We’ve all heard that proper blog niche selection is the single most important thing you need to consider before starting your blog. Well, I’ll take that a bit further by saying that it’s also probably the most important thing you need to consider even after you’ve been blogging for a while.
This is a topic that’s hard for me to put brackets around and say “Ok, if your niche meets requirements x, y, and z, your niche is too broad/narrow.” I wish I could do that, but I can’t. So I’ll be providing a few real examples and then explaining why I think the niche is too broad or narrow for the blog.
This is a pretty dense post, one that requires reading all the way through to get the full value. I wouldn’t recommend skimming it.
What is a niche?
Before going further, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page here. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to define a niche as “whatever you blog about.”
Easy enough, yes?
Too broad? Too narrow? Huh?
A niche is too broad when some people leave your blog and don’t come back because they’re not interested in some of the things you’re writing about.
A niche is too narrow when your audience just isn’t big enough. Notice I didn’t say your potential audience. Are there enough male teenage knitters in the world that you could probably start a blog about it? Yes, but are male teenage knitters looking to connect with other male teenage knitters? Could you find all of those male teenage knitters? Doubtful. Make sure your ACTUAL audience is big enough.
Below are several examples of blogs that I’ve created and seen, and how their niches have been either too broad or too narrow.
Case Study 1a: Writing in multiple broad niches
I want to start a new blog about self improvement/lifestyle design/personal development. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but I haven’t yet because I haven’t been able to narrow my focus down enough (also because another blog would take up too much time right now).
Among the things I’d *like* to blog about are
- Foreign language study (I studied linguistics in school and love languages)
- Practical simplicity (decluttering and minimalism for normal people who aren’t really interested in living out of a carry-on suitcase)
- Internet business (what I’ve learned so far as well as everything I’ll be learning in the future)
- General knowledge stuff (creating printable one-page fact sheets about things I want to learn more about, from the history of different countries to the grammatical structures of languages to biographies of famous people)
So when I write down everything, it becomes more clear to me that it might be hard to fit this all into one blog. Each one of those topics could easily be its own blog. Are the people that are interested in foreign language study going to want to stick around the blog for internet business tips? Would anyone apart from me be interested in learning about the history of Ghana? I don’t know (it would require more research on my part before I could definitively say), but my first reaction is no.
I also considered just writing about all of this stuff on my existing personal blog. That way I wouldn’t have to start up a new blog. But my personal blog consists mainly of my rock climbing and mountaineering escapades. I definitely don’t think people who read my trip reports give a crap about internet business, and vice versa. So that was a bad idea.
But then there’s something else to take into consideration… Do I even CARE if my “niche” isn’t as focused as I want it to be? Maybe I’d just start the blog anyway, hodgepodge of topics and all. Then I’d love having one place where I could write all of that stuff out (to get it out of my system), and then I’d be able to connect more with like-minded individuals and fellow bloggers. I dunno, that’s just something to keep in mind.
Another difficult thing when it comes to having a niche this broad (that is, writing for what are in fact multiple niches) is coming up with a tagline that can envelop everything you write about while still being clear and understandable. How could I sum up language learning, internet business, printable fact sheets, and minimalism into one phrase that explains what the blog is all about?
Case Study 1b: Writing in multiple broad niches, part deux
Brankica is one of my faithful readers here on Blogging Bookshelf and she blogs at Live Your Love. When I first ran into Brankica online a couple months back, her blog was about travel, social media, and shooting. I definitely read her posts about social media and travel, but shooting is something that I have no interest in. And even the travel stuff didn’t propel me to come back again and again.
Did that mean that I avoided her blog? No. But it meant that I didn’t dive too deep into her archives when I first found her blog. And it wasn’t a blog that I went back to on a daily basis. And I didn’t subscribe to the blog, either.
She has now switched over to blogging only about social media and blogging. And I think that’s also when her blog started to grow more (correct me if I’m wrong there, Brankica). Coincidence? I think not.
Moral of the story: It’s hard to blog in completely unrelated niches and gain a rabid following.
And again, you should definitely check out Brankica’s blog :)
Note to everyone reading this post: I try to often link freely in my posts to those who are active supporters of the blog here, who comment on and retweet my stuff :)
Case Study 2a: The single broad niche
For most of last year I wrote daily for my climbing blog. I just started it up again last week and I’ll be posting to it once or twice a week. It’s really fun to write for because the niche of “climbing” involves so many things: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and hiking. And each one of these has its own several sub-categories. Like rock climbing includes several types of rock climbing (bouldering, sport climbing, traditional climbing, aid climbing), each of which has its own techniques, tips, and tricks. Plus there’s all the different types of equipment for each one.
In other words, there’s a TON to write about.
Is this too broad? No, I don’t think it’s too broad. But being able to say that comes only from knowing the market extremely well (I’ve been climbing for 15 years). I know that a lot of climbers like to read about anything as long as it relates to climbing. If you’re a sport climber, the odds are pretty good that you want to get into traditional climbing. If you’re into traditional climbing, you probably are interested in learning how to aid climb. Does that make sense?
Could it be too broad for some people? Yeah, it might be. Some sport climbers might have zero interest in ice climbing or aid climbing, and that could put off some people. But I do all of these different disciplines and like blogging about all of them. And there seem to be enough other people online who at least like to read about all of them, too.
