How to Stop Listening to Blogging Gurus and Stand Out Online

To become a successful business owner or blogger, you must know how to stand out online.

But here’s the real, painful irony: in pursuit of writing a popular blog or getting clients, so many of us (including me) get caught up in trying to use other people’s formulas.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid clicking on blog posts with titles like “5 Blog Post Templates That Will Knock Your Readers’ Socks Off” or “My Simple 7 Step Formula for Getting a Bajillion Email Subscribers in 2 Days.”

These posts promise quick results for little thought or ingenuity.

As fallible humans, we want results and success fast. So we do our best to imitate the strategies of others. Only to make blogs that are the same as everyone else’s.

And then we wonder why we’re not getting thousands of readers like the “gurus” we’re attempting to imitate. We’re left thinking there’s something wrong with us for not being able to use these formulas to catapult us into instant success.

But here’s the truth.

Formulas won’t make you stand out online.

Formulas won’t make you a success.

Formulas won’t bring you instant wealth and fame.

Only your own ingenuity, creativity, and intuition can make you stand out online. Only your inner wisdom, grit and determination will bring you the success you are looking for.

So throw out the formulas. Don’t expect someone else’s blog post or online course to give you the keys to the castle.

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What you have inside of you cannot be replicated. It’s your secret sauce. Your magic juice. And no one else has it.

So, how do you access that magic juice and use it to stand out online? Here are a few ways. (No formulas included. I promise.)

1. Use your intuition to come up with blog post topics.

Throw out your lists of headline hacks and blog post templates, and instead, rely on your intuition to guide your planning.

In a recent episode of my new favorite podcast, Unthinkable, The Role of Gut Instincts in Content Marketing, Jay Acunzo and Tim Jensen explored the idea that your gut feeling or intuition isn’t some magic spiritual thing. It’s actually your subconscious mind, which is guided by your deep well of experience and knowledge.

You probably know a lot about your topic, your unique approach, and your audience. So you can trust yourself to use that knowledge and insight to inform your blog post ideas.

Sit down and do some deep thinking.

Feel into your intuition and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do my readers need to know right now?
  • What message am I aching to share?
  • What deep questions am I grappling with?
  • How have I profoundly helped someone recently?
  • What’s a simple thing I know a lot about?

Let your blog post ideas come from a desire to genuinely serve your readers and clients, rather than from an attempt to make something that you think people will like.

2. Reframe how you think about your online marketing

All too often, we think of our blogs like megaphones, our email lists like cash cows, and our online marketing activities like tentacles intended to draw people in. Ick.

Let’s reframe that.

Your blog is meant to be a conversation starter and an entry point for people to learn about you.

Your email list is meant to create a relationship between you and your readers. It’s a list of people whom you can serve and from whom you can learn.

Your online marketing is an opportunity for you to find ideal clients, collaborators, and mentors, and to build genuine relationships with them that are beneficial to both of you.

Even though you can’t see your readers or email list subscribers, they’re actual people. (If I sound condescending, know that I’m writing this to myself just as much as to you.)

So follow the same social guidelines you would in person.

Be helpful. Be curious. Be real. Be open.

Start conversations. Connect on an emotional level.

Forge genuine connections. That’s how you’ll stand out online.

3. Stop trying to grow your email list

Have you noticed that most bloggers are obsessed with growing their email lists and page views?

I get it. Believe me.

But the reality is most of your email subscribers and readers are on a bajillion email lists and read thousands of blogs. So seeing those numbers creep up doesn’t actually mean that much.

While everyone else online is trying to get more, more, more, you could be doing something truly remarkable: trying to get to know the people who already showed you they’re interested in your offerings.

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re talking to someone who seems fairly interesting.

After a few minutes of conversation, he asks you if you want his business card and he takes yours in return. As soon as you pocket his card, he immediately moves on to someone else. The next day, you get a generic email from him that makes it clear he has no idea who you are (probably because you’re one of dozens of people he barely talked to at the party).

But at the same party, you meet a really nice guy who takes the time to get to know you. He asks you about yourself. He hangs out with you for awhile and asks some deep questions. After talking to him, you feel seen and heard. And when he emails you the next day, he mentions something you discussed the day before.

Which of these guys would you be more likely to hire or do business with? Probably the second.

Unfortunately, in the online world, most people are like the first guy. They want your email address, and they want thousands of other email addresses, too. But they don’t take the time to actually get to know you or what you need.

So, how do you stand out online? By being like the second guy. By inviting actual conversation with your readers. By getting to know them. That’s how you’ll convert visitors into clients.

Can you still grow your list to thousands? Of course.

But first, focus on understanding your current subscribers. Figure out what they want, what drives them and who they are. Then use that to grow.

4. Be realistic about what you can solve for your readers

Many online marketers will tell you to figure out what your readers are struggling with the most and then create something that solves their problem.

Which sounds good and all. But often, our readers’ greatest struggles are large and complex and can’t be solved with a free PDF or email course. (I know, I’m disappointed, too.)

But, ever the good students, we try to create quick solutions to problems that can’t be solved that easily. And our resulting freebies leave our readers feeling like failures.

So instead of trying to make something to solve your readers’ greatest pain point, make something that actually solves a small problem, instead.

My friend Kathy was struggling to grow her email list. Then she created some beautiful goal sheets for a talk she was giving in Sonoma California, where she lives. She decided that since she’d already made them, she would put them up online and see what happened.

