Getting your photos noticed today is harder than ever. There are more people than ever who have competent enough skills to make 'safe' photos that adhere to the visual rules we've created- the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Mean, 'correct' exposures, tack-sharp focus, etc. All of these are considered at least somewhat important in making an aesthetically pleasing photograph.
Unfortunately, aesthetically pleasing is unlikely to help you stand out from the masses. Playing by the rules can work and you may still get noticed but I tend to think that the reality of that is getting harder to achieve (saying nothing about your own marketing skills). Over at Seth Godin's blog, he posits that playing within the rules is the harder path these days. At least that's my interpretation of it.
"Some artists continually seek to tear down boundaries, to find new powder, new territory, new worlds to explore. They're the ones that hop the fence to get to places no one has ever been."
The problem with applying this line of thinking in photography is that getting "to places no one has ever been" is certainly difficult if not impossible. What I think you can do though is to beak some of the rules we've been taught. Overexpose, underexpose, put your subject at the edge of the frame. Create visual tension in ways you normally wouldn't. You may not create something totally new but if it's good, I bet it has a better chance of standing out from the aesthetically safe masses.
"Going with the flow is a euphemism for failing."