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Blog Struggles: Why Should Your Blog Have a Focus

Blog Struggles badgeWhy should your blog be a focused, narrow niched blog?

Because:

  • It establishes you as an expert.
  • It creates a consistent flow of information and content.
  • The blog and you become a source for information, not just a link.
  • Increased incoming referrer links and increased likelihood of being blogged about, not just linked to.
  • Like attracts like.

While it is wonderful to be the “source” and “expert” on your subject, the best part of keeping your blog focus on track is that you attract like minds to your blog, those seeking what you offer and eager for your next blog post. It’s like feeding the hungry. As long as they continue to have a need for your words and expertise, they will keep coming to the table.

As part of this ongoing series on Blog Struggles, discussing the hard work and challenges of blogging, we covered the first part of blog focus by defining what blog focus means. Today, I’m going to talk about why you should have a narrow blog focus. Next week, I’ll cover how to find your blog’s focus.

Benefits of a Narrow Blog Focus

I’ve found amazing benefits from keeping my blog focus narrow.

  • No more hunting for something to write about. I know what I’m hunting for.
  • I have self-imposed constraints that keep me on track on my blog’s subject matter and topics.
  • I know what I do.
  • I am confident about my blog’s content and subject.
  • An expectation as an expert is created and evident by the blog name, post titles, and post categories.
  • I’m considered an expert in my field.
  • I’m considered a “source” and resource in my field.
  • Others recommend me and my blog to their readers.
  • Links to my blog come with descriptions of “spend some time there – she has written plenty you need to read and learn on the subject.”
  • I’m invited to guest blog, speak, publish, talk, and write for others as an expert.
  • I blog better.

The best part of blogging with a narrow blog focus is that I have less self doubt about my abilities and my ability to blog. I know my subject matter. I know it from a variety of perspectives. I’m constantly challenging my information, resources, sources, and expertise as I write on the subject from different angles and points of view.

Because I have that familiarity, I feel more confident to take risks like blogging about controversial subjects within my niche, or tackling subjects that people need to be talking about but aren’t. I get to ask the hard questions.

When I’m self confident about my blog and blog content, the readers know. They can feel it. And they like what they see and feel and come back for more.

The Challenges of a Focused Blog

In Star Trek: Next Generation’s episode, Tapestry, Picard gets a chance provided by Q to change a regrettable event in his youth. When Picard changes the past, it changes the future by turning him into a “dreary man in a tedious job”, not captain of the Enterprise. Q responds:

The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember.

That Picard never had a brush with death… never came face to face with his own mortality… never realized how fragile life is… how important each moment can be… so his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda… going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves…He didn’t lead the Away Team on Milika Three to save that ambassador… he didn’t take charge of the Stargazer’s Bridge when its Captain was killed… and no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe. And he never, ever got noticed by anyone.

You can play it safe by blogging about everything and anything you want, hoping to expand your readership by building a giant basket to catch all the balls that come your way, turning your blog into a thrift store. People stop and visit, drawn by the sheer volume of information and keywords, but then have to dig hard to find any really good treasures.

Or you can narrow your blog’s content down, taking charge of it and taking the risks that make you an expert on the subject. The treasures are out on display, eagerly grasped by readers. They know without a doubt that you know what you are blogging about.

Which makes you the captain of your blog’s content or the ensign?

Playing It Safe With Your Blog’s Content

In the early days of , I had several people ask me how I could continue to produce content limited only to the subject of WordPress and blogging. “I’d run out of things to say.” “I’d get so bored.” “Aren’t you going to bore your readers unless you stir things up once in a while?”

Let’s see, it’s been almost four years of writing about and for WordPress and I haven’t run out of things to write about or say. I did explore more into the subject of blogging because WordPress is about blogging and blogging is WordPress, so the two go hand in hand. I’ve not run out of things to write. I’ve not been bored – not a day or minute. And my readership keeps growing, so I must be doing something write.

