There's one final step in choosing a blog topic. Last time we considered what readers like to read. Now we'll talk about what works for you. Hopefully you'll be able to come up with the intersection of the two. But first, a definition. (Related: Glossary of Blogging Terms)
What is a niche?
Your blog's general topic is often called a niche. While not required, a niche provides focus and direction, making your blog's purpose easily understood and defined, not only by you, but by your visitors as well. Some examples of popular niches are making money online, food, decorating, memoirs, homeschooling, fitness or weight loss, parenting, photography, etc.
1. Is this niche too broad or too specific?
If your blog's topic is too broad, it's hard to compete with and stand out from all the other blogs and websites in your niche. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, the pool of interested readers will be too small to gain any traction.
If one of your goals is to generate income, remember that traffic is key. If you get lost in the crowd because your niche is too general, or you don't have many readers because your niche is too narrow, it will affect your income.
For example, instead of the broad category of food, or the narrow category of peanut butter cookie recipes, you might try something like cookies or desserts & pastries.
2. Is this niche saturated?
Back in the day, when there weren't so many blogs online, you could almost pick a topic and run with it. Now, not so much. There are definitely niches that are really, really full and therefore, difficult to break into. It's not impossible, but it requires a lot more creativity and perseverance. Example: Deal blogs is one of these niches. Instead of starting a national deal blog, try starting a deal blog for your local area.
3. Are readers in this niche willing to spend money?
If you hope to generate income, this is an important question. Think about the intersection between your niche and your audience. For example, if you're hoping to promote high-end clothing products, it's probably not a great idea to target struggling college students.
Another way to look at it: Are other blogs in this niche earning money? Finding this out is easier said than done, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. Do those blogs have advertisers? Are the blogs active and engaging?
4. Do you have plenty to blog about?
Choose a topic that you can write about regularly and indefinitely. Remember, you're in this for the long haul. If you post once a week, that amounts to 52 posts a year. Three times a week? 156 posts. Five times a week? 260 posts. And that's just barely getting started! Don't choose something so narrow that you run out of writing fodder after only a few weeks or months.
A good way to test this is to brainstorm possible posts or subtopics pertaining to your main blog topic. You might create a mind map (I talked about this in my How to Write an Ebook series). If you can easily come up with a list of several dozen with additional ideas about how to branch out, it's probably a good sign. If, however, you can't think of many, you might need to rethink your choice.
Another way to work around this problem is to have a multi-author blog. Ruth from The Better Mom has done this well. If you're not sure if you can sustain your blog alone, this might be a great way to go. See What Makes Readers Lose Interest in a Blog? for some thoughts on that.
5. Rock your ninja-ness
If you aren't sure you have much to offer, I love what Sonia Simone says, "Even if you're only pretty good, but not a ninja, you're still a ninja to someone." Find that thing about which you have a decent amount of know-how and go with it. Chances are there are others who will appreciate what you have to say.
Like I mentioned previously, what are you already doing in life that you could write about and help others at the same time?
6. Ideally, choose a niche in which you can be an authority
If you can become the authority in a particular niche, that's great. The key here is to think smaller. I've always been impressed with Carrie from Springs Bargains who did just this. She started a deal blog, but instead of starting a general one like so many others have, she purposefully targeted Colorado Springs. She is absolutely the authority on deals in Colorado Springs (and now she's even branched out with Denver Bargains too).
7. What kind of site do you wish you could find?
Sometimes a good way to determine a viable blog niche is to ask yourself what you've found to be lacking online. After all, if you're looking for it, someone else might be looking for it too. This is how I started my first blog. Back in 2004, I was a struggling pastor's wife. I knew I couldn't be the only pastor's wife having a difficult time, so I searched online for others with whom I could relate. I couldn't find any, so I started my own.
Another way to look at it: What group is being ignored online? What is everyone talking about?
8. Be flexible and unique
Once you choose a niche, don't feel like you're committed to it for life. Blogging is very fluid and changes constantly. Being flexible and taking advantage of ways to be different will serve you well. In fact, expect it.
9. Be you
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to find a blog you love…and then try to create a clone. One of the greatest things about blogs is that they afford us the opportunity to get to know the individual behind the blog. Blogging is part of social media because it's just that: social. Let your personality come through. If you're goofy, be goofy. If you're feisty, be feisty. If you're contemplative, be contemplative. Your readers will be drawn to what you have to say, but they will also be drawn to who you are. BE YOU.
10. Most importantly, resist paralysis of analysis
Many people get stuck at this point in the process because they're terrified of making the "wrong choice." While a well-chosen niche is a benefit, one wonderful thing about the internet is how forgiving it is. Don't be afraid to dive in and figure it out as you go. We all do that. Better to do that than to do nothing at all. Just go for it!
Other posts in this series
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Intro & FAQ
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Cheat Sheet
- How to Find (or Refind) Your Passion
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for Readers?
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for You?
- Understand Branding: 4 Tips
- Understand Keywords: Increase the Odds of Getting Found
- Writing Great Content: 3 Tips
- How to Write a Killer About Page
- 12 Blog Organization Tips
- How to Choose a Domain Name: 12 Tips
- How to Register a Domain Name
- How to Set Up Hosting and WordPress
- How to Change Your Nameservers
- How to Add a New User in WordPress
- How to Optimize Your WordPress Settings
- How to Install a Plugin
- My Favorite Plugins
- How to Get & Optimize a Feedburner Feed
- How to Choose a WordPress Theme
- How to Install a WordPress Theme
- Elegant Themes for WordPress
- How to Install Google Analytics
- How to Use WordPress: Tips & Tricks
- How to Start a Blog or Website: 10 Tips for New Bloggers