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.

quote card 2

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!

how content writing works

An Essential Guide: How Content Writing Works

Content writing is currently one of the most essential digital actions.

The need for it, industry regardless, has virtually no limit. Talk of how content writing works, what result it produces, and how to effectively strategize around it, pops up in virtually every niche. Hospitals have site copy needs, mechanics start their own informative blogs, Mexican restaurants publish social media updates, and agencies of all types create a ton of content, from blogs, to landing pages and white papers (not to mention creating all of that x 10 for their own client base).

With all this content flying around, it’s easy to wonder where it comes from and how content writing works as a whole. If you’re new to the world of content writing, the entire thing could easily seem like an impenetrable mystery, populated by highly trained professionals that you cannot access nor understand.

Fortunately, learning how the world of online content writing works is a simple as understanding the mechanisms that make the process move. While it’s true that the world of content writing is complex, it is far from inaccessible.

We’re here today to talk about how content writing works, and which types of content you should get familiar with to build out your online presence. Grab a coffee, and read on!

a guide to content writing

How Content Writing Works: Understanding the Big Picture & How Content Types Support Each Other

The first step in understanding how content writing works is understanding how seriously interrelated content creation, and its elements, really is.

Today, it’s not enough to just have a blog or to just have a website.

Instead, the world of content writing relies on various types of content, ranging from a PR writing to social media, to come together and create one cohesive content strategy. Without any of these different pieces, the entire strategy falls apart, and content writing doesn’t work.

Here’s some of the major types of content, from our infographic last year:

types of online content

While it may seem like a lot of work to focus on creating 7 to 10 different types of content, the reason that each type of content is so essential is simple: each type of content, from white papers to blog posts, appeals to a slightly different segment of a company’s audience.

Plus, you need content that appeals to your audience at all levels – not just at a buyer level.

Not all consumers who arrive on your website are ready to buy something, and if you don’t have content to appeal to each of these groups and the dozens of smaller groups in between, you’re going to lose many of your leads, which will have an adverse impact on your company’s bottom line.

This is exactly why it is so critical to use various types of content in your content strategy and to understand how content writing works, and how each specific type of content relies on many other types of content to function properly. And, not limit yourself to creating only one or two types of content.

The 10 Pillars of Good Content Writing

If you were an excellent blogger, but you didn’t understand how to create any other type of content, you might succeed online for a while. The fact of the matter is that there is a high demand for blogs, people love to read them, and you’d likely see some return on investment.

Over time, however, your content strategy would begin to wear thin because it would be too one-dimensional. To thrive and continue from months and years, a content strategy needs enough pillars to equally disburse its weight. Know how content writing works when you understand the “big picture.” Here are the 10 top components of great modern copywriting:

1. Web Content

Think of content writing like building a house. In this analogy, web content is the foundation. Web content, which includes the text on individual website pages, landing pages, about us pages, contact pages, and more is the foundational content that every company needs to build an online presence.

Without this, readers cannot find the information they’re seeking about your company, and the rest of your content strategy has nothing to build on. As such, web content is the single most critical and essential type of online content writing in the modern world.

2. Blogs

If web content is the foundation, blogging is the framework for the house. Blogging is a primary category of filler content that provides structure and formatting for virtually everything else you do online.

Did you also know that B2C companies that blog 11+ times per month gain more than 4X as many leads than those that blog only four-five times a month? (Source: Hubspot)

Aside from your company’s web page, your blog is the place where consumers can learn the most about you.

Not only does it showcase your brand personality, but it also helps readers get a sense of who you are, what you care about, which topics to cover, and how much value you can provide for them, or not. As such, blogging is a highly essential type of online content writing, and when it’s done correctly, it can dramatically increase your views, your return on investment, and your overall success in the world of digital content creation.

Blogs today are as diverse as they are critical. There is no one-size-fits-all format for a blog. Instead, there are multiple styles of blogs including list blogs, “how to” blogs, “what to avoid” blogs, and more. By mixing and matching these various blog formats, you can create a diverse and highly functional online content strategy.

3. Social Media

Social media is the house’s furnishings and critical tools. You wouldn’t want to cook in the kitchen without a stove or spatula, and you wouldn’t want to develop an online content strategy without social media.

Think of social media as a supporting player: it’s not enough for a company to only have a social media presence, but companies without any social media presence whatsoever typically do not make it very far in today’s social dominated culture. For example, we’ve been able to do very well on Twitter and expand our profile reach to millions of users by starting a Twitter Chat, #ContentWritingChat.

Even small, local businesses use social media as a method to broaden their reach an appeal to leads. And with so many social media platforms to choose from, it’s easier than ever to find a distribution channel that aligns perfectly with your brand’s personality and message.

Today, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, LinkedIn, and Twitter, dominate social media marketing strategies and provide targeted and ongoing value for brands and all industries.

4. Advertising & Sales Copy

Advertising and sales copy are the curb appeal of the home, when it comes to your online copy.

While everything may be cozy and welcoming on the inside, the job of advertising and sales copy, or curb appeal, is to showcase the unique attributes of the “home” to people on the outside.

Plus, advertising and sales copy applies to companies in all industries. A Mexican restaurant, for example, may create a sales-focused a blog post designs to pitch new menu offerings, or a digital services provider may create a series of social media updates around specific products, goods, or services.

Advertising and sales copy takes many forms, from social media to blog posts, and looks quite a bit different than sales copy of yesteryear. Today, advertising and sales copy read like an approachable appeal to friends. They’re not pushy; they are not manipulative, and they’re not misleading.

Honesty and value are the names of the game in today’s online writing environment, and companies that missed this mark will find that they’re advertising and sales copy do not perform as well as they had hoped.

