express writers at digital summit

Our Editor Went to the Digital Summit Detroit 2019 Conference: Top 3 Insights

This is a guest blog from our staff editor, Jillian.

Ah, marketing conferences! If you’re anything like me—you cherish these days away from the office to soak up as much knowledge as possible (while also frantically writing notes and wishing the speaker stayed on the slide for one second longer). It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.

Why are marketing conferences so great? It’s the one time where hundreds of professionals line up to collaborate, share insights, and seek advice from each other to help grow and push the limits of what more can be done to improve digital strategy.

The Digital Summit in Detroit, MI was a fantastic event that hosted marketers across Michigan and surrounding states. It offered a conglomeration of thought-leadership and application-based seminars on various topics like content marketing, UX + design, social media, mobile strategy, and more.

Alongside working as a part-time staff editor at Express Writers, my day job is in the B2B finance industry, so I loved the fact that I could choose bits and pieces of different marketing strategy sessions to take back with me as I returned to work. With Digital Summit conferences launching across the country, here’s a breakdown of my favorite insights and moments from the week to help breakdown what I learned.

marketing event digital summit

Rand Fishkin, Seth Godin, and Dennis Rodman: Main Takeaways I Couldn’t Escape

Our staff editor, Jillian, went to Digital Summit in Detroit this year. Learn her top three insights while at the event 💭Plus, catch highlights from speakers like @randfish, @ThisIsSethsBlog, @dennisrodman and more! Click To Tweet

The summit had an eclectic mix of digital marketers known throughout the industry and local Michigan-based pioneers. I enjoyed this combination because not only do I want to learn from top trailblazers that have a larger scope on where trends are moving, but I also want to hear from those who are invested in my city.

The keynote speakers, Rand Fishkin and Seth Godin, were exceptional and delivered insights that were both action-packed and focused on the future. Seth Godin called his keynote a ‘multi-part rant’ and it was refreshing.

Dennis Rodman… was Dennis Rodman. However, I thought his perspective of building your personal brand to be your most authentic self was on-theme with the rest of the conference. His advice to the crowd: “I don’t need to like you to win. Hate me or love me as long as I’m doing my job that’s the most important thing.”

Dennis Rodman, Keynote Speaker

Unquestionably, my favorite speaker was Rand Fishkin. His seminar and keynote ‘The Four Horsemen of the Web Marketing Apocalypse’ was incredibly forward-thinking by looking at how social media and search engines are interfering with web traffic and what marketers can do to combat it.

Every speaker’s session seemed to be speaking towards the same common theme to create an experience that I could piece together and build a strategy on. A few top trends include:

  • Working with digital platforms that kill organic reach
  • Creating empathy and authenticity in a digital landscape
  • Developing employees who are brand advocates

Brian Fanzo, Fyre Festival: 10 Marketing Lessons Your Business Can Leverage

Let’s dive into these top themes a little more.

Our editor, Jillian, went to Digital Summit Detroit 2019 and watched the top keynote speakers in the industry from @randfish, @ThisIsSethsBlog, to... @dennisrodman?! 😱 Know the three best insights from the conference. ✨ Click To Tweet

Top 3 Memorable Insights from Digital Summit Detroit 2019

1. Working with Digital Platforms That Kill Organic Reach

Have you noticed your recent social posts are underperforming? What about overall less organic traffic to your website? According to speakers, this is an epidemic many marketers are now facing.

On social media powerhouses Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, they want users to stay on the platform and strongly frown upon outlinking. For example, the only location users can even add an URL on Instagram is in the bio.

Social platforms reward profiles who have high engagement streaks. Consider using a formula to earn brand exposure and new followers:

  1. Engaging non-promotional post
  2. Engaging non-promotional post
  3. Promotion post with a link
  4. Engaging non-promotional post and so on

In terms of pesky organic website traffic, we have Google to blame for that. Google provides a searcher quick snippets of information so a website is no longer needed (think Google Maps, Google My Business profile, etc.) In fact, 48.96% of all searches on Google never result in a click.


To get ahead of Google and rank, the speakers suggested going after long-tail keywords and focusing on click volume rather than search volume. Let competitors pay the high ad price without benefiting from any ROI.

2. Creating Empathy and Authenticity in a Digital Landscape

Things move fast in the digital landscape and we have about 8 seconds to capture our consumer’s attention before we get scrolled or swiped on. The presenters were focused on helping attendees not only create content that’s authentic but also build a credible brand DNA that consumers remember.

Carlos Gil, What Marketers Can Learn About Social Media From DJ Khaled and Drake

Here are a few memorable points:

  • The conversation is more important than the like. Build relationships and create a community that is relatable because earning fans is far more important than customers.
  • Invest in brand awareness at the top of the funnel and focus on organic traffic before paid advertising. It’s important to be liked and trusted first.
  • Double down on a video and audio marketing strategy. Consider different formats like live videos, voice search, and podcasts.

3. Developing Employees Who Are Brand Advocates

I thought this topic was interesting and paralleled with the ‘influencers who don’t influence’ phrase that I repeatedly heard throughout the conference. While I don’t think influencer marketing is going away anytime soon (it’s predicted to become a $6.5 billion industry), the average consumer is smart and tired of seeing ‘celebrities’ rep products to fake accounts.

Kellee Montgomery, The Power of Employees: Your Secret Weapon to Amplify Brand Messaging

What’s the solution?

Turn to employees to advocate for our brands. In fact, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends or family compared to a celebrity influencer. Employees are also trustworthy and credible sources to sing praise about products, culture, and more. To put this into action, consider the following:

  • Create a company social policy to keep employees informed
  • Encourage leadership to get involved
  • Give employees post copy, branded hashtag, or sharing CTA
  • Inspire engagement
Best insights from Digital Summit Detroit 2019 include 🗝 working with social media platforms -- and even Google! -- that kill organic reach, 💞 creating empathy and authenticity, and 🧲 developing employees who advocate your brand. Click To Tweet

Where to Next?

Overall, the Digital Summit was a great experience. I sat in on some great presentations with powerful thought-leadership that will transcend into my own marketing strategy. For a marketing conference to be successful, I think you have to walk about with one actionable item and do it—put it on paper, propose it to the team, and implement it.

After these few days, I plan on doing just that. Until next time!

Have you attended a Digital Summit in your local area? What were your favorite moments and insights?

CTA jillian express writers

content marketing world 2019

Joe Pulizzi’s MKTG 2030: 7 Laws of Content Marketing (& Other Takeaways From Content Marketing World 2019)

Content Marketing World 2019 was another incredible event in Cleveland, with nearly 4,000 content marketers in attendance, terrific keynotes and sessions, and amazing conversations.

Oh, and the best conference swag.

(I admit to being the attendee that got in line four times to win a sloth for my five-year-old. The fourth time in line, I ran into a Write Blog reader from Belgium, who said that our blog was one of only two that she reads because of how comprehensive each post I publish is. What an absolute delight to hug and talk to her! Bonus: We both won a sloth for our littles, and I even picked up one of two last stuffed narwhals from another booth!)

It was an amazing week. I took Jessica, our Client Specialist from Express Writers, with me; and this year, I had the honor of going for the first time as a speaker. My session, co-presented with Jason Schemmel, was A Masterclass on Creating and Publishing Authority-Building SEO Blogs (want the slides? they’re here). I’ve gone to CMWorld three times so far, and this was my first year as a speaker.

My favorite talk at CMWorld this year, hands-down, was Joe Pulizzi’s keynote, MKTG2030. I also took away some insights from a few private parties I was invited to attend, one of which was hosted by LinkedIn, and from listening and watching on the Expo Hall. Here are my Content Marketing World 2019 insights.

content marketing world 2019

Joe Pulizzi’s MKTG 2030: 7 Laws of Content Marketing (& Other Takeaways from Content Marketing World

I don’t know if you’ve already guessed or noticed this, but I am a major fan of the “godfather” of our industry, Joe Pulizzi.

joe pulizzi

He tells it like it is, is incredibly insightful in content marketing, and to boot, he’s 100% genuine, kind, and authentic as a person. Seriously, you can’t find anyone more “down-to-earth” than Joe. He embodies good content marketing. It’s no wonder that it has become a yearly tradition of mine to get a picture with him.

I also have a running joke with CMI staff.

How do I make it to one of the top retweeted/favorited tweets for the #CMWorld hashtag on Twitter?

I just tweet Joe.

It’s true. That’s what I did last year, and my tweet had over a hundred likes. The same thing happened again this year. 🔥

MKTG 2030: 7 Laws of Content Marketing

Joe Pulizzi’s keynote kicking off CMWorld on Tuesday, September 3 was titled MKTG 2030. Inside, he covered what he called the “7 Laws of Marketing:”

joe pulizzi keynote 2019

Law #1: The Law of They Have No Clue What You’re Doing

The #1 reason content fails is not because of strategy, consistency, value, patience… it’s because someone internally has no clue what you’re doing.

This rings true for me in so many ways.

I had to turn away a Content Hacker client (my elite new consulting agency/personal brand) recently because of this very fact. They had no clue regarding high-ROI, valuable content. They massacred the hook I’d carefully compiled and trampled over every recommendation I made.

I’ve seen this happen repeatedly in our industry. It’s sad.

The answer, Joe says, is to sell internally to the executives budgeting for content. These people should be the focus of your “selling.” We need to turn the tables, Joe said, and be the ones marketing the worth of content to executives.

Need some help convincing your manager or clients on the worth of content? See our content marketing statistics mega-list.

Law #2: The Law of Self-Sustainment

Joe is in love with Buzzfeed. They’ve achieved $130M in revenue in household appliances, and in 2019, their goal is $260M in revenue from Tasty appliances at Target and in other stores. By 2020, half a billion in revenue will be produced in non-media revenue by Buzzfeed. They are a #contentmarketing champion to learn from, Joe says.
Joe also talked about Cleveland Clinic, which publishes Health Essentials, generating revenue through research, advertising, syndication, and sponsorship.

There are multiple ways to drive revenue once you build a loyal audience. The most innovative brands drive five, six revenue lines through content.

By 2020, half a billion in revenue will be produced in non-media revenue by @Buzzfeed. They are a #contentmarketing champion to learn from, @JoePulizzi says. Read @JuliaEMcCoy's #CMWorld recap Click To Tweet There are multiple ways to drive revenue once you build a loyal audience, @JoePulizzi says. The most innovative brands drive five, six revenue lines through content. #CMWorld #CMWorld19 recap by @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Law #3: The Failed Start-up Law

Joe says that it’s much wiser and also less risky to buy an existing audience than to build from scratch yourself. (If you know our story, you know we’ve been working for eight years to build ours. Building a strong audience and presence from scratch hasn’t been easy!)

For example, hardware maker Raspberry Pi recently bought two magazines from a company called Dennis Publishing. Smart move.

Law #4: The Law of Ryan Seacrest

I found this meme that emphasized every single point Joe was making:

ryan seacrest
Joe says he comes home and tries to relax to a show, and every time he turns on a show, there is Ryan Seacrest. It’s getting old. What the heck is Ryan doing, hosting shows he has no business hosting? As in standing in for Regis on Live with Kelly and Regis, and appearing again in a few hours hosting American Idol. Joe says he can’t enjoy cable TV without seeing a constant stream of Ryan Seacrest.

Well, as content marketers, Joe said we’re making the common error of trying to be Ryan Seacrest. We want to do all the things, but no one is doing them well enough. 💯

The way to succeed is by focusing on one or two things. Pulizzi brought up the example of MailChimp Presents. While beautiful, he predicts it will fail. Why? We must do one thing great as content creators.

At the Content Marketing Institute, Pulizzi spent 27 months focused completely and only on creating a world-leading content marketing blog. Only after they built an audience did they launch a magazine, conference and other branches.

We want to do all the things, but no one is doing them well enough. 💯 The way to succeed is by focusing on one or two things. Avoid becoming the Ryan Seacrest of content. - @JoePulizzi #CMWorld #recap @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Here at Express Writers, we’ve been focused on blogging every week for eight years. (See our blogging case study.) I have been saying no more to more yeses these days so we can keep up our quality commitment.

Law #5: The Law of the Content One-Night Stand

How do you marry your customer, Joe says, versus leaving them feeling like they’ve had a one-night stand?

You should leave notes. You should offer loving, valuable content — long before the sale is attempted.

It’s time for us to STOP doing content flings. STOP pushing content campaigns. (Joe says they’re of the devil. 👿)

Instead of simply pushing content to attract leads, try to have a goal of getting married to your customers. Think about ongoing content experiences, not one-time campaigns.

How do you marry your customer, @JoePulizzi says, versus leave them feeling like they've had a one night stand? You leave notes. You offer loving, valuable content -- long before the sale is attempted. #CMWorld #recap @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Law #6: The Law of Cyprus

Back in 2013, depositors actually bailed out the Bank of Cyprus, causing 47.5% of their savings to disappear.

