Whether it's attached to a small business, a large corporation or maybe as a business in itself, a blog is a reflection of its owner. But you're not the only one blogging.
There are an estimated 68,124,670 WordPress sites, and for good reason; an active blog is necessary for a successful SEO initiative. Add to the mix the sites that run LiveJournal, Blogger, TypePad or one of the other blogging platforms, and there are easily over 150 million blogs on the Internet; so how do you get yours to stand out from the pack?
Many say that if you write compelling content that people want to read, the visibility and exposure will take care of itself. But in these days of intense online competition and easy access to blogging platforms, social media, and content creation specialists, I'd argue that simply isn't true.
What makes content compelling? Many blogs rehash the same information shared countless other places by adding a bit of their own style. But for the most part, the story, commentary, and information don't vary much from blog to blog.
Take a minute to perform a little experiment. Open Google News in a new tab or browser window. See the Top Story? Check to see how many sources there are for that story alone. There's a good chance you could wind up with over 2,000 different versions to choose from.
Select 10 of these sources at random and odds are you‘ll be reading the same story ten times over. Nothing new or different other than the author's name and maybe an image or two. They may change the wording around a bit, but not enough to really add anything new or exciting.
If someone stumbles across your blog for the first time, what are they seeing? Are they getting something new or just more of the same? Are they going to remember your blog and make a point to come back?
When many people think about this, they may have the feeling that their blog is a bit bland. Think your blog could use a little more spice and uniqueness? Let's take a look at some ways to spice things up for your readers.
1. Be Controversial
If you have ever seen the movie "Private Parts", then you may remember an exchange where Pig Vomit (played by Paul Giamatti) and a researcher (played by Peter Maloney) are discussing Howard Stern's popularity:
Researcher: The average radio listener listens for 18 minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for - are you ready for this? - An hour and 20 minutes.
Pig Vomit: How can that be?
Researcher: Answer most commonly given? "I want to see what he'll say next."
Pig Vomit: OK, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
Pig Vomit: But... if they hate him, why do they listen?
Researcher: Most common answer? "I want to see what he'll say next."
People love controversial topics, regardless of whether they agree with what you have to say. Just look at America's fascination with Sarah Palin. She created controversy with just about everything she did. Some people love her, others hate her, but nonetheless, she's stayed in the news.
Writing controversial content is a great way to get people to read your blog, share your posts, and comment on them, which drives social signals and activity. But you can't just throw anything up on your blog.
Always support your claims with facts. If you make blanket statements with nothing to support them, your blogging efforts will backfire. Controversy and opinions can be tolerated if there's something to back them up.
Additionally, make sure you pick a topic you're familiar with. Lack of knowledge around a controversial subject will stick out like a sore thumb, and hurt your credibility. But most importantly, make sure any controversy that you get involved with adds value. It shouldn't be hateful, spiteful or cheap. You want to get more loyal readers; not drive some quick traffic your way.
2. Top XX Lists
If you flip over to the NFL Network at any given time, there's a good chance you'll see one of their "top 10" shows. They have the top 10 quarterbacks, uniforms, undrafted players, draft busts, and many more.
The reason they air these so often is because people love lists. They're easy to digest and don't require a lot of thought. On the web, they're easy to read as well if you format them with headings, ordered lists, or bold font subheaders.
Lists also attract links easier than other forms of content and are usually shared more often, leading to higher organic search engine rankings, visibility, and traffic.
3. Solve a Problem
Starting a headline with "How To" is one of the easiest ways to capture a reader's attention. If they see that your content can solve their problem, you're much more likely to hook them. They'll come back to your blog time and time again for solutions if you're able to provide them.
Find questions in your field or niche and come up with the best solution for them. Write them down in simple to follow directions, or use video.
Most businesses claim to be industry leaders, or experts. But people want proof; they want to be shown, not told. Being able to solve problems for your readers shows that you are an expert. And that builds trust.
4. Take a Stand
Sometimes you have to cover current events in your blog. But just because everyone else is writing on the topic doesn't mean you have to be as bland as they are. If you're running a business, your blog can't be a personal sounding board for opinions, but it can be strong.
The best way to get noticed is to take a stand. Write the article using objective facts but throw your opinion in the mix.
Not sure how to take a stand? Look at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart". He interjects his opinions into the news just as much as he is "reporting." Dennis Miller was a master at this as well, and much more overt.
These days, blogs are everywhere; the content marketing trend is on the rise, and competition has become red hot. So, what are you doing to make your blog better than the rest?
Your blog should be your medium through which you build brand awareness, authority, credibility, and trust. It should drive traffic, leads, and sales. If it's not doing that for you yet, it's time to get strategic and competitive.
Outshine your competitors by simply being better than they are. Use these content tactics to achieve that.
Image Credit: Kevin Pack/Flickr