award winning content express writers

We’re up for a 2018 B2B Marketing Zone Award! Will you help vote?

As many of you know (or may not know), I’ve been a columnist over at Content Marketing Institute since March 2015.

It’s one of my most favorite guest platforms to write for on this planet. Content Marketing Institute and their people are close to my heart (as evidenced by my trips to CMWorld ’17 and ’18, respectively).

I spend a great deal of time brainstorming and creating my submissions for CMI. My guide on high-performing content even made it to their 15-most shared posts of all time.

This week I was notified that one of my Content Marketing Institute articles is currently a finalist in the B2B Marketing Zone 2018 MVP Awards in the Content Marketing category! Their panel of judges have determined that my writing is insightful, useful, thought leadership and worthy of the title of Most Valuable Post. Woohoo! What an incredible honor to hear this.

Like @ExpWriters content? Vote and help @JuliaEMcCoy win a 2018 #B2B Award for Most Valuable Post in Content Marketing! Hurry - deadline is December 5! Click To Tweet

We’re up for a 2018 B2B Marketing Zone Award! Will you help vote?

At this point, the B2B Marketing Zone has slated my article next to several others. To win, I need your help. If you enjoy what I do, like reading my blog and getting our newsletters, could you take a moment to vote? (Winners will be announced on December 5th, so you need to get your vote in before then!)

Yes? Great!!

Go here:

B2B Marketing Zone Awards 2018

Then, click on mine to “check” the box next to it and vote:

b2b award express writers

You’ll need to sign up, but it only takes a few moments and you don’t have to “check” the box to subscribe to the publication’s updates if you don’t want to.

Thank you so much, in advance!

– Julia

digital marketing consultant

5 Skills You Need to Succeed as a Digital Marketing Consultant

The digital age has changed the way we do everything, and that includes the way we basically work, shop, and live.

Shopping has changed as the biggest retailers fall to e-commerce giants. Work environments and positions have changed as remote positions are becoming more plentiful.

It was inevitable that marketing would change as more companies saw the value of a digital, content-based approach to advertising.

But what exactly does this mean for job seekers? If you’re a digital marketing consultant (or you aspire to be one), what specifically should you know? And how can you keep building up your skill set in the key areas your future employers will look for?

Today, we’re going to look at the skillsets needed by the modern-day digital marketing consultant.

That’s right, skillsets – because there’s more than one area you need to master.

Even with an overlap, it is important to have a distinct grasp of each.

From content marketing to SEO to social media marketing, there are several areas you should study and know to improve your standing as a real, worthwhile, money-makin’ digital marketing expert.

Let’s explore.

Learn 5 critical skills you need to succeed as a #marketing consultant today Click To Tweet

digital marketing consultant

Why Pursue a Job as a Digital Marketing Consultant?

Before we delve into the specific areas you need to study before you can become a viable digital marketer, let’s take a brief look at why it is important.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely already considering a career as a digital marketing consultant. You may even have some past experience in similar roles. But why should you continue on that way? Well for starters, there’s the job security. Check out this graphic from the Content Marketing Institute.

A whopping 91 percent of B2B marketers surveyed in that study use content marketing. That’s job security if we ever saw it – but the proof just keeps piling up. According to The Drum, content marketing is expected to be worth $412.88 billion in 2021. For reference, it was sitting just below $200 billion back in 2016.

When you’re looking to hone your skills and find digital marketing consultant jobs, you can expect an easier time finding work opportunities than many other professions under the business/marketing umbrella. But those opportunities are just that – opportunities.

They’re chances, and chances you must make the most out of. How can you do that? By taking a refined approach to improving your digital marketing consultant skillsets.

What’s a good digital marketing consultant job description? The mission is simple – use digital channels to help companies reach their customers. You’ll study the market, gain data-driven insights, and combine it with a creative mind for marketing to help your employer reach prospective leads.

The complexity comes in as you try to master all the associated skillsets you need for the job. We’ll discuss the bigger ones and go over how they overlap.

What Skills Should You Master? 5 Marketing Focuses to Study

1.    Content Marketing: Your All-Purpose Lead-Generation Tool

The definition of content marketing can vary depending on where you look, but the premise is always the same. It involves planning and creating digital content to help a company connect with prospective buyers.

Content marketing could involve creating blogs, writing copy for websites, drafting long-term content plans, and much more. Check out this graphic from Timecamp to get a loose idea for your content marketing hierarchy.

The three-step process they reference involves creating big content, splitting it up into smaller parts, and then marketing those parts across digital channels. As we can see, there are a lot of steps to the content marketing process with plenty of overlap.

Digital marketing consultant jobs often call for you to combine your skills. Don’t get caught up on each individual aspect of the pyramid, as we’ll cover some of those topics individually later on our list.

But the point is that marketing in the digital age is about content. Quality, honest, informative, entertaining content can do a lot more for your clients than any type of marketing trick or “overnight” fix ever will. The only thing that happens overnight with get-promoted-quick schemes is usually the other party making off with your money!

It’s also important to remember that quality content works best in perpetuity. Clients need a consistent flow of good content to keep prospective leads coming in. Whether you’re planning it out or creating it yourself, that’s where you’ll come in as their marketing consultant.

2.    SEO: Master It, and Master What Comes After

Search-engine optimization is one of the focal points of content marketing and digital marketing in general. Your mastery of search algorithms is important. But what’s even more important is how you integrate that mastery into your client’s content.

If you hope to land a nice juicy digital marketing consultant salary, you’ll need to work for a successful client. Companies that are the most successful are the ones that keep up-to-date on what they’re customers are asking for. Luckily, search engines make it easier than ever to see what exactly people want.

This graphic from ImForza shows some startling statistics. The second one is startling for the fear of tech monopolies – but that’s another topic for another day. The stat actually shows us how much we can learn by analyzing Chrome search results. And the first stat speaks for itself – if you want to bring in traffic from search engines, you need to master SEO.

Tools like SEMrush and KWFinder can be useful for helping you determine which keywords and phrases offer the biggest potential returns. But the real key for using these words and phrases to their maximum impact lies in doing so organically.

Create content that reads well, and that sounds natural when read aloud. With enough keywords in content like this, you’ll be able to generate traffic, leads, and ultimately revenue for your employer.

3.    Social Media Marketing: Promote Your Content Where It Counts

There’s no denying that social media, for better or worse, is a massive part of our world in the digital age. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about the gossip side of these platforms, which can get a little cringe-y. Instead, we get to delve into the marketing opportunities they offer – which are diverse and profitable.

Social media marketing isn’t about making an account on every platform out there and hoping for the best. Instead, it’s about choosing carefully and going where you can best reach your audience.

What does your audience look like, in terms of their place in life and how the company you work for can help them? Check out this sample persona from Hubspot:

Making up these types of personas may be your job as a digital marketing consultant, or it could fall on someone in your department. Once you have this data, you can use it to discover where your audience is most likely to be, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform.

Remember how we said content marketing and SEO would overlap with some other skillsets on this list? Once you have your social media platforms and audience pinpointed, you can start sharing your content (blogs, web pages, graphics, etc.) with them.

The important thing is putting it all together, and part of that involves making sure you master the promotional aspect of digital marketing with a good grasp on social media.

4.    Staying Active: Blogging, Personal Social Media, and More

This is a skill set that some marketers tend to overlook. But let’s say you’re looking to be a digital marketing consultant freelance or temporarily, and your interviewer asks to see samples of your work. What do you show them?

Portfolio? Yes, that’s a great start. Links to published pieces? Great, that shows you’re an accomplished marketer. But there are also benefits to having your own personal investments in content marketing such as a dedicated blog and social media page.

When you blog regularly and stay active on social media about your industry, you show employers you’re not looking for a job – you’re looking for a career. You take the step from being a person who works in marketing to becoming a full-fledged digital marketer.

You don’t want to get too personal or off-topic when it comes to these avenues of content creation. Your prospective employer may not be too impressed by the gym photos on your Twitter, however huge your muscular gains may be.

5.    Staying Active: Researching, Education, and Training

Being active as a digital marketer is so important, it made the list twice – but how? While blogging and posting on social media is important, so is being a student of the game.

Check out this graphic from Smart Insights about content strategy.

How does strategy factor into research, education, and training within your field? Digital marketing changes as digital channels change – which is, practically, all the time. If you’re looking to develop a good career as a contracted or independent digital marketing consultant, you’ll need to be on the cusp of your industry.

Continue your training constantly by reviewing new material, reading case studies, and analyzing fresh statistics. You can learn new things all the time and, thus, create more profitable strategies for your employer. Whether you’re discovering a new way to promote content on social media or a better way to make your grammar flow, you can improve your services immensely.

So what are some specific digital marketing courses you can use to hone your skills? There are plenty out there, some free and some paid, each offering its own level of return. The question you have to ask yourself beforehand is how much is a profitable digital marketing consultant career worth to you?

Improve Your Skillsets with a Content Strategy Marketing Course

If you’re in the market to learn more about a variety of marketing skills in a single, concise course, you can check out my content strategy course.

I compiled a great assortment of resources that I used to launch my own agency into a seven-figure success story. Here’s what you can expect with this course:

The question to ask yourself is simple – how much are marketing skills worth to you and your potential future employers? $1,000? $10,000? Remember, when you’re a career marketer who is spending money on training materials, you’re making an investment in your future.

A high-quality training course from a reputable organization can look great on your resume. It’s the perfect way to complement a college degree without requiring you to accrue six-figure student loan debt.

With a course like this one, you get a full series of lessons, individual mentorship, and a great learning environment – it’s all the things you’d expect in a marketing class but without the headache of fighting the morning commute to get to a university.

Honing Your Skills for Success as a Digital Marketing Consultant

Digital marketing isn’t the future – it’s the present, and it is only going to become more important as time goes on.

Popular channels like search engines and social media platforms are the go-to sources companies need to delve into for traffic. Your skillsets should include a firm grasp on content marketing, which can be used to reach users through multiple internet avenues. You should also understand SEO from both a technical and functional perspective.

Throw in a mastery of social media and your digital marketing repertoire is almost complete. Don’t forget to stay active in your industry through blogging, social media posting, and of course, continued education.

Digital marketing consultant jobs can be fun, engaging, and a great living. If you have the right skills, you can pay the bills as an all-purpose digital marketing sensation.

digital marketing consultant content strategy course

short term vs long term content marketing guide

When Will My Content Return on Success? The Truth About Short-Term vs. Long-Term Success in Content Marketing

“I blog all the time and I’m not seeing any traffic — why bother?”

Okay, there’s a lot wrong with that sentence.

First of all, define “all the time.”

Does that mean every few months, every month, weekly, daily — hourly?

The fact is — and you can quote me on this — the truth about how long it takes to get noticed in your content marketing… hurts.

content marketing ROI guide

The Painful Truth About Content Marketing ROI — and Why You Should Grin and Bear It Anyway

The honest-to-goodness truth about content marketing ROI is you’re not going to see content success the moment you press the launch button on your website and post your first blog.

In fact, you’re not going to see success with your content in the first month — and maybe not even in the first year, depending on your post frequency (and the quality of your content, of course).

Nope.

If you’re looking for a significant return on investment (ROI), then you NEED to be in it for the long haul.

In fact, this study from HubSpot outlines the magic number quite clearly — it’s around 400.

After approximately 400 blog posts, HubSpot’s statistics showed that traffic just about doubles.

For the savvy content marketer, that means you need to be prepared to deliver consistent, long-form content to drive the results you desire.

Publishing content consistently but not seeing any positive results? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses the truth about short-term vs. long-term success in #contentmarketing in this blog post #contentroi Click To Tweet

And when I say consistent, I mean you have to have an editorial calendar and stick to it.

No ping-ponging around with posts — posting twice a week one week, skipping a week, then posting again.

I know, it’s not easy.

