30 Content Marketing Tips for Busy People

I really wanted this to be a 30,000-word guide to content marketing.

#1 on Google.

1000s of social shares.

Linked to by Copyblogger’s Brian Clark!

And the more and more I thought about it — and the more and more I’ve been amazed at the 30,000-word content marketing resources currently out there — I came around to this one small thought:

What’s the best way I can help you have the biggest impact on your content today?

For me, I tend to get my best, most actionable insights in bite-sized snippets. One of my favorite newsletters is from 500 Distro, a newsletter called #DistroSnack where each daily email is bite-sized — 50 words or less, plus a GIF. So …

I would love to help you, today, in 50 words or less, plus a GIF.

It might not be an email newsletter series (yet), but it is a post that you can skim and grab a nugget, or bookmark and revisit. Actionable snacks galore. :)

Thanks for the chance to share these tips with you. Thanks for reading!

30 Tiny Content Marketing Tips for Big Results

1 – My content marketing stack

You need fewer content tools than you might think (maybe even fewer than you’re currently using). Here are the ones I use every day.

Here are the others that prove useful for research, engagement, and design: Nuzzel, Respond,  Canva, Pablo.

2 – Before After Bridge

Before – Here’s your world …

After – Imagine what it’d be like, having “Problem A” solved …

Bridge – Here’s how to get there.

This is our current go-to formula for our introductions on the Buffer blog. Describe a problem, describe a world where that problem doesn’t exist, then explain how to get there. It’s a super simple setup, and it can work for blogpost intros, social media updates, email, and anywhere else that you write (or speak, for that matter).

If Before-After-Bridge doesn’t feel right for you, we’ve written about 26 other copywriting formulas that you can put to good use.

3 – The H2/H3 sandwich

We use this simple, visual trick on some of our highest-performing posts. It goes like this: In the body of your article, use an H2 heading immediately followed by an H3 heading (then your other sentences and paragraphs).

content-h2h3

(example post)

Works great for meaty listicles (“Meaty Listicles” — band name, I call it!) especially.

4 – How to search Google in 2 minutes

Well-researched content gets all the love. And everyone’s favorite search tool is, yep, Google. Here’s how to hack it so you’re searching just as fast as can be:

Search recent results (here’s how).

Search your own site with “site:kevanlee.com keywords here.”

Search for studies & research by adding “data” or “study” to your query. Or just go straight to Google Scholar.

Search semantically (how are people talking/asking?). Instead of “content 101,” search “how can I learn content marketing?”

5 – The Skyscraper technique

  1. Find a fantastic, go-to piece of content within your niche
  2. Make something better
  3. Promote the content and it’ll eventually be the new go-to

(via Brian Dean of Backlinko)

The name comes from the universal desire to see the world’s tallest building and never wonder what the 8th tallest building is. You want to know about the tallest. You want to build the tallest!

6 – Write faster, write the intro before anything

(Haha, obviously!)

I write my complete intro before I write my outline. I write it before I even sit down to write the body of the article or get any deeper than just the very first bits. A couple of things happen:

  1. Poof! There goes the tyranny of the blank page. You’ve got an intro! You practically have a blog post.
  2. You’re able to focus in on the article itself and really hone your thesis.

I’ve done this tip and it’s saved me 20 to 30 minutes for every article I write — far less hemming and hawing, far more shipping and celebrating.

7 – Headings as verbs, headings as mini-headlines

Headings are mini-headlines buried inside a post. People scan Twitter to find headlines they like. People scan your articles to find headlines that grab them. There’re a few different ways to go about these:

Be ultra-specific (Buffer) — ex., The experiment: No new content for 30 days

Be ultra-actionable (Buffer) — ex., How we identified our most popular content

Be ultra-weird (Copyblogger) — ex., Comparing apples and Toyotas

8 – Captions are one of the most-read parts of a page

Yep, people looooove reading captions.

Some reports say that image captions are read 300% more than body copy.

