Farewell but Not Goodbye: A Letter from Express Writers’ Founder

Farewell but Not Goodbye: A Letter from Express Writers’ Founder

It was a cold day in the middle of Pennsylvania winter, 2011.

I was driving home to tell my parents I’d failed college… again.

I was in tears the whole drive home. I was 19 years old, and I knew that I didn’t love the degree I was pursuing (R.N.). It wasn’t something I’d ever love or become great at.

My parents were devastated at the news, just as I thought, and my father wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the month. It was heartbreaking to know that he lost all faith in me, and I spent the rest of the day in tears.

But the next day, I got up early–at 4 a.m.–and applied myself with renewed zeal to the side hustle I’d started during my first semester of college.

My side hustle was building, unbeknownst to me, a freelance writing career. At the time, I had absolutely no idea it would be a career. It was simply an avenue I believed I could be good at. Something I truly enjoyed. I wasn’t sure it would last a year.

But there I was, getting up early, applying for writing jobs, writing every assignment myself to gain experience, and slowly but surely building a brand. My first brand idea was awful: Writer4U2Hire. I built a free website on Weebly and blogged regularly, and to my surprise, gained clients that directly inboxed me for work, then for repeat work, and then to ask if they could refer others to me. After that, I decided to get serious, and launched a real brand I could hang my hat on. I called it Express Writers.

That was 2011. The next year, I left that toxic environment I grew up in, and it was the best thing I could have done for the health of not just myself, but my business’ future and longevity.

When I had the freedom to pursue my dreams in a supportive environment (something easily taken for granted, if you’ve never experienced the opposite), things took off.

Far beyond my dreams or aspirations. None of my business success has come easily, but we persevered, and we’re here. And I’m incredibly grateful.

julia mccoy exits express writers

How It Started, and How It’s Going

After ten years of successful, slow and steady growth at Express Writers, CEO Julia McCoy is stepping down. Read her exit letter ✍️ ♥️ Click To Tweet

By the fall of 2012, I was working twelve hours a day to build Express Writers. That same fall, I met and married my partner, Josh McCoy. Somehow, I convinced him to stop building his brand-new SEO business and come join me to build Express Writers. He bought in on my vision, and became our CTO. Thankfully, he brought the tech, systems, and website savviness I was missing.

My approach to grow and build Express Writers was people-first, at all times. If I had happy clients, and the right writers, I somehow believed everything else would fall into place. This approach has truly been the catalyst to grow our business.

At the beginning, hiring writers and my first staff members (editors) was a rude awakening, quickly, to what it was like to be an employer. Most of the newbies I hired didn’t show up, even after clear directives and deadlines were given. I lost paying clients quickly. Then, I learned to stop hiring the first person who showed up, and start handing out tests and interviews until we found the right person. I learned how to build a more qualified HR process, and how to set up orientation so that it was thorough and informative.

Korilynn was one of my first full-time writers. A tried-and-tested freelancer, she could write 5,000 words a day, and I was shocked with how much work she took on and delivered while meeting all of our quality standards. Today, she’s our Content Manager, and we’ve never had a better one. Our clients and their projects are always near and dear to her heart. And our writers get matched to the right assignments with her at the helm. She’s tough, won’t sugarcoat anything, and works hard so our clients stay and projects move forward. I appreciate and respect her work ethic so much.

We’ve had a slow-and-steady growth curve. Instead of the sudden UP arrow, which scares me because I believe it can have more negative reverberations and a tendency to go down just as quickly, our growth curve has looked like this:

express writers income graph

2015 and 2016, the plateau in the middle of growth, held scary times. Thankfully, I walked out learning my business wasn’t broken. Express Writers could be massively successful. What was really going on: We learned in mid-2016 that we were victims of a scam run by our own team. I learned a tough lesson, but it gave me the strength I needed to build an infinitely better team.

Our editorial and writing team is constantly growing, evolving and changing, and we’re implementing new processes this fall season to try to repair some new project delay issues we’ve run into. Express Writers, I’ve learned, is a living, breathing being, and it only thrives where there is growth and evolution. We’ve learned to quickly adapt, pivot, and change when things don’t work well, so projects don’t lag behind.

Running an agency this big, selling a 100% human-led service, i.e. high-level content writing, isn’t for the faint of heart. Even our brand logo has been through many evolutions. The final design, a paper plane in flight, truly resembles us and has been iconic to me ever since we launched it.

express writers branding

In October of 2020, one of our biggest visions finally came true with the launch of Express Writers 2.0, our internal workroom and external client Content Shop, an all-in-one system we built ourselves in WordPress. Fulfilling this was an immense struggle and hefty cost (over $200,000 in development, which we footed ourselves; we’ve never sought outside funding), and we see it as an ongoing project since we continue to evolve and grow based on our team and client feedback. Reaching this pivotal point was amazing. We finally saw something happen that we’d been building for over four years.

In early 2021, we tried the new GPT-3 AI tools on the market, and kept a few in our arsenal (HyperWrite is one of our favorites) so our writers could simplify and streamline their outline and phase 1. Unfortunately, even though my hero Joe Pulizzi himself predicted AI writing will outpace and even replace content writers in this decade, I don’t see it happening. Our clients expect too much detail, too much research, too much style, tone, and humanness in their content for a bot to ever keep up. I don’t see that changing. AI can certainly aid in the process, but never replace it.

Handing the Reins Over

After ten years in content, I’ve learned that nothing thrills me more than great content that touches and reaches a heart, soul, and life.

