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.

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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.

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online grammar

Chicago Style Gets With the Online Grammar Times (Singular They, Lowercase Internet & More)

Grammar nerds, hold onto your hats.

On March 23 of this year, Carol Fisher Saller, editor of The Chicago Manual of Style’s online Q&A section, gave a presentation about some of the updates that would appear in the Chicago Manual’s 17th edition, due out in September of this year.

Among the big news?

It’s about time for these changes:

  • internet will now be lowercase
  • email will lose its hyphen.

Take that Kim Kardashian. Who broke the Internet internet now?

online grammar rules

What The Chicago Manual Is Changing For 2017 (A Win for Online Grammar)

If those two changes weren’t large enough for you, Saller also announced that the manual will begin accepting a singular “they” and that the 17th edition will include citation recommendations for social media posts, like Facebook and Twitter updates.

Each year, editors announce the changes to the Stylebook at the American Copy Editor’s Society annual meeting. This meeting is where the world heard, in 2011, that the Associated Press intended to stop using a hyphen in email.

Here’s a snapshot from that glorious moment:

In 2016, the Associated Press announced that it would remove the capitalization from the word internet. The Chicago Manual of Style has since announced its intention to adopt these styles.

Here are just a few of the notable changes from the recent meeting:

Gender Changes

Many of the recent changes revolve around what QuickAndDirtyTips.com calls “gender-related entries.” Here’s a breakdown:

  • Her, his. Before, AP style required writers to use he when a gender was unknown. Today, it’s acceptable to use they, them, or their.
  • Singular they. One of the largest changes, the AP Stylebook has recently begun to accept the use of they as a singular pronoun. This is especially useful in places where his or her would be overly clumsy or confusing. The only exception is when the phrasing would suggest there is more than one person.

Additional Changes

Additional, non-gender-related changes include the following:

  • Autonomous vehicles. Thanks to the rise of autonomous technology, the AP Stylebook has taken up a guide for how to refer to them. Instead of using the word driverless, however, the correct method is to use the term self-driving, unless the vehicle can only do some of the driving, in which case it should be called semi-autonomous.
  • Fact checks, fake news. “Fake news” may well be the term of 2017! Because there’s been such a sharp uptick in the use of these terms, the AP Stylebook now recommends using fake news in quotation marks to refer to deliberate falsehoods. The Stylebook also recommends not labeling individual news items as fake news that are disputed. Obvious enough, right?
  • Flyer, flier. Thanks to the new AP changes, you’re now a frequent flyer rather than a frequent flier. This change is due in large part to the fact that flyer is more common in both American and British spelling.
  • The Oxford comma. Today, clarity is more important than anything else, especially when viewed from the AP Stylebook’s standpoint. While the standard style has generally been to avoid the serial comma, the guideline now is to use it, but only where it’s needed for clarity.
  • Virtual reality. Like autonomous technology, augmented reality has become a major fixture in modern society. When you refer to it now, the AP Stylebook says it’s fine to use VR on the second reference, as long as you spell out virtual reality the first time. What’s more, you may use AR to refer to augmented reality, on the second pass only, though.

Why Updated Grammar Rules Matter to the Online Creator

If you don’t write, or read, or interact with content of any kind, this might not seem like a big deal!

To everyone in the content and online marketing communities, however, this is massive news. While online grammar has long since accepted these new realities, traditional grammar guidelines have seen them as “wrong” until very recently.

Now that the recognition is formal, though, it frees online writers up from being looked down upon by grammar professionals across the web and print media. It also helps standardize digital content and ensure that it matches up with print media.

Are the Stylebook and the Manual of Style Two Different Things?

If you’re flashing back to a time when you had to map sentences in high school grammar, it’s okay. Grammar can be a confusing and often overwhelming topic, and wondering what the heck the difference between the Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook is doesn’t help matters.

Here’s some clarity: they’re two separate entities.

Here’s what grammar.yourdictionary.com has to say about the separation:

“The Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style are very different guides for two very different groups of people who make their living with the written word. The Chicago Manual of Style is by far the larger reference work, with over 950 pages. The AP Stylebook has only 330 pages. The Chicago Manual of style is the guide for authors, editors and publishers of books, periodicals and journals. The AP Stylebook is the prime reference for those in the news and public relations fields.”

The fact that both entities agree on many of these changes means an enhanced sense of cohesion for writers everywhere!

A Good Day for Grammar 

The recent changes on the part of the Chicago Manual do one thing: help unify online and print writing for the sake of journalists and copywriters everywhere. By syncing grammar rules with digital grammar style, they help reduce confusion and make good writing easier for everyone.

