It’s no secret that a content strategy training course can give you leverage over a lot of other writers, strategists, and website owners out there.
But do you really need to pay for a full-blown course? Can’t you just learn this stuff for free online?
Sure, you could – but you probably won’t see the results you want in your career or personal projects.
I took Julia McCoy’s Content Strategy & Marketing Course earlier this year. Let me explain what it was like and what I learned.
From Job Hopper to Journalist and Content Strategist
I know what you’re thinking: who the heck am I and why should you care about what I have to say?
Like Julia, I’m a college dropout.
I’ve worked a lot of jobs over the past ten years – some alright, some horrible, and some downright degrading (pizza, ugh).
I always thought that without a formal degree, I was doomed to a life of front-line service industry jobs in food or maintenance. That’s when I started getting into journalism and content marketing.
Finding My Footing in a Real Career
I first started writing for some indie news outlets where I covered stories I enjoyed. As a bonus, this also allowed me to learn the ropes of SEO and online writing.
This was great, but I still wasn’t able to quit my day job dipping chocolate strawberries because guess what? Indie outlets don’t have the same funding as large corporations.
Sure, I could probably claw my way into a job at a large outlet, but that also means I’d have to compromise my larger mission as a writer to fit a certain narrative – all for a meager paycheck. No thanks!
I knew someone out there in internet-land was writing the blog posts and finding keywords to target for every business website I visited. In fact, a lot of those blog posts made me think “wow, I could do this so much better.”
I decided to take every opportunity possible to improve my content marketing skills. I started reading blogs about SEO, watching YouTube tutorials, and using the University of Google to learn as much as I could. I had some skills and knowledge but I lacked a lot of direction and formal understanding. (I just wish I had found a content strategy training course sooner.)
To gain experience, I helped my friends launch their startup websites and even made some decent income doing this for a few years. I even quit my day job at this point. (Thanks, Robert!)
I didn’t realize it at the time but this gave me a lot of leverage over others because I had singlehandedly developed and implemented a content strategy without even realizing that’s what I was doing.
Writing at Express Writers
I was lucky enough to find Julia and Express Writers in 2017 when I joined the team as a General Writer and, later, Content Strategist.
I went through Julia’s content strategy training course in April of 2018 and it’s lifted my writing and strategy skills to a whole new level. Now that I finally have a formal understanding of the content strategy process, I can apply these skills to my writing and strategy work.
When I write, I’m able to identify where a reader is at in the sales funnel and develop content that’s most relevant and interesting to them. For instance, someone searching “welding tips” is at a much different buying stage than someone searching “Hobart Handler 130 Wire Welder.”
I’m also able to find the best keywords for clients while conducting their topic research and content strategy. After I find those amazing keywords, I can use tools like BuzzSumo to develop stand-out headlines that beg to be clicked.
From there, I can actually write valuable content that solidifies every brand as an authority in their industry. This strategy stuff really works.
How do I know? Because clients notice. In fact, they request me to write and do their content strategy again and again.
I’ve also been able to apply the skills from Julia’s course to my own project with remarkable results.
I started my own independent news and analysis website, Geopolitics Alert, in early 2016. I knew SEO was important, but it seemed futile to devote much time to ranking in Google when social media offered easy traffic for a new website. (This was before the Facebook algorithms started punishing small businesses and independent publishers.)
Not to mention, current event keywords are some of the most difficult to rank for because thousands of outlets with massive budgets have what it takes to rank in all the first page spots: I’m competing with some of the internet’s first websites like Bloomberg and Amnesty International.
I didn’t really start devoting much time and energy into strategy or SEO until early 2018. As luck would have it, this was when I started Julia’s content strategy training course.
My first plan was to write a long-form authority piece about Yemen around the keyword “where is Yemen” (a high-volume and high-competition search term). I’ll admit: I had some nerve to attempt this keyword.
It started ranking on the third page of Google results just days after I published it! From there, it crawled up to the first page where it’s stayed ever since above sites like The Guardian, CNN, Al Jazeera, Amnesty, and over 200 million other results. At one point, my article even ranked above the BBC’s authoritative article on the same topic.
I’ve also used the skills I’ve developed from Julia’s course to craft killer emails for my readers. Every email I send has an open-rate that’s nearly double my industry’s average and a click-rate that’s always at least double my industry’s average. (Apparently, news publishers could stand to take a content strategy training course.)
What’s Covered in Julia’s Content Strategy Training Course?
First things first: don’t get overwhelmed! There is A LOT of material to cover but you’ll move through it slowly.
Julia’s content strategy course takes you through all of the steps to build — and implement — a solid content strategy for any brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re promoting a product, service, or concept: the skills apply to everyone.
Hey, I haven’t even monetized my website yet. You can really use this stuff for anything you want – big or small.
This course teaches you the same skills Julia used to build her company, Express Writers, from the ground up. Unlike a lot of other courses you’ll find out there, this one explains how to build something out of nothing without relying on paid keywords or the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company.
The best part is that everything in the content strategy training course is video-based and you can complete it at your own pace. Most of the videos are short and to-the-point so you can go through a few each day if you’re pressed on time. (That’s actually what my partner, Jim, is doing right now.)
