outsourcing content

Outsourcing Your Content: The Risks and the Remarkable Rewards

When you’re a small business owner and trying to save a buck, writing your own content can seem like a good idea.

“It can’t be that hard! I’ll save lots of money!

Right?

Right??”

Well…

will smith GIF

I hate to break it to you, but writing content is not as simple as sitting down in front of a word processor and scrounging up 800 words off the top of your head.

To be blunt, writing content isn’t even as simple as plain writing.

To earn return-on-investment, to be profitable, content needs so much more:

  • Time
  • Planning
  • Effort
  • Research
  • SEO smarts

Can you ostensibly create this kind of content on your own – not to mention consistently, at the highest levels of quality – and still have time to run your business?

Maybe if you’re a super-human or a wizard with magical powers.

Maybe if you give up a social life, relaxation time, and sleep.

Enter the case for hiring a writer and outsourcing content.

It’s not only for the health of your business and your content’s ROI-potential; it’s also for your sanity.

That’s why we’re discussing:

  • When to outsource your content
  • Why you should outsource
  • And the real numbers involved, including the dollars and time you’ll save by hiring a writer (because time = money)

To begin, here’s the first question we’ll answer: When should you start outsourcing your content?

Spoiler alert: The answer is right now.

Allow me to prove that to you.

outsourcing content guide

Exploring the Hidden Costs & Risks of NOT Outsourcing Content (Infographic Case Study)

outsourcing your content infographic

What will it cost you, in minutes and hours & dollars and cents, NOT to hire a writer with expertise in content marketing?

Time = money.

What is your time worth to you?

Let’s estimate exactly how much time it takes to plan, research, write, and edit a high-quality, high-ROI content piece, like an in-depth blog post. Then we’ll compare it to the time and cost of hiring an expert.

1. Time Required for DIY Content (100 Hours/Month: Equivalent of a Part-Time Job)

To create DIY content that actually gets results, the work you put in must include the following (assuming you’ve already researched your audience). The estimated time it takes to complete each step is included.

  • Keyword research – Finding keyword opportunities to scoop up high-potential traffic (15-20 minutes)
  • Planning – Ironing out a post topic that appeals to your target niche and uses your target keywords (5-10 minutes)
  • Researching – Gathering relevant facts, stats, and supporting information you can link to and reference in your post (20-30 minutes)
  • Outlining – Planning your argument, organizing your thoughts, laying out main points, and drafting headers and subheaders (10-15 minutes)
  • Writing – Writing up the post, citing sources and linking to them, using SEO best-practices, adding visuals as needed, and finalizing your headers and subheaders (4-8 hours [dependent on MANY factors, including inspiration, the quality of your research, and your motivation – could take much less or much more time])
  • Editing – Checking your work for accuracy, proofreading for flow and tone of voice, checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors (20-40 minutes)

Estimated time needed to craft ONE in-depth blog post: about 10 hours

Estimated time needed monthly to publish 2x/week: 100 hours/month

You read that right: It takes nearly an entire day to crank out a blog post worthy of ROI.

To publish these types of posts two times a week, it will take about 20 hours per week, and 100 hours per month.

That’s like having a part-time job.

And those numbers are just an estimate!

It could take much longer if you run into problems like writer’s block, or research fails such as coming up short for solid, recent studies to back up points in your content.

It will take EVEN LONGER if you haven’t researched your audience, or if you don’t have a workflow and plan in place for strategizing your blogs.

It takes a lot of work. Look at all the activities that top-performing content marketers commit to, from that same CMI benchmark survey we already mentioned. Top performers:

  • Value craft and creativity in their content (88%)
  • Have excellent/very good project management flow (70%)
  • Deliver content consistently (75%)
  • Use high-quality content to build their audiences (92%)

B2B content marketing top performers

For businesses who out-perform the rest, content quality and consistency is prioritized.

If you DIY, that WILL take a huge chunk of time, effort, and resources that can add up to hundreds of hours over a few months.

What’s your time worth? What is 100 hours/month worth to you?

What could you do for your business in that time besides pulling your hair out over content creation?

More importantly, could you repeat this exact same routine, ad-nauseum, to produce consistent results?

2. Time Needed to Hire a Writer and Hand Off the Dirty Work (Potentially 25 Minutes / $90)

We know how long it takes to produce a high-quality, amazing blog that wins ROI.

In contrast, how much time and money do you need to hire a writer to take care of it all for you?

Let’s break it down:

  • Finding and vetting a writer – At Express Writers, we handle writer vetting and match you with an expert who can write with authority about your industry topics. (0 minutes)
  • Relaying keywords, topics, and strategy – With us, all you have to do is order the content you need (either fill out our guided order forms or talk to a content specialist). One of our content strategists can also do keyword and topic research for you. (5-10 minutes + $90 for an expert blog)
  • Reviewing the completed content – All the creative work happens behind-the-scenes. All you have to do is wait for your completed content, review it, and, if needed, ask for any revisions. (10-15 minutes review time)

Estimated time/cost for outsourcing content: 25 minutes, $90

What’s the Better Investment?

About 25 minutes is all it takes to hire a writer to create a high-ROI content piece, plus an investment of $90.

Compare that to the 10 hours you might spend trying to do it all yourself, not to mention the estimated 20 hours/week and 100 hours/month needed to keep it up ON TOP of your other tasks/projects for growing your business.

It would be like having a part-time job on top of your full-time job.

oh my god I need help GIF

It’s Time to Outsource Your Content When…

1. Your Knowledge of ROI Content & SEO Is Hazy, At Best

Pop quiz:

What are the major factors that contribute to high-ROI content?

If you can’t immediately reel off a few answers to this question, you might want to take a step back.

Of course, that’s not to say you don’t understand the value of quality content.

You just might not be clear on what has to happen to create those types of assets.

If this describes you to a tee, you shouldn’t be writing your own content – you just don’t have the expertise to create the stuff that leads to results and business growth.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Instead, delegating this task will free you up to focus on what you ARE good at, where your true expertise lies.

Check out the most common success factors for content, according to CMI’s 2018 benchmark survey:

content marketing success factors

B2Bs that were MORE successful overwhelmingly attributed their success to better, more efficient content creation. Also notable: They spent more time on content, and many relied on outside expertise.

They did not settle for “good enough,” and if they didn’t have the chops, they got help.

2. You Don’t Have Time to Create Your Best Work Day In & Day Out

Growing a fledgling business is a full-time job. If you have to take care of the content creation, too, where does that leave you?

It leaves you hassled, stressed, and exhausted. It means you’ll be doing lots of tasks but not excelling at any of them.

Unfortunately, the type of content that’s profitable requires your best work, consistently. So, even if you understand what it takes to create that type of content, if you don’t have the time to devote to it, it won’t matter.

3. You’re Spending Too Much Time on Lackluster Content

Here’s where thinking you can “do it all” snowballs into wasted time with zero ROI.

Writing half-assed, lackluster content gets you half-assed, lackluster results – not because you’re incompetent, but because you don’t have the time or expertise to craft pieces that are truly GREAT.

Instead, you’re expending the little time you DO have on content that just doesn’t cut the mustard.

What do you end up with?

Wasted time, and content that staggers along for a while before dissolving into internet obscurity.

throwing away money GIF

You’ll never get that time back.

That’s time you could have spent actually growing your business in ways in which you excel.

It may hurt to hear it, but it’s the plain truth.

How do you know when it's time to outsource your #content creation? This post has three signs to watch out for! Click To Tweet

Outsourcing Content: What Does That Investment Look Like Over Time?

If you choose to outsource your content, you’re in good company.

content marketing activities B2B marketers outsource

47% of B2B marketers outsource their content creation activities.

As you’ve already seen, there’s a huge reason why.

It’s worth it.

Let’s dig into some examples of what investing in outsourced content creation looks like over time.

What’s the ROI?

Real-Life Content Outsourcing Example: Marketing Labs

A U.K.-based digital marketing agency, Marketing Labs works with clients to increase their online growth, including traffic and conversions.

Though they had a team of experts, including two copywriters on staff, their business was getting more writing work than they could handle alone.

Rather than stretch their in-house writers thin, they hired us at Express Writers to handle their content strategy and blogging, and to step in for one of their clients with improved, optimized product descriptions.

Here are just a few of the results (read the full case study here):

marketing labs

The results and ROI were phenomenal, but only because Marketing Labs invested in quality content, which also saved them time + money.

Here’s what Marketing Labs’ CEO, Matt Janaway, said about outsourcing content to us:

matt janaway on outsourcing

Outsourcing Your Content: Get Back Your Time and Grow Your ROI

Your time is valuable. Your dollars are limited.

Content creation is a HUGE undertaking that requires both – especially oodles of your precious time if you DIY.

As a business owner, as a marketer, or whatever you do, you know that you could be spending your time in ways that are more productive.

This is especially true if you’re shaky on what it takes to create amazing, ROI-heavy content that turns into a profitable ASSET.

Instead of fumbling your way through content, delegate. Outsource. Let experts do the heavy lifting.

You could see bigger, better growth from your content + have extra time to devote to your strengths.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

We agree, and that’s why we’re here.

Trust us at Express Writers for outsourcing your content – we can deliver.

Read about our process, then request a client account to start moving forward in the right direction.

content CTA

how to explain content strategy

How to Explain Content Strategy and Content Marketing to Practically Anyone (Infographic)

As of last year, 3.8 billion people used the internet globally.

To give you a frame of reference, that’s 50% of the total world’s population.

It’s over 11.6x more than the total US population.

It’s over 132x more than the population of Texas.

Every minute, people scavenge the internet to search for, share and research content.

With statistics like these, the demand for content marketing and content strategy are clear.

However, sometimes it’s the definitions of these terms that are more convoluted.

Not the demand.

(Funny how that works.)

Whether you’re convincing your next client, current boss or yourself of the need to develop an effective content marketing strategy, the first step is understanding what that means.

Better yet, trying to explain the DIFFERENCE between content strategy and content marketing.

If you’re talking to a non-marketer, it’s easier to just not even go there.

…Or, if you’re simply explaining to Grandma what you do for a living.

Content? You’re happy?”

“No, Ma, CONTENT… as in creating content for people’s websites and blogs to market their business!”

“Oh, you build those online websites?”

Facepalm.

Ha, we know those conversations.

So…

We’ve created a nice little representation with a kitchen scene in today’s blog that will help you explain content marketing to ANYONE… even Grandma.

Let’s get into it!

how to explain content strategy infographic

How to Explain Content Strategy and Content Marketing: Breaking it Down (& a Look at the Demand)

Content marketing and content strategy are related, yes, but they are not the same thing.

If you’ve been using the terms interchangeably, chances are you’re not the only one.

To begin implementing these marketing efforts, you must first fully comprehend them. Once you understand, then you can be the one chiming in to help others differentiate.

If you’re one of the 9% of B2B marketers that has yet to adopt a content marketing strategy, then you are missing out on 3.8 billion opportunities to reach your targeted audience.

Of course you’re thinking, how many of these people are real potential leads?

The truth is, it’s more than you think.

Every minute, people scavenge the internet to search for, share and research content. Check this out:

Source: Domo

With statistics like these, the demand for content marketing and content strategy are clear.

No matter what rung on the ladder to understanding you’re standing on, let’s break content marketing and strategy down into basic terms using something everyone can relate to.

I’m thinking…food.

(Side note, proceed with caution if you haven’t taken your lunch break yet.)

How to Explain Content Strategy & Marketing: Infographic (A Behind-the-Scenes Restaurant Visual Representation)

Picture your favorite restaurant.

Now sneak around to the back until you find the kitchen.

All of the inner workings of the kitchen – the food preparation, reservations, staff schedule – that’s the content strategy.

It is the meetings between chefs, waiters, restaurant owners and staff to strategize and guide how they plan to successfully deliver food to their customers.

How many waiters need to cover the floor? What type of ingredients should we use? What will attract our customers to our restaurant?

Just like in a restaurant, content strategy is the framework you put in place to deliver the content to readers. It is the planning, preparation and methods you have come up with to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

So how do you do this?

Cook the food!

Or in other terms, implement your strategy through content marketing.

Here’s a look at that in visual mode – because, you know, 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual. 😉

how to explain content strategy and content marketing

Repost with credit to Express Writers

Content marketing is the execution of your strategy.