The print version of the AP Stylebook will be available May 31, 2017.

While this guide is updated annually, the Chicago Manual of Style is updated less frequently, and the last update was in 2010.

Check back with both entities regularly to stay on top of future updates!

Are you looking for a professional writer to help you create quality web content? Look no further than Express Writers, your source for award-winning content marketing material. Visit our Content Shop today!

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.

art of copy express writers

 

 

 

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!

taxbreak cta

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

authority content

Want to Be An Online Success? You Need to Be An Authority (& The Backstory of How I Launched Authority Content)

Around Thanksgiving of 2016, I launched a new content level after training my staff for a few months on how to deliver it and having Josh, our CTO, develop a matching product in the Content Shop.

Authority Content.

Before then, we had two levels: general, and expert writing.

For my new Authority level, I trained a handful of my best expert writers and built a structure around it that kind of looked like this (my rough internal sketch):

authority content writing

It’s far more than what I can represent in one circle, though.

In one piece of Authority content, no less than five of my team members at Express Writers are involved in creation: our team content manager, a Content Strategist doing a tad of SEO research, an Authority Writer that I’d personally trained, our designer to create themed graphics for it, and a high level content marketing editor to review it all at every stage. I work with our content director to help train and pick the Authority writer, so you might as well say six.

Why did I launch this?

It wasn’t just to launch a content level with a high price tag (this is our highest cost service yet, ranging from $300-$900+ per piece).

It was after I spent a year studying, watching, and listening to the trends in content in online marketing.

I digested thousands of articles, analyzed even more headlines, and wrote hundreds of blogs myself. Some of which rose to the top, some of which didn’t.

I saw a formula starting to distinguish itself. I saw something repeat itself over, and over.

Those that were practitioners of this emerging formula were creating this level of content, and promoting it in their niches. Content tailored correctly, to the right audience.

But beyond just catching my eye, if the content was created right, at a true authority level, it held my gaze – and I subscribed for more.

[Keep reading for the full story.]

why create authority content

Content Creators That Reach Authority Level Are the Ones that Win Online

Let me give you two examples of the content I came across last year that held my gaze.

Last year, there were a LOT of new bloggers coming on the scene.

I mean it when I say a lot.

For example, I’m in a Blogging Newbies group, with the member numbers in the 100,000+ range.

I saw day after day, sometimes moment after moment, an announcement from someone about their new blog going live. In my LinkedIn groups, I saw the phenomenon, group after group. I saw it across my connections online, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. New blog up! New blog up!

[MarketingProfs says that 2 million blogs are now created every day.]

It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?

Almost a doubt that can whisper in your ear: there’s no way to stand out.

But there is.

Out of all those new blogs from last year, quite literally millions, two bloggers still stick in my memory today.

TWO!

So yes, you can stand out, but you can’t be any less than an authority to do so. Let’s talk about who stood out.

The Two Bloggers that Stood Out in One Year, Grabbed My Eye, & Held My Gaze

1. Tor Refsland

This dude grabbed my eye early in the year. I invited him on the Write Podcast and published his guest episode in October last year. (Check it out here.)

In 2016, Tor was known as timemanagementchef.com, but now he’s over at torrefsland.com. Which is smart, because I mean, look at this list…he’s a celebrity with a known name by now:

  • Top personal development blog of 2016, Wisdom Times Award
  • Won Most Epic blog post from one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Morrow himself
  • Top 100 personal development blogs
  • Wrote a blog that generated 20,000+ page views in 6 days!
  • Public speaker on stages with gurus like Rand Fishkin
  • Featured everywhere…podcasts, guest blogs, just Google his name

These feats were accomplished by Tor within his first 12-18 months of blogging.

So he’s a pretty epic authority.

What caught my eye was one of the content pieces he published. One of many with a very similar structure.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 9.53.15 PM

Read it here.

Thousands of words, and Tor’s unique style: a TON of one-liners.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 9.53.35 PM

3,000-5,000 words on average and tons, tons, tons of scrolling – but it’s so easy to read, you don’t even notice.

(Don’t get any ideas that that’s the “emerging formula” I’m talking about, by the way. That’s just Tor’s epic style.)

Check out one more blog Tor did last year that I loved.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 9.56.41 PM

Does that grab your eye or what? The blog itself is very in-depth and there are some fantastic lessons for all bloggers (read here).

