covering your niche

How to Choose a Successful Niche for Your Blog

choosing a nicheOne of the toughest, and most important, aspects of starting your blog or online publication is choosing a successful niche. It's tough because you don't necessarily want to do what everyone else is doing, so you have to find something differentiating or an alternative angle. It's important because without a defined niche, then you'll end up writing about anything and everything, which means it will be tough to build an audience because you don't have just one thing to please certain types of people. Here's how to choose a successful niche for your blog:

Write Out as Many Niche Site Ideas as You Can, Using Your Interests as a Starting Point

If you want the full rundown on how to create a niche site, blog, or online publication, then Location 180 shows you all the steps (and lots of other great stuff too). But, for the sake of just choosing a niche, then this first step is what you need to do. You need to make a list of these ideas with as many as you can, but preferably around 100 ideas of products, hobbies, and/or interests that you could possibly blog about or have an online publication for. That's a lot of ideas, but the point of getting a lot of ideas into one place is that it gives plenty of room and choice for  you to narrow the list down to that successful niche. There are many factors that go into choosing and deciding what will be successful, and what won't, so you want to give yourself as many possibilities as you can. If you're unsure how to start, then below are a few examples from my list our list that we created before we setup Gateway Grounds:

  • online poker
  • identity theft
  • credit repair
  • documentaries
  • making a difference
  • content marketing
  • coffee

Narrow Down the List Based on These Two Criteria

  1. Revenue opportunities
  2. Can you write 100 posts about the topic?

If you're writing primarily as a hobby, where you want a serious blog but you don't want to turn your blog into a business, then the second criterion is what you want to think about. If you would like to monetize your blog or online publication, then the first criterion is priority, although both need to be considered when choosing a successful niche. Depending on which criterion is your primary criterion, there are additional criteria that would factor into your final decision. Of course, you can start out writing for fun and have it turn into a money-making opportunity, but you need to decide what you want to accomplish with your blog or online publication. What you want to accomplish will determine the best niche for you, and what it means to have a successful niche.

If You Want to Make Money

If you're looking for revenue opportunities, then you need to think about the types of revenue opportunities that are available and the topics that will give you the most revenue for your chosen options. Below is a short list of the online revenue options that you could use to make money with your blog or online publication. You do want to look at what's available, what opportunities exist for your ideas, and how lucrative those opportunities are, and you don't want to pick a niche that has options. You want to pick a niche that has options that aren't too competitive or that offer too little revenue.

  • Affiliate Links
  • Adsense Ads
  • Other Paid Advertisements, such as Display Advertising or Video Advertising
  • Paid Text Links
  • Direct Product Sales (whether your own or someone else's)
  • Subscriptions

For example, identity theft is a great topic, but there aren't many revenue opportunities. Most of the ones that did exist were for identity theft protection reviews, which may be useful and may drive a lot of traffic to the blog, but might not generate much money. There aren't a lot of identity theft protection programs out there, so emphasizing the opportunities that do exist wouldn't be great if making money was my goal. Coffee might be a better idea for this goal, because you have the option to sell product, do affiliate links, and advertise coffee companies and coffee products. Content marketing may be way too competitive, while documentaries might not have many lucrative options, if any.

If This is a Hobby

Then, go through the list and eliminate ideas that don't bring blog post ideas to your mind immediately. To determine if you can write 100 blog posts on this topic, you need to know if you ideas for two or three right away. If you don't, then it's unlikely you'll come up with 100 ideas (or coming up with those ideas will take more time and energy than you care to spend). Something you can do to help with this is to do some keyword research on some of your ideas. If the keywords are competitive, or if there aren't too many keywords associated with your idea, then it's not an idea to pursue. However, if no one else is really competing for those keywords, or there are tons and tons of keywords to work with to help you come up with ideas, then that's a niche idea you want to keep on the list.

Now, continuing with the identity theft example, it's a perfect idea for a hobby or an expert blog. There's plenty of need for this information, and it's a field that's changing rapidly and where an expert is badly needed. Identity theft might not sound like something that would make a great blog or online publication, but if it's something that you're interested in and would love to write 100+ articles about, then everything will work itself out. Documentaries would be great here as well, as reviewing documentaries or covering screenings is useful and fun, while offering something in return besides money.