It’s the planning coming to life, encompassing each and every component. The food is the content that your audience consumes.

The approach to effective content marketing is to create valuable, consistent and relatable content for the purpose of building a relationship with a targeted audience, which in turn, increases your profits.

Some of the most popular forms of content are:

  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • E-books
  • Case studies
  • Long-form content
  • Listicles
  • Newsletters
  • Webinars

The content speaks to your brand while also fulfilling the needs of your ideal customer.

In the restaurant analogy, let’s say your target audience is 20-year-old yoga enthusiasts.

During your planning stages, you found that natural and unprocessed ingredients were of the highest importance to your customers (content strategy).

You put this plan into action by designing a customized menu that informs your customers of the origins of their food (content marketing).

Then you served a vegetarian lentil soup made from locally sourced ingredients (content).

For example:

lentil soup infographic

Repost with credit to Express Writers

Now your customers feel a connection to your brand.

Due to your strategic planning, you knew how to build a relationship with your audience, the methods in which to reach them and the product that would best suit their needs.

These customers are receiving valuable and useful information about a health conscious lifestyle directly through you. They will keep coming back. They will purchase more.

That is your content marketing strategy at work.

How to Explain Content Strategy & Marketing: Understanding the Actual ROI with Statistics

Food analogy aside, clients, bosses and executives want you to answer one thing: how much profit will I make? In other words, what is the ROI of this type of marketing?

They may understand the need to develop content marketing, but be unsure of what they are getting in return.

Via Moz

Unlike other traditional forms of promotion, content strategy and marketing are investments. They require more initial time to plan, implement and see return.

However, once a profitable framework for content strategy is set in motion, you will see your business grow tremendously.

Today, content marketing has proven to be more than just another buzzword.

The term is repeated so often that the importance is validated even to those who don’t understand it. Luckily, there are plenty of statistics to support it.

90% of All Organizations Use Content to Market Themselves (Demand Metric)

Content has officially been crowned king and queen of marketing strategy. However, the real effectiveness of this marketing is in custom content, which 78% of CMOs see as the way of the future.

According to CMI’s 2018 reports, 78% of these B2B marketers revealed that quality content creation increased their marketing success in the last year.

Custom content, while relating to your brand, is useful to consumers who prefer to seek it out rather than be bombarded with emails and television advertisements.

SEO Leads have a 14.6% Close Rate as Opposed to 1.7% for Other Marketing Methods

On the most basic level, the only real argument you need in favor of content marketing is this: it is less expensive and more effective.

Content strategy is all about increasing organic traffic to your site. Organic traffic is improved with SEO directly through content marketing.

Marketing Sherpa detailed one firm’s experience organizing their content marketing efforts where they reported a 2000% increase in blog traffic and 40% increase in revenue.

This type of marketing requires a lot of time, research and patience.

However, an effective strategy will NOT burn a hole in your pocket. Your company can invest in high quality content marketers as opposed to spending money on promotion, and see more success and ROI happen.

Marketers Outsource 18% Total Content (Curata)

One of the main reasons companies have led successful content marketing campaigns is attributed to outsourcing.

Content creation is much more than writing a blog here and there. For real results, content must be consistent, relevant and diverse. One of the many reasons for outsourcing is that most companies do not have the budget or resources to train an in-house team.

Outsourcing to professional agencies, like our own here at Express Writers, will grow your business through organic content marketing efforts.

What’s the best part?

This ends up being ten times cheaper than paid advertising.

Understanding ROI with Numbers

So, how does this compare with my business?

That question always comes next.

Even after reading through statistics, you need a valid method to document the ROI for your own company.

47% of B2B marketers do not measure the ROI of content marketing mostly because they don’t understand how to.

This is a large oversight for companies investing in a content marketing strategy. So we developed an easier method to determine the ROI of content marketing.

In one of our past blog posts, we created an infographic to explain the ROI of content strategy and tested our own numbers.

Our basic formula stated: Earned Traffic = High Quality Leads = Sales

For this formula to work, we used 16% as the average rate that targeted traffic turned into leads and 14% as the rate that those same leads converted into sales.

Our formula then looks something like:

  • Monthly visitors x 16% = amount of leads/month
  • Amt of leads/month x 14% = sales/month

With this formula in hand, your company can predict and actually see how content marketing directly converted into sales.

content marketing equation

We tested the formula in a case study with our monthly traffic for January 2018 and were off by only 57 orders, which made sense after accounting for changes in our business plan.

Put Content Strategy and Content Marketing into Action

The cook, the kitchen, the strategy, the marketing…

You have everything swirling around in your head, and now it’s time to put it into action.

Starting with the fundamentals of your content strategy will set the pace for the rest of your marketing.

What makes you different? What’s your area of expertise? What’s your Content Differentiation Factor?

Answering these very first questions will help you develop and execute methods to connect to your audience and increase revenue.

Are you ready to begin?

There will undoubtedly be bumps along the road to successful content marketing.

Don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through it. 👊🏻

Learn the tools to create and implement an effective content marketing strategy directly through my personal mentorship and teaching by signing up for my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

Or, get access to great content created just for your audience, with strategic content marketing in mind, by requesting a client account.

content strategy cta

GDPR

TL;DR: What is GDPR & How to Make Sure Your Content Is Compliant (Featuring Attorney Richard Chapo)

If you’ve been paying attention to the news in recent months, you may have seen headlines with the phrases “GDPR” and “European Union” popping up more and more often.

“GDPR” refers to “General Data Protection Regulation.”

It’s legislation that the EU approved back in April of 2016. Once approval happened, businesses were given 2 years to comply with new stipulations for collecting and using consumers’ personal data.

In a nutshell, the European Union strengthened the consumer’s right to control their personal data.

That’s great, but…

Why should we care, as content marketers and business owners not located in the EU?

(I don’t blame you if you look like this right now.)

But here’s the thing.

If you have customers in the EU, or operate at least in part there (including collecting EU consumer data), you will be affected by this new legislation, which will go into effect on May 25, 2018.

GDPR protects Europeans’ data no matter where they go virtually. Since we live in a global, digital economy, this applies to most of us who operate online.

To help you navigate these murky waters, I’m discussing the main pieces of GDPR that are most likely to affect you.

Then, to help you figure out what to do next, I talked to Richard Chapo, an internet lawyer I previously chatted with on The Write Podcast about copyrighting in content marketing. He has some advice about what to do in the face of GDPR.

Let’s get into it.

GDPR

Which Parts of the GDPR Should You Be Most Worried About?

1. If You Collect Personal Data from EU Consumers, You Will Have New/Increased Responsibilities

The “personal data” that GDPR affects is the basic stuff you collect from customers and leads all the time: names, email addresses, and any other information that is personally identifying.

Specifically, GDPR stipulates that you are wholly responsible for the security and safety of the personal data you collect.

This also means you are responsible TO the consumer/customer. Above all, GDPR protects their rights.

2. EU Consumers Will Have Expanded Data Privacy Rights

GDPR mainly focuses on expanding and strengthening EU consumer data privacy rights. Here are the major points:

  • Consent must be crystal-clear. When consumers give their consent for you to collect their personal data, you must stipulate exactly how and why you’ll be using that information. You can’t use confusing or misleading legalese or fine print to state this information – it must be accessible, clear, and easy to understand.
    • This also means you can’t collect data for one purpose and then reuse it later. For example, you can’t offer a free download in exchange for emails, and then keep those emails and use them to populate your mailing list. You have to tell consumers EXACTLY what you will do with their data when you ask for consent.
  • You must collect the minimum amount of information needed to achieve your objective. For example, if you want consent to collect a consumer’s email address to send them your newsletter, you arguably don’t need their age or employment status to do it.
  • Consumers have the right to access and review the data you collect from them.
  • Consumers have the right to have the data you collect be “forgotten” – erased from your databases and therefore no longer used/processed.

There are lots of other points in the legislation, but these are the top ones you should know about. To read the others, check out MarTech’s in-depth explanation.

3. You May Be Fined If You Fail to Comply, But Fines Are Situational

The maximum fine an organization can incur from breaching GDPR is 4% of their annual global turnover, or 20 million euros (whichever turns out to be the larger number).

This is relevant to mega international companies, but to you?

Not so much.

Instead, what you need to worry about are tiered fines, which vary depending on the severity your infraction.

For minor infractions, organizations or individuals may be given a reprimand rather than a fine, but only if the fine would impose a “disproportionate burden” on them, according to article 148 of the official legislation:

What to Do Next: Advice from Attorney Richard Chapo

What should you do next in terms of GDPR’s far-reaching effects?

To find out, I talked to Richard Chapo, an internet lawyer with 24 years of experience in topics like fair use and copyright law, licensing, and other legal issues that affect online business owners.

(You can find Richard at SoCalInternetLawyer.com, or you can connect with him on LinkedIn.)

Here’s the sage advice he has for anyone who will be affected by GDPR, whether you’re a blogger, an online business owner, or a content marketer:

“The GDPR contains massive penalty provisions, and we’ve seen a good bit of scaremongering online because of them.

The purpose of the GDPR is not to generate massive fines. The purpose is to protect the personal data of subjects located in the EU. Make a good faith effort to comply, and you are unlikely to be wiped out by a GDPR fine.

As Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner stated, “…it’s scaremongering to suggest that we’ll be making early examples of organizations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm.”

Under the GDPR, you cannot collect personal data from a ‘child’ under 16 without getting verified parental consent first, although some countries can set the age as low as under 13. If the subject matter of your site is directed at kids – video games, education, etc. – you need to be wary of this requirement found in Article 8 of the GDPR.

The world will not end on May 25th if you are not GDPR compliant.

Many companies large and small will fail to meet the deadline. If you’ve just learned of the GDPR and are panicking – don’t.

First, panicking doesn’t accomplish anything. Second, get moving on compliance. If you receive an audit notice from an agency in the EU, providing evidence that you are in the process of complying will mitigate any penalties.”

Bottom Line: Get Familiar with GDPR and Understand If You’re Affected – Then Get Moving on Compliance

As Richard says, it’s important to start making sure you’re in compliance with GDPR if it will affect you. Even if you’re a little behind, this shows a good faith effort and may help you avoid penalties.

Smartblogger has some fantastic advice you can put into action right now for compliance. They recommend following 7 steps, including:

  • Doing an inventory of the personal data you collect
  • Quitting collection of any data you don’t need
  • Making sure you’re totally clear about the information you ask for and receive from consumers
  • And more:

Via SmartBlogger

A little work now will go a long way toward your peace of mind concerning GDPR as it goes into effect. The key is to start A.S.A.P. – then you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Questions? Thoughts? Comments about the new legislation? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

content marketing training

A Content Marketing Training Guide for Freelancers & Marketers: Skills You Need to Know & Tips to Get Hired

Today, the interest and investment in content marketing are at an all-time high.

Within the last two years, it has reached peak search interest on Google and continues to hover near that mark (in the graph below, the “100” line represents peak interest):

That’s exciting.

Content marketing is a hot industry to get into in 2018 – and it’s only going to get better moving into the future. Getting your feet wet in content marketing training couldn’t be a better time.

Job opportunities are hopping, and roles are continuing to expand as businesses of all kinds start to truly understand the value of content.

Just look at the diverse array of content marketing positions from a cursory search of Indeed.com – and this is just from the first page!

And, according to PayScale, entry-level content marketing managers make an average median pay of about $59K per year.

Entry-level content marketing freelancers, on the other hand, have a yearly income that depends largely on dedication and location. But, PayScale estimates that the average freelance writer nets about $24/hour, while the median income for content writers is about $42K annually (and plenty make much, much more).

Finally, according to Marketing Profs and Conductor, the average annual salary for a number of content marketing roles all look pretty darn good:

With the promise of a decent paycheck and innovative, creative, exciting work, it’s truly an incredible time to dive into this field.

Of course, to become a savvy, skilled content marketer and nail that hot position (or net desirable clients!), you need the right content marketing training.

If you agree, you’re in the right place. First, we’ll run through key skills you need to go far in content marketing. Then, we’ll cover application tips and tricks to help you win an incredible job or high-paying clients.