I honestly believe that writing in a catch-all way, jotting down anything and everything that pops into your head at any moment, is playing it safe with your blog. Anyone can do that.

It’s hard work setting up parameters for your blog. I’d love to rant about stupid things happening in our governments around the world right now. I’d love to rally behind freedom fighters who fight with words. I’d love to blather on about how frustrated I am about chasing down leaks in my trailer now that winter is here. I’d love to share with you the pleasure I’ve found in shoveling horse crap every morning when I’m on the farm, a task I hated as a child. I know I would feel better if I could bitch and whine about…okay, a lot of things. But on this blog, it’s WordPress or blogging, or silence.

How narrow should your blog focus be? That’s up to you. Mine is considered very narrow, but when I look at it, I’m overwhelmed with the number of topics I could cover on WordPress techniques and tips, WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugins, WordPress blogs, the WordPress Community, customizing WordPress, and so much more. With the added topic of blogging, I have no end of subjects to cover on how to blog, why blog, and what to blog about.

A narrow blog focus is a matter of perspective. I consider my niche fairly wide. I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER? offers nothing but pictures of cats doing dumb things that readers submit to the site. You can’t get much narrower than that, but the site continues to be one of the most popular on the web. There seems to be no end to the silly subjects they can create with pictures of cats, and the amount of traffic and attention they inspire.

Focusing Your Blog

Tomorrow, I’ll cover more on finding your blog focus, but I want to return to the Star Trek: Next Generation episode. In the end, Picard realizes his mistake in wanting to fix his past regrets, and admits later to Ricker:

There were many things in my youth that I’m not proud of…they were loose threads…untidy parts of myself that I wanted to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads… I unraveled the tapestry of my life.

As you consider your blog’s focus, I want you to look at your entire life, all the threads that make up the tapestry of your life. They all make you, the resulting “fabric” of your life as it is right now. On that fabric you will find colors and patterns repeating themselves. Loudly. Vibrantly. Or possibly they are subtle and almost invisible, but when you look with fresh eyes, they start to stand out from the rest of the threads.

It is these specific colors and patterns that repeat themselves throughout the fabric of your life that could define your blog’s focus and content. The thing that makes you a learned expert. The knowledge that comes from repeating the same behaviors or experiences over and over again until you get them right. The skill that defines you and your abilities. You can call it what you will. I call it your passion.

I know above all else, when you are blogging your passion, the world is a better place for you and your readers.

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.

13 Comments

  1. Posted October 17, 2007 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I am completely with you on this article. It’s great to see it all written down like that!

    My blog is focused, whilst being open to pretty much anything. There is certainly a danger in that, so I need to stay on the ball and keep the information flowing.

    As your blog is about WordPress and blogging, my blog is about university and higher education. There are so many possible topics, yet each subject has a focus.

    I previously considered writing blogs on all sorts of different things, some focused, some all over the place. But I never took anything seriously until now. As you say, if we blog on a focused subject that we’re passionate about then we know what we’re doing, we built confidence and following, we improve our writing, and we build up an expertise.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful articles. Here’s to never getting bored and running out of things to say!

  2. Posted October 17, 2007 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Everything you have said makes a lot of sense, and passionately. In fact, it’s an example of what your blog’s focus can do, because although you are writing here about blogging, you’re also writing about a kind of philosophy on life. In some ways, the focus doesn’t limit what you talk about, just the angle you approach it from.

    I’m a “personal” blogger, I guess, which is a whole different kettle of fish, but I think what you have said still applies. EXCEPT for the idea that writing about anything and everything is playing it safe. For me, writing as much opinion as personal narrative – having a broader focus – is the risk I take. I could limit myself to being a “mom-blog” (and I don’t mean that negatively) but writing about the other things in life, whether they are social issues or personal ones, says something about my life philosophy too.

