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What should I blog about?

Credit: Wroot Down

Credit: Wroot Down

I received an email over the weekend from reader Matt, who heard me on an awesome podcast Listen Money Matters (this episode), and it’s a question I get asked a lot:

I’m struggling with getting a topic together my interests are varied – DIY, Gardening, Running, Mountain Biking, Music, Beer, Design, Computers, etc. What are some tips to narrow down the list to something manageable in a blog. I had given some thought to a Renaissance man type blog touching on lots of subjects but I thought nobody can spell Renaissance and was it too broad a topic to get viewers.

My goal is to earn some extra cash and have an outlet to let out some creativity.

This is a common question and if you ask a hundred bloggers you’ll get a hundred answers… here’s mine. 🙂

First, you’re right about Renaissance – it is tough to spell (Bargaineering wasn’t easy either AND it was a portmanteau… so who am I to say). Next, having a blog with a million topics might be fun but in terms of effectiveness ($$$) it’s tough. It’s doable but you’re better off focuses on one thing.

Now, as for the one thing…

Order Your Topics

I would list out the topics in the order of your interest, from highest to lowest. If you had to pick one thing that you were going to do, and only one thing, for the next four or five years – which one would it be. Order the topics in that order.

Do Some Basic Research

Next, do a little research to see what kind of community exists for what you want to write. The bigger the community, the better.

Doesn’t bigger mean more competition? Yes, but it also represents more opportunity. It means a market exists, advertisers are participating, and if you can differentiate yourself and succeed then there is money to be made. If you pick a very niche subject with few advertisers, you run the risk of being successful but not being able to cash in at all.

I have a blog about scotch whisky. There is a decently sized, but not huge, spirits blogging industry but it’s not nearly as big as many many others. There aren’t a lot of advertisers playing in that space because of wine and liquor shipping laws, which are the high dollar items in the space. It’s by no means small but it’s not big where winning at it changes your life and career.

How Do You Stand out?

If you find a large community, start studying what they’re doing. Learn the history of that niche. Who was big 10 years ago, are they still big? What has happened to them? How has the community evolved? These are all questions you need to answer because that’s how you’ll figure out how to differentiate yourself.

For example, the personal finance blogging world was different ten years ago. Ten years ago the key to winning was search traffic, getting a ton of it, and converting it. Five years ago, with social media exploding, the key was building a community around your blog and leveraging that community through social media and email for monetization.

Ten years ago, you stood out if you shared your income and your budget (that’s how I got into the New York Times in 2005 and even again in 2008). Five years ago, that was boring and bland… to stand out you had to show that your lifestyle was different. Early retirement or extreme couponing or whatever made it unique – “exposing” your financial life was not enough.

Ten years ago, blog posts were enough. Today, you can gain a huge advantage if you have a podcast or start using video.

What is that like in the niche you want to enter? How can you stand out and garner attention?

Can You Write 100 Blog Posts?

Finally, before you start … write down the titles to at least 100 blog posts.

If you wrote a blog post each week, that’s two years worth of blog posts.

If you can come up with 100 topics right now, then you have fuel to keep on blogging. One of the biggest challenges people run into is writer’s blog, especially if you feel the pressure to continuously write when you didn’t have that pressure before. When you start writing, you won’t write those 100 topics in that order each and every week, but having them in your back pocket as ideas is a huge benefit.

Now start writing. 🙂

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

2 responses to “What should I blog about?”

  1. Solid advice. I agree that having a narrower focus is better than trying to be a Renaissance man. If you really want to cover multiple topics, consider multiple sites — but beware, as that can quickly become overwhelming.

    If the goal is to supplement your income, then another important consideration is opportunities for monetization. Sure, you can slap an Adsense unit up on just about any site and Google will populate it with ads, but what about other streams of income.

    Are there affiliate programs that might align with your interests in one area or another? Opportunities to create (and a market for) information products? Etc.

    To me, the number one thing is passion/interest level. To meet your goals, you’ll need to establish yourself as an authority. And if you won’t stick to it, then you’ll inevitably fail. From there, you should look at things like niche size and competition alongside opportunities for monetization.

    Another bit of advice: Get to work. Don’t spend all your time fiddling around with design, technical aspects, etc. What will really determine success vs. failure are things like the quality of your content, the effort you put into promotion (networking, social media, etc.), and so forth.

    Oh, and start building an e-mail list from day one.

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