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Charles Darwin’s 12 Rules of Blogging Survival

This guest post is by Tom Treanor of the Business Blogging Telesummit.

Blog readers have a myriad of reading options for almost every topic you can think of. In fact, within your niche, potential customers may be enjoying blog posts written by your competitors while they ignore your blog like the plague.

So what do you do about this dire situation? Do you hire ghost writers to create more content? Do you promote your content more via social media? Do you get better at SEO so you can attract more search traffic?

Well. These may work to a degree. You may see some minor bumps with more Tweeting, Facebooking and catching more long tail keywords in Google. But, it’s a long and slow process if you’re using these brute-force tactics.

There has to be a better way. And there is.

Like Darwin’s finches, which evolved different beak sizes over the generations to better suit their differing environmental conditions and to survive, your blog has to become better suited for your audience’s needs over time. You need to develop more “evolved” blogging strategies that are more effective at differentiating your blog and attracting and keeping the readers that you target.

You don’t want your blog to end up on the wrong end of Natural Selection, do you?

Here are 12 ways for your blog to survive and thrive.

1. Be the best teacher in your niche

Explain the things that most people in your niche assume don’t need to be explained. Answer all of your potential customers’ frequently asked questions in writing, with pictures and (or) in video. Do detailed tutorials on fundamental as well as on in-demand advanced topics.

Keep the quality high and listen closely to your audience when you pick topics and develop the content. When competitors start sending customers to your site to understand a complex topic, then you’ll know you’ve won!

2. Be more personal than the others

Getting personal can lead to a deeper connection with your audience and pay dividends in terms of allegiance to your blog and brand.

Many business bloggers put up a barrier between their personal lives and what they share on their blog. Including aspects of your personal life is one way to differentiate yourself from your “plain vanilla” competitors.

3. Be funnier than the others

People love to laugh. Using humor well is hard, but can separate your blog from the pack. if you can successfully pull off inoffensive humor (depending on your industry), you’ll bring a lot of readers back again and again. You’ll also likely increase the amount of social media shares that your blog gets.

4. Say what everyone else thinks

It’s uncomfortable to do. Saying what everyone else thinks is really hard. If you can be the “voice of reason” without upsetting everyone around you, you can gather a tribe of people who say “Yes!” to every post.

5. Be the expert on a specific sub-niche

Don’t focus on widgets: focus only on the custom-designed, high-end widgets from Alaska.

If you can focus on a specific, but important sub-niche within your industry and become the authoritative source, you can develop a big advantage against your competitors in that area. Once successful, you can extend from this beachhead into the broader widget market.

6. Have a bigger vision

Tie your blog to a bigger goal. What far-reaching vision can you use to inspire people to join you in your mission? Can you align your company and blog with a bigger movement that is out there? Can you create your own far-reaching vision that aligns with your passions as well as with your company goals?

7. Be more extreme than the others

Go much further than the other blogs in terms of topics, challenges, transparency or risks. It doesn’t have to be dangerous, just extremely different. You’ll get noticed.

8. Be more creative than the rest

If everyone’s writing articles, why don’t you mix in video? How about being the first infographic producer in your industry?

Try new topics, writing styles, media or blog post structures. Think of other ideas that will provide value while separating your from the rest. Give yourself permission to try something unique.

9. Cross-pollinate better than the others

Do you only work with other real estate-related blogs or influencers? How about looking at the lending, architecture, finance and relocation industries?

Spread your tentacles where your competitors never dreamed of going by guest posting, blog commenting or connecting with other bloggers in those industries. If the target audience is the same, you can gain some great benefits from this kind of cross-pollination.

10. Be the best curator of meaningful content

Find the best information that others have written and posted online—the best articles, charts, tables, infographics, videos, or pictures. Collect it in a logical, easy-to-use navigational structure on your blog.

Make sure you link to and give credit to your sources and only summarize (or take small portions of) the articles you link to. Content curation is a way to share great information that is already available and to become seen as a key source of great information.

11. Be the news source for your industry

Focus on being the source of timely news and analysis for your industry. To be able to keep up with the news cycle, this often means a combination of curated content mixed with some original content or analysis.

Niche or industry news blogs can do very well because they get lots of shares, links, SEO benefits and subscribers. Just have a plan for getting regular, high-quality updates onto your site.

12. Work harder than the rest

Sometimes all the right things are in place but you don’t have the results yet. Working hard can pay off, but pace yourself and don’t burn out! Grab more virtual land than the competitors to create a barrier to entry for “lazier” niche-mates.

Come up with your own unique variation

Just like nature’s many variations (which we never could have predicted), come up with your own unique way to differentiate your blog. The blogs that thrive in a given niche will be the ones who evolve in ways that allow them to meet the needs of their audience better than the competitors’ blogs.

Avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of Natural Selection by using one of the strategies above, combining a couple or by developing your own differentiated strategy.

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Business Blogging Telesummit, designed to help SMBs succeed with their blogging and social media efforts. Visit his blog at RightMixMarketing.com.

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Comments

  1. Dave Rowley says:

    It’s a great list of qualities. I like what you say at the end about combining a couple of them together, that seems to be a way to focus on a few of your top strengths and set yourself apart from others.

  2. Hi Tom,
    I have used the first 2 (best teacher/ be personable) ideas from the very beginning of my blogging journey and they really do work and get results. Saying what everyone thinks takes guts but that is exactly what a leader does.

  3. Mark says:

    Thanks Tom.

    I’m trying to do all of this, but can I add another? Listen! Follow your analytics and read your comments so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t.

  4. Thanks for the ideas.

    It’s surprisingly common to see blogs get stuck and stop changing. And even more common among business’s. “Good enough” is the archenemy of “Great!”

    I blog about improving business and to live up to my ideas I’ll try out your ideas. I’m already using humor and personal stories, but I’ll add more of them to make a marketing blog more interesting. Your fourth idea about saying what others only think, is a great one. I’ll try to use it :)

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Hey Peter. When people say what I think but didn’t have the guts to say, it stops me in my tracks and gives me a new level of respect for that person. Not something to be overused though!

  5. Drewry says:

    is it also okay to be a little off key in your blogging at times? What I mean by that is maybe saying something that sounds spontaneously dumb to others, or out of context, feeling that you are expressing yourself creatively as a blogger. Just wondering :-)

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Drewy. Humor, silliness or inside joke kinds of things are harder (in my opinion) to pull off. I think it takes confidence in yourself and your style and also that the audience that appreciates your brand of “off key” is out there. Obviously some people do really well with humor, being “in your face”, being edgy or different styles but it’s hard to advise someone whether or not that will work for them or if it’ll strike a chord with people.

      You could experiment – either in draft posts, in another “test” blog, or in some of your posts and get feedback from people. If it’s falling flat, decide if you want to adjust and try again or move on to another style.

  6. Cole Perkins says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Relating blogging to natural selection – ingenious. From my experiences, they are quite similar.

    Thanks,
    Cole Perkins

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Thanks Cole. I think that’s probably why so many blogs go abandoned. It’s a lot of work to put in if it’s not getting much attention…

  7. Josh Sarz says:

    I love the “Be funnier than the others.” I enjoy reading blog posts that have great content, but make me smile or sometimes even chuckle at the subtle hints of comedy.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Josh. Thanks. Yes, I love a funny blog too. I’m experimenting myself around the edges with a bit of humor but I can really appreciate a blogger who’s “all in” with their own brand of humor.

  8. Tom Treanor says:

    Justin. Thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you. Being conservative (saying what you know people will agree with) feels safe, but in the end it’s counter-productive if you’re trying to be a thought leader and to stand out in your niche.

  9. Tom, this is a very useful roundup of the essential elements of a successful blog. I like to use a smattering of each of these in posts. I sprinkle in humor when I can, but not with every post. My goal is to make personal technology fun and interesting so I try not to be too dry even when explaining complex functions.

    I sometimes go against the grain when I have a different opinion from the other tech bloggers. When it seemed everyone was disappointed that the latest iPhone wasn’t the 5 but was the 4S, I was one of the only ones pointing out the advances in the technology mattered more than the moniker.

    Your second suggestion is the one I struggle with the most. I figure people come to read about tech, the latest apps, the most useful websites, etc., not about me. But I do try to respond to every reader’s comments.

    Justin’s right, using these suggestions takes guts, but that’s what makes these concepts Darwinian, right?

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Carolyn. Look at Marcus Sheridan of the Sales Lion. He does a good job of pulling in his family just a bit to make him seem more like a friend than a blogger. Also, I interviewed Pamela Slim for the telesummit (in my byline) and I asked her specifically about this. She brings up family and some fairly personal things in some of her writing, but she also has a line between that and her private life. But the personal things she does share allows you to feel closer to her.

      I’m not sharing much about my own personal life (like you). I guest the point is that you don’t have to do all of the 12 things (more with the suggestions in the comments), but pick the few that you want to really use in a concentrated way to stand out.

  10. Brad says:

    I do almost all these and still have low traffic. Must suck at it :(.

