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 Social@Ogilvy 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@yourwebsite.com” 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

practical content strategy & marketing

It’s Book Launch Day! Julia’s Second Book, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, is Here

My book, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, is out today!

Get it:

This 366-page paperback is my answer to a huge industry need – practical, real-life content strategy & marketing teaching! I’ve spent the last 7 months compiling it, and poured more than 500 hours into research, creation, and whittling down the essence of my last six years full-time in this industry into this book as practical, ready-to-use knowledge.

This book accompanies my new course, The Practical Content Strategy Certification Course.

I have the honor of having the foreword written by Mark Schaefer. Plus, early editorial reviews from Madalyn Sklar, Andy Crestodina, Scoop.it’s founder Guillaume Decugis, Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang Digital Consultant, Curata’s founder, and MANY other top influencers! Read all the editorial reviews in the first 5 pages of the book.

Finally: Practical Content Strategy & Marketing is a real-life, practical guidebook on content strategy and marketing.

Practical Content Strategy & Marketing is your go-to guide on a practical content strategy and marketing education, created as a written accompaniment to my new course, the Practical Content Strategy Certification Course.

If you run a business, or if you’re trying to break into a top-dollar content marketing career, you need to know the practical concepts involved in content strategy and marketing.

The “how,” the “why,” the “where” of content.

Content marketing itself involves so many platforms, formats, content types, strategies, tools—and to get the most ROI from your approach to content marketing and strategy, you have to know how to do the most important content marketing practices. Forget FOMO and trying to figure out too many things. This guide will teach you the most important foundations and skills you actually need in order to get far in our booming industry of content marketing.

For the first time in the industry, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing lays the “hows” of content marketing and strategy out, in a step-by-step approach, book form. Each section has written exercises built to solidify what you’re reading and learning—you’ll be able to fill these out with a pen. Don’t be afraid to mark this book up!

Why is this book different? You’re not going to find corporate, birds-eye, mumbo-jumbo fluff in this content marketing guide. Quite the opposite.

I won my way to the top (awarded as the top 33rd content marketer in 2016) the hard-knocks way. I dropped out of college and built a content agency, Express Writers, on nothing but $75 and the tenacity to go and follow my dream and see it through. Five years later, my business has served over 5,000 clients and employs over 40 team members, and my content consistently ranks at the top of Google and in the highest-shared on the publications I write on.

My go-to marketing strategy? A practical, hands-on content marketing approach that has ended up bringing in 99% of the clients our agency currently works with.

In this book, learn the principles and physical “how-to” behind these six key cores of effective content marketing:

  • Module 1: Core Foundations of an ROI-Based Content Strategy
  • Module 2: Audience Persona Discovery, Sales Funnel Content Mapping, & Style Guidelines
  • Module 3: Understanding Keywords, SEO Opportunities, & Creating Keyword Reports
  • Module 4: How to Build Content Cores (Your Content House) for an Authority Presence Online
  • Module 5: Practical Content Creation (Your Site & Guest Blogging)
  • Module 6: Content Promotion, Setting a Budget, Preparing Your Editorial Calendar, & Maintenance

Along the way, you’ll actually get to build a content strategy from the ground up, using the Brand Strategy Exercises in each module. Have your pen and thinking cap ready—and a brand you want to build an entire working strategy for!

Practical Content Strategy & Marketing is a field guide for the smartest content marketers who know that strategy is the key to thriving in our world of new marketing through content.

Leading business marketing expert Mark Schaefer joins me to write the foreword, and guests Sujan Patel, Michele Linn, Steve Rayson and more appear in guest lessons throughout the book.

Launch Day Bonus: The Online Course Accountability Journal

course journal

Before the book came out, I brainstormed, sat down and thought out the bonus I wanted to give away. I also ran a few polls in my community. I came up with a course journal planner.

Turns out…a course accountability system is what a LOT of course students want!

So, I created one, mapping it out all day on my floor.

IT’S AVAILABLE NOW.

And if you get a copy of Practical Content Strategy & Marketing today…

You can get a FREE PDF of the journal, when you buy Practical Content Strategy & Marketing! Just go here and let us know.

The journal is also on Amazon as print.

Last thing….

