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15 Powerful Ways to Differentiate Your Blog from the Crowd

15 Powerful Ways to Differentiate Your Blog from the Crowd

There are millions of blogs out there, and getting noticed amid the cacophony of such a noisy and active crowd is the key problem for any new blogger.

In January 2007, I started Zen Habits, and at first I thought there was no way for me to get noticed. Eleven months later, I’m a Top 100 blogger and I’ve learned a few things about how to get noticed.

There are millions of blogs out there, and getting noticed amid the cacophony of such a noisy and active crowd is the key problem for any new blogger.

In the face of such overwhelming odds, how can you differentiate yourself? How can you get noticed?

The main thing: don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Study your field, see what’s being done, and by all means, do the things that are working for others. But do it in a new or interesting way, with some kind of difference that will get you noticed.

Here are a few tips on doing that:

1. Blog name. It starts here … how will you be memorable? If you use your name for your blog, it had better be a memorable or already-known name, or you’ll have a harder time. Try to choose a name that will capture the image you’re going for and stand out at the same time. It’s going to be your brand. Be bold!

2. Headlines. Aside from creating amazing content, writing an interesting and catchy headline (or “post title”) is the best thing you can do to get people to read your posts. Those few words are all they’ll read when another blogger links to you, when you’re on a social media site such as Digg, or when you’re in their RSS reader. So be bold in your headlines as well. See what works for other successful blogs, and capture the essence of those headlines … while doing something a little different. Be sexy, be different, be eye catching.

3. Usefulness. There are a lot of blogs out there, but not many of them are so valuable that they’re worth the time it takes to sift through the non-useful stuff. Be different by being incredibly useful, so valuable people will thank you for providing the information you’re providing for free. Always ask yourself, “How can I make this post amazingly useful?”

4. Depth. Along those lines, don’t just brush over a topic. Too many blogs do short posts with a thought or two, obviously written in a hurry. Be different — go into much more depth. It’s still important to be concise — being lengthy isn’t a good thing. But exploring a very useful topic in more depth than other blogs will set you apart.

5. Flair. While content is the most important thing, it’s good to have a little style too. Should you be intentionally flamboyant and exciting? Well, a little flair never hurts. But it’s still important to be true to yourself, and to be honest to your readers. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, but adding a little zest to your posts while still being yourself is a good way to be different than the more commonplace blogs out there.

6. Memorable images. Aside from the headline, the image that you use with the post can make a big difference in grabbing the reader’s attention. Try to find a popping, eye-catching, memorable image to go along with your post. Now, it shouldn’t oversell the post or mislead the reader, but something funny or amazing or at least visually interesting should do the trick.

7. Off-beat topics. What topics are other people blogging about? If you blog about exactly the same thing, you’ll be exactly the same as everyone else. Instead, try to think of topics that are slightly off-beat, different, interesting … something that will catch attention and curiosity. The reader should see the post and say, “Huh? That’s interesting.” He shouldn’t say, “Oh, not that again.”

8. Controversy. While it’s not good to be intentionally controversial all the time, it’s also good to try not to steer clear of all controversy. If you have a stance that isn’t the norm, that will stir up a little controversy … don’t be afraid to write about it. You might get some attacks, you might get insulted … but don’t worry, it won’t hurt as much as you think. Just do it, and see what happens. Controversy gets people talking, and that’s a good thing.

9. Definitive resource. Instead of providing some information about a topic, provide everything the reader could want on that topic. Be the definitive guide, FAQ or how-to. Have links to everything the reader might want. If you’re better than everyone else, more comprehensive, more useful, you’ll stand out.

10. Give away an ebook. I’ve had success selling an ebook, but remember that I had built up my audience before I sold the ebook. Instead, you can do the opposite: create a great ebook that will be quickly spread around, and give it away for free. Make it catchy and extremely valuable, and people will thank you. Allow other bloggers to give it away for free on their blogs. Allow people to email it to family and friends. Just be sure that your blog’s name and url are on it prominently.

11. Minimalist design. Way too many blogs are crammed not only with information, but with widgets, ads, images, links, more ads, and everything else under the sun. Readers get tired of that. Instead, remove everything you possibly can. Only have your header image, and the content, and maybe a few links to your best stuff and links so people can navigate easily. Other than that, lose everything else possible. The minimalist design, with lots of “white space” (as opposed to filling every possible inch of screen space with stuff) will be much more eye-catching and memorable. Different, in other words.

12. Don’t have ads. Along those lines, try going without ads. I know, that’s a tough decision to make. But some of my favorite blogs have gone without ads, at least until they got popular, and let me tell you, it set them apart. Anyway, Adsense and other ads like that don’t make much money in the beginning. If you’re not making thousands of dollars a month on ads, consider removing them for a few months.

13. Attention-grabbing openers. The first paragraph or two of your content are the most important (aside from the headline). That’s because if it’s not interesting, people will move on. They’re busy, they don’t have time, and they don’t want to read a boring article. But if you grab their attention with the first few words (and don’t oversell the post), you’ll get them to keep reading.

14. Get people talking. Along the lines of “be controversial”, you want people to talk about your posts. You don’t have to be intentionally controversial or anything, but just ask yourself, “Is this a post I would blog about if I were another blogger? Is this something I might tell my coworkers about?” If so, you’ve got a winner. Write in a way that makes other people want to talk about you.

15. Don’t be about the money, be about the reader. Too many bloggers are just looking to make money. They make many decisions, without really thinking about it, that put the money and the traffic before the reader. With every little decision you make, ask yourself, “Is this something that will benefit my readers? Is this something that will be valuable to them?” If not, consider not doing it. For example, widgets that are designed to drive blog traffic — are you doing it for the traffic, or for the reader? Most times, it’s not for the reader. But if you constantly, vigilantly, mercilessly put the reader before money or traffic, you will set yourself apart. And that’s a good thing.

Liam Cavanagh

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