If you want to start a successful blog, you first need to learn how to choose a blog niche. Most of us started our first blogs on no particular topic or a topic that sounded neat at the time. Then when we couldn’t monetize it or get it to rank in search or social media, we gave up.
Chances are you just picked the wrong niche, and everything else flowed from that. Picking the right niche for you is the first and probably most important decision you can make when starting a blog. It’s even more important than deciding your domain name, because your domain name should reflect your niche.
Here’s how to choose a good one.
What is a blog niche?
Your blog’s niche is the topic(s) you write about. Some websites pick a very specific topic, like “growing tomatoes”. Others go broad, like “gardening” or even “home and garden.”
But in successful websites, there’s always some kind of unifying theme to the content. If your niche is home and garden, as broad as that one is, you shouldn’t have articles about legal issues or health or job hunting. If you have a lot to say on any of those topics or some other unrelated one, it’s probably worth starting another blog in that niche.
The factors you’ll need to look at are:
- How broad or narrow your topic is
- Whether there’s enough interest
- Whether there’s too much competition
- Whether there’s a way to monetize it
- Whether you can write about it for years to come (or however long you plan to keep this blog)
How broad should my niche be?
Your life will be easier if you pick a niche that’s broad enough to write plenty of articles about, and no broader. I have a blog with a very tight niche and another one that’s way too broad. The way too broad one does okay for me, and I think I can improve it over time, but the tight niche blog rocketed right to the top of Google and has mostly stayed there.
And that’s despite a lot of corporate competition from sites with much higher authority and more backlinks than I’ll ever have. So going with a narrower niche has that advantage. But that’s not all there is to it.
Is there enough interest?
Are people searching for your topic? There are a lot of websites where you can plug in your niche for free and see how many people are looking for it.
Google Trends shows you how many people have been searching a particular phrase in the recent past. This is a great way to get a quick take on how popular a topic is.
You can also compare different topics, which is perfect if your main topic is too broad and you want to narrow it to a longer tail niche.
Take a look at Pinterest to see how popular your topic is. Note that Pinterest isn’t great for less visual niches, like “how to blog.” But if your niche is one that can photograph nicely, it will be on Pinterest. Seeing how many relevant pins turn up for it will give you an idea whether it’s too broad or narrow a niche.
Also check who is ranking for your term in Pinterest. If, for example, there are 20 Martha Stewarts or BHGs crowding at the top, it might be a hard niche to break into.
BuzzSumo is actually designed to show you what people are looking for online. It does more things than that, but it’s a great free tool for seeing if your topic is popular enough.
Just as an example, these tools show there’s not much interest in the phrase “cheese recipes.” (Which is odd because Pinterest actually suggested to me. Pinterest is weird.) Cheese recipes is either too specific or just not something people go looking for. So you’d want to broaden your topic or try variations on it until you find one where there’s interest.
What about competition?
So you’ve found a niche that’s searched by loads of people every month. But what about the competition? Are there a bunch of big companies or websites already in there ranking? That will make it hard for a new site to compete.
Check to see if there are some regular bloggers in that niche that seem to be competing. If so, you may be able to get in there. If not, you probably need to make your topic a little more narrow.
A good example of this would be “recipes.” A general recipe site is not likely to beat some of the contenders who are already in that space. But what if you narrowed it down to dessert recipes? Or paleo recipes? Look for a niche where there’s a fair amount of interest and what’s available in search for it isn’t that great. That’s a topic you can win.
Can you make money with that niche?
Remember my narrow topic blog that ranks so well? There was just one problem with it. For ads, it gets a fairly low RPM. Many other niches get twice the RPM it gets. Boo. It’s also not easy to monetize with affiliate links. It does make me money, but any other site I’ve done at its level of traffic would earn me twice as much.
Unfortunately, the research I did over 10 years ago when starting the site didn’t indicate this. And it’s still hard to do research on how much money people are making. Google won’t tell you the RPMs for various niches, for example.
Ads aren’t the only way to make money on a site (we’ll talk more on this later), but low RPMs can be a good indicator of other problems. So how do you figure this stuff out?
One of the first things I do now is look on Amazon for related products to a niche I’m considering. Amazon is pretty well aligned with how advertisers think and brand themselves.
Are there plenty of products you can sell related to “growing tomatoes”? If so, then that’s a niche advertisers will spend at least some money on. The more expensive the products, the better the niche is likely to be.
But you also need to ask yourself if those products are controversial or might be considered “not safe for work.” While some of these niches can work, many of them will be ones that “family” brands avoid. And that’s a lot of brands.
If you can’t find any products relating to your niche, or any that would get much of a commission, that’s generally a sign you probably won’t make money with ads.
Of course you don’t have to monetize with ads. It’s one of the easiest ways and can also be one of the most lucrative. But you might have a product you want to sell, or an idea for an affiliate site. In that case….
Can I write about it?
Chances are the niches you’ve been looking at were ones that interest you. But can you write 50 posts on it? What if you decide to really go for it with this blog and write 1,000 posts? Will the topic support that? What about your interest level?
Some people will tell you to pick a niche you’re passionate about. I did that once, and I have regrets. It didn’t make any money, couldn’t compete once people with money jumped into the topic, and very often ended up generating negativity.
It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not the only right idea. I’ve also written about topics I knew very little about, and now I know a good bit from all the research I did to write the articles. And that’s worked out for me.
So the questions I ask to decide if I can write about a new niche are:
- Is it an evergreen topic? I personally don’t want a site where there’s pressure to post constantly and your old posts become completely irrelevant over time. Like for example a site about what celebs are up to right now.
- Can I write down, say, 25 ideas for articles on this topic right now? That’s a good sign that with research, I could write hundreds.
- Is it a happy or neutral topic? Writing a blog about coping with a terminal illness could become extremely depressing, for example.
- Is it controversial? And you’d be surprised what is. Something as simple as movie reviews can really upset some people.
Am I qualified to write about it?
You also need to ask yourself if there are qualifications to write about your topic. Part of Google’s search quality guidelines is referred to as E.A.T., which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Google believes if you’re writing about topics like health, finances, and even civics, you need to get it right. But they aren’t going to sit and read your page, so they look to see if the author of the page has authority. This is why so many health websites name a doctor or nurse who fact-checked their page.
Basically, EAT applies to any topic where you’re giving people advice that could backfire and cause them to lose health, wealth or happiness. Establishing your authority on these topics well enough to rank is a lot of work and I don’t recommend it. You can read more about EAT here.
Enjoy your well-chosen niche
Once you think it all through and do your research, you can pick the right blog niche for you. Over time, it actually becomes fairly easy. And now you’re ready to decide on a domain name and start blogging.