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Content Marketing 2019: How To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

October 31, 2018

High-quality content has been the catalyst behind all successful digital marketing campaigns in the last decade. That trend is not going to change anytime soon.

An April 2018 study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that 73% of B2B marketers ranked blogs as the most effective tool for generating interest and growing their brands. E-books and podcasts tied for second as early stage content that guides consumers through the sales funnel.

A blog full of high-quality content, combined with a social media strategy to help disseminate said content, are characteristics of successful, profitable companies. These firms are increasing their content marketing marketing budgets in 2019 to ensure continued prosperity and growth.

Content must provide real value not only to get noticed by search engines, but also to build and maintain that ever-important trust factor with your audience. Consistently educating, entertaining, and/or engaging consumers with high-quality content leads to higher conversion and retention rates in both the short and long terms.

The new year is fast approaching, giving marketing departments and small businesses the opportunity to evaluate their content marketing efforts and make the necessary adjustments. Here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize returns on content marketing in 2019.

Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters

People are searching the internet differently in 2018-19 than they did in 2008-09. Google recognized this trend and as a result, changed its search algorithms to accommodate this ubiquitous behavior.

Gone are the days of stuffing your yoga blog with keywords like “yoga pants,” yoga mats,” and other related phrases in hopes of ranking high in search engines. Alexa, Siri, and other voice-recognition applications have given consumers more freedom. Robotic search terms like “sushi restaurant” have been replaced by more conversational phrases like “where should I get sushi tonight?” Bloggers and SEO personnel are incorporating these long-tail keywords into their overall strategies and driving more organic traffic. The idea is to naturally incorporate said terms into content without it looking spammy and forced. This strategy results in higher organic reach despite Google devoting more first-page results space to paid ads and its Knowledge Graph content.

Data analytics firm Ahrefs performed a study on 1.9 billion search queries. It found that over 29% of said keywords that got 10,000+ monthly searches contained three or more words.

In other words, content creators have more flexibility and creative freedom when incorporating keywords. They are no longer beholden to saturated keywords that everyone else is already using. Topic clusters and pillar pages address this phenomenon and keep your company blog and website optimized for maximum organic (free) reach.

Pillar pages are blog posts or web pages that addresses a broad (saturated) keyword or topic. This content is long – typically 2,000 words or more – but does not get into great detail about subtopics. A fantasy football advice website, for instance, has a pillar page called “Winning Draft Strategy.” This article has a 300-word intro, then five headers break down draft specifics.

The first header is “Know Your Scoring System.” This section informs readers that standard fantasy football leagues award four points for touchdown passes, six points for rushing and receiving touchdowns, and zero points per reception. Most draft cheat sheets are based on standard scoring rules. Load up on running backs and wide receivers in the first three rounds and wait for your quarterback and tight ends later in these standard leagues.

A PPR (points per reception) fantasy football league awards one point (or some variation thereof) to a player every time he catches the football. A separate blog post entitled “PPR draft strategy” is linked within the pillar content to further explain the nuances of PPR. Running backs who catch a lot of passes out of the backfield and high-volume wide receivers are ranked far higher in PPR leagues than standard leagues.

There are 6-point passing TD leagues. Another separate blog post is created and linked within the pillar that explains how quarterbacks are far more valuable in these leagues and your rankings should be adjusted accordingly. Some other cluster content pages for this pillar include “Return Yardage League Draft Strategy,” “Individual Defense Player (IDP) Draft Strategy,” and “Keeper League Draft Strategy.”

This model, assuming you are producing high-quality, premium content, not only helps more pages on your site rank in Google and other search engines, but organizes your website so users can easily find what they are looking for.

People Trust Reputable Content, Not Ads

Traditional ads by Google, Facebook, and other platforms have the potential to reach a lot of people. But all reach is not created equal, particularly when it comes to intrusive ad campaigns.