Even Content Marketing Institute has found that more than half of marketers struggle with it.

graph from cmi showing the top challenges for b2b content marketers

And yet, visitors want reliable, consistent, frequent updates — that’s what drives traffic. So, if you want the traffic, you’ll need to buckle down and find a schedule you can adhere to.

Now, back to posting frequency. To get that traffic revving, you’ll need to not only be consistent — but frequent — with your posts.

It’s a proven fact that companies that posted 16 or more pieces of content per month had 4.5 times more leads than those who posted 0-4 times.

Companies that post 16 or more pieces of content monthly have 4.5x more leads than those who publish 0-4x/month. @Hubspot Click To Tweet

And that just makes sense, since all that posting means these businesses are providing their sites with four times the indexing and backlinking opportunities.

graph showing the impact of blog posts on inbound leads

You just need to be sure that all those posts are contributing high-quality content in order to keep visitors — and Google — happy.

That means that even posting once a week, which many bloggers do, is likely to keep you in the realm of blogging hobbyists who don’t expect high traffic.

So once you’ve decided you’re serious about moving forward with your content marketing, you’ll need to determine your goals.

Want the maximum traffic? Consider publishing 4 posts a week, which will bring you up into that high-traffic-driving stratosphere.

Looking for slower but steady growth? Consider 2-3 posts per week.

If you don’t mind taking it very slowly, posting once per week is fine. Just keep in mind it will take you more than a year to see a significant jump in traffic.

Once you’ve got your frequency and consistency down pat, you’ll need to concentrate on the meat-and-potatoes portion of success — and that’s your content itself.

What's the recommended posting frequency for #contentroi success? @JuliaEMcCoy shares her insights, plus studies from @hubspot @cmicontent @backlinko @unbounce and others #contentmarketingroi Click To Tweet

Long-Form Content Provides Consistent Success

Content return on success is not just about churning out random thoughts in 500-word posts. You have to consistently provide visitors long-form, comprehensive content that’s relevant to their needs.

Multiple studies have proved this, and we’re a case study on this (stats on our own content marketing ROI coming up soon).

To underscore the importance of this, BuzzSumo studied more than 100 million articles and found the posts most likely to be shared were over 3,000 words long.

bar graph comparing average shares by content length

Image: Search Engine Journal

And high rankings were tied to long-form content in a Backlinko study that examined more than a million blog posts.

graph showing the correlation between word count and google positionOf course, it’s not just the quantity that counts — it’s quality, too.

Higher-Quality Content Brings Higher Content Marketing ROI

Seems intuitive, right?

And yet so many people miss this critical part of the content ROI equation. That’s why I conducted a case study using my own company as a benchmark.

Why?

Because Express Writers has managed to pull down six-figure earning months on the basis of our content alone.

We did it by publishing over 1,000 blog posts with consistent, long-form content over six years. Yes, you read that right — six years. As of this post, we’re at 1,142 blog posts, total.

That content, which is published weekly along with a few podcasts with notes and recaps from our #ContentWritingChat, costs us about $1,600 per month.

It’s a very long time, a lot of investment, and a lot of content — but worth every minute of the hard work.

If we bought that kind of traffic versus generating it ourselves, it would set us back a mind-blowing $66,700.

image showing how much express writers would be spending on ads for the traffic it generates organically

But just by rolling up our sleeves and finding ways we could provide serious benefit for our reading audience, we were able to create a business that frequently breaks the six-figure threshold in a month — while spending under $2K.

Of course, as I mentioned, our content isn’t just long, it’s high quality — and that’s what you need to strive for.

E-A-T Your Words — How to Create High-Quality Content to Win at Content ROI

High-quality content needs to adhere to Google’s quality rater guidelines, which require that it’s got a high level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), a nice dollop of main content with a helpful title, and achieves a purpose for the page on which it’s hosted.

For just $1,600 per month, Express Writers generates monthly traffic that's worth a whopping $66,700. @JuliaEMcCoy shares how we do it in this blog post about #contentroi Click To Tweet

Sounds like a tall order, right? It’s easier than you think, as long as you break it down into bite-sized chunks, as follows:

1. Create Unique and Useful Content

Nobody wants to read the same old information turned around and spit back out in a different format.

According to Social Media Examiner’s recent report, more than half of marketers say people want content that’s unique and useful.

And Google’s watching, too. If you publish something really lackluster, they’ll call you on it.

image showing video of google's matt cutts

Image: Google Support

If you’re not going to come up with original, useful content — just stop. Content marketing is not for you.

But if you’re on fire to share actionable, relevant tips with the people who need to know them, then step on up — and reap the benefits.

Here are some critical ways you can create and share long-form content that will have your readers coming back for more, post after post.

2. Give Them Data-Driven Information

You don’t have to write content that’s full of numbers and equations, but readers are looking for information that is provable, factual, and can help them draw conclusions.

To increase social shares, put some of the data in an infographic.

In fact, infographics are a great way to share actionable material that provides real benefit to readers.

Check out this great one from Unbounce, a literal 6-month guide to online marketing in free content form:

unbounce's noob guide to online marketing

Image: Unbounce

That image is just the tip of the iceberg — the infographic actually “unfolds” like a brochure (and you can get it as a PDF for convenience). Here’s the first part:

screenshot of the first part of unbounce's noob guide to online marketing

The information presented is attractive, data-oriented, and actionable — checking lots of boxes for visitors that are hungry for unique and useful stuff.

The ROI on this guide was and is huge, too — Oli Gardner’s team has told me it actually served to build their brand and was a fundamental piece that got their brand rolling in the early days. (Unbounce’s Content Director Dan Levy was one of my guest instructors for the Content Strategy & Marketing Course.)

3. Build Trust and Authority

If you’re creating unique and useful data-driven content, it just follows that — eventually — you’ll be seen as an expert in your industry.

Short-form or long-form content? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses #contentmarketingsuccess in this new blog post, with studies from @hubspot @cmicontent @backlinko @buzzsumo and more #contentroi Click To Tweet

To encourage visitors to keep coming back for more, establish a relationship with your community through a response/comments section in your blog or by providing relatable, actionable examples.

One way we do this at Express Writers is by sharing case studies of our experiences to help other content marketers adjust their strategies for better content ROI.

We also put a strong focus on being relevant and authentic because we know that’s what people want. No more burying sales pitches in cleverly designed content pieces — it just doesn’t work.

featured image of express writers' don't treat your buyers like it's 1999 blog post

Image: Express Writers

Remember, your content isn’t all about driving results. It’s also about sharing your passion for your industry and providing real service to your readers.

The results (read: content marketing ROI) are just what happens when you create and share truly good stuff.

Content marketing ROI happens when you create and share truly good stuff. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

If this is your mindset the next time you sit down to craft a piece of content for your site, you can’t help but create something that will inspire and engage your audience — and increase your content marketing ROI by default.

The Long — and Short — of It

So, you want content marketing success, right? Then you now have every tool you need to take action and make it happen.

You understand posting frequency and how posting more often helps increase your traffic.

You’re definitely down with the fact that it might take up to 400 posts before you start seeing that jump in hits, but you also know that like anything good in life, the waiting’s worth it.

And, you totally get that making the effort to create fantastic, long-form content is exactly what’s needed to engage, educate, and build an authentic relationship with your audience.

Short-form content is just not going to cut it for posts that create movement, traffic, and revenue on your site. And sleazy sales tactics are definitely out of the picture.

So, sit back and start brainstorming those actionable, relevant long-form beauties. Whip out that editorial calendar and create a consistent schedule your readers can rely upon.

Dig through the data and come up with something really unique, unusual, and share-worthy.

And, in the process, discover that you’ll win a lot more than just content ROI with this strategy — you’ll also win trust and loyalty. And that’s priceless.

website conversion optimization guide

Your Nutshell Guide to Better Website Conversion Optimization: Boost Your Site’s Profitability With These Tips

Even if your content is killer, your conversion rates can still be lackluster.

*mic drop* 🎤

That’s because every tiny detail, including the surrounding content, sidebars, header images, and links (let’s call them the “peripheral stuff”), contribute to your user’s experience (UX, for short).

You may think these extraneous details have no bearing on the effect of your content, but they DO matter – a lot.

As it turns out, they can influence the user psychologically, especially if you cap your content with an ask or a call-to-action.

The surrounding stuff, the little details beyond the meat of your content/copy, can make your reader more or less likely to follow through with your CTA.

For example, did you know that something as simple as removing social login options (like Facebook) from a page resulted in increased conversions for a Norwegian cosmetics retailer?

It’s true. They did a split test, pitting one version of the page with a social login option against another version without it:

#1: The page with a Facebook login, above.

#2: The same page without the Facebook login.

The results? The one without the social login option (#2) earned a 3% increase in conversions and a spike in revenue for the company.

That’s exactly why website conversion optimization exists.

It’s there to help you create the version of your page that is most appealing to your customers/readers/audience and keeps them primed to act the way you want. In turn, this increases the likelihood of those people buying into your CTAs.

If your content is great but your UX sucks, you’ll have a harder time getting people to bite.

Websites that are harder to use due to off-putting ads, poor design choices, bloated copy (or not enough copy), and other UX mistakes are roadblocks to conversions.

The key is not to apply very specific tweaks that worked to increase conversions for another company. Everyone’s customers are different, so everyone’s data from split testing these optimization tweaks is totally subjective.

Instead, try implementing universally approved tactics, then test them to make sure they’re right for your audience.

We’ve rounded up a list of these universal approaches that pretty much work for everybody. Ready? Let’s break them down.

Read a nutshell guide to website conversion optimization and 5 data-backed methods to improve your site conversions, via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

your website conversion optimization guide

Your Guide to Website Conversion Optimization: 5 Data-Backed Ways to Improve Your Conversions

1. Use SSL Certificates/Trust Badges

One of the major ways to increase conversions on a page, especially a check-out or sales page, is to instill trust in your customers with the right elements.

If a customer is thinking about purchasing, they may already have some level of trust with you. In this case, you want to make that sales/check-out page help them cross the finish line.

Securing your site with an SSL certificate is one major way to build your trust and optimize your conversion rates. (Sometimes your web host will offer this as a service along with hosting your website.)

Take a look at how this appears on our site:

Or, for another example, here’s Amazon’s SSL-secured site:

Want to see a non-secured site? It doesn’t look as trustworthy, immediately right off the bat. This isn’t a good first impression:

Learn more in Google’s useful help article about SSL certificates.

You can also include a “trust badge” on the page. This little graphic is evidence your site is safe and secure as verified by an outside, trusted objective source.

Most of the time, these badges tell the consumer that your site uses SSL (secure sockets layer) technology to keep data like credit card numbers encrypted and safe. Others may simply signify a credible third party deems you trustworthy.

A good example: the Better Business Bureau, or BBB, has “Accredited Business” badges that show they have verified your company as trustworthy.

Here are some more examples of recognizable trust badges:

Using trust badges is a pretty fail-safe method because plenty of consumers are worried about the security of their information online.

According to a European study conducted by GlobalSign, 77% of internet users are worried about their data safety, including whether it will be misused or intercepted. Additionally, most people check for security indicators on web pages, whether it’s right before a purchase (24%), before handing out their details (48%), or just out of habit each time they visit a new website (21%).

People are rightly anxious about protecting their data, so addressing the underlying worry can help ease the way to more conversions, including completed check-outs.

Your website not converting? @JuliaEMcCoy discusses #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization in this nutshell guide to improving site conversions Click To Tweet

In fact, Blue Fountain Media showed how effective trust badges can be when they conducted a split test on their “request a quote” form.

One version of the form didn’t include a badge:

While a second version of the same form included a VeriSign seal:

The results: The version with the trust badge got 81% more form fill-outs than the one without it.

The takeaway: If you could instill more confidence in a user’s purchase or other action on your site, why wouldn’t you?