Start Coming Up with Blog Post Titles

Hopefully, the consideration of the above should have narrowed your list to five or 10 topics. It's likely that a lot of your topics may have been too vague, or too competitive, or not something you'd want to put your time into as you're only going to do one blog or online publication for now (if you choose to do more in the future, then all of this work is done and choosing your next successful niche won't be as difficult). To make the final decision, you should come up with a few blog post titles for your finalists. Ultimately, you don't have to write these posts. The point of this is to see what interesting angles you can take with your topic, what you can write about right away, and which of the finalists grabs your attention the most. Identity theft could have some good articles about it, but documentaries might be what you choose because you're more driven to write those articles first. Coming up with blog post titles also makes it easier to get your successful niche up and running. It's no fun to choose the niche, only to waste time thinking about what to write about and where to start. You're figuring out where to start by starting with something you want to start with and with something that already has a few blog post ideas.

46 Article Ideas You Can Use for Your Blog Right Now

article ideas for your online publicationMaintaining a blog or online publication isn't easy, and one of the toughest aspects of maintenance is coming up with things to write about! Even if you're preparing an editorial calendar for the next month, or even the next few months, the ideas aren't always flowing. If you need a little help, or if you need something to write about right now, then consider one of the 46 article ideas below. Surely, you can find something here that's compelling to do and to share with your audience.

  1. Live blog what's happening at a conference, event, or trade show.
  2. Attended a webinar, conference, event or trade show recently? Share what you’ve learned.
  3. Instead of recapping the conference or webinar, review it! What would you have wished to learn? What could they have done better?
  4. Did you just hold your own event? Do a recap.
  5. Will you be holding an event? Do a post about it and why people should come.
  6. Do a roundup of niche-related news articles that your readers may have missed.
  7. Write a follow-up to one of your most popular blog posts.
  8. Respond to comments made on a previous blog post.
  9. Write a counterpoint to a post from another blog.
  10. Agree with a post from another blog.
  11. Ask another niche blogger to do guest post.
  12. Ask another niche blogger if you can reprint one of his/her posts. Make sure to write your own introduction and give credit to the blogger.
  13. Look at what your competitors are blogging about, and write your own post on something they’ve done.
  14. Take a current event and show what your niche can learn from it.
  15. Take a seemingly unrelated current event and show what it means to your industry.
  16. Find a recent news article on your industry and add your own angle.
  17. Compare your niche to something from pop culture, like a TV show or a new dance craze.
  18. Counter a prevailing niche trend or perspective.
  19. Affirm a prevailing niche trend or perspective.
  20. Bust a myth or two about your niche/product/service.
  21. Confirm a rumor or fact about your niche/product/service.
  22. Make a prediction on an emerging trend, or on something else happening in your niche.
  23. Define some niche lingo or key terms.
  24. Are there any new research findings or statistics related to your niche? Write a post on why that new something is important.
  25. Present the history or some little known facts about your niche.
  26. Outline a solution to a big niche problem.
  27. Or, just rant about that problem. That’s okay too.
  28. Ask several niche leaders about an issue related to your niche. Post the responses.
  29. Create a beginner’s post to your niche (think of it as a very quick 101!)
  30. Conduct some research on something related to your niche and share your findings.
  31. Create a “recipe of success” for your niche.
  32. Create a “5 Pillars” or a “10 Commandments” for your niche.
  33. Answer a frequently asked question related to your niche.
  34. Make a list of the 10 best other niche blogs or news sites.
  35. Make a list of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your niche.
  36. Compile a list of the best apps for your niche.
  37. Make a list of your favorite quotes related to your niche.
  38. Make a pros/cons list of something in your niche.
  39. Review a book related to your niche.
  40. Ask your readers what they’d like you to write about.
  41. Write about the best idea(s) suggested.
  42. Conduct a poll.
  43. Post the results to that poll.
  44. If there’s a movie about or involving your niche, write about what it gets right or wrong.
  45. Ask for reader submissions (can be posts, pics, or vids).
  46. Share the best ones!

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Determining a Conflict of Interest: An Introduction

determining conflict of interestIf you're just blogging or writing an online publication on your own, then you don't have to deal with a conflict of interest all that often. It's easy to recognize within yourself, and you could perhaps use your conflict of interest as part of your branding, as part of building the business, and as part of the message you want to communicate. However, if you have a team helping you with your blog or online magazine, then you need to be able to determine conflict of interest so that you're team doesn't sacrifice the best interest of the publication for their own goals or gain. A conflict of interest is defined as, "a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest." In publishing, determining a conflict of interest involves figuring out if a story, or a source, that you're going to use or to publish is influenced by these secondary interests, such as money, connections etc. Essentially, you don't want to publish or use a source that isn't there based on its merit or its value, but because the writer was paid on the side to cover that topic or is covering something out of personal bias or gain. Here's a quick start to determining a conflict of interest and how to handle one that could jeopardize your blog or magazine.

