Applying The Principles Of The Purple Cow To Blogging

Posted by Charles on August 27th, 2008

Purple Cow

Image by sunclover

“The essence of the Purple Cow is that it must be remarkable…. This is a book about why you need to put a Purple Cow into everything you build.”

Seth’s Godin’s Purple Cow is one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time. It flows easily and the concepts are simple yet remarkably powerful. The Purple Cow provides you with a new outlook, a new way of thinking where the old techniques of building businesses are over, where the only way to survive and prosper is to innovate. Through abandoning the old ways of thinking you can build a remarkable business, one which contains a Purple Cow.

Why a Purple Cow? Cows are everywhere. If you see one you’ve seen them all. They don’t stand out, there’s nothing remarkable about them. But a Purple Cow? Now that would be remarkable…

Although the Purple Cow was written was businesses in mind it’s just as relevant to blogs. This is an article about applying the principles of the Purple Cow to blogging.

Starting Out With A New Blog

“The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken - it’s no longer remarkable when you do it.”

There’s a lot of clutter out there in the blogosphere. In the early days if you discussed how to make money blogging people would listen. It was a new and controversial topic. These days everyone’s doing it. There’s a huge amount of information out there and it’s not easy to make yours stand out.

For example, similar to making money online imagine that you’re starting a blog about copywriting tips. Trying to catch up with Copyblogger would be a monumental task. The ‘copywriting tips’ space is occupied.

“It’s easy to look at the idea diffusion curve and decide that the juicy, profitable, wonderful place to be is right in the center, where all the people are. However, that’s rarely true.”

These days you have to move away from the mainstream, whether it’s business or blogging. The center has been taken… the only place to be now is further down the diffusion curve where you can dominate your niche by being remarkable.

Being Different

“Make a list of competitors who are not trying to be everything to everyone. Are they outperforming you? If you could pick one underserved niche to target (and to dominate), what would it be?”

What’s the lesson when it comes to blogging? Don’t follow the leader; offer something different, something unusual, something unique.

“We’ve been raised with a false belief: We mistakenly believe that criticism leads to failure… .. Nobody says, “Yeah, I’d like to set myself up for some serious criticism!” And yet… the only way to be remarkable is to do just that.”

Previously I’d never thought of it like this but this statement could not be more true. Throughout life criticism is always seen as being handed out when you do something wrong. However, it’s often a sign that you’re doing well. Create a remarkable business and the criticism will follow. Look at what PayPal has done for the small website owner. You can be set up within hours, there’s no manual approval process, no set-up or monthly fees, or cancellation fees. Compared to WorldPay - a clumsy, expensive and inflexible payment solution - PayPal is remarkable.

And yet PayPalSucks exists? Where’s WorldPaySucks? There isn’t one. PayPal has embraced the notion of Purple Cow and created a remarkable business. Along the way it’s received its fair share of criticism but that’s simply a sign that PayPal is doing something right

Last week Seth Godin created controversy by suggesting that clicking ads could become the accepted way of tipping bloggers. The outcry was widespread with many people questioning whether he was encouraging click fraud.

Seth’s original thinking created an outcry. Hundreds of bloggers linked to the post and the topic was discussed on numerous forums and social networking sites. And yet how much more successful was that post in creating links and attention compared to his previous 20 posts combined? Suggest something original and criticism may result, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing - frequently it means that you’re succeeding.

Creating a Remarkable Blog That Contains a Purple Cow

How can a blogger make their blog stand out from the crowd? There are a few main ways:

  • Writing Style - conversational, educational, entertaining
  • Content - choice of topic, depth, speed of breaking news coverage
  • Inside Knowledge - many highly successful sports blogs succeed because of this
  • Community - creating a unique community around your blog
  • Opinion & Viewpoint - seeing things from a consistent point of view, such as a sceptical one
  • Controversy - this tends to work best as an occasional tactic

Real-Life Blogs That Have Embraced The Purple Cow

The blogosphere is packed full of examples of highly successful bloggers who have gone the extra mile to be different. They’ve incorporated the principles of the Purple Cow into their blog and are yielding the benefits:

- SEOBook - Aaron Wall wrote the most valuable and comprehensive eBook about search engine optimization. Supported by a superb blog he created a brand around ‘SEO Book’ and is now considered one of the leading SEO professionals on the web.

- DoshDosh - Maki’s blog about internet marketing and social media is one of the most comprehensive blogs out there. Last year Maki openly talked about developing a content strategy where he’d be focusing on producing less frequent but more comprehensive posts. The result has been a completely differentiated blog and the results - an incredibly popular blog with over 15,000 subscribers - speak for themselves.

- Inside CRM - this site combines usual blog posts with highly in-depth content approximately every month. This content tends to be in the form of lists, such as 50 tweets that will echo in history or 101 everyday uses of Twitter, and the consequence is that people instantly recognise the site on social media sites. The result? When one of these articles is published it almost always goes hot on social news sites.

- ProBlogger - when it comes to writing about blogging tips and how to make money blogging you’ll do well to out-blog ProBlogger. Darren Rowse started ProBlogger a number of years ago and combines a high posting frequency with excellent in-depth content. A new blog would do incredibly well to come anywhere close to ProBlogger in the ‘blogging tips and make money blogging’ space.

What about us? PiggyBankPie is certainly not at the level of the above blogs but we’ve tried to learn from the principles of the Purple Cow and do be different, focusing around the niche of guest blogging, offering posts on the benefits of guest blogging, how to prepare for a guest blogging gig, discussing the risks of being a guest blogger, and where you can find guest blogging opportunities.

In Conclusion

Seth Godin’s Purple Cow is an incredibly powerful concept, highlighting the need to be different, to be remarkable… in essence to incorporate a Purple Cow into everything that we do. As Seth Godin puts it…

“The big question is this: Do you want to grow? If you do, you need to embrace the Cow. You can maintain your brand the old way, but the only route to healthy growth is a remarkable product.”

Have you read the Purple Cow? What did you think of it? And how do you make your blog stand out from the rest?

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