The journey to building a blog that generates a sizeable passive income is fraught with challenges.
Of those challenges, the very first one you face is arguably the most pivotal and the most paralyzing. In fact, this first challenge often stops people from starting a blog at all.
I am talking about your blog's topic. The decision as to what your blog will be about is likely to be a key defining factor in its success, and yet when you're first starting out you're hardly less qualified to make the right decision. The whole process can seem utterly overwhelming and the fear of getting it "wrong" can prevent you from making any decision at all.
With that in mind, in this post I want to equip you with the understanding you will need to make an informed decision about your blog's topic. I am going to reveal the two very different options you have when it comes to picking a topic for your authority blog -- two options which, when combined, enable anyone to create a successful and profitable blog.
First, let's address some concerns you may have about authority blogging.
Fear of Failure
Show me a man who has never failed, and I'll see a man who has never attempted anything. ~ anonymous
So many would-be bloggers never actually take that first step due to a fear that they will fail. Even if they have what they think is a good idea for a blog, they are concerned that anything they try will result in nothing more than abject failure.
To that I say this: there is every chance you will fail, but failure can be a positive thing. If you set out to create a profitable blog and find that it doesn't pan out as you had hoped, it's not like you have taken one step forward and two steps back. On the contrary; you have probably taken two steps forward and one step back, which means you have made forward progress.
Your first blog may not be the one that you can leverage to generate sizeable passive income streams, but if nothing else it will educate you as to how you can create such a blog. I cannot underestimate the value of taking action, making mistakes, and learning from them.
I have created a pretty sizeable number of websites in my time. Of those, there have been six that I have spent a great deal of time on. And yet I only have one blog that actually generates an income for me. Does that make me a failure? Perhaps, but I've experienced considerable success with that blog and have learned an enormous amount from all of the sites I created.
In attempting to succeed with your authority blog you will experience failure at times. Accept that as an inevitability before you start and the journey will be a lot easier for you. Failure never has to be final -- acknowledge that it is part of the process and use it as a learning tool for your overall advancement.
What People Want
In order to be best placed to pick a topic for your blog, you must first have a basic understanding of what people want when they browse the web.
At the most basic level, they want information. In principle, if you can create information that other people will find interesting and/or useful and position it so that those people can find it, you will be able to build a successful blog.
Information can of course take many forms. You can entertain and you can inform. You can amuse and you can educate. You can anger and you can placate. The road you decide to take can have a pretty pivotal impact on the profitability of your blog and is something you should carefully consider before going any further.
When it comes to creating a profitable blog, your key focus should be on two factors:
- Traffic: how many people can you attract to your blog?
- Value: how much value can you extract out of each visitor?
In theory, the blog that has the potential to attract the most amount of people who are willing to part with their cash is the pinnacle of perfection. It's not just about how many people you can attract, but how well you can leverage that traffic to make money. You can build a blog with a huge number of visitors but make little money, and conversely you can build a blog with a small number of visitors and perform rather well.
Consider this: the first blog I ever built utilized Google AdSense to generate an income. I managed to achieve a value per visitor (i.e. how much I made out of each visitor on average) of one cent. On the other hand my main blog, Leaving Work Behind, achieves a value per visitor of ten cents. In effect, I could attract one-tenth of the audience and make just as much when compared to my first blog. That is the power of the value of a visitor.
So what makes a visitor valuable? Generally speaking, it's their willingness to part with their cash, which is directly linked to the topic of your blog. In essence, you want your blog to help visitors resolve a valuable issue. It could be anything from making money online, to lifting weights, to dog training -- the key factor is that you help them to resolve an issue that is important to them (and by extension, that they are happy to spend money on).
If you feel that this might limit your options, fear not -- the potential is huge. Here are some real life examples:
- Fraser Cain owns Universe Today -- a news blog dedicated to the space and astronomy niche that pulls in a six figure yearly income through advertising. Learn more about how Fraser Cain pulls a staggering amount of traffic to his blog and converts that into ad income in this podcast with Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. There is also an interesting case study on Think Traffic that details his zero link building, all-in focus on creating quality content, and how that strategy has led to high traffic results. It's an informative read.
- Keith Snow’s Harvest Eating gives away tons of free advice on local and seasonal foods while operating an integrated membership site. Learn how Keith Snow and a handful of other entrepreneurs are making a living online in another episode of the Smart Passive Income podcast.
- Darren Rowse has been running Digital Photography School for many years now and has made an astonishing amount of money from it. Learn more about how Darren monetizes his blogs over at Problogger.
If you are concerned that you don't know enough about a given topic to create a successful blog, don't be. I am confident that you have something of value to offer enough people to create a successful blog. All you need to do is figure out what it is.