Whether that’s as simple as helping someone find the dog grooming tool they need… yes, an actual blog we’ve written at Express Writers… or as deep and profound as touching thousands of readers in 90 countries around the world with the raw survivor story of my life (my memoir).

This is what I will never let go of. I love creating content that has an impact. I love leading a team that has a collective goal of creating great content. But today, it’s time for me to pass the reins of Express Writers over with gratitude and heartfelt emotion over to the Oakleys, a dynamic husband-and-wife duo that, much like Josh and I, will continue running the ship here at Express Writers. And my belief is, in the short time we’ve gotten to know each other, that our buyers will do a better job than I’ve done of leading this ship onwards to the next big goals, while continuing to set sail for the right destinations–happy clients, happy team, and great content delivered day in, day out.

We had a great experience with Quiet Light Brokerage, with Chris Wozniak who acted as our broker and helped us filter through a ton of candidates for our business sale to finally accept the Oakleys’ offer. They were the ones who wanted Express Writers the most, and in my experience, when someone truly wants something, that’s a great indicator of how well that “something” will succeed in their care.

I’m thrilled Express Writers is going to another homegrown, heartfelt set of owners — not a big box brand or corporation. I’m confident you’ll experience great results in their hands. Because they care. And that’s always been the beating heart of Express Writers. We care. We give an actual crap about quality, and many times, we’ve suffered for it; having to do things ourselves, or wade through the pain of backlog until we find the right person for an urgently-needed role. But in the end, those high standards have brought us here. To $5M in sales. Over 5,000 clients reached and helped.

The Vision of Our New Owners

As I fully step away now and leave my duties and role as CEO and founder of Express Writers, and prepare to focus more on what I love doing in the years to come with gratitude at the opportunity, I’m confident you’re in good hands with our buyers, the new operational team here at Express Writers; Adam and Alicia Oakley.

This adventurous duo have a passion and commitment to leadership and management. They bring financial intelligence, business ethics and strong character to the table.

Adam Oakley comes to the task with more than 20 years of experience in executive roles in manufacturing, technology, and professional service businesses. His leadership and management skills, coupled with his transparency and diligence, have earned him a reputation as a trusted partner among clients. His experience in running marketing for a large manufacturing company and leveraging the new world of SEO in the 2000s brought exponential growth for the business. Since then, he has served on the leadership team of a global technology provider where he focused on business operations, scaling the worldwide group, and developing the client service model for a $30 million company.

Alicia brings to the table over 20 years of experience in the fields of education, real estate and entrepreneurship. She is an essential member to any team serious about taking their business to the next level. Alicia holds an Oregon real estate license and a Master’s degree in teaching. When she’s not working on their real estate investment portfolio, you can find her teaching the use of an appositive and proper use of the comma to their four children and spending time with clients at her executive life coaching consultancy. She is an avid reader, passionate about education, real estate, staying healthy, and traveling.

Adam and Alicia have been married for over 20 years. They have adventured around the world twice with their fabulous four kids, lived abroad, and currently split their time between Belize and Texas.

From the new owners: “Rarely have we been fortunate enough to see an organization as solidly rooted in delivering terrific quality and exceptional customer experience as Express Writers. As we lead the company into its next generation, we are committed to building on Julia’s success in Express Writers and finding new ways to give you more. What this means for you as an Express Writers client is that you will continue to receive the highest level of quality content produced by industry-leading experts that you’ve come to expect. It’s that simple. Our goal is to build on the continuous five-star performance that Express Writers has proven over the last decade.”

adam and alicia oakley

What’s Next for Me

As I mentioned, creating content that brings impact is one of my core purposes in life. You won’t see me leaving content marketing any time soon.

My first goal is to take some real time off with my family, especially during the upcoming holidays this year. Although I’ve taken vacations, I’ve never had a true “offline” day in, well, ten years since I started this business. Running Express Writers is too demanding for me to be able to go offline much. Our team is lean and small, but that means I’m usually doing a lot to fill gaps, even on weekends. So, first rule of order, I’m truly looking forward to real time off with the family. We have a second on the way due March 2022, and I’m excited at the chance to take time off when baby #2 makes his appearance and enjoy home and family.

Next, I’ll focus on a part-time schedule working through The Content Hacker™ with my students and 1:1 clients. The Content Hacker is my grassroots, organically-grown community of growth-focused content marketers, where I teach and ghostwrite for high-level clients (who sometimes come back full-circle to work with Express Writers, which I love seeing).

Finally, I’ll write many more books. And not just in the marketing genre, although I’ll certainly continue to write marketing and entrepreneurial guidebooks, since I’ve heard so many good things from you all regarding the four I do have out. It’s in my heart to reach the YA fiction audience, with a series I’ve been dreaming up for a while now. I just announced the launch of an upcoming fiction trilogy I’ve been writing on and off the past year, Earth Begins, a neo western apocalyptic fiction featuring a magical tree, two different realms on earth, gritty yet surprising characters, and a plot that will have you on the edge of your seat. Click to read more.

earth begins julia mccoy

I’m thrilled to venture into more of what I love, and go back to my roots of writing for the sheer enjoyment of creating beautiful content that matters, enriches lives, and feeds the soul. Earth Begins is a pinnacle of all of those things, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Get on the waitlist here.

Till we meet again in content. Hasta la vista!

