If you do an internet search of the phrase “how to start a blog,” you’ll find a common theme among the lists, tutorials and “expert” opinions that pop up – namely, that you must have a niche to be a successful blogger. I DO NOT AGREE.
Not every blogger can – or wants to – fit into a niche. AND THAT’S OK.
The rules of “owning” a niche can be stifling. I’ve heard bloggers express frustration over feeling bound by having to stay on one topic. There’s a lot to be said about this great, wide world, and even more to be shared about our personal experiences in it; for many bloggers, following a rule of “write this, but not that” just doesn’t work.
So…ditch the niche. Here’s how.
If you don’t have a “what” in terms of niche-specific content, you should have a “why.” It will be the umbrella under which all your content resides. What’s the mission, point, or purpose of your blog? It doesn’t have to be grandiose, it doesn’t even have to be expressly stated on your blog (though it should). But you should know why you blog. Much like there are a dozen routes to get to one major point on a map, having a “why” will give you direction without giving you rules. Follow whichever road holds your bliss, but just know in the end where you are going.
Your “who” is…well…you. It’s who you are as a writer, a blogger. It’s the voice you give to every bit of content you create, no matter what the topic. Some people stumble at this point and think they need to adopt a different persona when blogging, but the easiest way to discover your “who” is to just be yourself. If you are authentic and engaging, readers will be drawn to you as a blogger, not just the topics you cover. This is how you become your niche.
Useful navigation is important for any blogger, but even moreso if you cover a wide range of topics. Clearly organized and identified content allows visitors to scan for their interests, then go straight to specific categories. It’s also a way to fan your feathers a bit, and advertise and own your passions.
I commonly hear non-niche bloggers express fear over annoying their readers. “What if they don’t want to read about __________?” If this is a serious enough concern, there is a simple process of creating individual feeds for individual categories. Then you can offer the options up front and allow your readers to determine what type of content they receive from you.
Related to this topic, I’ve seen bloggers post surveys along the lines of “What would you like to see more of on this blog?” My personal stance is: don’t poll your readers on what you should write. The answers are rarely cohesive enough to form actionable data. Besides, your blog is your home online. Do you really want to live with someone else’s furniture? Finally, what if your readers want you to eliminate a topic you love? Would you be happy cutting out that content? If you decide to keep it anyway, will you feel good about going against their wishes? (after all, you did ask!) If you are looking for sound advice on your blog, choose one or two trusted friends online and get their feedback. That will serve you much better than throwing your blog’s fate to the wind.
Bloggers worried about being perceived as a “Jill of all trades, but master of none,” can still gain credibility in a particular field by guest posting or contributing to niche-specific sites. Then when that audience comes to your blog to read more of the same, you’ll be glad you have clear navigation to lead them to it.
Some bloggers can really rock a niche, and kudos to them! But that formula doesn’t work for all bloggers, and it shouldn’t have to. There is enough room in the blogosphere and enough definitions of the word “success” for each of us to find our way as a blogger, niche or no niche.
There’s no need to feel discouraged or apologetic about not operating within clearly defined lines of content for a blog. I’ve listed some suggestions here for how to make non-niche blogging work, but ultimately, each blogger needs to own their space online and their reasons for being here, and embrace what they have to offer. If that means ditch the niche, then I say go for it! You’ll be in some pretty great company if you do.
*This post adapted from my Roundtable discussion at the 2011 Mom 2.0 Summit.