In this post regular contributer Skellie from Skelliewag.org helps you differentiate your content.
Blogs are now so popular that it’s very hard to find a niche that isn’t already saturated. There are probably dozens or hundreds of other bloggers writing on the topics you cover.
Being unique has never been so important.
We already know that ‘differentiation’ is a worthwhile goal for any blogger. In this post, I want to explain why it’s important to differentiate your posts, and give you five strategies you can use to do so.
What’s so good about being different?
By differentiating, you give readers a compelling reason to give their attention to your blog over others. After all, if you can’t offer something different, if you can’t fulfill different needs or solve different problems, potential readers simply won’t pay attention to what you’re doing.
Differentiating can sound like a hard task. It’s best to tackle “being different” one area at a time.
Here are five strategies you can use to set your content apart.
#1 –Develop a recognizable and consistent voice
One thing you might have noticed about top bloggers is that they have a very distinct writing style, or ‘voice’. One of the simplest ways to stand out in your niche is to write differently to other bloggers covering the same topics.
The key is to write naturally and consistently.
Be natural — don’t impersonate the writing style of successful bloggers. Even your flaws can help you stand out in your niche. If you’re a funny person, don’t suck the humor out of your writing simply because it’s uncommon. If you write and speak informally, don’t break into formal language because that’s the standard in your niche.
You’ll always perform better when doing something that comes naturally to you. Readers will be able to sense when you’re not being authentic, or otherwise trying to hide your natural voice.
Be consistent — readers won’t come to recognize your writing style unless it’s consistent. Don’t chop and change between funny and serious, formal and informal, easy-going and aggressive. Staying away from extreme voices will allow you more room to move. For example, moving from neutral to light-hearted is a lot smoother than moving from angry to light-hearted.
#2 — Put yourself into what you write
One of the nicest things about being human is that we’re unique without trying. No-one else has exactly the same experiences, biases, tastes, physical features and perspective as you do.
On the other hand, there are millions of blogs out there, many of them writing on the same topics. The tips, opinions, news and advice you write have probably been written many times before, albeit in different ways.
One effective way to make your content unique (which is also another way to turn readers into raving fans) is to put yourself into what you write.
- When sharing a tip, what caused you to discover it? How have things changed since you started using it?
- When you argue an opinion, explain what influenced you to adopt it.
- When you give advice, explain what the results of following that advice have been for you.
The key is to weave relevant personal anecdotes into your writing. It’ll add strength to your posts while also helping to make them unique.
Photo by theforbzez.
#3 — Develop your own formatting style
If your writing looks a certain way, readers will begin to recognize it wherever it appears. In an instant they can say: “I know who wrote that.” You can think of the way you format your posts as your own personal watermark. Some different ideas:
- Use box-quotes to emphasize your key points or the most interesting sentences in your post.
- Sum up each post with a bullet-point breakdown of your key points.
- Use unique looking sub-headings and emphasis.
- Develop your own way of presenting information.
- Get creative with the way you use links.
- Use the footer of your posts for asides and unrelated notes.
#4 — Use imagery in a unique way
I think it’s important to have a unique image near the top of each post you write. You can see this strategy in use at ProBlogger: most if not all posts contain an image with rounded corners in the top-left corner.
This is particularly useful when it comes to drawing feed readers into your posts. The image immediately indicates the source of the content. Though the headline you’ve used probably won’t tell the reader which blog the post is from, the image will.
If the reader trusts that you provide good content, they’re much more likely to put the brakes on their scroll-wheel and see what you have to say.
Without the help of images, subscribers may not slow down long enough to work out which blog a particular post is from. Unique imagery makes the fact unmissable.
#5 — Break with tradition
A great idea-sparking suggestion from Seth Godin is to “do the never” — in other words, to work out what your niche always seems to do, and then do the opposite.
Maki, a blogger who writes about making money online, recently started publishing very long, value-packed posts. Why? Because most other bloggers covering the topic write short, newsy posts. He’s doing the never, and he says it’s working great for him. That’s his content differentiation strategy.
- If everyone in your niche is posting news, why not focus on analysis? (or vice versa)
- If your niche is full of long posts, why not write short, pithy ones? (or vice versa)
- If blogs in your niche are quite formally written, why not write informally? (or vice versa)
- If blogs in your niche update all the time, why not focus on quality over quantity?
The great thing about this strategy is that there’s almost always an audience craving for the ‘never’. The never represents a demand that isn’t being met.
Points to review
- A consistent and natural writing style can help make your content more distinctive.
- You’re unique, so put yourself into what you write.
- Using formatting and imagery in your own way can set your posts apart visually.
- Doing the opposite of what others are doing can be a powerful way to differentiate your posts.
I didn’t deliberately set out to create a unique “voice.”
It evolved out of what I wanted to see
in a business post
(business people are busy,
why are business blog posts so long?).
Now I’m told that all readers have to do
is look at the white space
and know the post is mine.
Great Post, Skellie.
#4 is something I’ve been practising for quite a while.
My blog posts contain big icons/pictures relating to the content of the post, right after an intro paragraph.
