You might think you can skip past this one, but please don’t! Picking the right blog topic is crucial , and only becomes more important as you produce more content. If you don’t get it right now, it can make things more difficult as time goes on, so please just humor me and spend a couple of minutes, even if you’re sure you have this covered, mmkay?
Deciding what you’re going to blog about is obviously important. Lots of things are important: The domain name you pick is important. The design of the site is important. However, I’d argue that picking the right subject for your blog is more important than both of those. Conversely, picking the wrong subject can negatively affect you further down the road.
Imagine that you’ve picked a topic you’re not 100% into… Can you see yourself still wanting to write posts a couple of times a week when you’re 50, or 100 posts in?
You can have the nicest looking blog, with a really clever domain name, but if you’re posts about all kinds of different things, it will be difficult to build a returning readership base, and the traffic from search engines will be negatively affected. This is why personal ‘this is what I did last week and here are some photos of my cat’ type blogs don’t really work. Yes, you can still blog about your trip to Disneyland, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying that if you want to build a successful blog (in terms of traffic, visitor engagement, and potentially profit), you need to pick a specific core subject and stick to that.
The caveat here is that if you already have a big readership/fanbase (i.e. you’re a celebrity), you could post about almost anything and still get visitors.
Let’s look at those 3 examples… together on one blog, it’d be a bit of a mess, but individually, you could have the basis of a popular blog:
- “What I did last week” – Ok, this is fairly non-descript, and on the face of it, not that interesting. Say you’re a fiction writer though, this could be a good premise for a weekly short story.
- “Here are some photos of my cat” – I don’t really need to explain this one at all… This is Tumblr’s bread and butter.
- “Your trip to Disneyland” – If you travel a lot and have a somewhat-decent camera (and a good eye for a photo) a travel blog could prove to be a very good choice.
Those were 3 very flippant examples, but I hope you can see that, for the right person, they could work. For example number 1, you’d need to be a (not necessarily good, but eager) fiction writer. If you didn’t enjoy writing stories, what would be the point? For example number 2, you’d need a cat, and hopefully, an interesting looking one, or at least, one that’s a bit mischievous. For example 3, you’d need to have been somewhere fun/exciting/dangerous and have some nice photos, or be able to write about it descriptively enough for the lack of photos to not matter.
So why is picking the wrong blog topic so bad?
The point is, you need personal experience in, and an enthusiasm for whatever you’re going to blog about. Imagine that you’ve picked a topic you’re not 100% into… Can you see yourself still wanting to write posts a couple of times a week when you’re 50, or 100 posts in? Not only that, but you might find that your lack of enthusiasm shows through to your readers.
So how do I choose the topic that’s right for me?
It’s possible that you’ve read this far because I asked you to humor me, and you do actually know what you want to blog about (and if so, you have my gratitude). Maybe you’re a PhD in ‘the explaining of movie special effects’, or you’re currently – painstakingly – translating a book of knock-knock jokes from ancient Greek. Either way, you have a love of something, and want to write about it, so the answer is pretty obvious.
If this isn’t you, then get a pen and paper and try one of these:
Method 1 – The Viewfinder Method
I wasn’t that good at art at school, but I definitely appreciated some of the techniques and mind-tricks that went into it. Being sat in front of a quintessential ‘bowl of fruit plus whatever else was lying around’ still life, and told to draw left me thinking “but where do I start?”. Given that same scene, and a viewfinder, I’d be much happier, as you focus on the lines and shapes that make the plastic apple up, and not the much larger picture.
The same applies here. Instead of asking yourself ‘what can I write about?’, make a list of all of the things you’ve done today, no matter how inconsequential. For anything you’ve done more than once, make a note of the number.
So we’ve got something to work with, here’s my list:
- Got up late
- Picked my ‘Fantasy Football’ team
- Played a quick game on my iPhone x3
- Cleared away takeaway detritus
- Watched football
- Downloaded a new app
- Went for a run
- Fixed the Xbox
- Played Xbox
- Registered a domain x2
- Watched ‘Sherlock’
If you do lots of websitey stuff and want to help people build a great blog… wait, that’s this site.
The point of doing this, is to remember everything that you either do habitually (and so don’t even realise you’re doing), or to get you on a roll so you write down the things you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
Everything on the above list could be the idea that sparks a great blog. Don’t believe me? Let’s analyse a few…
‘Got up late’ – Ok, I got up late because I love my bed and I love sleeping. This, I’m confident, isn’t unique to me, but say you have particularly crazy or vivid dreams, and can remember them for long enough to get them typed out, or you don’t sleep very well and you’re currently trying some new techniques to help, that’s the basis for a blog right there.
‘Played a quick game on my iPhone’ x3 – I played a couple of different iPhone games a total of 3 times, and today was a bit of an off-day if I’m honest. We’re generally all becoming more reliant and glued to our phones. I probably only played for a total of around 5 minutes, and I’ll be playing some other games by next week, I’m sure. If this sounds like you, then all you’d need to do is take a few screenshots, and you’d have everything you need to run a blog reviewing mobile games.
The same goes for ‘Downloaded a new app’, if games aren’t really your thing, but you just can’t get enough of mobile productivity software (and let’s face it, who can’t?).