The Brand Strategy Exercises that accompany each module help you put your new skills into action as soon as you finish the lesson. Unlike a lot of other courses, you can use the information you learn as you go through the course – there’s no need to wait until you finish the whole thing.
Don’t rush through anything – you want to absorb as much information as possible.
1. Figure Out What Constitutes a Successful Content Strategy – for Your Brand
First, you’ll need to decide what sets you apart from others in your industry.
This is going to be what gives your content its wow factor. Julia gives you examples, techniques, and tips for standing out from the crowd to create content that ranks.
Get your ducks in a row here because you’ll need to come back to this as you build your strategy.
2. Content Strategy Training Course: Figure Out Who You’re Writing for, What You Want to Teach Them
Just like high school writing classes, we need to ask ourselves who we’re writing for and why they would want to read what we’re writing. Are they just learning about a topic? Are they ready to buy?
What would YOU want to read at a certain buying stage?
I can’t stress enough how important this is in terms of writing content that really resonates with my audience. If you don’t figure this step out, you’ll just write content for a broad audience that won’t relate to anyone because it’s too general (and probably already been said 1,000 times).
My favorite thing about this module was learning how to properly use Facebook audience insights for promoting posts. I can get stuck there for way too long creating personas and developing ad audiences.
3. Finding Those Sweet Keywords and Understanding How to Use Them
Here’s where the content strategy training course really starts to get fun.
If you want to rank in Google, you need to figure out what your audience is typing (or shouting) into that search bar (or voice device). Don’t get discouraged – it takes some time to rank well.
You need to let Google know that you’re capable of creating content people actually want to read. I never write for search engines. Instead, I pepper keywords into my writing so Google knows what my article or blog is about.
Write content that people really want to read and you’ll eventually start ranking. This module gives you the skills you need to find those killer keywords.
4. Content Strategy Training Course: Solidify Your Online Authority
Now that you’ve got some great keywords and you’re ready to create content, you need to figure out how to let Google and your potential audience know that you’re worth their precious time.
You need to portray yourself as an authority in the eyes of the internet.
It sounds hard (and it kind of is) but as long as your heart is in the right place and you apply the right skills, you’ll be fine.
In this module, Julia covers everything you need to know about improving your domain’s authority. A lot of factors are at play here like internal and external linking, guest blogging, and long-form comprehensive blog posts.
Do you see why it’s so important to figure out your differentiation factor before you get this far?
5. Practical Content Creation for Getting on that Prized First Page
This is where Julia’s content strategy training course explains how to create content people actually want to read. She provides a ton of invaluable tips and tricks in this module.
It’s not as easy as you think. In my experience, the less confidence you have in your writing, the better because you’ll always strive to inform and wow readers.
The information in this module is absolutely crucial for creating content that ranks on the first page of Google search results. This is the exact strategy I used to get my “where is Yemen” cornerstone long-form article on the first page of Google results almost immediately after publishing.
I looked at what was out there and I did it better. People saw what I wrote, clicked it, and stuck around on the website to read more. Google noticed this and rewarded me accordingly.
This happened because I set out to write something I thought readers wanted. I wasn’t just throwing 2,000 words onto a page and stuffing keywords. I wanted to help.
If you’re wondering what happens when you run out of topic ideas, Julia has you covered in this module.
6. Getting Your Content in Front of the Right Sets of Eyes
Now that you have a few pieces of amazing content, you need to find the people who would actually enjoy reading it – and maybe even share it with their friends or make a purchase.
In my experience, far too many people get social media wrong: they post way too many times in a day without any particular nuance. Some posts are too long and others are way too short.
Julia explains everything here: proper post length, just the right frequency for each platform, and setting an ad budget. (Social media ads are very effective when you understand how to strategize.)
This module also covers everything you need to know about going back over your old content to freshen it up. This has helped me revive old articles and get them ranking – in many cases for the first time.
Putting Skills from the Content Strategy Training Course into Action
I’ll admit that there aren’t enough hours in the day to develop and implement a content strategy for my own website as meticulously as I’d like to. There are just two of us running the show in our spare time.
Plus, geopolitics is a fast-pasted topic – we can’t snooze on getting content out so a lot of our time goes to writing.
For me, I’m glad I have the skills from Julia’s course to apply as I go along: a little email marketing here, a little keyword research there. These skills have helped me break my reliance on social media for traffic while expanding my reach to new audiences.
There’s really no feeling like seeing something YOU wrote on the first page of Google’s search results — and people actually reading it!
I’ve also been able to use these skills to improve my career. Not only can I write better content for clients, but I can take on assignments at Express Writers that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I have an understanding of content marketing and strategy that I didn’t have before.
Now, my partner is going through Julia’s content strategy training course in the hopes of working in the content marketing industry when he’s done. I signed him up because I already went through the course and knew it would give him the skills he needed to succeed.
I’ll report back when he’s done!
If you’re ready to take your career, brand, or personal project to the next level, check out the curriculum for Julia’s content strategy training course.