Why I’ve given up on niche blogging
This week I made some big changes to my shoe blog, ShoeperWoman.com – the biggest one being that, well, it’s not a shoe blog any more.
Well, it’s not JUST a shoe blog any more, I should say: because after 7 years (!) of writing solely about footwear, in every imaginable shape and form, I’ve decided it’s time for the site to branch out a bit. I’ll still be writing about shoes (they are the thing that started it, after all, and the reason many of the people who read the blog are there), but as of this week, I’ll be adding in other topics, too, all of which are loosely connected by the idea of helping people be “shoeper” – which, just in case it’s not obvious, is a shoe-centric form of “super”.
The new tagline for the site is “how to be a shoeperwoman”, and the idea is actually one I had a long time ago, but didn’t really follow through with – mostly because I was worried that the blog was so deeply entrenched in the shoe niche that it just wouldn’t be possible to transition it. I mean, even the NAME of the site has the word “shoe” in it, which meant I couldn’t re-brand without having to change the name (which I still really like), right?
Well, luckily for me, it didn’t quite come to that, because I realised that the name “ShoeperWoman” is derived from “SUPERwoman”, and so the site could just as easily be about becoming a “superwoman” as it could be about shoes. If I’d had to change the name, though, I probably would have, because one of the main things I’ve learned in all of my years of blogging is this:
‘Niche’ blogging just doesn’t work for me.
I mean, I’m not knocking it here, or saying it doesn’t work AT ALL. In fact, I actually think choosing a niche and sticking to it can work incredibly well… for SOME people. By choosing to focus your blog on a specific topic, you have a much better chance of becoming recognised as an expert on that topic, and of building a loyal readership of people who share your interest, whatever it may be. It can also be easier to find advertisers, to be the number 1 blog in your chosen niche (rather than just one of many who cover more general topics), and to take advantage of all kinds of other good stuff – which is probably why “pick a niche and stick to it” is one of the pieces of advice I see being given most often to new bloggers.
That’s all well and good, of course, and as I said, I’m not saying it’s bad advice at all. The fact that ShoeperWoman.com occupied such a comparatively small niche, for such a long time, is probably one of the reasons it was successful in the first place – but it’s also the main reason that if I hadn’t decided to re-brand, the site would ultimately have failed.
The problem with niche blogging, you see, is that it requires you to remain interested in one topic for a very long time: forever, in fact. It requires you to come up with new things to say about that topic day after day, month after month, year after year, and on into infinity. That would be hard enough even if you DID manage to sustain the same level of interest in your chosen topic for the duration of your blogging career, but that’s not very realistic, is it? The fact is, no matter how interested you are in something NOW, you can’t guarantee that you’ll still be every bit as interested in it ONE year from now, let alone ten. People change, and so do their interests, and this is something I think a lot of people don’t take into consideration when they start a blog.
A lot of new bloggers (myself included), don’t really seem to think much about the long term AT ALL when they’re starting out. Instead, they read all of the advice to pick a niche and stick to it, then they zero in on whatever it is that interests them most RIGHT NOW, and decide to make that their niche. That’s what I did when I started ShoeperWoman, and as I said, it worked for a while, but it couldn’t possibly have worked forever: not because I stopped being interested in shoes, exactly (I do still love my shoes: I just no longer feel the need to own 50,000 pairs of them!) – it’s just that, after 7 years of writing about them 5 days a week, I’d pretty much run out of things to say about them.
And I mean, sure, if I’d sat down and wracked my brain, I’m sure I could’ve come up with something. Because there’s always something, isn’t there? To be completely honest, though, I’d reached a stage where the pressure to keep coming up with something (and then something else, and on, and on, and on…) was really bleeding all the joy out of it for me. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t subscribe to the idea that you should only ever blog “for yourself” – I think blogging in order to earn a living is as valid a reason as any other, and because I blog for a living, I certainly don’t expect to enjoy every single second of it. For people like me, blogging is, at the end of the day, a job, and while it IS a job I love, there will always be days – and sometimes even weeks – when it’s more of a struggle than a joy. With ShoeperWoman, though, I’d reached the stage where EVERY day was like that, and that’s why things had to change.
What I’ve learned is that if I try to force myself to write “on demand”, by rigidly sticking to a “one topic only” rule, I just can’t do it – or I CAN, but I don’t enjoy it, and when you don’t enjoy it, everything you do takes 5 times the effort. In order to stay motivated, I need the variety of being able to pick and choose my topics – and to know that if I’m not feeling inspired by something one day, I can pick something that DOES inspire me, instead : and probably write a much better post about it, into the bargain.
Of course, you could argue that what I’m doing is still “niche” blogging – it’s just that now the niche is “things that are shoeper”, rather than “things that are SHOES”. By that logic, I guess this blog has a “niche” too – the niche being, well, ME, really. It’s about what I wear, what I do, what I think… so lots of different topics, all loosely bound together with one common thread. Whatever you want to call it, though, I know that this is the style of blogging that works for me – and that makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning, and get to work.
Isn’t that half the battle, after all?