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Forget Blogging as Usual: 5 Outrageous Tips for Super-sized Attention

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

It happens every minute. About six thousand new blog posts are published. That’s a lot.

Blogs have given enormous power to people. It’s given them a chance to have a voice in a world that used to be controlled by gatekeepers like traditional media. While I’m happy about this, this makes it very hard to get attention in the online world.

Do you want attention for your blog? What about super-sized attention—the kind you get when someone likes Drudge or Time magazine links to your blog because of your work? Well, here are some tips on how to do that.

Super-cool user-generated sites

One of the most popular sites on the web is a user-generated site: I can has cheez burger. Sure, it’s silly, but it’s a valuable lesson: people want to laugh and share stuff for an audience, no matter what it is.

Another site that does this really well is Dear Blank Please Blank. This user generated site is simple. All you do is fill out a short form, click if you want to be notified when it’s published and then submit. That’s it.

While I think this site is genius for the simplicity of the idea and ease of execution, I think it’s simply beyond genius when it comes to the way readers can interact. For instance, after reading the entry, you can choose five options that describe what you feel about it. “How Dare They,” “You’re a Douche,” “Hilarious,” “Like This,” and “Umm, WTF?!”

Of course, you can also comment. The point for you is to think of outrageously different and unique ways of generating user content, because sites like Dear Blank Please Blank show that people want to contribute a lot.

Super-sized photos

According to the 2011 Technorati State of the Blog report, 90 percent of bloggers use some kind of multimedia on their site. This shouldn’t surprise you, but the most popular form is photos:

With this in mind, just putting photos on your blog or website postings isn’t going to get you a lot of attention. The Boston Globe’s Photoblog is one of the most unique blogs in 2011 because of its use of photos. At over 990 pixels wide, these photos are big and bold and are hard to ignore. They look good when they show up in my RSS reader.

A lesser known but equally powerful blog, Fiked, peppers each post with dozens of powerful photos. The copy is lean, so you move very quickly through each post, but the posts are also very long. Think of it as a list post on steroids.

Another fantastic site is Cabin Porn. They take it even further than The Boston Globe and each photograph fills just about the entire screen.

Super-sized posts

One of the things I try to do over at Quick Sprout is give readers a very technical and detailed understanding of my topic. This is the best way to go about it, especially since the Panda and Farmer updates, which essentially targeted sites and blogs with lots of low-quality content.

Besides, because of the glut of blogs and post, people are not going to pay attention to half-page, half-baked posts. They are not going to bookmark or share them either.

You need to create high-quality, interesting content if you want people to read, comment and bookmark. Here’s a short list of questions you can ask yourself that will help you create technical and detailed blog posts:

  • Is what you wrote original?
  • Can you provide practical advice or relevant research?
  • Did you correct any spelling, grammar or factual errors?
  • Is the topic of interest to a reader or a machine?
  • Is the article well edited?
  • Does your site have authority?
  • Are you providing insightful or interesting information beyond the obvious?
  • Would you bookmark your article?
  • Is your article cluttered with call-to-actions, ads or promotions?
  • Would a magazine or journal print your article?
  • Is your article short, weak and useless?
  • How much time and attention did you give to detail?
  • Would someone complain if they saw this article?

Writing high-quality content takes time. But if you ask yourself those 13 questions each time before you write your chances of creating great content will improve.

Cut back your blogging frequency

It used to be that everyone would tell you to blog every day to get the attention you need. Believe me, it’s not easy to keep up that kind of production. Eventually you’ll wear out of ideas and produce crap.

But it also has an effect on your readers. One of the things I learned over the years is that the frequency of blog posts affects interaction. In some of the tests I’ve done, when you deliver long posts that are detailed on a less than frequent basis, like once a week, my readership and number of comments rise. I think it’s because you give space for readers to read, comment and absorb what you wrote.
You do have to keep in mind that this flies in the face of research by Hubspot in their 2011 State of Inbound Marketing. According to their report, bloggers who blog daily will get five times as much traffic than those who blog once a week or less.

Personally, this hasn’t been my experience, so I recommend you test what frequency works best for you.

Wage war against an enemy

Whatever you’re feelings for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, you have to admit that he was a genius when it came to drawing battle lines.

