10 Examples of Why You Must Be Different to Stand Out Online

stand out onlineWhat is the real difference between the blogs that have a huge following and the ones that struggle to get anyone to care about them?

In this post we’ll explore the single most important thing you can do to get people to take notice of what you’re doing online: be blunt about why you are different.

We’ll do this by showing you six examples of successful blogs that other people have created and four examples of how we use our own blogs to stand out online.

Let’s jump right in.

1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Within our Traffic School course we have an interview with Ramit Sethi where he talks about why he actually encourages some people to stop reading his website.

Ramit is very blunt about the fact that if you think you get too many emails on his mailing list, don’t agree with his opinion, and are just going to hate on what he writes that he doesn’t want you as a reader.

He is also not afraid to create a video to call people out when they email him to ask whether or not they should trade-in a car they have only had for a year. (Spoiler: He tells them to “drive that shit into the ground!”)

By not holding back, Ramit’s huge audience values his real opinion and advice because he never sugar coats anything.

2. The Art of Non-Conformity

Another guest lesson in Traffic School is with Chris Guillebeau, who actually writes about a huge range of topics, but had an interesting enough story to help him stand out in the beginning.

His quest to visit every country is unique and inspiring to a wide range of people. His goal to build a movement of people living unconventional lives was also timed right with the downturn of the world economy and the rise of unemployment. All of these factors lead to the success of the Art of Non-Conformity blog.

He then delivered a wide variety of products to help people reach their goals through freelancing, travel hacking, and blogging.

Chris doesn’t follow anyone else’s plan for life and his audience connects with him because they don’t either.

3. Art of Manliness

In a world where men’s magazines tout driving sports cars and getting six pack abs, Brett McKay began the Art of Manliness to go back to the roots of what it means to be a man.

By branding the site’s design and content towards something your Grandpa would admire, Brett immediately showed visitors how his site was different from a brand like Maxim, Men’s Health, or Sports Illustrated. 

In our interview with Brett on Expert Enough he talks about how when he was in law school he decided to start the blog that now has over 125,000 subscribers and how he was able to stand out from the crowd.

4. The Personal MBA

Josh Kaufman set out to create an alternative to dropping five or six figures on a graduate level business education and started reading a ton of business books. He blogged about the books he was reading at The Personal MBA, developed the best books into a “top 99″ list, and also published all of the top lessons into an international best seller.

Instead of just writing about the same thing over and over again, Josh’s quest to put together the ideal selection of business knowledge in a single place led to his success. 

In our interview with Josh Kaufman over on Expert Enough he discussed exactly why people started to care about what he was doing and how most of the business books he was reading through his initial research were actually pretty awful. The value he added was in saving people’s time by telling them which books were the best for them to read.

5. Mars Dorian

You’d be hard pressed to find someone that draws in the same style that Mars does, not to mention how he uses his drawings to teach people about building an audience online.

In a relatively short timeframe he became well-known amongst bloggers just for doing something completely different: comics about blogging.

He drew comics that poked fun at the different kinds of bloggers and genuinely commented on blogs all over the place.

His no B.S. approach to blogging and unique drawings led people to immediately take notice of what he was doing.

6. Smart Passive Income

In an “internet marketing” niche that is full of websites that look spammy and are just trying to get you to buy something, Pat Flynn built SPI around his likable personality. I’d argue that injecting himself into his brand was the catalyst for his massive success online so far.

His podcast is like you are just sitting and chatting with him 1-on-1. He doesn’t hard-sell his affiliate products, but instead gives his actual experiences with them. 

In our lesson in Traffic School with Pat we discuss why the best sales pitch is no sales pitch at all. This is a complete 180 degree switch from what you see most places online.

7. CorbettBarr.com

To explain how he was different in July 2010, Corbett wrote a post called ‘33 Things I Have Never Told You‘. That post now has nearly 200 comments and 50 trackbacks of people doing the same kind of thing.

By writing this post he showed his readers that he wasn’t afraid of being open with people and seeing what he is really like.

This transparency has continued throughout Think Traffic, The Million Dollar Blog Project, How to Start a Blog that Matters, and everything else we do here at Insanely Useful Media.

Transparency online makes us human.

8. Expert Enough

To explain how EE was going to be different we created the Expert Enough manifestoThe manifesto has been shared on social media over 600 times and has spawned numerous other manifestos on sites around the web.

And heck, this wasn’t even a fresh idea. We used the Holstee manifesto as inspiration.

On Expert Enough, we also work hard to publish meaningful editorials on where society is headed like The Lost Art of Becoming Good at ThingsThis pillar article alone lead to massive amounts of traffic via Hacker News and social media (1,250+ shares and counting).

The main message of EE is simple to understand and that is what attracts people to it the most.

9. Pocket Changed

Sometimes a good rant is what you need to publish to make yourself stand out.

At Pocket Changed I commonly write to dispel common misconceptions I start to see around the blogosphere, social media, or just internally with my own audience’s responses.

