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Blog Struggles: When Is Your Blog Focus Too Narrow?

Blog Struggles badgeAs I struggled to determine my blog’s focus, I debated like many about the definition of “narrow”. After all, how narrow is narrow in your niche?

After years of personal debate on this issue, I came up with this answer:

Your blog focus is too narrow when you run out of things to write about.

We often start out with a flourish of ideas, creating lists and lists of things to write about on our narrow subject matter. Somewhere down the line, three, six, even eighteen months later, we can run out of steam. After you’ve said just about everything there is to say about a subject, then what?

This is when many start turning away from the ideas in their head and to their feed readers, looking for what others are saying on the subject, quoting them. There is nothing wrong with highlighting other experts – unless this is a sign that your blog path is too narrow and your creative writing well has dried up.

When Your Blog Focus is Too Narrow For Your Readers

If your readership level has plateaued, or is only creeping up in tiny notches, maybe your blog’s narrow focus has maxed out your narrow demographics. After all, there is only so much you can say on a single subject, and there are only so many people interested in that specific topic.

If your blog focus is too narrow for your readers, then you may have reached the saturation point where readers leave when they’ve gotten what they need and moved onto the next level.

If you are bored with your blog content, its possible that your regular readers are also becoming bored. Maybe it’s time to stretch your blog focus a little to spice things up, but to also spice up your creative juices.

Finding Commonality in Your Blog Focus Topics

When I started , I needed a diverse collection of post content in order to put through its paces as one of the testers of this new free blogging service. As a contributor and editor of the , the online manual for WordPress Users, and writing extensively about WordPress on my own blog, it was natural to move and start writing new WordPress-related content to this blog.

Writing technical articles is a great way of pushing content limits. Many technical articles include number and bullet lists, tables of data, font sizes and styles, graphics, and other post content styles. I created a few categories, poked at the blogroll, and clicked everything I could, documenting the lessons learned along the way, privately for the development team, and publicly for those interested in how this new blogging service and version of WordPress worked.

While I was presenting content solely for the purpose of testing the service, readers attracted to the content clamored for more. Why not? So I became a resource for WordPress tips and techniques.

Within a few months, however, I found that I was getting a lot of questions on blogging in general, so I started adding some posts about blogging to complement WordPress technical articles. The two go hand in hand naturally. While I wanted the focus to remain on WordPress, I found myself becoming a hot expert on the topic of blogging.

Almost three years later, I haven’t changed my blog focus from WordPress and blogging on . I haven’t ran out of things to write about. If I had stayed solely focused on WordPress, I might have gotten bored covering only technical information, but by expanding into general tips and information on blogging, I’m not bored yet.

With two related subjects – specifically two highly interrelated subjects – I found a never-ending source of article ideas pouring out of me daily. I soon had a file folder full of ideas and topics to cover. I could barely keep up. This list continues to supply me with blog posts even three years later.

Andrew Dubber - New Music StrategiesAndrew Dubber is an expert and educator on the music business and industry and runs several blogs covering the music business. Talking with him recently, he told me about how everyone was covering their niche on the music industry, but he wanted to get more intimate with the conversation. “There are a lot of music bloggers and websites, but few helping musicians understand how to make blogs and websites work for them, as well as how to work within in this new online market.”

He created New Music Strategies with discussions on new and online strategies for music business, The New Music Biz to explore the international music industry in the new digital and online world, and New Music Ideas which reviews online music websites and blogs and helps musicians and music businesses understand how the online market works. Andrew brings together business and music across the three blogs, but keeps each one narrow and specific in its coverage, with one offering specific technical help and advice, another getting down to the music business marketplace of today, and the other providing news and information resources. While the blogs could easily be integrated, he’s found enough to blog about to keep them separate, related, but still narrowly focused.

Christine KaneChristine Kane is a world renowned singer and song writer with six hot selling albums and a popular blog. Christine could use her blog to promote her music and concerts like most celebrities, but that doesn’t feed her passion. She blogs about a variety of subjects beyond music, covering spiritual and inspirational topics, healing, depression, and relationship issues. For her, her songs and her blogging voice are one in the same. Each a creative expression for her talents.

I write this blog to inspire people to live creatively, consciously and courageously. I write this blog to help other people heal depression, eating disorders, or hopelessness. I write this blog to encourage people to act in spite of fear. I write this blog because if it weren’t for other people out there teaching and inspiring, I never would have found the courage. This is my way to be one of those people.

Christine found unity with her blog topics and her music, giving her endless sources of blog content.

Finding Unity in Blog Diversity

I’ve met a lot of bloggers who struggle with too narrow a niche or trying to connect three or more totally diverse subjects into one common denominator on their blogs. If the niche is too narrow, then broadening it can open up the creative channels, but trying to force square pegs into round holes with disparate subjects can cause more confusion than traffic.

A recent client wanted to blog about his love of animals, wood carving, and cars. He thought he needed three separate blogs, but he wanted my expertise on how to combine the three into one. We brainstormed for a while to find a common thread. Without a common thread uniting these diverse three subjects, it would be a three subject blog. This caused problems with the blog design, categories, and developing a strong, consistent readership. There aren’t a lot of people truly enthusiastic about those three subjects at the same time.

Can three blog subjects work - animals, wood carving, and cars?

Animals and wood carving means working with nature. There isn’t much nature in automobiles. We explored his love of cars and I found out that he loves rebuilding old cars.

