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A Strategy for Building Niche Focused Blog Networks

Yesterday on the preview call for Six Figure Blogging I was asked about starting multiple blogs. I mentioned that if I were going to start a blog network afresh today as a single blogger that I’d probably do it focused around a single niche rather than starting focusing upon numerous topics with numerous blogs.

This isn’t to say that starting a blog network with a wide focus on many topics can’t work – at b5media we’ve managed to grow to 315 blogs on everything from Tax to Bags to College Basketball to MTV Reality TV – however starting a network with such a wide focus is a challenging thing and to kick something off around a more focused niche has some distinct advantages.

Advantages of a Niche Focussed Blog Network

  1. For starters having related blogs means you can cross promote and leverage the traffic from one blog to promote another
  2. Secondly it has some advantages for selling advertising directly to advertisers. If you have two blogs on completely different topics it’s virtually impossible to sell ads on both of them to the same advertiser but if you have two blogs with similar reader demographics it doesn’t take much to upsell advertisers to run campaigns on both.
  3. Thirdly – it can help with your SEO to be interlinking related sites.

How I’d start a Niche Focused Blog Network

1. Work hard at building a blog with a good profile and traffic base on a single focused topic

One of the mistakes that I think some bloggers make is that they bite off more than they can chew in the early stages. They hear about some of the big blog networks and think that the key to success is to launch with lots of blogs. While it might be impressive to launch with 10 or 20 blogs, unless you have an established team and serious time on your hands you’re setting yourself up for a nightmare when it comes to keeping them all running. You’ll also probably spread yourself too thin and never really develop any of the blogs to their full potential.

If I were taking this approach I’d pick a topic for the first blog that was reasonably wide and that had scope to be broken down further later. I would work hard on this first blog for months (probably 6 or so) before even thinking about launching more blogs. The key is to build it to a point where you can use it as a springboard for further expansion.

2. Leverage the First Blog

nce you have an established readership I would then begin to think about how to leverage my first blog’s profile and traffic to start a second blog. This second blog should relate at some level to the first either in terms of topic or demographic. Let me flesh these two options out a little more.

Topic – By topic I mean that the second blog should relate to the first blog’s niche focus. It could do this in two ways.

Firstly it could either pick up one of the topics that the first blog covers – perhaps by taking one of the categories of the first blog and expanding it into a blog focused upon that specific topic (see image below). An example of this here at ProBlogger would be if I were to start a second blog on the topic of SEO (a topic I touch on from time to time in my SEO category).

Blog-2

The second way is to pick a related topic to the first that isn’t really gone into in much detail on the first one. There may be some overlap but it’s limited. An example of this here at ProBlogger would be if I were to start a blog on ‘Video Blogging’. I’ve never really written on this topic but I’ve done a little video blogging and there is a definite cross over in terms of topic.

Related-Topic-2

By choosing a topic that relates to the first blog (using either of the above methods) you’re more likely to be able to draw some of your existing readers into your second blog.

Demographics – the second way to choose a topic is to think about the type of reader that you already have reading your first blog and to pick a topic that might appeal to them. This is in effect what the Gawker blog network has done. They’ve started a series of blogs that share a certain demographic (young, largely male, edgey readers). So blogs on gadgets, porn, tech, cars, gaming etc have done well for them as they’ve been able to cross promote – not because the topics really relate but because the audience shares numerous interests. Lets illustrate it visually:

Firstly we have the first blog and their readers:

Demographics-1

And next the second blog is added and rather than the topics overlapping we see the second blog targets a similar kind of reader.

Demographics-2

Whether your second blog relates to the first by topic or demographic (or both) the key is to think about ways of cross promoting the two and drawing readers from your first blog to your second. In this way you give yourself a head start.

Another example of this is Wendy’s eMomsatHome network of blogs. Wendy started out as a single blog but in the last year has added 6 blogs to her network. All of these blogs relate to one another in terms of both topic and demographic (she’s targeting online working parents).