Go visit our Content Shop and place your order for high-quality, custom content today.

julia mccoy exits express writers

Why Our Specialist Writing Rates Went Up

Why Our Specialist Writing Rates Went Up

In today’s competitive market, it takes a competitive, standout rate to attract and hire high-level specialist writers.

As of the 2020s, we’re seeing an era like never before where our clients need the best content writer for their industry.

Brands need to build trust through their published content.

Brands need to give value through their published content.

Brands also must retain traffic and gain sales through that content, or their content will fall flat and be considered a waste of ROI.

Well, content must be incredible to do all of the above.

Back in 2018, our highest-selling level of content was expert writing.

A few years before that, it was general writers.

Today, it’s specialty content, our most expensive writing level (legal, financial, technical, medical, and other top-tier specialty industries).

This level is the most expensive for a reason.

Not just any writer. Not just a good writer. And not just an expert writer…

But a specialist who knows their industry, and will write and research great web content with care and skill.

We’re announcing a (fairly small) specialist rate increase from 24c/word to 28c/word, a necessary change to hire and pay specialty writers more. This price update is live now. In today’s blog, we explain why.

new writing rates

Why Specialist Writers Are in High Demand

A talented specialist writer in your industry is similar to a Chupacabra…

Or, it can feel like it, when you’re trying to attract and hire that type of writer.

At Express Writers, we’ve done the work to attract and hire these types of writers.

Here’s just one of our monthly bills from Indeed.com, a platform where we hire and interview writers on a regular weekly basis.

These days can cost us anywhere from $1,000 – $2,500 a month to hire a handful of writers, depending on the level of writer we’re headhunting.

writing hiring costs

Of course, the client doesn’t pay this. They simply pay our per-word fee.

We also pay editors. And managers. But the client doesn’t pay that, either. They pay our per-word fee.

The crux of our payment margins and payouts is always the writer. We know that without the writer, Express Writers is, well, writer-less and therefore powerless.

average cost to headhunt and hire writers

[email protected] has raised specialist writer rates. Why? In today's market, it takes a competitive, standout rate to attract and hire high-level specialist writers. ? These writers produce the kind of content our high-level brands want and need. Click To Tweet

It takes great writers to produce the kind of content our high-level brands want and need.

Not to mention (as we’ve talked about on the blog before), but Google’s own rules for quality now demand the same. Google doesn’t keep this a secret – they disclose exactly what they’re looking for in their SEO starter guide:

google's SEO starter guide

And as we’ve reiterated before on the Write Blog, here’s one of the biggest giveaway statements from Google’s SEO starter guide on why good great content matters.

google starter guide - compelling and useful content

Two driving forces behind what constitutes good SEO content can be traced back to these clear acronyms in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

  • E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness): Three top factors Google uses to rate content quality.
  • Y.M.Y.L. (Your Money or Your Life): Content that can potentially impact a reader’s financial, physical, and/or mental health and happiness in the medical, financial, legal, and technical industries.

Our specialty writer rates are mapped specifically to Y.M.Y.L. guidelines, which are the highest level Google reviews. According to the guidelines, Google pays the most attention to these pages because they’re the ones that can most profoundly impact a person’s life. Especially in pandemic times, this matters more than ever.

how google defines your money or your life (ymyl) pagefs

Source: Google’s Guidelines, section 2.3

Google says YMYL pages are the ones that can “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”

These pages include:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • Financial information pages
  • News articles and/or public/official pages important for informing citizens
  • Any other topics that can deeply affect users’ lives, i.e. child adoption or car safety information

Because of their importance, these pages have incredibly high page quality standards. ?

They must be authoritative, factual, and written by experts.

That’s where our specialty expert writing level comes into play.

Our specialty experts are handpicked with an advanced degree, 5+ years in their field, a senior/leadership role (example, Lead Software Engineer), and, the skill of online writing under their belts as well.

We’ve found these practitioners-turned-content-writers are in high demand. In fact, it’s truly hard to hire one who knows their industry, and can write. When we do find one, we have to act quickly and bring them in, mentor and train them, and prep them to take on client assignments.

Did I mention Chupacabra yet?

Still, we find and hire them.

But today, we’ve learned we simply must raise the rates to pay these writer-extraordinaires more income.

It’s more than worth it.

Here’s the kind of resume/writer we’re now attracting at these higher pay rates.

Example: Senior Technical Writer, Corey O., hired August 2021.

technical writer

Our Rates Are Live

Our specialist rate increase from 24c/word to 28c/, a necessary change to hire and pay good writers more, is now live in the Content Shop.

Go view pricing hereThis applies to technical, medical, and other in-depth verticals.

Trust Plays a Part – and Here’s How Your Content Writers Need to Actively Build That Trust

Don’t forget.

The epidemic of misinformation in 2020 took a toll on consumer trust when it comes to content in just about every form, from search engines as well as traditional, owned, and social media.

trust at record low across media

People are wary these days. What does that mean for your brand content?

In short, writers must take a few extra steps on every piece they write to make sure it’s kosher in the 2020s.

