The following post was submitted by Lindsay B as part of the ProBlogger Case Study Series
Nothing is certain in the blogging-for-profit world. It’s hard to predict which sites will take off. Sometimes the blog you funnel twenty hours a week into has mediocre earnings. Sometimes the dinky little blog you spend an hour a month on suddenly starts paying the mortgage every month. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pick winners from the start? Well, maybe we can…
By now, you probably know pro-blogging success (AKA making money) depends on finding the right niche. Focus on a specific topic, and you draw readers interested in researching and potentially buying something related to that topic. Whether you’re into affiliate programs or pay-per-click advertising, it’s easy to capitalize on a niche audience.
So, the question isn’t about whether you should be blogging about a niche; it’s about whether or not your niche is… nichy enough. Is it too big? Too broad? How do you know for sure? If you’re not earning what you think you should be earning, your problem may be you’ve chosen too general a niche. Let me use two of my blogs as examples of what works well and what (alas) works less well.
Home Improvement Ideas (henceforth known by the unassuming title of Blog 1)
In this blog, I write about all sorts of products and trends for the home, everything from granite countertops and wood floors to remote control range hoods and jetted bathtubs. I post at least twice a day, and it’s coming up on 1,000 entries. I put a lot of effort into finding neat things to write about, and many of my posts have received links from high profile gadget and luxury blogs. Despite that, the blog receives less traffic and makes less money than another blog of mine…
Fireplace Lowdown (henceforth known as Blog 2)
I started this blog on a whim because I’d recently researched gas fireplaces and had some potential content. Because this was an on-a-whim blog, I didn’t want to bother with a domain name and all that, so I set it up on Typepad, where I already had an account. I started posting once or twice a week, and it recently broke 200 entries (math whizs in the audience will note this is significantly fewer posts than Blog 1 features). Blog 2 hasn’t exactly been a link magnet, yet this small blog gets more traffic and makes more money than Blog 1.
Let’s take a look at why. I’m the first to admit there’s room for improvement with ad placement in both blogs (writer != designer), but that wouldn’t change the fact that Blog 2 gets more traffic than Blog 1, even though both are about the same age and Blog 1 has five times as many posts. so, what’s the big difference?
(If you said the scope of the niches, give yourself a pat on the back.)
I could argue that both of these blogs have a niche focus, but one is obviously more specific than the other. Blog 1, with its home improvement theme, covers a broad topic (all of you people creating generic “gadget” blogs, take note). Blog 2, on the other hand, talks about something specific: fireplaces.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a blog covering a broad spectrum (after all, doesn’t Engadget have a huge following and presumably make lots of money?), but based on my experience, you have to put a lot more time and effort into making those broad-topic blogs profitable.
There are two big reasons:
1) Specific niche audiences are more likely to click (they’re not browsing the Web because they’re bored; they’re researching a product/service, probably in preparation to buy).
2) Search engines understand niche sites extremely well and broad-topic sites… less well.
Let’s compare Blog 1 and Blog 2 as a search engine might.
Blog 1 is broken down into categories like Lawn & Garden, Windows & Doors, and Kitchens. A human being can see how those topics relate to each other, but what about the search engines? As smart as Google is, I bet it just sees a bunch of categories without much in common (no shared “keywords”).
Blog 2, however, has categories like Wood-burning Fireplaces, Gas Fireplaces, and Fireplace Safety (not every category has “fireplace” in it, but enough do that a theme should be obvious, both to people AND search engines).
This, of course, is basic search engine optimization. Focus on a niche, and use niche-relevant keywords in titles, posts, categories, etc. Darren has talked about it. Any webmaster forum covers it. And yet… many of us would-be “pro bloggers” aren’t doing it.
Maybe it’s time for us to look at our niches and decide if they’re “nichy” enough.