This guest post is by Natalie Webb of Leave Me to My Projects.
You started your blog because you were passionate.
You wanted to write about everything you love. You wanted to inspire people with your passions and your well-rounded knowledge in all of your areas of expertise. You wanted to put yourself out there and bring real value to the lives of your adoring readers.
The love spiral would continue until the internet was throwing money at you like a pre-fame Channing Tatum up on stage. And yet…
Your traffic numbers are decent, but people aren’t sticking around on your blog. They aren’t interacting, with you or each other.
They certainly aren’t subscribing. Your readers aren’t connecting, and you aren’t helping.
So you scour the big meta blogs (blogs about blogging) for advice. They all tell you that to be successful in the blogosphere, you need to niche down and specialize. Micro-niche, even.
Here are five posts by very savvy and successful bloggers that will tell you all of the reasons why you should pick a topic and stick to it.
- One Blog Many Categories or Many Blogs? ~ ProBlogger
- Should You Combine Your Many Passions or Choose One? ~ Marie Forleo
- Why Niche Blogging is Better than General Blogging ~ Brian Gardner
- The Importance of Niche Blogging ~ Contently
- One Blog and Many Topics, or Many Blogs with One Topic? ~ Daily Blog Tips
It makes sense, right? Less clutter, more focus. It’s business 101.
But let’s get real, shall we?
You. Don’t. Wanna.
Anyone who has caught an episode of Hoarders knows they these people don’t set out to have the mess in their homes eat them alive. They really do have the best of intentions. They love these belongings so much they cannot bear to part with any of them.
Although real-life hoarders are an extreme example, in a way, you understand them. You love each of your topics like one of your hoarder feral cat children. You know that to have a happy, balanced blog and life, you need to simplify and get back to basics.
But again, you don’t wanna. Your blog is you. It is your home, where you keep all of your most precious projects, ideas and musings. So you plod along, scattered and disorganized, believing that your passion will shine through and earn you a loyal following.
But it’s not going to happen. Blogs without focus do not have sticking power. They will not encourage readers to engage, and they will not make you money.
After all, how is anyone going to connect to your blog and stick around if they aren’t even sure what you do? Are you even sure?
If you suddenly found yourself standing in an elevator with Darren and he asked you what your blog was about, would you be able to tell him before your short ride was over? More importantly, would he exit those doors interested in knowing more?
If you cannot sum up your blog—what it is about, what you do and who you are—in a nice, succinct elevator pitch, you probably have a big, idea hoarding mess of a multi-topic blog on your hands.
I’m here to help you clean it up. That’s right. You can have your blog, and make it work, too. Consider this your intervention.
Let’s get to work
To make your multi-topic blog focused and relatable, I will walk you through five steps:
- Taking a blog inventory
- Creating a customer avatar of your ìOneî reader
- A little self-analysis
- Keep, Sell, Toss
- Finding your unifying thread.
After that, we get to put it all together. Are you ready? Here we go.
1. Take an inventory
Before you can figure out what you need, you have to figure out what you have. Start by making a list of all of your main topics or categories. Now go through your posts and find out two things:
- Which categories seem to be most popular with your readers? You can use post comment counts, page views, or whatever metric works for you.
- Which categories are the most filled out? While you may love all of your topics, there are bound to be some you do not write about as often as others.
Rank your categories in order from best to worst, but do not ditch any under-performing categories just yet.
2. Weed out your one perfect customer/reader
Much has been written lately in blogland about messaging and customer avatars. The idea is to write as if you are writing to only one person in the world.
Even if many of your real live readers do not precisely match this avatar, your messaging is clear, focused, and personal. That is what makes a blog great to read.
Danny Inny over at Firepole Marketing wrote an incredibly insightful post about this, complete with a beautiful checklist for finding your one perfect reader. You can get it for free by tweeting or sharing the page, and I highly encourage you to do so.
This is the sticking point for a multi-topic blog, isn’t it? Because you have so many topics, you have essentially been writing for everybody! How are you going to be able to narrow down your ideal reader traits to a single avatar? Relax, you don’t have to. Initially.
Instead, pretend that you have split each category of your blog from the previous exercise up into its own niche site, independent of the others.
Write out a customer profile for each niche, using Danny’s checklist. Do this for each of your main topics. Make a spreadsheet if you like.
Now look for similar customer traits between each of your niches. Do you see any patterns jumping out? Age, marital status, kids, interests, professions? Make a list of any traits that occur more than once, and how often.