Pulizzi used this in reference to today’s major social platforms, saying that marketers need to prepare for the demise of social media as we know it.

Due to Twitter banning of state-run accounts, the algorithm changes, and social media platforms’ interests in developing their own original content, our content will not be seen on social media.

Social media is a rented real estate. Want to have a more permanent presence? Think email marketing. Email, print and good old-fashioned content are making a comeback (this dovetailed nicely into my authority content session the next day).

Get on our weekly newsletter for the Write Blog, which I’ve had running for eight years now.

Marketers need to prepare for the demise of social media as we know it. @JoePulizzi #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Law #7: The Marketing Pushover Law

This was my favorite law of all Joe has given because it hit home.

Pulizzi says marketers are too nice — guess why? Because of how frequently we say “yes.”

Joe says that if we know what we’re doing and have done the work, research, and effort, we are in a position to say no. We just need to actually say “no” more.

He asked the audience real-time to say “NO” to a question. The question: “Can you launch a video to go along with the podcast?” We all said no, but not loudly enough, so Pulizzi made us say no one more time. 👏🏻

Start saying no. Stick by it if your life depends on it. Say no as often as you can, Joe said.

I plan on it, Joe.

Start saying no to all the 'content things' you're requested to do. Stick by it if your life depends on it. Say no as often as you can, @JoePulizzi says. #CMWorld #CMWorld19 Click To Tweet

Takeaways from A Masterclass on Creating and Publishing Authority-Building SEO Blogs

I co-presented my session at Content Marketing World 2019 with a very dear friend I’ve known for years now — Jason Schemmel, content marketer, podcaster, and Twitch streamer/social media consultant. His gift is layman-talk when it comes to the nitty-gritty of content, combined with an engaging personality, energy and comedic wit. The perfect complement to my tactical, practical strategy side.

Our session was A Masterclass on Creating and Publishing Authority-Building SEO Blogs (click to see slides). I worked for over six months on the content and design (with the help of my amazing content team at Express Writers, of course).

seo blogs cmworld session

What I didn’t expect — the crowd that showed up for our session! We had a packed room for our Lunch & Learn Thursday session, a 45-minute talk. CMI staff had to turn people away due to a fire code hazard. We hated hearing that people were told they couldn’t come in the room, and I’m hoping as I apply to speak at CMW 2020, they’ll give us a bigger room!

julia mccoy cmworld

Session attendees said they knew me from Twitter, were book readers of mine, blog readers, and there were a few that had just bought my book from the CMW pop-up bookstore that morning. So utterly cool!

Here’s what we talked about.

  • Are you creating content that’s adding to the noise?
  • Or are you publishing content that brings real growth?

I defined growth-focused content as content that brings real, tangible website growth. With growth-focused content, you’ll have clear sources of traffic, your traffic goes up, and you’ll have an increase in both conversations and sales.

growth focused content

Then, I discussed today’s leading source of traffic.

Did you know over 70% of traffic on the internet originates from a search?

cmworld 2019

Over 70% of traffic on the internet originates from a search. @JuliaEMcCoy @JasonSchemmel #authoritycontentmasterclass #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Also, the ROA on ads is extremely low — it went from 11.8x to .6x ROA across 2016 to 2018 (Ad Strategist study).

71% of B2B buyers are reading blogs during their buying journeys. What’s more, SEO leads are hot. MarketingSherpa has found the average conversion rates on organic traffic for traffic-to-leads across industries is 16%. We’re seeing 14-16% consistently in our agency, Express Writers.

Then, we shared three very different and inspiring stories of success through content:

  • Amanda Todorovich, the Senior Director of Health Content for Cleveland Clinic, has led their site to more than 7 million inbound visitors a month. Over 40 experts contribute regularly, and they publish 3-5 articles per day. #boom

amanda cleveland clinic

  • Michael Pozdnev, the creator behind, has earned 12-15,000 page views monthly with a lifetime amount of just five epic blog posts.

michael pozdnev i wanna be a blogger

  • My story: I’m a college dropout, and started Express Writers back in 2011 with nothing more than $75. Today, we’re a $4.5M in lifetime sales content agency that has served 5,000 clients. I shared that in eight years, we’ve never taken a vacation from content. We publish a post on the Write Blog every single week, without fail. That is the reason for 90,000 – 100,000 visitors/month we’ve acquired by now. If we were to pay for our traffic in a PPC ad campaign, it would cost $90k/month!
[email protected] has helped build a presence for @ClevelandClinic of 7+ million visitors/mo. Just one sub-domain ranks for 3+ million keywords. 😱 More in @JuliaEMcCoy & @JasonSchemmel's #authoritycontentmasterclass #CMWorld 2019 Click To Tweet [email protected] of has earned 12-15,000 page views monthly with a lifetime amount of just 5 epic blog posts. 🔥 His story in @JuliaEMcCoy and @JasonSchemmel's #authoritycontentmasterclass #CMWorld 2019 Click To Tweet

Commitments to High-Quality Content Creation

I shared a few of the commitments we’ve had to high-quality content that have helped us power through next levels with traffic, trust, and conversations. We never use stock imagery, we have a core name and theme (Write Blog, SEO/content marketing/writing tips and trends, with 5-6 max content creators involved), and we’ve remained consistent, never once taking a vacation from our content.

express writers julia mccoy

Ideation is Your Most Important Step if You Want Real Content Results

I shared a story: I spent the first four out of eight years of content marketing creating content that fell flat quite often. It wasn’t until 2016 when I got strategic about the ideation phase that we started seeing real results through content. (See my blog post with more on that story here.)

If attendees took only one thing away, it would be that authority-building content starts with a profitable idea.

How do you have these profitable ideas?

I shared my three-bucket topic goal-mapping concept that I teach in my book, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, and the accompanying course:

three bucket topic strategy

For us, we have unending ideas that flow from these two sources:

  • Keyword research: I use Mangools’ KWFinder and SEMrush to find keywords that our competitors or big publications in our industry haven’t cornered yet. I’m constantly studying keyword terms that we can go after by publishing long-form blogs around those focus keywords.
  • Customer pain points: We’re always listening to our customers’ pain points. I read the chat logs on our site between Jessica and our prospects, and see what pain points they express around content that we haven’t answered on the Write Blog yet.

Next, we map those ideas to a clear goal. Can we achieve a top 5 Google keyword position with our piece? Can we build sales and connections potentially later down the road? Will it grow our name in the industry? If we can’t answer yes, we trash the content topic. As simple as that, and we have profitable content week in, week out!

Our second main point was how to create authority-building blogs. I covered the 5-point structure of a well-written, long-form, authority-building blog post, which I’ve been teaching for a while in my course.

five point structure of a well written blog

julia mccoy five point structure of a well written blog

Then, Jason and I asked the room: “Who enjoys learning from examples?” A ton of heads nodded and several faces lit up. So, I proceeded to deconstruct one of the best blogs on the planet — SmartBlogger. I broke down one of Jon Morrow’s posts specifically, How to Become a Freelance Writer. It is epic, from top to tail.

julia mccoy julia mccoy five point structure of a well written blog

I read the “hook,” which was Jon’s fantasy-land opener featuring a picturesque story about watching the waves on the beach as “you” write, martini in hand. In less than 100w, he painted the ideal scenario for his readers, who were looking to earn a living writing. I shared how he avoids clickbait and makes the story come true with an impactful industry statistic in the next subheader — the worth of the industry is over $400 billion! So, you can obviously earn a great living if you learn this skill he’s talking about.

From Jon’s post, we also shared with attendees how you can’t ever put too many subheaders into long-form content. Worried about attention span? Get past that by creating readable content, which you can do by structuring with clear points – subheaders. H2s and H3s make your content extremely scannable. Scannable content is readable content!

Read more about how to craft great subheaders in my Write Blog post.

Next, I covered the “where” of publishing authority-building content.

Where do you publish your best, authority-building content? Your own real estate, first and foremost. I teach this concept because you want to publish your best content in a place where no one can take away from you – the algorithms, platform changes, won’t affect you.

Where do you publish your best, authority-building content? Your own real estate, first and foremost. Post your best content in a place where no one can take away from you. @JuliaEMcCoy #authoritycontentmasterclass #CMWorld Click To Tweet

content house julia mccoy

Think of the other channels, like social media, guest blogging, and those solo guest appearances, as roads to your content house. You need to pave them, have a good presence on those roads, but your best content should be on your content house. Perform keyword research to pull in the right prospects and audience, and serve them great content.

Need help researching the right keywords? That’s an art form I’ve trained our Content Strategists in. We look for relevant, low-competition keywords. See our Keyword Research service here.

Consistency is Key

I shared how important consistency in content is. We’ve never missed a week of publishing content, in eight years, at the Write Blog.

In Joe Pulizzi’s keynote, we heard that it takes 21 months now to see content success on average. Joe and his team spent 27 months on blogging before moving on to anything else when building Content Marketing Institute from scratch.

content consistency

Sexy Vs. Not-So-Sexy Content

Jason and I had fun with this example I pulled from my vast bank of content pieces. Guess which piece brought in a lead? A blog that earned less than 40 shares, or a LinkedIn four-second video I posted of me facepalming myself, with a rant about how tired I was of getting solicited on LinkedIn DMs that earned over 80,000 views, 1000+ likes, 250+ comments in a matter of a few days?

sexy vs. not so sexy content

You guessed it.

The blog that had less than 40 shares brought in an ideal lead that purchased at over $1,000.

sexy vs. not so sexy content

I shared why this content work: it was trust-building content. You don’t want to create content with a goal of making sales, you want to create content that is good, as Henry Rollins so aptly said during his CMWorld keynote.

Jason backed this up with an example from 2019 CMWorld keynote speaker, Scott Stratten, who was absolutely amazing to listen to from the main stage this year.

scott stratten cmworld

Going viral is wonderful. It's the goal of every piece of content your brand makes. But it needs to move the right needle. If it's not increasing sales/sign-ups for you, it's just vanity. @unmarketing featured on @JuliaEMcCoy's… Click To Tweet

Then, I covered a quick recap of the best content tools I use every day and recommend: SEMRush, Mangools’ KWFinder, Ahrefs, and AMI’s Headline Analyzer.

content tools julia mccoy

Next, I discussed how I believe the sales funnel is an antiquated concept that was invented in 1924 and doesn’t reflect or explain our customers’ buying journey well… at all. I discussed a new concept I came up with after studying the buying journeys of literally thousands of customers. I drew this concept out late last year (2018) with my kid’s Crayola marker and called it The Marketing Lifecycle.

marketing lifecycle julia mccoy

Content doesn’t work if you get pushy with the prospects reading it. Let them make their own journey, I explain. Stop “funneling” your leads off, and pushing them through “stages.” (Similar to Joe Pulizzi’s point about how one-off content campaigns are of the devil. 😈Just don’t do them.)

Many heads were nodding at this one.

Read more about my Marketing Lifecycle in this free ebook I wrote on the topic.

Finally, we discussed how to get that coveted executive buy-in for your long-form content creation efforts: convince and convert by upgrading your own knowledge, taking courses and reading books on the topic, and using powerful statistics to show and prove that a long-term, consistent approach to content does in fact work.

I wish we could have covered all the Q&A we started receiving from people lining up to talk to us afterwards. There was one attendee that I wish I could have answered better — in hindsight, the advice I gave her was hard to understand! I was describing to her that the best way to get synonymous keywords is by entering your focus keyword in Google and scrolling to the bottom and looking at Google’s related keywords. Using Google’s suggestions for related terms will make sure that your content stays semantically search-friendly. You can find these by doing this:

synonymous keyword usage

synonymous keywords

Also, after our session, CMI didn’t have our takeaway sheets out and ready for attendees to grab. I was really sad about that! Luckily, they were able to find the sheets (in a box under a table in our room, go figure), and put them out in front of the Expo Hall. In case you were an attendee that missed one, here’s what the takeaway sheets looked like. Download as a PDF.

cmworld flyer

3 Content Takeaways from On-The-Floor Content Marketing World Conversations

This year, as a speaker, I was invited to some exclusive parties — one hosted by Content Marketing Institute, another hosted by LinkedIn. Both were amazing!

I had some awesome conversations with a variety of amazing people. I also listened and watched as I walked the Expo Hall where thousands of top-level executives and marketers were hanging out. Here are the takeaways I had from these conversations.

1. Incredible Content is Tough to Scale. Settle for Quality. Budget Comes in Secondary to Quality

“I will pay you anything if you can create AMAZING content for me. But I’m not so sure you can. Can you?”

This summarizes what I took away from the conversations I had this year with prospects at CMWorld.

You can’t churn out 50, 100 posts at once and expect them to be amazing.

Amazing content is what brands and marketers are looking for. Nothing less — because anything less won’t work anymore. Brands don’t care about the price. They care about the quality. Everything comes secondary to that. If it’s not amazing, they don’t want it.

