To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all

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“If you are drawn to write on a broad variety of topics (3-5) even if there is a remotely common thread, are you better off doing it on a single blog or creating several niche blogs for each one?”

I recently posed the this question to a round-table of top-bloggers and social-medialites and here’s what they revealed…

  • Seth Godin | Seth’s Blog – One story per blog. Your story could be the “everything is interesting” story of boingboing or the very narrow story of hackingnetflix.com. But just one story per blog.
  • Anita Campbell | SmallBizTrends – As a general rule you are better off creating niche blogs, and sticking to a niche. As a reader, I personally do not care to read blogs which are a hodgepodge without a strong common theme. Blogs are great for narrow and deep – that’s their highest use. Because if you aren’t going deep, very likely someone else is, and readers who are intensely interested in that niche will flock to the blog that has the most and best content in the niche. If you don’t focus, you won’t cover enough in the niche to be seen as a good source.BUT – and it’s a big but – I find that one individual can only promote so many blogs effectively and well. Usually you end up with one site where the traffic and readership far surpasses the others. Then you might end up with a second blog that has decent, but less, readership. After that it falls off drastically. So what’s the solution?Skinny down your topics and focus on one, at most two niches, each on its own blog. Don’t try to do 3 or 4 or 5 blogs, because you just cannibalize your own properties – you’ll have to take time, attention, resources and readership away from some properties to promote your other properties. The only exception is if you plan to create a blog network and hire writers – but then you are in the publishing business, which is something entirely different.
  • John Chow | JohnChow.com – I would put it on one because it’s better to have one big site than a bunch of smaller one. Read my post on Big Sites Rules, Small Sites Drool for a more detailed explanation.
  • Maki | DoshDosh.com – It depends on your goals and resources. If you are creating a blog purely for fun and to satisfy your interests, it doesn’t really make a difference if you build multiple sites or a single blog. If you’re using the blog as a means to generate direct or indirect income, you should probably start by examining your resources to see if you have the time or energy to market and maintain multiple niche blogs.I personally like to create a single blog which encompasses a variety of topics, because all my link building and marketing efforts are concentrated on one place: this can possibly lead to better results because of a naturally greater and more unified focus. One blog to market, one blog to write for. Once the blog has gotten a decent readership, its possible to leverage the attention you’ve gotten by creating smaller niche blogs and sending your audience to them. However, if the topics you plan to explore are too dissimilar, it might be better to build several niche blogs because that allows you to brand them more cohesively. I’ll make sure to keep the amount of blogs to a manageable level (2 to 4 may be optimal).If you have the resources (money + time ), you could build up several niche blogs simultaneously and inter-promote them, especially if they are in related fields. The problem with this approach is that it can be very tiring; you should probably have some prior experience with blog development, along with an intense desire for success. You need to know how to systematically and consistently promote each of your niche blogs.
  • Chris Garret | Chrisg.com – Either strategy can work. I have a personal blog where I write with zero concern for building an audience, have both tightly and loosely focused blogs, while at the same time I write for many highly topic-focused blogs belonging to others. Blogs can be targeted at a specific theme, a specific audience or not focused at all. Look at the magazine rack, you have photography magazines and womens magazines, anything goes! It depends on your goals and which style suits you. A highly specific blog might be easier to monetize with adsense, or build traffic via SEO, but you might run out of things to say.
