How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of February 2006 Start a Blog 0 Comments

The approach I’ve taken to build a business around blogging has been to build multiple blogs around niche topics. I describe the reasons for this in my post One Blog Many Categories or Many Blogs? but I regularly am asked about how I choose my niche topics to blog about. In this post I’d like to outline a few questions that I tend to ask myself when considering a new topic. I hope it helps:

Are You Interested in the Topic?

A friend of mine explained it this way recently:

“Probably the best place to start thinking about what your blog should be about is to consider what YOU are about.”

Perhaps that’s a slightly awkward way of saying start by identifying your own interests, passions and energy levels for topics. While it might be tempting to start blogs based on what other people are interested in or what makes commercial sense there is little logic in starting a blog on a topic that you have no interest in. There are two main reasons for this.

Firstly if you want to grow a popular and well respected blog it can take considerable time and you’ll be needing to take a long term approach to building it up. As a result it’s well worth asking yourself ‘can I see myself still writing on this topic in 12 months time?’ If you can’t I’d suggest finding another topic.

The second reason is that you readers will quickly discern if you are passionate about your topic or not. Blogs that are dry and passionless don’t tend to grow – it makes sense really as no one wants to read something that the author doesn’t really believe in.

Is the Topic Popular?

While the blogger’s interest is important it’s not enough on it’s own to build a popular blog. Another crucial ingredient is that people WANT to read information on the topic you’re writing on. The law of Supply and Demand is what most business students are taught in their first semester of of studying economics and it comes into play here also. You might be interested in your topic but unless others are also you’ll always have an uphill battle in building a highly read blog.

Of course keep in mind that you are writing in a medium with a global audience of many millions and as a result you don’t need a topic that everyone is searching, just one that some people are searching for because even it’s something that even a small percentage of people have an active interest in it can be a lucrative area.

Is the Topic one that is growing or shrinking?

Also keep in mind that popular topics change over time. Obviously it’s great to get on a topic before it becomes big rather than when it’s on the decline. This is not easy to do of course but predict the next big thing that people will be searching for and you could be onto a winner.

Get in the habit of being on the lookout for what people are into. I constantly ask myself ‘what will people be searching the web for in 6 to 12 months?’

Keep an eye on what people are into and what the latest trends are. Do this online but also keep an eye on TV, magazines, the papers and even the conversations you have with friends.

What competition is there?

One of the traps that some bloggers get sucked into when choosing a topic is to go for the most popular topics with no regard for the competition that they might face in those markets. The chances are if you have identified a niche that you think is ‘hot’ at the moment that someone else will have also. It’s demand and supply coming into play again – for any level of demand for information on a topic there will only be a certain number of sources of that information that will be needed on that topic.

The web is becoming a more and more cluttered place and sometimes it feels that there are no niches that are left open to blog about. While this is true in some of the more popular topics – remember that you don’t have to go for the topic that everyone is searching for. In fact sometimes it’s some of the less popular topics that have little or no competition that are the best earners.

I have one friend who after years of attempting to do well writing about gadgets swapped to ‘ride on lawn mowers’ (a topic he’d been researching for a purchase he was making). He was amazed to find that after just a couple of months of writing on his new topic that it was doing significantly more traffic (and making quite a bit more) than his gadget websites ever had.

As I’ve said many times before on this blog – become a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.

What is the competition neglecting?

This is a great question that is obviously related to the last one on number of competition. It attempts to find ‘gaps’ that are not yet filled. While your competition might have the advantage of an established audience, you have the advantage of flexibility and can position your blog very quickly to fill a gap in the niche that you might observe – in doing so you create a sub-niche within the larger topic.

Will you have enough Content?

One of the key features of successful blogs is that have the ability to continue to come up with fresh content on their topic for long periods of time. Conversely, one of the things that kills many blogs is that their authors run out of things to say.

Answering the question regarding whether there is enough content can be done on two levels:

  • 1. Do YOU have enough content within YOU as an author? This really comes back to the question we asked above about your passion, interests and energy for the topic (so I’ll leave it at that).
  • 2. Do you have access to enough other sources of content and inspiration? There are many web based tools around these days that can help you in coming up with content. Some places to check out on your topic to see what news is about include Google News, Topix, Yahoo! News, Bloglines, Technorati and Blog Pulse (among others).

Are there Income Streams on the Topic?

Not everyone will need to ask this question if their intention is not to build a blog that has an entrepreneurial edge to it but as this blog is on the topic of making money from blogs I’ll address it.

