Let’s face it, you’re short on time and new advice crops up constantly. But you don’t have time to research and implement every new piece of advice, right? That’s why I’ve put together a list of 31 super-actionable content marketing tips that are relevant for your 2019 content marketing strategy - you can simply pick and choose which tips are right for you.
Don’t try and action them all straight away - pick your top few and see if they’re realistic for your small business to implement and adapt to. A few small changes can be all you need to give your content marketing a good shakeup. Once you start to see improvements it’s all the inspiration you need to throw yourself head-first into a new content marketing perspective.
Ready? Let’s go.
1. Don’t rush your content
You want to create so much new content but let’s face it – spare time is tight. Make a promise to yourself that you’re not going to rush creating your content. Either make more time for it, like magic, delegate your content creation or simply don’t commit to overdoing it. You’re only one human person. Decide how often you can realistically create content and stick to it. Creating a content calendar is perfect for helping you keep on track with your writing.
Let’s face it, would you rather read one, useful and insightful piece of content or several rushed pieces filled with grammar issues and generally littered with spelling mistakes? It’s clearer the first option. Go forth and create fantastic content in the time you have.
Get mapping out your content with my content calendar template.
2. Keep up with trends
Trends change all the time and it can be so exhausting keeping up with everything. So, what’s the answer?
Organisation and routine.
Earmarking a handful of industry news sites to keep your eye on your industry’s news is a quick way of accessing relevant and timely content. Create folders within your browser and label them ‘industry news sites’ – every morning just take a quick glance at the topics and read some that take your fancy. You’ve then potentially scoped out some interesting news stories to share with your audience on social media, too. Two birds, one stone!
I find it useful to stick to a timeframe – I’ll check industry news sites that I’ve bookmarked every morning and then spend about 20 minutes or so on LinkedIn to find out what everyone's talking about in my network. Simple tasks like these don’t take long but they help you stay connected and relevant to the industry around you.
P.S. If you’re even shorter on time, think about setting up Google Alerts for some of the industry keywords relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a business consultant – a topic like ‘small businesses’ could be a good start. You get a collation email from Google Alerts with all the timely pieces relating to your keyword or keyword phrase. Easy!
3. Measure, measure, measure your content
Churning out relevant and genuinely useful content for your audience is only part of the content marketing battle – you must measure your efforts.
Otherwise, what’s the point? If you don’t measure you don't know if your content works – it’s that simple.
If you don’t know what works, how can you continue to grow your organic website traffic?
How can you grow an authentic and engaged social media audience?
How will you educate your audience about your products and services?
But how can you measure your content effectively?
Set up Google Analytics and find out exactly where your traffic is coming from and what your users are doing on your website. Are they bouncing straight off? Are they taking the time to look around? If no one is currently visiting your blog, why aren’t they? Do you promote your content? If not, where does your audience hang out online? Maybe they’re active on LinkedIn – start sharing your content on LinkedIn – perhaps they’re big readers of Medium – get your stuff out there. You can’t expect people to find your content through a feeble one-pronged attack.
Find out which metrics are important to you. If you’ve got a lead generation site – you’ll value a form fill or when a guide is downloaded on your site. Connecting your content pieces to a single call-to-action makes it much easier to measure your content return on investment. If you do offer content downloads on your site – make sure they’re guarded by a form and not just easy to access for anyone in return for nothing. You’re giving your user valuable content so just ask them for some basic contact details – a name and an email address.
Don’t just focus on traffic. Although seeing many visitors land on your site can be exciting, it’s almost a meaningless metric if your visitors are bouncing straight off or they’re not converting. If you do receive a decent volume of traffic but you aren’t seeing any more enquiries you need to look at the keyword/keyword phrases and other means they’re finding your business through. Are they irrelevant? Are you optimising your website for irrelevant keywords that don’t attract your audience? If you’re running paid campaigns is the copy promising your audience one thing but when they land on your site, you’re offering them something completely different? If this sounds familiar, you should address your online strategy and its objectives.
