For those not down with the lingo yet, a ‘niche’ basically means a subject or a topic. This is the area of interest that your website is going to focus on and it’s what you’ll be writing about on a daily basis for your blog posts.
This might sound like an easy job – but picking your niche is actually something you should consider very carefully. Getting this right can make your life a lot easier, while choosing poorly can make it almost impossible to achieve the success you’re looking for.
Here we will look at some considerations that you need to bear in mind when picking your niche.
A Topic You Enjoy
Tip number one is to always choose a niche that you enjoy reading and writing about. Blogging is not a ‘small’ job by any stretch of the imagination. Remember when we said it would essentially need to become your full-time career if you wanted to be very successful? Well then you have to ask yourself – is this something you will be happy to write about on a regular basis?
Writing will also come a lot easier if you’re well-versed in the subject. You’ll need to do less research and at the same time, you’ll find it much easier to come up with new interesting topics that people who like the subject will be interested in. What’s more, your passion will come across in the content and people will be much more inclined to read more of what you have to say as a result.
Even if you plan on outsourcing your writing, knowing the niche you choose well will help you to feel excited about your site and to check over the accuracy and usefulness of the writing you’re receiving. Ultimately, choosing a niche just because some ‘guru’ says it’s a profitable one is a fast track to becoming bored and disillusioned and ultimately giving up.
When picking your niche, you need to think about the competition out there and how easy it is going to be to stand out. Of course you want a subject that has a large potential audience, so why not pick something big like ‘fitness’ or ‘cars’?
Well, that’s a good idea on the face of it until you think about how many other bloggers are writing in those niches. Bodybuilding.com is one of the largest sites on the net and it generates a huge turnover – most of which is invested back into the site to ensure a steady flow of new topics. Question is: can you compete with that? Are you going to be able to compete with any of those sites to get to page one?
On the other hand, if you choose to blog about rearing stick insects, you’ll likely find that there’s a much smaller audience – but also far less competition.
The best case scenario then is to find a topic that is popular but that isn’t so popular that it’s going to attract lots of huge companies and top-name bloggers. Things like ‘foraging’, ‘knitting’, ‘writing’, ‘parkour’ are all big without attracting too much attention.
Broad vs Specific Topics
Another strategy is to start with a topic that has a broad appeal but then to narrow it down to something more specific. For instance if you like fitness, how about picking a certain area of fitness such as running or CrossFit?
Or alternatively, what about targeting a particular group? For instance ‘fitness for diabetics’. You can also try combining two different topics. A great example of this is the blog ‘Nerd Fitness’.
Another alternative strategy is to go very broad with your chosen niche which has the advantage of allowing you to come up with lots of new angles for content. If you do this though, you risk a lack of focus so you need to ensure that you keep everything tied together with a common thread. A great example of this is the ‘Art of Manliness’ blog. This blog writes about anything that could be considered ‘manly’ – so that includes editorials on the role of the modern man but also posts on how to smoke a cigar or enjoy whiskey and posts on how to raise children. This gives a huge broad range of topics for the writer while still having a very strong brand identity and focus.
Choosing a Profitable Market
Another consideration when picking your niche is whether or not it’s profitable. That’s right: some niches are far more profitable than others and you’ll find it easier to monetize depending on which one you pick.
Examples of highly profitable niches include finance and business. These are profitable because they offer ROI in themselves: someone will be happier to spend money on an eBook about earning money because in theory they’ll make that initial expense back.
Likewise, there is money to be made in any niche that has a big and obvious ‘value proposition’. A value proposition can be thought of like an emotional hook – it is the thing that people will want to buy your products or read your blog for and the ‘way’ that they hope their lives will benefit. Fitness is a great example because people badly want six pack abs and are willing to pay. The same goes for dating.
Monetizing that blog on raising stick insects on the other hand will be harder. There is simply not the same demand or ‘need’ for products here. That said though, the relative lack of competition in the area, combined with the relative scarcity of information means there are certainly ways to monetize.
Ultimately it’s worth just thinking hard whether or not your niche is going to be profitable or not and weighing this up when choosing whether to write about it. Look at your competition to see whether they look to be making much money, think about your business model and maybe even try verifying your intended business model. Verifying means trying to sell to your target audience first to see if they are actually there and if they are actually interested in buying your product.
Selecting The Right Blog Platform
Got your niche? Great! The next thing then is to think about actually setting up your new site and getting started with your content. To do this, you will need to choose a ‘blogging platform’ which effectively dictates how your site’s code will be structured and what you’ll see when you’re logging in and adding content.
Now of course, you don’t actually need a ‘blogging platform’ as such. You can go about building your own website from scratch which will involve creating pages in HTML and CSS, possibly using a builder like ‘Dreamweaver’ but if you do this it will take a lot longer and be much harder to create something that looks and performs like a professional website.
Instead then, you want to use a blogging platform/CMS. CMS stands for ‘Content Management System’ and is essentially a tool that simplifies the process of designing and building your website, as well as adding and editing content as needed.
Use a CMS and you won’t need to know a line of code in order to build the site, to add new posts and to edit your existing content. This of course saves a lot of time, it streamlines the process and it ensures that your site is at least functional.
Choosing Your CMS
So how do you choose a CMS?
