Niche blogging used to be a genre of its own. Now, blog niche the norm.
However, do you really have to have it?
Among the decisions that I need to make when re-entering the blogging space in 2016 is the niche question.
Before this blog, I have done both. A personal Blogspot site about anything that interests me at the moment, along with an earth science-themed blog geared towards Indonesian high-schoolers competing at national earth science olympiad.
For the post-college, officially-adult blog(s), I wanted to start right. Getting a proper dot-com domain, putting out quality content, and targeting the right spot.
The idea of having a blog niche is so that you can be the site of authority when it comes to the topic. The wildly successful ones, for instance, are within the personal finance blog niche, such as FinancialSamurai.com and MrMoneyMoustache.com. Both blogs have various posts that include daily life, budget planning, or author’s past experiences, but they have “reaching financial independence” as the center of gravity.
However, here is my problem: when it comes to blogging, I don’t like being boxed into a singular topic.
While I can pinpoint a few topics that I am genuinely interested in, such as the energy industry or entrepreneurship, I wasn’t sure I will be happy to write about them every. single. time.
And even If I can, I also don’t know how long the topic will be sustainable and relevant.
Take my Earth Science Olympiad blog, for instance. Theoretically, the maximum length of relevancy for me would be ~6 years only. Why? because the competition focused on the high-school level only, and I would graduate from high school in year two and university (majored in Geology) in year six. That was part of the reason why, in 2011, I donated the blog to the Indonesian Earth Science Olympiad organization to be incorporated in the official website.
Of course, I’m still very proud of the blog. It has become the authority and being referred by the competition enthusiast. Last time I checked, there are plenty of comments from 2018 coming to the 7-year old posts.
Coming back to the blog niche dilemma – while I have some potential topics that I’d like to shoot for, I don’t want to abandon my blog again this time. That’s why I decided to do a test.
A/B Testing: general vs niche blog
On July 2016, I made two blogs. One is what you’re in right now, sarahsausan.com; the other is about personal finance.
The latter is a blog niche I choose under the assumption that I will care about managing money for the rest of my life, regardless of the circumstances (more about this later). Bonus: the personal finance blog is the one that would be monetized as soon as possible, so money was another driver.
The testing aimed to find out which type of blog would I gravitate to.
Would I gravitate to the generic blog? Or the focused blog about something that I care about?
I wrote on the finance blog first. It was about a book review about behavioral economics. I remembered that I was very passionate about the book and its takeaways on how we need to invest in an index fund instead, for instance.
Then, I wrote the first post for this blog, which was very personal – talking about my biggest regrets. Of course, writing something so close to my heart was intimidating, but I was glad I let it go. The posts got tremendously positive feedback from my friends and a couple of strangers, which has inspired to write more.
Fast forward to today, I have written total 15 posts in this blog.
Snail pace, I know. Not something I’m particularly proud about. However, guess how many posts I have published on the other one?
Yup. Just that one!
I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I would care about the topic so much that posts will flow like a river there. Well, turns out the allure of being able to write any topic that I want at the moment has really helped me to push more content out in this blog.
And here is the punchline: writing on this blog actually start to reveal what my focus could be. Which brings me to the first argument in favor of not boxing yourself into a blog niche right away…
Your individuality is a blog niche by itself
If we are talking about the niche in the sense of its unique proposition, then your individuality is already unique by default.
For example, I am a twenty-something girl, working in the energy industry as a technical marketer. Among the folks that would be interested to follow my blog, a lot of them have a degree of similarity with me.
Maybe they are also twenty-something millennials trying to find their place in this world. Maybe they are also in marketing. Maybe they are also working in the energy industry, or oil and gas in particular.
What’s more shocking is the fact that blog like mine is actually a recognized blog niche, called personal blogging. Basically, it is a blog niche themed around the stories, opinions, or experiences of the author. It is also a sister of lifestyle blog, which is a niche that is also personal but more visual- and practical-oriented. These blogs talk about recipes, outfit of the day, and personal product reviews, among other things.
So, in essence, just writing about your interests puts you in a niche automatically!
However, along the road, your personal blog can morph into an actual niche blog.
