Should Your Blog Have a Narrow or Broad Topic?

blog-niche

Back when I got into blogging, in 2007, new bloggers were often told to choose a “niche”. If you wanted to be successful – so the thinking went – you needed to have a very specific topic, to differentiate yourself from all the other blogs out there.

Today, there are obviously even more blogs (not to mention podcasts, twitter chats, Facebook groups…) competing for attention.

Some bloggers still feel that, to succeed, they need to have a really unique topic or a very narrow niche, like “iPhone covers for the over 60s”.

But I think the “niche” advice is outdated … and I’m not sure it was ever quite right in the first place.

Many blogs – including many very popular blogs! – cover relatively broad topics. Write to Done, for instance, has advice on all sorts of aspects of writing – covering fiction, freelancing and blogging. Michael Hyatt’s blog centres on leadership, but takes in a huge number of diverse topics, from blogging and platform-building to hiring and managing a strong team.

So do you really need a niche? And if you do … how narrow should that niche be?

Let’s take a look first at why the “niche” advice became so popular in the first place.


Why Going TOO Broad Can Be a Problem

In the very early days of blogging, most blogs were essentially personal journals. Their “topic”, as such, was the blogger’s life and interests. There are still plenty of these blogs around (I like Richard Bartle’s) and they certainly still have their place.

However, if you want to get a large audience for your blog, you probably need to narrow your focus a little more than “everything I’m interested in”. (You might get away with it, though, if you’re an outstandingly good writer, or you have a particularly exciting and unusual life.)

If you’re struggling to see why blogging about anything and everything is a problem, look at it this way: most people will, inevitably, not share all your interests. They may well drift away if they’re only interested in, say, one out of every ten of your posts.

Here on Aliventures, I blog about writing. I occasionally mention other aspects of my life – like my two small children – but I don’t blog about, say, raising kids, or cooking, or great books I’ve read, or stuff to do around Leeds (where I live) or any of the other things going on in my life!

Why Too Narrow a Niche Won’t Work Either

When you pick a topic for your blog, though, you don’t want to rein yourself in too tightly. You want some room to develop and grow your ideas, without being tied into a very rigid and specific topic.

For instance, if you chose to blog only about “writing dialogue”, you’d probably find that you ran out of ideas and resources after a few weeks or months. Your blog might well become the go-to place for people wanting to craft better dialogue – and you could have a fairly static website designed to support, say, a book or course on the subject – but you’d be unlikely to want to write about dialogue every week for several years.

When you launch your blog and choose what to call it, you’ll also choose a domain name. (For help with that, check out my post Three Different Ways to Name Your Blog or Website.) If your name is too restrictive, it can make it difficult to change direction: writingdialogueforyournovel.com, for instance, is very specific, whereas something a little more general like talkingheads.com gives a bit more scope.

Finding a Middle Ground

A good blog topic, then, is one that’s clear and defined but that gives you some breathing and growing room.

And while on the surface of it, your topic might seem like the main thing that distinguishes you from other blogs, there are actually plenty of other ways to stand out:

  • With the “angle” you bring to your topic – e.g. The Write Life covers general writing advice but with a focus on freelancing and making a living.
  • With your voice or style – e.g. Naomi from IttyBiz very much built her blog on this, plus her specific audience focus on tiny businesses.
  • With the type of posts you publish – e.g. Smart Blogger have very long posts that go into lots of depth; Seth Godin is known for short, pithy but insightful posts.

 

If you’ve been blogging for a while about several quite different topics, you might want to survey your readers to find out what topics they’re most interested in (you could also look at which posts are performing best in Google Analytics).

 

There’s no “right” answer when it comes to blogging, and of course you should feel free to write about whatever you want – whether that’s one very narrow topic or several very broad ones! Keep in mind, though, that if you want your blog to gain readers, to make money, and/or to raise your profile in your field, you’ll do best if you focus on a clear topic that gives you – and your readers – room to grow.

If you’d like a bit more help with your blogging, do check out my free ebooks Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger and Ten Easy Ways to Attract Readers to Your Blog … And Keep Them There. They’re quick to read, packed with tips you can put into practice right away, and completely free – you can find out more and sign up for them here.

Three Different Ways to Name Your Blog or Website [Pros and Cons]

name-blog-website

If you’ve ever thought about starting a blog – or a website of any sort – you’ve probably run up against a pretty obvious problem.

It needs a name!

Choosing what to call your blog tends to be wrapped up in a whole host of other problems – like knowing what topics you want to write about and what sort of tone you want to use.

I’ve got stuck, plenty of times, at the naming stage: sometimes, it’s meant delaying projects for months because I just can’t figure out what to call the website.

In this post, I’ll run through the three different options you have, and explain why (or why not) you might want to go for each.

Note: This post is based on material from the Blog On ecourse in Writers’ Huddle – if you’re a member of Writers’ Huddle, do check out the rest of Blog On Module #1 for help with coming up with ideas for your blog. If you’re not a member, you can join the waiting list (and get some exclusive goodies) here.