Let’s get into it.

content marketing training guide

Content Marketing Training Bootcamp: Hone These 5 Critical Content Wizard Skills

To succeed in this industry, there are skills you need that remain constant, no matter your role or experience level.

For example, the skills a content strategist needs closely intertwine with those of a content manager, content writer, and social media marketer.

Sharpening the skills listed below could help you stay relevant and help you maintain the ability to wear many hats in the industry, whether you’re strategizing content, managing content, creating content, or all of the above.

Content Marketing Training Skill #1: A Relentless Drive for Results

Whether you work for a company or for individual clients, they will all have the same goal: They want to see results from content marketing. They want that ROI pie-in-the-sky.

However, most have no clear idea how to measure it. In Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 research on trends in B2B content marketing, only 3% of those surveyed said their organizations were doing an excellent job aligning their metrics with their goals:

cmi2018_metrics-goals

That means you have to be driven to align metrics + goals so your clients or bosses can see those results.

Every action you take has to reflect back on eventual return-on-investment, and you have to prove that connection.

The ROI has to be quantifiable. You must know how to measure your content success, gather and analyze data, map it to goals, and present it to your clients or company in a way that’s easy to understand.

Content Marketing Training Skill #2: Creative Problem-Solving

If you want to be a top content marketer, get ready to hone your creative problem-solving skills.

Depending on who you work for, you’ll be presented with challenges as varied as implementing fresh content strategies for businesses who don’t have them, researching the best keywords and blog topics for specific niche industry brands, and figuring out how to improve a company’s content so they hit high rankings for their best keyword opportunities.

You’ll have a lot of challenges thrown your way, each their own particular color and flavor. As a content marketer, you’ll need to thrive on each individual hurdle.

Content Marketing Training Skill #3: Thorough and Meticulous Communication

Good communication is an essential skill for success in most industries. Content marketing is no different.

You’ll particularly need thoroughness and meticulousness when relaying ideas and data back and forth to your higher-ups, clients, and other stakeholders.

This isn’t just about writing, either. You also need to be a skilled presenter, a good collaborator, and a team player.

  • If you work for a company, you’ll need compelling communication to help you get buy-in for your content marketing initiatives.
  • If you work as a freelancer, your clients may need some data-backed examples to get on board with what you propose for their content.
  • If you work with a team and have a great idea for driving engagement forward for a brand, for instance, you have to be able to explain your vision.

Content Marketing Training Skill #4: An Instinct for Audience Defining and Storytelling

A huge part of being a content marketer is the content creation aspect. You have to understand how to tell stories that will win over a vast array of different audiences in different industries.

Your job will be to define these audiences and tailor content just for them, using the right keywords, tone, language, and topics to get them interested and invested.

Your storytelling skills will definitely come into play, here. You’ll have to think about the right delivery for each group of people you’re creating content for, making sure you’re telling stories they need or want to hear.

This involves part instinct, part research, and part creativity.

Content Marketing Training Skill #5: A Savvy Promoter

As a content marketer, you need to be internet-savvy to promote and distribute content as effectively as possible.

You also need to understand techniques to get your content the widest possible audience. This means you have to:

  • Know best-practices for posting to social channels, including optimal times, types of posts, word count, hashtags, and image types
  • Understand how to speak to and target different audiences on social media, including the best platforms where the brunt of them hang out (this can differ depending on the audience!)
  • Know how to create a promotional strategy for each piece of content you put out

Put Your Content Marketing Training to Real Use: 6 Tips for Applying to & Winning that Job

Your content marketing training doesn’t end with honing your skills. You also have to do some legwork to position yourself as a desirable hire:

1. Get Your LinkedIn Profile in Order and Do Some Social Media Housekeeping

As we all know, we live in an interconnected age where our online social profiles often serve as our first introduction for potential employers, clients, and colleagues.

Hiring managers and clients may absolutely check out your LinkedIn profile or Facebook whether or not you provide links in your resume. If your profile is lacking, you may leave that person with a negative impression of you, which can spell disaster for your job chances.

Here’s a good example:

linkedin_ghost

This just looks lazy and unprofessional. Don’t be a LinkedIn ghost – if you can’t be bothered to upload a profile picture, you shouldn’t bother having an account.

If your profile looks like this, or if you have some inappropriate posts or pictures hanging out in your feed, make sure you do some housekeeping before applying for any jobs. These will affect your first impression.

Lastly, make sure your profile is complete and optimized. You should include keywords for your industry in your summary, work experience, and skills sections, including keywords for the job you want.

Here’s an example of a complete and professional profile from Money:

linkedin_complete-profile

2. Look for Opportunities in All the Right Places

Don’t just depend on job boards to find open positions. Instead, do some deeper digging in the right places to unearth more potential jobs or clients.

Here are some ideas:

  • Post an open call for hiring opportunities on your social media profiles. Ask your friends/followers if they know of any leads, open positions, or opportunities for content marketing, and mention that you’re actively looking. Lots of your contacts may keep you in mind if they see anything pop up! Or, there may be an open position or client opportunity waiting there for you – you never know until you ask.
  • Attend industry events and network. The professional connections you make at conferences and meet-ups could lead to job opportunities down the road!
  • Look up companies you’ve heard of or admire on Google and check their hiring pages. If you see an opening that looks desirable, apply and make sure to mention how much you respect the company in your cover letter.
  • If you’re a freelancer, make sure you have an up-to-date profile on the hottest freelance job boards. These give you access to millions of companies/clients actively looking for people to fill positions. Two great options are Upwork and Toptal.
  • Another tip for freelancers: Create a portfolio website. This is something you can include on your business card or link on your resume/social profiles. It’s an easy way for potential clients to check out you and your past experience. You can also keyword optimize it so clients can discover you in search.

3. It’s Not About You, It’s About Them

When it’s cover letter time, do you sit down and think about what you want out of the job position you’re applying for?

If so, you’re doing it wrong.

Instead, you need to approach cover letter writing from a perspective of what the company/client needs from you, and how you can contribute to solve their problem or increase their success.

In the end, it’s about what you can do for THEM, not about how their company or project can help you advance in your career.

Dive into writing the cover letter from this perspective, and you should be much more persuasive.

4. Do Not Mention Skills You Don’t Have – Focus on What You CAN Do

A huge rookie mistake many people make with cover letters is mentioning how they don’t have X skill or X experience.

You should never, ever draw attention to what you can’t do or haven’t done in what is essentially your first pitch to the company/client.

Example:

This is like sticking your foot in your mouth. Don’t do it.

Instead, highlight what you CAN do.

Example:

5. Highlight Key Parts of Your Resume… But Don’t Regurgitate

Your resume is a tool, one you should definitely refer to at key moments in your cover letter to better explain your experience or skills.

However, don’t just copy your descriptions from your resume and use them in your cover letter. Instead, briefly reference the point, but use the extra space in the cover letter to include additional details about the experience you weren’t able to fit on your resume.

For instance, your resume might say “Implemented and managed a content marketing campaign focused on a series of how-to guides.”

Your cover letter could go into more detail, like: “Creating, implementing, and managing a content marketing campaign taught me how to target a niche audience segment and measure the results from XYZ data.”

6. Double-Check Instructions and Include All Requested Information/Attachments/Samples

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people forget to attend to the tiniest details when applying for a position.

It’s straightforward: Read the application instructions carefully, including the fine print. Follow them to the letter.

Many companies actually use this as a litmus test of sorts. Candidates who don’t follow initial directions for their application are immediately tossed in the trash.

Think of it this way: Hiring managers have a ton of applications to weed through – they don’t have time to deal with incomplete or missing information. You have to make it easy for them to advance you to the next round, so to speak.

So, carefully note what materials you need for each job application. Some don’t want your resume but would rather have work samples. Some want the whole kit and caboodle, including cover letter, resume, samples, and references.

Don’t forget to use their preferred submission method, too.

Some want an email with attachments, and others may want you to use their online system or form.

If you’re on an applications-spree, keeping track of all this can get hard.

It’s worth it, though, because you’re showing potential employers or clients you’re hirable at the most basic level.

The Final Word: Your Content Marketing Training Will Never Be “Over”

Content marketing is a wild and wily industry. Standards for success are constantly changing, and the lightning speed at which technology is developing has a huge role.

To keep up, once your initial training is over and you’ve nailed a position, you can’t sit back and get complacent. You have to keep learning, keep training, and keep leveling-up to stay relevant.

Here are some final tips that can help you keep current in such a fast-paced industry:

  • Follow top blogs that cover trends and news in content marketing, SEO, content creation/copywriting, and social media. (A few excellent picks are Search Engine Journal, Content Marketing Institute, BuzzSumo, and Copy Hackers. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Write Blog!)
  • Pick a few essential content marketing books to read during the year. Grab classics in the field or read a newer publication. (See: Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi, The Content Code by Mark Schaefer, or They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan.)
  • Keep in touch with colleagues in your industry on social media, email, and other methods. Catch up every once in awhile to discuss what’s happening in the field. Think about attending CMWorld if you can, because in-person conferences are just so amazing to make that dynamite connection even realer (this will be the second year I’ve gone).

The wonderful world of content marketing is opening up like never before. There are so many opportunities out there. Start up your content marketing training, and grab your place in this exciting atmosphere of incredible growth and possibilities.

julias masterclass cta

content strategy services

The State of Content Marketing Today. Why We Just Launched New & Improved Content Strategy Services at Express Writers

Let’s talk a little about the state of content marketing as it stands today.

91% of content marketers are using content marketing. That’s higher than all previous years to date.

Content creation is the #1 activity in content marketing that gets outsourced.

45% of content marketers are more successful than they were the previous year:

And 78% quoted better content creation as being the number one reason for their improved success.

Yet only 4% of these marketers rate themselves as extremely successful. 

CMI adds: “As they have in the past, respondents who have a documented content marketing strategy report higher levels of overall content marketing success compared with those who have a verbal strategy only, or no strategy at all.”

Yet, despite this guaranteed success rate, only 37% of marketers still have a documented content strategy.

Here’s a quick slide of those statistics from the CMI report:

What exactly is IN a documented content strategy?

Here’s eleven top cores I’d direct you to consider. Note that it is much more than just a keyword report, or a topic calendar.

  1. Audience Persona (you’ve identified your audience so specifically that you have a name and a face)
  2. Your industry standout factor (Content Differentiation Factor)
  3. Your messaging, voice, and tone (Brand Style Guidelines)
  4. SEO keyword reports with high-value, high-opportunity keywords (researched consistently)
  5. Content creation plan & creation team in place
  6. Content types to create
  7. A content creation budget
  8. Editorial calendar with staff collaboration
  9. Social media platforms to build a presence on
  10. Guest blogging opportunities identified
  11. Content updating, tracking and maintenance plan in place

That’s a lot. 

You want to be in the 4% of content marketers that are “extremely successful,” right?

Then you need all eleven cores turning in your content wheelhouse.

But, here’s the issue.

You’re probably facing two questions right about now.

  • How the heck do you do all those things ^?
  • Where the heck can you find a support team, that is quality controlled, to outsource all those things ^?

the state of content marketing and why we launched new content strategy services

How & Why Our Mission These Days is to Solve Industry Problems & Help Brands Succeed By Offering the Best Content Strategy Services

Here’s the thing…

I’ve been focusing on this “big industry picture” since late 2016.

It all started when I began to look at these CMI Benchmark reports, and even asked myself “why are our blogging clients not renewing their order every month?”

Every year, content marketing investment and marketer buy-in goes up.

But the strategic success hasn’t really gone up at all.

Today, only 4% feel they’re very successful at content marketing in 2018.

You know what’s worse? Take a look at previous years’ records.

In 2016, 88% of marketers were doing content marketing – now, 91% are. In 2016, 32% had a documented content strategy: today, 37% do. In 2016, 6% rated themselves as highly effective.

Today, only 4% feel they’re highly effective.

That’s -2% from two years ago!

In my firm, I’ve seen success rise for my content marketing year-after-year.

I know by now that it is all about consistent content, and I also knewafter five years of trial and error, beyond a doubt the value of great content in content marketing – provided you get consistent and you know what you’re doing. When my brand went past 1,000 published blogs, I wrote about the results after looking through our sales forms. It’s rather mind-blowing. 500+ inbound lead inquiries from those 1,000 blogs, closed with a sale at an 80-85% rate. Those were high-value leads: just one converted at $75,000.

