2011: the year I founded Express Writers (with $75, a bit of hope, and a lot of goal-setting: full story here.)
The next five years: we grew, busted through seams, grew again, busted through seams again. We found and built our own systems to manage our growing company in 2015: a Content Shop, a writer teamroom. (We’re building even better systems today, set to relaunch in mid-2017.)
2016: we found our roots.
Seriously. We’re ending the year with some deep, high caliber roots in place, and I’m glad about it. In the level of expertise our staff members have today, a perfect content fit in each of their roles: in the quality and dedication of the writers we have, and the standards we’ve been growing to perfection all year.
So, it’s fitting that 2016 is the first year we took the time to create this end-of-year report, a showcase and look back at all the content we create. (Idea credit goes to Tara, our Content Development Specialist.)
In 2016, we created the most content we ever have, not just for clients but for industry resource and learning materials. We worked hard all year: reinvented our editing standards in May, launched serious changes over November that improved our entire team, content quality, and clientele, and rounded up the year with some fabulous content. We launched our new #howtowrite learning category, launched an incredible Twitter Chat, #ContentWritingChat in January that made it to #4 on Twitter, and I was able to launch my book, self-published in April on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and our Write Podcast published in March.
All in one year?!
Time to delve in to our first ever full content creation report! Grab a coffee and join me. We’re detailing our total content output for our clients, and what we created to add insights and resources just for our audience and industry. (Keep scrolling past the infographic for the full lowdown, and a recap of our best posts of the year.)
From 171 Million Words Created to Launching a Twitter Chat, Book, Podcast, & Writer Mentoring
No way all this happened in one year, standing here and looking back. Yet it did. And, it’s actually short of the goals we had for 2016. Crazy, right?
Let’s start with what the brunt of our workload looked like for the year, as content writers.
Client Work (a brief synopsis of the busy nature of our year):
- 3,451 orders placed (one order could range from 1-5 web pages to 400 articles at a time)
- 262,000,000+ words estimated written by our team in 2016!
- That’s roughly 524,000 500-word articles. Included in that word count besides articles and blogs: press releases, ebooks, ad copy, product descriptions, landing pages, web pages, slides, scripts, emails–to name a few.
- Our top content service sold for the year: blogs!
- Our top two expert writing categories in demand: legal and technical.
Industry Resource Creation (what we launched in industry resources this year):
- Unprecedented grassroots success creating and running our Twitter Chat #ContentWritingChat, launched mid-January this year, managed by our fantastic Social Media Manager, Rachel. We see up to 1,000 tweets during the live hour now! Our Twitter chat was #42 trending on it’s first week back in January 19th, and by August, trending at #4. In November, we had our first sponsor!
- Launching the Write Podcast in April, making relationships with people like Sujan Patel, Steve Rayson, Mark Traphaghen, and many other fantastic content marketing influencers and leaders through it.
- Launching my book So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Writing (400+ copies sold, word-of-mouth only!), in April, and seeing it hold strong in #4 bestseller category in Amazon for months.
- Writing and creating internal training for our writers, with a custom 101 library of more than ten individual resources just for them, tailored to the weak points we saw that kept cropping up. Getting personal notes of thanks, and seeing tangible proof in their improved writing skills to show us the mentoring helps, is seriously rewarding.
- Launching the How to Write category with over 15 up-to-date guides published late 2016, teaching all things online content writing.
Personally, my highlights running Express Writers in 2016 have been:
- Launching my book, podcast, and Twitter chat, and seeing amazing successes between them all, especially in our live hour with #ContentWritingChat.
- Getting our biggest client ever, and being able to write their orders with liberty (very few strict guidelines, a lot of creative freedom – dream client).
- Having the honor of hiring Tara Clapper, the former blog editor at SEMrush, an all-around content marketing guru that I’ve been talking to online for years.
- Training and guiding a successful editing team to work with our writers and help guide them to their best skills.
- Visiting the SEJ Summit in NYC with my team members Tara, Krystal, and Josh.
- Despite a lot of rough patches this year in the customer-facing support team with other representatives, this November I was able to reach out to and re-hire my sales manager Tamila McDonald, who worked with us in sales and content management all the way back in 2013 (and was fantastic at it). She’s been fantastic in the role already, helping our customers achieve success with content needs.
Straight from the heart: thanks to all of you who have helped us grow this year!
