Want more readers? Start asking why


Content is now a commodity. You can buy well-written blog posts, articles and copy for pennies from people on Craigslist, oDesk, etc. Like any commodity, it’s much harder to differentiate yourself using content than it was a few years ago.

Think about Netflix for a second. When they first launched their streaming service, it was mind-blowing. Virtually any television show or movie was available at your fingertips. It was impressive.

Now? With technology making it easier than ever to be 2nd to market, there is only a short period of distinct advantage for early movers. On-demand television and movie programming is now commonplace. Amazon, Comcast, Verizon, NBC and others offer similar services. They all basically do the same thing. On-demand video streaming for the masses used to be unique. Now it’s a mass-produced standard service that is uniform no matter where you get it from.

Online content has followed a similar path. 10 years ago, a company could stand out from the pack because they had unique and informative content on their website. Now 95% of websites are identical when it comes to the amount and type of content they are producing.

Writing content for your website is a nice first step, but if you really want to succeed you have to ask yourself why over and over again.

Why should somebody turn to your content over your competitors?
Why should you read my SEO blog instead of one of the 250,000,000 others that exist?
Why is your time better spent reading my blog than doing anything else?

Having a blog used to place you on a stage in front of a packed auditorium. It still gets you on the stage, but now you have 1,000 other people next to you, screaming at the top of their lungs. If you want readers, you better be prepared to tell them why they should care about what you have to say.

There’s no perfect answer to why but here are some that are on the right track:

– We are willing to take more risks. Be bold and take a stance with your content. Most blog posts are so bland and vanilla nowadays…if you write something with passion that might ruffle a few feathers, you are probably doing something right. I’ve always thought that the perfect blog post is one that 50% of people love and 50% of people hate. Make content that gets people talking.

– We are more transparent. Personal stories and experiences blow hearsay out of the water. Put yourself out there and let others learn from your mistakes. Let people peek behind the curtain. Tell people how you do something instead of telling them how they should do something.

– We look at things from a different perspective. FiveThirtyEight is a good example of this. They are writing about the same topics as every other publication (gender wage gap, for instance) but they are doing it from an analytical perspective.

– We are skeptical. After years of reading SEO blogs that publish recycled thoughts on a daily basis, this is one answer that hits close to home. Don’t rely on others truths. Go out and explore everything for yourself, then talk about it. If somebody says social signals push rankings like crazy, go out and see for yourself. Break away from the echo chamber.

To build something truly great you must ask yourself why over and over again.

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