DON’T FORGET to join us for the launch party tonight!! Get a reminder here 👉🏻https://www.facebook.com/JuliaEMcCoy/videos/1484842658277832/

book cta

law blog writers

Law Blog Writers: 6 Key Steps to Stop Writing Boring, Blah Posts

Blogging. Everybody’s doing it.

It’s not a coincidence. Content marketing and blogging are successful, proven ways to earn leads, conversions, and increase sales and revenue.

More and more marketers are focusing on blogging in particular as the keystone of their efforts.

According to stats Impact shared, marketers consider blogs “critical” to success.

It’s all because one of blogging’s main goals (and successes) is building the consumer’s trust. Once you build that trust, it’s much easier to get them on your side and turn them into customers.

Take a look at these numbers from the same study:

These are great stats in favor of content. People generally feel more comfortable learning about companies through informative articles. After they consume a brand’s content, they feel better about the brand.

The problem?

You can only enjoy the benefits of content marketing and blogging if the stuff you create is good.

Unfortunately, for people in specialized industries who want to take advantage, that’s not exactly simple to do.

If you’re a lawyer or law blog writer who creates content for a legal blog, it may be even harder.

legal blog writers

Why Is It So Hard to Write an Interesting Law Blog?

Niche, high-level topics are not easy to write about for the everyman (or everywoman). Often, with the wrong approach, your content can be just as dry and boring as the contracts you draft or the briefs you compose.

Look at this example of a contract between a company and an independent contractor:

Nobody will touch writing like this with a 10-foot pole unless they have to. Unless the law requires it, it’s not happening.

Quite frankly, writing like this looks scary and daunting to read. It may even fill your audience with anxiety.

If you’re tapped into writing like this 24/7, we have a problem.

The thing is, you already know law blogs are inherently boring, but you may not know how to write any other way. Years of law school probably drilled most of those down-to-earth writing skills right out of you.

It’s time to re-learn some writing techniques to make your law blog intriguing and readable. It’s time to pick up some tips so you can craft a great, informative, personable blog alongside all that legal writing you do.

Law blog writers, here are the keys to banishing boring, blah posts from your content roster forevermore.

How to Be an Interesting Law Blog Writer

Law is a notoriously hard topic to write about in a way that’s engaging for the average internet surfer. If you want to make non-law experts and potential clients interested in your blog, give these tips a whirl.

1. Research Post Topics That Fill a Knowledge Gap or Have Built-In Interest

If you’re currently flooding the internet with posts that delve into nitty-gritty aspects of your law specialty, let me ask you one question:

Why?

If you’re trying to attract business with your blog, your audience isn’t law students. It’s not lower-level members of your team or fellow law professionals, either.

Your audience is your clients and potential clients.

These people don’t care about deep-dives into new legislation. They don’t understand legal jargon.

However, to connect with them, you can’t write another post that other law blogs have already discussed hundreds of times.

Instead:

  • Look at your law specialty. Look at the services you offer. Simplify these topics and do basic searches to discover what’s already out there on the web about them, as well as what people want to know.
  • Use keyword research tools like BuzzSumo or Google Keyword Planner to find out what interests people right now and what opportunities you might have to fill in knowledge gaps.

For instance, a common legal topic the average Joe searches for online is “DUI law.” Plugging “DUI laws in California” into BuzzSumo shows what people are sharing. It also shows how some law blog writers are addressing narrower topics, like “Green DUI” and how to contest a DUI in court.

Doing research like this shows you where the interest is hovering and empty spaces that you could fill with good content.

Never neglect research when coming up with legal blog post topics. Neil Patel calls keyword research “the most important part of digital marketing” for a reason. It shows you how to reach the right people online with your content – the people who need it, and the people you have a better chance of turning into clients.

2. Cut Your Sentences in Half

Wordy sentences have their place. You’ll find them in legal documents, in some forms of pretentious fiction, and in technical manuals.

Where do they have no business showing up? In your blogs.

Online writing is different from any other type because of how people read it. Think about it: They’re staring at screens of all sizes, scrolling, clicking, and browsing.

It’s not like settling down with a book and giving it your full attention. It’s like sitting in a darkened room while hundreds of pieces of content fly past your face. Ads, blog posts, articles, images, social media posts, links, videos, and more.

