visuals in your content

10 Ways to Boost Your Copy With Engaging Visuals in Your Content

Quick: what’s black and white and sad all over?

Online copy with no visuals!

Today, great visuals are everything to engaging, readable online copy.

In addition to making your material more exciting, they also help pull readers through your text, making it easier for them to engage with and connect to it.

Without visuals, content is just a sad shell of text, and won’t make it far.

Here’s everything you need to know about why visuals matter and how to use them in your online content.

visuals

What the Numbers Say About Visuals in Your Content

When you were a kid, you loved books with pictures, right?

The illustrations just added something to the text, and you enjoyed learning about new worlds and people through colorful images.

Today, it’s no different.

While it might be true that we’re older and that the visuals in question now aren’t so much illustrations as they are graphics, screenshots, and infographics, visuals are just as important as they’ve always been, and adding them into your marketing copy can take it from “blah” to memorable.

The reason is simple: visuals tell a story, and that story helps enhance your online content. Without visuals, the words must stand on their own, which makes your material less compelling and exciting for readers.

Here are some visual marketing statistics on the power of visuals in your content:

visual content stats infographic

  • 37% of marketers report that visuals are their most valuable marketing asset, second only to their blogs
  • 74% of social media marketers add visuals to their social updates
  • While people only remember 10% of the information they hear, they remember an average of 65% of what they see, making visual information the way to go for companies that want to encourage brand recall.
  • In 2016, 51% of B2B marketers were prioritizing the creation of visual assets.
  • By the end of this year, experts are predicting that 74% of all web traffic will be dedicated to video content.
  • Infographics earn 3x as many likes and shares on social media as any other type of content.
  • Tweets that have images in them receive 150% more retweets than text-only updates.
  • Facebook posts with images earn 2.3x the engagement of text-only posts.

With these numbers in mind, it’s clear that visual marketing is here to stay, and that engaging in it can be the most productive thing you do this year.

10 Ways to Use Visuals in Your Online Copy

New to the world of visual marketing? Don’t fear. Start by using these top ten visual tricks:

1. Add Images To Every 200-300 Words in Your Blogs & Create Social Shareworthy Inset Images

This is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to incorporate images into every blog you publish.

But don’t just “add images.” Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Add a screenshot per every 200-300 words. By nature, the brain responds more to visual stimulation than text, so you’ll want to break up your content with a lot of visuals. Screenshots work well to illustrate points.
  • Design (or have designed) a beautiful blog topic image, sized for optimal social sharing. Things to consider: theme it to the color code of your logo, have a custom artist design it.

Here’s an example of a couple creative blog headers our designer has put together that gained a good deal of traction on social media:

love is in the air

header blog

Need custom image creations? We can help!

2. Create A Custom Infographic

Check out this crazy stat about infographics:

infographics-liked-and-shared-more

Source: MassPlanner

One of the most valuable things you can do for your marketing is to create a custom infographic. It’s seriously worth the investment. We create one every quarter (sometimes more): and to date, this content type has been our most-shared.

Why Blog 2017 Content Marketing Resolutions header cut

The header of one of our many infographics, 10 Blogging Resolutions.

Unique because it’s designed specifically for your company and helpful because it addresses the concerns and interests of your target audience, this form of visual content will help to differentiate your brand online and help you stand out from the crowd.

Infographics perform better on social media than other types of content, so you’ll earn a solid ROI from your infographic.

If you’re looking for a team to create infographics for you, look no further than our creative infographic services!

3. Create Custom Blog Headers that are Themed In Your Colors

Custom blog headers can give your content a unique look and help your blog feel more cohesive. This is the “featured image” section of your blog.

Ideal for brands of all shapes and sizes, custom blog headers are some of the most useful things you can create for your brand.

For best results, create headers that use your company’s colors, utilize your logo, and incorporate a streamlined and cohesive design. Check out how we do this for our content on The Write Blog. The end “blog roll” look is visually engaging:

blog roll

We’ve been experimenting with drawing “visual story steps,” too.

As of late 2016, we added unique, storytelling imagery to our content shop, which is a new variation in our visual products. Here are a few examples from our Process Page, to give you an idea of what these look like.

process

4. Screenshot Everything that Has a Visual Explanation

If you’re writing a tutorial, how-to, or instructive post, you need to be including screenshots. Visually explain what you’re talking about.

Screenshots help your readers understand what you’re saying and synthesize your post accordingly. This, in turn, makes it easier for them to connect with your content and absorb the meaning of your posts.

It also helps your content be more useful to your readers. Be sure that if you’re going to include a screenshot, to add one that’s in-depth and detailed, not a broad overview that won’t help your readers or that they could just as easily find on their own.

One tool I love is the Full Page Screen Capture, in the Chrome app store (free). I use Chrome daily, and to get a full-length screenshot without zooming and messing up the focus, the Full Page Screen Capture is my hidden weapon.

screen capture app

5. Add or Create A Meme

Memes are a great way to add some comic relief to your posts. Break up a long, detailed section with a meme or add it to offset a funny point you’re making.

meme

There are dozens of free online meme generators to choose from, so you can always make your own. Just be sure that your memes, like all your other visual assets, are relevant, high-quality, and targeted to your audience. Otherwise, they won’t perform as well as you’d like them to.

6. Include Process Photos

If you’re in an industry where you’re showcasing tutorials or telling your customers how you make something, include process photos to help them go one step deeper.

Designed to allow your readers to connect more firmly to your material, these images are ideal for articles that tell people how to do things like how to change a bike chain or add oil to their car. The more images, the better for these posts.

Here’s a WikiHow article that does a nice job of this:

Wikihow Article

7. Show What Not to Do

While you can tell your readers all day long what they shouldn’t be doing, an image can be the best way to show them. Ideal for any topic that’s in-depth or complex, a “what not to do” photo can drive the point home more efficiently than a simple explanation.

8. Create Custom Videos

Videos are some of the highest-converting types of visual content out there.

While they’ll work in virtually any environment, from social media to your home page, they can revolutionize your email marketing and landing pages.

For best results, hire a company to create a custom video for you, since doing it yourself involves a somewhat steep learning curve. Once you’ve got a video you’re proud of, add it to your landing page, or email campaign. Of course, you can also share videos across social media and on your blog.

The meditation app Headspace does a great job of including relevant, high-quality videos all across its website and social media profiles. Here’s an example of one that’s gotten more than 700,000 views:

9. Try A Live Stream

Feeling adventurous with video? Try a live stream. Ideal for anyone who wants to tap into the rapidly growing trend of on-the-go video, live stream videos are the perfect way to make your online content more exciting and personalized for your readers.

You can live stream with Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Periscope, to name a few channels.

10. Create Galleries

Galleries are a unique way to use visuals and can be a smart way to showcase your work or introduce your employees on your website. For best results, ensure each image you include in your gallery is high-quality, relevant, and demonstrative of the gallery subset you’re displaying.

The Case for Compelling Images

If you’re looking for a smart way to go deeper with your images this year, these ten options are fantastic places to start.

Perfect for brands in all industries and specialties, carefully-selected visual content has the potential to boost readership, make content more impactful, and promote brand recall – all of which are excellent things for you.

What’s more, creating and compiling high-quality visual content has never been easier than it is right now, so there’s no reason to wait!

Need help creating professional visual assets you’ll be proud of? Check out our custom image services today!

where to publish content

A Data-Driven Answer on Where to Publish Your Content, & the Downside of Being Everywhere

From the moment we wake up, we consume a crazy high amount of content.

It’s nuts.

In just one minute: 7 million Snapchat videos are posted. Over 2 million Instagram posts get “hearted.” Facebook gets over 4 million likes. Nearly 350,000 tweets happen. Google translates 69 million words. (Contently)

In one day: two million blogs are posted.

So it only makes sense that you should share your awesome content on all of those platforms in order to have the greatest reach.

In a world of endless options for publishing content, we should publish anywhere and everywhere, right? (FOMO!)

Not necessarily. Let’s keep talking.

where to publish content at

Where to Publish Content: Why The Answer Starts With Where NOT to Publish 

One of the challenges we face as content marketers is the rise of social media platforms and the fact that readers don’t just start there – they never have to leave.

We use social media for news, to keep up with trends, to connect with other people, and to follow our favorite brands, which means we’re more engaged than ever before. But we also run the risk of getting stuck in a rut with the billions of others who are plugged in worldwide.

statista

From Statista

Your content may be magnificent, praiseworthy, and top-notch. But that doesn’t mean you should utilize every blogging and social media outlet known to the internet in order to share it.

The more content you publish, the better, but where should you sink all your valuable content marketing efforts into?

Here’s Where to Publish: 3 Areas of Focus We Recommend

When you are ready to share amazing content, here are three of the best places to create and publish on.

1. Your own blog and site

Honestly: this is your real best content publishing real estate.

Upkeeping a blog is key.

Look at these stats:

1) B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not.

2) Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

5) Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.

6) Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.

Hubspot

Treat it like your #1 content hub. Grow and expand it, weekly if not daily.

Here at Express Writers, we publish the majority of the content on our site. The combined abilities of our experienced writers allow us to create quality content that brings in revenue while also helping our audience. We post a few times a week, with posts between 1,500 and 4,000 words. Once a week, a Twitter chat recap in our dedicated chat section is also created and shared. Our content is consistent, well-researched, and published following a specific timeframe. Topics are planned and thought out with care.

Our branded content has ended up being a major, major source of our entire company revenue (to the tune of 90%). More on that in my case study.

Your blog content can be an amazing resource for your audience. Here’s why:

  • Blogging can increase your search engine optimization (SEO), especially when you use keywords in the right way and create content in long form.
  • Blogging gives you content to promote across social media channels.
  • Blogging allows you a space to put valuable calls-to-action, which have the potential to generate leads and grow conversions.

A. How to write a strong blog post?

Hubspot offers some simple tips on how to write a blog post that begins with understanding your audience and ends with choosing a catchy title. You can read more about that here and grab some free blogging templates while you’re at it.

The best blog posts always have a clear topic and engaging title; the audience is drawn in and stays engaged because they have been captivated by the introduction.

The content is well-organized and relevant to the issue being addressed.

Experts across the industry craft quality blog content for their sites, including:

  • Neil Patel – co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmeterics
  • Barry Feldman – speaker, author, and creative copywriter
  • Seth Godin – author and founder of Squidoo

B. How often to post?

You may be wondering how often to publish on your company’s blog. While every company is different in size, strategy, and industry, there is some research that can help us answer that question.

In one study from HubSpot, the results showed that B2B companies that published over 16 blog posts per month received more than 3 times the amount of traffic as compared to companies that only published 4 times per month.

For B2C companies, those 16-times-per-month rate saw over 4 times the amount of traffic.

In another study, over 90% of Hubspot’s blog leads and more than 75% of post views came from old posts.

Posting quality content multiple times per week may be just what your readers are looking for, and if it’s awesome content, they will keep coming back for more. Read more about how to write content for a blog over here.

The time, effort, and work put into your own content makes your blog site YOUR real estate.

Why publish your best on someone else's? - @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

2. Guest blogging in your niche

Before you decide where to guest blog, you should set a goal for your blogging.

These goals could include anything from setting yourself up as an authority in your industry to driving readers to your own site.

Check out how we achieve results from guest blogging: my content, for example a column I keep with 2 posts/week on SiteProNews, has netted us a lead worth $5,000.

content life cycle

When you begin with this sort of focus, it can help narrow your scope as you write.

