content strategist course

Content Strategist: A Hard Knocks Success Story & the Essential Strategy Skills You’ll Learn in Our New Certification Course

I’m a self-taught content strategist, and the CEO of a content creation agency that has sold millions of dollars of worth in content services (blogs, web pages, content planning) – full-time for the past six years now. See the story behind Express Writers.

In my line of work, I’ve heard just about every complaint and frustration you could possibly hear from marketers and SEO practitioners:

  • “I’m not sure this content is worth it.”
  • “Where do you recommend I publish my content?”
  • “I’m not sure I can do more than one month of blogging. I’ll look at the budget and get back to you.”
  • “I can’t afford an industry specialist writer.”

This is a small percentage of the clients that come our way, but I’m still ready to pull my hair out, every time I hear these phrases.

Why?

Because I personally know the value that a great content marketing strategy, and consistent publishing, can bring.

But I also know what it takes to get there: the path isn’t easy. It requires investment, time, and most of all, commitment.

The skills involved in the workload of a content strategist aren’t easy to learn.

But here’s the cool news…

Content can truly bring you 100x what you put into it.

Are you interested in becoming a full-fledged, industry expert Content Strategist?

You can learn these skills! My Content Strategy Certification Course is open, but only for a limited time.

I’ll talk more about that in a moment, but first, here’s a look at what I’ve managed to achieve here at Express Writers solely through high quality, original content creation.

content strategist course skills

A Content Strategist Success Story: Express Writers, Fueled Completely By Organic Content

Today, under my direction and content creation as a self-taught content strategist and CEO, my little self-funded content creation agency and staff of 40 at Express Writers has managed to outrank competitors that have $9+ million in outside funding, by an immense 3%+ higher visibility in Google.

We rank organically for over 11,000 key terms, with a presence worth $57,000+ monthly in organic search.

And we haven’t paid a penny in ads—across six years—to gain the majority of our leads and clientele. They’ve come straight from these rankings.

express writers in semrush 1
express writers in semrush 2

express writers in semrush 3

Question…

How well does this content convert?

Because you can’t just have high-ranking content, right? It has to return.

After optimizing my strategy and increasing my content investment this year, we hit the highest sales month we’ve ever had this January. Now, we’re on track to break our first seven figure year as an agency.

99% of our leads come through organic content marketing.

I’ve never invested a single dollar in PPC.

The secret is all in how you go about it (your strategy), and your commitment. It’s not an overnight game, and it’s a steady, slow, but sure process.

It can feel like hard, low-return work in the beginning, but in the long run, content is the best marketing you’ll have ever done.

Content Strategists & The Proven Worth of Content to Advertisers

Today, SEO has basically merged as a part of the wider picture that is content marketing.

When you do SEO, you’re optimizing your content for high rankings in the search results: in content marketing, you market your product or service through high-value, audience-targeted content campaigns.

Optimizing your content for search (SEO) is a crucial, integrated part of content marketing itself. It’s a big part of the skillset of a great content strategist.

If you have the right strategy, the right SEO and the right content consistency in place, take a look at these success statistics that can happen.

  • Per dollar spent, content marketing generates more than 3x the number of leads than paid search does. (Kapost/Eloqua)
  • Content marketing costs between 31 and 41% less than paid search, depending on the organization’s size. (Kapost/Eloqua)
  • Website conversion rate is nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs. 0.5%). (Aberdeen Group)
  • Content creation ranks as the single most effective SEO technique. (Marketing Sherpa)
  • 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (FactBrowser)
  • Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. (ImpactBnd)

A Content Strategist Skillset Wheelhouse: 7 Keys to Success 

Your content strategy is everything in achieving high-performing, high-ROI content.

Follow these critical steps, in order, for a baseline sense of how to navigate through and set up your strategy so that your content is knocked out of the park and you know you’re getting ROI when you publish content. (PSA: These steps take time. Don’t jump around or rush through them. PSA 2: This takes time. Don’t expect overnight success.)

1. Know your position of authority and differentiation in your field.

It all starts here. Know where your expertise lies, own it, and ten find your Content Differentiation Factor so you can officially stand out in your industry. To get to that, ask yourself, “what would make a customer choose me over my competitor?” Your answer is your CDF. Condense it to one or two key sentences to showcase on your home page (you may need a conversion copywriter to help you express this perfectly).

CDF factor

Brands that have a standout CDF in a variety of niches (scan their home pages—it should, quite literally, stand out there):

  • Uber: ”Get there: Your day belongs to you”
  • Stripe: “The new standard in online payments”
  • Grammarly: “Your writing, at its best”
  • Moz: “5 billion searches are performed every day. Be found.”
  • Zuke’s Dog Blog: “Live life off leash”
  • Better Bites Bakery: “All joy, no worries”
  • My agency: “Better content in your marketing.”

This is the first step of a true content strategy, and this step is a discovery that could take some time. But it’s absolutely worth it. Too many brands starting out don’t take the time to make sure they have a standout factor.

To set yourself up for content success, you have to have a reason for the reader (buyer, audience member, lead) to choose you and your content. Don’t skimp here. Having a CDF will 10x the results you’ll get when leads start finding your content.

2. Know your content goals.

What do you want to get out of content? Bucket in three key areas: 1. SEO rankings (you’ll define your terms later in the strategy), 2. Sales and connections, and 3. Brand awareness.

Direct your efforts in content based on where you’re at in your business. If you have leads and customers, you may be able to afford more time and creativity with brand awareness content. If you’re starting out, focus on finding your keywords and creating comprehensive, awesome SEO content—months down the road, when your leads start coming in, you’ll be glad you did.

Go by goals, and every content idea you have, you should be able to bucket that topic or idea into your goal areas. This heavily narrows down the chances of you creating undirected, low-ROI content.

3. Know your audience and who you’re talking to. 

Get to know your audience, their language, the conferences they attend and the publications they read. Think of it like “friendly-stalking” the people you want to do business with and earn as customers.

A surefire way to find out persona data is to use surveys and get real-time feedback (use and pay for a Google Survey if you don’t have an audience yet). Ask them to fill out a demographic survey in exchange for a reward (gift card, a free service from you). If you have an existing customer list, pick a customer on that list and offer to have coffee with them, on you, in exchange for a few minutes of their time—or pick up the phone and ask to interview them.

Get comfortable with who your ideal customer is, their likes, dislikes, and you’ll be able to create content that is just for them.

4. Build a persona and a style guidelines document for your brand.

Once you have survey results in and have profiled your ideal client, build a persona. Don’t set it in stone—people change, and traits vary so much (we’re all so unique). So, don’t idealize just one person with a persona. Think of it like getting familiar with their likes and interests, so you can create better content that caters to them.

Then, invest time and resources into building a style guidelines for your brand. Keep it simple – include your audience persona, specify how to use (and not use) your company brand name and colors, the preferred style and tone of voice you want to maintain, linking and content rules. You’ll find this document invaluable when you start investing in content creators. Brand style guidelines can stop hired writers and creators from assuming different tones, in their tracks. And it’s crucial in winning leads and building a loyal audience that you adhere to and use your tone throughout every piece of content you publish. Brand familiarity is ROI.

Check out how Skype specifies their tone of voice in their brand book: “If your mum couldn’t understand what is being written, then it’s not the Skype voice. Humour is an important part of the Skype voice. We don’t tell one liners, but employ a gentle wit to engage our users.”

5. Know your keywords, content topics, & investments to make.

Keyword discovery should be a part of every brand’s content strategy. Go for long-tail keywords and use tools like KWFinder and SEMrush to find your best keywords according to how well they’re scored. Avoid high competition keywords on authoritative sites—they will be much harder to write content around and rank for, if you’re competing against someone who has already done an amazing job at writing content for it and Google is ranking that content #1. Look for relevant, low competition keywords.

Be thorough with your keyword discovery. It takes me about an hour to find eight amazing long-tail keywords that have a real chance of ranking, if I create comprehensive content around them. I look for a score of 40 and below in the SEO difficulty scores.

Don’t just rely on keyword tools for content topics: use tools like BuzzSumo and question/answer platforms like Quora to discover trending topics in your industry. Choose a few you can write on with authority, and add your own thoughts on the subject.

Your topics can and should branch outside of SEO terms. For example:

  • SEO-focused post: we found out that the keyword “hiring the best SEO content writers” was a long-tail keyword with slim competition, so we created a 1,500 word post titled “How to Hire Your Best SEO Content Writers: 4 Key Qualities to Look For.”
  • Brand awareness-focused post: Outside of keyword research, I found that a common question on Quora was “how do I create a content marketing plan?” So, one of my blogs was a 2,000 word piece on that topic. The keyword had high competition, but since I have established rankings and leads, I wrote on the topic to focus on high level industry education, which can bring my agency more brand awareness.

