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Julia McCoy on Writing, Persistence & Building a Million-Dollar Company [PODCAST]

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“You really don’t need a huge team to run a highly profitable business. One of the errors I made early on is trying to staff too many people… A small, but effective leadership team, I would say is one of the biggest lessons I’ve had. If I were to start over, I would look for my one or two people to start that team with us.”

Julia McCoy is a prolific content marketer, hard-working agency owner, and an amazing person you should get to know better.

At 19, she founded her content agency Express Writers. Over the last eight years, she’s built her company to over $4.5 million in gross revenue solely through SEO-focused inbound content marketing and grown her remote team to more than 90 members.

In today’s edition of the Search Engine Journal Show: Better Know a Marketing Pro, Julia shares her thoughts on writing, persistence and building a million-dollar company.

About Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy founded her agency in 2011 and turned it into a million-dollar company within a span of eight years.

Today, Julia is the CEO of Express Writers, and manages HR and marketing. She has served more than 5,000 clients, from Johnson & Johnson and Nordstrom to small B2Bs.

She’s just launched a second brand called Content Hacker as a “house” for her best industry work, including two courses, paid workshops and agency training, 1:1 content strategy and consulting offerings, books, and blogs.

You can find her contributing articles on Search Engine Journal as well as Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Thrive Global.

She’s also the author of two books, So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing, which was published in 2016, and Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, published in 2017.

Primarily a writer, Julia just started taking on speaking engagements this year. She is slated to speak at this year’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio.

With her achievements, you can say that Julia is one accomplished millennial. She’s actually all that – and more.

Not many know that Julia grew up in a religious cult in Pennsylvania and endured abuse for 21 years before finally fleeing in 2012. Right now, she’s chronicling her journey to healing in her third book that’s currently in the works.

Listen to this episode as Julia McCoy shares her inspiring story – proving that anything is possible in this life, no matter what you have to deal with.

Show Notes

  • Julia blended her love for writing and knowledge in making money online to start Express Writers in 2011. [2:45]
  • Halfway through college, Julia realized nursing wasn’t her passion. She dropped out of nursing school at 19 to pursue freelance writing – something she thought she’d actually enjoy doing the rest of her life.  [4:49]
  • Express Writers was just a five-minute business name idea. [6:48]
  • Julia’s first clients were from freelance platforms Elance and oDesk – which have since merged and rebranded to Upwork. Her high-quality work brought her lots of referral clients. [7:57]
  • How she learned SEO and started applying it to the content she was writing. [10:03]
  • Julia’s goal to find writers as good as her helped propel the company forward. [11:37]
  • On building her virtual team. Express Writers has a qualification and testing process in place but that doesn’t entirely weed out flakers. [13:19]
  • Hiring people online adds another level of complexity. [14:59]
  • When times are trying, Julia lets herself go through whatever she needs to go through and then, get up the next day and try to start fresh. [15:30]
  • On staying productive and avoiding distractions. [17:45]
  • Things Julia is thankful for: being able to work with a lot of talented writers and overcoming obstacles she didn’t think she’d get through. [19:14]
  • In 2016, two managers she trusted ended up embezzling from the company and stealing client accounts. Through that experience, Julia learned the leadership skills needed to run the company to the level it’s at. [20:38]
  • What is Julia’s definition of success for the company and for herself? [23:52]
  • Julia’s business tips? Don’t try to staff too many people early on. You don’t need a huge team to run a highly profitable business. Build a small, but effective leadership team. [24:59]
  • What exactly is Content Hacker? [26:03]
  • Books were Julia’s earliest foray into writing. She shares the biggest adjustment from writing online content to writing books. [27:28]
  • The amount of evergreen prospects that can come from writing and publishing a book is pretty powerful. [29:54]
  • On writing her third book – a narrative nonfiction that tells the story of her life. [31:02]
  • Julia shares her experience growing up in a cult completely cut off from everyone else and how she managed to find an avenue to explore a whole different side of life. [32:44]
  • Her journey to acknowledging her past and healing from it. [36:23]
  • Her business actually started while she was still in the cult. Julia was forced to hire family members in the early stages. [37:52]
  • Julia’s fourth speaking engagement will be at Content Marketing World this year. Learn the reason why she didn’t go out and speak sooner. [39:00]
  • How does she keep current on all the changes in SEO and marketing? [42:06]
  • Setting up a content creation process in place helped Julia avoid getting burnt out from writing. [43:38]
  • Julia’s content marketing tips for local brick-and-mortar businesses. [46:22]
  • Her thoughts on putting together content hubs. [48:28]
  • What’s the highlight moment that stands out from Julia’s career?  [51:06]
  • On being a wife and mother and maintaining a good work-life balance. [52:16]
  • If she wasn’t in marketing, Julia would probably be writing fiction in the apocalyptic style. [54:36]
  • Josh, her husband, is Julia’s biggest advisor – having been there since the beginning of the business. [55:33]
  • The worst piece of advice she’s ever heard? Hide her business dilemma (firing the two managers who stole from the company) from the public view as it might turn people off. Instead of following that advice, Julia decided to be transparent with her clients. [57:47]
  • If Julia could go back in time and give her younger self some advice, what would it be? [1:00:09]
  • Julia’s advice for newcomers in the industry who want to become successful: “Whatever you do, make it super high-quality, be the best at what you do and then, tie that to an industry or a niche.” [1:00:40]
  • Right now, she’s most excited about seeing the shifts specifically in sales – how prospects come in and convert. [1:01:29]
  • What’s next for Julia McCoy? [1:02:56]

