Perhaps the most important blogging decision you can ever make is in choosing what to blog about. Your niche or topic area plays a huge role in defining everything that comes after, including how successful your blog is.
Unfortunately it’s all too easy to simply wander into a niche without even thinking about what the consequences down the road might be.
Freelancing is a niche with a big audience and previously not a whole lot of good content.
Contrast that with the blog you are reading now. This site is also growing steadily, but not at any particular pace.
I would argue that although NorthxEast does many things right, good content, good writing, well networked and so on, it has one major failing that will mean, while the site will continue to grow at a good rate, it will always be an also-ran. That failure is the failure to pick a good niche.
Now in case you think I’m complaining about this site, far from it, I think NorthxEast is a great blog, growing well and provides a nice place for me to write out my thoughts about blogging. Rather I am simply using it as a case study to illustrate where I went wrong.
When you think about the leading blogs about blogging you probably come up with a list that looks something like this:
lots of others including NorthxEast
Where leading the pack is Problogger, which I think everyone can agree pretty much is the niche leader and is the blog about blogging. Note that I’m not certain if that site has the most traffic or even subscribers, however it certainly has the most mind-share.
Following that are a series of quality blogs that have all differentiated themselves in some way:
Performancing – a group blog
CopyBlogger – focusing on copy blogging
BlogHerald – a blog portal
In the B-category we have more blogs that are differentiating themselves in some way:
DoshDosh – focuses on making money
DailyBlogTips – gives short digestible tips
JohnChow – uses the cult of personality and a focus on earning
Weblog Tools – focusing on WordPress stuff
On the other hand if you think about blogs that fall into group C, you’ll find mostly blogs like NorthxEast which don’t offer any major distinguishing features.
I’m sure that some of those B’s will become A’s and in time some of the group C’s will become B’s, but unless they have a unique angle, some differentiation, then I don’t see that any will break into the A-list.
Choosing a niche
There seem to be many important things you need to do to make a super successful blog, but I believe the most fundamental is choosing the right niche to write in.
If you plan to write in a field already crowded as I did with NorthxEast, then you need to subdivide the niche and find an angle.
So for example, if I were to start afresh and put together a blog about blogging, I would probably take the angle of design.
So just as CopyBlogger writes about blogging from a copy point of view, I would write a blog about blogging where the focus was on presentation, design, production and so on.
I haven’t seen anyone else doing this and with my design knowledge, it would probably work well. I sometimes think that maybe its worth reinventing NorthxEast in this way, though for the moment I don?t have the energy.
Some other angles you could take would be focusing on things like business blogging, non-traditional blogs (tumblr, vlogs, etc), community blogging and so on.
By having a different focus than anyone else you effectively create your own niche and if you choose the right one you can use it as a lever to grow even in the super-niche that you previously wouldn’t have been able to compete in.
Now just to go against everything I’ve said up to this point, I do however think it is possible to be successful without subdividing the niche, and simply competing head on.
But to do this you would have to be better than the current leader in every respect, and you would have to have quite a bit of luck.
So for example you might be able to start a gadget blog today and eventually become the market leader, but you would need to consistently get scoops that no-one else has, to outperform on a daily basis the current leaders in quality and coverage, and you would probably need the current leaders to make a few major blunders or quality drops.
In other words, unless you are a masochist, it?s a much better idea to compete in some other way, namely to pick a niche, any niche except that one.