The success I’d experienced by using content marketing to power 99% of my own business success (for six years!) is the very reason I created a content strategy course.

I go through all the cores I just mentioned, and teach strategists at all beginner levels how to be successful. 

How to be in the top 4%.

By doing this, I want that industry metric to expand.

Expand from 4% to 10, 20%.

If brands get extremely effective at their content marketing, BIG things will happen for that brand.

They’ll get known: appreciated: earn a loyal, tight-knit fan base: and see sales roll in every day.

Hand in hand with the course are the content strategy services I’ve built in my content agency, Express Writers.

I started writing the core training for our “content planning,” “keyword research,” and “content consultation” 5 years ago–and that inspired the industry-wide course I launched last year.

We’re a content creation agency first and foremost, but truly: what is great content if you don’t have your fundamental strategy mapped out?

Recapping the Main Changes to Our Content Strategy Services for 2018

Here’s what the new product, Content Strategy, looks like:

new content strategy service

3 main changes to our content strategy services

  1. We revamped and improved each strategy service we offer (list of changes below), for the year.
  2. On top of that, I launched new internal training for our Strategists, straight from the cores of my 6-week, intensive content course at www.contentstrategycourses.com. All this happened in the last three weeks here at Express Writers.
  3. All of our content strategy services are now available from this one product link, Content Strategy, instead of multiple links for keyword research and the other variations inside this one service.

Keyword research has now become more finely tuned and available in two variations: Keyword research for blogging, keyword research for web page topics. We’ll research longer-tail keywords for your blog, that offer a high likelihood of ranking: and wider opportunities for your site, where you’d want to rank overall for bigger, bolder keywords.

Content planning and content planning blocks has turned into Topic Research, for web or blog. You’ll receive an editorial calendar with high-ROI topics analyzed, as well as a core keyword to use in the topic: and what’s more, we now research influencers for your topic area as well and give you an exported list in the Excel editorial calendar. Our topic headlines are highly-scored, and carefully analyzed by our Content Strategists.

We use some of the best tools on the market: SEMrush, BuzzSumo, Hawkeye by Scoop.it, and Mangools’ KWFinder. Our team Content Strategists are fully trained from my content strategy course cores on how to deliver keywords and high-ROI content topics.

Our Topic Planning is available in three variations:

See an example of a Topic Planning package, complete with editorial calendar.

What’s more, we now offer a follow-up call with you + our Content Strategists to make sure you’re able to get the most from your topic planning. This will help our clients understand how to use their keywords and topics in the best way for on-site ROI.

Interested? Click here to book a call with one of our staff members to talk about your content strategy needs, or view the new product by clicking on the image below.

cta new service

Let Us Power Up Your Content Strategy

We can’t wait to serve you with the best content for more success in your content marketing, this 2018.

If you’re looking for training for your agency, my Content Strategy Course could be a fit. (We’re relaunching a new and improved site late February, 2018!)

Need done-for-you strategic content marketing services?

We love serving custom, high-quality content to seasoned brands and agencies.

If that’s you, we’re a great match!

Talk to our team today about your content needs.

CTA content strategy

content marketing copywriting

Content Marketing Copywriting 101: The Essential Guide on Writing For Your Online Reader

Two distinct strategies that many people confuse or mix up:

  • Content marketing.
  • Copywriting.

They aren’t the same thing, although both intertwine with each other in benefits and results.

Think of it like this:

  • Content marketing gets your prospects invested in what you do.
  • Copywriting makes them want to follow up on that investment with action.

That, right there, is the key difference.

And here’s the magic of both:

When you mix the best of these two strategies together, awesome things start happening.

Your content won’t just be educational and valuable for your readers – it will also make them want to take action.

That action could boost your likes and shares, increase your social media following, grow your email list, AND best of all – lead to sales.

It’s also why these two strategies are so perfect for each other.

They make each other more powerful.

The right content marketing meshed with stellar copywriting could give you success in the form of 4.5x the leads you had before. To that, add 3.5x more traffic if you create content consistently, according to HubSpot.

hubspot_blog_monthly_leads

Let’s go a little further, though.

What are the nitty-gritty differences between content marketing and copywriting? How do you blend them together in a winning formula?

Creating the copy can be the most challenging part of great content marketing. I totally get it.

So, let’s talk about it.

Grab a mug of your favorite hot drink (coffee, tea, etc.), and dive in with me.

content marketing copywriting 101

Content Marketing and Copywriting: What the Heck Is the Difference?

You can use them together, but they’re not the same thing. Here are the major differentiators between content marketing and copywriting.

Content Marketing: Many Tactics, Various Ways to Succeed

Content marketing is about creating content that nurtures your readers. The content you provide is served to prospects with the end goal of building trust and loyalty with them so they’ll turn into customers.

Educate them concerning their pain points, and they’ll end up turning to you for more solutions.

That’s content marketing at its core, and it can be done through a wide array of tactics – think blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, email campaigns, and more.

It’s about creating content (which can mean writing, but also all kinds of other production methods) and distributing it so your prospects become customers and stay customers.

Copywriting: Using Writing to Motivate the Desired Action

Copywriting, on the other hand, is about using your writing to strategically spur the reader to do something.

Good copywriting is not annoying. It sells whatever you want to sell without the reader realizing they’re buying in.

Good copywriting is gently yet irresistibly persuasive.

It helps move the prospect to sign up for your email list, click on your link or ad, follow you on social media, make a purchase, and more. As such, it’s used for stuff like landing pages, sales pages, ads, and direct mail campaigns.

Great copy is essential to content marketing.

Great copy is essential to content marketing. Click To Tweet

Content marketing copywriting is cohesively intertwined. Think of it like this:

content marketing and copywriting sweet spot

What Happens When You Apply Great Copywriting in Content Marketing?

What do better results look like with these two strategies?

For one, engagement.

Look at this blog example from Intrepid Travel, an adventure travel company based in Australia.

The blog is called “The Top Destinations for Travel in April.” This could easily get very same-y and unoriginal, as there are scores of similar blogs out there.

However, what keeps you on the page is the copywriting.

What keeps you on the page is the copywriting. Click To Tweet

Check out this intro:

intrepid-travel_blog-intro

It invites you to stick around and keep reading without actually saying any such thing.

It also promises what you’ll find in the series of guides: “Your easily digestible list of places to visit, things to experience, and amazing weather to chase around the world.”

The blog copy also cleverly links to where you can book one of the company’s travel adventures:

On the sales page for the “8-day Best of Jamaica” trip, more compelling copywriting entices you to imagine exploring this locale:

“Experience the island in all its Caribbean colour, from Rastafari and reggae to the gorgeous unspoiled coast.”

Finally, there’s a call-to-action at the end of the blog that urges you to check out the other guides in the series:

The result?

It’s not just informative, fun, interesting content – it’s content with a purpose.

This content is working hard for this company. It’s providing value for their audience, but it’s also urging them to take multiple actions throughout the blog.

This banks on the solidity of the writing and research. If these two things were sub-par, then you wouldn’t feel inclined to click on anything within this content piece.

But, since both are on point, Intrepid Travel can use that built-in trust to get you interested in taking the desired actions.

To put it simply, content marketing and copywriting are holding hands and skipping together into the sunset in this blog post.

Now you may be wondering:

How do I get these same results?

How do you create awesome content marketing copy?

Well, my friends, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that can help you get there.

6 Essentials to Nail in Your Content Marketing Copywriting (Or, How to Appeal to the Online Reader/Buyer)

1. Use the Flow, Luke

If you want your online writing to be a little more engaging…

If you want to draw in readers and make their eyes compulsively move down the page…

Flow is crucial.

Use the flow, you must.

However

Writing with great flow on the internet is markedly different from writing with great flow elsewhere.

Smart Blogger addresses this in one of their best posts ever.

In this piece, they tell you exactly why your flow needs to work differently online.

Basically, reading online involves a barrage of distractions. Notifications, ads, pop-ups, enticing links, and more all jostle each other for your attention.

Maybe that’s why most people online don’t read in-depth.

Instead, they tend to scan and skim the page in an F-shaped pattern, according to a Nielsen study:

Therefore, you’ve gotta write the way they read.

If you do it correctly, your audience will do more than skim. You’ll lull them into reading the whole page.

So, here’s how to use flow, according to Smartblogger.

May the flow be with you.

Great writing flow online begins and ends with paragraph structure:

  • Make paragraphs shorter.
  • Break up sentences according to the rhythm of the piece. Don’t write in a monotone – vary your sentence lengths, paragraph lengths, and wording.
    • (This is what a boring paragraph looks like. The sentences are all a similar length. They all have a similar structure and style. It gets repetitive quickly. It leads to reader abandonment.)
  • Use one-line paragraphs to emphasize important thoughts.
  • Don’t break up your paragraphs at awkward times. Try to keep your thought trains coherent.
    • Smartblogger has an excellent example of awkward paragraph breaks:

2. Always Be Optimizing

Here’s another key for copy in content marketing.

Good copywriting that’s not search engine optimized will not earn as much ROI as you’d like.

If you want those returns (hello, rankings + leads!), you have to use SEO and make sure your copy is optimized and search-ready.

It’s not just about targeting keywords in the headline and body of your copy, though.

SEO is also about how you approach content creation in the first place, before you ever write a word.

For instance, how are you coming up with blog topics to write about?

  • Are you going off a random list you dreamed up?
  • Or are you basing the topics you cover (and the keywords you use) on what your audience wants to see and user search intent?

I’ll give you one guess as to which method gets better results.

Once you have the right topics and some good keywords, the copywriting can be much more effective. It will appeal to people, first and foremost, but it will also get indexed, which will increase your chances for visibility and exposure to more people.

Need some scope for that?

Well, consider the fact that over 64,000 searches are performed on Google every second of an average day.

Every. Second.

If you’re not angling to get a piece of that seriously huge search engine traffic, you’re fishing in the wrong pond.

3. Make Your Copy Stupidly Easy to Read + Scan

What’s another tactic you can use to make sure your content marketing copy does its job?

Here’s a good acronym for this tip:

KISS:

kiss formula

You have to keep your page layout and formatting simple to keep your copy easy to read.

If the copy is stupidly easy to read, your visitors won’t bounce immediately because they’re confronted with a daunting wall of text:

Via Elegant Themes

As you can see, walls of text are unnecessarily complicated.

Here are some tips on how to simplify your copy for ease of reading:

  • Breaking up your paragraphs can help drive home your ideas and introduce clarity. The white space in-between acts as breathing space for the eyes. (It’s also a great technique for flow, which we’ve already discussed.)
  • Subheaders help organize your content so readers immediately get the gist of what you’ll cover in an article or blog post. Make sure they’re in a slightly larger font or in bold so they stand out.
  • Lists, bulleted and numbered, can help further break up and simplify long paragraphs.
  • Consistency in formatting helps give your copy a unified look. Use the same styling and spacing for all like elements throughout your content – it will look nicer, but also helps with comprehension.

4. Write Like You Mean It

Of course, the content marketing + copywriting formula is nothing without the addition of skilled writing.

When I say “write like you mean it,” I mean write the way you know you can.

Use all the skills in your arsenal. Don’t phone it in. Put in your best effort every time you sit down to write content, and aim to really speak to your target audience.

According to Neil Patel for CMI, advanced skills like these are necessary for great copywriting – whether on its own or infused into your content marketing:

  • Simplifying a complex topic for your audience
  • Creating content and copy that’s easy to read
  • Transitioning between ideas seamlessly, so the reader never feels jarred
  • Composing introductions that hook readers
  • Writing conclusions that do their job well, whether you want to sum everything up or leave your reader with questions to ponder
  • Choosing the right vocabulary for the right context
  • Using a style and tone of voice that appeals to your audience

Not every writer is capable of these things.

But the best copywriters are, and they strive to use these skills consistently in all their work.

5. Stay User/Audience-Focused

People first.

More specifically, your audience first.

That has to be your main mantra for content creation and copywriting.

If you write for search engines first, your copywriting and content will show it.

It will be really, really obvious.

According to Kissmetrics, “When you take the time to develop your story, your writing mimics the natural tone you would use in a conversation.”

