Actually, it’s a lot more than 65 million articles – that’s just the number published on the WordPress platform! There are a lot of blogs out there.
So, in a world where everyone wants to start a blog and everyone else is publishing their opinions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, how do we make ours stand out? Is it even possible?
In today’s post I’m going to look at a few strategies I’ve used over the years to help my blogs and online businesses get noticed and stand out from the crowd. I hope it helps a few people out there who are trying to make a bit of extra income for their families, or create happier careers.
But what about all that competition?
When you look at the sheer number of blogs and blog posts created each month it can seem a little overwhelming. How on Earth can one stand out when there is so much competition?
Well, there are a few positive points to remember:
They’re not all in your niche
The majority of blogs aren’t in your niche. Don’t worry, not all of those millions of blogs are direct competitors.
They’re not all as good as yours
If you’ve got yourself set up on on your own host you are probably ahead of 90% of the crowd. Even more if you have a brand and a strategy of some kind.
They don’t all last long
The average blog, like the average business, doesn’t last more than a year. There is a lot to be said for just sticking it out because most people won’t.
I think it’s important to remember these things, especially if it’s taking you a little longer to hit your goals than you had anticipated. Being hopeful in the early days is important, as is committing to sticking at it.
The three stages of a visitor
Before we get into the main points, we need to have a look at traffic and its various stages. There are three ways to think about your traffic, and knowing them is very important to effectively standing out.
Traffic before it actually gets to your site. For example, people that are about to encounter you on Google, social media, or some form of advertising.
Traffic while it is on your website and either ignoring or engaging with your content and is poised to take some action like clicking, subscribing, purchasing, or bouncing.
Once they’ve been fulfilled or bounced from your site and are in a stage where they will either abandon your site for good or re-visit in the future..
In this post we’re going to touch on all three stages and talk about some things we can do to ensure that not only do you get visitors, but that they engage with your content, and then come back again later.
How to make your blog posts stand out
Now we’re going to take a deeper look at what we can do to make our blogs and blog posts stand out from the crowd in a more methodical and strategic way.
1. Craft your headlines and descriptions for humans and Google
If you want people to click through to your blog and read your posts you’re going to need to make sure that your headlines and descriptions are compelling enough to get them interested, without being too “clickbaity” so as to put them off.
It’s also important to note that, at this stage, you need to take care of both human needs and the needs of the spiders from Google.
Yes, we want to write for people, but we also want search engines to pick up the content or else no one will see it.
If you look at any Google search you’ll see some amazing results and some that could use some work. For example, in the image above you’ll see two titles that are a little bit too long and thus aren’t optimized for people who are reading through and looking to click.
Google will generally show around 55 characters for the title as they need to make it fit on both desktop and mobile device display, so we should try to keep within that limit.
Remember, these are just like an advert listing.
You can always write longer titles for your blog and then edit them to be shorter for Google by using an SEO plugin like All in One SEO Pack that allows you to edit titles and descriptions and suggest them to Google.
2. Test headlines on Twitter and with your mailing list
Crafting a compelling headline takes a lot of practice. Jon Morrow once said they he used to re-write each title hundreds of times in order to get good at writing them. And he’s very good at them.
But how do you know if your final choice is the right one?
Well, you don’t. You need to test it.
There are a few ways we can do this. For example, you can Tweet your post and use a different title every time and then see which one gets the most clicks.
Just click the little bar graph at the bottom of your tweet and you’ll get some expanded stats of how that particular tweet performed. Do maybe five tweets over a week and see which performs best. Of course, this is not a fool proof research method as factors like time of day, etc. need to be consistent. But it’s a good start.
You can also do this type of test with your mailing list by split testing different subject lines and seeing which one performs better. Try testing short vs long versions, adding numbers, creating some scarcity, positive vs negative, etc. and slowly build up a picture about what people are reacting to.
3. Get the promotion/ads perfect
The next thing you’ll want to do in order to get people to click through to your blog is ensure that the promotion or ads that you’re running are as tight as possible. For example, I’ve been running the follow ad on Facebook:
The idea here is that you have an eye-catching and well branded image and a call to action that will encourage people to click through or show some interest. This one has performed quite well. To make it even better, you want to ensure that the graphic in the ad matches the post that it leads to as closely as possible.