Your content investments should be based on your commitment. Remember: it takes 12-24 months of consistent content creation to see results.

Hubspot did a study showing how much the effort of blogging can return 12 months down the road:

hubspot blogging_compounding_returns-1-1

And, they did a study on why more is always better:

hubspot blog_monthly_traffic

If you can’t write a consistent stream of content yourself, invest in an industry copywriter. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find a writer that knows the industry they’re writing in—inside and out. Your reader is smart, savvy, and attracted to your brand/products because they’re in the same industry you’re in. Don’t leave the important process of writing the content your prospects actually read just up to any writer. Besides knowing the industry, your content writer should also know online optimization (keyword placement, format) and have engaging writing skills.

We’ve seen our clients 10x their rankings and results when they invested in an industry knowledgeable, authoritative copywriter!

6. Build your editorial calendar. 

Keep this part simple so you focus on the other cores more (research, publishing, promoting). Guide your topics by the high-opportunity keywords you find and the brand awareness focused topics you discover from a web topic crawl (trending in Quora, BuzzSumo, etc.). Get creative and tie topics to seasons and dates (see next point). Use Google Sheets or Trello to store your editorial topics in one place, month after month.

7. Promote, maintain, and audit.

A content promotion strategy should be in your mind from the moment you create content.

For example: back in February this year I had the idea to write a list of women in marketing to follow, and tie it to International Women’s Day in March. I categorized that topic based on where I could best promote it, and ended up pitching it to Search Engine Journal, where it received the best reception in promotion and shares, out of all the publications I could have published it on.

Think of where you can place and promote your content, as you create it. Go outside the box and be creative and strategic. Tie topics to holidays, seasonal launches to guest publication feature dates, and more.

Content maintenance and auditing should be part of your strategy on a consistent basis.

Every month, I check my site positions in SEMrush, and ask three of my best agency copywriters to help me update the posts that start to rank. This has brought a serious return in the amount of lead inquiries we get.

The content I wrote back in 2013 that’s ranking #1 today isn’t nearly as good as the content I can write today, so it’s absolutely necessary for me to update content as it ranks. By improving the quality of that content, updating the meta description, etc., I can seriously improve the amount of visitors that turn into leads from finding these high-ranking posts on Google.

Content Strategist Skillsets: Success is In the Details 

Remember: content marketing isn’t something that can be done once, or twice, or even for a few months.

In a podcast I recently recorded with Joe Pulizzi, he recommended 12-24 months as the typical turnaround to expect with a content investment. So, as a content strategist, once you invest in a blog schedule, you need to keep at it at least a year to start seeing return.

I’ve talked to influencers and content strategists that have shared their personal success stories, and it’s always a story about long-term success that translates to long term ROI—combined with a serious investment in “10x style” content (content that is 10x better than anything already out there).

The success is in the commitment, and in the details of how willing you are to get good at your strategy and content itself.

  • Unbounce’ Content Director, Dan Levy: “Blogging was survival for Unbounce in the early days. It was the only way for us to raise awareness of our brand and the need for landing pages in general without spending a ton of money, which we didn’t have.” Unbounce blogged six months before their product launched. Today, they have over 9,800 paying customers—which they’ve acquired mostly through Oli Gardner’s amazing long-form content.
  • Sujan Patel: “Content takes time, and people just see success stories and don’t realize it’s not overnight. It’s taken two and a half years for me. After that length of creating content for my own site consistently, I’m at a point of earning speaking gigs without even seeking them out.”

Yet, it works. At a Content Marketing World conference, the former senior director for data, content and media at Kraft, Julie Fleischer, said that content marketing ROI was 4x greater than their most targeted advertising.

Get a Visualized, Step-for-Step, 6-Week Content Strategist Certification & Training

This 2017, one of my biggest goals was to turn what I know into teachable, easy-to-digest knowledge in a course format.

I’d taken a few courses, and the ones I experienced all lacked one thing—the practical how-to of “what do I do next in my content?”

Personally, I learned content creation ROI the hard way, through trial and error. And after training dozens of writers with content I wrote just for internal education at my agency, I’ve seen firsthand how this industry is lacking in a practical, hands-on, high-ROI education.

The hows, what’s, and when’s of content creation and strategy as it applies to content marketing–where do you go to learn them?

So, over the last three months, I put hundreds of hours (and all the knowledge from my last six years in the industry) into creating an ultimate Content Strategy Certification Course.

It went live last week. The points I laid out in the six keys above are what I teach, step-by-step, visualized in video lesson demos and taught in hands-on exercises throughout six workbooks that accompany my course modules. In the course, my students learn how to build a working brand strategy, complete with personas, keyword reports, editorial calendars, and more: and my team and I personally review and mentor their results before they progress to certification.

Here’s to changing the industry—one complete, high-ROI content strategy at a time!

blog cta 2 course

 

content strategy certification course

The Practical Content Strategist Certification Course Is Live Today! (Course Closes July 11)

Remember my post about giving up Netflix and committing to 5 a.m. mornings?

That was hard as heck to do, let me tell you.

But, it worked – I was able to put in more than 250 hours on this course and create (pinch me) 60 lessons, 40+ videos, 6 workbooks (totaling over 150 pages), and 30 exercises that build on each other.

I even recorded a few video demos and hacks documenting how I actually research and create for my own high-ROI content to include in the course…

And a few industry experts were incredibly accommodating on getting on video with me last minute to record a few awesome guest videos just for the course.

Woohoo!

I’m doing a happy dance today, because…

Today, it all becomes worth it.

The Practical Content Strategist Certification Course is live.

Save 20% as an early bird student by using this link. Coupon expires July 2.

content strategy certification course julia

The Practical Content Strategist Certification Course Is Live Today! (Course Closes & Seats Fill July 11, 2017)

Content marketing is an industry that is seriously blowing up. It’s the “new” marketing of today. In 2019, it will be valued at more than $313 billion.

Yet, the #1 missing piece when most businesses invest in content marketing is their actual strategy.

Yikes! Shouldn’t strategy guide their entire content marketing to obtain better results?

It absolutely should.

But it’s not easy to get to the bottom of what your content strategy should actually look like. Till now, it’s only been possible to get there through trial and error.

So…

Where do you go to learn the skills involved in creating a content strategy?

I’ve had to learn many of the skills in creating great content simply through trial-and-error. I’ve taken all kinds of industry courses by now, invested in myself, read and read all kinds of material on the topic.

I’m all about ROI, because I’ve been paying my bills for 6 years now through my ability to build content services and train my writers on how to create content for clients in the best way possible.

It’s eat or not eat.

In the end, it took figuring it out and creating, tinkering with, and building all kinds and formats of content to learn how to execute and implement worthwhile content.

Last year, after publishing a book, launching a podcast, maintaining a blog and Twitter chat, I hit top in the list of 2016 content marketers. I saw my Twitter chat trend at #4 nationwide on Twitter, and I hit bestseller in the top 2 books for my category on Amazon as a self-published author.

And the best yet: this year, my organic traffic from blogging hit an all-time high of $57,000/month (what you’d pay in Google’s Adwords for the same traffic results).


We’re about 3% more visible in Google organically than our competitors, who have millions upon millions in funding (we have none).

And, some of my guest blogs have hit top-read on their respective locations: Search Engine Journal, BuzzSumo, and HuffingtonPost to name a few…

In my agency, I’ve launched, tweaked and created levels of content at Express Writers that can give clients incredible results online too.

But…

After launching my most sophisticated content writing level, authority content, late 2016, I actually sat at my desk

And thought about how frustrated I was about the lack of content strategy knowledge.

It was killing me.

Sure, my trained writers and I can create great content all day long, but how much does that help you if you don’t have a guiding strategy?

Only 9% of 100% of content marketers like their strategy.

That’s dire.

And it shows… so much content is being created, yet only a few pieces truly stand out.

Back to that day.

I sat there and thought about building another, cooler, better agency service to sell.

“How can I launch a new service that fits the industry need better?”

…Then I realized something…

It hit me like a load of bricks.

“What if I sold the knowledge of creating ROI content, instead of just putting together another service?”

I thought about that for a while…

And I decided I’d go for it.

I talked to influencers and experts, wrote blogs, scoured the net, started backtracking my own content success, and began mapping a course out.

Fact: I almost quit on outlining day when I realized how massive it would be to actually do. I cried a little.

But, I also realized that this course, if I focused on a ground-floor practical approach, could be the answer to the industry’s biggest problem:

Creating a content strategy that works.

That simple, and that hard.

Well, after my initial tears…

I started getting up at 5 a.m. and I committed myself to creating my course.

I wrote. 150+ pages of content. Then turned it into simpler content. Created materials, diagrams, illustrations, and even came up with simple concepts to reflect the toughest parts of brand strategy, so I could help content marketers navigate through industry content creation easier.

