12 Highlights from Neil Patel's Content Marketing Strategy

Austin L. Church
December 30, 2016
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I am generally not a fanboy. Two young children and a thatch of brown hair shot through with gray disqualify me from being a fourteen-year-old Belieber plastered with circus makeup and swaddled with Anthropologie clearance rack rags.

Though a few handfuls of glitter might liven up my client meetings, that stuff is impossible to get out of a tweed blazer.

That said, I do love me some Neil Patel. The guy is brilliant and generous. He has built multiple seven-figure businesses from the ground up — most notably, Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics, and Quicksprout.com — and he gives away a ton of golden advice and digital content strategy for free. His guest appearance on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast for Episode 214 was no exception.

In short, none of the content marketing tips in this blog post originate with me. Rather, this post is my homage to an entrepreneur I admire. My hope is that this highlight reel from various blog posts, podcast episodes, and guides will motivate you to follow Neil, to subscribe to his email newsletter, and to buy his stuff.

Do what he says, and your business will benefit.

12 Highlights from the Neil Patel Content Marketing Strategy

Remember them. Use them as your content marketing checklist.

1) Look what’s already on the web.

What has done well and what hasn’t done well? Use BuzzSumo to type in keywords and see what topics in your space perform well.

Over the past year, which articles have people shared the most?

These days, people aren’t looking for regurgitated information. They want advanced content that they haven’t read. Figure out what people are writing about, then be sure to avoid all the topics that have been beaten to death.

Take a “5 Tips for …” style post and offer 15 tips instead.

2) Identify what’s hot.

Based on which keywords you search, BuzzSumo will show you ten headlines to fifty headlines that have performed well in your space.

You can then take that data and figure out, “Alright… Here are some headlines that work. Let me see if I can iterate on that topic but make my post more advanced.”

If there’s one word that makes things successful these days, it’s “advanced”:

  • More details
  • More nuances
  • More screenshots
  • More techniques
  • More tips
  • More research
  • More statistics
  • More evidence! (My posts are sometimes weak in this area. For example, in “How do you create value for clients? Give them fewer options.” I share anecdotal evidence and draw conclusions from it. But citing outside sources, as well as bringing in an opposing viewpoint, would strengthen my argument.)

Resource: Check out Patel’s “The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.”

3) Look at your headlines.

Headlines are half the battle. If your headline sucks, it doesn’t matter how good the content is. People won’t click on the link and read your article!

What makes a great headline? Six, seven, or eight words is fine. But as soon as your headline starts pushing ten, twelve, or more words, you may see traffic drop.

Really short headlines don’t convert well either.

Resource: Check out Patel’s “The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Powerful Headlines.”

4) Look at your format.

How-to guides and lists still do extremely well. Sure, they are a dime a dozen. Sure, they have been beaten to death. But people still love them.

When you’re checking out at the grocery store, look at the titles of the articles on the magazine covers; they’re all “how to” or lists.

If those articles didn’t grab people’s attention, they wouldn’t be in the magazine. Learn from the traditional publishing industry and borrow the tactics that work for capturing attention and building an audience.

5) Add adjectives and descriptors to your title.

Adjectives do extremely well, as well as anything that evokes curiosity does well. BuzzFeed has many good examples of this.

People don’t like vague headlines anymore. That worked extremely well five or six years ago, but the current trend is the more specific and descriptive, the better the headline.

Most writers think, “Hey, if I get too specific then no one is going to read it.”

That’s correct: You’re going to exclude a big portion of the audience, but the people who do read it are much more likely to comment and share.

6) There’s no single type of headline that is most effective for every type of blog or website.

Evoking curiosity in the B2B space doesn’t do that well. For example, BuzzFeed will use headlines like, “Someone got a tattoo or someone put a red tattoo on their body and what happened next will freak you out.” That kind of headline works really well for consumers on BuzzFeed and news and gossip sites but is ineffective in the B2B space.

People looking to improve or grow their businesses aren’t going to fall for clickbait like that. You have to adapt your headlines to your audience.

That’s why Buzzsumo is such a good tool for researching effective headlines. It will show you what’s hot and what’s not by ranking the headlines based on popularity. Use what already exists as a guideline. You don’t always have to start from scratch.

7) Reconfigure your writing process.