2. Michael Pozdnev

Michael caught my eye from an Inbound.org post mid-2016, and I’ve been following him since. His blog iwannabeablogger.com features incredibly long-form, intense blogging guides that are jam-packed with information.

The crazy part?

He’s been creating for 15 years, so this guy is by no means new. But something he created in 2016 and shared on Inbound.org made waves enough to catch and grab my attention. Here’s the title of that post:

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 9.40.22 PM

Dude. This post ROCKED. I read a few of his other blogs, grabbed his free ebook, and I realized this guy was an authority to be reckoned with. I recommend following Michael on Twitter: @MPozdnev. And go check out his content.

Why We Remember, Learn, Use, and Share Content Online

Why do you share content?

I can bet you it falls in one of these categories:

  • Simply put, it’s the answer to a question you searched.
  • It’s the most thorough answer.
  • You learned something.
  • You’re going to put to use what you learned (create that garden, build that birdhouse, promote that blog, build that website).

Simple?

It sounds like it.

But creating content that triggers the “remember / share / use / love” button from a reader isn’t simple, by any means.

Content that is created at Tor’s level, at Michael’s level, and at the level of all the greats online (Copyblogger, Jon Morrow, Jeff Bullas, to name a few others), is authority content.

Several key traits make up the content that we consistently love, share, and use to enhance our daily lives.

I’ve identified several of those traits.

But don’t hold your breath. I’m not about to reveal something incredibly revealing so you can go and do exactly what the winners do. You’re not going to learn the “top 10 ways to write a blog that is magic when you publish it.”

No.

It doesn’t work like that.

Sadly, creating content that will rise to the stars is 100% like the path to success.

It all comes down to the amount of work you’re willing to put in, the amount of resources you’re willing to invest in, and several skillsets.

7 Traits that Constitute the Authoritative Online Creator

1. They’re so good, you don’t even realize it. (This means many things: they’ve been blogging for years and years, they have search optimization and amazing writing skills down pat, they have incredible resources at their fingertips – from a designer, editor, to someone to help them behind the scenes.)

2. They know their space and they own it. They talk to their audience as naturally as speaking to a friend over coffee. Also, directly. You don’t want that friend getting into trouble on your watch, if you care.

3. They are beyond an expert. What they write about, what they teach, is so second-nature, well-researched, and well-done that it’s, quite simply, an authority.

4. Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique theory is happening. Brian Dean expounds on that here. By the way, that blog came out in 2013, and everyone still talks about it. Hashtag authority. So the Skyscraper technique is where you go look at a city skyline and the tallest building stands out – that’s the type of content you need to be creating, because no tourist is going to visit second-best when they can tour the best. No Google reader is going to read second-best when they’re looking for a guide.

5. They know that strangers searching Google are looking for the best guide. See above. They create the best, deepest, most thorough answer to a Google searcher’s question. 

6. They never stop learning. Big one here. Being an early adapter is key to maintaining a killer authority level. You can’t not know the trends. And authority content creators never stop learning. The biggest, baddest, most guru-est of them all will tell you that continual learning is a progression, a path, to help make their best content happen. Especially in content marketing. Where Google’s algorithm is continually being updated, and you never know what SEO changes are ahead.

7. Consistency is happening. They never not publish. It’s really terrible – bloggers don’t vacation — but it’s the truth. You see their name, over and over again, in more places, week after week. You read incredible blogs on their site every Monday. You look forward to the next one coming out.

Warning: Authority Goes Against the Grain, So Stay Inspired

You’re going to have to go against the grain if you want to be an authority creator.

This content creation level isn’t for everyone.

By any means.

It isn’t for the faint of heart. The average blogger. Or the “I think I’m doing okay” content marketer.

It’s for those who:

  • Want to dominate Google and be the tallest building on the block for their long tail keyword with a long-form guide.
  • Can see the whole vision of why it’s vastly critical to create our best content, in an era when way, way too much non-performing content is going out.
  • Are a Rey in the middle of a million stormtroopers. (See below.)

There’s a reason 2 million blogs were posted per day in 2016 and only two bloggers stood out in the end to me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Being an authority online isn’t easy. It’s a commitment not many people will want to take. @JuliaEMcCoy” quote=”Being an authority online isn’t easy. It’s grueling. It’s a commitment not many people will want to take. – @JuliaEMcCoy”]

I leave you with this inspiration on that topic:

In the middle of a bazillion of Stormtroopers,

stormtroopers

Strive to be a Rey.

