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How to Blog: How to Choose a Blog Niche [6 Tips]

Earlier in the week we looked at the importance of ‘niches’ when it comes to building profitable blogs. Today I want to extend the topic and gives the process that I tend to use when working out if I want to start a new blog in a particular niche. I hope you find it helpful.

Many factors will come into play when it comes to choosing a niche to blog about – but the following are those that I tend to pay most attention to:

1. Your Interest in the Topic

I started out blogging on topics that interested me – but as I began to see the potential to make money from my blogs began to experiment with topics that I had less interest in but which I thought would be profitable.

What I discovered in creating these blogs that had potential for profit, yet which I had little interest in, was that I couldn’t really sustain them. I had little to say on the topics and when I did write something I suspect that those who read my content could tell that it was a topic that I was not passionate about. As a result the traffic did not come, I did not become known for the topic, nobody linked up and the blogs were far from profitable.

On the flipside of this – the blogs that I did have an interest in and a passion for have flourished. My interest in the topic is not the only factor that made them successful but I suspect it is a fairly important one that underlies much of the success and profit that I’ve had.

One question to ask yourself in choosing a niche is ‘What are YOU about?’ Choosing a topic that reflects you means you’ll be in a position to be able to find enough to write about and you’ll write it in a way that engages with the topic and your readers.

2. The Popularity of the Topic

You can have all the interest in the world around a topic but if nobody else shares your interest you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to build a blog that gets much traffic.

This doesn’t mean you need to choose the most popular topics going around – in fact they may not be a wise choice due to the competition also targeting those niches – however you will want to choose a niche that has some level of demand for content.

There are many ways to do research on this whether topics are popular – here are three that I use:

  1. Google Trends – do some searches on Google trends for keywords around your niches (and compare them) and you’ll see whether the topic you’ve chosen has been growing or shrinking and how it compares to other topics.
  2. Market Samurai – I’ve written about the potential of Market Samurai (affiliate link but it gives you a free trial)tool for optimising posts on your blog for SEO – but it is also a useful research tool in looking at the popularity of topics – particularly the module that allows you to assess how many searches are being done on different tools in Google.
  3. Your Local News Stand – perhaps one of the simplest ways to look for popular topics is to head to a local news stand and look at what publications are being sold there. Not only look at the topics of magazines – but check out what is being written about as hot topics IN the magazines and you might find an emerging sub-niche to focus upon.

Ultimately you’re looking for topics that people are interested in, passionate about, want to learn more on and/or that people want to talk about and interact in a community around. There is an unlimited number of topics and ways to tap into them. Watch TV, talk to your friends, head to a local library, read a newspaper – see what people are into and you could just identify a topic worth exploring.

3. Competition

One of the factors that I see some bloggers failing to acknowledge in the choosing of a niche is how much competition (and how strong the competition is) in their potential niche.

The danger in choosing some popular niches is that you might be competing against some very powerful sites in those niches. While this isn’t always going to be a factor to stop you exploring a niche it should definitely be considered and it can perhaps help you to shape your niche to be something that will give you a competitive advantage.

There are a variety of ways of assessing the strength of competition in niches.

One of the simplest is to simply do some searches on Google to look at how many sites exist for keywords on your topic. This won’t give you an indication of the power of the competition – but it will give you some indication on the ‘size’ of competition and it will identify some sites that you will want to be monitoring.

Market Samurai (mentioned above) is one tool that can take your analysis a little deeper. As highlighted in my recent optimising posts on your blog for SEO post it has a module that will not only show you how many competing sites there are but also how strong they are (around a number of factors). It’ll also identify what type of level you’ll need to get to in order to compete with them.

As you begin to assess your potential competition in a niche don’t be completely put off by niches with lots of strong competition. Instead as you analyse what other sites are doing look for opportunities in two areas:

  • ways to differentiate yourself – as you look at other sites look for gaps in the topic that they’re not covering or things that perhaps you could do that might differentiate yourself. Perhaps there is a sub-niche that everyone is ignoring, perhaps they all ‘look’ the same, perhaps they all approach the topic in the same sort of ‘voice/style’. These things could be things to explore in offering an alternative to the established sites.
  • ways to interact and leverage the competition – as you look at other sites look for places that you might be able to connect with, contribute to and leverage in the building of your own site. Perhaps the competition has the ability to submit guest posts or articles or perhaps they have a forum area for interaction. Find ways to be a genuine contributor to your competition and you might find ways to help build your own site indirectly.