  • Get verified by a third party, or purchase SSL for your domain (DigiCert by Symantec is a good option.)
  • Slap a trust badge like an SSL certificate on pages where it makes sense
  • Test to see if it makes a difference in conversions

2. Use Pop-Ups Correctly for Better Website Conversion Optimization

There’s a lot of contention surrounding pop-ups. Do they help conversions? Do they hurt? There are arguments for both sides.

So, should you use pop-ups? Shouldn’t you? (Do you want to tear out your hair yet?)

Guess what:

The question is not whether you should use pop-ups.

The question is how you should use them if you go that route.

Your pop-ups could be killing your conversions. @JuliaEMcCoy shares her insights on #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization in this nutshell guide Click To Tweet

A. Avoid Intrusive Interstitials (or Risk Google’s Wrath)

What the heck are “interstitials” as related to pop-ups?

Short answer: An interstitial is a period of time when your website content is supplanted by a promotional message.

Often, an interstitial looks like a pop-up that covers the entire screen. The user can’t see or access the content they were actually looking for until they respond to the interstitial, like so:

Things can get very sticky with interstitial pop-ups. The line between “quick grab for your attention” and “intrusive” is thinner than thin.

For mobile browsing, Google doesn’t want to see intrusive interstitials anywhere near your website. These are pop-ups that impede the user’s ability to access the content.

Google also stipulates when interstitials are okay:

You can use them responsibly if:

  • You need to fulfill a legal obligation (like verifying a user’s age)
  • You need users to log in to access parts of your site
  • You make sure your pop-ups are reasonably sized (read: not gargantuan) and are easily dismissable

For a full explanation of what you should and shouldn’t do regarding interstitials, check out this post on Search Engine Journal: 7 Tips for Using Pop-Ups without Harming Your SEO.

B. Time Your Pop-Ups Right

Perhaps the most important key to getting pop-ups right for more conversions is timing.

When and where your pop-ups pop up can make or break things for you.

According to Sumo’s analysis of 2 billion examples of pop-ups, the ones that converted the worst were rushed. That means they appeared too quickly, such as seconds after the page loaded.

In contrast, a well-timed pop-up can pay off… big time.

Here’s a great example Sumo supplies:

The pop-up below was timed to appear 15 seconds after a visitor started viewing an ebook product page. It offers a free download of the first chapter.

This pop-up has a 38.4% conversion rate, and it’s all because it literally pops up at the exact right time – when the user has had a chance to check out the product and get interested.

The takeaway: For pop-ups, timing is everything.

To discover the best time to launch your pop-up, Sumo recommends checking Google Analytics for the average time on page. For instance, maybe users spend an average of 20 seconds on your page before bouncing. Figure out how to sweeten the deal with a timed pop-up (maybe at the 15-second mark?) so they’ll want to follow through with whatever your CTA asks of them.

3. Entice Users with Buttons That Look Like Buttons

According to CrazyEgg, website users expect buttons. They look for buttons. They need buttons.

Why?

Because, since the dawn of the web (think the 1990s), this is how you interacted with web pages. When users see a button, they expect to take some form of action.

Here’s an example of good button design from a company who placed a PPC ad on Google for the keyword “buttons and website conversions.”

Obviously, they’re aiming for conversions themselves with this ad. The page, as such, lives up to expectations.

May I direct your attention to the CTA buttons on this landing page?

They’re big, colorful, rounded, and satisfyingly button-y.

Plus, when you hover your mouse over them, they change color.

I really want to click this button.

Landing pages without buttons are confusing. What am I supposed to click on?

Unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly), studies have shown that this logic holds up.

In a series of tests between pages with buttons that look like buttons and so-called “ghost buttons” (essentially transparent boxes with text in them), ConversionXL showed that users prefer the former over and over again.

For instance, in the first split test, users clicked on the ghost button version 20% less than the regular button.

Another case study from Unbounce shows more of the same. They tested two versions of CTA buttons: A rectangular version and a rounder, more button-y version.

The rounder version won by a landslide – it increased conversions by 35.81%.

The takeaway: When you create CTA buttons, make them look like a button! In other words, make them irresistible.

4. Keep Forms Simpler and Ask the Right Questions

Another piece of your website you can optimize for conversions is your form. Email sign-ups, surveys, check-out pages, and opt-in forms are all fair game.

To get the best conversions from your forms, the conventional wisdom is to keep them shorter.

At least, it was.

As this post from Venture Harbour argues, shorter does not necessarily mean better.

In this piece, the author examines 5 different case studies where other factors played a bigger role than length.

For instance, a case study from Marketing Experiments found that they didn’t need to shorten their form to increase conversions. They just needed to get rid of the copy on top of it:

The copy above the form in Version B reduced conversions, driving them down by 28%. That’s because visitors to this page were already highly motivated to fill out the form, and the copy got in the way. Form length didn’t matter.

In another case study from ConversionXL, they literally tested how form length would affect conversions.

They started with a form containing 9 fields. After whittling it down to 6 and testing the shorter form against the original, they found that conversions dropped by 14.23% with the shorter form.

What mattered more than form length? The type of questions they were asking.

In fact, after tweaking the form copy (but keeping the fields at 9 total), they saw a jump in conversions – 19.21%, to be exact.

The shorter form didn’t have the questions that users were interested in answering. The longer form kept them, but with rephrased copy that helped reduce any anxiety about filling it out.

The takeaway: The context of your form is critical to conversions. Do users expect to have to answer a lot of questions (like if they’re requesting a quote for services)? Or do they just want to get to a freebie download as quickly as possible?

This should come as no surprise, but your particular audience’s needs/expectations should determine the length of your forms. Just don’t get overly complicated, and ask the right questions.

5. Never Oversell

You know that icky feeling you get when a salesperson is desperately trying to wring money from your wallet?

You just want to be left alone to browse in peace, but they carry on with their sales pitch anyway. They’re either totally oblivious to your disinterest or too focused on the $$$ to care.

It turns out you can replicate that exact experience on a website. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you should.)

For example, when I recently visited a blog that usually serves up the good stuff, a pile of CTAs plus a few small pop-ups met me instead.

Where should the user’s attention go in this scenario? If you’re overwhelming them with asks before they can even read your content/start building trust, well…

That’s how you turn them off.

Overselling can backfire.

Instead, keeping the asks simple and focused can go a long way. Take another case study from ConversionXL, where they optimized a landing page for Truckers Report, a resource that hooks truck drivers up with better jobs.

Here’s the original page:

After drilling down and simplifying the page through a few tests, they arrived at a version that converted nearly 80% better than the original (and the original wasn’t that complicated, to begin with).

Sometimes, simpler is better. Just repeating your CTAs all over the place without thinking about UX won’t convince visitors to act. It will do the opposite.

The above example shows us that you don’t have to oversell to get the desired results.

The takeaway: Instead of adding more elements to your webpage to increase conversions, try taking some away, simplifying, and narrowing your CTA down to one well-placed option.

Just repeating your CTAs all over the place without thinking about UX won’t convince visitors to act. This and more #contentmarketing nuggets in @JuliaEMcCoy's nutshell guide to #websiteconversion #websiteoptimization Click To Tweet

Website Conversion Optimization: There’s No One-Size-Fits-All

Optimizing your website for maximum conversions isn’t a straightforward task.

There is no checklist with boxes to tick. There aren’t any “best practices” that work every single time, for every single webpage.

Instead, website conversion optimization will be totally unique for you or your clients. It depends on your brand, your website, and your customers.

The best first step for any website to optimize their conversions is not to look at what their peers are doing, but rather what their audience wants/needs/expects from their website, content, and web pages.

Start with providing the best user experience possible, and you’re on your way.

why your content isn't performing

Why Your Content Isn’t Performing, and 6 Methods to Refocus on for Killer Results

Despite your best efforts, your content isn’t performing.

It might even be failing, and the reason(s) for it may remain elusive.

This is frustrating beyond belief, not to mention discouraging. (Head, meet desk.)

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You’ve heard over and over how successful content marketing can be (in CMI’s B2B Content Marketing Trends Report, 73% of respondents said their organization’s content marketing approach was either moderately or very successful)  – so it’s even more disheartening when you can’t seem to get there yourself.

cmi_b2b-content-marketing-trends-success-rate

Luckily, content problems are common enough that we might be able to boil yours down to one or two (or a few) reasons why your content marketing creations aren’t working.

Read through these scenarios and see if any could apply to your content. Then, keep scrolling for tips to help you turn it all around so you see success the next time you roll up your sleeves to create.

Are you having trouble seeing results from your content marketing? Here are 6 methods to help you re-focus for killer results, via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

guide on why your content isn't performing

Your content failure might have happened because…

1. Your KPIs and Content Expectations Don’t Match Up

If your content expectations versus the reality of your KPIs (key performance indicators) present two wildly different pictures, something is up.

Either your content is flat-out failing or your expectations are too unrealistic to achieve.

Both scenarios require a reassessment of your approach, whether your content needs an overhaul or your expectations need tweaking.

2. You Don’t Have a Strategy

If you’re creating content on an ad-hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants basis, this could be the major reason why it isn’t performing.

Without a content strategy, you won’t have a roadmap that leads to achieving your goals. It’s exactly like driving on a dark road without any directions or headlights.

One of the major ways a strategy helps your content is by laying out how each of your pieces maps to the buyer’s journey.

When a customer is able to find the exact type of content they need at the exact sales stage they’re in, it helps them move steadily down the sales funnel – closer to a sale with your brand, in fact, since it’s your content they’re engaging with.

shopify-content-marketing-funnel

Without this mapping guiding your content creation, you’ll be taking wild guesses about what types of content will nurture leads and encourage conversions. It just won’t work.

3. You’re Overly Focused on Selling

Yes, your ultimate end goal is to get those conversions (traffic to leads, leads to sales), but you’re self-sabotaging if your focus is on selling your products/services, promoting your brand, or a mixture of the two.

Overly salesy content is a cause of death for any campaign because it moves toward being interruptive and valueless for the consumer rather than helpful, interesting, or educational.

Consumers (especially millennials and Generation Z) don’t like ads for a reason. They’re pushy, annoying, and can feel a bit slimy.

millward-brown-gen-xyz-ad-blocking

82% of Gen Z-ers say they skip ads whenever they can, according to a Kantar/Millwardbrown study.

Do you want to be seen as an authority in your field and a helpful advisor, or like a shady used car salesman? Promoting yourself too much in your content will lead to the latter, which turns people off.

4. You Aren’t Talking to the Right Audience

If publishing content feels like shouting in an empty room (*taps mic* — Is this thing on?), consider this:

Are you speaking to the right crowd?

Content targeted at the right people is more likely to hit its mark.

The people you need to talk to are the ones who will care about what you have to offer, whether that’s your knowledge, your brand, or your products/services.

If your content isn’t connecting, it might be because you’re throwing bananas at horses or apples at monkeys.

6 Tactical Tips to Turn Your Content Marketing Around

1. Study Up on Your Audience, Then Write FOR Them

If your content isn’t performing, you should take a hard look at your target audience and buyer personas.

Are they still relevant? Or are they off the mark?

Go back and do your research. Do surveys, interviews, and polls with your customers and social media followers. Look at who your competition is targeting. Reassess who your brand ultimately seeks to help with content.

Michelle Linn has a great method to help you refocus on your correct audience: Ask yourself who you can help rather than wondering who you can target.

Once you have an updated handle on your audience, write your content FOR them.

  • Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Speak their language. Imagine talking to them across a dinner table and what you would say.
  • Address their fears, pain points, desires, and questions.

A good exercise to try if you struggle with content that’s too self-promotional: Eliminate all uses of pronouns like “I,” “we,” and “us.” Instead, use “you” and “your.”