Image credit theindependent.co.uk

[clickToTweet tweet=”On being an online authority: in the middle of Stormtroopers, strive to be a Rey. – @JuliaEMcCoy #nerd” quote=”On being an online authority: in the middle of Stormtroopers, strive to be a Rey. – @JuliaEMcCoy #nerd”]

Finishing the Story: How I Launched Authority Content As a Service

I hope I’ve impacted you in some ways as to the standard you need to be at if you want to make serious waves online.

Be an authority. Put in the hours, the work, to stay ahead of trends.

And by all means, don’t hesitate to invest in a resource to help you, you know, not drown.

Remember why I launched Authority content here at Express Writers.

authority content

When I launched Authority Content, it was when we were ready to create the best content we’ve ever created. That means I spent a month prior to pick three of my most epic copywriters, and personally train them myself with a guide that I wrote another month prior. The guide I wrote revealed major traits of authority content and how to create this level for our clients. Our writers would have to do a ton of research per piece. I made sure they’d get great pay, for the time and blood / sweat / tears involved. Our Content Strategists are involved in picking out the best long-tail keyword for the content piece. We’ll either confirm the keywords the client has (using top SEO software and my internal team training) or find one from scratch. Lastly, our designer puts together themed graphics for the Authority piece.

So far, we’ve created Authority content with 100% success ratio.

Everyone that received this level is happy with it.

A few guides we’ve written:

  • Dental video marketing guide
  • How to build a website
  • How to grow your best Instagram presence ever

I can’t give you client names because we’re ghostwriters, but you might find one of them on Google some day. 😉

Image credits

Stormtroopers, theforce.net

Rey, theindependent.co.uk

All other visuals by Express Writers

CTA authority content

2016 Content Creation Report

2016 Content Creation Report: A Retrospective Look at One of the Busiest Years for Express Writers

2011: the year I founded Express Writers (with $75, a bit of hope, and a lot of goal-setting: full story here.)

express writers

The next five years: we grew, busted through seams, grew again, busted through seams again. We found and built our own systems to manage our growing company in 2015: a Content Shop, a writer teamroom. (We’re building even better systems today, set to relaunch in mid-2017.)

2016: we found our roots.

Seriously. We’re ending the year with some deep, high caliber roots in place, and I’m glad about it. In the level of expertise our staff members have today, a perfect content fit in each of their roles: in the quality and dedication of the writers we have, and the standards we’ve been growing to perfection all year.

express writers about us

Check out more of the faces behind our team: www.expresswriters.com/about-us

So, it’s fitting that 2016 is the first year we took the time to create this end-of-year report, a showcase and look back at all the content we create. (Idea credit goes to Tara, our Content Development Specialist.)

In 2016, we created the most content we ever have, not just for clients but for industry resource and learning materials. We worked hard all year: reinvented our editing standards in May, launched serious changes over November that improved our entire team, content quality, and clientele, and rounded up the year with some fabulous content. We launched our new #howtowrite learning category, launched an incredible Twitter Chat, #ContentWritingChat in January that made it to #4 on Twitter, and I was able to launch my book, self-published in April on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and our Write Podcast published in March.

All in one year?!

Time to delve in to our first ever full content creation report! Grab a coffee and join me. We’re detailing our total content output for our clients, and what we created to add insights and resources just for our audience and industry. (Keep scrolling past the infographic for the full lowdown, and a recap of our best posts of the year.)

Download the Report (PDF version).

2016 Content Creation Report Infographic

Repost with permission, credit Express Writers

From 171 Million Words Created to Launching a Twitter Chat, Book, Podcast, & Writer Mentoring

No way all this happened in one year, standing here and looking back. Yet it did. And, it’s actually short of the goals we had for 2016. Crazy, right?

Let’s start with what the brunt of our workload looked like for the year, as content writers.

Client Work (a brief synopsis of the busy nature of our year):

  • 3,451 orders placed (one order could range from 1-5 web pages to 400 articles at a time)
  • 262,000,000+ words estimated written by our team in 2016!
  • That’s roughly 524,000 500-word articles. Included in that word count besides articles and blogs: press releases, ebooks, ad copy, product descriptions, landing pages, web pages, slides, scripts, emails–to name a few.
  • Our top content service sold for the year: blogs!
  • Our top two expert writing categories in demand: legal and technical.