I’m taking this and putting it into practice in the services and writing levels we offer here at Express Writers. My mission has always been to hire the best writing talent, and I will continue to do so. We won’t be the cheapest, nor will we offer incredibly fast turnarounds — for a reason. Quality will always come first.

Amazing content is what brands and marketers are looking for. Nothing less -- because anything less won't work anymore. @JuliaEMcCoy #CMWorld #takeaways Read more: Click To Tweet

2. Niche, VALUABLE Content is The Future of Content

“But do you have a writer that can write on computer systems analyst topics with a fresh, engaging spin for our Canadian market in their 30s’?”

These were the kinds of questions I got from executives that approached me, interested in working with us on content.

I was able to say yes to that particular niche request because we do happen to have writers that can effectively write in that niche and location.

That’s because I’m constantly headhunting. I add expert writers to our team at Express Writers myself, and I’m always on the hunt for amazing additional niche expert talent to add to our team. We add on average 15 new niche writers monthly out of probably close to 4-500 applicants.

3. Being Overly Salesy is a Major Turnoff (Duh)

In a world where the ROA of ads is as low as .6x, and 71% of buyers are reading 3-5 blogs… this is no surprise to me. I did some people-watching during a lunch break in the middle of the Expo Hall and saw executive after executive on the Expo Hall avoiding the actual ‘sales’ people. All they wanted was a good swag. They grabbed it and were gone. Very few people hung around for demos, booklets, sales meeting, etc.

Since CMWorld was acquired by UBM, almost every track is sponsored. This has put a slightly negative slant on what is otherwise a fantastic event. I overheard a few attendees complaining about how they felt ‘sold to’ when the session was over, and even worse, during the session. “Like I want your product right now! I want to learn.” I heard one attendee complaining to her friend. And these attendees were executives of big companies.

If you’re a vendor and you’re at a big marketing event, get toys that marketers can get as free swag and take home to their kids. These were the booths that were mobbed at CMWorld. Brilliant. I got a free sloth and a free narwhal. 😂 (I’m guilty of the attendee avoiding the salespeople, though; I can’t even tell you who the company was that gave me either. Oops.)

Content Marketing World 2019 in Pictures

A huge thanks to our amazing designer for this infographic!

content marketing world 2019

That’s a Wrap, Content Marketing World 2019!

I’m already looking forward to the next Content Marketing World. Here’s till next year! 🙌🏻

building authority online

How to Use 5 Types of Content to Grow Your Online Authority (Recap of My Live Talk for #SocialMediaBootcamp in Austin, Texas)

Last week on Friday, I had the honor of speaking at Jessica Campos’ event, a Social Media Bootcamp right here in Austin, Texas.

It was exciting for two reasons: for one, it was at The Capital Factory, a dream speaking venue in downtown Austin. For another, I had a fantastic host: Jessica is the founder of Marketing for Greatness and a well-known local marketer here in Austin, Texas. She worked hard at putting together a memorable event, and invited me to come and speak personally. Jessica hosts many networking events locally, and is a great person in real life just as much as she is in marketing. I love being around her.

I said yes to Jessica’s invitation, and the rest is history! This amazing lady worked her network marketing magic and sold out the room – we had 50 seats, and more than 50 in attendance! It was my largest live audience yet.

We had a packed room for #socialmediabootcamp!

I’ve had the idea for a session on how to build authority online using the five foundational types of content for a while, and I decided to explore that for Jessica’s bootcamp. It was the perfect complement session to her opening talk on holistic social media marketing practices.

This talk was born: Building Authority Online & Where it Begins: 5 Types of Content You Should Be Publishing to Grow Your Brand.

julia mccoy speaking

After my talk, it was exciting to hear terrific real-time feedback from attendees.

Two senior-level marketing executives that worked in Austin came and found me to tell me how much my talk resonated with them.

“Everything you were saying about content made SO MUCH SENSE! Our ads aren’t working, nothing has been working, and we know we’ve needed a new channel for a while.”

It was clear they were excited to find a way out from old practices that weren’t working. That was a thrill to me to hear! I loved knowing I’d been able to make a difference for someone.

In today’s blog, I’m recapping the talk I gave, including the most important takeaways and lessons. Buckle in!

Check out @JuliaEMcCoy's recap of her talk on building #authority online through #content, live at @capitalfactory in #ATX for @jessicamcampos' #socialmediabootcamp 🔥 Click To Tweet

Social Media Bootcamp LIVE in Austin, Texas (Hosted by Jessica Campos)

Here’s a look at our fun day in Austin at Jessica’s bootcamp, put together by my designer in a collage. Keep scrolling for top takeaways, a recap of Jessica’s and my session, and some special shoutouts!

social media bootcamp

Jessica Campos: Social Media Practices That Bring Real Results in Your Business

Jessica Campos started off Friday’s Social Media Bootcamp with a fantastic, action-packed session.

She talked about the reality of “marketing” on social media, and how it’s not okay to just “turn to the person next to you, and ask, Would you like to lose ten pounds?” — and she had the whole room nodding and laughing. If it’s not okay to do in a waiting room, why do it on social media? She shared with us the typical journey of one of her warm leads: the person left her website open in their tab for days, closed it, came back through a Facebook ad and then clicked over to the blog, left the site again and came back to the contact page in another few days. And repeat.

I relate! We cannot predict our buyer’s journey. Jessica shared how the marketing funnel is dead, and what’s replaced it: the loyalty loop. (As most of you already know by now, I completely agree that the funnel is dead. I’ve written about that here.)

Jessica also shared how to discover your audience using tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics’ user behavior, two great tools for finding out real information about your audience.

jessica campos

Using the whiteboard to write out the frameworks she shared, Jessica covered several areas that made up a “sandwich,” or “burger” to help us remember how to build a solid social media marketing strategy:

  • The importance of data and knowing what your leads and ideal audience is actually doing and thinking of
  • Building avatars to represent and get to know your ideal audience
  • Creating a culture to attract your tribe and people
  • Writing a manifesto to represent who you are with a brand voice to differentiate yourself from the masses
  • Focusing on growing your influence online to attract people to you and your brand

jessica campos marketing for greatness

Jessica also did a real-life marketing analysis with one of the attendees, Lori Stinson, an agent and owner for logistics and supply chain company DSV. It was awesome!

With Lori next to her, Jessica built avatars to represent Lori’s ideal audience, an experienced, established company out in California. One method I loved was when Jessica told Lori that LinkedIn was going to be her best bet to earn social media leads from. Several members of the audience also shared terrific ways Lori could create fun marketing campaigns to pull in the eyes and ears of her ideal people.

lori stinson Agent at DSV Road

Around noon, Jessica wrapped up her session, and we all had a lunch break. Then, it was time for my session.

Special Shoutout to Jeff at Chubby Diaries & @YoungMommy (Christine Young) on Twitter

I want to take a quick moment to give some well-deserved shoutouts.

Jessica asked Jeffrey Jenkins, a local entrepreneur, travel influencer, speaker, and the founder of, to attend and record media for us (as content creators, Jessica and I are all about maximizing our event presence). He took our photos and the raw video (coming soon to my YouTube channel!). Special shoutout to Jeff, who was a fantastic help!

Another shoutout to Christine Young, supermom to 7 and blogger at, for live-tweeting during our event! She captured some fantastic takeaways live during our bootcamp.

Building Authority Online & Where it Begins: 5 Types of Content to Grow Your Brand (Recap of My Live Talk)

I started my session with these important facts about today’s buyer:

  • 81% of U.S. consumers trust information and advice from blogs. (BlogHer)
  • Email remains an incredibly effective channel at driving purchases. In 2018, 17.75% of clicked-through emails resulted in a purchase. This stat has been increasing every year. ( study)
  • 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (DemandGen)
  • Good content is becoming the foundation of good marketing.

I also shared the astounding results from Amanda Bond’s recent Facebook ads study, which I’ve blogged about before.

Bond studied the results from over $10,000,000+ in Facebook ad spend across seven and eight-figure brands for months, and discovered that from 2016 to late 2018, the ROA (return on advertising) for a traditional ad funnel plummeted from 11.8x all the way to .6x. On average, marketers are now losing money on ads. Crazy!

Then, I went into the five types of content to build to see real results online, starting with the important foundational overview:

Build consistent content on your website (your online house), AND: start list-building, getting visible on social media, and be intimately familiar with the what and how of creating content that works.

5 Types of Content to Build

The five types of content I recommended to attendees for a strong online presence are these:

  1. Blogs
  2. Site Content (Web Pages)
  3. Email
  4. Social Media
  5. List-Builders (Downloadables: Lead Magnets, Free Ebooks)

I talked about these two goal areas for your blogs (which I explain more in this blog):

  • Goal of SEO rankings in Google, inbound traffic, and list-building: Create long-form (1000w-3000w) blogs
  • Goal of brand awareness, event sharing, news/launch: Short-form (500-800w) blogs

I also shared the importance of scannable content over readable content. Scannable content goes a step further. It’s when you focus on crafting content that contains zero fluff. When you format properly, with H2s, H3s, and strong sectioned-out content. I shared the structure of a good blog, taking inspiration from one of the world’s best bloggers: Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger.

Specifically, I shared one of his top-shared blogs, which is also top #10 in Google for ‘how to become a freelance writer.’ This is an example of a terrific blog for these reasons:

  • It starts with a story that ‘hooks’ the ideal reader into a situation they dream of or wish to be in one day.
  • Then, Jon tells them the story can come true with statistical proof as to how big the industry is, and how much freelance writers are needed.
  • Then, he adds tons and tons of value to the reader’s life, in a 3,000-word monster blog.

jon morrow example

I also shared a few methods on how to create great headlines. A study by BuzzSumo spanning over 50,000 pieces of content found that these top headline phrases worked the best:buzzsumo headline starters

I also “spilled the secrets” about one of my all-time favorite headline tools, the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. This tool is amazing — and it’s free!

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Next, I covered the three stages of how to craft great blog content.

Blogging is best done in stages:

  • Ideation
  • Creation
  • Publishing

Great ideas are the key to great blogs, and that’s why leaving time and space just for ideas and research. I spend a day JUST for ideation, called Brainstorming Day, and validate each idea by researching with the right tools (BuzzSumo, KWFinder, SEMrush are some go-tos). I teach the how of content ideation in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

'I spend a day just for content ideation, and I call it Brainstorming Day.' More on #contentcreation methods that build your #authority online from @JuliaEMcCoy's live talk in #ATX Click To Tweet

Next, I covered web pages, email content, and list-builders. (Blogs are very often the meat of your consistent online presence, so I spent the most time there.)

Good web pages are:

  • Focused: Created around one clear keyword or page topic to focus around (one topic per page).
  • Word Count: The majority of clear, well-crafted web pages are 400-1200w, depending on topic & product features.
  • Clear Formatting: Well-formatted with clear headline, body introduction, H2s, H3s.

I shared a few critical “must-dos” for web page copy:

  • Clarity over cleverness in the copy. Be CLEAR on what the page is about.
  • YOU/YOUR vs. WE/OUR: Less “our”, more “you!” Be customer-focused.

Next, for email content, I talked about sending consistent campaigns. Marketers, send emails for almost every new thing you do or publish on your site. Here are a few reasons to send an email to your list:

  • New content (blogs) that you post on your site
  • Events (online or in-person) you’re hosting or guesting at
  • Product/service launches or updates
  • Less often: sales emails (courses, services)

The rule of thumb to not tick anyone off accidentally in your free vs. pitch-focused content is this:

For every pitch, send a minimum of three value-focused emails.

3:1 -- For every one pitch, send a minimum of three value-focused emails. More on #contentcreation methods via @JuliaEMcCoy's recap of her live talk in #ATX Click To Tweet

I also talked about email headlines and how important it is to optimize them without click-baiting. Clarity and specific statements work best in email headlines.

Then, I merged into social media, and kept my tips focused to copywriting, with a few other relatable key takeaways.

A few important reminders I shared when writing social media copy:

  • Brevity in copy
  • Be visual-heavy, copy-light
  • Use emojis in your copy
  • Use hashtags (don’t overload – less can be more esp. on Twitter/LinkedIn)
  • Go live or upload short videos on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

I also shared that authenticity matters in social media. Your audience WANTS you to speak what you think on social media, and share the REAL YOU. It’s true — we have examples from leading marketers of patterns of virility from posting real, original thoughts that focus on an audience pain point that everyone in that audience can relate to. For example, this tweet from Chris Kubby that turned into another viral Instagram post:

I talked about the importance of giving yourself time, space, and knowledge (getting to know your real audience) to have these original, genuine thoughts. Without time and space, you aren’t giving your mind permission to come up with these thoughts; and without knowledge, you won’t know what kind of pain points your audience actually has that you need to speak and relate to.

julia mccoy speaking

Finally, I wrapped up with a segment on list-building, and covered how to write and put together these three types of list-builders:

  1. Case Studies/Whitepapers
  2. Lead Magnets & Ebooks
  3. Cheat Sheets (Content Upgrades, Templates)

One of our most popular case studies is this one, where we partnered with our client at Nfusion Solutions to uncover SEO keywords and craft SEO content that built their presence online. They were a fantastic client to work with, and we were able to build a great case study based on their story and what we were able to do study example

I also shared another authority-building “secret:” content upgrades, a term first coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko back in 2016.

brian dean content upgrade

A content upgrade is when you create a blog and a PDF summary or cheat-sheet, and combine the two. The PDF you’re giving away inside your blog offers that extra tidbit of value for your list, and they’re already going to be interested in downloading it because it’s 100% relevant to the blog they’re reading. HUGE opportunity for list building!