The creation has been no joke.

The hardest feat of my life to date.

But probably the best, too.

I’ve created my course in an effort to teach content marketers – from start to finish – the skills they need know how to build and achieve working, high-ROI content.

And guess what?

My navigational course on these practical points – created from the viewpoint of someone who’s been in the trenches of content marketing – is live!

This course has been my gigantic 2017 goal, and I’ve poured everything – heart, soul, sweat and hard work for three months – into creating this course. I’ve formulated it to be an in-depth, practical, hands-on approach to the problems of this entire industry.

In my course, you’re building the cores of a strategy, and to get your certification your work will be personally graded by my team and I!

Check out my video where I share why my course (starting at $1,000 per seat) could be more valuable to you in this growing industry than a college education worth $40,000+:

Grab Your Seat By July 11, 2017  in The Practical Content Strategist Certification Course

To learn more about the course and grab your spot at 20% off, go here.

By the way — with a few savvy content marketing team members from my agency ready to help me, I’ll be personally assisting my students in the exclusive Facebook group with their brand strategy builds.

I’m excited about that.

I hope to see you on the flip side and get the chance to personally mentor you in my course.

👌🏻

– Julia

social media services

Social Media Product Upgrades for May: All Plans Now Feature Professionally Designed & Branded Images

Just in time for summer, visuals are hot, hot, hot!

Anyone who’s been paying attention to content marketing trends will tell you that visuals are a big deal right now. Larry Kim said that an estimated 84% of communication will be visual by 2018!

So, how does this fit into your marketing? One fantastic way to boost your engagement online is by integrating beautiful, custom visuals into your social media content. And we’re here with just the product upgrade for you!

social media plan upgrade blog

Big News for Our Social Media Plans this May!

If your social media is currently handled by the SMEs (Social Media Experts) at Express Writers, or you’re looking for an agency to hand the reins off to, we have exciting news for you.

You may or may not know that all of our monthly social media plans already include images. We have three levels of Social Media Plans to choose from depending on how often you want to interact with your audience, but even our Level 1 package includes three custom images.

So how could we have sweetened the pot even more?

We took a look at the images that our SMEs were creating using Canva, and although they worked, when we realized that we have the resources to do better, we immediately took action.

As of this week, all of our social media images will be created by our in-house graphic designers. That’s right. Now when you have Express Writers taking care of your social media posts, you will now also get professionally designed visuals, pre-sized for Instagram (which translates well to all social platforms) to represent your brand at no extra cost.

That’s a huge added value to our already amazing social media offerings.

How did we do it? Well, we’ve added more staff designers just for this purpose and created a new workflow where our content manager will assign all social media images directly to our designers. The best part? We aren’t even raising our prices one single penny (yet).

We value our clients’ satisfaction and want them to love each product they receive from us, but as content marketing experts it goes beyond that. We aren’t doing our job unless we are providing our customers with the best quality we can to help boost visibility and promote their message. This is just one more way that we can continue to ensure that our products and services are the best you can get!

The best thing – our social media package prices haven’t increased a bit. We want to give our customers added value – at no extra price!

What Our Social Media Levels Include

With each of our levels you receive industry influencer content curation, and you get to choose up to three platforms for us to create posts for. We can even schedule your posts for you using tools like Hootsuite or Buffer at no additional cost.

Level 1 also includes:

  • One post across all of your platforms every day, M-F
  • Three custom images/week (perfect for Instagram as well as any other platform)

Level 2 gives you:

  • Seven or more posts daily spread among your platforms
  • Four custom images every week

Level 3 allows for maximum brand exposure with:

  • Fourteen posts on weekdays
  • Five images each week, including memes

Let Us Help You With Great Social Media Services Today

Having Express Writers handle your social media means consistent engagement across all of your social platforms with your community of followers – as well as an ability to build your network, generate leads, and boost sales.

And now, it also means having professionally designed visuals to illustrate your posts at no additional costs!

Check out our Social Media Plans today!

cta great copy

remote team

A Day in the Life of a Remote Team

At Express Writers, my full-time staff and team of more than 50 work on a completely remote basis.

Yet, we manage to be so effective that our support turnaround times average within the hour, if not minutes after the 50–100 client requests we get daily (that’s across emails, chat, and phone support), and our writer, editorial, and management team work seamlessly together getting our client’s content through the queue on or before deadlines.

Our client happiness rate is 99.9%, and we handle hundreds of pages in any given week and have served over 5,000 clients to date.

Some people have asked me, “Have you ever considered opening a local office?”

The truth is, I have! I moved to Austin thinking I’d set up an office space and hire more local staff about two years ago. I thought it would be an interesting and profitable switch, after running Express Writers as a remotely staffed company since 2011. But I quickly had to rule it out. The overhead was tremendously pricey – it would add on an estimated $2,000-3,000/monthly to our expenses, and that was at a “cheap” location in Austin. Downtown, prices ran around $8,000. Our profit level at the time didn’t make that an option. With a self-funded business and a family to support, I had to watch expenses closely.

[Keep reading for the full story, and to see a “day in the life” from each of our full-time management staff members.]

remote team at express writers

A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: How We’re a Business Run 100% Remotely (& Why We Succeed at It)

Then, late last year (2016), I started finding the most amazing team members I’ve ever put into place in the staff.

I realized that space and location means nothing when you have the right people – and if I was limited to one city and one office location, I would never have been able to hire these amazing people.

After a difficult year where it was extremely hard to find the right people, I spent more time to find experts who had our clients’ best interests and each other’s support at heart.

It took five months, but I found them all. When I found the right people for management – everything changed. Drastically.

In a move to recreate the team mindset 100% and improve our client support last year, I let our commissioned sales rep go and found a content marketing expert (Tara Clapper) to consult our clients on purchasing from us.

Within the first week of Tara in the sales role, I heard from a client that the level of support he now experienced was a hundred times better in quality (comparing service from the commissioned sales rep to Tara). It was music to my ears, and confirmed that we were on the right path.

By the end of that year, I’d assembled a group of incredible women in the management staff that I’m proud to say have nothing but the success and growth of our company as a whole at heart: Tamila, Tara, Hannah, and Katria.

Our best successes started happening after this management team of amazing ladies was put in place.

supergirl

It often feels like this to be a woman leading a staff of amazing women. (CBS: Supergirl)

Our writers and editors, also fully remote, work on an internal teamroom that’s half custom/half a hack of a current platform. Our internal workflow is built to move content from writing to editing queues, and we’ve been able to maintain and keep our activity level seamless.

Last year, I discovered that the same principle applied to all of our writing and editing roles as well: if I spent time finding and training the right people for every role, from social media copywriter to creative bio writer, strategist and editor, we would get the best results – the best people, and the best content for our clients. I found amazing, successful writers at the most unlikely places: a neighbor’s recommendation, a book club.

With the right people and ongoing mentoring that I’ve put in place – assisted by our editorial staff – we have some of the highest writer retention and happiness rates we’ve ever had.

Now that you have some of the backstory of why we do so well as a remote team…

Let’s talk about a “day in the life.”

A Day in the Life at Express Writers’ Remote Staff

remote team express writers

From left to right: Top: Tamila, Tara. Bottom: Hannah, Katria, Julia. What it looks like on a typical Monday morning (except we’re usually in t-shirts or PJs: we were filming footage during this meeting!).

Tamila, Sales Manager: A Day in My Life

My day starts around 4:15 a.m. with a cup of coffee and reading a few articles about content marketing to sharpen my skills. By 5:30 a.m., I’m answering emails from clients and checking orders. One of my goals is hitting up 10 cold leads from various sources each day which takes quite a bit of time.

I also have a huge list of leads that I send emails to. The rest of my time is spent chatting, calling and working with our staff to ensure our clients are happy. Lunch is whenever I remember to take it, normally 12:00-1:30 p.m.

I am constantly thinking of better ways to help our clients and to offer them amazing content. At the end of the day (5:00 p.m.), I close out ensuring that everyone that contacted me that day has been given the best customer service available.

Julia, CEO: A Day in My Life

My day starts around 7:30 a.m. with an audiobook, hugs and kisses from my groggy two-year-old, a daily tonic (a simple combination of warm water, apple cider vinegar, and honey), and making a pot of coffee for the day ahead.

After I drop my daughter off at daycare, around 9:00 a.m., I start plunging into work and all the activities lined up for my day. I schedule most of my meetings on Mondays and Fridays, and I record podcast calls biweekly. If I don’t have meetings, I buckle down with a couple major focuses for the day: a long-term growth goal (right now, that’s my certification course), content marketing at Express Writers (our blogs, infographics, and guest blog presence), and HR (hiring and interviewing new team members). My day breaks around 1:30 or 2:00 for lunch and a short activity – hike, walk, or chiropractor appointment.