There were enough people in the world who felt like their government was keeping secrets from them, especially in the U.S, and Assange used that anxiety to create an information empire and become an international celebrity.

That tactic is also a common theme when it comes to copywriting. In his “Influential Writing” course, copywriting legend Dan Kennedy used to talk about the “rally against a common enemy” strategy. If you can identify a person, industry, organization or thing (like a disease, for instance) that enough people feel threatened by, you can create a following by waging war against that person or thing.

Think of the story of David and Goliath. We root for the small guy. A consumer advocate blog like The Consumerist is a good example of going after a common enemy. You can even think of Drudge as being an advocate against a common enemy, namely traditional media.

Conclusion

If you want to get a lot of attention for your blog, then you need to start ignoring the traditional ways of blogging and embrace some more outrageous, out-of-the-box ideas. Hopefully the above examples and tips will help you do that.

What other outrageous ideas can you share about getting massive attention for your blog?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Mastering the Art of Slow Blogging

This guest post is by Kelly Kingman of Kelly Kingman Media.

Several years ago, I hired a personal trainer and we’d work out in the park near my apartment. One day she had me run the loop around the park and noticed that I had difficulty keeping a consistent pace, I would stop and start a lot. She suggested that I run slowly (which she claimed was smoother than jogging—running experts, feel free to debate). The result was that instead of being either in a short-lived sprint or an exhausted, limping jog, I could sustain a smooth, slow running pace by dialing down my intensity.

How many people start a blog and then quit after two months?

When you take off blogging at a sprint, posting daily or even three times per week, your idea generating and writing muscles can cramp up pretty quickly. Over the past three years, I found that not only do I prefer to post irregularly—I average about every two weeks—it keeps me from burning out. I’ve even taken a month off from time to time. For example, I took November off to complete a content-creation challenge. I haven’t posted in weeks because my new website isn’t ready yet. (Stop gasping in horror.)

Fast blogging can lead to “content inflation”

Economic inflation causes our currency to be worth less. Content inflation is what happens when your content decreases in value—you have more of it, but it’s not that powerful or interesting. When we’re so obsessed with posting frequently, we risk churning out less than exciting stuff, and this can water down our brand.

My blog exists primarily to support my claim that I write well, know what I’m talking about and have interesting ideas to add to the conversation. I don’t want to fill my blog so full of content-for-content’s-sake that it’s hard to find the good stuff. Plus, most of us are better writers when we are expressing something we feel strongly about or just had a flash of insight, and that doesn’t happen every day.

Spend your energy wisely

Less-than-great posts aren’t the only possible side effect of forcing yourself to blog all the time, you could be sabotaging your other efforts. Are you spending all of your energy blogging to the point you have nothing left over for other creative content? Are you lagging on client work because you’re blog must be fed? If you spend some time thinking about your business goals, it may make sense for you to slow down or take some time off and write that ebook or give your newsletter a little more love. The world will still be here, so will your subscribers.

I spent most of December creating pre-launch content for a new course that I am launching this month (about, surprisingly, how to build your online business without killing yourself). I am taking my sweet time to create a great opt-in offer for my new site, and in the meantime I want to keep my email list engaged by sending a newsletter two times per month. This all takes work in addition to working with clients, and I’m only human. While I actually do love blogging, I try to keep it as a piece of the bigger picture.

Create a web, not a stream

Much is made of creating a steady stream of traffic to your blog, but in order to practice slow blogging you’ll want to create a web of presence. If your blog is the only place you’re consistently showing up online, then as soon as you take some time off you’re essentially invisible. I’m not just talking about social media, but about an email list, a network of affiliates, maybe a Facebook page and guest posting opportunities. Diversifying the places where you connect with your target audience online will reduce the pressure to constantly be updating your blog.

Is blogging your business model or your marketing?

There’s an important distinction to make here, and that is one of business model. The reason I can blog at a casual pace is because I don’t base my business on volume of traffic. Income that is generated directly from my blogging, in the form of product sales or affiliate commissions, is far less than the income I receive from working for clients or from my own products (for which others are affiliates).

