Is A “Niche” Or “Non-Niche” Blog Right For You?

by Sarah Baughman

Girl pointing in opposite directions

Today’s post is written by regular contributor Sarah Baughman.

Google “writing blogs” and you’ll get 410 million hits. In .22 seconds.

As the internet and social media change the face of publishing, establishing a web presence has worked its way to the top of many writers’ to-do lists. Even if you’re not concerned about publicity, a blog offers excellent opportunities to develop your voice and connect with other writers.

But what to blog about? Writers might first wonder whether to develop a “niche” blog that focuses on one specific subject, or a “non-niche” blog that covers a diverse range of topics.

I asked four successful bloggers on both sides of the spectrum to comment on the advantages and challenges of these different blogging platforms.

Please welcome:

As these talented women confirm, both “niche” and “non-niche” blogs can work—depending on the writer. It’s all about finding the system that works for you.

Option 1: Niche Blogging

(a) The Writers

Shirley Showalter began blogging about memoir writing in 2008 on Heather Sellers‘ advice “that if you want to write in a genre, you need to read 100 examples” (Chapter After Chapter). Natalia Sylvester already had a couple of other writing-related blogs in the works when she began her “blog about the life and perspective of a fiction writer.”

(b) Advantages

Recognizable Structure

Readers know what to expect; your audience builds itself. “I think it helps both the writer and reader when a blog has a recognizable structure,” says Natalia. “Readers know what to expect when they come to your site, and over time it’s what they’ll keep coming back for if it resonates with them.”

Direct Link To Writing

You can use your blog to more thoughtfully ponder your writing craft. “The nice thing about memoir as a niche,” says Shirley, “is that all blogs are forms of memoir. So I could make a category called ‘Personal Reflections’ and use my niche blog as a general blog.”

“Writing about this particular topic has helped me as a writer because it’s made me more aware of the role fiction plays in my life,” says Natalia. “The thoughts I share come from a place deep within me, but writing about them on the blog gives me a chance to pull them out, analyze, and discover them in a way that only writing about something allows. And I get to share it with others, who then add to that conversation.”

(c) Challenges

Off-Limit Topics

What if you get stuck? “I admit it can feel limiting on days when you feel like you have nothing left to say about a certain topic,” says Natalia, noting that she had to nix a couple of posts she felt pulled to write about but which did not fit with her blog’s theme.

The Blog vs. The Craft

Should you write…or write about writing? “My biggest challenge now is that I need to make my own memoir manuscript my first priority, and blogs need to be fed (new blog post written) at least weekly,” says Shirley.

(d) Advice

Be Passionate, But That’s Not All

“If all you have to say about something is that you love it, you can run out of fresh material pretty quickly,” says Natalia. “If it’s a topic that evolves, that you ponder constantly from different angles, that informs your life in countless ways, that isn’t always black and white…then things could get interesting.”

“Choose a subject narrow enough to become expert in it and deep enough to engage your passion for a sustained period of time,” advises Showalter. “Here are some questions to consider: Can this subject grow along with you as your life evolves? Can you find a way to use categories to help you contain and also broaden your niche?”

Plan, But Don’t Over-Plan

“Some of the posts I’m proudest of came to me on days when I had every intention of writing something else, then changed my mind the second I saw the blank screen,” says Natalia.

Option 2: Non-Niche Blogging

 (a) The Writers

Nina Badzin set out to write a “fun parenting blog” then “proceeded to write post after post about everything other than parenthood. Oops.” She now covers “writing, reading, parenthood, marriage, friendship and social media. Oh–and Jewish stuff.” Leah Singer’s blog “has really become a mix of writing, stories, photography (and stories through photos), recipes, crafts and book reviews. And as I look at it,” she says, “it’s the perfect representation of me since I love all those things.”

(b) Advantages

Variety

A wide variety of topics attracts many different readers. “My followers really run the gamut from mothers, to authors, to other writers, foodies and photographers, ” says Leah.

Freedom

There’s no need to feel pigeonholed into writing about just one thing. “The advantage of going non-niche,” says Nina, “is that I can write a post about Downton Abbey if I feel like it, then cover baby names the next week.”

“By shaking up my posts and covering so many different things,” says Leah, “I think it also keeps the content fresh for my readers. They never know what to expect.”

(c) Challenges

Hard To Pinpoint

You don’t always fit in a reliable box. “It is sometimes tough for me to answer the question, ‘What do you blog about?’” says Leah.

Shifting Focus

Can there be too much of a good thing? “When I’m thinking of a new post, I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities, which more often than not means that nothing especially pressing comes to mind,” says Nina.