  • Double check all facts. Be responsible for ensuring you’ve found and are verifying content the brand consumers can trust.
  • Ditch the traditional sales pitch and write with a value focus. Customers aren’t buying into overpromises and flashy offers. Content marketing is outperforming cold calls and advertising techniques by prioritizing value first. Expert writers must know how to deliver on this.
  • Back up all claims. Not only must you research your facts, but, you have to have solid links and sources for your claims. A Weebly blog won’t cut it. You need authoritative sources – like the legitimate, current Edelman study we quote above.
  • Find credible sites. This is mentioned in the former point, but, it’s worth a point by itself. If you’re going to provide trustworthy content, you have to link to trustworthy websites that have established online authority. Use Alexa’s Site Rankings to help you know a website’s true credibility. This takes a few extra minutes, but is worth it.
  • Flow and comprehensiveness must be there. Many experts that have been in the field and haven’t written online content are used to structuring essays. No matter how long you’ve been a practitioner, you still need to learn and shape the skill of online writing so that the flow and comprehensive nature of a long-form blog, ebook, or guide, for example, is there.

Need more guidance on ranking in the 2020s? Grab our free checklist on How to Rank in the Top of Google.

Remember, in today’s untrustworthy atmosphere, readers can smell B.S. a mile away.

Brands are now responsible for being honest with their consumers in their website, on their blog.

Google is clear and upfront about how important trustworthiness and authoritativeness is in their accessible SEO starter guide:

what google says about user trust

Go Forth, Trust Your Writing to Us, & Succeed

In short:

We need to increase rates to be more competitive in today’s content market, and that’s going directly to the writer.

We’re pleased to bring this experience to you.

Great writers mean great content.

Great pay means great writers.

And you can rest in peace, knowing your content is in good great hands.

Because good is not enough – it now takes great.

Ready?

Go Content Shopping now for specialty writers.

new writing rates

How Important Is Content to SEO? Google Says It Could “Likely Matter More Than Any Other Factor”

How Important Is Content to SEO? Google Says It Could “Likely Matter More Than Any Other Factor”

When Google says an SEO ranking factor is important, marketers need to sit up straight and listen.

Why?

Considering Google controls more than 90% of web searches, it’s safe to say they’re an authority on the subject.

With that kind of monopoly, Google’s ranking factors and page-quality guidelines are what drive SEO best practices, which is important for content marketing.

Before the pandemic, Google search traffic averaged around 3.6 billion searches per day. But since March 2020, that search traffic has grown to more than 6 billion. That’s an extra 2.4 BILLION more daily searches than there used to be!

SEO drives that traffic to the best content on the web. It’s such a successful marketing strategy that SEO has been shown to drive more than 1,00% more traffic than organic social media.

53.3% of all website traffic originates from organic searches.

So, what’s the connection between content and SEO, and why does Google place such a high value on content?

It’s all in today’s blog.

First, let’s start with the basic question…

content and SEO

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. While it technically includes all search engines, the main focus is Google (for reasons we already covered).

Then why is content important for SEO?

Simply put, content and SEO go hand in hand.

SEO content writing is the practice of writing optimized web content with the primary goal of being ranked in the top results of a search engine results page (SERP).

Great content that isn’t optimized for search engines isn’t going to perform well. Neither will phenomenal SEO methods executed on poor content.

While content and SEO are two different subjects, they must work in tandem in order to form a successful content marketing strategy.

Content and SEO go hand in hand. ? Great content that isn’t optimized for search engines won't perform well. Neither will phenomenal SEO methods executed on poor content. Learn to put two and two together via @ExpWriters ➕ Click To Tweet

A Guide on Content and SEO: 5 Steps to Optimize Your Content for Search Engines

Let’s rewind back to Google and why the search engine giant believes content is so important for SEO.

Google’s primary function is to generate the most relevant, helpful articles when someone types a topic or question into the search engine.

So, logically, it makes sense that Google is going to prioritize content that is high-quality and serves to help, educate, or entertain based on what the searcher is looking for.

Marketers put a lot of effort into making educated guesses about which factors Google uses in its ranking algorithm. But the importance of content isn’t even a guess – Google tells us how critical it is in their SEO starter guide:

google starter guide - compelling and useful content

Google hit the nail on the head when it claimed “users know good content when they see it.”

They do.

That’s why two driving forces behind what constitutes as good content can be traced back to acronyms in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

  • E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness): 3 factors Google uses to rate content quality
  • Y.M.Y.L. (Your Money or Your Life): Content that can potentially impact a reader’s financial, physical, and/or mental health and happiness

Below, we’ll explore how to optimize content for SEO while ensuring high relevancy and quality.

1. Research

Would you try to build a house without a blueprint?

I certainly hope not!

The same principle applies when you start pumping out content without doing any research or preparation beforehand.

It all starts with a focus keyword within your niche.

You also need to understand your audience’s search intent. If you’re targeting the keyword “birthday cake,” what are your targeted readers actually looking for? A local bakery? A recipe to bake a birthday cake at home? Your content needs to target the correct audience.

Pro tip: Google is a FREE way to easily find synonymous keywords. You can generate a list of suggestions when you type your focus keyword into the search bar.

synonymous keywords in google search

You can also discover more synonymous keywords at the bottom of the SERP page where Google suggests related searches.

related keywords at the bottom of google search

Pro tip: Google is a FREE way to easily find synonymous keywords. You can generate a list of suggestions when you type your focus keyword into the search bar. ?✅ Click To Tweet

Keyword research tools will give you a better idea of how traffic and competition affect your focus keyword.

While there are free keyword research tools available, I don’t recommend them. After researching paid vs. free keyword tools in the SEO content writing course that I teach, I discovered that some of the free tools provided misleading data.

My top 3 keyword research tools I highly recommend:

It’s tempting to target keywords that have high average monthly searches. But, especially if you have a new website, resist the temptation.