To our clients:
We value each and every one of you. There were crazy things to deal with in the support staff this year, but they weren’t anything that a successful company hasn’t experienced at some point or other (non-loyal staff). We appreciate you so much, and will continue to work hard to earn your business and create the best content money can buy.
To our amazing writers and staff:
Working hard and tirelessly to deliver amazing content means the world to me and our clients. Remember that great things are coming for us all in 2017: stick with us, and you will, without a doubt, grow with us. (We have a huge relaunch of the Content Shop and our teamroom in development now, due out in the New Year!)
A Look Back: Express Writers’ Top 10 Shared & Talked About Posts of 2016
Let’s start by looking at what our most-shared pieces consisted of as a whole in terms of format and content type, then, delve into the top posts themselves.
Top Shared Formats
Here’s what our top shared post formats were (interesting to note how well infographics and a podcast episode did!):
- 6 long-form blogs (5 guides on different aspects online writing, the 6th blog was a list of fun/obsolete English words)
- 1 podcast episode (over 1,000 shares!)
- 3 infographics
Top 10 Posts
Now, it’s time for a look back at our ten top performing posts of the year.
1. Out With the Old: Why & How to Do a New Year Website Content Audit
(See blog here) Everyone loves a little New Year’s cleaning, and this post was our top performer because it helped people understand exactly what a content audit is, and why it’s so important to conduct them on a regular basis.
In addition to clearing out any icky, old content that’s hurting your SEO, a good content audit gives you the chance to comb through your content and find any material that is outdated, inaccurate, or not converting well.
In our content audit post, we showed readers how to use platforms like the SEMrush Site Audit Tool, Moz templates, BuzzSumo, and WordTracker to perform expert-quality content audits in preparation for the new year. The post earned more than 1.5K shares and remains one of our most popular pieces!
2. The Write Podcast, E06: Talking Life, Entrepreneurship, Guest Blogging, & Content Marketing With Sujan Patel
(See podcast episode here) Episode 6 of The Write Podcast remains one of my favorites, and it was one of our readers’ favorites, as well. In this post, I interviewed Sujan Patel, co-founder of Narrow.io and Content Marketer.io, about everything from entrepreneurship to becoming an all-star guest blogger.
Sujan and I talked about how he develops his tools (and why it’s so important for him only to work on projects he feels emotionally invested in). We discussed his relation to Neil Patel, (they’re cousins!) and how he feels about live-streaming. He also offers some advice on testing business plan ideas and taking risks to get to where you want to be.
If you’re starting a small business or working to build your online presence, you’ll love Sujan’s declaration that a single payment may not matter as much as the relationships you’re building with your clients.
This episode earned more than 1,000 shares with our followers!
3. Expert Weigh-In: Content Marketing Predictions for 2016 (Infographic)
(See predictions post here) Now that the year is over, this post shines brightly. Published December 31 of 2015, we talked to 19 content marketing experts to put this post together.
Each of them had a different prediction for the future of content marketing in 2016 and, guess what? Many of them have come true!
- Steve Rayson, the Director of BuzzSumo, told us 2016 would be all about developing clear outreach strategies and connecting with influencers. This couldn’t be more true: leveraging the power of a real relationship with influencers works! Example: when I connected with Sujan Patel, a major entrepreneur and content marketer, I was able to get his name on my book (he wrote the foreword) and record a podcast episode with him. The episode turned out to be our most shared one!
- Michael A. Stelzner, the founder of Social Media Examiner, told us that 360-degree live video streaming would explode. Live video has been all over the web, and talked about all year, from Facebook Live to Snapchat, Instagram Stories and more.
- Finally, Director of Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting Mark Traphagen predicted that 2016 would be a year of “quality over quantity” – we couldn’t agree more! Quality has been reigning high all year long.
This post earned 446 shares last year. Now, we’re excited to look forward and make some new predictions for 2017!
4. Google Search Guidelines Released: Here’s What They Say About Content
(See post here) This was one of our most exciting posts of 2016. It broke down Google’s newly released Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. The Guidelines, developed by Google to train its human search quality evaluators, provided a wealth of information about everything from the requirements for quality web content to the importance of expert writing.
The guidelines also dove into mobile optimization, page design, supplementary content, misspelled queries, keywords, and more. The one-stop-shop for anyone who wanted to know what the lengthy guidelines said about content, this post was one of our favorites to write and one of the most useful for our readers. As such, it earned 295 shares on social media!