Guest blogging in your niche is a great opportunity to share your authoritative view on a number of topics, but you must find platforms where your audience is already located.

You may find opportunities by searching for blogs that invite guests to post – just do a keyword search using words from your industry combined with “guest post” or “guest blogger.” From here, you’ll find guides, and the publications publishing them will more often than not accept guest bloggers in this industry. (See result #2: that’s CMI’s guest blogging guidelines!)

keyword search for guest blogger

A recent Google search for “content marketing submit a guest post” presented almost 3 million results. (!!!)

You can also look on the social feeds of your buyers. Check out Facebook feeds and Twitter posts – what content does your demographic share? Your potential audience is already reading content across these mediums, so it’s a good place to start.

At Express Writers, we have seen some serious return on investment from just one guest blog post. I already showed you the Life Cycle graphic, but check out my post for more about it.

What are some of the “secrets”?

  • Focus on less channels, not more.
  • Focus on a relationship with a real person, not a contact form.
  • Focus on the platforms in your niche.
  • Focus on giving your best, most useful content.

Guest blogging in your niche is also a great way to connect with other marketers in your industry. You never know where a relationship may lead or when you will need their advice for your own content development.

3. Be on Two (Very) Authoritative Platforms

Sharing your content on authoritative platforms not only sets you apart as an expert, but allows your voice to be heard by a larger audience. There are benefits when you publish on sites like Medium and LinkedIn.

Why? Because you are demonstrating your expertise through the delivery of valuable content – it’s showing an audience versus just telling them.

1. Medium

Writing, publishing, and promoting content on this platform means you’ll join the likes of Sports Illustrated and the White House.

medium-homepage

Yes, the White House. As in, the State of the Union addresses and policy announcements.

When founder Ev William first launched the site in 2012, he noted that Medium is a place where writers focus on the words while also serving as a place of collaboration so you can say what you want to say.

Wordstream shared 10 reasons content writers should publish on Medium. They include:

  • The simple import process.
  • A built-in audience through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Engagement tools, so you can see who’s reading and how many.
  • Minimum effort – no original content required.

Read more here, including how your valuable content can be discovered by publishers who scout for authors on Medium.

2. LinkedIn

linkedin pulse

This virtual gathering of all types of professionals also serves as a publishing platform. In February 2014, LinkedIn Pulse went public, allowing writers from a variety of industries to share their thoughts with the click of a button.

In order to write successful content on LinkedIn, there are some suggestions noted on the site to help get you started:

  • Offer advice for career advancement.
  • Describe challenges in your profession, both current and future.
  • Discuss how your industry has changed since you began.
  • Give solid advice to one who hopes to enter your field.

Posts should be long-form and are bolstered by relevant images or videos. While there are no limits on word count, the more helpful content you can share, the more value you can bring to the table.

And don’t forget – editing is your friend!

Case Study: Where We Publish Content at Express Writers

I lead our inbound content strategy (and write a lot of it, with other staff members).

Here’s a visual representation of what my schedule when publishing content looks like.

As you can see, a large portion of our content is dedicated to our site. Hence the huge amount of inbound leads we receive (case study on that here).

express writers content schedule

What About New Platforms? Answer These 3 Questions to Make Sure it’s Worth Your Time

New platforms for content publishing may arise out of the night like a sparkly, shiny marketing tool that calls to you and beckons you to come forward and share your valuable writing.

Don’t fall for it.

When Blab.im was released as a video discussion website and livestream app, people loved it and spent a lot of time on the site – an average of an hour a day. The platform took three weeks to build and went from 0 users to just under 4 million in less than a year.

In August of 2016, the website was shut down, and along with its departure went all of its users’ content.

This is proof that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. So how do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

Ask yourself these three questions first:

1. Does this platform fit my niche?

If it does, you are more likely to attract qualified leads and find the right audience for your topic. Content shared on LinkedIn is not going to look the same as content shared on SnapChat, so think carefully before jumping into a new platform.

2. Who is my intended audience, and do they spend time there?

In order to know if your audience participates in a particular platform, you have to first know who they are. Define who you are trying to reach and then find out where those individuals spend their time.

Copyblogger reminds us:

“Before you can get someone to buy from you, you need to know what to say to them, and how to say it. You’ll never get that right unless you know who you’re talking to.”

3. Will my presence there help me meet my content goals?

If your goal is to increase brand awareness, a focus on guest blogging may be more worth your time than a case study. If you are looking for engagement, being active on social media channels could help your content go viral faster than a podcast.

The Downside to Being Everywhere

Content marketers are busy people, and we’re not just talking about the actual content creation part.

This may be your only job, or it may be in addition to that other job you work. You may or may not have a spouse, kids, a home, and other interests that demand your attention. It’s possible to stretch yourself too thin as you try to be every solution to everyone, and burn out.

There is a downside to being everywhere.  

Can Being Everywhere Lead to Being Nowhere?

When you are just starting out – and even when you’ve been at this content thing for a while – it is easy to fall prey to the notion that your content should be everywhere.

After all, isn’t that how we make an impact?

Actually, the “Be Everywhere” strategy can take you down a long, winding road to the town of Nowhere. No one wants to be here. It’s marked by content creators who have spread themselves so far that they have little to give.

Nowhere is a land of few listeners and even fewer conversions.

Over at Entrepreneur, Jeff Stephens reminds us why trying to be everywhere can lead us to nowhere:

  • Every platform requires time, focused effort, and a learning curve while you try to get to know a new audience.
  • Focusing on too many channels distracts us from what really matters.
  • Being everywhere wastes time and means you are nowhere fully.

For more inspiration on this, listen in to my podcast with Mark Schaefer, one of the top business bloggers in the world, where he discusses the downside of not focusing on and mastering just a few channels – for many years with Mark, it was just one channel, his blog!

The solution to being everywhere is to find the place where you really need to be, and target your content across those channels.

Does targeted content distribution matter?

Among marketers, 53% say that target content distribution is a factor that has contributed to their increased success.

At the same time, the average number of content marketing tactics used is seven, with the top being social media and blogs.

2017_B2C_Research

Graphic from Content Marketing Institute

Intentionality in choosing your distribution channels will not only benefit you – saving time, energy, and resources – it will benefit your audience, as well.

They will get your best content, the content that has been crafted with a focus on their needs and real solutions.

Only you can decide which channels are beneficial and which ones need to go. But whatever you do, don’t get lost in the land of Nowhere. It won’t bring value to your message and it certainly won’t benefit your readers.

Gain Focus with a Solid Content Marketing Strategy & Know Where to Publish Content

In order to know where you want to go, you need a plan for getting there. That’s where a content marketing strategy comes in, although the majority of marketers do not have one.

Only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a content marketing plan in writing, while 70% of us are creating more content this year than in 2016.

Study after study has shown that success comes when we write down our goals, go back to review them, and share them with others. It is not different for content creation.

No matter how small or how big your team is, a written content strategy can make a huge difference in how you reach and who you reach with your message. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

  • Define your goal – why are you producing content?
  • Conduct your research – who is your audience?
  • Evaluate your content – check out what you did last year, and see if you can switch it up.
  • Secure a content management tool – try HubSpot’s software, CoSchedule, or WordPress.
  • Brainstorm content ideas and types – outline the blog post that’s been simmering, start crafting that e-book, and put together an infographic if these types of content are what will work best for your audience’s needs.
  • Publish your content – Post it on your website, social media channels, or on a guest blog. Create quality content on a consistent basis. Don’t offer your audience something generic that they can find anywhere. Be specific and be intentional.

The Truth About All Those Platforms

If we were to sit down over a cup of coffee and list all the platforms available to content marketers, it would be extensive.

  • Social media sites
  • Video sites
  • Email marketing
  • Webinars
  • Graphic tools
  • Paid promotion tools
  • Blogging channels

In addition to the countless number of publishing sites we already have, there are new ones popping up all the time. Where you should focus your efforts depends on your goals, your audience, and your resources.

And all of those platforms? Just because they are there doesn’t mean they are the right ones for you. The last thing you want is to put all your efforts into something that doesn’t reach your target and ends up taking you to the town of Nowhere.

When you know your readers and you know where you want to go, where to publish will make much more sense. Combine this with a confidence in your abilities, and you can be on your way to publishing the right content in the right places.

Find Your Rhythm, Know Where to Publish Content that Works for You

Challenges for content marketers abound, whether you’ve been in this field for a week or a decade.

Where to publish your content can only be decided by you, but these tips can go a long way to help.

With a bit of thought and planning, find your rhythm, choose the best outlets for your audience, reach the right people – and do amazing things!

engagement cta

authenticity in content marketing

Why Brand Honesty & Authenticity in Content Marketing is Key to Building Customer Trust

How much do you agree with this thought:

“Honesty is something you can’t wear out.” – Waylon Jennings

Here’s another question.

Is it possible to be too honest? Over-transparent?

Everyone has at least one person they know who says too much. It can be irritating.

But in content marketing, brand honesty and authenticity are the opposite of off-putting.

In fact, these virtues are necessary to build trust for your efforts.

Maybe Waylon Jennings was onto something.

Let’s explore my data-driven research on this important, perhaps critical, marketing topic of today: brand authenticity and honesty. (You’ll also see why I believe in it so much. I put it all out there when it came to an issue I faced in 2016.)

authenticity in content marketing

Consumer Reviews in an Age of Content Marketing

Did you know that 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before already forming an opinion about a business?

In an age of ever-advancing technology and communication, online reviews remain an important part of consumer research and decision-making.

Why is this?

Because online reviews are honest. And we need to know that the product we are purchasing, the realtor we are working with, and the pizza place we’re thinking about for dinner are both trustworthy and worth our time.

The same is true for our content. If our brand’s integrity and honesty shine through, we are setting up an environment where our audience will trust us and keep coming back for more. But while consumers want honesty, not all feel like it’s present.

According to Chon & Wolfe, 75% of consumers surveyed across 14 markets believe that companies are not open and transparent. While this may seem like a negative statistic, it actually opens up the door for us to engage in the type of practices that will close this gap.

Ready to jump in with us?

How Brand Honesty and Authenticity Build Serious Trust for Your Content Marketing

There is tremendous power behind authentic and honest messaging. When the story resonates, the audience listens, and when we hear what they are saying and respond with thought, the conversation continues and we all benefit.

Brand honesty and authenticity build trust for your content marketing efforts not because you are saying what they want to hear, but because you’re saying what’s real.

Did you catch that? It’s not about throwing out a catchy sales pitch or trying to be something you aren’t. When we are real, all of a sudden, we feel less alone. We find that someone else “gets” us, makes mistakes like we do, and finds it in themselves to move on in spite of it.

Here are three ways brand honesty and authenticity build trust in your content marketing efforts.

1. Honesty adds value

Presenting an honest front adds value because it sets you up as an authority. Would you take parenting advice from someone who’s never had kids? Would you take your car to someone who’s never popped a hood and trust him with your engine?

Probably not.

But maybe you notice your neighbor working on cars every weekend and then you talk to him, and he mentions that he’s been a mechanic on the side for 20 years. In this case, maybe you would consider asking him why your car is making that funny noise.

Why is that?

Because you have seen him act as an expert. You can now take a step forward in trusting him with your own vehicle.

When our content marketing is backed by personal stories and experiences because we’ve been there, it adds value to what we’re saying. We are moving ourselves from an advice-giver to a credible source of information and real solutions.

We are adding value to our brand.

2. Honesty shows you care.

Genuine interest in the midst of a busy life isn’t as difficult as it seems. At the same time, failing to communicate authentically leaves an empty space that leaves your audience wondering where everything went wrong.

