This is a long post; as such, I’ve also made it a PDF ebook that you can download. The download link is at the end of the post.

The idea for this blog post has been simmering in my mind for some time now, but it finally caramelized this morning. Someone emailed me a guest post that they’d like to see posted on Blogging Bookshelf. I’m currently not accepting guest posts, but I read it anyway and sent the following email back

Even if I were currently accepting guest posts, I don’t think I’d publish this one. There’s not really anything new or amazing there. All of it is pretty much common sense for most bloggers. I want my readers to say “Wow” or “Huh. I’ve never thought of that” after every post, and I didn’t get that after reading yours.

Harsh? Maybe a little bit, though I wasn’t trying to be a jerk and meant to say it in as nice a manner as possible. That got the wheels turning a little bit, and then I realized what the key ingredient to any successful blog was, and why I religiously read the blogs that I religiously read. What was that key ingredient?

Unique content.

Take a minute and let that sink in.

Ok, so now that you’ve read that and probably been thoroughly underwhelmed, let me explain a bit more and let us dive a bit deeper. Before you publish every post, ask yourself, “Is this something that can’t be found anywhere else?” Or, in other words, “Is this unique?”

Why your blog posts have to be unique

You’re probably saying, “Well yeah, duh. That’s obvious.” And yes, it is, but are you taking it to heart? Do you actually ask yourself that before every post? And have you ever really thought about why your content needs to be unique?

Here’s why: the blogosphere is saturated. There are tons of blogs about pretty much everything. The key to getting a blog noticed is differentiation. What’s the difference between your blog and the million other blogs out there?

If there’s no difference, your blog won’t be able to get the traction and influence you’re aiming for. If there’s no difference, you’re wasting your time and the time of anyone who comes across your blog. If there’s no difference, your blog sucks.

Now let that sink in.

I mean, think about it. If someone is reading your blog, there’s a good chance they’re reading other blogs in your niche. If they’re reading other blogs in your niche, do you think they’re going to want to read a blog that has stuff they’ve already read on it? Of course not. Why go see a single move 20 times when you can go see 20 different movies?

So again, the question you need to ask yourself before you write anything and before you press the “Publish” button is, “Is this something that can’t be found anywhere else? Is this unique?” If not, trash that sucker and start over.

Now let me illustrate this point with a non-blogosphere example.

A tale of two restaurants

How to have a successful blog

It wouldn’t be a Blogging Bookshelf post without some kind of analogy, right? :)

So I went to an Italian restaurant yesterday. I’d been there before, but it had been a few years. I ordered some gnocchi and fettuccini alfredo. I took a few bites and remembered why I hadn’t been back; the food was completely unremarkable. It tasted like the 99 cent frozen dinners you buy (or at least that *I* buy) at the grocery store. Food quality notwithstanding, the service was great and we were in and out in 20 minutes.

Tonight I went out to dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant. Actually, it’s probably my favorite restaurant, period, Indian or otherwise. It’s absolutely amazing. The chicken tikka masala was better than ever, and the mulligatawny soup was to die for. I admit that the restaurant’s decor isn’t the best, and the service is pretty slow. But oh, that chicken tikka masala!

Moral of the story? If the food at your restaurant sucks, I don’t care how nice your decor is, how friendly the waiters are, or how quick the service is. I go to eat at a particular restaurant because I want good food that I can’t get anywhere else.

So will I go back to the Italian place? No. Why would I go back to that lousy Italian restaurant when I can go to a much better one? The same holds true for our blogs. Though they might go to a restaurant (a blog) once to try it out, keep in mind that people don’t return to restaurants (blogs) again and again to get crappy gnocchi and fettuccini alfredo (content).

And will I go back to the Indian place, even though the decor is kitschy and the service sub-par? You better believe it! (Do you see where I’m going with this?) When I go to your blog, I don’t really care if it’s ugly; I just want good food! Sure, I’d like for my blog and your blog to not be ugly, but I (and pretty much everyone else out there) am willing to forego some aesthetics in the name of rock-my-socks-off content.

How to create unique content

Ok, hopefully after that flawless logic and stunning analogy (tongue very much in cheek), you’re on board with me here and agree that your content has to be unique in order for your blog to be successful. You are willing and brave enough to ask yourself the question, “Is this something that can’t be found anywhere else?”

So… how exactly does one create unique content? There are 8 ways that I thought of, and please let me know if you think of others.

1. Report breaking news

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s extremely tricky to successfully implement. Notice that I said breaking news and not just news. Remember how above I mentioned that everyone reading your blog is probably reading other blogs in your niche, too? Well, the chances are pretty good that by the time you get around to reporting any news, it’s old news that’s familiar to your readers.

How do you find breaking news? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never had a news blog before and don’t usually report on the goings on in my niches. I’d imagine that it’s important to 1) know the right people, 2) be subscribed to a bunch of different sources of information. I’d love some reader input regarding this, too.

2. State your opinion

If you DO report on an event in the news, a great way to make it original is by stating your opinion on the event(s). Not only does this open the door for you to show your personality into a traditionally personality-free arena (that arena being the news), but the great thing is that no one else in the world has your exact same opinion. You’ve got experiences that no one else has, so you can add your own commentary that no one else can add.