Which ones make you want to pause?

According to Buffer, the internet is doused in trillions of ads per year and hundreds of billions of tweets a day. That’s not to mention the extra few billion Facebook posts created daily.

Via Marketoonist

The result is that most people get pretty schizophrenic when they’re online. They skip from content piece to content piece and post to post without drawing breath. They scroll through their feeds like speed demons.

Hence: Online writing must cater to short attention spans. If your sentences mirror the ones in that contract you just drew up, stop. Think again.

It’s time to ruthlessly edit yourself. Cut your sentences in half. Insert periods instead of commas. Trim out useless adjectives.

Here’s a great example:

Both of these sentences say the same thing. Sentence #1 is 16 words long. Sentence #2 is 8 words long. In half the time, you can say the exact same thing.

Guess what. The American Press Institute even did a study on sentence length and comprehension. Now, guess how long a sentence had to be for readers to 100% understand it?

That’s right: 8 words long.

And, it turns out the longer the sentence got, the harder it was to understand.

Bottom line: For better blogs, trim the fat from your online writing. Snag attention, don’t divert it. Keep your readers on the same page: yours.

3. Talk TO Your Reader, Not at Them

Writing and talking TO someone looks a whole lot different from talking AT them. Observe:

One sounds formal and stuffy, like you’re reading a textbook. The other sounds conversational, like friendly advice.

The first example, #1, is written in the third person. This type of writing sounds formal because it is – it’s reserved for academia, professional papers, and other formal settings. Legal writing is also always in the third person, but you knew that.

The second example, #2, is written in the second person. It directly addresses the reader as “you.” The writer is talking to you on a one-to-one level.

That approach is huge for readable, interesting content. After all, who wants to feel like they’re reading a textbook? That’s no fun.

Meanwhile, having an informative yet friendly conversation with an expert, on a topic you care about, IS fun. You get the picture.

4. Write in Plain English

According to research, to write an interesting, readable blog post, you always need to use plain English. This means using language that anyone can understand, and by extension, enjoy.

For ultimate reader comprehension, avoid using legal terms and jargon. You should also use fewer complicated or rare words in general.

Forget sounding smart. Sound understandable.

Writing tools like the Hemingway Editor will find the complex words lurking in your writing and suggest simpler alternatives automatically. You can also root them out yourself and avoid using them in your future blogs.

For instance, instead of “utilize,” say “use.” Instead of “comprehending,” say “knowing.” Rather than say “mitigate,” say “lessen” instead.

Don’t think of this as dumbing yourself down. Think of it as getting on the same level as your readers so you can effectively teach them, help them, and add value to their lives. What could be worthier than that?

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Empty Space

When you’re writing about potentially complicated or complex topics for the common person, don’t forget to embrace the empty space on the page.

This means a few things:

  • Shorter paragraphs, and more of them
  • More headers breaking up the page and organizing ideas
  • Long lists with commas converted to numbered or bulleted lists

When you embrace the white space, you give your readers’ eyes a rest. They can easily scan the page. As such, readability and comprehension will improve, especially for topics that need a lot of explaining.

On the other hand, if you fill your page with walls of text, this is HubSpot’s top reason why your blog might be hard to read.

Their blog on this very subject has great white space, naturally:

Look at all that room around the content! That’s ideal.

You should follow suit. Break up your ideas visually as well as contextually. They’ll be easier to understand and more interesting by extension.

6. Get Excited

If you’re not excited about your blog topic, how will your readers get excited?

If you want people to be interested in what you’re writing, you must first feel that interest.

There’s a huge difference between a writer approaching a topic with excitement, and a writer approaching a topic between bouts of falling asleep at the keyboard. One of them will naturally infuse their post with their enthusiasm. Their readers will glom onto that tone, pulling them into the post.

The other writer? Well… Their results won’t be pretty. They’ll be lucky if they get a handful of reads. Mostly, it will be crickets.

Of course, the right direction to go is the one with excitement. When researching post topics and keywords, follow the ones that make you excited to get researching and writing.

Yes, abide by the cliché and “follow your passions.” It will make your readers want to follow along with you.

Law Blog Writers, You CAN Write Epically Interesting Blogs

Any topic can be interesting with the right approach.

