Welcome to lesson #8 in our multi-part discussion of how to build a long-term, profitable blog. If you haven’t read ANY of the previous posts, you can catch up here.
Today I’d like to discuss the importance of becoming an authority in your blog’s niche. Now if you’ve heard the word but aren’t quite sure what it means, you’re in the right place. Today we’re going to talk about niches and how a blog can be your platform to showcase your expertise.
What is a Niche? Why Should I Have One?
A niche is a main topic or category, sort of like a general overall theme. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and more are added every single day, but for the most part, the blogs that thrive have one thing in common: they are blogs that have a niche.
Think of it this way. When you’re out shopping, you can’t buy a set of pots and pans at Radio Shack— excuse me, at “The Shack” as they now refer to themselves — because they sell electronics.
Williams Sonoma, on the other hand, does sell pots and pans, plates, bread machines and just about anything else you’d ever possibly need in your kitchen … but they don’t have any cell phones or televisions on their shelves. Radio Shack’s niche is electronics; Williams Sonoma’s niche is kitchen goods.
Niche blogs can become very successful because their readers tend to be loyal—they want to come back and read more every day because they enjoy the topics being discussed. It’s easier to create a sense of community with a niche blog because readers will enjoy commenting and discussing your blog entries with other readers who share their common interest.
It’s kinda like the way people sitting at a bar enjoy complaining with one another … misery loves company, and blog readers enjoy visiting blogs that other people enjoy.
Figure Out Your Blog’s Niche.
Does your blog currently have a niche? A lot of blogs are pretty much online diaries of someone’s life. Writing about yourself definitely helps your readers get to know you, and it allows them to see that you’re a real person, but in most cases—unless you’re some sort of celebrity, who probably isn’t writing their own blog anyway — your family members and a few of your “real life” friends will probably wind up being your only loyal blog readers.
Blogs that have a large number of readers are popular because they have a niche that a lot of people are interested in. This fact alone might tempt you to create a blog based on a topic just because you think it’s trendy, but it won’t be easy (or much fun) writing about a topic that you don’t even like.
Instead, identify your own interests and hobbies.
What are you passionate about? What things do you have personal experience with? What types of books do you read, and what type of shows do you watch on television?
Your readers will be able to tell if you actually know what you’re talking about and whether or not you enjoy it; nobody wants to read something that bores them. You also need to keep in mind that it takes awhile to build up a loyal base of readers, so ask yourself if you can honestly see yourself writing about a topic a year or two from now before diving into it.
Become a Leader in Your Niche.
People “jump on the bandwagon” for a reason. They’ll try to claim otherwise, but most people like to be told what to do and who to believe. It’s why self-help books are so popular, and it’s why celebrities serve as spokespeople for products and services. (“If Jennifer Hudson lost fifty pounds on WeightWatchers, then I can too!”)
Get your readers to believe you and make them realize you’re an expert in your niche. No, you don’t need to sound as if you’re starting your own cult; it simply means that you need to show people you really do know your stuff! You can become a leader through blog posts, relevant photographs, and informative videos.
Proper spelling and grammar are a must, too. We all make mistakes (I know I do all the time), but take the time to scan through your blog posts before you hit the Publish button.
Re-read old posts very once in awhile and look for errors you may have missed the first time around.
It’s definitely true that blogs are considered relatively casual when compared to newspapers and magazines, but you won’t look like an expert in anything it appears that you didn’t pass ninth grade English class.
Learn the differences between your and you’re, its and it’s, and know when to use me instead of I. It sounds silly, almost insulting, but those are common mistakes that I see every single day.
Update Your Blog Regularly … with Relevant Information.
As you gain regular blog readers, you’re going to need to provide them with valuable information and resources. You want them to stick around, right?
Try to update your blog regularly, but post articles that are relevant to your niche. If you run a blog about coffee or basketball, what’s the point of including a YouTube video of a rock band?
Daily posts are ideal, but if you have a full-time job it’s easy to see how that may be difficult. If that’s the case, try to post something new every other day or every third day. You can even write a few posts on the weekend and schedule them to publish later in the week.
Don’t be afraid to post links to other websites if you want to share something you found online with your readers; they aren’t going to jump ship and quit visiting your site because you directed them to a cool article elsewhere.
If you have Twitter and Facebook accounts, update them regularly, too. Interact with your followers and fans; do more than post links to your own site. Provide links to other blogs that you read and respond to comments and questions from others.
Interact with Like-Minded Bloggers.
One of the biggest mistakes that new bloggers make is assuming that anyone with a blog in their niche is competition, and competition is the enemy. You want your blog to have competition! If there aren’t any other blogs out there which deal with your niche, you might have chosen a niche that too few people care about.
Begin interacting with like-minded bloggers. The easiest way to start doing this is by leaving comments on other blogs. Be sure to leave relevant comments on blogs in your niche; no one wants to see “Hi! I’m Sam and you can read more about me at www.SamsCoolBlog.com!” in response to a post that they spent time and effort writing.
If you spend an hour or two each week reading and responding to other blogs in your niche, the other bloggers will most likely begin reading your blog. Their readers may also check you out once they see that you have been leaving appropriate comments.
A good WordPress plug-in to use on your blog (if your blog is in WordPress, of course) is CommentLuv.
CommentLuv will display a link to someone’s most recent blog post if they include their website address when they leave a comment on your site. Likewise, if you comment on a blog that also uses CommentLuv, a link to your most recent post will show up below your comment on that blog. This is a great way to build interest from people who might be interested in what you have to say.
Write Guest Posts on Other Sites and Allow them on Yours.
This “hint” is pretty similar to the last one, but allowing other bloggers to write guest posts for your site is a great way to network and build online relationships. It will show that someone has enough faith in your blog that they’re willing to provide content for you and put their name on your site. It will also act as free advertising for their site.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to create guest posts for other sites. Just be sure that the guest post is new content; there isn’t much of a point in re-posting an article that already appears on your own blog or as a guest post elsewhere. You want to drive traffic from other blogs to yours, and placing the same content all over the web isn’t going to help you out very much.
These are just a few tips that I’ve learned through trial and error during my own blogging career, and I think they should be beneficial to all of you.
Please feel free to share your own advice for becoming an authority in your niche; I’d enjoy hearing what you have to say!Take Action. Get Results.