2. Research and Capitalize on a Trending Topic

If you understand your audience well, yet regularly hit “publish” and hear nothing but crickets chirping, you need to start getting more eyes on your content.

You can easily do this by jumping on a trending topic. Their impact is fleeting, but it can be big once it hits.

To find one:

  • Check industry news.
  • Look at top posts on competitor sites and search for patterns.
  • Check BuzzSumo for current trending topics in your niche.

buzzsumo-trending-topics

You need to be quick to find a hot topic and get related content pushed out in a timely manner, but it can be worth the time crunch for the traffic potential alone. Plus, these types of pieces are great lead-ins or introductions to your brand for that all-important awareness phase of the sales cycle.

3. Return to Start and Put a Content Strategy in Place

If your content creation is willy-nilly, unorganized, or undocumented, stop.

Do not pass “go.”

You needed a strategy yesterday.

Reaching any type of goal requires a plan of action. Especially if your goal is content that performs and leads to profitable results.

For content marketing, the plan of action that helps guide you to ROI is a content strategy.

The most current research in the Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report shows that the majority of the most successful content marketers have a strategy in place (62%). Meanwhile, among the least successful marketers, only 16% have a strategy.

cmi-b2b-content-marketing-trends-at-a-glance

This is no coincidence. A strategy gives you all the tools you need for your content to perform.

Period.

4. Stop Using Too Much Industry Jargon

Another reason your content might be falling flat?

Your tone or style might not be gelling well with your audience (see point #2).

If you’re not writing for your audience in a way that connects with them, it doesn’t matter how well you know your targets or how interesting/useful your topic – a wonky tone throws everything off.

A prime example is peppering your sentences and paragraphs with too much jargon.

jargon-definition

For instance, if you are writing content aimed at cancer patients for the medical industry, you don’t want to overuse a term like “malignant fibrous histiocytoma” without explaining what it means in layman’s terms. (It’s bone cancer.)

The paragraph below is not aimed at patients. However, if you write content full of industry jargon like this and it’s not intended for your peers, it’s time to get simpler, more general, and less formal.

medical-jargon

Screenshot via Medscape

5. Trim the Fat from Your Content (or Get an Editor)

Another way to alienate readers and throw off your content performance is to stuff it full of fluff.

Phrases like the ones below are unnecessarily long, wordy, or redundant. They all have simpler alternatives that are easier to read, as Grammarly has shown:

grammarly-slacker-words

Filler words and phrases decrease the overall value of your content. They stuff your pieces full of hot air and make them harder to read.

When you create content that’s concise, you don’t hem and haw. You get to the point(s) quicker, which gives the audience the satisfaction they crave.

Uncoincidentally, that leads to our next point.

6. Tell Them Why They Should Care

In high school or college, you probably wrote essays and papers in a specific format. The introduction was where you announced your topic and told your readers where you were taking them.

college-essay-structure.jpg

That’s still a good practice, but one major piece is missing for online writing: the point.

In most college essays, you save the main point for your conclusion, where you hammer it home.

Doing this in your content is a sure method to make any reader lose interest right away. Since their attention span is fleeting, they need the “why” to smack them in the face.

  • Why should they keep reading?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • How does the content apply to their concerns, desires, needs, fears, etc.?

If you can hand your reader the “why” right away, they’ll be more likely to keep reading, which can improve your content performance.

If Your Content Is on Life Support, Don’t Give Up

Even if your content is underperforming (or lying on its back with its legs in the air), there’s still hope.

Take the opportunity to analyze what might have gone wrong, then make an effort to fix it.

Update old content pieces that never realized their potential, keeping the above tips in mind. Brainstorm and work hard to be super creative – that will help you stand out a lot.

Be gentle on yourself. Progress takes time.

And don’t give up.

You can do great content.

Need an extra helping hand? Check out our content pricing here.

creative content lessons from batman

12 Creative Content Lessons From One of the Most Popular Superhero Movies Ever (Batman)

If you’re a content marketer, I’d bet you feel nothing like Batman. Your utility belt might be full of data, LinkedIn connections and long to-do lists, instead of throwable weapons. And, your dress code might be business casual instead of black leather combat suits.

But there’s a ton that you can learn from the Dark Knight Rises.

Let’s face it: coming up with creative content ideas are tough, but they’re important for keeping marketing efforts fresh and for connecting with those hard-to-reach leads.

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Unique content marketing ideas can cover a wide variety of topics. They can include the services you offer, the strategies you use to grow your business, the way you come up with content topics, and much more.

Today on the blog, we’re taking in some content marketing inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Specifically, the final entry, the Dark Knight Rises, offering a fitting end to an epic trio of films.

dark knight rises batman

Image from imdb.com

(Heads up: this blog will contain spoilers from the movie!)

Brimming with brooding imagery and packed full of powerful themes like pain, triumph, and redemption, it’s an inspirational film. It should be – it grossed $1.08 billion at the box office, and ranks as one of the most popular films of all time.

If you’re looking for content marketing ideas in 2018, we’ve got you covered. Here we go – inspired by the caped crusader’s third appearance on the big screen under Nolan’s guidance: a dozen unique content marketing ideas to inspire your next campaign.

(Sadly, calling yourself Batman in a raspy tone doesn’t make our list. Unless you’re Batdad.)

Read 12 unique #contentmarketing ideas to inspire your next campaign, inspired by a certain caped crusader’s third appearance on the big screen. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

creative content inspiration from batman

Learn from Batman: Try These 12 Creative Content Ideas & Strategies

1.    Keep Up With Current Trends & Pull Topic Inspiration from One Hot Trend

As the film begins, things look much different from the end of part two. Bruce Wayne is a recluse, hidden from the public eye. But even he kept up with what was going on around him.

Content marketers should do the same. Not a social butterfly? Not one to chase down trending topics in your spare time? Learn to, for the sake of your clients. As always, base your research on your clients and their industries.

  • CMI: The Content Marketing Institute offers great content (obviously) as well as educational resources, print materials, and even special events.
  • Smart Blogger: From beginner tips to certification courses, Smart Blogger offers great tools to help you be creative with your content.
  • OkDork: Along with great blogs, OkDork offers you videos and guides to help improve your marketing skills.

Wondering how to apply “current trends” to “new content marketing idea”?

Let’s say you write blogs for a mattress company. Think about ideas relevant to the time of year. For example, where to buy cheap mattresses for freshmen headed off to college in the summer or fall.

2.    Learn What Topic Ideas Work (and Don’t Work)

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Thomas Wayne uttered that famous line at the beginning of the trilogy.

A big part of success is learning what works – and what doesn’t. If you discover topics that bring traffic and engagement, you’re on the right track. BuzzSumo shares a great graphic about content and topic planning.

But what if your idea checks all the boxes but still doesn’t work?

Use it as a learning experience – knowing what hasn’t worked is just as important.

We’re reminded of it in the third film, and it’s true in every aspect of life – including content marketing. Why do we fail? So we can learn to succeed.

3.    Choose Today’s Relationships Carefully for Better Future Results

Batman seemingly had his mojo back before he ran into Bane and ended up with a serious back problem as a result.

All because he trusted a cat burglar – in hindsight, maybe not the wisest move.

Marketers must choose their relationships carefully. Your clients, employees, partners – every node in your network can impact life as a content marketer.

If you’re looking to create B2B content marketing ideas, base yourself in an industry you know well.

It will be easier to find clients you can offer greater ROI to.

Don’t feel bad if not all relationships work out. Remember, by the end of the film, Batman was betrayed by two women. Even the world’s greatest detective can miss warning signs.

4.    Consult Proven Experts for Content Strategy Guidance

If Master Wayne would’ve listened to his sagely wise butler, Alfred, he could’ve avoided a backbreaker that puts pro wrestling to shame. But he underestimated Bane and paid the price.

As content marketers, we can draw inspiration from the experts. This transcends just seeing what topics they choose and how they structure content. How do they achieve consistent success? How do they operate thriving agencies?

Look them up, read their work, and consider what they have to say. Your spine may not depend on it, but your income could!

5.    Don’t Let Success Make You Stagnant

While beating down Batman, Bane even found time to talk trash – telling the Dark Knight he had lost his strength after years of peace.

Check out this graphic about how fast the content marketing industry is changing:

Our industry is constantly changing. Even if you’ve found great success, don’t become stagnant in your approach. (Learn more about how we blog in a fresh, inspiring way that nets 99% of our leads and income at Express Writers.)

There are plenty of ways to keep your content fresh.

Choose hot button topics, create weekly blogs, or even ask your readers what they’d like to see.

It’s a great way to try something fresh without diving head-first into new territory – like Batman dived right into Bane’s lair. We all know how that turned out.

6.    Return to What Originally Made You Great

Content marketing is hard, but our habits can make it harder. Sometimes we spread ourselves too thin. We want to do anything and everything, when less is often more.

Remember how part of Batman’s return involved bracing his wounded appendages and getting back to training? You can take your content further by putting the focus on your specialties and niche first.

We’re not saying not to explore new content types. But if you’re a blogger who got success by blogging, you should probably keep blogging no matter how big your business gets.

7.    Don’t Underestimate Your Competition (Study It Instead)

Back to the scene where Alfred tries to talk sense into Bruce by telling him he wasn’t ready to handle Bane at that point, this dialogue delivers a powerful and clear lesson – don’t underestimate your competition.

It’s easy to get caught up with your own creative content ideas and forget there are thousands of competitors just as determined and skillful as you. Don’t underestimate your competition. Better yet? Study it.

That’s a screencap of SEMrush’s domain vs. domain analyzer’s benefits. You can compare keyword, topics, and more. It’s good to know how you’re doing – but better to know how you’re doing in relation to the competition.

8.    Plan Out Your Topics Ahead of Time

During the climax of the film, we see Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and numerous other characters all working together like a single, cohesive unit to stop Bane’s destruction of Gotham City.

Not only was that inspiring from a cinematic perspective, but it shows the benefit of planning ahead. If you’re looking for content marketing ideas in 2018, as far as topics go, why not plan out a whole schedule in advance?

Try choosing topics for a week’s worth or a month’s worth of content as opposed to choosing on a piece-by-piece basis. You can create a series and even full calendars ahead of time for better results.

9.    Reestablish Yourself Even if Things Get Hard

One of the most impressive things about Batman’s journey was how far he had to come to recover from his losses. He’d had his back broken, his riches wiped away, and the bulk of his arsenal stolen by his rival.

So many times as content marketers, we find things that once worked for us just don’t anymore. Maybe a long-running blog series isn’t bringing in the traffic it used to, or our social media polls don’t elicit as much participation.

If this happens, it can be the perfect opportunity to launch a new series or take a new approach. Don’t let a minor setback derail you – view it as an opportunity to try something new or revisit older successes.

10. Go in for the Long Haul (and the Long Word Count)

There was a time when Batman was ready to sacrifice his life for Gotham. We don’t want you to go that far for the sake of work, but we may ask you to make another sacrifice. According to Top Rank Marketing, longer articles are better at engaging the reader.

The lengthier side of content gives you extra room to be expressive, which is the key to engaging more viewers. You can add more references, more facts, and more calls to action.

If a user is glad they clicked your link, they’re even likelier to return. If Batman can haul a bomb outside city limits and abandon ship before detonation, we can all add a few extra hundred words to our content.

11. Don’t Work Yourself into a Corner

Creative content ideas are easiest to come up with when we have a clear mind. But our thinking can become clouded if we have too many clients, too many projects, and not enough time.

Even Batman needed a break – by the end of the movie, he’d gone on a permanent hiatus. We aren’t telling you to find someone named Robin and pass your business onto them when you get tired. But we are saying planning out a schedule ahead of time can help with your content marketing efforts.

This image from CoSchedule shows us how even social media sharing can be scheduled out ahead of time on a piece-by-piece basis. Plan ahead, and you’ll have less clutter with better content.