For example, let’s say that I’ve got a blog about dog training, I just watched the national dog championships on TV, and I want to talk about the results. Normal blogs will be saying saying, “Rocko the German shepherd won, and Fluffer the poodle came in second,” and so on. But MY blog will say

“Rocko the German shepherd won, but I think Fluffer the poodle totally should have won. I mean, the poofs on Fluffer clearly took a lot of time and effort to sculpt. And did you even see the slight limp that Rocko had? Come on, people!”

Ok, maybe that’s not the best example (I don’t know anything about how dog shows work), but hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Don’t just report news; comment on it.

Oh, and since I’ve focused mainly on news in this point, let me go ahead and say that this applies to all kinds of posts, not just news posts.

3. Relate your personal experiences

Your own personal experiences should be added to everything you write about, not just the news. I think a great example of this, if I do say so myself, is a guest post I did over on Lye’s blog,  Find My Blog Way. The idea of the post is to explain how to stay motivated as a blogger. But if I had just said, “Ok, here are 3 ways to stay motivated,” the post wouldn’t have nearly the weight behind it that it does. Instead, I talked about the reasons I’ve lost my blogging motivation in the past and what I learned from all of that. By incorporating my own failures into that post, I showed that I really do have experience in what I’m talking about, and these are lessons I learned the hard way.

Again, the great part about this is that your experiences are unique to you. Tell stories in your posts. Don’t only share your know-how, but share how you got that know-how.

Related to this (though it could probably be another point) is letting your personality come through in your writing. I’ve written on this before and will do so more in the future, so I won’t talk about it too much, but be yourself. When appropriate, write the way you speak

4. Come at it from a different angle

It seems like there are a finite number of things you could talk about in each niche, yet there are bazillions of blogs covering just about every topic under the sun. If there’s something you really do want to talk about but it’s been talked about a bunch already, how are you supposed to make it unique? With a new angle.

I think a good example of this is my Is Content Your King? infographic. “Content is king” is a tired old cliché that has been talked about ad nauseum, but I presented it in a way that had never been seen before (because I created the infographic). And instead of the idea of that post being that content needs to be the focal point on your blog (the traditional meaning of “content is king”), I stated what I think “king content” is.

Ideally, you always come up with something 100% new to say, but that’s not always possible. When you DO decide to repeat something, put a spin on it that people haven’t seen before, and a great way to do this is with analogies.

5. Innovate

This is the good stuff here. This is that 100% brand new content that the world has never seen before.

Is it even possible these days to have 100% purely original content? I don’t know, but the general gist of pure innovation is that YOU are the originator of the ideas you’re talking about.

Are there examples of this on Blogging Bookshelf? Well, again, I hesitate to say that anything is 100% original, but I’d say tha how to create killer analogies post is pretty original. The same goes with my comment policy that’s in the top right corner of the blog; it’s something I’d never seen before. Again, I’m sure that something like that has been done somewhere, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s original.

6. Provide massive value

A massive value post is a beast of a post. This is one of those posts that you bookmark and show to your grandkids in 20 years. The thing about a massive value post is that while the content itself might not be entirely unique, the sheer amount of useful information all in one place in that post makes it unique.

Great examples of this include things like Pat Flynn’s THE Blogger’s Guide to Facebook, Kim Roach’s 500+ Places to Syndicate Your Content, and Alex Whalley’s Viral Marketing Blueprint. Free, downloadable ebooks can be a great example of this, too.

7. Conduct interviews

Interviews are another way of having unique content. The questions you, the interviewer, ask an interviewee are going to be somewhat unique, as will be the particular answers to those questions. Even if this person has been interviewed a billion times before, every interview is going to be a little bit different, and every answer will be a little bit different. I’ve actually never conducted an interview, so I can’t and won’t say too much more about this one.

8. Graphics, audio, and video

There are a few other ways to have unique content. Having unique graphics is one way. Remember that graphic I have above by the restaurant analogy? That’s something I created from scratch, and therefore is unique (and there’s another unique graphic coming up). Included here in the graphics category are photos that you’ve taken, or even purchased (though it won’t technically be 100% unique, any photo you’ve got to pay for won’t show up on many other blogs).

Audio and video are two more examples. These are mediums that are still being used by relatively few bloggers, and are a great way to make your content stand out from the crowd.

What are some examples a generic blog post and unique blog post?

Ok, I’ve already written about 2,400 words here, so I need to get through this quick. To help me do that, I made this little chart that nicely sums up the differences between a so-so generic post and a unique post. Note that this is a composite of my opinions, is not gospel, and was thrown together pretty quickly.

Generic Content vs. Good Content

In conclusion…

I guess the goal of all of this is twofold: 1) provide useful content to your readers, and 2) not bore them with repetitive information in the process. If you can consistently come up with 100% unique content, more power to ya! For the rest of us, please just put it in a form that we haven’t seen before, whatever that might be.

Remember to ask yourself that all-important question, “Is this something that can’t be found anywhere else?”

Creating unique, quality content is hard work. That’s why so few blogs out there do it. But it’s worth it both for you and for your readers. You will successfully differentiate your blog from all others and reap all of the benefits that come with that.

Ok, over to you now!

  • What are other ways to provide unique content?
  • How possible is it to provide 100% unique and original content?
  • If you were a reader, would YOU want to read your own blog?