Market research firm eMarketer estimated that 25% of internet users employed ad blockers in 2016. The firm said that number increased to 30% in 2018. Laptop users are far more likely than smartphone users to employ ad blocking, mostly because there are less options for ad blocking on mobile devices. Younger consumers are also far more likely than their older counterparts to employ ad blocking technology. This is not to imply that traditional ads are completely obsolete. But those expensive campaigns are not even reaching 30% of your target audience at a given time.

A 2018 report by digital marketing firm Bazaarvoice found that over 80% of buyers conduct online research about brands, products, and/or services before buying. That research includes reading reviews on Google, Yelp, and other platforms. Its still an effective strategy to flash a “50% off today” ad to trigger impulse buying based solely on savings. But consumers prefer to read about your products and/or services to determine why they should select your brand over a competitor.

Consistent publishing of high-quality content conveys authority in your industry and commitment to your consumers. The global marketplace means consumers have more choices today than at any other time in history. Brands that speak to their audiences in a transparent, honest, and useful way stand out in the minds of potential buyers.

The 2019 B2B Content Marketing Report by CMI found that 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy that is consistently followed and executed.

Companies and brands that are serious about capitalizing on content marketing must have a strategy with tangible goals and KPIs. A content calendar, social media schedule, and email marketing schedule are all essential elements. Brand loyalty is built when consumers expect new, quality content every week and receive just that. Bad reviews on Google and Yelp should be thoroughly and comprehensively addressed directly on said sites.  It may even be in your company’s best interest to write a separate blog post about certain reviews (good and bad) to address concerns in even greater detail.

Companies are expanding their content creation operations because it builds credibility and trust with their audiences. Conversion rates positively correlate with brand confidence and transparency. High-quality content is no longer an option in 2018-19. It is a necessity for companies wishing to compete in their respective industries.

Balance Long-Form and Short-Form Content

It’s no secret that Google and other search engines prioritize longer, in-depth content on search engine results pages (SERPs). Content marketers are well-aware of this trend. Average blog post length continues rising every year as the arms race for relevance shows no signs of slowing down.

Graph via Orbit Media.

The average word count for all first-page Google results was 1,890 in 2017, according to SEO firm Backlinko. But every topic and keyword combination does not need 2,000 words to get the point across. Content length and depth also depends on the audience. Generation X and Baby Boomers overwhelmingly prefer long-form content versus snippets. Millennials prefer shorter, more visual content.

The easiest way to balance these dueling demographics is to break content up into sections and provide “eye rest” with strategic photos and images. A 2,500 word blog post does not have to be a text-only, exhausting piece. Embed a few videos and even Tweets from relevant influencers. Every blog post also does not need to be highly-indexed on SERPS. Some posts simply expand on a social media post promoting some very specific event, product, or service. An aesthetically-pleasing, 300-word summary is more suitable in these instances.

Millennials also prefer infographics and video content over long-form pieces. There are numerous free infographic-building apps that are simple and easy to use. Videos do not need to be Hollywood-level productions to be effective marketing tools. A well-dressed, well-spoken individual looking into a camera and telling your audience what they need to hear versus making them read it, addresses the short attention span demographic and provides variety to your blog.

Expand Content Types

One of the most under-utilized and highly effective marketing tools of 2018-19 are e-books. These 30-50 page books contribute greatly to your brand’s overall perception, particularly when it comes to authenticity and trust.

The 2017 Consumer Content Report by Stackla found that 86% of consumers view brand authenticity and transparency as a major factor when determining whether or not to support brands. A study by public relations firm Cohn and Wolfe found that the top quality demanded of big brands is honesty about their products and services.

The 21st century consumer has better B.S. detectors than their predecessors because there is so much information to digest in a short period of time. Lazy, opportunist companies use tired, regurgitated marketing tactics that instantly raise caution flags. Authentic companies offer their audiences useful content that guides them through the buying process.

Branded e-books show audiences that you are committed to researching and sharing knowledge about your products and industry. A potential customer is far more inclined to choose an automotive technician who offered them a free e-book on DIY car maintenance versus the guy offering 10% off to come get the repair done today. E-books are also quintessential lead magnets. Consumers willingly provide their email addresses and other information in exchange for e-books about subjects that interest them.