Once you pick a topic, follow Neil’s steps:

  • Find some headlines that are working.
  • Copy and paste them into a new Google Doc.
  • Copy and paste the original articles into the GDoc as well.

Use the best excerpts from the original articles to make a bullet-point list of subheadings for your post.

  • Write the introduction.
  • Write the conclusion.
  • Go back and fill out the rest.
  • Reread and edit the post.
  • Add images.
  • Proofread.
  • Publish.

As you’re writing and filling out your main points, you’ll either know the topic already and cruise through the writing, or you’ll need to do some research. When you do research, just perform a series of Google searches, and plugin information.

In the podcast episode I mentioned above, Neil shared a specific example. Let’s say you’re writing a post on how title tags can increase your ranking position. You’d type in keywords, do Google searches for relevant articles with stats or data, and then link to those original sources in your new post.

Even if you know what you’re talking about, you will still want to go back and do several Google Searches. You will link to other articles that you unearth to corroborate the points you want to make.

You’ll come across as more trustworthy that way. These days, people make all sorts of claims online. To quickly earn people’s trust, you must offer proof.

neil patel content marketing strategy
Photo Credit: Fredrik Rubensson via Flickr

Resource: Check out Patel’s “A Simple Plan for Writing a Powerful Blog Post in Less Than 2 Hours.”

8) Write the intro and conclusion before the rest.

The meat of your blog post will take the longest to write, but if you have a compelling intro and a strong conclusion, then no one is going to get to the meat.

Let me (or rather, Neil) explain. He used his tool Crazy Egg to analyze how people interact with his articles. A certain pattern emerged:

  • A lot of people read the intro.
  • Then, they scroll all the way down and read the conclusion.
  • Then, if these pieces have piqued their curiosity, they move on to the rest of the article.

9) Publish different types of blog posts.

Counterbalance epic thought leadership articles with shorter, more topical posts.

(This piece of advice hit me between the eyes. In the coming months, I’ll sprinkle in shorter, punchier posts among the longer ones.)

Neil shared a helpful metaphor. Think of your blog as a store. Different people shop for different things. Some will buy ten items. Some will buy one. Some shoppers purchase after doing research, poring over reviews, and reading the product description. Others take one look, make a snap decision, and buy.

Your blog will have different types of readers. Some will be experts; some will be beginners. Some will want to read five thousand word posts or listen to hour-long podcasts. Others may just want to read a five hundred word post.

Write different types of posts to appeal to different types of shoppers (i.e., readers).

Epic thought leadership pieces of content form the foundation for the blog. They will bring traffic from organic Google searches and social media.

But most visitors won’t read a five thousand word post on a regular basis, yet they will make time to read shorter posts.

10) Content marketing is re-marketing.

Bloggers who collect emails must re-market to their lists every time they release a new blog post. So write posts that answer specific questions.

You could write a thousand-word post on “how to adjust your title tags to maximize your search engine rankings.” The topic is basic, and a lot of people already know the best practices.

The post might not perform well on its own, but as your blog gains authority due to the epic thought leadership pieces, even smaller posts on humdrum topics will begin to get traffic and shares.

Start off strong. Make some noise out there with the epic content that you’re writing. But slot in the shorter topical posts along the way to introduce variety and to target good longtail keywords.

11) Re-engage older content.

What are the best ways to bring people back or bring those old articles back to life?

On a daily basis, share at least one old but good article on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. People forgot about old posts, or they missed them altogether.

If a post did well with engagement and social shares in the past, then chances are, it’s going to do well again in the future.

Resource: Check out Patel’s thoughts on repurposing content for your next content marketing strategy.

12) Above all, be consistent.

The biggest mistake that people make with blogging and content marketing is inconsistency.

To see the best results, you really need to blog at least once a week; ideally, two or three times a week. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, then don’t blog on your own site. Guest post on other people’s sites instead.

To stay consistent, use a content calendar. A variety of free WordPress plugins can help with that, or you can stick with your Google calendar.

Map out when you’re going to blog.

Map out when topics are going to be released. Write and publish every week at the same time, and keep track of what you publish (titles and links) in a content archive.

Pro Tip: You can use one of my favorite Zapier zaps for writers to automate this task.


Have you fallen in love? I thought so. Thanks to Neil Patel, content marketing strategy can be your strength, not your weakness.

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