For example, I wrote about why you probably shouldn’t quit your job to travel the world. I also write to position myself out of the boring “personal finance niche” by writing about why my site isn’t typical or what you might expect on your first impression of the brand name.

Go on a rant every once and while. People will see that you actually have an opinion.

10. Think Traffic

We know there is a lot junk online about the best ways to “make money on the internet” and that is why we work so hard here at Think Traffic to explain why we’re different.

We don’t promise any get rich quick schemes, just long-term strategies that actually work if you follow them.

In our footer we directly point out this out by saying:

 “Internet “experts” will tell you if you just learn the latest social media and SEO tricks you’ll have a massive audience beating down your door.

They’re convincing enough to believe until you try the typical advice and realize it’s just a bunch of empty promises. Find out how Think Traffic’s approach is different.

Our about page then goes on to share exactly what makes us stand out from the noise.


Your Turn

What makes you stand out online? Why should people even care about what you are saying?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


– Caleb Wojcik


Published by

Caleb Wojcik

Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.

34 thoughts on “10 Examples of Why You Must Be Different to Stand Out Online”

  1. So having something to say, doing something different and writing about it, and being transparent is the way to go? I guess the opinion need to be valid and relevant and whatever you are doing and reporting on has to be of interest to your audience. Yet another case for finding a niche within a niche and actually being interested in what you do.

    Thank you for the inspiration today!

    – Razwana

    1. Absolutely Razwana. I believe that genuine interest in a subject is the best way to continually have the motivation you need to create a blog that matters and grows.

  2. I believe that magic lies at the intersection of 2 ideas. If you look at the most popular bloggers out there, you will find one of 3 things:

    i. Either they were the first one in their field (Seth Godin)
    ii. Or they took a contrarian view (GetRichSlowly.org)
    iii. Or they positioned themselves at the center of two styles

    I run an internet marketing blog – which may be the most crowded topic to blog on. And so, I make an attempt to stand out by mixing stories with strategy.

    Another thing I tend to do is right for folks at an advanced level only. People can Google for simpler how-to-do stuff.

    1. Very true Ankesh. If you just write about the basics all the time your blog becomes a commodity instead of something people value.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. F*ck was I hoping you had a woman on here –
    We’ve been busting our asses with the “Start a Blog that Matters” program and LOVE it Corbett – in fact, we’re sending a hot tip your way today. Only Christina has been up all night trying to finish some wow factors before having you blaze through – shuck-a-rooz and F-it – come on by, we are 8 weeks in. . .and WILL be on here next time!!!!
    Anonymom & Christina @ FBombMoms.com

    1. Thanks for the link Caleb !!! :-)
      That is a huge help, your work and care here is unbeatable.
      -Think Traffic, Corbett & Start a Blog That Matters have been the best resources for us on the web in 2012. Cannot thank you all enough!!!

  4. Great analysis and thanks for featuring me here along with a bunch of other amazing people — I’ve learned from each of them, one way or another.

    One suggestion, if I may — are there any female bloggers you think would be a good fit for this list? All ten here are guys (I think).

    A few I can think of off the top of my head:

    Colleen Wainwright
    Nicole Antoinette
    Valeria Maltoni
    Amber Rae
    Susannah Conway
    Marianne Elliott
    Danielle LaPorte
    Erin Doland

    Of course, there are many more — those are just the first ones I thought of that fit the criteria of significant audiences and standing out.

    1. Absolutely Chris. I think a list strictly featuring women is in order next and a few of the ones you mentioned (Danielle, Amber, Colleen) were the first to come to my mind.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment, we really appreciate it. I’m looking forward to the reading the $100 Startup when it comes out and attending WDS again this year.

    2. Thanks, Chris!!! – from two Female Fans
      We have been following you for a year I think, and LOVE that you use Instagram! It has allowed me to show my boys your travels without them feeling like they have to “read a blog” (they are young an the photos are perfect with short captions, thank U!)
      You have been an inspiration for so many – hope the summits are all huge hits:-) !

  5. Awesome post Caleb. I’m a total believer in being different to stand out. Sometimes it’s not so obvious and takes time to find your own unique angle or style. I love the examples and I found some new sites to check out.

  6. Great point, great list, and excellent blogs featured.

    I don’t disagree that your blogs are stunning (Pocket Changed, Expert Enough, Corbett Bar, Think Traffic) — but maybe 4/10 should have been used to highlight blogs that we aren’t already visiting. :)

  7. Caleb – very good article. It’s true that standing out is key but even more so within your niche (as you explain).

    The challenge I’m finding is narrowing my audience down to who I am I targeting. For example, I know I’m not for the real hardcore preppers. However, I get a lot of those folks commenting/interacting. While that is good, it’s not my target audience (families trying to prep within their means).

    Anyway, great read and hoping to glean some ideas to take my site to the next level. Thanks again.