4. 20% creation and 80% promotion
After you’ve created your content – the content process doesn’t stop there. In fact, it’s just the first hurdle as we’ve already talked about. Creating content is obviously a crucial step in the content marketing process but it’s the next section that could help you gain traction on the piece of content or watch it flop.
What can you do to promote your content?
Social media sharing. Sharing the piece on social media, tagging industry experts for their opinion etc. All these tactics can help you get the piece of content out there to both your own audience and a wider, untapped audience. Don’t just share your piece once, but instead spread it out over the next few weeks amongst other posts so you’re not solely posting your own content – as this gets tedious.
Sign up to ‘pay to promote’ content promotion platforms. Platforms such as Taboola, Outbrain or Quuu Promote help publishers, just like you, to distribute content to an interested and relevant audience. You might have seen these news feeds on the bottom of large online publications – which means your content could reach millions of people. This is a cost-effective paid advertising option where you have complete control over your budget.
Email marketing is still a channel that carries a high return on investment. People on your mailing list have chosen to hear from your company so sending out a clear, clean and simple email promoting your new piece of content can help you instantly gain traction on your piece.
Facebook groups. If you’re not yet a member of any industry-related groups, you should consider researching relevant groups around your business topic – you’ll be surprised, there’s a group for almost everything. In the UK alone, there are over 32 million Facebook users – many who check their profiles or feeds at least once a day. Group members can receive notifications every time a post is shared so start today and research some group options. A word of warning - don’t spam these groups with content about your products - most group admins will ban you for this kind of strategy. Instead, get involved in the conversation and get your name and your business name out there - you never know who might be looking for your services.
Outreach to influencers in your niche. Writing a simple email to someone you think your content could help educate or just generally be of interest to them is a worthwhile task. All you’re doing is reaching out with a piece of content you believe they will find useful – nothing else. For example, going back to my business consultant example, reaching out to small business owners with your guide ‘The first steps to growing your business’, will surely be of interest to at least some of the small businesses you contact.
5. Short on resources? Only focus on channels that are worth it
Newsflash - many business owners and marketers are short on time. Ok, so it’s not really news - we already knew that. But with so many other things to juggle it can be a pain when a new platform pops up and you’ve noticed your competitors have already started dominating it.
Take a deep breath, don’t panic.
You’ll always have competitors – but does that mean every time a competitor does something different you should copy it? No, of course not. If you have limited resources, don’t stretch yourself too thinly. Focus on building and optimising the channels that are generating the best conversion rates for your business. Picking a few tactics and analysing, measuring and actively managing these effectively could do amazing things for your business. Just figure out which options are viable for your small business team and get moving on delivering them. Keep an eye on your competitors and make a note of what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t – they can be the guinea pig.
Many times I have seen small businesses and even new start-ups who create social media profiles on all the platforms out there – only to leave them bare when they realise it’s far too much work to keep all of them updated and trying to engage and build an audience at the same time.
If this sounds like you just stop and take a step back.
Focus on two platforms at first – the two platforms that are generating the best engagement with your audience. If you leave your social platforms looking bare it can look unprofessional and it can make your company look like it is no longer open for business.
6. Always get someone to proofread – no one? Get Grammarly
When you’ve been engrossed in a piece of content for a long time it can be easy to mistakenly overlook typos or syntax errors. If you have someone in your team who can take the time to give your work a quick proofread, it can help minimise errors – which can make you look unprofessional.
If you’re a solopreneur or a freelancer I would recommend using the free grammar checker Grammarly. Grammarly is an online grammar and spell checker – picking up on commas and other punctuation you’ve missed out amidst your typing whirlwind. It’s like having a second pair of eyes – check out Grammarly here.
If you’re looking to better your writing, the Hemingway App is really cool, too. It helps you break down long, unnecessary sentences. Basically, it helps you write much clearer for your audience!
7. Don’t clutter your content – stick to one CTA
One call-to-action (CTA) means one thing – clarity. No more confusion for the user over what they’re supposed to do next – which means a higher chance of them clicking through and converting on your site. Make sure your CTA is highly relevant to your content and easy for the user to see and read. Text links have their place but not necessarily as a call-to-action. You need it to stand out on your page so it’s clear what you want the user to do next.