(d) Advice

Be Confident

If you believe in what you do, others will too. “People like variety and I think they appreciate changing up the content every once in a while,” says Leah. “Don’t be intimidated by blogging “experts” who say your blog needs to have a theme. I don’t have a theme and my site continues to grow and gain new readers every week.”

Aim For Quality

“If you have a voice that people want to hear, they’ll keep coming back for more,” says Nina, who also recommends circling around a few consistent topics to develop some continuity.

A unique voice and compelling writing will carry the blog. Says Leah, “as long as you are putting out quality, people will follow – ‘niche’ or ‘non-niche.’”

As you consider range of possibilities for your blog, keep your own goals in mind. Check out writer Anne R. Allen’s excellent series of posts on how to blog effectively, whether you want general blogging tips to get started, a comprehensive list of blogging don’ts, or specific advice on how to structure your blog based on your “writing stage.”

Are you a “niche” or a “non-niche” blogger? What advantages and disadvantages have you experienced in your chosen platform?

{ 34 comments }

Ashley Prince March 13, 2012 at 1:55 am

I have one of each. Byron’s Curse is where I write whatever I want. Sometimes I rant with reason, sometimes I write about writing, sometimes I write about psychology. I just love to write. The Bibliophile’s Corner is everything book related. I love books most of the readers who read Byron’s Curse do not. So I opted for a second blog.

I am having a hard time though with Byron’s Curse. I feel it’s a little neglected. :(
Read Ashley Prince´s last article ..No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:31 am

Thanks for the comment, Ashley. I can see why it would be tough to maintain two blogs…Annie Neugebauer (below) offers a good solution for that challenge.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Anne R. Allen March 13, 2012 at 4:39 am

Thanks much for the shout-out, Sarah. My feeling is that an author should have only one blog, so they don’t fracture their audience and spread themselves too thin and neglect one blog like Ashley above. (After all it’s writing books that’s supposed to be our main focus.) I think it’s possible to have a niche blog that’s also an author blog, by using your pages (Blogger gives you 20) and posting a blog schedule. You can blog about writing craft on day and social media the next like Kristen Lamb, or you can blog about parenting one week and Twitter etiquette the next, like Nina Bazdin. (I love her blog, and when it’s about parenting, I skim it, since I’m not a parent. But since I like her voice, I’m still interested.)
Read Anne R. Allen´s last article ..Are the Big 6 Publishers Really Dying?

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:33 am

Anne, I’m so glad I found your links– they’re very helpful! You bring up a great point regarding pages; that feature in both Blogger and WordPress could really help a writer stay organized both within and outside of a niche. The schedule is so important too– I admit I don’t have one yet, and that has not been good for my blog.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Leah March 13, 2012 at 6:11 am

This was a great piece! Thanks for the mention of my blog. Learned a lot about the benefits of both sides of the blog world.

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:33 am

My pleasure, Leah! I’m glad I could feature your blog; it’s a great one.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Annie Neugebauer March 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

Great post, excellent points. Another option that I didn’t see mentioned is the in-between: a non-niche blog with regular/consistent niche features. That’s what I’ve gone with, and it’s worked out pretty well for me. It allows me all of the freedom of a non-niche blog with some of the regularity and “return customers” of niche content. This is a great topic!
Read Annie Neugebauer´s last article ..The Problems with Strong Female Characters

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:35 am

Annie, thanks so much for this terrific point. I can’t believe it never occurred to me; it really does seem like an excellent solution to satisfy not only readers, but the writer who likes both the freedom of non-niche writing and the structure of a niche.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Nina March 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

Sarah, excellent job pulling all of this together. It’s a great conversation and hopefully helpful to newbies.

Anne–thanks for the compliment! Voice is everything. Yours, of course, always keeps me coming back for more. Plus, you know so dang much!
Read Nina´s last article ..Lessons on Friendship

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:36 am

Thanks for the comment, Nina. Voice is certainly the most important ingredient, and an excellent indicator for those “internet friendships” you mention in your latest post!
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Wendy A.M. Prosser March 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I have two blogs, one non-niche where I write on anything that comes into my head, the other a niche blog on veganism. As I’ve focused more on building a personal brand, however, the vegan blog has suffered; so much so that I recently decided to reduced my posting there to “occasional”. I think most writers (especially those with other jobs too) don’t have enough time to make a good go of more than a single blog.
Read Wendy A.M. Prosser´s last article ..Goings And Comings