I couldn’t even tell you how many people visit my blog on a regular basis, I never check. I focus my energy on making connections with people on social media platforms and converting visitors to email subscribers. Content is key, of course, but I make sure it gets to people on my email list first, and then the blog. When you’re small (and even after you get big) having a healthy email list—one that’s fed a steady diet of good content—is critical. There are always exceptions to any rule, but for the majority of Internet-based businesses, this is true.

Blogging is a marathon

If the tortoise and the hare taught us anything, it’s that good things come from a sustained, if slower, effort. In the end, blogging once every two weeks but keeping it up for three years will give you about the same total number of posts as posting daily for two months, but the cumulative impact is likely to be much greater.

The good news is that there’s no such thing as a perfect frequency for blogging. The bad news is that sometimes without a schedule, you might not find the time to post at all. The key with blogging, as with just about everything, is finding the balance that works for you. If you find that having a set schedule can actually help you stretch your imagination and come up with good ideas, by all means go for it. But if you find you dread blogging because you “have to,” it might be time to try your hand at the art of slow blogging. Your blog, and your readers, will thank you.

Kelly Kingman is a content strategist and visionary who will blog sometime soon at her new site, but don’t hold your breath. In the meantime, she’s just explained and mapped, online business models that work despite a lack of traffic, for a new course she’s co-teaching called the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur.

Writers Block? Try this Quick Tip

Recently on Twitter I was asked by a follower how to overcome an extreme case of writer’s block.

My answer was:

“Think about a problem you had three years ago and write a post that solves that problem.”

Writer's block

Image copyright JRB - Fotolia.com

The reason I find this technique helpful is:

  • It identifies a real need that someone will have—if you have had the problem others will have it too.
  • It identifies a topic that you have personally had, which makes your post more personal and empathetic.
  • It identifies a problem that you’ve overcome or at least have some wisdom on, so hopefully your post is constructive and helpful.

Try it today—identify a problem that you’ve had and then solve it with a post. Once you’ve done it, share a link to your post in comments below. I’d love to see the problems that you solved today!

Why Fresh Blog Content is Now 35% More Important

This guest post is by Oz of OzSoapbox.

I like to think of SEO in general as one giant cauldron of murky soup that’s never quite just right.

The cauldron has been simmering on the fire for so long that we’ve kind of lost track of exactly what we’ve put in there. All we can do now is tweak the broth by adding different ingredients in a continual effort that will hopefully improve its taste.

Taste, of course, being the positive effects good SEO brings to our blogs.

One of the gazillion factors that makes up SEO, and one we’re going to explore today, is content freshness. Gone are the days of static websites and even the seemingly most mundane of web pages usually had some sort of dynamic element to them.

Whether it’s a Twitter feed, Facebook integration, reader comments, or just a good old-fashioned constant stream of new articles, these days there’s a good chance even a website dedicated to your grandma’s cats is dynamically updated with some form of fresh content.

And as far as SEO goes, that’s now indisputably a good thing.

Measuring the impact of content freshness on our blogs

Previously, content freshness was something we knew was a good thing to do because SEO spiders loved new and updated content. Much like adding salt to a cauldron of soup, quantifying the exact impact content freshness had on our blogs has always been somewhat problematic.

Whilst we still don’t have a definitive answer on this (coughcough trade secrets coughcough), Google recently announced a major change to their search algorithm “that would impact roughly 35% of searches”.

That change? The quantification of the effect that freshness has on search results.

Google handle roughly three billion search queries a day, and 35% of that is one billion and fifty million searches a day affected in some way by content freshness.

That’s 1,050,000,000 daily search results … do I have your attention yet?

Google’s freshness algorithm change and your blog

Now obviously content freshness doesn’t mean that if you go berserk updating your content all of a sudden you’re going to be outranking Wikipedia. Yet this is a change to Google’s search results worth taking stock of.

That said, note that even at 35% of searches, this change simply might not really apply to your blog. Let’s face it, some blog niches are timeless.

For others, such as Digital Photography School, with digital camera models and new gear coming out all the time, Google’s algorithm change likely has huge potential.

If you don’t do anything about it though, that potential could easily swing from positive to negative.

Keeping your blog fresh

Even if you think your blog’s niche isn’t really impacted by time, it’s still worth keeping your blog fresh. In the vastness that is the Internet, the last thing you want is readers tuning out because they think you’re no longer relevant.