Research law topics people are looking for and knowledge gaps you can fill. Keep your sentences on the short side and your language plain and simple. Talk to your audience on their level, like a friendly chat, and get excited about your topic.

There aren’t really any super-star law blog writers out there, yet, writing for everyday people. There’s an even bigger lack of quality posts with good information that are also interesting.

Are you ready to fill the gap?

Writing an authoritative yet engaging legal blog for average readers is hard. If you need a little help, check out our legal writing services and expert blogs.

 

promote my blog

How Do I Promote My Blog? The Essential Guide to Content Promotion

Recently, I shared one of my latest blog posts on LinkedIn and received this comment:

“Love this article and longer, high quality content is definitely the way to go. I’d love to see a side bar or other complementary content about the best strategies for promoting content once it’s written.”

This is a great topic suggestion — and one I definitely need to address.

Why?

Because the reality is writing great content alone won’t get you far.

Composing a high-quality piece and hitting “publish” just isn’t enough.

You have to help it along on its internet journey.

Hold its hand for a little bit. You have to guide it into the limelight, or, in some cases, shove it out there.

It’s the only way to ensure success – as opposed to publishing it on your site, crossing your fingers, and hoping against hope somebody will stumble across it and read it.

With solid promotion, you can help your blog reach great heights.

The only question left, of course, is this: “How do I promote my blog?”

Well, friends, I’m here with tons of actionable tips to help you do just that.

Settle in with your cozy beverage of choice.

Ready? Let’s get knee-deep in great content promotion tactics.

promote my blog strategies

“How Do I Promote My Blog the Smart Way?” 15 Tactics, Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Try

There are tons of ways to promote your content.

Not kidding. Tons.

Because the amount of information is so broad, we’re going to break this down further into categories.

Based on your resources, choose your weapon(s) wisely.

The Lowdown: How to Create Great Email Marketing for Better Content Promotion

You know the power of email marketing — or you should.

It has a mind-exploding ROI of $44 for every $1 spent.

Naturally, it can also do great things for promoting your content. Here are top tactics to try.

Need some ideas for promoting your next blog post? @ExpWriters has some great tactics to try!Click To Tweet

1. Build Up Your Email List

The number one thing you can do for content promotion is build up your email list. Once you have a direct line to a loyal, built-in audience, it becomes a platform for anything you publish.

Your email list will not only click-through to read your blogs. They’ll also share them with their social networks, which dramatically increases your exposure. In fact, your list is 3.9x more likely to share your content than people who visit from other places (like search results).

Email is widely used across demographics. According to Pew Research, 92% of adults online use it, and an average of at least 61% use it daily.

The reach potential of email is really, really big. So, how do you grow your list so you can tap into that?

We address this topic thoroughly in a previous post – it’s definitely recommended reading. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Use compelling CTAs in your content that urge readers to subscribe.
  • Create and offer free lead magnets (original guides, how-tos, videos, white papers, case studies, etc.). Collect visitor emails in exchange for your freebies.
  • Create evergreen content that continues to provide useful information long past its publication date. Include powerful CTAs in each one that ask for subscriptions, or point visitors to your email-gathering lead magnet.

There are also plenty of tools out there that can help you grow your list. Jeff Bullas and Kissmetrics offer great suggestions for tools to use, including both free and paid options.

2. Send Content to Your Email List at the Right Time

After you’ve built an email list, you can send them an update about when you publish a new blog post.

Jon Morrow of Smartblogger calls this combination of blogging + email “the ultimate publishing platform.” He also uses some other choice words:

He’s totally right, of course.

Here’s an example of an email I sent out to my list notifying them about a fresh blog:

However, this strategy gets better if you send the email at the right time.

There has been a standard stat floating around for a while about optimal send times – send in the morning, and send on Tuesday or Thursday.

Those times were the right times up until recently. Now, the advent of mobile is shaking things up. More and more people are checking their phones for email versus sitting down at their computers.

Vertical Response analyzed recent data and found that the ability to check email anytime, anywhere, has changed what your optimal email send time should be. Now, the ideal sweet spot is either morning or late evening on a weekday.