Take a glance at your landing pages - are they cluttered? Can you easily see the point of your page content? This exercise might help you analyse your page through the user’s eyes. If you’re struggling with this, get an outsider’s perspective. Someone who doesn’t work for you. Ask them what the page is about and what they’d expect to see on this page. If you’re still not happy with the user experience of your website you can pay user testing companies for unbiased user testers to answer questions with no holds barred - sometimes the truth is tough to take - but if it makes your user’s experience first class, it’s worth it, right? Check out What Users Do or User Testing.
8. Focus on social media engagement
Putting time and effort into building your engagement between the company and your audience is time-consuming and you might not see results immediately. This is the reason many companies give up and become stagnant with their social media strategy. If someone likes or comments on your post, take the time to acknowledge them and respond. If users notice you respond to your comments and interact with other users – there’s more chance they’ll consider commenting. No one likes being ignored.
Try not to focus on follower count - although having more followings gives a perceived value to your business to outsiders, it’s not what’s going to drive leads necessarily. Follower count is simply a vanity metric - it can look great at first glance but doesn’t mean anything when it comes down to it. You need to focus more on engagement levels to be able to measure any real social media progress.
What should you do? Start by tracking your engagement levels across your social media platforms and document them from there. Just getting a feel for what a normal level of engagement is for your business can make it easy to identify when your social media strategy is going well and when it’s not.
9. Don’t fill your content with jargon it can make you unrelatable
Many businesses think that using unnecessary technical or industry-related jargon makes their content sound more professional when in most cases, it has the opposite effect. Using simple and clear language can help you retain the concentration of your reader. The reader has potentially found your content in response to a query typed into a search engine – they simply want to be shown how to do something or educated on the topic. Don’t try to bamboozle them. Keep it simple and relatable – your audience will enjoy your content much more.
10. Use the 80/20 rule in social media – yes, another 80/20 rule!
Promote your own brand and products only 20% of the time, if that. Share other people’s content and interesting articles on subjects that are relevant to your business and matter to your audience. You’re building a brand, not a direct sales funnel. Social media is a tool to help you communicate your brand’s existence and engage audiences with your content. People don’t like being sold to but they like buying – so make sure they understand how your products or services help them solve a problem without making the post about buying your service or product. Sounds complicated? Let’s go back to the business consultancy example - a problem your audience has is growing their business or starting their business - sharing content around these issues can instantly help your audience relate to your page. More chance of social engagement.
11. Match search intent when creating content
You’ve found a topic you want to cover, and you know is performing well organically for others – fantastic. Search this topic in Google – what kind of content comes up in the search engine results pages? Is there a common theme? For example, ‘how-to’ posts or maybe they’re mainly infographics? This is Google telling you which kind of content ranks and is useful for users – so match it.
If it’s a ‘how-to’ post people are looking for – give it to them. Always match search intent. If you go in with an infographic but you know the top 10 results in Google are all ‘how-to’ blog posts – how will you infiltrate the top 10 results? Take Google’s advice and let yourself follow their suggestions.
The example below ‘start a business’ was typed into the search engine. Notice how the majority of the top ranking pages are guides? If you were creating content around this topic Google shows you that the educational guide angle is what readers are looking for - so match it.
12. Make a beeline for an evergreen content strategy - play the long game
Evergreen content is content that will always be relevant. For example, an in-depth guide surrounding a fundamental problem your customers have and how they can address it would be evergreen. Evergreen content attracts organic traffic over time and it’s something your audience will find thoroughly useful – unless you pumped it out real quick and hoped for a frenzy of traffic.
What you need to do is to thoroughly research the topic and provide your audience with a fantastic source of information around the topic. A technique you can use when creating this kind of content is the ‘skyscraper’ technique. Founded by Brian Dean of Backlinko - to utilise the ‘skyscraper’ technique you must find a piece of content in your niche that is performing well and ‘simply’ *ahem* better it. Make it more in-depth, include more points, create a better version of their content. One - you know this kind of topic works well because someone in your niche is already enjoying organic traffic and social shares from their piece. And two, this is a great way to get exposure for your business. Find out which sites are linking to the original content and approach them with your better piece.