The simple tip: Write something in the captions of your articles, write anything really. Copyblogger suggests “deep captions”, which go on for two or three sentences and serve as a second-chance introduction or teaser to get someone interested in your article.

9 – “How-to” Headline formulas

How to ____

How to ____ – The Essential Guide

How to ____ like ____

How to ____ even if / without ____

How to ____ while ____

How to use ____ to ____

How to ____ in five easy steps

(via Peter Sandeen and the Buffer blog)

10 – Even more headline formulas

We have a few go-to moves for headlines on the Buffer blog, thanks to the experimentation and smarts of our cofounder Leo. Here are a few of our most-used headline formulas.

Headline + Headline

Ex. 14 Advanced Twitter Tips: 14 Strategies to Get the Most Out of Twitter

Item and Item: Listicle

Ex. The Burrito Principle and Beyond: 12 New Marketing Ideas That Are Memorable, Actionable, and Useful

_____, backed by science

Ex. Happiness Hacks: The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy, Backed By Science

The Ultimate Guide to ____, The Beginner’s Guide to ____

Ex. The Ultimate Guide to Repurposing Content: 12 Ways to Extend the Life of Every Article You Write

The Big List of ____

Ex. The Big List of 189 Words That Convert: Write Copy That Gets Your Customer’s Attention Every Time

11 – Pixar’s story prompt

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

This is rule #4 in Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling. Great for movie making. Great for content creating and product building and most any other type of storytelling or problem solving you could think of.

For instance …

Once upon a time, there were taxis. Every day people hoped to catch one. One day, Uber came. Because of that, people always had rides. Because of that, people stressed less about getting places. Until finally a whole share economy came to be.

Or …

Once upon a time, there was content marketing. Every day, people tried to figure out what would move the needle. One day, I published this article of tips. Because of that, people had more ideas. Because of that, they saw better results. Until finally, everyone who had read this article now has their own island from the riches of their content success!

12 – Delete your first sentence

Chances are, your post will be just fine without it. Maybe it’ll be even better. This is one of the top tips for essay writing and direct mail campaigns.

Case in point: I could have deleted the first five sentences from this article and been quite fine!

13 – Listicle inception

I write a lot of tools posts for the Buffer blog, huge lists of Twitter tools or marketing tools. And as I’m writing, I often find myself walking the line of wanting to be as complete as possible and also wanting to be succinct.

Listicle inception helps. Basically, you put a list inside a list (yodawg) by grouping items of a similar theme.

For instance, you can use the following language:

  • Tools like this
  • More free options
  • Other choices

14 – What-and-how guides

I’m always striving to grow in my ability to empathize with a reader. Empathy equals great content and endless ideas. In the case of what-and-how guides, it’s all about anticipating the next need.

Say you want to answer the question, “What is Snapchat?”

Once you answer it, people are likely to want to know, “How do I get the most out of it?”

Enter the what-and-how guide!

15 – Start tomorrow’s story today [the 3-day writing flow]

  • Day 1Research a new article
  • Day 2Write the article you researched, research a new article
  • Day 3Edit the article you wrote, write the article you researched, and research a new article

Then continue on and on forever.

3-day blog post process

This has been the single best workflow I’ve found for cranking out content at a consistently high volume and quality. What I love about it is that it allows the content to simmer, lets me come back to it with fresh eyes, and I get to use different parts of my brain every single day.

16 – Take the Upworthy headline challenge

Write 25 headlines for every article you publish.

They don’t have to be good headlines. They won’t all be good headlines. Still, getting in that mindset of riffing might just reveal a winner or two that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I find that I’m often quite bad at knowing what headlines will resonate. This way, there’s always an abundance to test.