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Seven Great Sources of New Ideas for Your Blog

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Do you ever struggle to come up with ideas for your blog?

I think all bloggers do, at some point. Sadly, this is one common reason why blogs get abandoned: the blogger couldn’t think what to write about, and days went by, then weeks, with no new posts … before they eventually gave up altogether.

The great news is that there are tons of ideas all around you, just waiting to be written.

And don’t worry about ideas having already been “taken” by other bloggers. What matters is not having a totally new, never-before-seen idea – but having a solid idea that you can bring your unique perspective and skills to.

Here are seven of my favourite ways to come up with blogging inspiration:

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Seven Ways to Start a Blog Post … and Seven Ways to Finish It

seven-ways

Where do you get typically get stuck when you’re writing a blog post?

For a lot of bloggers, the first few lines of the post – and the last few – are really tough. You might have a perfectly good plan for what’s going to come later … but you just don’t know how to begin.

One solution is to simply type anything to get you going. While that’s fine when you’re drafting, at some point, you’re going to need to come back and revise.

Another is to skip the introduction and jump straight in with your first key point. Again, that’s a great way to get moving … but it doesn’t really solve the problem. You’re still going to have to write that introduction at some point.

Beginnings and endings matter, and it’s important to get them right.

The first few lines of your post draw the reader in and, ideally, set the tone for what’s to come.

The final few lines are a crucial opportunity to ensure your post makes a difference.

Here, I’ll go through seven different ways to start a blog post, and seven ways to finish it – with examples from a bunch of blogs.

Note: You can use more than one “start” or “finish” technique in a single post (as you read through, you’ll probably spot that some of the examples do this). To begin with, though, you might want to focus on just one at a time.

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How to Blog Consistently and Build Your Audience: Eight Simple Steps

laptop

I’ve got a confession to make.

I had five different blogs before Aliventures that I started, worked on for a while, then abandoned. (One got ditched after two weeks; my best attempt lasted a year and a half.)

With all those blogs, I made the right call. They weren’t on topics that interested me enough to stick with them for good. They weren’t “me”.

It definitely didn’t help, though, that as I lost interest, I barely posted at all.

However much you love your blog’s topic, you’re not going to get far if you don’t blog consistently.

If you don’t publish posts regularly, you’ll find that:

  • You get out of the habit of writing for your blog, and feel a lot of resistance towards getting going again.
  • You lose any momentum you’ve built up – your readership and traffic levels may not drop dramatically, but they’re certainly not growing.
  • You feel discouraged, and eventually, give up on your blog. That might be a deliberate decision to stop blogging, but more often, it just happens. You don’t blog for a few weeks … then a few months … and eventually you realise you stopped years ago.

Of course, the easy answer here is to just blog regularly – every week, or twice a week, or three times a week – without fail.

But it isn’t really as easy as that.

Life gets in the way, for one thing – even the lovely bits of life. In the past six years of blogging on Aliventures, I’ve had two house moves, a wedding, two pregnancies, two babies … none of which have exactly been conductive to the smooth running of the blog.

And for many bloggers, writing itself is hard at times. Perhaps you struggle to stay motivated, or you never seem to have any ideas. Even when life is going reasonably smoothly, it can be incredibly hard to stick with your blog, week in, week out.

But …

It’s possible.

One of the key things that helps me is to have a clear blogging workflow. In the past – particularly pre-kids – I just wrote posts on the days when I wanted to publish them. That works well for some bloggers, but for me, it became all too easy to let busyness take over.

These days, I have a system – which I’ll share in a moment. Before I get to it, though, a couple of important notes:

#1: While you’re working through this plan, it’s okay to hit “pause” on your blog. Don’t worry about publishing new content until you’ve got well ahead with ideas and plans. If you leap back in too soon, you’ll just end up back at square one.

#2: Feel free to tweak this plan to suit you. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go as-is to begin with, but if there’s something that isn’t quite right for you or your preferred way of working, feel free to improve on it! You might want to leave a comment below to let us know what you’ll be changing, in case your tweak would work well for someone else reading.

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Six Straightforward Ways to Structure a Blog Post [With Examples]

blog-structure

Whatever your reasons for blogging, your blog will consist of posts: individual pieces of content, like articles in a magazine.

Your posts might be long, short, or a mixture. They might be part of an ongoing series, or they might be complete in themselves.

All of them need to have a structure. In fact, all of them will have a structure … it just might not be the structure you want.

If you don’t plan ahead, it’s easy to end up with a mess – a rambling, unfocused piece of content that isn’t really of any interest to your readers.

Here’s how to get it right:

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Last Chance to Get All Four Blogger’s Guides For Just $22

I’m still on maternity leave (baby Nick due in just a week, on the 15th!) My husband Paul is handling business-related things for me, so if you have any questions about the sale, please drop him an email at paul@aliventures.com.
In case you missed my post on Monday, or haven’t had a chance to check out the Blogger’s Guides yet, here’s a final heads-up: they’re all currently just $9.67 each or $22 for all four. 

