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