It is true that customers want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, no matter what. Silence begets distrust and suspicion, openness builds trust. (Forbes)

Honesty in your brand’s message communicates to your audience that you care enough to tell the truth, even if it isn’t pretty. As an authority in your field, you are looking beyond your own reputation and moving into an attitude of transparency with your readers.

3. Honesty clarifies who shouldn’t invest in your brand.

HubSpot recommends that in our attempts at insane honesty, we tell the world who should probably not buy our products.

Really.

Why is this? Because it clearly identifies those who should purchase and alienates less likely customers, those mismatches and time-wasters. And contrary to what we may think, people won’t walk away mad or turn against us. They’ll just keep looking until they find a good fit.

It’s less about wasting their time and more about attracting the right audience for your message.

What Makes a Brand Authentic? 2 Factors

The Cohn & Wolfe survey cited earlier found that among consumers, authenticity from brands would earn them more loyalty. Consumers would also be more likely to:

  • Refer to friends and family
  • Invest in the company
  • Consider working as an employee for the company

What makes a brand authentic?

1. Reliability

Your audience expects you to be reliable. Start a Fire reminds us that instead of just talking about our products or services, the key to drawing in an audience is to create reliable content that they can easily relate to.

Each time we provide authoritative content in an honest way, we are building a foundation for our current readers and potential future connections.

One example of a reliable brand is John Deere. From building the first polished plow back in the 1800s to the publication of The Furrow, which attempted to educate farmers on new technology and how to be more successful business owners, Deere & Company has proven itself to be a reliable brand for its customers.

john deere

Graphic from Contently

The current art director for the publication credits the magazine’s focus on the audience, rather than the equipment they sell.

Can your readers count on you to deliver consistent, high-quality content that meets their needs?

2. Respectfulness

Respecting someone, even if we don’t agree, is not always an easy thing to do. And what about your competition? Yes, even that brand or company is headed up by a real person who deserves respect.

One example of a respectable brand is Nike.

nike

Scroll through their separate customer support account (@NikeSupport), and you’ll find phrases like “we’re here to help,” and, “if you need anything else, we’ve got your back.” This makes a big difference, not only for those who need to approach the company for assistance, but also for future interactions.

The audience will know that they will be treated with kindness and respect.

In your interactions with your audience, do you put their needs first?

Realness: When content marketing is too salesy or comes across as promotional, it drives an audience away. Rather than trying to tout a product, focus on providing real value to your readers and see where it takes the relationship.

It’s our responsibility to deliver authentic content every time. This extends to social media, visual content, and email content. When Southwest Airlines made the move to “Transfarency,” they showed the heart of the brand and the foundation of how the company does business.

transferency

How does your message express the heart of your brand?

Case Study: Our Move to Go Completely Authentic

In May of 2016, Express Writers made the move to be totally transparent with some things that happened in the company around that time. In response to previous staff members failing to deliver quality content and embezzling funds, we determined to be honest and upfront about the entire issue. Rather than hiding behind a façade of we’ve-got-it-all-together, we chose to come clean and make changes in the process.

After talking to a ton of people about it, I decided to write an “immediate-response” blog about what we were going to do to improve our entire workforce and company, and later on, tell the story in a podcast.

Read about what happened and what our response was here on the blog, and here in the podcast episode.

Although it was a difficult choice for me to make – being that transparent to our entire client and subscriber base, I heard positive responses from the majority of readers. (Of course, there was that 2% that said “TMI.” But I’m glad I went with my gut on this one.)

Strangers on Facebook even shared my podcast about it:

brand honesty

Ready to Build Trust for Your Brand?

Authenticity cannot be faked.

It requires commitment to delivering through on promises and engaging on an honest level.

It’s work, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the time and resources you invest.

Your brand will be better, and your audience will stick around because they know they are only getting what’s real and reliable.

If Waylon Jennings was right about honesty being something we can’t wear out, our content marketing should be as honest and authentic as possible. This approach not only connects us with our audience, but sets us apart as an authority.

One more time: real connection happens not because you say what they want to hear, but because you’re saying what’s real.

cta

why your content marketing is failing

3 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing is Failing

Does the following sound familiar?

  • Send out a newsletter,
  • Update your social media,
  • Check search engine rankings,
  • Try to engage with your audience and respond when needed,
  • Put some effort into blogging.

Is it getting you somewhere?

Or do you fit the more common mold: unhappy, the results aren’t what you had hoped, and it’s A LOT of work to get all of this done. It should be easier than this, right? Shouldn’t the product, as amazing and worthwhile as it is, sell itself?

Unfortunately, this scenario happens a lot in content marketing.

We hate to break it to you, but it’s kind of like paying for McDonald’s and expecting Panera – or P.F. Chang’s.

why your content marketing could be failing

Why Your Content Marketing is Failing: You’re Not Doing Anything Different

What is your favorite fast food joint?

Before you go touting your love of all things organic and kale-based (I’m a clean food freak, myself) – keep in mind that fast food restaurants in America serve millions of customers every day, even while we claim to understand the health benefits of all things green.

So why do those greasy, salty chains still do so well? Why are seven out of the top ten chains marked by fried food, calorie-laden sodas, and “unclean” food?

qsr magazine

Graphic from QSRMagazine

Because somewhere along the way, they set themselves apart and became different from the competition – and made a permanent impression upon their target audience’s mind.

When it comes to content marketing, you get what you put into it.

There’s a reason your content marketing efforts are producing Happy Meal-sized results when what you really want to serve is a delicious, home-cooked meal with a side of conversions and authentic engagement.

If you're not doing anything different than the competition, you're not going to stand out. @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

The good news?

You can change that, and we’re here to help you. Ready to chew on it?

Creating Compelling Content By Using the Right Approach

Joe Pulizzi reminds us at CMI that what we are creating must be valuable, useful, compelling, and different.

This means we have to step aside from the time we spend worrying about the process and approaches to content creation and move toward being more concerned with the actual content we create and the difference it makes for our audience.

Which means it actually has to make a difference.

Why post to social media? Why send out a newsletter? Why should your readers step away from their fried greasy plate over to your buffet of deliciousness and take a bite?

After all, there is a fast food joint on every corner.

There are 300 hundred hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute in addition to over 4 million Facebook “likes” and 347,222 Tweets.

CM Failing 2

Graphic from Contently

So – what’s so great about you?

3 Ways to Take Your Content Marketing from Greasy to Great

Our content marketing is failing not because we aren’t trying, but because we all look the same. There are some ways to change that and take your content from greasy, drive-thru fare to take-a-seat, dive in greatness of the finest of meals.

Are you ready to begin creating quality content with the maximum amount of engagement?

1. Be okay with changing course & diving deeper

No one likes to be in pain, but changing course and diving deeper usually means pain:

  • More investment/money
  • More time on your part
  • More hassle

But there is good news! This effort and time will give your content marketing so much more of a return on investment. Have you always done a blog post, social media post, and e-newsletter, right on time? Switch it up and do a podcast, experiment with Facebook Live, or move toward something more interactive.

It’s okay to pass up that burger place and keep driving for something more satisfying.

This is the number #1 trait that goaded me to work harder and achieve greater results since early 2016. Before that, I was a mediocre blogger. But today – I care.

Check out the case study I wrote last year on where we’re at: and for an example of a “more time/investment” post, check out the big spend infographic we did. Content like that isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. Don’t do anything less.

2. Turn your focus back to your audience

Are you confident in the voice you are developing as an authority in your field? This requires effort on your part and takes some investment in understanding the readers and staying current on the content you are offering.

exist

One way to turn the focus back on the audience – where it belongs – is to create a list of the biggest and best blogs in the niche you are in, and then analyzing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

No matter the subject matter, if it isn’t different, the audience won’t care. They will keep looking until they find the relevant and interesting solutions for their needs.

Remember that you aren’t writing to the whole world.

Find your niche, get to know it, and write/publish/create for the people in it. @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

3. Use only the best tools

Let’s say you are looking to market your new business, which sells custom-made home décor. Besides the obvious competition from the big names, you have a host of smaller shops on sites like Etsy that will be selling similar products as your own.

How do you even begin to market to your audience and set your brand apart from the others? Here are a few tools we love.

  • Quora: This collaborative information-sharing and learning site connects the information needs of real humans (your target audience) with solutions provided by real people (you).
  • Answer the Public: This site finds and maps keyword suggestions and predictions that users see when they search on Google. Here, you can find out what questions your customers will have by way of a free report.
  • KW Finder: When you’re ready to research keywords and get the best bang for your buck, KW Finder gives you exact search volume data for your needs. The process is simplified and your results are a helpful way to find out which keywords to use based on the competition.
  • BuzzSumo: This powerful online tool lets any user find out what content is most popular by topic or by website. Quickly identify what content works well in a given industry and who the major influencers are. See a more extensive guide I wrote on BuzzSumo, here.

Boost Your Content Presence & Never Worry Why Your Content Marketing is Failing Again

The question now becomes, what are you going to do differently?

How can you change course, focus on the audience, and use effective tools for maximum impact?

You don’t have to be average, or settle for that – in any shape or form. There are so many ways to be different, so many ways to stand out and let your brand authenticity through.

Dare to be different – I dare you! 😉

cta great copy

interview for content marketing

How to Conduct a Content Marketing Interview: An Essential Guide to Prepping & Interviewing Your Subjects

This post was co-written by our staff members, Tara Clapper and Hannah Darling. 

 

In content marketing, interviewing is a crucial component.

Giving a successful interview is not only an efficient way to generate content, but it also provides fresh material that people will genuinely want to read.

As project managers with backgrounds in feature interview creation and publication, we’ve streamlined our processes for the workflow here at Express Writers.

Here’s our co-created guide to save and refer to when it’s time to conduct an effective interview for your content marketing subject. Enjoy!

how to interview for content marketing

How to Conduct a Content Marketing Interview: An Essential Guide to Prepping & Interviewing Your Subjects

Here are our top tips for preparing your interview subjects for the interview.

1. Schedule and Confirm

When you’re juggling multiple interviews, organization is essential. Sometimes, you may need to work through a third party to schedule calls – a press contact, content manager, or someone who wants you to interview a client or employee.

Tools to Use

Tara: I use Calendly to schedule all my business calls. I block out time (marked as busy) when I don’t want to take calls, such as on weekends or when I need time to answer clients’ emails or create content. Calendly also sends you and the interview subject an email confirmation.

If you need to schedule with multiple interviewees frequently, Doodle may suit your needs better.

2. Prep Your Interview Subject

Before you get on the phone with your interview subject, it will help them to know exactly what the interview will be about. That’s best done in the introductory email, which should be professional and enticing.

Once they accept, follow up with some more detailed information:

Email 1 – Initial Interview Pitch

Subject: Interview Invitation – [Brand Name] Blog

Hello, Name of Potential Interview Subject:

My name is Tara, Content Development Specialist at Express Writers. I’m writing on behalf of our client, Brand Name. Brand Name knows you’re an industry leader in Industry, and they’re very interested in featuring you on their blog, located here: ExpressWritersClientBlog.com/blog.

To get an idea of how it would look, please check out this blog post with Other Industry Superstar: ExpressWritersClientBlog.com/blog/superstarpost.html

If you’re interested, please let me know what days work best. You can book a time most convenient for you here: www.calendly.com/this-is-an-example.

