How to Stand Out in a Crowded Niche

Ever feel like all of the “good” topics in your niche have already been worn out by more popular blogs?

A post about getting more blog traffic or living more frugally may be interesting the first time you read about it. Maybe it’ll even catch your attention the fifth or tenth time you see it.

But what about the 50th time? Or the 100th? Doesn’t it get a little … tired?

Sure, you can go to the content crossroads for new angles and spins, and it works … for awhile. If your niche is super crowded, eventually it feels like even the devil couldn’t find you a new angle. And you start to wonder: how are you supposed to stand out, writing about the same old stuff?

You’d think it would be impossible, but it’s not. You just have to be a little sneaky …

Introducing the “hidden benefit”

The “hidden benefit” is the reason behind the reason audiences are interested in a topic.

Let’s take blogging, for instance. Every blogger wants more traffic, but the reason why they want more traffic will vary.

They might want more traffic to:

  • Attract younger, Internet-savvy customers
  • Impress their boss by modernizing the company marketing
  • Build a platform and get a book deal
  • Spread a new idea that they believe will change the world
  • Become a recognized authority and get a cushy job

Really, we could list dozens more. Where “normal” benefits tend to be the same across an entire topic or industry, hidden benefits are much more personal. You’ll typically find a different one for every type of reader you want to attract to your blog.

How to find the hidden benefit

So, how do you guess which hidden benefit might motivate your reader?

Well, you can’t. There are too many possibilities to make an accurate guess.

The only way to know for sure is to interact with your audience:

  • When readers leave comments, email them and ask follow-up questions that uncover details they didn’t want to discuss in public.
  • Give away free consultations, where you dig into the problems your readers are having.
  • Go to conferences and listen to what questions attendees ask, and then buy them a drink afterward to find out more about their individual situation.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. The hidden benefit allows you to write posts that you know will resonate with your target audience. You’ll be inside their heads.

Examples of powerful hidden benefits

To show you what I’m talking about, let’s go through some of the hidden benefits we outlined earlier and turn them into headlines for blog posts:

Hidden Benefit: Attract younger, Internet-savvy customers
Headline: Out of Touch with Generation Y? 5 Ways a Blog Can Help

Hidden Benefit: Build a platform and get a book deal
Headline: Blogging for Authors — The Ultimate Guide

Hidden Benefit: Impress their boss by modernizing company marketing
Headline: How to Talk with Your Boss about Blogging

Hidden Benefit: Spread an idea that will change the world
Headline: 21 Bloggers Who Changed the World (and How They Did It)

Hidden Benefit: Become a recognized authority and get a cushy job
Headline: The David Pogue Guide to Becoming a Professional Blogger

The blogging niche is crowded, but each of the above posts would stand out to the smaller groups of people they target. Really, they’re all about the same subjects: blogging and web traffic. The difference is they cover those subjects in a much more personal way.

No niche is ever too crowded (for a savvy marketer)

Every time I hear someone tell a beginner not to enter a niche because it’s too crowded, I feel like screaming. Yes, I know this is the standard advice, but it’s just not true.

Crowded niches got that way for a reason: they work. Your best bet for succeeding with your blog is to find a subject lots of people are blogging about, and then start a blog about the exact same subject.

You don’t want to be a copycat. Just look for the hidden benefits behind an audience’s interest in your topic, and target those benefits instead.

For a savvy marketer, no niche is ever too crowded. Standing out is a matter of having a more intimate understanding of your readers than the competition.

Let the hidden benefits guide you, and you’ll beat them every time.

About the Author: Jon Morrow is CEO of Boost Blog Traffic. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to get more readers, build your email list, and become an authority in your niche, subscribe today. Get even more from Jon on twitter.

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Comments

  1. Jon – awesome post. I’ve been building niche businesses for years and you hit the nail right on the head. Some niches just aren’t worthwhile to get into. The larger, proven niches are that way for a reason – there’s money there.