    I’ll be interested to read your next post. As I write this, I think I might be able to find some “labels” I can hang on what I have been doing and recognise a sense of unity in it. You’ve made me think about that more consciously, which is always a good thing.

  3. Posted October 17, 2007 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to decide if I should narrow my blog’s topic. My topic is creativity, and I’m blogging about writing, primarily, as well as photography and some of the other things I do, as examples of implementing creative habits and thinking. I’m not sure if the reader’s experience, however, is that the blog is focused on creativity or if it seems scattered across a variety of topics.

    When I first thought about blogging, I took blogs like Lifehacker as my example. Lifehacker has a specific idea, lifehacks, with a broad implementation: everything from software reviews to hardware hacks to life advice on finance, using duct tape, and how to organize gift wrap. This model obviously works well for Lifehacker, but I’m not sure if the focus is too broad for my website.

    Thanks for making me reconsider the focus of my blog.

  4. Posted October 17, 2007 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Agree. If you are focused you can give your readers exactly what they want, and they know that this is what they are getting. it can affect your blog’s name. Mine is simple – media, technology and rebel filmmaking, so readers know what to expect.

  5. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Niche, niche, niche – it’s like a mantra! It completely depends on your purpose for blogging in the first place. If your blog is for you, then it doesn’t matter if you don’t become an ‘expert’ in a particular field. Just enjoy blogging, and use it to develop your character, writing, or whatever your purpose is.

    If you’re blogging for others, then keep to a niche, become an expert, yadda yadda…

  6. Posted October 17, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that anyone ever mentions the only real reason to grab a niche. Without one, it is nearly impossible to create valuable advertising for your readers.

    If you have a niche, you know why your readers are there and what they are looking for. If you have a personal site, it is much more difficult to come up with any advertising strategy that adds value for your readers.

  7. Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    As I will continue to say in the article, if you blog for the sake of pleasing yourself, that’s your audience: you. Blog what makes you feel good.

    For those who want to build their blog into something for themselves, but the most important factor is reaching out and sharing with others through their blog, the communication aspect, then you need to make a plan for your blog, just as you would if you wanted to be captain of a starship. You make choices, take risks, and when the risks pay off by making you stronger and a better decision maker, and move your way up the ranks by getting noticed by the risks you take.

    I’m glad that this article series is connecting with those of you who were hunting for help and need to know that you are not an isolated voice in the wilderness. We all go through these things with our blogs.

  8. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree more. People should write on a more personal level rather than echo commercials and on-hit-wonder sites!

    Even if it’s bad, a blog about (your name here) is always better than (insert 1000 links here).

  9. Posted October 17, 2007 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    @ Jon, I disagree that advertising strategy is the sole reason for creating a “niche” blog. The are many good niche blogs without advertising anywhere. Often, the credibility and, yes, focus, of their blog can lead to paid work in real life, but the blog acts as a way of connecting with others in it’s field as well as creating a resource for those in that field. Money might be there, but it doesn’t need to be directly linked to the blog.

    Also, I don’t think what Lorelle has been discussing is limited to “niche” blogs. I think there is some value in what is being discussed for every blogger who wants readers, even personal bloggers like myself. This is about coherence more than limitations.

  10. Posted October 18, 2007 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Is it even possible to start focusing on a blog now that I have more than 500 posts on my blog?

  11. Posted October 18, 2007 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Pelf, you can start focusing any time. Don’t kill your blog just because you are now focusing on something specific. Just keep moving forward.

    I’ll be talking about when to kill off your blog and start anew later in this series. The truth is that you have probably already been writing about your blog focus without being aware of it. I know that’s true for you. You’ve always written from a point of caring and compassion, now you do it full time.

  12. Posted October 18, 2007 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I may have already been writing about my blog focus but I’m very sure I’m not aware of it, LOL. The irony!

  13. Posted December 3, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    i few good ways of focusing my blog, seems i be go over the top
    somewhat.


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