This is absolutely true. They give a great example of a huge company that majorly failed at this basic tenant of good copywriting in this great post, “10 Things You Can Learn from Bad Copy.”

Read this about page from LEGO and tell me if they didn’t lose sight of who their audience is:

This reads like an encyclopedia entry about LEGO, not a bio written for their customers and fans.

Your content marketing copywriting must put your specific audience first in every detail. You can’t risk losing them at any stage of the buyer’s journey. Maybe LEGO, a giant, international brand, can afford it, but you can’t.

6. Don’t Neglect the Little Details

The little details are what set good copy apart from great copy in content marketing.

And, when you have great copywriting in your content, you’re packaging it up as beautifully and appealingly as possible.

After you create content that’s substantial, valuable, and high-quality, you have to dress it up. You gotta spend time on the wrappings, the trimmings, the ribbon, the bows, and the decoration.

This is what sells it. This is what makes people stop, scan, and ultimately read your content.

When you put lots of effort into every tiny aspect, that means you pay attention to each piece of the puzzle: headlines, subheaders, calls-to-action, intros, and conclusions.

Let’s start with the headline.

The Headline: The Attention-Grabber, Curiosity-Inducer, and Hook

An example of an awesome headline via Smartblogger.

If you can’t be bothered to spend time on your headline, your readers won’t be bothered to read your content.

Overwhelmingly, the headline is the hook. It sets the tone for the content it looms over. If the headline sucks, why would anybody look deeper and keep scrolling?

The stats back that up. On average, 80% of people will read your headline, but only 20% will continue on to read the rest of the post.

This is a spot in your content where good copywriting can pay off ten-fold… even one-hundred-fold.

If you want to motivate prospects to read more, the headline is where it starts.

The Subheaders: The Unsung Blog Post Heroes

Subheaders may seem small in the scheme of your content, but they can easily make or break it.

Here’s where content organization and formatting come into play.

If you use subheaders correctly, they logically split up your words and paragraphs, making them easier to read and scan for meaning.

If you use subheaders like a boss, they do all of the above AND they entice your readers to stop scanning and read, read, read.

Beware, however, of using subheaders that provide no context/meaning, or that get too clever. Smartblogger has some great examples and tips that may help you craft great subheaders.

For an example of subheader mastery, look at Jon Morrow’s content. His subheaders are crazy-good. Here’s an example from one of his pieces on Copyblogger, “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School”:

smartblogger content

The Calls-to-Action: The Words That Work Hard

Your entire content piece, no matter what it is, works hard for you, from the first sentence to the last period.

However, if you want it to work harder, your calls-to-action need to be on-point.

If copywriting as a whole is about inspiring action, then calls-to-action are copywriting that’s focused down to a laser point.

These are the movers and shakers of your content. They can be simple, but they always need to be effective.

What does an effective CTA look like? Check out this ConversionXL post to see great examples of both good and bad CTAs. Here’s a goodie from KlientBoost:

The Introduction and Conclusion: The Table Setter and Nightcap

Your introduction and conclusion are essential to get right.

The intro sets the table and makes your readers want to pull up a chair and tuck into your feast of words.

The conclusion ends the meal, but it can do it in a lot of ways: It can leave your readers full and satisfied, it can spark their curiosity with further questions, or it can offer them dessert (think lead magnets).

A good copywriter will take time to hone the introduction and conclusion, because these two pieces are notoriously hard to get right.

When you do nail them, they make your content 10x better.

Here’s a bare-bones guide for intro writing from HubSpot:

And here’s a more in-depth guide, including how to finesse your intro, from Neil Patel.

As for conclusions, check out this guide for “How to Go Out in Style with Your Ending” from Copyblogger.

Better Content Marketing Copywriting? It’s in the Bag

Copywriting and content marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’re pretty good on their own, but mash them together, and you have something incredible and memorable.

Content marketing may be the meat-and-potatoes, but copywriting is the salt and pepper.

So, craft great content that provides value, answers questions, and drops knowledge. But, don’t forget to use copywriting to turn those content pieces into workhorses.

Or, to continue the food metaphor, use copywriting to make your content marketing delicious.

Build your authority, make your readers trust you, and then get them to act on it.

That, my friends, is how you turn regular ol’ content into solid-gold assets.

cta ew training

inbound content and seo

Inbound Content & SEO Just Got 10x More Important. (My Thoughts In an Era of No More HuffPost Contributor, FB Business Page Reach Death)

If you’re reading this, you likely already know what a big fan I am of great content in content marketing.

It’s like saying, “Julia likes coffee” (understatement), or, “the sun is shining” (also a drastic understatement 89.9% of the year in Austin, Texas).

And specifically, what a fan I am of the SEO side of it all.

(Just read my piece studying the effects of hitting 1,000 blogs on the Write Blog to find out.)

Why?

Well, to recap, I’ve been blogging on our site for six years. It’s become our primary form of marketing.

And it’s brought qualified leads our way.

They’re so qualified that they’re ready to spend 5 figures without batting an eye – sometimes on the first order. They know what they need, and because they found our highly-relevant content piece high in the SERPs answering their question, they were convinced we were the answer.

We’re an anomaly in our industry because we are what we sell.

We know that what we sell, works. Because we’re a content agency fueled by the high-performing content we create.

Mic drop.

No other writing agency has the organic content focus we have.

We’re 3-5% more visible in Google than all of our competitors.

This organic visibility is how we net 99% of our best customers.

I first started Express Writers on a mission to band together writers that could help me create my own content. The idea for the modern writing force we now have in our agency was born from a need I had.

The rest was all hard work.

That was the starting point: and it’s fired up a major movement we’ve been able to maintain in our industry.

So, I’ve always loved SEO and inbound content.

But…

Did these online marketing fundamentals really just get ten times more important?

Am I blowing smoke because I simply love these techniques?

Not at all. Keep reading for my thoughts.

inbound content and seo

Inbound Content & SEO Just Got 10x More Important. {The Case Study}

Part One: The Death of a Guest Platform Spells Fear and Trouble for Those Focused on Real Estate that Isn’t Yours.

“I write for HuffingtonPost!”

Just became “I wrote for HuffingtonPost,” last week on Thursday.

Ripples on the news of the Contributor network shutdown, a pulling-the-plug act for more than 100,000 “free” authors, ran through social media like giant waves, ebbing and flowing to instantly become old news the next day (let’s face it: that’s the nature of good old social media).

I learned about it when Josh Steimle, founder of MWI, tagged me in a LinkedIn post:
My initial thoughts to the Contributor shutdown:

1.) Honestly, my posts were not getting a ton of traction except for one really good one (my story) that launched over a year ago. Since then I’ve had lackluster exposure on all posts I published.

2.) I heard straight from the amazing Aaron Orendorrf that HuffPost was actually doing some sly no-follow on all their Contributor content so it wouldn’t show up in search. So that’s why I could never find my HuffPost story when I Googled it!

3.) Can’t say I’m not disappointed, though. If this was how they started and exponentially grew their platform, through the free contributor base, this just dissed everyone that helped them grow from nothing. And that’s not cool. You never diss the people that gave you the reason for who you are today.

But let’s go into a wider picture for a moment.

If you were publishing on HuffPost Contributor platform, you were publishing on real estate that wasn’t yours.

And if you can’t lay an ownership claim to the site, you can’t get too upset if the person who actually did manage and own it did what they wanted to do.

Frankly, it’s their site.

Not yours.

The same thinking even applies to Facebook algorithms, social media platform updates… they get to decide because they run it. They own it. You don’t own that platform.

So, this fear factor, the “when-are-they-going-to-change/remove/do & how will that affect my content there,” applies to many platforms. Let’s call it “brand fear” for now.

Think about all the platforms brand fear applies to.

  • Medium.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Every other guest blog and publication on the planet.
  • Every social media platform on the planet.

The only platform brand fear doesn’t apply to?

  • Your site.

You own your site. You get to say when it shuts down, or when it’s online. When you add content, and what content to add. How it looks. Presentation. How your content looks. How well your content gets indexed (how well you optimize it). Etc.

So…

Start publishing to your site, NOW. Focus on it. Don’t have one? Get one.

I teach this heavily in my course – your site is your real estate.

Make sure you’re investing in your own real estate.

That way when a platform goes down and takes your content with it, you won’t be in big trouble.

Part Two: Many Platform Changes for Social Media and the Death of “Fads” Means Tried-and-True Just Got More Certain

If you didn’t know, Facebook algorithms are like a weathercock in high winds these days.

They’re all over the place.

Read more about the massive Facebook algorithm change in my blog here.

One side-effect of all the Facebook algorithm changes is that Facebook business page reach could be at an all-time low.

Research from [email protected] shows that for Pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach could be as low as 2%. This is probably more like 1% for non-video posts these days.

Instead of just “posting” average content in a typical fashion to your Facebook page, try:

  • Don’t schedule Facebook page posts from a tool: Directly post yourself, and get creative about what you want to tell people. Don’t schedule from a tool unless you have to.
  • Tag a feeling: When I tagged “feeling happy” from my Facebook page, that post had the most reach of all my page posts out of that week.
  • Try saving your Instagram or Snapchat stories and uploading them to your Facebook page as a post: Again, another creative option if you want to avoid just scheduling content from a tool, without too much time involved.
  • Live stream: This by far is the best way to get more reach from your Facebook page these days.

Here’s another “fad” at risk: text messaging alerts from brands.

Email Marketing > Text Alerts

Did you know that email marketing is 41 years old?

The first ever marketing email was sent almost 41 years ago by a marketer named Gary Thuerk, from Digital Equipment Corporation. Thuerk sent a promotional email about his company to 400 people, using an ARPANET address. (Read the story on Entrepreneur.)

On the other hand, sending marketing messages through “text messages” only got hot around 2005, according to Mobile Marketing Engine. That means text message marketing is barely 13 years old.

Text message marketing could be dying. GAP, a huge clothing retailer, recently shared a text alert indicating it’s “giving up” on text alerts and suggesting their end users continue with email.

Courtesy Bill Skowronski, founder at Sharing the Good.org

What will be next? Is my brand or content at risk?

I guess that’s the big question echoing in all of our minds, as we see feature after feature change since the beginning of 2018, the HuffPost Contributor section go bye bye forever, and Facebook’s business page reach decline severely.

Are you wondering how to secure your content against platform changes = avoid the danger of losing your content or platform reach (reminder, my term for this: “brand fear”)?

Here’s my shortlist.

3 KEY Ways to Secure Your Content & Guard Against the “Brand Fear” Factor When Publishing Content Online

A.k.a, Why Inbound Content Just Got More Important.

1. Know Your SEO

Don’t know how to find high-opportunity keywords that you can create great content for your ideal readers/buyers to find in Google?

You should learn.

You need to find low-competition, long-tail keywords, using an SEO research tool. I recommend using KWFinder or SEMrush. Then, you need to verify that you can create content better than the 3-5 spots in Google that exist for that keyword.

Once you’ve passed both of those research barriers and have keywords ready to use, then it’s time to create SEO optimized content – and you’ve got to work harder than ever to be the best result for that keyword now, so that part’s not easy.

It’s a tough, long game to get familiar with the “how” of great SEO content (that really works), and this is one of the favorite modules I teach in my all-access course.

2. Focus Your First and Foremost Content Efforts on Your Castle, & You’ll Have a Stronghold Online

We focus on expresswriters.com for the majority of all of our created content. Also in priority is my course site, contentstrategycourses.com.

I save my frequent and focused content efforts for my platform – the site I own.

We’re talking more than 1,046 published blogs to date.

Other than this primary focus, I have 3-5 guest blog platforms I contribute content to, either monthly or quarterly.

It’s important to know your SEO, along with your content.

Why?

Because SEO + content = POWERFUL content marketing.

If you don’t know your SEO, your content isn’t going to get found in Google.

Add in a great keyword and optimization to a piece of content, and BAM – your onsite content just got far more valuable.

Need a resource for SEO optimization principles to improve the search optimization of your content? Check out my go-to Cheat Sheet: The Basics of Creating High-Ranking SEO Content

When your content is found organically in Google by a lead, OptinMonster says the chances of purchase are high.

