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Are You Blogging Just Like Everyone Else?

It’s a paradox. The pundits encourage bloggers to find a niche, think differently, and say something unique and valuable. Then they give us standard formulae for producing content, as if your unique voice, approach, readership, and topic will be neatly addressed by a preselection of three or four formats.

The formats

In editing the content at ProBlogger and FeelGooder, I receive posts in the same few styles over and over and over (and over). These are the most common.

The personal story

Personal story posts are characterized by an arresting opening, a fictional style, and a personal voice. Frequently they separate sentences that are intended to blow you off your feet into their own, single-sentence paragraphs.

Often they are long, requiring the reader to surrender to some degree, because to read this kind of post, you have to be prepared to be captivated before the author lets you in on the true purpose of the post, often with the words “How does this relate to [topic]?”

The news report

Generic cutouts

Image copyright Silkstock - Fotolia.com

The news report cuts right to the chase, relating facts, and linking to sources. Whether it contains the blogger’s opinion or not, it’s about alerting readers to something big, something immediate, something they need to know about now.

Fear and panic, or alternatively fun-poking, often have a role to play in bloggers’ news reports—that’s them injecting their own unique brand of [insert adjective here], the thing that sets their blog apart from the others.

The how-to

The how-to is a process, and is often presented as a list post. Most how-tos oscillate between carefully paced and plodding.

Often it seems the blogger really isn’t that interested in producing it, because by the end they’re all out of fervor and finish the piece without so much as a “Let me know if you have any problems”—let alone a conclusive summary.

The conglomeration of stuff

The conglomeration of stuff is usually pretty easy to pick—it’s got a title that includes the word “things” (e.g. Five Things You Must Know Before You Launch an Ebook), and on reading it, you find that it lacks a frame of reference, solid purpose, or strong angle.

All too often the conglomeration of stuff ends up being little more than a bunch of things, loosely linked, that need to be somehow mentally filed by readers. The only problem is that the author hasn’t told them how that mental filing should work, so readers are left with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction.

Think differently

I’m not saying these approaches are bad, although I have pointed out above what most commonly happens when these post styles are used as out-of-the-box formulae.

The thing that’s important to remember is this: an established “approach” should not necessarily dictate the content you produce.

If no one had ever broken out of the established approach to particular kinds of content products, we’d never have had movies like Pulp Fiction, books like In Cold Blood, or series like The Sopranos.

You do not need to create content the traditional way.

Back to basics

You write a blog post because you have something to say. What is that message?

Most bloggers seem to start with that question and then, once they’ve ascertained the answer, turn their thoughts to the Official Blogger’s Catalog of Post Types and choose the one they feel will best communicate that topic.

That’s fine, but what if you did it differently?

What if the first thing you did after you defined your post’s message was to think about your audience, or a medium you’d never used before, or a technique you’d seen used elsewhere, in a different medium, that might work more effectively to communicate your message than any other? Maybe it doesn’t involve writing. Maybe it requires the input of others.

Joke and Biagio included a two-part script in their recent ProBlogger post. Macarongg used the language of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in her retelling of her experience baking Korova Sables. What about blog posts posts that are comprised entirely of comics, or sound, or videos, or songs?

What’s the best way to communicate your message to your audience? The answer might lead you down some exciting avenues involving experimentation, collaboration, and new creative adventures. It did for Leo Babauta, who wrote his yet-to-be-released ebook The Effortless Life in Google Docs in a single day, with real-time input from his readers. It did, too, for Seth Godin, who redefined “pithy blogging” with his now-famous 57-word post.

What do you think? Is it time you stopped blogging like everyone else?

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

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Comments

  1. Hell YES!!!

    For as much value as I have received from blogs it has gotten to the point where I probably miss a lot these days simply because of the format/post types. All of the sameness is just mind numbing sometimes which makes it hard not to just gloss over it all, hit the high points and say, “yeah, yeah, yeah…”.

    Thanks for making this point.

    • Gregory C. says:

      I’d agree, and then go even further with this: posting ONLY text also gets boring.

      Blogging doesn’t have to just be writing, and it amazes me how so few people branch out into the audio and video aspects that could be implemented into their blog.

      So, my 2 cents is this: add a podcasting or audio segment element to your blog, and mix up some posts with videos.

      Now you are not only putting out THREE different forms of content, you can also vary your “regular” text posts as well by your writing style.

      I think that goes a long way in making sure subscribers don’t get bored.

  2. Yes, yes and YES! I love it most when a blog I follow surprises me – the reader – with a mix of writIng and content styles. It helps make posts more memorable and engaging.