Figure Out the Two Interests

A conflict of interest cannot exist if there isn't two competing interests. Of course, there are some conflicts i.e. the need to make money versus the desire to tell great stories that aren't all that bad and don't need to be investigated or vetted. Both of those interests are generic, and can work together. The point in figuring out the two interests is if the two conflicting interests cannot be compatible at all.

For example, if one of your writers wants to write about a particular company, and it comes to your attention that the writer currently works for that company, then there's a conflict of interest there that needs to be evaluated. The fact that the writer works at the company could skew the story that's written i.e. it could be overly positive because the writer wants to keep his/her job at the company. In this case, you would need to decide if the company should be covered at all (by another writer, of course) or if the story should be dropped. It's possible that the writer only wants to do the coverage because he/she supports the company, or knows that something will come from that relationship if the story gets published and produces good results for the company.

In this case, these two interests cannot work together. The writer cannot fulfill the interest with the company while fulfilling the interests of the online publication. One needs to be somewhat sacrificed for the other, and it looks like the interests of the online publication would take the hit. Therefore, this is a conflict of interest that needs evaluating and needs to be handled appropriately.

Finding the Conflict

Sometimes, finding the conflict of interest takes a little investigative work. In the previous example, it's unlikely the writer would disclose that s/he works for the company. If s/he does, then that makes things easier and you can decide to have someone else cover the story to ensure that there isn't an overly positive overtone or bias. If the conflict isn't disclosed, but you suspect one to be there, then you might need to ask a few questions or do some additional research. In a future post, we'll go over a few techniques to find hidden conflicts of interests as well as good questions to ask to find these conflicts before the story is written.

How to Determine What Your Audience Needs to Know

what your audience needs to knowWhen covering news stories, whether they are niche news stories or general interest stories, it's important to be able to determine what your audience needs to know versus what they want to know. The easy way is to write about anything and everything that will generate clicks, sell ad space, and be shared online. We're not saying that strategy doesn't work, and it's an okay strategy if you want to be come a tabloid or a gossip magazine. However, if you want to be better than that, and to write about news that matters with tact and professionalism, then understanding the difference between needing to know, and wanting to know, is crucial. Here's how to determine what your audience needs to know:

Determine Your Audience

No, you actually don't want everyone in the world who has Internet access as a reader. There's no direction to that, and you can't please everyone all the time. So, make it a point to determine your audience and to create the persona of your ideal reader. This makes easier to figure out what your audience's needs are, and what they need to know. Sure, there's a lot of things they want to know, and there are also a lot of things that a lot of people want to know, but not necessarily your audience.

For example, St. Louis-based Delux Magazine does a good job of this. Their ideal reader is the affluent African-American, or the AAA, who is into luxury and lives a high-end lifestyle. These are people who aren't necessarily concerned with Kim Kardashian, Grumpy Cat, or Rush Limbaugh's latest comments. However, they do care as to what Nick Cannon and Nelly are up to, as well as the latest fashion and the hottest nightclubs in St. Louis.

Newsjacking is Okay

Newsjacking is the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself. Therefore, Kim Kardashian by herself may not matter to Delux Magazine's audience. However, if she's shooting a cool commercial with a hot brand in St. Louis, that'll make a difference. If she's showing up to a Delux Magazine event, then that's okay to cover as well. If you can tie a hot news story into your target audience, then by all means make the connection and publish it. Be careful not to stretch it, like when American Apparel used Hurricane Sandy to advertise its sale, or when Kenneth Cole used the Arab Spring to promote its new spring collection.

Don't Go Overboard with the Juicy Details

Running with the Kim Kardashian example, keep juicy and private details out of the story. Let's say that she is coming to your town, or is participating in a major event relevant to your audience. Do you really need to tell your readers where she is staying, and what's in her hotel room, and who she's staying with? Do really need to investigate where she's going and what she's doing before and after the event? Probably not, even though everyone in your audience would love to know. It's important to consider personal privacy when determining stories to write about and the details to include in those stories.

The Kardashian example is easy. How about topics that are a little more difficult, such as a gay bar destroyed in a fire. Do you release the names of deceased patrons? What if you learn a homemaker in the community had been a prostitute many years earlier. Do you run it? If a local judge rents a porn video, is that news? These questions are obviously a lot a tougher, so rushing to publish them because you might be the only one too publish it, or because people will flock to these stories, may be shortsighted.

