choose an audience. Since it’s integrated into WordPress, you won’t have to choose the title and body text, unlike the Chrome Extension.
2. Design & Feel
All the apps are very colorful, albeit not really professional looking. The logo itself looks like it was something rejected from Fiverr or bought in an icon-pack. It’s not great, but it works with the title (Atomic – atoms, Writer – pencil), so I guess it’s easy to remember, visually.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the the app when I first saw it. The big fonts and basic colors made it look cheap. Like something built in a weekend, in a hurry, by someone with only basic design capabilities and knowledge. It does, however, work. It’s not something to brag about. It’s not Apple-style simplicity, but it’s very easy to understand what everything does. So in that sense, the design fulfills its purpose.
It also feels like something stuck in the past, without any shine or polish on it. In terms of communication, it doesn’t feel slick. There are no cool “Gotcha”, “Super” or “You rock” responses to any of your actions. Everything feels so utilitarian and lacking life.
Atomic Writer feels like a dead app. The fact that it doesn’t auto-update in real-time, that there isn’t any (interesting) feedback given for your actions and that the pane in WordPress can be minimized – all of these elements only strengthen the idea that Atomic Writer is useful, but it doesn’t make you believe it. And in that sense, its minimalistic design is faulted by its outdated User Experience.
This is where the app has to truly shine. You may not like the design, you may not understand all the different version. But once you’ve started using in, it should provide you with value right away.
And you know what? It does deliver on this promise. It is indeed an audience-centric content creation app.
Since it forces you to think about your audience first, it’s a great reminder to put more work in to deliver great content. I’ve had times when there are articles I was working on, but couldn’t really decide who they were for. Once I locked in a “beginner” type audience, all the words and suggestions suddendly made sense. I knew how I could make my content better, by thinking about my audience.
Some people might not agree with this, but I enjoy the idea of having an overall score for an article. CoSchedule has the Headline Analyzer Score, so why couldn’t an article have one? It does tend to simplify things a bit, but if you’re setting your titles and body copy right, the number should be a good indicator of how you’re doing. I’m mostly using it as an indicator and not an objective.
I’m not forcing myself to modify an article, just to get a bigger score. You should always go with your gut and think about your experience. Otherwise, you’ll just end up a robot following instructions and not knowing whether the article worked because it had heart and insight or because we got lucky with some suggestions.
Working with the WordPress plugin, I’ve got to admit it feels relaxing to have a little content helper assisting you at every step. It improves on your writing before you hit Publish.
The Title section of the suggestions deals with Word Count, Capitalization, Keywords, Emotion, Superlatives and Pronouns. They seem somewhat middle of the road. There’s no sure-fire way of writing headlines, no matter what Buffer aims to find out or tell you. Your audience is different than my audience, so it makes sense that some titles would be shorter and others a bit longer.
Also, sometimes Emotion is not needed – especially when you’re writing a careful study or analysis. Superlatives are a good way of drawing people in. But too many pronouns (especially “you” and “your”) can make your articles feel a bit preachy (“Build Your Dream Business This Weekend”, “You Too Can Have This Ferrari”, etc.). I’ve found that without doing testing on your own, these elements are mostly suggestions, nothing is set in stone.
The Format section deals with Length, Spelling, Grammar and Links. Spelling and Grammar can’t be used at the same time, for some reason, you’ll have to toggle between the two. I was really hoping switching on Grammar would auto-update the analysis, but new words wouldn’t get detected. Grammarly’s (almost) real-time suggestions do a better job at this.
Link checking is important, but since it doesn’t automatically update, you’ll have to remember to re-check your entire article before you publish. This is a good way of thinking about all the tools and elements withing Atomic Writer: use it a few times when you’re writing. But don’t forget to check your entire article again, once you’re finished it.
I enjoyed the Spelling feature, it highlighted words that could be corrected/improved. This made it easy to know if you’ve made a mistake, but I still prefer Grammarly’s beautiful, clean design.
The Format section also provides Word, Sentence and Paragraph Counts, as well as a list of your most used keywords. If you’re not using another plugin/app to track those, the integrated function helps beginners take them and insert them as tags or within their WordPress SEO plugin.
The WordPress plugin definitely has some quirks. I’m not sure if it was my WordPress installation, my internet connection or my Chrome browser, but the Atomic Writer plugin and Chrome extension sometimes felt sluggish and unresponsive. About 2 times out of 5, I would try to close a reminder or notification from the extension and it didn’t do anything. Other times, I would try to switch from Spelling to Grammar, within the WordPress plugin, and it just felt like it was stuck.
4. Tips & Tricks
- Check your competition
Just because your first instinct is to use Atomic Writer on your own articles, doesn’t mean you’re 100% right. Use your competition’s content and see how they’re doing.
- Connect it to Atomic Insights
The Chrome Extension also allows you to connect a piece of content to Atomic Insights, thereby giving you an access to a report of all the scores for your blog articles. Connect a few social networks and your blog’s Google Analytics account and you’ve yourself a colorful dashboard. You can then look at the relationship between the Atomic Score and the amount of shares and comments it got.
- Rescore your older articles
You can use the method above or copy-paste your article content into the web app. Just because an article is past its publishing date, it doesn’t mean it can’t be a kickass evergreen content. Keep increasing your score, update your article and re-share it.
5. Final Verdict
I like Atomic Writer. I like what Atomic Reach is trying to do with the whole package. It’s just that it all feels so Beta 1. Sometimes the design is too childish, other times the apps act sluggish and then you can’t seem to find where to connect another Google Analytics account.
If all of these are fixed or improved, I’d be happy to update this review accordingly. And if Atomic Reach is kind enough to provide me with a Pro Writer/Marketer account, I’d love to review the whole suite of apps.