5. Expert Copy

Expert writing is the art collection inside the home. At some point or another, all companies need expert writing. This is higher level writing on the web. Authority figures do this type of writing, and industries need this kind of writer.

Without expert writing, companies place their authority and relevance at risk, and may even be walking out onto thin ice with Google, which has demanded expert writing with standards outlined in their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.

While some companies believe they can get by without expert writing, or art, these are companies that ultimately will not succeed. Expert writing is the flair that finishes the structure, and it is critical for any business that wants to be taken seriously by the readers of its content.

6. Journalism & PR Writing

Journalism and PR writing represent the first significant gathering that fills the home with friendly faces. Critical for any company that wants to get the word about its products, goods, or services out across the web, journalism and PR writing serve the essential purpose of notifying people that something exists.

Think about building a new house: if you never invited anybody over, nobody would be able to see the hard work you put into the home. Your artwork, furnishings, paint job and construction would go unnoticed by everybody but you.

What a waste!

This is where journalism and PR writing comes in. Through pieces of content like press releases, for example, companies of all sizes and shapes can “invite people in.” This can serve to enhance a business’s growth and make the business more visible online. Don’t opt for cheap PR syndication, though, if you choose to go the press release route: go to local channels instead to publicize your written PR.

7. Creative Writing

Creative writing is that wacky sculpture you love so much you couldn’t help but buy. It’s unique, specific to you, and it makes you happy every time you look at it.

Creative writing is a genre that encompasses the super creative projects companies do, and it serves to enhance and support virtually every other type of content on this list. Marketing copy, for example, can be creative. Social media, blogs, web content, and even advertisements can be creative, as well. There’s no limit here. From a tweet to a blog, creative writing can be woven in anywhere.

Take this tweet, for example. Our creative SME Krystal came up with the copy on the card, which we took to our Twitter friends as a Christmas card:

In fact, many of the top-performing companies (such as Dollar Shave Club and Poo-Pourri) have made their businesses through infusing creative writing into their online content, and they’ve done it through hiring creative copywriters, much like those outlined in our recent infographic!

8. Q&A Content

Q&A content is the user guide to your home. It’s that drawer where you store all of the instruction manuals for your coffee makers, remote controls, tech gadgets, and more.

Even if you don’t look at it very often, those things are essential, and the minute that you don’t have them is the moment that you’re going to wish, more than anything, they were around.

Question and answer content serves two important purposes. On the one hand, it shows that you are familiar enough with your own business and industry to anticipate user questions and answer them thoroughly. On the other hand, it shows Google and other search engines that your site is authoritative and relevance, and can even help you rank in the highly coveted “snippet box” at the top of Google search results. (Check out our blog on how to rank in Google’s featured snippets.)

While your entire content strategy cannot be made up of questions and answers, it is essential to keep this little drawer of instruction at your disposal.

9. Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is like a nest learning thermostat.

It operates in the background of your content and keeps everything together.

When you do search engine optimization right, it shouldn’t be obvious that you’re doing search engine optimization. In other words, standard SEO tactics, like keyword inclusion and back linking, should not be glaringly evident to your readers.

Instead, these things should serve to enhance rather than to tracked from your content. While search engine optimization is important on a technical level, it’s also one of the most critical aspects of online content writing because it helps people find what you’ve written.

One of the big components of search engine optimization, for example, is keywords. Keywords are relevant for the following reason: when people go to Google to find a piece of contents, they enter a string of words. These words are known as keywords, or “keyword phrases.” In the old days of SEO, one of the best ways to get your content found online was to stuff it so full of these keywords that there is no way readers could overlook the relation between your material and what they searched for.

Today, however, search engines and readers are more advanced, and you don’t need to stuff your content as full as a Thanksgiving turkey to get found online. That said, though, keyword still play a major role in online content.

When you include them naturally throughout your material, it makes it easier for Google to “read” your contents and match it up with user queries. This helps ensure that your content will see the light of day, and get the attention it deserves.

10. Testimonials

Testimonials are the various inspections that tell you and other people that your house is safe to live then. For example, if you were looking at buying a home, would you purchase one that had an evaluation that told you that the walls and ceilings were filled with black mold?

If you built a house, and the final once-over by the construction company revealed about the floors and walls were unstable and likely to fall in at any moment, would you feel comfortable being there, or inviting your friends to be there with you? The answer is no.

The same thing goes for your online content. Testimonials are an often-overlooked type of web content that tells other people “Hey, it’s safe in here. Come on over!” Statistics, proof that you’re worth the investment, are an excellent ingredient along with a brief, authentic “this guy is really worth his salt,” is all you need to make a great testimonial happen. Check out one that has consistently sold us, over and over, from our friend and client Matt Janaway:

testimonial

Critical for attracting new customers and maintaining your current clients, testimonials are an essential piece of online content that every business needs.

The Complete Map of Online Content: How Content Writing Works Hand-in-Hand

Still a little confused about how all these types of content work together? We created a map to help you visualize it:

web copy map

How Content Writing Works: A Cumulative Mission

Content doesn’t survive on an island.

Instead, it builds on itself to create a dynamic and diverse strategy. Between blogs, social media, and more, content comes together to create a solid online presence.

If you haven’t already, think of creating a consistent content presence today to boost your entire online presence, profitability as a company, lead growth, and so much more. Consistency, and integrating all the relevant parts, is key! Don’t stop at one, and don’t stop just a month in. We can help. Contact Express Writers for content consultation help today!

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content marketing in 2017

8 Ways to Win at Your Content Marketing in 2017

As 2017 looms just around the bend, it’s easy to predict that content marketing will seriously be on the rise. 

In 2016, we saw big moves in favor of content marketing: growth of the industry as a whole, and national brands opting for content marketing over traditional ads and media.

