How do I stand out? It’s an age-old question.
And when it comes to online marketing (well, any marketing really…) standing out from the crowd is possibly the most important thing you can do.
Think about it – every day there are thousands of new blogs created. And what about all the successful blogs that already exist?
It’s a lot of competition.
In this post I want to share a few ideas about how to help you and your blog stand out on the web.
I hope it makes a difference!
How to stand out (and why it’s so important!)
I know I’ve mentioned this book a couple of times now but I really just can’t stress enough how important it has been for my business.
It’s called How Brands Grow and it’s basically an explanation of the science-based experiments into marketing that have been going on at The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.
Their results have been shocking.
And while I’m not going to go into them all here, the main one that struck me is the idea that loyalty is not as important as reach and having a distinctive brand.
That means we need to stand out and get in front of as many people as possible. If you’re not doing that your business is actually shrinking.
What I want to do now is show you a few ways I found that help a blog, website or personality stand out on the Internet.
So, what is a brand?
I’m going to be mentioning the word “brand” in this article a lot so I thought it might be a good idea to just talk a little bit about what that means.
It’s not your logo.
Although your logo is a part of it.
Heidi Cohen has a great list of definitions but my favorite one has always been:
“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” – David Ogilvy
When you think about your brand you want to think about how it looks, but also how it feels and what a person would think about when your blog comes to mind. How does it make them feel? What does it make them do?
It’s this “sum” of qualities that we need to make stand out.
Let’s go through some of them now.
NOTE: Standing out from the crowd needs to also be balanced with creating a quality blog with a deliberate strategy. Obviously you need to stand out but also be worth the memory space in the mind of the visitor.
1. Your name (and URL)
Choosing a domain name is actually one of the hardest parts about running a blog or an online business. I usually get about one email a week asking for help in this very area.
So what are your options for making it stand out?
- Keywords are important
If you are building a blog that is related to a specific key phrase then the words in your domain name matter. The problem is that most of the good ones are taken. If, for example, you are a physiotherapist in Alaska and you can get AlaskaPhysiotherapy.com then you will have an instant SEO advantage over a generic name like HappyPhysiotherapy.com. Mostly this helps you stand out to search engines.
- Short and memorable
If you are building a content site that is aimed at getting SEO traffic but also email subscribers and readers then short and memorable is your next best option. Keep it niche specific and don’t be afraid to “say” something. NerdFitness.com is the perfect example.
- Random and memorable
Websites like Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Imgur and so on have done very well with super-short but randomly funny or memorable names. I’ve never been brave enough to do this but they certainly stand out. You will have to work a bit harder to communicate what your brand does, however.
- The personal brand
There have been a few people lately moving towards a personal brand name where they use their full name as their domain name and website name. This is a good long term approach and helps you to manage your reputation online – especially if you have many projects on the go. Chris Ducker is an obvious example of this done extremely well.
Try to avoid numbers (is it two or 2?) and more than two-word combos. If you can instantly communicate what you’re about and why you’re different, while still being short and careful then you are onto a winner.
Don’t get too disheartened at this stage – it’s still possible to stand out with modern domain name choices.
2. Your logo, design and associated elements
Coming up with a good logo is hard because it needs to communicate so much and still be simple and affordable. A good one often costs thousands of dollars. Or, if you’re a bank, a cool $15m!
- Keep the logo simple
You don’t need to have a globally recognized symbol when you first start out. Danny Brown has simply used his name in an elegant and perfectly sized typeface. But if you have an idea, a simple and elegant logo like at ViperChill will be a winner.
- Don’t go cheap
If you are going to get a professionally designed one please don’t use a $5 logo site. Most of the graphics are ripped off some other site, and the cheapness is often the only thing you’re communicating.
- Match colors and styles
If you do get a logo created you want that branding to flow through the colors, styles, fonts, etc. so that the whole thing looks like one solid whole. Whacking a logo up the top and then having disjointed elements everywhere else will make you less memorable.
- Use photography to show difference
Professional photographs of yourself can go a huge way to making a point of difference. People get used to seeing your face. The “couch” photo that I use on the homepage and on social media gets so much feedback and I think has gone a long way in helping to make this brand stand out.