3. Extract Yourself from Your Blogs

It’s not easy writing on more than a single blog. At one point in my own blogging ‘career’ I was attempting to write on 15 or so blogs each week. Let me tell you, this is not sustainable. It’s just not possible to provide quality content on that many different topics – even if they relate to one another. At some point you need to find a way to extract yourself from your blogs and to work with others so that you can expand. This might happen while you still have one blog – or it might happen after you’ve started a 2nd or 3rd – but it needs to happen before too long or you’ll hit a ceiling of what you can achieve.

If I were starting out again I’d attempt to bring on a second writer (or more) as quickly as possible. Hiring writers is a topic for another post (here’s something we’ve published previously on the topic of hiring writers) but it doesn’t have to be that hard. I recently advertised for bloggers for my photography blog on my own blogger job board and had 50+ quality applicants within a day or two. It was then a matter of choosing those that I thought fitted best and negotiating conditions with them. It takes a little while to get everyone settled and working well but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and has allowed me to spend more time on other tasks.

4. Rinse and Repeat

The more you blog in a niche the better you get at identifying new potential topics for blogs. This comes through interacting with readers, listening to their questions, watching the trends in your niche and watching what other blogs are starting up around you. As you do this you’ll begin to see other topics that relate to your current blogs and reader demographics. When you notice them and if you feel you have the resources to kick start another blog – do it. Once you’ve started a few you will find that the process for starting up will get easier and you may be able to use some of your current writers on new blogs (at b5 we find that using our current bloggers can be good because it means we don’t need to retrain from scratch – however you don’t want to stretch them too thinly). The key is to launch blogs that relate to your current ones in some way so that you get that kick start we talked about earlier.

In a sense what I’ve described is what I did in my early days of blogging by going from having a Digital Camera Review Watch site to adding Digital Photography School. In doing so I was able to promote DPS to my existing readers and newsletter subscribers and launch with a thousand or so daily readers pretty quickly.

This strategy is also quite similar to what b5media has been doing with our ‘channels’ or ‘verticals’. While we’ve gone wide with quite unrelated topics we’ve also grouped them together in channels under the leadership/editorship of ‘channel editors’.

Further Reading: Last year I wrote a post on How to Launch a Blog Network which bounced off a post that David wrote on the topic. In that post I told some of the story and lessons learnt in the development of b5media. Hopefully between that post and this one there will be some help for those starting out on the blog network journey.

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. I found this blog post inspiring. I contribute to five blogs and it’s getting harder to produce great content when I don’t blog for dollars, I blog out of passion and have a day job. While I hope to transition to making some money, you bring up great points about how to start a niche network the right way.

    I immediately wanted to forward this article to someone and ask to partner :)

    Thanks for the always insightful posts!

  2. Aziz says:

    It’s actually a very good idea from an SEO perspective too, especially when you have all those blogs on different domains or subdomains. Lots of related blogs linking to each other would definitely help increase the PR.

  3. gadgetgyan says:

    Niche blogs fares better also when you have one agenda to write your writing over a period of time become more professional.

  4. Andrea says:

    From a technical standpoint, I’d use WordPressMU to power the blogs instead of multiple stand-alone WP installs. *Especially* if it was in a niche and subdomains.

  5. Your piece on blog network strategy is obviously well thought out and informative and articulate, and many will likely profit from it. As a tip, it might improve readability for your audience if things like the spelling inconsistency in “Focused” and “Focussed” were of course “Focused,” as in conventional American spelling. There are a couple of hyphenation issues as well. And in the second sentence, one “that” would be plenty! Hope that helps.
    -Paula Plantier

  6. Oh, timely article! I am still in the first few months of my blog, and I have worried about whether I started out too broad in my subject matter. I do have four or five pretty distinct topics, though, and now I can see the possibility of one or more of these topics growing into a separate blog.

    Thanks, Darren!

  7. Lee says:

    Great article. I have trouble adding writers b/c my website generates no revenue…this is an intentional decision. non-profit. So do I bite the bullet and go against my principles, or find some way of attracting writers for free? Or just write on my own (most likely scenerio!)?