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:37 am

You’re probably right, Wendy. I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain two blogs– I’m still working on a schedule for the one I have! Annie Neugebauer’s suggestion (above) about posting regular niche topics within a non-niche blog seems like a nice solution for writers who don’t want to give up either platform.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Shirley March 13, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I love this post and the individual blogs you mention here, Sarah. I wish I had had the benefit of this kind of synthesis when I first began blogging. Using Nina’s last post on friendship as my guide, I can say that this kind of post is great for internet friendship dating. I love the voices of strong women, and, thanks to strong woman Sarah, I just found more. Honored to be in this list!
Read Shirley´s last article ..From Fired to Fired Up: Three Waves of Transformation

Sarah Baughman March 14, 2012 at 12:41 am

I’m so glad I could include you, Shirley! It seems like no matter what, writers should strive to maintain their own original, authentic voice in a blog– this is ultimately what attracts a community of readers and facilitates “internet friendship dating!” :)
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Natalia Sylvester March 14, 2012 at 3:01 am

Great article, Sarah, and thank you so much for including me in the discussion! I really like Annie’s idea of a non-niche blog with regular features. It’s got a nice blend of consistency while still leaving room for spontaneity.
Read Natalia Sylvester´s last article ..The Importance of Fictional Truths

Sarah Baughman March 15, 2012 at 6:35 am

Thanks, Natalia! I was happy to link over to your blog. I also like Annie’s idea– the best of both worlds.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

kathryn Magendie March 14, 2012 at 3:18 am

I have a bit of both, I suppose – which fits my jittery chaotic pea-headed brain. I didn’t want to write about writing, since there were so many, but when I do that on Monday Classroom, there are more “hits” than on other days – at least so far!

But I love my Wednesday posts, too, which are a combo of Personal Trainer tips from my days as a PT, and other times “product reviews,” and sometimes just skippity do dah day whatever I feel like! Then I leave friday for links.

Now I need to sip on over and visit!

This schedule has given me some freedom and structure all at the same time :D
Read kathryn Magendie´s last article ..Monday Classroom: Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, kill your darlings if you dare . . .

Sarah Baughman March 15, 2012 at 7:33 am

Kathryn, it sounds like you have a great blogging schedule– the perfect combination of structure and freedom. You’re following the cardinal rule of helping readers know what to expect, so everyone wins!
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Sharon Settle March 14, 2012 at 8:07 am

This post adds to the contemplation swirling in my head since Suzan’s previous post, Not Just Another Writer’s Writing Blog. After reading that article and taking in its advice, I asked myself, what is my blog really doing for me and my writing goals?
I set out to create a web presence to help me attract an agent and or publisher for my Middle Grade/YA novel first, and to connect with readers and fellow writers second. So I created Writer’s Block. I have no trouble finding topics to write about and enjoy posting and sharing comments with my followers. However, after reading, Not Just Another Writer’s Writing Blog and today’s post I have really had to consider if this is the right blog for my goals. I am connecting with fellow writers and I love that but am I connecting with readers? Additionally there is nothing about my blog currently that would appeal or attract the young audience I am writing my novel for.
I agree with Anne R. Allen’s comment that writer’s should have only one blog so that they don’t splinter their audience and wind-up neglecting one blog as well as their writing. Her advice to make the most of what features your host offers you, like extra pages, is excellent. Still I think it would be a challenge to have a blog that attracts multiple age groups.
I think the most important thing is to be consistent with what you do so that your readers will know what to expect from you and incorporate visiting your bog into their agendas.
Read Sharon Settle´s last article ..Audience, Audience…Who Art Thou Audience?

Sarah Baughman March 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

Shannon, congrats on working to establish your web presence. It’s definitely a challenge to think about the ultimate purpose of a blog and I think you’re exactly right in emphasizing the importance of consistency. Attracting readers of different age groups does sound a little tricky. I wonder if you could think about some of the different elements that might appeal to younger readers– is it the content you want to change, the design, the writing style, the format? There might be ways to add appeal to the blog without losing your existing readers. Playing with the pages feature, like you suggested, might give you options as well. Thanks for stopping by!
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Ann Marie March 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

I found this post very thought-provoking, and all the comments – thanks everyone! I have had a non-niche blog for some time, but set up niches within it by blogging certain topics on certain days. I have Thinking Thursday, when I post something thought-provoking, usually about my faith; and Scribbling Saturday, when I post about writing. If I want to post about anything else, I do it on another day. This means people always know when to check if they’re only interested in one topic.

Then I started writing a local history book, totally different from anything else (I normally write sci-fi), and I felt that people into local history wouldn’t be interested in my faith or my sci-fi. So I started a separate blog. One is personal and one is my ‘brand’, since I am self-publishing the local history. It works for me.

