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Pros and Cons of Niche Blogging

In this article Mark Avey discusses the pros and cons of running a niche subject blog, from a point of view of making money.

A little History

I run a number of blogs. Most of them cover pretty niche subjects but one, in particular, is about as niche as you can get – flight simulation. Nothing more, nothing less. The site (flightsimx.co.uk) started life as a simple, fairly static web site. With the release of one particular item of flight simulation software, the increasing number of news items grew to such an extent that I needed an easier way to manage it. A blog format was the ideal choice for me. Whilst technically it is a blog, I guess you could argue that it’s really more of a news site, but a blog it is and a blog it is likely to stay.


It was around 14 months ago that the blog really started to attract visitors in reasonable numbers. It’s now getting around 2,500 uniques and 5,000+ page views a day, which I’m pretty happy with. In that time, I’ve learnt a lot about blogging. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and hopefully learnt from them. One of those things has been to be aware of the pros and cons of running a very limited subject blog from a financial viewpoint.

Why it’s bad to have a Niche Blog

  • Almost by definition, you’re aiming at a small audience. A small audience means a lower number of potential “customers” than you’re going to get for a Britney Spears fan club site (in this context, customers is referring to anyone following through with an ad on my site, be it an AdSense click, an affiliate sale, or any other method)
  • There are relatively few affiliate programs available for you to pick from. The low audience status of the blog also filters through to a low audience for things you might want to try and sell through such a program
  • Context sensitive ads are few on the ground. With something as specific as my flight simulator blog, there are a relatively low number of people willing to pay for advertising through programs such as AdSense. This can mean you start getting ads repeated quite often, which can easily lead to “ad blindness”
  • It can be much harder to get other sites to link to you (and hence bring you new customers). This is obvious really. The subject is so narrow that there aren’t (in my case) all that many sites out there on the same subject. Additionally, of those that are out there, most of them want to keep the visitors on their own sites and not send them away to mine via a link.
  • It can take a long time to start getting search traffic. This is simply because there aren’t all that many people searching for the subject matter of your site. (This really falls into the good and bad sections, so I’ll come back to this in a moment)

Why it’s good to have a Niche Blog

Strange as it may seem, a lot of the negative aspects can actually work for you after a while.

  • A niche site can bring you a lot of dedicated readers. Most of my traffic comes from search engines (around 75%). Most of the remainder are return visitors. I think a near 25% return rate is pretty good.
  • Expanding on point 1 a little, once you’ve been around a while (assuming you’ve got your SEO optimised), the search engines can start to like you. If the search engines are picking you up (my posts get indexed within about an hour now), people that are searching for your subject have a pretty good chance of finding your site.
  • Whilst there are fewer affiliate programs out there for you to choose from, you can get some reasonable deals if you go looking. The same rules of supply and demand work for anyone working in that niche, so people selling related items are looking for as many people as possible to sell their goods, which can put you in a good position.
  • Your name can get around. I get a lot of emails from people along the lines of “Are you the guy who runs the flight simulator site?”. As well as giving you a nice warm fuzzy feeling, it also means your name is being associated with that niche subject. If you do your job properly (blogging), this can turn you into an expert in your field, which is great news for your blog. This in itself can bring people to your site.
  • You can create a captive audience. Because there are so few sites dealing with the subject of my blog, people who are interested in the subject are more likely to return once they find me. If they’re coming back, they may click on an ad.
  • If you’re going to start from scratch with a blog, you’ve got more chance of finding a subject that few people have already covered. You’re going to find it hard to compete with a blog about movies, but you may have some success with political movies of the 1940′s for example.

Is it Worth it?

Overall, I’d have to say yes. I’ve been lucky. The subject of my blog is something I’m passionate about. Hopefully this comes across and will encourage other people with a similar passion to come back. And click on an ad.

Welcome to Readers of the Wall Street Journal

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Welcome to readers of Wall Street Journal who may have found themselves here after today’s article in there.

If this is your first time to ProBlogger.net then let me give you a quick tour of my online home.

Firstly, my name’s Darren Rowse and as the article in the WSJ suggests – I’m a full time blogger. I blog both here at ProBlogger but also at Digital Photography School. I’m also a cofounder of b5media a blog network with close to 300 blogs.

ProBlogger is a blog that is devoted to helping bloggers improve their blogging and explore ways to earn an income at the same time by writing about topics that they love.