Content marketing is already more impactful than traditional advertising – it costs 62% less, and generates 3x the amount of leads that traditional ads do.

Influencer marketing was realized when, in 2016, CNN made the move to buy a YouTuber’s entire presence, channel and mobile app (Casey Neistat, who had amassed 6 million organic followers), for a cool $25 million.

Buying influencers and exclusivity to their engaged audiences will be happening more in the New Year, as predicted by top expert Sam Hurley in our expert predictions roundup.

If you’re a serious content marketer, you can bet that your skills, audience, and presence will grow in value in 2017 – you might even be approached for a major buyout! So, with content marketing growing as a mainstream form of brand marketing more than ever, how can you go into 2017 putting your best content foot forward?

Fortunately, we’ve got your complete road map right here. Read on to learn best content marketing tactics for the New Year (and beyond)!

winning at 2017 content marketing

8 Proven Ways to Win at Content Marketing in 2017 & Beyond

Whether you’re looking to enhance your content, earn more visibility and serious ROI in the New Year, or focus on attempting to rectify a less-than-perfect user experience, these eight tips can make your content more successful in the coming year.

1. Combine your written content with compelling visuals

Sure, adding a photo to your blog post makes it pretty, but it also does so much more if you take that visual and go the extra mile. Recently, at Express Writers, we’ve started asking our lead designer to come up with handmade Adobe Illustrator designs for all our featured blogs (like this one). The difference? More social shares, mentions of, and traction on all of our blogs.

Here are a few quick stats about the benefits of adding visual content to your written pieces:

  • Adding colored visuals to a post makes people 80% more willing to read it
  • People remember 65% of what they see and only 10% of what they hear
  • For 34% of marketers, visual content is their most critical asset
  • When content has a relevant image, it earns 94% more views

Remember that today, “content” doesn’t just mean written content. Instead, it’s a broad term that also takes into account visual, audio, and video material that can enhance and improve the written content you publish.

With this in mind, find creative ways to start adding visual content to your written content. For example, publish an information-dense infographic in place of your standard weekly blog post or add a tutorial video to your next how-to post. Use video content to review products, provide customer service, or showcase new offerings, or include a series of in-depth screenshots in your next piece to educate and uplift readers. You can even grab a GIF or two to emphasis a point with a movie scene that everyone relates to.

In addition to enhancing your conversion rates, this creative, engaging, visual approach will also make your content more exciting and valuable to your readers.

2. Target your content more appropriately to specific audiences

Many people mistakenly believe that broader content will perform better online when, in fact, the opposite is true.

The more targeted you can get with your content, the better. You’ll be able to use long-tail keywords, which are easier to rank for. And, as a whole, more targeted content appeals to a smaller segment of the audience. While this may seem like a negative thing, it’s a fantastic way to bring in more qualified leads and make more sales.

When your content is directed at a particular set of people, rather than anyone who passes your way, your conversion rates will naturally be higher, and your content will naturally be more successful. What’s more, you won’t face such stiff competition from the “content sea” – the millions of pieces of content available to the public on a daily and weekly basis.

With all of this in mind, develop target personas to specify who you’re writing for, and keep them current enough that they reflect the outlook and problems of your actual audience segments. Update them as needed for maximum accuracy.

3. Make your content powerful enough to retain readers for life

Great, you have readers. Now what? You have to work hard to retain them, with better and better content in their niche interests.

This is a 10x goal of content you should be striving for. Sure, it is a big one – but if this is your goal, you won’t be publishing sub-par content.

Even if you’re publishing compelling and relevant content, it’s not worth much unless it’s inspiring your readers to stay with your brand for life. In 2017, the single best way to win at content marketing is to focus your efforts on user retention.

Here’s a fun fact to inspire you further. In addition to the fact that it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to sell to a new one, loyal customers are worth ten times as much as their first purchase, which means it’s absolutely in your best interest to keep them around!

With this in mind, do the following things to boost your customer retention rates:

  • Post quality content on a regular basis
  • Engage with your readers by responding when they post, share, comment on, or like your content
  • Develop an easy way for your readers to subscribe to your content
  • Showcase old posts and favorite posts in a convenient manner so that readers can access them quickly
  • Offer incentives for your readers, including free content, giveaways, and prizes
  • Use a targeted and specific email marketing campaign to help your readers develop a relationship with your content

4. Encourage your readers to submit content (user-generated content)

What better way to focus on customer retention, engagement, and content creation than by encouraging your users to submit their own content?

User-generated content, or UGC, has a long history of inspiring trust in would-be customers (90% of customers report that their buying decisions are based on online reviews). It can also go a long way to populate your sites with quality content and help new customers engage with your brand.

Also, when you stop and realize that 80% of all online content is user-generated, it only makes sense to encourage your audience to create content.

To create user-generated content for your company, encourage audience members to submit photos, videos, or updates about how they use your products, goods, and services. Alternately, ask for their feedback on your top social platforms and encourage readers to share your posts and videos.

Burberry, founded in 1856, increased their e-commerce revenue a whopping 50% year-over-year when they launched The Art of the Trench website in 2009 (the idea of young CEO Angela Ahrendts, who took over in 2006 and decided to re-engage the older brand with online audiences). The success behind the site? UGC. Users could upload to and/or comment, on the site, on pictures of people wearing Burberry products.

burberry

Take some inspiration from Burberry and think of your own brand-centric hashtag or profile (or go all the way and do a site!) that is dedicated towards encouraging your fans to engage – upload, comment, bring their own content. All these things will go a long way toward improving your overall content strategy.

5. Use social media to promote your content, creatively

Content is only worthwhile when people can find and interact with it. That said, it’s essential to promote your content. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be indispensable for this, but you’ll also need to take addition steps like guest posting and encouraging users to share your content for you.

