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Is Generic Content Bringing You Down?

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Think back on the last few weeks and all the blog posts you read, podcasts you downloaded, and videos you watched. If you’re anything like me, the list is pretty long. But now ask yourself this: how many do you actually remember?

Often times, I’ll click on a link expecting to read some high-quality content. And I do – the information is well-researched, there are no spelling errors, and the blogger’s message is clear. In our fast-paced ADD Internet world, though, I’m moving on to another link pretty quickly. If your content was generic, no matter how informative and well-written the post might be, I probably won’t recommend it to others…and after a few weeks, I definitely won’t remember it.

What is Generic Content?

“Generic” is kind of a vague term in this context so let me explain what I mean. To me, generic content is content that can be found on any blog out there. There’s no little oomph to connect it to you as a blogger and the information is nothing new. Essentially, it just looks like you rewrote a post from another blog and plopped it on your own site. It brings you down as a blogger and it certainly brings me down as a reader.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t cover news stories and topics that have been covered by other bloggers in the past. Heck, I don’t have to tell y’all that it’s hard to come up with super original ideas every single time you write a post. Sometimes you just want to cover a concept that you really enjoy, even though others have as well. Also, readers, frankly, need information that’s been covered elsewhere. Just because you read Billy Sue’s Amazing BBQ Blog where she covered the different types of BBQs doesn’t mean that the readers of your cooking blog do, so covering that same topic makes sense.

So if I’m not saying that every post has to be super original, what am I saying? Let’s take a look at how to pull your blog out of generic-land.

Baby, Are You Down, Down, Down, Down, Down?*

Here’s a good way to evaluate your content to see if it’s generic. Take your name off the post and label it “admin” instead. You don’t actually have to do this, but at least imagine it. Would people still know it’s you? Would they care?

Personality in your posts is important, but being generic isn’t just a lack of personality. It’s a lack of style, and personality is just a part of that. A lot of bloggers don’t have big personalities, and that’s okay as long as you make up for it in other ways. Someone like Jordan Cooper is going to write a recognizable post because of his sense of humor. Humor is part of his personality. Take away all of that funny stuff, though, and you still have a blog post that is far from generic. Likewise, someone like Kyeli from Connection Revolution is going to write a recognizable because because her posts are super introspective and sensitive. It’s part of her personality. Take away the tear-jerking and humbling moments, though, and you still have a blog post that is far from generic.

What is it beyond personality that makes these bloggers (and many others I love)? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use original ideas when possible. Like I’ve said, that’s not always possible, but original ideas, ideas that are not found anywhere else, will build a backbone to your blog.
  • Be opinionated. You don’t always have to present information like a textbook. Your opinions will make your content unique.
  • Think about the words you use. Writing (and even speaking if you podcast or vlog) is an art, and taking a moment to consider the specific language you use can really elevate your blog posts.
  • Find a new angle. If everyone under the sun has written about a specific topic, look for a way to cover it that is new and interesting. For example, if you blog about celebrity relationships, instead of writing a straight news story about Hugh Heffner’s financee calling of the wedding, you could cover the story in a post about celebrities that have been left at the alter or celebrity couples with huge age differences. You’re still providing readers with the information, but you aren’t rewriting stories found on other blogs.
  • Crowdsource. What is a blog without its readers? They’re one of the things that makes your blog unique. So, use their comments or tweets as jumping off points for your posts.

Of course, not every post has to include all of these elements. However, if you’re writing generic posts that could be found on any blog out there with any writer’s name on it, you’re doing a disservice to your readers and to yourself. Present your knowledge in a way that stands out, and you’re create a blog that people have to read and share, rather than a blog that readers forget.

*I couldn’t resist. I love that song.

How Zombies Could Help Your Blog

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Over the past few years, zombies have gone from being a cult favorite to being widely loved as a part of mainstream pop culture. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about the best zombie apocalypse strategy. Zombie books are invading best seller lists. Zombie movies and video games are more popular than ever. So tell me, why did you decide to read this article? Was it because you say “help your blog” and thought that you might pick up some tips? Or was it becauase though, “Oh, cool. This should be interesting.” after seeing the word zombies in the title?

Let’s be honest here. We’re all friends. You were attracted to the title, weren’t you?

And that’s exactly how zombies can help your blog. Good post titles will draw in readers every time.

I’m being a little unfair today, because this post actually doesn’t have anything to do with the undead. You could, though, create a post centered on a popular topic, like zombies. Drawing a parallel requires a little creativity to be sure, but it can definitely be done. Point in case, a few months ago, I wrote “Zombie Blog: How to Revive a Dead Blog” here at BlogWorld. Since then, we’ve changed around our counters, but I can tell you firsthand that a lot of people retweeted and visited that post.

Zombies aren’t the only hot topic. For example, I’ve written pieces comparing to blogging to Lady Gaga. This blog has about as much to do with pop stars as it does with horror movies, yet the posts work because I can create parallels – and packaging tips or techniques around zombies or Lady Gaga automatically makes the post more interesting.

Here’s the sad fact: no matter what your niche, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other bloggers writing about the same things. Yes, you have an original take on the topic for the sheer fact that you are the person writing the post, but there are probably even other bloggers who have a similar writing style. Sometimes, posts start to seem like white noise, simply because everyone is writing about the same topics.

Pulling in some kind of parallel with an unrelated, but popular, topic helps you stand out from the sea. People are more likely to recommend your post over others covering the same topic, and if people have ten minutes to read 100 new posts in their feed reader, they’re more likely to pick yours because it sounds as entertaining as it is informative.

My point here isn’t just that you should have good titles, though. Yes, titles are important, but you have to deliver in your post as well. Is your post presented in a fun way? Are your tips, how-tos, techniques, reviews, etc. thought provoking and original, not just rehashing topics that everyone in your niche is covering? Zombies can help you create a popular post, but only if you aren’t a zombie when you’re writing. Readers want articles that are not only full of brains*, but that are also entertaining.

I think that’s where we all fail sometimes. We are so concentrated on getting out the best information possible that we don’t write posts that are fun to read. You don’ t have to necessarily be funny (though that’s definitely one route you can take), but if you’re writing boring “top ten tips” post after “top ten tips” post, your readers are going to start to desert. Try adding personal stories or pictures. Try adding your opinion. Try being controversial.

Take an objective look at your last ten posts. Regardless of how good the information is, are any of them unique and interesting? Or are they all pretty cookie cutter? You have awesome ideas to share with people, but sometimes we all need to use zombies to actually drive traffic.

*braaaaaaaaaaaaains

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