This strategy can harness backlinks and organic dominance.
13. Let’s not forget about trending content, too
Trending content might not be around for the long-haul – but it’s certainly a great way to appear in timely search results to boost your brand’s awareness. Jumping on top trending topics on Twitter, for example, (if they’re relevant to your business or you can make them relevant) can really help you gain exposure quickly, particularly on social media.
It’s a fine content format balance but a mix of both evergreen and timely content can help you strike that balance. You’ll notice from the above screenshot that there are some weekly trending hashtags - #MondayMotivation and #MondayMorning - these kinds of trends are reliable so you can plan social content around these hashtags in advance.
14. Don’t get caught up in post frequency
‘I’ve got to write at least one blog post a day or several times a week’ this mindset will only stress you out to the point of churning out sub-par content. You could lose readers this way if you’re not careful.
Just keep your writing goals realistic.
If you’re flying solo in your marketing department or perhaps you’re a small business owner, you need to wisely divide your time. Maybe stick to one long-form piece of content a month and take it from there. Consistency is key - consistent, relevant and useful content is what gives you the best chance of achieving success with your content strategy.
15. Create data-led content pieces
Using data to inform your content creation process means you know you’re creating a piece of content that is useful and proven to perform for others. You need to develop content ideas to maximise organic traffic potential and audience interest – it’s another fine balance, but once you’ve determined a few good content idea generation strategies you’ll be into the swing of things.
Using tools such as Buzzsumo and Ahrefs.com can help you pinpoint worthy content ideas that have both performed well in search engines and across social media platforms. Your time is precious so only focus on writing content that will deliver results.
16. Don’t push your product or services in your content
Why? Not every user is ready or even aware they could benefit from a product or service like yours. Not everyone is so far into the sales funnel to warrant this kind of content. You need to educate your users through your content. Creating content around problems you know your target market has and creating a useful and interesting piece of content is how you’ll remain at the forefront of their mind when they eventually consider a service such as yours.
17. Conduct thorough keyword research
Remember you are writing for the user – so don’t keyword stuff – it just makes for a poor reading experience. But writing with the search engines in mind is a great way to ensure your content gets the exposure it deserves. There are many free tools to help you build an idea of what it is your audience is searching for. A few I have used in the past include:
Google Keyword Planner (historically for Google Ads, but perfect for content keyword research)
Answerthepublic.com – type a topic in and watch it generate an entire list of search queries
Ahrefs.com (their content explorer, keyword and site analysis tools are all really insightful)
Try and highlight keywords and keyword phrases that have a relatively high search volume but are also quite low in competition. These are the keywords that could generate high-quality organic traffic for your business.
18. Trial content promotion platforms
Whether you utilise the ad services through social media platforms or investigate content platforms including Quuu Promote and Taboola – there are many ways you can experiment with getting your content in front of a relevant audience that you’ve basically cherry-picked yourself.
Marketing is all about trial and error – so get trialling! Try to respond to anyone who shares your content - this is important, particularly in the infancy stages of your business. The more exposure, the better! Go and start a conversation!
19. Create interview pieces
Interviewing influencers or experts in your industry or just getting a quote from them about a trend or news piece that has dominated the online space, can be a really great way of expanding your brand’s awareness.
Once they’ve contributed (because why wouldn’t they? It’s free exposure!) there’s a high chance that a proportion of those you’ve interviewed will share this piece with their audience. That’s probably a few thousand audience members who now know about your service – and they didn’t before. Hurrah - you’re growing your audience one new reader at a time.
