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Is Your Niche Nichy Enough? A Tale of Two Adsense Blogs

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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Great examples, I like your case study and I completely agree. Unfortunately, I think my site falls more into the first example then the second, but I’m going to keep chugging along.

    However, I think I’m going to try and find a more specific niche and see how that works out with a second site.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  2. A.H says:

    “all of you people creating generic “gadget” blogs, take note”

    *Writes note*

    Thanks for this tip Ms.B, i think you are right about the chances of blooming being bigger for niche(r) blogs; But one side effect for this in terms of PayPerClick is that if you decide to go for a very narrow subject, it’s a 50-50 odd that you’ll get a good PPC, if you don’t…then you’re “stuck” with it. Of course CPM ads can replace those and if the traffic is that good you can sign up for some sponsors…but most of us obviously prefer PayPerClick.

    Here comes what you decided to call “generic gadget blogs”, while these don’t necessarily bloom (and earn) as fast as specific-niched ones, they offer a wider variety of ads. For example if i write about laptops in month 1, i might get a 0.05/click, but then a month comes with a lot of news about hardware and i get a 0.35/click.

    I do agree with you to a very large extent, but i think that there is always room for something new, even in the “generic gadget blogs” market. *cough* =)

    A.H

  3. Will says:

    A possible solution, if the hosting software would permit it, would be to treat a more general blog as a collection of niche blogs. An organised general-topic site will be organised into categories, so each category could be considered to cover a niche.

    If the same posts could appear under the general banner, as well as a distinct niche banners, you could get the best of both worlds. This is something that could be done manually, by posting to two seperate blog sites. But it should be possible for a single host running multiple sites to dip into the same collection of posts, serving them up as a general catch-all site, as well as a number of niche sites.

  4. A.H says:

    I think that makes it a site and not a blog, Will.

    A.H

  5. John Mayan says:

    That was great advice. I wouldn´t think that the second blog has more success than the first.

    I see that you have posts about fireplaces on both blogs. When someone searches for fireplaces you rank best with the second blog?

    When I searched for “fireplace” I found a lot of commercial places, some of which have less PageRank than your blogs, and I didn´t find your blog. I´m a beginner and can´t understand this, could someone explain why?

  6. Will says:

    ~ I think that makes it a site and not a blog, Will. ~

    True, but technically a blog is a site (of sorts). The main difference in my mind is the way that content is updated, and that blogs tend to lean towards being more ‘opinion’, or community oriented. But when it comes down to it, they’re all web sites.

  7. Guitar Daily says:

    Very specific niche audiences would generate more clicks because they are targeting a specific subject, but the smaller the niche, the smaller the number people interested on the subject.

    Good comparison, I’m learning new things every day here.

  8. Don M says:

    Which would you prefer? 1-3% of the Engadget crowd, or 80-90% of an entire sub-niche.

    I prefer the latter.

    DM

  9. A.H says:

    But do you think it’s that easy to mantain 80-90 percent of the entire (your words) sub-niche?

    A.H

  10. Brian says:

    So, given what you said…..my category names do not contain my niche keyword, but could easily contain it. I actually chose not to include it because it seemed redundant. Do you suggest I change the category names to include my niche keyword?

    Brian

  11. Don M says:

    Depends on the niche, but in most niches you won’t maintain 80-90%. In any niche, the players eventually consolidate into two or three biggies that each take up a third.

    For instance, while Gizmodo and Engadget don’t each hold 80-90% of their niche (basic math tells me that won’t work … heh), I would wager they collectively hold close to that as a group.

    I remember reading somewhere in the 90′s when Dodge introduced their new full-sized Dodge pickup with the flared headlights that 70% of the people in their test marketing HATED the truck. But the 30% of the people that liked it LOVED IT. In spite of 70% disapproval, the fantacism of the remaining 30% convinced them to go ahead with production, and the truck was a HUGE HIT.

    DM

  12. Don M says:

    Just wanted to add:

    With the numbers and examples I gave there are always exceptions. My numbers quoted in the previous entry are by NO MEANS scientific. For every example I post I know someone can post a counterargument.

    I was speaking in the purest of generalities. Heheh.

  13. Peter Davis says:

    If your fireplace blog has higher revenues as a result of search engine traffic from Google, the niche could have nothing to do with it. It very well could be that your fireplace blog is piggybacking on the TrustRank of typepad.com while your home improvement blog is depending soley on it’s own independent TrustRank for its SERPs. Of course, I could be totally wrong, I have no access to your stats to base this on, but I do know that most people don’t even think about stuff like this when it comes to explaining why one site is successful and another is not.

  14. Dave Starr says:

    I’d like to thank Lindsay for a very “information rich” article. Intellectually I have been concious of the criticality of the niche ‘width’ as well as depth, but these examples bring it from theory to practicality.

    The discussion between Andrew and Will re: what is a site and what is a blog made me think to throw out this question for those who perhaps have experience. It’s easy to see the strategy of having a blog about, say, gadets, and a separate blog for, again say a separate blog for digital cameras, a separate blog for MP3 players, etc. These separate blogs could be on individual URL’s or could be subdirectories of a ‘main’ URL, but the blog software and databases would be separate to Google.