If you are interested in earning an income from blogging you will need to also factor in some investigation of whether the topic that you’ve chosen has any obvious potential income streams. As I’ve written previously, there are many ways of earning money from blogs – however the problem is that not every topic is going to be suitable for every potential income stream. For example, contextual ad programs like AdSense and YPN work really well for some topics but hardly earn anything from others (you might like to read my post on finding high paying ads on AdSense to explore this topic). Similarly some blogs do fantastically out of affiliate programs (the key is to find affiliate programs that match your topic closely) and others are better suited to impression based ads (those with high traffic levels).

Choose a Niche

At this point it’s time to choose a topic for your blog. It’s probably unlikely that you’ll find the perfect topic on all of the fronts above. While it’d be great to find a topic that you’re passionate about that just happens to have massive demand and no competition – but the reality is that most topics topics that you come up with will have at least one weakness to them. Don’t let this get you down – there comes a time when you just need to make a decision and start blogging. The key is being aware of what the weakness is so that you can work to overcome it.

PS: An Example

ProBlogger.net itself is an example of the process I’ve outlined above. While blogging is a topic I had (have) a real interest in and which is quite popular the weakest link of this blog is the fact that so many other blogs write on the topic of how to blog better. The other problem was that there were not too many lucrative income streams on the general topic of blogging. There are lots of AdSense ads for different blog tools, but they pay very little.

As a result of this I narrowed my niche slightly to focus upon making money from blogs (something I didn’t see many others writing about a year ago). This narrowed my potential market slightly but meant I could carve out a niche and potentially make a name for myself in the area. The other side benefit of narrowing the topic was that it also increased the income potential of this blog. Contextual ads on this topic pay a little more and there are other potential income streams (like consulting work) that a more general topic of blogging might bring.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. “While it might be tempting to start blogs based on what other people are interested in or what makes commercial sense there is little logic in starting a blog on a topic that you have no interest in. ”

    I would think those that are blogging for money might disagree a little. If you can target a niche with high paying revenue sources, then why not try? It may not neccessarily be fun, but if it’s business and work, then it really doesn’t need to be, right?

    I may just be misunderstanding things, of course. It seems like a lot of bloggers out there are doing exactly that; targeting what makes money (with their networks).

    Just my 3-cents.

    Vic

  2. Victor–I think the idea is that if you are attempting to blog about something that you’re not personally interested in, you won’t stick with it in the long run and/or the quality will be lacking. Just as with exercise, we know it’s good for us, but we’re not motivated to do types of exercise we dis-enjoy. Or at our “real” jobs, we may do work we don’t enjoy, but we don’t do it well and we eventually look for something else to do.

  3. I have been following your blog for quite a while now. I finally found a topic I can be excited about and it is in a niche. I think that is the key to at least being consistent about what you post about. Plus your excitement of the subject shows in your writing. It also keeps you from losing interest in it a while down the road.

    Your posts helped me to decide what I was going to do and how I was going to implement some of the revenue portions of it. Thanks Darren!

    If you are interested in what site I am talking about, here it is Gaming4Kids

  4. Another way to find your clear interest areas.. del.icio.us.

    If you’ve been a del.icio.us (or one of the competing services) user for a long time, go to your del.icio.us page, see your tags on the right, and choose ‘sort by freq’. I have about 2500 bookmarks in del.icio.us, and I see my most popular tags are ‘layouts’, ‘osx’, ‘css’, ‘rails’, and ‘music’. As it happens, all these are things I’m really interested in.

    You can sometimes see patterns and things that mix together well. My top ones don’t mix so well, but if you had ‘rss’, ‘marketing’, ‘pr’ as top hits, it gives you some interesting niches.

    Then you can subscribe to the latest posts in all of those tags with RSS (or mix them into a single feed with something like FeedDigest) and you instantly have a daily source of inspiration and stuff to post about.

  5. Hey Darren,

    Not all that long ago I started a second blog that was intentionally directed toward making money.

    The problem, I lost interest faster than whatever readers I might have gotten.

    I agree that you should pick something to write about that you like and can stick with or what’s the point of starting at all.

    Joe

  6. Honestly, don’t just choose a topic you like, choose a topic you want to get a “real life career” in.

    Online publishing is a lot more than just making money from adsense or amazon links, it is about breaking into the field/industry you would love to be in.

  7. Oh, don’t get me wrong; writing something enjoyable sure beats going the other way. What I think it all really boils down to is how much preserverance you really have and how much of a problogger you really want to be.

    I enjoy fiction writing (this is what my main blog is all about), but will the blog be a big money maker? I doubt it. I could pound away at it for the next ten years and it’ll never be as big and as profitable as the others. Having an “enjoyable” topic doesn’t always equal big money.

    Even Darren cannot be interested in every single BreakingNews network blog he owns; some of them (correct me if I’m wrong) are geared towards making money only.