I plunge back in and work till 5:00 p.m. 5:30 – 9:00 is family time, and I’ll end the day by keeping up in my field of expertise, content marketing: reading news and blogs, or a recently published book, or learning about a new tool on the market, and working on our blogs for the next week.

Tara, Content Development Specialist: A Day in My Life

I log on around 10 a.m. eastern, once my coffee is made. I start with emails. Since Tamila logs on earlier than me, she leaves me a message if there are any urgent customer needs. I block out the first 30 minutes of my day for this, and to check in with the rest of the team.

After that, I usually have 1-3 calls with clients and prospects. As a content development specialist, I speak with qualified leads to match them with the content they need. Once the phone call is complete, I usually send them a shopping cart and provide an update to Tamila.

Once the client-facing work is done, I hunt for guest appearance opportunities for myself and Julia, create guest content for other sites, and appear on guest channels. I also evaluate local, regional, national, and even international events to see if they’re a good fit for us. Then I present that info to Julia. Throw in some high-level editing, and that’s my day.

Sometimes I work straight through the day, but other times I break it up. It depends on the needs of our clients. I usually like to have a break between my client-facing work and my creative/exploratory work. I’m writing this at 2 a.m. on a Sunday and I’m known for being a night owl. I wrote one of my best pieces for The Write Blog on a Saturday afternoon when I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head!

Hannah, Sales Specialist/Project Manager: A Day in My Life

When I wake up, it’s usually about 4 a.m. here in Oregon. I love the peace and quiet that the early morning hours bring. Although I’m a diehard coffee drinker, I like to start my day with a cup of my favorite herbal ginger turmeric tea while I check email and respond to clients. Next, depending on the day, I either take a break to go to the gym or start in on sending out emails to prospective clients. When breakfast time rolls around, I take another break and make a cup of coffee and something to eat at my desk.

In between phone calls I am constantly checking our database for completed Project Management client content to edit and deliver to them while updating my spreadsheets. I like to break for lunch and take a walk around noon, and then when I come back, I can really focus in my current clients and new sales. I try to finish up by 3 p.m. PST and head out the door to coach volleyball.

After dinner, when my kids are in bed, I love to work on creating content and staying current with new trends that can help my clients or team.

Katria, Content Manager: A Day in My Life

My day starts at 7:30AM with a small breakfast and coffee. At 8:30AM, I check my emails to see if anything urgent regarding orders or writers needs to be taken care of. Then I assign new orders to the writers and set up their deadlines.

After orders are assigned and priority client assistance is taken care of, I deliver orders and check on anything due the same day. If anything is late, I send reminders to writers and penalize them when applicable. I also send updates if anything is going to be late (usually because an editor had to send something back to be revised).

I take my lunch break for about an hour and assign more orders when I get back. The rest of my day is mostly a cycle of assigning, delivering, checking on orders, and giving our clients updates.

I also sometimes assist clients on our automated chat system or help clients place orders.

Once a month, I hold meetings with the editors to discuss the writers (who has improved, who needs to be let go, etc.), how the editing can be improved and more streamline to get everything delivered on time, and all things related.

My day ends around 5-5:30PM and I spend the evenings relaxing with a good book or watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Tools We Use to Work Remotely

We have several main apps to help us manage conversations, activities and the things we do on a daily basis. Here are a few:

1. Custom Developed Solutions: Our teamroom and Content Shop are custom built platforms, led by our CTO, Josh McCoy. We’re in the middle of redeveloping it (happening as we speak). Development is a beast, and funding is completely bootstrapped – but progress is happening!

2. Skype: This is the “virtual office” of our entire management staff. We keep each other updated on breaks, ask for support, and even have multiple Skype threads that address the different communications we need to have internally every day.

3. Zoho: Email, internal client-focused communications (the streams function and “comment-on/share-emails” functionality is amazing), and collaborative documents.

4. Drift: This is our live chat on-site, where we handle client and new prospect questions. The Live View feature, where you can start chats with anyone on your site, is awesome:

drift

Here’s a look at the home screen of Drift.

drift

5. MeetEdgar: We’re about to switch to this program from Buffer to get more traction out of all the social media content we create.

6. Nextiva: This is our client and staff phone system of choice. We love the capabilities that Nextiva has, including custom extensions, phone recordings we can grab anytime – this is hugely helpful to client accounts where writers need to hear additional information. The Nextiva app makes it easy for remote team members to be available on phone anytime, but not have to worry about it interfering with their personal cell number or client numbers getting lost in their own private number lists.

A Day in the Life of a Remote Team (in Pictures)

julia

Behind the scenes: me at my desk. Multiple cups of coffee throughout the day is necessary to a work-at-home lifestyle.

office2

I’m lucky: my home office faces a quiet acre. I get a lot of work done in this spacious room. I like to transition between desk + chair and couch for different tasks. For some reason, I find that I can think more creatively when sitting on a couch, so I write most of my blogs sitting on that corner couch.

office

I’m busy working on a certification course this month – hence all the scribble scrabble and notes on the whiteboard.

A Day in the Life: Summed Up

There you go…

A #dayinthelife of our remote team!

We’re always progressing, working hard to stay on top of the industry, and rock out at what we do – full service content creation. We all love what we do, and one of our best competitive edges is the ability we have to grow and progress together in creating great content!

Questions about our daily workflow? Leave a note in the comments!

engagement cta

dedicated writer

Why We Launched a Feature to Request a Dedicated Writer

When you place an order for that important piece of content, you’re trusting Express Writers to pick the perfect writer that will craft exactly the copy that you need.

We don’t take that responsibility lightly.

In fact, there’s a lot that we take into consideration when making that selection, which is what keeps our customers coming back for more, time and time again.

  • Topic: we know which writers will work best for specific topics based on experience and feedback from our editors.
  • Industry: if you have a niche industry, chances are that we have a writer with firsthand experience to write your content.
  • Content Level: we have writing levels to meet any need and our team can help you decide which one is right for you.

Okay, so now that you’ve received your order, and you love it, it’s time to reorder… which can seem daunting.

Your previous writer already understands you and knows what you need. You don’t want to start over again with someone new… and we get it.

That’s why when you check out from now on, you may notice that there’s a new question to answer in our input forms! Keep reading to find out.

dedicated writer at Express Writers

How the Process Works

After you check out on our website,

checkout process 1 express writers

you can enter your project details by entering a project title and clicking on “Start Project” in My Account:
checkout process 2 express writers

This is where you supply information, answer questions relevant to the product that you just ordered, and upload any supporting documents. Anything a writer needs to complete your project should be covered here.

It’s also where you will now find the newest (optional) addition to our questionnaire, “Do you want to request a previous writer again on this project?”

input form express writers

If so, all you need to do is include the order ID from a completed project with that writer or the writer’s initials (usually found on the file name for that project).

That’s right, you can now request a writer from one of your previous projects—right from the comfort of our details form!

If your newest order is unrelated to previous projects, or you just want us to pick a new writer for you, that’s no problem! Having a dedicated writer for your projects is completely up to you.

Download our full Content Shop FAQ for every step in the checkout process.

What Prompted This Decision?

Frankly, it’s also a win-win. When you’re happy, we’re happy!

You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened. Customer satisfaction is our top priority, and we’ve been fielding questions about requesting a particular writer for awhile now… and it’s only fair. If you’ve found your editorial forever after bliss with one of our writers, we don’t want to keep you apart! We love crafting quality content and this is just one more way to achieve that.

Familiarity is one of the biggest hurdles you face when outsourcing content, which is why we really want our writers to understand the projects that they work on before they even start. It saves times on both sides when that step is already complete for a new project.

Especially with particularly detailed, repeating orders, having a dedicated writer can be a life saver. You won’t need to explain your project, company, or goals to someone new—just update the details of your current project and you’re on your way to content designed just for you that we already know you’ll approve of!

Staying True to Our Values

Here at Express Writers, any changes or decisions must align with our values.

We believe in delivering greatness which means tailoring our services to fit the unique needs of our clients in order to get results. We know that there is a constant learning curve in order to stay up with market trends and current demands.

We are excited to offer this new addition to our already amazing list of products and services, and we are confident that we have the quintessential writer for your next project. The good news is that now, the fun doesn’t have to end there because you can keep requesting them for future projects too!

Hannah is a Project Manager & Sales Specialist at Express Writers.

cta great copy

Header Formatting in Word

Why We Introduced Header Formatting in Word in our Writing Team as a New Standard

Note from Julia: Ed, our Senior Editor, assisted me in rewriting our 15+ page Web Writing Guidelines for our team of 60 writers this week. One change we just implemented was teaching all our writers how to use Word’s Style menu to auto-format H2s and H3s. All of our blog content will now include this. I asked him Ed to write a post detailing why we did this change, and he kindly obliged.

