Does my blog need a niche?
That's a question I see people asking a lot. And the standard advice is: yes - you need a niche for your blog.
But what if you have multiple interests and you want to write about them all? Why can't you just write about what interests you?
Well you can, of course - no one is going to stop you.
And there are successful bloggers who don’t have a niche - I’ll talk about that later in the article.
But if you want to do any of the following quickly, then its vital to have a well-defined niche for your blog:
- build an audience
- become a recognised expert on a particular topic
- get organic traffic (i.e free traffic) from the search engines
- monetize your blog
Notice I said ‘quickly' - because you can do all those things without a niche, but it will take you longer.
But before we go any further, what is a niche?
What Is a Blogging Niche?
In blogging, a niche is a clearly defined topic that you write about on a regular basis. Your niche may be broad or it may be narrow.
Here are some examples of broad and narrow niches:
- Parenting (broad niche)
- Parenting tips for single mums (narrow niche)
- SEO (broad niche)
- SEO for real estate agents (narrow niche)
- Adventure travel (broad niche)
- Adventure travel for families (narrow niche)
Let’s look at the four main reasons why a blog benefits from having a niche.
1. Building An Audience
When you consistently write about one topic, or a group of closely related topics, it’s very likely that people who are interested in one of your articles will be interested in all of your other articles.
But let’s say, for example, you write about bread-making, global warming, interior design, photography, and fitness.
A visitor who likes one of your photography articles is not likely to be interested in your bread-making articles. And someone who enjoys one of your global warming articles is unlikely to be interested in your fitness articles.
To put it simply, when you write about lots of different topics, it’s hard to build an audience.
2. Building Authority
One of the keys to doing well with a blog is the authority of your content.
When people see you as an authority on a topic, they are more likely to bookmark your blog and come back to it later. They're more likely to share your articles on social media. And they're more likely to mention you in forums.
But if you write about four or five different topics, it's hard to develop a reputation as an authority on any single topic. As the old saying goes: “a jack of all trades, but a master of none”.
This is an important issue even for people who do have a niche. If your niche is too broad, it's going to be harder to establish yourself as an authority.
For example, trying to establish yourself as a leading authority in the ‘email marketing’ niche would be difficult. It would probably take you years to do. The competition is just too intense.
But if you were to specialize in ‘email marketing for real estate agents’ you might find there’s no one else doing that. Or very few people.
In a narrow niche, you can establish yourself as the leading authority much quicker and with much less effort.
3. Getting Traffic From Search Engines
Having a narrow niche for your blog will also help you get traffic from the search engines.
Ever since the Hummingbird algorithm (implemented in 2013) Google has been getting better and better at understanding context.
Before Hummingbird, Google used to rely almost entirely on keywords and backlinks to determine the authority and relevance of a piece of content, relative to a search query.
But with semantic analysis, Google can now measure how well a piece of content covers a particular topic. It can measure the topical authority of a web page and even an entire website.
So what’s this got to do with having a niche?
Well, the more you focus on a particular topic, the more Google’s algorithm is going to recognize your site as having topical authority..
Let’s say there are two articles on breeding hamsters, from two different websites. Both are excellent articles and both cover the topic in depth.
Article A comes from a website that also deals with carpentry, hang gliding, and comics. In other words, it’s a ‘nicheless’ blog.
Article B, on the other hand, comes from a website that only publishes articles about keeping hamsters as pets.
You can guess which article will rank higher on Google.
That’s right - article B. Because the website that article B belongs to has topical authority for hamsters. But the website that published article A doesn't.
4. Monetizing Your Blog
Monetizing your blog is easier and quicker when you have a well defined niche because monetization depends on the the three factors we just talked about:
- Building an audience
- Building authority
- Getting Traffic
To put it simply, in the blogging world, money comes to people who do one thing very well. And it's hard to do something well if you spread yourself too thin.
Whether you’re selling your own information products or selling affiliate products, to succeed with monetization you need (1) a loyal audience who regard you as (2) an authority and you need (3) traffic because even with a good conversion rate, you'll only be converting 5% or less of your visitors.
How To Choose a Niche For Your Blog
So now that we’ve established that you need a niche for your blog, the next question is: ‘how do you choose a niche?’
Choosing a blogging niche can become a real headache. And one of the reasons for that is that the possibilities seem endless.
But there are six key questions you should ask when choosing a niche. And these questions will help you narrow the options down.
Is the Niche Profitable?
On one side of the debate there are people who say: “do what you love, and the money will follow”.
On the other side, there’s the stone cold fact that just because you love something doesn't mean that other people will.
Running a successful online business is about identifying a need that people have and then filling that need. If you can do that, then you have the makings of a profitable blog.
And that's the problem with 'passion'. Passion is all about you. But to run a successful business, your focus has to be all about them (your customers).
'Profit' may seem like a dirty word compared with 'passion'. But the best guide to whether you’re successfully serving others’ needs is profit.