4. Is the Topic Sustainable?

Another factor that I see some bloggers neglecting in the choosing of a niche is consideration of whether the topic is one that they’re able to sustain.

This partly relates to the interest and passion that the blogger has for the topic – but it also relates to the topic itself and whether it is dynamic enough to have content written about it on a regular basis.

  • Will it be possible to keep new content flowing on this topic?
  • If the blog will be a ‘news’ blog – is there enough news or developments happening on this topic to keep reporting on it?
  • If the blog will be a ‘how to’ type blog – Is the topic deep enough to be able to come up with enough tutorials or tips?

A number simple exercises to help assess the sustainability of a blog (depending upon the type of blog you’ll be developing):

  • Brainstorm topics – set aside 10 minutes to brainstorm topics for blog posts. Do you run out of ideas or are they flowing easily? This will give you an indication on how many posts you’ll be able to write.
  • List ‘problems/needs’ of readers – if your blog will be a ‘how to’ type blog list off problems or needs that your potential readers might have that you could tackle.
  • Google News – if your blog will be a ‘news’ type blog – check out Google News for your keywords and see how often news is breaking on the topic. Is there lots of news or is this a topic that only has occasional news breaking?
  • List Products – if your blog will be a ‘product’ related blog – do some research into how many products there are in that category and how often new products are released.

Got the picture? Really it is about doing a little analysis of the topic to see if there is enough in it to keep producing new frequent and regular content. If there’s not enough – perhaps consider either another topic or a different format for your site (blogs tend to do best when they’re updated but you could create a more static site).

5. Is the Niche Profitable?

This won’t appeal to everyone as not all people want to monetize their blog but if it’s a goal to make money from your blog then you’ll want to assess the potential for profit before you start.

There are a few ways to get indications on whether a niche will be profitable – including:

  • Google Ads – do a simple search on Google.com for your topic/keywords. Look at what ads Google is serving for those keywords over on the right side (or above the search results). Doing some analysis of these ads can be useful on a few fronts. For starters they’ll show you if any advertisers are actively targeting those keywords. This is handy to know if you’re planning on running AdSense on your blog. It will also be handy to check out who is advertising as they could be potential direct sponsors of your site. The other useful thing to note is whether any of the ads are for products that have affiliate opportunities as they could be products you could promote as an affiliate.
  • AdWords Analysis – another related way to check on the value of a niche is to do some analysis of how much people are willing to pay as advertisers in the Google AdWords program. Just knowing there are advertisers is a healthy sign but they could all be just paying a cent or two to have their ads appear. Using the AdWords Keyword tool will give you a bit more of an indication of what people are paying to rank highest for their ads.
  • Affiliate Products – speaking of affiliate products – do a little hunting around to see if you can find any products online that have affiliate promotions that you might be able to promote. Sometimes this is as simple as Googling ‘keyword affiliate product’ but other times you’ll want to check out affiliate networks like Commission Junction or PepperJam (aff) to see if they have any relevant products listed for your niche.
  • Brainstorm Potential Products of Your Own – what could YOU sell directly to readers? As you’re pondering a niche it could be well worth while keeping in the back of your mind potential products that you might be able to develop to sell from your blog. These might include information products (e-books, training etc), membership areas (where people pay a monthly fee for extra teaching, community etc), personal services (coaching, speaking etc), a physical product relevant to your niche – or something else. More and more bloggers are turning to developing their own products as ways to monetize their blogs so keep this option in your mind from the beginning.
  • What are others in the niche monetizing with? – one of the quickest ways to work out whether there is potential to monetize a niche is to check out what other sites are doing to make money on that topic. Check out the biggest sites first and look at whether they run advertising (and what sort), whether they’re promoting affiliate promotions, what kinds of products/services of their own they sell etc. You might find that you come up with a quick list of things to start monetizing your own site with very quickly by doing this.
  • Market Samurai – I know that Iv’e mentioned Market Samurai already in this series but it’s a tool that also has a monetization module that allows you to look at the profitability of a niche. In fact there are a couple of tools within the Market Samurai system that are worth using when assessing the profitability of a niche. One is in the ‘keyword research’ module which gives you options to look at three factors including the Adwords value of the work, the SEO value and some assessment of whether people are searching with the intent of ‘buying’ or just surfing for ‘information on the keyword. The other module allows you to search for affiliate promotions relevant to your keywords (very handy).

