Finding a topic for your blog can be a daunting task for most of us. Particularly if it’s your first blog. I spent literally days, probably more like weeks, on this step. Admittedly, this is one of the most important steps if not the most important. It can also be one of the hardest, because if you don’t get it right, you may discover very quickly (or worse, months down the line) that you chose a wrong focus for your blog, or a wrong niche altogether.
Before we discuss the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, it always pays to have a look at the ‘why’. Your ‘why’ will help you discover the right answers to the what/how part.
Why do you want to create a blog? The answer commonly given by people is “to make money of course”. Yes, there is nothing wrong with making money. But you need to look deeper than that. You need to focus on the future readers of your blog. Why would they care to read your blog? What’s in it for them? So, now your answer might be something like “I want to create the best resource for people to learn about …”
Where am I going with this? I want to make this point: If your main focus is on the money-making aspect of your blog, you will probably have hard time making money. Additionally, it will come across in your writing and the end result is likely to be that your blog will not be very helpful to others.
If you focus instead on how to be of service to others, how to be helpful, you are likely to be a lot more successful. Why? Because when you care more about helping others than the money, you will be finding ways to dig deeper, to deliver the best information, the best service, the best product you are capable of. This in itself will help you become successful financially as well.
This leads us to the how. How do we then choose the best topic for our blog? The obvious first choice is to start with things we are passionate about. Also ask yourself what you love doing and would do anyway even if you didn’t get paid for it. Make a list. It may be just one thing that stands out, or there may be several. Then add to the list topics you are very interested in and would love to be able to learn more about.
There are a few advantages of choosing from the topics you are passionate about or keen to learn more about. It will be much easier to create a great resource in these niches. Your attitude to the subject will show in the materials you create for your readers.
Another important aspect is that when things do not run smoothly, as it sometimes happens, it will be much easier for you to keep going if it’s a topic you are passionate about, than if it was a topic you personally had little interest in.
There seem to be two camps on the internet. One says you need to choose a topic you are passionate about. The other one says it’s baloney, you actually need to pick a topic you can make money with. Well, I believe they are both right in a sense… You need both. You need a topic that you are either passionate about (or at least interested in) and it also needs to be a topic you can monetise.
So now for your best blog topics that you have written down, you will need to do a bit of research. How many people search for the information on this topic? Are there many blogs or websites that come up in the search results? More is usually better. Are there many products or services on offer in this particular niche? Again, more is better.
If there are no blogs and products for sale in the niche, it might be that you got very lucky and were the first person to stumble on this niche and it’s a goldmine. This happens very rarely by the way. Or, it might be that others tried to monetise this niche and failed: there is just not enough people willing to pay for the information or the products. This is usually the actual reason.
This is just a quick check to validate that there are plenty of other people interested in this niche and willing to pay money for good solutions to some of their problems or to learn more about the topics.
This is just a quick high-level overview of how I use this process. I have also found several very good resources on the subject, if you want to delve into it deeper. All advice from very successful bloggers you have been reading about in my recent post 104 bloggers reveal their incomes.
Pat Flynn also advises to start a niche selection for your blog with a market that interests you. Then, you need to specialise.
“Pick a sub-section within that market, and then keep going deeper and deeper until you can get to a point where there’s a need and you feel like you can create the go-to resource or become the go-to person for that topic.”
When you look for possible sub-niches within that market, Pat also advises to look at that category on Amazon.com and see what sub-topics they have. The same can be done by visiting the top sites covering your market.
When you specialise, or sub-niche, it’s easier to become an authority, easier to get found in Google, easier to get featured on other sites and easier to build a group of loyal readers.
In the same post Pat also gives some advice on how to do a keyword research for your niche.
When Melyssa Griffin started, her blog was about anything and everything. These days her niche and topic selection is a lot more narrow and this actually allowed her to build a very successful blog with a great audience.
She advises to start the topic selection process with the things you actually want to write about. Next, you get the topics that connect together and put them in one group. By doing this you may end up with a few different groups. One of these groups would then become your blog niche.
As her blog started growing into a business, Melyssa realised that she could reach a lot more people by writing about a lot less things. In other words you need to narrow your niche.
Says Melyssa: “If you focus your blog on a specific niche and audience, you’ll grow your site (and likely, your income), much faster and more easily than if you choose to write a blog about many unrelated topics. This all boils down to your ideal reader and how you fit into their life.”
Just make sure you are still passionate about, or interested in, your final niche selection. Make sure you “actually want to write about it” as Melyssa says.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says, some things to consider when you are choosing your blog topic include:
What are you passionate about?
What blogs do you enjoy reading?
What are you expert in?
What are you learning about?
You don’t need to be a “real” expert with formal qualifications. According to Michelle there are many bloggers in the personal finance space (as an example) that are not certified finance experts. They just journal their efforts to get themselves out of the financial mess they are in and what they are learning along the way. Many people enjoy following other people’s journeys.
Then again, you might be a real expert in something (with formal qualifications, perhaps a university degree) and you may enjoy sharing your advice in that field with the world.