I’ve been using a lot of little Blog Tyrant characters around here lately. My designer makes them for me and it has slowly been getting associated with the brand more and more. I even got a comment on the ad above saying:
This is exactly what you want – as people start to recognize your brand and images and tone they’ll start to pick it out from among all the other noise that is out there and engage with you more. This is a good start when it comes to standing out.
4. Make sure your brand and content is distinctive
Once people land on your blog it’s important that they encounter a quality website that is filled with information that helps people.
But you also need to be distinctive.
I’ve talked about a book called How Brands Grow before but it’s worth mentioning it again because their research shows that it’s not vital to be first or original, but you do need to be distinctive and memorable.
So, how do you do that within a blog environment?
Well, one way to start is to jump on Google and spend a day or two analyzing the competition in your niche. I’ve made a very simple little spreadsheet to help you do that.
Download the template (Excel) Download the template (Numbers)
The idea here is to look at the best performing and best ranking blogs and see if you can figure out any distinctive features that might be giving them an advantage in any particular area. Examine the colors, logos, and their most popular articles.
Most importantly, however, you want to see what their specific focus is and whether or not there is any angle that might be missing from your niche. It might even be a small shift in the way you offer a free download or the specific approach that you take to solving a certain problem.
Once you’ve identified something that is missing you can start emphasizing that on your own blog. It doesn’t mean you have to do an entire re-brand – but maybe do a promotional test with a new landing page or long-form piece of content and see whether that starts to perform better.
This really is key because once you know what your competition is doing and how you’re going to be different you will feel like there is a thread that ties your whole brand together.
5. Follow up with niche-matched value
The next thing that you’ll want to do is make it as easy as possible to get in front of people again in a way that stands out. For example, a very niche-matched email series is a popular method.
I’ve talked about this extensively in this post on blogging strategy as well as my article on affiliate income over at ViperChll but, essentially, the point is that you position your blog in a way that makes new visitors feel like this is the best place to get solutions for a very, very specific problem.
If you look at Nerd Fitness you’ll see how tightly everything is branded towards helping geeks and nerds get fit, but also fit in. The paid areas are all massive communities and the branding is heavily geared towards geek culture like gaming, Star Wars, etc. You can even make your own gaming character!
After a few minutes on this site you start to feel like this is the only place that “gets” me and that it will be the only place where you can achieve your goals because of who you are. From a standing out point of view it is absolutely perfect.
You don’t need to go to the same extent that Steve has here – a simple download or email course is enough if it hones in on your blog’s brand and its solutions and gets you in front of readers over and over.
Some final tips to help your blog stand out
In case all of that stuff above wasn’t that useful, here are a few reminders and extra tips to help your blog and its articles stand out:
Consider the various stages
Remember that you need to stand out before, during and after a visitor lands on your site.
Try to find ways to be distinctive. That doesn’t always mean first, just memorable.
Pay for it
If you need help with graphics or developing a strategy pay for it like I do with my characters. You can get good results for hardly any money.
Constantly aim to solve problems
Focus as best as you can on helping people and solving their problems in whatever niche you are in.
Consider injecting your personality
Sometimes the difference between being remembered and forgotten is a photo like I have on my homepage. Maybe put you and your story on the blog and in your post more often.
Tie together your goals and branding
Try to make sure your content, images, ads, etc. all tie together to help solve one single problem in one single niche.
Analyze the competition
Regularly assess what your competition is doing and see whether anything is working and whether or not you can improve on it in some new way.
Be stylistically consistent
Try to make sure the style that you use in your posts is always similar so that people will recongize it when they encounter it. Certain websites like the New Yorker and Wait But Why do this very well.
Be an early adopter
Sometimes people make huge progress with their careers because they are an early adopter of a new social network or platform or tool. Keep your eye out for this in your niche.
See what’s working offline
Sometimes offline media, advertising, etc. has good ideas that aren’t being applied online. Maybe a magazine, product, invention or event has something relevant to your niche?
The last thing I want to mention is asking your readers and peers for advice or feedback. Sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks to make a huge difference.
What blogs do you think stand out?
I’d really love to know whether you know of any blogs that stand out in your niche. Have you ever noticed a particular blog post that really caught your attention? Leave a comment below and let us know. It would be fun to get some new ideas from parts of the web I’ve never visited.