I shared an example of how we’ve done this in a blog on How to Write SEO Content: The Essential Guide.

content upgrade example

For the past few years, we’ve been growing by 9-12 subscribers on average daily, autopilot, just through all the content upgrades I’ve built over the years. It is a ton of work to set up, but completely worth it!

Special Announcement! Content Hacker Coming Soon

social media bootcamp

Towards the end of the bootcamp, I shared a fun announcement. (This will be new for many of you Write Blog readers, too, unless you frequent Twitter or Facebook – the cat is out of the bag on most of my social media platforms!)

Everyone attending and watching my presentation had been getting a sneak peek of the new branding for my all-new brand launching in June, Content Hacker. The colors, style, everything was a sneak peek into the branding that will be a part of my new site and brand when it launches. I think I had the biggest smile on my face when I was talking about this. I’m so excited to reveal Content Hacker! Content Hacker will be a #1 resource for every growth-focused content marketer on the planet: a tribe, a community, a resource hub, a place where I interview Content Hackers making a difference, a blog for productivity and life improvements alongside best content practices, bespoke content marketing consulting, and more.

Join me when we launch – sign up to the launch list to get notified (and when you sign up, you’ll get a special letter from me explaining part of the mission behind the launch!). Click below to go to Content Hacker and sign up to learn about my new brand launching in June. 

content hacker

Wrapping Up #SocialMediaBootcamp With a Panel

To wrap up our bootcamp at The Capital Factory, Jessica had a great idea: invite former newscaster Kim Zook Barnes, award-winning newscaster and the brains behind Barnes Team Media, an on-camera and media/video training consulting agency, to a panel with both of us afterwards.

Together, the three of us took Q&As that the audience was asked to write down during our session. It was a fantastic idea on Jessica’s part and turned out well! We were able to answer some great questions live. Kim added some great insights from her experience in on-camera communications. See Jessica’s recap for the full Q&A list.

Video Recap of My Session

That’s a Wrap: How to Use 5 Types of Content to Grow Your Authority Online for Jessica’s #SocialMediaBootcamp in Austin, Texas

Thanks for hanging for my recap of Friday’s live talk!

It was an amazing event by Jessica Campos, and I was truly honored to be a part of it. Anything Jessica does is fabulous, so it was a no-brainer “yes.”

capital factory social media bootcamp austin texas

I hope you enjoyed it — in some way, either being there live or reading this recap — and were able to take away a new idea or two to use in your business.

Psst… If you don’t have them yet, don’t forget to grab your copy of my (93+!) slides:

Have questions? Anything to add to the conversation? Were you there? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Happy content marketing,


do not's of seo: sej recap

The 7 Do Not’s of SEO in 2019 and Beyond (Search Engine Journal Webinar Recap)

SEO to content is like paleo chocolate frosting to a paleo chocolate cake.

(Ever had one of those? They’re decadent, AND good for you. 🤤)

It seriously is that important–and impactful–in content marketing.

SEO-focused content marketing has powered our own organic marketing at Express Writers for years.

Without good SEO practices, your content will miss out on the possibilities of earning traffic and leads through organic user searches.

The opposite, bad SEO, will make readers and Google look a little like Steve Carrell in this scene in the 2014 movie, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day:

Not good.

That’s why, this April, I presented a webinar for Search Engine Journal on the top seven bad SEO tactics to abandon forever – ones that are dragging down your search rankings, confusing users (see above photo), and leaving your content in the dust.

We had an amazing turnout for this webinar. Over 300 people tuned in live!

Here are the slides from my webinar, and here’s the YouTube replay.

For those who missed it, or those who want the highlights, keep reading – I’m recapping the major points, here, too. ✔

Before we get into the bad SEO tactics and practices people are still using, we need to answer one question…

Get your own content marketing all geared up for the ROI you've been waiting for with the help of good SEO. Watch @JuliaEMcCoy's @sejournal webinar about the 7 Do Not's of #SEO in 2019 Click To Tweet

sej webinar recap julia mccoy

Why Does SEO and Google Matter?

Two reasons:

1. Most Internet Users Rely on Google

About half of the world’s population uses the internet. That’s no joke. Of those internet-users, about 60% begin their browsing with a Google search.

Over 3.5 billion Google searches happen in a day. Plus, Google dominates the market. Almost 60% of all web traffic begins with a Google search, according to the data from SparkToro and Jumpshot.

do not's of seo: forgetting Google

Image: Backlinko

2. Google is All About the User

Most web traffic comes from Google, and Google is all about that end-user. From their Search Engine Evaluator Guidelines to their Webmaster Central Blog, the user experience takes center stage. When your SEO and website experience tick off human users, you tick off Google, simultaneously.

Therefore, good SEO practices are all about keeping users and Google happy. The better you do, the more highly you will be ranked in search (and loved by users!).

With that out of the way, let’s get into the bad SEO tactics that will make your two most important audience members (humans and Google) confused, annoyed, and fed-up.

SEO-focused content marketing has powered our own organic marketing at Express Writers for years. Know why SEO matters with @JuliaEMcCoy's @sejournal webinar about the 7 Do Not's of #SEO in 2019 Click To Tweet

7 Just-Plain-BAD SEO Tactics You Shouldn’t Be Using Anymore

1. Using Your Target Keyword the Wrong Way

An outdated SEO practice we need to do away with is targeting one keyword per page – especially similar or semantically related keywords.

Instead, it’s better to target both focus keywords and secondary, related keywords in the same piece of content. This will align your SEO strategy with modern semantic search, which is what Google is focusing on moving into the future.

Semantic search looks at a page’s overarching topic vs. individual keywords to determine whether it’s relevant to a user’s search query.

do not's of seo: bad keyword usage

On the right side of this diagram, each keyword is targeted individually. A better SEO practice is to target related terms like these within the same piece (left).

Using a focus keyword + variations, related terms, and synonyms all within the same high-quality content piece signals to Google AND users that the page is topically relevant to the search query.

2. Developing Thin Content That Doesn’t Go the Distance

Short, thin content pieces are not SEO-worthy. If you want a page to rank, you need longer, in-depth content.

How do we know? Look at the data: From BuzzSumo’s analysis of over 100 million articles, long-form content (over 3,000 words) was most-shared. A Backlinko study came to the same conclusion – long-form content = higher search rankings.

To write longer content, focus on answering the user’s question(s) thoroughly and deep-dive into your topic.

3. Posting Content Whenever You Feel Like It

You can’t post content erratically if you want to rank higher in search. Many studies have shown that consistently publishing high-quality content leads to more ranking opportunities.

For one example, a HubSpot benchmark study found that companies that posted over 16x/month earned the most traffic and leads.

do not's of seo: posting inconsistently

That doesn’t mean you need to start blogging like a madman (or madperson), though. If you push out tons of posts but your quality sucks, you still won’t get anywhere. That leads us to bad SEO tactic #4…

4. Focusing on Quantity Vs. Quality

Pushing out blog posts just to get them on the web is never a good idea for SEO. Quality matters more than quantity for rankings and readership.

If you can’t feasibly publish fantastic blog posts on a consistent basis (say, 2-3x/week), cut back. One amazing post per week or month is better than 3 mediocre or crappy ones.

Tip: Check out the top 5 search results for your focus keyword in Google. Try to create a post that’s better than anything in that top 5.

5. Publishing Duplicate Content

According to SEMrush, a study of over 100,000 articles showed the most common SEO error is something we can all easily avoid: duplicate content. Nearly 66% of the articles in the study suffered from this problem.

It happens when multiple pages appear very similar or match 100%. Usually, this is unintentional, but some people do plagiarize content. Either way, you will be penalized.

Luckily, this mistake is easy to avoid. Do it by running all of your content through Copyscape before publishing. Rewrite any pages that have a percentage match.

6. Using Shady Tactics like Link Buying

If you really want to get on the wrong side of Google, link schemes and link buying are the way to do it.

Google specifically states in their quality guidelines that “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

do not's of seo: link buying

If you violate those guidelines, bet on getting de-ranked faster than you can say “blackhat SEO”.

Instead of trying to sneak your way onto the SERPs, make every piece of content you publish link-worthy. Then, amplify that content using every resource in your power (social media, email marketing, networking, and connections).

Make every piece of content you publish link-worthy. @JuliaEMcCoy #SEO Click To Tweet

7. Not Paying Attention to Customer Reviews (or Posting Fake Reviews)

70% of online consumers read reviews of a product or company before buying. If you’re forgetting or ignoring the customer review portion of SEO – why?!

Some marketers go in the opposite direction and resort to posting fake reviews to boost their reputation. (Did you know The Washington Post discovered 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake? Yikes.) It’s not like this works, though. Review platforms are becoming more advanced at sniffing out and deleting fake reviews.

Fake reviews aren’t necessary if you know how to earn glowing ones from customers. A few tips:

  • Ask happy customers to review you on the platform that contributes most to building your reputation (social media, Google review, Yelp review, etc.).
  • Seek customer reviews when they’re super happy with your business. Say you exceeded their expectations or delivered a quality product early – those are prime moments to ask.
  • Offer free samples to influencers and ask them for an honest review in return. This works especially well if you have a feature-worthy product.

Online reviews are a big part of building your reputation and authority. Seek them out from happy customers instead of resorting to fakery.

Turn to the Light: Good SEO Practices Are Worth It

Outdated, blackhat, or downright lazy SEO practices will make human users and Google shun your site like it has the plague.

GIF: Tenor

What you really want is a site and content that shine like a beacon, beckoning and welcoming users with the warm glow of usefulness, quality, depth, and insight.

Look at what we’ve achieved at Express Writers, for example. 99% of our leads and revenue have come to us through our SEO content.

That’s what good SEO helps you achieve. Avoid the bad stuff and focus on the good for best results. Come back into the light!

express writers cta

content writing workshop

I Gave a 4-Hour Workshop on Content Writing to A Healthcare Firm. Here Are My 3 Takeaways

This March, I had the honor of teaching my first paid content writing workshop.

(I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by taking my first in-person speaking engagements this year. Till now, I’ve done webinars, podcasts, and lots of video. This January, I gave my first 20-minute live talk to a mastermind here in Austin, and it went well!)

The March workshop was in Irvine, California, for a healthcare company called NextGen Healthcare. Sarah, Manager of the Marketing Content Strategy, asked me to come and teach a full half-day class on one of my favorite topics — strategic content writing techniques for web, blog, email, social media and downloadables (whitepapers, content upgrades, etc.) for a B2B audience.

nextgen workshop

The workshop was on March 26, and it went very well!

For several reasons.

First, the team of people that were there! (*cue Hallelujah chorus*) Teaching is easy when you have such a great crew as students. These people were simply amazing. Smarties, each and every one!

Secondly, it was great to have a live audience while teaching content — tunnel vision, farewell! I was able to see, hear and discover what people that work in a leading industry firm actually find difficult in content marketing, what they struggle with, and on the flip side, what they actually enjoy doing and are good at.

I think I walked out with as much new inspiration and knowledge as I (hopefully) left my attendees with. Here’s a recap of my workshop experience. First, what went into the workshop; and secondly, some key takeaways from the conversations I listened in to.

Content marketing expert @JuliaEMcCoy gave a live content writing workshop to a healthcare firm in California. Read her top takeaways from the experience 🔥#strategy Click To Tweet


What Went Into My 4-Hour Content Writing Workshop

It was fantastic to work with Sarah Andrade, who is the Manager of Marketing Content Strategy (that’s a mouthful) at NextGen Healthcare. She found me through our site at Express Writers, and sent me a warm, friendly email requesting my presence teaching the workshop and offering full payment.

Content creation is my jam, so when Sarah at NextGen Healthcare found me, despite a short timeline (in two weeks!), I said yes to taking on content creation for the half-day workshop.

It was an amazing experience. I can’t say enough good things about the content team themselves. Brilliant people, all of them! Sarah (the marketing manager who found and recruited me), Allison, Carrie, Michael, Holly, Eleen, Jaime, Cathryn, Michelle…and everyone else whose names my post-speaking mushy brain sadly didn’t hit save on. Seriously, it was a rockstar team.