    If you can perform better or do something different, then there will be space for you in any niche.

    Just my 2 cents :0)

    — Jason

  2. I like to take the approach of delving a little deeper or give a behind-the-scenes sort of view in a niche. There’s always a different perspective. :) good article!

  3. Really good information and you’re right…no niche is too crowded if your a business savvy blogger. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition can also put you ahead of the game.

  4. Or you could just go to Wal-Mart and buy a red umbrella …

  5. I agree Jon Tsu,

    Or as Daniel Levis puts it, “Killer Copy [blogging] = 20% writing, 80% strategy”

  6. Nice post on re-inventing yourself in a niche that’s seemingly beaten to death. It’s similar to copy that sells: Don’t just list the features (i.e. bullet list in a blog), list the benefits to the end user (i.e. the reader). Everyone has a unique angle, no matter how small.

  7. Great way to reframe the challenge as simply digging deeper. When you do that, you write smarter and clearer content anyway. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Whoa – “The Hidden Benefit” – this nugget of wisdom applies to great salesletter copywriting too. I also use surveys to peel away the layers and get down to what my readers and students really want -

  9. AWESOME POST!!!!! I am one of those that took the dive into an already saturated market…but gave it a small twist to stand out a bit…and it has worked wonderfully! Creativity and passion will drive you no matter what niche you try to get into….

  10. This is true of any field, not just blogging. Say for instance you have a company that makes shoes. Well, footwear is a crowded market. So you look at what other people in your market and offer something different, taking it somewhere else to innovate. I think everyone knows that, but not everyone is able to DO that. You are making the assumption that all bloggers are creative thinkers, and can come up with new angles of looking at the same topics. Some can, but we know that a lot cannot, which is exactly why there are 100s or 1000s of overplayed and tired blog posts out there.

  11. being inside of my blog readers is one of main goals, thanks a lot for the nice post, retweeted!

  12. Stan: Yep, surveys are a great strategy too. It’s just tough to get enough people to do one when you’re getting started as a blogger. That’s why I recommended some of the other methods first.

    Momblebee: Knowing you should do something and HOW to do something are two different things. That’s why I wrote this post. A lot of my consulting clients have been asking how to stand out in a crowded niche, and this is the simplest way to do it. It seems to be working for them so far.

  13. Great stuff, Jon. It’s the “hidden benefits” that really motivate people to action.

    Even though cars are just a means of transport, people don’t drive around in $50,000 cars just to get from A to B. There are “hidden benefits” to them, such as the feeling of power, control, freedom and status… and perhaps to make them look like a stud :)

    And you’re right, no niche is ever too crowded. There will always be leaders in a niche, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a piece of the action as well.

  14. Is it really a niche if it is saturated? Does that word make sense in this context? Something I am pondering. . .

    I did find the article headlines really useful.

    Finally, where did you get that great umbrella image? I’m in the arts and cannot miss up an opportunity to ask!

  15. I love the hidden benefits thing. I tend to work it by instinct, I’d be well served to get a little more overtly analytical about it. Thanks sir!

  16. @Lydia, I got that one at BigStockPhoto.com. It’s pretty, isn’t it?

  17. There’s been a lot of talk about Blue Ocean Strategy over the past year but how many blue oceans really still exist? I love how you guys at Copyblogger make everything so easy to understand. Even in Bloody Red Oceans, you’re saying it’s possible to stand out in the crowd if you sell something that solves a problem to a microniche. So for example, right now, you might recommend writing an article “5 Top Examples When Blogging Fostered Apologies of Brands Screw Ups Like Kanye West” (or have there really been 5 that bad?). Thanks for everything you guys write. How does Brian spend all of his time now that he has all of you kick ass writers doing great work? ;-)

  18. I’m breaking my rule here about leaving flattering comments, but I like this post.

    This “hidden benefit” thing is a new concept for me. Its a great tactic for writing creatively. It basically gives you an unlimited supply of new ideas for writing about the same stuff as everyone else. Very nice. Gold star for you!

