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What Bloggers Can Learn From … Focused Blogs

Today’s guest post is from Chris Garrett from chrisg.com.

My last two posts at ProBlogger focused on two successful individual bloggers, Darren Rowse and Robert Scoble. While we can learn a great deal from observing individual people, for this post I am going to look at examples of a particular type of blog; the Focused Niche Blog.

It’s standard advice to go niche but these bloggers have made their blogs so highly focused and so identified with their topic they are the leaders and standard bearers for their niche.

First, let’s take a look at how they define their blogs:

Strobist – At Strobist, our goal is to promote more effective use of small, shoe-mount flashes. To teach you to use your small strobe to get results like the professionals get.

Copyblogger – Copyblogger is all about helping you:

  • get traffic
  • gain subscribers
  • attract links
  • sell something!

Lifehacker – Lifehacker makes getting things done easy and fun. Delving deep into the technoweb, Lifehacker brings back simple and totally life-altering tips and tricks for managing your information and time.

macosxhints – To provide as many answers about using OS X as possible in one location

So what is the lesson here?

1. Identify an under-served niche - It is very very difficult to get a photography blog noticed in todays blogosphere, David chose a micro niche, a niche of a niche, and served it comprehensively with his Strobist blog. Make it easy on yourself, choose a niche where you can make a difference.

2. Define your blogs mission and articulate it in a benefits-lead way – if a reader sees your blogs mission and thinks “so what?” you have failed. How does your blogs mission help the reader? Each of Brians CopyBlogger bullet points would be enough of a benefit to make you want to read more.

3. Own your mission and stay focused - It would be so easy for any of these blogs to see their growing audience as permission to cover anything they like. Once in a while they can get away with it. Kind of like a popular pop star deciding to release a swing album. Too much though and the valuable and unique quality that attracted readers would go away. I know if macosxhints covered iPhone, iTV, iPods too much I would unsubscribe. Your focus builds your identity.

The benefits of a focused blog are many but here are the ones that stand out for me:

  • Exponential Linkage – Once your blog is synonymous with a niche the link attraction becomes self-reinforcing. More people link to you, so your blog gets more attention, which attracts more links. This gives you top billing in search engines which further reinforces your position on.
  • Fame and Authority – Who would you interview if you had to write a piece on Flash Photography? Or copywriting for blogs? Not a generic blogger that is for sure.
  • Credibility Leverage – With authority comes leverage. You have to be known as an expert. It worked for Lifehacker so well they got a book deal. It helps to be a specialist if you want to sell products, get a book deal, speaking gigs, consulting leads …

When a visitor arrives at your blog could they describe what and who it is for? Do you blog about “stuff” or could you articulate your blogs purpose in a compelling sentence or so? Most blogs could benefit from a tightening of focus, I know mine could.

Do you know of any other focused niche blogs? Let us know in the comments.

Read more from Chris Garret at his blog chrisg.com.

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. BirdBarista says:

    One of my blogs, Coffee & Conservation (http://www.coffeehabitat.com), focuses just on sustainable coffee. There are a number of blogs about coffee baristas, Fair Trade, or related product reviews, but I am pretty sure mine is the only active, long-running one of this particular topic. I get a lot of hits from searches, and those visitors stay and browse, so they must be finding what they need!

  2. James says:

    Very good. I think a lot of bloggers (including me) struggle especially when starting on keeping a blog focused.

  3. Write down our ideas on a piece or paper and then search on google TADA found million, and million of our ideas which already on the internet. It’s really tough to find an unique nichie

  4. Amanda says:

    I think thats a really good point. You can also take a niche and expand on it. Where I am a problog niche -ish I try to do more back alley ways of promotion and finding different than main stream.

    Others are mom blogs but moms for interracial kids and what not there are tons of ways to take a different spin on the same old niche

  5. tanya says:

    I offer my own blog as an example of a niche based blog (http://iateapie.net). I chose to do food reviews, and narrowed it down even further to “healthy diet food reviews.” The focus is pretty narrow, but the overall subject is very broad and I doubt I will ever run out of material to write about.

  6. Becky McCray says:

    Before I ever signed up for a blog account, I sat down with a piece of paper and sketched out the niche I would cover. That was my very first post, and later expanded into what I call my Guided Tour. With that preparation, I knew I had enough material and a clear idea of my goals.

    My niche? Rural small business. Not as tight as the Strobist, but still, pretty darn focused. It gives me the room to talk about small business issues and rural development issues. The key is to keep them in balance, and useful to a small town small business person.