  • Wendy Piersall | Sparkplugging.com – I think it really depends on your goals for your blog as a whole. But I have found that focusing too tightly on one topic makes it difficult to continuously come up with new material. And I have had a good amount of success combining home business, personal development, and internet marketing on my own blog. Also, the more blogs you have, the more blogs you have to maintain. And after a year and a half+ of doing this, one of the most important things I have found is that you need to guard your time & commitments like a hawk. Because in the end, the most successful blog will win out over the others when you get crunched for time.
  • Penelope Trunk | Brazen Careerist – One. A good blog is really really hard to maintain. Be good at something instead of mediocre at a bunch of things, it’s more rewarding. Hedging one’s bets because one cannot commit to greatness is a mistake. Here’s a link to that (to my own, specialized blog, of course) . Know yourself. If you are so ignorant as to think that you can maintain three to five outstanding blogs at one time, then you should blog about the process of self-discovery and specialization, because when it comes to learning via blogging, that is the topic that will benefit you most.
  • Leo Babauta | Zen Habits – The question, to me, isn’t the topics or their common thread … it’s your target audience. Does your target audience want to read about all of the topics, or are you really speaking to several audiences. For example, Lifehacker covers a broad range of topics, from tech and gadgets to how-to stuff on the Internet to how to get into shape and wake up earlier. But they have a very defined audience that just gobbles up all of those topics.Now, if you do a technology blog and talk about stay-at-home parenting and scrapbooking, I would split those into different blogs, because they have different audiences. Of course, there will always be a small number of people who share all of your interests, but is that small group of people really your target audience? Figure that out, and you have your course of action already planned.
  • Glen Stansberry | LifeDev.net – I’d have to say that it all depends on the writer. For me, if the blogger can captivate me with entertaining and useful posts, I personally wouldn’t care if he blogged about lima beans! People are drawn to skilled writing, and most likely won’t care if the writer has a wider lens than other focused blogs.A great example of this is Leo from Zenhabits.net. Leo’s an incredibly skilled writer who touches on a variety of topics, yet his readers don’t care. They’re drawn to his wisdom and advice, not just his topic. That said, I don’t think bloggers should pick their niches too far apart. I probably wouldn’t read a blog that covered lima beans and pet food. But that’s just me.
  • John Wesley | PickTheBrain – It all depends on how closely the topics are related. If there is a good chance your readers are interested in all of them, they I think you’d be better off sticking with one big blog. If you try to create a bunch of niche oriented sites, the risk is that you’ll be spread too thin to really develop any of them. Also, one big site that is a leader in it’s niche is generally more valuable than several smaller sites.On the other hand, if the topic you want to write about is completely off topic then you are better off holding back or starting a new site. Readers subscribed to your blog because of their interest in a certain topic, by completely changing directions to something they might have absolutely no interest in, you risk confusing them and driving people away. In many cases though, a compromise can be made by starting with a seemingly unrelated topic and then tying in back into the main subject of the blog. Hope that answer helps a bit, although it could all be summed up with “it depends.”
  • Liz Strauss | Successful-Blog – Once, when I first started blogging I heard a veteran blogger give a young man this advice, “If you start a second blog, one will always get more time than the other. You will never give them both the best of yourself.”Do I, with three blogs of my own, want to admit this is so? No. But it is. There are only so many hours in a day. My best advice would be along these lines. Consider the readers. If the subjects truly do appeal to different audiences. Then the answer can only be to offer different blogs. Do yourself and your readers a favor. Take the time to build and launch each blog separately. One blog with legs with support the launch of the next, but three fledgling blogs could easily sink.Beyond creating content, the problem with more than one blog is promotion and identity. When you comment, when you write a profile on a social networking site, when you sign in almost anywhere, systems aren’t set up for multi-layered identities. You’ll have three URLs, three taglines on your email. You’ll have three business cards or one covered with type.

