I was talking to a friend who is excited about the idea of starting a site. He said: “I have not blogged before so I just need a topic! This is the hard part!”. Many beginners might get stuck at this same stage so let’s take a look at things you should consider when finding a perfect topic to cover on your blog.
Reputations are built by those that share knowledge, experiences and insights. We live in the information age, where people rely on information and use Internet to research. The idea is to post about a topic that you are passionate about, that you know a lot about, and that people want to know about. This perfect topic, your sweet blogging spot, is found by interlinking these areas:
- Your passion – topic that you really love and care about
- Your assets – topic that you are really good at
- Market reality – topic there is interest and demand for
1. Passion: What gets you up in the morning?
Let’s be honest, most sites are boring. They look like any other site, their content is like any other site and they are as forgettable as any other site. There is just not enough demand for all that content supply.
Not everyone understands what engaging content means. Many bloggers churn out farmed content, they are content machines. They can write many “unique” articles focusing on “keywords”, but they are answering questions nobody’s asking. Their content lacks insights and ideas. It lacks substance. It lacks value. It is not passionate, useful, entertaining nor interesting.
To find your perfect niche topic look inside and see where the raw energy comes from. Running a site means that you need to create regular content about this topic so you don’t want to run out of things to say or lose the interest shortly after starting. You should be in it for the long haul. Think in what topic do you have the experience, knowledge and passion needed to spend day after day on. Something that you like and care about. Something that engages you emotionally. Something that makes you come alive.
There is one thing that every blogger has that is very unique. You are unique, you write your own content, and no other site can copy that. Personal opinion counts and it is the person behind the site that makes the content stand out. Bring yourself to the front. It should be clear who is behind the post. Always incorporate your own thoughts and analysis. Don’t censor yourself, write from your heart and be yourself. Great sites stand out because they have unique brands behind them. There’s only one Gary Vaynerchuk, one Perez Hilton and one … YOU!
Develop your own unique style and voice, and write creative and interesting articles and you’ll get readers and followers. A site is first and foremost a diary of sorts. The human element is so important. By sharing stories about your life and making connections in this way you make readers feel like you are a real person and not a machine just cranking out content. Think of your blog as your living room. Be a good dinner host for the visitors of your site. You don’t have to be the best in the world. You just need to express your unique point of view. Fully embrace your passions and obsessions. If you can tap into this goldmine, well then the content you pump out will be golden as well.
Get a sense of on what you are spending your time on when you are not busy. How you spend your free time reveals to you what your true passions and interests are. Blogging about your passion and the knowledge you possess makes you enjoy what you do, and turns the work into play. Success isn’t guaranteed but it is much more likely when you are emotionally invested in your topic. Now come up with a list of topics you care about. These are the questions you should think about:
- Who are you?
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What do you do for a living?
- What do you love to do?
- What are your hobbies?
- What do you have passion for?
- What do you dream about?
2. Assets: Where do you have credibility and experience?
Your passion will get you over hurdles and will fuel and drive your work day to day, but passion about a topic is not everything that you need. The second thing you need to look at are your assets. You need to find your unique selling point (USP). This is a marketing concept I got repeatedly pushed onto me in my business college days. The concept basically means finding what differentiates you from others, something that’s special about you, a reason why people should listen to you and not to someone else.
It is much easier to attract visitors if you have a very focused topic. You brand yourself as an expert within that field and your readers know what to expect from you. People pay more attention to those they see as experts so focus on specific subjects where you can build your expert brand. You can’t be an expert on everything. If you attempt to write about every idea or issue that pops into your head at any given moment, your site will lack direction.
Finding your USP means looking at what you do best and what you do better than other people. In words of Mark Twain: “Write what you know”. If you are passionate about something but not very good at it, you won’t be able to attract much of an audience. It is what you know best that counts. You need to find your edge – be it pure talent or even better content curation skills. You need experience and credibility to help you be taken seriously by your visitors and partners.
Sometimes you will discover challenges that other people find difficult but you find them easy. These challenges could be that valuable skill and a valuable asset that differentiates you from others. Discover and write down these key points. Compare them to your passion list from the step above. Define the problem you are here to solve and explain why your solution to the problem is more compelling than the other sites on the market.
My first topic was the band Metallica. I loved them, spent a lot of time on their music and ended up starting a site about them. I collected and curated all the info about them that I could find and put it all together in a nicely organized site. Back in those days in late 1990’s the band didn’t even have an official website so I was able to create a niche for myself that other fans and people new to the band found very useful. To help you out here are the questions to think about:
- What do you know a lot about?
- What do you have a talent for?
- What skills and abilities do you have?
- What do you know that’s hard to come by, that’s rare and valuable?
- What are you experienced in?
- Why are you special, why are you different and why should people listen to you and not to someone else?
- What makes you different in your category?
3. Market reality: What is there a demand for?
Successful sites are not built on passion and ideas alone. Having a topic that you are passionate about and the key skills that differentiate you from the rest doesn’t automatically make your topic a potential hit. Just because your heart comes alive at a calling doesn’t mean that there is an audience for it.
Your site cannot appeal to everyone. Identify groups of people that are interested in your topic – this is your target audience. One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is that they create content about themselves and not about their target audience. Unless you are interesting to them (and this is a relationship that takes a lot of time to build), visitors don’t normally want to hear about you. There is no love at first sight in blogging. Visitors don’t want to spend time on someone they don’t know talking about things with no relevance to them. They don’t care about you. They want to hear about themselves, about things that matter to them. They want information that they can use. They want to be educated and entertained. They want to get answers to their questions. Think of your blog topic and content as products that fill the need in the market.
