Blog Exchange – thinking outside the niche
Without even realising it I’m guessing you filter your content. Even without a niche, I have a long line of topics and areas I’m not willing to cross on the blog. Mostly it involves my three teen girls but there is also the conservative factor.
My lack of a thigh gap was attacked rather viciously by trolls recently which once again has me second guessing and over thinking most of my blog posts lately. It can be debilitating and sometimes I think you need to throw caution to the wind, stop the over thinking and just get back to basics. Which means sharing a little part of yourself. Showing some vulnerability.
When I first commenced blogging, I had a vision of how I thought things would work and look. It’s a process that I’m constantly reviewing and changing while I find my blogging feet, my voice and the time to actually fit everything in.
I’ve always strived to be a little different to the rest both on and off the blog. I’m not sure if that is actually working for me or against me. It’s how I roll, it’s my style and I tend to make it work.
You could say, I’ve approached blogging in all the wrong ways. No niche, a name (Mystery Case) that should effectively be a search engine nightmare and a host of other questionable antics. Although along the lines of crazy ideas rather than anything unethical. For the most part, I shy away from blogging workshops and following a set format.
I’m not convinced you could call my blogging endeavours a real success but considering there was just a $10 outlay (msmsysterycase.com domain name) in that first year, any success was down to a lot of hard work.
Hard work that saw the blog hitting the first page on google within the first month, having brands provide products for giveaways from the get go, hitting 25k page views in that first month, 300k page views just last month and all the opportunities sponsored and otherwise that have come my way since. Without a media kit in sight. True story.
I share all of that, not for you to compare but to hopefully open your mind that there just might be a different way forward. Success looks different to different people and you really should only be comparing your efforts to your own endeavours. Easier said than done. Especially when you see bloggers rewarded time and again for their efforts which aren’t that much different to your own efforts.
But I’m not saying my way is the correct way, far from it. I don’t have a blogging magic wand, there are no workshops or blogging short cuts/products up for sale here. I honestly don’t think in this over saturated blogging world there is a right way to approach things. What worked for bloggers starting out five or more years ago when it was a completely different ball game, isn’t necessarily going to work for you now.
I suspect if you start following someone else’s success formula like everyone else seems to be doing, your audience may just switch off altogether. You need that point of difference.
Does that really need to include a niche as well? It might make finding your audience and promoting your blog a whole lot easier but I would like to think by thinking outside your niche, if only slightly you are adding more value for your readers.
For me, success is not just about the traffic and rankings or joining the biggest blog agency. It’s about building a community, providing great content and having a whole lot of fun. Something I feel (speaking about the great content here), I haven’t had the time to master or perfect and so many others do it so well.
I do look back at a lot of blog posts when I first started and cringe. Like most, I do have moments of comparison and find myself thinking why bother. Thankfully they are short-lived and I’ve learnt to tone down my perfectionist ways and hit publish possibly more often than I should. A lesson in itself.
My first blog (msmysterycase.com), was basically thrown together with no real thought in a week, after a client practically dared me. They wanted me to do the same for them and having no real experience in building a blog from the ground up, I straight up declined. Stating lack of experience as my reason.
The carrot they dangled next and the endless possibilities for adding to my Virtual Assistant work, had me throwing together a quick but rather loose business plan for my own blog together with a photo shoot for branding to enable me to test the blogging waters.
It was then a case of revisiting my coding skills from the 90s (possibly overkill with everything so automated and super easy these days) and throwing myself in the deep end over on Blogger. Although it was more like diving in the deep end fully clothed with my 21kg favourite Jessica Bratich handbag firmly attached to me. Sink or swim.
The blog was up and running in two days and I spent the rest of the week looking at the legalities behind blogging and calling for guest bloggers to join me for high tea. I would use my blog as a test platform, so I didn’t set a foot wrong somewhere else.
Hitting publish on my first official blog post (here) was a nerve-racking experience and for the life of me, I have no idea why because seriously who in their right mind would want to read anything I’ve written sprang to mind back then. It still does.