Quizzes are another engaging lead magnet. There are several free apps that allow you to create quizzes and embed them directly on your website. Slideshows act as more condensed, visually-focused e-books.

Quality Over Quantity

There are several easy ways to get your website de-indexed from Google and destroy any chance of becoming a thought leader in your respective industry.

Google algorithms easily identify and de-index hastily-created spam content stuffed full of keywords in hopes of ranking high organically. Another way to get de-indexed is by using so-called “free hosting.” There is no such thing as free hosting. These companies bombard your website with ads, making for a horrible user experience. Spammy comments also get you dinged by Google. Make certain to either moderate your comments sections in real-time or do end-of-day QA.

Content creation is time-consuming and is best done by professionals who understand SEO, brand voice, and authenticity in writing. Don’t publish new content just to say you published new content. Everything on a company website should provide value, and present your company as authentic. Google’s quality guidelines are clear: focus on content, not keywords. Google is in the business of answering questions and does so by ranking the best content related to the instant query.

High-quality content gets shared by users. It tells great stories that get re-told on social media. Your company has the opportunity to take the lead on subject matters related to your industry. All it takes is commitment to quality content, consistency, and the desire to succeed. Everything else will take care of itself.

Content Coup is your one-stop shop for all things content. Our professional, in-demand writer and editor has over 15 years experience working in-house at some of the world’s most respected content marketing agencies and has an independent journalist and content marketer. We specialize in on-page web content, blog posts, white papers, business plans, e-books, and everything SEO.

Contact us today with your ideas and questions. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours.




Pro Se Litigation: How To Avoid Costly Mistakes When Representing Yourself In Court

October 30, 2018

Pro se litigants, also known as SRLs (self-represented litigants) to legal types, are increasing in frequency every year. There aren’t a lot of recent, concrete data showing the exact percentage of cases involving pro se litigants in U.S. courts. But the numbers are quite high based on past research and the “justice system” remaining consistent in its customs and traditions for many generations.

A 2005 report on New Hampshire courts found that 70% of family law cases in state superior court had at least one pro se party. California reported 67% of family court cases had a pro se litigant in 2004. Counsel repesents landlords 90% of the time. Tenants represent themselves 90% of the time. A 2015 study by Jessica Steinberg of George Washington University Law School, estimated that upwards of 90% of civil cases nationwide include pro se litigants.

A 2013 report by the State Justice Institute (SJI), a government agency ran by Presidential appointees, recommended a minimum national standard that mandates state court systems keep concrete, annual statistics on cases involving pro se litigants. These reports should, among other things, provide insights as to pro se litigant case types, event types, and other data points.

While 87% of case management systems (CMS) in U.S. court jurisdictions have the ability to keep such statistics, most simply do not. The SJI report indicates that 41% of jurisdictions only run reports on an “ad hoc” basis, not regularly. Further, only 18% of jurisdictions said reports “can [could]” be run regularly. But administrators, again, choose not to do so. The definition of “SRL” is inconsistent, further complicating the data collection process.

The Courts’ Opinions on Self-Representation

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right of the accused to receive “Assistance of counsel.” The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in Gideon vs. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), that the Fourteenth Amendment required states to provide counsel to indigent defendants accused of felony crimes. The Court further clarified the Sixth Amendment in 1975 when it ruled that the right to self-representation is also guaranteed when the litigant “intelligently and voluntarily” requests to do so.

The Sixth Amendment further guarantees the right to effective counsel in all situations, even for convicted killers. David Washington received a death sentence in Florida. He pleaded guilty to murders committed in 1976. The legislative history of this case formed what is now the standard for “effective counsel.”

Washington sought relief in post-conviction proceedings. He claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The defense failed to call character witnesses. Counsel also failed to request psychiatric reports and other items that could have been considered mitigating circumstances. The trial court denied relief and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence.