    A small niche means I’ll never have a huge audience, but it does mean that I know my writing makes a difference. I’ll never be lost in a sea of “me too” competitors.

  7. Helena says:

    Interesting, but I do not actually agree with your example. I think Lifehacker especially does not focus at all on the things it says it focuses on. Most of the content is about fun things to do, not about making you more productive. It is often useful, sure, but I often feel the posts do the complete oppossites of making me MORE productive. It still is hugely popular though, so I guess they are doing the right thing.

  8. Colbs says:

    I am luckily in a niche with very few blogs and the ones that exsist are not maintained very well. I try to stay focused on the lighting industry but even lighting is so broad it could be broken down into many different micros.

    In the past few months I feel as though I have freely learned more than I ever new about the internet world. It has been freely taken topped with a lot of good old fashioned elbow greese. There is so much rich value and information in the blogging communication. Thank you for your continued.

    PS I thought you were on Vacation. You hard working vacationer.

  9. My blog, ConsultantJournal.com, focuses on helping people survive and thrive as independent consultants. I’m not really aware of anyone else serving this niche. That, in fact, makes it hard to win links. I’m a little too specialized for general home business blogs and most consultants don’t really want to point their clients to the secrets of becoming a successful consultant! :)

  10. Hello Chris! Keep watching my upcoming blog. My niche is first time real estate buyers in Aundh Annexe at Pune, in India. I am sure, you won’t find me unless and until you write it down and remember to search after an year! I feel, there are plenty blogs which focus on their niche and do quite well. They have good readership and fan following. Irrespective of PR and how much they earn on line. Only because we are not aware about the subject we don’t know them that’s all.

  11. K says:

    Andrea,
    I scooted over to your blog, quite enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll ever link to you (or visit again). Why? Because you talk about copyrights more than once and frankly, I’m afraid that if I quote your blog (even with the link), you’ll sue the crap out of me.
    Giving you some honest feedback.

  12. Randa Clay says:

    One good way to identify a small under-served niche is to use WordTracker – they have a free trial. Worked great for me. I think you need to be wary of choosing too small a niche though. You have to have stuff to write about!

  13. Rebecca says:

    Great post, and quite comforting to me. Covering what to wear from the perspective looking great while spending almost no money, I am constantly tempted to dilute and just begin to feature pretty pictures of clothes to buy.

    I suggest http://frugalupstate.blogspot.com/ does a good job staying focused. Featuring her menu daily in the sidebar is a fun feature too.

  14. Matt Wardman says:

    I’d add one further note to your “choose a niche list”.

    Choose a “niche you know and know you like”.

    I could blog about the study of evolution by breeding fruit flies, but I would ne boring (because I find fruit flies boring. It could be a good subject if written by an enthusiastic PHD student.

    One of my foci for mattwardman.com is to help UK Political Bloggers “blog better”. I’m also including a couple of other areas – one being to express my own political views, but the focus on better blogging should bring in a wider range of views to debate with, and so fits my mission.

    Matt

  15. ew01 says:

    One of the biggest problems is that people decide to “be a blogger” before they figure out what they are passionate about. I have a sarcastic blog about Venezuela and the U.S. media coverage of Hugo Chavez, because I’m a sarcastic person and I love Venezuela. For me, I never considered becoming a blogger until I saw an information void. I was frustrated reading everyone else’s blog and realizing they were less knowlegable on the topic than I was. I was sort of reluctant to delve in, but it’s become an obsession now.

    Its less about racking your brain to find an unexplored topic, and more about figuring out what you’d like to see in the blogosphere that’s not there yet.

  16. David says:

    Nice post! :)

    I write a number of blogs, I rarely post on half of them as I stretched myself too thin e.g.

    HowNifty.com
    GuinchoGuy.com
    HypeHole.com
    UnpluggedMarketing.com

    etc

    But when it came to getting the missus into blogging I knew I had to help her figure what she is passionate about, and carve a niche in that area.

    She loves writing, which is a plus. She suffers from IBS (an eating disorder) and loves her foods (She is portuguese) and lives in Britain. So, putting those things together gave us EatingBritain.com. Catchy name, nice look, funky logo, personal writing style, all about food, mainly standard british, community driven with decent advice and recipies and a focus on gluten, eating issues, allergies etc.