If you’re serious about keeping your blog stocked with fresh content, these would be the first three things I’d focus on.

Publish, publish, publish!

You don’t have to publish every day, but a strongly maintained publishing schedule is easily your best bet for fresh fresh content. What better way to show the search engines you’re full of fresh content than providing them with new pages to crawl every time they visit?

Comments

Why do all the work yourself? Although some bloggers prefer to turn comments off, as far as SEO goes, comments on your articles most definitely count towards freshness.

I’ve got some articles on my blog that I wrote a few years back, and to this day, they still receive the odd comment. This not only keeps the discussion going but keeps a page relevant, which is what Google’s latest algorithm change is all about.

Update your old articles

Even if you think nothing’s changed since you last wrote about a particular area of interest, it can’t hurt to go back and visit the topic.

I write a fair bit about current events in Taiwan. Often, a news snippet comes out that’s relevant to a story I’ve previously written about, but not significant enough to craft a new article around.

In these cases I simply go back to the article I originally wrote and provide an update. You can see this principle in action in my post on the DEHP scandal in Taiwan earlier this year.

I originally wrote the story in June. Since then I’ve updated the page no less than 19 times, with the last update on the 28th October.

The end result is a page that combines both age authority and content freshness. In the eyes of search engine crawlers this translates to relevance, because the page has been constantly updated with fresh content that is strongly on-topic.

Darren has previously written in more depth on keeping fresh content flowing on your blog, and it’s a great reference for some further fresh content ideas.

35% of over a billion searches a day are now quantifiably impacted by content freshness, and even a tiny percentage of this traffic is worth optimizing for. Fire up your favorite blogging platform and let’s get those blogs updated!

Updated daily, OzSoapbox is an English language blog about Taiwan cataloguing life in Taiwan, the good times and the bad. Interrupted only by social commentary on current events facing Taiwan, feel free to drop on by and join Oz on his journey through this beautiful island.

The Right-brain Thinker’s Guide to Beating Blogger’s Block

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

In his 2009 book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explained that the new world of business is a great place to be a right-brain thinker. Right-brain thinkers are the creators and the empathizers. If you’re a blogger, you are probably a right-brained thinker … and you probably deal with blogger’s block on occasion.

What is blogger’s block? It’s what happens to all bloggers as they try to crank out new, original posts day after day: they eventually run out of ideas. Ever struggle with that?

However, have you ever thought about using your very own creative quirks to generate blog post ideas? Following is a list of qualities that right-brain thinkers have and tips on how you can use these qualities to break those moments of blogger’s block and kick out some great blog posts.

Right-brain thinkers are impulsive

Some of the really great bloggers are those who are quick and impulsive when it comes to blogging. Think of Robert Scoble’s comment that if you aren’t at least apologizing once a month, then you are probably not doing anything interesting. He did it in a big way with Twitter. It’s good to catch hell on your blog every once in a while.

To overcome blogger’s block, just throw caution to the wind and see what happens. I know I probably ruffled some feathers when I wrote Why You Should Get Drunk – The ROI of Partying or You don’t have to be smart to be an entrepreneur.

But I stand by what I wrote and I think I provided a lot of people with some good ideas. All the comments I got and tweets suggest I did something right.

Right-brain thinkers question authority and rules

Another great idea for blog posts involves just challenging current rules or asking why certain rules exist.

For example, SEOs are always wondering and challenging why Google is doing certain things. Aaron Wall wrote a great post called Google Aggressively Enters Make Money Online Niche where he made a list of all the listings in the SERPs for a certain term and pointed out how Google products dominated the results. He’s challenging authority, and so should you.

Right-brain thinkers are unlikely to read instruction manual before trying

Ever just get tired of the same old thing? Ever feel like you don’t want to do things the traditional way? If so, that’s great!

Sometimes breaking blogger’s block involves just ignoring the best practices and creating something that breaks the mold. That’s exactly what Smashing Magazine did with The Death of the Boring Blog Post.

Listen, I give you permission to break all the rules. Just forget about the rules and just write! Keep in mind not all of your ideas may work. Be patient and don’t give up, because failure is a great way to improve your blogging skills.

Right-brain thinkers process multiple ideas simultaneously

Good right-brain thinkers can hold more than one idea in their head, even if the ideas are totally different and contradict one another. So, one of the best ways to get creative and break blogger’s block is to bring together two very different ideas.

