Monday, March 26, 2012

Blog Niche vs. Blog Purpose

Click here for more post on making your blog work for you.
As writers, we're told to find a niche. We're also told to use that niche to build a platform. Sounds good, but it's not as easy as it first appears. First of all, how do you find a niche you want to blog about for months on end? A niche you're an expert in? A niche that people would want to read about? And what do you do when you're sick of writing about that little niche? Quit blogging? Find a different niche that interests you enough to write more than 10 posts on? And what about all those readers you had but might lose when you switch niches?

Some people have 3 or 4 blogs, each for a different purpose. Let me warn you away from that if you're just starting out. It's exhausting and it divides your time, energy, and results. (I'm talking personal blogs, not group blogs.) This is where knowing your purpose for blogging trumps having a niche. There's also a "business" benefit in knowing your purpose and keeping it in mind as you blog.

Terry Burns, an agent with Hartline Literary Agency, says that when you have an appointment with an agent at a conference, it's usually only 10-15 minutes. That is far too short a time to sell your book to them. His advice: Sell yourself. I don't think this applies only to conference appointments.

Some people think selling yourself sounds counter-Christian, but when you look at it from a business angle, selling yourself makes good sense. And you can do this without being "me, Me, ME!" about it. We need to look at our writing through business lenses occasionally and run our time in a business way so we can be efficient and effective—especially if we're aiming to do more than just blog for the sake of blogging.

When you blog, keeping your purpose in mind, you'll be selling yourself—even if you post about three majorly different topics. Your niche will develop, and it might just be your voice, or sharing what God has put on your heart or is teaching you, or how you're coping with career, family and ministry, or some other angle you blog about out of love for writing about it.

Know your purpose.
It's okay if it takes time to find your purpose, your blog will accompany you on that journey. When most people start blogging, they don't know their purpose. They may try a niche blog only to run out of enthusiasm for the subject after three months. That's when they need to look around and refocus.

Allow your blog to travel with you on your journey. Then, after awhile, evaluate.
Here's some things to look for:
  • What posts were your personal favorites? Which ones did you love writing? Were there any that really fired you up? Pay special attention to these.
  • What posts did you get the best comments on? Not the most comments, the best comments. Comments that said people really connected to what you had to say in that post. Look for the quality of comments.
  • Common topics. If you're using labels, categories or tags, those will help you spot topics.
  • Common themes. You may find that you have 3-5 topics you post about fairly regularly, and as you study those posts, there may be common themes tying the topics together. You may even find one common thread that ties them all together, even if the topics are a world apart.
  • Ask your friends what they see your blog is about.

After going through that process, I was able to nail down my brand, “Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives” and it clarified and simplified so much of my writing. That was the common thread running through almost everything, or it could be. Many times that thread is there without me intentionally adding it. My brand became the purpose of my blog.

Niches are great, if they aren't too confining. As writers we sometimes get caught up in the “writing blog” mentality, but that's a trap. We don't have to be writerly on our blogs! The “business” side of our goal is to develop a platform and garner readers. Readers are all about personality and voice and content. And there has to be take-away value for them—even if it's just a smile that makes them want to come back.

When you know your purpose for blogging it guides and directs you, without confining you.

So tell me, do you know your purpose for blogging?

Click here for more posts in this Blog at Work for You series.

5 comments:

  1. I'd say my main purpose for blogging is to encourage folks - in their lives, struggles, writing, etc. This is a GREAT post.

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  2. JoDear, I'd say you accomplish your goal of encouraging your readers!! Thank you for the encouragement you are to me.

    Hugs!

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  3. Excellent post, Patty. I'm still trying to find my place, but home in my heart sums it up pretty good unless I switch to Growing Pains!
    Diana
    www.pencildancer.com

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  4. Thanks for sharing this link again, Patty. You've affirmed where I intended to go with my own (dusty) blog. Of course, I didn't go about it as efficiently as you've mapped out - mine was trial and error and prayers and answers, and help. Not a speedy process. :) You've also encouraged me to bring out the feather duster and get to work more often.

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  5. @Diana - I love the name "Growing Pains." I almost called my my blog "Growing" one time - I have a cool free template saved - silhouettes of vining trees - that some talented blog designer (ahem, Patty, ahem) might could make over for you. :-) )

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