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.