  8. Sorry, that last post of mine was supposed to go before yours, Chris. ;)

  9. (Sorry for the double post, accidently submitted.)

    For example, if you “like” laundry machines and after 2 years you are a full time blogger making big money from laundry machine ads is that success?

    Work is about more than just money, it is about getting up in the morning proud of what you do.

  10. I agree with the author. But the bigger problem is lack of Promotion by people who start an on line operation. The promotion is very expensive. Internet advertising is expensive in that people have to pay per click. The clickers are curosity seekers and just click to see what the the advertiser has to offer. Now there is a soluytion. Pixels.; Each Pixel costs one dollar. The image stays for five years. But here too there is a problem. Many people buy 100 pixels and the few highr buy higher number of pixels have their images drowned in the 100 pixel images. At our site we sell pixels in blocks of 5,000 (which will cost $5,000) and the life of the pixels is not five years but 10 years. We also make sure that the person clicking on the image does not exit our site by exiting the site of the imaGE. However we can’t ensure that if the person clicks on Ads by Google.

  11. […] How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog […]

  12. Victor, you are right that I have some blogs that I don’t have as much interest in as others (although not all the BNB blogs are mine) but what you don’t know is that the ones I’m not interested in are doing the worst of all my blogs and I’m getting close to closing most of them down. Not only are they not profitable for me they take energy out of my day and are the reason I wrote that point :-)

  13. I have a handful of blogs. They get a lot of hits… not enough comments for my liking but that is probably the type they are.

    Recently I moved to Calgary and got interested in things to do there. Thus I started up the http://calgarystampedeblog.com site. It has far exceeded my expectations and is growing daily.
    How exciting that is!

    Now if it could get more comments I would be happy, but of course that goes back to the first paragraph.

  14. Yeah, one thing is don’t choose a too broad of a niche as I did: Home Business

    I like the way Chris Albon says it (#6 and 9) … “it is about breaking into the field/industry you would love to be in.” Yes, making money counts and the money will come more easily if you are really passionate about your industry – hence why I’ve made more money directly from my new blog already (1 mth old) than my main/old blog (12 mths).

  15. […] Darren over on ProBlogger asks some very good questions around picking a niche for a new blog and we are going to list some tools and tips that will help you answer some of them. […]

  16. Sorry for the late response, Darren. Yeah, I understand. I suppose, however, that you’d never really know if they would turn out OK or not, if you didn’t try. I’ve got a couple in the making right now, and am anxious to see how they perform over the next few months.

    Good series of posts btw!

    Vic

  17. […] Darren Rowse, comenzó hace un tiempo una serie de posts destinados al blogger principiante, cubriendo todos los aspectos de iniciar un blog, desde el diseño hasta que tipos de posts escribir. Uno de los posts que más me llamó la atención es sobre cómo elegir un nicho para tu blog, en donde Darren da unas perspectivas bastante interesantes y para tener en cuenta a la hora de iniciar un blog. En resumen, los puntos destacados son: […]

  18. I wouldn’t necessarily discount busy and highly populated niches. I have blogs in at least three niches that would be considered oversaturated, but they all do well because I take my own perspective, love the topics and write a lot on them. You can make it as a small fish as long as you understand what kind of pond you are diving into.

  19. Nische-Blogging: Erfolgreiche Weblogs am Rande der Interesse

    Blogs wachsen längst wie Schwammerl aus dem Boden. Zu jedem Thema existieren nahezu unendlich gleichsprachige und noch einmal so viele fremdsprachige Weblogs, die täglich von trafficliebenden Bloggern gefüttert werden.
    Doch wer füttert die nachkomm…

  20. I have written a similar guide but tried to strip it down to the essentials, pinpointing 3 easy tips in choosing your niche.

    http://www.bloney.com/2006/03/31/find-your-blogging-niche-3-easy-tips/

  21. anirban says: 05/03/2006 at 3:32 am

    I found this article very usefull. Could you tell me if its legal to take news from google news or other places and use them on our blog.
    Or do we have to ask for the permission,to do so.
    Anirban

  22. I chanced upon this topic so I thought of sharing my opinion. I tend to agree that you need to pick a topic that you are interested in. I find it easier for you to blog, ie write about something you are naturally passionate about. You will not find it bothersome to create interesting content etc for readers of your blog, and there is a higher chance of longevity in your blog life span.