Here’s an infographic that shows the send-time as compared to the transaction rate (email opens and clicks). In particular, late-night email readers show a lot of potential for engagement.

Sending a short, sweet email to your list when you publish an awesome new blog = key. That goes double for sending that email at the right time.

For you, that ideal time might look a little different from the average. Play around with when you send your blog update emails, and track what works. These two powerhouses combined could make all the difference.

3. Segment Your Email List

There’s another way to truly super-power your content promotion with email: Send out blog updates to the exact people who’ll love reading about whatever topic you’ve covered.

This means you need to segment your email list, according to a HubSpot infographic. Divide it up into categories based on information like your audience’s interests, where they opted-in for email in the first place, their purchase record, and more.

These people may show more enthusiasm for certain posts than other list subscribers. Send targeted post updates and you’ll start encouraging loyal followers who are more likely to share your content.

4. Promote Your Blog in Your Email Newsletter

CoSchedule has a great tip to boost your blog visibility via email. Use your email newsletter to highlight your weekly posts along with curated, relevant content from around the web.

For instance, at the end of the week, round up all your blog posts from the past seven days into your email newsletter. Include other great content that got published the same week. This provides high value to your readers, and it reminds them to check out what you’ve published recently. Win-win.

The Lowdown for On-Page Blog Promotion and Content Strategies

This next tip is pretty simple: Use your blog to promote your blog.

It sounds strange, but it works. Here’s how:

5. Invest in High-Quality Content (Content That Promotes Itself!)

After email promotion, the next best way to promote your content is to let it promote itself.

That means keep it high-quality all day, every day.

Here at Express Writers, just by increasing our content quality (more time spent on research and creation) we have significantly boosted shares, traffic, and comments.

Why is this so?

Because quality content can speak for itself. Here are some other reasons why it’s a self-promoter, via an infographic we did:

Mediocre content will need much more promotion to get people interested. Quality content, meanwhile, is inherently interesting. It stands on its own two feet, which means promotion is WAY easier.

Be the best answer to the question your user is searching for, and flesh it out with good writing, research, and attention to detail. Your efforts to get it noticed will take half the work.

6. Link to Internal Content

If you can keep your visitor on your site longer, you have a better chance of shepherding them into the fold. Loyal followers, in turn, are more likely to share your content than non-followers.

The result is a cycle of engagement, conversion, content sharing, and boosted visibility.

How should you link to your own content on your blog?

  • First, always do it in a useful way. Only link to your other content when it’s relevant to the piece you’re writing.
  • Next, avoid spammy links. Don’t link to the same article three times in one sentence. Don’t pepper every other word in a paragraph with internal links that aren’t relevant to your topic.

For a great example of internal linking done right, look to Content Marketing Institute. In this article by Joe Pulizzi exploring 2018 content marketing trends, related links are included in context with terms that help demonstrate that they’re not random picks:

These links are “handpicked.” That tells you they have been personally selected to go with the article you’re reading. It’s helpful and valuable for information gathering, but it also keeps you on their site longer. That’s just smart.

7. Use Creative CTAs

Using creative calls-to-action at the end of each blog you publish can help promote your brand and your other content. Really good CTAs drive traffic to areas you pinpoint, which can lead to higher visibility and conversions.

At Express Writers, we use creative CTAs that promote our course (education) and our services (done-for-you). For example, the end of this post encourages readers to check out other content pages on our site that explain our services:

CTAs are well-known conversion and click-through-rate (CTR) boosters. Don’t neglect them when it’s time to promote your blog content throughout your site.

8. Update Consistently, and Optimize Your Blog for Search

Don’t forget to optimize your blog for search engines! The organic traffic you can get from Google is invaluable.

Here at EW, this has been HUGE for us. We currently have over 4,000 keyword rankings in Google because we’ve optimized our blogs (over 700 of them) and zeroed-in on keyword opportunities.

The more you blog, the more pages you have on your site for Google to index. The more content you have that’s Google-indexed, the more your chances improve for higher traffic and leads. Just look at this HubSpot graph from a study that shows the correlation:

That’s the one-two punch you need: a consistent publication schedule with only high-quality content, and posts that target search with great keywords.

To hone in on the keywords to focus on in your blogs, you need to do keyword research. This is a big topic in and of itself, but there are lots of guides out there to help you.

