The Best of Copyblogger: 2016 Edition

catch up on our top picks for 2016

The year of the rollercoaster is nearly finished, and, as we usually do around this time, I wanted to pull together some of my favorite posts for you.

This collection of posts (and a single podcast) is a celebration of the writers who worked hard every week to teach, inspire, and entertain us — and it’s also a bit of a manifesto for what we want 2017 to be.

Our vision for 2017 is:

  • The year of the individual voice
  • The year of community
  • The year of the real, human writer

Here are some of my favorite Copyblogger posts from 2016, starting with just one podcast episode …

The Return of the Blog

Brian Clark wrapped up the Unemployable podcast for 2016 joined by Darren Rowse, our old, dear friend and someone who epitomizes ethical, human-focused authority.

Darren and Brian talk about how “business blogging” became “content marketing,” about what we might have lost along the way, and about how to get that back again:
Blogging is Back, with Darren Rowse

Paying the bills, bills, bills

Copyblogger has always been a site for writers, and we hold a special place in our hearts for the freelancer — the early pioneers of the “gig economy,” who live on that fascinating edge where stress turns into freedom.

Here’s just a small sampling of posts we ran this year on how to make a better living creating words.

If you want to generate some business with your content, first you have to generate some traffic:
5 Ways to Get More Traffic with Content Marketing

Why is it so hard to charge what you’re worth? Pamela Wilson shares some thoughts:
Are You Cheap or Are You Exceptional? How to Price Your Services

Are you leaving money on the table? If you write for a living, the answer is probably Yes. Kelly Exeter can help:
4 Places Writers Leave Money on the Table

Beth Hayden has written lots of strong, action-oriented content for us this year on improving your writing revenue. Here’s one example:
How to Discover Your Customers’ Favorite Social Media Platforms

Freelancing is amazing — except for the part where you don’t know how much you’ll be making from month to month. Here’s a suggestion from Pamela Wilson:
A Simple Way Out of Your Precarious Freelance Income Problem

The answer is always in the audience

Darren, in his conversation with Brian, made the point that maybe if we’d called it “Community Marketing” instead of “Content Marketing,” more content creators would have kept their focus in the right place.

I think that’s a wise observation. Copyblogger has always taught the value of being a bit obsessed with your audience — and we’ve always been proud of the smart, thoughtful community that has grown around the blog.

Community isn’t just the relationship between you and the audience … it’s also about the professional ties you create with other writers. Stefanie Flaxman delves into what you need to consider before you publish other voices on your site:
Should You Publish Guest Blog Posts on Your Website?

If your content lacks connection, you’ll never build trust. If your content lacks conversion skills, you’ll never make any money. And if your content lacks conviction, it has no soul.

I talk a bit about how those three weave together in this post:
Connection Steps that Lead to Customers

Wise writers know that excellent writing doesn’t mean stiff or “formally perfect” writing. There’s an art to writing with a conversational voice … and Henneke gives us some thoughts on how to get the ball rolling:
How to Write Conversationally: 7 Tips to Engage and Delight Your Audience

Who we are informs so much of what we do. I took a closer look at Robert Cialdini’s “new” (not really) persuasion principle of Unity in this post:
The Ultra Powerful 7th Principle of Persuasion

Content excellence

We’ve said it many times:

Your writing has to be good before it can be strategic.

Crummy content won’t cut it, which is why we are perpetually in the year of the writer. (I suppose at some point we should write a post about the Century of the Writer …)

In 2017, we’ll be offering you monthly prompts that we can all work on together as a community. It starts with writing consistently, so take a look at the prompts below to get your motor running:
Start Your Engines: The 2017 Content Excellence Challenge Begins Now

(Look for January’s prompts coming soon …)

We say “your writing has to be good” — but what does that mean, precisely? A post I turn to again and again to answer that question is Brian Clark’s article on the intersection of meaning and fascination:
2 Essential Elements of Irresistible Content

Writers write every day (sometimes) … but what happens when you have no idea what to write about? Stefanie Flaxman is here to help:
This Is How You Become a Writer

Good writing is brave — and I love Joanna Wiebe’s bold (and smart) voice:

“Your biggest copy opportunity is this: your competitors are chickens.”

That’s how she kicks off this post:
Big Bums, Scuffles, and How to Craft Copy Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Write

Kelly Exeter writes about — what I agree is — the single most important thing writers can do to make our words much, much better:
One Skill that Will Take Your Writing from Good to Great

Henneke shares how to create a red poppy in a sea of gray content:
How to Write So Vividly that Readers Fall in Love with Your Ideas

Writing is creative work — and Demian Farnworth, in his wild, inimitable way, brings 21 different definitions of creativity together here (there’s also a dandy poster):
What Is Creativity? 21 Authentic Definitions You’ll Love [Free Poster]

It’s nearly 2017, and bots are writing content now. What they aren’t doing is writing good content — because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Brian Clark expands on that here:
How to Make Your Writing Real

Making more of it happen

Craft matters. And creativity matters.

But neither one matters if you don’t get the work done. Here are some resources to help you make that happen.

I’m a big fan of the “itsy-bitsy habits” movement, and the work of Stephen Guise. So I was tickled when he agreed to write a post for us:
An Effective (but Embarrassing) Way to Develop Elite Copywriting Skills with Mini Habits

Ever have trouble starting a new blog post? Or wrapping one up? Or … filling the middle with something that isn’t total blather? Yeah, me too. Here’s Brian Clark’s focused process for how to move past these three dreadful symptoms of a single problem:
The 5-Step Process that Solves 3 Painful Writing Problems

Sometimes, the creative well runs a little dry. Luckily, we have Sally Hogshead, who gave us 21 genuinely juicy prompts for excellent content:
21 Juicy Prompts that Inspire Fascinating Content

Sean D’Souza is obsessed with process … and with breaking it down into steps that others can follow. Take a look at his take on content process here:
The Content Junkyard (and Why So Many Articles Fail)

Often, the hardest part of writing is just getting started. Pamela Wilson has some thoughts on ways to get your writing brain working:
7 Fun and Easy Warm Ups to Start Your Writing Day

Content Marketing blah blah blah

I’ll let you in on a poorly-kept secret.

Most of us at Copyblogger hate the term “content marketing.” It’s too vague, it sounds clinical, and it puts the focus in the wrong place (on the content, rather than the community).

But … we also believe in using the language of the audience. And, for better or worse, “content marketing” is what folks call “authoritative creative works like blogs, podcasts, videos, and other useful things, that attract and sustain audience attention and build a case for your business goals.”

And to be honest, ACWLBPVAOUTTAASAAABACFYBG doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

In the interest of deciphering some of the attendant jargon, as well as giving us all a chance to hear Robert Bruce’s “deep, fluid, and cozy voice,” take a look and listen to our Content Marketing Glossary. Demian Farnworth introduces it here:
Content Marketing Glossary: 96 Concepts that Will Make You a Smarter Content Marketer

And here’s the link to jump to all of the Content Marketing Glossary posts with animated videos:

This April Fools’ Day post was a bit of stupid fun — but even though I wrote it, it still makes me laugh:
Okay … Here’s the Real Reason to Attend Digital Commerce Summit in Denver

And finally … there’s a trend you might notice if you click through to these posts. That trend will be moving in a different direction in 2017 … but you’ll need to wait for the new year for the announcement.

So … watch this space. :) Have a safe New Year’s Eve, and we’ll catch you on the flip side.

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