But, since today’s social platforms are so saturated with other brand’s presences, you want to stand out. Think of starting a Twitter Chat, or posting creative, unique social posts that aren’t found anywhere else. Here’s an example of how to do that: have your team members, people that work in your company, give you a list of customer questions that you can create social media posts around. Custom graphics, unique blurbs fitted to each platform type (hashtags for Instagram, short sentences for Twitter), can all work to attract your fans and promote your brand organically via social media.

These simple steps can go a long way toward spreading the news about your content around the web and ensuring that it is seen by all the people it deserves to reach.

You might also want to invest in paid discovery platforms, like Stumble Upon and Facebook or Instagram Ads to promote your content even further.

6. Place a renewed focus on email marketing

In the last 12 months alone, BuzzFeed has added more than 1 million subscribers to their email list. What does this say about the claims that email marketing is dead and defunct? It dispels them, of course.

According to Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B marketers rank email as their top channel for distributing content and ensuring overall marketing success.

email marketing study

Source: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/09/content-marketing-research-b2b/

With this in mind, focus on developing targeted and valuable email campaigns in 2017. Not only will it benefit your readers – but it will also give you the metrics and insights you need to develop a more successful content presence in the coming year.

To ensure that your email marketing remains successful, follow these quick tips:

  • Write compelling subject lines that make your readers want to click
  • Address the reader directly with the personal “you”
  • Keep it short, snappy, and valuable
  • Make your links clickable and your CTAs obvious
  • Segment your lists for a more personal experience.
  • Test your campaigns for optimum performance
  • Split test your emails for maximum ROI

7. Print isn’t dead; utilize it for a stronger presence

While it may seem like print content is at risk of dying in the digital age, many publishers have turned to print content to enhance and improve their reader’s experiences. How cool is that?! Print is coming back, in an age of a saturated digital market.

Airbnb, for example, recently released an exclusive Airbnb mag. Other brands are following suit.

While you don’t need to go all in and develop a personal magazine of your own, it is a very good idea to find a way to incorporate print content into your daily publications, be it in the form of brochures or flyers for our local business. We’ve been successful creating custom flyers for events we’ve attended.

8. Hire expert writers to develop your content

Nothing will ever replace expert content, and it’s more important in 2017 than it’s ever been before.

To get the most from your content marketing, hire an expert, authoritative writer that knows your niche to craft copy that empowers your brand online.

In addition to turning out higher-quality content, you’ll also relieve some of the content burdens you and your brand likely feel. It’s a smart business move and an effective way to get quality content that will last you a lifetime.

Here’s to Your Best Content Marketing in 2017

If your goal is to dominate content in 2017, our eight tips will help.

From boosting your SEO to keeping your readers at the center of the content experience, there are dozens of things you can do to enhance your written content and make it more successful across the board.

Here’s to ultimate content success in the New Year!

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entrepreneur and content marketing

Why Content Marketing is an Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

Today, we’re living in a time when entrepreneurs are everywhere, and it’s exciting. As we head into 2017, the rise of entrepreneurs is seriously growing.

While starting a business used to be something reserved for those with extensive training or excess family money, just laying around and waiting to be spent, entrepreneurship has become something that everyone can access.

As a result, companies like Facebook, Snapchat, Dollar Shave Club, StitchFix and – hey – Express Writers! – has popped up as a result.

Today, however, people who are trying to get startups off the ground are struggling to figure out where to best invest their efforts, and which type of work will pay off most seriously down the road. Fortunately, the answer is straightforward: content marketing.

Those doing the “side hustle” will SERIOUSLY benefit from a blog and a web presence (and social media), aka, content marketing. Think about it for a moment: content marketing is low-cost compared to traditional advertising, it’s meant for the social media age, it performs well with customers who want to develop honest and long-lasting relationships with the companies they frequent, and some of it can even be done yourself, within reason.

Today, we’re here to talk about why content marketing is an entrepreneur’s best bet in terms of marketing, and how it can help new businesses grow from the ground up. Read on!

content marketing for the entrepreneur

Content: The Entrepreneur’s Lifeboat

Content is the one thing that will work when virtually nothing else does for the entrepreneur. Think about it: most forms of traditional marketing are expensive and time-consuming. While large enterprises might have the budget and the in-house staff to accommodate that, entrepreneurs seldom do, and content marketing can be much more accessible.

Although content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising, it generates triple the leads, which makes it an astoundingly perfect option for marketers who want to spread the word about their startups online. What’s more, since breaking into content marketing doesn’t require a huge staff, it’s easy to DIY some of it on your own, saving yourself money and learning something new in the process.

By developing an online presence, entrepreneurs can build their brand story, connect with their customers, and set themselves apart from their competitors. A social media presence can also serve to expand your reach and make it easier for you to connect with your followers – both online and in person.

7 Ways Content Marketing is Perfect Marketing for the Entrepreneur

Regardless of whether your startup sells tangible goods or services, here are seven incredibly strong benefits content marketing has to offer for entrepreneurs.

1. Content Marketing is Amazingly Cost Effective

Entrepreneurs rarely have a ton of money to start out with–unless they walked into inheritances like the Rich Kids of Beverly Hills did. 😛

But truly: self-startups don’t usually have an unlimited reservoir of funds. It’s usually the opposite. Funds are low, time is tight, resources slim. I began Express Writers with $75–trust me! I know what it’s like to start with nothing.

Enter content marketing as an effective way at building a brand and starting out when you’re doing the side hustle, trying to build your dream biz while you work on leaving your 9-5 that pays the bills.