This high:

  • 50% of everyone who did a local search on their phone went and visited that store within a day
  • 18% of all local mobile searches led straight to a purchase in 24 hours
  • 78% of all local mobile searches led directly to offline purchases

Now, listen to the stat we personally can claim (100% truth):

  • My agency (Express Writers) closes an average of 85% of organic SEO leads at an average order value of $500-1,000 sale value.

When it comes to the content published on our site right here at expresswriters.com, the results are phenomenal.

This phenomenal:

  • Today, we have over 12,200 keywords ranking organically in Google from the blogs we’ve posted.

semrush rankings 2018

  • We have over 500 talk to sales that have come in, over the last 5 years, from our organic content found in the rankings. In the last few months, these leads have risen in quality by 10x. We see purchase-ready leads that are at a very high level these days.

Do I need to say more here?

Your site is your castle – build your content there, and you’ll have a stronghold.

castle

Just remember to build right. 

Don’t be cheap.

Be strategic and high quality about whatever you do.

Be about adding value to your readers’ lives.

Work on becoming a content stronghold with your site, niche foothold, content strategy, and content output.

Nothing less.

And you’ll succeed, long-term.

Wondering how to put together high-performing content? I mentor students on this very strategic skillset: visit www.contentstrategycourses.com.

2. Back Up Your Content – Now. Here Are a Few Ways:

  • Export your Facebook Live videos to YouTube. This is a great way to make sure your Facebook Lives never disappear. Upload them to YouTube and take that to your site. Make blogs for your site out of YouTube and transcribe your videos for even more content you can publish on your site.
  • Syndicate existing content on your site to LinkedIn Pulse and Medium, after waiting 1-2 weeks for Google to register that you’re the first publisher (that way no content penalization happens). Save time and don’t write original content for these platforms, unless you absolutely feel you must.
  • If you guest blog, work to get an agreement from an editor for an ongoing column, or if not, don’t contribute ongoing content. You never know when the next guest blog you write for will close submissions and start taking down your pieces – you truly don’t. If you create killer content for them, the chances of that happening are slim. So for one, create amazing content and guest blog editors will never want to take yours down. Problem solved! For two, work to get an agreement from an editor for ongoing column contributions. I’ve got a couple of these secured with some platforms where we earn great leads. If you can’t get that ongoing column in written agreement from an editor, don’t focus all your efforts there. Contribute offhand as you can. Still, make sure you’re always contributing your best.

No more Brand Fear Factor: Focus on the Tried-and-True

Don’t get distracted and misled by shiny objects.

Focus on the 40-year-old veteran fundamentals: email marketing. Website optimization. SEO.

Great content, published on a site you own.

Optimized for your people to find it in Google.

And you’ll win.

I promise.

If you need help getting there, don’t hesitate to reach out.

I run a course to teach the real-world skills of this very principle, the tried-and-true of content marketing – maybe you’d be a perfect fit for the training. Click below to find out more about it.

– Julia

content marketing course cta

content storytelling

Your Guide to Content Storytelling: Why Emotionally Connecting with Your Audience Produces More Traction, Sales & Results

Hello,  2018!

Isn’t it crazy we’re weeks into the New Year already?

For one of our first Write Blog posts in 2018, I’m beginning the year with a powerful topic.

I want to unveil the what, how and why of a rare content epidemic that can transform our marketing world as we know it.

What is this epidemic, you say?

Content storytelling.

Research has proven that emotional connection is EVERYTHING in marketing:

On average, emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable than customers who are only highly satisfied.

Emotionally connected customers engage with your content, buy products, and keep coming back.

In a study of retail banking customers, those who were emotionally connected to the bank were 6x more valuable than highly satisfied customers.

This is because:

  • They remained customers much longer
  • They held more products at the bank
  • They concentrated more of their balances at the institution

Just look at the average lifetime revenue of highly satisfied customers ($10,189) versus emotionally connected customers ($59,500).

There’s a difference there that adds up to tens of thousands of dollars.

It’s pretty clear that when you connect with your audience/potential customers on an emotional level, amazing things happen.

Your customers become better, more loyal, and invested in what you do.

They don’t just like or trust you; it’s deeper than that.

So, how do you get to that level with them?

Content storytelling can be the lynchpin.

To get a better idea of how it’s done, let’s start by looking at how a major credit card company, Chase, courted millennials and plugged into an emotional connection with them for awesome results.

Ready to dive in?

your guide to content storytelling

How JPMorgan Chase Courted Customers and Won Their Hearts with Content Storytelling

JPMorgan Chase has had a lot of success with millennials. They recently introduced a credit card targeted at this generation with the intent of inspiring emotional connection – with lots of success.

What happened?

Use among millennials rose by 70%, while account growth increased by 40%.

Big gains, right?

Let’s analyze a piece of their strategy and look at how they used storytelling to tap into millennial emotions. They did it with TheSkimm, a targeted daily newsletter that briefs its readers on world news and issues.

First, there’s something you should understand about TheSkimm.

It’s not just a news briefing delivered to your inbox daily. It’s also a wildly popular newsletter with a distinct tone of voice that offers tips for living a better, more successful life.

It’s generally well-regarded and loved by celebrities, influencers, and average readers alike. (Among its fans: Oprah, Trevor Noah, Lena Dunham, and Sarah Jessica Parker.)

However, according to Bloomberg, its most notable demographic makes up 80% of its readership: professional females ages 22-34.

Along with that, TheSkimm gets great engagement when you look at its open rates (anywhere from 35-40%).

Of course, the draw of TheSkimm for its readers mainly has to do with the way it presents its content. The newsletter has a style that’s fun to read, and it elegantly covers an array of news topics from various angles so readers feel informed and knowledgeable.

It honestly reads like an email from a worldly, well-informed friend who has a hefty dose of wit.

Here’s an example of a news snippet from TheSkimm’s daily digest:

It’s important news in an easy-to-swallow format, with linked text so you can read further in depth.

The thing is, this news outlet also includes affiliate advertising in their content. The other thing is, it’s not intrusive or annoying, and its presented in a way that’s meant to be helpful.

And, it works:

There’s no mention of brand names. But, these are obviously coupon offers (at least, to anyone with a marketing eye). They’re presented the same way as the rest of the information in the newsletter. It fits.

Plus, these seem like offers that any millennial woman would be interested in.

Enter Chase.

Media Logic explained how the credit card company managed to take advantage of TheSkimm’s native advertising and seamlessly appeal to their built-in audience (even with branding!).

Chase was able to tap into TheSkimm’s storytelling style and direct readers to their own blog:

It only works because Chase is continuing to build the narrative that TheSkimm started: “You’re a young professional looking to create a successful life. You need help getting there. We have your back.”

There is no tie-in to Chase’s various products or services. The Chase links within TheSkimm take you to content that meshes with the story already in progress.

The results (particularly that 70% rise in millennial credit card use) attests to how well this strategy worked.

Stories tell – and stories SELL!

How to Use Content Storytelling to Emotionally Connect and Inspire Brand Devotion

So, now you know how stories can sell.

Storytelling in content marketing, needless to say, is integral.

Via Content Marketing Institute

The power of stories has followed human civilization since the cavemen first painted figures on cavern walls, telling the story of their way of life as hunters. It’s been with us since human language first developed, allowing us to entertain and regale each other with experiences both real and made-up.

Emotion has always been at the core of stories. Stories make you feel something, whether that’s delight, surprise, sadness, fear, joy, or plain old empathy.

Stories are how we communicate. What is a conversation but a series of intertwining narratives?

Storytelling is also a better way to present content.

To tell stories in your content, draw on what you know about them intuitively. Use these aspects to make your content come alive for your readers and create that emotional connection.

1. Be Personal

When somebody gets personal, we automatically feel more invested in what they have to say.

A personal story or point-of-view has far more emotional resonance than one told from a third person or objective perspective.

Example:

This Quartz article about the secret of creativity is well-written and full of good points. However, it mainly approaches the topic from an objective, facts-only perspective.

The author addresses the reader as “you,” but we still feel removed from this piece. We aren’t necessarily drawn into it on an emotional level.

Compare it to the following piece by Jennie Spotila on JessicaAbel.com. (Jessica Abel is a productivity and writing coach with a great blog.) This piece is also about creativity, but it offers tips for honing your creative focus when you’re chronically ill:

It’s not just facts-based – she also supports her points with her own personal experience.

Suddenly, when she plunges into her personal story, we find ourselves nodding along – even if we have never dealt with the obstacles from working or writing with a chronic illness.

This is how hard it can be to work creatively, but Jennie guides us through her story and shows us how it’s possible.

This read is far more intense, and pulls at your emotions much more effectively, than the Quartz article about a similar topic.

That personal element makes all the difference. If you want your content to be as addictively readable as well as informative, don’t be afraid to weave in your own personal tales or add a personal element.

2. Give Examples and Supporting Information

What makes a good story great? It’s all in the details.

As William Sarto writing for JeffBullas.com says, “Deep research is what differentiates a remarkable story from an okay one.”

Especially if you’re trying to convince your readers of something, your story is nothing without details.

This definitely means facts and statistics from reputable sources mentioned in your writing, but it also ties into point #1: Be personal.

Back up what you say, what you purport to be true, with personal anecdotes and examples as well as facts and statistics that help add solidity to your assertions.

Never just state something baldly and leave it at that.

Provide evidence.

A good story becomes great when you pad it out with details, evidence, scene-setting, and more details.

Don’t be afraid to get descriptive. It helps your readers visualize what you’re saying and connect with it personally.

3. Try Different Mediums and Methods for Connecting

There’s more than one way to tell a great story.

If you find that the written word isn’t quite the best way for you to tell yours, try something else.

If you’re more comfortable with speaking, for instance, why not try a podcast?

A FANTASTIC example is the Fueled by Death Cast.

This podcast from Death Wish Coffee Company asks a question that neatly connects to coffee as fuel (“What fuels you?”) and tells stories that revolve around it. They record it live on film and audio, so you get to see the speakers as well as listen.

A podcast about coffee with a name as crazy/cool as “Fueled by Death?” Yes, please.

fueled by death cast

Episodes range from band features to interviews and more (whatever creative fuel gets you through the day along with your coffee, natch), but they also do stuff like employee features, too. And, they even record it live as a video and upload it to YouTube, giving what would be only an audio podcast a much more invigorated, lively, and visual feel. Example:

It all ties back to the brand and their voice.

This is a fantasic way to tell a brand story.

Note, too, that the podcast doesn’t exclusively talk about coffee. They found a way to branch out while still making the episode topics relevant. It’s a smart way to tell stories without coming out of left field with random topics.

Other Methods for Telling Stories

Creating a podcast is a great idea for storytelling if you’re better at speaking than writing. There are even more mediums to try, though.

If you love telling stories through visuals, try out a YouTube show. It can be as simple as you sitting down in front of a camera and addressing topics in your industry. Or, you can really get creative and do more – graphic presentations, interviews, etc.

Heck, if you’re musically inclined, you could even write and perform songs that tell your brand story.

Writing isn’t the only way to tell your tales. Think outside the box and consider other ways to get your message across. The sky’s the limit when it comes to types of valuable content that will emotionally connect your audience to your brand.

4. Create an Ongoing Narrative Arc

To make your brand storytelling seamless, you should try to stick to an overarching theme.

A theme that underlies all of your brand stories and content will create a narrative arc that, when taken as a whole, provides a bigger picture.

For each story you tell (whether in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, or even just Stories in your social media feeds), make sure it ties into this picture.

Think of each piece of content like an individual puzzle piece. They should fit together neatly under your brand’s personality and core message.

Chase’s News & Stories

Let’s revisit Chase for a good example.

On their content hub, they divide their “stories” into different categories. Note, however, that all of them tie back to the theme: “Helping you make the most of your money.”

The Magazine by Birchbox

Another good example is The Magazine from Birchbox.

The theme of the content naturally has to do with beauty, trends, lifestyle, and wellness:

Calling it a “magazine” illustrates the theme perfectly. It’s like an online magazine with all the articles you’d expect, like “Your Guide to the Perfect Holiday Movie Marathon” and “How to Create a Soft Smoky Eye.”

Out on the Wire with Jessica Abel

Yet another example of content that has an overarching theme is the “Out on the Wire” podcast with Jessica Abel.

This is a storytelling podcast about storytelling. Jessica Abel is on the road to writing a story, and this show goes through the whole process along with her.