I’d love to discuss [unique thing they’ve done in their industry], and I’d also like to provide you with the opportunity to promote your book. We could even include a discount code or link to a sample.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Tara

Email 2 – Follow up email

Subject: Thank You For Scheduling an Interview

Name of Interview Subject:

Thank you so much for accepting the interview invitation. I look forward to speaking with you on Monday, February 17th at 4 p.m. ET. I’ll call you at 555-555-5555.

I hope to focus on your impressive career in Your Industry: how you got started, what drives you to innovate, and where you think you’ll be in five years. I’m also curious about what prompted you to write and publish a book.

Thank you,

Tara

Unless you’re dealing with a veteran interviewee, it can really benefit you both to prep them a second time in person (or over the phone) right before you start. If you need long, direct quotes, you can encourage them to expand as much as possible when a question is asked and to try and avoid one word answers.

3. Set Parameters for Promotion

If the interview subject has a new book or a product they’d like to promote, you should let them know whether it’s okay for them to push their product. I usually handle this preemptively (see above emails), stating that I’m going to include a link to their product, and confirm which link I want to use.

Since they know it’ll be included, they usually feel less inclined to insert too much self-promotional speech. I also try to put one question in there about their product or book, even if that’s not the center of the conversation.

4. Ask the Softball Question, Then Play Hardball

Interview subjects vary – some get on the phone ready to talk about their unique place in their industry or field of expertise. Others are reticent and don’t know exactly what to say. Either way, you want to use the interview to develop a piece which highlights and distinguishes your interview subject from every other expert in their field.

In your research, try to discover:

  • What makes them interesting?
  • What are they best known for?
  • What personal facts and experiences help shape the human element of this person’s story?

Once you begin the interview, ask some ‘easy’ questions, like “How did you get your start in this field?” Once you’re a few questions in, ask something a bit more hard hitting. (In a business interview, you don’t need to ask a Barbara-Walters-make-them-cry question, but try for something thought-provoking.) If your interview subject says they need to think or that they’ve never been asked that question before, you’re on the right track!

Make sure not to ask ‘yes or no’ questions unless absolutely necessary, especially if the purpose of the interview is to serve as the foundation for a blog or article. If you do, there will be very little material to work with when all’s said and done, and you won’t have anything quotable.

More is more. The more information that you have to pull from, the better. Ask every question that comes to mind, whether or not you think it will be interesting.

Pause. As unnatural as it feels, when your interviewee is answering a question and they come to the end of a thought, pause before you say anything. Sometimes in that moment, they’ll keep talking if you let the silence hang there for a moment longer than feels comfortable. Don’t fill in the blanks or utter too many affirming phrases. In normal conversation, encouraging words to show that you’re listening or understand are important. In an interview, it can ruin the moment.

Oprah Winfrey is a master of thoughtful, emotive interviews. This is especially noticeable in her 2015 interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” series.

Check out the magic that happens when an experienced, conversational interviewer questions a celebrated storyteller:

5. Demand Empathy From Yourself

In the above interview, the empathy Oprah has for J.K. Rowling is unspoken, but facilitates the flow of the interview. Both women struggled with poverty and rose to international success, and at this point in their careers, they are ready for their next chapters.

Similarly, a successful interviewer has empathy for their subject. It can be as simple as both being parents, owning the same brand of car, or being pet owners. Whatever it is, finding that one simple thing to mention to your interview subject can really generate some trust and make the conversation a bit easier.

6. Consider the Interview a Conversation

Unless you need all of your interview questions strictly approved by a third party prior to the interview, you should remain open to asking spontaneous questions. This is why phone or Skype interviews may yield better results than email interviews – however, you can always ask follow up questions in email interviews if necessary.

Your interview subject could bring up an interesting point or something you hadn’t previously considered – and if it’s relevant, it’s like finding a strand you can spin into fresh yarn about a brand or individual.

Learn From Four Professional Journalists

These top journalists, interviewers, and producers provide some valuable tips on how to interview and present your subject’s story in an appealing way.

1. Katie Couric

“Nothing’s worse for me… as a viewer, to watch someone go down a laundry list of questions and not explore something with a little more depth… You have to be willing to veer off in a totally different direction.”

Katie Couric offers tips on:

  • Interview preparation
  • Creating concise and informative questions
  • Adjusting tone based on interview subject
  • Anticipating follow-up questions

2. Tavis Smiley

“There’s a very simple but poignant rule if you want to be a good interviewer….what makes sense to me is a conversation. It’s not scripted; it’s not laid out…it’s what works best in terms of media approaches to getting the most out of people.”

Tavis Smiley suggests:

  • Be an active listener
  • Understand both the subject and the issue at hand

3. Larry King

“If you see more times…that the host is on camera, it’s a bad interview to me…you want the guest to be good…The best way to learn something is take a step back and ask good questions.”

Larry King says his success comes from:

  • Leaving himself out of the interview
  • Following up on insightful interview responses
  • Being naturally curious
  • Putting guests at ease and being a ‘why’ person

4. Scott Simon

“The story ought to have a point – I don’t mean a lesson, or a moral, or even a punchline, but a point. Something people can take away from you.”

To make your interview memorable, Scott Simon advises:

  • Give them a small detail to remember and to pass on to others as they retell it
  • Ensure you have a strong beginning in your final piece
  • Tell your story in “short, breathable sections”
  • Have fun discovering the story in the interview

Need Help Conducting Your Interview Questions for Content Marketing?

Are you interested in having an expert, employee, customer, or content partner interviewed for your company’s blog?

Express Writers can take care of that for you!

Our experienced writers employ the above tactics and will provide you with a resourceful, insightful, natural interview transcript.

We can even transform the interview into a blog based on your desired format, afterwards.

Need help with your content marketing focused interview content? We have professional assistance on standby. Visit our interview service here and blog writing services here.

super bowl ad

How to Spend $37,000 for 2 Years of Content Marketing & Outperform a $5 Million Super Bowl Ad (Or, Why Content Marketing Is the Best Marketing)

Super Bowl ads cost a lot.

The average cost of an ad is around $5 million. Marketing for one commercial spot can cost as much as $1.25 million.

That comes out to about $41,600 dollars / second.

$5 million for one short spot?

Could it be wasted money?

The truth, according to a Stanford study, is that commercials by soda and beer companies have an insignificant effect on revenue. And 80% of commercials do nothing to boost sales or purchase intent, according to Bloomberg experts.

Here’s my next question.

Could content marketing outperform a Super Bowl ad?

I think so.

In today’s post, I’m making the argument that it can, by comparing a two-year investment in content marketing ($37k) vs. a 1-second Super Bowl ad investment ($41k). Read on.

super bowl vs content marketing

The High Cost of Being in the Super Bowl Ad Game

Companies justify the cost of advertising in order to keep pace with the competition, to give their brand greater visibility, and to keep consumers talking long after the winning touchdown is made.

To add to the mix, the rise of social media and advanced technology means we can share, YouTube, and tweet these commercials over and over again after companies have rushed to take the first place in line when commercial previews are unveiled in January.

Fun fact: the steep $5 million price tag is double what a Super Bowl ad cost ten years ago.

NY Times Graph

Graphic from NY Times

Can you afford to spend that much on content marketing?

The best of content creators could come up with a variety of efficient ways to spend $41,000 dollars in their efforts aside from a 30-second television spot.

Content marketing doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. And there are many ways a brand can spread a message that are both cost-effective and impactful.

Check out these incredible content marketing statistics:

  • 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (BlogHer)
  • 70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (SlideShare)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing. (Demand Metric)

See the pattern? Content marketing costs are less expensive and the preferred method for consumers to get to know a brand. This frees us up to explore other avenues in our quest to deliver authoritative and authentic copy.

Thankfully, those methods are cost-effective, allowing us to market a brand without a hefty price tag; we’ve gathered three effective tools and some powerful stats to show you how.

Ready to jump in?

The Math: Content Marketing Costs vs. Super Bowl Ad Costs

super bowl infographic

 

(Content costs based on our agency services at Express Writers. Keep reading for the breakdown.)

Why High-Quality Content Marketing Plays a Vital Role in a Brand’s Life (& 3 Winners)

Content marketers have proven time and again that they don’t need to spend thousands of dollars per second on flashy advertising in order to be successful. Reasonably-priced content marketing has the potential to make a difference to a brand’s online life.

High-quality tools like e-books, blogging packages, and social media can do wonders for a marketer’s efforts and bring a new vitality to a brand’s online presence for a non-millionaire price.

Here are three cost-effective, lead-generating content tactics you can use when you don’t have millions to invest in a Super Bowl ad.

1. Ebooks

With the right promotion and the support of a collaborative team, an e-book can not only generate leads, but also be the tool that converts. An e-book can set you apart as an authority in your field and can serve as a powerful source of information for your audience for years to come.

Another benefit of ebooks is the opportunity to deconstruct the content into smaller pieces, which could include:

  • a series of newsletters
  • blog posts
  • podcast series
  • a list of do’s and don’ts

Barry Feldman over at Convince and Convert calls this the “e-book equation.” He notes that while planning for your ebook, it should be formed in such a way to “cast a wide net over a fertile area that traces to one of your strengths,”  then outlined, researched, and written with the knowledge that it will “foster offspring.”

2. Blogging

In the 2017 Content Marketing Institute Benchmarks report, 75% of B2C marketers noted that blogging was one of an average of seven marketing tactics used in their efforts; this fell just under the top answer of social media content

SlideShare CMI

Graphic from SlideShare

Just over half of those surveyed said blogging will be most critical to their content marketing success in 2017.

In their most basic form, blogs are easy to use and can cost almost nothing to maintain. As a converting tool, blogs can be the fuel that moves readers to your social media channels and sales pages. Blogs are the place where SEO is maximized.

Successful blogging in today’s world of content development is easier than ever. The accessibility of quality tools for content marketers leaves us with little excuse for delivering subpar content on an inconsistent basis.

  • Quora is a question-and-answer site that will help content creators with new ideas for topics. (link)
  • BuzzSumo allows you to enter a topic or website into the search box and find the key influencers to help promote your content. (link)
  • Canva lets users express creativity through custom-made images, and many of the elements are free. (link)

If used consistently and creatively, blogs can be a powerful tool in your arsenal. Why does consistent blogging win? Read more here.

3. Social Media

The rise of social media over the past several years has had both a direct and indirect impact on content marketing and search engine optimization. Having a social media presence is not only one way to build brand awareness, it also connects us more closely with our audience with opportunity for engagement.

In the CMI research mentioned above, social media channels followed email as the top for distribution of content, which means marketers are becoming more aware of how important it is to be linked to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why invest in social media?

  • Nearly 70% of Americans use social media to connect with others and engage with content. (Source)
  • Vision trumps our other senses. We remember 10% of what we hear and 65% of what we see. (Source)
  • Tweets with images received 18% more clicks than those without. (Source)
  • 81% of marketers found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours per week invested in social media marketing. (Source)

Social media continues to be an important and affordable component of an overall content strategy, and with the right approach, it’s reach can be wide.

What A 2 Year Investment in Content Services Can Bring You

The services available from our own agency offer a higher value for the cost, and our clients receive much more than they would with other avenues. Our team is made up of trained and committed writers, designers, and social media experts who combine their trained approach with industry knowledge to deliver top-notch content for your needs.

Here are just a few of the high ROI services available from our specialists at Express Writers.

