You’ve done it.
After years of avoiding it, you have made the decision to start your own blog. And why not? It could be an awesome side hustle for you. Or maybe you can blog your way into a job in the media, or get your own TV show on a cable network!
And it’s a great fit, too, because you are just overloaded with things to say. The world needs to hear them!
But… what part of the world is going to hear them?
I don’t mean geographically, though that’s another consideration, of course. I mean, who’s your audience? Who are you going to be writing to?
- Your Target Market Can’t Be “Everyone”
- If a Blog Post is Published and Nobody Reads It, Does It Still Exist?
- Other Reasons to Niche Your Blog
- Question #1: What am I Passionate About?
- Question #2: What am I Knowledgeable About? Or What am I Willing to Learn About?
- Question #3: Can I Make Money from This? (But Be Careful!)
- Question #4: You Know You Can Pivot, Right?
Your Target Market Can’t Be “Everyone”
Maybe you truly believe that whatever you’re writing is about to change the way the world thinks or lives or works or cooks.
But unless you can tie it to a specific niche, nobody will read it.
Twentysomething New Yorkers who work in marketing departments are probably not interested in the same content as thirtysomething Midwestern stay-at-home moms.
Your content needs an audience – and the best way to find that audience is by zeroing in on a niche.
If a Blog Post is Published and Nobody Reads It, Does It Still Exist?
If you want to make an impact with your content, you have to compete for a reader’s attention with other blogs.
How many could that possibly be?
Turns out, there are 600 million blogs online right now.
Yep. That’s a lot.
Millions of those blogs have a longer history, more connections, more exposure, and probably more of an investing budget than you do.
Before you can start generating traffic and building your following, you need to get that number down – so you can at least have a fighting chance at breaking out from the pack.
Other Reasons to Niche Your Blog
Besides just attracting readers, deeply-niched blogs position themselves to take advantage of a lot of different benefits.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A blog that talks about baking birthday cakes one day and fly fishing the next day is not going to be very focused on keywords. When somebody searches for “birthday cakes”, they’re going to find blogs that only talk about baking. The same goes for fly fishing.
Now, imagine your blogging niche is baking desserts in your Instant Pot. When somebody searches for “Instant Pot desserts,” chances are you’re going to rank a lot higher on the search results. That will lead to more exposure, traffic, and readers.
This isn’t something that is particularly measurable, but traffic isn’t the be-all, end-all to making a decent income online. Even if you have a smaller audience, you’re going to do much better with it if you have a strong connection with your readers.
But again, it comes down to focus. If you want to connect with your readers, you have to have something in common with them. If, say, a cat owner comes across your post on “10 Ways to Help Your Cat Lose Weight,” she might be excited to see someone is writing about something that matters to her. However, if your next post is “How to Change The Carburetor on a 1989 Buick LeSabre,” she’s probably not going to keep on reading (unless, buy some miracle, she actually owns one). Staying on-topic most of the time will keep readers coming back to get to know you better.
Position yourself as the expert
I’m online shopping for smart watches. I come across a blog that is loaded with reviews of different smart watches, smart watch apps, news about smart watches, and accessories about smart watches. Chances are, I’m going to stick around that site because they clearly have spent a lot of time on studying and getting to know smart watches. They’ve successfully positioned themselves as experts.
Compare that to a blog that talks about a smart watch one minute and then talks about how great the 1989 Batman movie was. You might agree with their point (because Batman was a classic), but you won’t really care about their views on smart watches.
In short, a niche helps people find you and keeps them coming back for more.
Okay, so I’ve convinced you. You’re ready to pick a niche and go with it. But now you’re wondering how to do it. How do you figure out the direction you’re going to take your blog for the long haul? And how do you make sure you avoid choosing the wrong niche?
I’ve got four questions to help you zero in on the right niche for your blog.
Question #1: What am I Passionate About?
It’s been used so much that it’s a cliche at this point. “Finding your passion” is such a weird mix of good advice and bad advice that I hesitated even including it here.
Here’s why I did, though: you have to enjoy what you’re going to write about.
That’s because you’re not a unicorn. Building up an audience and creating an income stream from your blog is going to take a lot of time, hard work, and energy.
And you’re probably going to do it for free for a while.
That’s why it’s so important to blog about something that excites you. “Would you do it for free?” is not just a question to get you thinking – it’s a warning.
If you don’t want to write about it for free for months or even years, then you’re not going to be motivated to keep going, you’re not going to write about it all that well, and it’s going to die a slow, miserable death.
Pick something that’s fun for you, so you can look forward to the work, even if you’re not being paid.
Question #2: What am I Knowledgeable About? Or What am I Willing to Learn About?
If you’re setting yourself up to be an expert, you better know what you’re talking about.
This happens a lot in business blogs. Freelancers especially start trying to build businesses around teaching stuff that they’ve done after achieving a little bit of success. But they’re hardly “experts”. As a result, the advice they give is misguided and wrong, and the businesses that they thought they would build start petering out.
Go with something you’re well-versed in. If you really enjoyed professional wrestling in the 1980s (and who didn’t?), and you can name all the main events of WrestleMania, then your knowledge will come through.
There’s another side to this, though: if you’re not an expert yet, you can still blog about it. But if you take this route, you have to be crystal clear to your readers that you are learning as you go.
Gary Vaynerchuk talks about documenting the process of becoming the expert you want to be. This is a great thing… as long as you are upfront about it.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t work here. Either be an expert or be someone who’s learning.
Question #3: Can I Make Money from This? (But Be Careful!)
If you Google your potential niche, what comes up?
Do other established websites pop up in the search results? Are they selling things, or running ads on their site?
Normally, you don’t want to have competition. But competition is also a sign that there is money to be made in a niche. And you can jump into all sorts of keyword search tools to run analysis about the exact size of the potential audience or whatever, but I don’t care about any of that.
If you can establish that there is some audience, then you’re probably in good shape.
But then think about your audience a little deeper. Will they have a lot of money to spend? That will influence your approach to making a living with this blog, if that is your end goal.
Do they have a fixed income? Do they have an income at all? What are their current financial responsibilities?
Money isn’t everything. But if you are interested in monetizing your audience, it helps to know that there is an audience looking for the niche that you want to write about.
Question #4: You Know You Can Pivot, Right?
(I’m cheating a little bit with this question.)
Dedication and commitment is what separates successful blogs from unsuccessful ones.
But what happens if, six months down the road, you find that you’ve lost all the passion you had for the subject? What if writing about it is feeling like pulling teeth now?
Switch. Or as my friend Jenny Blake likes to say, “Pivot.”
Let me be clear: if you switch too often, it’s going to be too jarring for your audience and you’ll blow away any credibility that you built up. If that’s important to you, then tread carefully.
In this day and age, however, it’s okay to shuffle around a little. If you have a domain that is just your name, for example, and you installed Wordpress on it already, then you can re-brand it all you want until you find something that you really enjoy doing.
Too often we get stuck in this analysis paralysis where we think every action has to be perfect. It’s okay to try things out.
Just don’t let money be the only method of judgment. If that’s the only measure of success and you’re still writing regularly and enjoying it, then give it time. Even a year or two or five. It takes time to build a business from scratch.
There you go! That’s not so hard, is it? Have fun with the process of picking a niche and go easy on yourself. You’ll eventually find the right fit, and you’ll have a blog with potential for fun, and maybe even profit.