I was talking to a friend who is excited about the idea of starting a website. 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 site.
It’s preferable to focus on a niche topic from an expert’s point of view rather than cover every possible topic. 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.
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 3-steps:
- 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?
To find your 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.
Have a look at your calendar, your emails, sites you subscribe to or people you follow on Twitter. 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.
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 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. 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?
- What do you know that’s both rare and valuable?
- What are you experienced in?
- In what topics are you better than other people?
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. To find the perfect topic you also must consider the reality in the market. How popular is the topic? Is there a demand for it? Does it solve real problems for people?
In other words your topic should be something that you are really good at, that you love and that there is an interest for. Now that you have a list of topics that you love and a list of topics that you are really good at, you need to figure out if there is a demand and interest in those topics. Do a bit of research on each of your topics. This research will help you 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 at these things:
- What kind of sites are in Google rankings around the topic?
- 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?
4. Alternative option: Look at the latest trends
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.
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. A domain name is the address your future audience will type in their browsers to access your site and a server space is where your content, images and other files will be hosted.
I recommend Bluehost as your host. It is simple to use, offers a free domain name, an affordable hosting account with unlimited hosting space and it is officially recommended by WordPress. Click on the image below to get the sign-up process started:
For a complete step-by-step guide for starting a WordPress site, take a look at this.
Disclosure: I do earn a commission if you signup to Bluehost using my link at no additional cost to you. Please know that I only recommend products and services that I find helpful and useful. If you do choose to purchase through my affiliate link, thank you for your support!
One site – two topics
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.