Strickland v. Washington chronology

Washington next sought relief from the U.S. District Court of Florida via habeas corpus. Note this case occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980, well before the one-year statute of limitation for federal habeas was implemented via the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act  (AEDPA) of 1994. Washington again claimed that ineffective assistance of counsel led to the death sentence. The District Court denied relief, ruling that counsel may have “erred” in judgment, but the conduct did not prejudice Washington.

The habeas case got interesting on review. A three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit of Appeals rendered a mixed decision in 1981. It remanded the case back to the District Court with instructions on how to determine “ineffectiveness” of counsel. But the decision came at a time in U.S. history when the Fifth Circuit was partitioned into two courts.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was officially established and opened for business in October 1981. The new court now had jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida, and Georgia District Courts, while the Fifth Circuit maintained jurisdiction over Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and the Panama Canal Zone. The latter was ceded to the Panamanian government in 1982.

RELATED: The Legislative History of the Creation of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (via Florida International University Law School).

The first case to reach the new Eleventh Circuit was Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir.1981). The court ruled that all “old Fifth Circuit” decisions are binding precedent for the new Eleventh Circuit. But the court decided to rehear Washington’s appeal en banc. The Court created its own test to determine attorney effectiveness, and remanded the case back to the Florida District Court with new instructions.

The State of Florida appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately reversed the Eleventh Circuit’s decision and created its own two-part test to determine ineffective assistance of counsel in Strickland vs. Washington:

1. Defendant must prove that counsel’s performance was so “deficient,” that counsel was “not functioning” as a lawyer guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; and

2. The bad performance prejudiced the Defendant and denied them a fair trial.

In short, public defenders unwittingly forced into people’s lives and/or paid attorneys who charge $10,000 retainer fees for representation, must, by law, represent you in an objectively-diligent fashion. But many public defenders across the country are tasked with thousands of cases at once and want to get through them as quickly and with the least amount of effort as possible. Paid attorneys are simply inaccessible to most Americans.

Data from the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) says there are about 0.64 civil attorneys for every 10,000 persons who cannot afford lawyers in the USA. Some attorneys charge $200 just for an initial consultation, then five-figure retainer fees. Attorneys that charge $100 per hour in small towns are considered “cheap.” But that number is rare and unrealistic in medium and large cities.

Self-representation is usually done out of necessity (lack of money). The odds are heavily stacked against litigants who take the self-representation path. But those who follow these five tips will at least put themselves in the best position for justice.

Play Offense, Not Defense when self-represented

Justice Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a dissenting opinion in the case of Merritt vs. Faulkner, 697 F.2d 761 (7th Cir. 1987). He said, “It is unfair to deny a litigant a lawyer and then trip him up on technicalities.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that “In civil rights cases where the plaintiff appears pro se, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt.” Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 757 (9th Cir. 2003).

Self-represented litigants must not get into reactive patterns and allow their adversaries to dictate the pace and flow of legal proceedings. You may not know exactly what a motion in limine is or know how to file a petition for special action in an appeals court. But do your best to draft and file them when necessary as, again, the courts are supposed to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Whether its a wrongful termination, alimony, or breach of contract case, its essential to stay on track. Don’t be afraid to ask the judge via motion for extensions of time for filing briefs if you’re behind on your research. Missed deadlines derail the entire case. Opposing counsel knows the self-represented are vulnerable due to lack of money and legal knowledge. They will exploit these realities because their goal is to win as well. The aggressor, however, typically comes out on top in court battles. Keep that in mind throughout.

Do your research and double-check it

Legal research is boring, tedious, and seemingly endless. It also requires reading through and translating a bunch of lawyer and judge mumbo-jumbo to determine what exactly you need to do next.

When all else fails, always default to the Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure for the respective court. Judges instantly dismiss pro se litigants as nuisances and start viewing their briefs as frivolous if said briefs appear hastily constructed, overly emotional, and nonsensical. If you truly want to win your case, consider hiring a legal writer or paralegal to research and write your briefs. It costs a fraction of what lawyers charge, and provides you a teammate in a difficult game.