    • Kalen Smith says:

      So true. I think a lot of bloggers got their start after reading other bloggers and unwittingly let them influence their way of thinking. A great blogger will be inspired by another blogger and still retain his own thoughts and voice. That can be a really difficult thing to do when you follow other bloggers so closely, but it is especially important if you want to be memorable. Something I admit I struggle with sometimes.

    • @Nikki & Kalen. The problem is that most of the blogs are getting updated with just a single point agenda, getting better ranks. there are some selected blogs that are still sharing some great content and where the writers are writing the posts just to make their point! I guess as soon as these blog owners start monetizing these blogs heavily, the writing takes a back seat. I am not against them earning from the blogs, but i enjoy something that really makes me feel reading that post again and again!

  3. Georgina, this is so true, and I can say I’m guilty of this far too often, specially in the last way you mention, it’s like we as bloggers are told list posts are the best because they get shared more, which is true, but something that is totally different, and radical can get even more shares, and be remembered even more.

    How many top 5,10 or 20 ways to make money posts do we really need? I think I’ve seen over 100 in the past month alone!

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said! Hopefully we will put a better effort forward!

  4. Solid points! I’m guilty of some of these.

    At the end of the day for me, it’s about putting out epic content that helps businesses. Sometimes I fall short, but your post got me motivated to do better and do it differently.

    Thanks!

  5. Great post. I believe the question posed, “Are You Blogging Just Like Everyone Else?” may be answered by asking another question: “Are you writing for yourself or are you writing for something else, such as money or social status?”

    Personally, I find lists, such as “10 ways to make money on your blog,” meaningless and misguiding.

    There are so many people digging for gold that it makes more sense to sell shovels. I understand this logic. ProBlogger has done quite well selling shovels. However, I find it more helpful to guide people away from searching for money and financial wealth and toward searching for meaning and well-being.

    Be authentic. Blog for yourself. Happiness will come and money may (or may not) follow.

    “The crowd is untruth.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

  6. ryan says:

    just say what we want and have to say, if reader like it, then we’re lucky

  7. Jodi says:

    Interesting post! I like the idea of thinking of different ways to get across your message instead of going with the easy and common method.

    Jodi

  8. Georgina,

    I can’t imagine the horrendous things you’ve seen as content manager for ProBlogger. Boy do I bet you have stories to tell! For your sake I hope we all follow this advice :)

    Blogging has changed from the art of teaching people what you know to figuring out how to teach it in a more interesting way than the next blog. There was a day when having expertise was all your needed. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough anymore. You have to have this “out of the box” approach to set yourself apart. It’s a constant challenge to all of us. If only there was a way to teach “out of the box” without turning it into a box!

    Thanks for the motivation. It reminds me I need to raise the bar on a daily basis!

    - Brandon

  9. I don’t blog like everyone else.

  10. Great post. It’s always good to look at the way we do things from a different perspective. It helps us realize that we could be doing better.

  11. Tom says:

    Great points Georgina! I’m trying something similar for tomorrow’s post on my blog. Something a little different and out of the norm.

  12. Nikole Hahn says:

    If people stop blogging, that means some competition leaves the arena. On a sadder note, it also means you don’t know which of the competition is leaving and recently a very good writer left blogging. That made me sad. I like the good writers. They inspire me.

  13. Robby G says:

    This is where we have to think more like creative writers rather than bloggers I believe. In order to get out of the conceptualized and standardized form of writing it’s up to each of us to look into our own style and develop something that others do not use or utilize. To be honest, it’s the most fun part of blogging, to write in a way that isn’t like all the other ways out there.
    PS: Loved the film reference!

  14. Daniel says:

    Those Formats you mention cover my spread of Blog posts, Georgina.

    Something of a mix of Personal Blog experiences when trying different optimization ideas.

    Occasional big news scoops, changes that may impact Blogs and websites.

    Instructions(Code, writing, etc)

    Helpful hints, occasional posts about software, or techniques that could help Blogs(websites) performance.

    That definitely , looks like the standard Blogging formats.

    Okay, so I had better come up with some more creative ideas, then.

  15. naijadotcom says:

    I think it pays to think differently

  16. Hi Georgina,
    I think that I have used and experimented with every post style that you mentioned. For me since I am a relatively new blogger it is about trying different styles until I find something that is really effective.

    I do not want to be like everyone else because I value uniqueness in myself and others.

    • Dzulhelmee says:

      Hello Georgina

      Nice tips for a blogger like myself. Even though I wrote about Online Income, I specifically trying my very best to make it as authentic and genuine as I possibly can. My goal is to educate beginners of various ways to do Online Business.

      Anyway

      I’m honored if you have the time to visit my site at:
      http://www.internetmoneydirect2u.com
      A comment from a professional blogger like yourself would be a BONUS !

      Thank you so much.

