By Aaron S. Robertson
For this post, I want to take some time to reflect on a post written by Joe over at WebsiteBegin. He recently authored a great post entitled, Choosing a Great Niche.
Being in the business of search engine optimization, social media, copy writing, and online marketing for nearly five years now, I totally agree with Joe here. In order to be successful with a blog, you really do have to have passion. And you really do need a niche.
And it needs to be a specific niche. It can't be too broad. Case in point here: roughly six or seven years ago now, Dan Kenitz, a friend from my college days who is now a partner here at Intrepid Innovations, had a really cool idea for a Web site. We were still in college at the time. An avid news junkie who's passionate about political debate, Dan envisioned a site that would feature a blog and discussion forums. He ended up launching the site, calling it BipolarNation.com, a name reflecting the country's deep political divide. I helped him for a few years with marketing the site. I also wrote for it from time to time. BipolarNation really provided me with my first hands-on experience with search engine optimization and online marketing, and it was through my work on this site that I really became interested in SEO and Web marketing. And now, I can't get enough of it! Anyways, back to the point here. Dan shut the site down maybe two or three years ago to concentrate on other projects. But during the time that he had the site, there were many times he considered giving up on it. There were times where traffic was great, but overall, it just wasn't there, at least not at the levels we were wanting it at. That was frustrating to both of us.
Now a seasoned veteran when it comes to SEO, Internet marketing, social media, etc., I think I now have the answer to Dan's problem: the site's niche was simply too broad. It was a great idea, no doubt about it. And there's no question that Dan had the passion. He worked very hard on it. It was his baby. And being a writing major, the content he produced was always interesting and engaging, whether you agreed with him or not. But in hindsight, knowing what I now know, I think it simply came down to not having a tighter niche. He discussed political issues and news mostly on a national level, and that's the problem. There already were (and are) far too many Web sites out there discussing national politics and news stories. That right there makes it extremely difficult to truly stand out.
Flash forward to January 2010. By this point, we had been in business as Intrepid Innovations for just over two years, having launched our company at the end of 2007. I decided to create this blog. It didn't take long for me to determine the niche. As a business owner who was passionate about meeting new people and helping others with my knowledge and experiences, and, having been involved in a number of business networking groups by then, I decided to launch a blog that would largely focus on networking opportunities for business owners and professionals around the greater Milwaukee area. It's a pretty unique niche, as I don't see too many other sites out there that are focused on this particular subject.
Now, don't get me wrong. This blog isn't strictly about Milwaukee or about business opportunities in Milwaukee. I'm a freelance journalist, as well, so I publish exclusive interviews on here from time to time, whether the interviewee has anything to do with Milwaukee or not. And being back in school, going for a Master's of Science in Management (MSM) degree, I've been publishing my research papers on here, too. And we now welcome submitted items like press releases, articles, and announcements that have nothing to do with the Milwaukee area.
But by keeping this Milwaukee networking theme intact, however, we've developed a loyal core following. We now have consistent traffic at decent levels that are putting smiles on our faces. Of course, we're always striving for continuous improvement. But right now, we're pretty happy overall. And it's all because of this specific niche. That's what keeps traffic coming back at all hours of the day and night. The rest of the blog's content is icing on the cake. Bonus points. Extra search engine results. But without this specific niche - if we were just posting random interviews, research papers, and blurbs that don't relate to one another - there's no doubt that we wouldn't have the following that we do. Our blog would be completely lost in the search engines. The search engines wouldn't know how to categorize it because it wouldn't have enough content that was somehow related, married through a particular theme.
A recent look at the keywords people are finding our blog with are quite revealing: milwaukee area job web sites, real estate networking milwaukee, milwaukee business networking, etc. We know we're on to something.
What are your experiences in launching blogs or regular Web sites? Ever get frustrated and feel like giving up? What sorts of niches did you target? What advice would you have for someone thinking about launching a site for the very first time? What learning experiences have you taken away? Share your knowledge, insights, and experiences in the Comments section below.