Don’t let all your hard work and research go to waste due to a preventable legal technicality.

Self Representation and Overconfidence

Its a great feeling when a self-represented litigant gets past the demurrer stage of their civil case and the judge advances it to the discovery stage. Celebrate the victory because you’ve effectively convinced a judge that your case is not entirely frivolous. But now the real work begins.

It’s time to re-read procedures, learn discovery rules, and determine how you’re going to handle depositions. Court reporters cost money and you’re going to need them for depositions and appearances. Some expert witnesses may testify for free if you’re case is compelling and well-though-out. Exercise due diligence. No matter what, you are the underdog and must embrace that role to the end.

Seek outside help when necessary. Most federal and state courts have self-help documents and people readily available. You’re not a law expert. Thorough preparation is key to potential success.

Don’t Mention Settlements; Let Them Do That

The moment you start talking about settling out of court, your opponent knows you want to get the proceedings over with quickly, without much work. Its true that 95% of civil lawsuits end in pre-trial settlements or dismissals; and around 94% of felony convictions are the result of plea bargains (settlements), not jury trials. But that doesn’t mean cases immediately arrive at that point.

State governments, federal government, and private attorneys know that trials are expensive and time-consuming. They almost always want to settle and end the case quickly and cheaply. Many litigants are now forced into arbitration and not even allowed to put their cases in front of a judge and jury without jumping through a lot of hoops. Everyone involved in court cases want quick dispositions. But you cannot blink first because it reveals your hand.

Once the opponent commences settlement talks and makes an offer, always counter with something heavily in your favor. The final settlement is always something in between.

Self-representation mean checking and double-checking everything

This is a rule of thumb for professional writers. Its extremely difficult to edit your own work effectively because you created it. Its always best to have another set of eyes look it over.

Whether its your husband, wife, or 18-year-old daughter, have them read over your self-written briefs before filing. Make sure they understand what you have written. If a layperson cannot understand it, a judge is unlikely to understand it. Judges decide quickly if actions are legitimate or frivolous. Make certain it’s clear, chronological, and concise.

Self representation requires courage and maximum effort. Leave no stone unturned in your journey towards justice. Good luck!

Content Coup offers personalized legal research and document preparation to assist litigants with self-representation. We’ll help you navigate your case through the court system and give you the best chance to win at a fraction of the cost of an attorney. Contact us today with details about your case, and our legal writer will get back to you in 24 hours.

Ethical Considerations For College Students Hiring Professional Ghostwriters For Essays, Term Papers

October 29, 2018

Essay writing factories are unethical. Not because of the service provided. But many of these companies pressure and harass students into buying. It’s also disingenuous not to point out the fact that many essay writing factories use writers from countries where English is not the first language. Content farms use writers outside the USA for lower rates. I’m all for finally putting to rest that old riddle:

Q: What do you call someone that only speaks one language?
A: An American

But the fact is that college professors easily spot essays written by non-native English speakers. Content farms, essay writing factories, or whatever you want to call them, are essentially the Walmart of content marketing. They are ubiquitous and cheap, but you ultimately get what you pay for and entrust.

Professional, independent writers and researchers, on the other hand, have a skill that is useful to students: a natural passion for the written word. A five-page, APA-style essay on stock market trends for a Business 201 class could take a 19-year-old preoccupied student 2-3 days to write, just to earn a low ‘B’ or ‘C.’ A professional writer can do this same job in 6-8 hours or less, and get you an ‘A’. Why not hire them?

Ethical Issues For Students

Some consider it unethical for students to hire professional ghostwriters for their essays and other classwork. But its certainly not illegal. In fact I’d argue that professional writers are a valuable tool at the disposal of students with access.

College is very expensive. The average cost for four years of in-state tuition, fees, room & board was about $80,000 through 2018, according to CollegeData.com. Private colleges were over $180,000 for four years. A college education is the second-most costly investment after buying a home in many people’s lives. The diploma and transcripts get you that first job. Both are mostly useless after that, as subsequent employers use previous employment as the barometer to gauge your fitness for their open positions.