5. How to Create Long-Form Content That Google and Your Readers Will Love
(See blog here) Long-form content was a buzzed-about topic this year, and we took it on in this post. To start the post, we talked about how people who aren’t seeing the desired ROI from their content might be making one critical mistake: the content they’re writing isn’t long or thorough enough.
Next, we broke down what long-form content is, and why it matters for readers and search engines. We talked about how long-form content tends to be evergreen, detailed, and informative, and how much that means to readers. We also discussed how blogs with 1,500 words or more rank higher, keep readers on pages longer, and boost conversions.
6. Your 12-Step Guide to a Small Business Content Strategy
(See post here) This post was a shout-out to our small business clients and readers! Developing a content strategy for a small business can be tough – especially when funds and resources are tight. In this post, we offered a step-by-step process for developing a small business content strategy and maintaining it.
First, we defined “content,” and then laid out the five types of key content that every small business needs (a blog, a web page, keywords, social media, and a buyer persona). From there, we provided a list of smart, actionable tips to build your content strategy, including defining your objective and creating a content calendar.
Ideal for any small business struggling with content implementation, this was one of our highest performing posts of the year with 277 shares!
7. 30 Amazing, Obsolete Words in the English Dictionary we Should Bring Back to Life
(See post here) If we’re being honest, 2016 featured a lot of words like “innovative,” “stunning,” and “unique.” While there’s nothing wrong with those words, they’re a little boring, and we can’t help but think there are some oldies but goodies stagnating in dictionaries. To celebrate those words, we wrote this post.
Our list included words like these:
- Grumpish: Meaning sullen or grumpy. Example: The content marketer got grumpish when he forgot to complete his content calendar for the month.
- Apricity: The wonderful feeling you get when it’s cold and wintery out, but the sun is shining warmly on your back.
- Gorgonize: To mesmerize or enchant someone. Example: “I felt gorgonized by the beauty of that last sentence.”
- Curglaff: A giggle-inducing word meaning shock or surprise.
This post was great fun to write, and it earned 242 shares once we pushed it out to readers!
8. 55 Content Marketing Tools to Boost Your Productivity
(See post here) Who doesn’t love a fat list of useful tools? In this post, published January 21 of 2016, we broke down 55 of our favorite content marketing tools to enhance productivity and make your days smoother and easier. Featured on the list were the following:
- Buffer: A social media management tool that allows you to schedule posts to up to 15 different social media profiles from one dashboard.
- Canva: A simple DIY graphic design tool that you can use to create blog headers, social graphics, and more.
- SproutSocial: Another social media management tool, and the host of #SproutChat on Twitter.
- GoogleWeb Designer: A banner creation service that lets you design and build banners for your websites.
- SEMrush: A keyword tracking tool that allows you to research topics, find influencers, and recognize trending content.
- AngelList: An investment platform that helps you raise money for your various content marketing projects.
- MailChimp: An email marketing tool that allows you to automate campaigns and build templates.
- Wordtracker: A keyword research tool that can connect with you with some of the top-performing keywords in just minutes.
- BuzzSumo: One of our favorite tools, and the best way to find out what’s trending in the world of content.
This post, with its big old list of tools earned us 241 shares across the web.
9. Inside the Brain & Life of a Copywriter (Infographic)
(See infographic here) This infographic was a ton of fun to create, and it’s one of our favorite pieces of content from the year. Here at Express Writers, we love our copywriters, and this unique little piece gives readers a glimpse into the daily life of the people behind the content.
In the post, we offer some general statistics about content (2 million blog posts are published daily, and the web hosts more than 900,000,000 websites, for example). From there, we go on to talk about who copywriters are – from stay-at-home moms to millennials – and how their left and right brain hemispheres work together to combine practicality and creativity.
To finish the infographic off, we lay out five key copywriting techniques! This post raked in 235 shares across our various social channels.
10. Your Infographic Guide to Online Content Word Counts
(See infographic here) Last but not least is this piece, “Your Infographic Guide to Online Content Word Counts.” Another infographic, this post details how long all of your content should be. It discusses Twitter’s character limit increase, and the best practices for Twitter post length (100 characters is the sweet spot).
It talks about Facebook, and how perfect Facebook posts are 40-characters or fewer. It also breaks down Google+ lengths and LinkedIn content lengths. This helpful post earned 233 shares across the web!
2016: A Fantastic Year for Content
2016 was truly an outstanding year for content, and we at Express Writers want to thank our readers collectively for your ongoing support. (That means YOU!)
Here’s to 2017, creating more fabulously great content, and all that the New Year has in store!