Ever notice how everyone on the blogs you read seems to agree on everything?
We all know that content is king, that transparency is good, that sleazy sales pages are bad.
What we forget is that this little galaxy we’re occupying is only a tiny sliver of the universe. And if we want to expand our audience, we need to start boldly going beyond our own safe little corner.
I was recently exploring some strange new worlds on the Internet, places I hadn’t ever been before.
On this particular journey, I wasn’t looking for content, but for patterns and themes. Here’s what I found:
- Blog and site designs in the rest of the Internet universe are quite different. We might think that Thesis, Headway, and Frugal themes are everywhere — but they aren’t.
- Their presentation patterns are different. There are many more implementations of left-column, three-column, and, occasionally, one-column layouts.
- The way they display banners and advertising is considerably different.
- Highlighter much? The fake yellow highlighter we make fun of here as being ridiculously old hat is a common, accepted tool to focus attention.
- There are far, far fewer comments on posts, even on “big” sites, than what you’re used to seeing in our galaxy.
- The blogs you see on “everyone’s” blogroll simply don’t appear.
Their trends and pattern are different. They’re not necessarily worse, and they’re not necessarily better.
We’re in a hot, flat, and crowded galaxy
We often forget that the Internet is a network of data. Instead, we focus on sites that are just individual nodes in that vast network, and we mistake the part for the whole.
We don’t really understand what’s going on, because we don’t have a good mental picture of it. It’s too big to get our heads around.
The particular galaxy that we’re in is pretty dense, heavily-populated, and interconnected. We read each other’s stuff, link heavily, and have backchannel conversations. This interconnectedness and density creates a strong gravity well of ideas, patterns, and themes.
We’re just one galaxy, though.
Some galaxies are as tight as ours and others aren’t. But there’s so much space between us that what we do here hasn’t quite reached them yet, like the light from distant stars that takes millions of years to reach the earth.
We’re prone to assume that if we don’t perceive something, it doesn’t exist. Bad assumption.
Seeking out new civilizations
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit more on your game.
If you’re here reading this, it’s probably because you want to make your site better, and because you know where and how to find good information about that. That makes you different than most inhabitants of the other galaxies.
Just remember that what’s known and common here isn’t known and common elsewhere. In other galaxies, there’s no launch fatigue as we know it. There’s no third tribe. (Or first tribe, or second tribe.) Hell, there might not even be a Seth Godin.
Forget about “fields of opportunities.” There are whole galaxies of opportunities for you out there. While the particular aesthetic styles might be different, the principles of effective copywriting and SEO are universal. You don’t have to lower your standards just because the new galaxies you’re exploring seem to have less-evolved ideas of what makes a good blog.
To put it another way, visiting Rome doesn’t turn you into Caligula.
Instead of waiting around for the citizens of other galaxies to come to you, go to them instead.
Tips for interstellar explorers
Instead of using StumbleUpon in the usual robotic way, actually stop at a promising new website and get engaged. Hang around. See who they’re connected to. Be useful, relevant, and helpful there rather than on your own website or in your usual galaxy.
Click through to a commenter’s website, then click an interesting, unfamiliar link there. Repeat that a few times.
Follow your curiosity and you’ll probably find yourself in a third- or fourth-degree network from yours. Which pretty much puts you in the land of painted green dancing girls and monsters made from scraps of industrial carpeting.
It’s in those networks that you’re going to find your new readers. It’s also in those networks that you can really become next years’ A-lister, because A-lists are all relative to particular social networks.
If you’re happy where you are, then, by all means, stay put. Keep farming your own home planet.
But if your curiosity and ambition aren’t satisfied with that, consider this:
Someone out there in the Internet-universe is struggling with something you learned three years ago. What do they need, where are they, and how can you help them?