The One Iron Law of Blogging
When it comes down to it, if you want to build a popular blog, there are very few “rules” to follow.
Really, there is only one rule.
That’s the “Iron Law of Blogging”, and it can’t be broken, otherwise you’ll end up with a deserted collection of information that you meekly call a “blog”.
Today, you’re going to find out what that rule is, and how you can abide by it… while still adding you.
The Iron Law
This “iron law” is cold, hard, and unforgiving — ignore it, and you will fail.
So what is it?
I think this quote from Marc Andreesen, a venture capitalist and founder of Netscape states it well:
Market matters most; neither a stellar team nor fantastic product will redeem a bad market. Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are.
Or, in other words…
Your blog’s success is completely dependent on people actually wanting to read what you write about.
If there just isn’t enough people in your market, that’s the end of the line right there: it doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, and it doesn’t matter how amazing your content is.
Henneke Duistermaat calls this the Sin Of Originality in his guest post on Jon Morrow’s blog, and I think it’s an apt title for what I hold as the “Iron Law”.
He continues with this great metaphor:
You write, and write, and write, and nobody pays you any attention, not because your writing is bad, necessarily, but because there is a lack of demand. Yes, your content is great, but there just aren’t that many people interested in reading about it.
Essentially, you’ve created the world’s greatest asparagus restaurant. Maybe you have one or two regulars who are asparagus freaks, but the rest of the world would rather go get some pizza. So, your restaurant (or blog) is empty.
The truth: the originality and creativity that you can bring to a topic will only serve to aid you if the audience is ALREADY THERE.
Just take a look at a blogger like Mars Dorian.
He uses comics and amazingly done illustrations to discuss business and life advice from a really unique perspective.
The thing is, as original as his blog content is, he’s still in a market that people want to read about.
If he had started a blog about extreme ironing (before you even ask, yes, that’s real), he could have somehow made his comics twice as good and it still wouldn’t matter: there wouldn’t be a large enough people interested in his topic to get on board and appreciate his creativity.
When to “Niche it Down”
The thing that gets most people tripped up is that lots of marketers tell them to “niche it down” in order to succeed.
The thing that many people miss here is that this subset that you’ve chosen needs to have two things:
- It needs to be apart of a much more popular broad genre
- It needs to be suitable to run a blog about
Let’s take a look at an example…
I run a blog called Sophistefunk, which is about electronic music.
Even though that’s a specific niche, it’s part of a much larger niche in “music”.
Additionally, I knew the audience was there for this sub-niche of mine.
There were already a few competitors.
You may think competition is a bad thing, but competition actually helps you solve your biggest blog (and business!) problem: finding out if people want your offer.
Restaurants are one of the toughest ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses to get into, but at least we all know that restaurants in general are needed; people like to go out and eat.
However, before we can just go out and start any ol’ restaurant, we have to make sure the demand is there for the creativity we’re about to add: we know restaurants are popular, but that doesn’t mean that an asparagus restaurant is going to do well.
For bloggers, this begs the question: how can you tell?
For starters, I recommend you read this post by Jon Morrow on the 21 Warning Signs that You Chose the Wrong Blog Topic.
He recommends checking for things like the following:
- Other blogs! (specifically, other popular blogs in your niche. If there isn’t any, that is a bad sign…)
- Books written about your topic, search for them on Amazon
- Advertisers (are there things to sell for your topic?)
- Are there any large publications (magazines, newsletters, etc.) on the topic?
If you find a “wide open field”, you may be on the road less traveled… but it may be less traveled for a reason.
The other thing you need to consider is does your topic make for a good blog?
Not every audience building endeavor (or online business in general) has focus around a blog (although blogs benefit nearly all businesses)
The internet is a great place to create audiences in other ways, like the top YouTubers have done.
Blogs are great because they can serve as a “litmus test” before developing a full product.
What you need to consider though, is would people be interested in reading about whatever your topic is in blog form.
Plenty of people enjoying hang-gliding, but do you know any hang-gliding blogs specifically?
Probably not, but you might know a few “adventure” type blogs, which include stories of hang-gliding trips in exotic locals.
The point in all that rambling: make sure you don’t get too laser focused, and that you don’t pick a topic that will have a limited reach.
Take a look at the topics that are already doing well (more “competition” means more people that can link to you!) and try to find a way to insert you into your unique selling proposition.
Feel free to put your spin on things, but don’t ruin your chances by trying to break the iron law of blogging.
Over To You…
So, now that you’ve made it to the end, I’ve got 3 things for you to do…
- Tell me what the “broad” topic of your blog is.
- Tell me about your unique spin on that topic: how are you going to own it by standing out?
- Since you took the time to read my content, you also might enjoy my very awesome and very free e-Book on conversion psychology.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!
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12 Responses to “The One Iron Law of Blogging”
Marshall Colt, Ph.D.