“What about animals do you enjoy and will you be blogging about?”

Without hesitation, he replied, “Rehabilitation of animals into the wild.”

Rehabilitation of animals. Rehabilitation of cars. Can we get a rehabilitation out of wood? Probably not, but we eventually found that these three subjects were not just labors of love for him, but manual labor. He loved working with his hands, getting literally down and dirty. It’s the hard work that excites his soul, using his hands to help animals return to the wild, wood becomes furniture and artwork, and old cars become drivable feeds his passion.

By finding the underlying passion for these three diverse subjects, his blog now has an underlying theme. It also gives him more to blog about than just animals, wood carving and cars. He can talk about the work, about how satisfying it is to use your hands to help rebuild and create, whether it be living or inanimate objects. He now has more things to blog about than he ever imagined.

Without the common thread, the blog subject matter, as diverse as possible, was still too narrow. With the underlying connection, a whole world opened up to explore.

If your blog focus is too narrow, you may run out of things to blog about. If it is too wide, you might be overwhelmed, and your readers may lose interest as you aren’t an expert they can trust to deliver fairly consistent content. Finding the right combination to establish yourself as an expert and authority while keeping your creative juices flowing is a challenge, but finding the underlying commonality between the subjects may open the door to a whole new world of blogging and readers.

Blog Struggles Series

This is one of an ongoing series of articles on blog struggles, the challenges of blogging as I see them from 15 years of experience.



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

7 Comments

  1. Posted June 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    When I first set my blog up this was something I thought long and hard about, with guidance from your book Lorrelle. I was new to blogging, and didn’t know whether I would be able to sustain it over any period. So I’ve started out with a pretty narrow focus — I offer a reflection prompted by the varying weekly prayers in the Church-of-England. This means that I’m only really committed to one post a week. I can sustain that, and as my confidence grows there is a vast subject area that I can cover, yet still keep to the basic focus of the blog — reflections on prayer. And there is always room for asides if it feels right. So great advice, works for me, thank you.

  2. Posted June 3, 2008 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I’m still not sure how to judge “how narrow is too narrow,” at least in advance. If you can’t figure out your topic and organization in advance, it’s going to either lead to a bad design or having to redesign the site/blog later, but having too much of a niche, so to speak, could easily be something one doesn’t learn until three, six, or eighteen months later, as you pointed out.

    Like the last example you use, I knew when I revised my site (for the third time due to a lack of forethought the previous two times) that I had five rather different topics to talk about and, therefore, my readers might not be interested in all five. Therefore, I went with a self-hosted WordPress-MU site so I could theme them all the same, bringing cohesiveness, and manage them all from the same backend (making updates easier), but still have five separate blogs with five separate RSS feeds to make reading/subscribing more individualized for the reader.

    I think there are times when having separate blogs is a must, but it’s important to develop the site with that in mind so it all flows together smoothly. Otherwise, you end up with the nightmare(s) I had in the past :-P

  3. Posted June 3, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    @ Matthew:

    While that isn’t a good example of how to use WordPressMU, it is a good example of how to think through the process. Separate blogs can work, but some want to connect the dots between their favorite subjects rather than add to the work load. It all depends upon where you want to go and how you want to travel the path. There are no right or wrong answers, but there is planning and that makes, or breaks, the difference in blogging satisfaction.

  4. Posted June 4, 2008 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    One thing I’ve done on my blog is to use the Move Comments plug-in when a series of comments gets “off-thread”. This way, if the users want to expand my blog scope. For example, if I have a post about a local election and people start talking about Obama – I create an “Open Thread” post about Obama and move the Obama comments over there.

  5. Posted June 4, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, Lorelle! One thing I’ve realized is that having a wide range to blog about brings lots of challenges. But I’d die of boredom if I had to crawl into a niche. (Writing about the music business would give me hives.)

    No matter what you blog about – the whole platform teaches you exactly what you need to learn. Even if you get the perfect niche/topic/etc, you’ll still be challenged. But damn, that’s better than being bored! Blogging is making everyone into a professional. I see this as a big positive. I’ve been frustrated here and there – but I’m so glad I keep taking the leaps and trying new things too.

  6. Posted June 5, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    @ Christine Kane:

    You are one of the great leap takers, Christine, setting a great example for all of us. Part of blogging is understanding how it works, as well as how it doesn’t work, for each individual and company. Luckily, there is room for great diversity!

  7. Posted June 9, 2008 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    I’ve just started my blog. I am currently high school teacher. I just don’t think we do a good job teaching kids about how money works so my I am going to talk about that on my blog. However I end up thinking thoughts all over the place. Hard to stay focused sometimes.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Lorelle on WordPress wrote this excellent article on struggling to come up with content for your blogs when your niche is too narrow in focus and you’ve been at it for some months. This is exactly what I wrote about on my home page when I decide to head my site in a new direction. I am finding it a lot easier to come up with quality content now that I’ve widened my interests.You can read her full article by Clicking Here Now. [...]

  2. [...] When is Your Blog Focus too Narrow? at Lorelle on Word Press [...]

  3. [...] Blog Struggles: When Is Your Blog Focus Too Narrow? What happens when you set your blog purpose and focus too narrow – is there room to grow and change? [...]

  4. [...] Blog Struggles: When Is Your Blog Focus Too Narrow? What happens when you set your blog purpose and focus too narrow – is there room to grow and change? [...]

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