First, you will need to determine: What is your blog about?
“Well that's easy,” you say, “it's going to be about: travel, car repair, roofing, beauty or fashion.”
Well that's fine, but that's not a niche.
Unless you're going to have a team of experienced and high-yield writers you need to have a very narrow niche.
What is a Blog Niche?
It's important to recognize that a general category (like travel or beauty) is going to be a difficult blogging niche. Successful blogs take a very narrow and deep view of a specific topic. For example, a blog about backpacking the Andes Mountains from Columbia to Chile will be more successful than a general blog about traveling in Latin America.
You might be asking, “But won't this niche blogging limit my readership?” Yes, it will. And that's kind of the point.
It would be impossible (at least as a solo traveler/blogger) to provide all the information that would be needed for healthy and complete blog about Latin American travel. But backpacking the Andes Mountains is doable – and when people visit your site it will be clear to them what your site is about, they will feel like they found the answer to their question, and they will want to become part of your blog's community.
What this means, is that this niche group of readers will be much more likely to purchase products that you recommend or create, to click on contextual PPC ads, and to share your relevant content with their friends (who likely have similar interests).
While choosing a specific and narrow niche is important, you also need to think through the following criteria:
8 Questions To Determine Your Blog Niche:
- Do I actually like this topic?
- Do I know what I'm talking about?
- Are other people interested in this topic?
- Is this interest growing or shrinking?
- How many other blogs cover this same niche?
- What do these competing blogs miss?
- Will I find enough topics/content to write about?
- Will I be able to make money from this niche?
1) Do I actually like this topic?
Okay, so this probably sounds like a silly question. Do I really have to like my topic? The answer is: No, you don't have to like the topic. Then again, a person doesn't really have to like their job either – but it's a lot better when they do.
Having a topic that excites you and interests you, is going to come across in the quality of what you write. It is the difference between dreading the next post you have to write, and losing count of how many posts you have scheduled because of your love of the topic.
If you're having trouble determining what topics you enjoy to write about, ask yourself:
- What do I enjoy to do in my spare time?
- What do I talk about with my friends and family?
- What do I look forward to doing on the weekends?
- What is the last book I purchased to read just for fun?
- What websites, books, magazines, and TV programs do I enjoy the most?
Why You Should Enjoy Your Topic
Creating a blog (and a business) will take a significant amount of time. It will require real dedication and interest to continue blogging – especially during the months when you feel like no one is reading your hard work. This will be much easier if you like your topic.
2) Do I know what I'm talking about?
This is also a very important question. While you do not need to be an expert to run a successful blog it is important to have at least some background in your topic. A good blog is an exploration, a learning experience for the blogger and the readers. There is no need to wait until you are a bona fide expert in the topic before you start blogging about it. In fact blogging is the best way to become an expert in your niche.
That being said, it is important to have background in what you are writing about. Setting yourself up as an expert – when you are not – is a recipe for disappointment, for both yourself and your readers. You can count on your readers calling you to task on your lack of knowledge / insight.
If you are not an expert in the topic that you want to blog about, be honest about that. Tell your readers that your blogging about this topic because it interest you, and because you want to learn more about it.
Blogging is a journey and it's important to be transparent about where you actually are.
3) Are other people interested in this topic ?
Enjoying your topic is one thing. Finding other people who also have an interest in the topic is something else.
Just because you enjoy collecting unusual items doesn't mean that anyone else does. It's important to take the time – before establishing your blog – to determine the potential readership (market) for your topic.
Reviewing other blogs in your niche, Facebook fan pages, magazines or actual clubs in your city is a good way to determine possible readership potential. Remember, you don't need millions of readers to have a successful blog, but you do need a large readership base.
Interest in your topic can be determined in a number of ways, but because your blog is going to be online (obviously) checking search volumes and results is a powerful and fast way to see levels of interest for your topic.
A few tools that I've used to determine possible market size are:
- Google AdWords keyword tool
- Google Insights
- Traffic Travis (free and premium version)
- general Google search
Check out these other blogging resources.
4) Is this interest growing or shrinking?
It is possible to choose a niche that is “too niche”. Internet trends, fads and bizarre hobbies are probably not a good foundation for your blog. On the other hand, trends that have been growing and appear to have the potential to keep on growing are an excellent place to begin. Covering a new trend as it begins is an amazing way to become the authority on that topic.