  • Ongoing blogging plan: Choose this plan and we will provide your website with 16 blogs per month with up to 1000 words each. Includes branded imagery, meta descriptions, and publishing. Every blog is SEO optimized, written by our engaging blog writers, and includes high-quality links and reader-friendly formatting (H2s / H3s). Proofreading by our editorial staff is included. Price: $980 per month. Additional services include content planning and expert writing. (See it here)
  • Authority blogs: Receive up to 4500 words backed with keyword strategy and research by our trained Content Strategists who will find a low competition, high opportunity long-tail keyword to include and optimize for in your content. Your content is then assigned to an industry-fit Authority Writer, and written from scratch. Original illustrations will be created by our designer and you will receive a feature graphic to use on social media. Price: $900 per month. (See it here)
  • Web pages: Custom Expert copy services begin at 500 words and include content written by a handpicked writing expert who specializes in your chosen subject. Select your word count, send us the details, and we will take care of the rest! Price: $90 per piece. (See it here)
  • E-book/whitepapers: These two products serve as the perfect lead magnet for content marketing. A ten-page e-book is created with expert copywriting and original illustrative designs crafted from scratch. Price: $750 (See it here). Our creative and experienced marketing team writers produce whitepapers for a variety of services and businesses that can be delivered as copy only or beautifully designed for your need. Price: $100 (See it here)
  • Social media plan: The social media Enterprise Plan offers you the maximum mileage for your content. You will receive custom-designed text images added to your posts, which will be posted multiple times daily to various platforms. Five custom premium branded images are designed and posted on a weekly basis, including to Pinterest. Price: $1025 per month. (See it here) 

A Content Success Story

Here at Express Writers, we remain committed to delivering custom content that works for our clients. Check out what happened when a marketing agency connected with us for their content needs.

Marketing Labs is a digital marketing agency located in Worksop, England that is dedicated to helping online businesses increase their website traffic and improve conversion rates. Their team of professionals includes many individuals who possess more than a decade of experience in the area of online growth and customer service. Based on their expertise, they were set to become a premier digital marketing agency in their area.

In their search for a copywriting agency that would bring a certain level of competency to the table, they realized they needed not only quality writing, but the speed and knowledge necessary to deliver authoritative content for their digital marketing efforts.

After connecting with Express Writers, our team began creating and implementing a content plan for the Marketing Labs blog, as well as cleaning up and optimizing the product description copy for one of their clients. The results were amazing.
EW Success Story 2

EW Success Story

See our success stories here.

The Marketing Labs team is now in place to become a leading digital marketing agency throughout all of England. As their CEO Matt says, “Being able to add the kind of quality writing (EW provides) to our services makes us an extremely attractive proposition to those seeking to optimize their digital exposure.”

Recapping the Challenges to Content Marketing

We can’t end without recapping some of the top challenges facing content marketers.

Going back to the CMI research in 2016, the top one was content strategy. The second challenge was time.

Only 40% of those surveyed claim to have a documented strategy; 42% plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next year.

If we want to enhance our efforts, we need both a documented strategy and a marketing budget. Those are two tangible steps we can start working on today, right where we are.

Once a strategy is documented (what you want to accomplish and when), and a budget is set (how much you can spend and on what), the next challenge comes with researching, writing, and scheduling all of that awesome content.

That is, if you have the time.

If not, there are some options out there.

  • Delegating a team member: If you are part of a larger team, there is a good chance someone is a skilled writer or social media guru who can take over the responsibility of content creation. Maybe that means hiring someone to join the team with the specific task of writing and managing your e-books, social media, and blogs.
  • Hiring a freelancer: A freelance writer may charge by the hour or the piece, and rates may be negotiable. Quality of the work may not be guaranteed, and you should remember that you get what you pay for. A freelancer may or may not be well-versed in the topics you are focusing on, so there needs to be clear communication so that the right message is delivered.
  • Working with an outside agency: A well-qualified agency with a reputation for excellence and a commitment to quality will have a team of trained writers who are prepared to fulfill your content creation needs. Beyond a single, pay-by-the-page blog post, a team of writers can be invaluable for e-book creation, ongoing blog plans, and social media management that will increase the visibility of your brand and put authority behind your message.

Is Your Brand Creating Content That Makes for an Extremely Attractive Proposition?

It can be a tough business, this content marketing gig. Almost half of us feel like we are only somewhat more effective when compared with a year ago, and that’s understandable.

We face deadlines and budgets and client expectations every day, and we all know time stops for no marketer. And that’s saying nothing for our life outside of work (hopefully you have one. If not, that’s a topic for another post).

While some things are out of our hands, there some things we content marketers can control.

We can do things like:

  • document a strategy
  • set goals for our content
  • develop a vision for our own brand that we strive to live out in our daily schedule

These are the basic parts of effective planning, and should be the basis for every piece of content we create. The strategy, goals, and vision for our brand need to be woven into the message we convey.

There are other things that are out of our control. Contrary to what we may believe, we can’t do it all, and we need the support of a collaborative team and guidance from industry experts.

We can’t perform miracles like:

  • put more hours in the day
  • accomplish all our goals without support
  • make $41,000 suddenly appear in our budgets for advertising (unless you can, in which case, give us a call)

For all that we cannot control, there are cost-effective, time-saving options that can work wonders for our marketing efforts and make us an extremely attractive proposition. The tools at our disposal like automated scheduling and the use of repurposed content are designed to make content creation easier and are a good place to start.

Consider is a partnership with an agency of well-qualified writers, designers, and social media managers who can take your good ideas and turn them into a conversion masterpiece.

Keep Moving Forward

We can’t all afford Super Bowl ads. But we can all take steps forward in the journey of creating high-quality, authoritative content that will engage our audience and keep them coming back for more.

All without breaking the bank.

Are you ready to connect with Express Writers? See our values, or get in touch today.

customer love

Love is In the Air:​ 7 Unique Methods to Inspire Customer Love for Your Brand

It’s Valentine’s Day!

Time to enjoy the sweet, sweet flavor of chocolate-covered strawberries, write a perfume-scented note to the person you love (if you’re the type that handwrites, like me), and/or receive an abundance of chocolates, roses, and maybe a special date. If you’re single, you might be basking in a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s, a chocolate bar, and a tad of Netflix binge-ing.

Whatever the scenario, love is the name of the game today—if that’s loving on yourself, or your special someone.

We’re taking this opportunity to talk about a topic that’s crucial to your brand this Valentine’s Day (and far beyond):

Building real, authentic customer love for your brand.

Here’s the problem, and why many customers still feel “un-dated” or, worse yet, “broken up with” after they engage with a brand.

Brands still think that it’s okay to stay in a ho-hum relationship with their customers. It’s okay to stick with average, and not try any harder. #valentinesday @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

The hard truth? Those lackluster exchanges eventually find their rock bottom, and your readers will eventually move on to more vibrant and exciting brand experiences.

To avoid this now is the time to use all the tools in your tool belt to create a brand that your customers can’t help but love for years to come.

customer brand love

Fortunately, it’s easier than you might thing. Heck – you don’t even need a pair of wings!

 7 Cupid-Worthy Methods for Making People Fall in Love With Your Brand

Whether you’re a new brand or an established company looking to deepen your relationship with your customers, these seven tips are your Valentine’s Day holiday go-tos.

1. Go Beyond Posting to Social Media, and Engage with Your Fans

It’s not enough to just be present on social media.

After all, anyone can have a profile.

Instead, you have to engage. 

What are you giving your customers to fall in love with if you’re not engaging with them? How do you engage? Why should you matter to them? What are you giving them in return?

Now is the time to think outside of the box. Instead of just tweeting once or twice a week, use Twitter to start a Twitter Chat that answers questions around a hot topic in your industry! I did this exact thing when I set out to create a Twitter Chat in January 2016, and #ContentWritingChat was born. It’s been an incredible journey of user engagement, brand awareness, and community growth since then. To learn more about our Twitter Chat and get some ideas for your own, check out our hand-curated roundups of each live tweet hour in weekly recaps on our site.

Our Twitter Chat has worked wonders for us, especially when it comes to creating brand loyalty. In December of 2016, we asked our participants how long they’d been joining us – the average was “eight months!” That’s some serious longevity—the relationships your brand can build through Twitter with real engagement can last forever.

2. Blog to Win Customer Love

Blogging is a critical component of creating a lovable brand. By developing relevant, in-depth blog content, you can show your clients that you care about them and that the feeling is mutual.

Blogging to win a customer’s eternal love, though, requires that you take it a step further.

Instead of just writing or creating average content (we call that the floating-by blogger syndrome), this type of blogging demands that you focus on answering the biggest questions in your industry with seriously in-depth, long-form content (check out our recent long-form content guide for more information on this topic).

Here’s what you need to do to go a step further with your blogging this Valentine’s Day holiday.

– Find The Top Questions In Your Industry.

There are a few great tools for this. Quora is one of them:

Quora Screenshot

 

The amazing answerthepublic.com is another great tool for this:

Answer the Public Screenshot

 

 

Both platforms are designed to allow you to access customer questions according to industry, keyword, or category, and they can be fantastic resources for finding the top inquires in your industry.

– Look at the Top Posts And Recreate Material Based On The Inspiration You Gain From Them.

The best way to be a blogger your readers fall in love with is to give them what they need. When it comes to their questions, this means being the one who provides insightful, long-form answers that go deeper than the average writer. Take a look at what’s performing well on these top question sites and adjust your content accordingly.

3. Find Content That’s Ranking #1, Create Yours to Rise Above

Using KWFinder, it’s easy to locate the content that’s ranking #1 for a phrase when you do a keyword search. Here’s an example of what a search looks like in the dashboard:

KWFINDER screenshot

On the right, you can see a list of results. For this search, “content marketing,” the top result is Content Marketing Institute’s “What is Content Marketing?”

Using KWFinder or a tool like BuzzSumo, you can find the content that’s ranking #1, and then find a way to create content that is better than the competition.

Look for gaps or weak areas in the material. What did the first author miss? How did he or she fail to meet the needs of customers? Did the readers walk away wanting something? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you’ve got an avenue to blow that post out of the water.

4. Create a Podcast!

Did you know that 21% of Americans listen to a podcast? That's an astounding 57 million Americans! Click To Tweet (EdisonResearch)

For years, Buffer ran a blog. Eventually, however, they turned it into a podcast called The Science of Social Media. Since they made that decision, they’ve enjoyed massive engagement.

I started my own podcast mid-2016, called The Write Podcast. Designed to echo industry questions and create more in-depth information for our audiences, The Write Podcast has been a fantastic tool for us, and we’ve heard from many listeners how much it’s helped their efforts grow.

Podcasts are working very well today for a few reasons. In addition to the fact that they’re the ultimate on-the-go form of content (you can listen to a podcast at work, at the gym, in the car, etc.), they’re also a very conversational and approachable form of content, which makes it easier for listeners to develop an attachment to your brand.

Worried about how your podcast will do since you’ve never created one? Know the tools you need, and set a goal of doing at least five episodes and then reevaluate. You’ll learn as you go and, while the first few episodes might be a bit rough, it will be, at the very least, a fantastic learning experience that will help put you in closer contact with your customers.

Check out the Twitter chat recap I had with Madalyn Sklar, host of her own podcast Twitter Smarter, all about how to podcast!

5. Encourage User-Generated Content

User-generated content is hot right now, and it’s only going to get hotter. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, make your love for your customers reciprocal by showing your readers you care about them as much as they care about you. Engage people with your brand by having them add content to your social media profiles or pages.

Run contests, social campaigns, Instagram giveaways, and more. The more you can bring your customers into your online presence, the more lucrative it will be for you! After all, ads based on user-generated content earn a 4x higher click-through rate and a 50% decrease in cost over traditional ads.

