Once you decide to start a blog, there are a couple of essentials you must take care of before diving in. Among the most important is deciding what you are going to write about. You need to pick a niche for your blog.
The Importance of a Niche
There are blogs out there without a niche. You can find just about anything on the internet, including successful people blogging about random topics.
But, most successful bloggers pick a niche. This forms the theme of their blog and gives it purpose.
Your blog name, the look of your blog, and the content you create will all point back to the niche you select.
Your niche tells readers what to expect. It allows you to think about your ideal reader and create content that’s a great match.
Without a niche, your blog will lack focus. It may confuse your readers. If someone comes to your blog to read a parenting post they saw on Pinterest, they may try to find additional, similar content on your site. If most of your posts are unrelated, that reader isn’t likely to subscribe, or even visit your site again.
Having a niche makes your site cohesive. It also makes creating content easier for you.
Though it seems counter-intuitive, placing some boundaries on the content of your blog really gives you freedom to explore your niche in depth. It frees up your mind from having to think of random topics and allows you to focus where you shine.
What Can Happen if You Don’t Pick a Niche for Your Blog
When I started my first blog, I didn’t pick a niche. I thought I’d just write about my life and have millions of people eager to read.
I was wrong.
Though I faithfully published post after post on a consistent basis, there was no focus. One post would be on milking the cows. Another would be on a ferry trip we took as a family.
My family was the only topic tying these random posts together. And that wasn’t enough to get readers. Well, at least readers who weren’t related to me.
After struggling for over a year, it was like a light bulb went off. Since no one knew what to expect from one post to another, I had a hard time finding an engaging audience.
People eager to read about my experience with Dexter cattle were disappointed when I only published them once in a blue moon. They didn’t care about ferry trips or what we were eating for lunch. They wanted content about milking Dexters.
When I finally realized how my lack of boundaries was causing problems, I started shifting my content. This led to a branding change. That blog now has a purpose, and more readers.
When I launched my second blog, I picked a niche right away. It’s performed so much better, and I love knowing that every post I publish will be useful to my readers.
Learn from my mistakes and pick a niche for your blog from the get-go.
How to Pick a Niche for Your Blog
Your niche is important. It will help define your blog and draw the perfect audience to your content.
It’s not something you should just randomly pick. Instead, I recommend working through a four-step process that allows you to really think about your topic.
The four steps are:
- Go with Your Gut
When you’re ready to pick a niche for your blog, here are some more directions to get you pointed in the right direction.
Brainstorming allows you to get all your ideas out of your mind into a visual form. I typically begin brainstorming sessions with a brain dump.
Set a timer for five minutes and write down every topic that comes to your mind. There are no bad ideas right now, so don’t waste any time evaluating what you write. Just get your ideas out.
Once you have a list of potential ideas, it’s time to be a bit more thoughtful in your approach. As you ask yourself the following questions, write down any additional topics that come to mind.
- What jobs have you enjoyed?
- Were there any subjects in school or college you thrived at?
- What topics do you love talking to other people about?
- Are you the “go-to” helper for a certain problem in the family or among your friends?
- Is there a particular topic in your life that because of your unique circumstances, you are now an expert in?
- What topics do you enjoy writing about?
By now you probably have a large list of random ideas and thoughts on your paper. That’s great!
Now it’s time to start evaluating.
Evaluate Your Options
Read through your entire list, reading every entry aloud. Hearing what you wrote helps you remember as you work through this process.
Once you’ve read your list, proceed through the following action steps:
- Cross off any topics that you aren’t comfortable writing about
- Draw arrows between topics that could go together under the umbrella of a larger niche (ie: family road trips and family meal ideas could work well together under a “parenting” niche)
- Circle topics that you are MOST interested in
- Rewrite your list to include only circled topics
Having a clean list will make the next step of evaluating easier. That way you won’t struggle to decipher your notes.
Now it’s time to really think about each of the ideas you wrote down.
The topic you pick needs to be one you can create consistent content about. It needs to be large enough that you won’t run out of ideas.
It also needs to be one you enjoy. If you aren’t passionate about your topic, your readers will be able to tell.
Cross off any items on your new list that don’t meet the above criterion.
Look through the remaining topics, and if you have more than three remaining, select your three favorites for the next step. You can always come back to this point and repeat the exercise if you decide you picked incorrectly.
Not every blogging niche is profitable. If your goal is to monetize your blog, take time to do this step.
I want you to do some quick Google searches for “Your potential niche” + Blog. See what you find.
Are there large blogs? Or are your top results ones hosted on Blogger or WordPress.com?
Check out lists of profitable blogging niches and see if your ideas are on there.
The point of your research is two-fold.
First, you want to make sure there’s an audience who cares about your topic.
Second, you want to see if other bloggers are making money in this niche.
Now, if you have a tiny, super-focused niche, your research might not turn up as many results as you were hoping. For instance, one of the sub-niches that developed naturally as I reevaluated my first blog was parenting a child with Angelman Syndrome. It’s a rare condition my oldest son has.
Because it’s rare, there’s not a ton of interested people. There also aren’t a lot of profitable blogs about it.
But, because it fills a specific need, these posts are always my best-performing.
So, research alone can’t tell you everything. What it does do is give you some information that can help you make an educated decision going forward.
Go with Your Gut
After all your brainstorming, evaluating, and researching, what does your gut tell you to go with? There’s something to be said about trusting your instincts.
Review your notes, look over your ideas list, and pick a niche for your blog.
And, don’t worry about picking the wrong niche. It occasionally happens.
The good news is that nothing is carved in stone, so you can go back and refocus if you need to. In the meantime, your niche will keep you focused and you can create great content that keeps your audience coming back for more.
Once you have a niche, it’s time to set up your blog. The technical steps can be daunting at first but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can read Sally’s step-by-step guide on how to set up your blog here.”.
If you’d like to learn more about building a successful blog, including three common fears about picking a niche, check out the book Sally and I wrote, Make Money From Blogging. It shows you how to prepare your blog for readers, master basic marketing, and start earning money from your posts.