  19. I have been putting off a blog post idea for a while because everyone in the niche has already written about it. Now i know how to stand out. Thanks.

  20. @Angie, heh! Your last question makes me laugh. I’ll try to make up a suitably outlandish answer for you.

  21. I see what you did here… you wrote to an audience of bloggers either already in a crowded niche or considering going into a crowded niche. You’re headline worked perfectly.

    Great example of practice what you preach. The hidden benefit was well received!

  22. @Angie, I’ve never been a big fan of the Blue Ocean/Red Ocean metaphor. I read the book from cover to cover, and I think it complicates what business is really about: finding out what people want and then giving it to them. If you can do that, then I don’t care what bloody color the ocean is. As for Brian… no comment. :-)

  23. How’s this for scale?

    Hidden Benefit: Optimize your post content for SEO and create a captivating post title to draw in the masses

    Headline: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Niche

  24. Great post – great advice! I, too, am involved in a niche that is practically a “non-niche”: marketing ideas and advice for small businesses. But my heart is with the small business owner and I truly want to contribute in a valuable and somewhat differentiated fashion. So this article was a great boost for me. Thanks for push!

  25. Thanks for this. I didn’t think my headlines were bad until I took Leo’s blogging bootcamp. He showed me how terrible they really were :)

    Now I think a lot more about reader benefits than anything else, and always before I ever write the post. The headline comes first these days.

  26. Great post! I love that Denise Wakeman recommended your blog last night in her interview with Liz Lynch!

    Thanks for sharing your expertise and inspirations … I’ll return here often for words from the Blog God!

    Best,
    Christine Elisabeth von Malsen Hueber

  27. Great blog,

    The KEY is:

    “No niche is ever too crowded (for a savvy marketer)”

  28. I loved the tip about consultations. It is very powerful concept more marketers should use.

    Igor

  29. Thanks for the useful article, I hadn’t thought about introducing hidden benefits in my headlines, so as to attract a targeted type of visitors.

    By the way, the post’s image is amazing. Somehow it made me read the whole content.

  30. Dear Jonathan Morrow,

    this is an interesting blog post, but could you please provide more examples of the “hidden benefit”, and list blogs who successfully applied this technique? That would be very useful!

    If I understand correctly, the “hidden benefit” refers to a certain type of reader, NOT to a subniche inside a bigger niche?

    So let’ say we have this bigger niche: How to drive more traffic to a blog. If I would choose a subniche inside this niche, I could choose the “How to drive more traffic to your blog with Adwords” subniche. But it’s not a hidden benefit, right?

    Instead I could choose a certain type of reader, who wants to build a platform and get a book deal. So I could write not only about traffic, but also about how to successfully write and publish a book???

    So even if I write about multiple subjects, my blog is focused because I write to a certain type of reader (who wants to publish a book), right? Or should I just write about blog traffic for authors?

  31. I was actually just thinking about this.

    There are so many blogs that your blog is more likely to be invisible than visible because your blog is just another blog.

    Now think about this in the product world. Think about tomato juice for example. There are lots of brands of tomato juice including the cheap house brand. So what do you do to make your tomato juice stand out? How do you make it interesting?

    You create an entirely new category for you tomato juice… V8. The manufacturers for V8 created a new category for “vegetable juice” so they no longer compete with tomato juice. Plus they fulfilled a need that already exists… to get more vegetable servings in your diet without eating piles of vegetables.

    Pure marketing genius!

  32. Very good information and it opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at blogging. Not only do I have my own blog, but I ghost write for several others.

  33. Very cool post I must say. I’m actually doing consultations now but I charge fees for that. Probably that’s because whenever I give out consultation critics, I cover almost everything that I see and want to note. Other consultations just hand over solutions to problems that are asked of them. Mine is kind of holistic. I guess that’s my edge.