Just like you said, it really grabs readers’ attention for a while and brings more comments on my blog too. :-)
A very good & useful tips.
Thanks Skellie & Darren.
I guess the way that I try to differentiate my blog from others is mostly in the way that I write. I try to keep a good balance between professional writing without straying too far from my personal voice.
I also do my best to look at things from a different perspective that many others might not have considered.
Cool post and I like few of the tips Skellie. So are you taking over Darren’s posts now?
I see lately many posts come from you :), don’t mind I am not being sarcastic or saying that is bad :) , I just noticed right?
I like your blog a lot.
one point i strongly recommends is don’t try “to be” what you are not! and write about something that you are good in.
Wonderful, Skellie. I especially enjoyed the part regarding a consistent voice. I have two blogs and on my most recent one, I find I write with a much more laidback style, whereas my original blog tends to be a little more formal. I feel a lot more relaxed writing in a laid back manner so I think I may have to rethink how I do things on my other blog.
Thanks for the article, and for filling in while Darren’s off!
My blog has a mix of my personal and professional posts. I’ve been told by peers I should split the blog, while others say it’s better to keep it together so people will get to know me. As I read this post, and think about what is “truly me” it’s a mixed blog. I don’t work 24×7, and I do fairly interesting stuff on the personal side (I don’t post inane crap.)
So what do you guys think?
Good post Skellie. As to # 3 I always think of boxed quotes as a reference to a quote from another website. This would throw me off, but the other points are good. Summary bullets are great, especially if the post is long.
When Johann Bernoulli read an anonymous solution to the brachistochrone problem, he said “Ah, I know the lion by his paw!” Meaning that from the way it was written, it was obvious that it could only be Isaac Newton. Just like I knew that Skellie wrote this post, even though I originally skipped past that part in the beginning!
these are great advices especially for someone like me whose English is not in the perfect condition.
It is hopefully to see that there are so many different approaches that can help us to stand out despite our language flaws being non-English speaker.
great post. I just did a post on your voice as a blogger! But I love what you say.
Oh how I agree with what this post suggest. Delivering content in your own unique voice is a difference maker. You will not be liked or accepted by all , but you cant detour from who your are
I like your point about having your own “unique voice” as it sure would be boring if we all sounded the same.
Another interesting post to get the brain working.
I especially agree with #5, being different has never been so important before. Great post, kudos! :)
I’ve been doing 1&2, but 3,4 and 5 are new ideas for me. Thanks for a great list of tricks! I especially like the ide of using the end of a post for asides, as I frequently have pithy comments that are not worth an entire post.
As usual, usefull tips. Thanks for sharing. Uniqueness is the way to go.
“a consistent and natural style”
This is what matter of fact, makes or breaks a blog. We need to invest time and effort to not only find it, but over a period improve it.
But perhaps in the haste to get on with the money making most of us end up neglecting it…
I’m really not sure if I have a consistent, recognizable voice (see point 1). I think point 5 (break with tradition) is very important so that your blog doesn’t look like a clone of so many others in your niche.
Points 2 – 4 certainly have some value, although in accordance with point 5, I really don’t use graphics or fancy formatting. I’ve only just started experimenting with bold and italics. I guess I have a simple, straightforward approach to writing.
Good one, Skellie!
In as much as all of these are prerequisites and are necessary to make a headway in making profit from blogging, it is also compulsory to let readers know that their discussion of niche area topics are very vital to allow them discuss what they know about as these will allow them be consultants to their audience. checkout http://www.iteksystemsng.com to have a better feel of what Am talking about.
Be authentic! I think this is the best advice. People are not stupid and when you are not authentic in your blog, then you are perceived only as a fake person or a clown.
I think personality is really important. I like to see a good mix of both off and on-topic articles. And it’s always good to see the human side of the writer. I think most of the blogs I read contain a balance and you almost develop a relationship with the blogger. :)
I’m just glad that I’m the only one blogging on the subject that I’m blogging on. Well, there might be a few, but it’s not to the extent that I’m doing.
There are downsides to not having others that blog on the same subject as you can’t bounce things off each other like many bloggers do.
Nice post. I’ve found that I work best when I try to have a conversation with the reader as opposed to just writing.
Seems to be working somewhat…
My big challenge at the moment is writing more personally.
Friends have told me, and I agree, that the sense of connection that writing personally brings is valued by people.
This has meant some kind of growth, if not change, to my natural voice – which is as brief a summary as possible of the significant point (preferably) or points of the topic I am writing about.
This I have to say is a struggle, so I have something of a conflict between being personal and my natural voice. I do think the struggle of integrating them will be worthwhile though.
Yes, it is indeed most important to have the consistent and natural voice. And as the Manolo can well tell you, there are few things more important than naturalistic writing styles.
It is affectation which dooms the blog writer from the start.
Of the course, there are the exceptions…
I agree, sounds reasonable. I get good feedback and people have liked my content in my blogs. So I must be a little different from most of the blogs in that niche.
nice post, as always. although im always confused to make my articles “different” from the others …
I think Maki of Dosh Dosh proves one popular blogging myth wrong.-most readers don’t peruse, they scan. Though many find his post or rather article too verbose for their liking. But usually, I just browse through and I only read the list of points at the bottom of the article.
