When you read as many articles on blogging as I do, the information starts to sound like a broken record.
You run into outliers here and there, and the occasional post revealing some disappointing blogging truths, but for the most part they sound like a catchy–if slightly annoying–pop song on repeat.
And one mandate, in particular, comes up more than most others: In order to be successful, a blog must have a narrow niche.
Seems like sound advice, right?
But I’ve been blogging for some time now, nearly four years all up, and to be quite honest with you, I simply don’t see myself sticking to one niche forever. Whenever I try to “niche down,” I get bored, frustrated, and burnt out, which inevitably leads me to publish weird, off-topic stuff just to bring back my passion for writing…which puts me right back at square one.
“Niching down,” while it may well be a necessary step for most businesses, only serves to extinguish my flame.
This realization then led me to the question:
When should you ignore what all the “gurus” are saying and just do your own thing?
There probably is no right answer to this question. There surely isn’t a simple one. There are far too many confounding factors and questions you need to ask yourself first.
What are your goals? Are your strengths the same as their strengths? What are some of the other variables at play here? What is your heart really telling you?
And that last question is important, because far too many of us ignore our gut feelings these days. You know, that magical, mythical superpower otherwise known as intuition?
Except it’s not mythical at all–intuition is both very real and very powerful, we just need practice listening to it. And it’s no superpower, either. Every one of us can access our intuition.
Your intuition can help you determine whether or not to follow the advice of these “gurus”–your job is simply to pay attention.
So, as we’ve already discussed, according to many prominent blogging experts, a blog stands the best chance of becoming successful (in this case, let’s assume “successful” to mean widely read and/or profitable) if it has a narrow niche.
And yet, even as I write this, my favorite blogs that come to mind cover a staggering array of topics. They may have a foundational niche that was apparent immediately following the blog’s inception, but as they grew, they cast an ever-wider net covering a broad range of topics–all the while still becoming successful.
Man Repeller, one of the first blogs I ever read back in 2010, is an example of this. Yes, it began as a fashion blog and yes, posts on fashion are still a mainstay of their content strategy. But I’ve also read (and loved) posts on MR on topics such as honesty, living with your significant other, pop culture, breast cancer, and accepting one’s own limitations. Fashion posts are still in the mix, but amid a flurry of other topics.
You could argue that these topics are all intended for a specific demographic, and this may be true too, but the target audience of a blog is not the blog’s niche. Fashion is the original niche, with an infinitely large net being cast around it, encompassing everything 20- and 30-somethings might be interested in.
Personally, I think that rocks. And it also leads me to believe that, just maybe, it’s the intended audience that really matters in the end–not the niche.
Not only is it less boring for the writer (or writers), but it means access to an endless supply of blogging topics and, even better, the ability to cherry pick what feels right from moment to moment.
If we look at my blog and my intended niche of location independence, I feel as though there is only so much for me to say on the topic before my eyes start to glaze over. Not to mention, much of it has already been said or is being said by people who zeroed in on this as their blog’s niche from the beginning.
Remember that little period of about two years before I started blogging about the LI lifestyle? It was all about travel, with some personal anecdotes peppered in. Eventually, posts about blogging were added to the equation. My content was all over the place, while all the experts seemed to be shouting at me to “NICHE DOWN, WOMAN!”
Once I settled on the theme of location independence, my readership blossomed for a little while, but the growth plateaued fairly soon after. Even with my newfound niche, I still found it difficult to grow my blog.
And I think the explanation for this is a fairly simple one: By following the herd instead of my heart, I’d forfeited every last bit of authenticity, which is what had made my blog mine in the first place.
My writing became forced. I wrote posts not because I was fired up by the subject matter, but because an online tool told me X, Y, and Z were good keywords to target for SEO. It felt robotic–like it required far too much thinking and not enough intuition.
Which brings me back to my earlier point about intuition.
For the last two years, I’ve been following the advice of “gurus” in the hope that it would lead me to blogging “success.”
And my intuition was telling me so all along.
The simple fact that it felt too hard should have been my first key piece of evidence. But instead, I soldiered on, believing that if I could only niche down, build my email list, create a digital product, diversify my income streams, and publish new content consistently, success would come.
(Oh, if only it were really that simple.)
So I did all the things. I built the list. I created the product. I diversified. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
And when success didn’t come easily even when following this magic formula, I kept at it, writing in a way that didn’t even feel good just because some experts told me to.
Looking back now, my only reaction to that is, WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
Life was resisting, eventually protesting, and finally SCREAMING at me that this wasn’t my path, and I refused to listen.
But don’t get me wrong–nothing I’m saying here should suggest that successful bloggers don’t have important advice to share. They do. Choosing a narrow niche works well for plenty of bloggers, it just didn’t work well for me.
So the lesson in all of this and the goal moving forward is to go where the energy flows. There should be a sense of ease about life (and blogging), and when life resists what you’re trying to do, take it as a gentle nudge in a different direction.
Because if you follow the path of most resistance long enough, life is eventually going to knock you down, sit on your chest and scream right in your stubborn face. And it WILL be a painful experience, just like blogging has been for me at many turns.
Life wasn’t telling me to quit blogging necessarily–when magic happened and my writing flowed, my words could literally move people to tears. There was no feeling better than that! And I still turned my back on it!
Writing incessantly on just one topic isn’t the path for me, though. Writing stuff that doesn’t feel good isn’t the path for me. It’s entirely possible that I was never meant to make a living as a full-time blogger, and if that turns out to be the case, well, that
But I still love writing and I still feel pulled to it, just not the kind of writing I’ve been doing.
For now, I simply plan to return to the things that I feel compelled to write, niche be damned. As I’ve said before, if I let go of writing about the things that move me, there’s no point to this anyway.
So as the year comes to a close, I’m going back to writing from the heart. With my writing, I want to explore and overcome my own fears and barriers, and I want to give others permission to do the same.
And hopefully from there, the answer of whether to keep blogging, do something else, or both, will make itself perfectly clear.
Have you found a niche that works for you? Or do you feel boxed in when trying to “niche down?”