They checked all the boxes:

  • Engaged, interested, and passionate about their jobs (the whole room was engaged and came alive when we paused for Q&A)
  • Already knowledgeable in a variety of areas (from SEO all the way to how to post content on Instagram with the paragraph breaks — Allison and Jaime had a finger on SEO, social and content trends)
  • Great at content (Michael, Carrie – rockstar content writers, serious OGs, I’d hire them — and I hire 1-2% of the writers I meet!)

Here’s what the final outline of my workshop looked like:

NextGen® Healthcare Content Creation Workshop Sessions & Outline

Sarah gave me full liberty to construct the whole half-day workshop. So, with Sarah’s help, I came up with 20-25 minute speaking sessions, broken up by Q&A content creation workshops. Here’s the final outline of workshop I constructed and gave. I was able to get through all the sessions between a time span of noon to 5 p.m. We ended up spending a great deal of time in Q&A, which I loved.

  • Session 1: Introduction to Modern Content Writing & Content Types
    • — Learn It! Q&A and Homework Share
  • Session 2: How to Craft Engaging, Optimized Blogs
    • — Learn It! Q&A and Blog Content Creation Workshop
  • Session 3: How to Write Engaging Web Content
    • — Learn It! Q&A and Web Content Creation Workshop
  • Session 4: How to Write Emails
    • — Learn It! Q&A and Email Writing Workshop

I spent a few back-to-back 10-hour days working on the content to get it all done, right after Sarah found me. In less than 10 days, I’d created 200+ slides, four PowerPoint presentations, four cheat-sheet PDF takeaways for each attendee, and two recorded videos for the class demo-ing how to use BuzzSumo for content analysis, and SEMrush for keyword research. If I had more time, I would have made the content even more tailored to their audience and conducted more research on their high-level audience – but, I was able to customize it fairly well.

My designer did an amazing job on the presentation design (psst… this is something we offer in the Content Shop!):

Here are a few of my favorite slides from the session (and I think everyone’s favorite, from the joyful and positive feedback that erupted after I presented the ‘icky face’). I took an overly stuffy home page tagline from the website for NextGen Healthcare, and rewrote it for the class:

nextgen healthcare julia mccoy

The ‘homework’ everyone was asked to do prior was a suggestion of Sarah, and I thought it was a great idea. We came up with three items (1. Bring your questions, 2. Bring a piece of content from NextGen to reform, 3. Bring a piece of content that makes you feel something – curious, inspired, joyful, etc.), and everyone that attended the workshop was all about it! Pretty much all of them had done their homework prior (again, so impressed with this team).

In the homework Q&A time, lead writer Michael shared how much he took inspiration from Andrew & Pete, two content marketers that recently made a Top 100 Marketer list. I love Andrew & Pete myself. They’re outside-the-box thinkers who boldly and creatively go where few marketers go.

Overall, it was an amazing group, and the experience of teaching a workshop was wonderful.

nextgen content writing workshop collage

3 Takeaways & Inspirations Gained from Teaching My Workshop

I was inspired by the live conversations I listened to, during and after my live workshop. It was quite an experience to teach a group of (incredibly smart and talented!) people live, vs. teaching one of my courses online.

I was so inspired that when I visited the California beach the next day, I filmed this YouTube video: Is the Playbook to “Good Content” Dead? The Reality of Content Marketing Today (Video) I’d planned on filming my next bi-weekly scheduled video while in California, but had no script, talking points or outline prior to recording. I was thoroughly, 100% inspired.

It’s time to stop doing same old, same old — and that’s one of the biggest points of my video and my takeaway from teaching the workshop.

My three takeaways would be these:

1. THEM vs. US.

It’s time to stop making our marketing about us, and make it about our consumers, our people.

As I drove back to the L.A. airport from Irvine, I noticed and read billboard after billboard. 60% were worded with ‘OUR’ and ‘US,’ and only 40% were worded with ‘YOU,’ ‘YOURS’. And the ones with pro-consumer copy were so much more inviting and intriguing. A Porsche billboard, for example, offered an experience that was “your ticket to adventure.” You only knew it was Porsche from the logo. I wanted to be a part of that adventure! A bank offered “our talented solutions” for your needs, and their egotistical message overshadowed the ‘you’ part.

Authentic, audience-focused copy on our website, ads, etc. makes a huge difference in telling our audience that we truly care about them.

It's time to stop making our marketing about us, and make it about our consumers, our people. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

2. Level 10 is Now Level 1

What used to be Level 10 (content strategy knowledge) just a few years ago is now Level 1.

Seriously! I believe that level 10 has become our new Level 1. It is now the Basics.

So, this means we have no excuse to not know our content basics. Get strategic, and never guess when creating content – ever! Use data-backed insights on REAL searches they’re doing in Google and find the questions they’re already asking online, using tools like BuzzSumo (content discovery) and SEMrush (SEO analysis).

Need help? I teach all the answers to ‘what is content marketing’ step-by-step in the Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

Our new level 10? Well, that’s my next point.

What used to be Level 10 (content strategy knowledge) just a few years ago is now Level 1. This means we have no excuse to not know our content basics. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

3. Allow Room for Innovation

Once you have the basics down, and you know content strategy:

Throw out best practices and your content playbook.

I mean it.

This is your new level.


After you equip your people (agency staff) with the right skills, it’s critical to allow room for innovation. Take your marketing people on a trip outside the office to spark brand new thoughts and inspired action.

This is how we’re going to win today.

Not just by covering the basics, and ‘knowing’ the what.

After we know our basics (the WHAT and HOW of content), we need space to create content people desire. This comes when we leave room for inspiration and innovation. This only comes when we leave room for inspiration and innovation. And this is how to hit a true, tangible and real next-level, in a world full of mountains and mountains of content.

Once you have the basics down, and you know content strategy: Throw out best practices and your content playbook. Your new next-level is innovation. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet


Teaching a training workshop is no joke. I was dead tired after my four-hour workshop!

However, it was rewarding to be a part of an amazing content team (even if just for half a day). I thoroughly enjoyed helping them navigate the waters of creating great content! And, I feel like I walked away with just as much fresh, renewed inspiration as my students. 🔥

Want to request Julia to be a part of your event? Send us a message!

authority building blogs

How to Write & Publish Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019 (SEMrush Webinar Recap)

A few weeks ago, on February 11, I gave a talk for SEMrush on one of my favorite topics – writing and publishing authority building blogs and SEO content.

We had hundreds of viewers live, and lots of great questions!

To help out those of you who couldn’t attend, and for those who were just too busy for the almost-two-hour talk I gave (!!), we’re recapping the entire webinar here on the Write Blog. 📺📝

I cover everything you need to know, including why inbound content ROCKS, and how to create strong content that gets results, step-by-step.

Ready to learn? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty, including why ads are dying and why inbound marketing/blogging is the way forward in 2019.

Read the recap of the live talk @JuliaEMcCoy gave for @semrush in February, on #authority building #SEO content 🔥 Click To Tweet

authority building SEO blogs

The Talk: Secrets to Writing Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019

Like video content better? Watch a replay of the 1.49 hour session on YouTube:

The Recap: Secrets to Writing Authority-Building SEO Blogs in 2019

As promised, here’s our written recap of the top takeaways from my talk!

Why Blog? The State of Advertising is Dismal

The state of advertising is pretty bad when you look at the conversion numbers.

Compared to 3 years ago, conversion rates on advertising have dipped ridiculously low. In 2016, the average return on ad spend (ROAS) was 11.88x. Today, that number has dropped to 0.66x.

(Read all about the dreary state of advertising in this recap of The Ad Strategist’s report.)

By comparison, blogging and content marketing look awesome.

Seriously: Inbound is THE future of marketing.

For instance, did you know Google is the most-visited website in the world? YouTube and Facebook hold the next two top spots, but they still aren’t anywhere close to Google’s traffic numbers (nearly 3.5 billion searches per day!).

When you build authority SEO content on your website, you build your Google authority simultaneously. That’s because Google will crawl your blogs and rank them, giving them a position in the search engine results. Since Google grabs so much traffic, that could be beyond powerful for growing your web presence.


To build authority, your content has to be amazing, strategic, researched, and well-crafted. Your content platform (your website) must be user-friendly and well-designed.

You have to do it all (or, if you’re a smart delegator, make sure it all gets done).

Don’t worry, though – where there’s a way, there’s a will. And there IS a way. Follow me!

To build authority, your content has to be amazing, strategic, researched, and well-crafted. Your content platform, your site, must be user-friendly and well-designed. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

How to Write and Publish Authoritative, GOOD Content: 6 Strategic Steps

It’s time to dive into authority-building content creation. Get ready for greatness!

1. Make Sure Your Website is Right

A useful, user-friendly website needs to be the bottom layer of your online presence cake. Without this crucial piece in place, you won’t see any real results from your content.

A strong website is what makes your content eligible to rank in the first place. Our site at Express Writers gets nearly 4,000 organic visitors daily from our blog and content rankings (we currently rank for over 16,000 keywords). Those numbers wouldn’t be possible without a strong website serving as the foundation.

What does a strong website look like? Using our site as an example, the top 5 elements are illustrated below.

  • Strong sites are built on trusted platforms, like WordPress, which is one of the most robust SEO blogging tools out there.
  • They load quickly – under 2 seconds is ideal. According to Google, as page load time increases from one second to 10 seconds, a site visitor is 123% more likely to bounce.
  • The page copy is simple, clear, and easy to read. CTAs are also clear, strategically placed, and stand out.
  • Sites should have cohesive branding and design that don’t mess with site speed and page load times (no heavy images or videos!).
  • Communication apps, pop-ups, and chatbots are minimized so they don’t annoy your visitors.

2. Map Your Blog Topic to Your Goals

Before you even start writing or outlining, your goals should mark your content trajectory.

Before you even start writing or outlining, your goals should mark your content trajectory. @JuliaEMcCoy #blogging Click To Tweet

How will your blog help you advance to your goals? Will it increase your brand awareness? Build trust and loyalty with readers? Capture leads and grow your following?

Whatever you hope to achieve, make sure each blog you put out aligns with either an overarching goal or a smaller goal that paves the way to bigger successes.

Answering the following questions can help further nail down your goals for each blog you write:

  • Who are you writing this blog to? What questions can you answer for them on this topic?
  • What format will this content take? Is it suited for a long-form, in-depth blog post, or does it lend itself better to a visually stunning infographic? Remember, blogs aren’t your only option for content creation.
  • When will you publish the blog? Can you strategically tie it to a season or holiday?
  • Where will you publish? To build authority, you should focus on publishing most blogs to your website. However, posting to guest blogs from time to time can give your brand more exposure.

3. Do Strategic Research

After mapping your blog content to goals, the next step is to dive into strategic research.

First up, that means keyword research.

Don’t start with any random industry keyword, though – begin with your audience’s pain points and research keywords that hit on their problems. You want to find keywords that tie to the questions they’re asking in Google so you can position your content as a solution they’ll find in search results.

Using a tool like SEMrush during keyword research is immensely helpful. It will give you vital data about your keyword including keyword difficulty (KD) and related keywords you can use in your blog.

Some tips:

  • For the KD metric, you want to make sure you’re avoiding a number that’s too competitive. Keywords rated at 50 and above are generally super-hard to rank for unless you already have mountains of domain authority built up.
  • When we initially went after the “blogging statistics” keyword, the KD was right around 30-40, or still “possible” to rank for. Now, the KD has shot up to around 65!
  • With that in mind, don’t do keyword research once and call it done. Metrics like KD and search volume are constantly changing. Do continual, ongoing research and keep yourself up-to-date.

Next, after you find the right keyword, it’s time to do some competitive analysis. This just means typing your potential keyword into Google and studying the top search results.

For example, at EW, we wanted to rank for the keyword “blogging statistics”. When we looked at the competition in Google, we saw some opportunities:

  • Every single blog was comprehensive, with word counts averaging 2,000. One blog even had 5,200 words. That meant our blog needed to be long-form and in-depth, too. Creating a blog that sat right around 2,500 words was a good idea.
  • None of the blogs were current, or were messily formatted. These represented chances to create something better.

Don’t start with any random industry keyword when researching your #keywords – begin with your audience’s pain points and research keywords that hit on their problems. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

4. Invest in Blog Quality

To create a better blog than the competition, you need to invest in quality during the content creation phase.

To create a better blog than the competition, you need to invest in quality during the content creation phase. @JuliaEMcCoy on #powerful #blogging Click To Tweet

For our piece targeting the keyword “blogging statistics”, we particularly focused on a couple major keys to ensure we ended up with a killer blog, one that would outrank the top 5 position-holders on Google:

  • Well-written
  • Well-formatted
  • 2,500 words, comprehensive
  • A minimum of 50 statistics, pulled from research, so marketing readers would have an incredible list to use to get buy-in from their bosses or clients
  • Custom images to break up the text, including shareable quote cards
  • The quote cards gathered together into a free, downloadable PowerPoint presentation so we could build our list from the traffic coming in from a desirable Google search position

Once we planned on these must-haves for quality, all that was left to do was invest in the creation itself:

  • Enlisting the help of one of my writers at Express Writers
  • Having my designer do the quote cards
  • Getting the piece proofread by my editors
  • Doing my own read-throughs and edits

All told, the timeline for a high-quality blog like this is approximately 2 weeks from start to finish.