20. Create substantial content offers to boost lead generation
Lead generation is something many companies struggle with. People don’t want to be sold to, they want to be educated – so with this in mind, creating a content offer that they simply can’t refuse is a great way to build up your warm leads list. Offering a substantial ‘how-to’ guide, filled with useful tidbits in exchange for their email address could help you generate a steady volume of useful leads for your company. This also gives you something to follow up with them in the future – you’re no longer strangers! *high five*
21. Repurpose your content
This is easily done if you create a substantial downloadable content offer (above). You can easily break up your guide, so chapters become blog posts or social media sharing images with stats pull from said guide and even turn them into videos or podcast discussion topics. Your audience members will consume content in different formats – not everyone will have downloaded your offer and not everyone will read a blog post. This means your time can be spent in other areas as you’ve already invested your initial time when creating the offer in the first place. Work smarter – not harder!
22. Optimise your content titles and subheadings
80% of readers never make it past the headline and 43% of readers skim blog posts. So basically, you’re going to have to come up with a snappy title but also keep their attention throughout the post - or do you? I skim read blog posts to scan for topics I’m actually interested in - do you? The key to making sure your reader finds what they’re looking for is to have clearly labelled subheadings. Because let’s face it - there’s slim to none chance that the majority of your readers are going to sit down with a coffee and invest their time reading every word you’ve written.
The key with subheadings is to make them relevant. To make them relevant it’s important you note down any keyword phrases people are searching for in relation to the topic you’re writing about. Again, let’s take the business consultancy example. Typing in ‘business growth’ a selection of educational content comes up but what other keyword phrases are coming up?
You could include the highlighted keyword phrases in your content. You might want to start your guide off by explaining ‘what is business growth?’ and have other sections that discuss the stages of business growth and the importance of business growth - and your content could be aimed at entrepreneurs and business leaders - because these are the top Google results so users are clearly looking for this kind of content.
Including these kinds of subheadings not only makes your content more desirable to Google but it helps your users effortlessly scan the content to find answers to the specific questions about business growth they might have.
23. Spend time locating high-quality guest posting
Firstly, what can guest posting do for your business? Guest posting is essentially writing content for other websites - usually for free. Guest posting allows you to get the word out there about your business through content crafted for a specific audience.
Guest posting can boost your traffic, show you off to an audience you hadn’t reached yet and it can also provide you with a healthy backlink profile. But how do you locate high-quality guest posting opportunities? There are many ways you can locate these opportunities, try out a few of the below Google search shortcuts - simply replace the ‘keyword’ with your keyword/topic and see what results you can find.
“keyword” “write for us”
“keyword” “guest blog”
“keyword” “guest post”
“keyword” “become a contributor”
“keyword” “guest article”
“keyword” “guest *” inurl:blog
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t just stick to sites who explicitly state they accept third-party content - you should still approach companies who are relevant to your niche with relevant content ideas.
A few dos and don’ts of guest posting:
Only seek high-quality websites, do not focus on a low-quality - high quantity strategy - you’re just wasting your time
Do research the site’s audience and make sure they fit with your audience type
Don’t give up after a few ‘nos’ - it can feel like you’re getting nowhere but this strategy is worth doing
Do write original content - most sites won’t take duplicated content
Do outline a template email you can personalise for each company you approach, this saves time
24. Know your target market
Firstly, if you’re a start-up business, you might only have a rough idea of your target market and that’s OK.
In fact, that’s the best way to begin - with a rough idea. The idea of your target market can change over time as you learn more about how your services are received by the audience out there.
If you’re a small but established business, you’ll probably have a good idea of who buys your products or Services already but when you come to create content for them, you just pick a title out of your head and run with it. If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to nail down your target market and save the persona profile for easy access through future campaigns. It’s important you stop a minute and think about who your audience is and what they want or need from your content before you start creating it without direction.
You can build your personas with the help of these HubSpot Persona Templates.
25. Always create content marketing goals and objectives
Setting yourself some goals and objectives should be something you make yourself do. When you’re a business owner or in a one-person marketing team - accountability is hard. There’s no one there checking that what you’re doing is performing well. But by setting yourself specific goals - even if they’re just small to start with, eases you into the marketing reporting and measuring process. When you start to witness progress it’s a great feeling and it makes you want to see just how far you can really push your targets.
