Many things go into building a house before the first drop of concrete hits the soil, and before the first brick has been laid down. Surveyors pore over a prospective construction site and take measurements, confirming that there’s enough space for the construction, and that the ground is steady. They consider the surroundings, the views, and other environmental factors long before the building tools leave their pouches.
If you’re thinking about launching a new blog (or your first ever blog) I want to suggest that you should approach choosing its niche in much the same way.
The niche you decide to join will play a significant role in shaping the content you create, the people you communicate with, the readers you gather and how you reach out to your target audience.
If you want to start a blog in a very small (or possibly empty) niche, you’re going to have a very different experience to someone starting a blog in a big niche, like gadgets – a very popular blog topic. It’s worth being mindful of this before you start transporting your blog from concept into reality. Like a surveyor at a building site, carefully testing for firm ground and acceptable surroundings, it’s essential that you start to think about the space your blog is going to occupy.
It’s a Tough, Important Decision
Here are a few reasons why it’s important to think about the interplay between your blog and its niche:
Blogs in small or empty niches are challenging to get going. This is because, in the beginning, it’s very difficult for people to find your blog. Search engines are unfamiliar with it, so they’re unlikely to send much traffic your way. Because people haven’t found it yet, they can’t go on to link to it. Furthermore, if people aren’t visiting, you won’t receive votes from visitors on social media services like StumbleUpon and Digg. Links, search-engines and social media are the three ways a new visitor can find your blog. Obviously, it’s essential to get links, appeal to search engines and receive social media votes, but if nobody can find your blog to begin with, there’s nobody around to create links, or share social media votes. Except, of course, you.
It’s Up to You
When you first launch your blog, expect to be a one-person promotional army. You’ll need to find inventive ways to start directing visitors to your blog – usually by laying down links on other blogs, websites and forums frequented by people in your target audience.
Sometimes, though, it seems like there are very few such websites. Self-promoting in a very small (or possibly empty) niche is tough. There are few places where you can create links, and they may not be frequented by many people. A link doesn’t count for much if nobody ever travels through it.
Before you toss away your small niche blog concept and let out a sigh of disappointment, be reassured that launching in a small/empty niche is not an unbeatable obstacle. Better yet, if you do succeed, you may be up for some incredible benefits. Just because there are few quality blogs targeting the same audience doesn’t mean that there isn’t an audience to be found. You might find that there is an audience, that they’ve been waiting for a blog just like yours, and that when they do discover it, they’ll come in droves.
One thing to be mindful of, though, is whether your blog’s concept is going to be self-limiting. If you’re writing a blog for yodelers, you may only be able to grow so big before you reach a natural ceiling: that there are only so many yodeling blog readers out there. This doesn’t matter so much if you enjoy blogging for a small community, and want a stronger connection with a smaller group of readers. But if your goal is to build an insanely popular blog by anyone’s standards (not just the standards of your niche), it’s worth considering whether your blog’s focus will limit you in that goal.
Potential Rewards, Potential Drawbacks
In a crowded niche, it’s easy to start, but hard to stand-out. A new blog in the marketing niche would have no trouble gathering an initial rivulet of visitors, for example. It’s easy to spot your target audience, and there are plenty of highly-trafficked places to create enticing links for them to follow (most bloggers start by leaving comments on other blogs, with links back to their own blog). A blogger’s first challenge in this situation is finding a way to be something other than ‘just another new marketing blog’. If visitors who come to your blog perceive it as having nothing new to offer them, they won’t stick around – and if you’re losing as many visitors as you gain, you can’t grow. It’s like pouring sand into a funnel at the same rate you let it spill out.
But, just like the experience of founding a blog in a small niche, the initial challenges can give way to some impressive rewards. The fact that your niche is crowded means that there is a big audience available. If you can establish yourself as one of the best in your niche, your audience may end up bigger than you could have imagined. That being said, the more competition you have, the harder it is to be the best.
To help you decide whether starting in a small or crowded niche is the right choice for you, I want to provide some advice on what you can expect your day-to-day promotional routine to look like, depending on which path you choose.
I’d also suggest that you read the routine twice. The first time, when you’re still finalizing your blog concept and want to be clear on what you’re getting yourself into. The second time, when you’ve debuted your blog to the public and published your first batch of posts. At that point, I hope the list will help you optimize the way you promote to best suit the niche you are in.
Part 2 of this series shares the list and focuses on how to grow your blog when there are already lots of other blogs on the same topic. How can you stand out and succeed?