This is only the case till the end of Friday 12th, though. After that, they’re going off the virtual shelves completely until I’m back from maternity leave.

The individual Guides are:

  • The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing – this explains the exact process I used to launch my freelancing career (while working a full-time day job).
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing – this is packed with tips and techniques to help you go further with your writing.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks – this covers what you need to do to create a free or paid-for ebook, with step by step advice.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers – this goes through everything you need to do to (a) get your blog in shape for visitors and (b) draw them in.

You can find out plenty more about all of them on the Blogger’s Guides websiteBut move fast, because I’ll be taking them down at the end of Friday 12th.

 

Get All Four Blogger’s Guides For Just $22 Until Friday 12th December

I’m still on maternity leave (baby Nick due in just a week, on the 15th!) My husband Paul is handling business-related things for me, so if you have any questions about the sale, please drop him an email at paul@aliventures.com.

 

While I normally do a Blogger’s Guides sale every December, I wasn’t planning one this year. Due to some VAT changes in the European Union, though, I’ve made the difficult decision to take all the Blogger’s Guides off the virtual shelves while I’m on maternity leave.

(They’ll be back in some form, with more interaction from me, in mid-2015.)

Of course, I want you to be able to get your hands on the Guides if you want them … so I’ve slashed the price by two-thirds for the whole of this week.

This means that:

  • The four-pack of Guides is just $22 instead of $66.
  • Each individual Guide is just $9.67 instead of $29.

This is the cheapest you’ll ever be able to get the Guides. I’ve never cut the price so much before, and I never plan to do so again (especially as I’ll be adding more to them next year). Once you own any Guide, you get all future updates and extras for free.

If you’re new around here, you might not have heard much about my Blogger’s Guide series. The individual Guides are:

  • The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing – this explains the exact process I used to launch my freelancing career (while working a full-time day job).
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing – this is packed with tips and techniques to help you go further with your writing.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks – this covers what you need to do to create a free or paid-for ebook, with step by step advice.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers – this goes through everything you need to do to (a) get your blog in shape for visitors and (b) draw them in.

You can find out plenty more about all of these on the Blogger’s Guides website.

After the end of this Friday (12th), you won’t be able to buy the Guides at all for several months … so if you’ve been dithering about buying one (or all four!), now’s definitely the time. 🙂

 

My New Blogging Job and The Blogger’s Guides Flash Sale

You might have seen the news on Twitter or Facebook, but in case not …

I’m now Head of Content over at the shiny new relaunched Zen Optimise (which was SEO Training) … a fancy way of saying that I’m running the blog there. Normally, I’ll be posting twice each week, and have a bunch of pieces up already. I’m thrilled to be working with Zen Optimise’s MD,  Joe Williams, who is one of my very favourite clients.

Of course, I’ll still be blogging at Aliventures, but as you might have noticed over the past few months, my focus here has been on fiction and general writing rather than on blogging. That’s going to remain the case, and my blogging-about-blogging will be on Zen Optimise, plus on another site I hope to tell you about pretty soon. 🙂

Blogger’s Guide Flash Sale

To celebrate the launch of Zen Optimise, I’m holding a flash sale on all four of my Blogger’s Guides.

You can get any of the Guides for $19 instead of $29 with the code zenblogging.

The four-pack (all the Guides in one handy, cut-price bundle) is just $56 instead of $29 with that code, saving you a grand total of $60.

To find out more about any or all of the Guides, just pop on over to the Blogger’s Guide site here. Please do ask questions in the comments below, too, especially if you’re not sure which Guide would be most helpful for your blogging situation.

Note: Once you’ve added one of the Guides (or the four-pack) to your cart, you’ll see a box to enter the discount code. If you have any problems, just drop me an email at ali@aliventures.com and I’ll be glad to help.

The sale runs until the end of Friday 13th September. I won’t be posting about it again on the Aliventures blog, though, as I’m way too British for in-your-face promotions (plus not all Aliventures readers are bloggers, and I don’t want to waste their time) … so I highly recommend you go and check it out now, before you forget!

 

Announcing: Blog Critiques and Reviews – One Week Only!

AliLuke-500px

Long-time Aliventures readers might remember that back in October 2011, I briefly offered blog critiques and reviews.

If you missed out that time, or weren’t around then, or want a critique of your new / updated blog, now’s your chance. 🙂

When you buy a blog critique and review, you get:

  • Reassurance about what you’re already doing well.
  • Ten specific tips on what you could do to improve your blog.
  • A detailed review of one of your posts, including editorial suggestions.

I’m only offering this for one week, until Friday 2nd August (to avoid getting overwhelmed with requests). However, you can buy now and book your review any time during the next three months.

And… you can even get the review & critique free by buying my Blogger’s Guide four-pack of ebooks. (The four-pack is $66 and the review & critique on its own is $35.) Again, this is only valid for one week.

You can get all the details, and book your review & critique, here.

If you’ve got any questions, just pop a comment below or email me – ali@aliventures.com.