How to Find Content Marketing Success in 15 Hours a Week
How much spare time do you have on your hands? Are you running, or marketing, a small business, and haven’t eaten lunch anywhere other than your desk since 1994?
You’re not alone. There’s a huge amount to know and do in online marketing, and not everything is as simple as Tweeting a Tweet or Posting a Post.
You need to be creating content as well. And that’s something that, if you’re not careful, can take up your entire day.
I know I need to create content. But why, again?
Content marketing works. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing avenues (do you even remember the Yellow Pages?) and delivers three times the leads. It has officially been ranked as the most effective strategy for SEO and website conversion rates are 6x higher for content creating businesses than businesses without content.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to defining content.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be focusing on blog content. I’ll be defining blog content as long-form, informative and business-focused content that educates your reader, provides actionable tips, and also entertains enough that your audience doesn’t fall asleep. I’ll also be (perhaps somewhat controversially) defining blog content as at least 1500 words, because that’s how I roll.
Anybody can write 1000 words in three hours. It’s those extra 500, for some reason, that can ruin your day.
Here’s how to do it.
5 Time-Saving Tips that You Can Actually Use
#1. Go in With a Plan:
Provided you know what you’re writing and are armed with all the ammunition and tools you need, you can slam out a solid piece of content in three hours. Easy.
Well, not easy. But possible.
It requires you to stay focused (more on that later). It requires you to have done your research (more on that later as well). But mostly it requires you to know what you’re going to be creating and why.
Create and stick to a concrete content timeline. Whether you do this with a content calendar, as many people do, or your own system of widgets and funnels is entirely up to you. Whatever strategy works for you is the strategy you should employ.
There are a few things I can recommend, though, to get your plan on track and moving:
Write theme-based articles: Choose a single subject (landing page optimization, doing your taxes, fall fashion tips) and then create four or five individual pieces of content focused around that theme. You can also take all these theme-based articles and create an ebook that can be awesome for lead generation.
Structure your articles themselves: About twenty minutes ago, this article was made up of nine bolded sub-headers with nothing below them. This structure keeps my head on track, and helps me from becoming distracted within the article itself, ensuring I don’t go off on tangents or start adding sections that will have to be edited out at the end. If you’re so inclined, test creating four or five theme-based articles with their sub-headers already decided before you start writing.
Use a (rough) template: If you’re just starting out with blogging for business, I recommend you test a few blog formats to see what your readers respond to. Are they data-driven? Are they skim readers? Do they like images or paragraphs or bullet-points? Knowing how your readers read saves you time when writing.
While it’s important to keep these strategies in mind, it’s just as important to stay on your toes. If there’s a development in your sector that excites or inspires you (more on this later) you should write on that. It’s what your readers want to hear about and you’ll write it faster if you’re genuinely interested in it.
#2. Keep your Focus:
Three hours a day. Every day. You can do it. You can stick with it. You just need to focus.
Put your headphones in. Close the door (if you have one). If you’re in a cubicle, find a piece of paper and write “Do not bother me until I surface at 12:35” and stick it to the wall.
Distractions not only waste your time, they make your content suffer. It’s very easy to lose track of a paragraph and forget what you were talking about, requiring you to re-read the entire section and wasting valuable moments.
I’ll give some concrete strategies on how to keep your focus below, but the truth of the matter is, finding focus is up to you. For some people, focusing takes practice and concentration. For others it’s a simple matter. Either way you need to find a place (either mentally or physically in a corner with a towel over your head) where you can write for three hours every day.
You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish if you don’t let the world in for a while. Explain it to your boss, or yourself if you are the boss. Tell her that if she wants the best marketing ROI then everybody needs to leave you alone for three hours each day.
#3: Be interested:
It is incredibly difficult to write on a subject you couldn’t care less about (remember high school, for instance?). Luckily, in blogging, we get to write about the things that actually interest us. And we get to write in a way that our 11th grade English teachers would mark with a red pen (I mean, I just started a sentence with a conjunction and none of you stopped reading!)
What I’m trying to say is, don’t force it. If your planned subject isn’t interesting to you then don’t write on it. Forcing it takes forever, and the article ends up terrible (trust me, I’ve been there and done that).
If you have a concrete article plan that, when you created it, you thought would interest you all the way through but at the moment of creation nothing comes out, leave it. Go onto the next article in your theme. Do some more research. Decide that a different three hour time slot is going to be the three hour time slot today.
Whatever you do, don’t try to write the article if your fingers won’t let you.
And don’t let it fluster you. Remember that it’s far more important to your overarching content strategy that you stay interested in your content than it is that that article gets written at that specific moment.
#4: Ask for Help:
There are thousands of freelance bloggers just aching to contribute to your blog. The mass majority of them (in my experience) are mediocre at best. A few, however, will be able to save you time and energy and can be a huge boon for your business blog.