Paying a trustworthy, credible, intelligent writer to ghostwrite your college papers is protecting your investment. The content of said papers is original and passes plagiarism checkers. A good number of autobiographies and memoirs of very famous, important people are ghostwritten. These individuals get the writing credit, and the ghostwriter gets paid. Those are the basics of a very traditional process.

Bottom line is that the ethics considerations are debatable regarding ghostwriters and college students. There could of course be academic consequences if a professor can prove the paper was ghostwritten, which is a difficult task that is rarely pursued. Choosing a writer who understands all the foregoing and subsequent dynamics minimizes any potential risk to the student.

Ethical Issues For Writers

The United States of America is a capitalistic country. The International Monetary Fund defines capitalism as follows:

“…an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society.”

Granted the IMF couldn’t care less about the best interest of society. But the organization is an essential element in the capitalistic world. Professional writers are just like all other professionals who set a price for their services and allow the market to justify that price. Its not unethical for a writer to practice their very respectable craft that pays their bills and provides their well-being.

Attorneys are considered highly-respectable, both as a profession and career in the United States. Many are paid six-figures or more, and live very well. It isn’t necessarily ethical for criminal defense attorneys to represent murderers and rapists. But that is the job they are trained to do. An acquittal in a murder case with an obviously-guilty defendant may not win the defense attorney many popularity contests. But it will set their career for life, as all criminal defendants will want their services and law schools will want them to speak.

Writers who are good at what they do have the right to earn a good living in the same way.

RELATED: Are essay writing services ethical?

Writers write. Most people in the USA can write, just as almost everyone can drive. But not everyone can be a NASCAR driver, just as not everyone who can write is a professional. Writers simply use their gift of the written word to provide a valuable service and do what comes naturally to them.

Precautions for Students

The writer you choose should be affable and personable from the very beginning. They should answers emails and even provide you a phone number for text messages, to prove they are in the USA, and are a real person. They should ask you several basic questions immediately:

1. What is the due date?
2. What is the subject matter?
3. Do you have the rubric?
4. Can you provide any potential readings necessary to complete the assignment?

The writer should say something very insightful about the subject matter and show a genuine interest in writing the article. Of course they are doing it for compensation, but its easy to detect enthusiasm and natural desire to write. Academic writing is fun for professional writers because it piques already curious and wandering minds. If all the aforementioned characteristics and questions are not present, don’t use that writer.

Some students are concerned about login locations (IP address) if/when the ghostwriter must log into their online student profiles. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are common tools in 2018-19. They mask and change IP addresses on computers and smartphones. If your professor happens to say anything about login locations (which is highly unlikely),  just tell them you use a VPN. But its best to directly provide any/all reading materials, including the rubric, in a separate form so the ghostwriter does not have to log into your student profile. Just eliminate that risk altogether.

Metadata on Microsoft Word that potentially reveals someone else wrote the article is another common concern. Professional writers should provide the paper in three formats: .DOC, .PDF, and plain text. The .DOC version is in APA or MLA format and ready to turn in. The writer should strip the document of code and re-paste it into another Word doc to delete the metadata before sending it to the student. But this process is not 100% effective all the time.

The PDF version is best for turning in, if your schools allows it. PDF does not have all that metadata that Word sometimes carries over. Plain text is just that: a version without HTML or any other code. Students who are extra cautious can paste this version into a blank Word doc, open the completed Word doc provided by the ghostwriter, and just manually add all the bolds, italics, tabs, etc. that are in said doc. It will take you less than a half hour and completely eliminate the already razor-thin chance of discovery.

Essay writing is fun for professional writers and a necessity for students. We live in a capitalistic society and ghostwriting is a long-time, respectable tradition in the world of publishing. Look at it that way and the ethical issues matter not.

Ready to hire a personable, professional, and passionate ghostwriter for your college essays, term papers, and other assignments. Contact me today and I’ll get back to you in 24 hours or less.