This is normally how a newbie starts a blog: they would write about their work on Monday, hobbies on Tuesday, movies they have watched on Wednesday, and political views during the weekends.
In short, these people simply write on a wide variety of topics without a prime focus.
Yes, these blogs would accumulate a steady following among their friends and families… but that’s about it. It’s very hard to have a significant number of loyal readers when you are blogging randomly because people will not know if you are a movie critic, food reviewer, or a book critic. Advertisers will also be reluctant to advertise with you because they don’t know what you are about.
So You Want to Start A Blog?
This is part 2 of 5 of my blogging guide for those who are serious about starting a blog and perhaps making a living out of it. Other guide in this series:
How to setup your blog from scratch
Things you can do to improve your blog
How to grow your blog traffic
Practical ways to monetize and make money blogging
To build a successful blog, you need to find a niche. To find the right blogging niche, here are four key points to consider.
1. Content that Fill a Need
Ever think, “I wish someone would invent…”?
That’s called a need, and it’s how many successful businesses are started.
The same is true of blogs.
If you’ve found yourself wondering where and how you could get information or resources online about a particular topic, you may have found an available niche.
Take the site USA Love List, who’s mission is to find high quality products that are made or assembled in the U.S. Founder Sarah Wagner started the site because she thought stylish made-in-USA products “were an interesting, important and mostly unfilled niche. I attribute our growth to the fact that we are offering info that people genuinely want but need our help to find.”
That is the key: Create a blog based around information that people need.
What is your unique knowledge? How can you provide something unique to the topic that no one else can? Sample subjects that offer opportunities for a niche topic include support sites for rare diseases or conditions, alternative health news and information, and technology subjects for non-techies. Think outside the box for topic, but make sure you have the demand.
Understanding Needs with Simple Keyword Research
Once you got some topics in mind – research and look around to validate your ideas. If no one is really interested enough to search for and use your blog content, you are simply wasting your time.
Enter Keyword Research.
Keyword Research is usually performed in the beginning of an SEO or online marketing campaign. It provides you with specific search data that can help you answer questions like “what are people searching for” and “how many people are searching for it?”.
As bloggers – we can use the method to verify our idea, identify common search patterns, and then set a direction for our blogging journey.
As we are just starting off – I wouldn't suggest you to dive deep into SEO and detailed keyword research. But a one-hour digging with free tools like Google Trends, Answer the Public, SEMrush, or Ahrefs Free Tool is definitely recommended. Try to understand:
- Are others looking for the content I am about to blog?
- What are the search terms people using?
- What other relevant topics people are interested in?
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Let’s face it, you’re not going to want to get up and blog every day or every week about a topic that only mildly interests you. If you have no interest on your blog subject, then it would be very tough to stick around constantly.
When considering a niche, think about the topics that fire you up. Not only will that motivate you to keep on top of news, trends and important people on the scene, odds are it will have some aspect of controversy – and that is great for building your blog traffic.
Whether it’s homeschooling in New York City, growing businesses online, finding cheap eats in your city, or celebrity wardrobe malfunctions, your topic needs to engage people in way that will make them want to keep coming back to read your opinion.
3. Topic with Staying Power
While controversy is great, it doesn’t ensure that your topic will be here next week.
For example, if you’re very passionate about Vine and start a blog centered on it, when that falls out of fashion you’ll be out of content. It’s better idea to focus on a more a general topic, such as “cutting edge social media trends” or “image apps that rock”.
That way, if a fad falls out of fashion, your blog can still keep a lookout for whatever replaces it.
Being passionate about a topic is only part of running a successful blog. The other part is to make sure that your niche is monetizable. For instance, you may be passionate about politics. But generally speaking, this is not a niche where you can make a lot of money off ads or through affiliate sales (although there are bound to be exceptions).
It is a good idea to map out a monetization plan early. Do you want to run ads? Or, do you want to make money through affiliate commissions? There are also a lot of blogs that create their own eCommerce stores where they sell branded merchandise.
So how do you find a profitable niche for your blog?
Follow the money
Why do most robbery cases happen in banks? Because that’s where the money is.
The same goes to finding a profitable blogging niche. We simply look for industries where advertisers are spending boatloads of money. It’s basic business sense. Advertisers would not invest that much money unless the ads are bringing back positive ROI.
Here are a few tools you can use to find out if the advertisers are spending money (and more importantly, how much they are spending).
Do a search relevant to your niche on Google or Bing. Is there any advertisers in your search result pages?
Generally speaking – if there are more than three advertisers competing for a key phrase – there is money to be made in that area.
You can then use Google Keyword Planner to guesstimate the average price of a click for that search term and predict how much you can earn per Google Adsense click*; and hence how much you can earn via selling ad space.
Note that there are no clear rules written but rough estimation, Google pays 30 – 50% of cost per click to Adsense Publishers.
Another way to determine how much (and more importantly, where) advertisers are spending on pay-per-click (PPC) ads is via marketing tools like SEMrush.
Enter SEMrush's Advertising Research – we can estimate how much advertisers are paying for ad clicks on Google. My logic behind this – if advertisers are paying thousands of dollars to Google Adwords, there must be money to be made in this particular niche.
Images below are some examples I found using SEMrush free account. Each of these searches take less than 5 minutes to complete – and I can learned about the profitability of a niche by just looking at these stats. There are more valuable details if we go beyond the free search but we will stick to the free edition for now. To do your own research, simply key in a website domain (it can be your imaginary blog competitors or a well-known brand in a niche you were interested in) into the search bar.
Here are some examples:
By using marketing tools like SEMrush – we can uncover opportunities in different niches and find relevant blog topics to build on.
5. Draw on your own history
There is probably something that you’re an expert on that no one quite does the way you do. Or perhaps you have a background that crosses unusual disciplines – math and art, for example, or biology and engineering. Whatever the case, think back on your own history, from your education to your work experiences to travel – anything you can think of where you learned something that stuck with you.
What if you already have a blog?
You can easily change an existing blog into a niche blog. My friend Gina has been running her mommy blog since 2003 and she has changed her focus to helping kids with disabilities through special diets. Now, her blog frequently tops Google’s search for the term “gluten free,” and her client list includes advertisers that are almost exclusively organic, healthy and allergen-free foods and products.
The key is to make sure your new niche does not wildly delineate from your current blog topic.
In fact, it should be something that your audience is already interested in. Now take your current topic and gently steer it towards your newly found niche by writing about it and sharing relevant content. Give it some time and be sure to court new readers. In fact, you may want to re-launch your blog with a new design or logo that matches your new niche in order to inform readers of the change.
These steps will go a long way in helping you craft a niche blog that can target readers and future customers, and help to grow your blog.