Why is blog quality such a big deal?

Besides the fact that you’re trying to outrank the competition, quality is one of the major ways Google evaluates your website. It’s not just about great design – it’s about depth and breadth of content.

As Eric Enge said recently in an SEO trends roundup on Search Engine Journal,

“The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”


5. Leverage Authority Content in Multiple Ways

When you finish up a high-quality, high-authority, investment-worthy blog, you will probably have a lot of different “items” that go with the text itself.

For example, for our “blogging statistics” piece, we ended up with:

  • The 2,500-word blog
  • Supporting images to break up the text and share on social media
  • The free downloadable (all the quote cards gathered together in a PowerPoint)
  • The landing page we created for it to capture leads

Each of these items is valuable on their own AND when put together in the finished blog. Once the initial creation is over, we can repurpose these pieces to maximize our ROI.

That said, don’t be fooled. It takes TONS of work to produce a blog that’s accurately researched, expertly written, and designed with extras. For busy marketers and entrepreneurs, delegating tasks is essential to getting it all done in a timely manner. (To do it all alone, you would need about 8 sets of hands. Nobody is an octopus, we’re human and we all need help. 🐙)

To reiterate, here are all the steps broken down for your review. This is truly what it takes to create a high-ranking SEO blog in 2019:

  1. Know your SEO content goals.
  2. Publish on your site consistently. Make sure your site is awesome.
  3. Research your audience’s pain points.
  4. Look for low-competition keywords to target.
  5. Study the competition in Google to see what you need to do better to edge into the rankings.
  6. Invest in blog quality – think long-form and comprehensive.
  7. Add different formats to your blog to make it go the extra mile.
  8. Set a strategic time to publish the blog.
  9. Delegate blog creation or write it up yourself.
  10. Round up the finished pieces and schedule to publish inside your WordPress site.

Want to Build Your Blogging Authority? Put in the Work!

Yes, to really and truly build your online authority, you need to put in the planning, strategizing, research, and work to get it done.

Here’s the thing: It’s all worth it in the end.

Once you have those authority-building steps down, you can repeat them for every blog you create. They will become your second nature, and it will get easier to get that work done. You’ll learn as you go, getting better and better at putting out incredible, ROI-building, authoritative blogs.

Pretty soon, the expert will be you!

We now do slide presentation and design at Express Writers. See our rates!

slide content express writers

julia mccoy talks in austin, texas on profitable content

I Gave My First Live Talk on Profitable Content in Austin, Texas. Here’s How It Went.

I’ve written two books… created an agency that allows me to work from wherever, whenever… and have been named a leader in content marketing (of which I’m so honored!).

What comes easily to me is writing.

What doesn’t come easily is speaking.

I was brought up in a cult from which I escaped shortly after starting my business. The mindset I was forced into, all my life growing up, didn’t keep me back from much — except public speaking. (Life in a cult, my escape, and how I grew a successful agency from nothing is all part of a memoir I started writing in 2017. It will be finished this year. Want to hear about it? Click here.)

I’ve turned down several organic invitations to speak on stage in the past, even though I have managed to get comfortable with video.

So, this one thing held me back — until last week.

I broke through one of the last and biggest barriers standing in my way.

Right before Christmas of last year, I decided to accept an invitation to speak as the guest of honor at Jessica Campos’ (Marketing for Greatness) mastermind luncheon right here in Austin, Texas on January 9th, 2019. It was a big moment for me. Just saying yes was something I never would have done in all my seven years of entrepreneurship. That “yes” was a defining moment.

Jessica is a genius marketer and a good friend of mine here in Austin that I respect a lot. I met her through her local networking events and her Facebook group for Austin entrepreneurs. Saying yes to her was a no-brainer. It made me feel more comfortable speaking at her venue because I already knew and liked her.

She let me pick the topic, and so I picked the one I love the most: profitable content.

I collected my 6-step framework to profitable content which I’ve developed 100% from scratch, after learning and implementing content marketing for the past seven years and finally getting to a place of success after a lot of trial and error. I’ve taught this framework online, by invitation, for Stukent and other publications. It’s also the base of the course and book I built across all of 2017.

Teaching my 6-step framework, live.

So I took my favorite topic ever — and one of the most original concepts I’ve ever developed — and turned it into a new session geared for entrepreneurs at a “starting point” level for Jessica’s lunch. When I got up to speak, not only did I feel 1000% comfortable with my topic, but I also found myself thoroughly enjoying sharing it to a live audience.

Jessica told me something that stuck: “I think webinars are harder. If you did that, you can speak live. The energy of a real, in-person audience around you helps a lot.” She was right!

Download the slides to my talk here.

julia's talk in austin texas

Read and watch @JuliaEMcCoy's first-ever live talk given in Austin, Texas on how to build profitable #contentmarketing. Click To Tweet

I Gave My First Live Talk on Profitable Content in Austin, Texas. Here’s How It Went

how to build profitable content

If a picture speaks a thousand words, a video speaks a million words — right?

My talented friend and videographer, Joel Valle, recorded my session for my YouTube channel as I spoke.

Without further ado, here it is. It’s up to you how well you think I did! Click to pop open in a new window and watch on YouTube. I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Psst… I’d be honored if you would subscribe to my YouTube channel. (It will be worth your time: I’m committed to a weekly video every Monday featuring practical advice on a hot content topic in my #ContentMarketingMemos.)

3 Speaking Tips that WORKED for Me

If you’re thinking of approaching your first speaking gig, here are the speaking tips that worked for me the most. I thought this would be useful to add to today’s recap.

1. You Don’t Have to Be an Extrovert to Speak (In Fact, Being an Introvert or Writer Can Help You Deliver an Impactful Message)

First, despite all my fears, there was a small spark in my heart that told me I should try speaking. Each of my family members has spoken publicly or are comfortable with it. And by all — I mean all! My father, mother, aunt, uncle! The internal spark of desiring to speak grew when I listened internally, focused in on quiet time, meditated, and prayed.

I’ve also talked to many live speakers across the years, down to walking the floors of Content Marketing World in 2018 and finding the keynote speakers to ask them for their tips.

(Lee Odden told me at karaoke night that he’s spoken on more than 200 stages, is a MAJOR introvert, and is still nervous about it and doesn’t love speaking! Even though he kills it and is in demand! Ann Handley, the winner of the first Hero Award, CMI’s Hall of Fame Award, told me she’d paced her hotel room in solace all day, practicing the speech she was giving on stage that evening. And she’s also given so many speeches.)

Everything I was told convinced me of something. Being an introvert did not discount my chances of speaking. I was excited to learn that possibly, being an introvert could even equate to “awesome speaker.” Could it be?!

In a pre-Write Podcast conversation, Brian Fanzo told me a story about award-winning keynote speaker Scott Stratten. Brian looks up to Scott as a speaker so much, and Scott is a major introvert. Scott won’t go out for drinks with Brian after killing it on stage because he’d rather decompress in his hotel room.

Brian also told me something else: Because I’m a good writer, I possibly have an advantage over many other average speakers. I can easily create content that rocks, and he said that’s the struggle for many speakers. Chris Strub has also encouraged me to stop letting the “introvert” perspective limit me. He’s even included me on his list of 50 women speakers, which I was very honored about.

Over time, I’ve had countless people tell me that being an introvert shouldn’t hold me back.

1. You Don't Have to Be an Extrovert to Speak - In Fact, Being an Introvert or Writer Can Help You Deliver an Impactful Message and 2 other tips on #publicspeaking from @JuliaEMcCoy #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

2. Practice, Practice, Practice Makes a Perfect Presentation

Nadya Khoja, Head of Marketing at Venngage, gave me this tip. Before she gave her first presentation (and she’s killing it now on stage), she practiced her slides at home 50 times. 

50 times!

I realized something while considering speaking. Everything I’ve done, from launching my agency, getting on Facebook Live, creating and launching my first course, writing emails that work, creating and publishing good blogs, you name it — all became better with practice. 

And so I took Nadya’s tip to heart. I decided I’d practice at home till I knew this presentation better than myself.

I already knew the 6-step framework — for Pete’s sake, I’d developed it 100% from scratch — but for this presentation, I wanted to know in and out. Not that I memorized every word. And that’s important: I think a good presentation is natural, and memorizing every word would make it stuffy.

To keep the flow natural, I made sure I memorized only the concepts and the first few sentences. (Keith Shannon, college professor and speaker extraordinaire, gave me this tip: “Know your opener COLD.” I took that advice to heart.)

I gave this presentation at home so many times, here’s what happened.

  • My 4-year-old could say the first three sentences of my talk all by herself without prompting.
  • My husband got so tired of me giving him the speech that he started hating hearing it and would look over at me with a painful sigh when I started saying it again. (I expected that, though.)
  • I could whip out the first three sentences and the concepts anywhere on the spot, down to saying it randomly to a vet care tech as we took our pet in for shots. (I bet they probably thought I was the one needing medical care, at that point.)

3. Find Your Rhythm

This sums up several tips I was given that all worked. A few were:

  • Look at the back of the room, the floor, or your slides when losing breath or confidence. This will reset your brain and let you look back out at the audience confidently. Good tip!
  • Sweep your glances across the audience’s faces. My friend Dori gave me this tip, and it worked very well for me.
  • Look at just a few people that you have a personal connection with if you feel your confidence is going down.

I didn’t have to rely on these tips like a crutch since I didn’t really lose my pace at any point, but I did find them helpful. I would add:

  • Find your natural rhythm. This is different for everyone!
  • Don’t be afraid to take up space. Stretch your arms, your body. This is your time, and it’s your space. Be you!
  • Strike natural and comfortable poses. I found a comfortable pose and found my mind eased up with my pose. I leaned on the podium and kicked up my heels for Q&A time.
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing. This helped me probably the most. I learned diaphragmatic breathing from my mother, who was a trained opera singer. I remembered her old tips. You want to activate the muscle between your stomach and chest. Your stomach should deflate when breathing out, and you should feel the strength in your voice if you do it right. This gives you all the breath you need! I found a tip on a blog from a speaking coach: 10, 10, 10. Breathe in for 10, filling up your stomach, then your chest: Hold for 10, and breathe out for 10. This will force you to start breathing right and you’ll use the right muscle when speaking. I started practicing this for weeks before my speech. By the time I went up to speak, I was in diaphragmatic breathing rhythm.
  • Believe, relax, and focus. Faith, prayer, and meditation were a big part of my preparation process. I tried to stay off social media and avoided too much noise and interruption as I focused in and got ready. That’s hard because I run an agency, but I made it happen.
Terrified of speaking in public? Major introvert @JuliaEMcCoy just gave her first-ever live talk in Austin on profitable content, and it went well! This post is jam-packed full of #publicspeaking tips. Click To Tweet

Slides: Julia’s Mastermind Guest Session, the 6-Step Framework to Profitable Content (20-Minute Live Talk)

Don’t forget to grab your copy of my slides!

Download my slides to my live talk in Austin, Texas.

And, you already know — but I’d absolutely love to hear what you think of my first-ever speech in the comments! 😊

cmworld 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

cmworld collage

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

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

cmworld collage

CMWorld 2018: 8 Biggest Takeaways & Content Marketing Lessons

cmworld recap

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

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

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

And it was awesome.

1. Today’s Most Important Marketing Element is Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two new things I learned about Joe:

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

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

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

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

  1. Record
  2. Repeat
  3. Remove

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

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

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

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

Why marketing fails:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus. Choose one thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wanna gut it and create snackable content.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curiosity gap.

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

One of the best examples Andrew brought up:

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

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

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

Take them through wanting to needing to know.

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

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

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

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

Think like a reality TV editor.

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

Excellent talk, Andrew!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What about paid vs. organic traffic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Newsletters are the OG.

2. Newsletters done well = 🔥

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann says:

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

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

Love it!

6. Reframe Obstacles into Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your extraordinary vision?

7. Make Your Content Mean Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These were our favorite takeaways from Pete’s session:

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

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

He recommended knowing your audience’s:

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


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

Tina Fey Shared Some Great Writing Tips

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

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

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

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

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

CTA seo content writer course

SXSW 2018

SXSW 2018: 3 Session Takeaways (Lessons From Kristina Halvorson, Content Panel with Slack, IBM & Visa, & Shark Tank Guest Judge Alex Rodriguez)

This year, I finally made it to SXSW.

sxsw 2018

I live 25 minutes away from the event, and it’s always been a wish of mine to make it there. The interactive ticket isn’t cheap at over $1,000, so that held me back for a while. This year, I decided to go all in and do it.