12. Triumph Over Your Rivals – and Over Yourself

The ending of the movie shows Batman finally defeating Bane. But his real victory was over his own weakness, fear, and pain.

As content marketers, we know how frustrating the creation process can be. Trying to create that killer content piece or lead-generation sensation is hard. It can require tireless dedication, research, and promotion.

But don’t just overcome the statistical hurdles in your way – improve your own self as a content marketer. Become better organized, with these simple tips:

  • Document Everything: Taking notes can make your life a lot easier. Document projects, client requests, appointments – everything. You’ll be glad you did later.
  • Create a Single To-Do List: Your lists aren’t helpful if they’re all over the place. It’s better to have one master list than a half-dozen shoddy ones scattered about.
  • Commit to the Changes: Changing your approach can be tough, but you need to constantly commit to overcoming your obstacles.

Bruce had to take off the rope to make the jump to freedom. For marketers, that’s the equivalent of continuing to improve no matter how hard it seems. Scary, but ultimately freeing.

Rise Up to a Better Approach Toward Content Marketing

Batman had it right – there’s no obstacle that can’t be triumphed over if we apply ourselves and utilize our inner strength. Even when he was broken physically, mentally and financially, betrayed by two women, and seemingly overmatched, he rose to the challenge.

Creating that killer content piece or that refined approach to marketing services can be easy once you get inspired with these tips.

The bonus? You’re fighting against search algorithms, not the League of Shadows – so you’ll have an easier time than the Dark Knight did.

cmworld 2018

8 of Our Biggest Takeaways & Marketing Lessons from Content Marketing World 2018

This year, I went to CMWorld — again. (It was so great last year that I decided to go again in 2018! And I plan on going in 2019, too.)

I brought Hannah, our Content Director, with me. And we had a blast.

Content marketers getting together, talking about content, is always a good thing in my book.

The event happened Tuesday, September 4 — Friday, September 7, in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. Hannah and I attended the kickoff party at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, the keynotes and sessions in the Main Conference Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and took flights home Thursday night.

Besides the sessions and speakers, it was absolutely wonderful to see friendly faces while there — hug friends, meet online friends IRL, talk content, and chat over breakfast and dinner.

cmworld collage

I walked away with some great insights from the event. Here are my major takeaways from this year’s trip to Content Marketing World.

Have you heard? My Expert SEO Content Writer Course is now open for beta launch — for a limited time only. Save your seat here!

cmworld collage

CMWorld 2018: 8 Biggest Takeaways & Content Marketing Lessons

cmworld recap

This year’s keynote speaker to start the event was Andrew Davis, and to wrap up the event was Tina Fey, aka Liz Lemon, a huge attraction for many of us marketers.

(Also, YAY for #girlpower and bringing a woman to deliver the main and final keynote! Kudos, Content Marketing Institute team.)

Before Andrew Davis opened with the first keynote, Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi took to the stage.

And it was awesome.

1. Today’s Most Important Marketing Element is Trust

First: Robert Rose introduced the “player” to fit well into this year’s theme at CMWorld, Game On.

Player 2 in today’s marketing, he revealed, is trust.

As marketers, he said, we’ve entered the game of talent, trust, and technology. AI is out there. Tech is sophisticated. But the values we have will come from talent driven by trust.

The media trust isn’t there. We’ve got to create it and deliver on it, as marketers.

2. Record, Repeat, Remove & FOCUS for More Success in Marketing

Joe Pulizzi took to the stage next, amidst many whoops of joy from the crowd (I may have added to the noise — he is, after all, one of my all-time favorite content marketing heroes). We all miss him, ever since he ended the PNR With This Old Marketing Podcast and stepped down from CMI after it was acquired by UBM.

Of course, even if he did sell CMI, he sure didn’t let go of any of his stylish orange outfits.

Two new things I learned about Joe:

  • He majored in rhetoric
  • His favorite book: Stranger in a Strange Land (I bought it and plan to read it!)

Joe said that on his first few months off (the first time in years he’s had that much time off!), he studied success. And here’s what he learned.

First, he asked this of all of us: Have you made a positive impact in the world? During his sabbatical, Joe studied success, and he found that most of us have programmed our brains in a way that precludes success. We have a great opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Success (in marketing and life in general) only takes three things:

  1. Record
  2. Repeat
  3. Remove

These three things will make us successful. They will also make our marketing successful.

Joe said that if we lead our mission statement with “making money,” we’ve got it wrong. We need to serve. Serve our audience first.

#CMWorld 2018 highlight: @joepulizzi saying 'If we lead our mission statement with making money, we’ve got it wrong. We need to serve our audience first.' @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

He recommends we review our goals every night and when we wake up in the morning to be successful.

Why marketing fails:

  • Our recorded goals aren’t big enough
  • We do not put in enough repetition (consistency)
  • We don’t clear the garbage that stops us from achieving our goals

Joe said that in all the content marketing strategies he’s helped implement, and the ones he’s studied, the minimum time was 9 months, average 18 months or longer, of implementing content to see success.

Out of hundreds of #contentmarketing strategies studied, @joepulizzi said at #CMWorld that the minimum time is 9 months, average 18 months or longer, of implementing content to see success. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Joe recommends focusing in on the right things and cutting the clutter. When he hears, “Not enough time to hit my goal,” he answers: the average American watches 3 hours of TV a day, which becomes a decade at 80 years old. We have the time, it’s what we choose to make time for.

[email protected] says that focusing is key to success in #marketing and life. He recommends we clear all distractions to make an impact. #CMWorld #recap @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Content run amuck was the most common error when he and Robert Rose consulted and helped brands build content marketing strategies.

Focus. Choose one thing.

Even if it’s a big, scary goal. In 2009, no one knew what content marketing was. Joe wanted 150 people to come to the first CMWorld, and 600 did.

Whatever you do, if you believe it to be true, it’s true. — Bill Durham.

3. Forget About Snackable Content: Create Binge-Worthy Content that Focuses on the Curiosity Gap

A repeated takeaway I heard in many sessions this year at CMWorld was this one: comprehensive content > bite-size / snackable content. In fact, I heard many marketers recommend that those two words — bite-size and snackable! — should die.

Andrew Davis, a highly-rated speaker at last year’s CMWorld, took to the stage as the opening keynote for Content Marketing World 2018. He’s a bestselling author and keynote speaker. And what he shared was terrific.

First, Andrew asks, have you heard this from marketers?

“I wanna gut it and create snackable content.”

Andrew recommends that we forget about creating “snackable content.”

Quit blaming the goldfish and focusing on the short “attention span.”

Our audience has “no time” — but they can binge watch Stranger Things.

So, what they’re really saying is that will MAKE TIME to consume content that holds their interest.

Quit blaming the goldfish and focusing on the short 'attention span.' Our audience has 'no time' -- but they can binge watch Stranger Things. They will MAKE TIME to consume content that holds their interest. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Forget “grab their attention! It’s all about the headline!”

…Maybe we need to make more content like Stranger Things.

Andrew brought in the example of a “mystery box.” Creating mystery around your products, services or content, is a great way to build retention and engagement.

For example, there are over 36,000 mystery boxes available for sale on Amazon and eBay! People buy and sell these daily just for the fun of knowing what’s in a “mystery box.”

Another example: one of IKEA’s highest-performing ads is “Where Life Happens.” It’s also a YouTube ad with one of the highest retention rates. 39% of people watched the whole 4-minute ad — centered around one person doing nothing.

Andrew says you cannot buy attention. It’s actually earned over time. We need to slow down and let people consume our content.

You cannot buy attention. It’s actually earned over time. We need to slow down and let people consume our content. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

He said, “What ingredient does the IKEA ad use to draw and maintain interest?”

Curiosity gap.

Marketers should be creating more curiosity gaps. This is “the void” between what people know and what people want to know.

One of the best examples Andrew brought up:

800,000 viewers for a Buzzfeed watermelon explosion video recorded live on Facebook. One man: “I forgot to pick my kid up from school! What am I doing with my life waiting for this watermelon to explode?”

THAT is creating a successful curiosity gap. And curiosity gaps create tension, which builds interest and heightens retention.

Create tension to earn time from your audience. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Take them through wanting to needing to know.

The need for closure comes after you’ve built up the right tension.

He also said that your content must deliver what was promised. The payoff must be proportional to what was built.

However, this success element can be used for good or evil.

Andrew said, don’t do clickbait. Instead, earn attention by inviting our audience to chase answers. Don’t leave your audience with zero questions. For example: Testimonials and case studies have NO tension. Some big brands have spent $2.6 million on creating hundreds of these ugly, boring testimonial reels.

Think like a reality TV editor.

Learn to raise the stakes. Show the audience something they love and threaten it.

Excellent talk, Andrew!

4. When It Comes to Content, Focus on Results > Attention (Featuring A CoSchedule Case Study)

One of my top favorite breakout sessions at this year’s CMWorld was from Garrett Moon (CEO of CoSchedule), on How to Find Your Content Core & Actually Drive Revenue from Content.

He opened his talk with a convicting statement: Our success metrics are wrong. We focus on attention instead of results.

Our success metrics are wrong. We focus on attention instead of results. @garrett_moon of @CoSchedule #CMWorld Click To Tweet

A simple framework for content success can make all the difference. He recommends a content core. At CoSchedule, content marketing is 100% their engine for growth (much like how it is for us at Express Writers!).

One of Garrett’s most impactful point was a case study of one of the most successful posts in terms of conversion, vs. their highest “shared” post. Shares do not equal conversions! What a wake-up call.

Garrett recommends doing your due diligence in keyword research and strategic thinking before publishing a post, to make sure it fits into the content core, a sweet spot between what your audience cares about + the value your business provides.

  • Your product needs to fit into your content.
  • The softer your CTAs, the softer your sales. Have a direct connection.
  • Connect your content to the value your company provides. This is the extra step BESIDES creating great content that people care about.
  • Orient your blog around one call to action.
  • Optimize to amplify what’s working.

I loved his point about a CTV > CTA: Joanna Wiebe calls her CTAs a Call to Value, not Call to Action.

An example of a CTV: “Find the best marketing tool for the job in 20 minutes.” This shares the value in signing up for CoSchedule for a free trial (the CTA).

Garrett recommends target customer interviews. This is a GENIUS way to interview a customer: CoSchedule gets their guest invited to their podcast and then spends 10 minutes asking them questions. Getting real pain points from an interview net you a deep, high-level place to write for your audience from.

The audience Q&As sparked some great answers from Garrett, as well. I wrote a few notes down just from this 10-minute session at the end.

Q: Is there trust lost if you’re doing CTAs in each blog?

CoSchedule’s CTAs are to a free piece of content, so they don’t do a “hard sell.” This is important. They don’t try to get them on a demo right now. If they can get the reader to think like they do, it will lead them down the customer path. You can do more than you think and not break that trust.

Q. What about paid vs. organic traffic?

CoSchedule does not do any paid promotion. It’s not enough to get people to see your content. If you’re paying for that traffic, you’re throwing money out the window if your conversions are zero. Garrett says his brand targets organic search completely. (Another reason I love CoSchedule! We believe the same about organic search > paid traffic.)

5. Don’t Fret About Email Unsubscribes — #NotMyDoris

Ann Handley delivered an amazing keynote called, “What Gives? How a Reader Challenge Kicked Me in the Patootie (and What We Can Learn From It)!”, and it was awesome.

During CMWorld ’18 and right before her keynote on this topic, Ann was also awarded with CMI’s very first Hall of Fame Hero Award, an exciting moment for all of us watching.

I loved Ann’s face when she won this award. She was totally taken by surprise. #ourhero

Ann discussed how a reader from Amsterdam asked her “do you have a secret email list?” She realized the importance of consistent email campaigns, and now sends out a bi-weekly Sunday email.

