I’ve launched more failed websites and blogs than I have successful sites.
I cringe when I look at all the domain names I once upon a time registered. It’s well over 100 domains (perhaps approaching 200).
While some of my previous sites were a limited success, the ratio of successful sites to sites that failed is low. Pitifully low.
One reason so many of my sites failed is they failed to gain a competitive advantage. There was nothing special about them. Many were just another run-of-the-mill site.
My successful sites, on the other hand, offer something unique or I build them with unique approaches.
I’m not saying my successful sites are revolutionary. They’re not at all. In fact, if you looked at them you couldn’t tell how they’re different than other sites in the niche. But there are nuanced differences.
How can you differentiate your blog to gain a competitive advantage?
Below I set out 11 ways your blog can gain a competitive advantage. I certainly don’t deploy all eleven, but set them all out because my few competitive advantages may not be your preferred approach.
Table of Contents
- Ability to Defend Your Competitive Advantage
- 1. SEO
- 2. Personality/Brand
- 3. Graphic Design
- 4. Technology
- 5. Superior Quality
- 6. Trendspotting
- 7. Copywriting
- 8. Networking
- 9. Analysis
- 10. Developing Systems
- 11. Money
- The more, the merrier
- Be Unique
- What about hard work?
- Do you need a competitive advantage to succeed as a blogger?
- What are my competitive advantages?
Ability to Defend Your Competitive Advantage
This is huge. Most competitive advantages for bloggers are difficult to defend. The more you can prevent people from copying your methods, the better. The problem is software can uncover methods and strategies. The bigger problem is most of what us bloggers do can’t be protected by patent with the exception of software development.
Below I set out 10 ways for bloggers to gain some form of competitive advantage. I include my opinion as to how well it can be defended in the long run on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is weakly defended and 10 is strongly defended.
On the one hand, most able SEO’s can decipher most of a site’s SEO quickly with software and a brain. However, there are some aspects of SEO that can be somewhat protected.
- Keyword research: While other SEO’s can easily decipher which keywords you target, they can’t necessarily uncover your methods of keyword research. If you’re first to target keywords, you have an advantage. Yes, they may come after you, but first to publish give you an advantage.
- Link building: Again, SEO’s can uncover all your link sources quickly, but if you set up systems to build links cost effectively, that can be protected. The SEO who can attract/build links at the lowest cost gains an advantage. SEO’s who can attract better links repeatedly also have an advantage.
- On-site technical SEO: This is an area where skilled SEO’s can gain a true competitive advantage. If you have a great deal of SEO data at your disposal as a result of experience and testing, you can figure out subtle on-site optimization methods that give you an advantage that are very difficult, if not impossible, to uncover.
Overall ability to protect competitive advantage: 7/10
- Writing: If you are gifted writer that attracts an audience and engenders loyalty, you’re bulletproof. Your style and voice cannot be copied. It’s a tremendous advantage. The downside is not very many people can achieve this with writing.
- Vlogging/Streaming/Webinar: If you present well on video, you can use your personality to build and attract an audience. This cannot be copied. Again, not everyone presents well on video to this degree.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 10/10
3. Graphic Design
Pins: If you can create high CTR pins or high engagement pins via graphic design, you can achieve an advantage on Pinterest, other social media channels and as unique content on your site.
Infographics: If you can create stunning infographics, you are one of a few people which gives you an advantage. Great infographics can be the backbone of solid SEO and/or other traffic sources.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 4/10
Develop software: If you develop software, you may be able to protect it with a patent. This is an excellent line of defense. You aren’t bulletproof because other software that does the same thing with different coding may be developed, but you do have an advantage.
Website technology: Perhaps you come up with technology that creates a superior website or blog in the niche. This may be protected by copyright. Even if it can’t be protected, you gain advantage enabling you to become the authority site quickly.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 8/10
5. Superior Quality
The sites that rank #1 in Google today for many keywords are different than the sites that ranked for the same keywords 8 years ago.
Content quality is constantly increasing because quality counts. If you can publish better content than other sites on an ongoing basis, you can gain a competitive advantage. The downside is it’s hard to defend. You no sooner create the greatest piece of content for a topic only to be faced with a competitor who outdoes you.
The key here is to consistently publish superior content which will bolster your brand and in time your audience will grow because of the quality. While quality is pretty easy to copy, most sites aren’t willing to put in the effort.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 4/10
If you have a knack for spotting trends, you can be first to publish which ranks number 1 in Google and gets attention on social media. First to rank has the advantage of only having to defend instead of climb.
While managing this one time won’t build a business, if you can do it regularly, you have an ongoing competitive advantage.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 7/10
If your copy sells, you have a very powerful competitive advantage. Selling via text or video or presentation is very powerful. If you can sell, you will not lack for work. If you sell your own products and your copy is better, you earn more per 1,000 visitors which means you have more money to invest and/or have an advantage in attracting affiliates to promote.
Moreover, your copy is protected under copyright. This is a built-in competitive advantage defense for superior copywriting skills.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 9/10
Some blogging models can benefit greatly via establishing and building relationships. Relationships lead to promotion which equals sales (often easy, low cost per customer sales).
