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Best of 2017: Our Favorite Posts for Writers from the Last 12 Months

2018 is around the corner.

This could be the year you crack your first 1,000 subscribers. This could be the year you get published on that blog you’re dying to write for. This could even be the year one of your blog posts goes viral.

But none of that will happen unless you keep at it.

You not only have to keep writing, you also have to keep honing your craft.

Because the one thing that separates the winners from the losers in this blogging game is that the winners are always trying to improve.

They’re always trying to take their writing chops to the next level.

And they never stop trying. Because there’s always a new level to reach.

Here at Smart Blogger, we publish a ton of content to help you level up your writing, because we want you to become the best writer you can be.

But we’re not the only voice out there. The blogosphere is full of accomplished wordsmiths who have perfected their writing for years and now share their experience.

So today, we want to highlight a few posts that other bloggers published in 2017 — posts that will help you hone your craft and meet your writing goals in the year to come.

Check ’em out below:

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Author: Steve Rayson

You know the headline is the most important part of your article, right?

That’s why this is a must-read.

Buzzsumo has aggregated all the share counts of all the content that is published online. And in this post, they analyze that data to determine which headline phrases get the most social engagement, and which get the least.

Use this fascinating data in 2018 to give your headlines a better shot in the social arena.

The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs – Medium

Author: Jeff Goins

Jeff Goins is an iconic blogger who has five books and over 1,000 blog posts to his name. He’s a pro writer, but he had to start somewhere as well. He wasn’t always as effective as he is now.

In this post, he opens up about his past struggles to make it in the writing field, the mistakes he made along the way, and the mindsets that held him back.

The message is simple: If you want to be a pro, don’t act like an amateur.

Read this post and make sure that you’re not.

5 Writing Techniques that Stir Your Audience to Action – CopyBlogger

Author: Brian Clark

If you want to stir someone to action, you must first stir their emotions.

That is the premise of Brian Clark’s post, and he describes five writing techniques you can use to do so.

If you want your writing to stir your audience, practice these techniques.

Your writing will be more powerful and persuasive for it.

Sentence Structure: How to Make Your Sentences Easier to Read – Doris and Bertie

Author: Clare Lynch

This short post mirrors two sentences against each other. They both say the same thing in the same language, but one is easy to read, and the other is hard.

The difference?

Their structure.

Not enough bloggers review their writing on such a micro level. They don’t analyze their posts sentence by sentence. But this post shows that the way you structure a sentence can make a huge difference.

Give it a quick read because it could open your eyes.

The Anatomy of the PERFECT Article Intro (And How to Reverse Engineer It) – Unsettle

Author:  Sarah Peterson

In this epic post, Sarah goes deep on the art of writing compelling introductions — and make no mistake, this is a must-have skill for bloggers.

After all, your intros carry a lot of responsibility. They must not only convince people to start reading, but they must also convince people to keep reading.

Sarah breaks it down step by step to ensure the next intro you write has the desired effect. If you want people to read your article far enough to discover your brilliant ideas, read this post.

How I Wrote 200 Unique Blog Posts in 200 Days — A Formula for Infinite Creativity – Medium

Author: Barry Davret

Many people think being creative is all about coming up with original ideas. The truth is, creativity comes from knowing how to combine ideas and experience into something that feels fresh.

This author’s formula for creativity gave him 200 unique blog post ideas in as many days. It’s simple but effective.

That’s what earned him a spot on our list.

A List with 99 Strong Verbs to Make Your Content Pop, Fizz, and Sparkle – Enchanting Marketing

Author: Henneke Duistermaat

Henneke is an insanely talented writer with a knack for writing vivid content that jumps off the page.

In this post, she explains how you can create the same powerful effect by choosing strong verbs that paint a picture in your reader’s mind.

Her list of strong verbs is a good resource, but the advice that precedes it could change the way you write.

Hone Your Craft and Meet Your Blogging Goals in 2018

Don’t be one of those writers who hits a plateau and never takes the effort to improve.

You have to strive to become better. You have to try new techniques, and you have to practice until you’ve mastered them.

That’s what will equip you to make it in this blogging game.

The techniques from these posts are a good start. Practice them in 2018 to hone your writing, and when you look back in twelve months, you won’t believe how much you’ll have improved.

Have a happy new year!