Here’s an example of one that’s too broad for my tastes: I was looking at some climbing blogs yesterday and came across one that was called ReallyAwesomeClimbs.com (the name has been changed to protect the innocent). But the first several posts on the blog (maybe even ALL of them on the front page?) were about skiing in Colorado. Now, I have skis and I do enjoy skiing (I live in Utah, after all), but I really don’t want to read about skiing on a blog. I’m not THAT into it. And I definitely don’t care about skiing in Colorado. Even though you could sum up climbing and skiing into the “mountain sports” category or niche, the defining lines between skiiers and climbers are more pronounced, especially when you’re talking about doing those things in specific geographical locations. I definitely don’t want to wade through layers of skiing posts to get to the stuff about climbing.
Case Study 2b: The single broad niche, part deux
I think that a lot of people make the mistake of having too broad of a niche. And most people don’t realize they’re maki this mistake. I feel like one part of Blogging Bookshelf’s success is actually how narrow my niche (“blogging tips”) really is. I don’t blog about Twitter. I don’t blog about Facebook. I don’t blog about niche sites. I don’t blog about making money blogging. I don’t blog about WordPress.
Ok, that’s not entirely true, I have blogged about most of these in the past and will do so occasionally in the future, but my focus is mainly on blogging itself.
The funny and ironic thing is that while this might seem like “narrowing” my niche by focusing only on blogging itself, it’s actually broadening my audience and appeal. PLEASE keep that concept in mind. Don’t be fooled into thinking that writing on a broader variety of topics will increase your potential readership. After all, every single blogger wants to know how he/she can improve his/her own blog. Not every blogger wants to use Twitter or create niche sites.
So take a look at your niche again. Are you losing readership by making your niche too broad?
Case Study 3a: The narrow niche that’s hard to define
Last year I started an online business called Inspired Language (I have since quit the business and sold the domain, so don’t bother Googling it). I created dual-language New Testaments in PDF form. So on the left side of the page was the English version and on the right side of the page was the other language (there were Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German versions). One of the best ways to learn another language is to read in that other language, and having the two languages side by side makes it easy to comprehend words or grammatical structures that you don’t understand. The idea was that people could print out a page or two at a time and take notes on the printout about words you don’t know, grammar you don’t understand, etc. I chose the New Testament mainly because it is freely available in just about every language.
I had a blog on that website. The problem is that I didn’t really know how to define my market. I knew that my niche was narrow, but I didn’t know exactly what my niche was. Should I blog about language learning tips? Should I blog about studying the New Testament from a religious standpoint? Should I blog about both?
Well, needless to say, my blog never got much traffic and I never sold many of the ebooks.
How could I have gone about it better? I’m not entirely sure. It’s still a bit of a tricky product to market. But in the future, I’ll try creating an entirely separate site/sales page for each product and then target each market directly. For example, I’ll create a one-page site (with its own domain) for the English-French New Testament and advertise it on “learning French” blogs. Or I’ll create other language learning products for the language and have an online store of digital products (of which the New Testament would be one) only for that language.
Case Study 3b: The narrow niche that’s all-too-easy to define
I started a blog on a whim called BestDrivingMusic.com (again, the domain has been sold so there’s no need to go there). The idea was to share music that is great for road trips and, well, driving.
It was a dumb idea and the niche was too narrow. Someone interested in this kind of thing would have to find me through Google and then once they got to the blog, their taste in music had to jive with mine. What were the odds?
The niche was just too narrow, not to mention the fact that I soon realized I hated blogging about such a stupid topic.
What should you do if your niche is too broad or too narrow?
Is your head swimming with questions and second-guesses? Has your brow furrowed as the shadow of doubt crept across your mind? Are you thinking to yourself, “Egads! My niche is too broad/narrow!”? And more importantly, what should you do next?
Well, the first question to ask yourself is “Do I care?” If you enjoy what you’re blogging about what you’re blogging about and don’t want to change it up, then more power to ya! Keep doing your thing and keep enjoying it. Just know that you’re probably alienating certain potential readers and subscribers.
A good way to figure out what you should do is ask your readers (incidentally, let me know what things on my self improvement/lifestyle design/personal development blog list you would/wouldn’t read). Just say, “Hey, I’d love to get your feedback here! What would you like to see more of from me? What do you want to stop seeing?”
But you might not need to do that; you can probably guess from the number of comments or shares you’re getting on certain posts what your readers like and what they don’t.
There are a number of things you can do if you think your niche is too broad or too narrow. But I want to hear from YOU. What do YOU think you should do if your blog’s niche is too broad? What if it’s too narrow? This post is already 2300+ words, so I don’t think it really needs to be any longer with my blah-blah-blah-ing. Keep in mind that I read and reply to every single comment (I know I’m behind on Friday’s post, but I’ll get there).
You’ve probably heard a million times over that niche selection is an extremely important. You’re right, but people fail to realize that “Niche Selection” isn’t just a box you can check off before you buy your domain name. It’s a continuous process. And it’s also one of the easiest ways to either screw up your blog or blast it off into the stratosphere of awesomeness.
- What should you do if your blog is too narrow? Too broad?
- How can you apply these case studies to your own blogging situation?
- Do you think your niche is too broad, too narrow, or just right? WHY do you think that?