social media how toIt’s no secret that the amount of new bloggers entering the blogosphere has made it both incredibly competitive and difficult to stand out.

Now, this doesn’t mean that blogging isn’t useful and effective, but it does mean that you have to treat your blog a little differently than you did in the past.

In this article, I’ll show you how to make your blog stand out from the crowd. This is important not just from a branding perspective, but also from a traffic and monetization perspective.

As the competition for attention increases, it’s going to become more important than ever to find a way to stand out from the crowd and be unique.

Yes I know, being unique is a buzzword that doesn’t always translate to everyday business terms, but even if your business is vanilla, it doesn’t mean that your blog has to be.

Let’s get started.

#1: Design

Premium themes have never been as abundant and inexpensive as they are now. You can get a nice-looking theme from Theme Forest or Elegant Themes for under $30, and if you’re willing to go a bit further, you can get a framework from Thesis or Woo Themes for just under $100.

The good news here is if you do that, you’re ahead of the game; but the bad news is that you’re not far enough ahead to really make a difference.

If you spend enough time surfing the web, you’ll notice the same themes seem to keep popping up everywhere, and if you don’t want to look like everyone else, then you’ll have to:

  • Pick a theme that you don’t see anyone using
  • Hire a designer to customize your theme so that it looks original and unique.

Regardless of the theme you use, I recommend that you spend some time customizing it to best fit your mission.

For instance, David Risley recently spent quite a bit of time creating something special over at PC Mech, while my favorite musician, Oleg Mokhov, rocked the heck out of a Theme Forest theme for the entrepreneur’s podcast, Lifebeat.

Another option is to have a designer custom-build a theme from scratch (much like Social Media Examiner has done). If you’re a serious business, then I recommend you strive to get to this point. It may be costly, but it’s worth it to treat your blog like a business.

For just $39, you can access nearly 50 premium WordPress themes via

#2: Make Your Blog Social

For many of you, this might be old news, but I repeat it for the sake of completeness. If you don’t make it easy for people to share your content, then they won’t… period.

Millions of people are on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon, so why not get your content in front of them?

Here are my favorite WordPress plugins for doing just that:

  1. Twitter RT Button (Official): I like this one because it not only looks professional, but you can also use Tweetmeme.
  2. Facebook Like Button: Just months ago, this button didn’t exist. Now it’s a staple on every major blog I know of.
  3. Sexy Bookmarks: This is a great way to add a variety of essential social sharing icons. It looks great and is easily customizable.

If you aren’t on WordPress, that’s not a problem. There are other versions of these plugins for almost every blogging platform.

Notice how easily you can share this post via the various social sharing buttons?

#3: Take an Angle

If I see one more blog on the topic of social media, I’m going to explode. The same goes for almost every vanilla niche out there. You won’t want to hear it, but there are already dozens of great blogs on almost every topic, so why compete with them?

Instead of taking an ordinary angle on an ordinary topic, why not pick a side and give people something different to think about?

Red Head Writing does a great job by offering a snarky take on all subjects digital marketing, while Jordan Cooper does the same with his “not a pro” take on blogging.

There are only a few people capable of dominating a niche; i.e., Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan or Jay Baer. However, there are an infinite number of takes available to you if you’re willing to pick one.

If you sell cleaning supplies, don’t talk about the business of cleaning supplies; instead, talk about the effects of chemicals on the environment and how your company, and others, fix it.

Pick a fight, share an opinion. Don’t preach to the choir, convert people!

Erica Napoletano is well-known for dishing out some social smack. Rather than shy away from the attention, she embraces it.

#4: Use Images and Infographics

Two of my favorite marketing blogs are Flowtown and Kiss Metrics because they offer detailed and insightful infographics for me to learn from.

Infographics are a great way to present data because they’re attractive and easy to read. Most people aren’t going to read through a 2,000-word case study on product spending, but if you take the time to quantify it in an infograph, suddenly you’ve got a great piece of evergreen content.

If infographics aren’t your thing, I recommend you take the time and select attractive images for your blog posts. Check out some design blogs for ideas.

For example, try Smashing Magazine or PSD Tuts. You’ll get great help on selecting images and how to display them so they look fantastic. Two other sites are Site Sketch 101 and Freelance Switch.

Great feature images work well to increase conversion from front page to post page, and in-post images keep readers scrolling to the end.

Take a look at your favorite blogs and see how they’re doing it. Look at the difference between a great image and a poor image—it may be subtle, but it’s there.

So where do you get great images? Try Shutterstock or iStockPhoto. As a last resort, you can perform a Creative Commons search on Flickr and find good images until you have enough money to invest in stock photos.

If you’re going to use screenshots, please take the time to make them look proportionate and give them a nice-looking border.