Relevancy is much more important than search traffic. Look for easily attainable long-tail keywords that are specific to your audience and don’t have much competition.

2. Content

Content is your most important ranking factor.

I’ll say it again for those in the back – content is your MOST IMPORTANT ranking factor.

Your content needs to:

  • Be high quality
  • Provide useful information
  • Be relevant to your niche
  • Be free of typos and grammatical errors
  • Have a smooth flow that readers can follow
  • Be at an average-to-low reading level for most viewers
  • Cite trustworthy sources with links to credible websites (be sure to link directly to the source, not a link of a link)

Your keyword, of course, is a critical piece of the puzzle. But keyword density is dead, so get it out of your mind.

Instead of worrying about keyword density, you should be more concerned with strategic placement and topical content.

If your writing stays on topic, you’ll naturally be using your keyword frequently enough for search engines to pick up on it.

In addition, make sure you place your focus keyword in your title and URL. Use synonymous keywords throughout the article, especially in subheaders.

As far as other SEO content writing tips go, here are some of Google’s dos and don’ts:

do's and don'ts for content from google

You should always end your content with a call to action (CTA) that prompts the reader to further engage. This can be something like asking to subscribe to your newsletter, offering a service, recommending similar articles, etc.

3. Structure

Your content should be well written, but it also needs to be properly structured and organized, not to mention optimized for mobile.

Most readers on the web are skimmers, which means you need to break up your content into an easily readable format, including:

  • Short paragraphs
  • Headings and subheadings (H2s and H3s)
  • Bulleted or numbered lists
  • Media such as images, videos, infographics, etc. to break up text and boost engagement
  • Bolded main ideas for readers to easily pick out

When it comes to using images, make sure your focus keyword is in the alt tag. It’s also a good idea to rename your file before you upload it to get that keyword in there one more time.

Proper structuring is part of SEO, which means it needs to work with your content, not against it.

The SEO Content Writer's Cheat Sheet

4. Make Your Content Evergreen

You want your content to have a long lifespan. Evergreen content stays relevant long after it’s published.

For example, “10 Best Christmas Presents to Give Your Sweetheart” is not evergreen, because as soon as Christmas is over, that content is irrelevant.

In comparison, “5 Proven Methods to Earn More Money with a Side Hustle” doesn’t have a foreseeable expiration date. People are always going to be interested in earning extra money.

In order to make sure your content is evergreen:

  • Avoid using years and dates whenever you can, especially in the title, topic, and URL
  • Don’t focus on seasonal or short-term trending topics
  • Avoid news (it’ll be yesterday’s news in the blink of an eye)
  • Don’t use time-sensitive words and phrases such as “last year” or “a few weeks ago”

I recommend revisiting old content on a regular basis and giving it a refresh to make sure it’s still relevant with up-to-date information.

lifecycle of impactful content

5. Write a Unique Meta Description

Everything within the article is important for search engine rankings, but don’t forget about the external content potential readers will see on the SERP before they click on your post – your title and meta description.

In less than 160 characters, counting spaces, you need to convince a reader that your article is worth reading.

ALWAYS write a unique meta description rather than leaving the default, which is the first 160 characters of your article.

I recommend using an impactful statistic in the meta description, but this comes with a disclaimer: you’ll need to update your meta descriptions regularly if you rely on dated statistics.

5️⃣ steps to optimize content for Google: 1️⃣Research (audience, topic, keywords) 2️⃣Content quality (readable, organized, unique) 3️⃣Structure (headings/formatting, media) 4️⃣Evergreen (relevant always) 5️⃣Metas (unique, helpful) Click To Tweet

Use Content and SEO Together to Maximize Your Content Marketing Strategy

We’ve covered a lot of information, and yet, we barely scratched the surface of SEO and content.

Start with the tips I (and Google) outlined in this guide, and I promise your SEO content marketing strategy will be in a better place than it was before.

While content marketing itself doesn’t cost any money since we’re targeting free keywords in search engines, it is a major time commitment to do it right. Many companies are investing in hiring an expert copywriter, and it’s no surprise that content creation is the top outsourced activity.

Businesses need high-quality content that engages their audience, ranks with Google, and builds real trust.

Are you ready to invest in your SEO content marketing strategy with an expert copywriter? Check out the Content Shop to see our writing services and pricing.

Work with expert content marketing writers

5 of the Most Horrible, No-Good SEO Content Mistakes (& How to Avoid)

5 of the Most Horrible, No-Good SEO Content Mistakes (& How to Avoid)

What’s holding you back from incredible visibility in Google search?

Is it your strategy?

…Or is it your execution?

The best content plan in the world won’t get you anywhere if you’re making these simple yet deadly SEO content mistakes.

seo content mistakes

5 SEO Content Mistakes Plaguing Your Marketing (& Fixes)

These SEO content mistakes are super common but totally rectifiable. If you’re committing any of them, don’t worry – I have some practical solutions to bring your content back to life.

What’s holding you back from incredible visibility in Google? Is it your strategy? …Or your execution? The best content plan in the world won’t get you anywhere if you’re making these simple yet deadly SEO content mistakes. ? Click To Tweet

1. Targeting the Same (or Similar) Keywords in Multiple Content Pieces

Want to know a great way to shoot yourself in the foot with SEO?

Lose track of the content pieces you’ve published, including which keywords you’ve already targeted.

Then accidentally target a keyword you’ve already tried to rank for in a new blog. If the search intent for that keyword hasn’t changed over time, the blogs will end up being incredibly similar – too similar.