Links from the Episode

How to connect with Julia McCoy:

Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Express Writers | Content Hacker

People Mentioned

To listen to this Search Engine Show: Better Know a Marketing Pro Podcast with Julia McCoy:

Visit our SEJ’s podcast archive to listen to other Search Engine Journal Show podcasts!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita



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Google extends optimization score to Display campaigns

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The campaign optimization score that Google Ads shows for Search and Shopping campaigns is now available for Display campaigns. Scores will be available at the campaign level, and a combined account-level score now encompasses Search, Shopping and Display. You may also see recommendations tailored to Display campaigns.

Optimization scores in Google Ads are now available for Display campaigns.

What is Google Ads optimization score? Scores range from 0% to 100% and indicate how well your campaigns are expected to perform based on a number of factors such as targeting, bid automation, ads and extensions and more. The score is accompanied by a set of automated recommendations with indicators of how much of a score improvement you can expect to see by accepting them.

Why we should care. These scores and accompanying recommendations can be directionally helpful, but don’t accept the recommendations blindly. Carefully consider them and whether they are right for your campaign. And equally important on the flip side, an optimization score of 100% with no recommendations does not mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities for improvement.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.



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Google Search Console messages can now be viewed without leaving reports

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Messages within Google Search Console are now accessible through the bell icon at the top of any page within Search Console, the company announced Wednesday. The updated interface now allows site owners to view their messages from anywhere within the tool, without leaving reports.

Source: Google.

Why we care

Being able to reference messages without having to leave the report you’re viewing makes information more accessible and improves our workflow, which can facilitate better decision making.

The categorized messages (as seen in the example above) will also make it easier to locate communications pertaining to a specific issue.

More on the announcement

  • Messages are now categorized into types, such as Performance, Coverage, Enhancement types and so on.
  • When a user gains access to a new site in Search Console, they will be able to view all messages the site has previously received, dating back to May 23, 2019. Messages sent prior to that date can only be viewed in the legacy message list or in your personal inbox.
  • For the time being, old messages are still available in the “Legacy tools & reports” section of the sidebar.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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How to breathe fresh life into evergreen content (and get fresh traffic, too)

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NEW YORK — Creating content can do wonders for your brand, but not if it goes unseen. A staggering 90% of the content in existence today has been created within the last two years, yet 91% of content gets no traffic from Google, said John Shehata, vice president of audience development strategy for Conde Nast, at SMX East in New York.

Investing in new content isn’t always the right choice for better content marketing. Sometimes, brands are better served by leveraging assets they already have or putting a fresh spin on an existing topic.

Old content, new traffic

“For the first 100 articles that we optimized, we saw a 210% increase in search traffic and our keyword coverage for that content increased by 900%,” said Shehata, explaining the results of his “Pinetree Initiative,” an experiment aimed at expanding existing content and merging underperforming content to increase organic visibility. “Once we refreshed the content, the traffic started increasing immediately. It went from like 100 visits to like 15,000–20,000 visits.”

(Don’t Miss SMX West in San Jose!)

“You’re reporting news or something trending, the traffic spikes out for like 24 to 48 hours, and it’s done, right?” Shehata said. “Versus evergreen content — that content can bring you traffic for a year plus.”

Content is considered evergreen if it remains relevant long after its publication. Tutorials, FAQ’s, in-depth guides, expert interviews and case studies are all examples of evergreen content.