Austin Kleon takes the idea of creativity and criminality to come up with a very original blog post called Steal Like an Artist. He combines images, drawings, and photos with commentary that leads you down his list of ten things he wishes he’d known about creativity when he started out.

Right-brain thinkers write things down or illustrate

Sometimes it just helps to get your ideas down on the screen. That’s usually what I do once I’ve gathered enough information about the topic I want to write about. And don’t forget: just write as quickly and carelessly as you can! Tell that editor in your head to “shut up,” and just write.

Another way to break writer’s block is to draw. Hugh MacLeod is the superstar in this area, but there are other great drawer/bloggers out there. Just take Organizational Chart of Major Corporations at Bonker’s World or Fake Grimlock’s Minimum Viable Personality drawing. These are two great examples of distilling an idea to its essence.

Right-brain thinkers are visual, focusing on images and patterns

When you’re looking for blog topics to write about, it helps to look for patterns in information. Perhaps you have an idea for a topic and you start to look at articles. Keep reading until some kind of pattern emerges. You might key into something that a handful of people keep saying. That could be your topic you explore.

Or you might spend some time looking at dozens of photos on Instagram, Flickr or deviantART. Any one of those places could trigger an idea for a post.

Right-brain thinkers intuitive, led by feelings

When blogging, do you tend to hide your feelings? In other words, do you try to remain objective and distant? If so, stop it! Bring out your feelings when you write. If something makes you angry, write about it. If something makes you laugh hysterically, write about it.  Besides, ranting is How to Get People to Remember Your Posts.

Right-brain thinkers see the whole first, then the details

If you tend to see how a particular blog post is going to look, like you know the headline and you probably how you are going to open it and close it, but you’re not sure what is going to go in the middle, that’s fine.

If you see the whole post first, it might help you to write an outline. A lot of the time I’ll have the headline and then I’ll work on all the subheadings. Then I’ll go through and start filling out the different sections.

What are the advantages of an outline? Here are three:

  • You won’t get lost: With an outline, you’ll have a road map for your blog post to help you stay on track.
  • You evaluate your idea early: With an outline, you can also see if you may have trouble putting your post together. An outline is like an early, simple version of your post.
  • You write with a sense of flow: Outlines help me get into my writing so I pick up momentum.

Sometimes I’ll run into a dead end as I’m writing a post. Instead of getting frustrated and banging my head, I’ll just start working on a different, easier section of the post.

Right-brain thinkers use free association

Using free association to come up with blog posts can be fun. All you do is just sit down and start thinking about something. Follow where each idea leads. Don’t stop writing until you are out of ideas or just tired.

Also, make sure you save all your ideas. Don’t throw anyway away because you’ll have a lot of ideas for future blogs posts in that one rambling, rough-draft session. Plus, look for the interesting insights or patterns you see in your writing. As Scott Myers says in Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work:

“What happens? In my experience, oftentimes I’ll hit on a nugget. Perhaps something related to the scene, perhaps not, maybe something later in the story, or an idea for something else entirely. Generally when that happens, I end my free association session. Other times, nothing seems to emerge, so I just stop.”

By the way, free association is a great way to break writer’s block.

Right-brain thinkers have no sense of time

When I say “no sense of time” I don’t mean you don’t know what time it is. What I mean is you enjoy what you do so much that you lose track of time. But you probably have to fight off the tendency to be distracted by phones, Facebook, and co-workers. Distractions can cause writer’s block.

Some bloggers I know will work on a 33-minute schedule. They’ll write focused for 33 minutes, get up, drink some coffee, check all their social media sites for about five minutes and then get back to work. It kills writer’s block and tends to be a very productive way to write.

Creative breaks for blogger’s block

Blogger’s block affects us all, whether we tend to be right- or left-brain thinkers. Hopefully the qualities of creative thinkers I described above will give you that spark you need to inspire you next time you are struggling to come up with a new blog post idea.

What things do you do to inspire you to write and break blogger’s block?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Why You Should Write 20 Posts Before You Launch Your Blog

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of ageofmarketing.com.

If you have not yet started a blog, stop. Write 20 to 30 posts before you launch.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but this strategy may just be the thing to help you succeed as a blogger.
Why?

