This is the perfect post for anyone who’s been blogging for a while and struggling to find the inspiration after exhausting the depths of their knowledge, trying to come up with topics to write about, but still not reached the authority status they’ve been after. Avoid writing the dreaded ‘filler’ content, where you reshape content that you’ve already written, and start writing unique and personal content that people actually want to read.
Before I start, I would like to thank Steve Kamb for his incredibly insightful interview with us, where he talks about his website Nerd Fitness. It was his final section, on why he’s successful, and others may not be, that really struck me. Here’s what he wrote:
I think the biggest mistake people make in the online fitness industry is that they’re not unique. There are millions of fitness blogs out there, so writing the same stuff that other people write is a surefire way to go unnoticed. I actually wrote 5 articles a week for the first 9 months of my blog, and it resulted in 90 subscribers! 90! Why? Because I wrote what I thought other people wanted to read or what worked for other sites, rather than what I wanted to read.
After 9 months, I decided to make a change, and injected WAY more personality (and thus nerdiness) into Nerd Fitness, and almost overnight it took off. Had I not made this change, I’m not quite sure where I’d be today.
So, if you’re trying to stand out in a crowded field (online income generation, finance, fitness), find a way to BE UNIQUE! I’m certainly not a fitness expert, and I’m not the best fitness blogger out there, but you can sure as hell believe that I run the best fitness blog out there…dedicated to nerds. Eventually you can cover more general topics, but in order to have an audience you need to find a way to get noticed in the first place.
As someone who write three times a week, but doesn’t quite see the sort of growth I’m looking for, it got me thinking about what I can be doing differently.
I’ve always said that when it comes to blogging, or anything in life really, if you want to succeed, you have to do the best that you can. There’s no point in providing the internet with more average content that it doesn’t need, because that doesn’t make you any better than the next person. That’s why I’ve always written the best content that I can, and it’s what I believe separates me from the competition. But there’s something else I can do; I can be different.
Now that I look back on it, I can see how some of my most popular content has helped to make my website more successful, and how some of that content differs to what I usually write. These posts were much more personal, where I would talk about my own opinion on something, and this would spark conversation. Conversation leads to sharing, and sharing leads to new fans, and so on.
Until recently, I’d never really looked at what some of my popular content had in common, I would simply say that, ‘those are top lists’, and ‘that one’s controversial’, or ‘that’s current and opinionated’, I had never said before what they all had in common, which was that they were all a matter of my opinion. I would say that I have a pretty strong opinion, and a writing style that helps people to understand what I’m saying, which certainly helps to get people on my side, and that has contributed to the growth of my website.
What should I write about?
Well, to know what’s the most popular, it’s always good to call on our old friend Google Analytics. When I go over the whole span over my website, and look at the most popular content, I can see quite clearly that 8/20 of the top 20 posts are based largely on my opinion, and three of these are top lists. Now, I’ve been through top lists in some detail before, so I’m not going to mention it again, as you should all be well aware of what they do. If not, click here.
The other five posts are as follows:
- Top 10 Photography Clichés You Should Avoid To Improve Your Photography
- 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer
- 10 Reasons Your Photos Suck
- The World’s Most Expensive Photo – What Makes It So Great?
- 10 Reasons Why Being A Photographer Sucks
Notice anything about them? Two things spring to mind when I see that list, firstly, all but one of them is in a ‘top 10’ list format, and secondly, they all seem to focus on the negative.
Leaving the forth post aside for a second, lets focus on the other four for now. It’s quite clear that people are interested in the negative aspects of a problem, which point out their mistakes (in a list in this case), rather than positive solutions. I should make a point here, that although there are posts such as 10 Tips For Sharper Photos in the top 2o, what makes these results so special is that they’re the only negatively focused titles I have, rather than a huge number of positive ‘top 10’ lists that I’ve written. Now, I’m no psychologist, and I’m not about to start writing about why this may be, but all I know is that this seems to be true.
But I don’t want to write negatively?
Good news, you don’t have to! None of these posts are negative posts, they merely highlight a problem, or a potential problem, and then I talk quite positively about how you can solve it. For whatever reason (again, I’m no psychologist), people are more interested in being pointed out where they’re going wrong, than where they can go right. The thought that they may be doing something wrong is what interests the reader, which is all about what those top three posts are about. It’s all about capturing the reader with an interesting title, then following it up with relevant content, coupled with a positive spin, and then you’re well on your way to writing more popular posts.
What about being personal?
Well all eight of the posts that I’ve mentioned (the five above, and the three top lists), all include a personal opinion on a subject, and that is what people seem to be interested in. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd, and what makes people interested in you, and remember you. A different take on a common subject is going to separate you from the rest of the pack, and will help you to stand out to your readers, who will begin to really value your opinion… if you can support the points you’re making.