In addition to providing more sustainable traffic to your site, evergreen content also insulates publishers from slow news cycles and can drive prospects to the top of the funnel, Shehata said.

However, news content can still be valuable and publishers should aim for a 60/40 split of both content types, in either direction, said Shehata. For example, if you’re a news publisher, 60% news and 40% evergreen content is more likely to resonate with your audience, as where an industry-based publication might publish 60% evergreen and 40% news content.

Refreshing evergreen content, step by step

Conde Nast’s search traffic and ranking keyword growth was made possible by a process that Shehata developed specifically for content refreshes. It begins with examining your own site, analyzing the search results pages for your target keywords, evaluating competing content, optimizing on-page content and publishing and promotion, as illustrated below.

1. Assess your existing content. Brands can begin their evergreen content refreshes by either selecting a topic and keywords or selecting a main page to refresh, said Shehata.

Whichever starting point you choose, the next thing you’ll need to do is identify all of your own competing pages that rank for the target keywords. Shehata does this by combining Google Sheets with various keyword research tool APIs to consolidate the URLs and relevant metrics into one place, giving him a better idea of the landscape of his content, which pages to avoid cannibalizing, which underperforming pages can be merged into more authoritative content and which relevant content can be included in your new evergreen article.

2. Research the results page. “Last year, we had this amazing page about celebrity homes, and it wasn’t getting any traffic at all,” Shehata said as an example of the importance of aligning with search intent.

“When we analyzed the SERPs for other types of content that are ranked for that topic, all of them were galleries. Google identified the intent for ‘celebrity homes’ as people watching galleries. So, we converted the page from an article format with a couple of images to a gallery with less content. And, guess what? Immediately ranked number two. So, the characteristics of the content are very important for the success of the SEO.”

Understanding the type of content search engines surface for specific queries can give publishers an idea of how to present their content so as to increase their chances of ranking well.

The difference in search intent between the queries “how to pack a suitcase” and “best carry on suitcase” manifests in the different types of results that surface.

In addition to the particular formats of content that make up the top organic results, you’ll also want to take note of any rich results that appear and ask yourself why they might be surfacing. For example, if a news carousel is present, is the topic news-driven, and if so, how will that affect your odds of ranking well?

Featured snippets, which often resolve a user’s query right on the search results page, may also provide you with information about the questions people are likely to ask on a given topic. Simple resources such as Google’s “People also ask” box can help you identify common questions to address, which yields opportunities to add more depth to your evergreen content, Shehata said.

3. Evaluate competing content. “If you are writing about how to boil an egg, and all the other sites that are ranking mention ‘eggshells,’ and ‘breakfast,’ and ‘easy,’ you may want to consider these topics to give you complete and in-depth coverage of your topic,” Shehata said.

Conducting a term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) analysis is one method that may help you identify those “must-have” terms as well as the related entities that should be included in your refreshed evergreen content.

The next step in the process involves a more granular look at the pages that rank for your target keywords to determine what search engines consider to be a “right answer” for that type of query, Shehata said. As with the SERP analysis step, you’ll want to examine the way the content is presented, but also its length, publishing date and other commonalities for clues as to why the content might rank well.

4. Optimize on-page content. After collecting the above-mentioned information, it’s time to refresh the content by expanding the original article, merging it with other relevant, underperforming content and setting up redirects.

“When you refresh content, it should be at least 30% new,” Shehata said. A new title, introduction, publishing date and more new internal links should accompany your optimizations.

Once your evergreen content has been updated, look for internal linking opportunities amongst your existing articles. You’ll also want to loop in your social and email teams to make sure that the content that got refreshed is in their workflow. “It’s all the signals that tell Google this is new, refreshed content,” said Shehata.

During your content refresh process, pages with conversion goals, such as newsletter signups or affiliate links, attached to them may have been affected. This would be the time to clean up any loose ends by finding a way to implement them on your updated page.

5. Time to publish. For evergreen content pertaining to seasonal trends, aim to publish three months ahead of time to maximize your results, Shehata advised.

“In general, your refreshed, optimized content will last you at least a year, if not longer,” said Shehata. Should traffic start to substantially decline, it may be time to conduct another round of refreshes. Creating an editorial refresh calendar can also help keep you on track with future updates.

Quality content takes a considerable amount of resources to create. But, by finding creative ways to refresh or repurpose it, while striking a balance between evergreen and news content, you stand to maximize the efficacy of the content you do create and bolster traffic for your brand over the long haul.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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