Now you have two pages on your site competing for the same search intent, traffic, and clicks. As a result, neither will do very well in search engines, because you’re essentially splitting the spoils. (There’s a technical, dramatic term for this problem: keyword cannibalization.)

What to Do Instead

First, keep track of your content pieces in all stages of the creation process, from the initial idea to the final published blog, article, what-have-you.

This means a content calendar is your best friend (Airtable, Trello, and Notion are nice options). Include information on the keywords you targeted for each piece.

Second, be careful with search intent. Some keywords may be worded very differently from those you’ve already used, but have an identical search intent (i.e., the reason why a user types those keywords into Google).

For example: “Which iPhone should I buy” and “best iPhone to buy right now” only share a few words, but the search intent behind them is identical. Instead of creating two content pieces targeting each keyword, you should choose one to focus on while including the other inside the piece as a related keyword.

2. Writing Overwrought, Irrelevant Meta Descriptions

What a worse SEO content mistake than skipping out on writing unique meta descriptions for each page of your site?

Writing bad ones.

The difference between a good meta description and a bad one:

  • Whether it entices your reader to click your link in the results…
  • Or turns them off entirely.
  • Whether it’s relevant enough to appear in Google results…
  • Or so irrelevant that Google skips it in favor of auto-filling text from your body content.

Relevance, in particular, is huge.

A GOOD meta description for #seocontent: ✅ Entices your reader to click your link in Google (vs. turning them off entirely). ✅ Relevant enough to appear in the results (versus Google auto-filling). Click To Tweet

Look at this meta description from an Eater article ranking for “best burgers in the U.S.”:

meta description that google auto-filled

As you can see, Google auto-filled the description with snippets of the body content from the article. They often do this when no meta description is specified.

Yet, Eater did specify a meta description, as you can see from their source code:

Irrelevant meta description source code.

It reads, “Introducing the burger lover’s ultimate bucket list, from classic iterations to the best bistro burgers.”

What’s the problem, here? Why didn’t Google use it? Irrelevance.

  • The keyword is missing from this description.
  • The description mentions a “bucket list” – but is that what the article is really about, or what people are seeking when they search for this keyword? No. A “bucket list” doesn’t necessarily signify “best.”

The above description looks pretty awful next to this one from a higher-ranking piece on the list:

good meta description

What to Do Instead

If there’s even the slightest chance that Google will skip over the meta description you painstakingly wrote in favor of auto-grabbed text, what’s the point of writing one?

This: With a strong meta description, there’s a huge chance to grab your reader and convince them to click in just a sentence or two. Written well, a good meta description can enhance your click-through rate in the search results.

You just have to make sure it’s relevant enough for Google to grab, and helpful enough (and persuasive enough) to catch your reader’s eye.

A few tips:

  • Meta descriptions can’t be too long – under 160 characters is the standard. To ensure you write within that restriction, use a tool. Yoast SEO is great. So is the Meta Tags tool.
  • Talk to your reader. Tell them what the content is about and what’s in it for them if they read it.
  • Use your keyword. Once is enough.
  • Get creative with wording. Use strong verbs. Avoid useless adverbs, which pad out the character count unnecessarily.

The SEO Content Writer's Cheat Sheet

3. Using Unhelpful, Poorly Structured Headings (Or Not Enough Headings)

I hope you’re already implementing headings in your SEO content writing. This is a basic must-do for a few reasons:

  • Headings help Google understand what your content is about.
  • They help users find the information they’re looking for.
  • They break up long blocks of text for better readability.
  • Headings help organize and structure your content (especially important for people who may not be “reading” your page at all, but using screen readers or some other assistive technology).

Think of headings as helpers. They provide additional meaning and help your reader make sense of your piece as a whole.

That’s why, if your headings are lackluster, generic, or formatted incorrectly, they’ll hinder instead of help.

Take a look at this example of a content piece with unhelpful, incorrectly structured headings:

seo content mistake - poor use of headings

Note the vague wording (“ones” in place of using the actual keyword, “backlinks”) the incorrect use of heading levels (H2s used when H3s were needed), and the use of headings solely for formatting purposes (a huge no-no).

What to Do Instead

Headings split your content into sections and sub-sections (and sometimes sub-sub-sections), which helps with readability immensely. They denote the most important pieces of information and how sections are related.

As such, use headings judiciously, and structure them correctly. Employ them to break up your content in the same way chapters break up a book. Here’s an example.

  • H1 – Types of Cheeses and Where to Buy Them.
    • H2 – The Best Hard Cheeses
      • H3 – 1. Gruyere
      • H3 – 2. Parmesan
      • H3 – 3. Manchego
    • H2 – The Best Soft Cheeses
      • H3 – 1. Brie
      • H3 – 2. Gorgonzola
      • H3 – 3. Chevre
    • H2 – Where to Buy Your Favorite Cheeses
      • H3 – Online Stores
      • H3 – Brick-and-mortars

H1 – The title or headline. Think of it as the title of a book. You only use it once.

H2 – The major headings that break up your content topically. Think of H2s as book chapters. If you’re covering a topic with multiple facets, each facet gets its own H2 heading.

H3 – Sub-headings that break up your H2 sections. Each H3 should be an offshoot of your top-level H2 topic.

H4, H5, H6 – These are less common, but can further break down your topic as needed. (I never use these.)