Check this out. From one blog post (roughly a $50 investment, between resources and my time), I gained $5000 back – a 100x return on investment. A warm lead walked in from my blog, and converted on our content services at that amount. Proof that content marketing can be a strong endeavor for startups and those trying to brand themselves with limited finances.

life cycle of content

To repeat the cycle that I created, you want to focus on these three things:

  • Building your presence online (your website, starting a blog). Getting off the ground is key here!
  • Consistency. Build up that presence, don’t just start it. Blogging at least 2x/week, minimum, and pairing up social media to your content presence, is a good consistency to start with. (We blog up to 5x/week for maximum outreach and SEO results.)
  • Guest blog. Outreach and start putting together a list of key sites you’d like to blog on. Presence there is a tremendous key to the ROI of your content marketing. (My 100x ROI featured in the graphic above came from my column on SiteProNews.)

2. Content marketing helps you develop your unique brand voice

Today, the startups that make it big are the ones who know how to talk to their audiences like nobody else does – in their content, bleeding all the way through social media posts, pulsing through video marketing, shining through blog posts. The voice you establish in your content marketing is key to helping you stand out online.

Take, for example, Dollar Shave Club. Witty, a little edgy, and funny through and through, this is a startup that’s achieved billion-dollar valuation because of its content marketing.

dollar shave club

Without content marketing, it’s tough to spread your voice the way Dollar Shave Club has done. In fact, it’s tough to be heard at all. Content is the one central factor that allows marketers to be heard in various places across the web, and it’s the one guaranteed way for small business owners and founders to showcase their unique brand voice to all the critical customers out there who want to listen.

To succeed with content marketing, founders must first have an idea of their overarching brand message and how best to leverage it. This will help people connect with the message and will make it easier for readers and customers to connect with online information. It will also help produce continuity in brand messaging, which will make it easier for a startup to grow in the coming years.

3. Content marketing can welcome people into your world

As a founder, you live a life that people are interested in being a part of. Even if you’ve never met many of your customers personally, they want to know who you are, how you come up with your products, where you work, and who you work with. By giving them these details in the form of content marketing materials or social media updates, you can help develop bonds between your company and its customers, and build ongoing relationships that will serve to uplift both your employees and your clients now and in the future.

To leverage your content marketing to make the most of this, use platforms like Periscope to share live-stream, behind-the-scenes videos or to provide exclusive glimpses into products or launches. Your customer will thank you, and you’ll develop a devoted following.

4. Content marketing can enhance engagement

Every entrepreneur wants a more engaged audience, and content marketing can help. Critical to building ongoing relationships with your audience, engagement is one of the necessary offshoots of content marketing. To boost engagement, post frequent blog posts on topics relevant to your audience and engage with your social accounts regularly. In addition to increasing your SEO (more on this in a second) and building your online presence, this will also render you better prepared to reach your customers in the ways they want to be reached. Finally, you’ll succeed in creating organic attention and publicity for your products, goods, or services by simply pushing out valuable content to your readers.

5. Use content marketing to bounce ideas off your readers

Ever wish you could poll your readers and ask what they think about something? Now you can! Social media is a fantastic place to poll your readers. When it’s done correctly, this approach can help you develop a solid strategy for your products, goods, and services, and enjoy an ongoing connection with the people who help you stay in business.

To use social media to boost your engagement, use Facebook or Twitter to ask your readers’ questions regarding the type of content they prefer and where they want to interact with it. Start a group, or a Twitter chat! Social activity, especially leading a group or new hashtag cause, can go a long way toward enhancing your content strategy and even help you become a more successful business owner.

6. Content marketing is critical for SEO

Part of the battle of being a founder is positioning yourself in a way that allows people to discover you online. Fortunately, content marketing helps with this by providing a fantastic SEO boost. Every time you publish a new post on your blog, for example, you give Google a new page to index. Every time you reach out on social media, you give your audience something to share and engage with, all of which boosts your SEO and helps people find and share your brand.

This is essential for your business and can be one of the major factors that determine whether your brand succeeds or fails in the long run.

7. Content marketing is an excellent way to build trust

Want to build confidence in your customers? Look no further than content marketing. Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners make the mistake of going right in for the kill with a new prospect. This, in turn, makes it difficult for prospects to trust your company because they feel as if they’re always being sold, and people don’t like that. To prevent this from happening and ensure that your brand remains trustworthy and exciting for your customers, turn your attention to content marketing.

In addition to branding you as a customer-focused brand that cares more about providing value than you do about making sales, content marketing can also help give your readers a reason to trust you. When you provide valuable, educational, informative content for free before you try to “sell” your readers anything, you succeed in creating a dynamic and symbiotic relationship in which your customers want you around as much as you need them around.

Content Marketing: The Marketing of Choice for Entrepreneurs

For entrepreneurs, content marketing is the way of the future. Designed to help new marketers enjoy the marketing ROI not typically associated with traditional advertising, content marketing is an effective way to build attention online, gain new readers, and develop trust with customers. What’s more, it’s also a great way for you as a founder to build your voice and uncover your unique brand identity – both of which are central to successful startups everywhere!

With this in mind, develop your content marketing focus by doing simple things like establishing a blog, developing a social media presence, and becoming active in various online communities. In addition to engaging your current readers, you’ll gain new ones in the process.

Looking for a team of writers with small-business experience to help you get your new venture off the ground? Contact Express Writers about your needs! We LOVE writing great copy for startups and entrepreneurs. 

2016 content marketing

A Year of Content Marketing in Review (2016): The Hottest Types of Content & 5 Key Takeaways

2016 has been quite a year, and we aren’t just talking about the world of politics or sports. When the new year began, it would have been hard to believe that the Chicago Cubs would (finally!) win the World Series, “challenges” would be so popular (how many flips will it take to upright that water bottle? And can you do it while posing like a mannequin?), and adults would be THAT wrapped up in Pokémon Go.