Industry Resource Creation (what we launched in industry resources this year):

  • Unprecedented grassroots success creating and running our Twitter Chat #ContentWritingChat, launched mid-January this year, managed by our fantastic Social Media Manager, Rachel. We see up to 1,000 tweets during the live hour now! Our Twitter chat was #42 trending on it’s first week back in January 19th, and by August, trending at #4. In November, we had our first sponsor!
  • Launching the Write Podcast in April, making relationships with people like Sujan Patel, Steve Rayson, Mark Traphaghen, and many other fantastic content marketing influencers and leaders through it.
  • Launching my book So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Writing (400+ copies sold, word-of-mouth only!), in April, and seeing it hold strong in #4 bestseller category in Amazon for months.
  • Writing and creating internal training for our writers, with a custom 101 library of more than ten individual resources just for them, tailored to the weak points we saw that kept cropping up. Getting personal notes of thanks, and seeing tangible proof in their improved writing skills to show us the mentoring helps, is seriously rewarding.
  • Launching the How to Write category with over 15 up-to-date guides published late 2016, teaching all things online content writing.

Personally, my highlights running Express Writers in 2016 have been:

  • Launching my book, podcast, and Twitter chat, and seeing amazing successes between them all, especially in our live hour with #ContentWritingChat.
  • Getting our biggest client ever, and being able to write their orders with liberty (very few strict guidelines, a lot of creative freedom – dream client).
  • Having the honor of hiring Tara Clapper, the former blog editor at SEMrush, an all-around content marketing guru that I’ve been talking to online for years.
  • Training and guiding a successful editing team to work with our writers and help guide them to their best skills.
  • Visiting the SEJ Summit in NYC with my team members Tara, Krystal, and Josh.
  • Despite a lot of rough patches this year in the customer-facing support team with other representatives, this November I was able to reach out to and re-hire my sales manager Tamila McDonald, who worked with us in sales and content management all the way back in 2013 (and was fantastic at it). She’s been fantastic in the role already, helping our customers achieve success with content needs.

And…

Straight from the heart: thanks to all of you who have helped us grow this year!

To our clients:

We value each and every one of you. There were crazy things to deal with in the support staff this year, but they weren’t anything that a successful company hasn’t experienced at some point or other (non-loyal staff). We appreciate you so much, and will continue to work hard to earn your business and create the best content money can buy.

To our amazing writers and staff:

Working hard and tirelessly to deliver amazing content means the world to me and our clients. Remember that great things are coming for us all in 2017: stick with us, and you will, without a doubt, grow with us. (We have a huge relaunch of the Content Shop and our teamroom in development now, due out in the New Year!)

A Look Back: Express Writers’ Top 10 Shared & Talked About Posts of 2016

Let’s start by looking at what our most-shared pieces consisted of as a whole in terms of format and content type, then, delve into the top posts themselves.

Top Shared Formats

Here’s what our top shared post formats were (interesting to note how well infographics and a podcast episode did!):

  • 6 long-form blogs (5 guides on different aspects online writing, the 6th blog was a list of fun/obsolete English words)
  • 1 podcast episode (over 1,000 shares!)
  • 3 infographics

Top 10 Posts

Now, it’s time for a look back at our ten top performing posts of the year.

1. Out With the Old: Why & How to Do a New Year Website Content Audit

(See blog here) Everyone loves a little New Year’s cleaning, and this post was our top performer because it helped people understand exactly what a content audit is, and why it’s so important to conduct them on a regular basis.

In addition to clearing out any icky, old content that’s hurting your SEO, a good content audit gives you the chance to comb through your content and find any material that is outdated, inaccurate, or not converting well.

In our content audit post, we showed readers how to use platforms like the SEMrush Site Audit Tool, Moz templates, BuzzSumo, and WordTracker to perform expert-quality content audits in preparation for the new year. The post earned more than 1.5K shares and remains one of our most popular pieces!

2. The Write Podcast, E06: Talking Life, Entrepreneurship, Guest Blogging, & Content Marketing With Sujan Patel

(See podcast episode here) Episode 6 of The Write Podcast remains one of my favorites, and it was one of our readers’ favorites, as well. In this post, I interviewed Sujan Patel, co-founder of Narrow.io and Content Marketer.io, about everything from entrepreneurship to becoming an all-star guest blogger.

Sujan and I talked about how he develops his tools (and why it’s so important for him only to work on projects he feels emotionally invested in). We discussed his relation to Neil Patel, (they’re cousins!) and how he feels about live-streaming. He also offers some advice on testing business plan ideas and taking risks to get to where you want to be.

If you’re starting a small business or working to build your online presence, you’ll love Sujan’s declaration that a single payment may not matter as much as the relationships you’re building with your clients.

This episode earned more than 1,000 shares with our followers!