    Launch the blogs one at a time and if that common thread really does exist, find a way to tied them together under an umbrella of a small network name. That will help you market all three of them.

  • Tamar Weinberg | Techipedia/Top-Digger – Personally, I think that if you spread yourself too thin, you’re going to lose a core of your audience. Some of the biggest blogs feature content that may not be relevant to particular users, and that’s okay. They won’t unsubscribe because you wrote something that doesn’t resonate with them as long as they find the content they seek elsewhere on your blog.Interestingly enough, I was challenged with this dilemma awhile ago when a friend asked me to focus my blog on a particular niche. For me at that point, I didn’t know what my best area of blogging was, so I ended up really revisiting my blog over the following months and trying to find my comfort zone. I think that the advice is good if you know what you’re going to write about. When you’re starting off and you’re trying to ease into a blogging muse, you’re going to want to be varied and see which posts attract the most people (and what makes you happiest to blog about).At this point, I post the occasional personal tidbit (and they do quite well) as well as articles that are close to my heart: social media. I think it’s a good balance and I enjoy it a lot. I wouldn’t want or expect more people to subscribe to my secondary blog about XYZ, so keeping it in one centralized location is what it’s about for me.
  • Donald Latumahina | LifeOptimizer – I will do it on a single blog in the beginning. The purpose is to test the water. First, I’d like to know whether or not there is sufficient response to a particular topic. And second, I’d like to know whether or not I have the passion to write about that topic. If the results are promising, I will then create a new blog. The main reason is branding. By having its own blog, I will have better chance to build a stronger brand for the topic.
  • Yaro Starak | Entrepreneurs-journey.com – That really depends on the topics. I’m inclined to focus on one blog only as the blog you write to because I aim for a two hour “blogging” day, and with multiple blogs that can be quite difficult to achieve. So my advice would be to either find a way to make all the topics go together, or drop one or two, build up an audience, and then start branching out when your audience becomes attached to you and your blog, so changing topics now and then doesn’t hurt so much.
  • Henrik Edberg | PositivityBlog.com – I think it depends on how remote the common thread is. If it’s really not much of a common thread then you may be better off with a few blogs to not confuse your readers with a weird mix. But if the thread is a little less remote then one blog would probably better to pour all your energy into. Plus, one blog means less work. You just have to do one setup with design, plug-ins and various configurations.Also, if you for instance have three blogs instead of one then I think it might be hard for one person to blog consistently – like a few times a week – and provide valuable posts each time.I think you may run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and after a while apathy may set in. Blogging is a lot of work. You may want to start off with one blog and see how that goes. You can always start another blog on a related topic later on.

In the end, there seems to be a collective wisdom on niche-blogging that says:

  • Start with one – It’s extremely difficult to do a good job at maintaining and growing more than one blog for practical reasons. So, unless you want to hire people and become a “boss,” focus on making a single blog as good as possible and work to intelligently fit whatever you want to write about into that single home-base.
  • Hone the focus – Keep the focus broad enough to have a lot to write passionately about, but refined enough to hold the attention of the greatest number of readers.
  • Add incrementally – If, over time, you really want to express yourself in a way that does not fit well with your main blog’s theme, focus or, as Seth wrote, “story,” then you may want to explore launching a second one to host this highly-unique content. But, know it will take a lot of work and, without bringing in others, will likely remain secondary to your main blog.
  • Develop your voice – If you want to write about a broad spectrum of topics on a single blog, great writing and a well-developed voice can often overcome the potential dilution of readers’ attention that can emerge with a looser focus. We’ve all found people who “we’ll read anything they right,” simply because of the voice they bring to any topic. So, spend a lot more time developing your unique voice and message-crafting skills.

So, what are your thoughts? Niche, aggregate, go big, stay small, multiply? Share your voice in the comments below…

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26 responses

26 responses to “To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all”

  1. Adam says:

    I think Leo from Zen Habit’s has the most interesting perspective. While most of the comments seem to reflect the idea of what’s best for the writer, Leo goes at it from the other side, asking what’s best for the reader?

  2. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Adam – yes, interesting point, the question really revealed a lot about each bloggers take on blogging in general!

  3. Cathy says:

    Personally, it took me some time to decide what I wanted to write about, which kept me tweaking back end stuff on my new blog instead of writing content. So, now that I’ve figured out what I want to write about – my journey to live my dream – I’ve got a lot more focus to my posts.

    Which is great for me, but I think it will benefit the readers as well since I can transmit my passion for the subject through my words. I can pick up when another blogger is interested in what they are writing about, or if they are just going through the motions. I will continue to read the passionate blogs and ignore the others. Therefore, it makes sense to me that my audience will feel the same way.

