So you’re thinking of starting a blog, and you’re wondering whether or not to niche down.
If you asked me in 2007, when I created my first blog, I would have probably told you to register a domain to your name and not care too much about what topics you blog about on it. But it’s 2021 now—and many things have changed since. So my advice to you is different.
Blogging without a niche is not necessarily a good idea. You get many advantages by niching down, including a more engaged audience, higher ad earnings, and more organic traffic from search engines.
To understand why, let’s spend some time talking about what blogging without a niche exactly means.
When I say “blogging without a niche,” I mean having a generic blog, for example, jimsblog.com, and writing about any topic that comes to your mind.
So, one day, you’d write about a squeaky sound from your car’s rear breaks. The following day, you’d post the recipe you used to make your breakfast burrito in the morning. Next, you could even write about the lessons you’ve learned from life!
A blog that’s niched down is slightly different. You go to a Honda Civic repair blog to learn how to repair your Honda Civic, to a cleaning blog to understand how to clean your driveway with that pressure washer you just bought, and to a cooking blog to get inspo for dinner.
All Blogs Used to Be Generic
Many years ago, niched-down blogs were rare—and most blogs were generic.
They’d have authors, like yours truly, who’d ramble about the bacon and eggs they had for breakfast, the crazy traffic jams on their way to work, then badmouth their neighbors for always having someone mow the lawn at the worst possible hour.
This, of course, was in a time when social media platforms hadn’t yet become a thing. Apart from a few options like having a MySpace page, blogs were the de-facto way for sharing life’s frustrations with others.
Then Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube came along, taking all of that away by making it easy for anyone to share their thoughts, photos, and videos with their friends—and even easier to binge the thoughts, photos, and videos of their friends (and family, and acquaintances, and anyone else on the Internet that they knew or didn’t know).
Slowly but surely, people stopped reading generic blogs because they could get their fix of drama and sultry opinions for the day faster and better on social media platforms. No need to search for blogs, read through RSS feeds, or remember domain names.
Anyone could go to Facebook, see what others were up to on their newsfeed, react to it in any way or form they desired (as long as it was short enough to fit in a comment). All it took was to click on that Post, Comment, Like, Love, or Share button.
Why And How Blogs Niched Down
Having lost their audience, bloggers—who’d make money from the display ads that showed up on their posts, the things that readers bought from online stores after clicking on their links, and the posts that brands occasionally chose to sponsor—were forced to come up with a way to become relevant again.
Jim’s Blog (and all of its equivalents in the world) was headed toward extinction. Few people came to visit, even fewer stayed to read, and virtually nobody shared anything.
Blogging, as some eagerly proclaimed, was going away… or was it?
The Internet, as it turned out, was a big place. And traffic was abundant for everyone. All that bloggers had to do was figure out how to get it.
Opinions and photos of cats and dogs were in oversupply on social media. But tips, how-to’s, and best-this-for-that’s on the practicalities of life, which more and more people were searching for on Google, weren’t.
Through trial and error, bloggers eventually discovered the power of niching down and getting organic traffic from people asking questions and wanting to learn about stuff on search engines such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
Jim’s Blog, ladies and gents, was dead.
Long live Jim’s Blog on Swimming Pools (and all other blogs like it)!
Jim could no longer write a sarcastic post about the dirty public pool in town—and what that meant for the state of this country—and expect anyone on the World Wide Web to stumble upon or read it.
But he could attract tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people per day by posting about the ten ways to keep a swimming pool clean. From a rambler, Jim had to train himself to become an informal educator of sorts.
Blogs, as you can probably imagine by now, changed.
From random people’s poorly-written columns about the highlights of their day, blogs became go-to sources of practical information on all sorts of topics imaginable.
This remains so to this day, which is why we have fashion bloggers, food bloggers, mom bloggers, pet bloggers, sewing bloggers, and every kind of bloggers except for one: generic bloggers.
Call it Internet Darwinism—and you’d be right.
Contrary to what most people think, bloggers blog to make money. Some of that money comes from affiliate links or sponsored content, but the majority of it is from the display ads that show up in their posts.
Advertisers, who buy ads by competing with other advertisers on price, have a thing for niche blogs and dislike generic blogs.
For example, a film studio that wants to promote its latest action movie is much more likely to buy ad space on action movie blogs to show their ads to the right audiences (action movie fans) than on all-sorts-of-topics blogs.
It’s logical, when you come to think of it. Just like a consumer goods company would be less inclined to put an ad for baby diapers on a billboard by a truck stop.
To put it simply: niche blogs make money; generic blogs don’t.
Let’s take Maker’s Aid as an example. It’s a blog for people who make stuff online.
While that’s a pretty broad category that gives us leeway to publish posts on multiple topics, it also means that we don’t write about plumbing services, sewing machines, or the best diners in New Jersey.
Our audience consists of people interested in starting or growing their business, including the books, courses, and software that can help them achieve it, so we’re naturally attractive for advertisers in this niche.
Niching Down: How Much Is Too Much?
In a way, niching down is an art.
Go too wide, and you’ll have a hard time building an audience and getting search engines to rank you. For example, technology is too broad of a topic and, if you built a blog around it, you’d have to make some sort of choice. Will you write about consumer tech? Or will you focus on technology for businesses? Are you going to write mostly about software, or will you add devices and hardware to the mix?
But go too narrow, like starting a blog only on Dyson vacuum cleaners, and you’ll face issues expanding once you’ve explored all angles and more or less saturated your niche. In such a case, it may be better to think about starting a blog on vacuum cleaners in general, or why not cleaning as a whole?
Personally, I like to build blogs around a specific activity, like driving or playing golf. I go for domain names that give my blog a brand rather than a category, allowing me to experiment with going broad vs. digging deep until I’ve found just the right balance.
Typically, this takes at least an year and a hundred (or a few hundred) posts to get right. So you definitely need to put in the work and you only learn how well it’s going after you’ve given your posts a good eight to nine months to rank organically on Google.
What This Means for You
You should always adjust your plans to the things that you want to make happen in the future.
If you want to become an influencer by creating content about your outfit of the day or the perfumes you collect and wear, starting a blog may no longer be a very good move. Consider social media platforms like TikTok, Snap, YouTube, and Instagram instead.
If you want to create content aimed at helping others learn new things or solve specific problems, a niche blog might just be the right way for you to get started.