6. What Else Do You Bring to the topic that You Can Leverage?

Previously when I’ve covered the topic of how to choose a blog niche I’ve stopped after exploring some of the above points. However there are almost always a number of other factors that individuals bring to certain topics that can make those niches more sensible choices.

I guess ultimately it comes down to looking at what you have at your fingertips that you will be able to leverage to help you get your blog up and running and working really well.

There are many factors that might come into play including:

  • Expertise/Experience – you might be someone with years of experience in the industry which would give you a real head start in the creation of content and also building authority and profile in the niche.
  • Contacts/Network – perhaps you already have some good contacts with other bloggers and web site owners in the niche that you’ll be able to leverage to help you promote your blog.
  • Established Sites on Related Topics – maybe you already have another blog, newsletter list, website, forum or site on a related topic that you could use to help you launch your new blog.
  • Repurpose-able Content – some people already have a lot of content written for other purposes that they can use as the basis for their new blog (for example I met one person recently who had been training in an area and who had already created hundreds of documents for offline use that could easily be used on a blog).

This list could quite easily go on and on. Essentially you need to do a bit of a SWOT analysis of the topic and see what strengths and opportunities that you uniquely have that will help you to get a leg up into this topic.

Sleep On It

My last advice on choosing a niche for your blog is to take your time and don’t act too hastily. While you don’t want the process to drag out too long – I look back on the 30 or so blogs that I’ve started over the years and wish I’d taken a little more time going through this process. I went through a phase where I impulsively started a series of blogs that I quickly knew were not right for me – if I’d only given the ideas a little time to breath I might have discovered before I started that perhaps there were better ways to use my time going forward.

So take your time – share what you come up with with a trusted friend or two – do a little research into the topic and then, when you’re ready and are in a good position to make a decision – ACT!

Also keep in mind that you might need to go through this process with a number of topics before you find one that fits for you. You’re unlikely to find a topic that fits all of the above criteria perfectly – but hopefully something will stand out to you a little to help you make an informed decision.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What other factors would you say come into play when choosing a niche?
  2. If you already have a blog – what were the most important factors for you in choosing that niche?
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. Wow. This post is a seven-course meal Darren. Many many thanks. I’m going to work on some of specific tools/tips you offer here. I chose for my niche what has been my passion all my life: finding true peace and happiness — the deeper meaning and truth of life. It’s no problem writing posts (I use personal experiences to try to make them more relatable). But the ‘niche’ is a bit broad in a way — I don’t find it so easy to draw a crowd because while I believe there are a lot of people concerned with these things they are “spread out” and therefore not so easy to “target.”
    So some of the tools you enumerate here sound as if they will be most helpful for me. Incidentally I picked up another great tip at your site a week or so ago when you had the post about commenting. I’ve made it a rule now to leave two comments somewhere every day. Hoping this will add up after a while — that persistence and a ‘plan’ will pay off.

  2. I always choose random topics to blog about and blog fails. I learned a lot about blogging in past 1 year after many failures. Google and problogger have been my teachers. Next time when I start I’ll choose a less competitive niche. Internet is full of bloggers now. Its better to create some blogs on different less competitive niches than to create a blog on some highly competitive stuff.

  3. Kathy Condon says:

    Thks…I am in the process of choosing a name for my new blog and your blog arrived with perfect timing.

    I know the feeling if you are not enthusiastic, it makes it tough to sit down and write.

    Now I have figured out what I need to learn and going to share my journey….learning and documenting my progress that I trust will help lots of babyboomers afraid to tackle technology at any level.

    http://www.kathycondons.blogspot.com

  4. Kris James says:

    Great post and lots to think about. I agree with point 1 wholeheartedly. I’ve started a number of other blogs in the past few years but as my passion wasn’t in them, they fizzled out and now they are in the ‘dead blog pile’.

  5. Ron says:

    I just want to share a simple tool to compute the expected monthly income of your keyword phrase.
    This might relate to this post’s “5. Is the Niche Profitable?”
    See http://nichesitetool.com/how-to-choose-a-niche-website/
    Then
    Manual computing for Total Monthly Income for keywords is a tedious task, so i’ve built a simple site that automates this process.
    Directions:
    Just go to Google keywords tool.
    Enter your keywords phrase.
    Download the csv file.
    Upload the csv file to http://nichesitetool.com/upload/form
    Viola ..Total Monthly Income for keywords are auto computed.
    Enjoy.

    PS: The site is still very basic and plain.