    I can’t imagine being able to bring that same passion to several blogs personally. So, for me, one blog is the way to go. It’s nice to know that the experts agree. 🙂

  4. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Cathy – yeah, totally agree abot being able to sense passion, not just from bloggers, but writers and speakers, too. That’s often what keeps me engaged, regardless of the topic.

  5. Lid says:

    I have to agree with Adam – Leo hits it on the head – it’s all about audience.

    There is an article that talks about the importance of audience at Skelliewag How to get 1050 subscribers in 3 months that really brought it home for me.

  6. It depends on the one who writes.
    If he feels to write more than one, why not?
    I personally am quite Italian in that.
    I began with one and then my appetite grew.
    I just made as many as I felt like making.
    And then one grew and the others survived.
    Easier to write in one all what I felt like writing.
    If you begin a niche blog you can always widener the niche.
    A blog should be the expression of the writer and of course a writer is not just one subject.
    And it is not true that many become a “hodgepodge without a strong common theme”.
    The common theme is always one and it is the writer.
    Because whatever you say or write, it is you who comes in between the lines.
    I guess a blog is homogeneous in the fact that reflects what you think and feel.
    You can write about whatever you like, but it will always be “your style” writing as “your style” seeing, as “your style” living.
    When we are born, we borrow a certain space on this world, space that will grow and one day will disappear and will belong to somebody else.
    It is up to us to leave a print or not to leave it…

  7. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Lid – yes, being a bit of a marketing guy, too, I agree very much with Leo’s take, I think it’s about what you can physically and mentally sustain, but also about satisfying the desires of the greater audience.

    @ Patrizia – WOW! Definitely agree with your line, “whatever you say or write, it is you who comes in between the lines.” You can’t say enough about the power of the writer’s voice!

  8. Maya Norton says:

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for this post: great value. I especially liked hearing all of these authoritative, authentic voices chiming in.

    I am most inclined to agree with the point of view that you should start strong in one niche and if you want to add topics or connect with a wider array, make sure that you can thread them and weave their relevance into your niche.

    My niche is Jewish philanthropy, for instance, but I also talk about notable philanthropy projects in the Arab world because I am writing from Israel, about Israel, and about the Jews, so I think it makes sense to incorporate a number of Diaspora perspectives, including the voice of the Palestinian Diaspora in Arab lands when directly appropriate. That’s my example. They key thing is that if you are writing on something that is not directly applicable, make it count and prove why it is.

    Maya Norton

    The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

  9. Great article.. my blog is not in a particular niche.. although it’s good to have a specific niche for the income, subscription, etc, I want to share stories and interesting stuffs that I’ve found too, so, back to pure blogging (well + the money heh heh)

  10. Cathy says:

    If you don’t have at least somewhat of a focused niche, then why would people read you? I don’t mean that in a snarky way, I mean it as a way to guide what you are writing about. If I want to just write to write, I’ll do personal journaling and not show it to anyone. Alternatively, I could talk out loud to my cat – she wouldn’t mind listening.

    However, I blog. I put my words out there for others to read. Therefore, I keep my readers in mind (which was mentioned above) when I blog – doing my best to be sure that I’m offering value in what I write.

    In addition, my name and my face on on my blog. Therefore, it’s personal. If I wrote about whatever came into my head, I would be afraid that no one but my closest friends and family would read it. Wouldn’t folks just read the random jump from topic to topic and wonder if I’m like this offline as well?

    However, by choosing my topic and only writing about that topic, I present a clearer image of who I am and a clearer reason for blogging in the first place.

  11. […] To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all – Jonathan Fields […]

  12. […] To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all: Jonathan asks several bloggers (myself included) a question about whether to niche or not to niche your blog. It’s a useful read if you’re unsure about what to do. Here’s the question: “If you are drawn to write on a broad variety of topics (3-5) even if there is a remotely common thread, are you better off doing it on a single blog or creating several niche blogs for each one?” […]

  13. BigPapa says:

    I’ve been pondering this question myself. I started my blog in July 07. At first I just wanted to write about various small business issues.