3. Expert Weigh-In: Content Marketing Predictions for 2016 (Infographic)

(See predictions post here) Now that the year is over, this post shines brightly. Published December 31 of 2015, we talked to 19 content marketing experts to put this post together.

Each of them had a different prediction for the future of content marketing in 2016 and, guess what? Many of them have come true!

For example:

  • Steve Rayson, the Director of BuzzSumo, told us 2016 would be all about developing clear outreach strategies and connecting with influencers. This couldn’t be more true: leveraging the power of a real relationship with influencers works! Example: when I connected with Sujan Patel, a major entrepreneur and content marketer, I was able to get his name on my book (he wrote the foreword) and record a podcast episode with him. The episode turned out to be our most shared one!
  • Michael A. Stelzner, the founder of Social Media Examiner, told us that 360-degree live video streaming would explode. Live video has been all over the web, and talked about all year, from Facebook Live to Snapchat, Instagram Stories and more.
  • Finally, Director of Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting Mark Traphagen predicted that 2016 would be a year of “quality over quantity” – we couldn’t agree more! Quality has been reigning high all year long.

This post earned 446 shares last year. Now, we’re excited to look forward and make some new predictions for 2017!

4. Google Search Guidelines Released: Here’s What They Say About Content

(See post here) This was one of our most exciting posts of 2016. It broke down Google’s newly released Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. The Guidelines, developed by Google to train its human search quality evaluators, provided a wealth of information about everything from the requirements for quality web content to the importance of expert writing.

The guidelines also dove into mobile optimization, page design, supplementary content, misspelled queries, keywords, and more. The one-stop-shop for anyone who wanted to know what the lengthy guidelines said about content, this post was one of our favorites to write and one of the most useful for our readers. As such, it earned 295 shares on social media!

5. How to Create Long-Form Content That Google and Your Readers Will Love

(See blog here) Long-form content was a buzzed-about topic this year, and we took it on in this post. To start the post, we talked about how people who aren’t seeing the desired ROI from their content might be making one critical mistake: the content they’re writing isn’t long or thorough enough.

Next, we broke down what long-form content is, and why it matters for readers and search engines. We talked about how long-form content tends to be evergreen, detailed, and informative, and how much that means to readers. We also discussed how blogs with 1,500 words or more rank higher, keep readers on pages longer, and boost conversions.

To wrap it all up, we offered a few tips about tools to use for creating long-form blogs (SEMrush and BuzzSumo). This blog earned us 292 shares across the web!

6. Your 12-Step Guide to a Small Business Content Strategy

(See post here) This post was a shout-out to our small business clients and readers! Developing a content strategy for a small business can be tough – especially when funds and resources are tight. In this post, we offered a step-by-step process for developing a small business content strategy and maintaining it.

First, we defined “content,” and then laid out the five types of key content that every small business needs (a blog, a web page, keywords, social media, and a buyer persona). From there, we provided a list of smart, actionable tips to build your content strategy, including defining your objective and creating a content calendar.

Ideal for any small business struggling with content implementation, this was one of our highest performing posts of the year with 277 shares!

7. 30 Amazing, Obsolete Words in the English Dictionary we Should Bring Back to Life

(See post here) If we’re being honest, 2016 featured a lot of words like “innovative,” “stunning,” and “unique.” While there’s nothing wrong with those words, they’re a little boring, and we can’t help but think there are some oldies but goodies stagnating in dictionaries. To celebrate those words, we wrote this post.

Our list included words like these:

  • Grumpish: Meaning sullen or grumpy. Example: The content marketer got grumpish when he forgot to complete his content calendar for the month.
  • Apricity: The wonderful feeling you get when it’s cold and wintery out, but the sun is shining warmly on your back.
  • Gorgonize: To mesmerize or enchant someone. Example: “I felt gorgonized by the beauty of that last sentence.”
  • Curglaff: A giggle-inducing word meaning shock or surprise.

This post was great fun to write, and it earned 242 shares once we pushed it out to readers!

8. 55 Content Marketing Tools to Boost Your Productivity

(See post here) Who doesn’t love a fat list of useful tools? In this post, published January 21 of 2016, we broke down 55 of our favorite content marketing tools to enhance productivity and make your days smoother and easier. Featured on the list were the following:

  • Buffer: A social media management tool that allows you to schedule posts to up to 15 different social media profiles from one dashboard.
  • Canva: A simple DIY graphic design tool that you can use to create blog headers, social graphics, and more.
  • SproutSocial: Another social media management tool, and the host of #SproutChat on Twitter.
  • GoogleWeb Designer: A banner creation service that lets you design and build banners for your websites.
  • SEMrush: A keyword tracking tool that allows you to research topics, find influencers, and recognize trending content.
  • AngelList: An investment platform that helps you raise money for your various content marketing projects.
  • MailChimp: An email marketing tool that allows you to automate campaigns and build templates.
  • Wordtracker: A keyword research tool that can connect with you with some of the top-performing keywords in just minutes.
  • BuzzSumo: One of our favorite tools, and the best way to find out what’s trending in the world of content.

