Last year I began a semi regular series of posts here on ProBlogger that explored the principles that I saw being exhibited in successful blogs. So far in the series we’ve talked about Listening, Trust, Usefulness, Community, Being Personal and Story Telling.
Not all successful blogs will do all of these things – but in my experience, many of them do.
Today I’d like to continue this series by talking about another such principle – Uniqueness.
The Problem of Clutter
Almost every time I’m questioned about blogging I’m asked whether I think it is too late to get into the medium. There are so many blogs that have been going for so long on almost every topic – isn’t it too crowded, cluttered and noisy to start something that gets noticed?
On some levels there’s real truth to this.
There are many thousands of blogs being started each day and there are what seems like a myriad of blogs in each niche. It can be overwhelming to step back and look at the blogosphere – an organism that is churning out millions of new pages of content each month. How will your single blog rise above the rest? Isn’t it all just too hard?
Yes it is hard – but…. (and this might sound harsh) that’s life. We live in a world of billions of people, all striving to achieve. We live in a world surrounded by thousands of companies and businesses, each struggling to to succeed. Life is cluttered and congested – but it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) stop us. The key is to find a way forward that works for you.
New Blogs DO break onto the scene and ‘make it’ on a regular basis. Yes – they’re in the minority – but it is possible. I know in the photography blogosphere that there are significant new blogs that get a hold on part of the wider niche started every year. In one of the most congested niches of the blogosphere (making money online) new players always are emerging also.
What sets them apart?
Of course there is no single thing that sets good blogs apart – in fact that’s the point – they usually have something about them that is unique.
Side Note: in the original version of this post I was planning to share a personal story here. But the story evolved and became a post of itself – Lessons about Blogging from a 90′s Road Trip. The point of the post – for me one of the turning points in my own blogging journey was the time I decided to stop trying to be someone that I wasn’t – imitating the style of others did help me learn about blogging, but it didn’t help me set my blog apart from the crowd. Part of being unique is being yourself.
How to Be Unique as a Blogger
Of course teaching someone to ‘be unique’ is a challenge. Uniqueness by definition isn’t something that I can really tell you how to be – your blogs uniqueness is something that needs to come from your own uniqueness as a person – at least to some extent.
Having said that – some of the ways that blogs tend to be unique and stand out from the crowd often start with:
- Voice – your style of writing. Manolo the shoe blogger was the first blogger I remember reading with a really unique voice (he writes in the third person).
- Topic/s – Manolo again an example of uniqueness in this – his two topics when he first started were ‘celebrities’ and their ‘shoes’. John Chow perhaps is another example – who ever heard of a make money online blogger who documents his food and talks about cars?
- Design – the way your blog looks is a great way to make an impression, grab attention and stand out from the crowd.
- Being First – not easy to do but if you can be one of the first blogs in a niche it can help you stand out. ProBlogger would be my own lucky example of this – at the time no one else was blogging about making a living from blogs.
- Your Blogs Name – sometimes it is just the name of a blog that makes it stand out whether it be by being confronting, funny or otherwise.
- Being a ‘Character’ – the Fake Steve Jobs blog comes to mind as one blog that was unique not only by the content being great but by the blogger blogging as Steve Jobs and keeping his real identity secret.
- Use of Media – some bloggers mashups of different types of media set them apart – clever use of video, imagery, audio and text all together in a post can have a real impact.
- Depth of Content – a number of bloggers that I follow set themselves apart by producing content that obviously has a lot of thought put into them. Instead of quick and short posts that do nothing much more than link to other sites they carefully and thoughtfully ponder a topic and produce content that is deep and thought provoking.
- Frequency of Posts – it strikes me that some of the most popular blogs product A LOT of content. Engadget and Gizmodo being two examples. This high frequency of posting makes them prolific and means that if a story is breaking in the gadget space that you’d be certain that they’re covering it. On the flip side some blogs take the opposite approach – their new posts become so rare that people value them highly and share them prolifically.
- Vaults of Resources – some bloggers become successful because their blogs are just filled with such rich resources. These bloggers might not have as much original thought but they are passionate about gathering information and resources from others and sharing it with their network. People read them because they save them time by researching and gathering the information that the rest of us need but don’t have time to find.
- Community Focus – some bloggers go above and beyond when it comes to their readers. They put the rest of us to shame by the way that they pay personal attention to everyone, interact with every comment and seemingly know every person who reads by name.
- Opinion – one of the easiest ways to make your blog is to share your opinion. Your opinions won’t always be unique but the combination of them and the way you express yourself will be and will often set yourself apart from other bloggers who just report news.
- Usefulness – some blogs are insanely useful. I know we’ve covered this earlier in this series but it needs to be said again – useful blogs build themselves a solid foundation for success.
- Originality – its amazing how some people just have an ability to explore a topic that everyone else has talked about but put a new spin on it! I sometimes feel this way about Seth Godin’s blog – his ability to make me have light bulb moments around simple concepts is amazing.
- Personality – I’m finding this one hard to define but some bloggers just ooze personality. Perhaps another way to describe it would be that they have Mojo or are charismatic. They are just infectious with the way that they write and interact.
- Personal – as you read some blogs you sometimes get a spooky feeling that its almost like the blogger is there in the room with you. They blog in a way where you can almost hear their voice and feel as though you’re in a conversation with them. They share on a level that goes beyond just the transference of information – they share of themselves.
- Expertise – some bloggers rise to the top of their fields because they are simply authoritative and have real expertise in their field. They are well read, have extensive experience and have forgotten more about their topic than most of us will ever know about it.
- Connectors – other bloggers are successful because they are so well connected in their niche. They not only know a lot of people but they have a gift in helping others to connect with those in their network.
- Prolific – some bloggers are unique because… well they’re everywhere. These bloggers seem to have the ability to be in more than one place at a time – they blog, they’re active on multipole social networks, they are at conferences, they are guest posting on other blogs, they’re in forums…. they are everywhere!
There are of course an almost unlimited list of other ways that bloggers set themselves apart and rise above the millions of other blogs. Yesterday I asked on Twitter what makes people’s favorite blogs unique – the list of answers have some similar themes to my own list as well as a few others.