Her email list grew by hundreds and then thousands. It’s 2 years later, and she still gets about 20 opt-ins per day. (Yeah, I know.)

She told me that she thinks people are downloading them in droves because she made them to be used.

What can you make to be used?

5. Trust yourself

What drives us to search for easy, quick formulas and solutions?

In my experience, it’s uncertainty, fear, and perfectionism.

This online marketing thing is hard. So is owning your own business.

It takes courage to write a blog post and put it out there, to email a group of people you’ve never met, and to ask for a sale. It’s freaking scary sometimes.

So we go on a search for the “right way” to do things for fear that we’ll make a mistake.

But making mistakes is actually a good thing. It allows us to learn and hone our craft. It is part of the process of making something truly unique.

When we try to take shortcuts, we end up short circuiting our creative process and making stuff that looks like everyone else’s.

But you don’t have to do that. You can trust yourself.

The next time you feel that fear, that doubt, that anxiety creep up, ask yourself, “How would I move forward with this? What’s my best solution right now? How can I get playful and creative in this moment?”

Trust yourself and make something that’s truly a reflection of you.

To stand out online, stop listening to the blogging gurus and listen to yourself, instead.

  • Use your intuition to guide your blog post ideas.
  • Reframe how you think about your online marketing
  • Instead of focusing on growing your list and page views, get to know the people who are already in your community
  • Be realistic about the problems you can solve
  • Trust yourself

Here’s one final thing to think about.

This is not just about learning how to stand out online. It’s also about giving yourself the permission to be real, to be creative, and to make genuine connections. Which, in my mind, is far more important.

  • Hi Daniela… Awesome thoughts. I really jive with some of what you said in here. It seems like in the last few years originality has tanked and copy cat marketing is on the rising. That said though, on the one hand I want to go “hey, high five… Someone is talking about this not just me, but on the other hand I see you releasing the worksheets and planners and even my own program has guideline instructions and templates to make it easier for my clients to apply in their business. Isn’t there s dissonance in that? Great writing though. I love your blog colors.

    • Daniela Uslan

      You’re right. We do our best to help guide people but their own creativity and ingenuity is the next step to actually help them stand out online. I think these tools are helpful – the problem is when people rely on them at the expense of their own inner wisdom. It’s tricky to strike a balance there, for sure! Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!

  • Amanda Nel

    What a relieve to know that I am not the only one rebelling against so-called guru’s. I do have favorites who’s posts and newsletters I devour because they earned my respect by being real. You are so spot on Daniela. I can ‘feel’ you have your ‘mojo’ back. What a great idea you have to solve a small problem – I have been killing myself trying to come up with a masterpiece!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Amanda! I feel like I have my mojo back, too! And I look forward to hearing about what you make for your readers!

  • Spot on, Daniela! I’ve prided myself in walking to my own beat (and not being obsessive about an email list). 😉 There are so many out there telling us what we should do and how we should do it. It’s very overwhelming. I tell my clients, take everything you read with a grain of salt and find what works for YOU. Be yourself!

    • Daniela Uslan

      That’s awesome, Bren! I am glad you’ve always marched to the beat of your own drummer! Good for you!

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Love the part about using your intuition. I’m listening more and more to myself as I’m in business for more and more years.

    Thanks for the great read, Daniela!

  • Rakshitha Prakash

    Daniela, I’ve been following your blog from quite a long time, probably close to about 2-3 years now. And I see that earlier, you had written about using formulas and taking those gurus as example quite passionately in your posts. And now, I guess you had a realization that following people and doing things they do is not necessarily the-thing to do. May I know what inspired this change? (Asking because I tried doing almost everything your blog posts suggested, even though it felt not-so-comfortable and even downright yucky, and somethings that my intuition said a big NO-NO to, not that they worked, but I tried to an extent. You’re still my inspiration, and I wanted to know if something specific happened that made you change your views so radically, any book you read or any course you took?
    P.S: This is NOT intended to offend you in any way. Just a heartfelt question. Much much love to you and your work. <3 <3 <3

  • Elia Seely

    This is refreshing to hear … I think that I shy away from writing at all because I’m so put off by the formulaic, soulless seeming effort that online connecting has to be (in terms of business). Thanks!

  • Daria Harvey

    I think my blood pressure just dropped by a few points. As a newer blogger and perfectionist (I confess!), my inbox is full of “guru” emails and free webinars, courses etc. It’s disheartening and exhausting. And frankly, nothing gets done when I’m so busy “learning” from others (even though they usually say the same thing). This is very wise advice and good news as well! I’m raising my right hand Girl Scout style and promising not to obsess over the number on my e-mail list. And now I’ve got some unsubscribing to do… Thanks Daniela!

  • Amanda Frances

    Oh my goodness. I literally feel like this blog post was divinely shown to me!! I’m brand new to blogging, and was reading a few “how-to” blog posts about how to monetize, grow lists, etc – and those posts made me feel so disconnected from my own creative process and intuition! I needed to read this from you – because I refuse to lose who I am and my message. I actually think my message is really important and needs to be shared, versus trying to monetize a niche that I’m not even passionate about. THANK YOU!

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Amanda! I’m glad it resonated with you and that you’re devoted to listening to your intuition! Good for you!