Chasing a trend can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, but if you choose it correctly it can mean a very successful site. It is obvious that the best bloggers need to stay current with trends both in blogging and in their niche. Take some time, hang out on some blogs or sites in your niche (including Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts) to get a feel for the direction of the sites and communities, see what topics are popular, and what the readers are asking and looking for.
An excellent way to gauge current trends, and to see if they are growing or shrinking, is using Google trends. You can compare two niches or topics at one time and get a feel for which one shows more potential.
5) How many other blogs cover this same niche?
If there is interest in your topic, then someone is going to be covering it, at least in part, already. There is a possibility that your specific niche has not been covered yet. But reasonably speaking, that isn't very likely.
What is likely, is that you will find a niche that is being covered in part but not to the depth that it could be. Find that niche, cover it well and you are on your way to a successful and profitable blog.
So while finding no similar blogs could be a sign of lack of interest, there is an equal risk of finding thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of blogs covering your topic. It's clear that there is a lot of interest, but what are the odds that your blog will rise to the top? Most blogs depend heavily on search engine traffic and if your topic has been covered extremely thoroughly already, it may be a stretch to imagine your post ranking above the thousands of similar ones already published.
There are always exceptions, but there's no need to make this harder on yourself than it needs to be. There are numerous niches that have been under-covered or could be covered from a different angle – there is no need to choose an impossibly difficult topic to blog about.
6) What do these competing blogs miss?
This is an important question. While you are almost certain to find competing blogs in your niche it is important to ask the question: What can I do better?
Specifically, read the comments from readers on specific posts of competing blogs. Is there a common theme or topic that is being requested?
What topics do you notice that are either missing, being covered halfheartedly, or that could be covered from a different angle?
The best niche is often what is “missing” in a very popular topic.
It's important to ask yourself specific questions about these competing blogs. Look at their strengths and weaknesses. In what areas do they excel and/or fall short in interacting with the readers and in gaining traffic?
7) Will I find enough topics/content to write about?
A good blog niche will not have a shortage of content. As a blogger you have three primary sources of content:
- your previous experience and knowledge
- what you are learning about your niche now
- developments/news in your niche
A good test of the amount of content available in your niche is this:
Starting right now: write down as many specific blog post ideas as possible. Probably the first 5 to 10 will come quickly, but then what? If you can't identify at least 20 possible blog posts within the next 10 minutes, then maybe you need to rethink your niche. As I planned this blog (Blogger Abroad) I wrote a list of more than 100 posts that I would write over the next year. As I write each post, I think of numerous new posts that I will write in the future.
Sites such as reviews or celebrity news will continually give new topics, so there's really no need to worry about running out of content. There are topics however, that will be challenging even after just 20 or 30 posts.
8) Will I be able to make money from this niche?
Make sure you ask this question: Is there a way to make money from this niche?
There are many ways to monetize a blog, including:
- pay per click ads
- affiliate programs
- display advertising
- selling your own product
- selling services through your blog
Until you actually begin blogging and building an audience, it can be hard to determine which of these methods will work for you. But before you start your blog make sure that it can be monetized.
An excellent place to start, is to look at your competitors sites and see how they are making money.
- Do they have a product to sell?
- Are there a lot of affiliate links and display ads?
- Do they actively promote private display advertising?
- Do pay per click advertising spaces receive a prominent location on their blog?
- Do they ask for donations?
Promoting affiliate products is a primary way that bloggers in almost every niche make money.
It basically works this way: you promote another companies product on your site including a coded tracking link to their sales page. When one of your visitors clicks and purchases the recommended product you receive a percentage of the purchase price as a commission. There are a number of large affiliate networks that manage the programs for the vendors and make automatic payments to the publishers (a.k.a. bloggers).
Where To Go From Here
There's a lot to think about when planning a new blog and determining your specific niche. Make sure to take enough time when making your decision, as you will be spending years writing about the topic.
While a poor choice can make it hard when you're getting started, it often isn't difficult to make an adjustment in your niche as you're going, provided that you are still writing within the same topic. Sometimes readers let you know the direction that your blog should be going in through their comments, emails and interaction on social networks.