  11. Tom Treanor says:

    Brad, I hear you. Two thoughts about that.
    1) You may be trying to do too many of them and might be better off focusing on just a couple or a handful of differentiators
    2) In a competitive market (like blogging about tech) it’s that much harder to stand out than it would be if you were blogging about architecture, law, plumbing, cake-making or underwater basket-weaving (I think you get my point). What’s the true differentiator or thing that you can do to break away from the pack short of buying “lost” iphone prototypes?

  12. Tom,

    Great advice to become a leader within your blog’s focus. Even if one doesn’t write in a specific niche, working harder and installing a bit of personality is just what people love to read. Isn’t that some of the major reasons why people head to a blog: to read and get entertained?

    -Mitchell

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Mitchell. Working harder and with personality, but what’s the third ingredient you might focus on? I.e best tutorials, most detailed explanations, reviews of the best or most cutting edge tools, most unique angles for solutions to common problems. I think those first two with at least on other differentiator would be a great combination.

  13. TJ says:

    Nice post Tom; 4, 9 and 10 are my favorites. I love the term “cross pollination” it’s a fantastic analogy!

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Thanks TJ. I guess that’s my nod to the Medici Effect (a great book) where combining ideas from different industries or fields of study lead to great breakthroughs.

  14. Steve says:

    Being fairly new I found this very helpful.
    I need to put a little more thought behind the process.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Thanks Steve. Yes, in the beginning anything you press “publish” for seems great. The marketplace of information decides what’s interesting so you quickly realize you need to differentiate to be noticed.

  15. Amir Nasir says:

    nice post buddy, but its very hard for rising bloggers to becomes a news source because they have to be dependent on other news sources or bigger blog to write articles and then they catch the news for themselves

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Amir. I agree. In some senses you can be the one to extract and analyze the most meaningful news for a given industry. There are the sources that flood the internet with everything that happens in an industry. If you highlight some of that, do some independent analysis, and break some news of your own that could be a good combination. When I say break your own news, you can watch the same live webcasts or attend the same conferences as any other news source and present new information in a thoughtful or provocative way that others might shy away from.

  16. Daniel says:

    Some good points, Tom.

    There are a large number of blogs and websites starting up every day, so it’s important to add a bit of personality into a site.

    It can become quite difficult building up a site, as on the one hand we spend so much time doing what we are told to do to get more visitors to our sites, and on the other we are busily trying to maintain a high level of quality.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Daniel. Great points. I see many successful bloggers working just as hard on promotion. You’d think it would be automatic at a certain point but it’s not in many cases. I don’t know if there’s a rule of thumb out there but it’s probably equal parts writing and equal parts promotions/networking.

  17. I think number 12 has to be the most important point. You have to work hard to get a where you want online because there are so many sights out there you have to fight for your place.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      John. I think that’s an essential element for most (or all) of us. Combine the hard work with other differentiators though…

  18. Yes, good post! I do a lot of this, like the personal, and the vision thing.

  19. People always love to read and visit the blog which is informative , unique and well written. So these points which you have mentioned above are very true and should be kept in mind while blogging.

  20. naijadotcom says:

    Be more personal,say what everyone else thinks,Be funnier,lol,Great blog tips.

  21. Faizan Elahi says:

    I agree with all the points mentioned, but I think the last point is the most important. The harder we work, generally the better our blog is going to be.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Right Faizan. Adding the hard work on top of one or more other differentiators is a great recipe for separating your blog from the others who are just getting average content out there.

  22. Guy Hogan says:

    I try to do all 12. These things do work. For me, taking more risks is my ace in the hole. It’s working beautifully.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Guy. My hat’s off to you. I probably take a “risk” a day in terms of putting myself out there but these are probably mild compared to what you (or others) are doing!

  23. Andrew Hall says:

    Great article that really breaks down the concept of “Do things that others aren’t willing to do”. My favroite point being Be more extreme than others! Thanks for posting this.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Andrew. Great point. I hadn’t thought of it that way but in Japan they call the kind of work that others aren’t willing to do the three K’s – Kitanai, Kiken, Kitsui (dirty, dangerous, hard). Yes, we don’t have to dig ditches but going the extra mile is one very important aspect of the people who stand out and are more successful. Thanks for the comment!

  24. Its a really beautiful thing written inorder to survive the blog

  25. James Greg says:

    The best list of advices so far. although they are very minor things if we think about it but at the same time they are the difference makers. Being the best teacher in the niche will be getting the best traffic in the niche. I’m glad to have all these points gathered in one place and I’m sure these will benefit all of us.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Thank you James! Yes, collecting a good list of strategies into one place is helpful and I’m glad to see people adding new ones in the comments or highlighting their favorite ones. Looking forward to reading what else I might have missed…

  26. Richard Ng says:

    Simple yet practical tips! Thanks for the sharing…

  27. Bougie Girl says:

    I’ve started using #10 more and I am definitely seeing more results as far as unique visitors. In addition, I am also networking with other bloggers.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Awesome Bougie Girl! Sometimes we’re trapped in our own world of content and what we know (or can learn). Curating can be a great way to expand our reach with some high quality content from other experts.