Setting yourself marketing objectives can help keep your marketing activities focused on the same thing - all of a sudden all your channels are working toward that one objective - maybe it’s increase form fills by 5% - whatever your goal is, write it down and document your strategy. This task is so important but so overlooked by many small businesses.
Why not set yourself a small objective today and see if you can document your strategy and achieve your goal?
26. Keep learning
When marketing a business, it’s so important to keep learning. Just learning a new way to do keyword research can make your job so much more enjoyable and quicker! Increasing productivity has been something I have been passionate about for many years. Finding a new social listing tool or learning a new way to garner higher quality backlinks quicker is important to keep your marketing fresh and your mind fresh, too.
I suggest platforms including Lynda.com, Udemy, HubSpot Academy and also the Ahrefs.com YouTube Channel - Sam Oh is very knowledgeable.
27. Find tools to make your job easier
Don’t work harder - work smarter! Finding new tools to make delivering a marketing strategy easier is always a winner for me. A handful of tools I use most i
Canva.com for effortlessly creating social media images, email headers and much more for the non-designer!
Hootsuite for scheduling all my social media content and listing for keyword mentions online
Ahrefs.com for the best analysis of competitor sites, backlinks and trending/performing content
Clicking ‘allow’ on push notifications for news sites in my industry - then the news just pops up just like magic!
Pixlr.com for editing photos when photoshop takes too long to load
Grammarly - The proofreader you need. I mentioned this already, but I feel it deserves another!
28. Keep a very close eye on the competition
This is always mentioned but it’s important. Why are they ranking better than you? And what are their top pages and why? Invest in a tool that helps you understand their content strategies and work backwards from here – it’s good to learn from the best, right?
Mirroring some of your competitor’s content strategies or backlinking strategies is a great use of your time. If it’s working well for them, why won’t it for you?
Your competitors are a great way to generate new content topics and ideas for your own strategy. Even just reading about something they did can help trigger a brand new idea for your content. Give it a go.
29. Prioritise customer relationships to generate referrals and reviews
By offering superb customer services, you’ll have a better relationship with your customers which makes them more likely to leave you a cracking review if you ask – NOTE don’t ask them to leave a positive review as this is against most review site guidelines. Instead, just ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking the time to leave you a review.
When it comes to generating Google reviews specifically personalisation goes a long way. I have trialled many different strategies over the years with client sites and I’ve finally understood how to generate fantastic reviews – and it is all in the personalisation. Typing specific review emails out and referencing an element of the relationship the company has with this particular customer, signing it off by the name – not the company name and giving them a link straight to the Google review page – are all tips that help you secure that amazing review. In Google business listings, reviews are what can immediately set you apart from the other listings, so I believe this is crucial to helping your business stand out in the local marketplace.
30. Creating enlivening yet keyword-focused on-site content
Creating content that speaks your audience’s language whilst trying to rank for your most searched-for keywords and keyword phrases is the best way to appeal to both parties (Google and the user). Google prioritises sites with an https secure layer to their site, a site that is mobile-friendly and a site that is geared towards the user and their experience. I always write for the user first and foremost but when reading back my content, I look to see where we can naturally embed high-volume, low-competition keywords – and you should, too.
31. Implement an FAQ section on your site
This is a great way to offer your audience in-depth, educational answers to common user questions which might alleviate some of the worries they may have surrounding your service. An FAQ section is also the perfect opportunity to create specific keyword-phase-heavy content. You can include the questions searched for in Google on a regular basis here. It’s a useful page of content to have for your small business website.
I hope these tips help inspire you to try new and interesting techniques when creating content for your small business. All marketing is trial and error but if you can utilise data-led content ideas in your campaigns, you’re closer to performing better for your organic keywords and you’ll create content that resonates with your audience hopefully bringing them back for more in the future - and who knows, they might even become a much-loved client further down the line.
If you’re a small business owner or a one-person marketing department, content idea generation can be tough and, at times, draining. We all need a little guidance from time to time, so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.