So, you’ve decided to go ahead and start a blog. GREAT! What’s it about?
More often than not, this is the question most folks haven’t quite answered when they start. If they have, it’s usually “It’s a personal blog where I share bits and pieces about my life and what I’m interested in.” I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. That’s how most of use start. Honestly, it’s a fun thing. However, if you’re building a ship, it may not be the best idea.
For a start, your personal blog—like your life—is an amalgam of your experiences. The topics will vary widely. Again, not a problem if you’re just keeping a blog for fun. What you’re going to end up finding as time goes on, is that while you will eventually gain readers to the blog, they’re coming for the topic that drew them to the blog in the first place.
Let’s say you are a photographer, for example. You write a blog post about the best cameras for taking pictures in low light conditions. ‘Steve’ finds your post, and subscribes to your blog. Steve, who is interested in photography, is likely to get pretty disillusioned pretty fast if the next 10 posts are about things other than photography.
This happened with well established blogs as well. I’ve lost count how many times a tech blog I’ve read has posted something not tech related, but more in line with popular culture. This has led to a massive pushback from the readers on more than one occasion. The same will happen to you.
So, if we’re going to build a ship, we need to narrow the focus of your blog. No one is saying you can’t have more than one blog. I have several here at Roley, but each one is dedicated to a particular focus. I’ve taken to calling them ‘Tracks’, much like the series of classes or seminars you can attend while at a convention, but each one is a blog in it’s own right.
When you narrow the content of a blog to a specific focus, you end up with a more loyal and engaging base. You gain a readership, but you also gain a community around that blog. You’re a captain, after all, this is how you find your crew. Additionally, you’ll find that your crew isn’t going to mind if you ‘go deep’ with articles that may seem dry to the general public. They’re here for your knowledge, with a niche audience who shares the same passion for your topic, you can be more detailed and write more quality in depth articles that help and serve your crew. Finally, the more consistent you are with that focus, you will become more of a credible source on that topic. You’ll be recommended by your crew, and you may find yourself more relevant in search results as you remain consistent. (A side note: if you have context specific banner ads on your site like Google Ads, you’ll find that they will be more consistent with your topic over time, which may lead to more clickthroughs.)
In your travels online, you go to specific blogs because they have knowledge of a particular topic that you trust. Why should your blog (or blogs) be any different?
An argument I get every once in a while is that they want people to get to know the complete person that is behind the blog. A narrow focus does not mean that readers will not get to know you. They will identify with you through your unique voice and style over time. Your personal life and experience should inform your blog, not be the sole purpose in having one.
That said, some things to consider when figuring out what your blog is about:
- Do you even lift, bro? Are you interested in the topic in the first place, and for the lack of a better term, do you know what you’re talking about?
- Are you at the watercolor, or out in the weeds? Is that topic even mildly popular? You don’t need to write a blog that EVERYONE reads, but you might want to check and see if there’s an audience for it at all.
- You don’t have to be first. Sure, it helps identify what’s trending and be early, but you don’t have to be first. Frankly, I would prefer you weren’t first...
- Yo, What’s Good? …because if you aren’t first, you can scope out the competition and figure out how to differentiate yourself from them. MySpace? Naw, man, everyone’s on Facebook now.
- Take a look at what’s in the front of any magazine section at your local grocery store, book store, Hudson News, etc. A lot of the time, what’s being carried, and specifically what’s in front are there for a reason: People are buying it. A LOT.
- I used to hate this one, but it works: Check Google Trends and see what’s trending on the front page there. Also, search for your topic to see what the trendlines are.
- Have more than one topic to check on, in case your first idea turns out to stink up the place, trend wise. Remember, this is about being a pro, not about what you’d rather have.
- Once you identify something, ask yourself if it’s something that you are going to be able to write quality content for a year from now, and that it will still be a quality topic a year from now. Niches are like pet rocks sometimes; you need to be able to see the fads.