‘Went for a run’ – Training for a charity event, or trying to fundraise? A blog would be a great way to showcase that! Throw in some bad photos of you looking out of breath, and let readers set you challenges, and that’s a blog right there.
‘Registered a domain’ x2 – If you do lots of websitey stuff and want to help people build a great blog… wait, that’s this site. I’m being flippant again aren’t I… sorry. The point is that I registered a couple of domains and got them setup without really thinking about it. They were for something completely unrelated, but that’s why I started this blog, I’m interested in blogs, in web hosting (no, really, I am).
Method 2 – Learn Something New
Instead of looking at what you do all day, think instead about what you want to do.
Let’s imagine method 1 didn’t work for you (because you got up today, and did absolutely nothing). That’s fine! (I think…). Instead of looking at what you do all day, think instead about what you want to do.
This could be professionally, or a new hobby you want to pick up. What kind of things do I mean? Here are a few ideas:
- Quit your job and become a comic book artist
- Learn to skydive
- Take up programming and learn Fortran
These could either be things you’ve touched on before, or something that you don’t know the first thing about, it doesn’t really matter. Let’s look at the first one in a bit more detail…
‘Quit your job and become a comic book artist’ – Obviously hold off on the quitting part to start with, but whether you can already draw a strip like Becky Cloonan or you’re struggling to work out which way to hold the pencil, chronicling your journey from the beginning will show your readers the improvement over time.
If you find a well-reviewed (and probably paid-for) video tutorial, start following along and post updates and scans of what you produce with each part of the tutorial, you’ll end up with a very visual, positive blog. The upside to this idea, is that if you already had it in the back of your mind as an ideal career move, then you’re working towards that, too.
This kind of blog topic should work well as it would see interaction from other people sharing their work, and perhaps even professionals sharing tips.
‘Learn to skydive’ – The problem with this one is that falling from a plane may be very exciting, but a blog full of GoPro videos would get very samey. However, expand it out and show yourself experiencing lots of new extreme sports, and you’ll end up with a very aspirational blog (and YouTube channel – because you’d definitely need that GoPro).
Reading an account of someone’s first tandem skydive, through to their first solo, details on packing their own chute, etc., and then onto bungee jumping, would be a very inviting blog, and one that would prompt return users, just to what this crazy cat did next.
‘Take up programming and learn Fortran’ – I was initially joking about Fortran, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that this is exactly the kind of thing that might work as a blog. Fortran is a programming language from the 1950’s, and while not obsolete today, it has (very) specific uses (such as benchmarking supercomputers… see? I told you).
A blog dedicated to learning this language, sharing snippets, and throwing in a few programming jokes… while it may not appeal to some (ok, most), you only have to look at the vast amount of interaction on sites/communities like StackExchange to see that there is a thirst for this kind of information. Presenting useful bits in an accessible way might have people coming back for more.
‘I still can’t think of anything’ – If you don’t know what you want to learn, or can’t think of anything, try a bit of everything! Signup to a site such as Lynda.com, do a bit of a course, write up how it has gone so far (include some images, examples of what you’ve learnt, or some images showing how badly it has gone) and move onto another one. You’ll either find something you get really into, or you’ll have a lot of blog post material.
Now for the important bit!
If you’ve been following along, you’ve hopefully got a few possible ideas (hooray!). If you’ve only got one, you should still read this bit, but you just have fewer options. Sorry.
Does it pass the CV/Résumé test?
Most people, at the end of their CV/Résumé have a section like ‘hobbies/interests’. This usually contains dull things like ‘reading’, ‘watching TV’, ‘going out to restaurants’ – things that don’t tell the interviewer anything about you, other than the fact you’re a human, with absolutely no imagination whatsoever.
Ugh. CV, meet the shredder.
Imagine that your new blog idea is tacked onto the end of your CV. The test is: Would it prompt questions from the interviewer? Could you then answer those questions eloquently and proceed to have an interesting conversation about it? You get the idea.
Of course, not everyone will be interested in your blog, in the same way that they won’t be interested in Joe’s specific hobbies, but perhaps most importantly: Would most people be able to relate to it?
A blog that details the anatomical differences between different species of seahorse (apparently there are 47. Who knew?) might be an excellent reference guide. You might win a marine-biology award for it, but it definitely wouldn’t be advisable to go down that route if you’re trying to build a successful, high-traffic blog.
If you’ve read nothing of the above, here are the 5 points that you should take away from this post:
- Pick one topic for your blog. Keep the majority of posts on that subject, and only have a few that branch out to other (but still related) subjects.
- Look at what you did today. Note down everything, however boring it seems. Is there anything there that you do a lot, or can extrapolate on?
- Learn something new. Take a course, video tutorial, interview people in a field that you want to be in (a figurative field, unless you want to get into agriculture, in which case, it works literally too) and blog about your progress, or even lack-thereof.
- Would most people be interested if you told them what your blog topic is? If not, you’ve missed the crux of it. Go back to point 1.
- Don’t make it too specific. It has to be an approachable topic for those in the know, and those new to the subject.
I hope this has been useful, and really hope it has helped you to come up with the perfect topic for your blog. Obviously, this is how I work so your mileage may vary, but even as I was writing it, I came up with a few ideas! If it did help, please share it using your preferred social media option.
I’d love to hear your ideas and methods too, so please leave a comment, or tweet @taptappost.