It stops you from quitting

Here is the number one reason most bloggers fail: they lose the will to continue.

Anyone who has ever started a blog will tell you that it is downright demoralizing to start a blog. When no one visits your blog, no one accepts your guest posts, and advertising proves too expensive to make a viable traffic generation strategy, you feel lost and destroyed.

Unfortunately for most people, that is the end of their blogging journey. Within months, if not weeks the blog is abandoned and another number is added to the failed blogs hall of fame.

But the very mind that loses hope can be made to maintain it if you invest a lot of effort into your blog upfront. It is human tendency to try harder at and stick longer to something that you have already devoted effort to.

It helps you build and maintain momentum on your blog

Guest posting is one of the most powerful ways to build your blog. It allows you to get your name on established blogs, and gives you a taste of what it would be like to have a popular blog—not to mention attracting high-converting traffic to your own blog.

The thing with guest blogging is that you need to do it often to make it a viable brand building and traffic generation strategy. You cannot do that when you barely have enough posts to keep your own blog going. Having 20 posts in reserve can help keep your blog going while you are concentrating on pitching and writing guest posts.

Plus, once you get a few guest posts on big blogs you will get requests to write guest posts on even more blogs. And you need to be able to maintain the momentum. So the post reserves will come in handy.

It helps you get paying gigs

Finally, posting on your blog and writing guest posts for other blogs may even bring you paying gigs.

When someone is paying you good money to write posts, you need to able to deliver high quality content under tight deadlines. This means you need a lot of practise before you start. Writing 20 or 30 posts helps you build your writing ability.

This means that when you get a request for guest post or get a paying gig you can deliver high quality content quickly.

This is what happened to me. Impressed with the quality and originality of my guest posts and the posts on my blog, a company contacted me to write for them. The only catch was they needed content quickly. Luckily, I had a few posts in reserve, some of which they liked. That weekend I earned my first ever pay-check from blogging, netting around $2,000 for several posts. It was such a thrill.

So if you have not yet started blogging, wait till you have 20 to 30 posts before you launch.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new e-book – Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales – for FREE.

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.

5 Ways I Kill Two Birds With One Stone and Generate Ideas for Blog Posts

I love making the one piece of work pay off multiple times. One of the ways I do this is by turning other activities that I do into blog posts. Here’s five ways I’ve done it recently.

1. Live streaming video sessions

If I find myself with a spare half hour to fill in, one of the activities that I’ll sometimes engage in is a live video streaming session on Ustream.

I log into my Ustream account, start a broadcast, and then announce it on Twitter that I’m on and happy to answer questions. The sessions are fun and also deepen reader engagement for those who join in. But I’m also constantly taking note of what I’m being asked and will often turn those questions and answers into posts.

ProBlogger Training Day

Answering questions at the ProBlogger Training Day

2. Being interviewed

From time to time I’m asked by another blogger, journalist, or author to do some kind of interview with them. Some are live webinars or on radio, others are email-based interviews, others are on the phone.

Being interviewed in this way is great for bringing new readers into your blog, but I’m also usually asked at least one question during the interview which is the stimulus for a post.

3. Interviewing someone else

On the flip side of things, I also love to interview other people.

Many times as I’m preparing for an interview and researching the subject to work out what questions to ask I’m stimulated to write a post. Other times it is the answer that they give that gets me writing something new.

4. Public speaking

I’m fortunate enough to be asked to speak at conferences both here in Australia and around the world. While I love this type of presenting, I always get a little nervous in the lead up to doing it, and tend to put in quite a bit of time for preparation.

This often unearths post ideas. In fact, last time I spoke at a conference, I turned my slides into a series of blog posts. The Q&A times at the end of presentations and speaking one-on-one to attendees afterwards also gives me great ideas for posts.

5. Answering reader emails and comments

Not a day goes by when I don’t either get an email from a reader asking a question or see at least one question in blog comments.

While I try to respond to as many as I can, I also quite often turn those email or comment answers into blog posts in and of themselves. When one person has a question, it’s likely that others are thinking the same thing—so I turn that one on one answer into something others can benefit from, too.

How do you kill two birds with one stone and use other actives to generate blog post ideas?