More and more bloggers are now making at least a part time income blogging – with some even having gone ‘Pro’ with full time incomes using a variety of income streams.

I write more about the reasons for this blog and my experience as a blogger in my About Page. You might also like to see some of the ways that I make money from my blogs for an introduction into how bloggers make money blogging.

If you’re new to blogging you might find this ‘what is a blog?‘ article and my series on Blogging for Beginners helpful.

If you like what you read here you can follow my future entries (I write several times per day most days) in two ways – either using our RSS News feed or you can get daily updates by adding your email address to the field at the top of my sidebar.

Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoy your stay at ProBlogger. If you do have any questions feel free to drop me a note in a comment below or via my contact form.

Map Your Blog’s Visitors

Want to see where readers of your blog are geographically?

maps.amung.us might be a tool (toy?) that you find useful. Here’s the ProBlogger reader map (it could take a little time to populate – but it is supposed to be flash based so it won’t need to refresh the page to update)!

Of course it only tracks visitors on the page/s that you run the map on. So this map will only show visitors to this actual post or the blog (until this post drops off the front page). To get around this you could put it in your sidebar.

via TechCrunch

The Most Important Tip For Better Writing

Glen Stansberry is the author of the blog LifeDev (feed). Check out LifeDev for other tips about productivity and life improvement.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Becoming a better writer is the best thing you can do to improve your blog’s readership and traffic. Not how many buttons you have for easy submission to social services, not detailed SEO optimization, and certainly not gimmicky headlines that are created to tempt potential readers into reading your article. All of these things do have some effect on getting people to your blog, but if they don’t like what they’re reading, they’re sure-as-shootin’ not going to come back. It’s all about the content.

Good writers have an advantage on traffic because their readers come back every time they write a new article. Many blog readers are also bloggers, so they in turn link to the posts. The more links a blog has, the higher its posts rank in search engines, and the blog receives even more traffic. Not only that, compelling content gives readers a reason to submit to social sites like Digg and Del.icio.us (regardless of whether or not you have those handy buttons).

So how does one define a good writer? At the very least a decent writer can construct sentences that show at least a 3rd grade reading level. (While this is a rather facetious statement, I have come across a couple blogs that don’t meet this standard. Hopefully the authors really were 2nd graders.)
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Testing Moblogging

Today a package that i had been waiting for arrived – a new nokia n95.

Part of the appeal was its web browsing capabilities and wi-fi.

So the logical first move was a post via phone.

I doubt it will be a regular thing though as it is quite tedious.

I will use it for surfing and email a little though.

The Importance of Letting A Good Post Wait

This article was written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev (feed). Check out LifeDev if you want more ways to be creative and efficient with your writing.

Growing a readership is something that takes hard work and a little luck. Sure, sites like Digg and Reddit can greatly expand your readership overnight, but it’s really the way you craft your posts that will help the most with growing your blog. A bangin’ post is worth 10 mediocre ones any day. But unfortunately for most of us, in order to write a great post you have to be a… decent writer.

Becoming a better writer should be every blogger’s goal. Better writers can craft posts in a way that a) get their point across quicker and b) connect with the audience more effectively. No matter what your content, your audience will always benefit from better writing. And if your audience is happy, you’ll be happy too.

The darndest thing about blog content is that you can have the most amazing post in the world, but if you can’t create mildly decent sentences with proper spelling and grammar, nobody’s going to listen to you.

If you’re going to write like a drunk kindergartener, you can kiss your subscription rate goodbye.

[Disclaimer: The author does not even pretend to be any authority on "proper writing". As a matter of fact, he fell asleep frequently in English classes throughout his youth.]

If you’re not a great writer yet, don’t stress. Improving your writing skills comes mostly from practice and reading other great writers. But I’ve found that the most effective way to improving my blogging has been to just let my posts sit. If I sleep on a post, odds are it will be much better than had I just hit “Publish”. You see, most of the blogging mojo comes after the writing is done.

Once you’ve stopped typing you’ve only just begun the writing process. Read it through, at least a couple times. Odds are each time you read it through, you’ll pick up on stuff that could be worded better, or explained more, or even taken out completely. Don’t be afraid to let something sit overnight, or even longer. Think of your post as like a cheese that just gets better with age.

I’ve found that some of my best posts were crafted over the course of days. Yet it paid off in the end. The social sites went to town on that content, and now I’ve got backlinks galore from those posts.