  28. Ileane says:

    Hi Tom, I enjoyed reading this and you’ve offered some powerful advice. My favorite is #10 content curation. It’s really something that I’m focused on right now and I’m finding that some people don’t understand it and they think it’s just a fancy word for content scraping. Mostly because at one time there was a scraper plugin that got things all confused.

    I haven’t found the right strategy to bring the curation piece back to my blog in a logical way – or at least in a way that hasn’t been done already. For example many of my friends do weekly round-ups or mash-ups but I feel like there’s plenty of those around these days. Right now that leaves me pretty much stuck for ideas on how to present my curated content in a unique way. For now I’ll stick to Paper.li and Scoop.it – I really like those two curation tools out of all the others I see around.

    Thanks for the advice Tom. Cheers!

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Ilene. Thank you! Yes, I’m not a heavy curator either and don’t do a weekly round-up. I do like to add a small section of curated posts within many of my resource or how-to posts just to give people more detail or another perspective (or to connect with a kindred soul on another blog).

      Other thinks I’ve seen and have liked are the “ultimate guides” curated with links to great articles on a particular subject (like Facebook for business, etc.). You could also curate photos or video to bring more visual elements to a blog. For curating on your own site (versus setting up an account elsewhere), I like Curation Soft which lets you drag and drop snippets into your HTML editor (e.g. in wordpress, Joomla, etc.).

      Glad you stopped by!

  29. very build quality content. This every points are needed to start and survive as a blogger. I love all the points especially the 8th (be creative). Its practice, that only can allow us to weel experienced with this tips. Thank you:)

  30. The Pibbster says:

    There is not doubt that #7 has worked for me.

    7. Be more extreme than the others

    Go much further than the other blogs in terms of topics, challenges, transparency or risks. It doesn’t have to be dangerous, just extremely different. You’ll get noticed.

    My blog is a very informative blog focusing mainly on two non-profits in my hometown and a few other local government issues. The mission of The Pibbster’s Pub is for one to become more informed after they have visited the blog.

    I have 9,600 visits that have viewed on average of 2.26 pages while staying on average of 4.05 minutes per visit that includes 3,000 unique visitors.

  31. Tom Treanor says:

    Pibbster. That’s great and thanks for sharing your story!

  32. Josh Liu says:

    Thanks a lot for the great post, Tom. It is great.

    I have a question. If you are running a blog for a company, will that be dangerous to be “more funnier than others” or “more extreme than others”?

    Thanks

    Josh

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Josh. You have to take the company’s culture (and the culture of the customers) into account. For the Business Blogging Telesummit I interviewed Kevin Jacoby the CEO of Rain Computers. He blogs about and tweets out pretty edgy and funny content. Their “tribe” is creative types and they want to work with edgier types.

      Also, extreme can be taken in a different way. Take Marcus Sheridan (thesaleslion). His pool company shares “extreme” amounts of info compared to others. That just means the cover topics that no one else thought they should. Guess what? It’s paid off handsomely for the company!

      Extreme can just mean extremely different or “further out” than the others in your industry.

  33. Rudi says:

    I absolutely agree with the idea to be a successful blogger there should be a differentiation compared to others. Nice article.

  34. Thanks Tom for this great post….

    I really needed tips like this for my 1 month old blog because my first blog just couldn’t survive (It crashed after 2 months)… I must make sure this survive with your 12 rules of blogging survival…

    Thanks
    Kelvin Igbinigie

  35. Michelle says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the article, my blog is doing fairly well I think for being about 8 days old, we’ve had about 1700 visitors. We are providing some unique content but I can tell it’s going to be a struggle to keep coming up with the unique content, I’m spending hours and hours on the web searching for ideas but I guess that’s what it takes to stand out.

    • Tom Treanor says:

      Michelle,
      Yes, I think at first it takes a lot of time and work to stand out. But you’ll need to streamline the process to survive long term. Ttart to develop ways make the collection part easier for yourself via google alerts, using an RSS reader or via other means.

  36. Poor Student says:

    I love tips 1 and 2. Being the best at whatever you do will help you, but I really want to be a great teacher first most. I know that a lot of other blogs I have read look to more experienced readers and could scare off the audience I am trying to attract. I am not dumbing down my content, I just want to make sure that the students who need the advice I am giving are able to understand and implement what I am saying.