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.
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.
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:”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
Then, I discussed today’s leading source of traffic.
Did you know over 70% of traffic on the internet originates from a search?
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
- Michael Pozdnev, the creator behind iwannabeablogger.com, has earned 12-15,000 page views monthly with a lifetime amount of just five epic blog posts.
- 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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
You guessed it.
The blog that had less than 40 shares brought in an ideal lead that purchased at over $1,000.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
That’s a Wrap, Content Marketing World 2019!
I’m already looking forward to the next Content Marketing World. Here’s till next year! 🙌🏻