It’s time for another Million Dollar Blog Project update.
Today we’ll be talking about how to refine your blog’s topic and how to develop a killer unique selling proposition.
I’m also going to share the key question you have to answer to make your blog stand out, in just a moment.
We’ve chosen our topic for the MDBP blog we’ll be creating. Broadly, we’ll be covering “expertise” as a topic. That topic is a little broad and perhaps not unique enough to create a compelling blog around, so we’ll be narrowing things down a bit. I’ll use our blog as an example later on in this post.
If you haven’t already, you should start by choosing a general topic for your blog. That link will point you to several helpful resources and guidelines if you haven’t chosen a topic already.
Consider your audience’s needs and desires
Once you’ve chosen a topic, sit down and think about your potential audience. This might be tough because your audience doesn’t exist yet, but start by imagining the kind of people who might want to read your blog.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your audience (as it relates to your chosen topic):
- What do they need help with?
- What are they afraid of?
- Who (and what) do they admire?
- What dreams do they have that they might be afraid to admit?
- What do they regret?
- What have they failed at?
- What makes them laugh?
- What else do they read or watch?
- What conventional wisdom do they subscribe to?
- What are their current thoughts on your chosen topic?
Feel free to add your own questions to the list above.
The point is to put yourself in your audience’s frame of mind. Get to know their psychology. Figure out what makes them tick.
Then think about how you can best address their needs and desires.
Your audience may not have a direct “problem” per se, it could be that they simply desire to be informed or entertained. Those are valid desires as well, but you have to be prepared to address them in a compelling way.
Next, evaluate existing resources
How is your potential audience being served by existing blogs, books, magazines, TV, etc? Make a list of the top 10 or 20 blogs that are on the same or related topics.
Take some time to evaluate these other blogs. I’m not going to call them “competition” because it’s in your best interest to eventually help out the other blogs in your space (more on that later).
Get to know what the other blogs offer, how they relate to their audiences, what they do best, what they could do better, what content formulas they use and which segment of the market they appeal to.
Consider how you can address the market in a different and better way
Now combine what you know about your audience and how they’re being served today. Start thinking about opportunities.
How could you address your market in a new and compelling way?
You can look for direct evidence of unmet needs. Read blog comments and forums related to your topic. What are people searching for? What are they frustrated by? Which sub-groups aren’t being served well within the overall market?
You can also go with your gut. Maybe you just know that there’s a better way to relate to your target audience. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see your topic handled in a certain way.
Jot down all your ideas about how your blog could be different.
Think about the following:
- how could you address just a sub-segment of the overall audience?(segment by gender, age or other self-identifying factors)
- how could you address just a smaller piece of the overall topic?(for example, instead of “food” you could address “organic food”)
- how could you look at your topic through a new lens? (for example, how Chris Guillebeau used “non-conformity” to look at work, life and travel).
There are lots of ways to make your blog different. You can combine different aspects of differentiation as well.
For example, let’s say your broadly chosen topic is online gambling. One way to narrow that down would be to appeal just to women online gamblers. Another way would be to focus on one specific game, like blackjack. Another way to make your blog different would be to focus on online gambling for fun instead of profit.
There is no perfect answer here, you just want to make sure your blog stands out from the sea of other blogs on similar topics.
There’s also such thing as narrowing too much. You want your site to be different and specific, but you don’t want to narrow your topic so much that your audience becomes too small.
The key question you have to answer
Here’s the key question you have to answer: why should someone read your blog instead of the 100s of other choices that already exist?
Part of the reason people should read your blog should be because you write epic content. But epic content alone can’t be the only reason. Being better is a subjective measurement. You can’t just be better. You also have to be different.
If your blog isn’t different (and better), your potential readers will have no reason to choose you over what already exists.
Figure out exactly how your blog will be different
Now it’s time to take all of your ideas about how your blog could be different and boil it down into a single idea. This idea will inform your brand, tagline, about page and all of the content you create.
You need to be able to explain the idea in a sentence or two if possible. You’ll want to give people who stop by your new blog a quick and concise idea of whether your blog is for them. Again, your brand and tagline should help convey your differentiation. You can use a few sentences in your sidebar to help further your concept and create a connection.