Don’t get me wrong, I get people disagree with me all of the time, but I carry on with what I’m doing, because these people are the minority, and the majority of people who comment will agree or at least provide their own take on a situation. When it comes to dealing with negativity on the internet, you really have to just pay no attention to it. Let it go over your head, and if anyone decided to leave a negative comment, that you don’t feel in contributing, then don’t accept it – it’s your website. If however they disagree, but provide their own thoughts on the subject, then accept and reply to them, and spark a conversation. All of this is good for Google, and creating interest in your posts – people read comments.
Writing an Opinion Piece
When I say opinion piece, I’m referring to a post that is largely based on your own personal thoughts, and not backed up by hard facts. So whereas Top 10 Photography Clichés You Should Avoid To Improve Your Photography may be considered a tutorial, The World’s Most Expensive Photo – What Makes It So Great? would not be, and that is what we’re going to be looking at here.
I wrote The World’s Most Expensive Photo – What Makes It So Great? on a whim really, I couldn’t think of anything good to write about, but I had recently learned about the sale of the world’s most expensive photo, which had sold for the princely sum of $4.3 million. I had done some reading about it online, purely out of interest, and the biggest problem that people seemed to have with it, was that it didn’t seem at all interesting. Have a look below, what do you think of it? Not really a lot going on is there? Well, that was a common thought, so I tackled it with what I thought was so good about it, and how I grew to love it.
This was greeted with a really positive response, which got people talking. Not only that, but I started to rank in Google for it too. Not a lot of results, but I was doing much worse with Google then, than I am now. The point is that I found a niche within my own niche to write about, using my opinion, and it became very popular.
Because it was my opinion, and an opinion that people seem to support for that matter, rather than some facts, people started to share it. That includes Google, as I previously mentioned. This contributes towards my authority status on the subject of photography, as I could point out what people couldn’t see for themselves. It may not seem like a lot to some people, but that was an incredible amount of traffic from Google for me at that point, and the same goes for Facebook. The bottom result is from a forum that I posted the link on (just in a comment reply), and it proved to be a hot topic. If you want a fast track to becoming an authority on a subject, then this is what you have to do.
How to Write an Opinion Piece
There are a few guidelines you’re going to want to follow.
Stay Current. Stay Relevant.
This is probably the most crucial element behind writing an opinion piece, because if I had written that same post now, rather than back in November, then it’s unlikely that it would have the same affect. People were interested at the time, because it was current and relevant, but if you asked them how much it sold for now, or who took it, or what it’s called, it’s unlikely that they would know. I recommend following forums, and RSS feeds for different websites, and see what’s becoming a hot topic, and then act quickly and write about it.
I wrote about Canon Vs. Nikon, which is a big debate with photographers, and even though I’m very happy with what I’ve written, it hasn’t really provided me with many visitors, because it’s not a current topic that a large group of people in my niche are interested in.
Set yourself boundaries.
Don’t start exploring other niches. Stay within the realms of your knowledge and try to write about what you know best. I’m very good at studying composition, so I could decode the photo above and tell people why I thought it was so good, which was met with a positive response. It was clear that I knew what I was talking about, and if people disagreed, then it was a matter of their opinion, but they would still respect mine. If you start writing about something that you know little to nothing about, then people are going to see right through it and stop listening to what you’re saying.
Research Research Research.
Whatever you’re going to be writing about, make sure you research it a lot, even if you’re only going to write a short post about it. Not only will you find other people’s opinions that may influence yours (I recommend looking through comments for this), but you’ll soon find the general consensus on what you’re writing about, and then you can choose to contrast or reinforce that viewpoint.
It’s an opinion piece, so make sure people know that. In mine, I said on more than one occasion something along the lines of ‘all art is subjective, and what I think is good, may be different for you, but here’s what I get from the photo…’ You want to keep your reputation, and all though some discussion is good, you don’t want people to outright disagree with you, so again, back up what you’re saying with some explanation, and make sure people know that it’s your opinion – they will start to value it.
Ask your readers what they think.
This is a great way to improve reader interaction, and the majority of people reading your post will have an opinion, it usually sparks a pretty decent discussion. Comments will appear in Google too, so you want as many as you can get really, so long as they’re relevant. It also means that if they’re willing to comment on a post, then they’re probably willing to share it too, as they will likely know someone else who may be interested.
Well there you have it, my favourite new tip to becoming an authority in your niche. If you’ve enjoyed the post, then do me a massive favour and click ‘Like’ below.