Author bio: Robert van Tongeren is the Associate Editor of Smart Blogger, who helps our writers get their posts in tip-top shape. He also runs his own blog that helps guys dress a little sharper at Restart Your Style. You can find him on Twitter here.

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What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

It’s probably not news to you that 91% of B2B brands use content marketing to attract, engage, nurture, and convert their audience. However, it might be surprising to learn that only 9% of those brands rate their content marketing as “sophisticated.” Sophisticated meaning that their content marketing is successful, scales across the organization, and provides accurate measurement to the business. This puts a lot of pressure on content marketers to elevate their game and provide more worthwhile and valuable content experiences.

Patrick PinedaAs an adept Dungeon Master (DM) of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games, TopRank Marketing’s Motion Graphic Designer, Patrick Pineda, can relate.

It might sound a little odd at first, but Dungeon Masters and content marketers are more alike than you think. Responsible for creating meaningful and memorable experiences through content that takes people on a journey, you can see the similarities arise. Just like content marketers need to help guide people through the buyer journey, the Dungeon Master needs to guide players through a journey of their own.

After serving his friends as the go-to Dungeon Master, Patrick has learned a thing or two from creating lengthy campaigns—some successful, some not—that are both engaging and challenging. Discover Patrick’s lessons from the dungeon and how you can apply them to your content marketing campaigns and programs down below.

What Is a Dungeon Master?

For the unfamiliar, a Dungeon Master is the organizer for the wildly popular, 40-year-old tabletop role-playing game, “Dungeons & Dragons.” Not only do DMs organize the game, but they are also responsible for the game rules, details, and challenges. According to Patrick, the player experience hinges on a DM’s ability to create meaningful content that’s fun to explore.

One thing Dungeon Masters are not responsible for, however, are the players’ actions.

Like the self-directed buyers of today, D&D players are able to choose their own paths. As a result, DMs are challenged to make sure players finish the game. And just like your audience won’t read every piece of content you put in front of them, the same happens in a D&D game. Certain story elements DMs put together will never see the light of day because every player has a different play style, completes tasks in different orders, and takes different actions.

“The best Dungeon Master doesn’t just create a good story, but they also help players reach their goals,” Patrick claims.

Does any of this sound familiar? It certainly resonated for me.

5 Content Marketing Lessons From the Dungeon

Having created D&D campaigns that ruled and bombed, here are Patricks top five tips for developing content that resonate with your audience.

#1 - Your audience values originality.

If Patrick creates a campaign that plays to common tropes like a damsel in distress or small town disappearances, the story becomes predictable. But worse than that, the players feel condescended to as the game starts to feel dumbed down.

“Cliches and stereotypes will make players groan. It’s important when creating a campaign that I shake it up and play against common conventions,” Patrick says.

When examining your content and the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original and play with your audience’s expectations. For example, listicles with social media tips are a dime a dozen. Your audience might be more interested if you flip the idea on its head with social media mistakes. In changing it up, you’re giving your audience something new that they haven’t read before, capturing their interest.

[bctt tweet="When examining your content & the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original & play with your audience’s expectations. - @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 - Appeal to curiosity.

When it comes to creating an adventure for players to navigate, the DM has a seemingly impossible job. They need to create a unique and compelling world that is able to hold players’ attention—something not easily done. In fact, campaigns have taken Patrick days to put together. But that doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“I’ve spent hours upon hours creating content for a campaign. But 80% of what I create may never see any playtime. It’s ultimately the players’ choice as to what tasks they want to complete and what quests they want to go on,” Patrick points out.

While the D&D world needs to have a unique and compelling narrative, it also needs to appeal to a player’s curiosity to ensure they keep playing the game and play the parts of the game that you want them to.

How does this apply to content marketing? Well, as you know, just because you’re producing content, doesn’t mean that your audience will find it. To find the answers they’re looking for, they might scour the internet, social media, and trusted experts for more information. Having an integrated content strategy that has multiple touch points throughout the buyer journey and an omni-channel approach, helps ensure you’re reaching your target audience whenever and wherever they may be searching.

Weaving SEO, social media, and influencer marketing into your content marketing strategy helps improve the reach and engagement of the content you’re producing. Through SEO, your organic rankings and click-through-rates will start to rise, improving your organic traffic. Social media messages that are well written and value-based help attract larger audiences from their social feeds. And, finally, tapping into industry influencers exposes your content to a wider network of like-minded individuals, as well as adding authority and credibility.

