The term blog niche is frequently used in advice about starting a blog or in tips to improve your blog. I don’t have a niche and consequently have a written on a variety of topics, but about a year ago I decided I would benefit from having greater focus and understanding of what I wanted to write about; as I mentioned in my last post, I think I would write more interesting posts if I was writing on more defined topics. The problem is I’m interested in writing about a wide variety of things so how do I choose. As part of the Better Blog Support Group I researched into blog niches by read a selection of good posts on the topic.
This post summarises what I learnt about how to identify your blog niche, and uses my blog as a worked example.
What is a blog niche and do you need one?
One definition of niche is “a specialized market” (Merriam-Webster) so relating that to a blog niche is the specialised market the blog covers, or in other words the focus of the blog. The term ‘niche blog’ is often used to refer to a blog on a very focussed topic, for example niche websites often created by people focussed on making money, however I think it covers all blogs no matter the size of their focus, as long as they can describe the market they are aiming at.
The reason to have a niche for your blog is so people know what to expect when they visit and will return if it is a topic they are interested in. However, you don’t need to have a niche; if you want to write what ever you want that is what you should write. However, in general, the more you want to achieve from your blog the more defined your niche should be, so you take into account what your readers want to read, and if you want to make money what people will be willing to pay for (for example by doing keyword research). As you can see from the following diagram, the niche becomes smaller as other people’s views influence what you write about. Of course, this is only guidance as there are always exceptions.
I want to define my niche so I know what topics I should be writing about, because I think it will help me write posts of more depth as I feel I’ve been writing lightweight posts recently. I hope I can define my niche so it includes what people want to read and help my blog grow.
How niche helps structure a blog
Once you know your niche it can be used to structure a blog, so the navigation is easy to understand for visitors and they can relate categories and posts to the niche.
I like the description on Inspired Blog Network that “finding your niche is like building a family tree for your blog” and the diagram showing how categories and tags are used in this family tree. I can understand that once this is in place it will be much easier to make sure posts fit within your blog niche because if you need to create a new category or tag you should be thinking very hard about whether it is appropriate.
Process to identify your blog niche
Using all the information I read, I’ve created a process to help identify your blog niche. This is relevant to new and established bloggers, but new bloggers may not have information for all the steps. This process is working on the assumption you are looking to identify what you want to write about and what people want to read, and does not consider monetisation – if this of interest to you, when you’ve narrowed down potential topics you could do some keyword research to identify the potential competition and value for each topic.
My approach is to start with a large number of options and gradually narrow them down.
What do you want to write?
- List everything you could write about. For example what are you passionate about? What have you accomplished? What can you teach others? What do people come to you for help on?
- Select the ones you want to write about
- Group the remaining topics in to similar themes
- Select the ones you could write about forever
I started with a list of fifteen topics that included topics related to my hobbies, work and things going on in my life at the moment. I reduced this to eleven topics I might want to write about and when I grouped these into themes I was down to six. It was pretty easy for me to identify which ones I could write about forever as I have already written on these three themes for years on this blog.
What can you offer your readers?
Now the themes have been narrowed down, it is time to consider what you can offer to your readers on these topics.
- What goal can you help readers achieve? What problems can you help your readers solve?
- What makes you different to the blogs that already exist?
I admit my responses to what am I helping readers achieve are a bit soundbitey, but there is a similar theme going through them. I found it difficult to answer how I can offer something different to blogs that already exist hence there are only a couple of answers.
What do visitors want to read?
- Review analytics for existing blog posts and reactions to social media posts to get an idea of what people are interested in reading. I looked at:
- most popular posts – from Google Analytics
- most clicked links on Twitter – from Hootsuite and Buffer (I took into account all the links I’ve shared and not just ones to my blog posts)
- most pinned posts – from Pinterest
- Group the titles into themes
- Work out what what advice people are looking for and how you can help them?
I was able to get a lot of data for my most popular and pinned posts and it is interesting that there is a difference between the two lists; this confirms that different people find your site in different ways. Most of my traffic comes through web search so that heavily influences my most popular posts, however the pinned posts shows the ones that people felt were worthy of saving to read later. I didn’t find the themes straightforward and ended up ignoring several of the titles as they didn’t fit. In my first attempt to identify my niche last year I asked people to tell me what they’d like to see more of on my blog, so I was able to use the survey results, but I could have made assumptions from responses to the most popular posts and links
Now you can use the results from each section to identify the most likely themes combining what you like to write and what people like to read. However, remember readers are not everything so if you want to have a radical change of theme, you may lose some of your current readers, but you’ll probably find more new readers.
- Develop themes or taglines that take into account what you’ve learnt
- Think about how the site could be structured with categories and tags
- Are all the topics you want to write about included in each one
Unfortunately I’ve lost the piece of paper where I’d done this exercise and the best record I have is the photograph below where the relevant notes are partially covered by the top piece of paper. However, I can see that I had four suggestions (listed below) and I’d reviewed at least three of them with concerns about the categories and tags for two of them. Unfortunately I can’t see my initial thoughts on categories. The four suggestions for a theme for this blog are:
- Capture, process, simplify – include capturing memories, using processes and simplifying e.g. decluttering. What about house renovation?
- Step by step improvement – could include self development and house renovation, but not memories
- Make it easier ?? – focussed on processes and could limit posts on organisation and house
- Systemising Simplifying – focussing on processes and simplifying e.g. decluttering
Consider the longevity of the theme
Ideally you want to select a niche or theme that is going to be relevant to you for a long time, so for each theme identified answered a few questions to discover if some of them have the potential for greater longevity than others. For example you maybe planning a wedding or looking for a job now, but will you still be doing it in a few years?
- Will the subject always apply to you?
- Will the subject always interest you?
- Will you always have the time / money / resources for the subject?
- Does it excite you?
I answered yes to all the questions for the four themes above, apart from the question “Does it excite you” when I only had one yes for Capture, process, simplify, so that seems a pretty convincing suggestion that that is the one I should take forward. I think the others did not excite me because I felt to restrictive and I wouldn’t be able to cover some of the topics I like to write about.
Which one feels best?
Of the themes you have left, write a few sentences explaining each one and decide which one feels most comfortable or exciting.
I didn’t do this step because I’d already got down to one theme, but I should have done. This step would help to confirm I’m happy with this choice and start me on my way to defining my blog’s purpose or mission.
Identifying your style
This isn’t about identifying your niche, but I think it helps you understand your writing and blog tone. I got this idea from Capture by Lucy.
- write down five words that describe you
- write down five words again and again (doesn’t really matter how many times, but I recommend at least twice)
- compare the list of words and select the ones most like you
I managed to recreate this table from the above photograph and notes I’d kept securely in a notebook. I found it hard to think of words that described me, but the pressure reduced when I knew I was going to be doing it several times. When I compared the words I found it easy to select four of them (happy, helpful, planner, positive), but I’m struggling on the fifth – which is more like me colourful or bright?
Results for this blog
From this process, I’ve identified the theme of Capture, Process, Simplify which covers a lot of what I want to write about and I’m starting to get a feel for the style of future posts; perhaps a bit like this one which is significantly different to recent posts I’ve written. Of course I need to think about the structure again to choose categories and tags, but I suspect I will need to think differently about the angle I take with future posts, but it seems possible except for perhaps my house renovation posts. What do you think of this theme, do you think it works for my blog?
Have you chosen the niche / focus for your blog? How did you do it? Do you think I’ve missed any steps out? If you haven’t, do you think this process will help you?
If you want to read more on the topic there is a list of recommended posts on the Better Blog Support Group Blog niche Pinterest board.