  8. Caleb this is such a fantastic showcase of a very diverse and memorable set of websites.

    One of the things that makes me unique is my approach to online marketing through my video series “Inside The Mind” where we use humor and slick editing to make the online marketing information more palatable.

    Much like Mars, I don’t mind poking a little tongue in cheek fun at the space, because there are so many atomotons out there spitting back the same information that Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, or Darren Rowse has already said.

    Could I add to this list too http://socialtriggers.com ? Derek Halpern has done a wonderful job highlighting the psychology of sales online by weaving in classic studies and drawing often times mind boggling parallels as to why certain things work.

  9. Your question really woke me up a little bit. Within the last 48 hours I kind of gave myself a content audit. Moral of the story – I love giving out information and helping people just missing a bit of an edge. So, with that my charge going forward is to find a more impassioned voice which has been both fun and exhausting. Exhausting because I look back at two years worth of blogging and realize I should be much farther that I actually am progress wise. No one else to blame but me and with that I have a serious drive to really make my site, http://www.financiallydigital.com, one that people start talking about very shortly.

  10. Love the examples you shared, each of which brings a different approach to meeting the criteria you laid out for being successful. I went the manifesto route initially to create an anchor for the blog (and something around which to build products), and have structured many of the posts around the themes expresses in the manifesto. Additionally, while I write in a crowded field (running), I attempt to stand out by focusing on helping “real people” who would love to be better runners but have trouble finding the time to do so – thus targeting a specific (and passionate) niche.

  11. They are mostly business/money oriented.

    Some of the differentiation seems pretty weak – it comes down to the bloggers particular style. I’ve heard of most of them and decided not to follow them. Though I suppose I do at least know about them.

    I do think it is important to stand out but this doesn’t tell me how to do that. The big question I think is: How do I find out what my audience cares about so I can stand out in this way (or these ways).

    1. Evan,

      Corbett has covered USP which is essence is standing out and being different.

      I do believe there is also another post on finding what your audience wants to hear but market research can cover that.

      Good post guys. A few of the examples were used in Trust Agents where the talk about gate jumping and creating your own genre. Travel Hacking and Lifestyle Design are two good examples of genres.

  12. Examples given are great and I think there are three tings really that makes these blogs stand out:
    1. Interesting and memorable design
    2. Very useful content
    3. Well written ( easy to read )

    All my blogs have failed because all or one of these things were always lacking. :(

  13. Hey Caleb,
    I echo the 3 suggestion above… just for emphasis:
    – more women
    -more social evolution… not just about guys making more money
    – less about you guys (bonuses is a nice idea).

    Nice to see you guys integrate feedback like it’s a two-way conversation :) Good modeling boys.


    1. Hey Cate,

      Thanks for the feedback. We do our best to feature a wide range of sites, both ones that are teaching people how to grow a business online and ones that are not like that. I would argue that about half of the blogs about aren’t directly related to “making more money”.

      For some other posts highlighting blogs not in the “internet marketing” space, check these ones out:

      Hope that helps!

      We’ll also be featuring a list of only women shortly too. :)

  14. Hi Caleb, I just want to add that the style and nature of your content can often also make you different from other blogs. I have an internet marketing blog and I have been able to grow my blog nearly 3000 uniques/month in a short space of time mainly because I took the approach of “show all” and sharing all my practical IM strategies for free to help my subscribers.

    1. Being authentic and open, especially in the IM space, is important to show that you actually are doing what you preach.

      Thanks for the comment Anshul.

  15. I think that when it comes to ranting, it’s not so much about going on a rant, but just taking some time to really feel into your opinion instead of being influenced by all the blogs you read. That way your opinion is a little generic, and it doesn’t necessarily come off as an angry rant either.

    I think it’s great to look at successful blogs, and it’s even more important again not to use these blogs as a basis for yours… because copycats are so common online, and copying other people’s voices/ideas/designs never helps you stand out. :)

  16. It is true that if you want to establish yourself in the online world, you should be yourself and you should be unique. Instead of imitating others and spending time for such unproductive affairs, you can focus on your hidden potential to grab new opportunities. Success follows you. The examples shared here are very useful to stand out online.

  17. Loved the examples you gave here on how some well known blogs are different.

    I find It’s really hard to be different online because it really feels like everything has been done.

    For me how i try to be different is intersecting two ideas that don’t or should exist together. I like to talk about being adventurously practical.
    I use my own family and experiences to show how even a family from the suburbs can find adventure while living abroad while still staying well grounded. Seems like there’s lots of young single people talking about it but not families or couples with loads of responsabilities so i decided to start up a blog about it..

  18. As someone who has tried the online business on one go-around and failed – I completely agree with being unique AND being passionate about what you do. While I believed in my concept – I wasn’t passionate about it. I didn’t really feel like I knew how to execute it – so instead of making it more a niche – I broadened the field to include everyone. Which in turn brought zero hits.

    This time around I’ve learned from my lesson and am focusing on what I love to do, am passionate about, and on how it helps others. A big learning curve – but I expect I’ll stand out more going this route than my first time.

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