This post, with its big old list of tools earned us 241 shares across the web.

9. Inside the Brain & Life of a Copywriter (Infographic)

(See infographic here) This infographic was a ton of fun to create, and it’s one of our favorite pieces of content from the year. Here at Express Writers, we love our copywriters, and this unique little piece gives readers a glimpse into the daily life of the people behind the content.

In the post, we offer some general statistics about content (2 million blog posts are published daily, and the web hosts more than 900,000,000 websites, for example). From there, we go on to talk about who copywriters are – from stay-at-home moms to millennials – and how their left and right brain hemispheres work together to combine practicality and creativity.

To finish the infographic off, we lay out five key copywriting techniques! This post raked in 235 shares across our various social channels.

10. Your Infographic Guide to Online Content Word Counts

(See infographic here) Last but not least is this piece, “Your Infographic Guide to Online Content Word Counts.” Another infographic, this post details how long all of your content should be. It discusses Twitter’s character limit increase, and the best practices for Twitter post length (100 characters is the sweet spot).

It talks about Facebook, and how perfect Facebook posts are 40-characters or fewer. It also breaks down Google+ lengths and LinkedIn content lengths. This helpful post earned 233 shares across the web!

2016: A Fantastic Year for Content

2016 was truly an outstanding year for content, and we at Express Writers want to thank our readers collectively for your ongoing support. (That means YOU!)

Here’s to 2017, creating more fabulously great content, and all that the New Year has in store!

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November Update at Express Writers: Bidding Goodbye to Private Label, New Writing Industry Experts Added, & More

Today’s an awesome day!

We’re super excited because our Private Label system, where you have to put down a deposit to activate a pricing level, is no more as of today!

We’ve rolled out many other changes, all for the better of our quality and deliverables, listed below. What’s more, we made all this happen before Thanksgiving (Josh, my CTO, Josh’s development team and I worked on it for 24 hours straight yesterday, till about 5:30 am today). Coffee will be sorely needed today, to say the least.

Without further ado, here’s a lowdown on what you can expect going forward with our services and pricing structure.

xmas announcement

Massive Changes for the Better this Thanksgiving at Express Writers

Our Content Shop underwent all these changes last night, and was down for about 12 hours during the upgrade. Here’s a checklist of what went live as of today:

  • It’s a consensus: many of our clients agree that Private Label + the two pricing tiers, with one dependent on a deposit, is confusing! We’re officially removing Private Label, doing away with two pricing tiers, and consolidating to one that makes sense and is equalized across the board.
  • Former PL users, your Private Label deposit is going nowhere. And, you can still put down a deposit at any time! Your discount just doesn’t depend on it. You will still have all your funds in your account, within policy.
  • Better cover rates will be in the Shop, as will better word counts and product presentation. It’ll be easier than ever just to buy what you need, at any time. I’m super proud of this one. I’ve gone through our rates with a fine-toothed comb and set better, cheaper cover rates than what we formerly had – that makes sense across the board. In some cases, we narrowed down our insanely long word range choices from 13 ranges to 8. Also, the layout of our Packages is so much cleaner!
  • Pre-built carts (an easy way to quote out your custom content services) is happening! Have our team send you a pre-built cart at any time now. (Woohoo!)With a few clicks, you can check out with exactly what you need, with no rate levels to worry about – just one. For grandfathered rates, you’ll simply use a custom coupon our support team will hand you.

Quick Customer FAQ

What are the new rates?

Here’s a few of the new prices. For a full list, see our Pricing page, updated 11/22.

Blogs/Articles 350-500 $35
Word range costs: Up to 100 $10, 100-250 $20, 250-350 $25, 350-500 $35, 500-750 $55, 750-1000 $70, 1000-1500 $105, 1500-2000 $140, 2000-3000 $210
Level 1 Blogger $325/month: 8 blogs/month (2 weekly), 450-500W, SEO optimized + basic imagery + meta descriptions, published.
Level 2 Blogger $500/month: 12 blogs/month (3 weekly), 500-750W SEO optimized content with custom branded imagery + meta descriptions, published.
Level 3 Blogger $980/month: 16 blogs/month (4 weekly), 750-1000W SEO optimized content with custom branded imagery + meta descriptions, published.