    A few months ago, after reading a post about link baiting on Dosh Dosh, I wrote two post about the growing popularity of the Apple computer in both small and large business.

    They became very widley read and continue after several months to be top read articles on my site. After this I started blogging about Apple stuff, mostly as it relates to using Macs in bussiness.

    Blogging about Apple works for me because I’m passionate about it. However I’m interested in other stuff also related to small business.

    I have other post on my blog not related to Apple and the topics seem to co-exist on my site well. This makes sense to me because people running their businesses on a Mac will have need for other relevant information to help grow their business. If they can find it on my site…why not.

    If anyone out there is interested in making a quest post on my site please contact through the contact link on my site. Topics of interest on my site are Apple, Internet Marketing, and SEO.

  14. […] To Niche or Not to Niche: Top Bloggers Tell All (Jonathan Fields): Jonathan asked several bloggers, myself included, if it’s a better idea to focus your blog on one topic area or to be a little more general. What do you think is the answer to this question? […]

  15. k stone says:

    thanks for this great resource from top bloggers. I’d love to have the time to do another or several niche blogs….all in good time. 🙂

  16. […] Fields has a great article called To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all In it he asks a few of the top bloggers if they need a niche or specialization, or if blogging on […]

  17. […] Find your niche, if you want […]

  18. Nice one Jonathan for summing it all up.

    With blogs I like to follow a writer more than the niche they’re writing about.

    Blogs that focus tightly on a niche with multiple authors get my attention too.

    Your post has prompted me to read the 11 immutable laws by Al Ries again – thanks 🙂

    Austin.

  19. […] is my art site and I have been thinking about adding a blog to that site. Corinne mentioned Johnathon Fields who has also talked about this and I was interested to read that he is about to split his one blog […]

  20. […] months now about whether it’s better to niche blog or spread your topics wide. I published a round-up post on niche versus broad-scope blogging. And I’ve read a number of other articles on it recently. Which is why I can’t believe […]

  21. […] To Niche or not to niche: Top bloggers tell all: Jonathan asks several bloggers (myself included) a question about whether to niche or not to niche your blog. It’s a useful read if you’re unsure about what to do. Here’s the question: “If you are drawn to write on a broad variety of topics (3-5) even if there is a remotely common thread, are you better off doing it on a single blog or creating several niche blogs for each one?” […]

  22. When I started blogging, I really couldn’t seem to select just one single thing to focus on.

    So I have created several blogs in subdirectories before making the effort to give them their own URL. In my comments on other blogs, I tend to offer the link for my blog that seems most related to the blog I am posting on.

    Every summer I take a week off to go thinking. In a tent. This summer, I will be formulating my plan for the future development of my blogs. I hope to settle on a single theme and feature set and to narrow the writing focus of each down to a specific ‘mission statement’. If I get that done, I’ll put on my swim trunks and call it a week.

    I have, already, decided to drop my tech blog. I’m a geek through and through, but I’m just not interested in writing about it. I’m just not interested in gadgetry and I don’t feel that I should write about Linux until I get up to speed on it again. If I never see another Windows logo in my life it will be too soon … so I won’t be spouting ‘tips & tricks’ for Revista or whatever they name the next botched abortion.

    I’m using XP on my laptop. My wife is using Vista. The best thing I can say about Vista is that it makes XP look pretty good. But, IMHO, all that eye candy is just the shiny on a turd.

  23. Curt Monash says:

    If I had to do it over again, I’d probably start one blog instead of what is now five. My only hesitation in saying that is navigation; I already have an overwhelming category list as it is (and that’s a KEY part of my branding).

    My compromise has been to use one theme (in five different colors), one layout, one search engine, etc., and to ask people to sign up for an integrated feed. About 40% of my total subscribers really do take the joint feed.

    CAM

  24. The expert opinion’s seem to support what I’ve seen happen with one of the monthly paid blog support programs.

    At one time original paid members could receive a new blog each month. You were then responsible for the content.

    The philosophy changed over time from having multiple blogs to a single good quality blog.