Why Your Blog Needs a Niche

20k Writers' Blogs a Day and How Will You Stand Out?

Can a successful blog be general? Writer and MALW blog reader Gina Alianiello recently emailed me about this issue:

 

I’m trying to start a blog. I feel like an anomaly–I am a generalist. I am interested in writing about a range of things from health, social issues, women’s issues, holistic agriculture and more.

I wonder if you subscribe, like so many people do, to the idea that a successful blog must necessarily be focused on a narrow niche. I keep thinking a blog can be general, but with many narrower tags or categories.

What is your opinion on the viability of a blog that informs, educates and entertains on general topics?

I’ll start by saying that whether a general blog is “viable” depends on your goal. Is your goal with your blog to set your creativity free by having a place to instantly publish your daily musings? If so, a general blog is just fine.

But if you want your blog to help you earn money, either by showing prospective clients you understand blogging and could blog for them, or by creating a large audience you could sell products to or line up advertisers based upon — then you need a niche blog.

Why? Let’s take those two monetizing aspects one at a time and discuss.

If you’re using your blog as a showplace for your skill in hopes of landing a good paid blogging gig, your niche blog makes a good audition piece because virtually all paid blogging is niche-oriented. On Entrepreneur.com right now, for instance, I blog about issues of concern to small business owners. Over at BNET, my blogs offer pointed analysis of goings-on at large public retail and restaurant companies. For one of my current small-business clients, SuretyBonds.com, I research and write about new laws requiring business owners in various industries to buy surety bonds.

See what I mean? These blogs are not general. Businesses and publications are looking for bloggers who understand how to work a niche.

If you want your blog to be a moneymaker in itself, this involves drawing a large audience, whom you and your advertisers can sell products and services. The problem with a general niche here is that you can’t catalyze a big, loyal fan base if one week you’re writing about agriculture, and the next week you’re writing about women in the military.

Imagine I’m your reader. I do some Web browsing on a topic of interest, and I find your blog. I read your post and I love it! I subscribe. But the next post is about something totally different, and the next one has yet another topic. Now I’m annoyed! And I stop visiting.

Whereas if all your blogs are about tattoos, or Formula One racing, or geocaching, or business productivity…people who care about your topic can more easily find you, fall in love with you, and become rabid fans. Because your blogs will frequently mention similar terms (such as “freelance writing” here at MALW), your search rankings for that topic will rise as you post more.

More people will come. And then you can sell to your audience. Which all likes the same stuff, and that makes it easy to figure out what to sell them.

If there’s a general blog out there succeeding in doing this, I have yet to see it. So if you have multiple topics you want to blog on, Gina, the answer is: multiple blogs. They can even start off just as separate tabs on the same Web site, and then spin off to their own sites if they take off. But each topic blog needs a separate place to live, a place for fans of that topic to come where they can count on learning more on the subject they love.

I’d say you are not a generalist, Gina. You are a writer with several possible niche topics.

Thanks to Gina for emailing me with this question. Got a question about how to earn more from your writing? Leave a comment and if I like your question, I will answer it here at MALW.

Photo via Flickr user Annie Mole

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13 comments on “Why Your Blog Needs a Niche
  1. Hi Carol

    I enjoy reading your posts – always informative and helpful.

    In regards to ‘specialist’ or ‘generalist’ I agree with the points you make.

    We have three blogs – two that specialise on one topic – ‘transformative change’ http://bjseminars.com.au/ and ‘Tai Chi’ http://chrischi.com.au/ .

    My personal blog Chris Chats http://chrischats.com/ I write on anything I feel like and because it’s not money focused I don’t care how many people read it.

    Currently I’m creating another blog which will specialise on writing (still working on my niche area) and this will be income focused.

    So I’m bit of a specialist and generalist depending where my focus is and I blame all this on the ‘writing bug’ 🙂

    Regards
    Chris Bennett

  2. Elaine Johnston says:

    My niche is travel and that's what I write about on my blog (www.GlobetrottingYourWay.com) …not a very small niche to say the least.

    Know I should zero in on a particular type of travel, but have a hard time getting myself to do that. I've been in the travel industry in one form or other since 1972 and have sent folks 'round the world as a "personal travel planner." I would like to step away from that end of the business and make money from my writing, but as you can see if you visit my blog…at the end of each article there is a request to call me to "make all your travel dreams come true!" I'm in a rut…

    Do you think TRAVEL is niche enough? I've been trying to slim things down by categories.

    Also put a lot of work into another blog which I have put on hold: (www.CulinaryCruisesandTours.com) Here again, I'm asking for more business…

    All suggestions are appreciated. I'm on the December waitlist for A-List Blogger Club. Thanks for letting us know about this resource. Perhaps they will be able to help.