You need to decide which of the topics that you love and that you are really good at also have an interest and a demand from the audience. Look for something people are already trying to do, then help them do it. Consider the reality in the market. How popular is the topic? Is there a demand for it? Does it solve real problems for people? You can’t write for everyone, so don’t even bother. You need to know who you are targeting before you can figure out how you will do it most effectively. You want to get a feel for who your core demographic is and what they care about.
- Who is your target market?
- What do they need and want?
- What pains are they experiencing?
- What questions do they want answers to?
- Are they liberal or more conservative?
- Urban or rural?
- Country or rock-and-roll?
You get the general idea. Start with a very broad circle and then become more and more specific finishing with a profile of an average person in your target audience. Your job as a content creator is to know as much as possible about your audience in order to provide them with the content they want to consume and share. Answering these questions tells you what type of content you need to create. It tells you where you need to have a presence in order for people to come in contact with your site.
Steps to starting your own site
Do you have the perfect topic in mind? Great! The process of actually starting your site is pretty simple. First you need to decide what content publishing platform you will use. I love WordPress and use it to run all my projects. It is an open-source platform, powers more than 60 million sites and gives you the complete control over the look and feel, features and other aspects of your site.
WordPress needs a domain name and a web server space to work. For a complete step-by-step guide for starting a WordPress site, take a look at this. It will take you 5 minutes to get your website online.
Cannot find a topic yet?
You could look at the latest trends, what people need and want, then work backwards by doing some research, learning about this new field, acquiring new skills and hiring experts to help you run your site. New trends are normally less competitive than established and more popular trends. When a field is highly competitive it can be challenging to get much attention to yourself. When targeting a new trend you choose to go to an area with low competition where knowing simple things and getting the basics right counts for a lot. This is because the field is so new and not many sites have the basics right. You choose to ride the wave of this new trend. Instead of being a small fish in a big pond, you aim to become a big fish in a small pond. And if the trend really does go viral and becomes established, the pond will increase and you stand to win big.
It’s difficult to find an open market space as we are programmed to notice what is there, not what is not there. You need to find problems people have. All trends are driven by needs and desires of the people. Look for what people are already trying to get done and then help them do it. Pay very careful attention to the things social media users complain about. Search for phrases like “I wish I could do…” or “I hate…”. You need to understand what’s going on in the heads of an audience. Discover what people want and see things from their point of view.
New trends emerge when human needs go up against external change to create new wants and desires. A trend can be a reaction to a previous trend or it can be a result of a technological innovation. Successful innovation happens when you mix unrelated elements from different areas, or when you take existing things and put them in new and different contexts. Figure out what people desire and what people want but what they currently don’t have. What useful content, products or services could you create to cover those gaps. Google Trends is a nice tool to identify and explore different trends.
Look at what other popular blogs are doing
Do not try and copy the other bloggers as that will not lead you anywhere. Figure out what they do well and what their audience responds to. Learn from them, but find spaces in between the competitors and do something different. Greatest thing you can do to stand out is to find your own voice rather than try and copy someone else. You can’t be the leader by following the leader. Consider these things:
- What kind of sites are in Google rankings around the topic you are interested in?
- How popular are the sites in terms of subscribers, social media followers, comments?
- Have a search on Twitter and see what people are saying about the topic
- Is there a Reddit subreddit about the topic? How popular is it?
- What is upsetting you? What issues and problems have you encountered within this topic?
You have to connect to the mindset and the perspective of a beginner. People that Google keywords relevant to your content are beginners who want to get introduced to your topic and learn more about it. You need to create content with them in mind. Search in social media. Explore relevant forums. Ask open-ended questions like “What is making your life difficult now?” or “How can I help you?”. Listen carefully to the answers. People will tell you what they want and this is what you need to know. The insights and ideas that you need will be in there.
Be great at what you do. Live an interesting life. Valuable skills translate into valuable content and valuable content translates into valuable opportunities. Share your expertise. Share it generously. Teach people, inspire people and make their lives better. Be useful, helpful, interesting and smart. Tell great stories. Provide substance and analysis. Give actionable advice. Be a resource. Start basic. Explain why they need to know what you are telling them. Open gaps in their knowledge by highlight information that they are missing and then fill those gaps with useful tips and advice. Guide readers through large topics and help them understand what the information means, where it fits, and how they can use it.
One site – two topics
You need to let people know what your site is about, you need to give them a reason to click on your link and not on one of the many other blogs and distractions that are trying to get their attention. You do this by being specific and descriptive and letting them know what problems you will solve for them. The more you narrow your topic, the better it is for your site’s potential. Look at it from the visitor’s point of view. If I click on a tweet, read a post, and like it, I will click onto the main page and browse to see what the site is about. If the author jumps between topics from post to post, it will be very hard for me to become a fan as there would most probably be a lot of content that I am not interested in. On the other hand, if the content is very focused, and concentrates on a specific topic, then I would most probably subscribe to it.
If you have passion for more than one topic, I would recommend taking it one topic at a time. Start one site, give it some 3-6 months, focus on writing good and quality content, focus on promoting it to your audience. After some time, the process will become easier, you will get into the rhythm of writing 2-3 posts a week and marketing will not be much more than sending out a tweet about your article. You will be able to automate by writing on a consistent schedule and encouraging your visitors / subscribers / Twitter followers to spread the word about it, which will leave you with more time to start another site.
Keep an open mind though as you might happen to find that two topics mixed in your personal way create something very unique with a potentially large audience. Your site becomes more unique with two subjects: there are a gazillion sites about fashion, but there’s only a handful about fashion and cooking. It’s also more interesting for you to write: writing articles about the same topic can at times feel uninspiring. You can avoid that by switching from one to another.