    Thanks,
    Lee

  8. cory huff says:

    great post Darren. Well timed as well. My wife and I are currently working on our second blog and things are going pretty well. The readership from AGoodHusband.net has spilled over to her blog quite well, and she’s slowly building great traffic.

    We started out very slow and small, and we’re still pretty small, but it’s definitely on an upward growth pattern. Thanks for all of your helpful info!

  9. Kishor says:

    But won’t it be good initially to have two blogs about diverse topics? That way, if one of your blogs is seriously unsuccessful, you could choose the one that succeeded and then follow that topic.

  10. I agree with the above posts. Especially since http://www.fortunecookienotes.com is a really niche blog, it would help in the long run. Thanks Darren for the advice!

  11. Darren, this is really help thank you. I’ve been working on this concept in my head but having you articulate it so well is really great. http://www.vitamindblog.com is my first blog and a new very niche project for me, so having some idea how to grow from here is much appreciated.

  12. Aziz says:

    @Andrea: Yes, you are very much right. I have actually written about the benefits of using WordPress MU over multiple installations over at Bits ‘N’ Bytes.

  13. Bontb says:

    That is exactly what I am trying to do at“Techonology Blog” build few blogs and also in international languages since I speak 5 of them. Italian, Bosnian, German, Russian, French. oh not to forget English.

    Basically to build blog network takes time and a lot of hours spent on computer finding right people. And niche that might not be as covered as others.

  14. Lamonte says:

    –2. Leverage the First Blog
    –nce you have an

    Is “nce” supposed to stand for something? or is that a spelling error?

  15. Darren, this article is a definite keeper and I’m glad you’ve chosen to write about it at this point in time. I see it was timely to at least one other commenter as well. It’s important to hear, from someone who’s been there, how to build a sustainable and successful blogging network.

  16. Thilo says:

    I totally agree with this post. I only create niche blogs, it is way easier and you are more unique :)

  17. Excellent overview, Darren.

    I think demographic has to be key. In the “real” business world, that’s exactly how things work. That’s why Martha Steward puts out magazines on fashion, cooking and homemaking. Those topics have a HUGE overlap in demographics.

    Good form!

  18. Thank you for sharing that information. This thought has actually crossed my mind a few times, and I could never find enough information on it.

    Cheers! *=)

  19. Another great article. I run a niche blog, and this information is very helpful. I’ve been trying to get my wife to start a blog so we can share links and readers.

    So far it has been unsuccessful but this article gives me some other ideas.

    –TW

  20. Anne says:

    Darren, this is so true! I started my blog in December and visitor traffic has been so-so, not as good as I expected. But in early February, I opened a web site in a related topic. I have a link from the web site to the Blog, and have jumped in traffic because people come over from the web site. They don’t however, travel from the blog to the web site.

  21. I think I have the opposite problem. I have a mini micro niche blog..( parenting –> adoption–>mother who lost her child to adoption—>adoption reform and education).. and while the internet adoption truth community is wide and growing and very connected….I think i have exhausted what I can do. Yes, new readers show up, but still.. it’s a small community.. and after aver 7 years.. I know everyone and most know me.

    I almost feel like I want to “un-niche”, but I have this fierce loyalty to my blog.. and changing things feels like corruption on some level.. yet, I am bored. Still can’t let go of the original one though.. and stuggle weather of not to just start fresh….meanwhile, I just *think* about posting, but don’t get inspired to actually do it….le sigh

  22. Darren – thanks for the mention, friend. :)

    I’ll add to your words of caution. I think it’s safe to say I had built up eMoms at Home considerably before I evolved into a blog network. And frankly, it was still very difficult at first and posed a world of challenges that I didn’t anticipate.

    I can’t imagine having to tackle all of that stuff if I had been just starting out. I really needed every ounce of blogging knowledge I had (and sure wished I had more at the time), and really relied on the relationships I had with other bloggers like you to help spread the word. I think I would have shot myself in the foot if I had tried it any earlier than I did.