At this point, you can start constructing your overall reader profile—the kind of reader that really does love and connect with all of the random things you write about.
But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time to breathe life into your ideal reader.
3. Analyze yourself
The common thread to pulling an unorganized blog together, surprisingly, is often found in you.
Pull up Danny’s customer profile sheet again. Fill it out again, answering these questions for you personally.
Using both your own profile and the list of most common traits, you can begin to cobble together a much more accurate profile of your ideal reader.
After all, you are writing this blog based on your own passions and experiences, correct? Why shouldn’t your ideal reader include a bit of yourself?
You see, that’s where the connection happens.
4. Keep, sell, toss
Now it’s time for the hard part. Just like any hoarder rehab, you are going to have to let some things go.
Keep: Set your new reader profile and your Inventory from Step 1 in front of you. Do any of your best-performing topics fit your reader profile particularly well? Good! Those are your absolute keeper topics.
Sell: If you have the time (and understandably, not many of us do) consider splitting off a topic or two that does not fit your blog into a separate blog.
Toss: Now you have to get ruthless. You’re going to have to do some soul-searching and figure out which extraneous topics you can let go. Chances are there will be one that you just can’t bear to part with. In that case…
5. Find your thread
Maybe that is your thread.
Perhaps you write a blog about crafts, DIY, cooking, gardening, hair, beauty, photography, wellness, and more. You have gotten rid of your Haute Couture and Blogging sections, but the one you cannot bear to let go is video games. Your love of MMORPGs is too intense.
Things just got real specific, folks.
Maybe your thread is craft-loving fantasy geeks. And boy are there a lot of them out there. Just look at anything Felicia Day posts on social media.
Put it all together: picture your publication
Everything is falling into place now. All the junk is cleared away, and the hoarder house is clean. Now you just have to put it all together so that you don’t lose your way ever again.
With what you now know about your reader and your topics, it’s time to find your message.
Your blog is an online publication. Start treating it that way. Sure, it may be personal, but it’s also your business (or so I would assume—you are reading Problogger, after all).
Publications, like books and magazines, have to have a flow, a layout, or in the case of magazines, an editorial calendar.
Right now I only want you to picture your blog as a book. It doesn’t matter if you want to write a book eventually or not. For this exercise, you do (and after this, it might not be a bad idea!).
Why a book and not a magazine? Magazines are ongoing, with constantly updated content, and are certainly more akin to how a blog works. But books have permanence. They can stand the test of time. And isn’t that what you want your blog to be?
- What is the title of your book? Maybe a subtitle too!
- Mentally (or physically) design your book cover.
- How would you divide up the chapters and sections?
- Write your book jacket copy. What is your book about, and how can it help that ideal reader of yours?
And now, just like on any good A&E show, the big reveal.
- Your book title? That’s your new tagline.
- Your book cover? That is what your pages should look like.
- Your chapters and sections? Let them guide how you organize your site’s pages and menus.
- You jacket copy? That’s your message.
Extra credit: guest posting
Even after all of this, I know there are some topics that you will have trouble letting go. Take heart, because you don’t have to.
When you have items that you don’t have room to keep in your home, what do you get? A storage locker, a.k.a. guest posts.
Keep writing those posts on topics that you love, but do not fit with your blog. The trick is to keep your overall message in mind when you write—not your ideal reader, but your message.
The idea with these guest posts is to pitch them to blogs that you enjoy, but are not the ideal reader of. This post is one such example.
I’m sure the ideal Problogger reader is not a 29-year-old barber stepmom, obsessed with Martha Stewart, wishing she lived in Rivendell. And that reader almost certainly does not frequently sport a peacock-colored mohawk. And yet…
What it all means
Like hoarders, we bloggers can get so used to the mess we see around us that we lose all objectivity as to the impression our blog makes on new readers. With every additional topic you cover, it gets exponentially more difficult.
The key is focus. If you follow the process I have outlined in this post, I guarantee that you will arrive at a clear and accurate customer avatar, strong unifying thread and clear, compelling message.
Tomorrow I will be back to show you five blogs that have mastered the ability to convey a clear, strong brand while juggling a wide variety of topics—and I’ll clue you in to their five secrets to killing it in the Pinterest niche.
What struggles have you had with focusing your multi-topic blog? Share in the comments below!
Natalie is a truly Edward Scissorhands living in a Martha Stewart world. A Chicago-based writer, barber and obsessive DIYer, she blogs over at Leave Me to My Projects about her adventures in the DIY lifestyle with loads of how-tos and inspiration. She also spends way too much time on Pinterest.