Lore Podcast

Yet another example of themed storytelling done right (that you may or may not have heard of): “Lore,” a podcast that explores frightening folklore and true scary stories.

The episodes each tell wildly different tales, but they’re all held together with this one connecting thread.

This podcast got so popular, it even was made into a TV series on Amazon.

As you can see, themed storytelling is everywhere you look. Brands, companies, and entities that do it right are rewarded with devoted followings. The power of cohesive tale-telling really helps your audience connect with you and find emotional resonance with your brand presence.

A theme is an incredibly important aspect of telling multiple stories over time. Use this technique to create a compelling big-picture view when you zoom out from the individual pieces.

5. Invite Readers to Contribute to the Tale

Your brand is nothing without the audience, friends, followers, and customers in your community.

Your tale is continually shaped by your interactions with them. Your brand relies on them for its forward motion. Hence, it makes perfect sense to invite them to contribute to your ongoing story.

Lots of brands are already doing this to great effect on social media.

Folio Society

The Folio Society, a self-described publisher of “beautiful editions of the world’s greatest literature,” invites their fans and followers to post pictures of their books and tag them #foliosociety for a chance to be featured on their Instagram account.

Book-loving fans eagerly show off their Folio Society editions “in the wild.” This paints an overall picture of how the publisher’s books are collected and displayed, which adds to their brand story.

A Color Story

A Color Story is a well-loved image-editing app for tweaking and improving snaps right on your phone.

The app has made clever use of social media to highlight exactly what it can do, as well as show off how its users get creative with it.

On their Instagram account, the app developers invite their followers to tag photos they’ve edited using the app. A Color Story reposts their favorites and explains how the photo was edited and which filters were used.

Their brand story, as a result, highlights the collective experience of the people who use their app – people all over the world taking beautiful photos.

And, when you browse the main hashtag, #acolorstory, you can see how that story unfolds across continents:

Want More Traction, Sales, and Results? Tell Great Stories

Look at any successful brand and you’ll more than likely find their name synonymous with some kind of story.

It can be as loose as a theme tying all their content marketing together, or it can be an involved narrative that is continually expanding.

Whatever stories they tell, each and every one contributes to the brand’s voice and persona.

Stories add life, warmth, and personality to a company’s messages. Stories make people lean in and emotionally connect to you with their minds and hearts.

Customers who are emotionally connected to your brand are 52% more valuable than those who are just highly satisfied.

Storytelling requires going the extra mile, but your audience, followers, and customers will reward you handsomely for your trouble.

And, when you can tug on those emotional strings, you’ll find your business going places you never dreamed.

If you’re ready to tap into the power of stories, you first need some storytelling power. We have it right here with our pro content storytellers – check out what we can do and start emotionally connecting with your audience for better results.

content marketing unicorns

The Unicorn List: 14 Content Marketing Pieces That Made It to the Top in 2017

The state of successful content today is dire.

A recent study done by expert Guillaume Decugis, using his new content intelligence tool Hawkeye, reveals that 84% of all articles get LESS than 10 shares.

Only 16% of all articles published on the web get more than 10 shares.

In our industry, this gets even WORSE.

A search in Hawkeye’s Analyze section on the topic “content marketing” reveals only ONE article that’s achieved more than 20,000 shares.

hawkeye content marketing

One.

That’s pretty dire, people…

Considering that we’re talking about an industry with over 42 million results in Google for the topic.

 

content marketing in Google

Fact:

The ONLY content that earns links and shares today is standout content—content that people in that topic industry/area are attracted to.

It takes a ton of work to create that kind of content.

But with 84% of content falling flat, it is ZERO ROI to create just another “average piece” of content.

That’s why standout content is so important – and so special.

The blogs and articles that leap into that magical realm of shares and links – and, let’s be honest, rainbows – are the unicorns of the bunch.

To identify the unicorn content of 2017, I used Hawkeye myself, a new content intelligence tool from Scoop.it. I looked for some of the best, top-shared, top-performing blogs and articles for the year across various key industry sites.

From Content Marketing Institute to Copyblogger, only a few pieces made it to the very top, most-shared and most-read.

We even took a look at our own site.

This will be the LAST piece published on our blog for the year – see you in the New Year! 🎉 🎊

Drumroll, please…

Here they are: the content unicorns of 2017.

content marketing unicorn roundup

The Unicorn Content List: 14 Content Marketing Pieces in 2017 That Brought Magical Levels of Engagement

cmi_content-marketing-shares

1. Content Marketing Institute

Most-Shared: “Content Marketing Trends to Watch for 2018”

Current Share Count: 2,456

cmi most shared

CMI’s most-shared article was penned by its founder, Joe Pulizzi (of course). In it, he shares the most exciting and interesting trends he sees on tap for 2018.

A few he mentions include:

  • Original content is gaining popularity – big brands like Apple, Google, and Facebook have made moves to start producing original stuff.
  • Companies worldwide are increasing their content marketing budgets, but plenty of them are still treating it like advertising.
  • Some innovative marketing departments could eventually start creating their own revenue streams from monetizing content.

Overall, Joe says this is the most exciting time to be in marketing. His personal insights and know-how in the industry make this piece a must-read.

Second Most-Shared: “4 Content Marketing Things That Turn Off Your Audience”

Current Share Count: 2,372

This CMI piece by Neil Patel flips the coin and tells you what you may be doing to turn your audience off without knowing it.

A few of the biggest sins include focusing on you, you, you and not your audience; overdoing it with SEO (yes, it’s possible); and churning out as much content as you can, no matter the quality.

The takeaway: If you annoy, overwhelm, or discount your audience, you won’t get anywhere with content marketing.

Runner-Up: “A Content Marketing Love Letter”

This heartfelt piece, another from Joe, is one of my favorites. It truly is a love letter to the industry as he reflects on how CMI was founded and the people who helped grow it to its current standing.

Joe wrote this piece as a sort of “see you later” as he steps away from his role at CMI, but his assurance that we’ll see him at Content Marketing World 2018 feels a little bittersweet.

We’ll miss you, Joe!

2. Search Engine Journal

Interested in Hawkeye.ai for your own content intelligence research? I’ve partnered with the creator, Scoop.it’s founder Guillaume Decugis! You can get free access to it here – for a limited time. Put “Julia McCoy” in the referred by section for a quick approval on your request.

Most-Shared: “4 Important Ranking Factors, According to SEO Industry Studies”

Current Share Count: 4,352

search engine journal article

There are over 200 ranking factors Google takes into consideration when it looks at your site. This article pinpoints the top 4 you can hone in on to optimize your content. Best of all, it’s based on a bunch of data-backed studies – for now, these points are totally up to date and useful.

For the curious, the most important ranking factors are content, backlinks, mobile user-friendly design, and a smattering of technical factors like headings and encryption.

Second-Most Shared: “50 Incredible Women in Marketing to Follow”

Current Share Count: 4,048

In honor of National Women’s Day, I wrote this piece for Search Engine Journal about notable lady marketers making their mark.

Among the exhaustive list of 50 inspiring women, you’ll find social media marketers, brand managers, marketing agency founders, content directors, and leaders of all stripes in the industry. A few names include Ann Handley, Stephanie Diamond, Pam Kozelka, and Joanna Wiebe.

3. Smartblogger

Most-Shared: “How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed)”

Current Share Count: 954

smartblogger

This SmartBlogger article already knocks it out of the park with the headline. (It makes writers everywhere question themselves about a fundamental part of their jobs!)

As it turns out, the right way to write a paragraph online is totally different from writing for print media. Author Mike Blankenship artfully shows you how it’s done (hint: no walls of text!).

“How to Write Faster: 10 Crafty Ways to Hit 1,000 Words Per Hour”

Current Share Count: 589

1,000 words per hour?! Sign me up. This article divulges 10 ways to increase your writing speed without losing quality.

It also may or may not talk about using your bladder (the power of pee) to write faster (no lie: I’ve done that, and still do – and I didn’t learn it from this article), plus tons more unique tips you’ve never heard before.

4. Copyblogger

Most-Shared: “20 Types of Evergreen Content that Produce Lasting Results for Your Business”

Current Share Count: 1,125

copyblogger most shared

This post is evergreen content… about evergreen content.

It contains everything you need to know about creating timeless posts with an extra-long shelf life. Here are a few of the best evergreen post types to try that are mentioned:

  • How-to posts
  • Data and case studies
  • Lists and listicles
  • Encyclopedic content (think comprehensive histories, glossaries, and ultimate guides)

Needless to say, this post is packed with suggestions and ideas to help your next content asset go the distance.

Second-Most Shared: “Your Content Marketing Won’t Work Without This”

Current Share Count: 730

copyblogger top shared post

This headline is a burning statement that immediately makes you want to know what “this” is.

Well, it’s copy. This article explains what copy is, why you need it, where you need it, and when you need it. It’s very straightforward, but the message hits home.

5. Curata

Most-Shared: “Content Marketing Traits Crucial to Success [Infographic]”

Current Share Count: 12,015

curata most shared

This Curata infographic has the most shares out of all the blogs on this list.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s an infographic – a well-documented winner for engagement. But, it’s also creative, which helps a ton.

It shows you “the anatomy of a content marketer” and breaks down the skills you need to succeed in this industry. It’s visually fun, informative, and easy to share!

Just a few of the traits Curata says you need:

  • Wit and humor
  • Street smarts
  • Strategic and creative thinking

6. CoSchedule

Most-Shared: “How to Write Emotional Headlines That Get More Shares”

Current Share Count: 4,154

coschedule top shared

The headline is one of the most important parts of any blog post or article. The folks at CoSchedule took data from their massive headline database and analyzed what makes a headline shareable.

The answer? The more emotional value a headline has, the more it gets shared.

This piece delves deep into the whys and explains how to craft great ones for your own content, too. There’s a ton of valuable information and analysis here, so it’s no wonder this is their most-shared piece.

7. Neil Patel

Most-Shared: “4 Facebook Algorithm Hacks to Bring Your Reach Back from the Dead”

Current Share Count: 2,826

neil patel top shared

Facebook’s organic reach potential for brands and businesses has long been on the decline. It’s no longer a given that you can reach your fans and followers with your content for free.

In the face of this problem, Neil Patel offers “hacks” that can help:

  • Use preferred audience targeting
  • Post more videos
  • Only share your best content
  • Use the “Invite to Like” feature

Of course, in typical Neil Patel fashion, he shows you exactly what to do for each hack with detailed screenshots and guidance. Since this has been a huge topic of discussion for marketers, this post is incredibly valuable.

8. Express Writers

Most-Shared: “How to Not Be Repetitive & Redundant: 5 Unique Ways to Stand Out & Be a Contrarian Content Marketer”

Current Share Count: 731

express writers top shared

It’s easy to see why this was our most-shared post in 2017 on the Write Blog. In it, I take a firm stance on a problem in the industry: copycatting. In the process, the post gets super controversial.

The funny thing is, I also urge you to create and publish your own controversial content.

Along with in-depth, long-form content; building engaged communities; and a firm commitment to consistently standing out, this is how you create content and a brand presence that gets noticed in the best way.

Second-Most Shared: “A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: How We Work at Express Writers”

Current Share Count: 405

Our second-most shared article for 2017 is a big curiosity-satisfier if you’ve ever wondered how a completely remote team bands together successfully.

Along with divulging how our management team works day-to-day, I also talk a lot about the re-evaluating and restructuring I did within our ranks that contributed to better client satisfaction and a more supportive team vibe.

It’s no wonder this “inside look” was so popular with readers.

An Ending Look: What Does It Take to Create Unicorn Content?

If you want your content to be as outstanding as these unicorn content pieces, you have to put in the effort.

Standout content doesn’t just magically happen, no matter how much we wish it would.

Turns out, unicorn content is not a result of wishing.🦄

Instead, it’s the result of a potent combination of brainstorming, planning, preparation, strategy, research, time, investment, and hard work.

If we all doubled-down on our content game, standout content wouldn’t be so rare.

Take inspiration from the above blogs and strive for better.

Here’s to 2018 – let’s make it the year of the unicorn.

content marketing unicorn CTA

content marketing predictions 2018

5 Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 (The Content Marketer’s New Year Resolution List)

Content marketing is set to be bigger than ever in 2018.