What’s more, making user-generated content a central part of your content strategy is a great way to make your brand unique, show off your commitment to your customers, and secure a consistent influx of fresh content for your company.

6. Ask Your Readers What They Think

What do your readers want to see more of? Are they hungry for more tutorials? Do they wish you’d cover content you don’t?

Are they interested in other topics or conversations? You’ll never know until you ask, and reaching out to your customers about these questions is one of the best ways to earn their love and stand out as a customer-centric brand, both now and in the future.

Poll them!

If you’ve never polled your readers before, it’s the first step to creating the type of unique back-and-forth that only the best brands enjoy. To create polls that engage your readers rather than alienating them, follow these tips:

  • Keep it short. Don’t overwhelm your readers with dozens of options. Keep it short, sweet, and simple. The more to-the-point your poll is, the more helpful the information you gain from your customers is likely to be.
  • Keep it relevant. Every question on your survey should fulfill your end goal, whatever that is. If you add anything that’s even moderately irrelevant, you risk turning your customers off (a serious Valentine’s Day marketing faux pas) and damaging the helpfulness of your survey.
  • Keep your rating scales consistent. If you’re asking users to rate certain parts of your site or content, don’t ask them to rate it on a 1-5 basis in one section of the site and a 1-10 basis in another. The more consistent you can be, the more valuable the information your customers will return.
  • Don’t Ask Leading Questions. If you ask leading questions, you’re not doing much besides shooting yourself in the foot. Give your customers room to speak their peace, but don’t lead the in the direction of any one response.
  • Thank Respondents! Answering a survey or poll takes some time, and your readers deserve to know you appreciate it. To thank them, give them a bonus in the form of an incentive or discount. You’ll strengthen their relationship to your brand and increase the likelihood that they’ll complete your next survey, as well.

7. Reciprocate When Your Customers Reach Out

All good relationships have to be give-take. If your clients keep giving to you, but you never give anything back, you’re going to lose them. With this in mind, reach out to your customers when they share your content, write on your Facebook timeline, like your Instagram posts, or engage with your Pinterest material. The more seen and heard you can make your readers feel, the better chance you’ll have of making them into lifelong evangelists for your brand. Plus, you make them feel special, which is what Valentine’s day is all about.

Customers + Your Brand = A Match Made in Heaven

Great relationships take time, and you can’t force your customers to fall in love with you overnight. You can, however, take a series of proactive steps to make your brand more appealing and memorable to your clients, and encourage them to stick around for the long-term.

While many marketers assume the only benefit of long-term customer relationships is more sales, it goes a lot deeper than that. While loyal customers are more reliable and easier to sell to, brands with a strong batch of long-term customers also look more trustworthy.

By creating a brand that your readers and customers love and feel loves them back, you can simultaneously secure your success as a company and ensure that you’ll get enough adoration from your customers to make even Cupid jealous!

taxbreak 2017 cta

long-form content

An Argument for Long-Form Content: Why it Works, What Lengths to Create, & 5 Long-Form Creators That Win

There’s no way around it, if you want to publish content that truly works for your online presence.

Long-form content is more valuable, more exciting, and more relevant to readers than shorter-form content. It’s also less common.

While it might sound insane to start creating long-form content while we’re living in a world of increasingly short attention spans, swimming upstream is sometimes the only way to the goal.

Here’s some real inspiration for you on the subject.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, and a leader in content marketing, wrote this in an exclusive CMI subscriber email this month (read the actual email here via PDF):

“…Nearly every marketer we talk to has run to shorter posts, shorter social media updates, shorter videos, shorter podcasts … thinking that audiences don’t have the desire to invest themselves in content for a longer period of time.

But they absolutely do … if the content is worthwhile.

Those marketers who take a longer­ form approach can immediately position themselves and their stories as differentiated simply because of the length. When all your competition is going small, maybe it’s your time to go big.”

In the same email, Pulizzi points out that:

  • Huffington Post has recently doubled down on its efforts to create long-form content.
  • All-star Youtubers are creating videos that are 10 or 12 minutes long.
  • Tim Ferriss’s recent bestselling book, Tools of Titans, is a whopping 671 pages.

Today, long-form content is the best way to stand out online.

But why, truly, long-form content–why does it work?–and how can you create it for your brand?

Let’s discuss this timely topic.

argument for long form content

Long-Form Content, by the Numbers

Long-form content isn’t just important because it’s different – it’s important because it works.

By providing more space to include relevant information, and giving audiences a chance to settle in and get comfortable with your brand, voice, and content, long-form material manages to convert at higher rates, provide a higher ROI, and earn more engagement. Here are a few fast stats to prove it:

  • The average length of posts in the top 10 spots of Google is 2,000 words. While it’s possible for short-form content to rank well, long-form content is the winner when it comes to front-page results.
  • Long-form content gets people to stay on pages 40% longer. Kissmetrics reports that, in addition to staying on their long-form pages longer, people exposed to long-form content also viewed 25% more pages than other visitors.
  • Long-form content earns more social shares. When it comes to social media, long-form content earns more shares and engagement than standard blog posts.
  • Longer content helps position you as a leader in your industry. It’s tough to bluff your way through 10,000 words, and readers know that. When you create quality, long-form content, you position yourself as a leader in your industry, standing out even further from your lazy counterparts who would rather get by with 300-word blurbs.

The Long-Form Guide Revolution 

One great place to see the power of long-form content is in guides. Today, long-form guides are doing incredibly well. While it’s tough to earn great results if you’re not writing specific, targeted, honed guides, ultimate guides are another thing.

Instead of rambling and losing readers, these guides target in on one topic and dominate all facets of it. Covering things like InDesign and landing page lead generation, these guides are killing it in the online world right now.

Because they’re extensive and in-depth, these long-form guides have longer lifespans than other forms of content. This is because they can be reused again and again. After they’re researched and published online, it’s easy to make a large book from them, for example, or break them down into a long-form SlideShare presentation.

Need a real-life example?

Consider Joanna Wiebe, who wrote a guide to copywriting formulas. It’s called “The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever).” The piece sits at 5,000 words and takes more than an hour to read! It also includes a table of contents to follow:

joanna wiebe table of contents

Useful, extensive, and helpful to readers, this piece has earned more than 6,000 shares and 151 comments. It also ranks well at the top for “copywriting formulas” in Google.

5 Examples of Bloggers Rising Above with Long-Form Content

Now that you know why long-form content is so critical, let’s take a close look at a few prominent bloggers who are putting out excellent long-form content today.

1. Tor Refsland

Tor Refsland, the face behind TimeManagementChef.com, has been featured on top sites like Lifehack, JeffBullas.com, Ahrefs, Post Planner, and Blogging Wizard.

On his own blog, he’s famous for consistently publishing 10,000-30,000-word monster blogs. Thanks to the time, energy, and effort these blogs take, he’s been recognized as an award-winning, top blogger who was first invited to speak at key events just 18 months into blogging.

For an example of what Tor Refsland is capable of with a blog, check out this piece, titled “Business Coaching, 20x My Revenue and Being Slapped by Frank Kern.” It clocks in right around 13,000 words and features so many segments and sections you’d think you were reading a novel!

While the piece is long, though, it manages not to be overwhelming. This is because Refsland does a few things beautifully. For one, the entire article is broken into highly digestible segments and short paragraphs, so you’re never faced with a brick wall of text. Example:

refsland

He’s also funny, and his humor feels like a trail of bread crumbs, leading you through the story step by step. He’s a pro at using punctuation, formatting, and headlines to help usher people through these monster blogs, so you never get bored or discouraged.

Try this post: How To Attract the Right Clients By Doing Business Nude. 

how to attract clients

It’s seriously funny.

Tor’s incredible copy is a large reason he was on my podcast last year!

2. Adam Connell

The founder of Blogging Wizard, a site that helps people learn to grow their sites “like magic,” Adam Connell has made a name for himself in the world of long-form content.

For an example of what he and his team create, check out this recent blog, titled “How I Got 8k Followers on Tumblr in 5 Months Without Logging in Once.”

Written by Eli Seekins, this blog is just about 3,000 words long. While this piece isn’t as massive as Refsland’s aforementioned blog, it’s no less important.

blogging wizard

Here are a few things this blog does right:

It visualizes almost every step.

If I had to guess, I’d say this post has an image every 300 words or so. In addition to the custom cover they’ve created for this post, the piece is also littered with in-depth screenshots,

Blogging Wizard Screenshot 2

overviews,

Blogging wizard screenshot 3

and tutorials.

blogging wizard screenshot 4

Without these images, readers would be facing a dense stream of text, which would be intimidating and off-putting. With these images, the long-form content feels like a picture book, which is welcoming and informative.

It uses catchy headers and subheaders. The title itself is a great example of this. “8k followers? On Tumblr? In 5 months? Without logging in once??” You can’t help but click once you’ve gone through that mental process. Beyond the title though, his headline mastery is evident throughout the piece. Each subheader is descriptive, succinct, and compelling for readers. This helps move people through the piece and keep them interested.

It encourages reader engagement. The last subheader in the piece reads “Over to You.” The author uses this segment to ask audiences about their Tumblr blogs, follower numbers, and actions they’ve taken to drive traffic to or from the blog. With 24 comments and more than 700 shares, the approach seems to work!

3. We Live What We Preach at Express Writers

Here at Express Writers, we’ve always been dedicated to long-form content. It’s been the name of our game since I launched the site with a $75 out-of-pocket investment, back in 2011.

Throughout the six years that have elapsed since then, content has always been the #1 source of our revenue, marketing, and leads. We’ve never invested in PPC marketing (that’s right – not once) and we’ve always created our content without a thought to a sales funnel.

As a result, we outrank all of our major competitors on Google by 5%.). We claim more than 4,100 keyword rankings in Google and have organic traffic worth about $13,200. To top it all off, we also serve upwards of 1,000 clients around the globe and write more than 300 pages each week. I broke exactly how in my case study last year:

Of the more than 785 blogs we’ve published on The Write Blog since 2011, the average word count of just one of my posts is 1,500.

Some are longer, at around 3,700, while some are shorter, clocking it at more like 800 words.

Curious about how we use long-form content to drive results? Here’s a breakdown.

Each month, we post about 32 long-form pieces across the web. It takes five people, including myself, to make that happen (myself, three of our writers to assist me with editorial deadlines, our designer, and our Social Media Manager Rachel to social share everything). That doesn’t include the writers that periodically guest blog on our blog, including my staff, like Tara Clapper. These include posts on our own blog and posts on my various guest post columns. Here are the standards that allow us to maintain that level of content:

  • Research. I use Quora, BuzzSumo, and SEMrush for research. I’ve even created a Twitter chat (#ContentWritingChat) to find out what people on that platform are talking about and what they’d like to see in the coming content. Finally, I always pay careful attention to the comments I receive on my blog, and the conversations I have with other people in the comment threads of other blogs, as well as the conversations I have in LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Many times, these serve as the basis of my research or learning for a coming post.
  • Scheduled posting. In recent years, I’ve ramped up our publishing schedule to include a blog each day except for the weekends. That’s five blogs a week. I schedule each to post on WordPress at midnight the day of, and I tend to stay one week ahead. This allows us to stay consistent and high-quality, no matter how busy things gets.
  • Custom images. We create custom visuals, screenshots, and GIFs for each of our pieces. As you saw in the Blogging Wizard example, lots of visuals help readers stay engaged in long-form content, so we use them to help guide people through our posts.
  • Content audits. Every month, I audit our content in SEMrush. If the content there is showing as low-quality or low-engagement, it gets updated and improved immediately.