Case in point, here are 25 headline possibilities for this article (you’ll see that they’re definitely not all good ones!):

  1. Content tips for busy people: 30 content marketing tips that you can implement in an afternoon
  2. 30 tiny content marketing tips for great results
  3. 30 small ways to be a huge success with your content marketing
  4. A month’s worth of content marketing tips to try
  5. A tip-per-day: 30 actionable content marketing tactics that will work
  6. If content strategy were a Dilbert desk calendar: Bites-sized content tips to fill the next 30 days
  7. How to level up your content marketing in less than 5 minutes per day
  8. 30 content tips in 50 words or less
  9. Content marketing cheat codes
  10. Content marketing Easter eggs
  11. True tactics from the content marketing front lines: 30 new tips to try today
  12. Small tests, big results: 30 unique content experiments to try
  13. The short list of 30 great content marketing experiments
  14. This is not a complete guide. Just 30 content marketing tips you’ll love.
  15. The followup to every great big huge content marketing guide there is
  16. Content marketing cliff notes: 30 new tactics to take your content to the next level
  17. The content marketing guide for people who love to skim read
  18. Content, marketing, tips, and GIFs: The most fun you’ll ever have learning about content
  19. A 5,000-word content marketing guide, delivered in 50-word bites
  20. How to go from content marketing novice to content marketing pro
  21. All the best plays from a real-life content marketing playbook
  22. Everything I’ve learned in content marketing the past 2 years
  23. The content marketing guide I wish I’d had 2 years ago
  24. Skyscrapers, deep captions, questionstorms, and more: 30 actionable content marketing tips you can implement today
  25. “Fun size” content marketing

17 – Questionstorm

This is a concept that comes from the book The Innovator’s DNA and which Brian Balfour has worked into his growth model at HubSpot and Sidekick.

Basically, you ask a lot of questions about your topic, and boom, you’ve got tons of content ideas.

From Brian:

We do another thing called “question storming.” What that is is we get in a room, three or four people, and we do nothing but ask questions about our given focus area for 15 minutes. That might be questions like, “Out of users who are inviting, who are they inviting? What are the common elements? Out of the people who didn’t invite, why didn’t they invite? How many people are they inviting over time?”

18 – Write, facing a wall

Ernest Hemingway wrote on top of a bookcase, staring into a wall. I have a blank wall in front of my computer (and a beautiful window to my left).

Why? Why not look out the window or set up in a coffee shop or face a beautiful landscape of meadows or art or people?

Well in my experience I’ve found that facing a wall (or anything else as plain and familiar as a wall) bankrupts my distractions. There’s nothing to look at except the words I’m typing … so I end up typing a lot more words!

19 – Add a call-to-action as early as your intro

Kind of like this! Huzzah!

I’ll often wait until the end of my article before making a call-to-action. But here’s the thing: A very small percentage of people are going to make it to the end of my article!

Far more folks will read the intro.

So if you’ve got something cool to give away or need some sort of action taken from your post, ask for it up top.

Here’s an example from a Buffer blog post.

And here’s some HTML code to use:

<p style="background: none repeat scroll 0 0 #ff9; clear: both; margin-bottom: 18px; overflow: hidden; border: 1px solid #e5e597; padding: 13px;">your text here</p>

20 – Give away your best ideas

If you give freely, there will always be more.

This quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is one of my all-time favorites.

For full context, Anne is talking about writer’s block and the thought that we don’t need to hold onto our best ideas because we’ll always have new ones. Scary, right?

This generosity has been embraced by all sorts of different writers and companies (it’s the G in Moz’s TAGFEE) and for good reason: When you’re generous with your thoughts and ideas, your thoughts and ideas become more sincere, more complete, more useful. Here’re just a few ways that generosity might come into play for content:

  • Sharing your blog’s stats every month
  • Giving away your writing ideas (e.g. “What would you like me to write about next?”)
  • Shipping things as soon as possible from when you first think of it (“Perfect is the enemy of done”)

21 – Survey your readers – btw, here’s a survey now

Every Christmas (I’m not sure why we choose Christmas), we grab our list of email subscribers for the Buffer blog, and we send them all a survey, hoping to learn from them which content they like, which they don’t, and what they’d like to see more of in the coming months. 