Let’s face it:

People don’t read any more.

Especially online (or, more accurately, on-screen, when you consider ubiquitous the use of smart phones and mobile tablets have become), where such factors as screen size, resolution, visual cues as to page length, and eye strain play a part in our ability to focus deeply on the written word.

So what do people do online if they’re not reading?

They scan – or skim, glance, browse, graze…whatever you want to call it, it’s not the same as pure reading.

That’s why formatting for the web is so important. Everything from eye-catching headlines, to smaller-than-usual paragraphs, to bulleted or numbered lists plays a part in making an article, story, column post – any piece of content that’s predominantly text – more appealing to people.

And headings – more accurately, subheadings – are a big part of that.

Header Formatting in Word tutorial

What is a Subheading, Anyway?

According to the dictionary definition (thanks, Merriam-Webster), a subheading is:

“an additional headline or title that comes immediately after the main headline or title,” as well as a “title given to one of the parts or divisions of a piece of writing.”

It’s this latter definition that we’re focusing on.

Put another way, it’s the bold, stand-out text just above the preceding paragraph that says “What is a subheading anyway?”

Subheadings help break up large blocks of text. They can also break down a longer piece of writing into different parts or sections, serving almost the same role in an article that a chapter does in a book. Which, in turn, can help convince potential readers to keep reading…

For instance, what looks better to you in the example below:

headers-vs-no-headers

The same text with and without subheadings.

It’s obvious which looks better, right?

Why Else are Subheadings Important?

Subheadings break up articles into different sections, which allows for easier scanning of the sections of an article. And it’s a lot easier on the eyes than large, uninterrupted blocks of text – especially when reading on a screen. All of that’s well and good, but there’s a more important reason to use subheadings in your articles and blog posts: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Search engines – we’re looking at you, Google (with some side-eye at Bing) – respond to subheadings because not only does it divide content into scannable blocks of copy, it also clues in the search engine as to the relevancy of the article, page, and section.

Only if you’re writing and using them correctly, of course (hint: they should contain your keywords and/or variations of those keywords).

Put another way, an H2 heading is a way of telling Google “pay attention, this is important.”

More on this topic: How to Use H2s and H3s in Your Content

How Many to Use?

Most articles – and all blog posts – should have a subheading (H2) after the introductory paragraph(s).

They should also have a closing subheading before the final paragraph(s).

And they should use a subheading before numbered or bulleted lists (with some copy between the subheading and the list).

Additionally, numbered lists should NOT be auto-formatted as numbered lists by Word (more on turning Word’s auto-formatting feature off below). Instead, each numbered item should be its own subheading – but in this instance you should use an H3 heading.

Essentially, it will look like this:

H1: Headline of the Blog Post

Paragraph text (1-3 paragraphs, depending)

H2: Subheading for first major section

Paragraph text (1-3 paragraphs, depending)

H2: Subheading for second major section

Paragraph text

H3: Sub-subheading for the first item in a numbered list, if applicable

Paragraph text for the first numbered item

H3: Sub-subheading for the second item in a numbered list, if applicable

Paragraph text for the second numbered item

H2: Subheading for conclusion

Paragraph text (usually 1 paragraph)

Longer is usually better for subheadings: they should be at least 6 words long. Don’t forget to use your keywords and keyword variants (synonyms, etc.)!

How to Tag a Heading as H2, H3

We recommend using Microsoft Word’s built-in “Style” menu for subheading text that you want to format as Heading 2 (H2) and Heading 3 (H3). The Quick Style Gallery is prominently displayed at the top of most modern versions of Word:

MS Word's Quick Style Gallery makes it easy to format H2 and H3 subheadings.

MS Word’s Quick Style Gallery makes it easy to format H2 and H3 subheadings.

We began using Word to format our H2 and H3 subheadings for blog posts in part because it streamlines the physical blog posting process. Believe me, we’re well aware that there was a time that posting into WordPress from Word generated a lot of invisible code that was not only unnecessary, and that added to the “weight” (and hence the load time) of a page, but would sometimes even break how a browser rendered a web page.

In short, pasting from Word used to be considered a big no-no.

For H2 and H3 subheadings at least, that’s not the case anymore – believe me, before we began doing it this way because it was easier and saved time, we verified in a number of our client’s WordPress and other CMS installations that the code pasted from Word generated proper, ready-to-go H2, H3 headings, and not strings of gobbledygook formatting code…without having to use WordPress’ clunky pulldown menu:

The text formatting menu in WordPress certainly gets the job done, but it's a bit clunky, IMHO.

The text formatting menu in WordPress certainly gets the job done, but it’s a bit clunky, IMHO.

What About all that Messy HTML Code Word Produces that I Keep Hearing About?

It’s true that if your Word document contains a lot of heavy formatting – such as tables, multi-column lists, custom style changes – it most likely will not be reproduced when pasting into the WordPress (or other web-based CMS) visual editor.

There are other variables that will affect how documents will look once pasted into WordPress, such as the version of either Word or WordPress you happen to be running. Suffice it to say that with older versions of either software, all bets are off.

But simple, straightforward articles composed in most modern versions of MS Word, and pasted into most up-to-date installations of WordPress, the results should be just fine.

Our New Blog Writing Standard: Implementing the Word Titles

One change we just implemented was making a standard rule for all of our writers to now use Word’s Style menu to auto-format H2s and H3s. It looks like this, in Word:

headers in wordSo when you receive your next blog, this header in your finished document (which Word automatically colors to a light blue), it will automatically translate to an H2 when copied to your WordPress blog or page, like so:

headers in wordpress

How cool is that?

It will save our clients a lot of time – ready-to-go, optimized H2s and H3s once you plug in your blog! All of our blog orders will now include this formatting, by default.

Saving Time = Saving Money

And if you happen to be managing a large volume of blog posts, the time savings from being able to paste from Word and NOT have to go back and manually reformat the blog post in WordPress – especially the crucial H2 and H3 headers – can be significant.

 

Take it from us: in addition to writing tons of blog posts for clients, we also manage the physical blog posting into WordPress and other popular CMS posting for many of our clients! See our blog plans here.

express writers cta

content shop

New Services in the Content Shop: Kindle Ebook Formatting for Self-Published Authors, Marketing Copy Formats, & New Expert Category

Over the weekend, we were busy beavers – we added several new products to our Content Shop!

  • Kindle ebook formatting (with an option for a custom, made-from-scratch cover design)
  • Marketing copy services in various formats, from flyers to brochure copy and more, under the new expert category Marketing
  • New expert writing category: Content Marketing

All of these services have been introduced because of a popular demand from our clients, and priced fairly to include expert team members for each stage of the project. An expert content marketing writer who sometimes ghostwrites for me is behind the new category just for CM, and we have a sales and marketing copywriter guru ready to deliver on the new marketing copy category and array of formats there with expertise.

I’m excited to introduce these new services to our Content Shop and answer more needs for our incoming leads. Keep reading to learn more about each one of these updated new content products!

kindle ebook formatting new services

New Services in our Content Shop: Kindle Ebook Formatting for Self-Published Authors, & 2 New Expert Category Products (Marketing & Content Marketing)

Here’s the lowdown on our new products in the Content Shop! First, we’ll start with the two new expert categories, and then discuss our Kindle ebook formatting solutions.

2 New Expert Categories: Marketing & Content Marketing

Our two new expert copywriting categories are live at the top of the expert copy category:

expert writers

New Expert Category: Content Marketing

When it comes to content marketing, we’re the perfect team to write on the subject. So it was about time to launch a dedicated expert copywriting category to the Shop, just for the subject of content marketing.

content marketing product

The beauty of this product is that it comes from what we do every day. Before we write and deliver our copy services for clients, we create content for ourselves – and that content fuels 90% of our entire marketing. (Check out our case study on our own success in that area.)

You can trust our team to deliver the best copy on the topic of content marketing. Crafted by experts in the field, we’ll deliver successful content, ready to gain and rank online. We have a content marketing expert copywriter lined up to take these orders (he sometimes ghostwrites for me, and I trained him on our Authority Content copy format launched last year).

New Expert Category: Marketing

One of our very common requests lately has been for a wide variety of marketing copy formats. So, we’ve added a Marketing expert copywriting product that encompasses the common requests we get, including PPT copy, flyer copy, and brochure copy. See it here.

marketing copy

Kindle Formatting & Cover Design for Self-Published Authors

We’ve already had ebook writing as a service in the Content Shop ever since we launched our site, but it was time to add Kindle formatting services for the aspiring self-publishing leads that have been visiting our site and services.

kindle formatting

For a few months now, we’ve received an odd number of random requests for Kindle formatting. We talked to our team, and discovered that Kindle formatting was among the skillsets of one of our our full-time writers, Ashley. So, we’ve created a workflow, priced the service at a fair cost, and added the service to our Content Shop this weekend for Kindle ebook formatting! Our designer has crafted incredibly good covers for our clients’ custom design orders already, so we added on a variation to get an ebook cover along with a fully-formatted, ready-to-go Amazon .mobi and .epub file.

