Unless your blog is strictly for your own enjoyment, you’re probably hoping to gain readers. So, it’s important to consider what others might want to read.
I’ve been watching the blogosphere for years. Below are five overarching areas that seem to attract the most readers. Below that are some practical tips for choosing your own blog topic.
1. Readers want to solve a problem
What do people get frustrated about? Do you have a solution? This is how my blogging took off. I talked to a lot of bloggers who loved to write but got frustrated with the techy side of blogging. I knew I could help solve this problem by sharing blogging tips, tools and tutorials in a non-techy way.
2. Readers want to relieve their fears
What are people afraid of? How can you help ease those fears? Maybe you’re a parent who has lost a child. It’s a real and valid fear for a lot of parents. Sharing your story of hope and healing could be very helpful for many people. Or maybe you can offer help to those facing job loss or financial disaster.
3. Readers want to learn something new
What would people love to do if only they knew how? What do you know that you could teach them? Maybe you’re a whiz at crocheting, you have a knack for writing or you have a unique way of teaching math that makes it easy to understand. A lot of people have projects around the house they would gladly tackle but aren’t sure where to start. Teach them.
4. Readers want to reach a goal
What are common goals people have? Have you set and reached some significant goals? Can you spell out how you did it and inspire others on their journey? Fitness and weight loss come to mind here, as well as getting out of debt. Pursuing big goals can be disheartening and lonely. Knowing someone else has been there does wonders.
5. Readers want to be entertained
Do you have a fascinating story? Do you lead a wildly interesting life? Are you outrageously funny? Everyone needs down time and plenty of blogs exist purely to entertain. I’d say this is a trickier path to pursue since there’s no shortage of entertainment to be had on the internet, in magazines and on TV, but it’s doable. The key is providing something totally unique. Of course as a bonus, you could be entertaining and helpful at the same time. For example, if your family raises llamas, talk about how you raise llamas not just that you raise llamas. Entertaining + helpful = a great combination.
Related: How to Blog: Step-By-Step Guide
Now that you know what others are looking for, here are some tips to decide where your interests might overlap and therefore make a good blog topic.
- Is my blog idea a good one?
- Hey Amy, will I be able to make money writing about ____ topic?
- Write for others
- Pick a niche
- Is this niche too broad or too specific?
- Is this niche saturated?
- Are readers in this niche willing to spend money?
- Do you have plenty to blog about?
- Rock your ninja-ness
- Choose a topic you are genuinely passionate about
- Choose a niche in which you can be an authority
- What kind of site do you wish you could find?
- What’s missing for others?
- Be different
- Be flexible
- Be you
- Resist paralysis of analysis
Is my blog idea a good one?
I get many, many emails from people asking me if I think their blog topic idea is a good one. These emails usually include:
- An explanation of the topic, perhaps with some personal background
- Questions about whether (a) there are people who would read it and/or (b) if it’s a topic that could make money
I completely understand why it’s such a common question! I would want to know the same. After all, who wants to put time and energy into something that gets no visitors and earns no money?
Here are my thoughts on the subject, and the answer I usually give in response…
First, there are blogs on almost every topic imaginable, from awkward family photos to jello mold recipes and everything in between. In short, the topic itself is usually not the problem. Most topics have the potential to attract visitors and make at least some money.
The main questions are:
- Is your passion or excitement about the topic infectious, so those who are interested will be drawn to you and those who aren’t interested will become so?
- Can you write about the topic indefinitely? It takes most bloggers a long time to gain traction…and then once they do, they have to keep going. So, you have to be in it for the long haul. Like years.
- How will you stand out among the other blogs in the same niche? There are millions of blogs online so it’s very likely others on the web are writing about the same topic (or very similar topics) despite how unique or obscure it seems to you.
- Are there more than a few people in the world who share your interest or would find it entertaining?
Will I be able to make money writing about ____ topic?
What’s nice about blogging is that just about any topic can generate income. However there is no way to guarantee a particular topic will generate income. For example, there are plenty of photography blogs (or horse blogs or hunting blogs or craft blogs or decor blogs) that make a lot of income, and there are many more that don’t.
It’s not so much the topic that’s important, it’s becoming the go-to resource for that topic. Write in a way others are drawn to and want to read, and create or promote products your readers are willing to buy. Stand out. Give more. Build relationships with people who want to read about that topic.
Pro tip: A quick way to tell if others are making money in a particular topic or niche is to do a Google search. Do ads show up at the top of the search results page when you type in main topics? If so, people are making money in that niche (otherwise they wouldn’t spend money on advertising) and there’s potential for you too. Note: The absence of ads doesn’t necessarily indicate you couldn’t make money in a particular niche. Deeper digging often reveals sites that do make money but don’t choose to advertise on Google.
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Write for others
A lot of new bloggers fail to think beyond their own interests when starting a blog (see above). Your blog should undoubtedly be an extension of you, but if you’re not writing for the benefit of others at the same time, you might as well just keep a diary. 🙂
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Pick a niche
Instead of just writing whatever comes to mind, try to write around a general topic. (This is called your niche.) Not only will it be easier to stay on task, it’ll be a lot easier for readers to track with you.
While not required, a niche provides focus and direction, making your blog’s purpose easily understood and defined, not only by you, but by your visitors as well.
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Is this niche too broad or too specific?
If your blog’s topic is too broad, it’s hard to compete with, and stand out from, all the other blogs and websites in your niche. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, the pool of interested readers will be too small to gain any traction.