The fact that over 1000 people actually read that first post and my family knew nothing of the blog or blogging was mind-boggling and I suspect everything to do with the high tea callouts and the interest I’d created via Facebook, not to mention being the new rather mysterious girl on the blogging block here in Perth.
I would need to go back through the archives to see just how many actually left a comment on that first post because not all comments made it across when I merged blogs and moved to self hosted WP but it would have only been a handful. Interestingly, I was offered work with both brands mentioned in that first blog post and had some rather impressive local bloggers across all niches join me for one on one high teas over the coming weeks.
You could say, I had no real idea of just how much you needed to sell yourself or how important it was to have a handle on the social media spruiking side of things when I first started. An easy enough process you would think for someone who has a PR background from way back in the dark none social media ages but honestly it was more than a mean feat. You are effectively trying to sell yourself and I’m like everyone else here I suspect, in that it’s not my strong point.
If I’m honest, I found the whole 80% promotion to 20% content that is recommended so you actually find your audience exhausting when I was promoting myself. It doesn’t leave much time or creative space for actually blogging to my own agenda. Put me in charge of someone else’s social media agenda and I come alive. Go figure.
It would be nice to think along the lines ‘build it and they will come’ works for blogging but the truth is, it really doesn’t and putting your heart and sole into a post that no one actually reads can be disheartening.
Unless you hold the celebrity draw card, I’m guessing when you are first starting out, your family and friends are your main blog audience. I’m also assuming this means you censor some of what is written. If you are writing for your business blog that’s a whole other ball game.
I know for me, my in-laws provide a wealth of blogging material. When they are visiting, I often feel like I’m the poor suffering completely misunderstood wife in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. I’m sure I could write my own sitcom including a blog post or three on the in-law shenanigans but regardless of whether or not they actually read my blog (as far as I know they don’t), for my husband’s sake mainly and to keep the peace, I’m just not willing to go there. Why I’ve already said too much!
If I had my time over, would I do things differently? Possibly.
I still wouldn’t pigeonhole myself with a niche but I would probably delay hitting publish until I had six months worth of content, sitting in my draft folder ready and waiting to go. The problem with sitting on content though, having just deleted 171 draft blog posts, is that your blogging voice and approach changes over time and unless you are blogging to a set agenda for a business or you have a dedicated niche, you risk not publishing at all.
I’m still undecided if this is a good or a bad thing. We are talking posts that six months ago I would have been proud to publish, now destined for
the bin file 13 because they no longer fit my style or the blog. Posts that might do well and provide inspiration for guest blog posts. Something else to consider.
A big part of my blogging journey has me sharing the social media love I’ve been lucky enough to receive here on AMC, with other bloggers through collaborations.
I’m hoping to open that up even further with Blog Exchange through our monthly challenges and other mystery projects. This will include a blog sitting service to help with engagement and keeping your blog alive if you are having time off and relying on scheduling. Nothing spammy or scammy, just bloggers helping bloggers in their time of need.
June Challenge | Blog like there’s nobody reading
This month’s challenge for Blog Exchange is to blog like there’s nobody reading. Straight from the heart, remove the niches, blog restraints and just write something that holds meaning. This doesn’t mean substandard work because nobody is reading your work. It’s more a case of removing the unspoken blogging lines you’ve created.
If you are stuck for a topic, why not start with the story of how you discovered blogging and your journey so far.
So this exercise has the maximum benefit, it’s best to approach your writing knowing it isn’t necessarily going to hit your blog. Why it might not be published at all but hopefully it will help you on your journey to finding your authentic blogging voice. It might also provide a glimpse on how you can redefine or open your niche up. Your point of difference.
Once your piece is completed, feel free to share a snippet here or on our private Facebook group, where we will look at taking things further but for now I encourage you to blog like nobody is reading.
In the meantime regardless of if you are here to learn or here to mentor please take a moment to introduce yourself and your blog in the comments below and include a link to your blog home page here:
How long have you been blogging and what aspects of blogging do you struggle with the most? Please take a moment to introduce yourself and your blog.