Two Approaches for Formulating Your Blog's Topic
The obvious assumption is that in order to create a blog on any given topic, you must be an "expert" (a highly subjective term).
It's a logical thought process and not without merit -- after all, if you know a great deal about a topic then you can probably help other people with the same interest. But being an "expert" does not represent the be-all and end-all of blogging.
In reality, you can choose to blog on just about any topic you like and make a success of it if you are willing to work hard enough. The only variable is how easy you make it for yourself based upon the topic you choose.
If you fear that you are not an expert in anything and therefore cannot create a blog that has the potential to be successful, I want to offer you two options. You may be surprised at how much potential there is.
1. The "Expert" Approach
Most startup bloggers make the reasonable assumption that you must know a great deal about a topic in order to blog about it. However, that does not necessarily have to be the case.
In fact, I have discovered that you can know relatively little about a topic and still succeed. My first freelance blogging role was for WPMU.org -- a huge website attracting nearly 300,000 visits per month. I was hired to blog about the WordPress content management system, which I had been using for all of six months at the time.
I couldn't believe at first that I was expected to write about something that I only had a relatively limited understanding of, but over time I realized that I still had plenty of value to offer. Why? Well, it comes down to the concept of being "expert enough." To put it simply, although I wasn't a particularly experienced WordPress user, I knew enough to offer value to complete beginners. Six months of experience was enough to enable me to teach beginner users. And guess what stage most people are at when they are looking for information? They're beginners, of course.
It’s not about being an expert, it’s about being “expert enough.”
The fact is this: for any given discipline, there are far more beginners than there are intermediates or experts. Not only that, but a far higher proportion of beginners are in search of information. Therefore, a relatively limited understanding of a topic can put you in a position to help the vast majority of your target audience. It's not about being an expert, it's about being "expert enough."
Now don't get me wrong -- if you truly are an expert on something then that can be a huge benefit. But don't forget that in many cases, the people most willing to learn (and most willing to spend money) are the beginners. Furthermore, there are a whole lot more of them. It could well be that you are better off targeting beginners than intermediates or experts even if you are an expert yourself.
2. The Amateur Approach
Having read the above, you may now feel that there are a world of possibilities open to you that weren't before. Now I want to expand those possibilities even further by explaining how you can blog about literally anything and still be successful.
In order to do so I am going to use myself as an example. I launched Leaving Work Behind in June 2011 as an accountability journal for my efforts in quitting my job and setting up a successful online business. I had only just started my journey and what I knew about building a successful online business could be written on the back of a napkin. And yet, out of that complete lack of experience, I have managed to build a relatively popular blog that generates a healthy income and has huge potential for future development.
Your blog can be held together by a narrative formed from your own personal experiences in learning about your chosen topic.
I was able to do this by taking the "amateur approach." This approach is quite simple -- you present yourself unashamedly as a beginner in your field. Whether it is gardening, writing, piano playing, or something else altogether -- it doesn't matter. As long as you are honest about your relative lack of experience and ability, you can take steps towards building a highly successful blog.
But how can you build a successful blog on a topic you know nothing about? Simple: you give the readers a journey to follow. Your blog can be held together by a narrative formed from your own personal experiences in learning about your chosen topic. Giving people a front row seat to the development of a skill or understanding cannot be undervalued.
Furthermore, this method of approaching a topic has broad appeal. Beginners will love following someone who is at the same level as them and "experts" will be attracted to your candid approach to learning. This is certainly what I have found with Leaving Work Behind.
This goes back again to the idea of being "expert enough." Even if you are an absolute beginner, making attempts to better yourself and publishing your experiences can be as valuable to a beginner as expert guidance.
Which Path Will You Choose?
By now you should see that the options available to you in terms of picking a blog topic are practically limitless. You could start blogging about something that you have zero experience in tomorrow and visitors might lap it up. People love to see a journey and you can give them a front row seat. Similarly, just a modicum of experience in a given topic can enable you to teach a huge majority of your target audience. You don't need to be an expert, just "expert enough."
But remember -- one of the keys to picking a topic is to understand its value to the reader. There's little point blogging about celebrity gossip, because the type of visitor you attract will have no interest in parting with their cash. On the other hand, if you blog about high-end hi-fi equipment, the equation is completely different.
Finally, do not fear failure. Embrace the fact that you will make mistakes. Your first blog may even be an abject failure, but the things that you learn from the experience will equip you with a more developed understanding -- the kind of understanding that you can utilize to build a successful blog in the future.
Having read this post, now is the time to take action. Now is the time to pick a topic for your blog. Will you be an expert or an amateur? It doesn't matter -- what matters is that you make a decision and move forward with it.
In the next post in this series I will be discussing branding -- the importance of establishing an identity that sets you apart from the competition. Until then, you've got work to do!