Sarah Baughman March 16, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thanks for your comment, Ann Marie. It sounds like the system of incorporating various niches into your blog has worked well for you. You bring up a good point about “branding”– sometimes a particular work needs special “niche” promotion even when we want to blog about a variety of topics. In this case, a second blog– as long as you can maintain it– seems advantageous.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Christi Craig March 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Sarah,
Great post. I think, for me, my blog has evolved: from the early days when I blogged three times a week (about writing and life) to now when I blog once a week (mostly about writing, though there are days when writing and life intersect). And, I’ve leaned more towards a niche blog.

For a while, I was posting on Sundays too, making that my “free” day to blog about whatever. But, like Anne says above, writing books is supposed to be my main focus. Once a week (leaning towards niche) is a good fit for me right now, and I trust that as long as I do my best to publish posts of quality, readers won’t mind.
Read Christi Craig´s last article ..Guest Post: Alvina Lopez on Writing Fiction

Sarah Baughman March 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

Thanks for stopping by, Christi. The question of balance is a tricky one– I’ve been struggling this month with devoting more time to other writing instead of blogging, which is probably why a schedule like the one you have is so helpful. You’re absolutely right about the importance of quality as well– as long as that’s in place, readers will stay!
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Keith Koons March 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I appreciate the post. I recently started my 1st blog and there’s a huge learning curve involved, so it’s nice to see someone handing out solid advice. Thanks to you and your guests.

Sarah Baughman March 16, 2012 at 9:37 am

Keith, I’m glad this post was helpful for you! I wish you the best of luck with blogging.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Ileandra Young March 16, 2012 at 5:24 am

I started blogging about my WIP. I wanted to spend time talking about the writing process, developments and progress with the novel. However, I quickly found as time went by that I was running out of things to say; it was getting a bit ‘samey.’

There’s only so much you can say about the same piece of work and very soon news isn’t even news any more.

That’s when I realised I had to branch out, or else even I would lose interest in writing the blog. I need to include more about my hobbies, my likes, dislikes and, frankly put MYSELF in the blog.

More than anything I wanted the blog to ‘promote’ me, but just talking about my WIP didn’t give much space for me. So at the moment I nice blend of writing posts and ‘assorted others’ including challenges and tidbits about what’s going on with my life. It seems to be a mix that people are happy with as I have far more interaction with readers since making that change. :)
Read Ileandra Young´s last article ..80 Post Challenge – Post 54

Sarah Baughman March 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

Thanks for the comment, Ileandra. It sounds like you discovered a great balance for your blog. Sometimes it’s only possible to do this after we’ve tried one route and then found that it’s not quite working. In addition to your own comfort level, of course, the fact that you’ve gained readers with your new approach indicates success. Congrats!
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Banana Bread Karma

Ruth March 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

Your advice for “non-niche” bloggers is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!
Read Ruth´s last article ..Evolving Response to the Kony 2012 Campaign

Sarah Baughman March 20, 2012 at 6:24 am

Thanks, Ruth! I’m so glad it was helpful.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Spring Somewhere Else

Tanya Sachdev March 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

it was fun reading this post..I am a blogger writing on a variety of topics and get regular advice on finding a niche..but my point of contradiction is that variety gives me enough food to express the way i want and i can write on different topics everyday…

Sarah Baughman March 20, 2012 at 6:25 am

Tanya, that variety can definitely keep you full of ideas to write about– the non-niche bloggers I interviewed for this article would definitely agree! Niches can be helpful, but ultimately establishing a voice and a platform you’re comfortable with seems more important. I’m glad your blog is working well for you.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Spring Somewhere Else

Shorya Bist November 16, 2012 at 1:53 am

Hi Sarah,

I like your article as i was finding what is better -niche or non niche to blog on,

But i really need a advice from you on the topic as i am a new blogger and you have researched on this
so my question is i blog on things related to Youth that is according to me but how google will see if it is a niche blog because i have 7,8 catagories ,but my catagories are only which relates youth.
So just it will be a great help as i m still confused what to do

Thank You
Shorya Bist
From Youthofest
Read Shorya Bist´s last article ..I Miss my College Days – Give My College Days Back

Sarah Baughman January 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi Shorya. I wish I were more of an expert on optimizing your blog for Google! Here are few sites that might help: http://basicblogtips.com/optimize-for-better-rankings.html, http://basicblogtips.com/optimize-for-better-rankings.html, and, if you use Wordpress, http://interwebsinstitute.com/wordpress-seo-a-guide-to-optimizing-your-blog/.
Read Sarah Baughman´s last article ..Almost Abroad, At Home

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