When I started Location Rebel over 9 years ago, I was clueless.
And the best part about it? You knew I was clueless because I embraced it and showed it off with every post I wrote.
But it was that cluelessness, that personality, that caused people to pay attention. That’s how I grew my audience and my brand in the early days.
And then I stopped.
For the last few
months years, I’ve been doing too much of what everyone else is doing.
The blog content here has become a commodity, rather than a site brimming with personality and authenticity.
It feels just like every other marketing site out there.
And that’s a big problem.
For the last few years, Location Rebel has been at a bit of a plateau. Traffic, email list, revenue, they’ve all been right about at the same place.
Fortunately, it’s plateaued in a very comfortable spot, but nevertheless trying to get forward momentum has been a challenge at times.
The natural reaction to this?
Focus on growing traffic.
After all, more traffic should lead to more email optins, and in turn lead to more sales…right?
Well, kind of.
The Content Marketing Commodity
In deciding to really focus on growing traffic, I’ve spent a lot of time reading marketing books
and other successful blogs.
In doing this, I found most of the ideas were very similar. It looks something like this:
- Do keyword research to find under-represented niches
- Look at the sites that rank the best for that keyword
- Create actionable content that’s better than theirs
- Optimize the post
- Try to get a few backlinks
- Update your old content following the same strategy
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of benefits to doing this. It allows you to create useful content, it establishes your expertise, and it should lead to at least some traffic.
But here’s the problem with it:
This type of actionable information is a commodity.
Everyone is out there trying to do the exact same thing. And you know what? There will always be someone who does it better.
We rank for some very hard to rank for key terms, but what I’ve found in the current online environment is that for just about every key term you target, there will be a site that is solely devoted to just that key term or niche.
For years, we ranked really well for terms around “niche sites”.
Now there are a handful of sites that are 100% totally and completely devoted to this.
So unless you niche way down (which frankly, you should be), you’re going to have a tough time competing with someone who’s only focused on that one thing.
Not to mention, you also have competitors who have a larger bankroll than you, so you’re always playing with a stacked deck.
It’s Not All Bad News, Though…
For the last two years, I’ve been trying to compete on that level. I’ve been creating actionable content, that while incredibly high quality, is doing a better job of serving search engines than building rapport with my readers…you!
So in the past few months, while I hit the reset button on the site, I tried to also hit the reset button on my thinking.
What changed from the first four years to the last four years when my business plateaued?
What was I doing differently that might have caused growth to stall out?
And then it hit me.
I was becoming a commodity.
While the Location Rebel Academy community was busy pumping out new successful entrepreneurs and doing great things, the blog itself had become sterile – and too much like the thousands of other sites doing the exact same thing.
In trying to grow the site, I focused less on what made it unique:
I stopped writing about how I used to day dream to make myself feel better about my life.
I stopped admitting when I didn’t know what to do.
I rarely wrote about my personal travels, yet when I did I’d received tons of emails from engaged readers.
In trying to grow, a lot of the soul of the site disappeared – which further stunted growth.
The sad part is, I knew it. And have recognized it. Yet haven’t done anything about it this year.
Marketing 101 tells you to focus on the customer not yourself. If you write a sales letter or email, it’s a common practice to go back and replace as many of the “I’s” as possible with “you’s”.
It’s important to create a brand and business that helps others. Yet in the early days one of the biggest reasons I was able to help others is because I was approachable and relatable. I was “others”. And that came across on the site.
But for the last few years, I’ve injected most of that personality into the vlog, rather than here. This was a mistake considering I know my audience generally prefers written content over video.
In trying to grow, I tried doing things differently, which is a good thing. However, it’s not good when it comes at the expense of what makes you special, and sets yourself apart in a world that is becoming increasingly commoditized.
How to Set Your Blog Apart: Actionable Content vs. Personal Content
One of the things we talked about a lot in it, is the concept of personal content.
This is content you create that:
- Allows you to build rapport with the reader
- Helps them relate to you
- Shows your vulnerability or insecurities
- Brings them along on your journey with you
To sum it up, it’s the content you create that differentiates you from all of the other people who are doing the exact same thing.
A successful blog needs both actionable and personal content.
You need the actionable stuff to show you know what you’re talking about, generate search traffic, and give your readers small wins they can apply to their own lives.
But if all you have is actionable content, then you become a commodity. A reader will check out a post, and then for the next thing they need help with, they’ll do another search and find the next person who created the most epic post on that concept.
There’s no rapport, there’s no personal investment, there’s no trust.
While all of the experts are touting the importance of actionable, how to content – the best opportunity for most new and established bloggers is to leverage the thing that makes them most unique:
What You Can Expect from Location Rebel Moving Forward
I’m not writing this post to tell you that we’re ditching how-to, actionable content altogether. The primary goal of this site is still to help you build a successful lifestyle business, and I want to continue giving you the tools to do that both on the blog and in the community.
But I am saying you can expect more personality. You can expect more personal stories. You can expect to see more of the things that made this site great to begin with.
I stopped writing about my bucket list. I stopped writing about my travels. I stopped writing about my problems.
Honestly, it was because those things didn’t generate much new traffic.
But the mistake I made was discounting, the impact it has on the relationship. Our relationship. The one between you and me.
It was all of those stories that showed you I’m a real person.
That built rapport, and trust.
That made you say “of all the online experts out there, I choose you to be the one I work with.”
What I Hope You Take Away
While in a lot of ways I’m writing this post for myself, it’s also a reminder for you.
I still think starting a blog and using it as a training ground to build your skills is the best way to get started online – regardless of what you want to do long term.
Nearly all of the “how to” posts you read about starting a blog or building a brand will talk about creating actionable content in various forms.
That’s great, do that. But not at the expense of also building your personality into everything you do.
Because you are what is going to grow your business. You are what will set the brand apart from everyone else out there. And while you might not always be what gets the views or the traffic? You are what will build the relationships.
And in the end? That’s what matters the most.