Once you’ve identified and written out a concise statement of your blog’s purpose and differentiation, you should craft your brand based on your differentiation and most compelling aspects.
How we’re refining our topic for the MDBP
Let’s put this all into some concrete terms.
As I mentioned earlier, the blog topic we chose for our million dollar blog (based on your earlier nominations) is “expertise.”
Expertise on it’s own might be a little broad, it could also be a little boring, depending on how you slice it. To create a compelling and successful blog, we’ll need to refine the topic and figure out how we can best address a problem, need or desire for our target audience.
Here’s what we’ve come up with so far.
We don’t just want to talk about expertise academically, as in how someone can acquire expertise or become recognized as an expert. Those topics will definitely be part of what we cover, but again it might be a little too dry to create a popular blog around.
Instead of just expertology (the study of expertise), we also want to cover specific topics that people might want to gain some skills and knowledge on. That implies that we won’t be pursuing expertise in the absolute sense (as in the world’s greatest expert on “X”), but instead we’ll be talking about how to become expert enough (a relative expert) at a particular skill or on a particular topic to achieve your goal (learning something new, impressing your friends, getting a job, winning arguments, etc.).
We could cover anything from how to take incredible pictures with your cell phone to how to buy art as an investment to how to perform a magic trick to everything you need to know about wine to impress your fancy friends.
I consider myself lucky to have made a handful of close friends in the blogging community over the past couple of years. Last week I spent a few hours drinking way too expensive beers with two of my San Francisco blogger friends you might know: Scott Dinsmore (of Live Your Legend) and Leo Babauta (of Zen Habits).
Scott and Leo were kind enough to help me refine the idea for our new blog on expertise. A lot of great ideas came out of our conversation. More importantly though, Leo came up with the name for the blog that we’re going to run with: Expert Enough.
You can see the beginnings of the new blog over at ExpertEnough.com
Our tentative tagline for Expert Enough is: “Just enough to be dangerous.”
We’ll be taking a fun and experimental look at expertise for people who want to learn new things or even live like a Renaissance Man (or woman).
Thanks to Leo for the brand idea, and thanks to Scott for helping me think through things. Both of those guys also promised me guest posts on some interesting topics, so stay tuned.
I’ll talk more about our content strategy (and how to create one yourself) in an upcoming post. For now, let’s wrap up the discussion on differentiation.
When we think about competition related blogs on the expertise topic, it’s hard to point to specific examples of popular blogs in the “expertise” space (if you know of some, please let us know in the comments).
Some blogs that could be considered related might be: Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week blog (he likes to write about various experiments and topics), The Art of Manliness (manly skills and knowledge), Zen Habits (Leo writes about all kinds of skills he has learned and practiced). Again, these aren’t direct comparisons, but somewhat related.
Expert Enough will draw on some of the topics those other blogs have written about, and a whole lot more. Expert Enough will be different because it focuses specifically on how to gain new skills and knowledge (both theoretical and concrete) on topics that might take 5 minutes or 5 years to learn.
That’s our point of difference, at least to begin with.
The beauty of the Internet is that you can change your mind fairly easily. We’ll run with this idea for now, and let our audience tell us what works and what doesn’t. We’ll adapt based on what we learn.
What’s up next for our blog and the MDBP?
As Edison pointed out, “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” In other words, our idea will be worthless without smart execution and a lot of hard work.
There’s a lot more to creating a successful blog than simply having a good idea and differentiation.
Here’s what we’ll be working on and talking about here over the next few weeks:
- Launch planning:we’re aiming to launch this blog in 3-4 weeks. A launch is a great time to gather momentum and set your blog up for success. More on that next week.
- Content strategy:one of the biggest and most important questions. How will we create content compelling enough to make our idea come alive?
- Design and implementation of our new blog
- Writing content for launch
- Networking with other bloggers
- Launching the site
Thanks for following along with the MDBP so far. I hope these articles are helpful. If you have any feedback or questions about the project, please let us know.
Now, over to you.
I have two questions for you today. 1) how will your blog be different from what already exists (why should someone read your blog vs. the others on similar topics) and 2) what do you think of our refined topic and the Expert Enough name?
Let’s hear it in the comments.
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