    Thanks for your time. Enjoy your day!
    ….elaine johnston

    • TiceWrites says:

      Hi Elaine —

      I'm sorry you didn't get in before they shut the doors on A-List…this is exactly the sort of question that would be great to take to their forums, and think about while doing their coursework. But it's only 6 or 7 weeks I think until they reopen it!

      It sounds like you're at a crossroads — does your blog promote your travel-planning business, or do you want to have a travel blog you monetize in another way — maybe selling travel books or videos, or getting affiliate fees from other travel planners instead of having to be one yourself. Or maybe you could create some travel how-to ebooks of your own to sell. Or maybe you just want your travel blog to be a writing platform that you'd use to get other paid writing jobs, which has been my major success route, as today's post discusses.

      If you get my ebook, it discusses all the ways you could earn from your blog. There aren't really that many variations. Might be food for thought on how you could move the blog in a new direction, while you wait to get in A-list.

      Best of luck with it! Maybe I'll see you in the Club.

  3. Yvette says:

    Niche writing will always be in demand. It's dynamic by nature, if not a bit whimsical as it changes with the changing lingo of any (sub)culture. Therefore keywords and phrases are every so important to be aware of. Just like Carol said: if no one can find you, no one can read you. Excellent piece. Thank you.

  4. JoAnne Schlicker says:

    Hi, I want to blog about Autism, specifically in children but may include adults later. Autspot.com is hosting a WordPress blog site for me. I haven’t posted any yet but wonder if it could be lucrative and what is the best way to approach it. I have written the first post starting with personal experience in this area. Any suggestions?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi JoAnne —

      Interesting question. I'm going to put it in my mailbag and try to answer it in the next couple of weeks here on the blog. Thanks for writing!

  5. Jeff says:

    Good point about specializing. A friend in the marketing business told me not long ago "the more I specialize, the better business gets." He's right (and focuses on marketing for financial planners and arts nonprofits).

    My blog (www.CareerActionSteps.com) is about career issues for fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. I put it out as a sample of my writing work, but also as a service to the nonprofit community – my target audience.

    A biological based job point – related to this – is about our "reticular activation system." It's why we see many more cars like the ones we drive when we're out on the road. Our brain is trained to look for the design features of our make and model of car. So it is with looking for a job (or clients for our business). Rather than saying "I'll do anything" (which leads to casting about aimlessly for work), if you define exactly what you want, you'll start seeing more of it. Try it out. It works!

    …Matt Hugg (www.FundraisingTalent.com)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Jeff — your blog there seems to be blank…but I think you're on to something about the 'reticular activation' thing! The fact is, people who have specific industry needs are usually desperate for anyone who can do their niche well. I'm currently blogging for SuretyBonds.com, for instance, and you can imagine how grateful they were to find someone who'd written in-depth on insurance before. From there I've heard from more insurance clients.

      The thing to remember with specializing is work of one kind tends to lead to work of another…so get into a niche you enjoy or soon you'll find you have a raft of work in a subject that bores you! As I happens I'm kind of a finance/tax/legal/insurance dork, so that's one of my big specialty areas.

      Thanks for writing —

      Carol

  6. AbbeyL51 says:

    Very nice post. Really touched on a lot of really nice ideas. Thanks for posting it. Putting this website on my RSS !

  7. Matt Hugg says:

    Good point about specializing. A friend in the marketing business told me not long ago "the more I specialize, the better business gets." He's right (and focuses on marketing for financial planners and arts nonprofits).

    My blog (www.CareerActionSteps.com) is about career issues for fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. I put it out as a sample of my writing work, but also as a service to the nonprofit community – my target audience.

    A biological based job point – related to this – is about our "reticular activation system." It's why we see many more cars like the ones we drive when we're out on the road. Our brain is trained to look for the design features of our make and model of car. So it is with looking for a job (or clients for our business). Rather than saying "I'll do anything" (which leads to casting about aimlessly for work), if you define exactly what you want, you'll start seeing more of it. Try it out. It works!

    …Matt Hugg (www.FundraisingTalent.com)

  8. I think there's a really good point here about being a generalist when working for clients and a specialist when blogging. The goal for the blog on my freelance site is to discuss what makes good Web writing and how that ties to branding. I also have deep interest and knowledge in Egyptology and have blogged from Egypt for an archaeological team I work with (Dr. Mark Lehner). My third blog is just getting set up and is going to be a resource for a specific area of psychology.

    I don't currently have plans to monetize any of these. The blog on my freelance site is currently designed to engage prospective clients.

    Brian

  9. Carol Tice says:

    Hi Anne —

    You may be a generalist in what you write for clients…but your blog is only about freelance writing…which is what makes it a great place to visit.

    Carol

  10. I'm a generalist too, more or less. I haven't yet had any luck starting a blog that's pretty broad. But the problem for me is time to devote to it more than anything else.

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