Define your Site by Blogging Outside the Box

This post was guest blogged by Chris Stark who blogs about Groovy Videos at Groovy Grooves.

Defining your blog can be a difficult process when starting a new site. It’s easy to see others writing about a topic, such as travel, video games, or sports, and immediately feel a bit of gold rush fever convincing you to write on the same topic and achieve similar success. The truth is there’s nothing stopping you from doing it. The barrier to entry in creating a new blog is almost completely negligible. Packages like WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, and Joomla, are free, simple to install (or require no installation at all), easy to use, and can have you up and running with a brand new blog in minutes. Web hosting is so cheap these days that companies such John Chow’s favorite, BlueFur, offer hosting for less than a couple of cups of coffee a month.  A domain name, at most registrars, will cost you less than 10 dollars a year. Even in a recession, hosting your own blog is affordable on almost any budget.

So staring a blog is easy. The challenge comes with spinning a well trodden topic into a creative approach that stands out among the masses. You could have great ideas, but if you can’t do anything to distinguish yourself from the plethora of competition, you might find your text falling on blind eyes (deaf eyes?). Luckily, the masses are called the masses for a reason; they tend to think and write alike. This is ideal for the creative thinker.

Your standard blog follows a pretty specific pattern, a 2-3 column layout, a large text area, a common plain theme, and a large number of posts that are entirely text. Like with anything, users can suffer from what I like to call "blog fatigue." No matter how great your content is, you may never convince a visitor to come back if you can’t make your site stand out from all the others. Here are some suggestions for ways of blogging outside the box and defining your site as unique among the masses…

Not every blog has to be a text based one

I can’t count the number of times I visit a site where it’s clear to me that their content would be much more suited for podcasting or video blogging but the authors instead opt to text blog exclusively because it seems like the thing to do. Think about the type of site and audience you’re trying to build, and design your blog to best reach them. Even if writing text based articles is the best option for you, it never hurts to mix things up every once in a while. John Chow constantly mixes his site up with a blend of image posts, video posts, and articles. Try to do the same in a way that improves the user experience on your site.

Don’t be afraid to embrace an unorthodox blogging format. All of the packages mentioned above are highly customizable and lend themselves greatly to unique expression of creative content.

Take a unique twist on a static niche

One of the consequences of a low barrier of entry when it comes to breaking into the blogosphere is that there is a lot of competition in almost every niche. In order to define your site in a way that makes people take notice, you need to approach the niche from an angle others aren’t. Ultimately, you want to create your own niche where one really hasn’t existed before. One of the best examples of this comes from a guest post written by Mike Henry. While his site is a travel and sporting event blog, Mike managed to create something unique by combining both his coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games and his travel to China in order to cover them. That’s outside the box thinking and will probably lead Mike to much success.

When it comes down to it, you have to sell your audience on why they should keep coming back to your site. If you stick with the status quo, you’ll most likely go nowhere. If you can draw inspiration from the hundreds of other sites in your niche and merge what they do right with your unique thinking, you’re almost guaranteed to have a winner on your hands.

Blow people’s minds with an incredible design

Besides good content, the second best way to encourage repeat readers is to give them something exciting to look at while they visit. It really is amazing how much a good design can improve your ratio of return. I’m not talking here about having to go out and purchase as $1,000 professional site design, but even little things can improve user experience on your site. Think of ways to present readers with older content they may have missed in a way that other sites don’t. Try different formats for your layout such as making full posts available on the main page instead of summaries. You’ll have to tweak and configure things over time, but slowly work on what your core audience is interested in and do your best to present it to them in a way that is both convenient and exciting. Use your audience as a guide, listen to their feedback and try to constantly improve your user experience. Your audience will thank you for it with repeat visits.

Pay attention to new technologies and use them to your advantage

If someone were to ask me what the "buzz" technology is as of late, I’d have to go with Twitter. While not really that interesting to the outside eye, Twitter offers many advantages to the blogger when it comes to expanding their reach and building up a large readership. One of the absolute best ways to continually stand out from other sites is to pay attention to new and expanding technologies and use them to your advantage while they’re hot. Imagine if you had jumped on the Digg bandwagon before the 200+ digg limit for the front page?

For an example of using technology take a look at the recent blog redesign from tech blogger Robert Scoble. On the sidebar, he’s integrated a FriendFeed widget (another hot technology site) which allows his readers to follow along with his work in twitter and postings on other blogs without having to know anything about FriendFeed itself. This is a really great way to leverage technology and make your site stand out from the crowd.

