How My Blog Became a Commodity (and How We’re Fixing It)

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 08/22/18 •  8 min read

How My Blog Became a Commodity (and How We're Fixing It)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.

In trying to figure out how to grow website traffic, the 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:

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, this post 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.

Sean Ogle of Location Rebel working in New York City

This was my “office” here in New York where I wrote this post. Not a bad view, eh?

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.

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How to Grow Website Traffic: Actionable Content vs. Personal Content

At this year’s World Domination Summit in Portland, OR I did a 3 hour Academy all about building a Hobby Hacking business.

One of the things we talked about a lot in it, is the concept of personal content.

This is content you create that:

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 quit 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.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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19 comments on "How My Blog Became a Commodity (and How We’re Fixing It)"

  1. Sean, I agree with you. You’ve been AWOL for a bit. And it was you, your personality, your life goals that attracted me to Location Rebel in the first place.

    I’m a senior citizen and don’t have the same goals that you do. No living on the road, we are comfortable in our Town House in Houston. But we do vacation and I usually take my laptop with me and do some work. And we can dream of doing what you were doing, and remember when we did some bold things that bordered on what you shared that you were doing in earlier times.

    Happy to see that you’ve recognized what was wrong, that you admitted it to your readers and are determined to change.

    GO FOR IT!!

    Bob Brinkman

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Bob, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that is both so great for me to hear, and hard to hear at the same time (because I know it’s true).

      I think that’s always been one of the great things about Location Rebel, is it hasnt just been about the travel. Sure it’s part of it, but it’s about saying regardless of what kind of life you want to live, and where you want to do it – you can.

      Appreciate the support, and looking forward to hearing more from you as I put out more stuff soon 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing. I agree with your analysis – and your conclusion. I look forward to seeing the changes you plan to make. I’ll definitely read them!

    Less dry content is always nice – reading technical manuals without any personality gets old real fast.

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Glad to know you’re sticking around, Ryan! I’m excited to dig back in a way a bit more similar to the way things used to be 🙂

  3. Tara says:

    Thank you for writing this. Honestly I can’t tell you why but it was the first post I’ve read from you since I signed up for your newsletter. The email head was honest and spoke to me and the post kept that up by being genuine and continuing to speak to me. I’m glad you’re remembering who you are and allowing that to drive you instead of all that marketing bs, this is why I follow you!

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      It’s probably the first one, because it’s the first time in awhile that I just opened up about myself, rather than always feeling the need to have to teach! Thanks so much for this, and it’s great feedback to hear!

  4. Brad Morris says:

    Hey Golf Buddy. I definitely resonated with this Sean and find I tend to read people’s blogs who tell great real-life stories, rather than just how too’s. If we look back at how humans shared information back in the olden days, it was through story around a campfire. Well, these computers are our new campfires and storytelling will forever be the best way to get a lesson across to a student. It is so powerful. I look forward to hearing of your next stories and if you get up to Salt Spring Island *(Vancouver area), I’d love to hook up for a game of golf and take you out for a beer. Lets catch up soon.

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Long time no talk man! I totally agree. I used to always say that my main goal with the blog was to use it as a vehicle to live a life worth writing about. My life has been pretty good, but somewhere along the way I just stopped writing about it! Would still love to get up there for a game soon! I’m heading to Banff and Jasper in a few weeks, just need to get back to the Couve!

  5. Kristen says:

    Thanks for this post, Sean. I’ve always followed your blog because I know there’s a real person behind it. I’m looking forward to more posts like the ones you mentioned!

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Thank you for this Kristen! I’m looking forward to them too!

  6. Garin Etcheberry says:

    Great article, I love it. One time I was talking to Drew Canole who runs Their main product is “Green Juice,” a superfood powder you mix in water. I was picking his brain about how they compete against the hundreds of other green drinks out there like Athletic Greens. After only a minute or two he said “We don’t have competition.” I thought “BS! Of course you do!” But he explained that they weren’t actually selling green juice. They were selling a lifestyle, a community, a vision, and even Drew himself. The products were merely the physical manifestations of those things. So the more they doubled down on what made them unique, the less competition they had. I thought that was a powerful lesson.

    Can’t wait for the content you have on the way Sean!

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Ah that’s such a good way to look at it! Thanks Garin, insightful comments as always 🙂

  7. Jon says:

    Love it!

    Sounds more fun. I think you hit it on the head. Personality is important. I’m so tired of actionable how-to posts from websites with snappy headlines and zero personality. They read like an assembly line, lacking humanity.

    What originally made me follow your site was that you felt relatable. You don’t strike me as a marketer. And that’s why I like you.

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      I couldnt agree more! To think about how much of that personality has been lacking is tough, but at the same time, it’s better to recognize it late than never. I think that word relatable is huge, as that’s what I’ve ALWAYS tried to do here, and it got lost along the way. Excited to be back.

  8. Hann says:

    Hi, Sean!

    Wowzers, great stuff! Now you have me inspired to inject my personality into what I’m building.

    I actually took a different direction from my LR journey and went into providing IT Managed Services. It was thanks to you and Ramit Sethi that I was able to get that far.

    I’m currently working on building ultimate guides for my website using Primoz Bozic’s material, which I hope to inject into both my business and my future hobby hacking site, and this post really has me thinking that personality should always be at the forefront as I do so – that’s what I also love about your website, emails, and vlogs.

    Thanks for being you!



    P.S. I am one of those weirdos who flip-flops between loving written content and loving video. It would be awesome if you could somehow marry the two together – vlog with transcripted blog? Or something like that.

  9. Really great to see you moving forward with a new direction! I always look forward to seeing what you do next.

  10. maryann says:

    hey Sean great job there !
    I like the way you put it Actionable and personal content.

    first post since subscribing to your news letter

    1. Sean Ogle says:

      Thanks Maryann! Hope to hear from you more 🙂

  11. Hey man, just happened to swing by for the first time in a while and see this. Super excited to see what you do with this! Mighty big step to realize and admit this. Cheers!

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