While this all takes a lot of work, I’ve found that content is the single most valuable source of online traffic, and that paying careful attention to building and maintaining it is a smart way to boost your online business and earn incredible leads.

4. BuzzSumo

The BuzzSumo blog is authored by the team at BuzzSumo, including Susan and Steve Rayson, and others. What this team is great at is specificity. Unlike so many other places on the web, they consistently publish exclusive statistics, which is a fantastic way to win at blogging, as well.

They’re also great at ultimate guides.

In fact, their guides are frequently my go-to sources of research for material I publish on The Write Blog, and virtually any piece you click on has dozens of comments, and hundreds of shares. Take this piece, for example: “Ask the expert: Mari Smith Answers 56 Questions About Facebook Marketing,”where author Susan Moeller asks the so-called “Queen of Facebook” about how to increase Facebook reach and improve presence. Exhaustive, exciting, and interesting, this piece hits it home on many levels. Or, one of my frequently quoted pieces, “The Future is More Content.

buzzsumo future of content

BuzzSumo levels up continually and gets hundreds to thousands of shares per post, because they’re able to add exclusive research to their content performed using their insightful software.

5. Neil Patel

Ask virtually any expert content marketer for an example of a long-form king or queen, and they’ll mention Neil Patel. His company, QuickSprout, is the online leader for super in-depth guides and his blog on this topic, why long-form content matters, is a go-to for content in general.

Within this blog, Patel breaks down why he thinks long-form content is valuable. He quotes this powerful serpIQ study:

serp iq content length

He also breaks down how his about page is 2,000 words long, and how values like substance, style, frequency, purpose, and format all help inform his company’s long-form content strategy.

When you visit QuickSprout, here’s what you can expect from their long-form blogs:

  • Organization. His posts make any Type A personality happy. They’re organized, well laid out, meticulously formatted, and incredibly easy to navigate. Between his relevant headers and subheaders, and his use of bolding, italics, and bullets, you never have to worry about getting lost in one of his posts.
  • Information. Like BuzzSumo, Neil Patel is a great source for original information. He publishes his own research, his own statistics, and his own findings. All this contributes to a truly unique content experience readers can’t expect to find anywhere else.
  • Personal voice. Neil Patel is great at making people want to work through these long blogs with him because he’s so conversational and approachable. He addresses the reader as “you” and calls out their personal struggles and difficulties. He also shares many of his own!
  • Visuals. Patel’s blogs are highly visual-dense, featuring screenshots, overviews, and charts and graphs to help readers grasp his points and synthesize the information he’s offering.

Because of these things, Patel has consistently stood out as a leader of long-form content, and he continues to dominate the web. A great person to look toward for an example of why long-form works, or how much it matters, Neil Patel promises to continue his charge as a leader in long-form.

How to Create Long-Form Content

So, long-form content matters.

It converts better, differentiates you from the competition, and puts you in the ranks of some of the best bloggers out there. But how do you create it for your site? While the task may seem daunting, long-form content isn’t as tough as it might seem. You simply need to have a plan of attack.

Here’s a detailed outline to help you create your own long-form content in the coming year.

Step 1: Define your mission

Think of long-form content like a long, long sailboat trip. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to wind up somewhere you don’t want to be. More specifically, you’re going to wind up wasting time, money, and lots of effort, without anything to show for it. With this in mind, you must define your purpose first.

To do that, answer this simple question: Why are you writing the long-form content?

Got an answer? Good – now get more granular. Who is it for? What will “success” look like? What goal does this material need to achieve?

Once you’ve hammered these things out, you’ll have a functional roadmap with which to begin the long-form journey.

Step 2: To gate or not to gate? That is the question.

Long-form content basically comes in two varieties: gated and ungated. Gated content requires readers to give you something in return for the content, like an email address. Ungated content comes for free, on your website or in the form of a download.

Gated content helps you learn about your readers by collecting relevant information, like their names, ages, job positions, and email addresses. It also helps you build your email list and introduce people into your sales funnel.

Ungated content, on the other hand, may encourage more engagement since it comes with less commitment. Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, and the next step in deciding whether to gate your content is simply evaluating rather its smart for you.

Different influencers have different opinions about this. CrazyEgg, for example, advocates for un-gated guides, since they can help you build relationships without a “catch.” The final decision, however, depends on your business, goals, and outlook.

Step 3: Create a topic and reinforce it with keywords

The biggest battle in the process of creating long-form content (aside from the actual writing) is deciding on a topic and keyword strategy. Remember that long-form guides can be 5,000, 8,000, or 10,000 words, so it’s critical to pick a topic that leaves you plenty of room to run.

Having trouble with this step? Here are a few tips:

  • Pick a topic that allows for simple keyword optimization. You want to be able to align your long-form content with keywords people are searching for. Bear this in mind as you research and develop your topic.
  • Check out your Q & A section. If there’s a certain question customers ask repeatedly, consider expanding it into a long-form guide or post. This can kill two birds with one stone: providing an in-depth answer to the question and giving readers a place to turn before they ask it.
  • Do your research. As I mentioned before, I use sites like Quora and BuzzSumo to do the research for The Write Blog, and these are great resources to tap into. Look for trending content, questions your readers are asking on Quora, or any unmet needs your target audience may have.

Step 4: Write it out

Next comes the biggest part of the entire process: writing. Writing a long-form guide can take weeks or even months, depending on your purpose and channel, so it’s essential to leave yourself enough time to execute this properly. If you rush it, you’re going to wind up with unsatisfactory material that doesn’t fulfill its purpose.

If you don’t feel up to the task of writing the guide yourself, consider hiring someone to do it for you. A freelancer or content agency like our own here at Express Writers can manage the entire process, taking your material from outline to final draft in a reasonable timeframe.

Once you’ve gotten the guide written, you’ll also want to invest in design services to make it visually appealing, no matter how you intend to distribute it.

Long-Form Content: The Most Important Type of Content to Create in 2017

As 2017 wears on, long-form content becomes more and more critical. In addition to helping brands stand out from the content sea, long-form ranks better, earns higher ROIs, and gives you a chance to solidly position yourself as an authority in your niche.

While it may seem counterintuitive to create long-form content in a time when attention spans are shorter than ever and mobile is king, readers are hungry for something that provides them with real value, real passion, and real effort.

Long-form content is one of the only things on the web that provides all of this, all at once.

Do yourself and your readers a favor, and commit to long-form content in 2017.

cta expert content

how to develop a target persona

A Guide on How to Develop a Target Persona and Reach Your Audience (Hint: Stop Over-Creating)

Did you know there are over 200 million pieces of online content created every minute?

205 million emails, 3.5 million Facebook and Twitter posts, 400 hours of YouTube videos, and 1,200 WordPress blog posts later, the evidence is there. Internet users create a ton of content.

Even with so much time and energy spent on writing and sharing content, the more shocking statistic may be the amount that is not shared, clicked, or retweeted. After Moz pulled 757,000 posts for analysis, they found that half had less than 12 Twitter shares and zero external links.

That’s a scary low amount of engagement. The audience was not even there, and their disinterest showed.

So, how do we avoid making the same mistake?

It happens when we stop creating too much ineffective content, and start focusing on engaging our audience based on a target persona.

In this guide, I’m going to give you an actual guide to creating a nitty-gritty target persona, four keys to talking to your target persona and reaching them with your content, then go into a guide on how to stop over-creating, and dive deep into reader-persona-tailored creation. Ready?

how to develop a target persona

How to Develop a Target Persona: Your Granular Guide to Creating a Target Persona

There are so many guides out there that tell you why it’s important to build a marketing persona, without also telling you how to do it. Generalities are all well and good, but they don’t get you very far!

So, with that in mind, let’s break down how to build a customized, specific persona that helps you understand who your brand should be talking to. Check out how we’ve graphically represented it (thanks to our wonderful lead designer, Antonella):

granular guide to target persona

1. Draw the outline of your perfect customer

To build the foundation for your persona, answer these questions right now:

  • Does the person tend to be male or female?
  • How old is he or she?
  • Does this person have a family? A spouse?
  • Where does this person live?
  • What does this person do?
  • What type of company and industry do they work within?

For example: Meet Leader Larry. Leader Larry tends to be male, he’s generally between 40-55 years old, he’s married, with two teenage children. He works as a senior manager for a major “Fintech” company.

2. Get granular with your details of the persona

You’ve got the outline, now it’s time to dive deeper with your details. Answer specific questions, like the following:

  • What is his biggest pain point?
  • What are the biggest challenges or difficulties this person faces within their job?
  • Is your target persona the one making the decisions or does he need to talk to upper management?

For example: Leader Larry’s biggest pain point is developing customized training and educational materials to help bring his staff up to speed on new technologies. While he’s a senior manager, he’s not the ultimate decision maker in his company, and, thanks to corporate red tape, he’s finding it difficult to create training materials and have them approved by upper management in a time-effective manner.

3. Figure out how your persona accesses and consumes content

  • Does your target persona engage on a mobile device or a desktop computer?
  • Does this person consume content during the working hours or after-hours, while he or she is at home?
  • How much content does this person consume? Do they want more?
  • Does your target persona use social networks? If so, which ones? HINT: If you have a person in mind who represents your target audience very closely, head to his or her Twitter feed to see what they’re sharing, reading, and interacting with. This will help you hone your content down the road.
  • Who does this person see as an influencer?
  • What do they care about enough to trigger a purchase?

For example: Leader Larry uses a desktop computer to consume content during the working hours. He maintains a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. He’s an active reader of industry news and updates. He participates in several relevant LinkedIn groups, where he meets influencers and consumes related content.

4. Put it all together

Now that you’ve developed an accurate picture of your target persona, it’s time to put it all together. From here, you’ll be able to identify the content types this person is likely to enjoy, the channels you should publish them in, and the pain points you’ll need to solve to earn (and keep) this person as a client.

Bear in mind that target personas may change or shift over time, so it’s essential to keep revisiting the information you’ve developed here to ensure it’s still relevant, and update it if need be.

4 Keys of Developing Content that Speaks to Your Target Persona

Next, let’s take an overview look at four keys that help you know how to create, and who to create your content for.

How to Create for Your Target Persona Key #1: Readers Are Like Celebrities, Give Them the Red Carpet Treatment

The Golden Globes recently took place in LA, and if you know anything about Hollywood awards shows, you know that the events are a big deal. From who wore what (and who wore it best) to the viral speeches, there is almost always a surprise or two that no one saw coming.

This year, the Globes averaged 20 million viewers; while that huge number could have been credited to the host or the Trump jabs (or both), it was an 8% increase in viewers over 2016.

There are some key points we can take away for our content marketing efforts and target persona development that come straight out of a Hollywood awards show.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

How to Create Content for Your Target Persona Key #2: Your Audience Wants Something Rich

In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, your audience doesn’t have time to sit and read long paragraphs of boring content before finally getting to the point. (Neil Patel) Rich content must be short, sweet, and relevant.

The stars don’t walk the Red Carpet in an off-the-rack dress from Target. They don glamorous designer dresses that cost a pretty penny that fit the theme of the night.

Your audience doesn’t want off-rack-content; they want rich, engaging material.

