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Blog Struggles: The Blog Focus

Blog Struggles badgeIn a comment recently on this article series on Blog Struggles, Lindsey asked:

I have been blogging for a couple of years. I started blogging because I thought it would be a fun thing to do, and I still find it fun. However, my blog doesn’t really have much of a focus, so it doesn’t have a lot of readership. I would love to be able to focus things a bit so that I could have some regular readers so that I could get some more reader participation. Could you address finding/managing a focus for your blog? This could be helpful for people who are new to blogging or people who have been blogging but no longer feel passionate about the topic of their blog (as well as people like me). Thanks!

Blogging is many things. It is a release of tension, freedom of expression, ability to communicate thoughts and feelings and ideas, therapy, sharing, teaching, lecturing, bitching, whining, groaning, and relationships.

If blogging to you is a personal experience, it doesn’t matter who shows up to read your blog. It’s personal, so expression is more important than traffic.

If having readers is important to you, as is building your blog to increase traffic, revenue, and attention, then building your readership moves high up on your list of goals, changing how you blog and what you blog about. For most bloggers, this means you need to change your blog’s focus.

But what does that mean?

What is Blog Focus

In searching for a definition of blog focus, I found this excellent metaphor in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book, Wyrd Sisters, from a discussion between the porter and Fool of the Lancre Castle:

“There is a knocking without,” the porter said.

“Without what?” said the Fool.

“Without the door, idiot.”

The Fool gave him a worried look. “A knocking without a door?” he said suspiciously. “This isn’t some kind of Zen, is it?”

A blog without focus is like a knocking without a door.

Don’t get it? Try this.

Blurred focus example of a tree out of focusI look at the concept of blog focus like focusing a camera. Your blog focus is where you aim your blog. It is what appears in your blogging viewfinder. In order to really see what you are taking a picture of, you must focus the camera lens on the subject so it is clear and sharp. What you want to be in focus is, and what you don’t, isn’t.

An out-of-focus blog covers every and any topic. It may provide too much information or not enough on any one subject.

Fall colors in tree in focus, photograph copyright Lorelle VanFossenA blog in focus covers only a specific collection of subjects, or if really in sharp focus, a narrow subject niche, thus the blogger becomes an expert on the subject through her blog.

Still not working for you?

Your blog’s focus is the path along which you blog. The path can be wide or narrow, but experience has shown that a narrow path tends to be the most successful.

Let’s sum this up: If you want to have consistent readership, you need to have consistent content.

While these may help you better understand what blog focus is, it isn’t always about the content. It is also about the blogger.

Blog Focus on Subject and Writing Style

You’ve heard the line that “he can read the phone book and make it sound interesting.” There are some people who can write on anything and be interesting. A blog can cover a wide range of subject matter, but when the writing style and voice is so powerfully distinctive, it becomes the blog focus, the thing that makes people stop and look, tell their friends, and builds an audience.

and John Dvorak are just two bloggers people love reading, even though their topics dance around the map. They are just “fun” to read and you can’t wait to see what else they are going to come up with.

Their fame didn’t come from their blogs. It came from elsewhere and is supported by their blogs. More recently, though, there are bloggers whose writing voice is so strong and entertaining, they are creating a name for themselves in spite of their lack of a specific blog topic.

This is extremely rare. Bloggers are found when people go searching, not just by word of mouth. If you have enough of the content they need for the answers they are looking for, then they will dig in and come back for more, as long as you keep answering their questions and fulfilling their needs. Start covering other topics, and they might not return.

Meeting Searchers and Readers Expectations

When you focus on a specific subject, you become an expert in the subject, whether you want to or not. You better want to.

People search and arrive on your blog expecting to find you know what you are blogging about, so you better meet their expectations.

Recently, I wanted to find a way of making Firefox change some of its default behavior. After much searching, I finally found the answers on a blog and was delighted. I thought “here is a source I can return to over and over again to help me customize Firefox more.” I dug into their blog post categories and found not another single reference to Firefox. Not a tip nor technique, other than the one I found. It was well written and answered my question, but I wanted more.

Still, I had faith so I added the blog to my feed reader. After a month, not another post about Firefox showed up, and the other blog topics weren’t of any interest. I deleted it from my feeds.

Isn’t that frustrating?

Are people doing the same thing with your blog?