You can do a survey in any way and at any time. The win is in sending the survey and learning from your audience!

Here’s the exact one we sent to Buffer readers, inspired by one I received from Intercom’s blog. Feel free to duplicate!

blog survey

(sent via Typeform – yay!)

22 – A blog post (or two) makes a great email course

There are dozens of ways to repurpose content. My personal favorite: Turning blog posts into email courses. Here’s how:

  1. Collect all your posts within a similar theme (listicles tend to work really great especially).
  2. Split it into daily lessons — I’ve done 100-word lessons, 500-word lessons; I’ve read 1,000-word lessons. And for quantity, anything between a 5-day course and a 25-day course has worked well for us.
  3. Place each lesson into MailChimp’s Automation flows.
  4. Trigger the flow to start when someone subscribes to a list.
  5. Promote!

23 – How to know if a post is doing well

er, How to know if a post is doing well without logging into Google Analytics!

It’s always surprising to me how much I might know before I log into Google Analytics. For the most part, I can feel how well a post is performing, whether it’s taking off or not, just by checking a couple of metrics that are right there on the blog post itself:

  • Comments
  • Twitter shares

Is this scientific? No. Is this always accurate? Not always. But it does help me learn fast and save me multiple trips into GA. Every second counts!

24 – How to search mentions of your site

Twitter Advanced Search is crazy good for tracking every time your blog posts get shared. Just type in your URL into Twitter’s search, and on the results page, switch to the Live view. Like this:

twitter live search

At Buffer, we’ll use this for tracking how a launch blog post is doing. A tool like Warble or Respond does the trick also.

25 – The best music to listen to while writing

A few options:

No music.

Or music you’ve heard over and over again.

Or these playlists:

(Here’s more on music and the brain.)

26 – Go for a walk between edits

Really, anytime is good for a walk. Walking helps us think better—for many, many reasons both scientific and psychological. The New Yorker’s research puts it well:

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.

Innovative ideas and strokes of insight? Those tend to be exactly the things I need when I’m mulling over a blog post idea or final draft.

27 – The cure for writer’s block — stop when you’re still going

Here’s another Ernest Hemingway tidbit: End your day’s writing when you’re mid-sentence. That way you’ll have momentum to pick up when you start again tomorrow.

28 – How to type faster

An average professional typist can type 50 to 80 words per minute. Advanced typists do 120 words per minute or more.

And, are you ready for this, court reporters type 225 words per minute!

Wow! How about you?

I remember learning how to type back in middle school on old-fashioned typewriters, which I wasn’t too keen on at the time but which I’m super grateful for now. There was no backspace on the typewriter!

How do today’s kids learn how to type? And, how can you learn to type even faster than you do today? There’s a game for that: Nitro Type. You control a race car that drives as fast as your fingers can type. That’s it! Enjoy! Have fun! Type fast!

29 – Resharing content you’ve written long ago

When it comes to promoting your content, one of our favorite tips at Buffer is to keep sharing your evergreen content on and on until the end of time.

On Twitter especially, where there’s so much to see, content can get lost a bit. If you keep sharing again and again, you’ll reach:

  1. Anyone who didn’t see the content the first time (in Buffer’s case, only 5% of our followers see each tweet or post)
  2. Followers from different time zones, on the other side of the world
  3. New followers who have joined you since the last time you posted

Even for new content, it can be great to share multiple times at first. Here’s a cool graphic from the team at CoSchedule:
content share more than once

30 – Keep a swipe file

This is one of my absolute favorite writing activities, and it happens to not include much writing at all. My swipe file is just a collection of things I find inspiring. Currently, my list includes:

  • Headlines of other posts
  • Strong tweets (co-ed softball team name, I call dibs!)
  • Beautiful web design
  • Funny dog pics
  • Intriguing CTAs
  • Unique content strategies that catch my eye

And here are some of the places where I keep them:

I’d love to hear what you do with yours. I’ll probably add it to my swipe file!

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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