  34. Thanks for the awesome ideas. I very seldom think about the title of my posts…just type what’s relevant.

    That’s going to have to change. :)

  35. Sonia! I can’t wait to read the outlandish answer! Now I’m going to have trouble sleeping.

    Jon. Excellent point about “who cares what color the ocean is?”. I’m with you!

  36. It seems defficult for most people to find a hidden benefit.
    Just the hot keywords in SEO, I dont’t think it is a proper way to start a blog.

  37. Great post with fresh ideas!
    It does take a lot of time to put them into practice but I’ll take ‘em into consideration!

    Thanks for sharing!

  38. I totally disagree with emailing people who leave comments. I believe that is an intrusion.

  39. Excellent blog post! There is room for everyone in every niche..its just a matter of how one delivers information.

  40. This has got to be the best copyblogger post in ages (and the others are all exceptional).
    This should be lesson 101 for bloggers.

    When can we get more pointers on how to uncover hidden benefits?

  41. Very good tips. I’m one of those people that feel like its impossible to come up with new or interesting ideas that people will want to read. It’s funny too, because you did exactly what you wrote. I have seen other articles about this same type of thing, but the way you went about it made it something I was interested in still.

    Nice job. :)

  42. Jon,
    I found this article informative, thank you. My niche is a particularly difficult one to analyze. How do you really help someone overcome fear and anxiety? Well, the answer changes person to person.

    I do my best to find out who is referring traffic to my website, and to try to discover what their “hidden benefit” might be. Then, ideally I reach out to them, and bolster the traffic sharing relationship between us. Admittedly, I still can get much better at this.

    I’ll make sure to keep reading your articles on copyblogger, they are sure to help with my site thefearlessfactor.com. Thanks again.
    Jacqueline

  43. I think this page is a good example of finding your niche.

    http://double-stroller-reviews.com/lightweight-double-stroller.htm

    double stroller is crowd, but lightweight double stroller is a great demand with less competition.

  44. Ah, the old WIFM approach – what’s in it for me (the customer or client). Correctly identifying the hidden desire of why someone is reading your copy is key in getting them hooked in to your copy, and ultimately, trusting you enough to buy from you.

    Great examples of headlines and what the hidden benefits are.

    Linda

  45. Interacting with your readers is a great way to uncover the real meaning behind their comments and a way to network with your readers and who knows they might find your blog intriguing and become and avid tweeter of your articles which could increase your SEO.

  46. Wonderful post.

    It is wonderful and not enough are looking at the “hidden benefits”. I hear the words, “saturated market”, all the time. I am sure if one looks at the hidden benefits in those markets, they come into a goldmine. I too am looking more through analytics and other research for those benefits in my blogging and marketing campaigns.

  47. I think you tackled the big reason why many people struggle with maintaining a blog; they feel they repeat what is already out there.
    Your post makes it clear how to over come this and make the most of those topics that seem saturated, great advice Jonathan.

  48. Jon,

    Good stuff. Blogging myself about internet marketing, I know I’m blogging about things that have all been said before, but in another post on Copyblogger, I’m reminded that it’s my personality and what I bring to the information I share that, in some way, makes my content unique.

    Further, the headline tips in your post are helpful and I will keep that line of thinking in the back of my head.

    I find myself sometimes stumbling over what to write about because it’s all been done before, so this is a great reminder that I can write about just about anything, as long as I bring some extra value through my own voice and experiences to that ‘same old’ topic.

    Thanks!

  49. Great post.
    Reminds me of the concepts in Seth Godin’s ‘Purple Cow’ book.
    I have found that being different and standing out, while sounding really awesome, does not necessarily come naturally. Many people are more concerned with being accepted than standing out and this conflicts with being really different.

  50. Honestly I couldn’t agree more here. I think more people should read and understand this and they will get further with their blogging success. I know I have wondered the same thing and it’s true not to give up and to keep your eyes open, learn and take action based on what you’ve learned.

    I say all of the above because I’ve been through about 4 different blogs now and found this one and this information is gold in my opinion.