    Has worked very well so far. She was ill lately so there is a gap in Feb of no posts, but a new one went up there last night. I know I may be biased, but it would be well worth a read of anyone here :)

    David
    http://www.MobileMarketingWatch.com

  17. Hi! I’m an Avon Lady, and I have the best-known Avon Lady blog on the planet! :) I write real-life Avon Lady adventures for other Avon Ladies (and Men!) who want to know they aren’t alone when they travel door-to-door. I also write for the everyday Avon customer, and post funny honest reviews.

    My blog is called Beauty Dish. Through it, I have been able to build a mailing list of over 5000 names.

  18. When I read about the “Focused Niche Blog” I definitely don’t think about Copyblogger or Lifehacker. Why don’t you support your good message with some great examples about real niches?

    I think there are a lot of great blogs out there talking about little niches. But always only the big ones are talked about. Maybe this is because it would be to much work to find the great pearls to support such a message? Is it just talking…

  19. P. G. says:

    I totally agree with ew01. I believe the biggest problem the blogosphere is facing now is dilution. In other words, people are getting the notion that blogging gets you easy money. Everyone from a freshman in a college dorm to a corporate veteran is jumping to the bloggin-wagon only to realize that they are quickly running out of content, things to talk about or interesting stuff to keep readers engaged. Those who have prospered bloggin know it very well that blogging does require dedication, research, hard work and most important of all – commitment.

  20. I started a blog on WordPress recently, I’m in the process of moving it to my own host, I have been trying to focus in the subject of my interest. Great article thanks

  21. Sean says:

    I know myself I have to focus in more on what my blog is about to attract more. Lately it seems I’m just doing reviews of sites.

  22. K, I am going to follow up with you via email. My only reference to copyrights (as far as I know) is at the very bottom of the page (Copyright 2006…). And copyright law in Canada, US and UK (and perhaps elsewhere) would not prevent quoting my website under fair usage provisions….?

  23. Debbie says:

    I’ve found a lot of great blogs through your comments. I have to agree with Matt Wardman’s comment, “choose a niche you know and know you like.” To blog about the same topic everyday is difficult if you start to find that topic confining. A lot of times I’d love to branch out, but my blog’s about weight loss, so that’s where I stay. Some people have advised me to start a personal blog, but I don’t see how anyone can divide their time that way and do a good job unless their blogs are their job.

  24. JennDZ says:

    I think what happens to a lot of people is they start with one topic, but then they see how it relates to so many other topics and then keep going farther and farther away. I know when I started my blog, I thought it was going to be one thing, however it has become something else. I think soon I need to branch off into a few other blogs, so I can keep them all focused. However, I get lots of good feedback, so i am not sure if that is the way to go or what….

  25. Julie says:

    I think most visitors to my blog can easily tell what my blog is about. Mine is health & wellness with a focus on making healthy choices in an effort to prevent illnesses rather than treating them. I don’t feel I have really found a niche, but the topic is something I am passionate about. I will occasionally lose focus somewhat, but I quickly get back on track. I have recently been receiving email from doctors commending me on my site which really lifts my spirits and helps keep me focused.

  26. terra says:

    This was a very relevant post. I never read lifehacker before, but it is also a great blog! Great post! -

    -terra

    http://www.betterforbusiness.com

  27. Great post.

    Keeping some blogs tight and focused can be difficult sometimes especially if it’s a niche that doesn’t have a lot of content, and doesn’t produce much new content. So sometimes you do have to go off and touch on other very closely related topics.

    This blog for example is focused but will have new content every day for years to come. It’s a topic that is forever changing with new ideas.

    I guess that’s why it’s so popular.

  28. Clarissa says:

    I’ve just caught on to problogger recently, thanks to … I think it was GetRichSlowly.

    My problem is that there are already a lot of blogs and websites in my niche (resources for EFL and ESL students). Most of them aren’t very good, have been abandoned, or are completely over-commercialized. But there are a lot of them, and I have no idea how I can swim my way up from the depths of Google to where I actually show up on searches! I’m doing the regular SEO things, but the tide is against me.

    If anyone has suggestions, let me know!

    – Clarissa
    http://www.readableblog.com

  29. Clarissa says:

    (Just thought I should add that, obviously, I’ll be looking for suggestions in all the other posts here on problogger, too!)

  30. apple says:

    I am trying to develop a niche in my Apple iBlog writing about Apple and its products (more in a general way). I have the same blog in Russian and it seems to be more attractive, since Apple’s products are somewhat new in this part of the world. I would really appreciate someones help with my English version. BTW, in russian iBlog I got some very good clicks on AdSense… to bad there are not that many ads there in russian…