4. Creating Lots (and Lots) of Mediocre Content

Contrary to popular belief, putting out lots and lots of content, no matter the quality, will not earn you any accolades, let alone Google’s top rankings.

What happens instead?

Just what you’d think – putting out oodles of mediocre content will garner you a reputation as mediocre.

And that is not what you want.

More is not better. Better is better. Even if that means your content schedule scales way back.

In #contentmarketing, more is not better. BETTER is better. ? Even if that means your content schedule must scale waaay back. Click To Tweet

What to Do Instead

Don’t post five times per week if it’s all crap or not worth reading. Do post once a week, bi-weekly, or whenever you can – as long as each piece can stand on its own against the top of Google’s search results for your keyword.

Focus on meeting search intent, answering user questions, going in-depth, and providing thorough explanations and research on whatever you’re talking about.

You don’t “need more content.” You need to create better content.

Need help with that? Let our expert content writing team handle it.

5. Linking Indiscriminately

In your content, are you linking out to any old source you can find? Are you placing those links on random text?

What about your internal links? Does the link to your service page inside your new blog read “click here”? When you mention a related blog, do you link it like this?

seo content mistake - bad linking practices

Stop. ✋ Stop, stop, stop.

These SEO content mistakes are a giant waste of link juice.

You see, links act as signals for Google. When you link to another page in your content, you’re signaling that the page you’re pointing to is not just related and relevant to your topic, but also has authority and credibility.

The search engine pays attention to both the text you use to link to a URL, and the content of the URL itself. This is true for both inbound links (when you link out to a separate domain from your own) and internal links (when you link to another page on your domain).

The way you link, both internally and externally, matters.

What to Do Instead

Don’t link indiscriminately. Be smart and use a strategy to give Google better signals.

  • If you’re linking to a resource or reference that supports a point you made: Take the time to find a quality source with a high Domain Authority (DA), Alexa Rank, Domain Rating, or whichever metric you prefer to rely on. Or, choose one with a reputation you know is solid.
  • If you’re linking to an internal page on your website: Only link to related or similar pages in your content. Don’t spam your content with links to your other pages. Place your anchor text (the text you click on to open a link) on relevant keywords, not random text or “click here”.

Be a Smart SEO Content Marketer

SEO content mistakes are easy to make. But smart marketers can admit them and learn from them.

The good news is, once you know how to fix them, you’ll never look back. You’ll build a better content strategy, too.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Need great content?

We know SEO content writing and will write to fit your vision, goals, and bring in audience value.

Trust a team that’s been writing great content since 2011. Contact us today.

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Content Marketing Outperforms Cold Calling and Other Dying Marketing Techniques: Here’s Why.

Content Marketing Outperforms Cold Calling and Other Dying Marketing Techniques: Here’s Why.

Content marketing is leaving outdated marketing methods in the dust.

Feeling doubtful? The $400 billion content marketing industry is on track to explode. Overall, content marketing will grow by $269.24 billion during 2019-2024.

It’s not a new practice, but it is finally getting the recognition and respect it deserves because content marketing works. (Plain and simple.)

For example…

If you stopped cold calling right now, what would happen?

You wouldn’t get new customers.

But what would happen if you were to stop content marketing?

You’d still be bringing in leads and traffic months, even years later.

Content marketing also compounds over time, which means it’s a long-term investment that will continue working for you long after the content is published. And since 68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, quality content that ranks on search pages is going to keep producing results and making your brand discoverable. ?

content marketing vs. cold calling

What Exactly Is Content Marketing, and Why is It So Powerful?

Content marketing compounds over time. It’s a long-term investment that will continue working for you long after the content is published. ? Click To Tweet

Content marketing is a strategic approach that focuses on writing and publishing relevant content that will attract, educate, and engage a defined audience.

Instead of reciting the typical sales pitch, content creators are helping consumers solve problems.

That seems a little counterproductive for a marketing strategy, right? How can you increase your sales if you aren’t talking about how great your products and services are?

The answer is simple: you’re building trust and authority. Instead of adopting the sleazy salesman role, which is an immediate turnoff for many consumers, you’re having a pleasant conversation with them and providing information they need. And that will likely inspire them to see what else you have to offer.

Consider this: Google reports that SEO (search engine optimized) traffic is five times greater than PPC (pay per click) and ten times greater than social media.

Speaking of Google, that’s where 92.96% of global traffic originates, so ranking on Google is an absolute must if you want to see success. During the pandemic, Google search traffic jumped from 3.6 billion searches per day to more than 6 billion per day.

Simply paying for ads on Google isn’t going to cut it. On average, a person sees between 6,500 and 11,000 ads per day, not to mention 42.7% of worldwide internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 relying on ad-blocking tools at least once a month.

With that constant advertising bombardment, it’s no wonder people have largely become “ad blind.”

Using an SEO-first content marketing strategy isn’t interruptive like typical ads (and it won’t be flagged by ad blockers). It allows businesses to target new prospects at every stage of the purchase funnel.

lifecycle of impactful content

6 Steps to Create Content That Generates Leads and Brings in Traffic

Your brand’s content strategy framework is your golden formula for success. It goes much deeper than simply writing articles that target keywords.

Whether you’re a content marketing beginner wondering how to get started or a veteran looking to polish your existing strategy for better success, you’re in the right place!

Below is a step-by-step look at how a rock-solid content strategy foundation works.