If you’re a beginner, this HubSpot blog is a good starting point. Don’t forget to check out our own deep dives into this topic here at EW. Check out our articles and videos on how to handle closely related keyword terms, why keyword search volume doesn’t matter, and how to use long tail keywords naturally in your content.

The Lowdown on Social Media & More (Promote Your Blog Off-Site)

Use the resources at your disposal across the world wide web to give your blog the extra traction it needs. Social media is a no-brainer, but there are a few other tricks to flesh out your power to reach more people.

First, let’s start with the obvious:

9. Share on Social Media

The most basic way to promote your posts on social media is to share them. Whenever you publish a new post, share it on all your accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. You’ll get hundreds, or even thousands, of extra eyes on it (depending on who follows you and who shares the post).

10. Widen Your Social Following

If your follower count is a bit low at the moment, increase your commitment to engage with people on a human level. Your goal isn’t to rake in followers, but to make genuine connections with other people that are mutually beneficial.

How to do it?

Reach out. Visit somebody’s profile in your “friend-of-a-friend” network and like some of their posts or leave a genuine comment. Participate in Facebook group discussions and Twitter chats.

Put yourself out there and mean it. The rewards will be ten-fold.

11. Create Unique Social Posts for Each Platform

When you’re sharing your blog posts on social media, don’t forget to compose unique posts for each platform.

That means you should write different posts for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. All of them will share the same link to your fresh blog, but they’ll be targeted for each unique audience.

To write the best posts possible, ones that will get noticed, compose each according to best practices. Don’t forget to post at optimal times for the best engagement.

For instance, for Facebook, posting the link to your new blog at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m. gives it a better chance for engagement. This is according to CoSchedule’s analysis of 20 different studies.

For more on posting best-practices for each social network, our Handy Dandy Guide on How to Write Social Media Posts provides guidance, if you need it. (Plus, there’s a cheat sheet you can grab that makes it even easier!)

12. Use Hashtags to Reach Non-Followers

This tip is simple. According to best practices for posting to each network, include popular industry hashtags with your blog link to help a wider audience discover your post.

13. Repost Your Post!

Don’t just share your new blog posts on social media networks once. Set up a posting schedule where you share out your link multiple times during the day right after it goes live. Then, for the following week, share the link once a day.

This is a tip Neil Patel recommends:

14. Engage in Guest Blogging

Guest blogging can be a great way to promote your own blog. If you do it right, you’ll be publishing on a popular platform and getting your content in front of a wider audience.

However, there are a few keys to guest blogging strategically:

  • Choose blogs that topically make sense for your guest posting opportunities. The audience of that blog should be in line with your own target audience. It should speak to the same interests and pain points.
  • Choose top blogs with authority. These blogs will get lots of engagement, so you can benefit by association.
  • Make sure you’re allowed to reference your own content wherever you guest blog. Linking to your own content naturally and in a way that adds value for the reader is a great way to get clicks and grow your own audience.

For a great example of the power of guest blogging, look at these statistics from Bamidele Onibalusi. After guest blogging on JeffBullas.com, he netted almost 800 visitors and 300 new email subscribers in two weeks:

15. Try Cost-Effective Ad Promotion

Of course, we have to mention ads once in this guide. You won’t be shelling out thousands of dollars, though. Instead, all you need is some pocket change.

An easy way to promote your blog on Facebook for very little money is through their ad tool. Just head to the Ads Manager to get started creating a campaign.

In particular, to promote your blog, your best move is to retarget your existing traffic. These people are already fans/followers, but they may have missed your post due to the quick-moving flow of their feeds.

Making sure these people see that you’ve got another great post ready is a simple way to boost traffic and engagement.

The best part? You could spend as little as $25 to get it done. Here’s how:

1. Choose a great, recent post that could use a boost. It needs to be REALLY good (but you’re already on top of those quality standards, right? Right).

2. Choose your ad objective. For this scenario, you’ll probably want to choose the “Traffic” option for your ad objective. Facebook says this will “send more people to a destination on or off Facebook, such as a website, app or Messenger conversation.”