The first thing to do is to recognize the difference between hosted and self- hosted options.
A hosted option is a blog platform that you use almost like a social network. In other words, you create your account and ‘sign in’ to another website and from there, you’ll then be able to add new posts for other users to see. In other words, the platform and so your website are already hosted somewhere online, meaning you don’t need to pay for a hosting account to get started.
Good examples of hosted blogging platforms include BlogSpot (www.blogspot.com), LiveJournal (www.livejournal.com), WordPress Hosted (www.wordpress.com), WordPress Self-Hosted (www.wordpress.org) and Tumblr (www.tumblr.com). Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, though they all do essentially the same thing. Tumblr here is really the odd one out as it straddles the line between blogging platform and social media platform – and as it mainly focuses on images that you upload as opposed to written content.
The great thing about this is that it’s a completely free process and requires absolutely no set-up. You simply visit the blogging platform, be that BlogSpot or WordPress, sign in and then start posting! You can make changes to your blog in terms of the way it looks but you’ll be quite limited in terms of what you can do. Likewise, you’ll also be limited in terms of your URL – meaning that you won’t be able to call your website ‘BodybuildingNewsArticles.com’ – instead your blog will have to be ‘wordpress.bodybuildingnewsarticles.com’ or ‘blogspot.bodybuildingnewsarticles.com’. This of course looks far less professional and it also means your URL is going to be far less catchy and brandable. People will likely not remember your URL and type it back into the address bar – they’ll have to search on Google. And that said, even searching on Google will be harder seeing as it’s not as easy to get hosted websites to ‘rank’.
For all these reasons you’re much better off with a self-hosted CMS. This means you’ll need to pay for the hosting space too as well as a domain name. In all, this will likely set you back $100-$500 for the year but if you monetize well you should be able to make that make even in year one. If you plan on becoming a professional blogger, this is really a mandatory expense.
When it comes to hosted blogging platform options, you have a few popular options. These include:
- WordPress (yes, WordPress is both)
- Drupal WordPress is available as both a hosted and a self-hosted CMS option. If you go for the hosted option, you will simply need to visit WordPress.com and start an account. If you want to go for a self-hosted choice, you’ll instead want
to download the install files from WordPress.com, then upload them to your server. You then navigate to one of the files in your browser and the set-up process begins.
Which self-hosted platform should you use? The answer is WordPress by a long shot. The reason for this is partly that WordPress is simply the most popular blogging platform. In turn, this means it also has the widest support. That means that you’ll be able to find plenty of developers to work with who are well-versed in the platform and it means you’ll be able to easily find additional plugins and themes to install to take your site to the next level. We’ll look at what themes and plugins are in a moment but for now all you need to know is that they significantly increase the capabilities of your website and are often free to use.
The fact that WordPress began life as a blogging platform also gives it another big advantage. That is that it is highly user friendly and compared with Joomla or Drupal, the control panel is much more accessible and easy to use.
But most of all, you should use WordPress because everyone else does… That might sound like a somewhat lame reason but think about it: most of the most successful bloggers on the net use WordPress. Countless people before you have shown that a WordPress website can be incredibly successful… so why then would you use anything else that is much more of an unknown quantity? Why would you take your chances with a more complicated platform? We know that WordPress can be optimized for search engines, we know it can be very well optimized… if you’re serious about making money then it’s the logical choice. And the websites created with it look great.
Choosing a Name and URL
As you’re going with a self-hosted option for your blog, you’ll now need to choose a URL. This is the address that people will type in their search bar in order to find your website and as such it will probably also act as the title of your website and the brand you’re going with.
Choosing your name is another very important step here and there are two big factors to consider when making this decision:
- Branding SEO is search engine optimization – in other words, tweaking your website to ensure that it will likely to rank highly on Google and to show up in searches. Your URL affects your SEO because some URLs are much more ‘searchable’ than others and this will give you an edge over the competition. In other words, if you wanted to rank highly for our earlier example – bodybuilding news articles – then having an address like bodybuildingnewsarticles.com or bodybuilding-news-articles.com would be a great advantage. This won’t guarantee you’ll rank highly mind and those who have done more work at their SEO could still beat you in other ways – it’s just a good head-start and advantage. In terms of branding, you want to choose a URL that is the same as, or similar to, the name of your website. So a business called ‘Spination’ would do very well to get ‘Spination.com’. Again, this isn’t a requirement but it will make several things easier – not to mention promoting your site and making it more memorable.
If you don’t have a site name yet, then this is a good time to think about it. Aim for something that’s unique and interesting, catchy and at the same time descriptive. In a perfect scenario your URL will tell people what your site is about without just being a boring description. So in reality, ‘bodybuildingnewsarticles.com’ is a dull URL that’s not great for branding. Much better would be something like BroNews, BBNews or MuscleTalk. This is easier for creating logos, for making an impression and more but it still will give you some SEO benefit and won’t be too obtuse.
As for your ‘TLD’ or ‘Top Level Domain’ (the ‘com’ or ‘co.uk’ part), it’s still always preferable to aim for the ‘.com’ if you can. An exception to this is if you’re running a local blog in which case a regional TLD is better. In most cases though, ‘.com’ is the easiest to remember and thus the simplest to promote.