5 Ways to Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas

This guest post is by Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids.

When I started Non-Toxic Kids four years ago, I had no idea I would never run out of things to write about. In all those four years of posting between three and seven times I week, I never struggled for more than a few minutes with a topic to post about.

Why?

Maybe it has to do with my tech-savvy mom who is constantly sending me interesting links to articles about current parenting and health issues.  Seriously, how lucky am I?

But I’d like to think it has to do with the fact that I need to know about these topics. They are common sense issues and concerns that I face as a parent, and a human being on this planet.

I offer these ways to find continual and unending sources of blog material, and they are all right in front of you.

Write about what keeps you up at night

I call it the common-sense blogging approach.  Just think about what matters to you.  What can you not stop thinking about as you fall asleep, or worse, when you wake up in the middle of the night? I can’t be the only one who does this.  What are issues that your colleagues, or people in your blog niche, are worrying about right now?

For me, one topic lately is what mattress we should buy for my youngest.  A conventional one, although cheaper, may contain harmful chemicals, but the safer ones are twice as much.  I’ve put off this decision for years. Clearly, this would be a great topic to explore and write up as a post, or series of posts.

Find your flow

You may need to find your source for perpetual ideas.  It’s a different place for each of us, but we can all find it.  For me it’s running. Once my feet fall into that repetitive pattern, my mind lifts.  The steady drumbeat of my heart, the calmness of being alone, the soft sounds of the woods slow my thinking.  Sometimes it’s only then I can access a place of creative ideas and problem solving.

I like to think of it as a river right above my head.  Flowing in it is every place I’ve ever lived, my childhood, dreams, fears, loves and ideas, all flying around at electrifying speeds.  If I don’t grab ideas, pull them down into the here and now, and onto paper or the computer, they are gone until next time.  Or some I might never find again.

That is where many of my ideas are born.  On a long dirt road in Vermont, the idea for my blog was born this way (can you hear the song?).

Where is your flow? Whatever it is—sewing, walking, rocking in a hammock, gardening—find where your ideas live and grab them before they get away like birds scattering in the sky.  Then grab your computer and write, bird by bird (to borrow an expression from one of my favorite authors, Annie Lemott).

What do you and your friends talk about?

Before I started blogging, I was constantly talking with my friends about parenting issues, and we eagerly shared ideas and troubling questions about the safety of products, and what we had success with. These early conversations and questions became the foundation of my blog, Non-Toxic Kids. I was doing the research anyway, in trying to find out what was healthy for my infant daughter.  All it meant was getting these ideas into posts and sharing them with other parents in my blog.

So consider, what topics do you discuss regularly with your friends? What do you need to know about, or want to know the opinions of others you trust?  This is gold blog post material, and it is usually right in front of you.

What makes your blood boil?

There are some topics that outrage us into action.  Some of my best posts were written after I learned about a new piece of legislation, action, or inaction, about an environmental issue.  These posts usually do well sitting at least over night—or even for a few hours—for a re-read. 

Posts written hastily in anger can have troubling effects but a post written from the heart about a current issue can make a difference and strike a chord with people. Here is one example of that; it’s a post I wrote after President Obama told the EPA to withhold new ozone (smog) air quality standards that would have saved thousands of lives.  It felt good to put that negative energy into something that could make a difference.

Write about how you wish the world to be

This is a bit harder, especially in our current economic and political climate. But we have to as Gandhi said, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.” Write about your dreams.  What do you see as how we can solve our most vexxing problems? What do you want to see in terms of our environment, local communities, human communication, education, etc.?

Write about it. Describe your vision. We need to hear from each other about how we might solve the complex problems facing the world.  Take on any issue, and describe the change you dream of seeing in your lifetime.  Or describe a small moment in your life that showcased how this change is possible. This is beautiful, optimistic blog material.

These are our ever-flowing sources of blogging material, because we are all constantly exploring what it means to be alive in this world, how we can live better, and help others and ourselves more fully.

How do you generate your blog post ideas?  Please share these in the comments. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Katy Farber blogs at Non-Toxic Kids.  She’s a teacher, author, and blogger who just released a new ebook, Eat Non-Toxic: A manual for busy parents and is the author of two education books, Why Great Teachers Quit and Change the World with Service Learning.