We’re also getting ahead of a serious, permanent trend, by catering to the self-publishing crowd. Per a Bowker report, the amount of self-published books have increased by 375% since 2010. And that was a stat from last year. Here’s some more stats about the self-publishing industry (via PublishersWeekly):

  • 31% of all ebook sales on Amazon go to self-published authors.
  • Self-published authors are outdoing traditionally published authors, in the sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, and romance genres. What’s more, they are taking a large market share in all genres!

Self-Publishing Testament to Success

In April last year, I self-published my own book, So You Think You Can Write? using Amazon KDP and Amazon’s paperback publishing service, CreateSpace. So, I’ve been through the entire process!

so you think you can write

The reason I didn’t choose a publisher? Self-publishing on Amazon nets you a large 80% return on all your author royalties: a typical publisher will net you around 8%. That’s a tremendous difference. Of course, you have to market your book yourself when you’re self-published, and that can be difficult if you have no audience. Fortunately, I built up an audience through owning a business and starting several communities years before my book came out: and my book has sold over 500 copies across the last year just through word of mouth and publishing the link in my communities. (I’ve learned, though, that you can’t live off the income a single published book brings, not by a long shot—I net a low $150/month income from the sales. Still, it’s nice to have!)

One of the most difficult parts of publishing my book was finding a trustworthy formatter. In the process of formatting my book for CreateSpace, which was 1000x harder than formatting for the simpler KDP process, I was scammed out of quite a bit of money. Apparently, after the book was out, I learned I’d been overcharged about 50x what I should have paid.

So, this product in our Content Shop is something I’m very proud of offering. I know what it’s like to be a self-published author, both the struggles of the journey and the great reward afterwards from putting in the effort!

Conclusion: New Services in the Content Shop for April

That’s it for the roundup of the new services launched over last weekend in our Content Shop.

Questions, comments, or thoughts?

Drop us a comment below – or, if you have questions in particular about how we can help you with your needs, talk to us today! We’d love to become your go-to writing solution.

art of copy express writers

content consultation

New for Spring 2017: Customized, Build-Your-Own Blogging Plans, Revamped Content Planning, & Content Consultation

You simply can’t be a self-serve menu, when you serve up content.

One size does not fit all.

We know this to be all-too-true, and it means that our Content Shop – and entire lineup of content services – change all the time.

And the needs of our clients drive these changes.

I love that this is one of our abiding principles, at Express Writers. We act when we see a demand – and learn, fit, and adapt to the changes necessary for progression in the industry, and to make sure the services that we sell to our clients are always one step ahead.

Behind the scenes, it means a lot of work for our boot-strapped business. I’m constantly working with Tara, our Content Development Specialist, Katria, Tamila, Hannah, and our CTO to map out, create, and plan the changes – and adapt our entire sales and editorial management team to the changes.

In the end: it’s more than worth it. We see real results from the hard work put into our improvements, and happy clients!

Keep reading for all the changes out in the Content Shop this April.

content consultation

The Shortlist (TL;DR) of our Content Shop Changes: Biggest Changes, Biggest Benefits

Don’t have a lot of time? Here’s a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) list of the changes and the key benefits of the changes in our Shop. For a full in-depth list, scroll down for the per-product changes!

Blog Plans: We’ve heard for ages now that “that package just doesn’t fit me,” so we completely rehauled our preset, three blog packages. Now, you get to completely build your own, by: 1) picking your writer level, 2) word count, 3) one (or both) of two addons for images/topic and SEO keyword planning, and finally, 4) quantity (telling us how many posts you want per month). Hit “add to cart.” Congrats! You’ve just configured your monthly blog plan! (If clients aren’t sure what they want, we can build a plan for them, starting at $280/cart. See more details in the sections below.)

Content Planning: Biggest enhancement here? All blog titles are now analyzed according to Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, one of my favorite tools on this planet. (And to solidify that we’re on track, we use Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer, too.) When I implemented checking every headline on the EMV Analyzer by AMI, our blog shares and overall traction went up by 25%+ on every post with the analyzed title. In the planning service itself, you get a ready-to-go editorial calendar for the month, a list of best SEO keywords (researched using top tools), and a BuzzSumo topic analysis.

Content Consultation: For $350 (a low, low price, considering the value of what this could bring you), we now offer a content consultation with one of our highest-level, most experienced Content Strategists (his bio is below!). The session comes complete with a Discovery Report including an analysis of what you can be doing better with your content, and an SEO and topic analysis report, highly customized to the findings in the consultation call.

Price: The price of blogging plans and content planning went up a tad. (We discovered, especially in the blogging plans, after doing some math that we weren’t able to cover the payment for our high level, content-marketing minded editors and expert writers. The WordPress posting was far too cheap – below $10 per – in the plans. We couldn’t pay out at that rate.) But with content planning blocks still starting at $120, and blog plans as low as $280 at the first configuration, you’re still paying below average rates here – even after the small increase. Jump on our services! The industry keeps changing, and skillset expertise increasing. I’ll be upfront: we simply can’t retain quality or work at low rates.

And now for the in-depth breakdown.

1. Content Consultation Call with Reports

Built into the Content Planning service is a new variation: Content Consultation.

I’ll be real: content consultation was a long time coming.

There’s been a serious demand for it.

We hear this a lot:

  • “What should I be doing with my site? Can you analyze and tell me?”
  • “Can I get a dedicated consultation?”
  • “Can I get some keyword reports and talk to a Strategist about what I’m looking for?”
  • “I know I need content, but I have no idea what I’m doing.”

What’s more, we’ve noticed, for a steady eight months now, a major need in the content marketing industry:

Customization.  

All the way from quotes at a unique, per-word level, down to increased requests for a highly customized, per-site analysis – revealing exactly what you need, down to new site page recommendations, blog title and headline ideas, to the best keyword opportunities and what your competitors are doing that you could be doing better. Then, ongoing content publishing – a customized content recommendation at an ongoing basis.

So, FINALLY, content consultation sessions, complete with full content discovery reports, are live!

I just finished building a behind-the-scenes workflow that will ensure success at every step of the way, and hand-picked one of our most successful Content Strategists for the dedicated consulting call and report creation. Check it out:

content consultation workflow

I’ve even written the interview guide that my consultant will be using, with questions that are guaranteed to elicit the best information so we find your “sweet spot” in creating content that answers your audience’s (and customers’) biggest questions, and positions you as an authority in your industry.

Meet John G, our dedicated team member who will be working 1:1 with every client that needs a guided consultation:

john g bio

John is awesome. He’s been such a team player at Express Writers, and I have no doubts that he’ll knock the ball out of the park handling our content consultations.

Check out the Content Consultation page for a checklist of the reports that come with a consultation. 

2. Blogging Plans: Customized to Your Online Presence & Needs

Completely, 100% customizable, create-your-own blogging plans are now available!

custom blog plans screenshot

Let me go back a little to explain why our reinvented blogging plans are so great.

For several years, we’ve had pre-packaged blogging plans available to our clientele. We had typical plan names: Level 1, 2, 3, or SEO / Guru etc.

Over time, we noticed a trend happening over and over again. Notes, from clients: “I don’t see the blog plan I need in that list.” “ I don’t want general or expert level, I want authority. But packaged as a plan. With content planning.” Or, “Level 2 is nice, but not exactly what I need.”

So instead of three pre-set packages, we are finally allowing the client to choose and build their own (or have one built for them, by one of our Content Specialists)!

In blogging today, the truth is that one size does not fit all, when it comes to the quality, expertise, and length your blog should be. Our new blogging format allows for customization at every level. Time to engage your readers and keep them coming back consistently with a fully managed blog, designed at the level you need!

How to Use Our New Custom Blog Package

Here’s how to customize and create your own blog package:

Step 1

step one

Start by selecting the level of writer expertise you’re looking for. See our Writing Levels explanation to know which level you fit into.

Step 2

step two

Choose the word count you want your monthly blogs to be, once you’ve selected what level of writer you need.

Step 3

step three

Choose from two available blog plan upgrades, at a flat, easy per-blog fee:

  – Content planning, where our Content Strategists research and put together your best blog topics, with timely, hot topic research (BuzzSumo) and keyword opportunities (SEMrush). We’ll even analyze and include a top-performing headline. (Highly recommended for achieving the best results from your blogging!)

