A while back I mentioned that you should seriously ask yourself if your blog even needs a niche at all. I stand by that. But let’s suppose that you have decided that you need a niche, for whatever reason. How do you pick one?
First of all, if your niche isn’t obvious then you need to go back to step one and seriously consider a general blog again. Having a niche that’s obvious to you is one of the best indicators that a niche actually is the right thing for your blog. It’s not the only one, but it’s the strongest. Of course, if your niche is obvious then you don’t need this post at all. So if you’re looking for a niche, here are some factors you should consider.
Your topic should be something that you really know something about. If you’re a world-class expert in something then this is pretty obvious. But most of us aren’t world class experts. That’s ok. Your readers won’t be, either. The important thing is that you can provide them with new and useful information that they don’t have. So it’s good for it to be something you are actually well versed in.
Another option, though, is to pick something that you want to be an expert in and use your blog as an opportunity to study it. That’s how my last niche blog started off, and it worked pretty well – both as a blog and as a learning tool.
Your topic should be something that’s underserved. Even on today’s saturated internet, these topics still exist. This doesn’t have to mean that there aren’t any blogs on the subject. It doesn’t even mean you have to be the best blog on the subject. But there should be relatively few of them. The main benefit of having a niche is to dominate search engine traffic for keywords related to your topic. With a well selected topic and good SEO you very likely can actually monopolize certain keyword combinations. By extension, if there are already a thousand blogs out there on that subject, don’t bother. Pick something else or go general.
Also, if your niche is too specific then even monopolizing those keywords won’t bring you enough traffic to be worth it. For example, I currently dominate Google search results for my own name. All but one of the first page results go to pages or profiles that I control. The second page is almost as good. Anybody searching my name is going to find me, and that’s intentional. But nobody’s actually searching much for my name as of yet, so it doesn’t bring me a lot of traffic. My dojo, on the other hand, does better. I’ve done very well with SEO there, and anybody searching within the right geographical area is very likely to come across my site first or second on the list. That does a lot better for bringing me traffic, and it’s very targeted traffic so it’s helpful.
Speaking of which, if you’re selling something then your niche should be closely related to what you’re selling. The one thing that would help me more than anything for actually selling stuff would be to blog more about the martial arts. I’ve seen a few good blogs that do it. I actually run a separate blog for my dojo, and I’ll have occasional posts here about that. But I already spend a lot of time teaching that and it’s very difficult for me to keep motivated writing out the same information over and over again. My dojo blog is seldom updated as a result, and I just can’t keep motivated to do it. I do far better here. The successful martial arts blogs that I’ve seen tend very strongly toward repeating the same information over and over. I’m not criticizing them – I get why they do it. All niche blogs eventually do, or else they die. But that’s just not my thing.
In summary, we have three criteria we should be looking for:
- A topic you either are or want to become an expert on.
- An underserved topic where there’s little competition.
- Something closely related to what you’re selling.
If you can’t meet at least one of these criteria, don’t even bother with a niche blog. It won’t help you. If you want to get good results, you really want at least two. As for myself, I probably wouldn’t do another niche blog unless I could meet all three. I’d need to see that kind of benefit to overcome what I view as the tedium of exhausting one topic. Not everyone views that as a burden, though, so maybe a niche blog is right for you.