When you first get started with blogging, you’ll have to make a lot of decisions. You’ll need to decide on the topics that you’ll explore in your posts, you’ll need to choose (and find) a domain name, you’ll need to come up with a site design… the list goes on and on. If you were to listen to the vast majority of Internet marketing gurus out there, they’ll tell you that the most successful blogs have laser-like focus and they zero in on a very specific niche.
But is that really the best way to go about starting your blog? As with so many other things in life, there are points to be made on either side of the argument. When you have a blog that approaches a very specific niche, you have a greater chance of being recognized as the expert source for information in that vertical. Your site isn’t just a blog about “cars.” It’s a site that’s specifically about Ferraris. Your site isn’t just about Internet marketing; it’s specifically about search engine marketing.
Then again, take a look at the kind of content that gets posted here on John Chow dot Com.
Yes, a good amount of the material here has to do with Internet marketing, affiliate marketing and professional blogging. You’ll see tips about how to get ranked in Google or how to grow your mailing list. At the same time, John will also blog about the vacation he just took or the lunch he just had.
These are not related, at least not directly, to the vertical of Internet marketing. You would think that taking such an approach detracts from the perceived value of John Chow dot Com, but it actually does the complete opposite. It adds value, because it provides the personal dimension to the blog. It helps to give readers a better sense of John Chow the human being and this helps readers forge a stronger connection with John Chow the personality.
Another part of this discussion has to do with the objective that you have for the blog in the first place. If the goal is to build up a site that becomes a well-respected and well-read source of information on a specific niche, then you’ll likely want to keep the site at arm’s reach away from you as a person. This way, you can remove yourself from the business more readily and sell the site to someone down the road.
In the case of my blog, Beyond the Rhetoric, the end game will never be to sell the site. Not unlike John Chow dot Com, my blog started out as (and continues to be) a personal blog. It explores many aspects of my life as a matter of personal expression, but for me, it also serves the additional benefit of acting as a living portfolio for my freelance writing business. Showing a variety of content that approaches a variety of topic areas is actually in my best interest.
Curiously enough, commercial blogs are slowly taking a similar approach as a means of attracting a broader audience. I was reading one of my favorite gadget blogs several months ago and I came across an article that analyzed a recent football game. Sports analysis, in this context, has absolutely nothing to do with smartphones, tablets and Bluetooth speakers. It was a great article, but it felt terribly out of place.
Similarly, sites like these can sometimes cover new cars (which can arguably have more of a techie slant to them), but also pop culture (like the ongoing saga of Kanye West). These posts are outside of their vertical, but they publish them because they attract readers to the site. And any traffic is good traffic.
What does all of these mean for you if you’re just about to start a new blog? No matter what advice or guidance you hear about what you should be doing, recognize that there is no such thing as the magic formula. What may be great advice for one blogger and one site may not be as appropriate for someone else. It’s all about what you want to do and what you want to get out of it.