If you find that creating content rich in relevance is challenging, you are not alone—nearly half of content marketers surveyed say that their lack of strategy development is a contributing factor to their stagnant success. (Content Marketing Institute)

stagnantWhoever your customer may be, they deserve more. If what you are delivering is the same as your competitors or it lacks what your audience needs, they will move on until they find a better solution.

How to Create for Your Target Persona Key #3: Your Audience Needs Special Attention

What would be the point of a Red Carpet without flashing cameras, interviewing journalists, and a live television broadcast? The whole idea behind the opening of awards shows is to pay attention to the stars.

Your audience needs the same attention. They should be lavished with relevant understanding of their needs and shareable content that fills blog posts, social media sites, and emails on a consistent basis.

Whether they know it or not, your readers are looking for something tailor-made, something that will jump out and hit them where they need it most. And if we can’t get it to them within an average of 15 seconds (Time), we may have missed our chance.

How to Create Content for Your Target Persona Key #4: Your Audience Wants You to Use Their Name

No one wants to be just another face in the crowd, lost in a sea of generic, watered-down messages that are unfocused and irrelevant.

There is a reason the barista at your local coffee shop calls out the name of a customer when their extra-hot-soy-latte-no-foam is ready.

It’s personal.

Relevant content creation is easier when it’s written toward one particular person, which is why every writer needs to develop a persona.

3 Additional Methods to Stop Creating Content and Start Developing a Persona

Michael Brenner from CMI reminds us that when we are creating content, one problem that can arise is creating for the boss, when we should be creating for the audience we are aiming to reach, engage, and convert.

The challenge is to stop creating content, and instead focus on creating a content brand as we focus on our target persona. Let’s discuss how, in three additional nitty-gritty steps.

1. Get Personal (Human Factor)

Writing for one general group of readers misses the human factor that must be present for content marketing to be effective.

Developing a buyer persona provides us with the perspective and focus necessary to visualize that one person, that target goal, who is the reason behind why we develop content in the first place.

So how does that happen?

    • We figure out who our target is through customer data (Google Analytics).
    • We learn who our competitors are (Kissmetrics).
    • We dig into social media comments, personal interviews, and surveys to find out how to develop a buyer persona (HubSpot).

2. Lavish Your Audience with Love (Engagement)

Engaging your customers means first knowing your target audience and then understanding how to reach them.

Yes, this may mean you need to move out of your comfy cozy corner of content marketing and branch out to try something new.

It means lavishing your audience with diverse, exciting content that they will engage with–created with love, just for them.

Diversified content uses infographics, videos, and relevant subheadings to draw the reader in and make them want to stay. “Scannable,” readable content is key to keep busy people engaged, so don’t forget bullet points, lists, and revising your headline till you reach perfection.

3. Show Them They’re Special (Focus)

When you make a concentrated effort to develop content that is focused on your audience, it will show. The engagement will be present, the shares will increase, and the readers will keep coming back for more.

As SmartBlogger reminds us, readers don’t want to be informed; they want to be seduced.

Don’t worry about being someone else or following another writer’s style; there are enough imitators in the world. Your unique quality content and focused voice on a topic or brand is what should shine in your content; your efforts are worth more than simply filling a page with words. As I’ve said on Twitter:

Stop Creating Too Much Content This Year, and Work On Creating the Right Content

anchorman

Our challenge in this New Year is to stop creating content simply for the sake of creation.

Instead, engage your readers by intentionally focusing on their specific need, and then developing a buyer persona so you who to focus on, help, and speak to–and watch your content results soar!

Does your brand need a boost? Connect with Express Writers today and let’s chat!

content marketing in 2017

Why You Should Choose Content Marketing in 2017 & The Best Forms of Content to Invest In Today

Today, content marketing is one of the lowest-cost, highest return marketing efforts.

But don’t take my word for it – for example, listen to Kraft, who publicly revealed at Content Marketing World last year that their content marketing ROI was four times higher than that of their most targeted advertising! Or, check out our own case study that reveals how content marketing is responsible for 95% of our business revenue.

Right now, marketers are creating more content than ever to see return, and inbound marketers are spending more time than ever before creating content. In fact, 93% of inbound marketers are now creating content on a weekly basis. What’s more, more than half of the surveyed marketers say they spend more than six hours a week doing so. That’s a lot of time and commitment!

It’s clear that content is the way of the future for 2017 and beyond and that if you want to succeed in the coming year, you need to invest in it. Read on to learn more about the upward trajectory of content marketing, and how it can boost your business this year.

how to do content marketing in 2017

Will Investing in Content Make Your Brand More Successful this Year?

The simple answer is, YES!

Today, most marketers understand that there’s no way around content. After all, it’s the only reliable way to get around the influence of ad blockers, the best way to connect with audiences, and the longest-lasting way to build relationships that last with customers.

Just because most marketers understand they should be creating content, however, doesn’t mean most marketers have invested adequately in doing it. In fact, many marketers halfway it, pumping out cheap, poorly written content that does little but clog up the search engines, and fails at meeting readers’ needs entirely.

Contently calls this: “the zombification of content marketing.”

zombification

Sound terrifying? It is, and it’s a growing epidemic.

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Fortunately, there’s a whole host of things you can do to combat it.

When you pour your best into your content marketing – in creating engaging, valuable, authentic content, that you’re tremendously proud of – you break the growing zombie mold of typical content, and your brand will stand out online.

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5 Content Marketing Pillars to Focus on Right Now

Before we talk about which types of content you should be investing in, let’s talk about which content traits you’ll need to focus on to be successful in 2017. Here are the top five.

1. Storytelling

Scheherazade from Arabian Nights!

Scheherazade from Arabian Nights, featured in a post we wrote late 2015.

We’ve touted the importance of storytelling before, and we’re not planning on stopping anytime soon. There are a few great things about storytelling in content marketing. Namely, storytelling works with all types of content – ranging from video to written material, which makes it the ideal foundation strategy for your various content pursuits. What’s more, it appeals to readers on a universal level.

Think about it for a moment: Didn’t you love hearing stories as a kid? Don’t you still love commercials that make you laugh, riveting travel tales that make you gasp, or a great novel that sucks you in and won’t let you go? Of course, you do, and it’s all because these things are stories!

The appeal of storytelling is broad and universal. Include it in your content marketing and you’ll immediately see your audience transform from “ho-hum,” to engaged, compelled, and genuinely interested.

2. User-Focused Content

Nobody likes a narcissistic company that just tells everyone how awesome they are all the time. In fact, this is a recipe for failure! Instead, a critical foundation of modern content is that it be user-focused. The more you can involve your customers in your online content, tailor it toward their experiences, and ensure it reflects their voices, concerns, and passions, the more successful they’ll be.

In fact, if you look around at modern content, you’ll find that many of the most successful companies out there barely enter their digital content. Sure, they’re in there as supporting cast members, but the target audience is the star – always the star.

This is as it should be, and it’s a wise thing to consider as you think about how to invest in content for a more profitable 2017.

3. Mobile-Friendly Content

No matter what you choose to invest in, make it mobile friendly. On the same level of importance as story-dense, user-focused material, mobile-friendly content is everything right now, and you can’t expect your brand to make much progress online if you’re not catering to your share of the more than 50% of Google search queries that come from mobile platforms.

4. Strategic Content

All the content you create should be strategic and intentional. While it’s one thing to put out short-form content or funny, original videos, everything you do should be supporting a larger content or marketing goal. If it’s not, you’re wasting your marketing budget and your team’s time.

5. Helpful, Relevant Content

Regardless of whether it’s a video, blog post, meme, or infographic, your top priority in all of your content creation efforts should be to make everything you create relevant, helpful, and quality. Without these three pillars, your content will fall short, and you won’t enjoy the massive ROI content is so capable of producing.

Successful Growth in Content Marketing: What Kind of Hot Content Should You Invest in?

If you want to succeed in content marketing, you need to invest in the RIGHT content. Otherwise, you could risk adding to the fluff that’s already clogging up the content sea. Here are the top 5 types of content to focus on in 2017 and beyond:

1. Expert Content

Expert content is no secret. Google demanded it in its 2015 Search Quality Evaluator guidelines, and influencers in virtually all industries have touted its importance since then. In addition to helping you rank better (Google may punish sites that feature poorly written content, or content that doesn’t possess the level of expertise the subject requires), expert content is the only real way to build your business.

By positioning you as an authority in your industry, giving you a platform to showcase your knowledge, and helping you gain more qualified leads, expert content can go a long way toward overhauling your entire online presence and making your content investments more lucrative in the coming year.

Still not sure what expert content means? It means content written by expert copywriters, like the ones we have on staff here at Express Writers. Readers can tell when a page is written by a subject-matter expert, and when it’s written by a novice. And, believe us – they’d rather read the former.

2. Live Streaming

 Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely noticed how much traction live-streaming content has gained in recent months. From platforms like Periscope to Facebook Live and Meerkat, live streaming is a hot trend in content right now, and when you use it right, it can boost your brand big time.

According to Variety.com, live-streaming overtook television in 2015 as the media delivery choice of preference, and that trend has extended to social platforms and apps in spades. Today, customers expect a company or brand to be available to them 24/7, and any brand that falls short in this will fall out of favor with its clients.

That said, investing in live-stream video can give you a highly approachable way to engage with your audiences and grow your online following. Once more, though, don’t take my word for it: consider platforms from Facebook to Twitter, which have made live-streaming the near-center of their content strategy in recent months.

3. Newsletters

If you think newsletters sound so 2015, think again. Today, newsletters are a critical content platform that can allow marketers to expand their audiences and produce positive ROIs. Companies from Buzzfeed to The Washington Post have used newsletters to dramatically expand their audiences (The Post, for example, increased newsletter subscribers by 145% year-over-year), and promote more sales.

For best results, ensure that your digital newsletters are optimized for all viewing devices and filled with relevant content. You should also include an exciting CTA that links to something relevant within your company or website.

4. Native Advertising

Did you know that more than 200 million people are currently using adblockers? Unless you’re a superhero, there’s virtually no way you’re going to get around all that software, and your chances of having your banner ad clicked are practically shrinking before your eyes. Don’t despair, though! There’s still a way to get into customers’ heads and hearts.

When you use native advertising, which offers helpful information rather than intrusive CTAs that disrupt user experience, you’re more likely to enjoy engagement and interest from your audiences. What’s more, since Native advertising integrates smoothly into various host environments, it’s easier to implement and use – even for small businesses.

Even The New York Times has named native advertising as one of the top tactics that allowed it to survive the explosion of adblocking software!

5. Virtual Reality

Sound a little wild to you? This is 2017, and VR has become a massive part of the tech landscape!

virtual reality

Today, many of the smartest brands on the web are using VR as a unique way to engage clients and differentiate themselves from the competition. While it might not be the one-stop-shop that social media or blogging is, it’s still a helpful tool that can benefit your company and your brand.

What’s more, it’s right in line with what the influential millennial consumer group wants.

According to a study conducted by the Harris Group, 72% of millennials would like to put more money into experiences than physical things. With this in mind, investing in VR content can be a great way to snag these high-value consumers and keep them with your brand.

Check out a few ways to include VR in your marketing strategy on Entrepreneur.

Invest in Content for a Bright 2017

The growth of content marketing is upon us! From expert copywriters to virtual reality content, there are dozens of smart investment opportunities facing your brand this year. To start your content game off strong, don’t be afraid to revisit your content budget and invest more in these cutting-edge technologies and content types.

Not only will your ROI increase, but your readership and sales will, as well.

Looking for the right copywriters to make your digital content shine this year? Visit our Content Shop to view our content packages and choose the one that’s right for you!