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How Just Noticeable Difference Theory Impacts Your Blogging


Just noticeable difference (JND) describes the marginal difference in a stimulus (compared to a similar stimulus) needed for that difference to be perceived. Also mathematically represented as:

Description: \frac {\Delta I} {I} = k,

That’s a freight train of earth-shatteringness, right?

In blogging lingo, it means you can’t just be different from other blogs. You have to be sufficiently different in some aspect for that differenceto be noticed by readers. Just like trees falling in an empty forest, if your blogging is really better, more frequent, better researched, etc., but not better enough to be noticed, then you aren’t really a better blogger. This is true whether you’re comparing your blog to others or whether you’re just trying to take your blogging to a new level and want people to realize it.

In practice, JND theory ends up hurting company blogs more than any other type. The mediocre systems that control company blogging are designed to minimize the cost of being “better” and don’t take real reader perception theory into account. They fall prey to the same ideology that makes 80% of drivers consider themselves better than average.

I had a tech industry client who, in an effort to improve their blogging, studied their competitors’ blogs in-depth. They found that, on average, their competitors were blogging 2.8 times per week, averaging 1-2 comments per post, with an average of 67 company blog subscribers. They assumed that by blogging 3.5 times per week and getting an average of 2-3 comments per post, it would result in a major competitive advantage. So much for that coup de grâce. All indications were that nobody noticed.

So how do you know if your content, graphics, layout, etc. are truly better than similar blogs you’re competing with for readershare?

A couple of suggestions:

  1. Put any attribute you perceive as adding competitive value to your blog/blogging down on paper and compare it to your primary competitors. I personally recommend applying the VRIO framework to each attribute to see if the advantage is real.
  2. If you look good on paper, get a few people confirm your advantages by having them subscribe to your blog and some competitor blogs for 2-4 weeks, then follow up with a perception questionnaire. It’s that easy. Even a couple of testers are likely to give you some good qualitative feedback on whether you’ve reached the “noticeable difference” threshold you need for the branding attributes you’re targeting.

If your blogging strengths aren’t truly recognized, don’t give up hope. Perhaps you just need to accentuate your strengths further or find new strengths that aren’t already being exploited by everyone else. There are plenty of blogging tips out there to help put you on everybody’s radar.

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Scott Cowley Scott Cowley Marketing

Scott Cowley is an SEO consultant by night, marketing PhD student by day. He was previously head of SEO at ...

How Just Noticeable Difference Theory Impacts Your Blogging

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