Heather Delaney Reese and Pete Reese will also tell you that the best and most trusted blogs are those written by people that are passionate about (or at least interested in) the topic they discuss on their blog.
One interesting question you could consider when choosing a blog topic would be “Do I have any major goals that I’d like to accomplish?”
On the other hand, Sarah Titus in her recent post Popular Blogging Advice You Should Completely Ignore says that choosing a narrow niche for a blog is a complete nonsense. Then she adds: “I’ve been a six-figure, single mom blogger since year one. And one of the main attributes that I personally feel has led to my success is by posting on whatever I want”.
This also rings true if you have any more than just a cursory look at the blogs listed in 104 bloggers sharing their income reports. There are several bloggers earning significant monthly income from their blogs that seem to be writing about many, not closely related, topics.
Sarah is not just a six figure blogger any more, in 2017 she made almost a million dollars from her blog. (Well, technically it’s still six figures I guess, LOL). I would not discard her advice lightly.
So, it would seem that there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to selecting a topic for you blog.
Sarah feels she made a name for herself by simply being a passionate blogger. This is probably the biggest clue to success in blogging: being passionate about the topics you discuss on your blog. She is definitely passionate about her topics and it comes across in her writing. If you want to see it first hand, do read that whole post. Not only is it passionate, it has some golden nuggets too.
Even though focus and consistency is what will help build a successful blog, without being passionate about the topic (or topics) we won’t have the drive and therefore will lose focus quickly and often.
Jon Morrow in his post 21 Warning Signs You Chose the Wrong Topic for Your Blog gives some great advice. As with all of the posts mentioned above, you will need to read the whole post to find your own golden nuggets. However, I will just mention a few here.
If you procrastinate and feel that writing for your blog is a chore, Jon says if it happens once in a blue moon there is nothing to worry about, it just means that you are normal. However if it happens all the time you have probably chosen a wrong topic for your blog and need to change it fast.
Jon spends a lot of time in that post giving great tips on how to check if the topic you have chosen for your blog has any chances of becoming a success.
He then also adds:
“The truth is, many blogs succeed despite being guilty of nearly every warning sign on this list, and some blogs that seem like surefire winners splutter and flop. No one really knows for certain until they work up the courage to give it a go.”
“The people who make it think strategically, map out a plan, and then work their butt off to make it happen.”
Alex Nerney defines niche in blogging as a tribe, a community of people interested in the topic.
While any blog can be monetised in some way, Alex has his own unique list of blogging niches which he believes are currently some of the best earning niches around: making money online, financial guidance, investing, lifestyle, food recipes, fashion and beauty, health and fitness, mix of some of the above.
However, you should not pick a topic just because it’s profitable. If it’s a topic you know nothing about and don’t enjoy, you should stay away from it or it will show in your writing.
You should not avoid a niche because you think it’s overcrowded. Competition is good. It means that there are people interested in the niche and that there is money in it.
I don’t recall exactly who said it, I must have read in at least a dozen places: In blogging there is no such thing as competition. Your fellow bloggers are all potential partners and potential sources of links and traffic and also potential sources of great products which you can promote as an affiliate. The more the better, as it will give you a greater choice and a chance to find a really outstanding product (or two) worth promoting.
If you are still having trouble finding a topic for your blog, Alex advises to ask yourself what topics you have trouble shutting up about and start there. Just remember that if your niche is too broad you may then need to niche it down to a subtopic. A good option may be to start writing about a few subtopics you like and let the audience decide what you should be focussing on (by their feedback). Focus on your readers and let them decide.
Darren Rowse is a highly successful blogger and a bit of a blog veteran. When most of the successful bloggers today weren’t even thinking about blogging yet, Darren already had a very profitable photography blog (Digital Photography School) and ProBlogger, through which he was and still is teaching others how to build a successful blog.
Darren is a legend and the only reason he was not mentioned in my earlier post on 104 bloggers sharing their income reports was because he has officially stopped publishing his income reports long time ago. Back then his income was already in six figures per year.
In his podcast 15 Questions to Ask to Help Identify Your Blogging Niche or Focus, Darren gives some tips for niche selection that is the right one for each of us.
Some questions to ask yourself (besides what you are passionate about) are:
What gives you energy?
What are your dreams?
What do you wish your family and friends knew?
What do you see as your mission in life?
What are you currently learning?
Darren lists 15 of these questions to help us choose a niche.
Regarding the question of how narrow or how broad the topic of your blog should be, Darren has this brilliant advice:
Generally you will have either a niche or a demographics as a focus for your blog. It’s about the audience you connect to. For example, a blog for retired people (demographics) could be about finance, travel, being a grandparent. Basically a variety of topics that are relevant to your audience.
Donnie Lawson also wrote an interesting post on the subject, here I will only bring some unique points to your attention.
When searching for a topic for your blog, one of the things to consider is what blogs you spend most time reading. This could be your passion.
Focus on presenting solutions to problems. Also consider what topics the other blogs do not cover or do not cover well.