Over here at my agency, we started the year with some tips on how to run a successful blog, and through the last twelve months we have continued to deliver on a ton of content for our audience. From publishing my book, to launching my podcast, publishing our intense #howtowriteseries, and launching our weekly #ContentWritingChat back in January, all the way to email marketing and event attendance, infographics, and much more, content marketing continues to prove our #1 form of marketing here at Express Writers. 2016 proved to be our biggest year for that.

But what we did this year in content marketing is for our Content Creation Report, coming up on Thursday. For today, we’re taking a retrospective look back at the industry of content marketing as a whole and what 2016 looked like.

Content marketing has had its own interesting turns in 2016, and we’re here to break it down. Grab a cup of something warm and join me, will you?

2016 content marketing in review

Best in Content Marketing Circa 2016: 7 Key Factors of Good Content this Year

There was much to talk about this year by way of good content, viral content, shared content, and engaging content. Whether it was liked, retweeted, pinned, or snapped, quality material was not in short supply.

What became clear is that readers have a desire to interact with what they’re taking in, that influential content marketing leaders still know where it’s at, and fake news is not going to rule the landscape.

Here are some highlights of what went down:

1. The rise of interactive content

(Forbes): As companies have moved away from “plain vanilla content”, they have moved toward content that is appealing to the audience by way of interactive material. This may take the form of quizzes, polls, and a variety of two-way content.

2. Influential leaders

(Marketing Profs): From Sujan Patel to Jeff Bullas, influential content marketers showed us what worked and what didn’t.

3. Viral content

(Buzz Sumo): Anytime a video, blog, or social media post goes crazy, we call it viral. From open letters directed at Trump supporters to sexy bald men, viral content was a highlight of the year. No surprise here, since we live in a time of instant shares, Facebook trolling, and retweets that number in the millions.

4. Long and complex blogs

(Track Maven): When companies blog for business, they are producing more content but with less impact. Per brand, the number of posts have increased while the social shares have gone down. The length of blog posts grew from an average of 639 words per post in 2015 to just over 700 in 2016.

3. Consistent delivery

(Content Marketing Institute): Of the top content marketing performers, 85% deliver content consistently. This does not always translate to daily or even weekly content, but rather impactful and relevant content on a consistent basis, including repurposed material.

4. Fake news and Facebook

(The Guardian): Mark Zuckerberg may have started the year with a message of hope, but no one could have predicted what the next 12 months would hold for the social media giant. Photo censorship and fake news seemed to loom even as the site’s users inched toward a total of 2 billion worldwide.

5. Infographics

(Buzz Sumo): Not everyone is a fan, but infographics are widely shared, even if they fail to gain very many links. Back in 2012, Jeff Bullas gave us 9 awesome reasons to use them, and by the end of 2016, 58% of marketers are still on board with the picture-and-data mashups.

Infographics actually made up one of our top-shared content types for the year (3/10 of our top-shared content pieces for the year were infographics)!

Did Content Marketing in 2016 Surprise You?

If any of these come as a surprise, it might help to go waaay back to the end of 2015, when predictions were being tossed around about the future of content marketing. Can’t remember that long ago?

Here are some predictions given in late 2015 from influencers, about 2016, to refresh your memory:

  • (CMI) Native advertising would help big companies find their footing, while others would be decimated and may never fully recover.
  • (Mashable) Static content would start to be replaced by more interactive experiences.
  • (Neil Patel via Forbes) Personal authority will be important to the audience.
  • (Jordan Teicher via Contently) The smartest brands would publish less and put more emphasis on larger editorial projects.
  • (Jeff Deutsch via EW) Content marketers would be challenged to cut through the “noise” of too much content.

Some of these predictions were spot-on, while others may have been good guesses but didn’t quite hit the content marketing nail on the head. Our predictions post last year had some pretty accurate statements made.

5 Takeaway Lessons from Content Marketing in 2016

Either way, there are some takeaway lessons we can learn as we move forward to 2017.

1. You Wouldn’t Use a Dial-Up Phone—Don’t Use Boring Content

You may or may not remember the days of writing letters, reading the newspaper as a sole source of information, and dialing the phone (at home) when you wanted to call someone. Some might say that those were the days, and they might be right.

But just like it would not be conducive to start using a rotary phone, content marketers can’t afford to ignore the right now. Staying stuck in the past, where content creation went steady with keyword stuffing and boring information, won’t work going forward.

Consistent delivery may not mean you throw something out every day or even every week; what it does mean is that when it is delivered, it gives your readers an interactive, enjoyable experience that they can use.

2. A Social Audience with No Time to Waste

We live in a complex world, one in which we crave information but run the risk of getting bogged down by it. We may want more authentic relationships, but more and more of us connect via our phones rather than a face-to-face setting. At the same time, we tire of insignificant information from invalid sources.

3. Social Media Isn’t Going Anywhere

The mediums may change, but since the early days of MySpace in 2003 to the billions of social media users across many channels today, our clicks are proof that this is how we connect and engage. It may not be too long before the number of active social media users equals the amount of total internet users.

4. Americans May be Headed Towards Information Overload

According to Pew Research, the percentage right now is relatively small—only 20% of Americans feel overloaded by the constant onslaught of information—and that number changes based on the number of access pathways individuals have at their disposal.

5. Readers Want Authoritative Content, Not Fluff

Fake news won’t cut it. Breaking news is shared, but content marketers need to have an understanding of the credibility behind it. As BuzzSumo points out, it helps to create an original take on a story and create tips or how to posts that the audience can understand and relate to their own situation.