I’ve been warned by many locals that the event is a total madhouse, and I was worried.

Luckily, my experience was mostly pleasant. I attended brand marketing sessions only, none of the music festivals, so I can’t speak for those crowds: but the marketing, startup and brand sessions were extremely smooth and easy to attend.

If you’re looking to attend the event, it might help you if I list a few important things I learned about attending SXSW:

  • Registration and session lines at SXSW are run well. Yes, crowds and crowds of people start gathering in-between events, but the lines move fast. I was pleasantly surprised by this. When I was at a session in the Austin Convention Center, SXSW volunteers held up big signs with the session name that showed you where the line started. The line ended up going down three hallways with hundreds of people single-file, which looked daunting. But the minute the doors opened, there was more than enough room to hold everyone, and we all got seated easily.
sxsw 2018 registration

Registration day at SXSW. It was a breeze to get in and pick up my badge.

  • Absolutely, definitely, use the SXSW map they give you at registration. Really – study the map and let it guide you. Once you know where the buildings are, and most of them are blocks away from each other, things get really easy. I walked to the Dell Experience, tiny house of smart, and a session inside the Convention Center all within two hours after studying the map and knowing which direction to walk in once I left each building. It was super easy and simple to get in to each of the separate events.
  • SXSW traffic really IS terrible. Use Lyft. I took Lyft both ways, from home to the event, and got around easily that way. With the app, I could literally request a driver sitting at the curb I was walking down. Downtown, you’ll end up crawling from block to block if you drive. Not just because of the surge of 90,000 extra people in Austin, but also because many roads get blocked off. If you’re just going from session to session, it’s far easier to walk than drive.

Okay, now that we’re past how I learned to actually navigate and get around at SXSW, let’s move on to the good stuff: three sessions I attended and some major takeaways. Ready?

SXSW 2018

SXSW 2018: 3 Session Takeaways (Lessons From Kristina Halvorson, Tech Content Panel, & Shark Tank Guest Judge Star Alex Rodriguez)

Let’s dive in to the sessions I attended and what I learned from them.

The Truth About Content: Broken Dreams & the Big Fix with Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson is a world-leading expert on content strategy, founder at Brain Traffic, and author of Content Strategy for the Web. (I have a dog-eared copy of her book.) She was ridiculously funny and down-to-earth in the presentation she gave at SXSW. I seriously loved attending her session. And I got to meet her afterwards!

kristina halvorson sxsw

Meeting Kristina Halvorson!

Here were some of my favorite takeaways from her presentation, The Truth About Content: Broken Dreams and the Big Fix.

kristina halvorson

“Content strategy is not 1,400 articles dumped on the floor of your site.” She literally showed hundreds of toys dumped on the floor in a pile for the slide representing this tatement (My Little Pony toys, specifically – Kristina’s a huge fun of MLP). I loved this reference, because just sometimes, I’ve come across a client or two that thought this was the right strategy. FYI. It’s not.

“Nobody cares about your content because you didn’t ask them what they cared about in the first place.” ????

Click To Tweet

“Content strategy must:

  • Define
  • Prioritize
  • Integrate
  • Systematize
  • Measure”

“Blend the editorial side and experience. You can’t have one without the other.” Great content is nothing without great usability. These two really do go hand-in-hand.

How do we get better at content? Kristina shared five keys:

1. Reset. Example: Coca Cola went from a lifestyle publication and got clear on being a publication for a drink. Their website now makes SENSE! They actually dis-invested in content marketing and simplified. What can you simplify for your end user?

2. Get aligned. Many businesses only know TACTICS. Know your vision, mission, goal, objectives, etc. The RACI chart can help.

3. Actually know your audience. Pay attention to them. Exceed their expectations. Many times they don’t want to be challenged. They want to find the coupon on the site. (GREAT point.) It’s not just in SEO Research. You should be talking to your audience. Do website polls. Phone interviews. Get your support team involved in knowing your audience. Don’t just know their name and age, know their needs.

4. Establish common systems and standards. Content structure must have a taxonomy. A governance plan.

5. Beware the silver bullet. Silver bullet = AI. But guess what? Your tech did not fix the content mess and lack of strategy. The AI prediction does not cover this. “AI can mine and repurpose the best stuff.” An actual human will fix it, not AI. AI is coming, and it requires three things: 1) a reliable source of data and content. 2) accurate info suited to the application: know what you’re using it for and your end goals. 3) a framework for organizing. We’re not even there yet as website owners running a clean website.

Content first? No, humans first.

In Q/A time, I asked Kristina this question: “What’s the biggest no-no that brands just starting out with content strategy do?”

Her answer was right on: “Businesses start with tactics instead of very clear business goals and objectives that are clear. 9 out of 10 businesses don’t really know what their customer needs. And remember: storytelling isn’t a technique or replacement for a strategy.”

Innovation Fatigue: Tech Content In a Noisy World

Another session of note that I attended was a panel with ladies from Slack, IBM, and Visa.

innovation fatigue session sxsw

My #1 favorite takeaway from this panel was this statement: “It’s no longer B2B / B2C content: it’s B2I content, because in the end, everyone we’re trying to reach is an individual.”

Visa on creating content that stands out: Visa used the characters and storyline from Stranger Things to incorporate a story that stuck. Give people a path for more information. Get deeper, provide better content.

Slack on creating content that stands out: Clearer, concise and human is Slack’s current motto for developing content. They want their content to read like a colleague showing you how to do something.

Internal vs. external content: Slack has a few channels where they introduce new people – a “yay!” channel, which is a channel to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. They also keep a “kudos” channel, where teammates thank other employee for being helpful. This becomes external content easily.

Internal vs external content isn’t something that’s been truly defined at IBM. Purposefully internal becomes external. They’re very careful about rights in photography, messaging and video. IBM has a Chief Privacy Officer now. They are very sensitive about using others’ data.

The panel was asked, Is practical content a high priority? For Slack, creating content that teaches users their app is critical. At the same time, they balance reader-friendly content. Their Work in Progress Podcast has little to do with Slack. It’s about empowering people in the workforce. Slack has to be curious about how people do their work daily. They do a series on friendship at work. “Learning how human relationships work is just as important to us as creating practical user guides.” Love that point.

Alex Rodriguez: Baseball, Business & Redemption with CNBC

Ever since I saw Alex Rodriguez appear on Shark Tank as a guest judge, I knew I liked him. His uncanny sense of clarity in business is something I don’t see in a lot of so-called “business experts.”

In the Monday session I attended, Alex said several statements about business that I had to write down. I’m going to apply these to my HR department. I didn’t take a ton of notes from this session, but the quotes I did write down are worth their weight in gold. Sometimes, one sentence can be worth a thousand words.

alex rodriguez sxsw

Alex Rodriguez On Hiring

When asked, “How do you hire good people?”, here’s what Alex said.

Hire people that are:

  • Poor
  • Hungry
  • Driven

It’s not about a big resume. It’s how driven they are.

Alex Rodriguez On Working with the Right Clients

How to choose clients to work with: A quick yes or no is far better than a slow maybe.

Alex Rodriguez Answers “How is Business Like Sports?”

“Less than 5% of major league baseball players have college degrees. It’s not just about education. It’s about hard work. There is no shortcut in business. I had to work just as hard in business as in my baseball career.

That includes taking full responsibility for my mistakes. You have to get to the bottom, and acknowledge the bottom.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”There is no shortcut in business. I had to work just as hard in business as in my baseball career. @AROD” quote=”There is no shortcut in business. I had to work just as hard in business as in my baseball career. @AROD”]

The Real Reason Alex Rodriguez Hires Women in Leadership Roles

I seriously love this answer. As a woman, I especially appreciate getting noticed for my talent and my creative skills, not just given preference because of my gender. I think Alex put it so well:

“Women have a big leadership position in my company. They got those jobs not because they were women, but because they were the best people for the job. Talent is talent, and so is character.”

Alex Rodriguez on Leadership

“As a leader, you shouldn’t ask your people to do anything you wouldn’t do. Even if it was to clean a toilet in the basement. Those are the most respected leaders. At the end of the day, we’re in it together. That’s how it is in sports, and business.”

SXSW 2018: Event Recap

sxsw 2018

I enjoyed my time at SXSW 2018!

Another highlight was that along with the sessions I attended, I met up with Mark Schaefer, who is an amazing marketer (one of the top five in the world) and author of my foreword to Practical Content Strategy & Marketing. Mark invited me to breakfast along with the Director of Marketing at UPMC, and the conversation I listened in to was amazing! Mark is strategizing his next book, which will make some waves in the industry. I can’t wait for that book.

Between the people I met up with, conversations I was a part of, cool tech I saw, and sessions I attended, I definitely recommend SXSW. It’s a forward-thinking event where you get a glimpse at the future of innovation.

julia mccoy sxsw

Enjoying the “red carpet” at SXSW!

I would recommend considering it if you want to meet up with a lot of marketers, brands, see some cool innovative tech (check out all the interactive houses and displays – seriously amazing stuff), and if you want to be an ear and listen in to some amazing speakers and sessions.

CTA ew content strategy

cmworld 2017 express writers

CMWorld 2017: 9 Top Attendance Takeaways & 3 Event Networking Tips (What I Learned as a First-Time CMWorld Attendee)

I’ve always wanted to go to CMWorld.

Like, since I started out 6 years ago in the industry.

If you know anything about me, you know that I started Express Writers back in 2011, at 20 years old, with $75: and through consistent content creation, I’ve been able to reach clients and grow to a team of over 40 writers, serving over 5,000 clients over the last 6 years. The sole marketing we do is content marketing. We are a realization of our services: literally, we ARE a content creation agency marketed and fueled by the content we create for our brand. This is done through my content on the Write Blog, my guest blogs on Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine Journal, and SiteProNews, to name a few. By now, we have over 4,000 organic keyword spots in Google.

So this year, I finally went and gathered in a crowd of people that were my kind – over 4,600 content creators and marketers, at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. I took one of my team leaders with me.

The verdict?

We experienced a dynamite week at CMWorld.

I walked away with four potential new clients, three (maybe four) sponsors for my new course, AND some key lessons learned that I’ll be implementing for the good of my company and the web (seriously – I’m about to get a lot realer and create even better content in the days ahead – I’ve been strategizing and mapping since the moment I left).

Here’s a recap. Keep reading for 9 main session takeaways – simple, favorite takeaways – and 3 critical lessons I learned as a content marketer attending #CMWorld, about the event in general and how to network effectively.

cmworld 2017 express writers

CMWorld 2017 In Pictures

How fun is this? Our designer took the 30+ pictures I shot at the event with some of my favorite content marketing people, and made an infographic collage! Enjoy. 🙂

[clickToTweet tweet=”Experience #CMWorld 2017 in pictures: #infographic of event pictures via @ExpWriters” quote=”Experience #CMWorld 2017 in pictures: #infographic of event pictures via @ExpWriters”]

cmworld 2017 express writers collage

Arriving in Cleveland September 5 for CMWorld 2017: Day 1

Tuesday, September 5, started off the event with an amazing networking night where each one of us 4,000+ marketers hung out together at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I’d never been, and it was incredible – a beautiful venue.

Hannah, my Content Director at Express Writers, and I landed right at 6:55 pm. Hannah came from Albany, Oregon, and I came from Austin, Texas. The networking party was from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. We dropped our bags off at our hotel and got ready to network and party! We ended up at the event around 8:15.

The trolley left our hotel, Crowne Plaza, every 30 minutes. Which was awesome. We didn’t have to call an Uber or a taxi for the CMWorld events that happened close to our hotel. Content Marketing World had all the details covered – even a printout of where you were going ready to hand out at the hotel front lobby. In fact, CMWorld signs were EVERYWHERE. We saw cars sporting magnetic roof signs, like pizza delivery cars, for the event. Content Marketing Institute did an outstanding job on event marketing. Everything was set up to be extremely helpful for attendees, especially the new ones that weren’t sure where to go (me).

At the networking event Tuesday night, we had an amazing time. I actually got to personally shake hands with and hug my industry hero, Joe Pulizzi! Funny story: Hannah and I ended up escorting Joe Pulizzi for the CMI staff up the escalator, both of us on each side of him! I also met the amazing CMI staff, who I’d emailed and tweeted with years prior to this week. It’s great to make a connection through email and/or Twitter, but there’s nothing like hugging in real life. I crossed paths with a lot more people I’d tweeted or emailed. The opening night party was loads of fun.

9 Session Takeaways from CMWorld 2017: Joe Pulizzi, Jay Acunzo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & More

The CMWorld event, true to awesome form, comes complete with a CMWorld app. CMWorld 2017 is downloadable through the iTunes store. It was an amazing way to manage the 150+ sessions that occurred from Tuesday – Friday during the week of the conference. You’re free to scroll through the sessions, pick the ones you want to attend, and add them to your agenda. Incredibly smart and useful.