This is because…
You will find the pattern over time
This is happening with SarahSausan.com, actually.
If you take a look at the “Topics” sidebar, you will notice that money-making, life hacks and self-reflection/life lessons are quickly dominating my site.
My pure interest is not the only one driving this trend, but also the reader’s feedback. If you notice in my “Hot Topics” sidebar, the most popular one (as per today) is the post where I tell the story about my travel-heavy job. That counts as money-making. The second most popular is about my life regrets, which is self-reflection. Those two posts are also the most socially-shared posts in my blog.
This phenomenon is not new. Neilpatel.com has now become a popular reference for SEO and content marketing. PenelopeTrunk.com is popular among high-achieving women. They started by writing what they care about, and eventually, it narrows down into a niche.
Even better, since they didn’t start out with something very specific in the beginning, they were able to tailor their blog niche to be something even more unique. The niche has a personal authentic touch, by combining their life journey and experiences to the topic.
Neil Patel, for instance, combines content marketing, SEO, social media, online advertising, under internet marketing umbrella. Had he started with “SEO” niche in mind, he might have constrained himself to just write about SEO and SEO only.
And let’s consider, what if he chose a generic domain for the blog (seoguide.com instead of neilpatel.com)?
He might have missed the chance to build his personal brand that now becoming the anchor of his wildly successful internet marketing consultancy business.
I cannot say for sure that my blog will become a personal development or self-help type of blog. I still want to explore some more themes.
Heck, it might be even about blogging itself. In my blog idea “vault”, I got at least 5 potential titles around blogging. One of them has made it out via this very post.
However, I know that over time, this blog will fall into a specific category that attracts a specific type of demographic. Doubled down as a personal branding exercise, the blog would be my medium to express experience and knowledge that I acquired so far, without having to adhere to the singular topic.
The blog niche needs to be relevant to you at least ten years from now
If you are still in for a niche, here is the most important thing you need to ponder: will the topic still interest me, ten years for now?
This is assuming that:
a) the blog will be the main one to focus most of your effort on, and b) you are planning to hold this blog for as long as you can.
If what you aim is several different niche blogs that will be sold at the end, then that’s another story.
The ten-year question is a good litmus test to check whether your topic of interest will withstand the following:
- Job or career change
- Lifestyle change (marriage, having kids, etc.)
- Interest change (getting bored, growing out of the phase)
- Location change
- Importance change (the topic itself become less relevant/has been replaced by something more modern)
I have proven that something as versatile and interesting as managing my own money has turned me off quicker than I thought. You need to be very sure that you can consistently write about the blog niche. Every two weeks at a minimum, for the rest of the blog life, and make it work.
There are plenty of articles around the internet that lay the steps to carefully choose a blog niche. This one from Entrepreneur.com mentions that not only should you write something within your interest, but you need to also do a market research using Google Trends to see whether its worth to put all your eggs into the nest.
However, I must congratulate you, if you have found “the one”. That is the blog niche that you eventually stick with for a long time. I adore and envy you at the same time. Maybe you should write about how you find the sweet spot in the blog! 🙂
Conclusion – just start one already
If you are also in doubt of choosing a niche, I’m not your only sympathizer. A lot of bloggers out there have the same inner debate. Natalie from Nataliason.com made a good point about the content fatigue that we have discussed. She also gives a balanced view of the downside of personal blogging as well.
After testing a bunch of different blog models, my final advice is this: if you really want to blog, just start the damn blog.
There is no right or wrong, especially if you start a personal one. Over time, the dust will settle. Your content will naturally fall into clusters in sync with your real-life interest.
However, you need to have the dust in the first place. That would not happen if you never start your blog.
If technical difficulty is the one hindering you, read my review on various web hosting providers here. Most of them have a 24/7 support that will help you get started from zero.
And don’t even start wailing on the cost – with Bluehost, for instance, all you need to pay is less than 4 dollars a month for 50 GB storage and 1-click WordPress install. That price also includes free .com domain for the first year. That’s the same price as a cup of Starbucks frappucino!
Let me know when you have started your blog. I’ll be glad to answer your questions about blogging in the comment below (and comment at yours, too!)