3. Create a custom audience to target. Buffer has a thorough guide to creating ads and getting it done. Here’s a screenshot that shows you all the essential pieces of audience targeting:

After you narrow down your target audience, you get to choose your ad placement, budget, and schedule.

Then you’ll choose your ad format (single image works well, here), enter the link to the blog you want to promote, and create your ad text.

You may think you’re ready to confirm your ad at this point, but hold on a second. There’s one more step…

Set Up a Facebook Pixel to Track Ad Performance

Facebook Pixel is a little tool you can install on your website to help you track ad performance. If you don’t yet have it set up, you can find it under “Advanced Options” on the final ad creation page:

All it requires is adding a snippet of code to your site’s header.

Don’t know how to do that? The help guide shows you your options based on how you manage your website:

Once Pixel is set up for your site, you’ll need to create an event that tracks when people click your ad on Facebook. You’ll get an additional snippet of code to add to the existing Pixel code:

This is a low-cost way to quickly promote your blog and get noticed. By retargeting your existing audience, you’re grabbing that low-hanging fruit off the tree instead of leaving it to wither.

Go the Extra Mile: Promote Your Blog to Promote Your Reach

The high-quality content you’re putting out now should perform ludicrously better than your old, cheap efforts. (If you haven’t invested in quality yet, stop. Go back. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $200.)

But… (And this is a big “but”)…

…If you want to give your high-quality stuff that little extra push it needs, you need to promote your blog.

After all, you can’t reach super-star status without some good ol’ P.R.

In fact, think of yourself as your blog’s public relations manager. You want it to get noticed in all the right ways so people start associating your name/business with authority, value, and expertise.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they did get it done. Your efforts should be no different.

So, the only thing left to do is get out there and give your content every last opportunity to shine.

You can do this.

If you’re still struggling with the “content” part of that equation, there’s an easier way. Let us help. Book a call with one of our specialists today.

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how to write to be read

How to Write to Be Read in Your Content Marketing Efforts

Writing isn’t easy.

What’s harder?

Writing content that gets read.

Even if you produce a stellar piece of content in terms of quality, length, and depth, it will not get read if it’s not a good read.

The most viral, shared, and successful content is addictively readable. It’s the type where you read half the piece without realizing it. It sucks you into its universe. It takes you somewhere.

It sounds like this type of content is sprinkled with fairy dust or touched by a unicorn.

It’s not.

At its core, it’s just readable.

There are other factors at play, but the foundation of the content rests on that one little thing.

So, how do you make your content more readable?

There are a few tricks you can use to infinitely improve your chances of getting read.

First, you have to understand what we mean by “readable.”

readable content

What Readable Content Looks Like

Readable content is not just well-written and error-free. It has some other attributes baked right in, ones that help push the reader from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph.

1. It’s Well-Researched

Readable content leaves the reader with zero doubts or questions. It answers all of them, and it provides the sources to back it all up. This content is readable precisely because you trust the writer leading you through it.

All the way through the article, blog post, or what-have-you, that writer consistently reestablishes that trust with evidence of good research.

Content that isn’t readable makes claims but doesn’t provide evidence. It doesn’t cite sources. It’s a mish-mash of hasty assumptions, stolen ideas, and personal opinions that teach absolutely no one anything.

Which would you rather read?

2. It’s Not Stuffy

Readable content is also written in plain language. Anybody can read it, learn from it, and enjoy it.

That’s key – a big component that helps lots of content go viral.

Stuffy content, meanwhile, reads like a college textbook. It’s dry and boring. There’s no life or personality behind the words. They convey meaning, but there’s nothing there to keep pulling you in.

If you sound snobby, or like you’re trying to show off your extensive vocabulary, nobody will want to read your content. If you write like a robot, nobody will want to read your content.

For these reasons, Convince and Convert recommends keeping your content empathetic. Empathize with your readers, get on their level, and relate to them. It’s only when you place yourself above them that the stuffiness creeps in.

3. It Has a Unique Angle

The content flood is real. The internet is literally deluged with it – the good, the bad, and the laughable. It’s no wonder information fatigue is an actual condition people deal with.

information-fatigue

As such, readable content is content that stands out from the masses of crap out there. That’s because it takes a unique, interesting angle on a topic that’s sunburned from seeing so much daylight.