  17. Sean Davis says:

    For me, it’s all about the readers. I’m definitely not a pro blogger but I know one thing… you write for your readers. Content is king and content caters to the reader. Whatever they like is what I’m going to give them. Otherwise, I could just keep a personal journal and forget about making a profit.

    I’m all for being an individual. But I’d rather find a balance between their social triggers and my unique perspective in my writing. That balance, thus far, has me writing in those common formats over 90% of the time. It will most likely remain that way until readers change.

  18. Paula says:

    Being an individual within a niche who fits yet stands out takes a kind of fortitude and need for newness not everyone can grab at the grocery store. But maybe that’s why I like shopping at the farmers’ market. Anyone can put up shop, and they aren’t all farmers.

  19. It is an interesting thoughtL: what makes a blogger successful. And while there are loads of examples of outside the square thinkers (like seth) that have done really well, I still think, for the majority of us mere mortals, following the general formulas leads to more success than trying to re-invent the wheel.

  20. I couldn´t agree more. If you do what everybody does you are everybody. Who is going to be interested in another meaningless blog. Who cares?

    R

  21. Georgina Laidlaw says:

    Hey thanks for the comments guys :) Glad this post spoke to you!
    Georgina

  22. I think it’s great to know the basics, but it really shouldn’t hinder you from making your content your own. Writing should be an extension of who you are, that when you post anything, it should resonate with your style.

  23. janwong says:

    +1, retweet, share, whatever you name it. However it is never easy to get those methods right. It takes tons of practice and analysis to see if what you’re writing suit your audience or rather, what type of audience you want to attract. It’s tough work.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  24. Joan says:

    Good post! I have a blog and I didn’t plan on listing the top 10 ways to make money blogging. I think there are way too many of those too. But will admit I did read them. Good to make us think outside the box and be unique with posts.

  25. James Greg says:

    Writing style is also a kind of fashion. What’s “IN” is what everyone will be wearing. There’s so many blogs that have copied the problogger style and when a blog goes viral people follow the style. Of course there are not too many trend setters in this niche and everyone is following the style.

  26. Very Nice :) .

  27. Dan Thorley says:

    Just like so many other commments, I definitely agree too. I have used all the different formats at different times. When I first started out it was easier to write about my experiences, as I learnt more I could introduce some how-to posts and I now often do reviews as well. Keeping things fresh and interesting are vital.

  28. Egasus says:

    Hi Georgina,

    Thank you for your article. You are totally right. We need to get back to the basics.

  29. Mark Aylward says:

    Well put Georgina
    In the wake of all the Steve Jobs eulogies, this seems representative of his approach. Do things differently than the status quo and develop your own way as opposed to simply following a path that someone else has created. It’s an awesome goal and difficult as well
    Cheers
    Mark

  30. SheldonB says:

    I’m feeling this post. To be great you have to be 3 things: Consistant, Effective and DIFFERENT! The only way you can stand out.

  31. Darren says:

    Sometimes its just not that easy to open up to the world. It is very easy to be impersonal though. I think it really comes down to a matter of preference.

  32. Completely agree. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like I’ve read the same blog post 8 times, just in different fonts and colors. I think it’s okay to follow these formats sometimes. I mean, there’s really only so many ways to write a post. The key is to take something old and put a new spin on it.

  33. Peter Mis says:

    Georgina, thank you for this post. I would have to say that my writing has evolved into more of a conversation. I write as if I’m speaking to someone on a one-on-one basis, even if it’s just me speaking to me. I think conversations create connections. I really don’t enjoy “list” posts (ie: 55 Ways to be Happy) because I feel I’m being spoken at, which is not very engaging. My blogs target audience is actually me, and because it’s a conversation my biggest struggle remains crafting the killer headline that will get the post noticed. Most conversations I have with real people don’t include a killer headline.

    Sometimes using your own voice is lonely, but it’s better than using someone else’s.

  34. Chris Doyle says:

    I am at the stage in my blogging of “Working out What My Style” is. So I found this post interesting from the perspective of Not Being Like Everyone Else.

    It occurs to me, a blogger needs to be aware that they aren’t doing the academic thing of repeating word for word what they read in the text book. You need to understand what you are writing about.

  35. This goes inline with a recent discussion I’m having with a reader on comments on one of my posts: http://www.blogwithiyke.com/passion-blogging-for-business/ (i hope you pardon my linking)
    In the post i took to the opinion that passion allow will not make a blog grow and become profitable. The commenter was explaining how economic situations scare people into giving up their dreams and passion to conform.
    I totally agree with being more original and creative but sometime you have to try things that already working.

  36. Vignat says:

    Very true. Originality is must for an article.

  37. Delwar says:

    I admit these but- there is always a new casual writing style for some new bloggers and they are not boring or bad. I have seen that – people get used to your writing if you can show them YES, I CAN WRITE !!!