“Markets matter most.” I wish I’d been smart enough to realize that back when I was trying to introduce a service helping companies avoid sexual harassment claims. Good idea, right? Wrong. The market didn’t want it. The market didn’t think it had a problem, or if it did, it thought it had already figured out how to do it without my help. Of course, I thought the market was wrong about that, but it didn’t matter. The service never took off. I wasted a lot of time and money.
Listen to what your market wants! It’s a rough road trying to tell a market what you think it needs.
This is a great topic.
I write about foreign language learning. I was worried that there would not be enough interest out there for this topic. I created a few more blogs where I discuss other things I enjoy, like gardening, cooking, and family life.
Great blog post! Gosh, I enjoyed that. Now, if I can just find my stand out place.
My broad category is business then I talk about it from a marketing perspective since I am a marketing consultant. It’s all based on my experience and research. However, I’v not given my blog any unique label like “Everyday Business or something special.
To be honest, I’m working on the “standing out” part. I usually talk from an experience perspective or I answer questions from clients (so that I can point the next person back to my blog for that same question).
I hope that I can give the blog a personality…or some uniqueness that will be attractive in such a big category.
Andi the Minion
I love the story of Sophistefunk, i love dance music and with so much free music about and piracy I couldn’t see how a blog in that niche could work but you went out and did it lol. Very inspiring… I now believe virtually all niches can or should work to a degree. When you consider how many people there are globally online, there must be at least a few thousand lovers of even the most obscure hobbies around who need a place to gather.
The “Broad” topic of my blog is “Blogging and internet marketing”. It’s because I have a passion and knowledge about Blogging and internet marketing and I love to write about these topics. There are a lot of popular blogs and books in this niche too.
BTW Greg I love to write your posts here and at SparingMind. I would love to grab your E-book. Have a pleased day my friend.
Great post. I have a blog about “military spouses” which is part of a large niche, “military”…I’ve drummed it down even further because I don’t run the ordinary milspouse blog…there are no sappy, deployment and love posts. This blog is for the “hardcore” milspouse who wants to work at home, go to school, borrow money, start businesses and be successful .
Good stuff. Thanks.
Thanks for this food for thought…I am really enjoying your blog! I am a fairly new blogger and am trying to navigate the way to becoming an experienced and popular blogger!
My broad niche is “life style” design – interior design/diy/parenting/family/relationships – with a narrowed down niche of doing it all in a way that makes your life easier for you. I provide a unique spin by sharing my humorous, not-so-perfect experiences. Many bloggers in this niche seem able to “do it all” perfectly – kids, home, writing…and I felt defeated each time I read their posts! I decided people might want to hear about the same topics from a more self-effacing perspective.
I would love to hear if you think that is too broad/too focused an approach…thanks!
Very true. Content is king in blogging as it is in anything. Thanks for the info.
Interesting food for thought–and something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now.
*the â€œbroadâ€ topic of your blog is: The broad subject is weight loss, maintenance, fitness, healthy living.
*Tell me about your unique spin on that topic: My unique spin is that I lost over 100 pounds by myself (no fad diets, no surgery) and I’ve kept it off for over 4 years now. I think losing a massive amount of weight like that is definitely unique but the harder part is keeping it off. I like to think I portray a pretty healthy and active lifestyle for keeping it off to my readers…without restricting myself.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always believed that if you niche down too much it’s counterproductive.
People who niche down have to realize that certain topics are naturally more popular than others and readers will respond differently. Blogger may be guilty of not paying enough attention to what readers actually want, and may just be working off what they’re passionate about.
Relevance leads to response. The more popular and appealing the niche, the larger the audience and response.
I appreciated this post today. It made me feel – and I hope I’m right! – that I’m on the right track.
1. The â€œbroadâ€ topic of my [new] blog is the subject of TEA. (I have quite a long relationship with the subject, large network of ‘tea’ people around the world, expertise, etc.)
2. My unique spin on this very broad subject is that I am an American expat/Anglophile married to a Brit and living in England. We see and do lots of fab things here (we love this country) and because I *have* a knowledge of tea and tea history and English history, it seems like I’m always ‘uncovering’ the coolest tea connections (sometimes small, sometimes not so small) with people, places, and things over here. My blog will be about my ‘tea life’ in England; these tea ‘discoveries’ that I make; and also just general fun, interesting tea experiences that I encounter living over here.
Thank you again for the encouraging and informative post.
Hi Gregory, I
like the way this post is written. Creating a sub niche is a good way to start especially if you are just starting out. It also shows your expertise and you are able to focus most of your efforts more easily. Being in too broad a niche brings a sort of “Jack of All trades but master of none” feel to it.
The thing is, one of the biggest problems I have had is the add unique spin to it, especially when it comes to guest posting. No matter how unique I try to make it, there is always someone who comes up with something similar.
Can you give examples of unique spins on topics so that I can better understand exactly what most bloggers and readers want?
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