Freelance bloggers not only give you the opportunity to do the thing you need to do (or, maybe, even the thing you want to do!). They also provide a fresh outlook, a fresh insight and a fresh writing style.
Things to be aware of with guest contributors:
Make sure the content they’re giving you is unique: You’ll get penalized in SEO if you’re blog is the fourth place they’ve published that infographic in the past month.
Make sure their content is up-to-snuff: Matt Cutts (Google Guru) very publicly came out against guest blogging. I am still a huge fan of it, provided the content they’re contributing is of a quality you can be proud to publish. If not, remember that no content is better than bad content.
Develop solid relationships: If you genuinely like the content you’re getting from a guest contributor, don’t be afraid to ask for a monthly contribution. I can’t tell you how nice it can be to know that next Wednesday’s blog article is taken care of for me.
#5: Read and Research:
You may be wondering how reading can actually save you time. It’s a legitimate question.
Here’s how it works for me:
I spend about half an hour every morning reading my favorite blogs and generally scanning top sites for something that peaks my interest, inspires a response, or incites frustration.
I don’t do this just to stay on top of my game in this mad world of content marketing.
I do it because every blog article, infographic, slideshare or Facebook Post that you don’t have to come up with an idea for is a piece of content that saves you time.
Now, it’s tempting (especially when pressed) to see a piece of content on the web and say “What an awesome idea! I can rephrase that and publish it myself.”
Don’t do this.
Be inspired by an article. Don’t re-write it. Respond to an article. Don’t copy it.
Reading and writing in the moment also ensures you’re a part of the conversation in your sector, and your readers will reward you for it. Having an opinion (and backing it up) is one of the best ways to create engaging content. But in order to have an opinion (or at least an analysis) first you need to read what’s out there.
5 Apps that save you time, energy or provide focus
Evernote is pretty much the best thing for content creators since laptops enabled us to work in coffee shops. The app organizes your content world by allowing you to compile and share every article idea you have, record meetings organize and share images and text, dictate, and make an interactive checklist that can serve as an awesome content calendar.
Dictatroid (Android’sPlay Store only) & Dragon Dictation (Apple’s App Store only):
Dictation apps are definitely the way of the future, and I know a lot of bloggers who absolutely swear by theirs. I recommend you experiment with your own dictation app to see if it saves you time (especially if typing 180 words-per-minute isn’t really your thing)
Charts, diagrams and graphs are an excellent way to communicate a complex idea or message quickly and easily. They can also be beautiful and set you above your competitors. I write solely on Google Drive and love the drawing tool that comes with it, but I know many people who are enamored with the LucidChart app as well. Check it out for yourself.
Different people find focus with different background noise. One of Wishpond’s account managers, for instance, swears by Portuguese Metal. While that’s not my personal favorite, to each their own. SimplyNoise provides background noise which allows you to focus on the task at hand - just make sure it’s not also sending you to sleep...
Anti-Social & LeechBlock (Firefox plugin):
Now this is taking it up a notch. Find focus to write or create content by blocking those sites which distract you (who of us hasn’t gotten caught in the quicksand of Wikipedia and found ourselves, somehow, reading about Franz Ferdinand?). Both plugins allow you to block those specific sites that distract you from the task at hand - whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Buzzfeed, or any other site.
A few more tips that can save you valuable seconds:
Use shortcuts: There are few things more valuable in my career than CTRL + C and CTRL + V.
Type faster: I type 110 word per minute (I just tested it because I’m a dork). This helps. Consider that if I write a 2000 word article it could, theoretically, take me about 18 minutes. Of course I’m not typing anywhere near that when I have to think about sentences, but still, it helps. I recommend Ratatype if you want to learn to type faster.
Edit later: It’s a bit counter-intuitive to prolong the editorial process, but it saves you time in the long run. Putting distance between yourself and what you’ve written will improve your editorial process, meaning you only have to do it once. Pushing out content that hasn’t been edited means pushing out low-quality content, so give yourself 15 minutes at the end of the day to do a look-over. Or, better yet, get a friend to edit for you!
Hopefully that’s enough bullet-points to get you started. To be fair this article took me more like four hours, but I took a lunch and it’s more than 2000 words. And I’m not actually using either of the social network blockers I’ve recommended so I was on Twitter for a while...
Hopefully, also, this article helped you to believe that it’s possible to create content well and quickly.
Content marketing is huge and growing every day. It works. But in order for it to work for your business in particular, you need to get the best ROI possible. Employ the tips above and you’ll spend less time staring at a screen and more time generating leads, spreading brand awareness, becoming a trusted source of information and creating inbound links.
Good luck, and let me know your thoughts or frustrations on blogging for your business!
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