6 brand content strategy cores

1. Know Your Foundations: Niche, Expertise, and CDF 

When it comes to content creation and marketing, you need to be able to answer the following questions first:

  • What is my niche (targeted industry)?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What are my qualifications/expertise?
  • What are my business goals?
  • What do I have to offer than nobody else does?

The last question is your Content Differentiation Factor, or CDF. Basically, your CDF is what makes you unique among your competition.

Before you can start defining your audience and writing content for them, you need to have a clear understanding of who you are and what you want to accomplish.

Is your content marketing going to be used to find new leads? To educate people about solutions (and how your product or service can solve their problems)? To provide citable data and studies? To increase the organic web traffic on your site? To create brand awareness?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you have the groundwork laid for your content marketing strategy.

2. Understand What Your Audience Wants and Needs 

Part of your Step 1 analysis should be figuring out your target audience. But knowing who your audience will be is very different from knowing how to convert them into customers.

Some of the ways you can identify the needs of your audience can include:

  • Reviewing online comments and conversations to identify consumer needs.
  • Researching keywords that are relevant to your targeted niche.
  • Studying your competition to see what they’re doing.
  • Sending out customer surveys.
  • Creating audience personas for your content strategy.

All of this research should answer these two critical questions: “Who am I writing for?” and “What are they looking for?”

Content Marketing & Strategy Course

3. Target Keywords with SEO Best Practices 

Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is the practice of writing and formatting content in a way that ranks in search engines.

When researching the best keywords to target, you should ideally look for low-competition, long-tail keywords that are three or more words in length. And, most importantly, these keywords should be highly relevant to your niche.

keyword sweet spot

When writing your content, avoid keyword-stuffing, which is the outdated practice of forcing a keyword into an article as many times as possible, even if that results in the article being difficult to read. Doing so will negatively impact your ranking.

SEO rewards writing that flows naturally. For the best SEO results, you should also:

  • Optimize for voice searches. 71% of consumers would rather search by voice than type their question, with a projected 122.7 million voice search users for this year. This means there is more value in optimizing your content for natural speech rather than keywords. For example, a voice search is going to prioritize pages that answer a question such as “Who was Steve Jobs?” rather than keywords like “Steve Jobs apple company.”
  • Improve readability with visual appeal. About 65% of your audience will be visual learners. Images, bulleted lists, subheadings, and videos will help to make your content easier to read.
  • Create your own studies, data, infographics, and imagery. This practice allows your graphics to be indexed by Google while generating backlinks when other websites cite your content in their articles. Win-win!

4. Become a Trusted Authority in Your Market 

What exactly does it mean to be an authority?

The pandemic took a toll on the public’s trust. In fact, there’s an all-time low in consumer trust for informational sources, according to the Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer. And yet, the numbers show that trust in individual businesses is at a global high.

Simply put, when consumers lost faith in the government and media, they instead turned to businesses for information.

Building your authority can mean your brand is perceived as a source of trustworthy, relevant information for your consumers, or your brand is an authority website based on Google’s ranking standards.

From a content marketing perspective, you should strive to achieve both of those goals.

The way to do that is by regularly publishing content that consumers are searching for online and want to read.

Remember, it’s not a sales pitch. You’re not telling your customers that you’re an expert — you’re demonstrating your credibility to them, which is much more effective.

In addition, you’re engaging with your audience and generating website traffic, which will help Google recognize your site as valid.

5. Strategize and Schedule Your Content for Consistency 

HubSpot surveyed 7,000 businesses and used the data to develop a marketing benchmark report. They found that companies with 1,000 or more pages bring in 9.5 times more traffic than companies who have less than 50 pages.

Looking at that raw data, you might assume that quantity is more important than quality. In truth, the two go hand-in-hand.

Simply pumping out worthless content for the sake of upping your page count is not going to be an efficient or productive use of your resources. The real key here is consistency. You should be:

  • Using a calendar to ensure that you have content scheduled and planned in advance.
  • Auditing old posts to keep them relevant and up-to-date.
  • Budgeting your time and expenses to stay on top of outsourcing costs and make sure your dollars are going into high-quality content creation.
  • Promoting your content with an omnichannel approach to increase shares, conversations, and leads.

6. Maintain Your Progress with Analytical Data 

Relying on analytics, whether that’s Semrush, Google Analytics, or a variety of other tools, is one of the best ways to track your progress and see trends.

This data will provide a clear picture so you can see what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to make strategic decisions and ensure your long-term success by tweaking your strategy when necessary.

In order to truly measure your progress, it’s important to set KPIs (key performance indicators). You need to have specific goals to track, such as website traffic, new leads, browsing sessions, bounce rates, et cetera. This will give you targets so you’ll know if you’re actually seeing the growth you want and need.

If you’re hitting your KPIs, that’s great! You’re on the right track!

If not, it’s back to the content strategy drawing board.

Content Marketing is the Future of Marketing… and the Present

It’s not a question of if content marketing will be successful.

It already is.

Companies who committed to the initial investment and stuck with it (that’s important!) saw incredible ROI over time, while businesses who brushed off content marketing as a waste of time or started it halfheartedly but let their strategy fall by the wayside ended up at a huge disadvantage compared to their competitors.

That’s not to say you should stop investing in cold calls, PPC, and other methods. A well-rounded marketing strategy is still important.

But if content marketing isn’t a key component of your strategy, you’re missing a major opportunity.

Express Writers provides high-quality written content in any format you might need, whether it’s expert blog posts, infographics, ebooks, ad copy, case studies, press releases, social media, and more. See what we have to offer.

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