3 Most Shared Pieces of Content Marketing in 2016

Across the content marketing world, there are countless blog posts, e-books, and statistics that provide us with the valuable information we need from the experts we trust. Part of the greatness of this industry is the abundance of guidance and wisdom we can glean from those who know it best.

Of all the advice and how-to’s that dominate the content marketing industry, three stand out as the most shared pieces of 2016. Here they are, thanks to BuzzSumo software:

1. Everything the Tech World Says About Marketing is Wrong

(Tech Crunch)

The content from Tech World opens with the line, “The biggest problem in marketing in the tech world today is that too many marketers do not know the first thing about marketing”. If that doesn’t draw you in and make you stay, we don’t know what would.

The catchy title and relevant content fetched thousands of Facebook shares, even as Samuel Scott wrote that digital marketers “have fallen into an echo chamber of meaningless buzzwords”. Scott’s use of colorful graphics and advice for tech marketers was engaging and ended with a nod to marketers being “full of it”.

The comments that follow are worth the read.

2. How Much Do People Trust Your Content?

(Forbes)

Brian Sutter highlighted this opinion piece with truths related to the lack of fact-checking on internet publications, a distrust among readers, and a low credibility among journalists. He continued with some tips on how to build a loyal audience, which every content marketer and online writer can relate to.

Sutter touched on the fact that “most people dislike being sold to” and cited Nielsen research backing this fact. Building a loyal audience takes time, but it can happen with the combination of useful content and authoritative statistics.

3. These Marketers, Content Producers and Entertainers Under 40 Are Shaping the Industry

(AdWeek)

From actor Donald Glover and Content VP of SnapChat Nick Bell to Ivanka Trump and Michael Dublin, founder of Dollar Shave Club, this list was inspiring even as it covered a host of different industries.

The common factor among all of these Young Influentials is their commitment to deliver the best performance and content in their field, whether that’s in the world of social media, digital media, or in the movie industry. Imgur’s director of creative strategy Laurel Hodge says of her role, “I create creative strategies and content that aspires to be next in the most viral content on the internet”.

Content marketers would be wise to do the same.

In Content Marketing, 3 Key Things Stayed the Same

Technology will change, as will the ways by which we access it. But a few things will stand the test of time, no matter the delivery medium. In the midst of an ever-evolving world, the audience has to remain the priority—after all, without them, why write? As creative thinkers and collaborators, we can continue to:

1. Develop relevant content

If what you write is not important to the audience, they won’t stay. It is worth the time and investment to get to know your readers, their behaviors, and the patterns they follow. Watch how they engage on social media and in comment forums and what they share of your content.

2. Draw readers in and make them stay

A catchy title is a great start, but it isn’t quite enough to engage readers for a long period of time. It is a waste of time to weigh your audience down with long and boring pieces of information that are published just for the sake of a full website, blog, or social media feed.

3. Back up all content with authority

In an age of fake news, moving forward with authority and credible sources is even more important in content creation. As Brian Sutter reminds us (How Much Do People Trust Your Content?), it also pays to include both sides of an argument or perspective. This, he points out, demonstrates your expertise as a writer and adds depth of understanding for the audience.

A Year of Firsts is Coming to a Close. What Now?

Now that the year is ending and we can look back in reflection, how do we move forward with the right information?

First, continue to look to those experts in the field who continue to deliver quality content to writers.

Second, always be developing ourselves so that we can write better, communicate more effectively, and make meaningful connections.

Lastly, keep an eye on the past and the good it held while looking forward with the lessons we have learned.

Remember, not every mistake is detrimental. (As I learned this March!) Consider these words from author Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

express writers cta

how to use slideshare

How to Use SlideShare to Amplify Your Content Results & Reach

SlideShare is one of the most powerful tools in the visual content marketing space.

Whether you’re re-purposing content or simply working to expand your presence, SlideShare is a fantastic platform to develop a presence. As it stands right now, the platform has more than 70 million users. 17% of B2B marketers use SlideShare to launch new products, and a whopping 41% of marketers (in North America) use it to share and disperse content.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are more than 400,000 SlideShare presentations uploaded monthly, and a massive 80% of SlideShare’s traffic comes directly from searches.

These numbers outline just how popular SlideShare is, and how essential it can be to your content marketing.

Today, we’re here to walk you through SlideShare: what it is, how it works, why it matters, and how you can apply it to your marketing. Read on.

using slideshare

Part 1 of How to Use SlideShare for Better Content Reach: Optimizing Your SlideShare Decks

Not all marketers have used SlideShare as a platform of choice, so now is the ideal time to incorporate it into your digital marketing, and doing so can boost your ROI substantially. I’m dividing this how-to into two parts: first, how to optimize and prepare great decks, and secondly, bonus tips that include how to promote your SlideShares.

Enjoy!

1. That first slide needs to be irresistible

Never underestimate the power of your very first slide. It’s the cover for your presentation and it’s going to appear pretty much everywhere as the thumbnail of your social shares or in the SlideShare search if you’re lucky enough to be featured on the site’s homepage.

slideshare home page

Since this is so important, be sure to take time designing that opening slide. Spend time finding the perfect image that will capture your audience’s attention and get them clicking through. There are plenty of free tools on the web that will help you create amazing visuals. Remember to check how your image looks at various sizes so that it looks incredible no matter where it’s shared.

Two particular tools that make this entire process a cinch are Canva and Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck can help you put together stunning decks, even on your tablet while you’re on the go. Canva has a free Presentations section and the designs are attractive. You’re also able to upload your own images to use as backgrounds.

There are also several industry-related charts you can use for your SlideShare presentations – remember, readers are always attracted by visual stats and numbers. Examples include:

  • Hubspot – the site regularly publishes visual stats they have curated.
  • SiteGeek – the site shares loads of real-time visual states that you can check out on the homepage and in each hosting listing.
  • MarketingSherpa – another site that publishes tons of industry reports.
  • BuzzSumo – their blog often has fantastic industry insights and findings.