This is just the first 20% of a recent infographic created by Flowtown. Notice the quote from our very own Michael Stelzner.

#5: Create Evergreen Content

Here’s a list of popular content from Social Media Examiner. Notice the post titles. It doesn’t get any more evergreen than that.

Evergreen content is valuable 24/7, whether it was written last year or 5 years from now. Many of the basic principles of search engine optimization (SEO) have remained unchanged over the past several years, and blogs like Search Engine Land have done a great job of creating content that lasts for years.

The same goes for any niche, be it digital marketing, social media, blogging, etc.

Someone who does this extremely well is Glen Allsopp, founder of Viper Chill. If you take a look at his average blog post, it’s well over 2,000 words of extremely useful evergreen content.

Why does evergreen content matter so much?

It makes it easy on you by letting old content bring new readers up to speed, so you don’t have to keep repeating the same message over and over again. It’s also great for search engine rankings and long-term traffic.

Evergreen content is easy to monetize because it’s always going to be valuable to advertisers.

Wrapping It Up

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. The blogging rules are changing by the day and the techniques that worked in the past—like guest blogging, commenting and even social media—don’t work well unless you’ve done at least 75% of these things right.

Why is Social Media Examiner one of the most dominant blogs in the social media space? They’ve done almost every single thing on this list extremely well. In a sense, they’ve made this entire blog evergreen as a result.

It’s not enough just to be good, you have to look and act the part too.

Disagree? Let’s hear it. Do you have any suggestions? Leave your comments in the box below.

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  • Nathan..i really love the evergreen content statement..that’s an awesome way of putting it down..and yes I have communicated with Glen a couple of times last month..and he is one of those guys who only writes no more then 4 times a month and still mange to stand out..maybe that’s the reason why.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Black Guy – Everygreen is super important and that’s what we strive for here with most of our posts. If my memory treats me right, your name is Antonio, right? – Mike

  • Antonio it is..I come back here everyday..just for the guys do an great job when it comes to social media.

  • Outstanding post!! I love your easy to read writing style and your points are spot on. And thanks for the push to “pick a fight, share an opinion. Don’t preach to the choir, convert people!” It’s fantastic advice!

  • Nathan, another great post filled with good advice. I’ve used Elegant Themes in the past, and found their themes to be very reliable and diverse for the low membership fee. I also agree that the right images and evergreen content can mean the difference between loyal readers and disinterested passers-by. Lots of online hopefuls (not just bloggers) are learning these lessons the hard way.

  • Fabulous advice Nathan!
    I feel like the graphics use in blogs is definitely necessary, I am more likely to read and be loyal to a blog that isn’t just all “words”…they just get boring and tedious! If you ad even a little bit of graphic content it can make all the difference in the world…
    By the way, this is my first time to your blog but it won’t be the last!

  • Great stuff as always Nathan. As I was reading this I kept mumbling to my self “yup…yup..thats right…yup” lol

    In point No 2, right above the image of you state that plugins are available for any platform. Are you saying that Sitecketch doesnt run on wordpress? I ask because its a superbly designed website and I always wondered what theme he’s using.

  • Love the information, can’t wait to learn more. Thank you so much.

  • Consult

    Loved this, thanks! I agree with Black SEO Guy and Mike – you do a great job of giving “Evergreen content”. This week I researched your blog twice to review the graph on the ‘widget context plugin’ and some others that have been very beneficial to me. It takes a moment to develop but you can come up with you own blog area of expertise.

  • Hi Nathan,
    Blog design is crucial but not the be all and end all. I read plenty of blogs on the basic WP theme, there content is that good that the design isn’t important. On the other hand I see sites that hide behind their design because there content sucks (not here, great content).
    Evergreen content is something we all strive to create, sometimes not knowingly.

  • Thanks for featuring RedheadWriting, Nathan 🙂 I’ve strived to build a dialogue on my site and while I’m not for everyone, those who choose to say love the sense of community. Heck, my comments are living, breathing creatures in and of themselves. I love my readers and love that they know it’s a place to share and all opinions are welcome. Bomb diggity…woo!

  • I suppose there are exceptions, but the truth is that most people judge a book by it’s cover, just as they judge a blog by it’s cover. If you have great design, you have a higher chance of getting them to hang out longer.

  • Appreciate it 🙂

    There’s a ton of great and useful information here at SME. Mike has done a great job with it. As have the editorial team, who probably don’t get nearly enough praise!

  • Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks Nancy 🙂

  • He’s using WordPress. Sorry for the confusion. He is a designer though, so he’s done most of it on his own, one piece at a time.

  • I love your brand. Great idea – and I read your post about how you came up with it. Standout.

  • Great post – learned a lot here, especially on the subject of evergreen content. Well done.