In fact, by 2019, the industry is expected to grow by more than double.

Its expected worth?

$300 billion.

That’s one huge pie.

If you want a slice of it, it’s time to hop aboard the content marketing bandwagon.

The thing is, when it comes to content marketing today, you can’t just blog 2-3x and call it a day.

In 2018, marketers must be smarter and more strategic with their content strategy.

I repeat: must be more strategic.

If you want to pull ahead of the competition, you need to go the extra mile. All of the practices on my list today will help you get there.

These are golden ways to make your content marketing work better, faster, and longer.

Add these to your 2018 content marketing resolutions and prepare for a powerful, high-performing year.

Ready?

content marketing predictions in 2018

5 Hot Content Marketing Predictions Every Content Marketer Must Add to Their New Year’s Resolution List

1. Start (and/or Build) a Community

Prediction: Communities, and the power a community brings, will be hotter than ever in 2018.

Starting a community, or focusing on building one if you’ve started but never actually built, gives you a pool of friends and followers who will cheer on your efforts, like and engage with your content, and generally boost everything you do.

Real people, who will take action when you create and publish content just for them.

A good community is based on shared interests, goals, and comradery.

There are many ways to easily start up your own. Here are a few:

  1. Run a Twitter chat
  2. Run a Facebook group
  3. Start a podcast or weekly live show

Bonus: tie multiple communities on multiple channels to each other. I’ll show you how I do that, coming up.

When it comes to building a community, you simply need a place where you know you can commit to showing up regularly, and where people can easily continue to show up and listen to you.

Facebook is one of the best platforms for this. 2.07 billion people use Facebook — 1.15 billion are on the mobile app alone every day.

This ginormous reach ensures you get a real shot at reaching your audience.

And, a Facebook group is perfect for engagement. You can consistently engage, re-engage, and excite your audience just by showing up live in your group, giving away your tidbits of wisdom, and being you.

Real-Life Community Building Example: How I Route 3 Communities to An Active Facebook Group

For over a year now, we’ve been running a Twitter Chat, #ContentWritingChat, and a podcast, Write Podcast. I started the Twitter Chat in January 2016, and the podcast in April of 2016. I’ve ran the Write Blog since 2012.

All three communities gain a lot of activity. The Write Blog earns over 1,000 views/day, and the chat has over 200 people joining us during the live hour. To date, I have over 6,000 downloads on the Write Podcast, and the show notes on our site generate a lot of inbound traffic.

In September, 2017, I decided to start a Facebook group and start tying CTAs (call-to-actions) to the group from each of my communities. I’d already started a private Facebook group for my course students, but I thought about a general group that I could easily recommend to all of my communities to boost more followup engagement. It would be a great way I could “funnel” all my traffic into a real-time channel where I could keep chatting with them, even after the community hour or podcast episode was over.

The idea of my rough traffic funnel was something like this:

julias traffic schematic

My rough traffic schematic drawing (via Canva)

Well, the trio-community-funnel idea was a hit.

We’ve seen huge engagement in the group (Content Strategy & Marketing), and on average, during the live mentions of the group in our Twitter chat I’ll see 8 new members join. Or, two organic new members find their way in from a high-traffic blog CTA – and I did absolutely nothing but update old content, to earn that.

It’s gotten to such an activity point where I’ve seen organic members join just because they saw the group recommended to them on Facebook’s feed – their role title was “content marketer.” Again, that’s using the power of Facebook (remember: Facebook does advertising for you to boost engagement on their platform!). For Facebook group content, I focus on adding value in the posts I share in the group. I share 1-3 posts/daily (M-F). My social media manager, Rachel, posts once in the group on Mondays with a sneak peek at our Tuesday Twitter chat questions. This week, I plan to start live streaming in the group.

So, in just four months, with ZERO paid ads, we’ve grown to 389 members in the group. The real magic? Every single post we publish in the group has engagement! That’s because we’ve routed active communities, that already know, like and trust us, to the group. It’s not just a cold community building.

One of the best things about running, specifically, a Facebook group is that it puts a “name to the face” – or rather, a face to the name. I’m live, right there, in the group—solidifying that I’m a real person, besides being an author, CEO, educator, etc.

It’s low-cost and seriously low-effort to start your own group, but you do need a plan to consistently boost its growth. For starters, think of an easily recognizable name for the group that aligns with what you do, and what your audience does. For me, creating a group called Content Strategy & Marketing was a winner.

One final Facebook group pro tip:

Be sure to set up a new member questionnaire that members must submit before they can join your FB group. It’s an easy way to filter spam and ask for people to sign up to your list (win, win).

Here’s how you can get to that: go to Manage Group > Edit Group Settings, then look for “Membership Requests” where you can click “Ask Questions.”

fb group questionnaire

Here’s what my questions look like. Just two. In one, I thank them for joining my group and ask that they agree to the rules and not spam. In the other, I add an optional area where they can drop their email if they want to receive my new blogs each week.

fb group questionnaire 2

2. Live Stream

Live streaming takes the power of video and boosts it x 100.

Every time I live stream, Facebook serves my content at the top of people’s feeds and sends my followers a push notification.

That’s HUGE, you guys. That’s better than almost any kind of “free perk” you get with any other platform. A push notification?! Directly on my ideal audience member’s phones?? It feels a bit like this…

But here’s the key of livestreaming.

Plan your live streams—don’t just jump on randomly.

Why?

Secondly, I’ve seen my livestreams work far better with a bit of prior planning.

Take it from me: I “jumped on” and did a live stream without any prior planning or announcement.

Bad idea. It fell flat with only 164 views.

My next live stream was three months later, but we approached it differently. We:

  • Created a Facebook event for it
  • Told my list
  • Tied my book launch to it – made it a Facebook Live Book Launch party!
  • Invited a huge influencer as a guest, the author of my new book’s foreword, Mark Schaefer
  • Invited my communities (Twitter chat and Facebook group)

Planning made all the difference.

This event ended at 1.5k views and a ton of engagement.

Done right, live-streaming is a great way to connect with your audience.

So, why do only 10% of B2Bs actually use live-streaming?

Not many people have taken advantage of live-streaming, yet.

There is a REAL opportunity here! It would be a shame to miss a chance to stand out, don’t you think?

Live Streaming Pro Tip for Introverts that Hate Going Live 

Hate the thought of live streaming? Do it for the first time with a guest!

It’s much more fun. I am an introverted writer by nature, not an on-camera person, and it took five years of doing content marketing before I considered doing live-streaming!

But, when I finally took the jump in late 2017, it turned out to be a great move. My first “yes” to live streaming was as a guest on Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang’s show, then again on Madalyn Sklar’s #TwitterSmarter show.

On average, after I live-streamed, I saw my page increase in likes by at least 200 inside a week – every time.

Don’t be afraid to play around with live-streaming and find what works for you. The ROI is huge.

Facebook Confirms that Live Video Shows Will Be Hot!

Mari Smith recently said on Facebook and confirmed that videos that a) people search for and visit a page to find, and b) videos that people consistently return to watch from the same publisher or creator week after week, will be hotter than ever and receive quite a bit of traction.

Mari quoted Facebook’s exact statement:

“Engaging videos that not only bring people together, but drive repeat viewership and engagement, will do well in News Feed.”

This is especially referring to planned, reoccurring Facebook Live shows. So, if you’re doing a live show, keep it up! If not, it might be time to think about starting one.

3. Blog Regularly

The power of blogging cannot be underestimated. Done right, it automatically boosts your site in the SERPs, nets you more inbound leads, and even drives sales from those leads.

Plus, it is one of the best foundational content publishing formats, where you can pull from and share your best content in all your communities – and it gives you something you’re excited to email your list about, every week.

Here’s the stats on the real power of blogging:

  • Via data from 2015, companies who published 16 or more blog posts a month netted about 5x more leads than non-blogging companies.
  • Plus, 1 in 10 posts are compounding, which means that the traffic they draw over time increases because of organic search.

We certainly don’t underestimate blogging here at Express Writers – our current success is mostly due to consistent blogging with high-quality standards.

Here’s how that works:

We started blogging in September 2012 on the Write Blog. We did it (and still do it) 3/4 times per week without fail.

And, since blogging is a cumulative effort, the great blogs we’ve written that have been out there for awhile continue to build momentum.

Today, we rank organically for over 11,000 keywords on Google. Of those, over 400 are in the top 3 spots in the search results.

semrush september express writers

Needless to say, blogging regularly pays off. Add it to your resolutions and start aiming for the long-term returns.

4. Email Regularly

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content marketing.

Blogging and emailing aren’t going out of style anytime soon.

Half the world’s population still uses email.

Compare that to 25% of the world’s population who are on Facebook.

Email outdoes Facebook?! Yes. Wow.

But, you have to be REALLY careful these days when you email, because, more than ever, strong filters are set up (think Gmail’s automated Promotional label) to stuff branded emails out of sight.

One way to avoid being canned is to grow your list the right way.

This may seem simple, but… don’t automatically add everyone. Ask for signups in unique, interesting ways.

(How about an old typewriter at your place of business? …Anyone?)

Then, when you send emails, be informative. Fun. Engaging. Most importantly, segment and speak to your audience at their level. Don’t sell someone if they’re already sold (ouch)!

Segmenting + creativity is IN, and both are equally important.

Meanwhile, here are some extra tips to avoid those pesky spam filters:

  • Keep your sender name recognizable (i.e. avoid something like “[email protected]” showing up in the “from” field.
  • Choose an email service provider with a good reputation (don’t go with that cheap ESP to save a dime).
  • Get certified as a trusted sender. There are good third-party companies, like ReturnPath, who award certification after reviewing your email practices.

5. Do Online Giveaways

Another activity you need to add to your 2018 resolutions list is online giveaways.

They’re a fun and effective way to build your list. Did I mention easy and inexpensive?

I recommend Rafflecopter for this.

rafflecopter

It’s entirely free to do a basic giveaway on Rafflecopter’s free trial plan.

You’ll just need to know a few things:

  • What you’re giving away (a book, branded shirt/mug, or freebie works well)
  • How long the giveaway will run
  • What action you want people to take to enter

We built up our list by 30 new members inside 7 days just by doing a really simple giveaway run through Rafflecopter. The exported list of all entries gave us everyone’s name and email, which we were able to import to our list in ConvertKit for email campaigns.

Bam. That’s how you kill two birds with one stone.

Recap: 5 Predicted High-ROI Content Marketing Activities for 2018

1. Start (and/or Build) a Community

2. Live Stream

3. Blog Regularly

4. Email Regularly

5. Do Online Giveaways

high roi content marketing in 2018 recap

Your Focus: Community-Building Is The Pot of Gold in 2018

I think one of the most important aspects of online marketing in general for brands in 2018 will be focusing on community building.

Here’s why: Content shock is making it really hard for users to keep up with all the published content on the web.

For scope, I did a little investigating for a Scoop.It presentation I did recently. I looked at real-time stats from Worldometers and did the math:

scoopit blog count julia

Over 200,000 blogs are published every hour. No wonder people can’t keep up.

As content shock slams us with millions of pieces of content created daily, it is no longer enough to just post, create, and schedule. Marketers must show up for, and consistently engage live with, their tribe.

People are hungry for help sifting through the content noise. That can be a huge role for you in your community.

That’s how you build a strong community with members who listen to you.

Communities are powerful and worth their weight in gold for any brand. Anyone with any kind of budget can develop one, over time. No excuse is good enough to avoid building your own community in the coming year.

Take inspiration from a strong community we’ve built: #ContentWritingChat.

From lively discussions during the weekly chat, it’s grown to include a Facebook group. Most participants engage with us ALL WEEK – not just during the chat sessions.

That’s a great take-away from our experience: Get your communities to follow you to various hubs! Providing more ways to engage often snowballs, especially if you dedicate yourself to slow but steady growth in your community.

Check Off These New Year’s Resolutions and Make Your Content Fly

Yes, you should keep creating the best content you can in 2018.

Your other New Year’s Resolutions, however, should be all about helping your content reach its highest potential.

When your supporting actions serve your content, all of a sudden, you have a formula for major success.

So, jot these resolutions down and make them a priority in the new year.

2018, we’re ready for you.

content marketing in 2018 cta