Once you have an established network of promoters, you have a regular source of traffic with a guaranteed profit margin (you pay for a percentage of revenue, not per visitor).
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 10/10
Monetization: The more you can earn per 1,000 visitors, especially if more than your competition, the more money you have to reinvest for growth.
Tracking: The more care you take into tracking results, the more information you have to make better decisions. If you make better decisions than your competition, you have an advantage.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 6/10
10. Developing Systems
Systems are processes you set up to produce your widget. They’re behind the scenes. They are not discoverable. A superior system can result in lower costs, faster output and/or superior output… all of which gives you a competitive advantage.
Example of a system is your team of writers and how you set up workflow.
Ability to protect competitive advantage: 8/10
I’m still not sure having money is a true competitive advantage, but I think on the balance it is. Money makes it possible to get into higher barrier opportunities such as creating cloud software or buying a website that has tremendous authority that you can leverage with other skills.
One example is my being able to buy a very established, high quality content website that I’m building out into a successful website. The former owner did not monetize it well and the niche was bad. I’m changing niches and going after hundreds of long tail keywords using my keyword research methods. I’m also improving the monetization.
I’m piggy backing on the site’s SEO authority to rank a lot of content quickly (I published 30 test posts to see if it could rank in a different niche and it did spectacularly, so I’m off to the races). I’m using better ad networks via existing connections to increase revenue per 1,000 visitors.
This is just one example. Repeatedly above I mentioned that certain competitive advantages results in better profit margins which generates more money faster for further investment to spur more growth.
I may be wrong here that having money is a competitive advantage, but it seems to me that it is in many cases.
However, having money doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, it can be a hinderance because you may be wasteful and not as hungry.
Arguably, having money is not a competitive advantage because if you have good ideas you can get money from investors. I find this a bit simplistic and do think having money for some types of blogs or websites is an advantage as long as in the long run you have another of the enumerated advantages set out above.
The more, the merrier
The more of the above competitive advantages that you can excel at or develop, the greater your overall competitive advantage. The good news is you can feasibly succeed excelling at just one of the above. Excelling at more than one strengthens your competitive advantage.
The key to establishing a competitive advantage is to do something differently or be the best at something (or both).
It’s a great idea to learn about what other successful bloggers and niche site publishers do, but copying them isn’t the answer. Do what they do, but with your own spin on things. Offer something different or offer the result with different (better) processes.
What about hard work?
Hard work is not going to create a competitive advantage. It’s a prerequisite to success in most cases, especially during early stages.
Any leading business has piles and piles of hard work behind it. Your willingness to work hard won’t give you an advantage; it’s necessary to execute whatever competitive advantages you pursue.
The opposite can be true. Some people come up with a great idea that doesn’t take hard work to deploy and earn hyper profits. While hard work is usually necessary, there are exceptions.
Do you need a competitive advantage to succeed as a blogger?
I believe it’s a matter of degree. You can publish a blog similar to others that offers nothing special and still have some ongoing success. But I believe when after achieving that success, if you look at it carefully, you’ll notice some aspects of a competitive advantage. The advantage(s) may be slight, but something works. Online businesses are a zero-sum game. There is only so much traffic and money in any niche. Therefore, if you have some success on an ongoing basis, you’ve very likely established some degree of a competitive advantage.
That’s what makes blogging in its many forms so exciting. If you practice and hone your skills and strategies, you can succeed. It usually takes a while, but over time you figure out angles and strategies that work for you. From there it’s a matter of rinse and repeat.
What are my competitive advantages?
My competitive advantages vary by site.
This site (Myperfectblog.com)
For this site, it’s my voice. It’s a blog in the true sense. I blog about my online business. Only I have access to my experiences, data and results.
My 3 bigger B2C niche sites:
a) Unique keyword research approach: I focus on finding underserved keywords and topics and publish lots of content. No single article gets piles of traffic, but add them up and it amounts to a good amount of traffic.
b) Systems: I’ve worked hard to put together cost-effective work flows so that I can publish good content at a fairly low cost and quickly. I’m constantly working on improving my systems. It’s not perfect, but it’s a priority for me each week.
c) Analysis: I’ve spent hundreds of hours testing and analyzing ad revenue configurations. I’m not the only publisher that does this, but I do it fairly effectively relative to other sites in the niche. It’s not a huge competitive advantage, but it’s helped build the site (more money to reinvest).
In fact, this combination of competitive advantages allows me to scale by adding more sites to the mix. Cash flow restricts growth pace, but over time I can deploy these three advantages to new sites (either built from scratch or purchased).
My B2B blog:
In addition to the 3 competitive advantages developed for my B2C niche sites, a fourth advantage I also have for my B2B blog is networking. My B2B blog is successful primarily via networking in the industry and establishing a very good affiliate relationship. The content was good which attracted great affiliate opportunities, which I jumped on and it resulted in a very good partnership over the years.
Another advantage I gained for my B2B niche was trendsetting. When I launched the site years ago, it was the only blog serving that audience. I gained a foothold quickly and have maintained it for years. I have competitors now, but not that many because it’s a very narrow niche. The key for this site being so lucrative given minimal time requirements I put in is the affiliate relationships I’ve developed over the years.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.