2. Always write SEO-friendly descriptions for your slides

Don’t glaze over SlideShare’s description fields. It’s here that you can include the text you want the search engines to see.

slideshare

What you say in these fields and how you say it can massively improve your SlideSlade natural rankings. When a reader does a search on SlideShare, these search terms come up in bold in the results, and that draws more attention to them. More attention equals more clicks.

When you’re writing your descriptions, use tools like SEOchat that will give you an idea of the keyword and phrase combinations that will have maximum effect.

A great tip is to remember that the name of the file that you upload to SlideShare actually becomes the URL slug. So when it comes to naming that file, choose something that is going to be SEO-friendly. This will give your presentation a much better chance of ranking in SERPs and that, as we well know, drives more reliable traffic to that presentation you’ve shed blood, sweat and tears over.

3. Use Video and Links

If you are serious about using SlideShare as a content marketing tool to gain greater reach, then you best be linking to resources, tools and articles that you mention in your presentations.

video in slideshare

Links usually only work from around slide four onwards. To make your links clickable, add your hyperlink in Keynote or PowerPoint. If you’ve created a slide background that is an image, you can go ahead and link the entire slide to an external website.

Tip: if you decide to embed infographics or one-page documents, there is no way of creating clickable links, but these uploads still work well for exposure.

If you start out writing an online article and you realize that a slide from one of your decks could seriously reinforce your point, why not link directly to the slide within the article? All you have to do is put “/” along with the number of the chosen slight right after your SlideShare page URL. It’s that easy!

For instance, deep linking to one of your deck slides is a fantastic way to introduce your audience to even more of your highly relevant content.

Video also integrates well with SlideShare. You can place a video on the right inside the slide!

Use videos to share more in-depth information with your audience, show them how something works or even for a little comic relief. Video gives you the opportunity to introduce a variety of opportunities. So it’s really up to you how and where you use them if they fit in with your project.

If you want to include a YouTube video with your Slideshare presentation, it only takes 3 steps:

  1. Click on the My Uploads section and then click Edit > Settings > and then Edit YouTube Video
  2. Paste or type the URL of the YouTube video into the box
  3. Select your desired position and finally click Insert and Publish

If you’re going to be inserting videos into your presentations, make sure you familiarize yourself with the FAQs for further information. SlideShare does not allow you to upload any TV shows, copyrighted videos, music albums, movies or videos that are of a personal nature. So you cannot indulge in personal vlogging here. Your best bet is to upload instructional or presentation videos.

4. Updating Existing SlideShare Decks

If you want to improve or update a presentation, such as going back to include clickable links, you are able to edit your file and re-upload it to SlideShare without having to change the existing URL. So there’s no chance of outdated links or embed code errors.

how-to-upload-powerpoints-to-slideshare-7-728

Once you have fixed up and re-uploaded the file, it could take a little time for that new file to go live. But in my experience, it only really takes a couple of seconds before your improved version is up and running.

5. Make Use of SlideShare Analytics

If you’re using SlideShare to gain great content results and improve your reach, you’re going to need some sort of report back. SlideShare has a rather robust analytics feature that lets you track daily progress of your content.

slideshare Analytics-Summary

Head over to your dashboard and choose to see the stats for separate uploads by clicking on the Uploads drop-down menu.

You are also able to check out outbound clicks from your presentations, such as which slide the clicks originated from and even where the link points. This data is absolutely priceless since it helps you design even more clickable content.

You are even able to view recently engaged users so you can connect with those users and follow them. They may return the favor!

If you manage several SlideShare accounts, for instance a personal one and a few business ones, consider using tools such as Cyfe to monitor the progress of multiple accounts all in one dashboard.

Part 2 of How to Use SlideShare to Maximize Your Content: Headers, SubHeaders and Promoting

1. Cross-promote attention grabbing headlines

If you’ve written an attention-grabbing headline for a blog post, why not use it as the title for your SlideShare presentation, too? All you have to do is copy it straight across.

2. Use transition slides!

The main sections of your post actually translate into the main sections of your presentation. That means you can use your subheadings as transition slides. That is, slides that you use to signal the beginning of a new section.

3. Promote, promote, promote – and with good content, you might get lucky

While SlideShare’s organic traffic is certainly impressive, if you want to get the most out of the presentations you create, you’re going to have to drive visitors via conventional. This awesome guide on Smart Blogger can help!

Sometimes, I’ve been able to get featured in SlideShare’s home page simply because of the quality of my SlideShare content.

One infographic we put out in July of 2015 picked up a lot of shares that month (see it: How To Make Sure Your Brand Is Publishing High Quality Content (Infographic)).

That month, we syndicated it to SlideShare (uploaded as PDF), where it reached “most popular” for the day there. SlideShare featured it for 1-2 hours on the home page. This infographic was one of our most actionable ones, written with great tips for all business owners, a major key to why it was one of our best-performing ones and the reason SlideShare picked it up.

That’s the cool factor – if your content is great in and of itself, SlideShare might just feature you on the home page without any action needed on your part!

Conclusion: Know How to Use SlideShare & Win With Your Content Reach!

SlideShare is a wonderful blogging and content marketing platform. It makes it incredibly easy to curate content, showcase your talents and brand yourself or your organization.

If you’re not using SlideShare, you’re missing out on a platform that boasts over 70 million visitors a month, doesn’t cost a dime and allows you to enjoy direct traffic back to your content.

Are you already using SlideShare to distribute content? Do you have any tips to share for improving SlideShare content marketing? Let us know below.

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