The new cover rates are lowered up to 15% from previous cover rates, and up from Private Label rates by a minimum of 15%. (To compare: Private label was $25/500w blog, cover was $45/500w.)

On all our web-based content products (web pages, product descriptions, blogs): we’re now offering more variations on the lower word range, and a larger bracket to choose from on the other ends to allow our skilled writers to write with freedom and cut fluff more than ever.

Can I have my Private Label rates?

We are individually reviewing accounts and grandfathering those that fall into eligibility for discounts, for the next three months. 

For those who are missing the rates they had on Private Label, we’ve made cover rates the new standard, but lowered and equalized them across the board.

If you need to inquire about keeping your Private Label rates, we are happy to review your account and approve if your current rates aren’t too cheap. Remember, our goal is quality, and we simply cannot staff quality at cheap rates. For review questions, get in touch at [email protected].

But we’d ask that you consider checking out with the new rates.

The new rates, which are still on the low side of the industry if you do a comparison, with no added fees for editing and management, set a standard for us to retain stronger editors and writers, overall. Remember that not only do we retain writers, but we mentor and edit them constantly. When writers drop, it can be a full-time job in a week to field for new ones, since we never compromise and skip our personalized candidate testing process, which rules out sometimes 80% of applicants.

We are the only writing team in the industry that offers exclusive mentoring content to our writers, created by our content marketing team – we stay on top of every standard and tell our writers when anything changes, down to the new meta length that Google announced. This is easily a full-time job, as well, and the new rates will ensure this mentoring continues to happen.

Our new rates will allow us to:

  • Pay editors a higher hourly wage
  • Retain an HR person, trained by Julia on how to pick and find the best talents in the freelance writing world
  • Provide us with the necessary bandwidth to make sure ongoing writer mentoring happens (extra management hours)

We’re always rolling out better features. Coming up, we have a Loyalty program in the works, and in 2017 a brand new way to buy content online with a beautiful, coded-from-scratch system on the works!

Get services sent directly to your inbox, it’s a few clicks to approve and checkout!

Confusing deposits and checkouts, NO MORE.

We now have the ability to send anyone a prebuilt cart, with a few clicks of the button, that includes a custom message from our team and all the services they need in one place. It’s a few more clicks for you to approve, review, and checkout with exactly what you need!

Here’s what your email notification will look like, when you get a pre-built cart:

shopping cart email notification

And, services within the email cart:

shopping cart

This is perfect after a strategy call where our team members work building and suggesting a custom list of products for a website or marketer that they need. In just a few seconds, you can view all those services directly in your email!

And, here’s a list of other things that went out this month:

Launched 11/16: Categories layout in the Content Shop!

Now, when you land on the Content Shop, you’ll be greeted by a clean layout directing you where to go for which need (if you need technical copy, you’d head to Expert Copy; if you need a few blogs, you’d head to blog & web).

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 3.50.46 PM

Here’s what it used to look like. You’d see all the products as soon as you hit “Content Shop.” (In the new look, our CTO and brand guy, Josh, redesigned everything into beautifully laid out categories.)

old look ew

There’s even an “I’m Not Sure” section for those who just aren’t sure what to do when they visit the Shop:

content shop 3Plus, the new search bar is a real beast–the most powerful search plugin we’ve ever had! Give it a whirl the next time you stop by the Content Shop.

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 3.51.02 PM

Launched 11/16: We’ve Added 7 New Industries to the Expert Niche!

These are the new industries we’ve added this month, by popular demand:

  • Medical Copy
  • Health & Wellness Copy
  • Sports & Fitness Copy
  • Spa & Beauty Copy
  • Pet Care Copy
  • Insurance
  • Real Estate

new expert writing industries

Expert copywriting has become a serious need, and at Express Writers, we offer two levels – general and expert – to ensure success across all content project types and writing levels. Our increase in the Expert Level is a reflection of the growing need for expert writers who craft engaging copy that speaks directly to a niche audience. Refer to the Google EAT and YMYL standards, broken down on our site here, for more on what type of writing Google suggests for various industries. 

…That’s about it (for now)!

We’re always revamping, improving, and maintaining over here to accomplish and deliver on the best writing services in the industry. You can trust us to uphold that standard, every time.

To each and everyone of our clients, a happy Thanksgiving! We’re grateful for you!

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