    Also, running a blog network is vastly different than running a blog. Blogging can be very fun, social, and personal. If you’re running a network, the fun parts become a much smaller part of a much bigger picture. You really have to approach it as a business, and treat it as such in order to make it grow.

    Hmm… am getting to the point where I am writing too much here and I should probably shut up now and just send a trackback your way instead. :)

  23. Tom Beaton says:

    The network concept really works much better when you already have something that is popular to use as a launching pad. Alternatively you could throw money at the problem and purchase a lot of advertising.

    Personally I think that it would be best to focus efforts on one project first, rather than risking spreading yourself too thinly.

  24. suresh says:

    Wonderful and well approachable method for developing series of blogs by an individual.

    Rightly pointed out that first let one blog be successful and build next one some how related to first one.

    Good post.

  25. Bujes says:

    Actually I have only one blog and I’m not planing to build blog network, but I agree with you it is better to have all of sites in the same niche.

    I have sites in different niches, but all new websites I build are in the same niche.

    There is another benefit if you have all sites in one niche. Let’s say, you have all sites in real estate niche. You have a lot of visitors in your network and than you start forum about real estate and you can promote it all over the network.

  26. Pugsley says:

    Good post, I really like the idea of niche blogging. Important information for newbies, great way to start and stay focused.
    Thanks

    Pugsley

  27. Metro says:

    Hi Darren, read problogger daily, good info thanks. I’m a new blogger, about 2 months. I have a single blog about a focused niche. Resurfacing interior concrete floors with decorative concrete finish. primarily for Do It Yourselfers but a lot of contractors. Big market.

    Any chance you could send over some of your friends and tell me if I’m on the right track. Is my info helping? Need all the help I can get
    Thanks.

  28. LazyAzian says:

    This is definitely very helpful! I just started a blog and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it yet. It’s more of a personal blog with my own thoughts and rants, but after reading this, I came up with a possible direction of the blog that still allowed me to write about what I wanted to write about.

    The topic really is the news and if my blog gains some traction with readers, I could expand it into more niche blogs as you said here.

    Thanks for writing such useful information. I’m glad I found your site.

  29. kareena says:

    you are in society ,in crowed. unless you can keep your intelligence clean of the pollution that will be surrounding you from every side,sooner or later you will become somebody else,somebody who nature had never intended you to be.

  30. you are in society ,in crowed. unless you can keep your intelligence clean of the pollution that will be surrounding you from every side,sooner or later you will become somebody else,somebody who nature had never intended you to be

  31. Interesting post. I’ve read to increase sales, income and wealth you need leverage, creating leverage of traffic is a great way of doing this.

  32. Dr.Internet says:

    Thanks for the great suggestion.

  33. Dimitri says:

    I am working on a strategy to leverage my visitors into several directions within one niche and it’s working great. Anayway, thank you for the excellent tip, Darren…

  34. Bronson says:

    Cracker of a post and some very solid pointers. Some food for thought, definitely.

  35. Millard says:

    I had no idea you also started Digital Photography School which has become one of my favorite reads for inspiration.

  36. Peter S says:

    Thanks for the post. I have just started up my first blog. You ideas on niche blogs and multiple blogs is sound advice.

  37. Jon says:

    When you’re new to this, it’s hard to keep a single blog going, let alone a small empire of them. I totally agree about easing into it
    s-l-o-w-l-y.
    Learn the skills you need as you progress, and you won’t have nearly as many discarded efforts lying in your backtracks.

  38. Tim F says:

    Wow thank you, this is very helpful!

  39. Louise says:

    I am so glad I came across this – it was just yesterday i decided this was the way forward for me (in the future)!

    My worry is though, if i have a blog on a wider topic and then I branch out to a second blog with one of my niches is there a way to transfer the the blogs (relevant to that niche) and the comments people have already made on them over to the new website? I will be using wordpress and have absolutely no idea if it’s possible. I know I could simply transfer the blog over but I would like to take all the comments with it to make the transfer more seamless.

    Any ideas?