There are a million techniques to make your blog bigger, better, and more popular.
(Heck, after four years, there are probably a half-million just here on Copyblogger.)
Strong headlines, smart copywriting technique, celebrity gossip, telling stories, making readers laugh, stategic use of controversy, reviews of the latest technology, reveling in your love of Steve Jobs and all he creates.
They each have their advocates, and they can all work.
But there’s one insider’s trick that makes the rest of it easy.
It starts from the very beginning, when you’re figuring out what you want to blog about anyway.
Start by picking a crowded topic
Copywriter Gary Halbert famously advised copywriters to look for a “starving crowd.” In other words, if you want to open a restaurant, put it where there are already plenty of people who want exactly what you’re offering. If you’re a blogger, look for topic that lots and lots of people want to know more about.
Why are there so many blogs about technology, weight loss, marketing, making money online, and celebrities?
Because there are millions of people who want to read every day about those topics.
In the past few years, the traditional Internet marketing advice has been to find a little niche that you can own completely. But there are two problems with making yourself a big fish in a small pond.
The first is that you’ll always be looking over your shoulder for some punk kid to come along and beat you at your own game.
The second is that when you choose a tiny topic, you set a limit on how big you’ll ever be able to get.
This leads directly to a lot of what plagues a lot of traditional Internet marketing. Going after obscure niches means you’ve got to put lots of sites together to make the financial picture work. Which tends to make it hard to develop any kind of real relationship with the readers. Which leads to the sleaze-and-squeeze school of copywriting, where you shake your new prospect hard and hope he’s got a few pennies in his pocket.
Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded
If just picking a “Me-too” topic was enough, obviously everyone would have a successful blog.
But it’s hard to stand out. It’s relatively easy to rank in the search engines for “naked mole rats.” It’s damned hard to get a page-one ranking for “weight loss” or “learn forex trading.”
Instead of being a big fish in a small pond, allow me to suggest another approach.
Be a small, ridiculously evolved, very rare and weird fish in a great big pond.
A weight loss blog is going to be hard to pull off. A weight loss blog for polyamorous computer programmers of color is going to find its audience pretty efficiently. And that tribe is bigger than you might think it is.
Stock market education? Insanely overdone. Stock market education for stay-at-home parents? Now you’ve got some kind of chance.
Marketing blogs are as common as houseflies, and nearly as annoying. But a marketing blog for people who hate marketing can develop a very nice following.
(Although that, too, is getting crowded. When you find that even the sub-niches are crowded, move on to the next tip.)
If it’s not working, get weirder
“Weird” is grade-school shorthand for “you’re not like us, are you?”
This is a bummer in the third grade but it turns out to really pay off down the line.
All the stuff you had to hide to get that crummy day job? Start putting that in your blog.
Your weird hair. Your Tourette’s. Your bad attitude. Your nearly pathological need to put the other person first. Your religion. Your sexual orientation. Your morbid fascinations. The peculiar way you talk or walk or think. The jokes no one else thinks are funny. Your nerdy obsessions. The fact that you are a gigantic dork. Your tragic inability to say the appropriate thing at the appropriate time. Being calm when everyone else in your niche is hyper. Being hyper when everyone else in your niche is calm. The fact that you care more than anyone you know.
Because the Internet is really big, and because you chose a gigantic pond, there will be a fair number of people interested in your topic who also resonate with your particular brand of weirdness. And that weirdness will shine like a little beacon to attract them.
Tribes are, often as not, defined by who they aren’t. If you can get weird enough, you’ll find a nice little village of readers who are longing to be part of your thing.
It’s not about you. And it’s totally about you. If you can learn to keep both of these in your head at the same time, you’ll do brilliantly.
Flickr Creative Commons image by ethanhickerson