Offer opinion and insight instead of just hard facts

One of the biggest mistakes a new blogger can make is to only regurgitate web news and offer very little unique opinion on their chosen topic of discussion. If you want to stand out amongst millions of other sites that are offering similar content, demonstrate your ability to provide unique opinions in addition to the same things everyone else is covering. At the end of the day, people only need to read something once so if your site offers the same as everyone else, plus an interesting perspective that no one else has, which site do you think will get the repeat visitors? Try to put yourself in your reader’s shoes and ask, would I read my own site? What does this site offer that would make me choose it over ALL of the others?

In the end, the blogosphere is really a huge entity and only those who think outside the box have any hope at taking their site beyond your standard 100 feed readers and nothing more. If you want to take your site to the next level use your own creativity, experience, and sensibility to define your site in ways that other people aren’t even dreaming of. Once you do that, building your income to $29,000+ per month might just be next. 🙂


34 thoughts on “Define your Site by Blogging Outside the Box”

  1. You made some very good points there John. I often find myself affected by the “Gold Rush Fever”. It’s hard to learn to control yourself when it comes to that, but you learn eventually.
    I have been thinking about doing some video entries for my blog, because it is much easier to get your opinions out there if people can actually know what tone you are using, and can see some of your body language. Tone goes a long way when telling a story or giving advice.

    1. Terry Tay says:

      This post was guest blogged by Chris Stark 😉

      There are many blogs out there writing about the same things, but some take it and make it their own. John does a very good job of mixing different things together and I even find myself enjoying the videos that he posts, even when it’s just about some food. 😆 John has a knack for keeping me interested.
      ~Terry

      1. Ralph says:

        That’s true about this blog, there is always something interesting that you want to read.

      2. Syed Balkhi says:

        while this blog have interesting reads .. there is nothing in this blog now a days which teaches you how to make money online …….

  2. pileofblogs says:

    Pretty interesting read Chris. Deffinately some good points that I could use, and apply to my own site. I try to put my own twist on things and use a little humor, so hopefully it works for me. It is really hard to come up with something completely new, mind you, and I also believe that taking something that has been done and just trying to do it better can also work.

  3. broalex says:

    Good points in this post. But , no blogger can ever know what`s being written on millions of other existing blogs so they can avoid similar content. Recent Example : “Alexa Rankings changed” – this topic was covered by at least 1000 blogs , how could a blogger avoid this ? (no matter he is a professional blogger or just a beginner).. Visit the 1000 blogs and then decide not to write about Alexa`s Rankings? 😀 Pretty impossible .

    I think the way you can attract more people and the way you write your content is the key. (Site`s design and accessibility are also factors , to turn visitors into readers which are more valuable ) . 😈

  4. Thiago Prado says:

    To find a topic for the blog is a very big deal. In my case was very difficult because I like so many things that I couldn’t pick only one. Then I decided to follow John Chow’s opinion to blog about something you’ll never get tired of. Then I decided to blog about my country Brazil. I have to improve a lot but it’s start.

    1. Flimjo says:

      Yea, if it’s something you can go on and on about day after day, then you’ve found your blog topic. If it’s anything else, you’ll run out of blog posts quickly.

  5. David Schrader says:

    Good advice. It’s been taken into consideration.

    Can anyone reading these comments recommend a good WordPress person? I need to get a theme I bought customized. According to the person who I bought it from (Lee at ThemeSpinner.com) it won’t take more than an hour to make the changes I’m seeking. It just so happens he has not responded to any of my emails for a week and a half after agreeing to do the work himself. Hope it’s OK to inquire about this on the comments section – if not please accept my apologies. The author wrote about getting a custom theme so I figured it applied. :mrgreen:

    1. ssmilin says:

      Hi, You didn’t leave your name, but if I can help with your WP theme, I would be glad to try. Who is your host? maybe they can help also. ssmilin.com

  6. Flimjo says:

    Opinions are very important. Who the heck cares about regurgitated facts. When I visit a blog, I want opinions and insights on various things. If it’s a make money online blog, I want to learn about new and interesting ways to make money.

  7. Wade says:

    Starting your own blog is the easiest thing to do. I wrote a post on how to start your own web site. The rest is up to the user. You have to find a unique way to present your message or product. Then drive traffic, and monetize that traffic. The hardest part is getting the traffic. Without traffic, you don’t make any money.

    You can use social networks to your advantage to get free traffic back to your site, and with little effort. Check out my post on Site Hoppin for example. I wrote a little script that brings back the slide show view that Site Hoppin removed from their service.