- Consider branding personification
One of my favorite examples of this is Roger from Moz. He is the little robot that you see one all of their ads and blogs posts. As soon as you see him you know it’s some brilliant Moz content and it really brings the brand together despite hundreds of different authors. Social Media Examiner also does this well with the jungle theme.
Roger from Moz in his many different variations.
As you go through this process keep asking yourself whether its standing out from your competition while still communicating your ideas and philosophies.
3. Your content and message
As far as I’m concerned, this is the part that is the most important for blogs and bloggers. You can get away with the other stuff (although it will hurt conversions) but you can’t get away with mediocre content or messaging. It has to be distinctive.
So how do you stand out?
- Emphasise your point of difference early
Make sure that you know what you point of difference is, and make sure you emphasise it as soon as someone hits the site. Your tagline is a good place to start, or a story in the sidebar like Neil Patel does.
- Find a style and stick to it
At the start you should experiment with lots of styles, but once you find what works you should stick to it. You want people to know that they are on your blog or reading and article that you have produced. This is a lot harder than it seems.
- Make your message flow through everything you do
One of the best recent examples of this is when Pat Flynn wrote about his website re-design and how they came up with the idea that he was the crash test dummy of online business and passive income. It really felt like his brand became “solidified” after this.
- Keep tweaking based on feedback
If you don’t have a solid branding idea to begin with it’s a good idea to keep tweaking it based on what people are saying about you, and where you think the market might take you. For example, you might evolve into a tutorials-only site based off of all the shares you’re getting from your industry.
- Align yourself with the right people
One of the ways to stand out, ironically, is to be associated with other similar blogs of high quality. This means mentioning them in your content, and writing similar (but better!) content than they produce. If people start mentioning you in the same breath as the other websites you’re onto a winner.
- Be Japanese
Well, not Japanese. But maybe manga. This is a bit of an homage to Maki from Dosh Dosh who mysterious disappeared after gaining tens of thousands of subscribers and building a blog where every post was a different manga character. It was brilliantly distinctive and I really miss him (or her…).
- Be as useful as you personally can handle
One of the things I like to remind myself of is how much this site is associated with my face and name. And I try to think about all the tens of thousands of people who visit each week. When I do that I feel encouraged and want to be as useful as I possible can, trying new things to help people. This is a good guide for a brand and product. People notice.
Don’t worry if you can’t figure out all of this stuff right away. Good content will evolve and you will slowly find what works and what you like doing.
People (and examples) that can help you stand out
If you’ve ever talked about branding, logos, marketing, etc. at college you’ll know that the topic can go on forever. There are entire degrees devoted to it and some people (like above!) spend their whole lives trying to figure it out.
And because I can never write a post that totally solves a problem, I always try to include some examples and resources that will help you to take your learning to the next level.
Here are some cool things to look at and think about:
- The evolution of 25 famous logos
Here’s how a bunch of well-known logos have evolved and improved over the years.
- Why a logo does not cost $5
A good read explaining some of the reasons you shouldn’t do a logo cheap.
- How our eBook launches have evolved
A great writeup by Darren on how his big launches have evolved over the years.
- How Social Media Examiner cut through and grew its list 234%
This is a really cool little chat about how SME did it in a really crowded market.
- Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks: A tale of two coffee marketing giants
A really interesting read with some stats on how these two big companies arrived and then flourished.
- 30 ways to make your business stand out from the crowd
I’m not usually a fan of collections of tips but this one has some very actionable points from some very smart individuals.
- Dooce’s Dilemma
A fascinating read about one of the world’d biggest bloggers and what it takes to make a name for yourself.
- 70 of the best blogs for creative inspiration
Almost as much for their tips, the blogs here are almost all examples of solid brands executed very well.
- 10 branding lessons every graduate should know
Some really quite different tips here on some of the lessons business grads are missing.
- Branding lessons from religion
A very interesting take on religion and how good some churches are at marketing their product.
Do you stand out?
I’d be really interested to know whether you think you and your blog stands out from the crowd. Or maybe you know of a blog that really stands out? Please leave me a comment below letting me know your thoughts. Maybe we can help a few blogs change?
Top photo: Ryan McGuire.