    What are the pros and cons of putting just one installation of blog software on a single URL and then having separate pages for the individual subject blogs. The differation to search engines would be the [age titles: “Joe’s Gadgets, Joe’s Cameras, Joe’s MP3 players, Joe’s Corn Stoves, etc. Any thoughts?

  15. Nice post. But I have to disagree that a niche topic is the only way out.

    SE traffic is not the only kind out there. There are HUGE traffic out there from sites such as Digg – although sites for topics such as home improvement will find it harder to write a creative post that grabs the attention of the Digg population.

    And with a boarder niche, you’ll find it easier to find stuffs to write about that might help tap into those type of traffic.

  16. JamesW says:

    Nice post. I think there are always a point to consider when starting a blog or website. It is a balance between being Nichy enough yet wide enough to allow for expansion in the future.

    Does anyone have a good formula to share on this besides using experience and some luck on the side?

  17. Digital Pimp says:

    We just started a tech/gadget blog that covers everything from cellphones to mp3 players. Would you suggest we break them down into specific products as we grow, to make it more nichy? We’re getting 200-300 unique visits per day now but our CTR is very low. Could it be because Google gets confused by a myriad of different products (and keywords) and end up pulling out irrelevant ads?

  18. Martin says:

    nice study, but i would also welcome your daily amount of visitors and the revenues please :) thx

  19. Dehumanizer says:

    Latest Gadgets: traffic from Digg has incredibly low CTR. It helps mostly in the long run, as many people who come to your blog from DIgg also link to your blog post from their own blogs, which adds a little extra traffic, and increases PageRank.

  20. Kahsoon says:

    At least this post is more useful than those 16 years old blogger writing long post and boast about own “success”. Keep up the good work Lindsay B, thanks for the info.

  21. Sergio says:

    Hi,
    What about using another language rather than english?
    Any success history? I mainly write in portuguese (my mother tongue) but I’m having a real hard time getting goog CPC as there are very few ads for portuguese words.
    Any advice on that? And please don’te tell me: Write in english, please!!!

  22. Sercan says:

    I have 3 websites, one of them is in english and the other ones are turkish… english one makes me happy about profit, but it got time to make hit for it… the other sites of mine getting more hits, but i am not happy with the earning s of them… so i understand that making just a one site, in english, with a niche and drive hit to it is much better than making lots of websites in other languages… this is my own thoughts…

  23. Frank says:

    I agree that micro-nice blogs are a great way to go.

  24. holch says:

    @Sergio:
    You have already a “niche” due to your language. Portugal it self has only 10,5 million inhabitants. Brazil hast 160 million inhabitants. About the rest of the world who speaks portuguese I think we can almost forget, because it is quite small and the distribution of internet in their countries shouldn’t be too high.

    With a internet penetration of 58% Portugal has a relatively high penetration, but this still means only around 6 million internet users. Brazil has a internet penetration of around 14%, which means around 26 million internet users. All together 32 million.

    If you then have a very small niche you can imagine why your earnings are quite low. The problem with the few ads you can get for portuguese is probably based on the same reason: a relatively small market.

    As long as the internet is not more used in portuguese speaking countries your earnings will not be very high. Especially in a niche.

    até logo!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] If you’re planning on blogging for money, take a look at an article on ProBlogger called “Is Your Niche Nichy Enough? A Tale of Two Adsense Blogs“. This gives a very quick overview on how creating a site that targets a smaller market is possibly better than a site a very broad topic. 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. [...]

  2. [...] This is an interesting post, giving a couple of examples for a case study on how to choose a niche for your blog.  I wonder if the reason the second blog mentioned is more successful is because it enjoys the benefit of TrustRank on the typepad.com (sub)domain.   Another thought I had about this, which also probably never occurs to many bloggers who read Darren’s blog is that in a way it’s rather absurd to select the topic for your blog based upon what you think will be successful in Adsense.  To me, that’s somewhat like putting the cart before the horse, or even trying to get your cart to go without the horse.  Aren’t blogs supposed to be for people who have something to say?  Well, maybe not, but at least I think it’s a bad trend to see bloggers choosing topics based on what’s going to make them more money.  I do see this “Made for Adsense” trend leading us in the same direction as email.  Are MFA sites the web equivilant to spam in our email? 12:42 pm | [...]

  3. [...] There is also an interesting post over at ProBlogger.net talking about choosing the right niche topic for your blog that I would recommend checking out. It is definately worth a read. [...]

  4. [...] Nice article on Darren Rowse Blog. I know I am linking to him a lot, and perheps I am not very original, but what to do? Darren’s entires are vey interesting for people thinking about money form blogging. [...]

  5. [...] Ensuring what “niche” you are prepared to write for on your blog is quite important in ensuring that you may reap the rewards later. There are several articles written discussing this issue. Part 1 of this series discusses on the issue of how to choose your niche and Part 2 talks about qualifying your niche. Incidentally Darren Prowse also talked about the issue, giving an example between a general niche and a specific niche. I would recommend those interested to peruse these articles in order to determine their specific niche. [...]

  6. [...] to the experts, successful blogs capitalize on specific niches and profit from them.  John Chow’s first tip in his five beginner blogging tips is: Blog [...]