You do not need to be an expert in your niche. You could just be an avid learner and present yourself as such. Danny says that in fact being an expert while trying to teach others may make you feel unapproachable and disconnected with your readers.
Also consider what you want your body of work to be in a few years. If you keep writing for your blog, sooner or later people you know including family and friends will find your blog and start reading it. What do you want to be known for? Create something you will be still proud of few years down the track.
Just get started, says Donnie. Most people want to start a blog but only very few end up doing it.
Jessica Knapp in her post Choosing a Blogging Niche mentions some great tips on how to find your passion.
Ask yourself questions like: What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time? What do you enjoy reading and learning about? If you could do one thing for the rest of your life regardless of the money, what would that be?
Jessica says if you are still not sure if you have chosen the right niche to blog about, try this simple exercise. Write a list of 10 separate blog post ideas for that niche. If you are struggling, this is probably not a niche for you.
If you wrote the list of 10 posts and are happy with it, you might want to take it even a step further. Write those 10 posts in your word processor (you don’t have a blog in that niche yet at this stage). If you find it difficult to write those posts, maybe the niche is not for you. The good news is you only invested a bit of time to find out.
On the other hand, if you find yourself excitingly coming up with more post ideas after writing those first ten posts, you are probably on the right track. As a bonus you also have the first draft of your first ten blog posts written already!
What a great tip. I personally like this exercise. It will show you, with just a little investment of your time, not only if you picked the right niche but also if you have the stamina to be a blogger. Blogging is about regularly sharing ideas with your readers. If you find it hard to write the first ten pieces of content, then you may find it even harder to continue regularly creating content for your blog.
With the above exercise, it’s not a question whether the pieces of content are great. They are just first drafts and can be improved before publishing them to your blog. The real question is did you enjoy writing them, or was it a bother for you.
Just one word of warning: don’t use this as an excuse not to get started. We may not get the blog topic right the first time, that’s not the end of the world. Just do it again. I heard one young entrepreneur on TV give this piece of advice recently: Set your goals in concrete, set your methods in sand. Good advice. When we start we don’t see all the way to the goal. This will unveil itself as we keep moving toward the goal.
Napoleon Hill used to say that it’s not very important that your plan is sound, as it can be changed if required. But it is very important that you do have a plan.
The difference between successful people and the rest is that the successful people take action. The unsuccessful people will wait until their plan is perfect. The end result being they will never get started. I personally believe we sabotage ourselves this way simply out of fear. Fear that we are not good enough, fear we will fail (again?), fear that friends will laugh at our failure. Forget about it. Just get started.
Oops. Let me get off my soapbox and back to the main topic of this post.
We talked a lot about the things to do when choosing a topic for your blog. What about the mistakes to avoid?
Yaro Starak has been coaching other would be bloggers for many years now. He says that choosing a wrong topic would mean to start walking down the wrong path and it could be months before we even realise it.
To that end, Yaro says that there are some common mistakes beginner bloggers often make. They pick a topic just because they see other bloggers make money writing about it. They choose a topic that they are passionate about but very few other people are interested in that topic. They choose a topic they have very little knowledge about. Blogging about too diverse a range of subjects would also be a concern according to Yaro.
While some of us have a hard time coming up even with one topic for our blog, others may have a hard time choosing the right topic because they came up with too many. For people that struggle to choose from a range of ideas Yaro advises to just pick one and devote some serious time to it. Only then will you know if that topic will really work for you. The market will tell you.
Karen Evans asks: “Will you have enough material to go the distance with your blog?”
She also advises not to pick any topic that is very time sensitive. Pick something that will be still interesting and relevant long time in the future. The reason is that all the archived posts will keep on bringing you traffic for years to come … but only if people are still searching for that topic.
The key point here is to blog in a niche where you can keep your content as evergreen as possible. For example blogging about technology would not be the best idea for most of us because the content that is current today will be obsolete in a couple of years. Nobody will be searching for it. Blogging about healthy recipes, on the other hand, would be a great example of an evergreen topic. People will be still searching for it for many years to come. Of course there are technology blogs that do very well. The point is they are not evergreen by definition and require constant updating.
We looked at advice from several highly successful bloggers. They may not all agree on whether your blog should be niched-down or broader in scope. But they all seem to agree on one thing: you must be passionate about your topic. Or stated another way, only blog about a topics that you are passionate about.
Then I remember reading in a blog post by another blogger, that went something like “OMG, after I have written 40,000 words for my website, I thought I would go insane and started hiring content writers.” That just says that person is not passionate about the topic, maybe not even interested at all.
Me? I have written over 100,000 words in the past few months and I’m just getting warmed up! If you want to read my best productivity tip so far, be sure to read my post on the best way I found to stay focused every day. I have to tell you, this one change made all the difference for me personally.
If you haven’t already, pick a topic you are passionate about and just start your blog. If you get started today and keep doing just a little bit each day or week, consistently, you will start seeing results. Each day you will get more confidence and courage to keep going. You will become a better writer (yes, by writing regularly). Slowly but surely you will start seeing your blog noticed and read by more and more people every month.
Please share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments below.
Until next time. Stay focused.