I’ve been anxiously waiting to introduce our guest today for several weeks. This is Julia McCoy of Express Writers and she is about to tell you how she scaled her agency to over 200 projects per month with a team of 90 writers!
We also get into the importance of content strategy (like how to avoid killing your piece before you ever send the outline to the writer) and how you can determine if you will or will not be able to outrank the top results in the SERPs.
Let’s dive in!
You’re about to release a book. Do you want to tell us a little bit about this?
While she’s written several marketing-related books, this is a book about her own life story and how she has built both her business and personal life.
She grew up in a cult and escaped in the middle of the night. This book reveals her story for the first time. Express Writers, her current business, was what allowed her to escape from the cult.
You can learn more about how she’s helping other people heal from tragedy and get her book at Women Rising.
Can you tell me about Express Writers and how it came to be?
It started out just as just Julia, but quickly grew to be more than what she could handle. It currently is a 90 person company and they deal with over 200 projects per month.
I think one problem a lot of people struggle with is scaling content. How do you ensure that the level of quality stays consistent?
When she started Express Writers, quality wasn’t as big of an issue. It was more generalistic about just getting something out there. Today, content is much more difficult and it won’t work if you aren’t publishing the best content.
Her husband runs her ecommerce platform and they also have a full-time content manager. As the processes, Express Writers is currently launching a new platform called Active Calab where all of the tasks will live.
How do you find great writers as they are really the heart and soul of your business?
Julia does most of the headhunting herself and she believes that you can’t really outsource this because the writers are such an integral part of the business. She uses Linkedin Recruiter, Glassdoor, and Indeed. She posts jobs and then does a lot of interviewing.
Her interview process does not focus on years of experience or degrees, but rather their actual skill in writing. Therefore, she usually asks writers to complete a test piece with their writing guidelines and sees how the candidate’s writing measures up to their current writers.
How do you measure a client’s success and track content KPIs?
She only focuses on content creation and finds that including elements of promotion and analytics requires a different set of skills outside of creating content.
She was encouraged by many mentors to track ROI and at on point added it as a service, but it was too much for the team and caused them to break apart. Focus on what your business is really good at and double down on that.
That said, she does advise clients to use SEMRush, Google Analytics, and similar tools to track KPIs, but she doesn’t offer it as a service.
Julia also mentioned that most clients already have a good process for tracking ROI so it isn’t usually an issue.
A lot of content dies in the strategy process. How do you create a content strategy?
72% of all traffic originates from a search. So content strategy an art and science!
So what should you be looking at in the tool?
You should look at the competition numbers. How difficult will it be to rank for this keyword? She wants the competition score to be about a 40 (on a scale of 1-100).
From there, it’s important to look at the SERPs. Can you actually create something better? If you don’t think you can create anything better, move on!
How do you determine if you should move on or if you can create a higher quality post?
She has built several checklists and she has them all in her SEO writing course.
The checklist would be:
- Quality of Writing
- Links Pointing to The Article
- Quality of the Brand (is it a household name?)
- Domain Rating
- Date (Even if a big publisher has an old post, you might be able to beat them)
Let’s talk about keyword cannibalization. How do you identify and fix it?
An example I came across was, “The Exact Process I Used to Hire a Wedding Photographer,” “How I Narrowed Down and Chose My Wedding Photographer,” and “10 Brides Reveal Their Process When Hiring a Wedding Photographer.”
While all of these topics are targeting the same keyword, they do each bring a unique value to the reader as they draw from different perspectives.
In this example, Julia explains that reader probably doesn’t want to read a 5,000 word blog post. Instead, consider finding a long tail (5-6 words) keyword to target for each individual piece and you can still use all three of them.
In this example, it’s okay if “Wedding Photographer” has some crossover. As long as each phrase is your focus and not “Wedding Photographer.”
She also recommends checking out Brian Dean of Backlinko. While not appropriate for this particular example, a common solution (particularly for B2B) is to create one piece of great content and then update it.
Do you ever recommend your writers invest in a content coach?
A lot of it is just implementing and testing and then seeing if it works. Today, you can’t write in an AP English style that is taught in schools.
What she teaches is all based on what works for her team. In her team, Julia is the coach for her writers and she welcomes and encourages them to reach out to her.