Even if you’ve already read 50 articles about a topic, you’ll still want to take in a readable piece that explores it. Why? Because the angle is so interesting or novel. That’s the power of readability.

4. People Care About the Topic

The most likely reason a certain topic has received attention from hundreds of other bloggers and writers? Because people care about it.

After all, you can’t expect them to have any interest in a topic that doesn’t concern them. They won’t even be looking for it online.

That’s another key to readable content – you have to write about what people are searching for. You have to write stuff that speaks to what’s on their minds: their problems, concerns, worries, and interests. Keyword research can help you discover topics like these, but remember: You still need to approach it from that interesting or unique angle to stand out.

5. Readable Content Has the Right Tone

Content is readable when it hits a sweet spot regarding tone.

Tone is your style of speech. For example, you might speak one way to your three-year-old niece, and another way to your boss. You employ different tones to customize your speech for your audience.

In the same way, you need to hit the right tone for the audience you’re writing for.

When you get it just right – when you’re addressing the vast majority of your readers – that content hits home. It’s not just readable; it’s compulsively readable.

MailChimp has a great definition of their brand’s specific voice and tone in their Content Style Guide. It tells writers exactly how to address the brand’s main audience in their content:

mailchimp_tone of voice

What’s notable here is that MailChimp tells their writers to consider the reader’s emotional state and adjust their tone to fit. Writing for a reader experiencing a certain emotion is a great way to make content readable.

How to Make Your Content Addictively Readable

Now that you know what readable content looks like, you can craft your own content in the same vein.

If you want to make your content addictively readable, there are some extra tips that will help.

1. Don’t Use Passive Voice (Most of the Time)

Passive voice can be a death knell for any writer who overuses it. Write your entire article this way, and it will sound dull and strange. Take this great example from Paper Rater for how passive voice can convolute a perfectly fine idea:

There are, however, times when passive voice is perfectly warranted. For instance, you might want the focus of the sentence to be on the person or thing who received the action:

I was hurt.” – It doesn’t matter who hurt me; instead, I want to emphasize my pain.

The money was stolen.” – The money was important, not who stole it.

George was saved by a paramedic.” – We want to know if George is okay, so we put him first.

The key is knowing when passive voice is okay and when it isn’t. To stay on the safe side, avoid it as often as you can, and check your writing for passive voice using tools like the Hemingway Editor.

2. Be Less Selfish

A great point from CoSchedule involves selfish writing: Using “I” more than “you.” If you’re guilty of this, you’re making your content far less interesting for the reader. The focus should be on them!

Via CoSchedule

3. Read It Out Loud

A great way to discover if your content is readable is to… well… read it.

Don’t just skim it for misspellings and incorrect grammar, though. Read it out loud and pay attention to how it flows.

If it reads well out loud, you’re on the right track. Don’t forget to get at least one other person to read it in case you’re biased. That can mean overconfidence as well as crippling self-doubt. (Hey, I don’t judge.)

Ask them to read it out loud, too. They could even read it to you, which will help you understand how another reader approaches it.

This is the perfect way to nail a readable flow and keep your audience engaged.

4. This Sounds Weird But… Write One-Liner Paragraphs

Did you notice a pattern in this blog by now?

Good lookin’ out.

Yes, there is quite a majority of one-sentence paragraphs.

That’s not exactly AP English, is it?

But did you notice something?

It reads well.

It flows well.

Your eyes follow the one-liners.

Why does this work—and does it work?

SmartBlogger broke it down in their blog, How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed):

smartblogger quote

Basically, the paragraph has evolved because of the way we read media. There is so much media—content—on the web, that we must evolve into content formats that are extremely easy to read, thus getting our reader to stay on our pages the longest.

Copyblogger and SmartBlogger are led by some of the top thought leaders in the content marketing industry. Check out how the majority of paragraphs are one-liners:

Readable Content Will Help You Get Noticed

That sums up readable content in a nutshell – it keeps the audience riveted. Each sentence pulls them along to the next, and the next, and the next.

When you take the time to produce quality content (and you should), you want it to get read. Make it readable, and the ROI can follow.

If you need some help with the readability factor, Express Writers has got it pegged. Check out our blogs and blogging packages to see what we can do.

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