You don’t want to let your posts sit too long though. At this point your fine cheese has turned a little too green. I wouldn’t recommend letting your posts “percolate” more than a week. Some people can pull it off, but for me I lose interest in the original topic too quickly, and most of my original ideas are gone.

So when you start to craft your next post, let it sit for a bit and see what happens. I guarantee your quality of writing will increase. And if your blog’s quality increases, so will your readership.

Use A Startpage to Blog More Efficiently

This post was written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev.net (feed). Check out LifeDev if you’re interesting in adding more productivity and creativity to your blogging and life.

There are tons of startpage options to choose from: Google Homepage, Netvibes, Pageflakes and a slew of others. Personally, I’d recommend either Netvibes or Pageflakes, but to each his own.

A startpage can be a very valuable tool if you find yourself doing a lot of blogging. The most immediate benefit of using a startpage is the ability to do many blog-essential tasks from one interface. Tasks like searching, jotting down post ideas, and reading news. These can become pretty cumbersome if you do them frequently. Using a startpage greatly speeds up the process, and in some cases can even automate it.

Here are some of the most immediate pluses to using a startpage as opposed to a traditional feed reader.

1. Customizable feed layouts. You can subscribe to many different feeds like a traditional feed reader, but instead of showing up in a river of news style the feeds show up in boxes. You can visually manipulate the layout to display the feed boxes however you want. You can toggle them open or closed, and you can arrange your most important feeds towards the top, leaving the less active ones at the bottom. This allows you to quickly scan the page for new items.

2. Tons ‘O Tools. You can have a plethora of resources to aide your blogging. Todo lists to keep track of post ideas, rich media (video, image, podcast) searches, blog search, instant messaging, imported del.icious links, email… the options are virtuously limitless when tricking out your startpage.

3. Multiple pages. Most startpages allow you to create multiple pages. So for example, you could have an entire page dedicated to one blog, with all the relevant feeds, rich media searches.

4. Shareable pages. If you’ve got more than one author on your blog, share your startpage with them. That way you can both use the same resources, as well as easily stay on top of what the other is doing.

So to put an example startpage in action, check out a demo of one I made here for cars at Netvibes. I only added one feed, but you could add many many more. I just wanted to showcase the power and simplicity of being able to search blogs, movies, podcasts and more in one interface.

I’ve been using startpages for a couple of my niche blogs, and I can say with certainty that it has greatly cut down the time used per post. While I do like Google Reader, a startpage just brings more overall blogging functionality to the table.

How about you guys? Do you have any unique setups with startpages that help you blog?

Blog Translations: The Next Web Frontier

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Weblog Tools Collection is doing it. So is the Blog Herald. Are you doing it?

These and other blogs are hiring translators to translate their blog into different languages. Blog Herald began with Japanese, based upon a study released by Technorati stating that Japanese is the most used language on the blogosphere. Weblog Tools Collection offers Español and Deutsch versions of their blog, expanding into Europe.

Those of us with little or no money to spend on human translation services resort to translation WordPress Plugins or turn to Google’s Translate Language Tools or Altavista’s Babelfish. Machine translations aren’t perfect, but they typically do a fair job getting much of the concept across.

Having lived overseas among non-English speaking folks much of my life, the early days of the web was filled with anticipation that free instant translation would be available through our browsers. Click any link on a web page, and your browser would detect the language, magically translating it into your desired tongue. Websites in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Hebrew, German, French, Arabic, Norwegian, Swahili, and everywhere would be immediately accessible for my reading pleasure.

I dreamed of learning about all these diverse cultures, getting an inside look at how they live and what their thoughts are on their lives, government, work, friends, and family. I wanted to ask them questions and seek their opinions, translated through the magic of web browsers. I wanted to learn from and about them, and I hoped they might want to know a little about me, too.

It never happened. [Read more...]

The Biggest Question Any Blogger Must Answer

So in your quest for blogging awesomeness, you may have had a chance to reflect on things and ask yourself a few questions.

  • What can I do to grow my blog?
  • Should I try that next marketing trick?
  • What will my next post be about?
  • How does Darren produce as much as he does?

But there’s one question that you might not be asking — that might be the most important one you, or any blogger could ask him (or her)self. Assuming that you’re a blogger who is interested in creating a blog that is read, well regarded, and well trafficked, there’s only one question that should preoccupy your mind at all times.

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