#3 - Avoid corraling your audience.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, including D&D players. While the DM writes the game and serves as a referee, they cannot influence a player’s actions. And if a DM attempts to, they could quickly lose a player’s interest.

“As a DM, it can be tempting to intervene and make sure that your players are playing the game the way you intended. But this is the one thing you cannot do.” Patrick emphasizes.

This is true in content marketing, too, as making calls to action (CTAs) with zero context can be a turn-off for your audience. If you insert a CTA before your audience can learn what’s in it for them, whether it’s downloading an eBook, listening to a podcast, or subscribing to your blog, they’re less likely to do it. In fact, QuickSprout found that placing a CTA above the fold on a page decreased their conversion rate by 17% and attributed it to their audience not fully understanding why they should complete the action.

Instead, make sure that your CTAs have plenty of context and explain what the audience will gain by filling out your form, reading another blog post, etc. This helps ensure that your content satisfies your audience’s quest for knowledge.

#4 - Customize content for your audience, not the other way around.

As we mentioned previously, the players are in charge of their actions and how they choose to play the game, making it impossible for DMs to have control over the game experience. This makes it important for DMs to know their audience ahead of time, so they can include important sought-after details into different game components.

“I’ll ask players before we start what they hope to get out of the game, whether it’s take down an enemy or just to have fun. Knowing this ahead of time, I can tailor the game to what each player wants to have happen,” Patrick says.

For content marketers, this lesson should hit close to home. You need to know your audience well in advance in order to deliver personalized content. If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people.

After taking a look at your own audience’s characteristics and interests in Google Analytics, create unique personas for each of your audience members. This allows you to create content that is tailored for each person you hope to attract and engage. For example, if one of your target personas is a Director of Business Development, creating custom content that addresses a unique pain points like identifying new business opportunities or tips from the experts on how to strengthen their existing client relationships.

[bctt tweet="If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people. - @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#5 - Chart your course.

There is a lot going on in a D&D game. And for the DM, that number is amplified as you have to remember every detail about your players, what’s been completed, and what could come next.

“To make sure I’m on top of the game and can portray characters well, I chart the game’s relationships instead of story elements. If I focus on the story, it could quickly become useless as players might do things out of order or in a non-linear fashion. By focusing on the relationships and where they fit in the narrative, the game becomes more fluid and flexible for the players and I can keep track of their journey,” Patrick says.

Tracking the journey isn’t the only thing Patrick notes, however. He also documents player strengths, weaknesses, and stats as the game progresses.

“I keep a character sheet that details each player’s play style. For example, if a player is investing their skill points in intelligence, I can tailor future encounters in the game to focus on problem-solving instead of combat. The opposite is true for a player who invests in raw strength,” Patrick notes.

Through detailed charts, maps, and grids, Patrick is able to make sure that his players have a personalized, seamless experience for every campaign they play, regardless of how they play it.

Customer Journey & Dungeons and Dragons Journey

By taking the same approach with your content marketing, you can identify opportunities for customization and develop a strategy for weaving your content into the buyer’s journey. For example, by knowing which pieces of content attract a larger audience or drive more conversions, you can use that information to inform your content development and map your content to different stages of the funnel (see below).

Grid Assigning Content to Buyer Stages

To collect this data on your content and audience, review your Google Analytics behavior and conversion dashboards to find our which pieces of content excel at attracting, engaging, or converting your audience. Metrics like page views and entrances are good indicators for attraction, whereas time on page or number of pages per session can help you understand engagement. And, finally, the number of conversions through conversion tracking is the best way to find your top converting content. Armed with this knowledge you can create content plans that are tailored for your audience’s unique buyer journey.

Your Audience Is the Hero

A good Dungeon Master enables players to become the hero of the story through a personalized game with a compelling, original narrative. As a content marketer, it’s your responsibility to create content that transforms your audience into heroes as well, helping them solve seemingly impossible problems with your expert, best-answer advice.

Through an integrated content strategy with originality, personalization, and “best answer” content that’s mapped to the buyer journey, you can become the perfect Content Master for your audience.

For more ideas on how to become a masterful content marketer, check out these 25 content marketing tips, including how to tackle writer’s block, repurpose content, utilize storytelling, and more.

The post What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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