  23. Hello,
    As a beginner in blogging, I must say that I found this post (and this entire site) very useful and encouraging for me to go on. Regarding the topic addressed here, I think that more important than spending a lot of time looking for the best niche, it would be better to think of ways of creating the momentum which would make your traffic explode. I’m thinking here, and I suppose many of the people who commented this post read Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. I find internet marketing really fascinating and I can spend even 15 hours a day trying different things and comparing results, searching for that small bump which will cause the big turn over in the statistics.
    Of course I agree that a blog’s topic has its importance in this. I cannot write about the last button of my shirt and expect tons of traffic (unless I post some pictures with me taking it off), but all I wanted to emphasize was that we should’t give the niche too much importance.

  24. […] More on choosing a blog topic here (and here). If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to the Free ProBlogger Newsletter […]

  25. It would be good if there are some better sites or software than nichebot and nichewatch for seaching for niche.

  26. […] Do you start blogs for Passion or Money? How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog […]

  27. […] Choose a topic: How to Choose a Niche Topic for Your Blog […]

  28. […] Choose a topic or niche (link) […]

  29. […] How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog […]

  30. This seems like everything I learned in my marketing classes in school. Are there customers? How many players are there? Will your customers see that you are passionate your product?

    Thanks again Darren.

  31. What about this scenario…you like a subject but you’re not an authority on it. You dont have a “doctorate” on it….you only have interest…Will this still command respect from potential readers? This is a question that always comes up when you want to do a niche blog…Darren, any comments or views much appreciated.

  32. Jeff – I guess it depends upon how you write about it.

    For example – when I started ProBlogger I had some experience of the topic but wouldn’t have classified myself as an ‘expert’ on making money online. However I wrote about what I knew and learned and was up front about what I didn’t know and people seemed to respond quite well.

    It’s when you write about something you don’t know but pretend you’re an expert that you get in trouble :-)

  33. Thanks, Darren…I’m enjoying this blog and your advice alot…Glad I found it previously, and now just flipping thru everything…:-)

  34. […] Do you know what you want to write about? Does all your material have a central theme? For instance, I write about many things, but the overall theme is I write from a Christian perspective. […]

  35. Excellent, lucid article. HELPS A LOT IN THE THOUGHT PROCESS..

  36. […] 1. Choose a niche topic for your blog. How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog […]

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  38. […] How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog […]

  39. Hi there,

    I just started my blog 6 days ago. It’s a personal blog that can be of interest to others. I agree with you that writing about something you’re most interested in is key to a sustainable blog, & writing unique content is key to a profitable blog. I intend to monetize my site soon. That way I’ll enjoy what I’m doing while earnin something on the side. Thank you, you’ve inspired me to do more.

  40. […] One blog may cover many different topics organised in categories. When the blogging is for fun, it is most natural to post about topics that are interested for the blogger. If the primary purpose of the blog is to make some money, then it is worth considering how to choose a niche topic for the blog. Apart from the questions whether the topic is popular and what is the competition in that niche, it is important also to be able to provide quality and unique content and fresh information to capture the readers’ interest. […]

  41. I just started a new blog about marketing and design, but I’m wrestling with how I want to narrow it down. My Initial impression has been to write about green marketing and organic design, but I eventually want it to be a blog for my marketing and design site… What is the best way to blog for such a site?

  42. […] time I added quotes and got How to Choose a Niche Topic for your Blog from ProBlogger. Much better! The article is part of Darren’s Blogging for Beginners series […]

  43. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing these tips.

  44. Darren

    I guess I am behind the curve when it comes to reading this post. Granted I just found your blog a month ago.

    My trade show blog is not the only one out there but it is one of the few I can find in Google. I actually enjoy writing this one. I am sure I will find the answer in one of your other posts. My question is how can you tell if you have taken your niche to narrow? Is it to late to turn it around?

    Thank you for your hard work!

  45. Blogging require great determination and patience to achieve success in your niche field.

  46. Useful tips :)
    Speaking of niche, does http://xiaxue.blogspot.com really have a niche?
    I’m very surprised by her success. Can you please write a review about her blog’s success factors and also about how actually the idea of “celebrity bloggers” works? It’d be very interesting.

    Looking forward to your post

  47. Excellent advice, Darren. I just started a blog a week ago. My concern after reading your article is that I don’t have a clear cut niche. I have several: tech support, humor and random thoughts. I do have the time to write pillar articles, as you advise, but they’re not all in one niche. Tell me something to keep me going. I’m afraid I might be wasting my time.

  48. Hi, Darren you article is helpful and very informative ,although I would like to know to be sucessfull with blogs Do you need to be technical posting links ,banners?? thank you for your site.

  49. I have created 2 blogs, one about my personal experiences of marriage and other stories of famous women. pl suggest me whether these blogs can make money for me or not, i am very new to blogging and need ur advise on what topics i should choose so that i can earn money.

    thanks