In a nutshell, you need to be clear whether you're running your blog as a hobby that you're passionate about or as a business that serves others and makes a profit.
Will you still enjoy writing about this topic a year from now?
I once considered starting a blog about coffee and coffee-making equipment. It’s a profitable niche. And I love making and drinking coffee.
But I took a long hard look at what I would actually be writing about, year in and year out. And I realized that I wouldn't still enjoy writing about coffee machines 18 months down the track.
Just because something is profitable doesn't mean that you will have the motivation to keep writing about it three years from now.
So despite what I said in Point 1, you do need a certain amount of passion for your topic. Because building a business is a long haul, and there will be times when there’s no profit and the only thing keeping you going is a driving interest in the topic itself.
Can you think of 50+ blog post sub-topics?
Another way to measure the viability of a niche is to ask yourself: are there 52 topics that I could write blog posts about?
I say 52, because a blog post a week is often regarded as the minimum required output for a new blog that wants to get traction.
There are some topics that are so limited in scope that you simply couldn't find 52 valid topics to write about.
So grab a piece of paper and see if you can find a year’s worth of topics within your potential niche.
Are there bloggers making money from this topic?
You may have heard business strategists talking about ‘blue ocean’ and ‘red ocean’.
A ‘red ocean’ niche is one where the competition is so intense that there’s blood in the water. A ‘blue ocean’ niche is one where the waters are untainted with competition.
A ‘blue ocean’ niche is an attractive idea. But it may not be a bad thing if there’s a bit of blood in the water (to continue the metaphor). If you find a niche where there’s very little competition, it can mean that niche can’t be monetized.
So if there are blogs in your target niche that are making money, it's a good sign - it means you can monetize your blog.
Is the topic too broad?
In general, the broader your niche, the longer it will take to build a viable audience and get enough traffic.
There are two reasons for this:
Reason #1 - Ranking on Google
In a broad niche it's much harder to rank on Google. And that's simply due to competition.
As an example, let’s take ‘online yoga classes’.
There are 545 million web pages competing for this search term:
But let’s try a micro-niche: ‘online yoga classes for over 50s’. Now there are less than 3.5 million competing web pages:
That’s a big difference!
So with a micro-niche you’ll rank quicker on Google and build traffic quicker.
Reason #2 - Building an Audience
If your niche is broad, it’s going to be hard for you to build a following.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to start a blog about parenting. You’d be competing with some pretty big names. It would take years before you became well-known in that niche.
But what if you started a blog on parenting tips for single mums? In a micro-niche like that my guess is you could become the go-to person much quicker.
So the narrower your niche, the fewer experts you’ll encounter and the easier it will be to make a name for yourself and build an audience.
By now, you’re probably thinking “what about those successful bloggers who don’t have a niche?”
It’s true: there are successful bloggers who write about multiple topics.
These are 'nicheless' blogs, sometimes called ‘lifestyle blogs’.
People who run these kinds of blogs write about a whole range of topics. On the same website they might write about cooking, interior decor, exercise, getting healthy, and tech tips.
Here are some examples of successful blogs that don't have a niche:
Cupcakes & Cashmere
Topics: Fashion, Food, Beauty, Travel, Decor, DIY, Motherhood
Domain Authority: 63
Monthly traffic: 65,000
Domain registered: 2008
A Cup of Jo
Topics: Style, Culture, Motherhood, Travel, Food & Life
Domain Authority: 71
Monthly traffic: 138,000
Domain registered: 2007
The Freckled Fox
Topics: Style, Hair, Food, Beauty, Fitness,
Domain Authority: 51
Monthly traffic: 14,000
Domain registered: 2012
Topics: Travel, Style, Recipes
Domain Authority: 56
Monthly traffic: 15,000
Domain registered: 2011
The Every Girl
Topics: Career & Finance, Fashion & Beauty, Living, Wellness, Tech
Domain Authority: 67
Monthly traffic: 1.5 Million
Domain registered: 2008
Career Girl Daily
Topics: Planning, Wellness, Career Tips
Domain Authority: 55
Monthly traffic: 75,000
Domain registered: 2014
The above websites are all monetized, so it's clear that you can run a profitable blog without a niche.
But when you look at nicheless websites, bear in mind two factors that will affect your decision:
- nicheless blogs sometimes start out with a narrow focus and branch out when they become successful
- nicheless blogs take longer to get established - of the six examples above, the most recent was founded six years ago and the oldest was founded thirteen years ago.
Want to know how I get my articles ranked on Page #1 of Google?
When starting a blog, most people worry that their niche is too narrow. They think there won't be enough traffic.
But the reverse problem occurs far more often.
People choose a niche that is too broad. They choose a niche where it would take years to get any traction. And that's the main reason most bloggers give up. They work hard for a few years, don't see any results, and they quit.
And that's why you're much better off choosing a narrow niche - a niche where you can get some results quickly.