 – Storytelling header sets are beautiful, feature images for your blog, that tell a story. Custom designed in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign by our lead designer, they are geared to creatively “tell the story” of your blog post. You’ll receive one header and one inset image, designed with the topic and your logo.

Here’s an example:

storytelling header set

Step 4

Choose your quantity for a final per-month amount and price:

step 4

You’re done configuring your custom blog package! You can now click Add to Cart, and checkout to secure your package!

Not sure what you need? Here’s some examples of pre-built carts with blog packages.

General Writer Packages:

  • Starter Package: 4/month (1/week) on general, 750w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See pre-built cart. $280.
  • Long-Form General Package: 4/month (1/week) on general, 1000-1500w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See pre-built cart. $500.
  • Want some examples of add-ons to a general blog package? With Content Planning: $656. With Storytelling Images: $800
  • Long-Form Content, 2/Week Package: 8/month (2/week) on general, 1000-1500w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See cart. $500.

Expert Writer Packages:

  • Long-Form Content, Weekly Expert Package: 4/month (1/week) on expert, 1000-1500w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See cart. $980
  • Long-Form 2/Week Expert Package: 8/month (2/week) on expert, 1000-1500w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See cart. $1960.

Authority Writer Package:

  • Authority Weekly Package: 4/month (1/week) on authority, 2000w, includes all the basics (stock images, posting, etc): See cart. $1900.

Our team can build a package for you! Talk to us today. Also, we have custom coupon codes for our packages, with discounts starting around $500! Talk to us and see if you’re eligible to get a blog plan with a discount.

3. Content Planning Updates

Our Content Planning service now includes additions to the Editorial Calendar report: a Topic Scoring section. We’ll use the AMI Headline Analyzer and the CoSchedule headline tool to make sure the topic is proven to work well and rank highly!

For example, here’s a “highly-scored” headline with the AMI Headline tool (~40% means success):

headline analyzer

Content planning is the perfect service for those who want to get the most out of planning blog content. Our Content Strategists build monthly editorial calendars that correspond to a month of blogging, with keywords, topic and an entire strategy planned for the month.

Each Content Planning block includes:

  • An editorial calendar with full blog topics and details planned and dated out for a month
  • In-depth, up-to-date SEO keyword research with a list of keywords and an opportunity report
  • BuzzSumo content analysis overview report, revealing most recent top-trending content in your industry

2017 Is Busy, Exciting & Dynamic: More Changes Ahead!

So far, 2017 has been one exciting ride of a year.

We had the best and busiest month we’ve ever had since inception in 2011, this January.

Already, we’ve had tons of updates and upgrades (some major updates came out in February, too): and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with self-funded, slow-but-steady new development in the works and launching around summer.

We’re excited to share these changes with you! Let us know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments below.

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express writers

What’s New at Express Writers for February: Storytelling Images & Custom Blog Headers, Social Media, Editing (Copy and Developmental), Project Management & More

This February, we’ve added some seriously powerful content services to our Content Shop repertoire.

All of our continual changes and updates are based on specific needs from our clients, and a strict adherence we personally have to always maintain the edge of the curve in our industry.

Here’s a shortlist / TL;DR of February’s new updates (scroll down to read about each):

  • Storytelling Images & Custom Blog Headers. Our design team has been creating these for our own brand with great results in more brand awareness and content traction, so we decided it was time to launch custom image solutions, including beautiful storytelling variations and custom blog images, for our clients!
  • Social Media Plans Update: Revamped social media plans to new standards, including content curation using BuzzSumo.
  • Editing (Copy and Developmental). At both copy editing levels.
  • Professional Interviewing. In this service, based on one simple interview fee, we now have staff Project Managers who are experts at interviewing subjects and obtaining key information that leads to a wonderful interview.
  • Project Management. This new service takes care of a lot of “monkey work” that goes into organizing and maintaining content marketing.
  • Client 101s. These are completely free for our clients, and are being written and designed as we speak! The first one, a Process/Content Order Lifecycle 101, is live! We’re working on a Meet the Team 101 next, where we explain how everyone’s staff role fits into an order and how clients can contact each of us, a Writing Levels 101, and several others.

new at express writers

What’s New at Express Writers for February: Everything You Needed to Know on 5 New/Revamped Products & a New, Free Client Resource

1. New Custom Images: Storytelling Imagery, Blog Header Sets, & More

Ever thought to yourself…

  • “I wish I had a REALLY cool branded header for my blog and a variation to share on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…”
  • “I wish I could visualize a step in my customer journey/buying process with a cool, engaging illustration…”
  • “It would be awesome to boost engagement with a cartoon strip for this industry controversial blog…”

We’ve got you covered on all of those visual needs in our re-launched Custom Imagery service, live in the Content Shop.

Clients can choose from a custom, beautiful, blog image set put together by our design team in Adobe InDesign, complete with a full-sized header and an inset to share on social media, or a storytelling graphic that would fit nicely in a process for your customers to visualize their journey/how it works page (example: our process).

Want to see how cool these get (read: how amazing our design team is)?

Here are a few:

Killer, right??

We’ve literally designed thousands of these images for our own brand by now – the samples above are a brief preview of what we can do – and we thought it was high time to allow clients to buy it as a product.

With custom imagery, we’ve seen massive results…

  • We a huge CTR boost with a cartoon strip on our SEO post – a 25% boost in actual reads.
  • Influencers picked up our content and shared it on Twitter WITH the image attached, boosting views to our content by another 25%.

Never leave your images last on your to-do list again.

Let us help you create better-than-average custom imagery to accompany your content!

2. Social Media Plans

During this month, we also did some heavy updates and restructuring, much-needed, to our social media plans.

I sat down and created new guidelines for our Social Media Experts, which condenses down to these three key, important changes:

  • We now create and post 3/images per week at the minimum level (3 IG posts) instead of 1. Images, and Instagram, are hot! You can’t miss out on either, so we’ve increasing the volume at all levels on all plans.
  • Our SMEs are now trained on how to use BuzzSumo to curate industry influencer content, and position your brand as an authority by sharing content that your fans will love and identify with.
  • Choose whichever social media platform you’d like us to manage, now straight from the product itself!

social media plans update

Our Social Media Plans have also been renamed to Level 1, 2, and 3 instead of Basic/Guru/Enterprise.

3. Copy Editing

Our revamped Copy Editing service in the Content Shop now includes two levels to cover every need, developmental and copy editing services, starting at one hour (up to 3,000 words). We have senior, expert editors at both levels ready to take orders!

See a guide to knowing the two differences of copy vs. developmental editing from our Content Development Specialist, Tara, on the Write Blog.

4. Professional Interviewing

For one simple interview fee you can now have an incredible interview organized and done (check that off your list!) by our professional interviewing team. We now have staff Project Managers who have background expertise in interviewing and journalism, and have seen amazing results from the interviews done so far.

See a post co-created by our Project Manager Hannah and Content Development Specialist, Hannah, on why interviews matter to content marketing.

5. Project Management

Just launched last week, our new project management service offers a wonderful solution for a lot of our marketer clients who are continually overwhelmed, swamped, and lost beneath the work they have to do on their content marketing get-done list.

Did you know that only 30% of marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing? An actual decrease of 8% from the previous year.(source: Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks) Even less have a strong, documented content marketing strategy.

Yet budgets, goals, and creation itself in content marketing actually increased by a large percentage during the same year.

Our solution in offering project management is to help a real need we see that our clients have. Project management is a serious drain on them, yet a vastly crucial part of content marketing not to be overlooked.

Scenarios Where Project Management Fits In

Just a few of the problems our clients have given us that we can now solve with our project management service include:

  • “We’re thinking about hiring a part-time staff member to handle all of these content needs and work with you, but it may not be in the budget, or we don’t know if we have enough to give that person X hours per week.”
  • “I wear a lot of hats. I just don’t have time to manage all of the content, but if I had time, we’d hire you to produce a lot of things.”
  • “I’m completely disorganized and I really need help getting my ideas onto paper, and picking the right product.”
  • “I have people I want to have interviewed on our blog. Employees, industry names, that kind of thing. I just don’t have time to do it myself and it’s a long list.”
  • “I have lots of different personal and professional projects going on. I wish I could stay on task.”
  • “I have no idea about what I need but I do have an established business. I just want to pay a deposit/retainer and have you figure this out for me.”
  • “I need you to be in touch with my entire team on this project. Maybe you should even function as part of the team – as the managing editor.”
  • “I’m an agency and we want to basically up-sell your product to our clients. Each of our clients has a different need.”

What Project Management Includes

Our project management is designed into several categories:

  • A la carte hourly
  • Blocks where we manage 50 – 500 monthly projects in a spreadsheet every month.