Ann shared three reasons why email is a content marketing backbone:

1. Newsletters are the OG.

2. Newsletters done well = 🔥

3. Email is the only place where people, not algorithms, are in control.

She gave us some history: in 1439, humankind was served its first ad. The first printing press came about in 59 BC. The first “media” was a gossipy column providing news about Romans and their day-to-day lives, printed under the byline Julius Caesar.

Ann said that in today’s newsletters and mail campaigns, the most important part of the newsletter is the LETTER.

The most important part of your newsletter is the LETTER. @annhandley #CMWorld #Recap #Bestof Click To Tweet

We like letters that make us feel like we matter, Ann said. Great point.

Warren Buffet’s annual letter to shareholders was addressed to his wife, Doris, and read like a fun, interesting letter.

Ann says:

  • Write to Doris
  • And don’t fret about “not my Doris”

Meaning, don’t worry about the haters or the unsubscribes.

Love it!

6. Reframe Obstacles into Opportunities

One of my favorite talks of the entire week was from photographer Dewitt Jones, who spent 20 years with National Geographic taking photographs all around the world. His home is on top of a mountain in a Hawaii island. Dewitt lives to catch moments that portray the beauty of life.

He was a truly inspiring speaker (a top-rated lecturer). I typically never get emotional listening to someone speak, but I was nearly in tears at the end of this talk — it was that beautiful.

Reframe obstacles into opportunities. There is no one right answer.

The picture above — incredibly beautiful — was his case study on this point. He waited too long on a field of dandelions for pictures and got that incredible shot.

Dewitt says instead of asking, What will I take today? ask, What will I give today?

Celebrate what’s right in the situation. Life is about continually finding the next right answer. Keeping our extraordinary vision in focus.

What’s your extraordinary vision?

7. Make Your Content Mean Something

One keynote I really enjoyed was called Making Content Mean Something, and the speaker was Kathleen Diamantakis, Managing Director of Strategy at The NY Times.

I took one point away from this talk that was critical.

Kathleen first raised a really good point: Nike’s controversial ad revealed that we are looking for more meaning in our content.

My favorite takeaway from her talk: Content has become noise. Let’s not add to the noise. Let’s create meaningful content.

Build content that has meaning. - Kathleen from @TBrandStudio & NYTimes, at #CMWorld Click To Tweet

8. Human Connections & Knowing Your Audience Will Help You Outperform AI  

Hannah, our Content Director, caught an important session called The Future of Content. Speaking was Pete Winter, Managing Partner USA, Tomorrow People.

These were our favorite takeaways from Pete’s session:

  • You don’t need to outrun the tiger, you just need to outrun the other person in the jungle with you
  • The key to understanding your audience is a human connection that AI can’t do (yet)
  • The most important part of content creation is understanding your audience and what they want
The key to understanding your audience is a human connection that AI can't do (yet), says @petejwinter of tomorrow-people.com #CMWorld #recap @HannahDarlingEW Click To Tweet

How well do you actually know your audience? Well, Pete says, you need to know more about your target audience than they know about themselves.

He recommended knowing your audience’s:

  • demographics
  • what their challenges are
  • where they hang out
  • what their business plans are
  • what their needs are
  • what language do they use, words, terms
  • what does success look like
  • what is stopping them from achieving success

How?

  • Ask them directly!
  • Use social media (great way to see what questions are being asked!) hashtags are a great way.
  • Industry publications: magazines and blogs relevant to your audience.
  • Network. Go to events like this and build connections. Find out what problems they’ve faced.

Tina Fey Shared Some Great Writing Tips

Sadly, I had to take a flight home and missed getting to see Tina Fey. 😢But I watched the CMWorld tweets, and this quote would have to be my favorite: “What all writers know is that writing is the worst.” Especially GOOD writing. Good writing is hella hard.

Conclusion: CMWorld ’18 Was Awesome & We Learned a Lot

A cool panorama I took from the main stage audience seats.

This year’s Content Marketing World was not one to miss. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

If you’re going to CMWorld ’19, connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s say hi next year. I will definitely be there!

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content marketing and sales funnel

How to Connect Your Content Marketing to the Sales Funnel (Without Being Sleazy & Turning Off Your Audience)

Here’s a truth for all content marketers: connecting your content marketing to the sales funnel is easy to ignore, but important to do.

You need a sales strategy for your content if you’re trying to generate brand awareness, increase engagement, or sell more products or services from the content you publish.

Have you heard about my all-NEW writing course? We’re about to open enrollment! See more here.

And now, to continue my habit of staying brutally honest with you, here’s a second truth when it comes to content marketing and a typical sales funnel…

  • Written online content, when done well, is valuable, relevant, and attractive to your leads (a.k.a real humans)
  • Many “sales funnels” are sleazy, downright annoying, and sometimes paint a false picture just to gain your money

So, today, we’re not talking about the sleazy kind of funnel built inside of software with a surrounding campaign of 15 annoying emails and a “timer” on your money. (See my vlog on the Content Strategy & Marketing Course site to learn just how anti- sleazy sales funnel I am.)

We’re talking about the physical strategies behind attaching your content marketing to sales.

This sales funnel is critical. Having a low or zero connection from your content to sales can mean low or no sales. And that’s something you (or/and your boss) definitely don’t want to experience after investing in and publishing content.

Never fear, we’ve got you covered today with a new, engaging way of looking at how content marketing drives sales, sure to help you achieve your marketing goals.

Ready for the big reveal?

content marketing and sales funnel guide

The Bucket List: 3 Way to Stronger Sales Through Content

Who doesn’t love a bucket? Buckets are fun!

You can fill them with sand at the beach to build a sand castle, use them to carry your shampoo into the shower, plant them with flowers, or use them in any number of creative ways to enhance your life.

But in content marketing and sales conversion, buckets are critical.

Using our unique three-bucket strategy to fill in your online strategy and built a well-developed intricate castle of content will help supercharge your sales and boost your content’s ROI. Read my full post explaining the three-bucket topic strategy.

Each bucket represents a goal you need to achieve for outstanding keyword research and online content success.

Three-bucket topic strategy

As the image shows, you’ll want to work on filling your buckets with strong content for three main goals:

  • SEO rankings
  • Sales and connections
  • Brand awareness

This is the step that most brand strategists gloss over in a hurry to get out there and start creating content.

But skipping the bucket step would be a mistake.

This is the foundation for your content marketing sales process and the one that’s going to make sure your return on investment (ROI) is sky-high.

Let’s look at it this way.

According to Wolfgang Digital’s 2017 report on e-commerce, the average conversion rate was 1.56%.

That means in order to get high ROI content out there, you must assist your visitors at every lifecycle stage — even the one that comes before the funnel!

So, let’s see what we should put in each of our buckets.

Discover a new, engaging way of looking at how content marketing drives sales that is sure to help you achieve your marketing goals in today's blog via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Bucket #1: SEO Rankings

At this stage, you’ll want to fill your bucket with all the keywords you want to rank for.

three-buckets-goals-for-setting-ROI-1-circle

You don’t have to be super-focused, but you do want to have a good understanding of keywords that are hot in your industry.

Want to learn the ins and outs of SEO content writing? You need to check out my new writing course!

After you get a solid number of keywords, you can fill your bucket to the brim by including broad match or broad stem keywords for this task.

Broad stem keywords are relevant variations of your keywords that will help your website attract more visitors.

They’ll also save you time on building lists of keywords before you get a good persona in place (more on that later).

These keyword variations include singular and plural forms, synonyms, stemmings (such as make and making), related searches, and even possible misspellings.

You can generate these on your own or use a Keyword Variation Tool, as shown below.

Once you’ve filled this bucket, move on to the next step.

Bucket #2: Sales and Connections

Here’s where you start to delve into the area where sales and content marketing become fully integrated.

This is where you’ll build the kind of engagement and connections that drive sales and keep clients coming back for more.

Take time here to focus on how you’re going to build trust. To do this, you can put a wide variety of things in this bucket, including:

  • Company announcements and product reveals
  • Interviews with top influencers
  • Spotlight on how your employees work as a team
  • A case study focused on customer success
  • Customer-focused interviews or articles

There’s really no end to this kind of content that focuses on developing a personal relationship with your prospects.

A personal relationship is going to give a tremendous boost to brand awareness — which brings us to the final bucket.

Bucket #3: Brand Awareness

This is one big bucket.

Brand awareness helps your content generate more sales leads per impression and leads to enduring customer loyalty, which then translates into repeat business.

In fact, working hard on determining how to fill this bucket properly ensures you’ll get the maximum Lifetime Value (LTV) from your customers.

In a nutshell, LTV represents the amount of money generated by a customer over their lifetime.

The screenshot from smile.io shows an easy way to calculate this for your business. You start with the first calculation:

Then build on it, for the final figure:

But, to get high LTV, you need to boost loyalty. To boost loyalty, you must become a resource that your customer trusts.

You can increase loyalty through a number of tactics, including:

  • Outstanding customer service (and content that promotes it)
  • Rewards and loyalty programs
  • Customer content marketing that focuses on trust-building

A great example of a company that wows in the loyalty department is Apple.

Apple has filled their third bucket with extensive brand-awareness-focused content that perpetuates their stronghold on owners of their products.

In fact, their brand awareness campaign is so effective that 59% of iPhone owners responding to a survey claimed they bought their phone out of “blind loyalty.”

As this screenshot demonstrates, die-hard Apple customers buy Apple products — no matter what.

Now that’s the kind of loyalty — and sales — you want your content to generate.

This is only possible by building a strong pre-funnel strategy that will help your content follow your customers, hand-in-hand, guiding them through the sales funnel.

Now that you’ve gotten a broad outline of what you need to know before you even consider building a sales funnel, you’re ready to move from the bucket to funnel itself.

If you want more details on how to develop a strong three-bucket topic strategy — and a sales-producing funnel — visit my comprehensive course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

The 4 Fundamentals of the Content Marketing Funnel

Sales and marketing are not only about crunching numbers and researching tactics. They’re dynamic and ever-changing – just like your audience.

And there’s no reason that content marketing that drives sales, even for dry, data-heavy businesses — can’t be creative and out-of-the-box.

In a word, fun.

As Pratik Dohlakiya of Copyblogger so aptly put it:

There is no boring content, only boring content creators.

The idea of creating content brings us to the very top of our funnel – the widest part.

Before you peek over the lip of that funnel, though, you’ll want to tackle the most critical task for this segment — finding your audience.

1) Build It So They Will Come

You want to build your funnel so that your audience is irresistibly drawn to take the next step in the customer’s journey — the journey that will lead them directly to your product or service.

The first step in this journey is a doozy — and it’s one of the most interesting and fun parts of how a sales funnel works — determining who your audience is.

Unfortunately, it’s one of the most often-missed steps in building a content marketing funnel that converts.

So, how do you figure out who you’re creating content for and connect them to sales?

You build a persona. The one, below, is from xtensio.

A persona is a conglomeration of attributes that make up an “average” member of your target audience. It includes demographic and psychographic elements.

But here’s the thing — even those content marketers and brand strategists that make it this far often use outdated information for their persona.

Don’t do it.

Don't rely on an outdated persona. Get out there and interact with your real audience. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Get out there and interact with your real audience. Explore forums and chat rooms. Meet them in person. Ask them questions on your website. Develop surveys to find out what makes them tick.

Then — and only then — can you create marketing content that leads to sales.

Examples of great content marketing formats for building brand awareness are:

  • Blog posts
  • Long-form content
  • Guides
  • Interactive content
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Courses
  • Email newsletters

Want a real-world example of persona-centered marketing content?

You’re reading it right now.

At Express Writers, we’re not trying to only sell you a service or two in our blog posts.

We truly want you to succeed at content marketing and build an awesome sales funnel that drives traffic better than a cowboy moves Longhorns down Exchange Avenue.