  • Joanna Ciolek

    Signing off to search for my “edge” 🙂

  • Yeah, graphics are great eye candy. Sometimes I browse beautiful blogs just to stare for inspiration 🙂

  • Thanks David. I agree, Elegant Themes is almost too cheap. I don’t know how he does it.

  • Thank you kindly Lori. Playing the middle isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I much prefer to stir up some controversy or get people thinking. Glad you agree!

  • I’ve always admired your style, bravado, and honesty. IMO, there’s not enough of it. Your community is living proof that it’s not only valuable, but that it works.

  • deb1221

    Great post. I’m a big fan too of infographics and Creative Commons search for images. Thanks for the info.
    Best, Debbie

  • Nice post – you have given me a lot to think about as I build up my blog. I think I need to invest in a theme – which will be one of my goals for 2011.

  • Gina Cuclis

    I have been thinking a lot about how I don’t like the design of my blog, you’ve given me motivation to get moving. Your third point about take an angle is one I thought about a long time before I started a blog. My angle is regional. focuses on changes in the media in my Northern California region with case studies and PR tips on how businesses in this area are adapting to the changing media environment.

  • René Power

    Point #3 ‘If I see one more blog on the topic of social media, I’m going to explode’ This is a social media focused blog isn’t it? ;o)

    Fact is, whilst some sectors, clients and agencies have embraced socia media, many still haven’t. I know, unbelievable, but even now in 2010 we’re discussing the merits of blogging with trade/b2b clients who haven’t yet started out with it or as yet see the value!

  • This was great. Thanks for the info! I love the ‘Flowtown’ blog and their graphics. I am so impressed with you guys and everyone’s blogs look great!

  • Ver interesting material. I have always gone by the rule that content was king but this is food for thought. Content does not matter if it doesn’t look good.

  • Hi Nathan.

    This was really great info. Now I really have to digg into the Evergreen concept. Had never thought about my content that way, and not read anything about it.

    I loved the angle of your article here where you put blogging into a new and fun perspective. This is a great concept for many of us to work with, and a cool way to present our message.

    Great to see that you talk about iStockPhoto. My niche is related to Hotels and I find an abundance of quality images there for a very decent price.

    Another perspective I need to work on here is the ‘Take an angle’. Some new moments added in here for my 2011 strategy.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Good points Rene! Did you read Mike Stelzner’s post on how he grew Social Media Examiner?
    There are some useful tips on creating a blog in an already populated niche.

  • That’s true, but do you really think another 1,000 blogs are going to make a difference? IMO, the horse has been beaten to death, and now it’s time to find a new approach.

    We have to be prepared that some might not ever embrace social media.

    That being said, even if you do want to tackle that niche, there’s something to be said for originality; the kind that helps you break through the noise and drive your point home.

  • I agree, I think those are essential to a good blog, creativity is key.

  • Great post!

  • Larry Lourcey

    Gotta agree about Elegant Themes… after doing a lot of shopping around, they were a no-brainer. Great stuff!

  • This was super helpful. Thank you. I just installed your retweet button and will definitely work on including more Evergreen content. xo

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  • Thanks for the reminder on “evergreen” content. It definitely provides leverage since the content can be retweeted and reshared over the course of a longer period of time similar to what Amex Open Forum does with their small business advice. I have also noticed that I have had the most comments and interaction when I write stories about local businesses or some of the experiences my clients have had i.e. with Groupon. Taking a stand and polarizing your audience can be a good strategy.

  • Jmmty9

    Great post! I like how you put in the fact that you have to make your blog social. Even though this is a fairly basic concept, many people don’t use this advice. I have read many blogs and the most popular ones are the ones that allow people to share the posts.

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  • Hey Nathan,
    I read this post a while ago and forgot to thank for the helpful content, so thanks!
    After the read I got hold of the guys at Elegant Themes, but unfortunately they don’t work with Blogger, is there an equivalent(for Blogger) that you could recommend?

  • When it comes to taking an angle I find that there is often “content in the comments”. Sometimes commentors bring such good view points or even alternative points of view that they could become whole separate blog posts in themselves

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  • Chelsea

    Love this! Being a fairly new blogger, I’m trying to wrap my head around all the fantastic ways to seperate myself from the rest. Next on the list are to implement these 5 things you mention in this post!

  • Babu8880

    I love this article. I was looking for ways to improve my blog. You have pointed out some great hints for me to proceed. Thanks. But I am still finding it difficult to find a great wordpress theme. I already did with freshlife theme as they claim it looks like mashable. By reading this I decided to appoint a designer to do with all the tasks.

  • A great article, there’s definately a few things that almost every blogger can learn from here!

  • Job Crowd

    Great article. An excellent read.

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