This guest post is by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.
Millions of blogs talk about the same thing your blog does.
Read that sentence again and let it sink in for a moment. With so many blogs talking about the same topics, how will you differentiate yours from the rest? How can you come up with new and interesting angles on the same topics for both your post and your overall blog theme?
If you don’t mind being just another blog among millions, just keep talking about the same thing. But if you want to make the Technorati Top 1,000 (I did it in five months, and got to 11,000 subscribers and 1 million page views a month in that period), you have to find a way to get noticed. You have to stick out from the crowd.
How do you get noticed? You gotta be bold.
There’s no other way.
Think about it: I’m regular Reader Joe, looking in my Google Reader, or on Digg, and I see two headlines:
Headline 1: Good Strength Training Exercises
Headline 2: 16 Tips to Triple Your Workout Effectiveness
The first headline got 2 Diggs, and the second got well over 1,000. The difference? Well, the first one has a rather bland headline, and the second one is quite a bit bolder. But the key difference was done even before the article and headline were written — when the author chose the topic for the post.
Make Bold Selections for Post Topics
Let’s say you want to write a post today about, let’s say, making money from Google Adsense. You’ve noticed that on the two different blogs you own, one makes quite a bit more on Adsense than the other, and from your testing, you’ve found that the reason is that while both blogs get about the same amount of traffic, one gets a general readership and another has a more targeted niche — and the one with the targeted readership is serving up better targeted ads, and therefore getting more click-throughs and making more money.
So, you want to write a post that explains that. Now, you could easily write a post that talks about how bloggers should selected targeted niches for their blogs to make more money on Adsense.
Or, instead, you can ask yourself these three questions:
- If a reader saw this headline and briefly skimmed the post in their feed reader, would they click on the story to read the whole thing?
- If I were to see this article on Digg, would I vote for it? Can it get on the Digg front page?
- If I were the editor of a very popular blog, would I link to this article?
If the answer to these questions is No, go back and rethink your post. Writing a regular post that people have read a million times on other blogs is a waste of your time. No one wants to read another.
So how do you turn it into something worth writing? Look for bolder ways to write about the same topic. Here are some ways to be bolder with the example topic:
Example 1: How I Make Two Grand a Month by Laser-sharp Targeting
Example 2: Throw Out Your Blog: Niche Blogs are the Only Way to Go
Example 3: Make Twice As Much Money With Fewer Readers, Not More
Will all of these examples succeed? Probably not. But you can see the difference between the original idea, and these three bolder expansions on the same idea. I should note: being bold doesn’t mean just writing hyperbolic headlines. It means writing about a bigger and bolder idea, and backing it up with great content to match. But it starts with the idea — be bold and daring, and you’ll get noticed.
Why Bold Works
Why does being bold work better than being humble and understated, as I think many of us would prefer to be? Here’s why:
- It stands out. Again, there are more than 83 million blogs out there … how will you get noticed among the cacophony of all those blogs? If you think bigger and bolder than all of them, you will get noticed.
- You’re more clickable. If your headline is in someone’s feed reader, or they see your headline on another blog among a list of links, they will be more likely to click on you if you’re bold. It’s almost irresistible.
- People talk about you. It’s good if people start talking about you. They read your bold post, and they talk about it on their blog. “I just read an interesting post on Zen Habits about why ….” And even if they disagree, that’s still good news. Whether people disagree with you or not is immaterial — you want them talking about you.
- People link to you. When other blogs talk about you, they link to you. And that’s the most important effect of all.
- Digg traffic. The most important thing on Digg is the headline — it’s about the only thing the Digg users see. If your headline is bold, it is more likely to get Dugg. And getting on the Digg home page sends a lot of traffic. Sure, that traffic will die down again in a couple of days — but in the meantime, a dozen or two more links will pop up pointing at your popular article. That all starts with boldness.
- You become an expert. This will be a controversial assertion, most likely, but I’m speaking from experience. If you talk about the same topics as everyone else, but you say it in a bolder way, over time you will begin to be see as an expert on the topic. Not only will you get people talking about you and linking to you and Digging you, but your credibility will go up. People will start to call you a “productivity guru” or an “SEO expert” or a “fitness guru”.
- Cumulative effect. What’s the effect of all of these things? Being noticed, being clicked on, being talked about, being linked to, being Dugg (or delicious’d or reddited or scaped), and being considered an expert … well, the long-term answer is obviously more links and more traffic and more search engine traffic and more ad revenues. That is probably a good thing for most blogs.
I can personally testify that this method of being bold with your post topics and headlines works. I don’t purposely exaggerate, but I take a regular post and bring it to another level.
When I wanted to do a post with some of my favorite Getting Things Done links, I decided to do a Massive GTD Resource List post instead. It took me a couple hours longer to write than the original idea … but it was a hit. When I wanted to do a post about frugality and being romantic, I expanded it to another hit: 50 Ways to Be Romantic on the Cheap. When I wanted to do an article on some of the things I’ve learned as a runner, I bolded it up and got another massively popular post: Beginner’s Guide to Running.
These all took much longer than normal, and I had to back up each post with research and good ideas, but they worked. Big time.
Take your regular post ideas and bold them up. You’ll get noticed, and that’s what matters.