Tomorrow, I’ll cover some reasons for why you should have a focused blog, then next week, on finding your blog focus. Until then, think about what you blog about and what tickles your blogging nerves – what you would rather be blogging about than what you do blog about. Whatever that is, it is probably what you should be blogging about.

The Blog Focus Series

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

11 Comments

  1. Posted October 16, 2007 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    This topic really hits home for me. It helped me realize that I probably need more than one blog instead of mixing in a lot of unrelated stuff in the one and only. Look forward to the continuation of the series.

  2. Posted October 16, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I too have been looking for something to focus on. Recently, I decided that I want to blog a little more on WordPress because that’s what I love to do – design, code, and just fool around with this great piece of software. But, I still want to blog about life in general on occasion.

    So, I guess it would help if I become one of those “great writers,” keeping my audience plugged in no matter what material I present.

  3. Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    There’s also the possibility of having more than one blog, each one focused to a specific topic. However, equilibrium must be achieved or the update rate (and the writing quality) could suffer.

  4. Posted October 16, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    How many blog site I have I don’t know. But, mainly I maintain four blog site. One is personal, another one is occasionally , another one is personal but my mother language (Bengali) and another one is professional. :P

    thanks to share with us

    Best Wishes
    Sakib

  5. Posted October 16, 2007 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m a poet who is ‘famous’ for catblogging. Isn’t that just a killer.

    The thing is, I’m a pretty good poet, with a wonderful group of steady readers. And I do like cats.

    But this was not a planned thing — the New York Times noticed my early catblogging posts and mentioned my blog in an article. Now well over half of my hits from search engines are for cats.

    Some folks like poems AND cats, so I hope that some who like the cat posts will wander about and find the poems and varied other posts. Of course, there are a few complaints and suggestions that I split out the critters from my ‘serious’ work — but I’m not doing it.

    All to say — one way to focus is to do a regular — maybe weekly — ‘focussed’ post; and play (or be serious) the rest of the week.

    Though the splitting into separate blogs works, too — and I do that as well, with a meta-blog (Blogging Blog: Tips, Tools & Toys for the Personal Blogger) and another on living with chronic illness.

    Would that we could split out our real lives the same way…

  6. Posted October 16, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Reading the Gurus too much has caused me to go so far out of focus, I’m basically blind right now :(
    It was only from reading Blogs from REAL people, that I began to see that focus was such a key. Thanks for confirming that

  7. Posted October 16, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    What’s interesting about focus though, is sometimes the disparity in the topics you cover is what gives you your unique point of view.

    I know I do struggle with mixing the various levels of technical stuff I’m interested, but that’s also what makes me me.

  8. cerebralmum
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    I think it’s possible to separate out your categories into separate feeds. I’m sure I’ve seen that done, but I don’t know how. Maybe that’s an alternate solution to maintaining two blogs if you’ve got a couple of disparate main subjects, like cats and poetry.

  9. Posted October 17, 2007 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I write about green living but talk about building products, gardening, and alot of other green content. Do you have any suggestions on any wordpress plug-ins that you like to poll your readers to see which topics they seem to like? Although the topics are all generally related perhaps more people come to me because of the green building products? Then I saw my numbers on an article about eco-friendly toliet paper and they blew the green building product articles away. It can be very frustrating when you have just started out.

    I notice other sites that talk about new possible green inventions and they get tons of comments; whereas I talk from a personal standpoint of what I have used or researched. So, how do you know if your topics are too narrow?

  10. Posted October 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    @anna hackman:

    I’ve mentioned a few polling Plugins in Testing Readers: Survey, Polling, Rating, Testing, and Reviewing WordPress Plugins.

    Don’t take statistics literally. They need to be taken with some serious grains of salt over long periods of time. High stats for an article on toilet paper could be because it mentions the word “toilet” paper, which would bring visitors looking for toilet jokes, toilet sex, and all kinds of not-so-nice reasons. Or they could be there because of the ecological value – how do you know. I’ll be talking about that later in this Blog Struggles series.

    How do you know when your topics are too narrow? When you run out of things to write about.

  11. Posted October 17, 2007 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    @cerebralmum:

    Cats and poetry can go together, if you want. And categories can have their own feeds, so if you have a “cat” category, there is a cat feed. Same with poetry. Cats and Poetry category (combined) can also be it’s own feed. See Understanding, Using, and Customizing WordPress Blog Feeds.


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