Because – surprise! – that will actually prepare you to be a great client when you come our way. 😉

But, if you ever get stuck creating or need more content than you can generate, we hope that you’ll see us as a knowledgeable source of crazy good writing.

You know, the people who know so much about the realm of content marketing that you won’t have to waste time — or money — telling us how to do it.

Anyway, enough about us. So, now, you’ve defined your customer and created an entire array of targeted content just for them.

It’s strong. It’s sturdy. It’s a houseful of authoritative content.

They’re interested in you.

You’ve demonstrated your authority and they feel comfortable relying on you for accurate information on what moves them.

Time to squeeze down into the next funnel level, pulling your audience even closer to you. Think of it as a content marketing bear hug.

2) They’re Here — Now What?

You’ve got your audience thinking hard about what you offer.

But buyers are taking even longer to educate themselves before making a sales decision, so don’t rush things here.

They already buy into your authority, but now you want them to really focus on the ways that you stand out from your competition.

Often called the “consideration” phase, this time period is the perfect opportunity to publish hard-core authority pieces like how-to content, tutorial videos, and even case studies where your product or service was able to help someone just like them.

I say, “and even case studies,” but I mean, “You should really think about using case studies.”

Here’s why. In an RSW/US survey of US agency executives, client case studies and website-resident content marketing were most often used promotional tactics for generating leads, with 62.6% of respondents using them with success.

Influencer Neil Patel would agree, as he claims to have increased his ratio of deal closings by 70%. In fact, he says sales grew 185% overall by testing three case studies on his site.

If case studies don’t seem like a good match for your business, don’t sweat it. This is supposed to be fun, remember?

Besides, a brief customer success story with statistics can make a great mini-case study.

Like this one:

If you don’t have any testimonials, dig deep into product benefits and create some content that showcases them.

Put yourself into your customers’ shoes and ask:

“What would make me buy this product/service?”

Then, create content that helps them reach the decision that they need your help.

Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask, what would make me buy this product or service? @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Think interactive (fun!) content, as it packs more punch.

This kind of content, which can include quizzes, configurators, apps, assessments, and more generates conversions at 70%, rather than the 36% seen with passive content.

And, let’s face it. Interactive content boosts the fun factor on your website — and boosts sales and engagement as well.

There are easy ways to create stunning infographics and interactive content without having to spend hours searching images only to end up with something that looks cobbled together.

Here’s a link to some of those tools. You’re welcome!

And here’s an example of a piece of fun, interactive content made up by Orbitz to appeal specifically for their business traveler persona.

Remember, you can still be picking up cues regarding pain points at this point of the funnel.

This isn’t the time to be shy — step right up and tell your clients how your strategy can help them tackle their pain points and problems.

During this phase, you’ll start narrowing your focus, honing your product or service down to its most important attributes.

This narrowing process further squeezes your audience through the funnel, weeding out the tire-kickers and ho-hum shoppers and leaving you with a core group of hot prospects.

Now, the real fun begins! Ready?

3) The Big Finish: How Content Marketing Leads to Sales

Your audience is primed.

They know they’re interested in what you’re selling — you just need to offer them a bit more content to get them to take the final step in the sales funnel — conversion.

You finally get to make a direct pitch.

It’s the place that puts the “sales” in “sales funnel.”

Here, you can show how your products or service clearly help your clients solve their problems by outlining your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as clearly as possible.

This is the perfect place to put all those glowing testimonials, video clips of satisfied clients, and screenshots of online reviews. Like this one:

And don’t forget a clear call-to-action (CTA).

For content marketing to increase sales, you must include direct requests for customers to purchase, click, download, or engage.

Don't forget a clear CTA with a direct link to a clear action. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

4) The Fun Never Ends — How to Increase Retention and Sales with Content Marketing

Strong relationships with your customers are not only fun — they’re profitable.

Strong relationships with your customers are not only fun - they're profitable. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

While you a new customer might buy something 5% of the time, a repeat customer will make a purchase 60%-70% of the time.

That translates into higher ROI, so repeat customers should be a goal. This picture from smile.io gives you another way to look at it.

There it is. The more customers buy — the more they buy!

And there are other things you can do at this stage to improve ROI.

For example, even if you reduce customer loss (when your customers decide to stop doing business with you) by just 5%, you will increase revenue by 100%.

And marketing costs? Check this out — a customer retention rates of just 2% more translate into 10% less cost in marketing.

Now, that’s ROI in action.

And when you’re learning how to design a sales funnel, it’s the cherry on the top, or in this case, the bottom, of the funnel.

Content you create for your die-hard fans is some of the most rewarding of all, a nice way to celebrate helping your clients achieve their dreams and solve their problems.

Examples of content that drives loyalty includes:

  • Special offers
  • Email outreach
  • Insider tips and tricks
  • Special offers
  • Customer support and help documentation

And what’s totally cool about this final process is that through learning more about your audience through outreach and support, you’re adding to an environment where sales and content marketing become fully integrated.

Because the new pain points and problem areas you discover through outreach will allow you to create even more targeted content that can drive future sales.

This screenshot from Wordstream says it all:

Your outreach may even touch a nerve for some of the clients you lost in the middle of the funnel and sweep them back along for the ride.

From Bucket to Funnel: Your New Roadmap for a Content Marketing Sales Cycle that Performs

Now you’ve got a new, exciting way to guide your visitors through your sales funnel with dynamic, proven content marketing strategies.

Take these tips and individualize them to your process for best results!

If you want to really dig deep into how to create — and deploy — this kind of sales-producing strategy, visit my comprehensive courseThe Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

You’ll find everything you need to know laid out for you in brilliant detail to make getting sales-funnel savvy easy — and of course, fun!

Don’t let an uninspired content marketing and sales funnel interfere with getting the highest ROI possible — learn to create content and planning for all stages of the customer sales funnel lifecycle and watch your business boom.

If you’re in the market to learn more about SEO content writing, you need my new course. Sign up to get notified when it launches here.

content marketing ideas

Content Marketing Ideas: Use My Three-Bucket Topic Strategy to Map Your Topics to Profits (Every Time)

As a content marketer, part of your job probably includes constantly and consistently coming up with content topics.

And not just any topics — you need ones that will resonate with your audience and earn ROI for your brand or your clients.

But, if you’re like most marketers, you are not a never-ending idea machine.

We’re all human.

We can’t rely only on our finite brains for infinite content marketing ideas — although we should absolutely be pulling from our own creative geniuses within.

Need great content? Click here to see our prices, or register as a client here.

But how do we jumpstart these ideas in an effective, productive manner?

Great news:

There ARE data-backed, key ways to come up with high-ROI content marketing ideas.

You don’t have to brainstorm until you feel like you’re brain-dead.

You can and should rely on proven tools, workflows, and strategies for truly never-ending and always-profitable topic ideation.

That’s right:

Never-ending. Always profitable.

really gif

Don’t believe me? You will soon. Let me prove it to you.

content marketing ideas guide

7 Steps to Achieve a Flood of Never-Ending, Creative Content Marketing Ideas

These are fail-safe strategies for coming up with endless, steady streams of content topics, ones that will never dry up.

Never.

Ready to find out what they are?

Learn data-backed, key ways to come up with high-ROI content marketing ideas via @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

1. Use My Three-Bucket Topic Strategy for Topic Ideas Connected to Goals

Before you do anything else, make sure the topics you choose are related to your overarching content goals.

This way, you always know for sure that the content you create will lead to ROI.

For my content marketing, I came up with something I call “three-bucket topic strategy.” (I also teach this, step-by-step with hands-on video training and exercise worksheets, in my comprehensive Content Strategy & Marketing Course.)

These are the “goal buckets” I rely on to guide all initial topic ideation:Three-bucket topic strategy

Every single piece of content I create should serve one of three purposes:

  • Build SEO rankings
  • Build sales & connections
  • Build brand awareness

Each topic bucket calls for a different content type. For example, to build my SEO rankings, I should create blogs and web pages around profitable long tail keywords.

Three-bucket topic strategy

Note that I don’t just throw out random ideas in a panic-ridden brainstorm session. (“Ohmygosh I’m running out of content topics – Aaaaah!”)

panic

I never panic–anymore. (I used to. Learn more about my story in my free masterclass.)

I always, always, ALWAYS refer to my topic buckets to guide content topic ideation.

I call this a “three-bucket strategy mapped to goal areas.”

Here’s a chart of how that looks:

Three bucket topic strategy mapped to goals

If a topic has no potential to hit one of my goal buckets, I trash it and move on. That topic will not bring in any ROI or help me meet my goals. Next!

Your own goals for your content might look different from mine. Think hard about what’s most important to achieve with content marketing for you/your client. Narrow these desired achievements down to three or four core goal buckets.

Also, remember that no idea should be too sacred to scrap. It doesn’t matter how much you like it or how trendy it seems, or even how much engagement others are getting from posting content about it.

If it doesn’t fit into YOUR goal buckets, it’s not a profitable content topic for you.

If your topic idea doesn’t fit into YOUR goal buckets, it’s not a profitable content topic for you. Trash it and move on. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

2. Find Broad Seed Keywords to Begin

To complete any of the research steps for finding content marketing topics, first, you must have a broad stem topic in hand (also called a “seed keyword”).

This is simply a place to start. Usually, you’ll have no trouble coming up with a broad term (like “content marketing,” “SEO,” or “content writing”).

If your mind goes completely blank, however, use these techniques to find your starting point:

A. Use Google’s autocomplete feature. Just go to the Google search bar and type in the broadest industry term possible to find more options.

google-autocompleteB. Try KeywordTool.io. You can search a broad term and the tool will spit out a long list of hundreds of related terms for free.

keywordtool-ideas

3. Use Long Tail Keywords to Generate Unique Content Marketing Ideas

Again, if you throw out random topic ideas for content, you can’t be sure that they’ll lead to ROI.

You need to start from a research angle to come up with topics. Base your topics on quantifiable data, and you’ll almost always be able to map them to your goals and bottom-line.

The first research angle is keyword research. From one long tail keyword, you potentially can create dozens of topics.

This is the general workflow:

A. Open your favorite keyword research tool. For this example, I’m using Mangools’ KWFinder.

B. Enter the content topic stem you want to explore. I’m going to search for “SEO writing.”

C. Look for high search volume/low competition alternatives, synonyms, and related keywords. Make a list of at least 20. (With help from KWFinder, I see that some of my options include “SEO writing,” “SEO content writing,” “SEO copywriting,” and “SEO article writing.”)

kw-research1

D. Keep an ongoing list of all the keywords you find. Group them by the initial term you searched. Include their difficulty score and search volume.

E. Choose one keyword from the list. Generate 5-10 content topics from that one term. Write them all down, and don’t leave any out. Even if your ideas don’t seem very good, record them. You can tweak them later/scrap them if they don’t fit into one of your content goal buckets.

F. If brain fog is rampant (or you haven’t had enough caffeine), use a blog topic generator to get the flow started. HubSpot’s tool is excellent for this. Just enter a few keywords and hit “Give me blog ideas!”

hubspot-blog-topic-generator1

The tool will help you come up with lots of topics. To keep adding to the list, riff on the ones the generator suggests.

hubspot-blog-topic-generator2

4. Use What Works for Others (Repurpose, Don’t Rehash)

This topic ideation technique puts inspiration into action. Use it to find website content ideas that are already working well with readers.

The basic gist: Look at top sites in your industry to see what they’re producing. Then pull from top posts and create content on a similar topic. The key is to make the topics you discover this way your own, using fresh insights and research.

This is how:

A. Look at top industry websites for their most recent content posts. What are they writing about? Which posts/topics are getting the most engagement?

Look at the actual website (most big blogs have a “top posts” toggle view), or search BuzzSumo for a specific website’s top-shared posts.

buzzsumo-content-analyzer

B. Search BuzzSumo for topics that get a lot of love from readers. Enter a broad industry category in the search bar, then read the most-shared posts for inspiration.