    I gained over 1,000 beer credits in one day with no effort. The script ran in the background, racking up a credit every 10 seconds. 10 credits = 1 hop back to your site. So with 1000 i got 100 hits. Though that might not seem like a lot, for small-medium sites it is more than what you are already getting. Not only do you get traffic, but you have a chance to monetize off your ads. On top of that, you are getting your site seen!!! All it takes is a few people to like something about your site. If they like it and post about it on their site, then you have gained something more valuable. Now what if that person was someone like John Chow. He found your site, posted about it. Next thing you know you are getting over 1,000 per day. All it takes is 1 established person.

    You don’t even have to do anything. Just login to Site Hoppin, then load my script that runs off of my site. Next thing you know you have 100s if not thousands of beer credits. Turn your hops back on and let the traffic pour in. All you have to do is hope for two things. These users click some of your ads, or that someone picks up your site (like John Chow, or someone with a great deal of traffic). They post about it, and you are getting tons of recognition. Don’t miss this opportunity!

    Shudogg Dot Com – Make Money Online Blogging

  8. george tomas says:

    😎 I think the way you can attract more people and the way you write your content is the key.

    1. Yeah…there are many routes i.e social media etc

      You’ve just got to find your strong point and take advantage of it 🙂

  9. An incredible design is great, but starting even with a good design will go a long way because there are so may blogs and sites that are complete trash.

    1. I agree completely.

      Having a great design helps building up a successful blog

    2. Syed Balkhi says:

      yeah I know alot of sites that look good doesn’t have the info that keeps me there.

  10. Bill says:

    That is an interesting article and has really got me thinking. Of course, the bits about the content being key is obvious and I think most would also agree that the design is also very important, but it was the bit about using the new technology was the bit that interested me the most and has really got me thinking.

    What I wonder, is how to be one of the first to find the new technology before everyone else? Once it has been blogged about on one of the big ones, it becomes well-known very quickly.

  11. pablo savard says:

    Excellent advices. A good design and hard work on the blog articles are key if you want your readers to come back and visit again. But I think your internet activity is also very important if you want to first drive readers to your website.

  12. Noobpreneur says:

    Chris,

    You right – starting one is easy, but what make it stands out is the real deal 🙂 … and patience is key, I might add.

    Thanks for the great post.

  13. Ghostwriter says:

    Creating a blog and defining it is one thing but creating a buzz about it is an entirely different thing. A good looking blog like viralking.com can be started with just $500 (this includes everything) but to make the blog popular, you need to create the buzz because as John said, making $30,000 is next!

    I suggest that anyone who is interested in earning thousands of dollars from his blog should create a buzz every now and then. Buzz marketing is one thing but controversy marketing is totally different thing. Remember Techcrunch.com?

    So if someone wants to create a buzz and do controversy marketing, I can really help.

  14. Bash Bosh says:

    Great and very useful article.
    I think that quality contents, regularly updates and advanced design is key to create successful online blog.

    Of course that this won’t be happened over night, patience is also very important!

  15. Hi Chris
    Well I have to say when I saw the word “static” I was positive you were talking about my innovative homepage-but a) It’s not really THAT great but I do like it and b) you were talking about niche stuff anyway.. Awwww

    But I have seen very creative blogs layouts. And luckily those people also had something interesting to say. And quite honestly I’m way more impressed with unique and compelling insights than the look-and that’s pretty much how I approach blogging too.

  16. I like the idea about using photo and video, I barely ever use it so I’ll try it out and see if my readers like it.

    Everyone look at my layout and tell me if you like it, I designed it myself after receiving a $3500 quote and saying **** that 😆

  17. Felex Tan says:

    I agree with you that we should offer opinions instead of giving all the facts,but no space for readers to voice out.Readers are kind of out customers,what they demand then we supply the info to them.

  18. Mike says:

    Thanks for the mention! Can I get some link love? 😀

    1. Haha! Your blog is pretty cool btw 🙂

  19. Zak Show says:

    Good points, but not everyone can follow those as there are some difficult stuff to realize.

  20. David Grace says:

    Hello John,

    This by far is one of my favorite posts (though I have a lot of them). I have implemented a few of your suggestions already (from the ebook and this post). I am looking forward to the results as I continue to test.

    Thanks for the advice.

    David

  21. Sha says:

    Good post. I also very much agree with the static niche part. I’ve done that with my own site.

    And are people even reading that this was GUEST blogged?

  22. Syed Balkhi says:

    I have to agree with the opinions part otherwise you are just a copy cat who copies posts from tech blog or other sites and just paste it on your site.

  23. Thanks jc thats a nice post!

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