Project management includes having us manage and create a spreadsheet, and maintain or organize a vast amount of ongoing content projects, starting at 50 and going to 500+ per month. We can enable a simple file uploader on your account, and will include weekly organization and phone support for you and your team by a dedicated project manager. You can also have a dedicated project editor in our new PM service.

6. New Resource (FREE): Client 101s

Last but not least, we’re writing and designing in-house several client 101s that will channel some of the biggest questions our clients have!

We’ll be doing more of these! Email our team: julia (a) expresswriters.com if you have any 101s you’d like to see.

Conclusion

At Express Writers, we strive hard to be at the forefront of trends, content marketing, and the best writing team out there.

(Just see our Values page if you aren’t sure about that promise.)

Hence comes this lineup of new products and resources at Express Writers, all in one month.

You can trust our commitment to stay ahead of the game when it comes to great content creation. It’s our passion!

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EW writing levels

What Differentiates Our Writing Levels at Express Writers (General, Expert, Authority)

Here at Express Writers, we’re all about quality, at every level.

And that’s a major reason why many of our clients select us over our competitors.

We make it simple with three writing levels:

  • General
  • Expert
  • Authority (for those who want to be an online rockstar)

On the other hand, many of our competitor writing agencies go by a “star” level.

One-star writer, two-star writer, three-star writer.

It makes me dizzy when I read the one-star explanation: “May contain grammar, spelling, and wording issues. Will require editing. Not suitable for most clients.”

Why would you spend money on content you have to “fix” before you publish?

It’s like buying a pair of shoes with holes already in them. Plus, you’re wasting your valuable time when you have to fix, rewrite and edit, while saving a few dollars. It doesn’t add up.

We break the mold, because as a writing agency, we completely skip even offering the levels that many of our competitors start at. Keep reading to learn more about these levels, see real-time examples, and find out why I built my agency this way.

writing levels

We Revolve Around Quality

When I created my writing agency back in 2011 (see our values), I had one key fundamental: discovering writers who had a real talent for writing. If they loved doing it, I always found a matching level of quality in their work. Then, my goal was to perfect my team and process, and train and mentor my team members in new SEO and content trends and tactics, so that I could grow my company into one that was writing and creating the best content on the web.

It has been hard as heck to keep that standard high.

The entrance tests I’ve written for our interviewees rule out all but 2% of our applicants, on average, today: and even after they pass my tests, there’s yet another test to see if they have reliability and ethics.

But if there’s anything I stay firm on, it’s these very standards. We don’t create crap content. We continuously take these standards seriously.

We Are the First Ones Adapting to Trends

As the company’s chief executive officer, I’m the first one sharpening my skills day-to-day. I’ve been named a top 50 content marketer, have written a bestseller on online writing, and maintain The Write Podcast as well as a Twitter chat.

We adapt to industry trends and grow at every stage. When Google launches an algorithm update, we learn about it as a team (we attend tech events), we blog about it, and we write in-depth studies on the SERP changes.

Internally, we add new experts as trends and content marketing evolves to match those needs, and we create inside mentoring just for our writers to read and grow. We take a look at new SEO and content marketing tools on the market when they come out, and integrate them into our content strategy where we can.

Today, we’re taking an inside look as to what sets our two writing levels apart, what level your business and web presence might benefit from investing in, and some case studies of how far expert writing can take you.

The Difference of our Levels: General vs. Expert vs. Authority

See more on this: Our Writing Levels.

While all of our writers have significant experience in creating high quality, search engine optimized content, expert writers have expertise in a particular set of topics. Especially if you’re in an industry like software, medical, or law, you understand that there are significant, precise details involved. Expert writers understand those.

I sat down with Tara Clapper, our Content Development Specialist, to get her thoughts. She explains this in a really good light.

Tara:

I find it easiest to describe the difference between general and expert content to our clients by using my own experience as an example. I’ve been writing search engine optimized content since 2003. Like most writers, I have a few focused areas of expertise, including marketing.

When I write content about marketing, my background in the topic allows me to find and present a fresh angle in that field. I know exactly where to go to find reputable statistics and facts, too. I would qualify as an expert writer in marketing.

If I instead decided to write about database programming, I’d be lost. While I’m still an experienced writer, database programming is not my field of expertise, and it would show in the writing. When it comes to that subject, I’d be a general writer.

How We Select Writers at Every Level

All of our writers are personally selected by myself. Only 2% make it through the selection process, and once they’re in, we assess and track their interests and areas of expertise. Our editors continually evaluate and mentor the writers, continually helping them improve and refine their craft.

Through this process, we identify writers capable of creating expert content – and we match your content needs with those experts once you make an order.

Here’s another way to explain how different businesses have different needs:

  • Scenario 1: A restaurant owner has a website and needs copy for their web pages. Their food isn’t specialized. It’s good old American pub food, and the copy should appeal to hungry customers looking for some local grub. A general writer would be suitable for this topic.
  • Scenario 2: The owner of a company producing point of sale systems for restaurants needs a blog plan dedicated at selling their system to restaurant chains. They’re speaking a lot about the details of the restaurant industry as well as the software itself. This kind of topic would require some expertise – and it should go to an expert writer.

General vs. Expert (Bonus: vs. Authority) In Action

To represent exactly what we mean by our levels here at Express Writers, let’s look at some actual content quality ordered at the different levels by our clients.

Client A: General Law Article

This client opted in to our $35/500w general blog level, and gave us some general law firm keywords.

general level content

Client B: Expert Law Blog

This client opted in to our expert level at $90/500-600w. They also had a law firm, but wanted a statistical blog by our legal copywriting expert on the state of auto accidents and injury.

expert level content

The difference in these two levels is a much more knowledgeable writer (legal expert) in the Expert writing category. We’ve seen many of our clients move from general to expert, even on bulk orders, these days (more on that below).

Client C: Authority Content

Pssst… I just launched this level last Thanksgiving – more about that here. Authority Content is a select level where a few of my best personally-trained and mentored writers create content that is very similar to Neil Patel, Jon Morrow, and other industry bloggers. I’ve studied how they blog, wrote a guide, and trained the best writers in our team on how to implement similar standards to the best bloggers on the web – and call this level Authority Content.

For the example, this client wanted to be positioned as an authority on Google for a newbie’s guide to building a website. He purchased our authority content level at $600 for 3000w. The resulting 3,300-word article included over 15 screenshots and images. Included in the cost were all the images, many of which were custom created in Adobe by our designer.

authority content example

authority level content authority example

There you have it — the clear differences between our three levels of copy, which also gives you a good direction of which level you need for your brand, depending on your content goals.

Why You Should Consider At Least Expert Level for Your Brand

Nearly all brands that have a custom or crowded niche, or are in marketing, should be investing in expert writing if they’re looking to get content that stands out online. The concept of 10x content explains this. (I wrote an article on Search Engine Journal explaining 10x content: read it here.) That’s why we added seven new industries to the Content Shop this month, and that’s why our team of expert writers cover more than 25 custom industries.

To further delve into “why expert level,” let’s consider a couple massive reasons showing what great copy at an expert level can offer for your online presence.

1. Revenue Numbers Can Translate to 100x More Than What You Put In

I’ve invested time, resources, and revenue to my team members to help me create multiple content pieces for Express Writers.

Some have translated to high revenue returns in a short space of time.

One such piece was a SiteProNews guest blog, How to Create Likeable and Shareable Content. In just a few hours after it went live, we received a warm lead inquiry from a marketer asking for the kind of content that we create for our guest presence.

Inside the next few weeks, he talked to our sales team and converted for $5,000! I invested a little more than $50 into it: my return was 100x the cost of my investment.

Here’s what that cycle looks like, visually:

life cycle of content

2. A Serious Reputation Boost

This case study post on our blog cost about $400 in creation, resources, time spent and teamwork. That’s not including the cost of the tool subscriptions that we used to research for the piece: BuzzSumo and SEMrush.

The result? Massive exposure and reputation boost for our brand. We reinforced how much we hold to quality and doing our best marketing through our own product of deliverable, quality content, and where it’s brought us today (4,000+ keyword rankings, $13,000/monthly worth in organic traffic).

Why Should You Consider Authority Content?

I’ve answered that question at length here: Want to Be An Online Success? You Need to Be An Authority (& The Backstory of How I Launched Authority Content) Go read it for the full answer and backstory on how and why I launched our fairly new authority level.

Authority content isn’t for the faint of heart. It is, however, for those who want to “rule Google” and win the hearts of their readers. If that’s the content for you, go see it in the Content Shop here!

Summing up What Differentiates Our Writing Levels at Express Writers: General, Expert, Authority

There you have it.

An explanation of what we serve, at the three levels.

It’s simple, and most importantly, we guarantee quality at every level.

Why stop short with anything less?

Talk to us today about your content! We’d love to hear from you.

cta great copy