These are the top results for “SEO writing” – what trends do you see happening here, just from skimming the headlines? Write those down.

buzzsumo-topic-search

C. From what you’ve read, determine how you can put your own spin on the topic(s) you find. Think about these things:

Do you have anything new to add to the discussion?

  • Is there any new research on the topic you can highlight?
  • Do you have a different opinion about the topic from ones you’re seeing?
  • Is there an angle of the topic that remains largely forgotten or ignored?
  • Can you write a better, more comprehensive post about the topic?

D. Write down your topic ideas from the above prompts. Add them to your ongoing topic ideas list.

5. Poll the People

Your audience/social media followers/blog commenters are a fantastic source of content marketing ideas for use in a campaign.

Essentially, you’re going directly to the source to find out what they want to see in your content. It’s fail-safe.

There are many ways to pick the brains of your audience members for ideas:

A. Flat-out ask them their main concerns/problems/questions in a social media post. Invite responses and see what people say. Record the subjects and topics they mention.

B. Create a social media poll to get more specific answers. You can easily create these types of informal polls on all the big platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Stories.

For instance, ask your audience to choose between two or three potential topics. Ask which one interests them the most.

create-twitter-poll

It’s super fast and easy, and people love engaging with these posts and sharing their opinion.

C. Search for industry hashtags on social media. Write down the subtopics people are chatting about.

D. Check question-and-answer sites like Quora, Reddit, or Answer the Public. Dig into the data you find at these places and jot down all possible content topics.

For example, when I search Reddit for the seed topic “SEO writing,” the list of results includes communities talking about the topic, question-and-answer threads, and posts on the topic.

reddit-topic-research

On Answer the Public, I get even more great data, including visualization charts of related topics and terms:

answer-the-public-seo-writingE. Engage with people on social. Comment on others’ posts and have conversations. Dig into your community and see what insights you can glean. Plus, the more you build relationships, the more you’ll create a web of people who will be willing to answer your calls for ideas.

You never know what you’ll learn from simply talking to people, so don’t be afraid to jump in.

F. Chat one-on-one. If you’re engaging with a certain person quite a bit on social media, whether it’s a peer or a customer, ask if you can email/chat one-on-one. Pick their brain, exchange ideas, and add any topics that come up to your ongoing list.

6. Run All Topic Ideas Past Your Topic/Goal Buckets

By now, you should have quite an impressive list of potential content marketing ideas.

Before you take any one of them for a spin, run them past your topic/goal buckets. See if they fit.

If you can’t make the topic fit into any of them, toss it. Cross it out and move on to the next.

Once you hit a topic that does fit into one of your goal buckets, you can move on to additional research/content creation, including outlining, drafting, choosing sources, and editing. Here’s my three-bucket topic strategy mapping chart again.

Three bucket topic strategy mapped to goals

7. Repeat the Process

It’s your lucky day.

This content marketing idea process can be repeated over and over. Just plug in various seed topics to get the ball rolling. As you go, you’ll find new angles and subtopics you would never have discovered on your own.

Pretty soon, you’ll have a list of hundreds of B2B content marketing ideas just from this handful of research tactics.

The key is to write them all down (even the seemingly crappy ideas – hey, they’re a start) and keep that running list in a safe place. This list will become an integral tool for your content creation process.

And, because you’re vetting each topic against your goal buckets, you have a proven method to whittle down your content to ONLY what will be profitable for your brand.

(Yessssss!)

yesss

Revolutionize the Way You Generate Content Marketing Ideas in 2018 and Beyond

It’s time to stop hoping, wishing, and praying for content marketing examples and ideas to fall out of the sky and into your lap.

Instead, use a strategy that depends on real data and research to ideate topics.

This method will lead to ROI far more often than scratching your head and attempting to come up with something from nothing.

Start somewhere to get somewhere.

Then, rinse and repeat.

You’ll never run out of content marketing ideas again.

julia mccoy masterclass

how to build evergreen content

How to Build Evergreen Content That Actually Builds Your Brand: 5+ Tips, Tricks and Methods to Get Started Today

Evergreen content is magical. ✨

Why? It never loses its green.

While lots of other types of content eventually turn brown, lose their readers, and die off, evergreen content remains fresh, interesting, and relevant.

It’s always green, and it keeps bringing in the green – whether that means traffic, engagement, conversions, or even sales.

CTA-EW-02

So, the question at hand is not whether you need it.

Let’s face it:  you do.

If you haven’t yet…

The question now is how to build evergreen content that is actually forever green. 

Today on the blog, I’m answering that question. Let’s dive in.

how to build evergreen content

First: What’s the Opposite of Evergreen Content?

Evergreen content has a polar opposite, and it’s important to define that as we get started.

Content that is fleeting or quickly dated because it’s based on current stats, trends, news, or data is not evergreen.

Some examples:

  • Announcements and event summaries
  • Blogs discussing trends in your industry
  • News stories
  • Holiday or season-centered posts (with exceptions)

The information in these types of content has an expiration date. They will cease being useful after a certain point in time.

Meanwhile, evergreen content is always useful, relevant, and valuable, even if a reader stumbles on your content months, or even years, after you publish it.

A good mix of both is a healthy way to publish content on your website.

Take a look at how Content Marketing Institute mixes up the two on their blog:

cmi-evergreen-content-vs-dated

5 Evergreen Content Examples and Topics with Everlasting Life

Before we get into how to build evergreen content, let’s look at some examples in action.

These evergreen content topics are tried-and-true, as you’ll see from the blogs below.

1. How-To Blogs and Articles

A good, evergreen how-to post teaches your readers a concept, idea, or skill that has lasting value. It’s something they can refer to over and over, now and in the future.

Copyblogger – “How to Get More Value Out of the Content You Consume”

Copyblogger has lots of examples of great how-to posts. One that has lasting value is their blog on how to judiciously consume content.

copyblogger-how-to

2. Curated Content Lists

Curated content lists have a lasting value up to a point – they may include tools or tips that can lose relevancy. But, as long as you update them to reflect changing technology, you’ll have a solid evergreen post that will last and last with little effort.

Social Media Examiner – “18 Apps and Tools for Social Media Marketers”

This post from Social Media Examiner is a perfect example of a curated list. If any of the tools become obsolete or outdated, they can update the post on an as-needed basis.

socialmediaexaminer-list

3. Stories/Interviews

Stories and interviews have lasting value as content because they tap into the wisdom of thought leaders, innovators, or pioneers in the industry.

Or, think of it this way: Storytelling never goes out of style. People love hearing about people, so including real human stories in your content has evergreen value.

Content Marketing Institute – “’Stay Scrappy’ and More Wisdom on Creativity from a Pixar Animator”

Pixar is a successful animation studio known for its innovation, creativity, and storytelling chops. This interview with a Pixar animator by Marcia Riefer Johnson for CMI showcases how you can successfully glean inspiration and wisdom from creators across industries. This information will stay relevant for a long time.

cmi-story-interview

4. Original Research/Case Studies

Despite the fact that the data they present will eventually become dated, case studies and original research are definitely evergreen content for two reasons:

  1. 1. You can pull universal truths from them – strategies, techniques, or steps that others can learn from.
  2. 2. They tell a story.

These two factors are universally valuable, no matter the date of the study/research.

EW – “Blogging ROI Case Study: How 18,000 Keywords in Google Bring Us Six-Figure Income Months”

For our own case study here at EW, I get transparent and share how we have grown our success using blogging, SEO, and content strategy.

(This particular piece of content pulls double evergreen duty – it includes an interview with one of our top clients, too.)

ew-case-study

5. FAQs + Answers to Common Industry Questions

Odds are, people/customers new to your industry or brand ask a LOT of the same questions.

This lets you assume there is a base of knowledge you can share that has lasting value for ALL newbies who come through your door.

Hence, the FAQ post. In this content type, you list the most frequently asked questions you receive from said newbies, then offer definitive answers.

Search Engine Watch – “Duplicate Content FAQ: What Is It and How Should You Deal with It?”

SEOers get regular questions about the mysteries of Google search regularly. This post smartly addresses a general topic area (duplicate content and the effect it has on SEO) and answers FAQs that many confused marketers ask over and over.

searchenginewatch-faqs

How to Build Evergreen Content

It’s time to get down to creating evergreen content. Our best tips to get started are right here:

1. Write for Beginners When Building Your Topic

For any type of content creation, you need to have an audience firmly in mind before you begin.

However, when building evergreen content, you should hone in on beginners to your topic vs. any other group.

Why?

Because these are the people most likely to be searching for help. And, above all, evergreen content is helpful and useful for the long-term.

2. Narrow Your Focus

If you attempt to explain a topic that’s too broad in your evergreen content… Well, you could be writing for weeks.

Take, for example, a topic like World War II.

This is a huge, sprawling topic that has innumerable sub-topics. For example, which year or span of years during WWII are getting your attention? Will you approach the topic from the viewpoint of the Nazis, the Allies, the Axis, or the Americans? What countries will you cover? Which battles/attacks? Which leaders?

Screenshot via Wikipedia

Behemoth topics like this one are also harder for readers to immediately latch onto. There are too many rabbit holes, wormholes, and tangents you can fall down, here.

Instead, dive deep and create content around a narrower facet of a topic.

For instance, instead of attempting to write a start-to-finish guide to content marketing (this requires a book-length amount of work – I should know), choose a sub-topic to explore thoroughly, like finding your audience or blog post promotion.

3. Ask Yourself: “Will This Be Useful in a Year? 2 Years? 5?”

This one is simple. If your evergreen content idea won’t be useful or valuable at least a year from now, it’s not actually evergreen.

Think long and hard about the utility of the information you want to offer. Will it expire before the year is up? Or will it carry on proudly into 2 years… or even 5 years??

If you can justify it staying valuable and relevant that long, you have a golden evergreen opportunity.

4. Air It Out: Share (and Re-Share) Evergreen Content on Social Media

Good news: Social media is the perfect place to give your evergreen content a good airing.

Since this content is consistently relevant and valuable, you can share and re-share on your social networks and let it reach new audiences. It will help boost your brand authority, too, since these are big kahuna posts you spent lots of time perfecting.

So, go ahead: Create evergreen content, then, as time goes by, dig back into your archives and share them with your followers again

And again.

Sharing evergreen content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks is ALWAYS a good idea. We regularly do so on @ExpWriters Twitter account:

5. Update Old Posts to Keep Them Evergreen

Big tip:

You don’t just need to know how to write evergreen content…

You also need to know how to keep it evergreen.

It turns out, to stay evergreen, some content pieces need a little trimming, pruning, and reshaping now and then.

Think:

  • Content that cites old information or facts that science/research have disproven
  • Content that prominently mentions old trends or fads
  • Content that uses slang that’s no longer in use
  • Content that cites studies that have newer versions available

This is why content audits are so helpful.

Going over your older pieces, reviewing them for accuracy, and updating as needed is a great way to keep them fresh for new and old readers.

Plus, Google loves it. (Content freshness is a big ranking factor that connotes your page’s relevancy, according to Moz.)

moz-ranking-factors

The takeaway: Create evergreen content, then invest in keeping it fresh and updated for a one-two punch.

If you already have some pieces with evergreen potential, update them or rewrite parts of them to maximize their potential!

Learn How to Build Evergreen Content for Profitable Results

Content that’s evergreen is everlasting.

Its value never decreases. It never stops being relevant, useful, and interesting to your readers.

Plus, over time, new audiences will discover it. Its utility will be recycled, which will strengthen your brand.

It’s powerful stuff, no doubt.

Both evergreen content vs. content with a short shelf-life serve their purposes, but you need both to gain the benefits.

Invest in evergreen content, sprinkle it into your marketing garden, and watch your profits grow.