Excellent read, I agree 100%. You have to be DIFFERENT and stand out. Keeping a style of writing is important too it makes you unique. I have had some comments so far about how mine is different which makes me smile.
Never try anything new unless you are sure that you can do it comfortably… :)
Thanks for the comments, compliments and feedback, everyone. The point about developing a ‘voice’ seems to have particularly resonated, so that’s great :-).
@ LiveCrunch: I’m helping Darren out so he can spend a little more time with his family, but I won’t be writing more than 1 – 3 posts a week. The vast majority of content will still be from him :-). We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks… very true – especially about the “never” part :)
Ah the imagery thing. I was totally neglecting that.
I wish more bloggers in my space (fashion) who read this post. Many think by copying the voice of the more popular bloggers, they will somehow become famous. Little do they know that the famous bloggers became famous by being unique.
I guess that it’s really boring readin blogs with similar content, how you write definitely counts.. and differentiate yourself with others is wise.. like how evil john chow is :)
I think you are absolutely correct or “spot on” with your idea of “putting yourself into what you write.”
In this crowded blogosphere, there are hundreds of people talking about the same topic you may blog about, but you can separate yourself–“brand” yourself differently–by adding your own personal flavor.
Thanks for the post, it gave me a lot of idea how to make my post writing better.
This was a great post & I agree 100%. Basically, just be yourself. Let your unique talents, personality, or quirks stick out.
If you can let this come through on your blog or website, it will make it much more compelling to the readers & they will feel as if they know you personally.
Skellie wrote a unique natural post according to the rising situation. You also write natural post like this, by coming over the new problems in your niche topic. The readers will going to find your blog different.
Reading this post, I’m inspired to spice up my blog posts. They look pretty bland and boring. Even I’m saying that myself ;P
I’ve been growing into my blog gradually, and developing the style and topic covered.
I always try to be myself when I write and this seems to be changing as my experience grows. I suppose I may be getting better at it – you never know!
I find that personal anecdotes are sometimes the primary reason I revisit a blog multiple times. Steve Pavlina does that a lot, and it really strengthens the already valuable information he has on his site.
Since everyone has different experiences and backgrounds, it’s always fun to read about them and see how they dealt with a problem. A lot of people write about their own life experiences and post stories, but not every is that successful. Here are two ingredients I notice as an avid reader that make for successful anecdote stories (both in the blogopshere and in print):
1.) Honesty – No matter how embarrassing or silly the story may be, it’s always better to write it honestly and openly. It’s usually easy to determine whether someone is being genuine with a story. Don’t try and make yourself out to be something you’re not. If you write about the time you got dumped by the girl of your dreams and felt depressed, be honest and say you were depressed. Don’t lie and say it didn’t affect you just to make yourself look good when it did affect you, because everyone will see through your charade.
2.) It’s told in that author’s unique voice. This kind of goes along with #1 above, but sometimes I’ll read a story on the web just because that particular author writes in a way I like. Even if it’s a story about something that doesn’t interest me or seems boring at first, an author’s voice can still be it’s saving grace. Violent Acres is good at that.
@ MaxBro: I’ve found the same thing — readers seem to respond really well to anecdotes when they help to illustrate the broad point you’re making. Not only does it help differentiate your content, but it can make your posts easier to understand :).
You need to be unique, that’s your style. It will be expressed automatically unless someone tries to hide it.
WHY DON’T YOU DO “THE NEVER”? YOU KEEP WRITING STUFF THAT I COULD PAY A GHOST WRITER PENNIES TO WRITE AND IT WORKS PRETTY WELL FOR YOU SO WHY ARE YOU SUGGESTING PEOPLE DO OTHERWISE?
AND USING MAKI’S LONG POSTS AS AN EXAMPLE OF DOING “THE NEVER”… COME ON, ARE YOU SERIOUS?
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE OF NEVER: YOU TELL PEOPLE TO MAKE THEIR COMMENTS STAND OUT ON A-LIST BLOGGERS BLOGS. YOU TELL THEM TO BE A LITTLE CONTROVERSIAL AT TIMES. AND EVERYONE KNOWS THAT MOST “FOLLOWER” TYPES ARE SO DAMN SENSITIVE THAT THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT CAPITAL LETTERS AS “YELLING” OR “OBNOXIOUS” – LIKE IT REALLY HURTS THEM.
COME ON DARREN.. LOAD UP A COPY OF “LET’S GET STARTED” BY THE BLACK-EYED PEAS, ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY CAN REALLY TALK ABOUT…
Your friendly fan,
Another good post. Thanks for the info.
the capital letters are loud and obnoxious and they hurt my eyes.
just an fyi,
Wow, those were some great tips!
I didn’t realize the photos tip was so useful and poweful until after I read this post, did some research on other blogs and started placing photos.
Thank you again. I’ve added your blog to my favs and I look forward to reading more of your insights :)
Great post again, yes you need to think out of the box, make something unique in your blog, whatever it can be style of writing, formatting, design, colors, everything matters.