Here are some one/two-liner (some are longer) takeaways from the sessions I attended. Keep reading for some hugely critical tips I learned on networking for great results, too.

1. Joe Pulizzi, Welcome to the Content Marketing Revolution (Opening Keynote)

Favorite takeaway:

“You need a loyal and trusting audience. Traffic and shares are good: but without a loyal audience, nothing is possible.

9/10 marketers that are successful at content marketing, say that they focus on building an audience.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Without a loyal audience, nothing is possible. @joepulizzi #CMWorld” quote=”Without a loyal audience, nothing is possible. @joepulizzi #CMWorld”]

2. Linda Boff, GE, “Imagination at Work: Lessons in Storytelling from GE,” General Session Keynote

linda goff cmworld

Key takeaway:

“Stories are right under our noses—we just might need to change the lens every now and then. Content that tries to sell, doesn’t.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Content that tries to sell, doesn’t. @lindaboff” quote=”Content that tries to sell, doesn’t. @lindaboff”]

3. Jay Acunzo, “Be the Exception: How Brilliant Marketers Find and Follow What Makes Their Stories Different in a World Full of Average Content,” General Session Keynote

Key takeaway:

[clickToTweet tweet=”Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. @jayacunzo ” quote=”Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. @jayacunzo #CMWorld”]

“Be exceptional. Spend your time doing truly remarkable work and building something worth subscribing to. Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. What is your aspirational anchor? What is your intent for the future? What kind of hunger do you feel about work today… and what is your unfair advantage? Use these as both a filter for endless advice and your differentiator in your content.”

4. Michele Linn of CMI, Creating the Ultimate Content Marketing Team (45-Minute Session)

Favorite takeaway:

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Creatives with skills outside their specialty are highly marketable. Don’t just hire a ‘writer.’” @michelelinn ” quote=”‘Creatives with skills outside their specialty are highly marketable. Don’t just hire a ‘writer.’” @michelelinn #CMWorld”]

michele linn cmworld

Michele mentioned that originally she’d thought about making the presentation about “roles,” then realized that every marketer she spoke to in researching her presentation topic had a different role title. Role titles didn’t matter as much as the skills and actual responsibilities. Michele also shared a great Cameron Conway quote: Behind every great content marketing effort, there’s always a driven, well-organized team.

5. Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic, The Inside Story of How Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials Drives Consistent Web Traffic and Builds an Audience (45-Minute Session)

Amanda, with the approval (and cheerleading) of the health clinic’s CMO, took the Cleveland Health Clinic’s online presence from zero traffic to an on-track goal of hitting 5 million hits per MONTH this October. They publish 15 blogs/day, and right now, the number one way they win new patients is through their content, with multiple blogs set up where they post content to. Way to go, Cleveland Health Clinic–and Amanda!

Amanda says: Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. She recommends dropping the stale monthly reports and reporting back when you see a change, improvement, follower movement–which could be a daily occurrence. Also, patience is key. It’s taken them years to build their tremendous presence and audience.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. [email protected] from Cleveland Health Clinic #CMWorld” quote=”Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. [email protected] from Cleveland Health Clinic #CMWorld”]

6. Garrett Moon of Coschedule, Going Beyond Content Marketing: Turning Traffic into Leads (45-Minute Session)

coschedule cmworld

This session by Garrett from CoSchedule held some great tips.

“Drive profitable customer action. Attract an audience that is excited to discover your product. What do your customers really care about? To get leads, you must understand your customer.

Focus on having a content core. Have one clear CTA message in your content, never two. Place them in the top and bottom. Use the HelloBar and package your content with value. Instead of just asking your readers to subscribe, give them something for free that’s of value along the way.

Goal setting and tracking is important. Understand how to measure your lead generation, and remember that different phases of business mean different goals.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Find a topic that your customers care about and map it to an angle that provides value. @garrett_moon #CMWorld” quote=”Find a topic that your customers care about and map it to an angle that provides value. @garrett_moon #CMWorld”]

7. #AMA – ASKMEANYTHING – How Marketers Can Deliver Better Speeches and Presentations, with Cathy McPhillips, Donna Moritz, Scott Stratten, and Tamsen Webster (Lunch & Learn)

Favorite takeaway:

“Speaking can be deeply uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME. @tamadear” quote=”Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME. @tamadear”]

8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Keynote – Hollywood, Media and How to Collaborate to Build Something Truly Great

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, film star and director, built from scratch, a community of collaborators and work together to get paid for their creative skills (over $2.5 million has been paid out to their creatives).

joseph gordon levitt cmworld

Favorite takeaway:

Although Joseph’s speech was awesome, my favorite short-liner would have to be Joe Pulizzi clearing up what “content marketing” means to Joseph.

Joe Pulizzi (talking about what Joseph does): So what kind of marketing category does that fall into?

Joseph: Brand marketing.

Joe: Why not content marketing?

Joseph: Well, what is the difference between brand and content marketing?

Joe: Brand marketing is marketing that serves the brand. Content marketing is marketing that serves the audience.

Joseph: Okay, then, I guess I do content marketing.


9. Jay Baer, How to Get Promoted by Creating Less Content, Not More (45-Minute Session)

I apologize – this one isn’t going to be a one-liner takeaway.

I was inspired by this particular session by Jay Baer so much, that I’ll be writing a standalone blog on a guest blog platform just around what I took away from listening. This was a powerful wake-up speech that every content marketer should know about. Stop doing crap volume content – it’ll kill you, eventually. Here are a few key notes from the session.

First, Jay shared core statistics that are pretty crazy:

  • 76% of marketers plan to create more content than ever this year
  • Yet more than half of all content gets LESS THAN 4 social shares
  • And more than 75% earns no links

Being relevant to your audience is the hugest content need today. Content fails when it doesn’t matter enough to trade time for information.

jay baer cmworld

Jay identified a wonderful solution by building multiple personas. He introduced a “5x5x5 topic archaeology:” determine 5 key questions that must be answered for your audience to progress through the sales funnel. Create a persona for each stage of the funnel. 125 questions (5×3 stages of the funnel) will net you 60 questions. Then, you can figure out the content type to create to answer their questions. FAQ, blog, etc.

Think of creating consistent content shows. On your site; and in other places. Thematic content is key. Stop creating content randomly. Jay’s Social Pros podcast has ran for 7 years. Whiteboard Friday. With shows, you stop random nature of creating content. Your audience will tune in. Easier to test and optimize. Repurposing content is easier this way, too.

The most persuasive content is created by real people, not brands. The more content customers and fans you create, the less you have to create. More trust, less work.

Robots that can write well, WILL happen – they are happening now. In just a few months they could replace your job. Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer. Have a laser focus on relevance, trustworthiness, memorability…not volume.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer and stand out against the robots. @jaybaer ” quote=”Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer and stand out against the robots. @jaybaer #CMWorld”]

3 Key Lessons I Learned From Successfully Networking and Attending CMWorld 2017

At CMWorld 2017, I walked away with several potential new clients and three, maybe four, course sponsors.

How did I make THAT happen?!

Let me be specific, so you don’t think these were just “leads:” we walked away with at least two new client relationships (brand new, direct emails and contact info exchanged, and “I will be hiring you” actually said to my staff member and I). We’re working on potentially two more of those, too.

With my course, I have meetings that I discussed and set from the conference floor with three executives that are definitely interested in sponsoring the course. Granted, when it comes to the course, these were people I have had connections with for years – yet I think meeting in person at CMWorld was a huge key to successful communication regarding it, and the trust factor just gets so much “realer” when you’re in person.

1. If You Want to Get a “Lead” That’s Worth Something, Don’t Pitch Cold. But, Look for Opportunities & Make Friends.

How interesting is this tip?

Dave, my client at Magnificent Marketing, who was at #CMWorld too, told me that pitching while at a party or doing dinner together just feels “slimey.”

I agree, but I think there’s a balance. The odds also seemed to be heavily in my favor to naturally find opportunities, since we were the lone content creation agency (everyone else was a consulting agency, marketer, SaaS creator, etc).

For example, I was standing in the middle of the Expo Hall (which is giant) and was talking to my friend, the Director of BuzzSumo, Steve Rayson. The minute I finished talking to him, two people came up to me. Turns out they led marketing at an agency, were looking for writers, and had read my badge while I was talking to Steve – “Express Writers.” They said they were in need of writers yesterday and we instantly exchanged information. This happened a couple times.

I think you should go prepared to pitch if you find someone that needs you, and you’re confident you can deliver. However, don’t just “pitch.” Look for the opportunity, make a friend, and then make the connection.

There was one booth there where the guy, an obviously seasoned and salty “salesperson,” walked up to me and tried to sell me on a webinar system I didn’t need. Within five minutes, he’d sent me a LinkedIn request with his calendar link to book a call.

That was a major, major turnoff. You’re at a content marketing event, where the theme was “audience comes first.” Never do what the overly-salesy sales guy did to me.

2. If You Have Prior Influencer Relationships Built Up, When You Finally Meet, It’s Dynamite & Big Things Can Happen.

This seriously applies to meeting influencers.


Don’t go expecting big things and try to meet influencers you’ve never, ever talked to before.

Why? First of all, they usually have a crowd around them. Second of all, the connection won’t be as amazing as a moment that goes… “aha! So good to meet you, finally!” It’ll be a much less impactful connection if you’re a complete stranger when you meet them at the event.

So I’ve been podcasting (the Write Podcast) since April 2016, and through that channel, I’ve been able to meet and build relationships with some amazing influencers in the industry. Same for a Twitter chat I run, #ContentWritingChat. Before my podcasting days, I’d already met a few of the influencers virtually through live events, tweeting, etc. Some of these connections went as far back as 2012. So, before I even planned on #CMWorld, I’d tweeted, emailed, and talked consistently with these amazing influencers.

When we met, it was DY-NA-MITE. Like, “let’s sit down and talk opportunities” dynamite. I had a sponsorship meeting booked and two in the works before I left the floor on Day 2. We hugged, took pictures, and the conversation flowed, too. It wasn’t one-sided with me “asking.” We were truly friends before I even got there. And the ask was easy–the influencer and I both knew it was in our favor.

3. CMWorld Is One of the “Easiest” Conferences With Short, Walk-In Sessions & Everything Set Up For You.

When I planned my trip to CMWorld, I was honestly worried how 150 sessions and 100 speakers would go. I thought I’d be completely drained – I’d been to another conference with 45-60 minute sessions back on back and was drained quickly.

The app made it extremely easy to pick my sessions. I didn’t even have to look for signs or go somewhere – I just looked at the app.

I found that CMWorld was structured so well that the sessions were short (some at 20 minutes long) and the longer sessions still allowed you to come and go very easily.

The come-and-go nature of the event, and the constantly open Main Expo Hall with a giant, comfortable lounge, was perfect. Seriously, desks and chairs were everywhere incase you needed to take a quick minute to catch up on work, and the entire convention center was rented out for us – AND the next-door hotel!

Over 4,000 attendees and you could still find a quiet corner to make or take a call. (Except for the Expo Hall when it was time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s keynote. Forget even trying to walk through. It moved fast, though.)

In honesty, I attended less sessions than I thought I would, but the networking results were fantastic. I kept popping out early to go see who I could find at the Expo Hall, and then walking into other sessions.

The end result? I was engaged, happy, and the opposite of bored (what I would have felt if I was sitting in a session for more than an hour at a time).

Final Shoutout #1: Andy Crestodina Is An Influencer that Sets an Industry Example

One influencer that I made a new relationship with at CMWorld consistently stood out for his helpfulness, kindness, and all-around awesomeness – to me and everyone around me. Andy Crestodina.

There are a lot of amazing, helpful, kind people in content marketing, but Andy is hard to describe because of how much he goes above and beyond. I was thoroughly amazed and inspired by Andy’s above-average caring nature as a content marketing expert and influencer.

Here’s why.

We were standing in the expo hall. I had just met him face-to-face, and was telling him how much I enjoyed the book that he mailed me, at no cost, with a handwritten note – before I went to the event. (Seriously, wasn’t that nice?) I told him “so sorry I missed your session today! I ended up going to another.” Do you know what Andy said? “Skype me. Or catch me later. And I’ll give you the whole talk. It was short. I don’t want you to miss it. So I’ll give it personally to you if you want. Just let me know.”

Then, he texted me later on the second full day of the event, and got me into an amazing event hosted by Ivana of DIYMarketers.

Seriously! What influencer does that?! Content marketing has heroes. That’s all I’m going to say.

Final Shoutout #2: Thank You, Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose, & the CMI Team!

I was honored to walk out with a handsigned copy of the newest book from Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. This one will be on my bedstand table for a while.

joe pulizzi signed book

Thank you, thank you Content Marketing Institute for a wonderful event!

For this content marketer, it was an incredible experience. I will be back!

content strategy course cta