Content Creation: How to Turn One Idea Into 20 Pieces of Content

content marketing ideas resized 600Somewhere, we came across a great content creation idea of getting 20 pieces of content out of one idea or topic. We thought this idea would be a great way to provide additional value to our clients while relieving some of our content creation woes. However, we couldn't remember where we saw the idea and quick Internet search reveal nothing about the source (a good example of when to use Evernote). It's an inspiring idea, but one that we have no clue as to how we found it or came up with it. To remedy the situation, we've decided that the best thing to do would be to come up with our own way to turn one idea into 20 pieces of content. Here's what we came up with, and how to turn one idea into 20 different pieces of content:

Start with a Specific Topic

Something like business blogging, green home cleaning, or identity theft is too vague. It may be easier to come up with 20 pieces of content, but this strategy is designed to create content off of one idea, not 20 different angles or 20 different subtopics from the main one. Taking each of the three examples, here's how to make them more specific to get started:

  • Getting Started with Business Blogging
  • Preparing for a Green Home Cleaning
  • Identity Theft Protection Tips

Conduct a Content Audit

When coming up with your 20 pieces of content, you want to make sure that you aren't duplicating something you've already created. So, if you already have a blog post on preparing your home for a professional green cleaning, you don't necessarily want another one (unless you can update the information or follow up the post with more information). Therefore, you want to conduct a content audit so that your 20 pieces of content fill in what's missing. Here are factors to consider when thinking about what you have, and what you need:

  • Types of Content - What kind of content do you have? Do you have webinars, blog posts, white papers, slideshows, eBooks, inforgraphics, or a combination of the above? Do you have types we didn't mention?
  • Age - How old is the content that you have? If there has been changes to the information, then it would be worth either updating the content or following up with content with the new information. If the information is still good, then it might be worth covering the topic again if you haven't for at least a few months.
  • Location - Where is your content found? What channels are at your disposal? Is it all on your website, or do you have some on social networks? Do you perhaps have content on third-part sites? This is an important factor, as knowing where you can place your content will determine what types of content you can create.
  • Complimentary Content - When looking at what you have, think about content that could go well with it. For example, if you have a white paper on identity theft protection tips, a blog post (or a few) could go well with that to encourage downloads of the white paper. You could also turn that white paper into a webinar, and then that webinar into a slideshow. Turning one idea into 20 pieces of content isn't necessarily about creating 20 new pieces of content from scratch, but also using what you have and presenting it in a new way.

Choose Your Content Types

With 20 pieces of content, you don't necessarily have to do 20 pieces of one type, or 20 different types. Now that you know what you have and what you need, you can think about what to create to fill in what's missing. Let's say that you have a great white paper on "Getting Started with Business Blogging," and that's it for this topic. What else can you do? Below are a few ideas:

  • Turn each chapter/section into a blog post. If the white paper has five sections, then you can easily create five blog posts. We're a quarter of the way to our 20 pieces!
  • Create a how-to infographic illustrating a step-by-step in getting started.
  • Create a tip sheet outlining best practices and/or reminders when getting started.
  • Interview someone at your company (or a partner) on how they got started with business blogging. This could be a video, a podcast, and a blog post with the video and a transcription. Halfway there!
  • Write a case study about someone who got started with business blogging, and what their results were.
  • Write two blogs posts: one on what not to do when getting started, and one on the most common mistakes made when getting started.
  • Create a slideshow based on the white paper.
  • Use the slideshow to create a webinar.
  • Record the webinar either as a video or podcast (or both), and use this as additional lead generation content. Four more to go!
  • Create an email discussing how to get started, leading to a call-to-action to download the white paper.
  • Create a follow-up white paper on how to keep your business blog going, or on how to promote your business blog.
  • Find another blog or website where you can do a guest post on getting started with business blogging.
  • Don't forget social media! Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. to spread little tidbits from the white paper. Use social media to promote all of this new content you've created too!

When considering your content types, you do want to think about the resources you have at your disposal as well as the content types that will work with the topic. Video would work really well with green home cleaning, showing how to do the different steps of preparation. However, the other two may only work with an interview or showing a step-by-step through screen captures. Video might not also be a good idea if you don't have any experience creating video, or you don't have the resources or skills to create and to edit video.

It's not easy, but it's doable. How would you turn one idea into 20 pieces of content? Any content types missed? Please let us know in the comments!

Related Links:

4 Content Marketing Ideas You Probably Never Thought Of

Company Products, Services, and Features Make Dull Content

10 Best Content Marketing Resources