For example, “photography” is a very broad topic. On the other hand, “photography in 50-Person Town, USA” doesn’t give you a very large audience. “Black and white photography” is better. “Black and white photography in National Parks” is better still. “Black and white photography in Yellowstone” might be even better. The goal is to find a topic with a good number of interested people and plenty of potential subtopics, but a topic that not so many other people are writing about. Do some research and googling to narrow it down.
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Is this niche saturated?
Back in the day, when there weren’t so many blogs online, you could almost pick any topic and run with it. Now, not so much. There are definitely niches that are really, really full and therefore, difficult to break into. How do you know? If you can easily find several dozen popular blogs on the topic, you might rethink your topic.
However, just because a niche is big doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to choose it. After all, a large niche means there’s a market for it. Spend time watching the main players. Knowing your way around will help you fine-tune the “thing” that will make you stand out.
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Are readers in this niche willing to spend money?
If you hope to generate income, this is an important question. Think about the intersection between your niche and your audience. For example, if you’re hoping to promote high-end clothing products, it’s probably not a great idea to target struggling college students. Another way to look at it: are other blogs in this niche earning money? Finding this out is easier said than done, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. Do those blogs have advertisers? Are the blogs active, engaging and growing?
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Do you have plenty to blog about?
Choose a topic that you can write about regularly and indefinitely. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul. If you post once a week, that amounts to 52 posts a year. Three times a week? 156 posts. Five times a week? 260 posts. And that’s just barely getting started! Don’t choose something so narrow that you run out of writing fodder after only a few weeks or months.
A good way to test this is to brainstorm possible posts or subtopics pertaining to your main blog topic. If you can easily come up with a list of several dozen with additional ideas about how to branch out, it’s probably a good sign. If, however, you can’t think of many, you might need to rethink your choice. Another way to work around this problem is to have a multi-author blog.
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Rock your ninja-ness
If you aren’t sure you have much to offer, I love what Sonia Simone says, “Even if you’re only pretty good, but not a ninja, you’re still a ninja to someone.” Find that thing about which you have a decent amount of know-how and go with it. Chances are there are others who will appreciate what you have to say.
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Choose a topic you are genuinely passionate about
If you don’t have a genuine interest in what you’re writing about, it will be a drag and a burden. If you talk about the topic among your real life friends and they just want you to be quiet already, it’s a great topic to blog about.
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Choose a niche in which you can be an authority
The key here is to think smaller. I’ve always been impressed with Carrie from Springs Bargains who did just this. She started a deal blog, but instead of starting a general one like so many others, she purposefully targeted Colorado Springs. She is absolutely the authority on deals in Colorado Springs.
“Niching down,” as some say, or, choosing a narrower niche, may have a smaller pool of potential readers, but you might be able to gain a following quicker too.
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What kind of site do you wish you could find?
Sometimes a good way to determine a viable blog niche is to ask yourself what you’ve found to be lacking online. After all, if you’re looking for it, someone else might be looking for it too. This is how I started my first blog. Back in 2004, I was a struggling pastor’s wife. I knew I couldn’t be the only pastor’s wife having a difficult time, so I searched online for others with whom I could relate. I couldn’t find any, so I started my own. Another way to look at it: what group is being ignored online?
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What’s missing on other blogs?
When I asked this question in 2010, my blog started taking off. There are a gazillion blogs about blogging and making money blogging. What I noticed though, is that a lot of them say things like, “Wanna start a blog? Great! You’ll need hosting and a domain and then here’s how to blog…” Not a lot of them explained exactly how to choose a domain and how to purchase & set up hosting in a step-by-step way. So, even in this huge niche, I decided to tackle the basics where a lot of people seemed to get lost (like I did when I first started!). Find a hole and fill it.
As you hang out in your potential niche, continually ask yourself what’s missing. What are people looking for? What are you looking for? Read comments, get involved in forums, Twitter and Facebook and keep your ears peeled for hints about what people want, but can’t find.
Bloggers tend to copy what other bloggers do. This is absolutely valuable in many ways, but it’s not so good when it puts your blog right smack in the middle of average. Brainstorm ways to do things differently.
- Do most bloggers in your niche write long posts? Why not keep yours short?
- Do most bloggers in your niche write words? Why not vlog?
- Do most bloggers in your niche post a few times a week? Why not post every day?
- Or maybe you could start a unique feature or incorporate an interesting twist — something no one else has done or something you saw someone in a different niche do that you think might work in yours.
You may have heard of The Pioneer Woman. Way back when, she was one of many bloggers blogging about their lives as a mom. But one day she started recounting the tale of how her (a city girl) and her husband (a cowboy) met and fell in love. Her readers ate it up. Coupled with her outstanding photography and love for cooking, she subsequently rose to the top of her niche…and the entire mommy blogging world.
What hasn’t been done before? Try it and see if it propels you to the top!
Once you choose a niche, don’t feel like you’re committed to it for life. Blogging is very fluid and changes constantly. Being flexible and taking advantage of ways to be different will serve you well. In fact, expect it.
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One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to find a blog you love…and then try to duplicate it. You must differentiate yourself. One of the greatest things about blogs is they afford us the opportunity to get to know the individual behind the blog. Blogging is part of social media because it’s just that—social.
Let your personality come through. If you’re goofy, be goofy. If you’re feisty, be feisty. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. Your readers will be drawn to what you have to say, but they will also be drawn to who you are. BE YOU.
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Resist paralysis of analysis
Many people get stuck at this point in the process because they’re terrified of making the “wrong choice.” While a well-chosen niche is a benefit, one wonderful thing about the internet is how forgiving it is. Don’t be afraid to dive in and figure it out as you go. We all do that. Better to do that than to do nothing at all. Just start. How about right now?
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Related: How to Make Money Blogging